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Selling Out - (A Portion Of My Novel)


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Also, my first submission. I'm thinking of signing up to the writers workshop when i can afford to - because, christ knows i need the help haha!

These are the second and (the start of) the third chapters of my novel. The first is subject to a rewrite. I know it's a bit of a mess, and any advice would really be appreicated. I've finished two novels of my own in the past before and i know for a fact they were awful. They were my learning curve. I want this one to be good.

It's about the proliferation of advertising and how it changes our every day lives. It's also a lovestory, a satire, and a generational touchstone. The last one was a joke, i hate that phrase. The lead protagonist works for a company which places adverts on the sides of cars, it might help to know.

Here goes...

Walking home in the company of wolves I take some time to muse upon my day. I always do this on my way home, I guess that’s why I like to walk to work and back as opposed to taking the car - it gives me time to reflect upon my job, or consider anything else that needs considering.

It only takes me twenty minutes to cross over Westside to my house, not too short and not too long. Just perfect. Even on a wet night the buildings provide enough shelter if you walk close enough to them, hugging the harsh stone walls as the droplets bounce up off the road.

Strolling past the river everything in the city looks so concrete and formidable. Mile high structures housing high flying executives. Different boroughs in every direction, each home to their own gangs and internal politics. Even on Fifth Street the darkness is all consuming, like some depressing city dwelling parasite sapping the last of my optimism. I never used to be this person. I don’t think I ever wanted to become this person when I paced down these same streets as a child.

Passing 24/7 shops on every block I feel obliged to buy something. Anything. That urge to buy - fuelled by advertising - is irresistible, even to those actually in the advertising industry. I think I want a soft drink. By want I mean need, I need a soft drink more than anything else in my life right now. Christ, I cant imagine why I’ve walked seven blocks without one!

Stopping at the next shop I sidestep through the door, awkwardly, allowing a crowd of loud and colourful teenagers to stream out as I enter. Inside the shop it’s somewhat more of a traditional newsagents than I expected, everything feels so familiar and it’s rather reassuring. Even the old style rolling tobacco being the glass counter - I’ve never smoked, but I’m so pleased to see it there. I pick up a can and take it to the cashier. He asks what the weather’s like outside. I tell him it’s humid, close even. As he scans the barcode he just shakes his head . I ask if it’s been a long day. He says, “yeah, too long”. We laugh, I think we connect. I know I’d like him, so I make a mental note to stop here again someday on the way home from work.

Maybe I could start buying a newspaper on the way to work, although I guess the staff are different in the mornings. He did say he’d had a long day though, so perhaps not. As I’m leaving I glance at his name badge. I smile as I close the door behind me and leave Viktor to finish his shift.

Crossing the river is my favourite part of the walk home, it reminds me of being a kid and playing around the area. I was the ruler, and everybody else was my minions, my public, my servants. Being a kid in the city is way more fun than you’d expect - everything is at your fingertips from parks to shopping malls, rivers to multiplexes.

When I was five I slipped into the river and my father had to dive in to rescue me. For the next five minutes while I shivered on the banks away from the now terrifying ebbing and flowing of the water, tears streaming down my face, he just ignored me while everyone congratulated him for being so brave. So fast. So heroic. This was his moment and not mine. I just wiped myself down with a stray sheet of newspaper which was lying nearby, the paper disintegrating, sticking to my clothes in miniscule dots without ever making me any drier. Later he told me a local journalist had seen what had happened, and that it’d be in the paper in the morning maybe. I was absorbing headlines while my father was twenty feet away thinking he was making them.

That night he told me again that he’d be in the paper in the morning, yet when he bought a copy the next day and there was no mention of the incident, he quietly told me that it was me who hadn’t made the final print. My father, my king. These actions were indicative of the years to come, I just didn’t know it at the time.

Arriving home I almost skip past the cars in the driveway in my eagerness to start my evening. The cars present are, incidentally;

Pickup Truck. Mine. Advertising courtesy of a major computer company, whoever offers the highest rates. This season, it’s Microsoft. By next year it’ll be Packard Bell or Apple. Maybe even Dell.

Toyota Yaris belonging to my wife Jennifer. The advertising is confined to the hood - Cosmopolitan magazine most months, although any edition of a female orientated magazine from the same publishing house is allowed in the terms of the contract.

Volkswagen Passat. Reuben’s first car, his mother and I decided to buy him it as a present for passing his driving test on the fourth attempt. There’s not many things you get congratulatory gifts for passing if it takes you four attempts, so he should count himself lucky that I’d already agreed to buy the car off a friend long before he finally fluked the required pass scores. Every panel of the car is something different, anything really; computer games, Jack Daniels, local clubs. It just about covers his insurance and fuel costs, but probably not the two speeding tickets and five parking tickets he’s acquired so far this year.

Reuben’s advertising, that’s called a package deal. Fairly self explanatory - companies with similar targets, say 18-25 year old white males, each pay 20% of the cost and get 20% of the car to use. Often for first time drivers, this is the best deal.

Other deals include minimum intrusion advertising (one panel maximum, usually the hood), fully inclusive (any and every part of the exterior of the vehicle deemed necessary), and customisation deals (where fibreglass or plastic can be used to mould your car into a more enticing billboard).

See: Red Bull Volkswagen Beetles
Xbox Pickup Trucks

In fact, those are the only two examples I’ve ever came across. That option never really took off come to think of it, no wonder though. Who’d want to drive about in a can of Red Bull or a games console? It’s probably not even safe.

Regardless, I’m back home now. I remove my shoes at the doormat, hang my jacket up and collect the mail addressed to me sitting on the ledge. Four circulars. A postcard from brother too, as much too gloat about his expensive holiday as to reach out to me no doubt.

“Honey, I’m home,” I shout, even though the phrase annoys me. Surely if you’re in your own house, speaking to somebody you know, then there’s no need to tell them you’re home. They should be able to surmise that much by their own accord.

“Hola, dinners almost ready, we thought you were going to be late,” Jennifer hollers back from the kitchen. Since the split - nay, trial separation - was resolved things have been like this. Short conversation. Strained voices. Forced pleasantness. By “we thought you were going to be late,” she means “we thought you didn’t care,” or even “we thought you were having an affair.”

The marriage guidance councillor / therapist who recommended the trial separation did say most of the strain on our relationship was caused by my paranoia however, so there’s a chance I’m reading too much into her comment.

Dinner tonight is pizza. I could have made it myself easily enough. Sitting around the table we avoid eye contact apart from when I say thanks. We don’t say grace because we don’t know what to believe in anymore.

Our common ground now is our children, Reuben and Keira, so we talk to them and about them exclusively usually. It eases proceedings along.

“Good day at college Reuben?” I ask.
“Yeah, great,” he mutters, because he knows that’s what he’s expected to say. Jennifer puts her digs her knife into the pizza, carving herself another slice.
“How’s school then?” I ask Keira, knowing this’ll be easier because at seven she still loves to talk. Still idolises her father.

Without hesitation I get a blow by blow account of the day from her. Some girl hit some boy in the playground and he cried. Assembly was dull. Mrs Kirkland gave them a history test, about the Hooverville’s set up in the height of the Great Depression in 1930’s America.

I tell her that people used old newspapers as blankets and that they were called “Hoover Blankets.” Jennifer laughs a hollow laugh, before saying “the trick seems to be simply to add the name Hoover to any item used.” Nobody else laughs.

I think about wiping newspaper over myself when Dad pulled me from the river. I hope I’m a better father than that. We finish our meal in silence.

Things weren’t always like this. We were in love. Still are I think, just in a different way. There’s a decade between the ages of our two children because we loved each other enough to want to extend our family in two different decades.

Reuben was an accident when we were young and foolish, I admit. A happy accident though.
Keira was planned. Every detail premeditated - her birthday falls only three days from Jennifer’s target birthday for her, which was the summer solstice. Coincidentally three days later is referred to as the June solstice, so nobody complained when she was born on the 24th of June.

The reasoning behind this is that her birthdays would always be filled with glorious sunshine, daytrips to the beach with friends, ice cream in the garden.

We learnt this was a preference after almost ten years of Reuben’s birthday in November. Always in bloody November, not that we could be surprised that it never changed. Celebrating with twenty other children confined to the four walls of your sitting room doesn’t always make for the nicest of anniversaries, suffice to say.

I tell my friends we stay together for the children. In truth, we stay together because we don’t know any other way.

Chapter 3

I’m running, falling through space, past thousands of people. There’s traffic everywhere, always just missing me. Lurid advert after lurid advert screeches past. Blues and greens everywhere I turn. New films, sports magazines, furniture shops. Every conceivable branding is just inches away from taking my life. The drivers look like they’re laughing at me, this is a game to them. Everything sounds so loud, like an alarm. Like my morning wakeup alarm even. Shit. It’s morning.

Fifty minutes later and I’m in the office. Black suit (not pinstriped), red tie (not clip-on), and black shoes (not polished). The later rather lets the presentation side of things down, but when you oversleep you don’t always get a say in these things. Since the nightmares started there’s a lot of things I don’t get a say in each morning.

If you stuck with it to the end - thanks. It's not been properly proof read yet. All opinions welcomed when backed with advice!