Indie Author Answers #34: Voice Irregularities

With two chapters to read and critique this week, we’re going to skip the tip of the week to fit it all in.

Wait, did you say two chapters? Yes. Yes I did.


8: Megan


Attempting a dual degree was maybe not the smartest decision Megan had ever made, as she entered her fourth year with more than 30 credit hours left until graduation. Today, however, was a light day, with just her Intro to Ethics class and an Experimental Psych lab. As she sat down at her desk, she unfolded the printout of the last email that Chris had sent her. His anger over discovering that she had kissed Clay far exceeded her expectations. She looked over the printout, her eyes landing on key words and phrases like betrayal and trust and marriage vows. She had read the email a dozen times, but each time, it seemed almost as if the whole situation were happening to someone else; somehow, it did not sink in.

She caught the girl next to her reading the paper, so she folded it in half. Doing so did not lessen the impact of the words inside. She could not help Chris’ powerlessness, could not halt his anger. She could only clean up her own side of the street.

Her Ethics class met in a vast, stadium-style classroom. She did not know exactly how many it seated– maybe hundreds– but the class was populous enough that she had been attending three times a week for several weeks now and Brian had not once looked at her. She had seen him on the first day, and managed to pick him out of the crowd every single class after that. Easy enough, because he usually came in late. Such was the case today, as the professor had just begun to talk about the next major paper due when Brian hurried in, fumbling past several people in a vain attempt to reach one of the last remaining seats on the far side. Adorable how he always apologized profusely as he crawled over people for a seat, which made more of a ruckus than if he would have just quietly stood by the back door for the duration of the class.

The reasons for her preoccupation eluded her. Maybe his tattered chic style, which differed so greatly from the guys she typically dated. In high school, she preferred the bad boys, but by the time she had gotten to college, she had realized that the same things that attracted her to them were the same qualities that made them poor choices to be boyfriends. They were exciting, unpredictable, and mysterious, which also meant they were dangerous, unreliable, and unavailable. Chris, at first, seemed to be a happy medium, because he was dashing, but also had a sweet side. These qualities changed over time, and by the day she married him, she was no longer even sure if she wanted to be with him.

This boy, this always-late-to-class Brian with the messy hair and deep eyes, was clearly not dangerous, and probably not any of the other things that raised her red flags. Maybe the mysterious factor snagged her, because the longer she watched him from afar, the more he acted like the blank slate upon which she could write whatever personality she liked. Maybe the obsession itself had her obsessed. Unhealthy, but she had chosen to indulge in it nonetheless. That’s what Dr. Foster would say.

 “You’re projecting your desires onto this man because of your doubts in your relationship with your husband,” she would say. “Because you don’t know him, he can be everything that Chris is not. It’s much more pleasant to dream inside a fantasy than it is to live in reality. Fantasy is whatever we want it to be. In the real world, we have little control over everything that is not us.”

And of course, she would be right. Megan clicked her pen and tried to refocus on the professor, already three bullet-points into the current slide on the projector.


9: Alex


“I can move a lot more than an o-z at a time,” Alex said. “It’s no big thing, dude. I got this. You can trust me.” Wiles had deflected his every suggestion as they sat on the front porch of Wiles and Megan’s house, drinking 40-ounce beers in paper bags while playing dominoes on a card table. This was one of Wiles’ favorite activities: emulating Compton gangsters from Boyz in Da Hood.

“Why don’t you just chill with what you got for now,” Wiles said, shifting the toothpick in his mouth from one side to the other. “You might need to pull it back in some because you’ve been a little sloppy lately.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I know you’ve been going up on campus and the Hill, meeting people in broad daylight, handling weight out in the open and shit,” Wiles said. “You’ve got to be more careful, son. This town isn’t like it used to be. Undercovers are all over the place now, popping up out of nowhere like prairie dogs. Big Brother wants a drug-free Boulder. It’s not like back in the day.”

“What about the white? Could you front me just a little bit, like a teener, or maybe an eight-ball? I can do more with white. A lot more people ask me for that than meth.”

Wiles prickled. “I got another guy for the white. You don’t worry about that.”

He probably thinks I’d dip into it too much. He probably thinks I dip into the meth, and he’s afraid I’ll end up doing it all.

Alex considered saying something to appease Wiles’ concerns, but then again, if he did say anything, maybe protesting too much would make Wiles think that way even more. Too hard to gauge. Best to keep the mouth shut. “Alright, no problem. Because, I mean, I can handle it… if you were thinking I couldn’t. Because I’d be all over it, dude. I’m totally in if that’s what you want.”

“Damn, Speedy Gonzalez, I said don’t worry about it,” Wiles said as he slapped down his domino, causing the rest of the bones on the table to rattle. “What’s up with those marks on your face?” Wiles said.

He was referring to a couple pimples that Alex had squeezed, the aftermath of which had left red marks and scabs on his face. “Oh, that’s nothing. I was up all night last night and spent a bit of time doing some home improvements. You know how it goes. It’s not a big deal, I was just bored.”

“You need to be careful with that. I mean, I know you can’t be as pretty and shit like me, but you’re going to end up looking all Edward James Olmos if you keep picking at your face like that.”

Alex glared at his dominoes. “I gotta take a leak,” he said.

Alex went inside and towards the bathroom, when the wooden box that Wiles kept on the lower shelf of his coffee table caught Alex’s eye. He noticed because the box had always been shut, but today it lay open and Alex could see a gun inside, cushioned by a white hand towel.

After checking the door to make sure Wiles was not looking, Alex sat on the couch. He gingerly reached for the box, laid it in his lap, and admired the shiny pistol. Alex ran his fingers over the barrel, then down the grip. Cold, hard, but beautiful. He wanted to touch the trigger, but hesitated. He had never seen a gun up close before, let alone touched one.

“Britton,” Wiles shouted from outside, “bring me another forty.”

Alex closed the box and returned it to its home. He fetched the beer for Wiles and rejoined him outside.

“You hook up with that girl from Eli’s the other night?” Wiles said.

“Hell yeah, I did. And she was… a… freak,” Alex said, enunciating the last two words for emphasis. “Dirty talking me, all, ‘tell me I’m a naughty girl’ and shit. I fucked her every which way, for reals. Crazy shit, dude.”

“You’re the little freak, son,” Wiles said, laughing. “That girl was nasty. You musta been hard up, sticking it in that skanky piece of trim just to get your dick wet.”

Alex shifted in his chair, focusing on his dominoes. Wiles messed with him all the time and Alex found it best either to give back, or to blow it off. “She wasn’t that bad. Maybe not a beauty queen but she had a nice ass.”

Wiles laughed even harder. “Are you crazy? You must have been drunk as fuck. I hope you wrapped your junk, at least. Knock up that shit and it’s game over for you.”

Wiles took a break from the game, stepped away from the table, and walked to the edge of the porch to relieve himself. He just opened his fly and let it go, right there. Alex looked around, and even with nobody on the street right now, he envied Wiles’ complete lack of inhibition. Midway through urinating, a car pulled into the driveway, and Wiles seemed completely unfazed by its arrival.

From the car emerged little hottie Megan, with a scowl on her face. “Aren’t you house-trained?” she said. Wiles snickered, but Megan ignored him and continued: “Well, I guess you must be glad to know that your penis still works after you stuck it in that slut last night.”

Wiles zipped up, and reassured Alex. “She’s just mad that I poked her friend.”

“That girl is not my friend. I barely know her. And I’m mad because you had sex with her on my couch, and you didn’t even care that I was home. I don’t want to see that horseshit, Derek. You could at least put a towel down because I don’t want to have to sit on your damn sex funk!”

Then Megan noticed Alex. “Who are you?”

“I’m Alex, we’ve met before. You don’t remember me? I’ve been over here a bunch of times.”

“Oh, right. I get all of Derek’s little drug-buddies confused.”

“Hey, now,” Wiles said, wagging a finger at Megan. “You don’t need to be all bitchy to my homeboy. He’s done nothing to you.”

“Does he eat my food and bring drugs into my house? I’m going to go inside and change, and then I’m going to go for a run. When I get back, I would like you two gone. I need to study tonight, and I want the house to myself so I don’t have any distractions.”

Without waiting for a response, Megan stormed into the house and slammed the door behind her, leaving Alex disoriented. The verbal abuse from such a good-looking girl had been a distinct turn-on, especially how the tendons on her tattooed neck protruded while she berated Wiles. Her sexy, hazy voice, like that of a lifelong smoker… such a shame to be so young and already married.

“She’s a ball of sunshine, right?” Wiles said as he sat back down at the table.

“Yeah, holy shit, dude, what in the fuck just happened?”

Wiles yawned. “Don’t even trip about Megan. She does this kind of stuff all the time. It’s like a daily occurrence now, ‘cuz she’s been all crazy ever since Chris went overseas.”

“Hot little married girl all alone back in the states while brave husband fights Bush’s oil war, eh?” Alex said, a fake frown on his face. “Poor thing. Maybe she needs some deep dicking to calm her down.”

Wiles leaned towards Alex, close enough that Alex could smell his hot, stale breath. He took the toothpick out of his mouth, and thrust it towards Alex to articulate his point. “That’s my brother’s wife, son. I’ll break off your goddamn nuts if you even think about it.”