White Sneakers (My Brother’s Descent, Part 4)

My Brother’s Descent is the new name of the Set Up, Second Person, Firebrand series, thanks to Debra.

Read the whole series here (be sure to start with the first, “Set Up”, and go in date order).

And I’d like to take a vote on this one. Would this piece be better if I had ended it with the white sneakers and cut the last paragraph? Please answer the poll at the end, or leave a comment with your thoughts. :)

* * * * *

He jerks his head toward the back door. You want to give him the finger–you know what’s waiting for you out there. But there aren’t many options. He’ll handle any opposition from you with force, and they don’t call him Quarter Pounder for nothing. He’s grown bigger than you remember–whether through stuffing his face or working out, it doesn’t matter when you’re in between him and the concrete.

You shovel another forkful of rice into your mouth even though your whole plate has gone sour. He laughs at you and settles into his seat. He can wait. It’s only proper to give a man his last meal.

You’re buying time you can’t afford. You’re only prolonging your punishment. You know the only way out of this is a quick break through the front door, then running like hell. Lady Luck has been on your side before. She may come to your aid again. It’s worth a shot. It’s your only shot.

You stand and dump your trash. Over the curtains on the front windows, you can now see heads. Attached to loitering bodies. They could be regular people. Chances are they’re not. You’re going to need more than Lady Luck to get out the front alive–too bad every other powerful force abandoned you long ago. Can you blame them? And now Quarter Pounder’s up, his meatball hand has merged with your neck, and you’re out the back door on your hands and knees staring at a pair of white sneakers just like the ones your baby brother used to wear. Only newer. More expensive.

What a strange moment for a wanton thought to pulse through your brain. You thought you had sent your brother to heaven. What if you had sent him to hell?

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12 thoughts on “White Sneakers (My Brother’s Descent, Part 4)

  1. I think yes. I read the series again several times but keep returning to the first piece. Since Big Brother (BB) set up Little Brother (LB) in the first place and left him for dead, it seems incongruous that BB would think in terms of heaven and hell in this context. If BB was coldhearted enough to leave LB to die a gruesome death, it’s out of character for him to think he had sent his brother to ‘heaven.’ Or maybe I’m sensing it’s a passage that disrupts the pace and flow of this work of art.

    I wouldn’t mention this but for the fact that you always say you encourage critique—in the third sentence ‘options’ is plural, so “there is not many options” (there’s) would be incorrect. Just popped out at me, sorry.

    More please! I hope you continue with this, seriously.

    • I was thinking it mostly disrupts the pace, and the significance of him being thrown to the feet of his brother-he recognizes the type of shoe but he in no way knows it’s him yet. And I’d probably cut the last paragraph and the “Only newer. More expensive.” off the end of the preceding one.

      As for out of character, I see your point. However, I think the big brother has been tormented by what he’s done. Guilt is a powerful thing.

      Yes, ALWAYS point out mistakes. Thank you! I’m fixing that right now. And that goes for all of you readers, and I’m holding you to it!!

      • I liked that part about newer, etc. It has significance, especially in these days of the coveted designer sneaker’s connection to cultural status. You could give it a slight edit by maybe saying “…you’re out the back door on your knees face-to-face with an imposing pair of expensive white sneakers—an enhanced version of the kind your baby brother used to wear.” OK maybe that’s too much—maybe just leave it as is because it has power.

        And now that you’ve said that BB still doesn’t know it’s LB, more reason to cut last line. BB’s mind would more likely be racing with adrenaline and desperation (I haven’t sensed guilt yet, I assume you’d convey that later). The next chapter in the series could start where he looks up and recognizes his brother.

        The fact that you welcome review is a sign of a mature and open-minded writer, and allowing me to indulge my natural tendency to scrutinize (out loud) is appreciated. An editor wouldn’t dare make suggestions on a writer’s work unless hired to do so, lest we bruise the writer’s ego. You’re so totally not like that, which is one more reason to never miss a Kay Camden post.

        Readers, can’t you just see “Kay Camden” on a book jacket? It’s perfect!

        • Okay, so the “newer, more expensive” bit was supposed to show how LB has changed. That was the last line I added before I hit Publish. Had I cut the heaven and hell part, I wouldn’t have added the “newer, more expensive.” But, I felt it important to show how BB recognizes the sneakers, but doesn’t recognize them at the same time. Just like how when he looks up, he’ll recognize his brother, but see what a different man he’s become due to this world that BB shoved him into, thinking he’d die a quick death and everything would be over. So yes, it’s there to show LB’s new status.

          The heaven and hell line is a bit complicated. No, BB doesn’t quite know it’s LB standing above him. So that’s why this thought is wanton. He wonders where it came from–I think it came from his subconscious. Maybe he could sense it was his LB despite him thinking he was dead long ago. Intuition maybe. And the power of a guilty conscious. He tries to forget what he’s done, but it’s always there. So this line is his guilt. And a little denial too. The thought isn’t wanton. It’s deserved. I think that’s why I’m doing second person for this guy, because he’s so out of his mind he doesn’t know who he is anymore.

          I put WAY too much into this, I know. I think I have a mental illness.

          And speaking of heaven and hell, after reading the last part of your comment I think I died and went to heaven!! Yeah!! Haha!!

  2. I can’t vote without reading the whole thing, but I just wanted to tell you that this is an excellent bit of writing. I am moved to read the whole thing, and it doesn’t get any better than that.

    • Thanks! That’s the best compliment, really, because that’s the one thing you need from an agent to get on the road to publication. Too bad you’re not an agent. haha

      • You never know who you’re talking to on the net. I’m not an agent, but I once had a back and forth with an editor–that I didn’t know was an editor–until just before the site we were on went down, and he disappeared into oblivion. DANG. Editors and agents often wear masks when they’re sniffing around.

        • Eek. And yet another reason to behave ourselves out here.
          Agents and editors do google authors they’re considering representing–I’ve read that many times. So even if you have no contact with one, they are still watching.

  3. Kay, had to reply down here because that comment thread is out of replies (you can change that in your Discussions settings, but you probably know that).

    Yes, the reader might suspect that BB knows. He’s wary and distrustful. I don’t think you’re overthinking this at all. Resolving issues and conveying the powerful signals that create a page-turner takes a lot of thought. When a piece of writing appears effortless, it most likely wasn’t.

    I love the alternating between first-person and second-person. It’s an unusual approach and it’s really working here. It’s spirited, suggestive, and makes it easy to keep track of who’s narrating.

    I think the sneakers reference is much more evocative than the heaven and hell reference. I can see this whole scene clearly as I read. When a pair of sneakers can be more graphic and more suspenseful than all the forces of heaven and hell, that’s showing, not telling.

    Also, the word ‘wanton’ is perhaps not quite the right word to use in a Chinese restaurant setting, even though not spelled the same as the soup.

    • Thanks, I fixed the replies thing. I’m glad the first-person/second-person is working for you. I honestly don’t know why I wrote the big brother in second person to begin with, but I understand it now, so that’s all that matters, right? (I should probably say I did it on purpose from the beginning…)

      Wanton, as in wonton? Oh man… LOL

  4. :) My mailbox was full of email to Kay this morning. When you get this kind of response–it doesn’t matter if the comments are negative or positive–then you know that you’ve tapped a well. Keep going…

    As it happens, sometimes we post things that we think are thrilling and hear only the crickets in the theater. Other times, we posts a thing we just threw out there for fun (your words) and we get a ton of email. Mmmm, go figure. But this is how we learn what we are good at and what the people want.

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