Monday, December 6, 2010

My Short Story - The Logic Of Guitar Strings

I feel the necessity of a pre and post script, therefore this is what I will do. I'll give you a quick introduction and then explain further down below. I wrote this story for a contest at my library. The contest was called A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words. I had to write a story based on that picture that was under one thousand words.

Therefore, without further ado, here is The Logic Of Guitar Strings.

"Just one more day," he mumbled to the moving mugshot in his mirror. "One more." How many times had he said that? He didn't know why he bothered. He didn't shower, just dressed in jeans and a dark blue A&F hoodie and brushed back his greasy hair. The house was quiet; younger sister already at school, parents at work.
The bathroom mirror at Roseview High was streaky. Leaning down, Trent swiped it once absently with a paper towel. His English teacher wouldn't let him in without his term paper and since he hadn't written it, he couldn't attend class. Going into the handicap stall, he latched it and sat down against the wall. It smelled like urine. Three stalls down, water gurgled in a toilet and momentarily the sound lulled his mind. He dropped his head and blew his hoodie strings back and forth, staring at the tile floor.
The cafeteria walls were a pale green. Trays, french fries and elbows crowded the orange plastic table tops. At the end of the buffet line, Trent paused, unconciously turning his toes in, keeping his arms close. His eyes traveled, intentionally avoiding contact. He knew people, but no one knew him anymore. Finally, he saw Gabe. Innocuous, intensely practical Gabe; they'd run track together before Trent had quit.
"Hey man." Trent slid his tray nearer his friend.
Gabe looked up from his phone, "Hey Trent, what's up?"
"Nothing much. Who're you texting?"
"Just Britney." Gabe tried to act nonchalant. "We're gonna hang out later."
Trent had heard of Britney when Gabe was still crushing. Trent smiled.
"Way to go."
Gabe just smiled, intent upon his reply. Trent glanced around. Aubrey's dark red-brown hair fell down over her shoulder as she bent to pick up her purse. In the past, she would've stood up and looked around for him and they would've walked the halls until their next class. It hadn't been flirty and intense like Britney and Gabe, but Trent had felt a connection. Had. He could imagine the look she must have given to her friends when the teacher had ordered him out of English, her voice sharp with frustration. He had said nothing, just walked out. Now she walked out with her friends. Gabe was still texting.
Only one thing made him wish he'd kept his grades up and that was the fact that the music classes were only for those with a B average or higher. He missed the music room, with its high dusty windows and chintzy aluminum stadium seating for the choir. He missed the white sense of piano keys and thin logic of guitar strings. Gabe looked up once more, slipping his phone into his pocket.
"You're kinda off today, Trent." His tone was half statement, half question.
Trent felt an almost physically painful relief that Gabe had noticed. "Yeah, a little."
"What's up?"
"Oh, you know." His hands tensed. "Nothing and everything. Life's just a beast."
"You can say that again." Gabe nodded.
Trent let the silence stand for a moment. "Sometimes, it just doesn't seem worth it. Sometimes, I don't think I can make it through one more day."
Gabe's gaze was earnest. "I think that too, sometimes. But you know what? Yesterday's done. Today's happening. Something you do today can change tomorrow."
Trent bent his plastic knife until it snapped it in half. "Yeah, I guess."
Gabe's phone vibrated and he glanced down at it, beginning a reply.
"You can do it, man."

Trent waited until fifth period, when the halls were quiet and music classes were done for the day. Slipping into the music room, he abstractly noticed the dusty streaks of sun coming through the window as he sat down on the end of a stadium bench. The room smelled like carpet dust and violin string primer. The quiet wasn't empty.
He couldn't shake the weight off his shoulders, the tension knotting his neck. Stretching his arms out, he swung them over his head, trying to loosen up. It was all useless. Nothing was going to change. He'd have to keep getting up, coming here, failing school, losing people, growing smaller and less significant, more desperate and despairing every single day. No matter where he went, he couldn't shut down his mind, repeating his failure, devoid of hope. He pulled his feet up. He hugged his knees. His mind stilled. It wouldn't have to take more than half an hour. He could sit, listening to his car's engine running beneath him. Carbon monoxide would fill the garage, then the car and it would probably take less than a tank of gas. He didn't have to last one more day. It could be over today.
Picking up a guitar, he hugged the smooth neck with his fingers and paused for a moment, holding down a chord without strumming. Standing up, he threw open the music room door, smacking it against the back wall and strode out of school, guitar still in hand.
The brown-gold grasses swept against his legs as he seated himself on the remains of an old wood fence. The sun was overhead, hot and white. Looping the strap over his head, Trent began strumming. The peace of his fingers moving against the strings and the tender jaunt of notes let him breathe. Someday, he might be a song writer, an artist of music. Someday, he might love and be loved. Someday, he might be bold, confident and strong. He paused, the music dying down. Today, he would make it through one more day.

I like my story in theory and I liked several elements of it. I'm saying this as the completely unbiased author, of course. ^_^ My story in theory is about a boy struggling with depression and thoughts of suicide and how he is encouraged by his friend to keep on and how he eventually decides that if he kills himself now, he'll never have the chance to experience tomorrow and the differences that might be. That's the theory of it. It was too short a story to introduce a biblical view of things, although I definitely thought about it and would've liked to. The element of the story that I worked hardest on and felt came across best was the vividness of what was happening to Trent. I tried to make it 'show not tell'.

Unfortunately, and this is what made me have such a scattered emotional reaction to it winning, how I phrased the end paragraph made it seem like music saved him. The title also leans the story in that direction. This is rather unfortunate. I didn't conciously mean it be that way, but rereading it - after I sent it in, of course - I saw that it could definitely be taken that way. What I wanted to say was that music gave him the clarity of mind to see what his friend was saying was correct. Do you know how that is with music? Sometimes I feel like my only sane moments of the day are when I'm listening to music. It didn't come across quite right in the story, but at least everyone who reads my blog knows what I was saying. I am relieved on that point. There. That's all. Thanks for reading!


Listening to Chairlift - Bruises

1 comment:

  1. That was pretty interesting. I liked it, I can't say I loved it just because it rings with me a little too much (and I didn't really like anyone, because you didn't have time to... flesh them out, or whatever).

    Fantastic job on the descriptions. Recently, I've really been lax on my description, which I think is a problem. I'm a lot better at the talking part of it all. XD I just find description boring. I guess I should work on it. *g*