Word

Word

A Story by Cedric D. Jr.
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"Word" tells a story about a person who believes that communication is the most important concept to grasp about life. The question is whether or not his story supports or contradicts his philosophy.

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         Devon Strong walked through a hallway wearing a suit.  Two other suits accompanied him on either side. They walked briskly with serious expressions on their faces. The other two seemed to walk just slightly behind Devon whose countenance was brilliantly striking. He didn’t have an authoritative look, but he had, instead, a look that suggested his opinion mattered. It was an earned confidence. Were it not for his suit, however, he would have looked like federal agents had arrested him. He was, after all, a black man seemingly being escorted by two, suited white men who thusly looked important.

         Devon and his entourage stopped at an office door and entered. In no time, Devon reached a desk and forced humility on the man behind it. He placed a folder on the desk and said, “This is simply an amicable coterie of mine here to supplicate your review of a work you’ve already graded and passed. First, we want to thank you for the passing grade. Second, I want to add that I wholeheartedly agree with your decision.”

         “Surely you’re not unhappy with the ‘A’ I gave you, Mr. Strong.”

         “Perhaps, in some surreal, incomprehensible reverie or alternate, existential dimension, I would be harboring rancorous feelings toward you after having to vituperatively accept the ‘A’. However, this is actually about the grade you accurately gave Mike. His paper is in the folder there.”

         “Ah, I see. You’re here on Mike’s behalf.”

         “That’s right. But before you worry about the nature of the rest of this conversation, note that I will not mitigate my personality to that of an obsequious student like the ones that are often attempting to coax you into rethinking your adept decisions. You see, Mike brought me his paper to show me his grade, and in lieu of the expected cause for jubilant celebration, which usually gives us all enough reason for much needed breaks from our intense studies, an elegiac blanket befell our normally upbeat faction of intellectuals whose happiness, mind you, serves as the cornerstone of our dorm’s morale.”

         “Well, I’m sorry you’re unhappy, but what can be done, Devon?”

         “Well, it’s been brought to my attention that you strongly encouraged Mike, for the sake of establishing connections in the publishing industry, to attend two parties during the last seven days, six of which you had given him for writing this paper. Now, of course, during the first of these social functions, the perfunctory consumption of libations was imminent like any convivial gathering, and so as not to appear petulant, Mike did indulge himself, which augured his horrible condition the next day. Mike’s hangover kept him from attending your morning class, a restriction that sonorously announces itself as a travesty in my opinion, but I digress.”

         “Please do.”

         “Mike, as you suggested, also attended the second carouse and met Gill Page. They talked and even exchanged phone numbers. Of course, I don’t need to bother with conveying the significance of this event to you, as you know even better than I that Gill Page is the quintessential connection for success"something you stressed to him would become invaluable to him down the road. Although, as you may expect, Mike did indulge again portending a déjà vu experience for the next morning. But given the circumstances, I think it was extremely necessary that Mike attend both of the soirees you suggested. Despite the significant, obvious cause for celebration, however, we could only mourn the death of his average due to the grade he received on a paper through which he rushed due to being pressed for time as a result of attending the two parties and their corresponding, bodily recoils.”

         “I think I see where you’re going with this, and believe me when I say you have a very good point.”

         “Well, Dr. Burns, I am merely entreating you to compromise. After having compared his paper with mine, it is more than reasonable that an ‘A’ be out of reach, but perhaps, you could make the recovery of half the grade he missed available. Perhaps, we could lend him the opportunity to achieve, at most, a ‘B’. It’s after considering how reasonable you are that I deemed this a conversation worth having.”

         “Mr. Strong, you make one hell of a spokesperson. Have him rewrite it and bring me back the revised copy. Also, tell him that it should be a bit longer this time. By the way, I think it’s admirable that you would come in here and do this for Mr. Malone, but we shouldn’t encourage this shy, almost cowardly behavior from him. He should have come and expressed this opinion himself.”

         “Well, when it comes to things that matter to him, Mike is not nearly as pusillanimous as one would expect; instead, he’s incongruously adamant. As for the revision of his paper, the new copy is in that folder in the right pocket. You’ll notice the appropriate permutations were made to elements of the paper that already existed, and additionally, plenty of information was added to fill in the interstices of his information making his and my papers coextensive now. In fact, a titular modification now better cornices the structurally sound edifice we’ve heretofore referred to as Mike’s paper.”

         “I see. Okay, I’ll get right to it. Thank you, Devon. Is there anything I can help you two gentlemen with?”

         “No,” one of them replied, “we’re just here for effect.”

         “Right, of course.”

         Devon said his goodbye and left just as he had come. He and the other two guys returned to the dorm where Mike greeted them in the hall. “Devon,” Mike said quite exasperated, “tell me he went for it. Am I good to go?”

         Mike was naturally pale, but the seriousness of the situation had made him far more pale than normal to Devon. Although, Devon was almost always surprised by how pale Mike was even when he was prepared for it. To restore what little color Mike’s face had ever had, Devon was quick to put him at ease. “Rest easy,” Devon said, “Nick and Ryan went with me. They’re witnesses. You are officially in the clear.”

         They all rejoiced loudly throughout the halls. Eventually, Devon said, “Now that you’re happy, all those querulous soliloquies  have got to stop.” To which, Mike responded, “Define querulous.”

         “"Meaning whiny. Quit crying.”

         They all laughed, including Mike. Then, Mike replied, “I didn’t cry. By the way, did you use a lot of fancy words and talk the way you talked to Lucas Johnson when he came here and you were trying to set up a ‘connection for success’?”

         Nick responded, “Hell yeah, I didn’t understand most of what he was even saying. I was surprised Dr. Burns could follow it.”

         Ryan followed the comment saying, “He probably still doesn’t know what it all means. He just agreed to avoid looking stupid in front of his student.”

         “No,” Devon replied while returning a wave from a few girls down the hall, “Dr. Burns wouldn’t have agreed out of discomfiture. Though he may not use that vocabulary in his everyday speech, he knows what they all mean. He loves words as much as I do. In fact, he’s a poet manqué. We both love poetry with intricately woven, deep metaphors with moral values that…”

         A classmate surrounded by his friends suddenly interrupted Devon and interrupted the cheery mood. It was John Overgrove"a hefty, blonde, blue-eyed English major who was self-conscious about his weight. He and Devon worked together on the RSU newspaper, but they never got along. In an Ivy League, predominantly white university, however, Devon was just happy that the group of prejudiced enemies was so small. To him, that and the fact that there was a black president at all was enough to prove that much progress had been made.

         “Mike Malone is getting his grade reevaluated because of you? You still think you’re here based on brains and charisma, so you can just negotiate on another’s behalf?”

         “Well, I’m not here based on congenital privilege, now, am I? Like this year’s keynote speaker said, ‘I’m the pilot of my own life.’ It’s just good fortune that you weren’t piloting this ship instead; there’s no guarantee that you could have gotten me here.”

         “Idiot, I had a great GPA in high school.”

         “So did plenty of my friends, but none of them got accepted here. Regardless, you should leave if you’re only here to complain. Your impertinence is worthless to both of us, John Overgrown.”

         “Screw you!”

         “For the record, you don’t win any extra credit for relying on the efficacy of using proverbial invectives to close an argument.”

         Devon’s confidence drove John insane. Subconsciously, John’s irritation genuinely began with racial prejudice. John felt that Devon shouldn’t be so confident at RSU. Instead, he should feel intimidated. No matter how strong the gusts were, this tree would not bow. Also subconscious was John’s spite for what Devon had that John didn’t. After all, how is it that the poverty-stricken Devon Strong could have something that the wealthy, Overgrove legacy didn’t cover. John didn’t have a loving family; his family was very detached. Devon, on the other hand, brought his large, loving family to orientation for everyone to see during the summer right before freshman year. Even at this very instance, Devon, unlike John, was about to head home for the weekend to be with his family.

         Fueling this rancor finally cemented in John’s mind what he was planning to do to put the popular, overconfident fool in his place. John figured he’d even be more popular if Devon wasn’t around.

         Later in the evening, Devon got back to his neighborhood and had to walk half a block to get to his house. As he walked down the sidewalk, he saw some familiar faces in a large circle. He instinctively knew what was happening. His old friends were having another random, rap battle in the street. He joined the group and saw his friend Dwayne freestyling in the center. Dwayne caught one glance from Devon and switched his rhymes to say, “Even seein’ a familia’ face dat make me spit da wrong rhyme, cuz homeboys don’t show they selves for a long time.”

         It was a freestyle cipher"a round of certain people taking turns joining in freestyle. It didn’t take long for them to rope Devon into the mix, but Devon did well despite how long it had been. His friends had always loved to hear him rap because he was one of the few of them whose lyrics were truly poetry, which was what typically separated the men from the boys in the rap game. The poets like Devon were respected most, though they weren't the ones that got record deals in reality.

 

I got patience but you quick to test it,

you're gettin' reckless,

but I stick with brethren who are just like you,

you miss the message.

Don't get the hint 'til you see the words "Smith 'n' Wesson",

so you herdle them and consequently end up headless.

At life's end, you'll hear the words "mission failure, missed objectives".

Just take it slow. This IS the message:

Never ever overestimate how thick the flesh is.

 

Worth my salt!

To those mad right now: my fault.

I walk--my walk.

And even though our paths might cross,

don't be offended if my path splits right off--

Transit-- across life 'cause the path's tough to manage.

But I'm tough to damage,

so I'd rather you hate me than disrespect the tangent.

-Signed, the Dedication Bandit

 

         After his playfully impressive display of clever wordplay, Devon started walking on home. But so many from the crowd knew him and were happy to see him, that they left a pitiful crowd behind, so the cipher ended. Everyone was welcoming him back home as they walked along side the houses parallel to the train tracks on the opposite side of the street; it was a heartwarming scene until a guy named Trey approached Devon from the other side of the tracks.

         “So, you jus’ gon’ come back, spit a phony rap, and expect respect?” Trey asked sarcastically with a harsh tone.

         “I’m jus’ here for the weekend, but the querulous dissonance in yo voice isn’t gonna make me apologize for nothin’. This is the part where you refer to this commodious neighborhood and say that there’s not enough room for the both of us.”

         Trey hated Devon's impeccable success and potential for greatness. In fact, as much as it hurt Trey to admit it, Devon's success was inexorable. What hurt most was Trey's own confidence that he could've been equally successful. He was so certain that Devon wasn't inherently more intelligent than he; there had to be some factors along the way that led to Devon having a huge, competitive edge. This frustration with Devon was a substitute for depression stemming from personal short comings, and this frustration was fueled by Devon's cockiness. Perhaps, Trey wouldn't loath if Devon didn't flaunt it.

         “What the hell are you talkin’ about? I guess you think upscale education gave you a one-up on the rest of us, huh? We ain’t always gon’ show you love around here, cos’; fancy schools don’t earn you homey love. With everybody tryin’ to be a rapper or the next Beyonce, you think you can spit better than the rest thanks to your fancy college. I jus’ felt you should know you got bigger problems to worry about.”

         Trey left and Devon noticed most of his friends were also gone. Dwayne said his goodbye and walked away just as Devon’s younger sister approached. Devon’s sister, Calvary, was fifteen. She remarked on how happy she was to see him and the nature of his conversation with Trey"an infamous bully and gang member in the neighborhood.

         As Devon and Calvary sat on the front steps, Calvary asked, “I heard you say dissonance. Is that the same as cacophony?”

         “Yep, they’re synonyms.”

         “What’s querulous?”

         “It means whiny.”

         “That’s a way better invective than just whiny.”

         “Invective? I see you’ve been studying my ‘words of the day’.”

         “Every morning when I get your texts, I try to memorize them. Momma’s still stressing the importance of communication.”

         “She’s right, you know. Your verbal skills, especially including your vocabulary in combination with correct pronunciations, will always be your greatest asset. Remember, mom and I still believe that I probably got the extra push to getting accepted into RSU because of the essay I wrote.”

         “Yeah, I know.”

         “And it’s not just that. The ability to mimic dialect really comes in handy. The ability to speak just like your professional employers speak and switch to Ebonics five seconds later may save your life in the long run. Your mode of speech can easily be a barrier that keeps you from being able to fully relate to others. People feel most comfortable with themselves, so the more like someone else you are, the more accepted you’ll be. That’s your ticket to everywhere. People make high-class assumptions about you when they realize you have an advanced vocabulary, too. I have an authority over plenty of friends because they feel that their intelligence is beneath me.”

         “I get it. That all makes so much sense. That’s why I have to speak properly at the doctor’s office. I have to assume the role of the intellectual interlocutor.”

         “Yep, but even though you always have to switch gears like that, never be ashamed of the ever so creative Ebonics that you were blessed with.”

         “That’s grammatically incorrect. ‘Never be ashamed of the ever so creative Ebonics with which you were blessed’ is a grammatical way to word that statement.”

         Devon chuckled and agreed just as Momma opened the door and gave her baby a warm greeting. Devon’s aunt, uncle, and two cousins were inside waiting on him, so everyone stressed how inconsiderate he was to keep them waiting. As it got dark after dinner, Momma realized the milk was nearly gone, so Devon insisted he go buy some more.

         Devon left and walked to the store. He exchanged formalities with the old man at the grocery store whom he knew, bought milk, and left. On Devon’s way home as he crossed the street at an intersection, John Overgrove got out of the car in the middle of the street to Devon’s right. At the same time, Trey stood in the alcove between two buildings on the sidewalk only about fifteen yards ahead of Devon, but it was too dark for Devon notice either of them since the street lights weren't functioning. Neither John nor Trey harbored more than rancor for Devon. Devon's overconfidence had drawn two enemies who wanted to exact retribution so much that if either of them knew the other was plotting against Devon, they'd try to beat each other to the punch. The only thing impeding this conflict was the corner of a building that kept John and Trey from seeing each other. To Devon, John's car seemed like just another randomly parked car, and Trey was cloaked by the shadow of the nook wherein the black door to a store seemed to match his skin, clothes, and intentions.

         John pulled a shiny, expensive, silver pistol (complete with a silencer) from the glove compartment. Simultaneously, Trey equipped a rusty nine-millimeter. John, then, shot Devon in the head as Trey shot him in the heart. When the shots were fired, Devon's eyes were drawn to the flashes of light emitted from both pistols; the flashes kept him from being able to even see the faces of his killers. Devon dropped the milk and fell rapidly to the ground spinning nearly ninety degrees on his way down.

         At Devon’s funeral, his extremely large family gathered, but with them, so gathered many people from the neighborhood and many students from RSU. Calvary’s first thought was that communication got all these people to come to love and respect him. There were so many people attending that she had never met. Lots of white people are here, she thought. Dwayne came to comfort Calvary. “He was the best,” she said.

         “Word.”

© 2010 Cedric D. Jr.


Author's Note

Cedric D. Jr.
How was the dialogue?
Is the ending decisive, pensively provocative, or does it need a push in either direction?
The goal was to get people arguing over whether or not the protagonist's theory about communication was sound and whether he was an example of it or not.

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Featured Review

As a young white man living in a very small town in Nebraska, I confess that throughout my youth I was taught several racist attitudes. This town even had a small KKK following. I found that upon my exposure to a larger population group in Omaha, these attitudes evaporated quickly to be replaced by new attitudes, some tolerant, and others stereotyped. I have slowly been shedding my colorvision because I have grown to greatly respect different subcultures within The Great Americana. There is so much to be learned. This story's portrayal of a successful Black protagonist achieving greatly, despite a povertous background, while still retaining his roots in his original community, was moving. I must say, it has further enlightened me towards being truly colorblind, and removed an unfortunate stereotype that had gone unnoticed in my life until now. I am honestly sorry I didn't read this earlier. I am thoroughly impressed.

Furthermore, Devon's mastery of the English language and love for its many ins and outs, and by definition, your own mastery, was inspiring to me. The one thing I can find to be critical about is even a debatable matter. On one hand, the verbiosity exemplified by Devon seemed almost unrealistic, yet at the same time it could easily be justified by Devon's stated love of language. The conflict between John and Devon has a harsh realism to it with a tinge of what I could easily call a social message, that could help others shatter certain racial stereotypes of both blacks and whites.

This was a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing this.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 14 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.



Compartment 114
Compartment 114
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Reviews

The dialogue was good, although it did seem a tad unrealistic. The ending seemed a bit rushed, but I can't see any other way it could have ended. Overall, I liked this and I might like to see a continuation, maybe with Calvary.

Posted 13 Years Ago


Your story was excellent. i enjoyed everything about it. I wasn't ready for it to end, that's how much I enjoyed your story. You are very talented!

Posted 13 Years Ago


As a young white man living in a very small town in Nebraska, I confess that throughout my youth I was taught several racist attitudes. This town even had a small KKK following. I found that upon my exposure to a larger population group in Omaha, these attitudes evaporated quickly to be replaced by new attitudes, some tolerant, and others stereotyped. I have slowly been shedding my colorvision because I have grown to greatly respect different subcultures within The Great Americana. There is so much to be learned. This story's portrayal of a successful Black protagonist achieving greatly, despite a povertous background, while still retaining his roots in his original community, was moving. I must say, it has further enlightened me towards being truly colorblind, and removed an unfortunate stereotype that had gone unnoticed in my life until now. I am honestly sorry I didn't read this earlier. I am thoroughly impressed.

Furthermore, Devon's mastery of the English language and love for its many ins and outs, and by definition, your own mastery, was inspiring to me. The one thing I can find to be critical about is even a debatable matter. On one hand, the verbiosity exemplified by Devon seemed almost unrealistic, yet at the same time it could easily be justified by Devon's stated love of language. The conflict between John and Devon has a harsh realism to it with a tinge of what I could easily call a social message, that could help others shatter certain racial stereotypes of both blacks and whites.

This was a pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing this.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 14 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Wow. This was a really good story. Personally, I thought the dialogue was fine. Some of Devon's vocabulary sounded a bit forced to me, but I suppose that would naturally happen if someone was living by his theory, so I wouldn't change anything.

Honestly, it's hard to form an opinion about the ending because it was so abrupt. You spent so long building up this character and introducing his theory, and it seems like that ending scene (excluding the funeral) would be a major one, assuming here that the point of this scene is to show that his theory failed him in this regard, which would be essential to your plot, but you somehow compress it into two short paragraphs. I think it would help to expand that a bit and explain it a bit better. Also, Trey seemed a bit out of place to me. I'm not too sure why he was there when it seems like John could have done it on his own. I'm also really confused over how John and Trey ended up meeting and agreeing to this plan, because it doesn't sound like they would have known each other beforehand.

Aside from that, I thought a couple of sentences seemed either awkward or out of place, but like I said before, overall, it was a very well written story.

Personally, I think his theory is faulty since you also have to consider that most people don't like being around people who make them feel stupid or inferior. His comment "I have an authority over plenty of friends because they feel that their intelligence is beneath me" seemed really harsh and, combined with a couple of other things he says/does, made him come off as a bit of an unlikable character to me, just because he occasionally seemed cocky or arrogant. That's just my opinion, though. ^^

~13.9

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 14 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

itsa very good keep it up

GOOD JOB!!!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 14 Years Ago


I'm sorry, but I got bored after line sixteen. Maybe make it more idiot-friendly?!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 14 Years Ago



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Added on August 27, 2009
Last Updated on July 26, 2010
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Author

Cedric D. Jr.
Cedric D. Jr.

Scribe's Mountain, TN



About
I'm an African-American, twenty-two-year-old junior in college. I'm currently writing a novel to publish as an e-book in the near future. I love words so much that my dictionary is always laying open .. more..

Writing