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Bob Pastorella's picture

Pork Chop

By Bob Pastorella in Arrest Us

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Description

A chance encounter with an ex-con from his neighborhood forces Jay to tag along for the ride, wondering about what he needs to do in case things get out of hand. 

 

Pork Chop. It's crime, it's Southeast Texas trailer trash country noir, and it's kinda a true story, except for the end. Names changed to protect the guilty. 

 

Since this is a Pastorella production, my usual typos are there, so there will be revising as we move along. I'll start reading the stories next week, as I'm going to be tied up this weekend. 

Enjoy. 

 

Comments

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff June 13, 2014 - 7:07pm

Hey Bob. This is an interesting story, dark with some seriously shady characters. It reads very non-fiction, which isn't a bad thing, but I'm kind of on the fence about it. I stumbled over the whole first paragraph, but after that I got into it and I liked the ending a lot. Even though I was into it I was a little lost as I read it too, although I understand that it kept me off guard and unsure where it was going. So overall I liked it but didn't like it. I know that sounds weird sorry. But hell I'm still going to give it a thumbs up. 

jorjon21's picture
jorjon21 from Wisconsin is reading Shotgun Lovesongs June 15, 2014 - 8:08am

I liked how you started this story.  It was a good read and dark. I likes the background you built around the characters. 

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 15, 2014 - 7:27pm

Thanks for checking it out guys. I overwrote this one and cut a lot out, probably over 1K words, some of which over explained Jay's position and feelings about the whole thing. I did not intend the ending to have any type of twist, though tried to maintain a sense of ambiguity concerning Jay's plans. For the most part, I think he knows what he needs to do, just doesn't want to admit it. At least that's how I wrote it. If that's unclear, then I'll definitely consider that while rewriting. 

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 16, 2014 - 7:26am

I uploaded a revised edition of the story. Probably my final version, barring editing for trademarked typos and shoddy grammar. 

 

Let 'er rip!

Liam Sweeny's picture
Liam Sweeny from Albany, NY is reading Country Hardball June 17, 2014 - 5:56am

I like the flow and the pace of the narrative. But was having a hard time feeling anything for either of the characters. The back-story seems, in a couple of places, like it's trying to build this glint of sympathy by Jay for Stan, but I figured it was a build-up for something bigger at the end. It's like you said, you left out things that would've made Jay's motivations more understandable. It's well written, but the ending didn't work for me.

 

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 17, 2014 - 5:57am

Thanks for the feedback Liam. I don't think I was trying to build much sympathy for Stan with the backstory bits, quite the opposite actually, but it's good to know I might need to slant it a little harder on any revisions. As for a twist at the end, I didn't intend for any at all. I wanted the ending to be logical, yet unpredictable, so it makes sense that Jay would make a decision before things got 'out of hand'. The ending was suppose to satisfy the notion that Jay knew what he was planning to do all along, he just didn't have the balls to admit it until provoked, and that was going to come directly from Stan's behavior. 

Do you have any suggestions for getting the reader to care a little more about Jay? 

 

Liam Sweeny's picture
Liam Sweeny from Albany, NY is reading Country Hardball June 17, 2014 - 8:31am

Actually, there was something.

It was a misread on my part, originally. I'll quote it here:

<cite>Working a gob of toothpaste along my gums with my finger, I still wished I would have found that toothbrush first. I spat and rinsed and avoided the mirror.</cite>

It was early when I read it, so I broke it into pieces instead of reading it at once.

"....I spat and rinsed..."

"... and avoided the mirror."

And I was thinking 'why would he avoid the mirror? What's wrong with his face?

Even though it was a misread on my part, I was thinking Stan did something to cause his face to get wrecked. I just never saw that. Of course, it wasn't there to see, so... What if there's a link, even something not overexplained or narrated out, that gives Stan a facial scar a la Stan? I think, though, that it would be underplayed, really subtle. 

In any case, some kind of link that, at first glance doesn't seem like much, but as the story goes, makes it look natural, but only in retrospect.

 

Sorry about not putting this stuff in my previous comment. Six a.m. - no coffee. 

 

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 17, 2014 - 7:04pm

I used the mirror as a reverse cliche. 1st person narratives sometimes have a scene where the POV sees himself in the mirror, allowing for some self description. It's not a no-no, but when you see it over and over again... So when Jay avoids the mirror, it's to say that if he looks at himself, he's going to have to make a tough decision, one he's basically already made, he just doesn't have the balls to admit it. 

I did change that up in the version I uploaded Monday, so if you downloaded it before then, there are some very subtle changes in the narrative that kind of sheds a little more light than what I previously wrote.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 20, 2014 - 6:48am

This is good, very Killer Joe. One suggestion, maybe it's just me, but I kept having this sneaking suspicion that the narrator was female. No idea why, it just kept popping into my head. Could be easily corrected, not sure how, or could be an idea to run with and give a nice twist at the end. Anyway, great story, like it.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 22, 2014 - 5:27pm

Thanks Seb, glad you enjoyed it. Funny, I never once thought about Jay being female. I'll make sure to clarify that in future edits for sure.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 23, 2014 - 9:06am

Hi, Bob! Cool, seedy story. Great title. I like how it opens with a joke, lulls the reader right in, opens the story up with a snicker. The joke could probably be told in about half a page tops though. Another thing that stretches things out a bit much (and this might be my preference) is setting sentences off on their own, starting new paragraphs when it's still part of the same internal conversation. Like these three sentences: "I wasn’t worried about Stan getting slapped. It was what would happen next if he did ever get slapped that worried me the most. That time, the cringing was unnecessary." Maybe just stack them right up together. I don't think anything is lost, and perhaps a little velocity is gained? This happens more at the beginning of the story than at the end though. Didn't notice it once things got cooking.
Great details throughout, like brushing his teeth with his finger and a gob of leftover toothpaste - and it's not just a great detail, it's also symbolic of their relationship - two birds with one bone and all that. And I thought the short flashbacks worked well for quick characterization, crucial in short stories, I'm told. And don't those waterlogged porn mags just take you back to a gentler, pre-internet time? Positively romantic. But most important, of course, they establish Stan as a real piece of shit in need of correction.
Some minor grammar stuff like you warned - commas hanging outside some quotes, etc. I wasn't too distracted. Couple times I thought you doubled up on your imagery. Like, "Driving down my old street unearthed buried memories." Probably don't need "buried" there since you already got "unearthed."
I thought you stuck the landing though. Solid last moments, last line.
Regarding the mirror talk - I thought avoiding the mirror was effective, not just because it side-steps the cliché as you explained, but because it's reasonable in an unsightly crime story that the protagonist is avoiding both kinds of self-reflection.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 23, 2014 - 8:07am

David, thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it. I've been thinking about all that white space at the beginning myself, and your term 'velocity' hit the nail on the head, so I'll fix that in future edits. 

Thanks for reading.

 

Liam Hogan's picture
Liam Hogan from Earth is reading Hugo Nominations June 26, 2014 - 12:12pm

Hey Bob,

There's some good writing in here, but I'm struggling to find the story in it. And that begins at the start. It's tricky to include a joke in a story. It becomes, is he telling a joke, or a story? And in this case, you're telling a joke. If it was a story, bearing in mind you already set it up, with the brunette drinking martinis, you want the reactions as the joke is told from the group he is telling it too. So be wary, work it DEEP into the story, or leave it out, is my advice! You get back to the brunette later, so the telling of the joke is integral, so I guess you need to work it in deeper.

You mention typos, though I can't see many, but some tightening can be done - "It worked about half the time" and "Four times I watched him tell the joke and it worked fifty percent of the time." are too similar NOT to notice.

I'd also locate our narrator sooner, from the get-go, you don't know he is there on this occasion until after the joke is done, pretty much at "That time, the cringing was unnecessary" which is almost two pages in.

There's a lot of backstory in this one, Stan's, Morris's. The Kevlar story you REALLY don't need to tell - because it's told again when Stan pushes Morris into the trailer. But the backstory that seems to be missing is Jay's. Why is he with Stan, why does he do what he does?

The main problem with this story is the way these two characters fit together. And while they might fit in reality (given you tell us this is based on things that really happened) that isn't necessarily enough to make this a good story. Fiction trumps truth every time - it just has to sound true! They run into each other, but they seem awfully tight, awfully quick (Stan handing him a .22). So what's the story that you're not telling? What revenge is being enacted, and why? Why go to such a long length over it? That shooting, should in the end feel like it was inevitable, rather than a mystery.

Interestingly, I had the impression that 1) Stan wasn't a particularly bad sort (not violent), but had a perversion, and 2) Jay felt in some way some guilt, and hence watched over him to stop him doing anything. That alas is pretty much blown away when Stan attacks Morris, and Jay takes action. Also, why do the people who attacked Stan way back owe him money?

Liam

 

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers June 27, 2014 - 12:45pm

Thanks for checking out my story. Excellent points you make there. I may work up another version with the joke shortened and little more about Jay, and take out the part where Jay talks about Morris because it now seems more effective if Stan tells Jay about Morris, more impact that way. Though based on a real person(s), the actual thrust of the story is fictional. So yeah, I know a guy who did some deviant things when he was younger and did indeed kidnap two young women, and I know another guy who is bulletproof in the torso area. But the retribution part is fiction. Again, thanks for the comments, much appreciated. 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 30, 2014 - 9:40am

I liked this. Starting with the joke was a bit of a ballsy move, but it completely worked for me. It gives us a decent first look at Stan, and an insight into the nervousness of Jay being around him. There is a line you throw in which I think is perfect in the context – “It was what would happen if he did ever get slapped that worried me the most.” Bang… in one sentence you’ve nailed what the story is about, and I love that. It tells us what we need to know. Stan is unpredictable, and Jay is on edge. The timing of that line is also perfect. The joke was a good in, but just at the time we need a hook, you hit us with that line.

It’s not the only example of perfect line / perfect timing. The next kind of lull comes the following morning. The tension of the night before has passed, and you have Jay just going to brush his teeth. It is a moment crying out for something that takes the story forward. Then you write, “Maybe if I forgot what I looked like Stan wouldn’t stare at me like he knew me from long, long ago.” It just adds that extra layer of intrigue at just the right moment.

As the story goes on, I want to know why Jay is with Stan, and why he hasn’t disclosed who he is to him. Stan was the fucked up kid from back home, why involve yourself? I’ll admit to being left a little frustrated that there aren’t any answers, or hints towards the answers. Leaving some ambiguity is great, but I want an inkling of something. I want something to hold on to as I follow this character. I want a moment that goes some way to answering that question of motivation.

You do really well to put this doubt on Jay throughout the whole story. He has to ask himself what he’s going to do if Stan loses control, which means that at some point we know it’s going to happen, and we don’t know how Jay will react. That adds a nice underlying tension. There would be more tension if we know that Jay has it in him to react with maximum force. There is nothing in his backstory that suggests that he has this in him, which makes that final act a real shock. He hates the lynch mob, but what he’s doing is akin to that. Nothing wrong with that, but a subtle foreshadowing would really help.

Going back to motivation, that final act feels like an act of revenge. His answer to what do you want, “Nothing, now” suggests that what he really wanted all the time was Stan dead. If he’s doing it for revenge, what did Stan do that necessitates retribution? Obviously his backstory strongly suggests he’s far from a nice guy, but there doesn’t appear to be anything personal enough towards Jay to warrant this action. I understand him stepping in, but shooting him in the face is personal. There needs to be more of a reason for this action.

As it is, this is very good. With tweaks to the motivations (and I do mean tweaks… little suggestive comments threaded through is all you need), this would be pure gold. This is one of the stronger stories in the contest, and I genuinely hope you do well.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 1, 2014 - 5:59pm

Thanks Adam, really appreciate the kind words. Glad the story worked for you. This one is kinda hit or miss with the readers, it's all so subjective, but yeah, thanks man. 

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 6, 2014 - 9:51pm

The characters in this story are all well developed and you have great control over their individual voices as well as consistently well written dialogue. This was wonderfully descriptive without being too heavy handed or rambling. I liked that you were able to successfully incorporate a little flashback for each character, especially Morris, who might have been overlooked because he wasn't one of the main characters. I don't think I have any realistic concerns with the story at all. Nice work.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland July 7, 2014 - 3:19pm

I pretty much agree with everything Adam said. I like how it opened with a joke and the line about what happens if a girl slapped Stan was great.

I too feel like I don't know what Jay's motivation is for shooting Stan. The only personal thing, is the evilish smile he gives him when he catches him masturbating. All the other stuff was hearsay, except the kidnapping conviction, but even then you go out of your way to tell us the woman were unharmed. I wondered if you did that to stay within the perameters of the contest "no sex crimes" you hint at them but never show us any. Maybe once the contest is over you could take that from speculation to actualization. And then I can relate with Jay's final actions more, which still seem a bit thwarted considering his sympathy for Stan when he was tied to a tree.

Also, unless I'm mistaken, Jay's been with Stan just for a week. So that means four times in seven days the two of them go out to seedy bars, Stan tells his joke, and twice gets lucky. Seems like a lot for one week, but maybe that's just because I never go anywhere. But they do seem mighty close to just be hanging out for a week. A scene that shows how they hookup could be a nice touch. Maybe Jay does something nice for Stan. Something that earns the kind of trust that would alow Stan to hand him a gun later on. Also, was their reunion a happenstance or premeditated. Knowing that isn't a necesity but could shine some light on some things.

I almost expected Stan to shoot Morris in his "bullet proof gut" just to see if it was really bullet proof. Seems to me like something he would do. Guess he really did only have the one gun.

But yeah, the whole story was a quick read, well written, great hillbilly noir. My personal prefrence for improvement would be to add a little motivation. I feel like I knew Jay was wanting to kill Stan, and the mirror stuff worked great, I just don't feel like I ever knew why so it makes it hard to relate to Jay. If you show how he was personally attacked by Stan, just anothrer of his countless victims (of any sort of crime) that Stan maybe ran into Jay and the fact he didn't even recognize him could send Jay into this course of action. Or if it is just a vigilante sort of thing, then I guess I need Stan to not only be accused of bad things but showing him actually doing them, like maybe he he's attempting to sodomize Morris before Jay shoots him. Or atleast that he's going to beat Morris to death. The way it stands now I just thought that Morris owed him money and Stan was beating him to get it. I don't think that justifys it but it doesn't justify being shot over either.

I've attached a document with a few typos I noticed.

Thumbs up from me though. Very compelling stuff in this one. Good Luck Bob.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 7, 2014 - 7:34pm

Thanks for the kind words about my story Cmangano and Jonathan, much appreciated.

 

Jonathan, you busted me on this one. Gotta admit I set up the "the women were unharmed" to make it fall within the parameters of the contest. The real 'Stan' raped both women he kidnapped, and that little tidbit of info would definitely motivate anyone to work up the courage to do the right thing and put Stan down. The more I think about this story, the more I realize it's about courage...or at least working up the courage to do the right thing. But I felt that the sex-crime vigilante was too close to the redzone for the contest, and the story suffers a little from it. 

But anyway, thanks again. 

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 14, 2014 - 12:05pm

This was a creepy dark story, but was a good read.  I just want to touch on some of the other points that have been brought up.  I personally liked the joke in the beginning.  I think you did a great job defining Stan throughout the story.  Jay's motivation is a bit unclear, but his actions were satisfying at the end, so I'm not that worried about it.  Well done and good luck.

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 15, 2014 - 4:58am

Bob,

Adam Jenkins recommended this and I'm glad he did, entertaining stuff and a thumbs up! Sorry I can't offer you any fresh commentary that hasn't already been covered, but I just wanted to say thanks for entertaining me this lunchtime and good luck with the contest.

All the best

Mads

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 16, 2014 - 5:44am

Hey Bob,

I liked quite a bit of the story here, and I think the writing is good, with you creating a good Southern mood and a lot of funny moments. But like others have said already, the story doesn't really feel like it holds up all together there.

The main issue for me is that you did a greart job creating and describing Stan, but I know very little of the narrator. I too was wondering whether it was a female or male in the beginning, and I couldn't figure out two important things:

1) Why did the narrator and Stan hook up?

2) Why did the Narrator kill Stan?

You hint (I think) at both points, giving us a lot of Stan's backstory and how it connect's with the narrator's, but I'm not sure if the connections were strong enough for me to 'get it'. Was he somehow related two either the women Stan kidnapped, or the children that he (maybe) did things to when he was young? If so, you need to make that clearer. If not, then I would suggest thinking carefully if this information is needed, as it's going to cause readers to speculate and possibly glomp onto it like I did.

I like the idea of starting with a joke, but it's kind of a double edged sword. You have a good opening line, but I thought that it took too long for you to tell us the actual joke- I would cut off a lot of the description of the bar, Stan and the ladies and just get to it.

As soon as the joke is over, you need to shift your attention to the narrator. Give us a reason to care about him. Is he planning to kill Stan all along, and just waiting for an opportunity? Is it something else all together?

Again, I really liked the mood you created here, and I liked Morris's backstory with the kevlar. These things show you have a grasp of a story here- I think it just needs a little bit more focus and further thought on motivations.

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 17, 2014 - 5:33pm

Thanks for the kind words, Grant, mads, and Hector. At least Hector left a comment with his thumbs down, and I definitely appreciate the feedback, thanks. Apparently someone didn't like it and didn't say shit. Oh well, can't win them all with the comments now can we?!

 

madsmaddox's picture
madsmaddox from Berkshire is reading Fated July 18, 2014 - 7:27am

My tale has a few thumbs down and no reasons, can't please everyone Bob but don't let it get you down, this story has entertained many of us.

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 19, 2014 - 7:21am

Hey Bob, 

I enjoyed this. Reminded me of Jason Latour's redneck-noir comics Loose Ends and Southern Bastards

I had no problem with the joke opening - I thought it worked well - but I am in agreement with the other reviewers on the question of Jay's motives and how he ended up with Stan in the first place. I can't really add anything to the discussion that hasn't already been pointed out in the comments above, but one thing did stick out for me: why is Jay pretending to be asleep in order to watch Stan and the women have sex? I may have read it wrong, but it makes Jay and Stan seem like better pals than they (quite clearly) are, and it also makes Jay seem weirdly complicit in Stan's behaviour. 

Regardless, your writing style is excellent and "Pork Chop" was interesting enough a tale to warrant a thumbs-up from me. 

Kevin

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 20, 2014 - 4:20pm

Thanks Kevin, glad you enjoyed the story. There seems to be general concensus that Jay needs a little more motivation, so I'm definitely going to keep that in mind for any subsequent rewrites. 

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 31, 2014 - 2:31am

definitelyenjoyed this one, read it all in one go and the characters--stan especially--are well written. you create a gritty, threadbare sense of place, and the whole thing, while slightly surreal, was good enough to make me believe in the characters. thumbs up.

re: critique, there was a bit of telling not showing going on--i think it worked in the section with stans backstory, although i may have liked this to be more chopped up and interspersed with action or minor events building up to the last it, otherwise it seems a little info dumpy. i do think the extended backstory for morris, while interesting, isnt necessary for the structure of this particular story. for the end, i thought the dialogue between morris and stan before they fight was a little wooden,which stiod out cuz the rest of the dialogue is so sharp,and i would have liked more development of jays motivations in shooting stan. finally, i absolutely lovedthe set up of stans characterwith the pork chop bit at the beginning, and I maybe would have liked the ending to tie more into how he is picking up with women, or have that more overtly influence jay. that may just be personal preference though.

thanks for the read, a nice neo western

 

Tom

Joe P's picture
Joe P from Brainerd, MN is reading Wheel of Time July 31, 2014 - 4:13am

Hey man, pretty interesting story. You have some very interesting and well developed charcters here. I think that's your strings at suit. The setting is gritty and filthy and realistic. Your words flow really well and the story moves along at a good pace. It was an easy read.

My only real critique is that I don't think I understood the ending. What what the narrator's motivation? Why did he follow Stan along and why did he wait to kill him at Morris'? I'm searching through the story but I can't find the answers.

At any rate, entertaining and engaging story. Thanks for the good read!