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Third Week with Craig Clevenger

November 15, 2012

Now that we’ve covered status and dialogue tags, among other tidbits of writing gems, this week’s assignment was to focus on changing events in a story. For a story to kick ass, there needs to be a series of events that lead to an irreversible change. Often, this change can best be understood by the reader when an interruption to a routine takes place. This interruption usually disrupts the character’s plans and their expectations. In turn, the character must come up with a new plan thus resulting in the climax of the event and a change that cannot be reversed. See if you can identify the changes that take place which eventually lead to a change which is irreversible.

I’m a Complete Piece of Shit

Marlo exits the highway and lights up a cigarette. “So, what happened to your last driver?”

Troy waves Marlo’s smoke away from his face. “I didn’t feel like I could trust him.”

“Why’s that?”

“He seemed kind of soft. He’s probably the type to take off if things got hairy or point fingers the minute he got arrested.” Troy waves his hands again to get rid of the smoke.

“So what then? You call good old Marlo, your loser, convict buddy, the day after I’m released?”

“Pretty much.” Troy stares out the window a few seconds. “But dude, you’re not a loser.” Troy faces Marlo. “You’ve been caught in some unfortunate circumstances but you’re not a loser. Now, me, I’m a fuckin’ loser.”

Marlo takes a drag and then exhales, flapping his lips together, sputtering smoke out. “Yeah, right. Mr. College Guy is a loser. My mom wishes I went to college. Loser? Please.”

“It’s true, man.” Troy waves the smoke away from his face again. “I’m a complete piece of shit. I look at your upbringing, livin’ on welfare with your crazy, drunk-ass mom, and the few opportunities you were given, and I feel guilty.”

“Guilty?! For what?”

Troy rolls down his window a crack. “I’ve had every opportunity in the world handed to me in order to make something out of myself and I couldn’t do it.”

“Like what?”

Troy rolls his window down further. “You really wanna know? Let’s see…” Troy rolls his window back up to leave a crack open again.

“OK, OK, I get the hint. I’ll put my cigarette out.” Marlo smashes his cigarette into the ashtray, crushing most of it. “Why do you have to be such a pussy?”

Troy rolls up his window. “Why do you have to be a dick when I’m hookin’ your ass up with work?”

“Whatever.” The two sit in silence for a moment.

Marlo rolls his free hand. “So…”

“So what?”

“You were gonna tell me why you’re a piece of shit.”

Troy sits up straight. “OK, did your parents pay for you to go to college?”

“I couldn’t have gotten into college.”

Troy rolls his eyes. “OK, if you could have gone, would your mother have paid for it?”

Marlo snaps out a sarcastic laugh. “Hell no.”

“Mine did. Tuition, books, rent, bills, groceries, car insurance, the whole nine yards. Same with my master’s degree. They paid for that too.”

“You got a fucking master’s degree?”

Troy stares out the window. “Yep. It’s worthless though. Can’t get a soul to hire me.”

“I wouldn’t say that makes you a piece of shit. You just had some bad luck.”

Troy leans into Marlo. “Dude, I wasted tens of thousands of dollars of my parent’s money,” and then stares out the window again. “I’ve borrowed even more. Haven’t paid a dime of it back.”

Marlo shakes his head. “Damn.”

Troy slouches in his seat. “Damn is right. Add to that shit pile that I’ve been unemployed for more than two years, women avoid me like the plague, and now, I’m about to rob my tenth convenience store this month to support my ass.”

Marlo shakes his head again. “Damn.” He looks Troy over. “You really are a complete piece of shit.”

“Damn straight.” Troy bounces out of his slouch and sits at attention. “OK, we’re almost there. Pull over at the end of the block.” Troy gets the black knit face mask from his back pocket. “Remember, you’ll wait for me with the motor running, lights off, no foot on the brake.”

“Yeah, we already went over all this stuff a thousand times.” Marlo pulls over to the curb, puts the truck in park, and turns off the lights.

“I need to go through my checklist with the driver every time, so just fuckin’ bear with me.”

Marlo salvages what’s left of his cigarette in the ashtray and lights it up. “Knock yourself out, fuckin’ OCD nutcase.”

“You’ll wait for me here, engine running, lights off, no foot on the brake.”


“When you feel my bodyweight hit the bed of truck, take off but…”

“But leave the lights off for fifteen seconds. I got it, man.” Marlo turns his neck from side to side, making sure the area is free of onlookers.

“Next, and most importantly, if you hear any gunshots and I don’t come out in a few seconds…”

“I come in with guns blazin’ and get you the fuck out of there.” Marlo ashes his cigarette.

“That’s why I wanted you for this job. I know I can trust you.” Troy removes his pistol from his inside jacket pocket and puts the wool face mask on, adjusting it to get his mouth and eyes aligned with the holes. “Back in a couple minutes.” Troy gets out of the truck, slams the door behind him, and runs to the liquor store. He bursts through the store’s entrance with his gun drawn, “Get your fucking hands up! Don’t fucking move!” and in two steps he’s at the counter.

Hands in the air, the store clerk stands in place, shaking uncontrollably. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! I give you money! I give you money!”

Troy lowers his voice but keeps the gun aimed at the clerk’s brow. “You got the right idea. Now, open the register and get out the money. Reach for anything other than the cash and I blow your fucking head off.”

“OK! OK!” The clerk’s hands bounce up and down off of the register’s drawer as he struggles to remove the cash.

Troy cocks the gun. “Hurry the fuck up!”
“I’m trying! I’m trying!” The clerk yanks the drawer out of the register and dumps its contents onto the counter. “Just take the money! Take the money!”

Troy leans into the clerk’s face. “Put the money in a fucking bag, idiot.”

The clerk throws his body to the floor and an explosion rings through the store. Troy’s backside, from his lower back to his upper thighs, is rammed with a pulverizing force. His waist slams into the counter and bounces back. His legs buckle and he hits the floor on his butt, followed by his wool-cushioned head that sounds like a muffled coconut hitting the ground. Crying out in pain, he flips over to avoid the fresh injury. On his stomach, legs stretched out, and ass on fire, he realizes he’s been hit with buckshot. Outside, Marlo burns out the back tires of the truck, leaving Troy to fend for himself.

“Marlo, you mother fucker! You fucking mother fucker!” Troy fires three rounds behind him, attempting to hit whoever shot him. He waits for a couple seconds and the clerk pops his head up from behind the counter. Troy fires two rounds at him. Shelved liquor bottles burst open and the clerk throws himself to the floor again. “This gun ain’t empty! Come at me, mother fucker! Come at me!”

Police sirens wail in the distance. “Oh, hell no! Hell fuckin’ no!” Like a dying fish in a partially dried stream, Troy flops about in a growing puddle of his own blood. Stranded on the tile floor, tears release as the futility of his situation takes hold. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”

Police cruisers converge on the scene, park in front of the store, and take cover behind their vehicle’s doors. Their spotlights illuminate a blood soaked Troy, blinding him to the outside.

“Don’t move! Hands out to your side!” Moving inch by inch, using his pelvis as an axis, Troy attempts to face the cops. Each nudge he makes aggravates the police more. “Don’t move! Don’t move!” A swath of blood trails his upper body in a smear across the floor.

Troy uses one arm to prop him up and he smiles into the police spotlights. “I’m a complete piece of shit! You hear that? I’m a complete fucking piece of shit!” He swings his other arm out from his side, exposing his pistol. Fragments of bone and brain matter, sopping strands of hair, and a tidal wave of blood explode into the air from a hail of bullets. Troy’s headless torso collapses to the floor and his open neck gushes blood like an unattended hose.

The officer who fired the first shot leans over to his partner. “What the fuck did he say?”

His partner shrugs. “Something like he’s a complete piece of shit?”

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