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Alec Cizak's picture

The Ralph's on Third and Vermont

By Alec Cizak in Arrest Us

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This is a story about a crime nobody will ever be punished for.


Yuan Siance's picture
Yuan Siance June 30, 2014 - 7:27pm

This story really affected me. I thought it was pretty raw, but by the end I thought it was much more heart-breaking than I thought it would be initially.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 1, 2014 - 9:51am

Thanks, Yuan.


BTW -- I reposted the story double-spaced, because I read a comment somewhere that people might not actually read the story because it was single-spaced.  Absurd, but, whatever.

CJ Edwards's picture
CJ Edwards from Indianapolis is reading Classic Sci/Fi at the moment. July 1, 2014 - 11:45am

Good stuff. I liked the three scened set up...great "witness" piece liked the point of view from someone we don't usually see from in crime fiction. The ending really kicked it in with the way it looked back.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose July 1, 2014 - 6:17pm

Great story, great profane narrative voice. I dug the aggression of this piece. Not sure how I felt about the headers "The Riots" and "After The Riots," like I knew where I was and didn't need the map or pause or something? Personal preference maybe. But, yeah, the voice here certainly demanded to be read. To be honest, I'm on board as soon as any narrator calls the reader a "motherfucker" though, and you did this on page one. Not to mention the glut of "motherfuckers" throughout the entire story. Hell, you could have called it "The Ralph's on Third and Motherfucker."

So I guess what I'm saying here is you had me at motherfucker. - Jerry Maguire 2

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 1, 2014 - 7:35pm

Thanks, CJ and DJK.  The scene headings seem to be something I'm doing at the moment in my short stories, not sure why.

guf's picture
guf July 6, 2014 - 7:34am

Hi Alec,

Thanks for posting this. It's haunting and authentic, shot through with authoritative detail and honest melancholy. I liked how the Vietnam backstory felt offhand until the climax, then became the core in the end.

After reading, I was sad and wanted fried chicken. Comfort food.

EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff July 6, 2014 - 8:19am

What a great voice. It almost reads like a memoir. I enjoyed this a lot. It's definently outside the box of crime fiction, for sure. Great story.

Erik Carl Son's picture
Erik Carl Son from New England is reading Sunset and Sawdust by Joe Lansdale July 7, 2014 - 6:00am

Well done and, like the others have said, great voice.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 7, 2014 - 10:43am

Thanks for the nice comments.  I don't know if the cook at the Ralph's on 3rd and Vermont is still there, but if so, you need to try that chicken at least once.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 8, 2014 - 6:54am

Really enjoyed this story.

You had a great voice through out the piece, and what I liked most was that even though this was technically someone remembering a past even, it never felt like you were just telling us about it. Great use of description, setting, and dialogue that made it really easy to fall right into the story and go along for the ride.

I really don't have a lot of things to point out. I thought the writing was good and sharp, and the structure worked for me. The only thing I am iffy about is the After the Riots section. It feels slightly out of place, like it belongs in a different story. I thought the ending you had in the Riots section was pitch perfect, so I was actually surprised, and a bit dissapointed to see you continue it and see Charlie alive. I like the idea of showing that life goes on, even after what seems to be such a big, desctructive event, but I'm not sure the scene you have right now ties it all in.

But other than that, a really strong piece.

NikKorpon's picture
NikKorpon from Baltimore is reading Book and books and books and July 8, 2014 - 7:33am

Great story, Alec. Loved the offhanded comment early on that plays a huge part later.  I'm really digging endings like this, ones that are a little quieter than the rest of the story and thematically related if not explicitly tied into the narrative. Makes it pack more of an emotional punch, I think. 

kevymetal's picture
kevymetal from Halifax, NS July 8, 2014 - 5:57pm

Love the narrator's voice. It felt authentic and the authenticity didn't falter once, nicely done. The story was heartbreaking and you focused on the right things (the routine of the protagonist and his friends, the ways to make money, the limited kindness of local business owners). I would maybe make the trio of frat boys less one-dimensional villians by making them more cowardly little boys playing at a big man's game, but considering the heinousness of their crime, full-on evil might be the way to go. And the cop seemed a bit on the nose, but those are minor, minor criticisms. This was an awesome, powerfully effective story. Good job. And I love the title. 

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 8, 2014 - 9:04pm

Hector, interesting observation about that last section.  I'll have to think if there are other ways to end the story.

kevymetal, I've been thinking about the cop's line about stereotype, it is on the nose.  I have to figure out a way to diffuse possible criticism over the depiction of the frat boys in a more subtle manner.  This goes back to a debate I've had with several people regarding whether or not it's possible to apply the term stereotype to frat boys when so many of them fit the damn stereotype so well (it's like they're not even conscious of the fact that the ENTIRE WORLD is critical of their behavior).

Thanks to all three of you for reading and commenting on the story.

YouAreNotASlave's picture
YouAreNotASlave from Birmingham United Kingdom July 9, 2014 - 3:34am

Fucking awesome story. Really well established voice, believed it every second, socially conscious of homelessness/racism/classism without beating readers over the head with it: it felt very real. And a very nice literary takedown of frat-boys. Easily one of my top three I've read so far, if not the absolute favourite. Best thing about it I'd say was the structure; tight and well crafted scenes where we get to know the characters. I'm ambivalent about the very last section--it was nice to see it wrapped up in a poignant memory but maybe the story would have been more raw ending at the second section -- either way it depends what you want to get out of readers. Genuinely struggling to think of much else in terms of criticism--you did a great job. Thanks for a great read


Dylan Mackey's picture
Dylan Mackey from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith July 9, 2014 - 1:17pm

This was well written and the voice is engaging and I was immediately intrigued just by the title.

Also, the story has a good pacing/tempo buttressed by snappy, street-wise dialogue.

Well done, Alec.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 10, 2014 - 8:29am

Thanks, Tom and Dylan.

Seems like I'm really going to have to take a look at that ending.

EC Crouse's picture
EC Crouse from Seattle is reading the deep dark secrets of the interwebs July 10, 2014 - 11:02pm

Hi, Alec:

Gripping story.  I really liked the way that you spun the imagery (very light hand, very effective, very integrated with the rest of the narrative) and the characters' interaction with each other.  You did a great job of capturing the feeling of dry, tarnished glamor that really embodies Los Angeles for me.  I was a little taken aback by the ending at first, but the last line pulls it together nicely.  Although, now that I think about it, I'm not sure you even needed the ending to make your point.  As much as I liked the scene and the wryness of the ending, you mention the rich white women and Charlie's issues elsewhere in the story.  Maybe a post-death vignette to tie it up?

The only other critique I have - and I can't believe that I'm saying this given the words that come out of my mouth (and keyboard) - but I think that you overdid the profanity a bit in the first half of the piece.  I really don't think that you would lose the unique voice or tone of the piece by removing a few of the motherfuckers, etc. and the language would be a little less repetitive.  

Good luck!


Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 11, 2014 - 10:14am

Thanks, Elizabeth.  I had noticed the language dies down a bit in the second half.  That is something I will surely be thinking about when I start working on this story again (I mean, making everything more balanced, not adding more bad language in the end).

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 13, 2014 - 1:24am

This is a good story. I hate to repeat what has been said numerous times before, but the voice is here is great and very engaging. I started off thinking the beginning was a bit rambling, but it actually fits perfectly within the story as a whole.

My only slight quibble with this one is the ending. I tend to agree with Hector here, in that you end it so well with that line – “Like he had never been a human being.” I don’t think the After The Riots sections really adds much to the story. If anything, I’d have stuck it in earlier in the piece, simply because I like that karma reference. It does resonate, but it’s not as strong as that image of charred meat and black gravel.

Best of luck with this one.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 14, 2014 - 6:20pm

Thanks, Adam.  When I get back to work on this story, I'll definitely be taking a look at that final section.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK July 15, 2014 - 3:31am

Nice, like it, consistent voice. Also, I agree with the previous comments about the ending, but all in all a good story.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak August 2, 2014 - 6:07am

Thanks, Seb!

Juice Ica's picture
Juice Ica from Rhode Island is reading The Twelve by Justin Cronin & Beautiful Creatures July 15, 2014 - 10:29am

Excellent story. One of my fave's so far in this competition. I loved the voice of the narrator, he was simple, profane and totally human. I loved him for that. It was a damn sad story too and it felt more like a true story than a work of fiction.


Good luck to you!

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 15, 2014 - 11:13pm

Thanks, Juice Ica, very kind words.

Turtlethumbs's picture
Turtlethumbs July 16, 2014 - 7:40pm

Just finished reading. Holy shit. Everything the others have said. Amazing voice and rhythm, loved the characters. I think this is my favorite story so far. 

Feel free to read mine if ya feel like it - I'm open to any kind of crit:



aaronjmagnan's picture
aaronjmagnan July 18, 2014 - 12:08am

Great read.


The disjointed nature of the storytelling, the fragments and choppy action, added confusion to the narrator's voice, but also gave it an eery distrance.


Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 18, 2014 - 5:21am

Thanks for the kind words, Max and Aaron. Max, I'll definitely check your story out.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 20, 2014 - 8:44pm

Such a great read. I'll join nearly everyone in saying your tone and voice were outstanding. I always try to be aware of over using profanity just for the sake of sounding gritty or to fill space.You successfully pulled off effectiveness without excessiveness. I didn't know who the protagonist was or what "The Ralph's" was until you wanted to reveal it. I thought that was a really cool way of telling the story. I have nothing in the way of advice or gripes at all. Great read.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 21, 2014 - 11:39am

Thanks, Cmangano.  I will be taking a look at the profanity just to make sure there isn't too much.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday July 25, 2014 - 1:14pm

There's a reason this one is sitting at the top of the heap.  Well done.  Everyone has the small nitpicks covered.  Thanks for sharing and best of luck.

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 25, 2014 - 9:44pm

Thanks, Grant.  There's still work to be done on this story, no doubt about it.

Tim Hennessy's picture
Tim Hennessy July 30, 2014 - 10:18am


This an excellent story; tightly written, well structured, and with a compelling narrative voice that propels everything extremely well. 

I'm going to echo the sentiments of Adam and Hector, the only element that I felt needed more attention was the ending. I enjoyed the reflective nature of the "After The Riots" section and the haunted feel of narrator recalling a better time after the horror of witnessing Charile's death. His guilt was subtly infused in that section but the end comes so abruptly that the connection to karma and events you depict almost get lost. If anything further connecting the idea of karma, in all of it's forms and the way it's haunted not just Charlie, but especially the narrator will drive home your story and break some hearts. 

Good luck with this story. It's fantastic, I look forward to seeing in print. 


Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 30, 2014 - 11:58am

Good insight, Tim.  I'll definitely consider that when I go back and work on the story some more.

WANichols399's picture
WANichols399 from New York is reading In Extremis August 4, 2014 - 1:16pm

The story flows, great job of showing us a world rarley spoken about rarley memorialized.  I though UCLA kids were the A Holes!

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak August 8, 2014 - 8:09am


Motor-Psycho's picture
Motor-Psycho from Montreal is reading Everything By Willeford August 10, 2014 - 11:53am

Returning the favor here Alec, great piece. Lotta cool idioms gives authenticity. 

I was a beach bum in Venice (later San Diego) around '96-'97. Always dreamed I'd get scooped up by rich ladies. Ha!