Janine found Max in a pavilion filled with beer kegs and crusty fathers. He was sitting on a stool, hunched over a plastic cup and gazing into the mid-distance.

“Max.” She touched his shoulder and he turned around, looking at her like she was a stranger. He took a final swig from the cup and followed her out of the pavilion.

Outside, the children ran towards them.

“That was so much fun!” said Amina. “A boy fell and everyone started bouncing on him. He couldn’t get out of it. Then his mom came and pulled him out of the jumping castle.”

“That’s nice, dear,” said Janine. She looked at Max, they’d planned to make it to the motel by dusk but there was no way they could leave now. “How about a ride on the Ferris wheel?” she said to Amina and Daniel. The squealed with delight. Janine handed them $5 each.

“Be careful,” she called, as they ran away without saying thank you.

Max rocked and Janine linked her arm through his. “Let’s take a nap in the car.”

Max hadn’t wanted to pay for parking, so they had left the car behind a thicket several minutes walk from the main lot. Max was silent until they were close enough to see the bumper protruding from the bush. Janine stepped off the gravel road and onto a path worn into the grass. Max stumbled after her, detaching his arm from hers and smacking her behind with a fat hand. When she made no response, he tugged around the middle with both arms. She pushed out of his grasp only to get yanked firmly by the wrist. They stood by the car.

“Max, can you please sleep it off? We’ve really got to get going.”

He ignored her, pressing her against the vehicle with his hips and pushing her breasts up with both hands. She tried to squirm away from him but he buried his beard into her neck, grazing her skin with his teeth.

“Max, stop.”

It happened like lightning. Max raised the back of his hand and smacked her hard in the cheek. She slammed a knee into his crotch and bolted to the trunk of the car. It popped open and she reached for one of the hunting rifles she’d begged him not to bring. Just as he was staggering around the side of the car, she pointed the gun at him.

He stopped, and raised both hands in surrender.

The rifle rattled with Janine’s tremors.

“Get away from me,” she screamed. Loud sobs racked her unstable body.

“Janine, baby, what are you doing?” Max stood straight and sober. “This isn’t funny.”

“I know it’s not fucking funny, you bastard. Get back!”

He hushed her. “You don’t know how to use that thing. It could go off for real. Give me the gun –”

“Get the fuck away from me.” She lurched forward and Max flinched. “Stand against that tree. Hands behind your back.”

Max moved without delay, face against the tree, arms up in the air. She followed him and pushed the barrel into his spine.

“I should fucking kill you, you son of a bitch.”

Max’s chest heaved. Then he started to cry.

“Baby, we’ve been married for 10 years. I know I drink too much, but I love you. I’m a good father. I haven’t missed a day at work and I provide for you.”

Janine had always believed it, that was why she never divorced. Marriage was sacrosanct, and she had faith in God’s power to guide her husband when he strayed.

“Baby,” Max said, his voice high and scared. “You know I love you. I’ll quit drinking. I swear I won’t touch another drop. And I won’t touch you again.”

The two of them stood sobbing, until Max quietened and Janine wiped her soaking eyes. She sniveled.

“I’m going to turn around now,” Max said. Janine lowered the gun and he took it from her gently, then as she reached her arms around his middle, wanting only to shrink into his chest, he raised the butt of the rifle and smacked her head. Janine fell to the ground. Above her, she heard the trigger click – the cartridge was empty.

“Fuck.”

Janine leapt to her feet and ran for the boot of the car, Max’s drunken reflexes leaving him several paces back. She grabbed the remaining rifle, spun to find a flushed and baffled Max advancing towards her, and shot.

He staggered and swayed, finally falling to ground, blood oozing from his middle in a low fountain.

Janine lowered the rifle, panting. A gust of wind blew a tumble weed over Max’s contorted figure. In the distance, she could hear the screams of delighted children and a clashing of music from the carousel, the cheap megaphones at the gates and the Ferris wheel. She looked up at the cages which towered in the distance. A benign stranger would attend to the lost kids, and eventually Janine’s mother would collect them. The old widow would do a better job of raising them than Janine ever could.

She climbed into the driver’s seat, setting the rifle down in the passenger’s. The car pulled out onto the road in the direction of the state highway.

Janine found Max in a pavilion filled with beer kegs and crusty fathers. He was sitting on a stool, hunched over a plastic cup and gazing into the mid-distance. Avoid abstractions in fiction. “In mid-distance” has little purpose for a reader. It doesn’t evoke an image, and it’s general, not specific. Always look in revision to increase concrete images. This generalization acts as filler and should be replaced by prose that advances characterization, setting, plot. In general, remember: concrete rather than abstract, action rather than stasis, and images evoking words related to story (for best effect)

“Max.” She touched his shoulder and he turned around, looking at her like she was a stranger. This is confusing. Does it mean she’s not a stranger? Consider something like, “He barely recognized her.” It seems clearer. He took a final swigged from the cup and followed her out of the pavilion

Outside, the children ran towards them.

“That was so much fun!” said Amina. “A boy fell and everyone started bouncing on him. He couldn’t get out of it. Then his mom came and pulled him out of the jumping castle.”

“That’s nice, dear,” said Janine. She looked at Max, they’d planned to make it to the motel by dusk but there was no way they could leave now. “How about a ride on the Ferris wheel?” she said to Amina and Daniel. They squealed with delight. Janine handed them $5 each.

“Be careful,” she called, as they ran away without saying thank you. Not important to scene.

Max rocked and Janine linked her arm through his. “Let’s take a nap in the car.”

Max hadn’t wanted to to avoid paying for parking, so they had left the car behind a thicket several minutes walk from the main lot. Max was silent until they were close enough to see the bumper protruding from the bush. Janine stepped off the gravel road and onto a path worn into the grass. Max stumbled after her, detaching his arm from hers and smacking her behind with a fat hand. When she made no response, he tugged around the middle with both arms. She pushed out of his grasp only to get yanked firmly by the wrist. They stood by the car.

“Max, can you please sleep it off? We’ve really got to get going.”

He ignored her, pressing her against the vehicle with his hips and pushing her breasts up with both hands. She tried to squirm away from him but he buried his beard into her neck, grazing her skin with his teeth.

“Max, stop.”

It happened like lightning. Max raised the back of his hand and smacked her hard in the cheek. She slammed a knee into his crotch and bolted to the trunk of the car. It popped open and she reached for a hunting rifle. Just as he was staggering around the side of the car, she pointed the gun at him.

He stopped, and raised both hands in surrender.

The rifle rattled with Janine’s tremors.

“Get away from me,” she screamed. Loud sobs racked her unstable body.

“Janine, baby, what are you doing?” Max stood straight and sober. “This isn’t funny.”

“I know it’s not fucking funny, you bastard. Get back!”

He hushed her. “You don’t know how to use that thing. It could go off for real. Give me the gun –”

“Get the fuck away from me.” She lurched forward.  Max flinched. “Stand against that tree. Hands behind your back.”

Max moved without delay, faced against the tree, arms up in the air. She followed him and pushed the barrel into his spine.

“I should fucking kill you, you son of a bitch.”

Max’s chest heaved as he started to cry.

“Baby, we’ve been married for 10 years. I know I drink too much, but I love you. I’m a good father. I haven’t missed a day at work and I provide for you.”

Janine had always believed it, that was why she never divorced. Marriage was sacrosanct, and she had faith in God’s power to guide her husband when he strayed. Awkward backstory at the wrong time.

“Baby,” Max said, his voice high and scared. “You know I love you. I’ll quit drinking. I swear I won’t touch another drop. And I won’t touch you again.”

The two of them stood sobbing, until Max quietened and Janine wiped her soaking eyes. She sniveled.

“I’m going to turn around now,” Max said. Janine lowered the gun and he took it from her gently, then as she reached her arms around his middle, wanting only to shrink into his chest, he raised the butt of the rifle and smacked her head. Janine fell to the ground. Above her, she heard the trigger click – the cartridge was empty.

“Fuck.”

Janine leapt to her feet and ran for the boot of the car, Max’s drunken reflexes leaving him several paces back. She grabbed the remaining rifle, spun to find a flushed and baffled Max advancing towards her, and shot.

He staggered and swayed, finally falling to ground, blood oozing from his middle in a low fountain. stomach.

Janine lowered the rifle, panting. A gust of wind blew a tumble weed over Max’s contorted figure. In the distance, she could hear the screams of delighted children and a clashing of music from the carousel, the cheap megaphones at the gates and the Ferris wheel. She looked up at the cages which towered in the distance. A benign stranger would attend to the lost kids, and eventually Janine’s mother would collect them. The old widow would do a better job of raising them than Janine ever could.

 Shed leave them to their own future.   The car pulled out onto the road in the direction of the state highway.

The suggested shortening of the piece is to increase intensity. Consider changing the end of the story. The conflict is between Janine and Max. The way it’s presented with the altercation, it doesn’t flow well to have the end of the story be punishing her children by abandoning them. Does Max die? Does he change? Is she injured by the blow she receives? Does she decide never to be with him again? These are questions to be answered that would be within the plot progression for the story.

Good work!

WHC

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