Tony said, “I used to work in Florida insulating attics. It gets up to 190 degrees in there.”

Derek said, “Not that hot. A human body cooks under those conditions.” Derek doubts everything everyone says. It’s something we’re working on. Tony is a liar though, I think.

Tony said, “We’d go in that heat for two or three hours and work.” We all miss the heat. Control surrendered, becoming only your body.

It’s November now but we still take the patients for two walks outside every day. Along the driveway of the old folk’s home next door, through the grass around the tennis courts, down the stairs carved into the ravine, into the park, onto the wooden path across the pond.

Tony said, “We’d drive around to wherever new developments were going up and just fucking stuff attics. All afternoon. Go out to the bar after. And I liked picking up pussy.” Derek laughed.

Derek seems like a real hick to me. He’s not charismatic like Tony. Tony was in treatment two months ago and left after three days. I tried to convince him to stay, talking to him while he smoked on the porch, this time present, this past time left, back again, returned this time different.

Tony said, “I had a girlfriend, but when I was working a job outside town, I’d pick up other girls.” He’s slicking back his black hair now. “I went out to the bar one night after we worked a development a couple towns over. I was getting fucked up and talking to this girl and we left together. I told her we should go to her place because I didn’t want my girlfriend finding some stray hair on the pillow.”

There’s a difference between submission and surrender.

Tony said, “And we get back to her place and I was like this place looks familiar. It’s one of these condos I’ve been insulating. But I was pretty fucked up almost all the time back then and a lot of condos in Florida look similar.”

One happens once, one happens always.

Tony said, “We’re fucking in her room and then we go out to the living room to watch TV. And we hear someone else coming in. The girl I just fucked says, ‘Don’t worry it’s only my roommate.’ Then this other girl walks in. And it’s my girlfriend. I’d just fucked my girlfriend’s roommate. I had no idea.”

Derek said, “It sounds like the beginning of a porno.” (Derek left Against Medical Advice two days later and on Tuesday morning of the next week we received a call from his case worker saying he’d OD’d on fentanyl he thought was dope).

Tony said, “They were yelling at each other, yelling at me. I drove home. A few weeks later, things cooled down. I got to fuck my girlfriend a few more times. I’d go back to Florida again, when I get out. I miss the heat.”

11 Comments

  1. Bud Smith

    Whoa, this is cool. I liked all the turns in this, it feels like something I would hear on the jobsite but you’ve also captured it in an artful way that is really hard to, that perfect balance of off the cuff and profound, somehow boiling up into a poignance that is happening all around us in real life but which we can’t see because we are too worried about a paycheck. Cool work. I had a couple suggestions for this. First, I think there is a longer short story in this sketch, I’d love to know more about the place where the story is being told and the circumstances of that story being told in that place. I have a mind to say to that the three men could maybe be reduced to just two men or the narrator could be just be talking about those two men, removing themselves from the equation and thus becoming a third person narrator (little god of the story) because then I wouldn’t have to think too hard about who the I is of the story and if I didn’t have to think about the I then the other men and their dialogue would come into a sharper focus. What do you think of that? Would like to read another draft of this if you are down, post it up here

    • Bud Smith

      Yeah, I mean just, are they working together at an old folks home? They are the attendants/orderlies there? That’s the sense I got … I’d like to see the scene setting sharpened up and grounded just a tiny bit so when we talk about Florida insulation and rehabI know what vantage those places are being spoken of from

      Keep going, dope work here. I laughed my ass off

        • Traci Mullins

          Hi Jack, I really like the rawness of this piece, and Tony’s encounter with his girlfriend’s roommate is a great twist. (You might not need the phrase, “I had no idea.”) The only thing that took me a few readings to get was the setting and who the narrator was. I wonder if you could make it clearer from the get-go that the setting is a treatment center and the narrator is a facilitator there (right?). To me, the narrator feels a bit disconnected from the action. Love the ending.

      • Jack O'Connell

        Thanks for the feedback. I tried to clean it up. Couldn’t get it to work for me in third-person yet. Here’s another draft.

        Florida Again v2

        Tony said, “I used to work in Florida insulating attics. It gets up to 190 degrees in there.”

        Derek said, “Not that hot. A human body cooks under those conditions.” Derek doubts everything everyone says. It’s something we’re working on. Tony is a liar though, I think.

        Tony said, “We’d go in that heat for two or three hours and work.”

        There is a treatment center in a white house on the hill above the city park. I work as a counselor there. It’s November now, but we still take the patients for two walks outside every day. Along the driveway of the apartments next door, through the grass around the tennis courts, down the stairs carved into the ravine, into the park, onto the wooden path across the pond. I let them talk about what it was like while we walk. We all miss the heat.

        Tony said, “We’d drive around to wherever new developments were going up and just fucking stuff attics. All afternoon. Go out to the bar after. And I liked picking up pussy.”

        Derek laughed and said, “You don’t have to live like that anymore.” I hear ventriloquism when his lips move. He’s not charismatic like Tony. Tony was in treatment two months ago and left after three days. I tried to convince him to stay, talking to him while he smoked on the porch, this time present, this past time left, back again, returned this time different.

        The patients like to stand around the pond while they talk and throw rocks high up in the air and watch them fall down on the ice, wondering while it falls if the ice will break. Derek has the idea to skim flat rocks across the surface, and as the rock bounces on the bending ice, the whole pond shakes with a sound like the bowing of suspension bridge cables in a windstorm. It’s the same walk each morning, each afternoon, and they’ve all been to treatment before.

        Tony said, “I had a girlfriend back then, but when I was working a job outside town, I’d pick up other girls.” He’s slicking back his black hair now. “I went out to the bar one night after we worked a development a couple towns over. I was getting fucked up and talking to this girl and we left together. I told her we should go to her place because I didn’t want my girlfriend finding some stray hair on the pillow.”

        There’s a difference between submission and surrender.

        Tony said, “And we get back to her place and I was like this place looks familiar. It’s one of these anonymous condos I’ve been insulating. But I was pretty fucked up almost all the time back then and a lot of condos in Florida look similar.”

        One happens once, one happens always.

        Tony said, “We’re fucking in her room and then we go out to the living room to watch TV. And we hear someone else coming in. The girl I just fucked says, ‘Don’t worry it’s only my roommate.’ Then this other girl walks in. And it’s my girlfriend. I’d just fucked my girlfriend’s roommate. I had no idea.”

        Derek said, “It sounds like the beginning of a porno.” (Derek left Against Medical Advice two days later and OD’d on fentanyl he thought was dope).

        Tony said, “They were yelling at each other, yelling at me. I drove home. A few weeks later, things cooled down, I got to fuck my girlfriend a few more times. I’d go back to Florida again, when I get out. I miss the heat.”

  2. Saxon Baird

    Jack – I like how voice-y this story is. Tony really comes through. He feels like dudes I know. It’d be cool to have some more back and forth between Derek the doubter and Tony to have his voice come through even more.

    Speaking of Derek, he feels slightly underutilized and a bit of a footnote. I’d like to see him used more. I feel sort of the same with the anonymous narrator. Maybe the narrator is unnecessary, or maybe we could have more direct interaction with the characters. Maybe as meditator w/ Derek and Tony.

    Also curious what this would look like in more present tense. Maybe just as Tony, or as a co-worker stuffing attics with them. Or maybe the girl Tony fucks is Dereks girlfriend. Just ideas…

  3. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Great piece and great voice here. I love the story within the story. “One happens once, one happens always” is great as its own paragraph. I’d like to see more about the insulation (how it’s done, what that heat felt like) as well as more of the old folk’s home. The heat with the cold can make for a nice contrast. Great little piece, one I feel is shouting to be something 5x longer.

  4. Kara Vernor

    I like how you’ve placed this anecdote in a context that lends it more weight while retaining what sounds like natural conversation between dudes who are telling tall tales, trying to impress each other, and having a laugh at themselves. Like others, I think this could be made sharper if you spent more time on the setting, and with that I’d like to see where these bodies are placed in space and time. I think they are generally walking the grounds, but I’d love to know if, say, they’re by a bench at one point, or maybe a bird bath, or… you get the idea. And I’d love for the narrator to have more of a stake. Why is he relaying this story? What do these guys matter to him and what do they (or the anecdote) say about him? Lots of great foundational stuff here already, and a really fun read, thanks.

  5. Rachel Pollon Williams

    Love this. How it progresses, we don’t see anything coming. And I loved the mood of it. I saw what Bud wrote above and will be curious what you do with this. There is so much to work with and different ways you can go. Don’t screw it up. Kidding! Have fun and I would definitely want to read it in its future iterations!

  6. Greg Oldfield

    Jack, the dialogue in these exchanges is right up my alley. Those minor intimate phrases, ball busting, etc. are indicative of the way people in a close relationship would talk, so I felt engaged from the opening lines. I also enjoy how the setting of the sex scene comes full circle with a place the character was insulating from the start. It gives more character to the environment. The same with the treatment facility, seeing these tranquil images while a raging storm is inside their minds. I was a little slowed by the jumpiness of the narrator and the two main characters. My suggestion would be to make either Tony or Derek the narrator so there’s not so much to keep straight. It’s a lot to sort through in a tight space and doing so will allow you open up more between the two, which will enhance their characters.

  7. Bill Merklee

    Love that this is mainly dialogue. Tony’s character comes through loud and clear. It took me a few beats to get my bearings, that Tony and Derek are in rehab and the narrator works there. Not sure the narrator is needed as a third character. The dialogue carries the piece, and you could show us their situation by some interactions with staff. Giving Derek more to say could reveal more of his character rather than the narrator telling us his impressions of him. The ending is perfect.

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