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I recently pulled out some early short stories which I want to put together for an anthology. 

I'm putting this one up titled 'Joy Ride' and hoping for some feedback on it. It may still need a little polishing but please be ruthless if need be.  Any suggestions will be welcome.

Joy Ride

Northern Ireland: Nineteen Seventy Three

 

The Cortina sped off with such force it threw me hard against the seat. Liam Delaney was drivin’ like a feckin’ lunatic, like a kid possessed. He swerved so hard I smashed me head against the side window. Mickey’s manic laugh washed over Abba’s Waterloo comin’ out from the eight track; shite music for a shite day.

 

We thought it was the Peelers, the way they swung their car in front of us, forcing us to pull over. Two men got out, balaclavas covering their heads. One pushed Liam Delaney across to the passenger seat taking his place. The other got in the back with me and Micky. He told us not to try to run or he’d feckin’ shoot us. The Cortina pulled away with the other car following behind, and not a word being said. I smelled shite. Wondered if it was comin’ from me.

Micky O’Donnell’s face turned albescent. His look terrified me and I knew that somethin’ very bad was gonna happen, was happening.  I heard somewhere you could smell fear. It’s true; I smelled it, mixed with shite seeping through someone’s pants.

 

The cars turned down an alleyway, shaking and bouncing as they travelled over wasteland before coming to a stop. Engine and ABBA died together and – it was all so quick. Liam Delaney, he got dragged from the car and thrown to the ground.  That’s the first time I saw the gun, a quick glimpse in a gloved hand.  I glanced at Mickey next to me – tears and snot staining his face.

Two men were shouting, telling Liam to keep still, that he’ll make it worse for himself if he didn’t. One of them was kneeling on his back pushing his face in the dirt while the other pointed a gun.  Then I heard it. The noise – a loud bang, a scream.

 

Passenger doors flew open. Mickey disappeared, pulled from the car kicking and screaming, then I’m on the ground, dragged around to where Liam and Mickey lay in the dirt; a gun pointed in my face, told to turn on my stomach and shut my eyes. Another loud bang, more loud screams.

I couldn’t see, it was all so fast. Something smashed on my ribs, again and again. I curled into a ball begging them to stop as they beat down my legs, then my knee. When they finished, I felt nothing, then pain, pain like I’d never felt before.

Mickey was clutching his leg, screaming.  An acrid dark stain seeped through the arse of his wranglers. Crimson crept across the ground. Liam lay groaning, his head moving side to side – and his foot, twisted, facing inwards as if the bottom of his leg had shifted direction from the top. A dark patch spread around his knee in the fading light.

 

An ambulance came, so did the Peelers. Someone must’ve heard the gunshots, and our screams.

I remember the words spoken before they left us there; coming from a hidden face –  ‘If you breathe a feckin’ word to anybody, you’ll be taken away from your mammy and shot in the head –  Catch you again, you’ll be shot in the head. Yea can thank me for being lenient with yea this time.’

 

My knee swelled twice its size, couldn’t walk on it for days,  it hurt when I breathed and multi-coloured bruises appeared all over. I ached for weeks, couldn’t sleep and when I did, I woke soaked in sweat and piss drenched pants. I’d started p****** the bed at sixteen. Every time I heard or saw a car pull up I’d panic, hide under the bed, not that’d stop ‘em, ‘cause if they want yea they’ll find yea. Yea can’t hide.   

 

I was X-rayed and released from hospital several hours later. Nothin’ broken; a cracked rib and bruising around the knee, thigh and back, but Mickey and Liam were kept in. Micky had emergency surgery and Liam was scheduled soon after. It was a long time before they came out. If I’d’ve been sitting where Mickey was, that could’ve easily been me. Shot in the back of the leg, cap shattered, several operations, pins, and casts for months.

 

I had to attend the peelers station the next morning. Ma and Da helped me down the path and into our car. I kept looking around, something I did every time I had to go out afterwards. I’d be expecting to see them waiting nearby, watching me.

What was said that day kept goin’ through me head over an’ over and feckin’ over. The man who had me meant business - The way he towered above, dark eyes through slits of the balaclava, the way he spat out his hate – ‘If you breathe a feckin’ word, you’ll be shot.’

The Peelers wouldn’t stop, kept goin’ on and on. What was I doing in a stolen car? Where did I take it from? Who shot the boys? Who beat me? What were they driving, what car, what colour, what make? What did they look like, sound like? How tall, five eight, five nine? Short, tubby? Were we taking drugs? What clothes were these men wearing? Had I stolen cars before? Tell us the truth, there’s no point lying. We’ll find out. Do you realise someone could have died last night? Someone nearly did. Your friends are going to be maimed for life. Does that not bother you?

They kept going on and on. Told ‘em I didn’t know the feckin’ car was stolen, that I didn’t know the older boy, Liam, that well; thought it was his car, that I didn’t see what happened, that it happened so fast, was pulled out backwards onto the floor, that I curled up to protect myself. That’s all I could remember. I felt numb, panicky and only felt the pain after; was too scared to look up. That was the truth. I was. Was too scared. Was told not to look at him.

I stuck with that, stuck with it and stuck with it as they tried to pick little holes in me story. They eventually let me go, told me they’d not finished with me yet and that I may be charged with auto theft. Feckin’ ‘ell... Ma and Da’s faces! Couldn’t believe what’d happened, what I’d got myself mixed up in.

 

I dreamt again, same as before; cold steel of a gun pressed to me head. A loud bang, then I’m in this h***. They’re shovelling dirt on me, covering me over an’ I’m screaming, watching soil cover my waist and legs, and I can’t move, like I’m paralysed and they keep covering me in this shite until I can’t see their feckin’ masked heads. They cover me till it all goes black.

 

Happens a lot, this dream, and the first time I had it I shite myself. Felt like shite all the next day, and the next. Then I had it again, and again. It comes and p***** me off about once a week; comes to visit me, likes to remind me it’s not goin’ anywhere. It still messes with me, but now I just think of something else as soon as I wake. Sometimes, it works, but it stays with me all day still, in the back of me head, like. But it doesn’t consume me as before, not as much anyway. I don’t panic about it now, don’t let it shite me up as much. Try not to anyway.      

 

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Replies to This Discussion

This was kind of open-ended. I was wanting some kind of resolution.

Anna, thank you. It was taken from a chapter of a book I'm working on and condensed to create this short, so I wasn't too sure if it worked.

Anna L. Walls said:

This was kind of open-ended. I was wanting some kind of resolution.

Hi Christopher. I agree with Anna about needing a little resolution. The piece sounded like a teaser chapter from a book as opposed to stand alone short story. Writing-wise, I’d save the apostrophes for either the slang words like “feckin’” or for dialogue. Keep words like driving and coming to full words. I do like the phrases like “I smashed me head against the side window.” They keep me (the reader) in 1973 Ireland. “albescent” was not a word I was familiar with, so I had to look it up. I think it’s predominantly British and might confuse American readers – of course, that might just be me. Thoroughly enjoyed the atmospheric prose – it let me picture the characters and scene without any boring narrative descriptions. You might want to proof read – there’s some errors, i.e., Micky vs Mickey and extra words. All and all, it makes me want to read the whole book. 

You do want to be careful of area-specific slang, but I had no trouble following this. Context will help. Just make sure it's clear. Happy writing.

Hi Elizabeth, and thank you for taking the time to read this. Yes, it is taken from a chapter of a book I am working on. The idea is to condense it into a short for the anthology, but it needs more work.  Thank you also for spotting the errors. The idea was to leave it open, the thought provoke, but maybe it'll be better suited with a conclusion. I'll crack on with this, then I can polish up my other seven :-)

Elizabeth Fisher said:

Hi Christopher. I agree with Anna about needing a little resolution. The piece sounded like a teaser chapter from a book as opposed to stand alone short story. Writing-wise, I’d save the apostrophes for either the slang words like “feckin’” or for dialogue. Keep words like driving and coming to full words. I do like the phrases like “I smashed me head against the side window.” They keep me (the reader) in 1973 Ireland. “albescent” was not a word I was familiar with, so I had to look it up. I think it’s predominantly British and might confuse American readers – of course, that might just be me. Thoroughly enjoyed the atmospheric prose – it let me picture the characters and scene without any boring narrative descriptions. You might want to proof read – there’s some errors, i.e., Micky vs Mickey and extra words. All and all, it makes me want to read the whole book. 

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