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(Friday Fiction) The Comfortable Clink of Silence

Writing 150Working on THE CULT OF MAXIMUS has exposed a few problem areas for me as a writer — I really need to get better at writing scenes where characters are in direct conflict, and I could stand to shore up my dialogue so that characters expose their personalities a bit better through how they speak. I wanted to do a little bit of fiction that put two characters in direct opposition AND demands that the resolution be attempted by dialogue. So here goes.
Liam looked up as soon as Victor entered. The bear paused warily as the lion’s eyes slid from his face to his outfit — a red flannel shirt and a pair of heavy work jeans that looked like they were made of particle board judging by their drape. Liam tried to look neutral, but Victor knew his disapproval in the bristle of his whiskers and the single, agitated thump of his tail.

“A flannel shirt?” Liam said as he stood up. “Here? Are you sure you wanted to meet here?”

“Fuck you. This is my best shirt.” Victor stuck out his hand, staring Liam down. The pair made an imposing sight; Victor was pushing seven feet and well over 300 pounds of fat-marbled muscle, while Liam was even taller, his mane covering the shoulders of his navy blazer and forcing the light blue gingham shirt to be unbuttoned twice from the collar. If their size weren’t enough to draw the attention of the others in the bar, the tension that leapt into the air certainly was.

“Mmm. I suppose so. My apologies.” Liam seemed unconvinced. He sat down again and immediately drained what was left in his tumbler. “May I get you something to drink?”

Victor slid into the opposite seat, a small ear flicking at the way the sturdy wood creaked beneath him. “Yeah. They got any beer?”

Liam smiled. “They have an excellent list of Belgian and German beers that I think you will love.”

He raised one big paw to the waiter. The weasel slinked over. “A triple of your 15 year Laghavulin, neat, with a splash of spring water. And is your Fastbier still on tap? A glass for–”

Victor rested a mitt on the weasel, who looked like he might leap out of his shirt. “You got Bud?” The waiter nodded. “Gimme one of those.”

“Still avoiding new experiences, I see.” Liam sniffed after the waiter left.

“No. I’m avoiding some jackhole ordering for me when I already know what I want.” Victor frowned and crossed his arms. “Besides, we ain’t got time to savor beer. Let’s get this over with.”
“Very well.” Liam looked away for just a moment, and Victor knew that he had gotten to him. The lion recovered quickly, shifting in his seat and crossing his hands on the table. “What would you like?”

The bear sniffed. “Don’t need much. Just some of the furniture, a couple of the pots and pans. And the TV.”

“All right. Nothing more?” Liam looked at Victor closely, and the bear felt that familiar line racing up his back when he stared back into golden, slitted pupils.

“Nah. I’ll make my own way well enough. Unless you got shit you want to get rid of. I can take that off your hands. You wanna keep the wet bar?”

The lion reached across the table and grabbed Victor’s hand. “I want to keep us. I don’t know why we have to do this.”

“Because you think of us as something to keep.” Victor pulled his hand away. “You’re not really in love with me. You want somebody you can dress up and buy fancy beers for.”

The big cat let his hand linger on the table for a moment, fingers stroking empty space before he pulled it back. “I don’t think that’s fair. I’ve always supported your interests.”

“When you got bored giving me shit about ’em. You know how much a pain in the ass it is to have to justify every little thing to you because you don’t understand it? I’m sick of it. We ain’t compatible. Simple as that. So now you can find somebody you can go to the opera with or some shit, and I can finally take my boyfriend fishing. It’s better for both of us.”

“You never talked to me about any of that!” Liam’s whiskers bristled, then flattened as soon as the weasel returned with drinks. He gave the waiter a toothless smile, then slumped in his seat when he left. “I didn’t know how much it bothered you.”

“You didn’t care. I’m not that hard to read. As long as I didn’t make too big a fuss about it, you did what you could get away with.” Victor swallowed the bottle in one paw and took a long draught of it. “I’m tired of doing things I hate just because it’s easier.”

Liam stared at his tumbler for a moment before knocking the whole thing back. “Why did you stay so long if it was really that terrible? You make it sound like being with me was torture for you.”

“I did love you.” Victor responded without hesitation. “Maybe I changed, or maybe you took me for granted, or maybe you stopped trying to make me like you and became who you really were. I don’t know. The point is, it’s over now.”

“It doesn’t have to be, my love. I can change.”

Victor shook his head. “No you can’t. If you could, you would have done it by now.”

“By magically reading your mind?”

“By paying attention to something other than yourself for five god-damned minutes.” Victor grunted as he stood up, drinking the rest of his beer. “What is this? I thought we were here to talk about how to divide up our stuff. But you can’t help trying to get your way, can you?”

Liam blinked. “I thought you wanted to meet here because there was still a chance.”

Victor sighed. “I asked to meet here because I knew you liked this place and it’s down the street from my site.” The bear rubbed at his eyes with thick, clawed fingers. “Christ, Lee. Do you even remember where I work?”

“And what do you remember about me?” The lion’s voice rose to a near-roar. His hand slapped the table, and the constant murmur of voices around them abruptly died. “What’s my favorite piece of classical music? My favorite film? Why did I pick this blazer? How much do you really know about the things I care about?

“You spend so much time being resentful about how I won’t go watch grown men beat each other up in their underwear that you never even stopped to consider why I tried to expand your horizons! You’re so much better than that. You’re smart. You’re honest. But you’re so much more close-minded than I am. You discount anything I like before you’ve even given it a chance! What the fuck are you doing with yourself? I was only trying to share the things that I care about. The opera is important to me! This…” –he tugged on his blazer– “…is important to me! But you couldn’t care less. I don’t think you’re capable of enjoying anything. I think the only thing you want to be is numb. Well if that’s it, fine. Drink your cheap beer and watch your wrestling. I’m not going to watch you shut out the world any more. Maybe you are doing me a favor.”

They could both feel sets of eyes on them as the entire bar had turned to watch. Victor swallowed once. His face hardened. And he turned to leave. “We’re done here.”

Liam watched him go. He sat in his chair and stared at his glass. He kept staring, even as the weasel quickly and silently removed it, cleaning the small ring of water it left behind.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2016 in Furries, Writing

 

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Thursday Prompt: The Future

Writing 150(Author’s Note: This little bit of fiction doesn’t really fit within any of the worlds that I regularly write about, but I have to admit that the main character feels an awful lot like Robert, the main character for Bird. I wanted to capture a sense of frustrated pessimism, but built on a pragmatic basis. I also wanted this to work mostly through dialogue and ‘stage direction’ as it were, but as it’s told from a first-person perspective there’s a little bit of ‘telling’ that shines through.)

“What do you suppose our future is going to look like?” Sarah was lying next to me in our backyard, looking up at the stars. They were much easier to see now that the electricity had gone out.

I sighed and tried not to look at the one star, bigger than the others, twinkling with erratic, angry life. I didn’t want to play this game with her, not now. “I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me?”

She turned, and I could feel her looking at me. “I think it’ll be better than what we have now. Not right away, but eventually. We’ll build new farms and towns, and we’ll go into the cities only to salvage stuff we need.”

I nodded, and couldn’t stop myself from saying: “Where you’ll have to wade through the bones of the dead and can’t do anything about the infections you’ll get, because there’ll be no medicine.” I kept staring up. My eyes kept getting drawn to that star. It was the brightest thing in the sky now, maybe half the size of the moon.

She was quiet after that, for about a minute. I could feel her frowning at me, too. After a while she spoke. “I really wish you wouldn’t do that. You don’t have to ruin everything.”

“I’m not ruining everything. That is.” I pointed to the asteroid, now, forced myself to look at it. She did, too. I heard her gasp slightly and immediately regretted it. Then I felt angry at her for making me feel bad. “I’m just reminding you what’s going to happen.”

“I already know what’s going to happen.” She turned away, then. Away from me, away from the stars. She was staring at Rodney’s doghouse now, I knew. I tried not to think about how he disappeared a week ago, or wonder where he was. People were getting hungry these days. They were trying to stockpile. They were well past the point of being picky.

“No you don’t. You have this pie-in-the-sky idea of what’s going to happen, but you don’t know what’s really going to happen. That thing is going to smash into the planet, Sarah. And when it does, that’s it. The end. Done. You might think that you can climb out of whatever shelter your family has and just start over, but it’s not going to be that easy. It’s going to be months before anybody even sees the sun again. If you survive — and that’s a pretty big if — you’re going to come out to a world that’s died. Completely. All the plants, all the animals. Just gone. You won’t go into the city to salvage anything, because the cities will have melted. The ash will have choked the oceans. The earth will have been scorched away. You can’t grow anything. You can’t build anything. All you can do is eat what you’ve got until it’s gone, and then you’re going to starve to death. That’s what the future is going to look like. And I sure as fuck don’t want to see it.”

There was a voice in my head telling me to stop. I think I heard her gasp, then whimper, then start to cry. But I kept going. I heard my voice getting higher and shriller, carrying through the quiet of the neighborhood, my panic exciting a dog whose family had left him days ago. He barked four times before he went quiet again. He didn’t have much fight left in him.

But neither did I. Our family had decided not to survive what was coming. We knew better. If we made it through the impact, we were not equipped in mind or body to handle what would come afterwards. What kind of life would that be? Sarah, sweet and naive, always tried to make things into a fairy tale no matter how bad they were. I think she understood that things would be scary for a little while, but thought it would get better really soon. I knew better. There was no getting better from this. The sooner she understood that, the better off she would be. There would be no more fairy tales. The asteroid would scorch all of that away.

“I don’t want to die,” she said through her tears. Her voice sounded small, afraid. The way it should be.

I turned to her and held her, scooting closer to her warmth. This would be the last time I’d get to do this, I told myself, and I started to cry too.

“I know you don’t,” I said. I kissed her hair, put my arms around her. “But if that thing does what we’re pretty sure it’s going to do, I don’t want to live through that.”

She cried harder, and so did I. I held her and she backed up against me. What else could we do? Far above us, but getting closer all the time, the asteroid brightened the night sky in its unnatural, malevolent way.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Thursday Prompt, Writing

 

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