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16 July 2012 @ 10:38 am
The Real LJ Idol: "Rumors, Secrets, and Lies"  
Rumors, Secrets, and Lies
real lj idol | week 34, prompt 3 | 848 words
Previous topic: Sticks and Stones. (Note: this is set in the same universe as this story, which you might want to read first).

x-x-x-x-x

I punched Dickie Schroeder at school today.

He said that Daddy was gone because he just got sick of our family and left us. Ma had to come and get me before lunch, and now I'm suspended for a week. Stupid Dickie didn't even get in trouble.

I asked Ma if the things Dickie said were true. She was mad at first, and said that Dickie couldn't talk, since his mother disappeared the same week as Daddy. Then she got sad and wouldn't look at me, and she said we couldn't tell Jimmy about any of this, that it would be too upsetting.

She said Jimmy, but I think she meant it was too upsetting for her. Jimmy wasn't even born by the time Daddy was gone, so why would he care? He didn't know Daddy, he can't miss him.

I miss him, I think. I mostly only remember him from pictures, but I know he had brown eyes and dark, curly hair, and that he loved Ma and me. I think I remember that he was nice. I wish we had more pictures so I could remember better, but we don't. Hardly anybody takes pictures now, anyway. Ma says you need special paper and stuff to make them, and probably only the big cities have that anymore.

I've never been to one of the big cities. I wonder what they're like?

Ma used to talk about them sometimes, when she'd tell us stories about Before. The buildings were tall, she said, so tall you can't imagine. I used to think she was making that part up. "What did they need all those tall buildings for?" I asked her once. "What's happened to them now?"

Her forehead wrinkled. "They're still there, I expect," she said—real slow, like she was thinking about what words to use. "People still live in some of them. The cities aren't empty, they just aren't as busy as they used to be."

"Do you see people when you go there?" Ma takes the train to the city a couple of times a year for new vaccines and medical supplies. Jimmy and I stay with Uncle Harold when she goes, even though I always beg and beg to tag along. Maybe when you're older, she says, and isn't that what grownups always say when they really mean probably never?

"Here and there," she said, which isn't really an answer. All I know about cities is that they're big (bigger, Ma says), and you can buy oranges there. One time, Ma brought one back for each of us.

I also know that going to the city makes Ma sad. She won't tell me why.

The next few days, I walk Jimmy to school and wait until he's inside and can't see me anymore. Then I go home. Ma has me working in the vegetable patch during school, which she says is fair. I don't see how, since it looked like she wanted to punch Dickie Schroeder herself that day. But I guess that's just how grownups are.

I go back at the end of the school day to pick Jimmy up, sneaking around through the woods behind the school so he can't see how I get there. So far, I don't think he suspects anything, which is good. Kids are mean to Jimmy sometimes, even when there's nothing to be mean about. There's no telling what they might do if they knew I wasn't there to stick up for him.

On Thursday, Ma meets us in front of the Blairs' house on the way back, so we can walk the rest of the way home together. Jimmy skips circles around us as we go, like he usually does, and Ma just shakes her head.

"What did you learn in school today?" she asks.

Jimmy looks up and sees that she's talking to him. "Loyal-ty and Lies," he says, struggling with the words a little bit. "About why we had the Remaking and stuff. And not making up stories about Before." He stops skipping for moment and looks at Ma. "Bobby Polliers told me Charlie had to go home this week, because he got into a fight about Daddy. What happened to Daddy, anyway?"

Ma frowns for a moment. I bet she's thinking about us trying so hard to hide this from Jimmy, and he still found out anyway because some stupid kid blabbed the news at school. Then she looks over at me, but I’m waiting to hear the answer too. I've been waiting practically since it happened, but nobody ever tells me anything real.

Ma's eyes go back and forth, first watching Jimmy and me, and then the houses we pass along the way. Finally, she just says "I don't know," the words almost whispered and so soft I can hardly hear them.

I can't decide if she means it, or if she just doesn't want to tell us. I cross the street and let her and Jimmy keep walking, and I kick rocks down the sidewalk all the rest of the way home.





Voting details are here. All voting is by blocks (some possibly members-only) but the groups are small, so not too many stories to read for any one group!

 
 
 
cindytsuki_no_bara on July 16th, 2012 07:21 pm (UTC)
charlie is a smart kid, altho i keep thinking his deep thoughts will get him in trouble. i continue to love the worldbuilding, altho now i want to know what the cities are like too. (besides "bigger". :D )

(edit: "I bet she's thinking about us trying so hard to hide this from Charlie" should be "hide this from Jimmy". i did that exact same thing in my bigbang. >.< )
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2012 07:35 pm (UTC)
altho i keep thinking his deep thoughts will get him in trouble.
There is always that potential, because you know he'll keep digging and asking how all of those mismatched pieces go together. The combination of curiosity and persistence can be really dangerous in such a repressive society.

Thanks for catching that goof! And since it's before the deadline, I fixed it. Gah-- I use the narrator's name so rarely that it easily creeps back in at the wrong place. I assume you fixed it in the BigBang? Though 20K-25K words, virtually any detail like that would be easy to miss. Just so long as you're not flip-flopping back and forth between characters' names and actors' names, which is a sure sign of not knowing what you really intended to write about. Don't see that much anymore, but it used to happen in fandom stories once in awhile!
cindy: spn - dean facepalm (by mixedbatch)tsuki_no_bara on July 16th, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
i didn't even realize i'd done it until a perceptive reader pointed it out. (i substituted genevieve for danneel, and neither myself nor my beta caught it. and i reread the whole thing a couple of times just looking for random mistakes like that.)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2012 08:00 pm (UTC)
Don't you hate that? This story had long periods of "sitting" while I worked on the others and ransacked my brain for titles, and I still missed that mistake. Apparently, I needed a lot MORE "away" time before that would have caught my eye!
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on July 16th, 2012 08:31 pm (UTC)
Still really enjoying this world. You're one of the few people I've seen get a kid's voice right recently. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 16th, 2012 08:40 pm (UTC)
Thank you! That's a really nice thing to hear. :)

For various (mumble) reasons, I've read a lot of Kid Lit and still do. I pick out a lot of library books for my son (the voracious reader), and if the story looks interesting I'll often read it myself.

Hint for when your son is older: the "Dragon Slayers' Academy" books are a riot, and I think they're about equally funny to both kids and adults. They're for ages 4-5 and up, depending upon the child. I still re-read them even now. ;)
Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.n3m3sis42 on July 16th, 2012 08:47 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thank you for the recommendation! I suspect I'll be reading a lot of Kid Lit in a few years' time, too. :D
notodettenotodette on July 17th, 2012 03:43 am (UTC)
These stories must have been in the air for this week. I wrote a one in a similar vein, and I've read one more, too. How crazy!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 17th, 2012 06:38 am (UTC)
I actually had this one in mind to write after finishing the one on "Waiting" last week (same universe), so the choice to recycle a previous prompt was very fitting. I'd gone a totally different route with this prompt the first time around, and this was a more traditional use.

Probably won't get to yours for another day or so, but I'll make my way around there eventually! I'm working through the voting blocks one by one (I sound like a campaign manager or something). :)
A Sentient Being: Fairyalien_infinity on July 17th, 2012 05:53 am (UTC)
Ooh, yay we get to see more from this universe! I'm enjoying your worldbuilding a lot, and I, too, am curious to know more about the cities. :)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2012 05:54 am (UTC)
I'm glad you liked it, and have been enjoying this series so much. Better still, that you tell me so!

One of the things that fascinates me in post-apocalyptic settings (even if it's a social apocalypse) is how the gigantic infrastructure of cities and all that makes them run just becomes enormous, useless, concrete deserts of nothing. All of those skyscrapers and constructs we build so high are virtually worthless when societies lapse back to a more agrarian setting. And to someone like Charlie, they're also mysterious. If he ever saw one, he'd surely wonder at the amount of effort put into something that no has no real value whatsoever.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2012 05:59 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I do have to self-check the narrative, since I'm prone to complex-sentence structure... and also was as a kid. My son, too, and mostly for the same reason: the more you read, the more comfortable you become with that.

I get such a kick out of how kids think sometimes, especially when they go down unexpected paths. My son burst out with a rant while I was reading "The Secret Garden," about why people were always sending their children to a governess, and why did they assume she had time for that? She'd be busy!

... followed by, "What is a governess, anyway?"

He thought they were female governors or governors' wives, as opposed to nannies. :0
Myrnamyrna_bird on July 17th, 2012 10:22 pm (UTC)
I am suspecting that Daddy ran off with Mrs. Schroeder maybe.
It's a very interesting story=line and you have that voice of Charlie just right.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 19th, 2012 06:03 am (UTC)
I probably should have mentioned the link with last week's story, because Mrs. Shroeder is one of the father's coworkers. The few local people he worked with all disappeared on the same day. From the fourth story in this series (written during the 6-story Hell Week, so probably less remembered and I should have linked that too)... the technical people were imprisoned or killed, and their families left to wonder.

But regardless of the background, including running of with someone else's Mommy (!)... you point out that the pain is always the same, for those left behind, and the implication of shame is always there too. Not knowing always leaves room for that to creep in.
lriG rorriM: eclipselrig_rorrim on July 19th, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
I continue to be drawn into this world and setting. You're doing an amazing job with it, and I love seeing it from the different character viewpoints. This particular one is perfect - spot on with his voice, his emotions, his observations, the whole thing. Awesome!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 03:21 am (UTC)
Thank you!

I think of this as being a story that would mainly be told from Charlie's viewpoint (because that first installment is such a great introduction to something that he's had to adopt as his 'normal' while the reader can see how horrendous it truly is).

But I also like the idea of interludes from other characters experiencing different parts of the disaster that led to the world Charlie now lives in. The process of collapse is often as interesting as the result. That sounds kind of sinister, but you probably know what I mean. :)
whipchickwhipchick on July 20th, 2012 12:03 am (UTC)
I really like the kid voice here, and the idea that something much, much bigger is going on, but that's not what he's focused on!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 03:24 am (UTC)
I wanted to return to Charlie's POV in this series, because the idea of telling a story in abstraction is intriguing to me. I don't think I've done that before, at least not outside of fanfic. It makes for an interesting approach, where the reader infers more than the narrator actually knows! That alone is irresistible. :)
whipchickwhipchick on July 20th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
I really, really like pieces where the reader finds things out either before or at the same time as the narrator - and it's a tricky balance, to make sure the reader isn't going, "It's in the CLOSET!!!! LOOK IN THE CLOSET!!!!" but the reader is on the edge waiting to see what the narrator finds out, or pitying the narrator for what they aren't understanding. I think that element of having the reader be a detective for the narrative is so vital in getting them engaged beyond just receiving information.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphorshalfshellvenus on July 20th, 2012 05:46 pm (UTC)
to make sure the reader isn't going, "It's in the CLOSET!!!! LOOK IN THE CLOSET!!!!"
Hahaha! Though I prefer that to having the author hide information necessary to solve the mystery: "Actually, the deceased had a long-lost cousin in France who had sworn revenge and who took a plane to the city, murdered the victim, and then began a long holiday elsewhere to divert suspicion." :0

I think that element of having the reader be a detective for the narrative is so vital in getting them engaged beyond just receiving information.
I agree. It becomes more than deciphering what's going on then, it also puts the reader into the world more firmly because they're thinking about it, and how everything connects. It's a less passive experience, ideally, and also not common, so that makes it all the more fun!