Evolution of a Writing Style: Quotation Marks

Quotation marks

Quotation marks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy (Photo credit: alessio.sartore)

Sometimes on Xanga people would comment on how I don’t use quotation marks.  That is intentional.  It wasn’t until I read Cormac McCarthy that I realized how superfluous quotation marks are and that anyone who has mastered the basics of writing dialog can do without them.  McCarthy always writes in 3rd person, and it’s easier to do without them in 3rd.  It’s a little harder in 1st, which is what I use almost exclusively but in 1st it can be done.  As far as the reader is concerned it’s usually just a matter of getting used to it.

McCarthy doesnt stop there.  He omits apostrophes in common contractions that everyone knows such as dont, cant, wasnt, and so on.  He said he doesn’t like those little marks cluttering up the page.  I dont know about that but I do know it makes for a cleaner, more stark style of writing, which is nice if your style is minimalist like mine.

I took it even further.  In deciding to invent a style of writing for the internet I started using common internet acronyms such as IDK, WTF, IRL, TMI, and so on.  I used email style as a model for taking it further, the kind of careless writing people use when they’re in a hurry.  I used convenient misspellings such as “thru” for through, although I know how to spell.  And for another iconoclastic touch I dont capitalize “I” unless it comes at the start of the sentence.   In addition to writing in first person I wrote in the present tense, which gives an immediacy to writing that holds suspense very well.  I’d get comments such as, “I felt like I was right in that room.”

Sometimes after years of writing fiction you figure out how to do it right in a flash of inspiration.  The author of Bridges of Madison County had such a Eureka experience and went on to write more.  I’m not comparing myself to him but I understand what happens.  That summer I went on to finish an autobiographical novel and then the Dana series as well as Since Yesterday, Axel’s Travels, some others.  Suddenly, liberated from stylistic conventions I became prolific and wrote more than i’d have thought possible.

Not everyone likes this style of writing but it grows on you until you feel like why doesn’t everyone do it this way.  And any fiction writer who wants to try it will find it easier than it looks.  

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Postmortem: Roswell Reboot Pilot Episode

For months I’ve been prepared to hate this new show.  I didnt.  I was really hoping I would like it.  I didnt do that either.  It’s watchable, at least, at this point.  But it struck me as crude, primitive, grimy, and sometimes just butt-ugly.  I’ve wanted this show back on for so long I’ll take what I can get.  But it will never be anything like the original, so forget about that.

One thing I took for granted was how visually appealing the original was.  Nobody in it was ugly.  In this new one most are.  The actress that played Isabel is cute but she’s not in the same league with Katherine Heigl.  Nathan Parsons doesnt have the soap star looks Jason Behr does, but at least he isnt so ugly he’s hard to look at.

I also took for granted how deeply romantic the old show was.  If you have ever loved someone the way Max loved Liz in the original show you’ll know what I mean.  The love stories were intense yet mellow and gorgeous.  The new show has time for this to develop (I hope) but I somehow dont think the chemistry is there at all.  And I find myself wishing they’d just done another high school show without all the politics.  I’ll keep watching and hoping this show lasts for more than a season.  Enough said for now.

Roswell 54: The Last Laugh

MAX

At an abandoned gas station a couple of miles from Salina Dad and I wait.  And here he comes.  Everything about him screams FBI.  If it screamed any louder they’d have to get him his own tv show.  He’s in a different JC Penney suit today, a beige one.  And he’s wearing a pair of Ray-Bans.

He parks the car and gets out.  I say, Hey, Agent Mulder.  Love your Ray-Bans.

That’s Agent Burns, he snaps at me.

To Dad he says, I’m agent Burns with the FBI.  Pleased to meet you.  We now have jurisdiction.

Then, Dad says, Maybe you could explain why the FBI is interested in two teenagers robbing a convenience store.

Actually we’re not.  We tested the so-called dangerous chemical U submitted to the Sheriff and it turned out to be laundry detergent.

It did?  Dad says in mock surprise.

I say, We had two independent labs do an analysis.  They both confirm it was a dangerously radioactive isotope of Cadmium that has never been seen before.  I’m sure a lot of people in the media would love to know why such a dangerous substance was found underneath a convenience store.

And, Dad says, they’d be even more interested to find out it was on federally owned property.

Burns has had enough.  He takes off the Ray-Bans and says menacingly, You two are both lucky to be walking away from this alive.  You give me all of the samples you have and you were never here.  You never saw anything under that convenience store.  You never found any chemical there.

Dad says, It’s going to be hard to not mention this again as long as that sixteen year old child is rotting in that jail, Mr. Burns.

They drop all charges and let Liz go in less than an hour.

 

LIZ

Liz is asleep when the guard opens the cell door and her Mom and Dad walk into the cell.

She startles awake and says irritably, What’s going on?

The charges were dropped, Mom says.  Max’s father found some improper conduct on the part of the arresting officer and your case was thrown out of court.

Liz, Daddy says.

Yes?

I forbid U2 see Max anymore.  He is not welcome at our restaurant.  UR not to date him or go to the same parties.  If U pass him in school UR2 look the other way.  It’s 4 the best.

Well, Daddy, I guess you’re the boss, she says darkly.

 

MAX

Dad and I wait outside the jail in awkward silence.  He finally says, Max, there was over $200 left in the cash register.  U didnt do it 4 the money.  I never believed you did it 4 some adolescent thrill.  U did it because U wanted 2 get down those stairs into that room.  And I need U2 tell me why.

cant tell U the truth about things I may never speak of!  I cry.  Please dont make me lie 2U.

Silence is unacceptable, the old man says.  And so is a lie, after all we’ve been thru.  Not under my roof.

If that’s the way it’s gotta be, I say stolidly.  I do want to thank U4 helping Liz.  I will always be grateful for that.  I’ll come by home and pick up my things.

He looks stunned, then angry, then hurt, then incredulous.

I am almost at my car when Liz comes out of the jail with her parents.  Dad follows along wordlessly.  I see Liz is trying hard not to look at me and realize she has been told not to.  And now have had quite enough.  Besides, I cant resist.

As I pass her I look her in the eye and wink and say, See ya in class, jailbait.

She starts laughing and that is too much for her poor Daddy.  He just loses it and throws a redneck roundhouse right at me.

I duck and say, Whoa, that was close!  Dad, U better get your friend under control, there.

To Liz’s Daddy I say, Mr. Parker, I must remind you that assaulting a minor is a very, very serious felony.  U sure dont want to be in the jail there.  Oh, the degrading things they make U do!  You’d never be the same.

Dad struggles holding Mr. Parker until they both are out of breath.

I know, I know.  I can be such a dick sometimes.  But I wasnt always like that.  It started after I saved Liz when she was shot.  So it’s all her fault.  And yes, I am kidding.  I start laughing until I force myself to stop.

But dont you love the sound of a last laugh going down?

That’s all 4 now.  At least until one of us gets in trouble again.  In the meantime, be good, boys and girls.

————-MAX

 

Roswell 53: Leverage

Sam’s Quick Stop is finally closed.  Probably for the first time since…WWII?  At least.  Locked tight, a good example of locking the barn door after the horse was stolen.  Except that nothing was stolen.  Not by me anyway.  The lock is nothing to me.  I unlock it and open the door and walk right in.  To the steel door i had melted a hole in.  I melt it again and walk down to the hangar below.

The ship is gone.

I cant say I’m surprised.  After I broke in here just to look at the thing it would be naive to think they’d let it stay here.  That’s the why.  What I dont get is the how.  Is that important?  Yes, maybe.  Because of the incessant guilt that nags me my mind keeps returning to the question of whether there was another way to get in here that wouldnt have ended with us getting busted and Liz being maybe sent up for years.  And I always come back to the prick that followed us here that night.  If I’d seen him I couldve avoided all this.  He even started tailing me today, right from motel but I was expecting him this time and it wasnt hard to lose him.

The question of how remains.  How did they get a ship that size out of here so fast?  I wouldve assumed a doorway opened up where they could put it on a truck and drive it away.  But you cant move the store up top.  I look around at this hanger and see no egress of any kind big enough to get the ship thru.  No hidden doors, no quick and surreptitious way they could have gotten it out in one piece.  This place is as tight and hardened as a nuclear missile silo.  After the ship crashed in ’47 they mustve brought the pieces in here and reassembled everything by trial and error.

Or maybe they actually brought the wreckage here and built this hangar around the wreckage then took their time reassembling it and built a convenience store on top.  They mustve thought theyd never have to move it.  That doesnt sound very bright but smart people can be stupid sometimes.  They wouldve had to take the ship apart again and take the parts up thru the front door piece by piece.  And taken it somewhere else where I’ll never find it.  The truth is out there but IDK where it went.

I turn on the Geiger counter I brought and the needle jumps higher than I wouldve guessed.  It’s pretty hot down here.  Not enough to matter if you arent here for more than an hour or so at a time, but I sure wouldnt want to be a clerk upstairs.  Maybe it was radiation that drove the clerk loony and made him start seeing little gray aliens.  Anyway, it’s much hotter down here than it should be.

When I see it, it’s right in front of me, just a few yards away.  A whitish powder residue from something.  When I put the Geiger counter next to it it goes berserk.  This is a dangerous place.  Radiation intensity decreases proportionally to the square of the distance, but even so.  I think of all kinds of cancers and I dont even know if being part alien gives me any protection at all.  I shut the machine off and get a specimen bottle and carefully put some of the powder in and seal it.  I have a feeling this might be the same radionuclide that was in a skeleton someone found while digging in the desert near Roswell a year or two ago.  An isotope of Cadmium that had never been seen on Earth before.

I am starting to leave when I feel a hand on my shoulder and I spin around and…

…and it’s just Dad.

Dad, I say, dont ever spook me like that again.  I almost cold-cocked you.  You followed me here.  Why?

Why didnt I notice him tailing me?  I guess I mustve relaxed and let my guard down after I shook the PI in the old car.  I stopped looking.  I must learn from this.

I followed U because I can no longer trust you to tell me the truth!  I thought you were involved in drugs but this is clearly something else.

Why do adults universally assume that when their teenaged offspring start acting different that it’s because of “drugs?”  Why that particular obsession?  Why not something else?  Why not just that they’re growing up?

What were you looking for down here, Max?  What is this place?

If I told you what this was about I’d be putting you and Mom in the gravest peril, I say.

Dad sees the whitish powder on the floor.  He stoops down and says, What’s this?

I just do manage to grab his hand in time to keep him from touching it.

Dont touch that, Dad, I say.  It’s radioactive and probably very toxic.

Why would there be a radioactive, toxic chemical in the basement of a convenience store?

Look around you, I say imperiously.  Does this look like a basement to U?  Or something else?

What else, then?

Just dont touch it, I say.

Max, if this is what U say it is there might be a way to get the charges against Liz dropped.

Indeed!  How?

RU familiar with the concept of leverage?

Oh, yes.  I see.  And I have a sample of that powder right here.

Roswell 52: Good for You, Little Sister

MAX

I knock quietly at Isabel’s motel room door.  Michael opens the door and I say, How’s it going?

Maria’s asleep but she’s been crying her eyes out all night about Liz.  Other than that everything’s wonderful.

I need the diamond, I say.

Maximus, I told you that man scared the shit out of me.  There’s someone rich and powerful out there who wants us to stay away.

I’ll be careful, I say.

No!

Michael, I am in no mood.  Just give me the fucking diamond.  You know I’d do it 4U.

If Isabel asks U, tell her you came in here and found it yourself.

Michael reaches under the sofa cushion and pulls out the diamond and hands it to me.

Maria has risen from an uneasy slumber and stares at me without fondness.

How could you make Liz hold the gun?  Maria says to me.

There was no gun!

U just used her, Maria says.  That’s all you’ve done from the start.  You knew when you made her hold the gun they’d put her away for that.

THERE WAS NO GUN, Goddamnit!  I shout.  No video surveillance of a gun.  No video surveillance of us at all.  And no gun was ever produced.

You dont care about Liz, Maria says.  You never did.  You just used her.  I’ve been crying all night.  How could U do it?  She’s going away for years because of you!

I dont see U helping, Maria!  Crying all night doesnt accomplish anything.  How dare U tell me I just used Liz.  I’ve been out trying to get her out of jail while you’ve been here snivelling.  If you’d been out helping me you might have a right to criticize but you havent.  It’s always me that’s had to carry the load.  Always me that had to clean up everybody else’s messes.

I hate you!  She snaps.

I dont care.

really hate you, Max.

I DONT CARE!  I snarl at her.  You’ve always been just one step above trailer park trash.  How did Liz ever wind up with a BFF like U?

Shut up, Max!  Michael says.

Stay out of this, Michael.  Look, if U2 arent going to come along and help me then STFU and stay out of my way!

Maria opens her mouth to say something but thinks better of it.

I leave the room and close the door softly.

The exit is at the other end of the hall and I walk toward it feeling, angry, haunted, hurt, guilty, scared.  As I am almost at the exit a door to a room opens and Isabel comes out, putting herself in front of the door but not before I see Jesse the lawyer getting dressed.

Hey, Izzie.  Isnt their room down the hall?

I was visiting Maria, Izzie says.

In there?  I say.  U were in there with Maria?

Where RU going, she says, changing the subject.

My stuff’s in the trunk, I say.

Well, G’night, Izzie says.

Night, Izzie, i say as she walks down the hall to the room I’d just left.

So Izzy’s found a guy.  And I think good for you, little sister.  I often think Isabel has more class than any of us.  Maybe that scares a lot of boys away, but those are the ones she doesnt need anyway.  Jesse the lawyer would be a great catch for her.  I always felt sorry for Isabel because she always seemed the odd one out.  I had Liz.  Michael had Maria.  Izzie had nobody.  But now she has Jesse, maybe.  I hope so.

Outside in front of the motel in the breath of darkness.  In the last few days I have learned to always be alert for surveillance, even when I cant see any.  Sometimes it’s not there.  Sometimes it’s there, laughing and seething in the shadows.  Like right now.  Oh, it’s there alright.  All my unconscious alarms are screaming at me and I wonder if and when I’ll be attacked.

I have my hand on the door handle when a disembodied voice says, Max!

A man in a charcoal JC Penney suit flashes a gold shield at me and says, Special Agent Burns, FBI.

Hello, Agent Muldur, I say.

That’s Agent Burns, he says sternly.  So.  Why Sam’s quick stop?

I get into the car and say, My case has been dismissed.

By the sheriff’s office maybe.  I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you’re just an incompetent criminal.  But if you were in that store for any other reason be warned.  If you dont stop you and your GF will not be happy juvenile delinquents.

I just love being threatened, I say.  Especially by somebody hiding behind a badge.

Remember, Max.  You’ve been warned.

Nice talking to you, Agent Muldur.

That’s agent Burns!

 

Roswell 51: Honor

LIZ

Not trusting Philip, since he is Max’s lawyer, Liz’s parents get a hack lawyer.

Liz, the hack says, I’ve reviewed your case with your parents and my advice as your attorney is to make a deal.

What kind of deal?  Liz sighs.

You’re a good kid, Liz, the hack says.  Honor student, club activities.  Maybe you just fell in with the wrong crowd.  Met a guy with a problem.  Maybe Max dragged U into this.

In other words, Liz says contemptuously, U want me to sell Max out.

He sold you out when he forced U to walk in holding that gun, Daddy says.

There was no gun, Liz says.  Nothing was even stolen.  A good lawyer could easily impeach the testimony of that crackpot of a store clerk.  The DNA from those four hairs of mine in that store only establish that I may have been in that store, not when.  The case should be laughed out of court.  Besides, Max and I are in this together.  If I sell him out we both go down.  Thirty years of the hardest time you can do in Utah.  We might never get out.

Let’s talk about the gun, the hack says.  Did Max persuade you to hold it?  How did you get it to begin with?

THERE WAS NO GUN!

You dont have to shout Liz, the hack says condescendingly.

 

They take Liz back to the cell where the walls reek with the odors of filth and terminal ills.  Stains from rusted plumbing, from feces thrown by irate psychotic prisoners.  A guard’s footsteps echo down the hall.  When they stop at Liz’s cell she turns around and sees Max in a guard’s uniform.

He opens the door and whispers, Let’s go!

What?  What RU…

Get up off your skinny little ass and let’s go!  Somebody could walk thru here any minute!

Then what, Max?  Be on the run for the rest of our lives?  We’ll never be able to go home again.

That’s not as bad as it sounds, Duska.  

I’m not willing to give up my home and my family.

You make me want to scream!  Max whispers.  If U stay in here they will bury you so deep for so long your parents will be dead before you ever get out.  They may visit you in stir once every ten years if at all.  You’ll become the dirty little secret no one in your family ever talks about.  Your family are idiots.  And they’re treacherous.  They’ll sell you down the river so they can feel less guilty and put me away too.  That’s what that cut-rate lawyer was for.  You Earthlings have no honor!

No, Liz says.  I wont leave.

I wish I could trade places, I say, making no effort to hide my sorrow.

No, you dont want that, Max.  We did this to find a way to get you home.  You’re free!  Go see if your ship works.  C’mon, now.  I dont want all this to be for nothing.

Liz, being a martyr does not become you at all.  Being a martyr is one of the most unattractive things anyone can be.

I’m not being a martyr!

Get down off that cross right now and come with me if you ever want to see daylight again.

I’ll have to do my time, Max.  U know it’s true.

Guilt trip, guilt trip, Max says to himself.  This is a side of Liz he’s never seen before but he sure wont forget about it next time she uses this manipulative tactic.

I have to do my time, Liz says.  U know it’s true.

Liz, a thing can be true and still be the most heinous folly.

I’m staying!

Max glares at her and makes his alien eyes flare so bright green they illuminate the dim corridor and throw twisted shadows that could be of monsters.

Alright, Liz, Max says.  If this is so beneath you we’ll do it another way.  There’s always another way.  I just havent looked in the right place yet.  But I will.  U will never do any prison time.  I promise.

RU promising me that because U love me, Max?

Yes but it’s about more than that.

Like what?

Honor.  You Earthlings have no honor.  See how you sell each other out?  But you will not see the inside of a prison cell.  On my word of honor.

Roswell 50: Kafka

When you lose someone

That you never really had

And that losing feels like

What it means to die…When You Want Something, Smoking Popes

 

 

MARIA AND LIZ

Maria pulls her mother’s car into the police station lot and parks next to a police car.  Then she grabs the bag of food and slams the door shut.

Why cant these aliens get busted somewhere nice like Tahoe or New Orleans?  But it’s Utah.  Mountains and Mormons, she thinks as she walks to the door to the jail in back.  When she realizes she has said this out loud she looks around in embarrassment but the parking lot is deserted.

Liz is lying on a filthy cot when they let Maria into her cell.

I cant believe you’re here, Liz says.

Who am I, Liz?  Maria says.  Of course I’m here.  Where else would I be right now?  Now give me some shugga!

They embrace and Maria says, First of all I have some Crashdown food for you.  Alien green lime pie.

Maria, if you were a boy I’d…

Dont go there, girlfriend, Maria says.  Alright.  Now I talked to everyone involved and got the total, unadulterated straight shit on all this.  The judge and DA in this town are sweating it because they have to go before the town council next month for reappointment.  Trouble is they havent caught a criminal in like a decade.  I guess there’s not much crime here.  So they’re out to nail your asses.

Liz puts the food down and stops chewing while Maria is talking.

Maria says, OK that’s all I have.  But I thought you said you and Max were going to take it slow…

 

ISABEL

Izzie sees Jesse alone in the lobby.  She stops and says, So what were you and my father holding back from us?

What do U mean?

I saw the look between you two earlier.  Clearly you are not telling us the whole story.

Last year there was a robbery in the county, Jesse says.  A kid died.  No one was ever charged and the local prosecutor is taking a lot of heat for it so this town is looking for someone to hang.  Max and Liz picked the wrong place to play Bonnie and Clyde.

Jesse’s cell rings and he talks briefly and hangs up.

That was your Dad, Isabel.  They found some evidence.

Isabel buries her face in her hands and thinks that this will never end.  Even if Max and Liz get off, this insane search for home will destroy us all.

 

OUT ON THE STREET

On the sidewalk outside of the building that houses the courtroom Liz’s Mom and Dad and Max’s Mom stand talking with the county prosecutor, an oily, obsequious little man named MacGregor who is smitten with himself. In the narrow, pallid street with a mountain view he speaks with feigned warmth.

He says smoothly, That’s just the way things work here, Mrs.  Parker.  Your daughter will be fine.

Philip walks up to them scowling and the prosecutor offers him a warm, moist hand to shake and Philip wonders where that hand has been lately.  Philip shakes it coldly.

Liz’s Dad says, Mr. MacGregor was just telling us about the Salina court system.

MacGregor excuses himself and walks slowly away.  He turns his head and says, Your daughter deserves her best shot.

What was that about?  Philip says.  You know he just wants our kids in jail.

Liz’s Mom says, Mr. MacGregor just said Liz and Max would be better off pleading guilty.

MacGregor means he would be better off.  He’s a prosecutor.  It’s his job to get a guilty plea.

Liz’s Dad Jeff’s face turns an angry red and his blood pressure is climbing.  He says, But MacGregor says that if they plead not guilty it would antagonize the judge and he’d have them tried in criminal court.

Jeff, your blood pressure, Mrs Parker cries.  Did you take your pill this morning?

YES!

You dont have to shout!

Philip silently reflects that some people are just too fucking stupid to live.  And how could these clueless fools ever make a girl like Liz?

Jeff, if we plead guilty to a felony then there’s a case against them in criminal court.  We cant give him that option.  He wants to bury them both so deep in prison they’ll never get out.  Believe me.  I know what I’m saying.  That man U were talking to is a prick.  A high-level Sociopath who will do anything he has to to get a guilty plea.  If they plead guilty I guarantee they will tried in criminal court.  Look, our children are in this together.  And know this: I am doing right by your daughter.

 

In a courtroom Max and Liz sit side by side, holding hands under the table.  Judge Beale struts in, his robe swirling fashionably around his feet.

Judge Beale is like a dry fart, Philip says to himself.

Max hopes desperately that the judge is not a closet Nazi who has a hidden Hitler tatoo and always has swastikas dancing in his head.  Max is shaking so hard it’s all he can do to control it.  Liz’s face is ashen.

Beale motions Max and Liz to stand up.  When they do Beale asks pontifically, Do you both understand the nature of the charges against you?

Yes, your honor, Max says quietly.

Yes, your honor, Liz says in a small voice.

How do you plead?

Not guilty, Max says.

Not guilty, Liz says.

Have a seat then.  Mr. Evans and Mr. MacGregor, I’ve reviewed the material you submitted…

Your honor, Philip says, Before you rule on this I have additional material that I feel is critical to this case.

Alright, let’s see it then, Mr. Evans.

Thank you your honor.  These are Utah court rulings where DNA evidence could be suppressed.  In consideration of the fact that four strands of hair are the only physical evidence in this case and there are no priors on either defendant who are both honor students I ask that this matter be dismissed.

Thank you Mr. Evans, Beale says stiffly.  I’ll take that under advisement.  Max Evans, it is the decision of this court that you be released to the custody of your parents and that you be returned to your home state of New Mexico if you agree not to return to the state of Utah until your 21st birthday.  Do you agree to that?

Yes, your honor, Max says, stunned.

Very good.  Elizabeth Parker, your voice and height match the description of the person with the firearm.  Armed robbery is one of the ten crimes punishable under the Utah Serious Shooter Offender Act.  Therefore it is my decision to transfer your case to the criminal court where you will be tried as an adult.

But your honor, Philip says, There was no gun found.  The only mention of guns was from a store clerk with a well documented history of emotional instability…

I have made my decision, Mister Evans, Beale says coldly.  This is for another court to consider.

Beale rises and everyone rises and sits down.  A guard appears to take Liz back to her cell.  No one else has moved.  And to this black, viscous silence the pallid light from an obscure and spectral sun plays weary counterpoint.  Everything in the room seems thick and cloying and choking.  It’s just the devil laughing when something horrible transpires, something you long ago relegated to a barrel of things that were so terrible you just knew none of them would ever happen 2U.

Kafka marches on.

Roswell 49: Message to Max

Michael hikes into the chapparal off the road where Max told him the diamond was.  Thru the high blood weeds and wire grass and sacahuista.  Thru and beyond arroyos where lie the petrified tracks of dragons.  From the abcissa of a cliff a hawks sets forth, whistling thinly.  A scene right out of Carlos Casteneda.  Red susnset with doves crossing the road, heading toward some ranch tanks.  Mauve and cobalt shadows slowly devouring the remains of the day.  Suddenly Michael sees a dumpster in this wilderness where it doesnt belong and he stops short of it and right there at his feet is the diamond.  As he picks it up he sees the back of a sleazy ass man smoking a cigar, a caricature of a private eye.  The man begins to turn toward him and Michael hurriedly puts the diamond in his pocket.  And Michael realizes that the prick has followed him all the way from Salina and he didnt notice him or his 15 year old Subaru because there was no reason to look for a tail.

When the man turns around he points a gun at Michael and pulls the hammer back.  Michael freezes.

What RU doing out here?  The man says.

Gathering my thoughts.  Trying to figure out how I’m going to graduate from high school at the same time everone else does.

Why dont you just get a GED?

Because no one wants to hire somebody with a GED.

Hey, I got a GED and look at me.  I’m doin’ fine.

Yeah, Michael says coldly.  I can see you’re on a great career track there, Ace.

Hey!

Whatever, dude, Michael says dismissively.

The man loses his temper and fires the gun and the slug passes over Michael’s head so close he can feel the breeze in his hair.

Dont be such a smart-ass, the man says.  Maybe that’s your problem in school.  And hey-I got a message for your friend Max.

Yeah?

Yeah.  Tell Max to stop lookin.’

Excuse me?

Tell him to stop lookin.’  The person I work for will do whatever is necessary to stop him.  Whatever.

I’ll tell him, Michael says.  And when I do I’m sure he’ll start shaking like a leaf.

Dont make me have to come back to Utah, the man says.