Write...or Die Trying

I used to work in a factory. Now I work in an office. Either way, my writing was dying. So now I must: Write...or Die Trying.

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Version 1 or Version 2?

I usually write several versions of a scene. I keep toying with it, changing the emphasis of things, taking things out, putting things in, till I'm either happy or not revolted by what I've done. One of the advantages of using a typewriter is that I don't actually delete anything. I just rewrite it. I have the old one to reference, and I'll often use that as the basis for the next rewrite. In these two versions of a scene, you'll notice a few minor things I thought were important and what I took out or made better.

Keep in mind these are unfinished rough drafts. It's not my best writing and I haven't made attempts to refine it. It's just the real deal. If you think this closely resemebles a scene from the beginnings of An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, then you get an 'A' ;-) That's a major reason this scene didn't make the cut. That and the fact that it's a little heavy-handed in portraying Jimmy as uninterested in spirituality, which he isn't.

Version 1:
Jimmy walked into the brick mission in downtown Kansas City. The place was decripit. Jimmy didn't really know Kansas City very well, but he had happened upon this old warehouse, in an ignored part of town that, at one time, looked like it had been a moderately successful commercial district. There were a few walls that had neglected, peeling advertisements and business names on them. So-and-So and Sons. Doe Mercantile. E.F. Nobody Textiles. Nearly all were deserted and Jimmy wondered what happened. Did they fold because of bad management? Did they move to a more profitable location? Did they get bought out by a competitor? Jimmy thought of those ghost towns in the old west he had read about in the few dime novels of adventerous gunmen and lawmen he had had the fortune to either buy or steal.

The inside of the mission didn't look much better than the outside. Bare walls, open, dark, wooden spaces, stained and worn wood floors surrounded him. It actually looked rather depressing. There were a few handbills plastered to the walls that preached repentence and the depravities of drink through recitation of popular Old Testament quotations. A dirty, drunken, mongrel of a man lay passed out on a cot. Jimmy could smell the whiskey mingling with the stench of body odor and the grime of riding the rails and being alone.

A few other people were wandering around the spacious first-floor meeting area. Someone in a suit, who Jimmy guessed to be the pastor of this mission, was talking softly with a group of men near the back of a curiously arranged gaggle of folding chairs that had apparently been set out to make comfortable the parishoners of this motley congregation while the pastor preached his firey sermons of the dangers of sin and the all-encompassing love of Jesus Christ.

Jimmy had been obliged to hear too many of these sermons since he ran away from his adopted parents over a year ago. He was only 14 then, but he knew that not only did these kind of charlatans not practice what they preached, but that the Jesus they yammered about wasn't nearly as caring as what they made him out to be. If this Jesus of their was as caring and loving and powerful as they said, then why was he forced to roam the country hungry, afraid, alone, and without all those neccessities he'd been told that God would provide? Jimmy's own life experiences contradicted everything he'd heard these purveyors of Christian myth try to sell him. Jimmy wasn't buying it.

The black-haired pastor eventually noticed Jimmy standing there looking around and politely took his leave of the small captive audience he had and walked purposely toward Jimmy. His smile was all teeth. White, perfect, dangerous teeth. He jutted out his soft hand for Jimmy to shake in a way that said "Come into the tent and be amazed at the wonders you will see." Jimmy shook his hand disinterestedly.

"God bless you brother. I'm pastor Kevin. I run this humble mission. Please, come sit down. My lovely wife has made some fresh lemonade and I think there's sandwiches left, if you'd like to partake with us." The pastor's smile never let up and he washed himself over Jimmy with a sincerity that, if seen at a distance, could be doubted, but was so forecful as to compel Jimmy to accept his offer. Besides, he was hungry and the the sight of food only made his cramping stomach ache for the simple pleasures of a small meal.


Version 2:

(I ran out of time...will post this this afternoon...)

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