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The soldiers stood beside each other in the freezing winter air. Their gray coats were iced in frost and hung damply near the frozen ground. There rifles were like a crippling weight forever bound to their hands. They stood quietly drinking coffee from their small cups and taking in the warmth.
It was in the middle of December and the snow hadn't stopped falling since the beginning of November. It was either a very heavy snowfall with large crisp white snow flakes, or it was extremely windy snow drifts that managed to creep right between the zipper on your coat.
One of the soldiers pressed the warm coffee cup on his cheek and pulled his coat tighter around his waist to try and trap in the warmth. He was a tall and skinny man with prickly chin and a soon to be frost bitten face. He had coarse black hair that showed through from under his cap. His companion looked no different and together they calmly started chatting about things.
Someone came walking down the street towards the coffee shop carrying a single strapped green backpack. His head was lowered to face the ground. He wore black laced boots and long blue jeans that settled over his boots comfortably. He wore an odd black dress coat like a suit but with no tie and no white undershirt. The snow had settled calmly on his shoulders and on his long dark hair that draped across his eyes.
He breathed out the hot air into the cold making a fog that rose above his head every few seconds. He trudged up to the coffee shop and stepped inside. He shook his jacket off and then his head. He had a pleasant face, not the kind everyone noticed but the kind you could really get to like. He had a single dark freckle below his eye that kind of looked like a tear.
He approached the counter and asked for a small coffee. The clerk calmly reached under the counter for a cup. He took a seat at one of the tables and reached up with his thumb and began to rub his eyebrow. The boy watched the clerk for a few seconds and then turned to look out the window. His school was right across the street. There were traffic lights right across the parking lot but there were hardly any cars passing through the town. He lived very far from the school but he still managed to walk everyday. He ran his fingers through his hair to get the rest of the snow from the top of his head.
The store owner tapped him on the shoulder and the boy turned around with a slight jump and accepted the coffee and handed the man his money. He earned his money from working with his father during the summer break. But he hadn't made that much money this summer and was going to have to stop drinking coffee for sometime unless he could get some cash from his mother. But he didn't count on it. He spotted the glistening black riffle on the back of the soldier standing just around the corner and he hesitated before walking into the cold air once again.
His coffee started to steam and he walked calmly passed the watching soldiers. They eyed him down momentarily, muttering small comments, then went back to drinking there cold coffee. He disliked the thought of armed weapons near him.
The boy walked towards the street and headed towards the front doors of his school. He checked his watch. It read 8:01 and he had four minutes to get to class. He stepped onto the crispy snow on the front lawn of the school. It was the only area that wasn't covered in salt. He took a small breathe in and reached for the door handle. It was locked. He looked inside through the front hall and saw other people rushing to there lockers. He suddenly jerked as he heard someone laughing at him across the street. The soldiers were smiling and yelling something to him in mocking voices. He turned without hesitation and made for the side door. It was locked too. "How are we supposed to get to school if all the damn doors are locked", he thought frustratingly. He jogged around the corner through a line of small leafless trees and headed for the back door. He went to a large school with 2 levels and 3 gymnasiums.
'Where are you going Randal!' said a voice from down below. The boy glanced down and saw 2 people sitting beside each other in the snow by the wall of the school. One was a guy and the other was a young girl. They were both around 16 and were covered in fluffy white snow. They were both huddled snug together.
He remained silent not wanting to say anything back. The young girl had long black hair and beautiful blue eyes. She was wrapped up in a oversized black coat beside the other boy who she held tightly for warmth.
The other guy held a cigarette in his free hand and in the other he held onto the girls. He took a puff and blew it in his direction. He lay with his legs sprawled out in the snow. He took another drag and then flicked the smoking cigarette butt at him. He started for the door.
'Have a good day in school Randal', he said as the boy walked through the doors with a quick glance back at him. He stepped into the hallway. There was a pop machine and a large flight of stares. He didn't have time to go to the locker and get his head pills so he started up the stairs. He opened the heavy doors and he felt extremely tired and agitated from the exhilarating flight upwards. He stepped through the doorway and he found his classroom around the corner. He stepped inside without thinking and found himself victim to 25 staring eyes. He paused, then calmly walked towards his seat. He brushed some snow from his coat and sat himself down in the back row of the group of desks. His teacher waited momentarily and then looked up from his papers at him.
'Why were you late Mark?', he asked him sternly.
Rather then explain to him that he had stopped for a coffee and tied his boot laces twice on the way over and dropped his sister Emily off late this morning, he simply made something up.
'I lost track of time', he said unwillingly.
'Well, school starts at a nice healthy time of 8:05'.'It would make sense to be here at least by 8:00, would it not?’ he asked him.
mark nodded and began to pull his binder out of his back pack to tell the teacher he was ready to learn and to change the subject. He hated getting picked off by the teachers. They seamed to use him as an example for everything.

He walked up to his locker and grabbed the small silver lock dangling from it. He twisted the dial without really paying any attention to it and he found that it opened, regardless of his attention span. He swung the door open and reached for a small see-through bottle of prescription pills. He popped one into his mouth and swallowed it without problem. He was used to taking pills for everything. His allergies, his colds, his pains and his headaches. He got allot of pain in his stomach sometime when he walked for long distances. The doctor had told him he was going to have that problem for along time. So he started taking pain relief pills. They started to cause him headaches and he started taking those pills as well. His mother told him to stop so he took them to school so she wouldn't find out.
He shoved his books into his locker and decided to go and sit in the café and have nothing for lunch because he never packed anything for himself and he hated to eat the café food. He also disliked going out for lunch because he hated confrontations with the passing soldiers.
He closed his locker and realized someone was hiding behind him. It was John. He was a short guy with short dirty blonde hair that spiked up at the front of his head. He must have thought it was cool or something. He seamed to get a real kick out of it.
'So what's got you down man?', he said to him with a mouth full of gum.
'Nothing', said mark.
'Don't gimme that crap man‘.’ I’ve known you for too long, to not tell when your upset about something man, so spill it‘.’ wait no!’, he cut in on his own question.’ Don’t tell me'.
"Ok", thought mark.
'you got into a fight with Tom huh‘?? Am I right?'.
'It wasn't a fight at all', said Mark walking away like he didn't need any company. For a good reason too.
'well buddy, if he'd given you that much trouble, maybe you should just skip school and get a job working at a gas station all your life, crap I don't know'.
'Thanks for your advice‘, said Mark sarcastically.
'I'm not given you advice buddy‘.’ I’m simply telling you that you have to just leave all this behind‘.’ What’s your average?', he asked him oddly.
'54', said Mark with out thought.
'Ye see?’ You’re not cut out for school‘.’ Your a slave to manual labor my friend'.
Mark walked down the flight of stairs towards the café and walked inside. He picked his usual spot by the vending machines and sat down at a table and pulled a small book from his pocket and started reading. John plopped down next to him and sprawled his legs out on the floor.
'Hey I was talking with Tom today‘.’ that girlfriend of his is a fox huh‘?’What’s her name?'
'Clare‘, said Mark.
'Anyways, he told me he really wanted to give you a beating the other day but didn't want to have to throw your body in the river afterwards‘.’ Brutal huh?'.
Mark lifted an eyebrow and continued reading his book.
'I told him that he'd never fallow through with it and he smiled and lit another cigaret'.'Man he's some kinda guy all right'.
John stopped talking and sat quietly for a change. Mark continued to read his book. But he wasn't really. He was thinking about what John had said. But he didn't let it bother him. He started reading again and soon he heard John get up and leave.” You suck man", he said as he left.
Mark waved him off and turned his chair in the other direction.

The school day had ended and the snow was still faling and had covered the ground in a fresh slippery new layer.
Mark stepped through the doors. He felt a little anxious over the fact that Tom was probably looking for him. He spotted the 2 soldiers across the street, still chatting with one another. He decided to take the other route home and veered off course, risking an encounter with Tom behind the school. He walked through the side parking lot, collecting snow on his head once again.
He looked up to see Tom come around the corner and spot him. Clare was with him and so was John, He straggled behind them with an odd grin on his face. He approached Mark who was trying to get away without giving a hint that he was. Tom grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around. John crept up behind to watch. Clare grabbed Tom's arm calmly and said "let's just go home"."Just leave the poor kid alone".
It made Mark feel bad that she thought of him as a poor kid. Tom clenched his fist and John's face almost lit up with anxiety. A few seconds passed and Then he let go of Mark's jacket. Mark backed away and looked at Clare who was smiling. He couldn't tell if it was a cruel smile or a relief smile. He just didn't care altogether. He looked at John who was staring in amazement at how close Tom came to beating him to death. Then he turned away and walked off swiftly.
Clare grabbed Tom's hand and they both walked off together, leaving John standing in the snow, watching Mark walk away. For a seconds he felt relieved that there hadn't been a fight. Then he slipped his bag over his shoulder and ran down the street.

Mark walked through the snow swiftly with his hands dangling in the cold air. He felt his head beginning to pound and he wished he had taken a pill before he left. But he didn't care altogether. He sniffled and grabbed his coat and wrapped it up tight.
He arrived at his apartment building someway down the street. He walked up the slippery stairs and opened the door of his apartment. He smelt an auroma of foods and new that he was going to eat supper early that day. He tossed his bag on the floor and then slipped off his coat. His kitchen was next to the front door and he almost bumped one of the pots that were boiling some potatoes.
'More potatoes?', he asked his mother who was in the next room.
'Yeah it's all we can buy that’s not jacked up right now honey'. 'I told you that‘.’I wish you'd stop wearing that weird jacket‘.’It’s not warm and it looks strange‘, she said.
'I like to wear it‘.’ It’s comfortable‘, he said back to her.
He stepped into the room and then climbed onto the couch in front of the television. His mom was sitting in the chair next to it. She was tall and had brown hair that swept behind her head. Mark grabbed a blanket on the back of the couch and set it over him.
'That's why you get headaches all the time ye know‘, she said to him.
'Your always wearing that coat‘.’ It’s not warm enough in the winter'.
Mark ignored her and rolled over to face away from the television set. He tried to cover himself up fully but his feet were sticking out from the bottom of the blanket. He tucked in his legs and then closed his eyes. He liked to sleep allot. It helped his headaches go away and he liked the pleasantness of sleeping. Not having to worry about any problems or trying to do his homework.
He slowly closed his eyes and he found himself dreaming about himself floating in an icy cold river. His eyes were stinging from the cold and his ears and head were throbbing. Just as soon as it started, he woke up to the touch of his mother's hand on his arm.
'It's 8:27'.'If your gonna go to sleep you better go to your room‘.’ Your sister wants to use the couch‘, she said.
Mark looked up at her standing there with her hands on her hips. He got up with a grunt and walked slowly into his bedroom. He had missed dinner and he'd feel kind of lazy in the morning. He always did when he got to much sleep. He found that he couldn't sleep that well when he was in his room.
his room was dark with little lighting and a computer that glared a pale light into his face all night. He was kept awake by strange dreams and by his headaches that would come and go as they pleased.




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Comments

The following comments are for "coping with war"
by brendan

coping with war
You seem to have a farely good grasp of writing dialogue. Your mix of dialogue and narration is good. I just think you didn't really tell me much in the 2000 words or so.

Specifically what I mean is if you break it down you have a kid getting a cup of coffee, passing two soldiers, going to class, nearly gets in a fight then goes home and goes to bed.

I think you would do well to go back through and cut a lot of the description out. I think you tell us way to much about the soldiers and about the two kids sitting in the snow, when it really has nothing to do with the story.

It's not a bad start though, I assume you are intending to go farther. I would just perhaps cut out 6-800 words and drop the kids in the snow...but then, that's just one mans opinion.

Keep at it though...

Jeff

( Posted by: Jeff [Member] On: June 4, 2002 )

I don't know
It's really well written. Your technique is very good and the story actually held me to the end. But I have to say that I didn't catch any compelling theme that caught my interest. Most published writers have no compelling theme, either. As a matter of fact, this did have a theme, just not a compelling one, in my opinion. Most popular fiction has no theme at all. I don't know what to say. It's well written and held my interest. But at the end, it didn't fascinate me.

( Posted by: Seanspacey [Member] On: June 5, 2002 )





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