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Chris Irvin's picture


By Chris Irvin in Arrest Us

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Amidst ghosts of his past, a desperate son attempts to save his ill mother.


Beverly Bambury's picture
Beverly Bambury June 27, 2014 - 8:43am

I really enjoyed this. Your flow and pacing are strong. The only thing I wish were different is the ending. It feels like it comes too quickly, like there is something missing. Still, I prefer this to going on too long.

Michelle Turlock Isler's picture
Michelle Turloc... June 27, 2014 - 9:29am

Beautifully written. Not bogged down with unnecessary descriptions. Soft spoken dialogue with a hint of sadness. Loved the flow.

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff June 28, 2014 - 10:00am

Great writing. My wife used to work in a nursing home with mostly people who had alzhiemer and dementia. The stories she told would break anybodies heart. So that aspect of the story hit home for me. The only problem I really had with the story though was the ending. Not sure if I missed something or not but is the main character shot or stabbed? His mother has a blood stain on her dress except I assume he's the one bleeding because his buddy says, you don't look so good, but I wasn't sure at first. I re-read that part and didn't see any mention of him being hurt. Otherwise good stuff. I enjoyed it.

Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 June 28, 2014 - 10:52am

Thanks for the kind words! 

Ed - Nick is stabbed prior to the start of the story, when he robs the auto shop. It's alluded when he mentions Lenny confronting him (putting a thumb on the clip of his pocket knife) but you don't actually see it. He carries the poorly bandaged wound throughout the story. 

Glad to see the rest of the story worked for you. Thanks again for your feedback. 


Akdavidson's picture
Akdavidson July 1, 2014 - 6:11am

Great writing with excellent flow!  The ending provide a concluding view into Nick's fate knowing that his own personal sacrifices, although different from his brother's, may have provided a sense of security for his mother.  Touching end.  

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 1, 2014 - 9:50am


This was really, really good. Loved the flow of it through out, and you made me care deeply about Nick in very few words, well done.

I can kinda see the confusion about who stabbed him. I got it after the end of the third paragraph, but the sentence that the paragraph leads off with is a little bit confusing. Still, other than that detail, I thought you did great in painting a picture of their lives and surroundings without going overboard or using too many words.

One thing that I wasn't sure of is whether he's paying for the home on the up and up, or is Martin fudging the numbers, etc to get her a spot? I feel like it's the latter part, but maybe an extra line or two during their conversation would help to settle things for me.

I thought the ending was great, with a damn killer last line. The only thing I'm wavering about is the photo in the overhead visor. It's such a trope in this type of stories that it feels like it belongs there, but also, feels like you could do something better than that. Even him just remembering the image I feel might work a bit better.

Honestly, these are all nitpicks as the story really worked for me. Kudos.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 2, 2014 - 6:02am

I like this, it's well-written and distinct, and although the crime is only in the peripheral of the story it is still very much present. Nice one.

NikKorpon's picture
NikKorpon from Baltimore is reading Book and books and books and July 2, 2014 - 11:20am

Hot damn. Great story, Chris. This reminds me of stories Matt Funk and Tommy Pluck submitted to Dirty Noir a couple years ago, in that they're incredibly tense and fraught with despair, but nothing bad happens in the story. It's just real people. I think these are some of the most difficult to write because the source of the tension is peripheral but you still have to keep the reader hooked in what's going on. That dual sense of selflessness and impending doom keep pushing Nick forward and it works really, really well. I love the twist on the expectation you put in with Martin (?) and how he's just as corrupted as Nick. And the end image of Nick being held up by his brothers is heartbreaking, because I've never seen anyone celebrate someone in an Orioles hoodie.


Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 2, 2014 - 5:06pm

@Akdavidson & @Seb - thank you! Glad you enjoyed the story and thank you for giving it a read.

@Hector - Thanks for the kind words and the good points. The intention is that Nick is skirting the system so to speak with Martin and getting his mother into the home outside of the usual system.

@Nik - thanks, man! That means a lot. Going to have to check out those stories. You *got* what I was going for. And we will celebrate one day! O's vs Sox at Fenway in September...I'll be decked out.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 7, 2014 - 4:56am

I liked the storyand interactii between nick and his mother, but i felt like a lot of the plot was shoehorned in swiftly towards the end. Jimmys deathnin iraq, thenhelicopter at the end. As your final line references jimmy i guess i woulda preferred him to be set up significantly earlier on so it has more bite. But how youd do that while keeping in the flow of the story im unsure, it did seem natural to introduce jimmy only after the mother mentions him. Aside from that. nice writing. understated and poignant. There were a few times whereyu may have overexplained nicks feelings, such as when he looks over his mothers rpom: the imagery is strong enough without the need for as mich exposition. Final tiny point is there are a few slightly clunky sentences for me like

.” He struggled to swallow, his voice faltering as he struggled to hold back the tears he knew would find him.

Repetiion of struggle and 'he knew would find him' at the end dint rly work for me.

but stilla nice story and i like whatyou did with thetrappings of a crime setting, youmade it touching and personal


Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 11, 2014 - 11:01am

Thanks for the kind words, Tom - and great catch.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose July 9, 2014 - 10:12am

I agree with Nik about the realness here. I was engaged with this piece right from the start, visualizing the weary/wounded homecoming up the stoop step by step. Nick seems more fully fleshed that the mother though, whose dementia made her less interesting than she could have been maybe - her lines being relegated to "silly me" and "oh, dear" and crumpled tissues. There might be more dynamic ways of showing her affliction, some creative confusion in that house, more specific comments, even in the limited arena of a short story. But it is unabashedly emotional and sentimental, and that's what sets it apart from other more arch, cynical crime pieces. Clever bait and switch with the emotional pain of the homecoming and the physcial pain of an actual stab wound. So thumbs up from this hopeless cynic.

Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 11, 2014 - 11:04am

Thanks, David - that means a lot. I really appreciate the comments on the mother as well - very helpful. I'll give it another look and try to improve on that.

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 9, 2014 - 11:49pm

I love the way the story is infused with melancholia; a heavy sadness that casts a pall on everything. Nick feels like a very real character, desperate to see his mother looked after. I also think it’s clever to concentrate on the aftermath rather than dwell on the robbery itself. It gives the story more heart, and shows both why Nick resorted to the crime, and the consequences for his actions.

The ending is perhaps a tad abrupt. One moment he’s seeing his mother being helped in to the home, and he turns the engine on. The next a helicopter with (presumably) medics is approaching him. The sense of time is a little skewed, and that’s the one area I’d suggest may need just a little work to give it a little more clarity.

Otherwise, this is a very strong story. Best of luck with it!

Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 11, 2014 - 11:10am

Thanks for the kind words, Adam. I've received a couple similar responses on the end being a bit abrupt, which I'll take another look at. The helicopter isn't really there (he's thinking of his brother and what it was like when he was airlifted off the battlefield) but perhaps that could be more clear as 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 22, 2014 - 6:20pm

Holy moly this made me get a little choked up. Seriously. Good stuff here man, good stuff. Put two grandparents in a nursing home, got one left at her house, and my biggest fear is having to do the same for my mother, so yeah, that got to me. There's not much more I can comment on that hasn't been said but I will say that it's not entirely clear why Nick was wounded. I don't need the whole robbery scene, but I need a little more there to make it clear that he's not going to make it, if that makes sense.

Great story, definitely a thumbs up from me. 

Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 24, 2014 - 4:46am

Thanks, Bob! Glad you enjoyed it and that it rang true. Appreciate the kind words and critique. 

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 24, 2014 - 2:50pm

Wow, really sweet story. I have to point out that I was confused by these line

"He felt the pull of the backpack and prayed that it would be enough—at least to get her inside. Once she was in, they couldn’t get rid of her. Not like the banks and their predatory loans, eating away at his mother like an unstoppable cancer. The Home would be different. It had to be, because he promised her it would"

I know that you're keeping us in the dark here, but I read the first line as him hoping the bag was strong enough to get her "inside", like he had his mother inside his back pack. I was then confused by "once she was in" because of the previous interpretation. Maybe if you changed "get her inside" to get her where "she needs to be" it might less confusing while keeping the mystery. After going back and reading the passage again, I understood it completely but it distracted me the whole time I read. Other than that little tidbit this was a great story. I really enjoyed it. Good luck.

Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 28, 2014 - 4:28pm

Thanks! I really appreciate you singling out that section. To me, a great story comes down to nailing details such as these. Thanks for reading and for the kind words. 

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 31, 2014 - 8:38am


Great story! It's a tightly written character piece with everything in place. I really enjoyed that it was a quieter, solemn story with the crime just informing the narrative. 

I liked the juxtaposition of the moments "after the heist" where his getaway is really just getting him mom in home before everything falls apart. It heightens the tension and creates a very realistic sense of the emotions and desperation Nick is dealing with. 

Fantastic story!