Welcome to the dogfight! Here’s a snippet from a short story by Laurel Leigh, followed by critical comments. If you want some context for this excerpt, you can read another story of hers, “Shoeless,” published in The Sun, in which the character Ralph appears. Dogpatch Writers Collective occasionally posts these excerpts of our group critiques of work in progress, and your comments are welcomed!
From “No Vacancy”Ralph took a key off his belt ring, meaning to hand it to the guy. He’d been getting more used to them, but the floaters in his eye suddenly turned into lightning streaks and zoomed across the edge of his vision. He dropped the key, fumbled to pick it up. Then he stood blinking, feeling dizzy after the guy took the key and walked away. His eye hurt like hell. He rubbed the spot just below his eyebrow. He lit a Doral and took several long puffs. Back in his office, he swallowed aspirin and squirted eye drops in both eyes. Then he locked the office door, went into his back room and stretched out on the pullout bed. The aspirin started to kick in, but he still felt shaky and sick to his stomach. And tired—of everything. Of the pain in his eyes. Of worrying about it. Of guys like the one just now. Who made him feel even smaller than he felt most of the time. And those types of guy always got women by half trying, whereas Ralph was lucky to cop a feel once in a blue friggin’ moon. And a guy wanted more than that, you know? Someone to spend a night with, or even talk to. And, he was tired of waiting. One day, his uncle would have to retire and the motel operation would belong to Ralph, or so he hoped. But that day was a long ways off.
Comments from the Dogpatch:
Laurel, Love, love, love this story! It stands on its own, and fits almost seamlessly with “Shoeless,” the story published in The Sun. In this story, we’re looking at a man who longs to have something more in his life, to feel like part of a community instead of an outsider and to be with a woman he cares about, but he can’t quite figure out how to make these things happen. He can’t even make a doctor’s appointment or manage a small hotel. He’s so lost in his vague dreams, in the tiny aspects of his life that are beyond his management capabilities, that he’s only capable of taking action when desperate. And even then, his action is really inaction. What he ends up asking for (and paying for) lies far below what he truly desires. A heartbreaking story. You noted that you were struggling with the ending, and I’d have to say that I think the first ending is far superior to the alternate. But I would suggest that you cut the first ending slightly at the parts where you provide a little too much internal dialogue, Continue reading