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The Duke Needs Your Help, Is What!

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As you may or may not be aware, The Duke does a fair bit of the old scribbling, writing, yacking in print. A while back, I posted a short story I’d just written for to see if anyone fancied giving an opinion. Some did, and let it be known that The Duke was awash with gratitude and also hunger to some degree, on account of I hadn’t eaten for a while.

Being in the writing stages of a novel (mine third, and yet, hopefully, the first to see light of day outside of the confines of my hard-drive), I decided that, seeing as how The Duke don’t know nothing bout nothing, I would put the first chapter of this work-in-progress opus onto the old web-net, that folks might have a look, and then say, “No, Duke, that bit right there sucks” or “I would change this if I were you, you son of a bitch” and so on. Other literary criticisms.

So, then, I would be very, very grateful if you could offer an input of some nature, that I might know if things are going alright, with regards this first chapter, or if it’s dying on its rancid arse two paragraphs in.

Thanks folks. It would mean a lot to The Duke if you might leave a comment.

The Death Of A Footnote

By Aaron McMullan, The Motherfucking Duke De Mondo

Chapter One

I lay on the street for forty-five minutes before realising that I had died at least two hours previous. The occasional rat scurried past, drunken revellers cheered from alleyways lost to me forever, rain falling with discomforting glee into my opened eyes. Thick, bilious fluid ran from the wounds on my torso, mingling with the piss and shit newly liberated from their intestinal confines. I could taste nothing but grey, my nasal caverns a mass of sickly sweet mucus and rapidly clotting blood.

What to do now? The shock of accepting my fatal condition was somewhat less than that which accompanied the arrival of the knife-wielding malcontent who heralded the whole sorry affair in the first place. In the most cinematic trenches of my cranium, I would romanticise that I was the unwilling recipient of a hired assassin’s wares, that someone, somewhere, had mortgaged their home and put everything they owned up for auction in order to pay for my final shuddering breath. The reality, however, is no doubt infinitely minor. Who would have reason to hate me with such primal intensity? Who, outside of the semi-circle of acquaintances I have accumulated throughout my meagre existence, would bother to acknowledge my passing with even the faintest hint of emotion, much less an orgasmic sigh of hitherto strangled relief?

The truth is, disheartening as it may be, tomorrow’s headlines will tell of another shadow forever lost to daylight. And that same headline, it pains me to relate, will be my epitaph. This is hardly a loss on a par with the Lennon’s or Cobain’s or Churchill’s of the world. Merely one less blurred mass of inconsistencies for a CCTV camera to scan over in a shopping precinct, a theatre ticket sold to another pseudo-intellectual, a seat in a restaurant for another pair of cheeks to inhabit, a census statistic handed on to someone else, a lost vote picked up from the gutter by a thousand fingers. Who will take care of the children I never had a chance to father? Who will impregnate the wife I never met?

A rat nibbling at my exposed and mutilated innards went some way towards convincing me to move, to leave the scene of this dastardly crime, enjoying the comparative freedom my situation brings. The be-suited civil servant who runs from this spot just after dawn will be severely penalised for such actions. I imagine the sight of a clean-shaven, neatly groomed yet unmistakably torn asunder body will be too much for him to take, with his mindful of memos and statistics and transfers and the unwelcome, stagnant echo of the previous evenings revelries.

It is quite something for one to raise ones arm and see that ones arm remains undoubtedly limp on the pavement. Yet the sensations are all accurate; that pre-natural certainty of elevation, that unquestioning faith that ones appendages are doing just as instructed. My arm is raised, and yet it is not. Blood clots form black, distasteful assemblages in the valleys between my fingers, and yet my hand feels clean, like the skin has been replaced with a layer of cling-film so thin that a mild sneeze would be enough to tear it asunder. Rain falls into the minute void of my pupils, and yet I feel no stinging, no blurred vision, even. The eye that was gouged from its socket and relieved of its position to nestle a little further down my cheek, is functioning beyond all reasonable expectations. Not only can I see my own listless and bloody corpse just below me, but if I raise my head slightly, I can see on past the end of this street, and onto the next. Further down along the red-bricked houses I trundle, my vision carried on the back of some celestial pigeon, allowing me to glimpse into each and every one of the windows before me, and to know the faces of those within, and to know the things that go deeper than the particles spread across the bone.

And this must be how it feels to be God, I’m thinking. This ability to know all that is knowable and yet fully accept each niggling detail, each blundering contradiction. To have the intricacies of creation unfold before me, and yet for it all to have the effect of someone telling me that I am Caucasian, that my hair is red, but that I am balding slightly. It all seems so obvious.

At present, I am struck with two decisions. On the one hand, I am craving my first steps, burdened with a desire to move further along, to see what waits for me around the next turning, what junctions brimming with celestial delights am I to uncover? On the other hand, I am quite sure that I could spend eternity rooted to this particular spot, and still always being uncovering something new, something I could spend millennia exploring.

I ponder my situation for some time, before deciding that perhaps I should inspect my own broken shell, lying so elegantly in the spotlight of a dimming neon lamp. I look down upon my tattered remains, all that is left of my earthly wanderings, the final payment placed on a home the resident has since departed. Stricken with a peculiar curiosity regarding my own physical prowess, I’m just about to undo the buttons on my trousers, when I realise I am incapable of doing so. The garments slip through my grasp, my hand emerging cloth-free, like a toddler grasping at his reflection in a puddle.

No, there is nothing left for me here. Granted, I would like to see the reactions of my friends and relations, when the monstrous image is uncovered by the dawn. But, there is much to uncover, much to investigate.

I wander the streets for quite some time, taking a moment to browse through estates I had been too afraid to enter when my breath was a valuable commodity. Now, I can marvel at the murals and slogans my middle class eyes were never meant to see. I gaze upon these rather beautiful declarations of anonymous intent, these glowering eyes and skulls, these gravestones marked with the names of martyrs, the last pillars of a kingdom being torn apart before my very eyes.

Intending to go no further than Central Station, to sit on benches scarred with milky-white pigeon shit, to amuse myself by reading the reams of grammatically disastrous declarations scrawled across the walls by lovelorn adolescents, I instead find myself approaching a housing development to the west of the City Centre, and once within I am slapped with the realisation that now, having set foot across the boundary, I will never leave. The knowledge that whatever is to become of my essence, of this spirit I so gallantly direct, it will take place within this clustered reserve.

‘You alright, there?’, someone says, a landlord opening a public house, scrubbing the quaint, grey-stone step with a cracked brush, and unmistakably referring to myself.
‘Um, yeah, I’m alright’ I say.
He chuckles and lowers his head once more, and I, unsure of myself and, more-so, my surroundings, walk towards the carefully swept stone.

That’s right, cliffhanging like a motherfucker, is what, like when Sylvester Stallone was meant for to save the girl but no, he didn’t, he just let her go.

Let a man know what you think folks.

Thank you.

The Duke resides at Mondo Irlando

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  • Nathaniel Winn

    Well, I enjoy your writing about the best of all the BlogCritics. This looks like no exception.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Great stuff!

    Are you going to peek into any teenage girls’ windows and watch them dress? If so, save that for chapter three…

  • Duane

    Very gripping, Duke. Nice, thick vocabulary, with compelling imagery. I have provided some nitpicky comments below. I hope they are roughly consistent with what you expected. Like Nathaniel, I’ve always been a big fan of your movie critiques, by the way.

    I think the whole thing should be written in present tense, e.g., “… rain falls….”, “Thick, bilious fluid runs from the wounds….”, “I taste nothing but grey….”, etc. I see that some of the text is already in present tense, e.g., “I ponder my situation for some time….” I think the tense should be consistent throughout, and present tense lends some immediacy.

    How’s this for a first sentence? — “I lay in the street for nearly an hour before realising that I was dead.”

    Then, in Paragraph 2, “…that accompanied the arrival, two hours ago, of the knife-wielding malcontent….” ?

    In Paragraph 2, I think it would read better if the question, “What do I do now?” were omitted.

    I would reverse the order of the last two sentences in Paragraph 3.

    The word “dastardly” is a little flippant for the tone you want to convey.

    The word “asunder” is used twice. Might omit one.

    In Paragraph 4, how about “…unmistakably ravaged….”?

    the word “declarations” is used in two adjacent paragraphs — might change one of them

    “…no blurred vision, even.” Suggest “…no blurred vision.”

    “…relieved of its position to nestle a little further down my cheek….” Nice, but suggest a better word than “nestle.” I’m not sure what, though. Something less comfortable.

    “…particles spread across the bone.” Nice.

    “…celestial delights am I to uncover?” Suggest “…celestial delights I am to uncover.”

    “…and still always being uncovering….” is awkward.

    millenia –> eternity ??

    “rather beautiful” is a little weak here. Maybe conspicuous, gaudy, striking, dazzling?

    How about “…the last pillars of a kingdom unraveling before me.” ? “My very eyes” is a little worn.

    “The knowledge that whatever is to become of my essence, of this spirit I so gallantly direct, it will take place within this clustered reserve.” This sentence is a bit problematic. In the “it will,” one’s tendencey would be to associate the “it” with your essence or spirit, when you want it to refer to some kind of transformation. The “it” refers to the “whatever is to become,” I think. It needs a little reworking.

    A few grammatical points:

    Lennon’s –> Lennons (etc.)
    ones –> one’s
    evenings revelries –> evening’s revelries
    Pre-natural –> preternatural (I think)
    down my cheek, –> down my cheek
    mindful –> mind full
    creation –> Creation
    what junctions –> and what junctions (smoother)
    like the skin has been replaced –> as though the skin were replaced (I think that’s better)
    referring to myself –> referring to me

    I’m looking forward to the next installment.

  • Shark

    “asunder” — you use that word often?

    Duke, lots of balls here. You must be a very non-violent guy to allow a bunch of strangers to have at your baby.

    Anyway, not a bad start. Had me wanting more, which is about the most one can ask of something like this. Methinks the words sounded a tad ‘formal / literary’ vs your normal style and vernacular we’ve come to know and love hereabouts — there might be a reason for that, but my ONLY advice to any aspiring writer is NEVER, NEVER look at a fucking thesaurus. (If the shoe, fits wear it. If it don’t, ignore it.)

    An aside about asking for critiques:

    About 20 years ago, I gave a short story to my older brother to critique. He rewrote almost every line, stuff like:

    –original: “I walked down the street and looked in a number of doorways.”

    he’d change to: “I strolled along the avenue and glanced into a series of entrances.”

    Shit like that. No notes, nothing about the plot, story, characters… just a total rewrite word for word.

    Anyway, he spent that winter in a wheelchair — and we haven’t spoken since.

    Best o’ luck w/yer MS.

  • Eric Olsen

    Duane’s editing would take care of any specifics I might have.

    Engrossing concept and effusive, but not florid, execution. I like the balance between exposition and rumination. And I defintely wanted to see more.

    You rock.

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    “The occasional rat scurried past, drunken revellers cheered from alleyways lost to me forever, rain falling with discomforting glee into my opened eyes.”

    That appears to be one of the examples of Duane mentioning a lack of continuity in the past and present tense.

    “It is quite something for one to raise one[‘]s arm and see that one[‘]s arm remains undoubtedly limp on the pavement.”

    Seems to be a little repetitive use of one to me. It would mean the same if it was written as “raise one’s arm and see that arm remain undoubtedly limp…” no?

    “To have the intricacies of creation unfold before me, and yet for it all to have the effect of someone telling me that I am Caucasian, that my hair is red, but that I am balding slightly.”

    That sentence sounds a little awkward to me. I’m thinking because “that I am Caucasian” is one item, and “that my hair is red, but that I am balding slightly” is another item. However, the sentence is written as if those are 3 separate items (due to the junction and placement of but, and lack of junction between Caucasian and hair).

    “On the one hand, I am craving my first steps, burdened with a desire to move further along, to see what waits for me around the next turning, what junctions brimming with celestial delights am I to uncover?”

    This one is sort of odd to me too. The statement is started as a sentence, but then the last part turns into a question. Maybe it can be rewritten as “…to see what waits for me around the next turning, to uncover what junctions brim with celestial delight.”

    And I don’t know why, but I thought this was freaking hilarious:

    “–original: “I walked down the street and looked in a number of doorways.”

    he’d change to: “I strolled along the avenue and glanced into a series of entrances.”

    Shit like that. No notes, nothing about the plot, story, characters… just a total rewrite word for word”

    Maybe I’m just weird, but thanks Shark.

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicty

    Oh I forgot to add that it was a good read. I sort of miss having the “motherfucker is what” every now and then though.

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    folks, i refrained from commenting until now cause, basically, i didn’t expect this kinda response, is what. This has been more help than my limited vocabulary could relate, and i thank you a whole hell of a lot. The editing tips have been especially helpful.
    A few notes;
    Shark, i didn’t use a thesaurus, heh, but i’m thinking i should have. I been staring at this thing so long that i just didn’t notice the repetitive nature of some of it, which is partly why i asked for folks to give an opinion. Some of these things were picked up by The Duchess when she read it, like asunder and so on, and she also suggested that the opening sentence was nowhere near as powerful as i liked to think (although she said it in a nicer way, as did you folks).
    Duane and vis sim, these tips are priceless, as in worth a lot. The past-tense / present-tense thing is certainly something what needs a good seeing to. i was under the impression that the whole thing was present tense, but you’re right, it flips about like there’s no tomorow. (fittingly enough, i suposse, given the subject matter.)
    I’m making a load of decisions right now, with the help of Eric, and also The Duchess, and these comments have aided those decisions more than you might have imagined.
    Incidentally, i was thouroghly depressed last night when reading the two previous novels i menitoned in the text above, and realising that they were fucking abomnible. Oh well.

  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    The only thing I really twigged on after a quick, distant reading was the ripped asunder stuff.

    Having participated in butchery of pigs, deer, moose, and even little bunny rabbits, stabbing doesn’t rip you asunder, because that is hard work which requires industrial tools.

    Stabbing is quick, quiet and not too messy. Unless the character got hit by a speeding ambulance (those fuckers just don’t care who they hit, because they’re on their way to the hospital anyway).

    Good start, though.

  • Shark

    Duke, as mentioned, I actually prefer the colloquial voice you use in your comments to the voice you’ve used in the piece above.

    There might be a specific, plot-related reason for the narrator’s langauge style, but I’d love to see you rewrite the thing more relaxed and without looking over your shoulder at your “literary/discriminate” side.

    (ie after a few drinks? heh)

  • http://www.mondoirlando.com Aaron, Duke De Mondo

    Jim, that right there is invaluable information. You’re right, stabbing would result most likely in a load of punctured organs, hardly a body torn asunder… (incidentally, that ambulance line had me laughing like a motherfucker, is what)
    Shark, you’re not the only one. The biggest result of this here experiment has to been to confirm to myself that the style utilised in the majority of my witterings is much preferable to this nonsense here. How come i can write in “duke-talk” for eternity and it comes off seeming kinda fresh and funny, at least when it works, and yet this kinda stuff requires a lot of extra head-trouble, and emerges as about 10% as interesting.
    Big thoughts are being thunk right about now… Thank you.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Now I’m thinking about posting the first chapter to a short story I was *thinking* about completing when I was still a teen.

    It’s horrid, of course. But the comments would surely be helpful, as I assume they have been for you (and you are a much finer writer).

  • Shark

    RJ, don’t do it.

    You’ll thank me someday.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ

    Yer prolly right, Sharkie. Gracias… ;)