Monday, January 13, 2014

Writing challenge: gonzo style

The first I know about it, this guy next to me is yelling, “Christ, no!” A young guy, fancy suit and tie, winkle picker shoes like all the young dudes are wearing these days. And he’s standing, staring at the road, like he’s transfixed, and he starts pointing and I look up just in time to see it.

One and a half tons of bright red metal rolling inexorably at thirty miles per hour into a poor sap on a bicycle who’s wearing a yellow reflective bib and a multi-coloured pointy helmet. Like that was ever going to do him any good in this contest of unequals. So car hits bicycle, cyclist flies, noise, screams, silence, bedlam. Half the people nearby hurry past, pretending they haven’t seen it, the other half mosey on over for a closer look. An old guy rushes towards the cyclist yelling “I’m a doctor, I’m a doctor.”

“Either that or a mugger,” I say to the guy next to me. He looks at me like I’ve just propositioned his mother. “What?” I say. “Lighten up. Freak.”

There’s a big ring of people round the cyclist guy now, like you used to get round a fight in the school playground. There’s a steady murmur of voices, people telling each other what they saw, which seems kinda pointless to me, since everyone else saw it too. But everyone wants their own experience to be better than anyone else’s – by which I mean worse. “I saw the instant of the collision.” “I saw his head hit the road.” “I saw the look on his face the moment the car hit him.” “I saw him die.”

What interests me most of all though is the other guy, the driver, a young kid, barely out of his teens I reckon, and standing staring into space like he’s not even there, like he’s temporarily relocated himself to another planet. Which he might as well do because this crowd is going to turn on him pretty soon. He’s trembling. And he looks so fresh-faced and innocent. He looks so frightened. He looks so sick.

He looks so much like me. “Kid,” I say to him, “that’s some deep shit you’ve got yourself in.” I pat him on the shoulder and nod meaningfully and walk away. I think he gets my drift. Now, over in the Star and Garter, there’s a margharita with my name on it. I head off to claim her.


talcove said...

Very nice, Tom! I especially like your funny remark being met with a look of misunderstanding and your reaction to that! Loved it!

Jim H. said...

Thanks for pointing me to the daily post site. It might help my own blogging, which is becoming bogged down.

I was a big fan of HT aka 'the Doc' when I was in college. What always struck me about his writing was how not only did his gonzo persona appear in his reportage, he was also causing drama and getting himself in trouble—drugs and drinking, fighting, suing, meddling. He became an important part of the story, got mired down in it, embodied its 'evil', if you will. [His work has a strong moral component, a deep sense of right & wrong, justice, irony, etc.] You should read about his getting beat up by Hell's Angels.

Your gonzo style POV, here, seems to be more of a 'flaneur', in my opinion, which, as you know, provides the eyes and ears of the reader as he travels (slacks his way) through the narrative space. James Wood has a good chapter on 'flaneurs' in How Fiction Works. Bottom line: The F is more passive than the G.

Sorry to be a critic. I enjoyed your exercise.

I especially note the difference b/w "margharita" and "margarita" (the drink). Totally had me there!

Happy New Year!!

Tom Conoboy said...

Thanks talcove.

And Happy New Year to you Jim.

Yes, I think you've nailed it. I quite liked the ending of this, but felt it fell a bit flat, and you're right: HST would have got embroiled in the action rather than simply relaying it to us.