Peer Review by annacatherine (Australia)

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Middlerock

By: a.paperback.writer


    For a summer day, the air was a chill-inducing and bitter kind of cold. The wind whistled startlingly, making the short hairs on the back of Glenn's neck prickle. But he paid it no attention and instead he puckered his lips to join in the howling orchestra. As he walked he would occasionally run the tips of his fingers up and down the path of pleasing goosebumps on his arms. Under the soles of his sneakers, he sloshed the pockets of leftover rainwater that littered the grassy area. Taking enjoyment in pressing the water into the mud. It made a satisfying wet squishing sound almost as if he was pressing down on a fresh wound. 

    He was intending to make it home to pick up the newspaper before his mother came home from work and swiped it. He enjoyed cutting out the pictures or articles that he liked the most but his mother started to frown upon the habit when he started cutting out the obit-obituaries(?), he sounded the word out quietly to himself as he thought about it. His mother, Donna,  had said it in such a hushed tone that it made it seem like a dirty word. Though he was not quite sure what the word meant, he thought it was wonderful to have little stories on people in the paper. He hoped he could get them to print his own one day. 

    Stepping off the curb, the wafting smell of burgers became distinctly stronger. The Dimelight Diner had been a trademark of Middlerock for as long as he could remember. It grew from the cement like a plant would from grass on the corner of the busy street to tease passers-by. He liked to walk past the small building at night the best because the pale green hues of light would shine down on the pavement and give it a special glow. The passing cars would always glitter like his mothers earrings, the dangly ones he'd grabbed at when he'd been almost fresh from diapers. Had it been night-time he would have gone over and maybe tossed nickels into the sewer grate just by it. But despite the chill, it was still a summer day that would not go to waste. So he crossed to the side street where Mr. Hannigan was mowing his lawn. The shiny red machine plowed over the greenery and left blades of thin grass in it's path. Due to the accompanying wind, the strands flew a little ways off the sidewalk and danced about in the air. 

    Mr. Hannigan taught at the small school where Glenn spent most of his days during the less favorable seasons. Glenn paid more attention to the mans inconsistent facial hair than the syllabus. Though it seemed for the summertime, the man was going for a clean shaven look which was somewhat disappointing to the boy. Though he still had somewhat of a shadow and Glenn's eyes traced the specks of hair like constellations while he began to stroll again. He hopped atop the cracks of the sidewalk without a second thought. He'd walked this path more times than years he'd been alive. He knew what most each house held. A family, a friend of his, the kid who pushed him over in the second grade or Mr. Hannigan. 

    When his shoe caught on a particularly prominent crack, he noticed the white laces were now loose and spilled onto the concrete. He kneeled down to seize a moment's rest, fumbling to double knot them like his mother did. But as he held one bunny ear, he noticed a rush of movement from the large yellow home across the street. 

    It was a girl he remembered to be Virginia Denver who had a father that never let his front yard grass grow too high. Glenn recalled an unusually hot summer when Mr. Denver pulled out all the dandelion weeds that littered the green by hand. He'd laid them out on the sidewalk only to have some neighborhood child swipe them. Not that the old man minded all that much, at least he hadn't had to dispose of them himself. Glenn's mother always made some sort of a 'tsk' sound when conversation of his daughter came up. She was only legally obligated to like one child and it seemed everyone else's got on her nerves. At least, that's what he suspected. He'd overheard his mother and her girlfriends-which he learned were her friends not like when boys had girlfriends-having not so hushed conversations about problem children within their neighborhood. He recognized a few names they had casually tossed out a few times but Virginia came up once or twice more and she was the only one his mother had actually had a conversation with. This was considering the fact that she worked for her father. Let it be known, she never made that 'tsk' sound around Mr. Denver. 

    Virginia was someone's little sister but an older woman in the eyes of Glenn's classmates. Kip Allen was in Glenn's desk clump and had the smile of a crazy man. He was overzealous in character and felt the need to lean over during every test to whisper the worst jokes Glenn had ever heard just to 'get his goat' as he would say. On occasion, the jokes would turn grimy and dirty. Glenn absolutely despised those days. He even channeled the kind of anger they infuriated him with when trying to beat out his friends during recess games. Kip had dropped Virginia's name while making what he called a 'big tits' gesture. He'd seen the girl during the brief fling she had with his older brother, Ryder. From the start of that fling Kip had made her a prominent subject in his theater of cruel humor. 

    Looking at the young woman now, Glenn decided she was just that. A young woman. Not someone to 'tsk' at nor the punchline of some disgusting joke. Just some stranger. 

    During his third attempt in trying to focus on tying his shoe, he noticed the way Virginia's lips were moving. Her head tilted down with a small hidden bounce in her step. Speaking a quiet truth to herself, she was sining softly along to a song that carried over from Mr. Hannigan's small radio. Glenn was surprised she could even hear it. As she moved to gather her some pile of things and move to cross the street, Glenn pondered the song himself. 'Who had the radio personality introduced it as...? The Eagles, he thought. The voices sang with such an ease that it did make him wonder just what it was a woman could do to your soul as they so pleasurably claimed to know.' 

 
  His brief wonder overcame him for a few solid seconds, a simple thing he could not comprehend. What awoke him from the tiny daze was the tickle in his throat which made him cough up unpleasantly into his elbow. His eyes found Virginia again who was stepping off the curb, the sunlight tracing her body. Her eyes skimming the small pile of books in her arms with a nature of genuine eagerness. He'd never had such joy in his own eyes before and he wondered if he ever would. He also wondered if the girl knew just what people like his mother or Kip said about her. She didn't seem to-

    All normal thoughts rushed from Glenn's brain as something played out in slow motion. It was not something he'd ever been a witness to before in his life. Barreling down the street was a young man's car. It's headlights, though turned off to mind the day, were like eyes on Virginia like a predator on it's prey. The low and deep growl of the engine rung in his ears but was missed on the blissful girl. He tried to think of a solution as an adult would but his voice just screamed before he could realize it for himself. He ran toward the edge of the sidewalk just screaming to her. "Virginia! Behind you!" was all he got out before he had his first real kiss...with the concrete just below him. His loose shoelaces proving him unstable and knocking him down. He peeked over his crescent shaped elbow and saw the girl stop and pause with confusion as if to condemn him as just some kid playing a game. 

    And it was with that pause that the real terror began. He saw the horrified look in her eyes just before the collision. Her eyes widened and looked as if they might pop right from her head just before her body curved back in an unnatural manner, the car skidded harshly.  Hot blood spurted out and splashed onto the concrete wounds of the street. The uncomfortable heat from the now low hanging sun boiled it and would later bake it into permanent stains. The air soon smelled of screaming metal. It had played out as if it were a scene from one of those horrid movies Glenn had passed while channel searching. His tender skin burned slightly as he pushed himself up from the ground in an unsightly manner. It proved to be a mistake as he had to clamp his hands over his eyes just to avoid sensory overload. 

    He felt someone's large hands wrap around his middle and pick him up from the ground like a fresh apple from a hollowed autumn tree. As the slender fingers slipped comfortably between his ribs, Glenn was overcome with the smell of freshly cut grass, laundry and other household chore aesthetics. He writhed his body in Mr. Hannigan's grip without a clear goal. Maybe to run his way down the block to the front of Dimelight Diner to spill his guts out to his hearts content in the sewer grate. He felt that idea begin to rumble in his lower belly as the man slapped his own large hand over Glenn's eyes. A part of the boy wanted to peek through to the small slivers of scenery peeking through the skin and soak up the aftermath. Find the source of screaming, get a good look at what Virginia looked like now. He thought about Kip again...wondered if he'd ever seen someone die before and what kind of material that'd make for. It made Glenn shiver all over and take the last step to peek through Mr. Hannigan's hand because after all, he wasn't too sure he'd seen someone die either. 

    The radio was still playing on because it wasn't as if the time-frozen band knew to pause and stare like the strays of Middlerock. So as the town flocked around the girl with brown hair now matted to the side of her head, they sang on. 

'I get this feelin' I may know you
As a lover and a friend
This voice keeps whisperin' in my other ear
Tells me I may never see you again' 


Peer Review

I love the imagery in this story. It really draws me into the story and makes me want to know more. I also love how you've built on the character's personality throughout the story. It makes me want to know more about the boy and his life.


I think your ability to create characters is incredible. I honestly do not know how to make your character any better. The only thing that I would suggest is a little more description on his actual appearance as I felt like I didn't have a clear vision on what he looked like.


I don't think I have anything for this. I would like a little extra information on the funeral and the actual accident. It seems short - but then again, accidents are short. So, don't stress about changing anything in this area.


Yes! I can get a clear image of what each scene is like. I would like some more sensory details in the scene of the accident. That would make it seem all the more real - which would work well for the emotional appeal of the scene!


First of all, I am amazed at your talent in writing. I love your ability to make words flow and create scenes in another person's mind. I aspire to write like you. If you ever publish, let me know and I'll buy a copy!!


Reviewer Comments

I love this! Looking forward to see what else you can do.