Chuck Wendig’s FF Challenge of the week is to write a shorty story of roughly 1,000 words consisting of seven acts. The seven act structure, as he outlined it, goes a little something like this:
Behold, a rough seven-act structure: Intro (duh) –> Problem or Attack (duh) –> Initial Struggle (character first tussles with source of conflict) –> Complications (conflict worsens, deepens, changes) –> Failed Attempts (oops, that didn’t work) –> Major Crisis (holy goatfucker shitbomb, everything’s gone pear-shaped) –> Climax and Resolution (duh).
When I read the post, I felt a little intimidated. So far my fiction hasn’t amounted to much more than short little blurbs barely passing for fictional narrative. This challenge requires me to actually write something structured with a tangible beginning, middle, and end.
I immediately began stressing over what to write, which was just plain silly, because even Chuck himself told me once to quit giving so much of a shit. Just write, the words will come. It’s not rocket science. Shit, even The Wonder Pets uses a seven act structure, so I figure if they can do it, I can do it.
Inspiration for this came from a text messaging conversation with a good friend of mine. We were talking about adulthood, and how expensive it is, and how it really just doesn’t get any better. (As twentysomethings of the boomerang generation, we tend to brood over such things.)
So he suggested we rob a bank.
And I said, fuck yeah. Screw Romeo and Juliet, we’ll be Bonnie and Clyde.
He pointed out that they had much better clothes, and they weren’t some sissy fairy tale.
To which I replied, shitchea. And they died better, too: multiple bullet wounds to the body after a high speed chase.
So I told him to meet me in Perrysville that evening. We’d rob the Perrysville bank, steal the PPD’s Charger, and drive until we hit water or they started speaking Spanish.
Of course, we didn’t rob the Perrysville bank.
But I did figure out what to write about.
We met in the parking lot at the Pottery.
“What do we do now?”
I shook my head. “I have no idea. But I think we should steal the Charger first. You know, that way they can’t chase us.”
“Good point. Shall we?”
And so, hand in hand, we walked down the road toward the police station where the Charger was parked.
“This stupid little town doesn’t need a charger anyway.”
“Agreed. They’ve got, what? Two cops on the force and a dispatcher? Come on now. Huge waste of taxpayer money.”
“Exactly. Time for the taxpayers to tax some ass.”
When we got to the police station, the Charger was parked across the street. A block away from the bank.
“Are you serious?”
“Look. They keys are on the seat.”
“Yuh-huh. They keys to the mother fucking Charger are in the mother fucking passenger seat.”
“That’s Perrysville PD for you.”
“No joke. So what now?”
“You drive the car, I’ll go do this thing.”
“Are you sure? All by yourself?”
“We don’t really have another choice. They’ll hit the panic button in there and then the first thing the five-oh will do is rush for his sexy Charger. If it’s there, he’ll get in it to drive over here because he’s that kind of an ass hole and then we’ll have to get an armed police officer out of our getaway car.”
“Go. Aim for the bushes.”
I waited until he was inside the bank to get into the Charger. And then I realized that we failed to sync watches or something, because I had no idea how long it took to rob a bank.
I got in the car and drove off casually, peering inside the bank windows as I went. He was standing off to the side, looking at his phone. Sizing things up. I did the only thing I knew to do and parked the Charger at the post office, just far enough into the parking lot so nobody would notice it, and hung on the street corner for any sign of a getaway.
Finally, the door opened and Jack burst out of it, holding a plastic bag that didn’t appear to be holding a small fortune like we thought. I jumped back into the car through the door I’d left open and slammed it shut behind me, and before I knew it I was screeching to a halt on the road beside Jack, and he was jumping into the car.
“How much did you get?” The adrenaline was choking.
“Fucking five hundred dollars or some small shit like that. Fuck. We won’t make it on five-fucking-hundred dollars.”
I made a right and sped down the road, thus far free of pursuers. Tunnel vision seemed to overtake my senses as Jack wrapped the GPS antennae in the car in aluminum foil, and covered the dash around it with the foil for good measure. Now the only issue was the “Perrysville Police Department” decal on the side of the car, but that wouldn’t be an issue for long.
I tore up Red’s driveway like the proverbial bat out of hell and almost didn’t stop in time to avoid smashing through his front porch.
“He’s not here.”
“That mother fucker’s not here!”
“Shit. Shit. Shit. What now?”
“Well we can’t take this any further. We’ll take the Honda, it’s gonna get better gas mileage anyway and he just finished fixing it.”
“That’s Stephanie’s Civic.”
“Yeah, and now it’s our Civic. Let’s go.”
So we went. Jack drove long into the night until he couldn’t keep his eyes open and I snoozed in the passenger seat. I woke to the glow of neon lights at a cheap motel somewhere across the Kentucky boarder.
“That was a mess. We shouldn’t have done any of this.”
“Too late now. Let’s just get some sleep, okay? You’re tired. You’ve been driving. Come lay down with me.”
“Hah! That’s just like you, thinking about sex when you should be thinking about something more important.”
“We just robbed a bank, Jack! Of course I want to be close to you right now. Thinking about today isn’t going to change what we did. We’ve been talking about this for weeks. You could have backed out and you didn’t, and it doesn’t matter now because we’re here and it’s done. So please, come to bed.”
“No. I’ll be back.”
He walked of the room, slamming the door behind him.
I began to cry.
I fell back asleep.
I woke up to the door crashing open, and Jack falling into the room.
“Jack!” I scrambled out of bed and knelt beside him.
Blood, so much blood.
“Love you,” he hacked. I thought of his face before he slammed the door, I thought of the feel of his hand walking down the street in Perrysville, I thought of making love to him yesterday morning. I thought of never seeing him again.
“I love you,” I managed. “Don’t go,” I said. I ran my palm down his body, feeling so many bullet wounds.
I could hear the sirens.
I felt the gun still clutched in his fist, still hot from being fired.
“I love you, I love you,” I said.
He wasn’t breathing anymore.
I stood and cocked the pistol. It felt wrong in my hands.
A man’s voice over a megaphone tells me to come out slowly with my hands in the air and there won’t be any trouble.
I stood, faced my end.
I ran out of the motel room, firing the gun at random. I don’t remember any pain, only blinding lights and then nothing.
And then, everything. The wind on my face, grass beneath my feet, the shade of a nearby willow tree, the smell of spring in my nose, the song of birds.
His hand in mine, his lips on my forehead.
“We did it,” he said. “We got out of that damn town.”