Friday, July 27, 2012

Dialog Exercise

I am in a write club. This excites me more than I have words for. It is something I have wanted for a long time. Our assignment for last week was to write a short story using only lines of dialog- no narration or anything else. Short stories are hard. Dialog is hard. I had to write this in chunks over a period of days instead of in one binge writing spree. That's hard. Then someone else read it out loud at me and I wanted to crawl under the picnic table. HARD! And now it will be less hard next time.


Bobby! Jo! Bobby! Tim! Mikey! Mikeeeey!

Zeke! Zeke where are you?!

Jo! Thank God, Jo! Over here! You okay?

Everything’s ringin’ is all. Shine your light so I can find you.

Me too. I can’t. I’m pinned. Where’s the others?

I donno. They were way back. I see you!

Christ Almighty! Piss on me! Find the others. I’m still breathing.

Okay! Okay! Mikey! Shane!

Check for gas! fires!

I know. Fuck. Timmy! Shane! Bob where are you?!....Mikeeeeey!...


Zeke?! Where you at Zeke!?

Hey, Jo! Here! I’m over here.

No fire. Air’s ok that way, No sign of the others. I donno know how far back they were.

Are we cut off then?

Yeah. The tunnel is gone up that way just before the main shaft. Can’t see or hear nothing through
the fall. Rocks still sliding loose.

Okay. You in one piece? How’s your radio?

Uh, I’m ok. Just scratched up. Radio’s dead. You?

I don’t know yet. I can’t reach the radio.

I meant are you hurt? Besides the obvious.

Uh. I donno. How big is the pile on my arm? Think you can pry me lose without burying us both?

It’s...It’s one big rock and some loose behind it. Lemme find a bar or somethin’.

Do you see my light?

Yeah. Good call. Here. I’ll be back.


What’d you find Jo?

I got a shovel. Whatcha wanna do? I lift, you roll out?

Um… that’s as good a plan as any at this point. You count to three, I’ll roll right.

One. Two. Three. Hrmph… Well your radio’s busted how’s the arm?

I donno. It’s probly broke. Help me up so I can see if my legs work.

You sure?

I gotta know how fast I can get if something else happens.

Do you want to splint your arm or something first?


Ok. Fine. Here.

Yeah. Ok. No. I’m good. Ok, help me get my shirt off we can tie it up.

Christ, Zeke, just use my shirt. Hang on. Hold still.

Ahtch! Ow.


Yeah. We gotta get moving. How long’s it been yet?

No idea.

That’s probly well enough anyways. Let’s start moving towards the back.

You don’t wanna be there to meet them?

No. Start walking. I wanna move back to where the roof is more stable in case they’re in a hurry
when they come through, which I’m hoping for. You seen the safety videos Jo. Think!

I never paid no attention to them movies. Everybody knows PA mines are the safest and nothing
ever went wrong for Rosebud. I never thought I’d end up in a mine disaster. I took a nap.

You’re an idiot. Every mine is a grave that ain’t filled yet. And this ain’t no disaster.


No. Five dead makes a disaster. I ain’t ready to go yet and I suspect you ain’t either.

Shane? Tim? Mike? Bobby? We donno where they are…

Makes four.

…or what other tunnels got closed off.

You got no way of knowing one way or the other. Why be in a hurry to bury them?



We don’t know nothin’ ‘bout nothin’ and no one up top knows where we are cause we were taking
our time coming down the tunnel. We’re fucked.

The whole damn county knows by now. If you’d a paid attention in safety training you’d know
that Rosebud keeps a stable full of boy scouts turned miner who got nothing better to do but dream
about their chance to be a hero. Every time they feel a boulder settle they reach for their gear. You
just hang round and wait and some boy’ll get a chance to make his daddy proud.

Oh Hell with you, Zeke.

Look around. I’m already there with you.

Exactly. And I don’t wanna be trapped in no mine.

We weren’t even halfway through a shift. On a good day you’d still be here a handful of hours and
you’d be working. What plans you worried ‘bout missin’? You taking Sadie out for a night on the
town? Don’t you worry. She’ll be so frisky and tearful when they pull you out the hole, she won’t
wait ‘til you shower to throw you on the bed.

Fuck Sadie. She was running around on me with Mark. She thought she was clever, us in the mines
on different shifts. He worked nights, I worked days, she worked both. I got wise when he started
smackin’ her around some. I knew I never put a bruise on her.


She made her choice.

Mark Scheidemantle?

No. Mark Klause.

Don’t know him.

He’s over at the Long Run mine.

Makes sense. I been at Clementine since she opened. I don’t know any of the guys out that way.

It don’t matter.

I think this is far enough back. Beams look solid and nothing looks loose. You ok with camping

I don’t have much choice.

So what were you gonna do tonight then?

I was going to Harry’s after to watch the game with Shane.

Well then when they punch the hole through you ask ‘em the score and for a pair of fish plates.

Dinner? I donno why you are so damn confident. It’s gonna be a week before they clear that

Harry’s has been there since before you were born. It ain’t going nowhere in the next few days.
And we’re playing Cleveland so we know who wins. Why wouldn’t I be confident?

Who says we make it that long. We’re trapped and you’re joking about fish and football.

What the hell else are we gonna do? You’re right. We got a few days. If you think about it, we are
already dead and buried. If they get to us in time then we ain’t dead no more. The way I see it, it’s
pretty hard for things to get worse but that means lots of room for getting better. You got a lot of
time to think in the dark. Be miserable if you want. I won’t.

If you know so much then you tell me what’s good about this.

Oh, I donno. I’d say they get us out of here in a few days and we’ll be all over in the papers and on
the news. You’ll be able to pick up any sweet looking girl in any bar in the tri county with your
story. We both get a coupla weeks R n R on the company and a nice hazard paycheck. You can
get your ma something nice for Christmas. I can take my wife on a cruise. How’s that sound?

I donno. Just wanna get out of this hole.

Or I could always bust you up good with the shovel. Then you could file for disability too.

And sue you?

Nah. I went crazy underground. Rock hit my head. I was trying to put you out of your misery and
mine. You wouldn’t get a cent.

And they’d never let either of us down a shaft again.

Now you’re starting to get the picture.

You are crazy. Go ahead and retire old man. What am I gonna do?

Did you really wanna work in the mine all your life anyway? What did you wanna do before you
stuck yourself here?

If I had any idea I wouldn’t be here. Ma wanted me to join the state police.

You didn’t like that idea?

It was ok. My driving record is pretty bad though. Shane’s brother got denied cause of his. I didn’t


No. But I got lots of points for speeding.

That’s easier to fix. What’s it hurt to try?

I donno. Maybe. I could do steel or iron I bet.


No. Never been interested. Isn’t one of your sons Army?

Both actually. Well Travis is out now and doing something with computers in Columbus. Chad just got himself a promotion but they are also shipping him out next month. He’s flying up on Friday.
Did you know Chad?

Not really. I think he graduated the year before me. But I knew Jenna. She was in a few of my

Really? I thought you were older than Chad.

More beat up I guess. What’s Jenna up to?

She’s down at Slippery Rock. She started doing nursing but last time she was home she said she
was gonna switch to special ed instead.

I can’t picture her as a nurse.

Yeah, no one could. Listen, we’re fixing to have a party for Chad on Saturday. The kids’ll all be
home. I promised Jody I would do up steaks on the grills even if there was snow on the ground.
Why don’t you come?

You think they’ll have us out by then?

Come Saturday we’ll be dead or we won’t. And if we’re not dead that’s one more reason for a
party. So you come over and bring your ma and some beer and we’ll all be alive together.


Or there won’t be a party and neither of us will care.
Just beer then. Ma’s in Reno with her fat sister for a few weeks anyway.

Fat sister? Shirley?


What in the world do you have against your Aunt Shirley?

She won’t sit in the same room as me ‘cause I look like Karl.

Shirley’s bent that you look like your father? Who’s she want you to look like?

It don’t matter.

Guess not. You can’t change your relations. Speaking of, how is your pa these days? Last time I
seen him he was trucking for McClymonds.

No one’s seen him. He got in with some long haul company going down to Louisiana and back.
They were either too desperate or stupid to piss test him. Last summer he was broke and got edgy
south of Wheeling on a run and tried to rob the wrong gas station. The kid held him at gunpoint
until the cops showed up.

Where’s he now?

Hell if I know. I hope he’s still in jail. He called Ma for bail money but she was out somewhere. He
tried his story with me. I let him finish and hung up. She hates him as much as I do but I know she
woulda sent him the money.


I don’t understand her. Hey, did you hear that?


I thought I heard tapping.

I can’t hear nothin’ any more.

Maybe not…no I’m sure. Can you hear it now?

Yeah. Grab the shovel and tap back on one of the beams. You know Morse code?

Are you kidding?

Me either. At least they’ll know they got a reason to hurry.

I guess if they match the beat that means they got it?

I’d say so.

What happens now?

We keep waiting, they keep digging.

Okay. I can bring chips too.


I’ll bring chips and salsa on Saturday. And beer.

Good idea. I think I am gonna take a nap while I still can. Soon we’ll both be famous heroes.

Yeah, ok. I’ll wake you up in two days when the fish gets here.



1 comment:

Ramblin' Ed said...

Did alright.