Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Entry #134

Wine the Great Tutor
by Mark C. Durfee

Normally I knew I would never make it over the cyclone fence. I’d never been able to climb the damn things before. But the stolen bottle of Boons Farm Apple. It makes the wary, bold and the timid fearless. I don’t know what it makes you when you’re hung upside down on a six foot cyclone fence puking out lunch.

That first time was from the cheap wine but the next two were because of the liquid smell of my own vomit crawling up my nose. Struggling, sweating, puking wine and digested lunch; all things a fat kid of 16 should not get caught up in publicly. I may have been drunk but my biggest fear was if the neighborhood pricks found me like this, along with everything else, it was going to be new shit to throw at me.

God I was tired of being the neighborhood joke, the one destined for eternal fat kid bullshit from the pretty people. Just having the same old images painted in apple wine colors made me struggle even more. The fighting stopped only when my belt snapped and I fell into the puddle of muck below. I couldn’t even remember what the hell was on the other side of that fucking fence I wanted bad enough climb it in the first place.

I learned after that to only drink with my friends; which is why after forty years I always still drink alone.


Catherine Vibert said...

What a sad and bitter man. I feel badly for him. Gritty writing.

laughingwolf said...

a bit of your soul there, mark :)

Laurel said...

This is a fantastic snapshot of the sorts of adolescent experiences that shape our adult selves.

Awesome detail and character development.

I wouldn't bother if this wasn't so good but do you think the comma after "it makes the wary," fits? Too lazy to look up a manual of style right now but I wasn't sure.

This story really packed a punch for me. Great job.

Terri said...

Gritty; and sad.

the walking man said...

Thanks you guys I 'preciate the thoughts. More important thank you for reading and taking the time out of your day to make the comment. The feedback is the only way I will ever see my world through the eyes of another. Thank you all.

Laurel...Dang missed that one as I was playing around in the rewrites, you are absolutely correct that comma does NOT belong there. Can I sucker you into editing my poetry? ;-}

Mona said...

See? ANY experience good or bad is a tutor. So I never regret a thing in my life, however horrible the experience may have been.

Experiences make you what you are today. And I see a Dynamic person out there as you Mark!

Of course as far as the writing of the story goes...there is no comparison to the originality as always...

Bebo said...

WM: Unexpectedly gritty & real. Perfectly painted picture of hellish teen years.

Well done!

JR's Thumbprints said...

George Thorogood would be proud.

I liked the voice of this piece--how the kid didn't even know why he was trying to scale the fence, that is, until his self-discovery that it's okay to drink alone, to be self-loathing. Beats the alternative.

Laurel said...

I'm not sure I've editorial qualifications but if it's anywhere near as good as this I would love to read it!


Seriously, this is a great piece. To me, who is nobody. (But then again, so was Odysseus!) It's on my very short short list.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Laurel - this is a great piece. The sequencing, characterization, word choices are all spot-on.

Karen said...

I'm a fan, too. I agree with Aerin and Laurel. This is very, very good. I'm a poetry fan, too, so I'm off to your blog...

Unknown said...

Gritty, strong writing and excellent characterisation! Really well done!

the walking man said...

Once again thank you for the nod and the words, just know they are much respected and appreciated.

be well

Precie said...

Strong, vivid, painful writing. Well done.

BernardL said...

A man who knows his limitations.

PJD said...

I was really, really engaged by the first two paragraphs. The voice, the bitter humor, the word choice, the really awful stuff that's happened. (At least, though, he hasn't lost his clothes. Yikes.)

The third paragraph turned into a bit of a summary, or lecture, though. I would love this even more if you just struck the first two sentences of that third paragraph... it's telling us what we've already learned through the outstanding showing you did in the first two paragraphs. I'd keep the rest of it, though, from "The fighting stopped" to the end.

Really terrific.

Sandra Cormier said...

"Just having the same old images painted in apple wine colors made me struggle even more."

Love that line.

the walking man said...

Once again...thank you all for taking the time to read and more importantly to me, to leave a comment.

I am a poet more than a flash writer, although the form is not lost on me, I prefer poetry above other forms of writing.

PJD...I can see how those two lines could be considered redundant. Although when I was looking this over and playing with it I never considered eliminating them I look at them now and have to respectfully disagree.

The first line in the disputed paragraph reinforces his feeling, and the fear that caused him to struggle so hard. It is there for the reader, restating his status among his peers which was only briefly, ambiguously, stated in para 2.

That head line in the third chapter states in no uncertain terms that he'd been consistently bullied and takes them who have ever been bullied for whatever reason into his soul. It allows them,(me/us) to connect.

The following line...*shrug* poetic license.

Although I don't know if this follows the rules of the contest or not, just let me say this piece wasn't flash fiction but flash memoir.

I doubt this is a readers choice for best or Jason and companies pick for top ten or what ever. BUT I already won what I was looking for, that is a bit of feedback, which is why I write. Your comments make me think and in thinking I find new material to write about.

Hell I didn't even put this up on my blog to draw attention to it, it is an archived piece now and may make it into some other anthology may I publish. I wrote it because I can hardly resist a challenge when it comes to writing...and that is why it exists, the gauntlet was thrown and I had time to pick it up and fling it back..

Let's look at the last line because to some it imparts a certain bitterness. I stopped being that fat kid, picked on, when I finally grew taller and learned to fight back. (Detroit will teach that lesson eventually)

I was not bitter but I did always drink alone. Until just a few years ago I did not allow people into my heart. Not because I could be bullied still(I am 6' 250 lbs and can remember how to be mean as hell if I have to) but because I was tired of risking my heart and the hardening of it.

Besides the amounts I drank made it safer for the world for me to drink at home.(naw don't worry I never beat anyone at home or anything like that, I worked two jobs and did most of my copious daily bourbon drinking when everyone was asleep)

The last line to me was written without passion or emotion but simply a statement of fact.

It's been ten years since I drank alcohol but I had a run with it that lasted for a few decades and it was time to stop. I will say this though that when I did stop, the stock of Jim Beam dropped by 6% which was one of my proudest moments ;-}

I am currently working through the final edits of my next book of poetry. (shhh I haven't told anybody 'bout that yet) It will probably be ready at the end of July.

Forgive me for mostly not answering your kindness individually. Just once again thank you.

Mark C. Durfee

Aniket Thakkar said...

My bro. is 6ft 5 inches and weighs 140 kgs. So I possibly know every fat/giant joke there is in this part of the world.

I admire him that he always takes them in good humor and never ever gets mad. I used to pick up fights for him as a kid but he always told me it wasn't worth it.

I could relate to this piece a lot. Thank you for that.

The last line says it all.
This is my absolute favorite as far as conveying a message is concerned.

Laurel said...


Reading this I had the strongest sense that it must be in some part autobiographical. At least one other work submitted in this contest proved that a writer does not have to literally experience what they've written to feel and express the emotion of the event but it goes a long way to lending authority to the voice if he has.

Of course I never got drunk and climbed a fence as a teenager but I absolutely felt what this kid is feeling and it sticks with you. The piece has enough dark humor to not be maudlin or self-indulgent but rather a distanced assessment of self and the struggle to establish one's own identity and worth in adulthood.

It cut right through me and made me thirteen again. It reminded me why I don't live in my hometown and never want to. It validated my vindictive pleasure at being a lot skinnier than my classmates at my high school reunion.

You were in my top five.

JaneyV said...

Mark this is a deeply personal piece and that raw emotion really gives it strength. It's actually the coldness of the last sentence that makes it feel so sad.

Memory said...

ahhh...the pain of being a teen trying to fit in. Glad she realized she didn't have to.
Nice work.

Laurel said...

Hi, Memory!

I seldom do this, comment on content of another comment, but this particular piece was so personal for me. I can't speak for Mark but in my own experience "fitting in" was an unattainable Holy Grail. This feels more like what I felt:

Please God just get me through this day without being humiliated or clobbered.

Even now, in my thirties, I still compare rocky stretches of my life with junior high and conclude that things could be worse. I could be in eighth grade.

the walking man said...

First off: Thank you Jason for running the competition as effectively and passionately as you do and for that totally unexpected nod in the honorable mention category. I am humbly honored.

Secondly...Thank you all for your wonderfully thoughtful comments on this piece. I already gave the iconography of it so i won't go back to it. Just to say thank you once again.

Thirdly...Laurel, I have about twenty years on you and often times I go back to the same least I am not in fourth grade again. During that school year the nun who taught three of my older siblings every single day stood me up beside my desk and let me know in no uncertain terms that i was fat, a slob and would never measure up to my brother and sisters concerning their ability.

The very worst of it was in doing that she not only made me feel fairly useless, she also taught those other kids that it was good and right and goddamn near a holy thing to do to me, abuse, bully and heap all manner of abuse and scorn on me.

This was a small neighbor hood Catholic school so I was stuck with these kids for the rest of the time I went there through 11th grade.

The abuse stopped during 10th grade when I finally realized that I didn't have to be only hit but that I could hit back. (growing to 5'11" 250 lbs didn't hurt either)I can't count all of the broken knuckles I have had over the years. I finally came to realize two things...the old bitch did me a favor because she set my foot on a path less traveled, though painful it has thus far been a hell of a ride, and secondly once I forgave myself for accepting responsibility for her and the kids actions i was healed of the lingering after effects.

It took a long time to let go of that baggage but it felt good to finally be free of it. I may still be fat, and I may yet be a slob, and stupider than a standard door knob but I am what none of them I went to school with or what any of my siblings

Anonymous said...

I can relate to drinking, then doing something just because. It seems so vital in the moment. But this time it backfired. That kid watches his back always.

Very high scoring.

Congratulations on Honorable Mention!!

Jaye Wells said...

There's a lot of emotion in this piece. The rawness and honesty make it an uncomfortable yet compelling read. Great job.