literature

Bagger Lem

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Literature Text

Sometimes Lem wondered how they saw him in the moments just before. An old girlfriend, an ex-husband maybe? Their mom or dad, or maybe a long-dead Army buddy. They saw what they wanted to. All Lem knew was the look on their faces when their gaze met his, when their minds told them he was something other than what he was. They always wore this beaming smile, an expression of damn-it's-good-to-see-you. They kept that look as Lem ripped their throats out with his teeth and slopped up the blood with his tongue.

He could tell himself they died happy, that the last thing they saw was the person they most wanted to see. It was comforting. He was lucky in that respect. Some of the others left theirs with looks of stark terror, or sadness. Lem never wanted to think about it.

He leaned back against the dumpster as blood steamed on his chin. His latest was in a heap at his feet. Some teenager, probably a runaway, selling himself on the street. He looked like hell even before Lem got hold of him. Dirty fingernails, secondhand clothes, natty hair starting to dreadlock. Pouty, chapped lips curled back in a saintly smile.

He pulled the kid's eyelids down. Old habit. He tried not to glance at the wound. It gaped at him like a second, jagged mouth. Lem had been starving, barely in control. He'd waited too long this time. Lem wasn't looking forward to talking to Sister Constance about it, and there would be a talking-to. How many points did he have left on the chalkboard? Seven, eight?

Lem pulled a custodial-sized, clear garbage bag from his coat, unfolded and snapped it open. He shrugged it around and over the kid's body, headfirst. He stood, tasting the blood in his mouth. He licked his lips and swallowed the last of it, trying not to think of how warm it made him feel. It was the only thing that made him warm, and that warmth was the only thing he felt anymore.

The taste of it reminded Lem of how he must look with the kid's blood all over his face. He couldn't feel the sticky-wet of it, or even the chilly air that made it steam. He pulled a pack of wet-wipes from his other coat pocket and wiped himself down, tossing the used towelettes into the garbage bag with the kid, and tying the end closed.

He reached into the dumpster and hauled out a large, folding garment bag, the kind with rollers and a telescoping handle. He laid it flat on the filthy pavement, stuffed the corpse inside so that the kid's hips lay were the bag folded, and closed it up, folded it with some effort, and pulled out the handle.

Then he remembered. With a silent curse, he stared at the bag. It would be more than a little blasphemous to say the prayer over the body while it was trundled up in a piece of rolling luggage, but Lem didn't want to pull him out again. He briefly considered forgoing the ritual, but Sister Constance would know. She always did, and he would already be on thin ice bringing another body back to the shelter. Best not to create more hassle.

So, trying to think of the corpse as a deceased human being instead of a garment bag full of dead meat, Lem bowed his head and forced blood around his lungs, slowly pushing them out and in and out and in again. His chest swelling like a bellows, he pushed air through his vocal cords, sounding off like a pipe organ that hadn't been played in decades.

"Thaaaank you, luuuurd," he droned. "Foooor the fiiiiine meeeeeal you givennnnnn meeeee. Forgive hiiim hiiiis siiiiins, and giiiiive hiiiis soooooul peeeeeeace. Amennnnnnn."

He hoped it would be enough. Tipping the garment bag toward him, and with a last glance up and down the alleyway Lem rolled off toward the Sacred Heart Mission and Sister Constance's tender mercies.
The beginning of this: [link]

© 2011 - 2022 Memnalar
Comments62
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aelogan's avatar
:star::star::star-half::star-empty::star-empty: Overall
:star::star::star-half::star-empty::star-empty: Vision
:star::star::star-half::star-empty::star-empty: Originality
:star::star::star-half::star-empty::star-empty: Technique
:star::star::star-half::star-empty::star-empty: Impact

(I'm resubmitting this because I bolded half of the damn thing, haha, sorry)

On content
This is a successful piece of flash fic in a lot of ways. It's easy to read and engaging, and each paragraph leaves a little bit of interest, something hanging that compels your to read the next. I'm not sure how I feel about this as not a complete piece of fiction, rather an excerpt out of a larger more complete work. I mean, I'm not sure if this "larger, more complete work" actually exists but the questions this raises about the characters, their motives, and their relationships makes this read as though the reader has just cracked open a novel in the center while perusing Borders. I'm not really a flashfic expert, but there two approaches are a traditional one of relatively complete beginning, middle and end, and then this type that is a quick curt glimpse into a larger story. It hurts the accessibility of the piece, but at the same time keeps the reader wanting more.

The beginning sort of hints that Lem can change forms, am I wrong? I'm not sure how a carnivorous rascal of this sort could be the person so many people most wanted to see, plus, the narrorator does say "they saw what they wanted to."

The gore of the piece starts out kind of nice, it's poignant how it rips into the opening paragraph, but I did feel like it became a little gratuitous as the piece moved along. Like the blood on the chin: we get told the subject rips people's throats out with his teeth. Check. Then we're shown the blood steaming on his chin. Nice. Then we're reminded Lem ripped his throat out like the first paragraph says. Kay, knew that. Then we're reminded he has blood in his mouth, and he swallows the blood, even though we know he's been munching at this kid's neck. Alright. Then we're reminded he has blood all over his face, knew that, told it's sticky, assumed that, and retold that it steams in the air. Don't get me wrong, your attention to detail and ability with description is masterful, I simply think you might be spending some otherwise useful paragraph real estate describing something we're already pretty clear on for the sake of making the piece...disturbing? Intense is a better word, I think. I feel like all this detail of the blood and gore and whatever can be condensed into one location, a sentence or line or paragraph, making room for either more complete character development or, even better, a bigger variety of gore.

The paragraphs about the prayer are really great. You slow down all the physical description of appearances and actions and give us a look inside our character, which is much needed and well appreciated. We actually get to know the subject and these paragraphs are exceptionally placed and properly executed.

On Diction and English

It might be just be, but I feel like "forced blood around his lungs, slowly pushing them out and in again" seems like a really long way to say "he breathed deeply." I'm not really saying you should change it to that, but I think if you're looking for a less stilted, or maybe more artistic, way to illustrate breathing or the depth of a prayer breath, there might be a less abstract way to do it. The blood around the lungs and "pushing air through his vocal cords" makes my mind do one of those CSI-esque computer generated tours though his internal anatomy. It's cool and possible due to the quality writing, but not necessarily appropriate for this piece, in my opinion.

Also, you're clearly a very capable writer so I was perplexed at your decision to phonetically illustrate his dialect (or impediment, as it were) rather than illustrating his manner of speech in literary detail. Give me MORE!

"Wiped himself down" and "trundled up" and "snapped it open" are probably the pinnacle vocabulary selections in the piece in my humble opinion. Top notch work there, really a highlight.

I feel like the sentence is the "he pulled the kid's" paragraph are extremely short and choppy. Not sure if I like it or not, but it does feel kind of scattered.

The last sentence he pleasing structure and (oops forgot to say this in content) puts to very completed end on the piece. There's a lot of good prose on this site that falls apart because the author can't put a resounding button on the end, that's not the case here. "with a last glance" is a prepositional phrase and requires a comma after "alleyway," though. I'm sure that was just a typo.

Ignore the stars, I think rating critiques is stupid. Also, my critique was like 130 words longer than your deviation was GET ON MY LEVEL SON.

Top notch work, Mem. Thanks for sharing it.


EDIT: Also, in response to your reply on the last critique, I said "don't judge anything as overwritten on my account, I'm a terrible reader anyway. As long as the flowery language serves a purpose, which it apparently does, rather than just being stilted for stilted's sake, it's a success.