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Long Story: Foreshadowing and Building Suspense

February 17, 2013
Cover of Suspense Comics, No. 8, 1945

WARNING! Nothing like this really happens in Long Story. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My tenth grade English teacher Mr. Faggins (pronounced Fay-guns) hated stories where nothing happened.  Too many of us wrote stories where we got up in the morning, brushed our teeth, ate breakfast, took a dump, showered (except for the smelly kids), and went to school.  Just doing that took up half the page if the student had big enough handwriting.

Mr. Fay-guns wanted our stories to keep moving.  That meant that we needed to cut everything that everybody else does.  Since everybody eats breakfast, we weren’t supposed to put that into the story, unless something important happened at breakfast.  Everything in the story was supposed to be unique to the characters in some way.

At the same time, I wanted to build suspense.  Building suspense meant slowing the action down.  Danny Dornan, my main character, had to go through his every day routine with the anticipation that something really horrible was going to happen later.  This was new for me.  I don’t think I had ever attempted to write suspense before.


Long Story

Chapter 5

The Dead Man

I was a dead man, I was sure of it.  I had just beaten up the ten-year old Johnny Curse, and he was going to tell his older brothers, and they were going to beat the tar out of me.  They would knock my teeth out.  They would kick my head in.  They would intentionally break my bones and laugh while they did it.  No parents could stop them.  No police could help me.  The Curse brothers would find a way to get to me.

It was Melinda’s fault.  My former sweet-voiced dimwit of a girlfriend had betrayed me.  I knew that as a boyfriend I should have protected her before she got hit with the rock.  But as my girlfriend she should never have put me in that situation.  She had started the entire confrontation, and I had felt the responsibility to step in, but I had waited too long.  Now I had no girlfriend, and the Curse brothers were going to kill me.

I still had to go to school.  Even though the Curse brothers never attacked in the morning, I still ran.  I had to will myself to slow down my pace once I stepped into the school building.

My friends said hi and tried to make small talk, and I did my best to answer, but I always looked over their shoulders for signs of the Curse brothers.  Everybody else seemed to be acting normal.  There didn’t seem to be any whispering or side-view glances at me.  There were no smirks or double-takes or wide-eyed stares as I walked down the hallway.  Nobody muttered death warnings to me as they passed by.  I was ignored like I was every normal day at school.

In fact, nobody seemed to know that I had beaten up Johnny Curse.  It seemed like Melinda hadn’t said anything.  The Curse brothers hadn’t said anything.  I wasn’t going to say anything.  I couldn’t brag about beating up a ten-year old.  I wasn’t ashamed because I hadn’t had much choice, but I would have been grateful if nobody ever heard about it.

I was still scared, and the adrenaline made my brain work faster.  In math, the teacher called on Melinda, and the class snickered when she maintained her silent vacant stare.  When the teacher called me, however, I had my answer ready.  In fact, I started raising my hand, volunteering correct response after correct response.  I raised my hand so much the teacher got annoyed.  If I was a dead man, at least I would die as a good student.

At lunch a few friends had realized that I wasn’t talking to Melinda, and somebody finally asked if we had broken up.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I answered.

“Did you break up with her, or did she break up with you?” somebody asked.

“I broke up with her,” I lied.  I knew to never admit that I had been the one that got dumped.

“Why?” one of my friends asked.  They were stunned that I would break up with a girl.  Then again, they had been stunned when they found out that I had a girlfriend.

“I’ll tell you everything later.  I’m hungry.”

Everybody understood that, so they talked about other stuff while I ate lunch.

“Hey, did you hear what the Curse brothers did to Randall?” one of my friends asked the group.

I kept eating as I listened to the conversation.

“They gave him a swirlie and a wedgie in the B hall bathroom.”

“They gave him a swirdgie?”

“I thought the swirdgie was a myth.”

“I saw Randall myself.  He was walking funny and had wet hair flopping over his face.”

“Was his underwear pulled up to his shoulders?”

“No, he fixed it before he came out of the bathroom.  But I swear he was walking funny.”

“Did you ask him if he really got swirdgied?”

“You don’t talk to a guy who just got swirdgied.  It’s rude.”

“Did they beat him up?”

“No, they just swirdgied him.”

It was weird hearing my friends laughing about Randall getting a swirdgie because something like that could have easily happened to them too.  The laughter was out of relief more than humor, though.  The Curse brothers went easy on Randall.  Humiliation was pretty bad, but they left his face alone.  I was sure they wouldn’t let me off the hook that easily.

I took the swirdgie as a good sign.  If the Curse brothers weren’t in a violent mood, maybe they weren’t mad that their little brother had gotten beaten up.  Maybe they knew that their little brother shouldn’t throw rocks at girls.  Or maybe Johnny hadn’t said anything to them about it.  Maybe the Curse brothers wouldn’t come after me at all.

I wasn’t taking chances.  After school, I took the longest indirect route to my house, going steering clear of any landmarks that the Curse brothers were known to hang out at.  I even snuck through a couple back yards to make sure I wasn’t seen on streets with good ambush sites.  The walk home took over an hour, but I got there safely.

Homework that night was a breeze. I couldn’t believe how fast my mind worked when I was scared.  I thought I wouldn’t be able to concentrate.  I thought I’d be so sick with worry that I wouldn’t be able to think about anything except the Curse brothers.  Instead, it was like my brain craved something else to think about.  I was always a pretty good student, except when Melinda was my girlfriend, but my mind suddenly became super-smart.  My homework was done within a couple hours.  I loaded everything into my backpack.

I was suddenly optimistic.  There was no way the Curse brothers would attack me before school.  That kind of thing just didn’t happen.  All I had to do was find a new indirect path home every day for the next couple years, and I’d have it made.  Maybe I wouldn’t have to this for long.  Maybe the Curse brothers would find some other better target soon.  For the first time in 24 hours, I started to feel good about life.


To be continued in  Long Story: The Climax … because you know a story can’t end like this.

Or to start “Long Story” from the beginning, read Long Story: Teachers with Funny Last Names .

From → Long Story

  1. The lull before the storm? 😛 😛

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  1. Long Story: Content Not Suitable For Children | Dysfunctional Literacy

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