Falling Down


Hello.

I’d really appreciate it if anybody who reads this can spare two minutes to leave any form of feedback. Hate it, love it, highlight all my mistakes….anything is useful!

Cheers.

 

“Is she on yet?” Brooks said, my boss at MDS builders, a company that had to be doomed from the start with two builders at the helm who chose to sit in steam rooms while they were supposed to be at work.

“No… She’s a week and ‘alf late,” I said with a half glance towards his pregnant looking belly, scanning upward from his thick black Oxford United tattoo which commanded the left side of his chest.

“Fuck, imagine if he knew, old Pearson. That bastard. I’d love to see his face…” Brooks said, as he ran his hand along his hot, hairless scalp, pouring cold water over the top of his head.

“He can’t know it happened, Brooks.”

“I can’t believe you did it. Who fucks Pearson’s daughter? You’re just asking for fucking trouble.” He sat opposite me in the steam room, distorted by the hot vapour which clouded his shallow face.

“She won’t be pregnant. She can’t be.”

Gerry Brooks was a man with a body thrown together like a tower of boulders stacked on top of each other in no particular order. A few spindles of hair sprouted from around his inflated belly button and nipples, which he often inspected with close attention between his index finger and thumb. His stomach swelled with a quality that only twenty years of fried eggs, Stella Artois and poor quality sausages could give rise to. Brooks eat everything. Yet he insisted he followed the latest workouts to the letter, often dictating to me how I should perform a tricep dip most efficiently. His stomach had gotten so large that from behind the mist it could have been a cement mixer, churning away the last of his cornish pasty from lunchtime. Brooks claimed that relaxation time was essential to the wellbeing of a modern day labourer, and made a point of ensuring that we made regular excursions to the leisure centre to ‘sweat out the stress’ — or something along those lines.

“But what if she is?” Brooks said, by now indistinct through the steam.

“Shut up about it now.”

“We should probably get back to the job. Pearson’ll be thinking we’ve been at Wickes for a fair while,” Brooks said. I stayed silent. “Come on. Let’s go. He lives to moan. It’s bad enough having to live with him next door, now I’ve got to put his fucking conservatory up. It’s too much… He shits his pants if I leave my dustbin out in the street for a day you know. Comes knocking on my door at all hours whinging and groaning… Needs to sort his life out him, get himself a woman… Not got much going for him mind. With a nose that big, least… He’s always watching. You don’t want your kids having his genes. God no. No… fuck this, I’m going. It’s like a fucking incubator in here.” Brooks had spoken, but I didn’t really acknowledge any of his words. He wasn’t the most commanding of bosses. I just couldn’t take him seriously. He was a man designed to be overlooked. I laid in silence for a moment. We’d been sitting in the steam room almost half an hour by this point, and the haze that swallowed the room had gotten inside of me — like I was being cooked from the inside-out. A second skin of sweat and vapour cast itself on to me, and it felt as though my whole heart or brains could bubble up and explode, or that the mist could part, and I’d be alone, in some far flung jungle where the damp and rot would set in, with only the company of occasional black shapes skittering behind roots in the thick film of steam and humidity. I thumped the plastic wall of the room. Hundreds of droplets of warm, condensed water, which had rested on the ceiling, rained down across the room like a tropical rainstorm.

“Bastard.” Brooks spat away warm driblets of water from the tops of his lips. Masked in the vapour that glows about the violet-blue lights, Brooks drew his eyes upwards to the glow which spilt soon to nothing in the gloom from the ceiling. I swivelled my legs around and pressed my split heels on the ridged tile flooring, sitting upright.

• • •

Later that day, rejuvinated and fresh faced, we finished cobbling together the shitty white PVC conservatory for Pearson. Pearson’s house, a white washed two-bed on the end of the Causeway, tagged on to the terrace, next door to Brooks. Their street’s a hell-hole; covered in dog shit, smashed beer bottles and discarded takeaway meals. It’s the sort of street where the only thing the women can do is keep an eye on each other around the side of their netted curtains, or stand in the street in their dressing gowns and slippers, with rollers in their hair, smoking and chatting to each other. In the road the kids skitter pebbles along the pavements at cats and crumpled tins of Carlsberg, some times launching wet slices of cheap bread to stick on the sides of Mr Pearson’s house. The April sunshine had sunk well behind the slate-roof terraced houses by the time we finished the job and packed away the tools into Brooks’s Transit van in the street. It was coming close to the time in the late afternoon when the hooded would come out into the dark back alleys to be little shits and sell drugs to each other. They swarmed in the alley behind Pearson’s house — he sometimes shouted limp threats at them from his top window if they made too much noise when Loose Women was on. As we stopped to roll a cigarette for the end of the day, Pearson emerged from his house wearing an apron with “Mr Good Lookin’ is Cookin’” stamped across the front, carrying a sack of sweet potatoes, with a face spread long and white.

“Mr. Brooks, Brooks, get here,” he said, raising the fist which wielded the exotic potatoes. “It’s just fallen down. All of it. You’re all bloody useless.” Brooks curled his copy of Men’s Fitness up into a neat cone, before rising to his feet using a spirit-level as a walking cane, to confront the bug-eyed Pearson.

“It’s what?” Brooks asked.

“It’s fucking fallen down,” he said, “so I’ll be wanting my money back around about now. I knew I shouldn’t have left this to you. The conservatories don’t even look good in the newspaper advert. I wasn’t confident when I asked you to put the thing up, but I just expected a shitter finish and a few more cups of tea for your ‘mates rates’. But no… It’s all in a heap on the floor… How could you fuck this up so brilliantly Mr. Brooks?” With that Brooks kicked up the end of his spirit-level and grabbed it with both hands to hold it like a spear, tucking his magazine under his porky arm and jabbing Pearson in the gut a few times, then twatting him with Men’s Fitness right around the temple. Pearson, being a narrow set guy with puny office-boy forearms and a flagpole torso, retaliated in a way which he thought was right and within his means: by hurling sweet potatoes at Brooks from behind his Mini Metro that was parked in the street. I stood there taking cover and carried on trying to smoke, but ended up hacking up lungfuls of trapped smoke from laughter.

“Look just fuck off alright. Give me a refund then fuck off. Now how am I supposed to have sweet potato mash? My salmon’s gonna be bland. You cunt, Brooks. Not only have you fucked my conservatory, now my blood sugar’s going to be all over the place. I’ll have to have rice, white rice, for fucks sake… fucking long grain. That’s not low GI. For fucks sake.” Pearson ran around his car in circles to stay out of Brooks’s range. But Brooks was intent on knocking Pearson’s head clean off his shoulders, even if it meant bludgeoning the man to death with a glossy magazine.

“You should hear yourself.”

“Diabetes isn’t a laughing matter, Brooks, you chubby bastard. I’m surprised you’re not Type 2, to be honest. You should get down the Pharmacy for a test.”

“You talk to me like that again and I’ll burn your house down, Pearson. You big-nosed nonce.” Still Brooks shuffled around the car to get within beating distance of Pearson.

“Well that’d be an idiotic thing to do. You’d burn your own house down in the process… It’s that sort of comment that highlights your absolute incompetence, Brooks.” With Pearson around the far side of his car in the road, and Brooks closest to the houses, Brooks made a run for Pearson’s open front door, stamping his muddy boots in Pearson’s spotless doorway and locking himself inside.

“Get out of there now,” Pearson squealed. But Brooks had already made his way up the stairs and into Pearson’s back bedroom.

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19 thoughts on “Falling Down

  1. e1aine says:

    I enjoyed this, (I did come from a fairly rough council estate area and I could actually picture my old neighbours strutting and swearing at each other), it always seemed that the teenagers went for the others their families approved of least. Well written and (to my mind) very realistic.

  2. slepsnor says:

    I like the characters because they come across very clearly and the dialogue flows very nicely. My only criticism is when you have non-dialogue coming after the dialogue sections and use several commas.

    For example: “Brooks said, my boss at MDS builders, a company that had to be doomed from the start with two builders at the helm who chose to sit in steam rooms while they were supposed to be at work.”

    That’s a really long sentence and can get a little muddled if read too quickly. I had to slow down and break the flow of the dialogue to focus on these and make sure I knew what was being described or said. A personal rule I try to use for this is that I should only describe one action or thought when attaching something to a dialogue prompt. The rest can be another sentence or two afterwards. In my opinion, it looks cleanly and helps maintain a good story flow.

    • I’d second this point. I found the description, particularly in that first sentence, just too heavy. I think, in flash fiction, you need to be even more selective than you normally would when it comes to including descriptions. While I enjoyed the story, and found the characters/dialogue really engaging, there’s just too much distraction for my taste. A quick snip here and there, and I think you’d have a much more enjoyable read :)

  3. e1aine says:

    Brooks eat everything – was that a mistake or a style of talking, I wasn’t sure?

  4. skulzstudios says:

    RR, I like it. So my feedback would be, trust your instincts and go with it. Makes a great short story. Be gritty and real. Be straight up and honest. Your portrayal is the fabric of honest living. Keep it up man, you’re doing just fine.
    peace and out,
    skulz

  5. Jared says:

    Agreeing that the first sentence is a bit wordy. As is the description of Brooks. The images used are a bit flat, not sure until the end how we’re supposed to respond.

    I also think you’re cramming too much explanation in between the dialogue. Give sparse, necessary details. When you say Brooks isn’t the most commanding of the bosses, that can be the first time we know Brooks is a boss and it still works well. Let the reader infer as much as they can through action and dialogue. Keep it simple, subtle, flowing.

    Also try to make the conflict jump out. Is it about the possibility of a pregnancy? Is it about how repulsive Brooks is? Or is it about the protag/Brooks/Pearson dynamic? Might want to bring those elements out a bit.

    But your dialogue is solid, and aside from the occasional awkward sentence your prose itself is not bad. Just looks a bit rough and in need of refinement. Hope I was helpful; keep writing!

  6. jcmarckx2009 says:

    I like the story and the characters. If I were to critique anything, it would be to break up the dialog and the narrative into separate paragraphs for smoother flow. But, if that is your style, then go with it.
    Good job!

  7. raynacendre says:

    The first few paragraphs, the very long sentences accompanying the dialogue threw me off. Just a little too much information that seems like it should be broken up… then again, I have a strange love for sentence fragments. Or at least a varying length of sentences.

    However, I LOVED the description of Gerry Brooks. Varied sentence length, great choice of words, really gives a feel for who he is. I also really liked the grimy, gritty feel of the workplace.

    It needs work on sentence and paragraph length, but the descriptions and dialogue are great.

  8. Over use of f bombs. Thats a personal preference issue not a potentially general criticism. But realize, so are the rest of the comments. Just get Elements of Style out and stay to it. I liked the narrative. The description of the bulk of the guy early on had maybe one or two too many analogies. Personal preference….

    • Fair enough! I did think it was a little heavy at times — and considered trimming a few out… But I didn’t, because it’s true to life! perhaps sadly…. thanks for your thoughts :)

  9. Jeni Johnson says:

    I’m not in any way or form a literary expert. Shute, Im not even novice but as a reader I found your excerpt to be very descriptive which I enjoyed, most times. However, if I were you, I’d tame down the over use of detail as it seems to take my mind (reader) back and fro too often to grasp where the story is headed or keeping the details long enough before your next transitions. I didn’t like the pregnant belly until your character made mention of the DM II which explains it but then I kept having to reference back Pearson’s Daughter. IDK. Just a bit confusing there. I’d say, you have a drama unfolding and are very imaginative or rather self experienced to portray such references. Keep the paragraphs sold rather than unfolding too much too soon. But wow! You had my interests and that’s more than half the battle of writing. Right?

  10. I enjoyed this very much. I loved the descriptions of Brooks’ belly, though it could be edited down a bit. I also liked the atmosphere, especially, ” In the road the kids skitter pebbles along the pavements at cats and crumpled tins of Carlsberg, some times launching wet slices of cheap bread to stick on the sides of Mr Pearson’s house.”

    But, I’d like to know who the narrator is, how old he is, what he looks like. I know that’s difficult to do smoothly in first person, but if he’s good-looking maybe some of the women wave at him from behind their curtains.

    I’d also like to know how the narrator feels about his situation, even if you only say a sentence or two about it. Brooks brings up something very very alarming– the narrator might have gotten a girl pregnant– yet the narrator has no reaction to the statement. How does he feel about it? Numb? Does he not want to think about that right now, so that’s why he’s describing Brooks’ belly in detail? Maybe he can briefly picture the girl– pretty? ugly? love of his life?– and that will give us a clue as to how he feels about her.

    • I agree, i felt the narrator was basically a shell of a character, I just need to find the subtle ways around developing him in first…as you say! thank you for reading, i really appreciate it :)

  11. You have lovely descriptions. Very original. They made me pause and reread several times because I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I’m still stuck on the first one that caught my eye–”his pregnant-looking belly”–unusual for a man, but so wholly true of some people. It makes me wonder just why people think male pregnancy in fiction is disgusting when there are people who look like they could really be pregnant. The parts where you describe his surroundings sounded unbelievably grungy and disgusting.

    I love it.

  12. I like the story and the dialogue, it’s kind of earthy. I think you probably need to cut back the adjectives a little, there shouldn’t be too many in one sentence – just in my opinion. Too many adjectives is either a sign of not very good writing or of really great writing – guess it’s in the use of it!

  13. cynthiamcampbell says:

    I loved this. I also agree that the first sentence was confusing, but only that sentence. I loved the description of Brooks in the steam room, and could feel those warm droplets of water spattering off the ceiling. Thanks.

  14. Amber Sherer says:

    The story was clever and cute, your characters vibrant and alive. I shocked myself, during the sauna scene, my eyes actually watered. Steam does that to me, as well as the muggy summers where I live. The scene evoked that memory in me, transported me there, and my body responded. Well done, that doesn’t happen often.

    There were a couple typos, and tense shifts I think I noticed. I’m awfully bad about that myself; have to comb over drafts again and again to catch them. Still fail to find them, half the time.

    The fourth paragraph indent after the break was very confusing for me to follow. The actions were well defined, and the fast pacing fit for (what I think) was happening, but I couldn’t tell well exactly what happened. The idea came through, just with confusion. (The argument, and small fight).

    It was so nice to see such a well written slice-of-life story. It’s the normal, the mundane, that I think I like to see the most. Just people getting on with their lives. A peek behind the curtain of another’s life, maybe.

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