Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The se7en story never published

A little while ago, I was asked to pitch se7en -- the Zenscope book based on the Fincher/Freeman/Pitt movie. The book was basically a prequel -- though I think some stories may take simultaneously -- of stories about John Doe or his victims or whatever could fit into the context of the movie. Of course, there was seven of them, each by a different creative team and telling a self-contained story.

So, for you people with a short attention span, I was asked to pitch. Now, to my credit or to my detriment -- only history may tell -- I was a bit ambitious with this. I pitched an Envy story that didn’t take place that close (in time) to the movie, wasn’t a horrific tale that assaulted the limits of the senses, but was instead a small story about two little boys, one of them John Doe, and the horrific psychological damage they could do to each other.

I didn’t get the job. Perhaps because it wasn’t what they wanted; perhaps because David Mack decided to do it (hey, if you’re going to lose a job, at least lose it with come class). It’s cool though, that’s the ropes, no big deal, and I love they considered me for the pitch.

My point is I kept the story about two little boys. Thankfully, the format of the story and the idea are so general it only lended itself to se7en and doesn’t have to be a se7en story. So now it’s just a story about two little boys -- though when it’s all said and done you’ll be able to pick out the pieces that make it fit into the premise.

So I kept the story about two little boys and tonight, after a rough day, I decided to put my work for hire aside and revisit it in prose form. I just needed a break, but I still wanted to write, so I broke this out.

Oh, due to the glory of this being spur of the moment, the internet, and me not feeling like spell checking or editing it tonight, you get it in raw form, write out of my head and hands.

It’s told in three parts, and here is the first.

James Patrick

I hated when my mother licked her fingers and wiped my face. As if it the gross feeling of a moist finger leaving a wet trail across my skin wasn’t enough, she always rubbed and pressed like she was trying to scrape a couple centimeters off my cheek bone. And didn‘t the red mark that it left look far worse than any dirt that might have been there? To this day, I don’t think they’ve located the gene that prompts this barbaric behavior, only that it occurs among all mothers among all races and cultures. Of course, I was only ten at the time and not yet mature enough to make such clever conclusions, so I merely thought she did it for the same reason she did everything else that I didn’t agree with: just to piss me off.

I wrinkled my face and narrowed my eyes to show her my displeasure, but she only pressed harder.


“Stop complaining. I’m not going to have you looking like the rest of this place.” she said.

When she was that close I could see the lines on her face. She had less of them then, but more stress. My father worked some shitty job that involved a press and every day she feared he’d end up like the other workers who lost fingers or arms. Or worse, she’d end up like the widows. Most men who had jobs with such hazards, like miners and astronauts, were at least compensated in pay. The low-end factory worker killer job was all my dad could get though, and that meant my mother had to add to the psychological wear by working herself. Working between cleaning and laundry and before we she cooked dinner at home. She did this at the school cafeteria. My school cafeteria. But of course I didn’t see it as her busting her ass the only hours she could, but as an invasion of territory that was sure to end up torpedoing what few social dignities I had.

She finished wiping my face and I moved away before she could spot more dirt near my ear or my neck. I went to the couch, dug out some school books and pretended to do homework while I really drew pictures of a nefarious variety. It was a successful maneuver in that I appeared to be too busy to have to talk or engage my mother for the rest of the night. She instead did her second load of dishes. Maybe or seventh or eighth if counting the ones she did at the cafeteria in the afternoon.

And that was the biggest indignity. Not the actual doing of the dishes, but because there was a small window above the sink at which she had no choice but to occasionally and accidentally look out.

The window gave us an unobstructed look across the alley, at a brick apartment house it, and into any number of the nine windows that belonged to the family that not only lived directly across from us, but also on the level above and below it. And as my father used to say, if the distance from one side of that alley to the other had been measured in status, we would have only been able to see across it with a telescope. I later came to realize that this had something to do with our side of the alley officially being downtown, and that side of the alley the official start of the North End of town and what was once very desirable addresses. Of course, as the poor crept northward and pushed all stages of classes with it, most of the well-to-do families had moved. Why exactly that family did not, I’m not sure, but guessed it had something to do with them owning the building they lived in or perhaps some emotional attachment to it, holding on and hoping to hold the line and have the enemy retreat like some hardened Civil War general. Their space was certainly up for sale now, though, they just hadn’t yet sold nor moved.
She tried not to stare. She did. But it was especially hard for her to stop herself when they got new things. Televisions, new furniture once a year, paintings that hanged on the wall and were bought in galleries and not the corner.

Because I was a son of a bitch, or maybe because I was ten -- it’s really hard to tell now -- I sometimes would catch her looking over there and, just to rub it in, just to get back at her for rubbing my face with her wet finger, ask what she was looking at. She’s always denied she was watching and would say “just daydreaming.” She wasn’t entirely lying of course. I’m sure she did daydream of having the TV’s and furniture and cars. Not that she wanted it for herself. She just wanted to give it to us, to be able to give her husband and son what she thought they deserved but which the unfair bitch that was life wouldn’t allow.

That night the bitch had them receiving a new dishwasher -- a dishwasher that kept the trophy wife’s hands free of blisters and pruning. Two large men who were about to be tipped very well had brought it up the steps on a dolly and installed it while the trophy wife read a magazine on her suede couch. I know this because when I heard the clinging of the dishes stop, but the water keep running, I knew my mother had gone into one of her stares and I went into the bathroom and looked out its window to see that night’s lure was.

I returned the couch, pretended to do a bit more homework, then when it wasn’t so suspicious, I struck.

“What are you looking at?”

My mother turned her head, realized she had been doing it again, turned off the water and said,

“Just my itinerary for tomorrow.“ There was a few moments of her hurting inside and she finally realized the time.

“You should get to brushing your teeth and changing for bed.“.

I gave a sigh but listened. Not because I was a good kid but because if my Dad came home for his break and found me up on the back side of nine he’d have beat my ass. I did my bedtime my routine, avoided my mom’s kiss and by 9:30 that night I was asleep and unaware that in a few short hours I would be having one of the more memorable nights of my life.


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