So, I'm writing again. I'm sure that'll excite the 2.7 people who remember when I used to post stories here.
I don't think I've had writers block, it's just rare that opportunity and inspiration intersect in my schedule these days. The only reason I'm even writing this week is because I'm recovering from surgery to insert plates in my face. Bad hockey injury, cheekbone broken in three places. Do not recommend.
Anyway, would really appreciate feedback on the prologue I've been working on. I have thirty-two chapters mapped out in Scrivener, so hopefully the words start to flow nicely now that I've figured out the beginning.
“Hey Jordy, what’s orange and sounds like a parrot?”
Stuart Bomford delivered the joke like a seasoned late-night comedian, despite the fact that his current audience consisted of a solitary, disinterested teenager.
“You know you tried that one on me last week, right?”
Jordan Russell didn’t even bother to look at his best friend, choosing instead to bounce the basketball in his right hand three times and bring it smoothly to his right hip, before calmly swishing another free throw. It was a routine that had served him well over the years, delivering countless made baskets in a string of high school gyms, and it looked certain to deliver another victory today as Jordan collected the ball and jogged back to the makeshift free throw line on his driveway.
“You really need some new material, Stu.” Jordan moved back into his shooting routine, needing just one more made basket to win the game. He bounced the ball three more times with his right hand, brought it smoothly back to his right hip, and then, just as he was about to flick his wrist…
“Why wasn’t Cinderella very good at basketball?”
Jordan paused in the middle of his shooting motion, momentarily distracted by the question. Had Stuart actually sourced some new material? He glanced sideways at his best friend, curious to know both the material’s origin and the source of Cinderella’s woes.
“Are you gonna finish the joke or what?” Jordan asked, continuing to stare at his friend. He got nothing but a shit-eating grin in return.
“Ugh, you’re such a dick.” Perturbed by Stuart’s lack of response, Jordan resumed his shooting routine, bouncing the ball three more times with his right hand before…
“Her coach was a pumpkin!”
The punchline was delivered at the exact moment of Jordan’s release, causing him to miss the shot wide right. The ball clanged off the side of the rim and straight into Stuart’s grasp.
“HA!” Stuart briefly held the ball aloft, before swooping past Jordan’s outstretched hand and dribbling it back towards the half-court line.
“I feel violated.” Jordan shook his head at Stuart’s childish humour, annoyed at both his poor execution and his inability to keep a straight face. “That joke was terrible.”
“Suck it up, princess.” Stuart had zero remorse for his actions, especially now that the ball was back in his possession. “You had your chance. Deal with it.”
The pair began to size each other up again, like they’d done thousands of times before in this setting. Though Jordan was the quicker and more skillful of the two, Stuart was able to hold his own by utilising superior size and strength. Their backyard games of twenty-one often came down to the final shot.
“You know I’m gonna beat you, right?” Stuart spoke the words with absolute confidence, though he was still trailing by two baskets. “Like Chris Brown beat Rihanna.”
“Settle down. Jesus.”
Jordan gestured toward his eight-year-old brother, Rory, who was playing with his Transformers just a handful of metres away. Though Rory appeared blissfully unaware of Stuart’s vulgarity, he was known to repeat their words at the most inopportune times.
“I forgot you’re on babysitting duty.” Stuart at least had the grace to look mildly embarrassed. “Wouldn’t want you to be grounded again.”
“Whatever.” Jordan dismissed his friend’s faux concern, instead focusing on the defensive task in front of him. “You gonna shoot the ball or what?”
“Oooooh, talk dirty to me.” Stuart began dribbling the ball again, though he made no immediate attempt to attack the basket.
“Come on, get on with it.” Stuart continued to dribble the ball, hoping that Jordan would become impatient and potentially be lured into a mistake.
“Seriously, do you want a written invitation?” Right on cue, Jordan started pushing up into Stuart’s personal space, attempting to push him further and further away from the basket.
“Do you… DAMN IT!” Jordan pushed into Stuart’s left shoulder again, but this time Stuart used his momentum against him and muscled his way past for an easy layup.
“You really are too predictable sometimes.” Stuart dribbled the ball back to the halfway line, grinning all the while.
“Try it again,” Jordan challenged, immediately crowding his personal space again. He was now bouncing on the balls of his feet, mirroring Stuart’s every move, determined to steal the ball away and put an end to the charade.
“You really need to work on that first step, Stu.” Jordan was more in control of his aggression now, staying in front every time Stuart jab-stepped and attempted to catch him unawares. “It’s almost as bad as your haircut.”
“Screw you, boyband.” Stuart used his non-dominant hand to flip Jordan the bird, briefly leaving the ball exposed.
“DAMN IT!” Jordan darted to his left and made a quick swipe at the ball, missing by mere millimetres. The move did force Stuart to pick up his dribble, however, meaning that he’d now be forced to shoot from where he was standing or risk a double-dribble violation.
“Sucked in.” Jordan planted his feet and raised both hands in the air, knowing that all he had to do was wait for Stuart to attempt an unlikely 33ft jump shot.
“You’re a dick, you know that?” Stuart let out an exasperated sigh, annoyed that he’d been checkmated. “I don’t know why the fuck I play with you sometimes.”
“Hey, easy on the language.” Jordan gestured toward his little brother again, still quietly playing with his Transformers in the front garden.
“Yeah yeah, whatever.”
Neither of them cared to the repeat the ‘What’s a Dirty Sanchez?’ incident from three weeks ago, especially now that Jordan’s mother knew how to use Urban Dictionary.
“Anyway,” Jordan turned his attention back to Stuart, “you may as well shoot. I’m not going anywhere.”
“Whatever.” Stuart again sized up his options, however limited they were, and made a quick decision. Flipping the bird once more in Jordan’s face, he spun away to his right and planted both sneakers on the pavement, before leaping high into the air over Jordan’s outstretched hand.
“KOBE!!!!!!!” He shouted the name of his basketball idol, hoping to emulate his feats as he released a one-handed hook shot that could only be described as a ‘prayer’.The ball sailed over the top of the backboard and landed on the garage roof.
“Nice job, dickhead.”
“Language!” Stuart mocked Jordan’s earlier chastening, as both boys moved to stand next to the garage. “You know what happened last time.”
Jordan mirrored Stuart’s earlier middle-finger gesture, before beginning to assess their options.
“What are we gonna do?” Stuart asked, acutely aware that the game was still tied at 20-20.
“Climb up.” Jordan pointed toward the wooden frame attached to the garage’s side wall, originally installed by his father to train an ivy plant.
“You want me to climb this thing?” Stuart inspected the latticework more closely. Though it had hand and foot gaps big enough to accommodate an adult, he seriously doubted its ability to carry his 6’3”, 100kg frame.
“Unless you have a better idea?”
“Don’t you guys have a ladder or something?” Stuart pushed and pulled at the wooden frame’s joints, wincing as they made a groaning sound. “Surely your dad owns a ladder?”
“Don’t think so.” Jordan made no immediate move to test this theory.
“Can you at least check?” Stuart rolled his eyes, watching as Jordan opened the side door to the garage and began rummaging through its contents.
He returned after a minute or so. “Nope. No ladder.”
“What about a broom? A rake?”
“Maybe.” Jordan went back into the garage, emerging a few seconds later with a broom.
“Thank you.” Stuart took the broom from Jordan’s grasp and attempted to poke the ball loose, but the handle wasn’t long enough. Even with a running leap, he came up two and a half feet short.
“Fuck sake.” Stuart cast the broom aside in frustration, earning another 'look' from Jordan. “Is there anything else we can use?”
“Not unless a ladder has materialised in the last sixty seconds.” Jordan’s sarcasm wasn’t appreciated by Stuart. He checked the garage again anyway, unsurprisingly coming up empty. “Nope, definitely nothing.”
“What are we gonna do then?” Stuart asked, inspecting the latticework again. He still didn’t trust its integrity. “I really don’t think this will hold my weight.”
“You sure?” Jordan inspected the wooden frame himself, eliciting the same groaning sound that Stuart heard earlier.
“Okay.” Jordan surveyed their other options again, quickly dismissing a rake that was the same length as the broom and a fence that was too far away from the garage wall. His attention returned to the wooden frame, as he inspected it more closely. The structure groaned each time he pulled at it, but it actually seemed to maintain its structural integrity. It wouldn’t be able to hold Stuart’s weight, but maybe it could hold a smaller mass.
Jordan’s brother looked up from the battle between Megatron and Optimus Prime, a brief flash of apprehension in his eyes. “Yeah…?”
“Need a massive favour, buddy.”
“What…?” Rory hoped that he’d misheard the conversation he wasn’t supposed to be listening to.
“We need you to climb up on the roof and get the ball down.”
Rory looked all the way up to the top of the garage, to where the ball was wedged behind the backboard, before looking back down at his brother.
“I left my other ball at Stu’s.” Jordan added a pleading tone to his voice, as Stuart nodded to confirm the story. “Can you please help us?”
“I dunno…” Rory placed his Transformers down on the grass, but didn’t make any move to stand.
“You won’t get into trouble.” Jordan offered Rory his biggest and most comforting smile, though he had no ability to promise such a thing.
“What if dad comes home?” Rory asked, still not convinced. “What if mum comes home?”
“Dad’s at work, Mum’s at the supermarket.” Jordan truly had an answer for everything. “They won’t be back for ages.”
“But what if they come back early?”
Jordan could see that Rory’s defenses were beginning to wear down. He watched as he broke off a blade of grass and began to fidget.
“If you do it, I’ll take you to McDonald’s.” Jordan moved to seal the deal now, smiling as the fidgeting stopped.
Rory finally climbed to his feet, taking Jordan’s promise at face value. With a whimper, he accepted a leg-up from Jordan and began to slowly climb the latticework, the structure easily supporting his lesser weight. Eventually reaching the top without issue, he slowly crawled across the roof to dislodge both the lost basketball and a couple of long-forgotten tennis balls.
Then he made the mistake of looking down.
“I-I’m scared, Jordy.” Rory’s bottom lip began to quiver, as he realised the enormity of his predicament. He was frozen to the spot, unable to lift even a single finger. Tears began splashing onto the corrugated iron beneath him. “H-Help me!”
“It’s ok, buddy.” Jordan was regretting his decision now, as he watched helplessly from ground level. Many, many metres below. “I’ll help you get down.”
“B-but I’m s-s-scared.” Rory’s trembling grew more pronounced, as the tears continued to fall. “I don’t wanna get caught.”
“You won’t get caught.“ Jordan gave Rory his warmest and most comforting smile, in the hope that it would be enough to settle him down. “Mum and Dad won’t be back for ages.”
“B-But Dad said not to climb on the roof!” Rory continued to argue against climbing on the roof, even as he sat atop it. “I’m gonna be in real big trouble if he finds out.”
“You’d better get a move on, then.”
Before the words had even fully left his mouth, Stuart found himself in Jordan’s cross hairs. The comment was meant to be sarcastic, meant to be taken as a joke, but it had only served to upset Rory further.
“Not helping, Stu.” Jordan cut a sideways glare at his best friend, as Rory’s sniffling grew louder.
“What I meant—”
“Whatever.” Stuart rolled his eyes at Jordan’s outburst, muttering some additional four-letter words under his breath as he scooped the basketball up from the concrete and disappeared back down the driveway.
“You ok?” Jordan turned his attention back to his little brother, smiling as he nodded between sniffles. “Good.” Stuart’s sarcasm aside, he really was now conscious of the time it was taking. Though he didn’t necessarily want to, he decided to push Rory a little bit harder. “Now, let’s get you down off this roof. Can you move your hands for me, buddy?”
“Ummm…” Rory stared down at his hands, the motion causing a few leftover tears to leak out. “I-I guess.”
“Good.” Jordan gave his brother an encouraging nod, his smile still warm and bright. “We’re gonna do this one step at a time, okay?” He nodded again, hoping to show enough confidence for both of them. “Move your right hand forward, then your right knee.” Jordan watched as Rory began to regain control of his extremities, staring intently each time he placed a hand or knee down as if the iron sheets may part from under him.
“That’s it. You’re doing great.” Rory continued to crawl slowly across the corrugated iron, as Jordan offered more encouraging words.
“N-Now what?” Rory asked, after eventually reaching the edge. He surveyed the 12ft drop beneath him, eyes threatening to overflow again.
“It’s ok, there’s no rush.” Jordan was mindful of his brother’s state of mind, even as time continued to tick away. “When you’re ready, swing your legs out over the edge and hold onto the gutter really tight.”
Jordan watched as Rory dangled one foot out over the edge, before quickly retracting it.
“I-I’m scared, Jordy.” Rory was again rooted to the spot, unable to stop the tears from falling again.
“Don’t worry, I’m right here.” Jordan inched closer to the garage wall, ready to catch his brother in a worst case scenario. “Nothing bad will happen.”
“P-Promise?” Rory still didn’t look certain.
“Pinky swear.” Jordan wiggled his little finger to reinforce the statement, smiling as Rory unconsciously mirrored the gesture. “Now, are you ready?”
“Okay.” Jordan inched closer again to the wall, ready to act as Rory’s safety net. “Now swing your leg over and hold on really tight.”
“Okay…” With one last sniffle, Rory slid his left leg over the edge and began to follow Jordan’s instructions. He used his left foot to gain a foothold in the latticework, then repeated the same process with his right foot.
Jordan watched as Rory took a strong grip of the guttering, oblivious to the fact that Stuart was waving his arms and calling his name from the bottom of the driveway.
Then he heard the slam of a car door, followed by an angry voice.
“WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?!”
Jordan panicked. Seized up. An instinctive reaction after eighteen years under his father’s roof.
“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU—”
He didn’t see Rory lose his grip until it was too late.