Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Animals Were Gone

In honor of Teaser Tuesday, here's the first bit of THE ANIMALS WERE GONE, that sniper-shooting book I teased with a month or two ago. You'll see the title here, or a conjugated version of it--and yeah, it did come from that Damien Rice song.

A fun fact about that song--which is beautiful by the way, and highly recommended. It has one of the best lyrics in history: "Waking up without you is like drinking from an empty cup." So a lot of you know that about 6 weeks ago I was in a pretty bad car accident. I walked out of the car, but logically shouldn't have, given the state of my car. The police who found me kept shaking their heads as they looked at the scene, saying, "I can't believe you're alive." You can imagine that's exactly what you want to hear after an accident like that.

When I crashed the car, I was listening to the song "The Animals Were Gone," by Damien Rice. I haven't been able to listen to it since.

It's the same song that, a few months prior to the accident, so graciously lent its title to a book about how you can die at any minute.

It's weird how things work out.

(Note: despite the use of the word 'zombie' in this excerpt it is not, in fact, my zombie manuscript.)

--

I wake up to a quiet world.

When I do sleep, the only thing that wakes me up is this kind of still, the sound of a million things and thirty-four bodies not here and one boy breathing alone.

I open my eyes.

I can't believe I slept. I sit up and stare at my shoes on the floor. They're black canvas high-tops from Target. My mom got them for me, not for my birthday or anything, and not even because I needed shoes, just because she thought I'd like them. My dad said the last thing I needed was another pair of sneakers, and soon they'd be covered in shit anyway, so what did it matter?

I sleep in the basement, now, and I can feel how cold the tile is. I can feel it through my shoes.

I make kissing noises with my mouth. Nothing answers. My brain is telling me what is different but I am not going to think it, I won't think it. They're all hiding. They're all upstairs. Somehow they're out of their cages, but they're not gone.

I think it says something about you when you don't even untie your shoes to try to go to bed. I think it's a dead giveaway that you are a zombie. If there is a line between zombie and garden variety insomniac, that line is a shoelace.

I got the word zombie from my brother Todd. He calls me zombie, sometimes, when he comes home from work at three in the morning—Todd is so old, old enough to work night shifts and drink coffee without sugar—and comes down to the basement to check on me. He walks slowly, one hand on the banister, crinkling a page of the newspaper in his hand. He won't flick on the light, just in case I'm asleep, and there I am, I'm on the couch, two cats on each of my shoulders and a man with a small penis on the TV telling me how he became a man with a big penis, and I can, too. “Zombie,” he'll say softly, a hand on top of my head. “Go to sleep.”

Todd has this way of being affectionate that I see but usually don't feel.

I say, “Someday I might need this.”

“The penis product?”

“Yes.” Maybe not. I think my glory days are behind me. I am fifteen years old, and all I have is vague hope that, someday, someone somewhere will once again care about my penis and whether it is big or small.

The cats don't care. Neither do the dogs, the birds, the gerbils, the hamsters, not even the one bird I call Flamingo because he stands on one leg when he drinks. None of them care.

The vaguest of vague hopes of a deflated heart.

My bedroom is the basement because the basement is tile because I have thirty four animals total, and animals shit. And tile cures all evils.

I look around the basement. My alarm goes off. I should have slept through it. I shouldn't have heard it over the crowing, the barking, the crying and baying. This morning, five-thirty AM for school, my bedroom is a quiet, frozen meat locker because the animals are gone.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

"If there is a line between zombie and garden variety insomniac, that line is a shoelace." And if there's a line between your prose and mine, that line is this line, lol. Very nice.

LilyMeade said...

I really, really love this. If I had this entire manuscript right now, in a book, I swear--from just this passage--that I would not be able to move until I finished it.

hannah said...

Lucky for you, it's a short book :)

Thank you both. You make me smile.

Ellen Brickley said...

This line is my favourite:

He calls me zombie, sometimes, when he comes home from work at three in the morning—Todd is so old, old enough to work night shifts and drink coffee without sugar—and comes down to the basement to check on me.

It's just a great evocation of the ways in which we define age when we're young. Old enough to drive, old enough to work, old enough to smoke, drink, date. . . All the arbitrary external stuff. Brilliant work :)

Phoebe said...

Wow, this hits hard. Very nice.

Cheyanne Young said...

I love love love this. I hope I live long enough to read every book you write.

(Which means I'm never getting in a car with you)

Liz Czukas said...

I'm sorry that your book title was ruined for you by your accident. Having been in an accident that nearly took the life of my passenger, I know the kind of taint it can put on anything. I'm proud of you for digging back into this manuscript with such a touchy title.

Now, as for the excerpt, let me just say that you are brilliant. Your narrator's world view is so explicit, so concisely communicated in this passage that I sort of want to throw myself out a window, or at least set my manuscript on fire. (Ahh, would that it were printed out...)

The others have already hit the juiciest bits of all this juicy prose. So, I'll go with "what they said!"

Thanks for sharing.

- Liz

hannah said...

Thank you, everyone.

And rest assured--I don't drive anymore!

suzie townsend said...

I love love love love love this book. Have I told you that yet?

hannah said...

:D

Rachele Alpine said...

I've said this before, but I'm obssessed with Damien Rice. And I love that your book is the title of one of his songs. The writing is amazing...the tv was blaring behind me and someone was cutting the lawn outside when I read this, but I got pulled into the quiet voice of the passage and didn't even notice what was around me. That's good stuff!

Annie McElfresh said...

Dude you're right! I think I will LOVE this one!! :D

pianokeys said...

Amazing. This smells like the sort of book I'd read in one sitting.

I want to know more. Like now. :)

Ellen said...

"When I do sleep, the only thing that wakes me up is this kind of still, the sound of a million things and thirty-four bodies not here and one boy breathing alone." This line pretty much hooked me right off :) I want to know mooore!

seeyouupside said...

I HOPE this is the one going out on subs on One of the Two Most Important Days in my Life, doppleganga.

Your prose is so wonderful. It makes me wish I could write male protagonists the way you do. Or, you know, at all.

hannah said...

Rachel--it is :)

Thanks soooo much, everybody. I'm a ho for the praise.

Robby said...

Beautiful! I had no idea you were in a car accident!
I am so out of the loop, and so glad you are alright.

Nadine said...

Wow, intense! Awesome!!