Sunday, September 15, 2013

Collected excerpts for Weekend Writing Warriors #2

I'm starting a new spot for my collected excerpts for Weekend Writing Warriors. The first set of excerpts can be found  here.

Moving ahead a little, Neal has begun the drug rehab program that Sandy threatened him with promised him. About a week into the 4-week program, he runs into his old friend Dario, who managed to escape the street gang and live to talk about it (how he dodged the rule of “if you leave, we kill you” is explained in the story J) Dario says he’s being released in two days. Neal devises a plan.

This section has been condensed to fit the rules so it reads a bit choppy here.

He and Dario followed the nurse to the front door where a middle-aged Latina gave Dario a hug.

The nurse wished Dario luck, told Neal morning therapy sessions would be starting soon, and walked off.

“Hey,” Dario said, “you remember mi madre, Mercedes?”

She chattered about how good it was to see Neal again so he must’ve met her before. Making sure that the nurses still weren’t watching, he shouldered Dario closer to the door.

Outside, Mercedes turned to look at Neal with a question on her face.

“He’s coming with us,” Dario told her, “and he’s gonna stay with me.”

“How nice that both of you finish treatment at the same time,” she said with a smile.

Dario shook his head but didn’t answer.
Last time, Neal skipped out of rehab with his friend Dario. I’m skipping past Neal arriving at Dario’s apartment. Neal’s disappointed to realize that Dario’s place is kind of small, doesn’t have a lot of furniture, and Dario doesn’t have a car. Later that evening, some guys outside start shouting for someone; Dario explains to Neal he’s told them that the dude they’re looking for doesn’t live in that apartment anymore. The guys outside shoot at the window. Dario drops to the floor. Neal crawls over to him. Dario whispers for him to call the cops but Neal balks at that. Dario tries again.

(Context: when they were in the street gang, Neal was known as Razor and Dario was known as Flaco.)
          “Took one in the stomach . . . go call, Razor.”

          Neal bit his lip. Sonofabitch, Dario was calling on him as a cholo, a brother, to help. “Stay with me, Flaco, I’m gonna call, then I’m comin’ back.”

          When he got back, Dario reached toward him and Neal hung on with both hands. A pair of ambulance guys showed up, kept pushing Neal out of the way to work on Dario, then scooped him on the stretcher and wheeled him out.

          Neal sat on the floor with his arms wrapped around himself. He started to shake and couldn’t stop.

Last time, Neal skipped out of rehab and got a rude surprise. In the current draft of the full story, I pick up with Sandy at the rehab hospital. It sounds like he's seen the last of Neal--for my 8sunday excerpt, I continue with Sandy still at the hospital.

Sandy crossed his arms and said, “You owe me some explanation of why you ran off, and why you came back.”

Neal shuffled down the hall, seeming to speak to his sneakers when he answered, “Just couldn’t deal with it. An’ I met up with Flaco.”

“If that’s the guy who left the gang before you, how did he wind up here?”

“Long story, we went to his apartment an’ some assholes lookin’ for somebody else shot him.”

“Oh my God, what happened to him?”

“They said he’d prob’ly make it, but who knows.”

“After your family getting shot, I suppose you came back to rehab because another shooting made you pretty nervous.”

Neal shifted his suitcase to the other hand, walked quicker, and said, “When I go back with you, I get more’n livin’ in a mansion .”
After Neal is released from the rehab hospital, Sandy brings him over to the rehearsal hall where the band is getting ready for the North American tour that starts in a couple weeks.

It doesn’t really look like it here but this scene is in Neal’s POV.

          Sandy bounded up the stairs, waved toward the back of the stage, and called, “Phil, over here.”

          A tall guy in beat-up jeans and a sleeveless white t-shirt came over, holding a pair of drumsticks—a black guy.

          Neal crossed his arms; he didn’t expect that.

          “Hey, lighten up,” Phil said, “I don’t have problems with Latinos. We’re not in the ’hood here, man.”

          Sandy looked at both of them and said, “What?”

          “Sandy,” Phil laughed, “wake up. It’s a miracle you got through life in one piece. Blacks and Latinos fight in the ’hoods, I almost gave Neal a heart attack here.”

Skipping ahead just a bit, Sandy’s drum tech (roadie) Phil offers to show Neal a little about Sandy’s drum kit. Phil hits a couple cymbals and explains why they’re named the way they are. Then he gives Neal a pair of drumsticks and urges him to take a seat at the drums. Phil speaks first here:

          “Hit one on your right side and see what happens.”

          As the stick hit the cymbal, it made a much duller, flatter sound.

          Phil winced and said, “Dude, move over, I’ve got to change that one.”

          Neal sprang up and moved away from the drum set; he just hit it like that chango told him to.

          Phil eased up to the cymbal and unscrewed something at the top.

          “You hit it in just the wrong place; your first lesson is, the only place to hit a crash cymbal is in the middle.”

          Neal raised his voice to say, “You tol’ me to hit it.”

          Phil took the cymbal off the stand and studied the top as he said, “Oh hey, I didn’t mean it’s your fault, this one hasn’t been sounding quite right and your hit just happened to be the last straw…yeah, it’s cracked, so now ya get to see how to set one up.”

           Neal blinked at him; no “get the fuck out, dickhead, you don’t know what you’re doing”?

          Phil grinned and said, “Shit happens, man, nothing lasts forever .”

Sorry for the funny punctuation ;-) I’m guessing I’m going to use a lot of creative punctuation for these excerpts!
While watching the band rehearse, Neal is unpleasantly surprised by the fact that Sandy’s drum tech, Phil, is a black guy; but Phil’s not like the creeps Neal knew back in the ’hood. He offers to teach Neal about the drum kit.

For reference, remember that these scenes take place in 1986. Coyote is the leader of the gang Neal left. The throne is what the drum seat is actually called. Also, please keep in mind that my excerpts are condensed quite a bit.

Because Phil remains a secondary support character in the story, he doesn’t get much “screen time” so I’m lingering on this scene to give him his due. Next week I’ll continue from where this week’s snippet ends. Phil tells Neal to tap one of the furthest-away cymbals, but Neal can’t quite reach it. Phil speaks first here.

“Second lesson: sit up straight and in the middle of the throne, not on the edge. Good posture is how you play better, faster and longer; plus, ya know, you feel better. President Reagan and Governor Deukmejian stand tall--there’s no doubt these guys mean business. You carry yourself like you’re worth something, and people will treat you that way.”

Neal blinked at him; who was he to be talking like that? He was right, though--Coyote got people out of his way just by how he looked at them. Neal shifted on the throne and sat up. He touched the cymbals easily.
Continuing immediately from last week, Phil and Neal are chatting. Phil gets pretty limited “screen time” in the novel but he’s a great guy, so I’m focusing on him for just a few excerpts.

He and Neal are at the band’s rehearsal, onstage for a few minutes while everybody else is busy elsewhere.

Neal speaks first.

“Hey, I didn’t think how I was sitting made a difference. Oh fuck,” he laughed.

“Now what?” Phil said.

“This’s totally loco. Y’know I shot at dudes like you, but you stand there an’ help me. Can’t figure it out.”

Phil focused on some spot out in the seats. “The past is the past. My family got chased out of Alabama so I’ve seen enough to know that every day we’re alive, God smiles on us.”

Thanks so much for all your wonderful comments on Phil; they gave me a lot of warm fuzzies J Moving on from that scene, the band’s rehearsal ends and Sandy gives Neal a lift to the mansion. It’s previously been explained that the four guys in the band live in the same house, though they’re not all there all the time. It’s enormous even for a mansion, enough to make Neal’s eyes pop and his breath catch when he first sees it. Inside, the place is full of crystal chandeliers, velvet sofas and chairs, a whole room recreating the band’s favorite club complete with fully stocked bar: you get the idea. Members of the band’s families gather for a send-off party before every tour, and Neal meets a bunch of them. 

Sandy showed up with something pale and bubbly in two fancy-cut glasses and gave one to Neal. “We use crystal and china for these get-togethers so be extra careful. There’s booze around too and I won’t say you shouldn’t have any, but don’t get plastered. You have to stick to limits.”

Neal drank from his crystal glass. Ginger ale? Fuck it. Limits. Yeah right.


  1. Those two must be stupid or something.
    Now Neal go back to rehab and pray that Dario makes it.

  2. Very intense scene. Neal is emotional and vulnerable here, and it shows well.