Monday, November 4, 2019

Talkin' Heads #7

TITLE: In Jake's Shoes
GENRE: Adult contemporary southern

Jake and Mack: members of a Mortuary Affairs Unit in Afghanistan. They’re discussing the recent suicide of a member of their unit. Jake recalls a classmate’s suicide 10 years earlier.

I walk over to a desk and straighten an already evenly stacked set of DD forms. A coffee mug holds a handful of pens, so I pick one up, click it once, twice, then place it on top of the stack of forms.  
“I knew a guy who killed himself, Mack…when I was a kid.”

            “No s***. How old were you?


“Jesus! How’d he, you know, how’d he do it?”

            “Drank some drain cleaner.”

            “That’s brutal, man.”

            “Yeah, well, it was a long time ago.”
Why’d he do it? Did he leave a note or anything?”

            “No. But he was really mixed-up, and his family was messed up. Old man on drugs. Beat him and his mom. I think he figured things would never change or get better.”

            “You sound like maybe you were tight with this guy.”

            “Yeah, I guess I was. He was in my fifth-grade class.” I reach down to smooth the black plastic on the body bag.

            Mack is quiet for a moment. I look up at him and then turn away.

            He reaches out and touches my shoulder.

“Climbing inside that thing is still nuts, Jake. You scare the shit outta me sometimes. Know what I mean?” Mack turns and walks over to a table where we all play cards in-between recoveries. He picks up a deck and starts thumbing through it.

            Suddenly, Sergeant Danbury sticks his head inside the tent flap.

            “Get the unit together, girls. And grab your gear. We got a recovery site.”


  1. Wow, poignant story. Not a fan of "suddenly" for Sgt. Danbury's entry into the tent. Can you unveil another beat that conveys how Jake feels about the guy, or him butting in, or the timing, or whatever is important at this moment in your story. Good luck

  2. This is a gripping scene. I think the dialogue is strong, realistic and it’s easy to keep up with who is speaking. It feels like this suicide is causing Jake to experience a lot of emotions under the surface that he’s not articulating. Perhaps he’s wishing he could have done more to help both this new suicide and his childhood friend.

    Since we don’t really know what he’s thinking, it creates distance between the reader and the POV character. If you give us a glimpse into his thoughts, it could rev up the tension between what he’s really feeling and what he’s telling his buddy.

    Small nitpick, but I don’t think you need to say the kid was mixed up, since we can pretty much assume that from what you tell us about the family.

    The body bag seems to come out of nowhere in this passage. I didn’t realize there was a body in the room until then. We also don’t know what Jake’s climbing into, but you may have set these two things up in the previous section.

    Some of the lines of dialogue need to be indented, but that could be some weird online formatting thing. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  3. I agree that it's a gripping scene and it's well written. I would like to see some internal dialogue or emotion in this part though:

    Mack is quiet for a moment. I look up at him and then turn away.

    He reaches out and touches my shoulder.

    What's the MC thinking when this happens? How does the memory of his deceased friend make him feel (and how does telling his friend about it make him feel?)

    I agree on the "suddenly" at the end too. Not needed. Nice work though. Best of luck to you!

  4. I thought this was well done. Seems like an interesting moment of discussion between them. I was a bit lost about what "climbing inside that thing" means, but I guess that is just a context issue. Not much else to critique here for me, it reads really smoothly.

  5. I thought this was well done. The short clipped sentences are perfect for this scene. I agree that I don't know what he's climbing into - body bag? coffin? But I'm sure you've explained or will explain that. Definitely makes me want to read more.