Tin Can- working on Dialogue

by | February 2021 A (Day 2)

“What are we going to do today?” Stella asks. Rocky wonders if she’s serious. If she really thinks that there’s an answer to that question. If he should hate her or love her for asking.

“Let’s start the revolution,” Shaggy says. He balances his laptop on the outside of his hip to make way for Stella’s head. Shaggy’s got hair everywhere he seems to always keep his eyes on like some kind of magic mirror only he can see. He’s a picture of Movie Star in deep character. He’s Leonardo DiCaprio like he’s been in a cave for years and while he’s pulling off the feral, everyone knows he’s one good cleanup away from looking like a star. He’s not fooling anyone.

“Don’t be daft,” Stella says.

“Is talking British a symptom?” Rocky asks Uncle Dick even though they both know Stella and Shaggy have been doing this since before the Lockdown, acting like they’re in the Sex Pistols.

“Yeah, Shaggy. Why don’t you look that up on your fancy computer?” Uncle Dick says.

“If I ever lost my sense of taste and smell,” Stella says. “I’m pretty sure I’d still love pizza rolls.”

Rocky’s phone vibrates and he checks it without fully taking it out of his pocket. It’s his dad who has been texting lately for no good reason. “What’s up loser,” it says.

“That spot you’re sitting on,” Rocky says to Shaggy. “Stella puked a river there when she was twelve.”

“Yeah, because Grandma made me drink that whole glass of apple juice even though I told her I didn’t feel good.”

“Bullocks,” Shaggy says.

“That spot your sitting on,” Uncle Dick says to Shaggy. “Is where I got wicked rug burns from losing my virginity to these guys’ Aunt Brenda.”

“Uncle Dick!” Stella screams.

“Don’t silence the truth, you little fascist,” Uncle Dick says. “Come to think of it that’s the same spot your Aunt Brenda threw up on too.”

Stella and Rocky look at each other, and for a split second, talking isn’t needed for communication. For a split second, she might really be his twin sister. She mocks putting a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger. Rocky, catching ricochet, jerks his head back and mocking his own death too eagerly, bumps Toe flat onto his face, causing him to wail.

“Goddammit!” Grandma yells from the kitchen. Rocky swoops Toe onto his legs, and a horsey ride turns wail to reluctant giggle.

“Death to the status quo,” Shaggy whispers, not quite ready for his manifesto to make it to the kitchen.

10 Comments

  1. Laurie Marshall

    I love these people so much. And I am seriously grandma in the kitchen. We need more of life in the Tin Can.

    You have an easy gift of dialogue – or a gift for making it seem easy. The last line is perfect.

  2. sara lippmann

    Hi Al — I’m so happy to see you giving these characters voices in scene. They are quirky and idiosyncratic and the suggestion of violence is everywhere — the tin can is a powder keg ! – and I love all that you’ve done — and still, I’m not 100% sure you’ve found your “moment” — why Rocky in the Tin Can, this day of all days — but I trust that the startling inevitability will come.

    Perhaps it lies somewhere in here:

    “Don’t silence the truth, you little fascist,” Uncle Dick says. {CUT“Come to think of it that’s the same spot your Aunt Brenda threw up on too.”}

    Stella and Rocky look at each other, and for a split second, talking isn’t needed {for communication}. For a split second, she might really be his twin sister. She mocks putting a gun in her mouth and pulling the trigger. Rocky, catching ricochet, jerks his head back and mocking his own death too eagerly, bumps Toe flat onto his face, causing him to wail.

    The impulse feels inevitable –some kind of violence or explosion from those who feel outcast from the world — and I appreciate your restraint, in not showing whatever that violence is or will be. Keep excavating along this fault line. It feels close.

    • Al Kratz

      Thanks for these thoughts and responses to it. It’s an interesting element I’m trying to get my hands on in general and for this piece: How much the central thread, the engine of the story, has to present and surfaced and how does that fit with pace.

      This one not being flash presents its own problems, but I’m working with the plot line of Rocky’s dubious father outside of the tin can offering him/selling ala the devil lol, a way out of the can and him having to decide to take it or not.

      So maybe this response so far is an indicator I should load some of that in the early meetings of these folks too.

      Thanks so much for this weekend. Your material was awesome and my mind is buzzing.

  3. Constance Malloy

    Al, glad to be in the can with these characters again, they are so vibrant. Your dialogue feels organic. These seem like people, or types of people, you know as they seem so fully drawn. I can’t wait to read more of this!

  4. John Steines

    Hello Al. There’s such bouncing around here and the metaphor of the tin can containing the racket is great, beyond the film housing of a tin. I also think of ‘tin-can alley with the back and forth. The toying with guns is always a bit offsetting.. Lots of fun ways to think on this subject, and you really get it rolling with your dialog. Nice work.

  5. Francine Witte

    These characters are amazing and so fresh but so familiar at the same time. I say familiar in the way that we know them because they just seem like real people. I love your voice and just the way you move through the story. Great work

  6. Patricia Bidar

    Such great and believable dialogue. All of it.

    For me, it is super intriguing in that Rocky’s dad is texting and uses a casual tone that is similar to theirs — he is the one who is outside the tin can; they are all inside. They are losers; he is … what?

    “Rocky’s phone vibrates and he checks it without fully taking it out of his pocket. It’s his dad who has been texting lately for no good reason. “What’s up loser,” it says.”

    I like the way Rocky’s admiration for his sister is made clear with, “…mocking his own death too eagerly,”

    Suggestions:

    Wondering about “bullocks;” the reader might not be familiar enough with Bristish-isms to know Shaggy is flubbing, “bollocks.” For me the word “giggle” might be replaced with another word.

  7. Nancy Stohlman

    I love this study in dialogue–I was doing the same thing and it’s very revealing to pull the strings apart like this and see how everyone is really just talking to themselves. Wonderful!

  8. Kate Gehan

    You really do have a gift for dialogue, Al, and I envy your ability to create humor. The dad’s “What’s up loser?” text FEELS like a critical puzzle piece to me. Why is he randomly popping up again? Why is he such a dick, even if it’s “in fun?”

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