Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Entry #8

If You’d Only Pay Attention
by James R. Tomlinson


I’m at eye-level with your ass. Going up. Remembering how Petey Sykes lost his kiddy-fingers playing on an escalator. Three digits mangled, chewed off, drawn in from the sleeve. Reminds me of the bloody sheets I twirled and flushed. Not an easy task. You got to feed the linen, then flush, then feed some more, then flush again. Back then Jamaal Dixon pretend-slept facing the wall. Nobody’s gonna bring you fresh bedding, I said. Take mine. He turtled-up, wouldn’t speak. I spooned him, whispered how The Muffin Monster® would shred the evidence, would shred anything shoved down a prison toilet. Hid the shank too, spoke softly in his ear, I’ll protect you. I don’t miss much.

Your hand slides off the rail. You continue walking. We’re headed in the same direction, Sears or Radio Shack or the North End parking lot. If we make eye contact I’ll introduce myself, be real cordial, “Name’s Russell Slevkovitch.” I doubt you’ll recognize me, or remember my alias. Perhaps we’ll engage in conversation. You might say, “Hello.” You might tell me your name. I’d like that. I’ll show you my biceps, my tattoo; it’s shaped like a crucifix with God’s Son inked on it.

We pass Sears, then Radio Shack. We’re stride for stride, reaching for the same exit door.

“Oh, excuse me.”

“After you,” I say.

“Thanks.”

We step into the cool fresh air, into a world of opportunity. You turn away. I crack my knuckles. I grit my teeth. “My pleasure.”


(James R. Tomlinson teaches for the Michigan Department of Corrections. He writes about his prison experiences at his blog. The Muffin Monster® is an intrical part of prison maintenance.)

50 comments:

Victor Bravo Monchego, Jr said...

Nicely written, James. Your truth rings from your experience. I will certainly visit your blog.

Aggie said...

There sure are some scary types out there in the world as I guess its based on real life.

Sarah Hina said...

Powerfully good. The predatory angle is especially repugnant, as seen through the prism of his prison past. This feels so authentic, which is why it's also so damn scary. He knows what will happen. And we don't doubt it.

Truly compelling writing, James. I was completely immersed.

JaneyV said...

He's utterly menacing, your character. And yet you've left it ambiguous. Is he evil incarnate or is he an ex-con with a score to settle on someone else who made the lives of others hell? As I read back over where he talks about Jamaal I can't decide whether he's intimidating him or protecting and comforting him.

Wonderful yet unsettling piece.

laughingwolf said...

a tough one, james, i like it :)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

This is chilling. It is just plain scary!!! You have created a whole character and his background in these few paragraphs. Did I mention it is really creepy!!!
Fantastic job.

Ruinwen said...

This piece gave me the chills. Wicked writing. :)

*~*{Sameera}*~* said...

That was kinda scary,not to mention wicked!

Leatherdykeuk said...

Powerful flash!

Aerin said...

Best first line yet!

Jaye Wells said...

The specificity is what makes this so menacing. It takes skill to weild details so well. Excellent (and chilling) job.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Thanks everyone for the wonderful comments--very encouraging.

Janey V, what can I say? I've got this strange feeling you were standing over my shoulder during the writing process.

As for The Muffin Monster, a complete demonstration can be viewed at my blog, along with my roundabout thought process before writing this piece.

the walking man said...

It all comes together Jim, the beginning leading back to the past going forward to the present leaving room for me to see the future with the prods given. Just enough words to give the picture and spur the imagination to fill in the rest.

Catvibe said...

Downright scary JR, a true sociopath of the worst variety. I'm glad to now know what a muffin monster is. :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

You definitely created a lot of tension here. It feels like it could be the opening of a longer piece as well.

Anonymous said...

Take some time off work. You have been fighting the beast too long and are becoming incorporated. MW :)

Ello said...

I'm chilled reading this. It's incredibly powerful and well executed. Excellent piece but I agree with Charles - this could be the opening to a longer story.

Senorita said...

Well executed...you hav captured how the mind flits from one thought to another whilst working towards a particular goal beautifully...

iLL Man said...

Great stuff. Excellent pace and very grim. Just my cup of tea...

Karen said...

This is the nightmare man we want to avoid at all costs -- so scary because he's so real. In very few words, you have shown us a monster.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Karen, If you would like to see the mixed-media version of this story go to my blog.

Thanks everyone for the kind comments. I've been reading all the posted stories, trying to figure out my favorites (there are so many).

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

JR,

I can't get over how you moved from a style of straight expositore writing to fiction.
Seems in one year, you got the snap. Impressive to see.

ceedy said...

That was very wicked....will check your blog for the monster...

B. Ellis said...

Intense!

BrownPhantom said...

Superbly predatory ! Russell Slevkovitch is a bad man indeed. This tempts me to read all about the Muffin Monster.

The Preacherman said...

I like Slevkovitch - which is possibly a worry....

Terrific short story. Loved the atmosphere. Nice one mate.

Nothingman said...

this is too cool :) i like this guy already...cracking knuckles surely puts a punch at the end of the piece :D

brillianto!

N

Hiren said...

thats chilly ... you have put it very well especially the way you set the creepy tone in the first para ... wondefully written.

chkd ur blog too for the monster ... got to know the details. Also, liked the video that you have prepared for your ascension short story.

McKoala said...

Outstanding voice; excellent piece.

David Cranmer said...

Damn fine writing! Nothing short of brilliant and the vid you made on your blog was creepy as hell.

Scott said...

I could just imagine being stalked by someone like this. It's really scary to know there really are people like this.

Really nicely done, JR.

Scott Parker said...

Amazing tension in such a short amount of space. Focused dread. Quite good. And, like David Cranmer said, the video at your blog is a step beyond. As an audiobook fan, that's something I might have to try. Muy bueno.

Aniket Thakkar said...

An extremely well executed piece JR..."I’ll show you my biceps, my tattoo; it’s shaped like a crucifix with God’s Son inked on it." I can feel the aura through these words! :-D Have kept the weekend to read all the 125 posts... I have almost read a 100 i guess... but still dun wanna miss any so will re-read ... after that will surely dig up everything thats on your blog!Junior Woodchuck Promise! :P

Terry said...

JR, your writing exhibits an excellent eye for detail, and you are certainly skilled at turning a phrase. I felt much too close to prison life after reading this. I've heard it's best to write about what you know, and what you know is dang scary. This one will stay with me. Uh, thanks, I think.

one more believer said...

this is one of the reasons why i don't ride buses... how can one venture to see whatz in back of one waitin... "..cool fresh air, into a world of opportunity..." chilling... thx for stopping by and commenting renee#45...

Tiffany said...

Well written and very chilling.

bluesugarpoet said...

Powerful writing. Freaky - and so was the video on your blog! I won't forget this story any time soon. And if I wake up screaming tonight, everyone in the house will have you to thank... :)

Patsy said...

Very disturbing - I'm sure it was supposed to be.

Aniket Thakkar said...

I have written a spoof story of sorts on Ascension.... do read it when you get time! http://foolishnessofthings.blogspot.com/2009/01/fyeo-ascension-revisited.html

You are a character in it as well! :-D

JR's Thumbprints said...

Aniket Thakkar, The reason he kept staring at the woman in pink was fairly obvious. She stole the outfit from Targets, leaving her jeans and t-shirt in the changing room. But if you really really paid attention, you would've noticed the worn out Chuck Taylors on her feet plus the thin, wiry hair protruding from the ripped canvas. So quit focusing on the tattoos and start searching for suspicious characters with hooved feet. Follow the trail of sand, young man. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again, "If You'd Only Pay Attention."

"Oh, and my pleasure."

Aniket Thakkar said...

Point well taken Sir! :-D
PS: Saw the video on the blog... Scary as hell! Made me re-live the whole blair witch project experience! Again hats off to you!!

JR's Thumbprints said...

I slapped that little vignette together within an hour. I did two takes on the narrative and had difficulty enunciating with my newly acquired braces. I'm glad you liked it. I'm just hoping the literary voice can hold its own.

Aniket Thakkar said...

Oh.. You must be good at photoshop and stuff... The effect of 3 fingers in the eye was awesome... My bro. is a web designer by profession... so I catch him when I want somethin like that done! I am a back end developer... so no such skills sadly!

September said...

ohh...chilling. that was intense,
good writing

September said...

hmm...I could have sworn I commented on this one.
Anyway, nice writing - intense and chilling. Good work.

Terry said...

Congratulations on your win in this talented arena.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Wow! So many great entries. I didn't expect to place due to the "creepy" factor of my story.

If you would like to see the visual representation, go to the following link:

http://jrthumbprints.blogspot.com/2009/01/if-youd-only-pay-attention.html

Thanks again.

jason evans said...

Great job on pacing, entertainment value, technical skill, storytelling, and voice! And welcome to the Forties Club!!

Thanks for being a wonderful part of the contest.

jason evans said...

And congratulations on 2nd Place!

Anonymous said...

This was my favorite entry. Good job. :D