My Entry in the Short Fiction Writing Exercise (Remember, I’ve Never Done this Before)

Click here to see the rules and rationale for this exercise, and check back later this week for links/entries to other great pieces that were submitted.

    Termination

After 3 years, today is my last day of therapy. Since I was 14, I’ve been seeing Dr. Rob every Tuesday at 4. It’s become a ritual: shake hands, sit, talk, share feelings, cry, listen, hear “time’s up, see you next week,” stand, shake hands. I tell Dr. Rob everything. Well, not about how I still do drugs and the “weird shit” (my mom’s term) I still do to puppies. He thinks that’s all over. And that’s how I ended up in this spot. Done with therapy. I’m now in a situation where I have no one to talk to because he thinks I’m better. That’s partly my fault, but I have to fix this, quickly.

Dr. Rob and I have talked about ending therapy for weeks on end. You can do this on your own now, I’m proud of you, so is your mom. You’ve come such a long way, I think it’s time to at least try talking to your friends instead of me. Stupidly, I told him about friends that don’t really exist. They are real people, and mom’s met them, but they aren’t friends, at least not like Dr. Rob is.

I protested ending therapy, but clearly not enough, because it all ceases today. Maybe I should just tell him about the puppies. No, then I’ll be arrested because of how I’ve been methodically doing those things for months. Hell, years. People will see me as responsible and a monster. No, I need to be sick, with “poor impulse control,” someone who needs to be in hospital. And Dr. Rob needs to know that, although “therapy is never an exact science,” he fucked up in his own way by saying we’re done. That would be a nice little bonus.

Dr. Rob greets me in the waiting room. Just give him a little nick, that should do it. As I walk away from mom into his office, I move past Dr. Rob as he closes the door. But instead of sitting in my usual seat, I simply follow Dr. Rob across the room toward his chair. My hand is in my back pocket. Dr. Rob turns and is immediately startled because I’m so close. He gasps right at the moment I pull the knife out and slice it across the side of his neck. It went in deeper than I expected, but according to the interweb he should be fine.

Dr. Rob stares at me blankly as he moves his hand to his neck and then in front of his eyes to see the blood. I didn’t think there would be this much red. Actually, it looks a little purple as little bubbles of spit come out of Dr. Rob’s mouth. He starts to move past me, but I can easily block his way. I’m much taller and stronger and I want him to say that he’s sorry and acknowledge that I still need him.

Something isn’t right, though. The purple stuff starts gurgling as Dr. Rob reaches for his neck again. Did I hit that vein or artery, the corrosion one? I think about going to get my mom or calling 911. But what if they think I tried to kill him? I didn’t, I just wanted to make the nick so he knew. He certainly knows now, on his knees, clutching at my shirt so he doesn’t hit the ground.

I wipe some sweat off of my brow as Dr. Rob is dying at my feet, trying in vain to take in air. I look down at him and realize how much he’s suffering. I liked Dr. Rob. Maybe I loved him even, so it’s not fair to let him feel so much pain when we both know what’s coming. I take the blade and plunge it into his eye socket, amazed at how smoothly it penetrates his face, the silver sliding in all the way up to the handle. His body twitches twice, then stops. As I pull the knife out, I hear a deep sploosh sound.

The room is silence, save for some blood-like bubbles popping out of Dr. Rob’s eye and neck. It wasn’t supposed to work out this way, but here we are. Does anyone else know, other than mom, that I’m here? I put my ear to the door and can’t hear other voices. No one saw us in the waiting room prior to session. I can’t hear any muffled sound coming from the office next door, maybe that person took the day off. I’m almost 18. If I’m caught, I’m probably going to jail. No one can know I was here. I suppose I should worry about things like fingerprints and DNA and motive and Dr. Rob’s calendar on his stupid iPad, but that’s just in the movies. As long as no one places me here, I’ll be okay.

I open the door slightly, the knife behind my back, ready to ensure that I’m the only living person who remembers me being in the office. “Mom,” I say. “Could you come in here, please? Dr. Rob needs you to sign some termination papers.”

If you have any constructive feedback, please feel free to leave it in the comments thread or email me directly at RDobrenski@aol.com. Just keep in mind how few words were allowed for this exercise. That restriction made things really, really hard.

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14 Responses to “My Entry in the Short Fiction Writing Exercise (Remember, I’ve Never Done this Before)”

  1. Luke says:

    Rob, while I see where you’re trying to do here you’ve made the classic mistake most people make when embarking on fiction and done a lot of “telling” about the character. Yes, you do say he does “weird shit” to animals, but you’re being needlessly and overtly mysterious. Wouldn’t it be enough to show that he’s unbalanced, dark, and unwilling to end therapy by the fact that he brought a knife to cut you? You could cut that space to give us subtext about his actions. The idea of doing “weird shit” comes off as being somewhat (please pardon the bluntness) hamfisted. [The words puppies and “this much red” are also a little much.]
    The idea may come off better with something along lines of “From what I’ve told Dr.Rob, he thinks that I’ve become a well adjusted young man and am ready to discontinue therapy. What I haven’t told him is that I carry a knife.” While it’s not great, what it does is that it sets a precedent for his actions, but also a backstory, without being obtuse.

    Another issue – you switch tenses, sort of. You start by telling a story in the past tense, then end in the present tense. Granted, you may have meant to start with a prologue and meet up with the present. Personally I’m not sold on the way you were telling the story in the present tense. It felt weird because it sounded like you were telling the story. It had all the build of telling it knowing all the events involved and the structure of telling it in the past, but completely in the present.

    Ultimately though I think you may have bitten of a subject matter a little too large for 850 words. While we’re emotionally connected to you through the site I don’t think you were successful in creating the necessary connection to the character of the 17 year old crazy boy. Death is a really tough subject to nail as well. Something that needs to be handled with great care. While you could improve the story for sure, personally I would go back to the drawing board and find a topic that you can flesh out to its fullest extend in 850 words without sacrificing anything.

  2. I would spell out numbers, especially if the lines are in the voice of a character (as opposed to a non-character narrator, but even then I’d probably still do it). Numbers are words just like anything else, but using numerals makes them stand out from the sentences, which can screw up the flow. Using numerals for small numbers also looks lazy and can cause a loss in reader confidence.

    It didn’t come up here, but the reading of some numbers is ambiguous, such as whether “2008” is “two thousand eight” or “two thousand and eight;” spelling them out removes the ambiguity and gives the character a stronger voice.

  3. An_Irish_Brit says:

    Oh god! Luke, that’s some response. Don’t know if I can cope with a critique like that.

    Rob, you did well. This stabbing thing is quite the recurring thing on your site. Revealing of your unconscious mind, some would say. Your fears. Maybe many a psychologist’s fear.

    You wrapped the story up very neatly, though. Amusing ending.

    I’d have liked to have seen you write something other than psychology, though. But, as I wouldn’t’ve wanted to have seen you stabbed at a Jets game, let’s just than God for small mercies…

  4. Julene says:

    Exercises in writing short fiction is srsly srs, y’all.

  5. Clutch says:

    This bit, “Maybe I should just tell him about the puppies. No, then I’ll be arrested because of how I’ve been methodically doing those things for months. Hell, years.” read awkwardly to me. You might want to rephrase it to make it flow better. Honestly, it feels a little bit too calculated. The narrator would be reliving what he does to the dogs while he’s telling us about it. They would be excited, maybe even aroused. That would give the reader a much better idea about the nature of the narrator’s mental state. More showing, less telling. Contrast the cold, calculating exterior of the narrator with the bubbling rage inside.

    The tension and panic in the actual stabbing was done well, and the pacing was good considering that this is an unusual length for a piece of fiction. Any chance we’ll soon see a novel about a dashing young(-looking) psychologist in NY?

  6. I agree with Clutch about the puppy line. I doubt he’d think of whatever he’s doing as methodical, so I read it as what he thinks the police would view his behavior as, but that’s a big chunk to squeeze into a tiny phrase.

    How about adding some quotation marks:

    Maybe I should just tell him about the puppies. No, then I’ll be arrested because of how I’ve been “methodically” doing those things for months.

    Then you get the sense that he’s expressing someone else’s judgment, you get more of the feeling that there’s a real back story here. We’re not just being told there’s a history, but we actually get a small taste of it.

    And “months. Hell, years.” doesn’t make sense. People rarely confuse doing something for months with doing it for years.

    Really Rob, that’s a pretty rookie mistake. It’s like this is your first time writing fiction or something.

  7. nikolina says:

    I’d say you should stick to non-fiction, Rob.

  8. […] Dr. Rob writes a short story! We discuss that as well as the upcoming fiction exercise. Plus Dr. Rob fails to understand the significance of narcissism no longer being in the DSM. […]

  9. Nik says:

    That right there is done fucked up.

  10. […] And in case you missed it, the good Doctor’s submission. […]

  11. aninnymoose says:

    I am guessing that someone frequently bolts awake, drenched in sweat, due to another dream about patients stabbing him to death.
    Rob, do you wanna talk to us about why you think your patients want you dead?
    I am not disagreeing with the fact that they desire to stab you, I just want to know why “you think” they want to stab you to death.

  12. […] « My Entry in the Short Fiction Writing Exercise (Remember, I’ve Never Done this Before) […]

  13. Wayland says:

    Rob, you should take up Brazilian jiu-jitsu and boxing.

  14. […] you to everyone who contributed to the short fiction writing exercise last month (read my entry here, as well as the winners here). We had a great time with that and got to read many fantastic pieces. […]

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