The Dink Network

Semester Fleece

April 11th 2005, 10:10 PM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
I brushed my teeth, trying to scrub away fifteen-years of nicotine stains. I wondered why I bothered... why not let cavities eat away through my canines and molars leaving my gums in peace. With dentures, I could just pop in a new pair and have teeth that did not resemble corn. No more avoiding special toothpaste, white strips, and dental appointments. Itíd certainly be better than this daily grudge.

I looked in the mirror, combing my hair to get it slightly frazzled. I ruffled through the drawer of glasses, finding an appropriate pair. Perfectly circular lenses, slightly grungy, and black framed. I checked my clothes again: slightly baggy long-sleeved plaid shirt mostly tucked into my jeans sans belt. I grabbed the leather suitcase. Should work well enough for a Friday.

On the way out of the apartment, a misplaced foot tapped the stack of pizza boxes, scattering them across the miniature kitchen. A curious ant walked out from under the stove, obviously disturbed by the soft clatters of cardboard. I told myself Iíd clean it up later, knowing full-well that Ďlaterí was a measurement of days and months. I bid farewell to the always-on television and the hum of electronics, and actually found my hand waving goodbye.

My drive was not long or torturous: living ten miles away from the university has rare advantages. I briefly wondered what would have happened if I had not been expelled, but my mind went numb from the radioís drone.

As I stepped out of my car, I realized what a day it was. Straggly wisps of clouds were stuck in the blue air above, the wind cooled the sunís beams with just the right touch of care, and hushed murmurs surrounded a slightly dented car and a very dented man in the road lying perpendicular between me and my destination. I imagined the man thought the white van had a competent and considerate driver who would stop for pedestrians because of the dozen signs saying exactly that. Poor, deluded man: you should never have relied on the good will of others when the others wield five-thousand pounds of metal and faded leather in motion.

I heard the ambulance, billowing softly, audible smoke depressing everything in its range. It let out a whining, dying squeal as it pulled up to the wrecks. I thought about waiting around to see if the man was dead, but I had obligations. I started for the next cross-walk.

I checked the cleanly written note that I transcribed the night before. "Noon - Lower Commons. Jake." I checked my watch, and saw that I had a good ten minutes. I tried ambling, not walking too fast or too slow to raise any suspicion. Kids were already rollerblading all over the place, and one moron was actually talking on his cell phone as he glided past me. Christ. I wanted to trip him.

*

I found Jake sitting in the corner, as he said he would. He wore an oversized T-Shirt bearing an unrecognizable logo, and must have weighed a good two-twenty. He looked healthy though... probably into football. I sat down after seeing that everybody surrounding the table was involved in their own petty conversations.

"How much?" I asked.

"Two grand."

Unexpectedly high. I pulled out the note and drew some dollar signs floating about. "Name?"

"Jake Brummit."

"No, the prof."

"Uh, Adams. Jonathon?" He fumbled through his backpack, and found the syllabus. "Yeah, Jonathon Adams."

"Profís field of study?"

"Psych, I think."

"Class and section?"

"Psych one-oh-one, intro to psychology. Uh, section... C."

"Thatís in a lecture-hall, right?"

"Yeah."

"Ever talk to the prof at all, in class or out of class?"

"I donít think so, no."

"Good, thisíll work. Expected grade?"

He took a sip of his Sprite, and swished it through his teeth before swallowing. "I think Iím getting an F. This semester has been really bad, with my job and,"

"Desired grade?"

"I donít really care, as long as I pass, so probably a C or something."

"C it is. Shouldnít raise any suspicions. You have the half now?"

He pulled a yellow envelope out of the backpack. "Yeah, twenty tens, forty twenties."

I snatched it and popped it in my suitcase. "Good. Now, who referred you?"

"Emily Ross."

The name triggered random facts: End of last semester. Blonde. Honors course. One thousand. Revenge. Plant. Em thought she could wipe her ass on a few pages of eight-and-a-half-by-eleven paper and turn it in to get an A. The prof dared to give her a generous B-. The class was small, and she was vocal, so changing the grade wasnít an option. I planted random porn on the profís faculty computer, Photoshopped the deanís face on a few of the images for good measure, and made sure that it would be noticed by the techs.

So, Jake was trustworthy. Em would not be the type of person to risk getting exposed.

I tapped my fingers on the table as I verified the office number and that the prof was gone. "Alright. Iíll change it today. Once you get your report card, leave another message within a week. Otherwise."

I got up to leave, and he grabbed my wrist firmly. I instinctively tried to shake away, but he held on.

His voice was suddenly low, and hoarse. "If you"

"Yeah, and if you threaten me, youíll be locked up on Kiddie Porn Row for twenty years. Mommy and Daddy would be so proud."

He threw my wrist back at me and walked away.

*

A couple girls in shorts walked together, strangely not speaking, and a skateboard carried a guy to the parking lot. A Trogdor wrought of chalks and sweat sprawled on the concrete below, and I made certain to step on its flames. Right before the steps words were written: "Smile and breathe." I continued to refrain from smiling, but I was half-tempted to stop breathing.

I walked in the building, wandered around the halls until I found the correct alcove of offices. I knew that I should have come back and did it later that night, when nobody would be around, but I was impatient. Plus, the season finale of Hope & Grace was on that night, and I refused to trust my TiVo for such a critical event.

I pulled out my pick and tension wrench, and after ten seconds of reactive metal movements, the office was open. I could feel my pulse tremble through my fingers, pulsating every moment.

Once in side, I turned the doorknob while shutting the door, closing it silently, and locked it. The office was cluttered: frames with a smiling wife and two young girls were all around, an audience for any mutterings Adams would say under his breathe. Papers were stacked on top of the monitor, with a few in a motionless slide to the inner depths of the back of the desk. A few books were in a fallen stack in the bookshelf, and I spotted a copy of the DSM IV.

I made some mental notes: the mouse was slightly tilted towards the monitor, the keyboard was straight in front of it, the chair was tilted towards the door, and the computer and monitor were both off.

I sat at the desk, turned on the monitor computer, and popped open the suitcase. I shoved the yellow envelope in a separate pocket, and pulled out the red CD. I plopped it in the computer before it had a chance to start normally, and it began loading from my disk. No traces.

In twenty seconds, my menu popped up, and my fingers tapped the ingrained sequence. Ten keystrokes and I located the grading spreadsheet. My heart shuddered in place. I tweaked a few numbers for Jake Brummit: 79 on the exam 1, 72 on exam 2, and a plain 75 on the final. Averaged out to a C, I saved, popped out my CD, turned off the computer and monitor. I was done.

Invisible roaches burrowed into my neck, and my bones were paralyzed. A muscle in my calf began twitching. I heard the sound of fumbling keys outside the door, creating an unmelodic clatter.

There was no reachable window in this office, no air vent to crawl through. I scratched at an invisible ant climbing on my scalp above my left ear. My upper-lip tingled.

I silently thanked Jake for making me feel alive.

I heard the key slide precariously into the doorknob, and saw it turn. A man in his forties or fifties walked in, hair starting to gray, with jeans and a university sweatshirt on. His suitcase was hard leather. I sat still, very still. My lungs collapsed mid-breath, and my fingers started trembling in a ripple up my arms. He didnít see me yet. I was right there, but he seemed intently focused on something else, and assumed that nobody was sitting in his chair. I was invisible for the moment. I had a choice: push or convince.

"Hello there, Professor Adams," I said. I stood up and extended my hand.

I watched as his muscles attempted to leap out of his body. He dropped his suitcase. I thought he would have worn glasses. He glanced around the office, adjusting to the dim light, and took my hand for a handshake.

"Iím with Computer & Technology Support. We found a virus on your computer that was trying to spread out on the network, and I was sent by to clean it up. I just finished."

His eyes narrowed.

I decided to keep talking. "Uh, I was told that you were gone for the day."

He stared at me, unwaveringly. He didnít glance at anything else in the room. "Conference was cancelled. Can I see your badge?"

I searched through my pockets, and mocking surprise, I said "Um, I forgot it back at the maintenance room. Itís Friday, you know?" I stifled a laugh.

Adams blinked slowly, and he still blocked the doorway. I felt sweat begin to condense on my forehead.

I picked up my suitcase. "If you donít mind, Iíll be going now."

"How did you get in here?"

"Maintenance gave me a key."

His nostrils flared, nose-hairs poked out. "I changed the locks last weekend."

My mind was full of questions, but I knew that I was cornered. I should have pushed.

I saw him clench his fists. "Who in the hell are you?"

"Listen, Adams. If you donít let me go without any trouble, youíre done. Imagine the techs finding mountains of evidence of child porn on your computer, in your network logs, everywhere. Whatíll happen then? No job, no friends, no kids, no life. Let me go."

Bluffing was a fine art. I hadnít planted any child porn. It was far too dangerous with the feds trying to make headlines every few months. But it usually made a good threat.

He stood there, physically shaking in place. Veins formed round hills on his forehead. "You wouldnít dare."

"You know Sergeant Rick Lane? From a month ago? It was all over the news, I know you saw it. Hey, looky what I did."

Taking credit for something I didnít do was always a risk, as the guy might have read more newspaper articles than I did. I could always say that the newspaper got that part wrong, but I didnít want to even have him question me.

I saw his fist come towards my nose in slow motion. My mind raced through a thousand thoughts: Looks like a fairly meaty fist he has there. Ooh, a ring. I bet that will hurt. Heís actually going to hit me. I havenít played blackjack in a while.

My knees gave out. I knelt to the ground, fists on the carpet. My nose felt sticky. I heard him say syllables, which seemed like they should form words. I wiped my nose with my sleeve, and a sharp pain blew my synapses open to raw reality. I heard a drawer open. Somehow he had walked over me, and was rummaging through a drawer. The door was still open. My suitcase was at my side. My hand grasped and my feet leaped. I ran. I ran out the building, each thump of my heart powering another unsteady lunge.

*

At my apartment, the steady hum welcomed me back. I threw off my bloodied shirt somewhere before the bathroom. I tried dousing my face with cold water, but that made my nose feel like it was going to burst and splatter mucus and cartilage across the faux-marble counter. Warm water was tolerable. I wished I had health insurance. My hands shook as they poured a tube of Neosporin over my nose and covered it with small bandages.

I sat down on the couch next to the broken VCRs. I lit a cigarette and took a deep drawl. I glanced at the clock. It was almost six. My cigarette had left a shaky trail of ashes on the couch, and was barely smoldering. I didnít remember sleeping. I found myself in the kitchen. I re-stacked the pizza boxes and found a mop-thing under the sink, and filled a bucket with hot water and soap. The ever-present television said something about a top story from the university, but the syllables of the live reporter refused to form words of understanding.

The ants would not be happy.
April 11th 2005, 10:16 PM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
I think this one is ok, but it seems like the narrator should be doing something slightly more interesting, and the ending seems contrived.
April 11th 2005, 10:49 PM
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Of the stories you've posted here, this was the best tale, but the worst execution. The main problem I have with the end is that there isn't enough action to really reveal the protagonist's emotional/mental state. Perhaps he could have some sort of encounter on his way home?

Also, I've managed to go through life without being punched in the face, but I imagine it doesn't quite happen as you describe it.
April 11th 2005, 10:52 PM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
Hmm... could you elaborate more on 'worst execution'?
April 12th 2005, 12:17 AM
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I hesitate to critcize anything, because you write so much better than I could ever hope to, but I thought this one lacked a little polish, at least by comparison to your other work. (Not a lot...)

For instance, "I" starts and/or serves as the subject for several sentences in a row at some points. Always hard to get around that one, but it sometimes makes things less interesting.

Generally, it read less smoothly than the other stories. In specific the little digressions didn't work as well.

"My drive was not long or torturous: living ten miles away from the university has rare advantages. I briefly wondered what would have happened if I had not been expelled, but my mind went numb from the radioís drone."

That paragraph, for instance, seemed wrong. Also, the Will and Grace thing, though funny, didn't fit at all. Sorry I can't suggest more, but you can't do that much to this good a story.
April 12th 2005, 06:08 AM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
Criticize away The critiquer's skill has little to do with how harsh a critic should be. Do you think Ebert and Roeper could have made something like Lord of the Rings?

I find myself agreeing with you on your points, thanks. I didn't really notice that when I was reading it.
April 13th 2005, 02:44 AM
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Milo had some very good points. I had some of those same items in mind to mention.

Except for too many "I's" in the first couple paragraphs. Personally that didn't bother me at all. Sometimes you just have to use that word to get an idea across. I know the rule is not to start a lot of sentences with "I" but Redink interpersed other sentences so it didn't seem that noticeable.

There really isn't a lot to critique because there is such magic in the descriptions which awe the reader into ignoring anything else. Which is a problem in itself. You throw in a lot of things that don't seem to really add anything to the story.

On the way out of the apartment, a misplaced........

I heard the ambulance, billowing softly, audible smoke depressing.....

The descriptions are poetic wonder but that's about it.

The man that was hit by the vehicle is important because it sets up the character's cyncism and disgruntlement. And though I loved that paragraph, it was over worded. Kinda like mine..to much talk and explained too completely.

But man oh man..the next part..

"How much?" I asked.

"Two grand."

Unexpectedly high. I pulled out the note and drew some dollar signs floating about. "Name?"

"Jake Brummit."
etc.

That was very very well done. Succinct, conveys the mood (I'm here for business, not small talk), gets the job done with marvelous ability and no flamboyant word imagergy. Beautiful job.

One thing tho. Why is the character (surprise! His name is not mentioned once in the whole story. Cool.) Anyway why is the character asking Jake "How Much" when he should be telling Jake the price? Did I miss something?

A couple girls in shorts walked together, strangely not speaking and..

Why 'strangely not speaking'? What is the purpose of this line? When will we be clued in as to what is going on? Nope, just didn't mix in with the story.

"I spotted a copy of the DSM IV"

What? Pardon me but huh? That threw me right out of the story which is not a good thing. I continued to read expecting something about this book(?). Maybe you could use a well-known title from a classic that people would recognize? It could also(?) have something to do with the prof's field . When I realized that 'DSM IV' was distracting me, I quickly re-read and went on from there but I had lost some of the previous immersion in the story.

The next portion of the story was, pardon the pun, hard-hitting. I loved it. The character shows his criminal bent in the precision with details.. (The mouse was slightly..), (it began loading from my disk. No traces.) Yes!
That was great. I hate hero's or villains that do things so dumb that you wonder what the author was thinking!

I saw his fist come towards my nose in slow motion. etc

I'm sorry Milo but I loved that too. Just a great description. I felt the guy's pain and laughed at his prosiac thoughts. Isn't that what an author wants? Involvement?

Next is the ending. Well best I can say is that it was an ending of sorts. The worst sorts. Did you fall asleep, redink?

Taken all in all, I would sell this story and start a new career. You can write!
April 13th 2005, 08:03 AM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
You throw in a lot of things that don't seem to really add anything to the story.

I seem to be very good at that. This had less 'things' than Wound, though, right?

His name is not mentioned once in the whole story. Cool.

Eh, it isn't that cool.

Anyway why is the character asking Jake "How Much" when he should be telling Jake the price? Did I miss something?

There is a reason, but you didn't miss anything. My thoughts were he does the university-fleece about once a semester, and only through referrals from the last, mostly to get 'revenge' for being expelled.

I spotted a copy of the DSM IV

Psychology book, basically describes every mental illness, symptoms, etc. Sorry it got you out of the story.

Well best I can say is that it was an ending of sorts.

My attempts were to convey that the narrator was in a state of shock. Losing time, unable to process the words of the real conclusion (which may have been very, very subtle), etc.
April 13th 2005, 12:49 PM
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Solly charlie. I like Wound For Torment better, though they are both great stories. This story had more meanderings and didn't flow as well.

Now redink, I insist. It was cool. The character's name being omitted is really good. You may or may not have consciously intended it (I think you did) but it is a subtle psychological nudge to a slightly sinister mood-of the-story feeling. Cool. Don't argue.

"Psychology book, basically describes every mental illness, symptoms, etc"

Yep, figured that was it after a few. It was a Psych prof's office. Now if he had "Debbie Does Dallas" on his shelves..... Caramba

"My attempts were to convey that the narrator was in a state of shock"

That came across so you didn't miss the mark. However, This character as you profiled him had balls of steel. (eek, hope my mother doesn't read this) So his complete disintegration was unreal. What happened to wanting to feel alive for a change? The ending felt like you didn't know how to end it so you just threw that in there. Flatly. Nothing.
Still and all, great story.
April 13th 2005, 09:17 PM
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carrie2004
Peasant Female Canada
*chomp* 
Well,I liked the story but it seemed like there should have been more at the end.Like maybe the
proffessor really did have child porn in his desk drawers and that's why after he hit the hack he went rummaging.And maybe that could have been mentioned in the news story.I liked all the extra descriptives in the story,it created a feeling,an atmosphere.I don't usually read the stories here but since redink1 is the king and all.
April 13th 2005, 09:20 PM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
maybe the proffessor really did have child porn

I was trying to hint towards this, very, very subtly.
April 13th 2005, 09:29 PM
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I can't think of all that many analogous stories. So far, I've got John Gardner's Grendel. It's too modern a concept really: evil but sympathetic protagonist finally meets his match. The "little bunny foo-foo" storyline.
April 14th 2005, 03:45 AM
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Carrie says:
"maybe the proffessor really did have child porn"

Redink replies:
"I was trying to hint towards this, very, very subtly."

Porn was my understanding because at first the prof is level headedly wary and slightly aggressive. After the suggestion of porn being installed on his computer, all heck breaks out. Then instead of securing the intruder he searches his desk for something that is more important to him. So yeah, in all likelyhood he had porn hidden away.
April 19th 2005, 05:46 AM
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You're a smoker redink?
April 19th 2005, 04:34 PM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
Nope, haven't smoked a cigarrette in my life.
April 20th 2005, 01:43 AM
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So where did you get "fifteen years of nicotine stains"?
April 20th 2005, 02:47 AM
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ROFL.

The image that comes to mind is redink stalking smoker's so he can inhale their exhales.
April 20th 2005, 04:08 AM
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SabreTrout
Noble Male United Kingdom
Tigertigertiger. 
So where did you get "fifteen years of nicotine stains"?

I've never understood how fiction works either.
April 20th 2005, 07:27 AM
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redink1
King Male United States xbox steam bloop
A mother ducking wizard 
Yeah... this story is fiction, i.e. not true.
April 20th 2005, 05:33 PM
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Random Quote it!
April 20th 2005, 08:16 PM
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Tal
Noble Male United States xbox steam
Super Sexy Tal Pal 
But have you smoked a... cigarette?

/smartass