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Aug
19

WHEN A MAN’S DEPRESSED

For those of you who are new to this blog, I’ll explain the format. Each week I present a segment of a short story written by me. I then describe some aspect of writing technique pertaining to this segment and open the discussion for an exchange of ideas about character development and theme. It’s that simple, so I hope you’ll join in.

To bring you up to date, Ronnie Stein is a struggling web developer who has been offered two jobs by Mayor Jon Steadman. Through the process of creating a justifiable slot for her in his life, he has also been coming on to her. Ronnie is not his only target. John is having cybersex with multiple partners.

We pick up this story at the point where Ronnie has officially been hired and she has committed to that business relationship. Jon however, continues to make it more than that.

 

WHEN A MAN’S DEPRESSED, maybe sex will help.   [Part 6 of 8]

 

They approach a booth. Not in a bar as Jon implied. In a restaurant; McCormick and Schmick’s. Jon slides onto his seat, opens his briefcase, pulls out his iPad and lies it on the table. Ronnie sits opposite him, wondering where he’s steering her now. Their server arrives. It’s a young man probably in college. “Good evening Mayor. We haven’t seen you lately.”

“Well Dan, it’s the campaign. Twenty-six hour days. This is Ronnie Stein, my new pollster. She may be coming in here to get some data.”

“Sure,” Dan replies. “Any time.”

Jon swings back to his employee. “Something from the bar, Ronnie? They’ve got a knockout vodka lemonade.”

“Jon, I’m driving.”

“So am I. One drink. Chardonnay good for you?” She nods, thinking she’ll sip it twice. Refusing his gifts a minute into her new job would not be beneficial.

Jon turns back to Dan. “Two Canyon Roads, an order of Buffalo wings and the fried tempura rolls.”

‘Jesus,’she thinks. ‘He just ordered dinner!’

“Two Canyons, order of wings and tempura. Got it.” Dan leaves.

With lips shaping into his familiar grin, Jon reconnects. “So… Max’s questions…” He reaches for his iPad.

“Don’t you have to be home?” she questions, having secured the nerve to ask.

“Empty house. My wife and son are visiting her parents,” he answers, as he turns on his computer and waits for the boot-up.

Ronnie’s not waiting. She grabs her shoulder purse. “You know where the lady’s room is?”

“Yeah. End of the bar, turn right.”

She slides out of the booth and strides away. Alone now, he scans his emails.

 

*****

 

In the lady’s room, Ronnie’s cell is held to her ear. “So what would you do?”

“I’d stay,” Beth answers, through the phone. “It’s not like he got ya into his bedroom.”

“But he’s so damn pushy! Like I’m ten years old!”

“He’s the mayor. That’s what mayors do.”

“I got a bad feeling.”

“Just talk about the job.”

“And if he gets personal? Or starts the footsie thing again?”

“Keep talking.”

 

*****

 

She’s heading back to their booth. Jon’s has his iPad raised, pointed at her. A moment later he lowers it.

“You took my picture!” she says, moving to her seat.

“No I didn’t.”

Sure he did. There would be no reason to aim his iPad unless he snapped a photo. Or worse, a video.

As she sits down Jon lifts his computer to display Max Jacobs’s polling questions. He explains the script, but his words fade away behind her thoughts. Why would he want her picture? A show-off to his buddies? That’s harmless enough. It’s just a snapshot in a restaurant, with only her in the frame. And it’s not like she’s a secret in his life, or for anyone else. She’s on city hall payroll, for a legitimate job. Or is it? Shit. Is this all about paranoia? Is this the way it is for every girl working for powerful men? Is this something she’ll have to get used to?

 

*****

 

It’s later, and dark outside Ronnie’s apartment windows. Her door swings open as she pulls her keys from the lock. A BEEPING in the room tells her a message is waiting.  She presses PLAY on her answering machine. “It’s me,” squawks through the tiny speaker. ‘Me’ meaning Beth. “The usual suspects are getting together for a weekend in the woods. A cabin. Somewhere on the lake for the 4th. Wine, beer, pot…sex, which is something you are in bad need of, girl. Just met the coolest guy at work. Aaron…something.  Oh yeah! Aaron Sedran. And Jewish! You’d click. I positively know it, so I sent you his pix. Can I give him your number? How’d the date go with the mayor?”

“It wasn’t a date, Beth!”

A BEEP leads in the second message. “Hi. Jon here. Just wanted to tell you how good I felt about our meeting tonight. You’re really going to make a difference. It’s great having you on the team. See you next week.”

 

*****

 

A repeated entrance, this time with Jon entering his empty home. He steps into the kitchen, puts down his briefcase and listens to messages. First one: “Where the hell have you been all night?! Keep your Goddamn cell on! CNN published the polls. You’re down five points! Buddy, cut the extra curricular activities and get your ass out on the street shaking hands and kissing babies! And stop coming down on big oil! They’re stopping you, Jon!”

BEEP – second message. “Hi Jon. Guess it was another late night for you. Tried you on your cell. Again, couldn’t reach you. Call me here. Andy wants to talk to you.” BEEP. The message ends.

“God. Ice…” he murmurs. And the reason is clear. He blew it again. But this time, his battery really did discharge. She won’t believe him, though. He used that excuse twice before. He better call his son immediately. Which Jon does.

 

*****

 

It’s late. Three am. Jon’s lying on his giant bed, with his wife’s side vacant. It’s quiet in the house, with the muffled wash of city traffic filtering through the thick walls. One lamp illuminates this room, the one on his wife’s side of the bed. He doesn’t want light. It would glare the screen of his iPad, which now displays snapshots of naked females; the tattooed woman, the red haired porn gal, and another girl of unknown origin. Scrolling those away, he pulls up the stealth picture he stole in McCormick and Schmick’s. He leaves that image on his screen, props the iPad against his wife’s pillow, and masturbates to the photo of Ronnie Stein.

 

To be continued…08/26/2011

 

So let’s break this segment down. Scene one starts with a REVERSAL – We were led to believe Jon is setting up a short meeting in a bar, but it’s a long one in a restaurant, exactly what he originally proposed. His manipulation puts Ronnie on the defensive and in potential jeopardy with his stolen picture. This produces DRAMATIC TENSION. This scene is also a SET UP for action yet to come.

Scene two, Ronnie’s conversation with Beth, is also a SET UP for what immediately follows and this story’s conclusion. “I got a bad feeling.” is the key dialogue CLUE.

Scene three – Ron takes her picture. This action propels the story forward. We are now asking, along with Ronnie, why would he take her picture? To keep a plot line in play, the writer must continually set up potential unfavorable outcomes. However, the reader must care about our hero for this tension-builder to work.

Scene four – the introduction of a new character: Aaron Sedran. The reader subconsciously knows, if a character is put into a properly structured story, there must be a reason for it. Again, a question is set up: How will Aaron affect Ronnie’s future? Favorable or unfavorable? Story telling consistently sets up question after question.

Scene five RESOLVES the questions: Did Jon really take Ronnie’s photo? And if so, why he did it. But this scene also RAISES THE STAKES with other questions: Jon’s sex addiction is extreme. So how will his story play out? Is Ronnie’s exposed to even more jeopardy than we originally suspected?

 

What do you think? Is Ronnie in harm’s way? Is the Mayor a “bad” person? Or is he a “good guy” afflicted with overwhelming unfulfilled needs. Can you feel any sympathy for him?


And one more thing: Do you find white letters on a dark gray background difficult to read? Please let me know if you do. You can personally email me if you wish.

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8 comments

  1. les says:

    Well, first thing that got my attention was in the title …
    “maybe” ?!? Like, if I’m thristy ‘maybe’ a glass of water will help. Well done there!

    And just enjoying following along as the story unfolds. No sympathy for the mayor yet … just seems like a guy who wants what he wants. I always wonder if that type would be OK with the shoe on the other foot – aka, his wife behaving similarly. I usually tend to think not.

    Let’s see what happens next !

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      A response to you about writing may be in order here. I have heard that actors, when getting into their character’s minds, try to find something they respect, admire, or like about them, even if those characters may be the “bad” guys. Actors need to find that hook that would make them want to PLAY their character, BE that person. As a writer, I also try to find a connection with the personalities I develop. I try to like them, even my “bad” guys.

      The mayor’s behavior would not be mine. Nor do I condone all of his decisions. And if the Mayor were “real” he wouldn’t either, unless he rationalized everything he did. He sees himself as doing what he has to do, driven by overwhelming and controllable needs and addictions. And even those addictions, he denies. In his heart, beyond his self destruction, he’s trying to do the “right” thing. I respects his MOTIVES. I do not respect his results. If I didn’t respect his motives, I would not be able to use my own psychology as a source for writing a character that rings true. And so, to answer my own question, yes, I DO feel sympathy for the Mayor. I also feel sorry for him.

  2. Edwin Tucker says:

    Yes, we do feel sympathy and sorrow for the Mayor.
    Something concerning the Mayor that we don’t know,
    is what interests might be behind the Mayor, what individuals or groups may need to have him as Mayor. Such background powers could affect RS’s fate in a large way
    should she become involved with the Mayor.
    I have been thinking about RS’s situation and now am compelled to comment on it and how indeed she might handle it to her best advantage (and arguably also in the better interests of the Mayor).
    Given the situation of Ronnie not wanting an intimate relationship with the Mayor,
    but wanting the professional benefits that are being offered as reward for such a relationship, the Mayor also obviously desiring this relationship, she seems at first to be confronted from having to choose between two possibilities. She can choose to refuse the job and be left in financial distress but be free from the Mayor, or she can accept the professionally desireable position, end her financial distress, but then also pay the price for this by entering into a detestable relationship with the Mayor that could have dissasterous consequences. However, there is a third possibility, a possible route of action that would require more strength and intelligence than either of the other two extreme possibilities. This would entail RS of employing a strategy of taking advantage of the Mayor’s obvious infatuation with her to take on the position with his campaign. Now however she must do two things; she must work with all possible diligence to make her contribution to the campaign one of indisputable value, she must take this professional opportunity and exploit it, demonstrating her abilities and working the position to use it as a jumping off point for her career. She must ensure that she is seen as being indispensable to the campaign, conducting herself also in such a manner that though some may suspect the Mayor to harbor extreme liking for her, that she is anything but the Mayor’s toy. The second part of her strategy would be that she maintains the Mayor’s interest, yet always stays just out of his reach. Tactically, this would require adroit play on her part. A certain amount of flirting would be in order, but it must always be done so that a veil of innocense could be draped over it. All that is to be said or done by her must be able to stand the light of exposure. Overt and aggressive actions by the Mayor must either be overseen or so fended off that she keeps her distance, remains elusive, yet also protects the Mayor’s ego. Should she not be up to playing this demanding game, then she ought to retreat and not take the position and have nothing to do with the Mayor.
    As long as she remains just beyond the Mayor’s grasp she has power, and with
    skill she may be more likely to hold his passion then should she “give in” to him.
    Becoming his mistress may or may not work to her benefit. It could be his infatuation continues, but it could just as be otherwise. How quickly lust can pass to hate! One thinks of the Second Book of Samuel and of David’s beautiful daughter Tamar. Tamar had a half-brother Amnon who fell in love with Tamar. His infatuation was so great that he became sick. Finally, guided by a friend, Amnon raped the virginal Tamar, but as soon as he had completed the act he felt great loathing her, did none of the things he could have done to lift the shame from her. A year later Amnon falls victim to the the vengeful sword of Tamar’s brother Absalom, and then comes the rebellion of Absalom against his father, a revolt that includes Absaloms’ having intercourse with all ten of David’s concubines beneath a rooftop tent so that all Israel would know of it. Pardon my digression, but the story of Amnon’s love for Tamar so quickly turning to disgust is illustrative of how quickly a man’s passion may wane or turn when once this passion has achieved its end. Could it not then happen, that the Mayor’s interest in Ronnie suddenly dissipates once Ronnie were to give in to him fully? Especially might this occur should in the midst of political crisis the Mayor suddenly values and needs the affections and support of wife and son? How quickly then would Ronnie be thrown out in the cold! Another possibility is that should powerful interests supporting the Mayor becoming aware of a relationship between the Mayor and RS that the potential for damage to the Mayor, could move them to eliminate RS from the scene, whether the Mayor liked it or not. If RS however is able to take on the position in the campaign, feed the flame of the Mayor’s passion, but yet keep her distance and gain respect through her job performance, these dangers can be obviated. Should the Mayor then be caught in indescretions, or destroy his marraige through sexual adventures, it would not be through her. She must see herself as like a man holding off three attackers with a single bullet in his gun. He can keep them all at bay as long as he does not fire.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Edwin,

      Your analysis of this common social issue is commendable. Very well thought out. It’s this kind of homework, like thinking through moves of a chess game, that writers my explore before they can write a realistic story and characters. Once the various possibilities are worked out, the writer can then choose one of them and start a plot line. What makes storied interesting, are things you don’t expect, just like real life. And if you have plotted a course for your characters based on sound logic, then once the hurdle is introduced, the plot point, you know how your character will react. It might be similar to the way YOU would react. The more similar to you and me and everyone else, the more universal your character will be for an array of readers.

      So, in regards to Ronnie Stein, I would say that your “third option” is pretty much Ronnie’s plan as well. The question is: will she be able to carry it out? We have two parts to go before the story is over. Does this give her enough time to build a career in politics?

  3. Mark says:

    More poor decisions by the mayor. He is setting himself up for a fall.

    Ronnie needs to hold it together. They haven’t even approached a sexual relationship and she is losing it and second guessing herself. She should be happy her bills are getting paid, she is meeting people, and worry about advances later.

    Aaron Sedran should have been a doctor like his mother wanted. Instead he will soon meet an angst ridden girl and have to deal with her insecurities… especially once the mayor starts to take things to the next level.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Yes, Ronnie definitely has angst. But her job IS a balancing act. As Edwin pointed out, she must try to excel in this position, KEEP the job AND the Mayor’s attention, while holding him at arm’s length. She just can’t relax with so much on the line: the money this stressed job is bringing in, and the possibility of getting sucked into an affair with a public official.

      However, next segment, you will find out that she IS finally relaxed about her life, until…

  4. Tim says:

    I can’t feel any sympathy for him. He has so many women to sleep with and instead he behaves like a child. I think Ronnie did a mistake. She shouldn’t go out with the mayor because she is not able to control the situation. She does everything that could be good for her. She can’t complain that people are using her.

    1. Irving H. Podolsky says:

      Ronnie’s situation is quite common the the USA and Europe. Jobs are hard to find now, and even keep. And bosses DO come on to their female employees all the time. So they must figure out how to keep their jobs AND keep their bosses away at the same time. I’m a guy. Don’t have problems like that. But the women who I know, who have read this story, tell me I’m very close to how it is.

      Thanks for following this story!

      Irv

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