Natural's Not In It

Natural's Not In It

A Story by Kim Black

  It's a Monday night in suburban Dublin. But not just any Monday night. As with last Monday and the Monday before that, this Monday is about to become truly remarkable; a night of unprecedented, almost parodic fun. You see, it's summertime, and during the summer Monday becomes the hipper, more fashionable Saturday amongst all the young socialites of the city. All the grown-ups have work in the morning, so the clubs are exclusively inhabited by teenagers (and the really desperately lonely). The alcohol prices are lowered�" or, you know, at least not exorbitantly raised. Most importantly, the kids themselves feel a great, clandestine sense of novelty, like they're in on some big secret by going out on a Monday (though in reality it's become more popular among this demographic than any other day of the week). All these factors come together to achieve the elusive good vibes adolescents chase from the moment they taste their first jägerbomb.

  One cannot simply go in dry to an experience such as this. First there is a certain ritualistic foreplay, a very strict procedure through which one can achieve such extreme levels of pleasure. This preparation must take place in single-sex groupings; neither gender is allowed to be diluted by the other before entering the club. Normally the girls will meet at the house of some perpetual hostess for pre-drinks, and tonight is no exception. They've all been friends since the very start of school. Their dialogue is effortless and immediate as well as ruthlessly complimentary. It is also entirely hollow. The truth is that they've grown fairly sick of one another after years and years of relentless friendship. Most of them think the rest of the group are kind of b*****s. Still, the reassuring safety of each other's company, the distinct lack of effort the relationship demands, is enough to keep them together, like an old seat cushion that's lost all its stuffing but maintains that familiar a*s-imprint you spent all those years working on. They sit, and drink, and talk, and drink, burying their spirits under six feet of Diet Coke. As the bottles empty, any tension between them quickly melts away (or at least passes out for a while).

  At the other end of the spectrum, the men, née boys, prefer to gather someplace public, often near the club itself. This allows them all the autonomous, dominant sensation of false passivity; when asked if they're going out, they'll reply, "Oh, yeah, maybe I'll head in for a bit", though none of them have ever actually not turned up. This practice serves as an exercise in communal support, whereby each lad gets to really believe that he is the leader of the pack. They all head in on the bus, alone, while the rest of the boys are just waiting for them to arrive. They're a Lone Wanderer, a Fonz-like presence in their mates' lives. It's on little implicit ego-boosts such as these, the kind of mutual induction of self-confidence, that their friendships are built�" certainly more so than any genuine affinity towards one another. Anyway, eventually they all meet up, still completely sober, and head down to the off-licence together.

  At this point the girls are only getting on the bus, being slower to the destination of town, but faster to the destination of s**t-faced drunkenness. Excitedly, they clamour aboard, stumble up the stairs and settle in the back of the second decker. They take out their phones and start taking drunken Snapchats to pass the time. Each of them takes exactly one picture with every other member of the group, until absolutely every binomial combination of two people has been satisfied. These are then promptly uploaded as stories and saved to be posted on Facebook the next day. Again, this is an exercise of social interdependence, allowing each of the girls to project the literal image of being immensely popular, so long as she agrees to return the favour. When this procedure is through, one of the girls selects a dance-pop crossover hit from her Spotify playlist and presses play. The rest of them shriek with excitement. They sing along gaily with a neomodernist disregard for melody, completely ignorant of the dirty looks they're getting from tired grown-ups on their way home from work.

  The lads walk out of the offie, each with at least a six-pack in his hands[1].  Now all they need is somewhere to drink, a place of refuge where they can crush empty cans and reminisce about that time that lad did that thing and it was f****n gas. The usual spot, a dark alleyway, is selected. This damp sanctuary is not entirely theirs, however. Down the other end of the lane, there's a drunk man pissing behind some bins, and immediately across from them a pair of moths are vomiting on the asphalt. Well, only one of them's actually throwing up. The other moth is a supportive friend­�" a secondary player, no doubt, but integral to the operation nonetheless. Like a kind of vomit spotter, or hair caddy. One of the lads who went for spirits pours out half his regular Coke, the alleyway now experiencing three different fluids all at once. He fills the bottle back up with vodka and starts awkwardly stirring his highball with a pinkie.

    Still locked, the girls get off the bus and start making there way towards the club. Every now and then one of them nips off to the side, desperately trying to finish her drink before they arrive. The rest of them keep talking in drunken ejaculations, laughing hysterically at one another and announcing their presence on every new street. As they draw nearer to the club, they start to walk by groups of lads their age, also out prinking. A few of the boys glance over at them, trying to size up just how drunk they are. The girls either don't notice or pretend not to. At one point a couple of lads heading in the opposite direction stop them to offer up the rest of their drink. At first the girls are sceptical, but eventually they succumb to the tantalising two-thirds full shoulder of vodka. The lads seem nice enough, and they're not even going the same way.

  Back at the back alley, the lads are just about finished their alcohol. They keep themselves entertained by recounting tales of drunken hijinks. Every time somebody pissed in a beer bottle and a mate drank it, every time one of them shifted a f****n dirt moth, every time somebody puked anywhere other than a toilet: all of these are dragged into the light of day, followed by a chorus of laughter and intensive raillery. Eventually all their exploits get exposed and re-exposed, the laughter getting less exuberant every time, and all of them are extremely grateful when that last crumpled can hits the pavement. They all head down to the club with a renewed sense of energy and purpose. They take their place at the end of the line and start waiting. Waiting...

  The girls stand queueing, literally forever. They check their phones for nothing in particular, doing anything to make the seconds tick by less slowly. Nobody's uploaded anything since the last time they checked, but their battery percentage is a little bit lower.

  The boys shift tetchily on their feet , growing more and more angry in their stagnation. Occasionally one of them will shout a complaint at no one in particular. Every couple of minutes they decide fuckit and move forward despite the line staying still, bridging the already microscopic gap between them and the group ahead.

 


  Finally, after an eternity of waiting, they're let in.

 

 

  Immensely relieved that they don't have to wait any more, the girls walk into the club and promptly join the queue for the cloakroom.

  The lads spend the first few minutes at the front desk complaining that the entry fee is f****n ridiculous. Ultimately, they all decide to pay it. One of the major annoyances of that massive queue is that much of their savvy pre-drinking has been rendered pointless. Now they are forced to head over to the bar they had tried so hard to escape. After decreeing that the drink prices are equally f****n ridiculous, they order. There's some special offer on a certain number of jägerbombs for a certain number of euros. They finish their drinks as quickly as possible and slink off to the nearest corner, waiting for the alcohol to take effect.

  The girls, meanwhile, take to the dancefloor. The DJ plays a string of dance-pop crossover hits, collaborations between very famous singers and very famous producers, each with a appeasingly predictable chord progression and bass-drop already built in. The dancers react to each new track with astonishment and glee, as though it were picked just for them.

 

 

  Things continue this way for a long time. The girls jump mechanically to the beat on a mostly female dancefloor. The lads do an occasional lap around the place, contemplating making a move before realising that they're still too self-conscious, too self-aware. They head back to the corner with another drink, wallets growing ever thinner, rubbers burning deep in their pockets, and stare down at the flies in their hands. Two groups, so distinctly divided, now abruptly sympatric, crudely thrust together like zoo animals getting released into the wild. Gradually they become less present as the alcohol consumes their bloodstream, until they close they're eyes and eventually they are no longer in a club or a picture of a club, but on a beach, and they are a cool breeze on a warm day, and their body is a soul and their soul is a body, and the melodies seep into their pores until they are music, drifting through the breeze and being inhaled by pleasant tourists and­­�" and filled with money! And who needs money(?) where there's smell and love and music, and colour and lust and sweat, sweet sweat, and happy flesh and perfume and cake, multitudes of cake! The rhythm builds as these creatures grow and disintegrate only to coalesce, the moon in their eye, covered in enzymes. The volume increases. The beat subdivides. There is no division, no walls, just a collapsing bass as everybody comes together and finally, symphonically, simultaneously climaxes.

 

 

Cheek to Cheek:

 The DJ keeps churning out rhythms that bounce, growing even more infectious as the night goes on. Now sufficiently pissed, the boys go about gentrifying the dancefloor, hoping to fulfil their bass desires. The girls continue dancing obliviously. The lads cavort amongst themselves for a while, establishing an alibi, like anything else that may happen is like, totally coincidental. Then their pogoing starts to shift laterally, creeping infinitesimally closer to a group of moths, until eventually, perfectly organically, they somehow find themselves dancing with the moths rather than just near them. The girls, for the most part, are pretty receptive to this development (or at least not repelled by it). A lot of them were starting to get bored anyway, and they can always leave if the lads turn out to be creeps. The lads make sure to move around a lot, especially if a moth doesn't seem that drunk or interested. In the crowded space, occasionally one of them will walk by a fit moth in a world of her own, hand placed extremely casually at a*s-height (like, the arm isn't even bent it's so casual) and innocently brushes past.

 

 

Closed-Captioned:

  The smoking area, mostly neglected for the first few hours of the night, is now almost as crowded as inside, and only slightly quieter. Hoards of people who don't really smoke stand around with borrowed cigarettes and vaporisers, yelling to hear each other over the sounds of all the people yelling. A few of the girls who got tired of dancing come out here, navigating their way through various swarms of club-goers, looking for a break. On the way out they run into a lad they know from somewhere. They haven't seen each other in forever.[2] Both parties are rapt by the chance encounter. Each professes how wonderful it is to see the other, exchanges a few vague pleasantries and then moves on in its previous direction.

  The girls ask around for a light, and after a few minutes they're laughing and smoking against the wall, the words tumbling out automatically. A while later some of the lads stumble into their vicinity and they all sort of fall into conversation. Introductions are made, everybody admits congratulatorily  to being really locked, and then things start to settle into a comfortable routine. The boys recall a few of the less vulgar tales from back in the alleyway, like an old sitcom airing afternoon reruns to a declining viewership. They tell the stories more to each other than the moths. The girls laugh politely at all the appropriate moments. They feel gratified that the lads came up to them, and they all seem really nice.

  Gradually, though, their discourse grows to feel increasingly forced. People ask each other questions that have no follow-up, dragging the topic erratically from place to place. The flirting becomes really obvious and out of place, making the recipient feel more self-conscious than flattered. Everybody agrees with each other about everything. A girl's cigarette hangs down at her side, sparkling ash shooting off the end, the glaring orange tip creeping closer and closer to the exposed skin on her fingers...

  One of the girls takes out her phone and takes a picture with the lad who came and stood next to her.  The rest of the group all decide to follow suit, with as many people as possible all crushing into the frame. They all make elaborate and playful poses for each other's entertainment. Afterwards they scroll through the results together. Most of the photos capture their jokey poses, but in one group pic, clearly taken by accident, it actually looks like they've been friends for years. Each of them is adorned with a bright, familiar smile, absent of all pretence, like somebody caught them in the middle of a great punchline. They all giggle excitedly at how bad they look, then post the pictures online.

  Shortly after this, the conversation really does dry up. Starting to feel sober, the lads head off to the bar. A few minutes later, the girls go in to look for their friends. They all feel relieved that it's over, and yet at the same time a little bit annoyed, like it shouldn't have been that awkward. Oh well, at least they have the pictures.

 

 

Louder Than A Bomb:

  People swarm around the bar, waiting an eternity to get served. They all push past and sneak around one another, all desperate to reach the front, all craving a drink for some reason or another. The price of alcohol seems to grow steadily less extreme the more of it they drink.

 

 

Reprise:

  One of the girls sits tranquilly against the wall in some undiscovered alcove of the club. She has no conception of where she is, totally unburdened by thought. Blanketed by noise, she cradles a bottle against her bare stomach, her bobbing around like it's floating on a calm sea. Her eyes bug out, never really focusing on anything. Subconsciously, she raises the lips of the bottle up to her mouth and lets it pour. She seems to forget that it's there; the liquid to come out the side of her mouth and flow down her face. What reaches her throat she gets down, her swallows taking on the systematic ticking of a clock or a heartbeat. She drifts further and further out from the shore until finally she has one drink too many, and after hours of subservience, her stomach violently rejects the will of its owner. Unrelenting, it heaves the spirits back up and into her throat.

  The girl dives to the side and spews. This pulls her out of her daze enough for her to notice the vomit and not a lot else. F**k. Distraught, she frantically tries to orient herself and find and exit before the next wave arrives. The few people that are around look disgustedly on at the girl, backing away slowly. She is now completely f*****g panicked, although still unable to form a cohesive thought. Suddenly she feels a familiar arm dip in and drag into a roughly vertical position. The girl's friend, frustrated and embarrassed, drags her out into a side alleyway and holds her hair while she empties her stomach.

 

The Wall:

  At this point in the night, almost all of the lads are over at the wall with a girl. There was no build up; at some point they just sort of convulsed into each other. Then they staggered over to the wall without breaking apart, clumsily attempting some sort of consonance between their four legs. Now, though, their bodies arch together so perfectly, the girl craning her neck up so together they make a pristine crescent shape. Their hands slide instinctively into neat anatomical slots (small of the back, curve of the a*s, etc.). This is just one in a row of impassioned little half-moons, lost in consummate drunken embrace, meeting until it's unclear whose tongue is whose, plunging into and becoming one another.

  Why is this always so f*****g disappointing?, one of the girls thinks to herself, caressing the muscles on her partner's back. The lad is a s**t meet, practically attacking her throat with his tongue.  For his part, the boy is growing bored as well, wondering how long he's gonna have to wait before trying to finger her.

  Over near the corner, a couple tenderly dry hump against the wall. The girl keeps giggling tipsily, her beau's tongue still sitting between her curled lips. F**k. Why did you do this?, the boy asks himself. You sad c**t. He doesn't even like this girl. But it was so easy, just saying whatever she wanted to hear, delivering stock pick-up lines with beer fed confidence, getting her to come drink with him. Why couldn't she have been more interesting? Why are these girls always so f*****g obvious? Why can I never do this sober? F**k, you're pathetic... All the time his hips still oscillate back and forth, his c**k jabbing away at the girl's inner thigh. She thinks he's great, and hopes that he'll message her tomorrow.

  One girl wishes she was still dancing and not with this lad. Over the last ten minutes she's gone from mild excitement to indifference to utter repulsion. Ugh. She can feel his disgusting little moustache squirming against her upper lip. Her companion, clutching on her bare breast like a squeezy-toy, is thinking about how great it's gonna be to tell all the lads about this later on.

  Another couple sloppily grope each other down the line, both pretending to be much drunker than they are. The boy knows that the lads are gonna rip the piss out of him for meeting this f****n dirt moth. But most of her friends went off with other lads, and he was desperate. He'll pass it off that he was off that he was off his tits later on and take his shots in dark alleyways for the rest of his life. For now, though, he slips his hand down beneath her dress, crawls his way back up to her dress and starts rubbing her c**t. She thinks about stopping him, the slimy creep. But it's too late in the night to find anybody else, and so she acquiesces, keeping her hands perfectly still on his back so as not to pop any more of his repulsive little acne spots.

  Way down at the end of the line, past all the other half-moons, a particularly wasted girl has her hand down her boyfriend's jeans. Her thoughts are totally incoherent, coming through in erratic meaningless fragments, like her brain has poor signal. Earlier in the night she downed a load of vodka that she snuck in, and now she's dancing on a delicate tightrope between puking and passing out. Just as the alcohol was really hitting her bloodstream and she lost all cognitive reasoning, she came over into this corner with her boyfriend. They're one of the only genuine couples in the row. After about ten minutes of meeting he unzipped his trousers and very gently guided her hand down from his chest, until eventually some kind of automatic programme kicked in and she started. Now she stares, glassy-eyed, at some imprecise point behind the wall where her thoughts seem to reside. He's thinking to himself that there's something about her tonight that's just so, beautiful, and that maybe he does love her after all...

 

 

  The DJ continues to dip into his endless pool of beats, but nobody's really listening. The dancefloor is sparsely populated now. Tired, intoxicated club-goers move in faint shadows of their earlier selves, swaying a lot more and no longer paying attention to the rhythm. The last track comes and goes like every other, and by the time the lights get turned on, a large portion of the crowd has already left. The remainder let out a half-hearted, knowing groan. The walls crash only to remerge, the breeze dissipates, the tourists exhale. Everybody can feel it, but they feel it like it's happening somewhere just above their skin, or to some sort of vague silhouette. The gulf left by the music is partially filled with voices, all moving in one direction: the Exit.

  After queueing up once more to get their coats back, everybody leaves. The couples say goodbye to one another and return to their single-sex groups to get a taxi home.

 

 

  There's a air of tiredness in the girls' taxi. Nobody says much. The wail of an aggressive wind zooming through the driver's open window floods the interior to the point where the noise is barely noticeable. A few of them take some pictures to pass the time. Most, though, just rest their heads on each other's shoulders, waiting to get home.

  The laughter in the lads' taxi gets mostly drowned by another screaming wind. They each brief the rest of the group on the events of the night, each adventure greater in magnitude than the last.

  At one point, somebody hears something outside the taxi. Above or maybe even within the wind, a single, lingering note passes through their ears, ringing out, holding out firm in the distance even in the midst of that tremendous howl.



[1] Despite the lower alcohol content, the majority of the lads prefer beer cans over spirits due to their physical size and the subconscious anatomical projections of such girth.

[2] About 7 days.

© 2016 Kim Black


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Author's Note

Kim Black
Hey. So I haven't uploaded anything in a while because I spent the summer working on a screenplay. This is the first short story I've actually completed since then (I found it really difficult to switch from one form of writing to another). I could really use some feedback because this isn't my final draft. This is a very broad story where I try to have a lot of scope and use a few different writing styles, so I'd really appreciate hearing what you think works and doesn't work. It's also very long, so please let me know if you think there's any section that should be omitted entirely. Oh, and there are probably a few grammatical errors, so please don't be afraid to point them out. Finally, I could use a hand coming up with a better title; the one I have now isn't great.

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• It's a Monday night in suburban Dublin. But not just any Monday night. As with last Monday and the Monday before that, this Monday is about to become truly remarkable; a night of unprecedented, almost parodic fun.

Why tell the reader what you're going to tell them? Start the story with story. Or as James H. Schmitz put it: “Don’t inflict the reader with irrelevant background material—get on with the story.”

More than that, though, this isn't a story as a publisher, or the marketplace sees it. It's a transcription of a storyteller talking about the story's events in overview. And that has two critical problems.

The first is that verbal storytelling is a performance art. The customer MUST see and hear the storyteller because fully 50% of the communication comes in nonverbal ways, and that constitutes nearly 100% of the emotional content.

In your performance you use all the vocal tricks, and can hear them as you read, making it seem real. You use volume, intensity, cadence, meaningful pauses and little breathless rushes. You'd use your facial expression, eye movement, gesture, and body language to amplify or moderate emotion. But none of the performance gets t the reader because the printed word does not reproduce your performance.

The second problem is that when you read, you already know the story, and your intent for the progression of events. So for you, every line points to images, dialog, ideas, and emotion, all stored in your mind.

But what about your reader? They must use your words and their placement as THEY interpret them, not as you intend, based on their background and experience. So for them, every line points to images, dialog, ideas, and emotion, all stored in YOUR mind. And you're not there to explain and clarify.

The short version: You're telling when you should be showing, which means making the reader live the scene in real-time, AS the protagonist. And that takes a set of skills very different from the writing skills we practiced in school.

It's not a matter of talent, the story, or your potential as a writer. It's that you're using a set of skills designed to inform, not entertain—the nonfiction skills we're given to make us useful to employers.

The local library's fiction writing section can be a huge help in fixing that.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/


Posted 4 Years Ago


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AUU
I like your descriptions. They'r'e very unique, and they give this Monday night character; however, the broad strokes are hard to follow. For that I felt like I couldn't really enjoy all of it, as I was too caught up in trying to see where the story was headed. I tend to read through once before looking at the author's notes, which is where you called this a very broad story.

Why are you interested in writing a broad story? Is it just an exercise? I'm curious.

The story has pops of color that I really felt a part of the night, but then there were boughts of grey that read wishy-washy.

Example of this is Reprise. I liked it. Felt like I was watching her across the street. Then there is The Wall, which I had a hard time following because of nameless character given thoughts, and the lack of a perspective.

I'm not exactly sure of your intent, but have you considered writing a string of short stories focusing on different characters to describe this Monday night? I think having names reader's can identify with might help connect them more to the material. And of course the structure doesn't need to be so rigid.

You write wonderfully, but the structure confuses me.

Of course this is all opinion. Continue to explore ;)

Posted 4 Years Ago


I remember this distinct style of realistic sarcasm from your excellent story: "Nice Guy" . . . this story has many of the same harsh-but-true observations of a sad youthful nightlife scene, but not as tight as "Nice Guy" . . . which I think is one of the best stories I've read in awhile becuz it's focused, with narrator-as-main-participant, having a stand-out object for her sarcastic observations, & a final act of drama that logically flows from the bitchy commentary.

This story, by contrast, feels more cluttered, with so many different not-memorable people, the narrator not being part of the action, but just a bitchy bystander making judgments, & no focused storyline that gets us from this pulsating sad mess of young people to some other central act, some compelling conclusion, to be the reason for telling about this sad nightlife scene. Despite having less purpose (so far -- I realize this is a work in progress) . . . most of the sarcastic observations of the girl-boy groups & especially as they are preparing for their night out, it's just as keenly stabbing, as in "Nice Guy."

You do this genre very well (excellent observations & current lingo), but I also have to say (after reading 3 of your stories, I think) . . . I would prefer to see more variety in your storytelling overall. After 3 stories so similar, the startling sarcastic observations feel less meaningful & less intense, simply becuz I've been down this road before in reading your style. This is only personal preference . . . lots of writers do a focused genre & that's fine if there's an audience for it.

Posted 4 Years Ago


Kim Black

4 Years Ago

Hey barleygirl,
Thanks for your feedback. It was hard for me to swallow at first, but I appre.. read more
barleygirl

4 Years Ago

I understand the cluttered thing being intentional & I also see how you've described without saying .. read more
Kim Black

4 Years Ago

I think that's a really terrific point about me describing very sad situations without any compassio.. read more

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Added on October 30, 2016
Last Updated on October 30, 2016

Author

Kim Black
Kim Black

Dublin, Ireland



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18 years old. Would love to get some feedback on the short stories I've written. I'm looking forward to reading other people's work too. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpla_3yq8Xs https://www.y.. more..

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