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 Jeff... Usually

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PostSubject: Jeff... Usually   Sun 13 Apr 2014 - 16:28

The Story Premise:

When: March 8-27, 2014, real world. This timeframe was picked so your character can interact with real life events and the immediate future/outcomes are known.

Where: You pick! This book will be more awesome if the stories happen in diverse locations.

Who: A fictitious character of your own making. Feel free to write yourself into your character.

What: On March 8, 2014, your protagonist experienced 3:00-3:15 pm twice. It repeated exactly, as did all events. As far as your protagonist can tell, she is the only person who is aware and able to behave differently during the repeat. Whatever happens during the repeat writes over the first. This totally inexplicable phenomenon happens every day through March 27th, and then never happens again. There are no clues as to why or how it happens. The real answer is not discoverable. The rest of the world progresses exactly as it would have otherwise. You will write the story of your character’s experience.

Limits Within the Novel Universe:

1.The phenomenon will NOT be explained or solved in any way. Your protagonist can theorize or investigate as much as you want, but there will be NO accurate information uncovered. Your character could invest a lot of energy in research, but can never be proven right, because that would screw over all the other writers who don’t have access to your information. This book is about what average folks would do with a mysterious superpower than how it came to be.

2.Only one person in your story universe will experience the phenomenon. Your chapter should center on this person.

3. The known world events of March 8-27, 2014 are the final and true events of your character’s world. If your protagonist makes any changes to the immediate future, those changes will be consistent with what we know of the true events of March 8-27.
The phenomenon is the only magical element or true weirdness in the book. Although your protagonist may explore or believe in other mysterious stuff, like UFOs, ESP, telekinesis, etc., none of that can be more real in your story than it can be demonstrated to be here. (example: your protagonist believes she communicates with the dead and conducts a séance for more information about her duties. She may truly believe this communication happens, but you may not make it more real for the benefit of the story). Magical realism, folks.



Below is a short story I wrote in one day (yesterday) for a collection being published today.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.
There was a time of day Jeff dreaded more than any other. In fact, it was the only time of day Jeff faced with such trepidation. Dinner time veggies? No problem. Math homework? Piece of cake. Waking up at 6:45 a.m. every weekday to get ready for school? That meant breakfast and that was a-okay.

When the last bell rang, however, Jeff felt the knots in his gut wrench as they did through most of seventh period every day. Other kids rejoiced when the clock struck 3:00 p.m. It meant they were released from the bondage of academic shackles and involuntary education. They were free to run to the bus and fight for their seat in the back. For Jeff, it meant something entirely different.

It was the time he would see Jonathan Kent.

2.
Jeff's parents had moved to a quieter suburb of Atlanta just before he began middle school. Growing up in an inner-city neighborhood meant Jeff was a racial minority during his time in elementary school. This had come with distinct advantages and disadvantages. Jeff found it hard to make friends and was often ridiculed, but at the same time, he wasn't distracted by social groups and peer pressure. Jeff never felt the need to "cut up" in class and was instead able to focus on being "a good kid." The approval of his parents and other authority figures was far more important to him than that of the kids around him.

In that environment, it came as little surprise to Jeff that he was treated differently. The briefest of glances at his skin color would alert anyone to the fact that he was different from most around him. Thus when the word "ignorant" was introduced to his vocabulary, it was liberating in a way. Jeff now had a mental framework with which he could understand why the color of his skin caused some of the kids around him to occasionally say harsh things.

"You ain't got no pigment in yo' skin," one girl had said; or "You so white you glow," Jeff had once been told. Never mind that these statements and others like them were factually inaccurate. The children who said them were ignorant--they simply didn't know that skin color didn't matter. Jeff, on the other hand, did know and thus let the remarks roll off his back.

Not to be forgotten, of course, was his last name. Usually. Jeff Usually. He avoided saying this out loud as much as possible. Every kid thought they were the first to make every joke about his name; in truth, Jeff had heard them all ad nauseum. "What's your name the rest of the time?" or, "Can't your parents make up their mind?" There was also frequent speculation about his middle name. This often took the form of a filling-in-the-blank activity. "Is ______" was populated with the adjective of the day. Ugly, smelly, stupid... Jeff had heard pretty much all of it.

One might have thought that such exposure to ridicule would have toughened Jeff's skin a little. In reality, it taught Jeff how to keep to himself. This was, however, insufficient to prepare Jeff for what lay ahead in middle school. The kids were getting older, meaner, and more violent.

Jeff's parents knew they had to move to a new city or he would be subjected to what they had seen in the newspapers. Parents complained that their kids were harassed to the point of being unable to do their schoolwork. One student was quoted as saying others tried to pick a fight with him everyday because he was "white." This sort of treatment of kids by other kids seemed to stir quite a fuss; the word "bullying" represented a taboo amongst the teachers Jeff had realized. The word wasn't used often, but when it was, it turned heads.
Hunter, Jeff's father, assured him they were moving to "a demographically friendlier" town as soon as the school year ended where he could be free of bullying. Indeed Jeff's family moved just as Hunter promised, but the student environment in which Jeff began middle school turned out differently than planned.

3.
Jeff didn't hate the new school at first; after all, in the beginning he was mostly left alone just as he had always been. Before it had been Jeff's skin color that alienated him; now it was his status as the new kid. It felt mostly the same and so it mattered little.

Riding a bus was something with which Jeff was unfamiliar. Gail, his mother who had opted against the family name and thus was Gail Brunswick rather than Gail Usually, had always been there to pick Jeff up each day after school. Things were different now; Jeff's mother had a job and so was unavailable to pick him up at 3:00. It was a chance to "grow up a little bit," Hunter had proclaimed the one time Jeff voiced his concern. "You'll be just fine," Gail assured him. For all intents and purposes, Gail and Hunter had every reason to believe they were correct.

Jeff had finished his first day of school with no incident. In fact, he had somehow managed to squeak through the day without getting any homework assignments and was therefore convinced he had been truly lucky. The last bell rang at 3:00 and Jeff had found his way out to the bus pickup area. He was deeply concerned with boarding the right bus; if he got on the wrong bus, there was no telling where he might end up and walking home was not an option.

Maybe it was the resulting look of bewilderment on Jeff's face that gave him away. He hadn't yet introduced himself as Jeff Usually to anyone and he was quite sure his outfits were all reasonably cool. However, something put a target on him that day at the bus ramps and whatever it was, Jonathan Kent smelled it out in a predatory act of malice.

Jeff had just seen the number he was looking for: 209. He was standing at the end of the bus and needed to walk to the front to enter; he was mere seconds away from safety. Between him and the door, however, was Jonathan and his cohorts. When Jeff took his eyes off the bus and saw their evaluatory stares for the first time, he was puzzled. Jeff didn't know to be afraid and so he wasn't. That would come later.

"Hey new kid," Jonathan said in a distinctly derogatory tone. "What's your name?"
"Jeff." The solitary word came from Jeff's mouth. He felt himself in a standoff of the sort he had never been in before; the impending conflict made him anxious.

"Oh yeah? Jiff like the peanut butter?" Jonathan asked sardonically? "Who's your best friend? Smuckers?"

Jonathan's friends snickered in a way that confused Jeff. He got the joke but he didn't find it worth a laugh. Jeff involuntarily acted to correct Jonathan's mistake despite knowing it had been made intentionally.

"Jeff with an 'e'," he explained.

"Oh?" Jonathan said mocking surprise. "Jeffey? That's like, the girl's version of Jeff, right?"

Again Jonathan's friends snickered but louder this time. Jeff could feel himself getting frightened to the point of shaking. He was hiding it, but he was afraid his next words might quiver. As a result, he said nothing.
Jonathan realized there was no response coming and took it upon himself to move the conversation forward.
"Hey Jeffey," he said with a cocky inflection, "your mom called me last night. Do you know what she said?"

Jeff had never eavesdropped on Gail's conversations before and he nearly took offense to the question. He also had no idea how his mother knew Jonathan's family. If she had called his house and Jonathan answered, Gail probably would have said, "Hello, is your mother home? I need to speak with her."
In his confusion, Jeff simply responded, "No."

"She said she sent your dad to the store so I could come over and do her." At this remark, Jonathan's friends were brought to a roar.

Jeff was shocked and terrified. He could feel the warmth of his cheeks and knew he was blushing. Dropping his head he attempted to step to the right around Jonathan and his friends to board the bus. However, Jonathan merely took a step in the same direction as Jeff. The exchange repeated when Jeff moved to the left. Jeff's immediate response was the only action that felt safe: it was the response to flee. He turned with his back facing Jonathan and began to walk away--never mind that he was also walking away from the bus. Suddenly the mile and a half walk home didn't seem so bad.

The distance between school and home was not what made the walk intimidating. The bigger issue was crossing the two small bridges not built with pedestrian sidewalks. Less than ten minutes into his walk, Jeff could hear the buses disperse from behind the school; a few, including the 209, even drove past him. Twenty minutes later Jeff came to the first bridge. There barely seemed enough room for two-way traffic to cross and thus Jeff would not step onto the road. An observer of the situation might have mistaken Jeff's fear for wisdom. Jeff's next reaction was to climb down the hill and cross the small gully over which the bridge passed. As he turned to descend the hill, however, Jeff spotted two dead animals. He had never seen anything so large, ugly, and dead that close before. If Jeff had been less frightened by the roadkill he would have recognized them as possums. Their snarls gave the animals the appearance of being quite angry that they were dead--and they probably had family still living nearby who were angry that they were dead too.

Jeff was stuck. Being unable to cross the bridge or the gully, he could only turn back towards the school. Maybe a teacher or the principal would be able to drive him home after he explained he didn't find his bus in time. If not, he would find a phone to call his mother. On the way back to the school, Jeff found he could no longer fight back his tears.

By the time his mother arrived at the school, the signs of his crying were mostly faded. Jeff had been sitting in the front office where the staff made him feel safe again without ever knowing what he had been through.

"Who's coming to pick him up?" one employee had asked another.

"Gail Usually," was the response from the back of the office.

"What do you mean? It's the first day of school," answered the first employee. Jeff would have explained that it was Gail Brunswick, but he was too tired to bother. He was just glad she was on her way.

4.
"Your mom called me last night. Do you know what she said?" It was a question Jeff had heard more times than he cared to count since that first day in the Fall. It was March now and the finish line was almost in sight. Sixth grade was almost over. Jonathan was a seventh grader and Jeff would still run the risk of seeing him the next year, but that felt forever away. After all, between Jeff and summer stood many haunting strikes of the clock at 3:00 p.m.

On Monday, March 10th the three o'clock bell rang as it always had; others sprang for the door in their customary fashion. Jeff would have been among them but his classroom was further from the bus than Jonathan's making it impossible to board the bus before Jonathan could stalk the area. Jeff had found he could make it on the bus simply by refusing to stop putting one foot in the front of the other. If Jonathan and his buddies tried too hard to impede his steps, the bus drivers took notice and they risked getting trouble.
As Jeff neared the 209, Jonathan approached from in front of him with his usual entourage. Today, however, there was a fourth student trying awkwardly to fit in the mix. Jeff wondered if it would be the typical "your mom called me last night," joke today, or if Jonathan had something unique for the day as he occasionally did.

"Hey Jeffey," Jonathan began. "Your mom called me last night. You know what she said?"

Nope. It was the same old line. Jeff was convinced they would never grow tired of it. He didn't even answer the question anymore--he just waited for the punch line.

"She said she needed me to come over because your dad couldn't get it up and she was making eyes at the dog." Jonathan said this in a way that indicated he found it even funnier than his run-of-the-mill drivel. His friends laughed with the new guy in the crowd laughing especially hard. "What do you think about that?"

Jeff had never found Jonathan's comments to end with this call for response. If he were to answer honestly, Jeff would have explained that Jonathan sounded incredibly ignorant. His family didn't even own a dog; and without reflecting too much on his parents' sex life--something he had only recently discovered must inevitably exist despite how impossibly disgusting it was--Jeff was sure his mother would never call Jonathan to address her sexual frustrations.

There was no answer from Jeff, however. He merely boarded the bus to the sound of Jonathan asking, "Huh? Huh Jeffey?"

The driver, Ms. Whitcliffe, called back "Hey, knock it off," to Jonathan and his friends. It was an impotent demand and the sustained laughter of Jonathan and his crew indicated they recognized it as such.

Jeff sat down not quite halfway towards the back of the bus and rested his forehead on the seatback in front of him. He exhaled deeply. He had made it through another Jonathan encounter. However, there were elements of today's encounter that worried him. Who was this fourth kid? The last thing Jonathan needed was a larger posse. And why was there a question tacked on the end of his joke? If these were signs of growing aggression of Jonathan's part, things were bleak indeed.

With buses departing at 3:15 sharp, Jeff would soon be on the way home. He closed his eyes and tried not to think about Jonathan.

In these moments, it helped to call Jonathan the names Jeff heard his father use for people he didn't like. Hunter boldly used words like "shitheads," "mother fuckers," or even "fucking shitheads". Jeff assured himself in a voice too quiet for anyone to hear but himself that Jonathan was just a stupid shithead.

Then the bell rang... the three o'clock bell. Jeff found he was at his desk watching the others spring for the door.
Hadn't this happened already?

Jeff had never fallen asleep at his desk in class before, but clearly it had happened on the afternoon of March 10th. Jeff was horrified that the teacher might have seen him sleeping in class. The fear that she might call Gail Brunswick or, even worse, Hunter Usually to report the offense occupied his thoughts. The uncanny similarity with which the events of the walk to the buses matched that of his dream from moments earlier were not registering with him. Things changed, however, when he saw Jonathan approaching with not two, but three cohorts.

There was a moment of reflection on Jeff's part. Had there always been three? he wondered. No. Of course not. Jeff found himself feeling peculiar and distant. The nervousness with which he faced Jonathan every day was replaced by sheer puzzlement over the oddity of the situation.

"Hey Jeffey," Jonathan began as Jeff knew he would. "Your mom called me last night. You know what she said?"

"That she wanted you to come over because my dad can't get it up and she's making eyes with the dog?" The words came from Jeff's mouth in an automated, practically subconscious manner.

"That she wa..." Jonathan began to answer his question and suddenly was shocked to realize that Jeff beat him to it. There was a moment of silence between the five of them. Jonathan was speechless while his friends waited for him to deliver the joke. This time, however, there was a different punch line. Jonathan reared back with his right hand and punched Jeff in the stomach before walking away.

Jeff's entire chest hurt. He had fallen on the playground and had the wind knocked out of him before. It was an awful feeling and it was impossible to shake off. Boarding the bus, Ms. Whitcliffe noticed that Jeff was in pain. She asked what happened, but Jeff was unable to answer. As he moved to his seat in the middle of the bus where he laid down and clutched at his ribs, Ms. Whitcliffe stepped off the bus. Two other drivers did the same thing; they conferred over what happened.

As a result of the drivers' report to the school, Jonathan was suspended from school for the rest of the week... the rest of the odd week.

5.
How long had this been going on? Was Monday the first day? These were questions that plagued Jeff every afternoon when the bell rang and he boarded the bus--twice. In a way, it was nice to have eight opportunities to board the bus without Jonathan. But nothing was on Jeff's mind more than the obvious question: "What is happening?"

Tracing things back mentally, Jeff was certain the repeats--as he came to call them in his mind--had started after Friday, March 7th. If they had started sooner than the afternoon of Monday, March 10th, he hadn't noticed.

Deathly afraid that he would be locked up in the nuthouse if he told anyone what he was experiencing, Jeff kept the repeats to himself. It was easy enough. The walk from seventh period to the bus was something he did five times every week in much the same way. Doing it ten times instead didn't matter. He just hoped things would get back to normal sooner than later.

Luckily after Jonathan returned to school he was hesitant to approach Jeff. Instead of greeting him with the worn out, "Your mom called me last night," Jonathan just gave Jeff menacing stares as they passed at the bus ramps. Jeff worried another punch was incoming one of these times.

"If he swings at me again, I wonder if I can dodge it the second time," Jeff found himself wondering. It was then, on the afternoon of Thursday, March 21st that Jeff realized he could use the repeats to his advantage. He had spent so much time in fear that the repeats were a sign of mental instability that he hadn't determined how he might use them as a weapon.

He had noticed whatever happened during the repeats were the events that stuck and there were no threepeats. Jonathan had spent more than a week glaring at Jeff and he knew it was only a matter of time before the punishment Jonathan received from his parents and the school's faculty would wear off.

Jonathan would approach Jeff again and he was determined to be ready for it.

But how? What could he say? What could he do that would put Jonathan in his place? The outcome excited Jeff beyond words but the way to get there evaded him.

Ultimately, Jeff decided he would say exactly what was on his mind just to see the look on Jonathan's face. He might get punched again, and he might get in trouble for saying bad words, but then it would repeat. He would then let things go as they usually did while he figured out some better way to set Jonathan straight.

6.
It was Friday, March 28th and the repeats had been going on for nearly three weeks. Jeff wondered if they would ever stop. He wondered if he could make money in Las Vegas with his super power when he got old enough. He wondered if he could be a cop like one of the officers on the supernatural TV shows he sometimes saw late at night solving murder mysteries or saving lives once lost.

He even began to wonder if Jonathan would actually ever approach him again.

When the bell rang at 3:00 p.m. the first time, students predictably bolted for the door with enhanced enthusiasm. It was the weekend, after all.

As Jonathan approached Jeff at the bus ramps, Jeff suspected this was the afternoon they would speak again. Jonathan had his friends with him: the common two and the one newbie that had been there the first day of the repeats.

"Hey dickbreath," Jonathan called to Jeff.

This was uncustomary. Jonathan had usually been content--delighted even--to call Jeff by the feminine Jeffey. As far as Jeff knew, Jonathan didn't even know his last name (oh the terror if he had, Jeff sometimes thought). Now Jonathan was making up for lost time.

"Your mom called me last night. You know what she said?" Jonathan asked as if pre-recorded.
This was it. Jeff knew this was the time he would tell Jonathan exactly what was on his mind no matter who could hear. It would all be erased anyway.

"Yes," Jeff began, "she probably called to say you're a fucking shithead like I've known all year." Wow. If felt good to say what he felt. And for some odd reason, using those bad words was a rush. Now he felt he knew why Hunter was so fond of them.

The look of shock on Jonathan's face was palpable as his friends did their best to refrain from snickering. There was a group of eighth graders behind Jeff, however, who were not similarly inclined to hold back. They burst out in loud bellows of laughter while repeating to each other what they had just heard.

"That one kid just told that dork he's a fucking shithead!" one of eighth graders proclaimed to the other while giving each other high fives.

"I know, right!" was the answer. All three eighth graders were noticeably larger than Jeff, Jonathan, or any of Jonathan's friends. They all wore varsity football jackets and no one--no one--picked on them.

When Jonathan cocked his right hand back to punch Jeff again, the largest of the eighth graders pulled his own hand back in defense of Jeff. "Hey shithead, watch out!" he declared.

Jonathan flinched backwards. His feet that had been positioned to punch Jeff in the stomach again became tripping hazards that sent him toppling to the ground. He looked angry and confused. He looked as if he might even cry. The three cohorts looked equally confused but they seemed hesitant to help Jonathan up for fear of incurring the wrath of the larger students.

Jeff knew this was his moment. Ms. Whitcliffe had probably heard him call Jonathan a fucking shithead and he knew he would be grounded all weekend if Gail Brunswick and Hunter Usually found out, but they wouldn't. It was all going to be repeated and erased.

"Get a new joke," Jeff said as Jonathan scrambled off the concrete. "It was stupid to begin with."
The eighth graders let out a resounding "Ewwwww," in a deep tone indicating a sharp "cut down," as Jeff had heard them called, had just been dished out. They passed around another set of high fives and laughs amongst themselves as Jonathan finally got to his feet. Jeff was boarding the bus while he heard the football players behind him repeat his exhortation: "Yeah, get a new joke shithead," they said. They passed through the middle of Jonathan and his friends letting their shoulders bump into the opposing group.
Predictably, Jonathan and his friends gave no resistance.

When Jeff boarded the bus, he wondered if Ms. Whitcliffe would appear stern and upset; maybe she would already be on her cell phone calling the school. Instead, Jeff found she was smiling. She said not a word while Jeff took his seat. She only smiled.

As he placed his head on the seatback in front him and waited for 3:15 p.m. to roll around and send him back to his classroom, Jeff wondered if he might have the guts to do things exactly the same during the repeat knowing he would be unable to change them that time. His heart was still pounding and he was confident Jonathan would think twice before picking on him anymore.

When the bus started, Jeff was prepared for the bell ring again. It was time to repeat. Instead, the bus pulled out and began to drive Jeff home. The event was resoundingly abrupt in its normality.

Did he have the guts to do things the same way the second time around? Jeff never found out.


Last edited by dragbody on Sun 13 Apr 2014 - 17:42; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Jeff... Usually   Sun 13 Apr 2014 - 17:14

Pfffffffhahahah! closed eyes smile
What a neat little story, drag! Left me with a smile Smile

I expected it to have some mistypes, being written in one go, but it was well written and structured.
I don't really get the 1. - 6. scheme, I haven't used it before, but it's alright. I could try using it some day.

As far as the story goes, the theme itself sounds more complicated than you made it out to be, and that's a good thing. It's an honest slice of americana and I must say it felt like watching a Michael Cera movie closed eyes smile

I felt a bit cheated that the weeks of the events went on with the bully staying away, and no particular event to mark it. It was still well paced. The ending was brilliant and I enjoyed each minute of it. Seemed larger when I first saw it, but reading through, it doesn't feel large at all.

Cool piece, my friend, and keep up the good work


P.S. was he albino or were the black and brown kids exaggerating when saying he doesn't have pigment?
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PostSubject: Re: Jeff... Usually   Sun 13 Apr 2014 - 17:23

Thanks DVA Smile

The 1-6 is just to mark distinct breaks in the story.

The way you felt cheated was a result of the short time within which I had to write. I literally didn't have the time to add anymore detail or events. If I tried, the story might not have ended :p

The pigment in his skin remark is just about him being Caucasian. He was in a predominantly African American school. He wasn't albino--just a normal racial minority.

Thanks for formatting it for me. Smile
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PostSubject: Re: Jeff... Usually   Sun 13 Apr 2014 - 18:05

What a great story, it was very well written, Jeff was a very interesting and unique character, and the structure was very good. Overall I think it's a very solid story with a nice ending.

I honestly can't stand people who bully others so I'm glad to see things work out for Jeff. At my school the upperclassmen are quick to intervene if they see someone getting bullied, things like that aren't tolerated by anyone where I go to school.

+1 for sharing that story with us.
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PostSubject: Re: Jeff... Usually   Mon 15 Dec 2014 - 23:45

Great story Drag, I loved how it was laid out. It's got that weirdness in it with the repeats which I thought was a awesome idea.

Possibly more to this at a later date?

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