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Sample of Prose Narrative OPENING SCENE: Introduces protagonist, his personality, and attitude, the setting, and minor characters in his life. The black and white wing-tipped feet of Richie Dodge scuff Arcadia, California sidewalks. He trudges from one curb cut to the next, though careful not to scuff anything above the soles. Faces peer out at him from a shop window, not because of his hipster persona, when hipsters are sort of called hepsters some thirty years after beatniks had their run, but because their images hang captive from posters among three walls. Richie answers their stares with a running critique. Ace of Base—they’ll never be the next ABBA—and The Spin Doctors—who thinks an audience actually wants to hear a thirty-minute jam—and some grunge band—who sacrifices originality for its art; looking and sounding like any other grunge band. His reflection in the glass opposite Soul Asylum prompts a shrug. His tie, hand-painted vintage flash with a flamingo perched on bent leg in blue and orange pastel, hangs sloppily from an unbuttoned collar and dangles over pressed linen trousers below his belt, a pet peeve almost as bad as when the tie sticks out from beneath his collar behind his neck. He runs a hand through his product-styled hair and pulls it straight over his head. When it settles, he’s created a piled-high pompadour, fitting for the anachronistic life he lives. Pressed against the window of the shop, now closed, he cranes for the bins of used records, older vinyl, from the ’70s, then the ’60s. Accepting skips and scratches as part of the act, he copies them to cassettes to save wear and tear. He’s yet to pick up a CD, untrusting of the latest tech fad, though they’ve been around few years. If I invest in those, they’ll change in a couple of years to little tiny things the size of a quarter, he argues with skeptics. It’s not real music anyway. Some digital code standing in for analogue. His eyes widen with Lulu’s Something to Shout About LP leading the row and hopes they have a few Petula Clarks he doesn’t own yet. He’s got twelve already. Looking to the folds of his wallet, there’s stitched leather and a lining of some fabric but no cash. His wages go to vinyl. It being Thursday, he’ll pick up his paycheck, in person, on Friday and come back for Lulu on Saturday after cashing it … in person … with a bank teller. The 21st century looms, and Y2K scares surface among the population, but he pays no heed. He doesn’t even own an ATM card. The pocket planner he retrieves from a trouser pocket, the one opposite his wallet, summarizes his latest downfall. Lauren, 7 pm proves the evening didn’t disappear. Her name’s there, in the May 7 block with an arrow extending three weeks to present day, May 27. He scrawls an X through the 27th, across the entry, Lauren 8:30 pm. Richie flips the pages back to April and studies the 14th day hoping he’s somehow lost track of the years. But it’s still 1993 and his birthday on the 14th still marks his 29th year, the last throes of twentydom. He curls his lip, like Elvis, and tucks his tie into his shirt, like a military man would. His wingtips lumber up a flight of stairs while he fumbles for keys and taps a shoulder on the door that tends to stick. At the open refrigerator, Richie’s roommate for the past year, Drip, stoops and rubs his arms for the cold, wearing just boxer shorts and a white v-neck t-shirt, the Drip Cosgrove walkabout T, Richie calls, Drip’s choice attire around the place. Drip turns with the scuff of Richie’s feet over the black-and-white checkerboard tile. “Du—e!” Drip says, somehow never able to finish the full word “dude.” “You’re home early.” Drip fidgets as though he’s been caught pilfering import CDs at the swap meet, fumbling a cup of yogurt. “No, Drip,” Richie says, “right on schedule. As usual.” Drip’s girlfriend, with her kinda short hair for a cute girl, Richie had once confided in Drip, stands behind the open refrigerator door, bare feet on the tiles. Her face peeks from around the side. “Hi Nancy,” he greets her with a comic-book sigh. “No way, Du—e,” Drip says. “Dumped again already?” “Of course,” Richie says, “It’s been three weeks.” “Wasn’t the one before that—?” “Three weeks, tambien, Drip.” “And you been going with this Laurie chick how long?” “Lauren,” Richie corrects. “She was sickeningly adamant about getting it just so when I met her at the mall. I was looking for that Felix the Cat watch.” “Yeah? What else? Details!” “His arms are the clock hands.” Richie sticks his arms out to demonstrate, one at his side, one straight over his head, three o’clock. “That’s how he tells the time.” “No, Du—e. Details about Laur-ie—en.” “Not much else to say but yes, three weeks it has been.” “She didn’t even have the courtesy to throw off the average,” Nancy says, still tucked behind the refrigerator. Drip nods and grins dimwittedly. “Sorry, Richie,” Nancy says. “Are you, like, okay, Du—e? Drip asks. “I feel kinda sick,” Richie says. “I’ll be in my room. Where’s the newspaper?” “The personal ads?” Nancy asks. “The want ads,” Richie replies. “Go on-line,” Nancy says. “They’ve got updated jobs and even personal—” “I like the print media,” Richie says. “Rough day,” Drip says. “You get fired again too?” “Uh …” Richie says, thinking a moment, “no.” “Did you quit again?” Nancy asks. “No, not yet,” Richie says. “You gotta find a happy zone, Du—e.” “I’m looking,” Richie says. “I’m trying. “Seek and he will find,” Drip pronounces. “Ye. Shall,” Richie corrects. “Right!” Drip punctuates by pointing index fingers from each hand at Richie. “That’s the right—” The refrigerator door escaping his grasp cuts him short. Richie meets Nancy’s eyes. She drops a cup of yogurt, splattering Greek-style over her toes. Richie’s eyes wander from the spill to her waistline. “You surprised us,” she says, “you got home early.” “Yeah, Du—e,” Drip says, “you, umm, did.” “Huh, what?” Richie asks, unable to hear over Nancy’s pink and orange polka dotted panties. It must be the case she’s wearing nothing else. She crosses her arms over her breasts. “Dots,” Richie says in a state of mesmerism. Drip covers her panties with a folded newspaper. “Oh,” Drip says. The top half of the newspaper unfolds and opens to full size. “You need the paper, don’t you? Seems like we got us a Mexican stand-off.” “Sorry,” Richie says. “I didn’t mean to see your dots—” Nancy looks down at her arms covering her breasts. “No I mean—” he tries to explain, gesturing to her undergarment pattern. He turns his back. Drip rolls the newspaper into tube and hands it to Richie, who takes the paper without looking backward. He’s off like the anchor in a relay race. # After two weeks washout from the Lauren event, drip asks, “When’s your last day here?” “Two more days out West, then off to New Hampshire. “You don’t have to move to Canada just cuz of her.” “I think the U.S. annexed New Hampshire last year.” “Why New Hampshire?” “I was planning to move anyway, eventually, somewhere. It’s a long story.” Richie draws a breath and says, “I’m from New Hampshire.” “Yeah, that took a long time.” “That’s the abridged version. See, I grew up in New Hampshire, but after college, I got bored, so I took a job in New York.” “Cool! What was the job?” “Collections at a rental agency. What’s not to hate? I used to sit around Saturday nights depressed, because I knew I had to go to work on Monday morning. Still, I figured I was in like Flynn when my next job was at a radio station in Ohio,” Richie says. “But too much news and talk—” “Not good for a du—e musically inspired” That was my reasoning when I came up with these creative on-air lead-ins when no one was looking.” “Recite.” “Little think pieces I forgot as soon as they aired. One was during a local election, and I say, ‘Everybody talks about politics, but no one’s talking about poli-fleas.’” “Nice.” “I used to think writing a book meant writing in a book. Until a librarian yelled at me for it.” “Wow.” “And the guy who founded the station got a posthumous award from some civic group. I mentioned to our listeners posthumous awards must not be that prestigious, because I’ve never seen the winner show up to accept it.” Drip ponders a moment. “I think that was the one that did it. I was fired more than ever. And I’ve been fired a lot time.” “I know. I read the sacred scrolls. But how’d you end up here?” “In subsequent chapters, I fled west and continued fleeing, job after job, until I ran out of country. That brought me out here to California, to strike it rich. Having not done that, I can’t afford to go to Hawaii, so I’m on my way back East.” “My usual plan is to quit my job without any prospects of getting a new one.” “It’s good you got a plan. “Different strategy this time. I got a job lined up. Working for that political group I told you about. A friend of mine got me in. Deidre. I think I’ll like it, government work. Excellent gold-brick potential.” “Does she know about your ambition, lack thereof?” “She’s always helped me out, ever since junior high. If missed a class, or several, she got me the notes—” “Whoa, unrighteous. You shouldn’t hose your friends.” “It wasn’t like that. Not really. And if people wanna do stuff for me, who am I to deny them?” Richie says. “It would be rude. Besides, they won’t trace me back to her. It’s government work; I’ll get lost in the morass. Or I’ll join a union.” “What do you know about government stuff?” “Haven’t I just stressed my skill in subterfuge?” “I dig onomatopoeia.” “And apparently alliteration.” “You did it again, Du—e!” “As for the job, with the right amount of diplomacy, I can talk my way into and out of almost anything.” “What if you can’t?” “It’ll mess with the time-space continuum. You see, that day has yet to come.”