Chapter 5

Written by: Ken Burns

“The stupid death box is lying in the back of a dirty white van.” Dominic slurs, smelling of cheap Japanese beer. ‘It’s just at the front of this house.”


Vivienne stares at her incredibly handsome not so bright brother. 


Maria stands up tall in her smock and scarf. She grabs her son by his tie and pulls it like a noose. “You always have been an idiot son who can’t be trusted!” Two years ago Dominic shot off his own finger during a bank robbery. “If a job is to be done just do it yourself!” She spat into his frightened face.

“I’ve discovered don’t rely on your own lazy children.”


Trapped in the coffin’s confined dark, airless space makes Hugo pants as sweat drips into his eyes.  He starts to feel lost in the world and claustrophobic in such a small space.


Maria climbs into the back of the van with a hammer and screwdriver. She bangs on the lid with the screwdriver’s handle.

” I know you can hear me Pretty Boy,” she whispers as the early morning sun hits the day. “You raise my heartbeat. Make me feel eighteen again.”

 Hugo feels his left hand where the ring used to be.  He knows whoever wears it has death coming their way.  A massive sigh of relief washes through him.  In his trouser pocket he only finds his keys.


Maria starts to unscrew the coffin.

“I’m coming for you now Pretty Boy.”


Hugo breathes deeply.  He transfers the keys to his right hand.  Making them into a fist, he is able to put his back door key in between his ring and middle finger.


Thinking of her mother hell bent on reclaiming the past, Vivienne has doubts about caving into family pressure. She has heartfelt warmth for Dominic and doesn’t like the way Mom treats him.  


Dominic looks at his sister. He feels her love. His self inflicted wound is one thing but Mom holding on to it as a memory shaped like resentment is another.

“Let’s get that old bitch sorted!” He shouts out.  “I’m sick of being on the end of her bitterness and ambition.”


Maria starts hitting the coffin screws with the hammer and uses the screwdriver to prise them up.  The last screw becomes the hardest to move.  Her son must have more strength than she realizes.   


Hugo’s mouth fills with bile.  He holds it in then swallows it back.  The acidic taste burns the back of his throat.


Maria feels desperate scratching at a box she can’t get into. The last screw breaks away and sunshine floods into the coffin.  It is too bright for Hugo. He moves his left hand over his eyes. 

Maria stares at Hugo with passion on her mind.


Vivienne and Dominic are behind Mom in the driveway carrying baseball bats.


“There is more to you than I thought Pretty Boy.” Grabbing his disheveled locks and head Maria pushes her botoxed red lips onto his.            


Ken Burns (NZ)




Writing in present tense is very difficult to do correctly and maintain. I admire your attempt to do it but it makes the whole piece feel flat and two dimensional. Your paragraph structure is nonexistent. There are set rules for writing sentences and organizing those sentences into paragraphs. This chapter does not do anything to move the story along. The things that are said in this chapter are not consistent with the previous chapters of this story and do not move the story.
You'd don't have to like it Mrellan but thanks for the comment. A mother getting involved in her daughters love life is a real power struggle
. My interest is in human relations. Favourite writers for me are John Irving and Martin Amis. Both of these drag up huge amounts of tension and family stories in what they do. I'm working on finding my voice and personality on paper. It will appeal to a wider audience with more practice. I still say I don't take it personally but I'm really happy to get it out there into the world.
The change of style caught me by surprise, but I built a bridge and got over it, so all good. I know I would be crap at present tense, so I'm not even going to comment on that exactly.
I felt that because it was in present tense some of the events in the chapter seemed to come suddenly, rather than the reader seeing/feeling/understanding how the characters were coming about their decisions.
I'm not sure if that made sense or if that helps Ken, but for what it's worth, that's my 2 cents.
Good on you for giving it a spin!
I am more about the story. Technique will get added as I do more of this. Human interest and real life drama is what comes naturally to me. Keeping my own voice in the mix is important to. Getting this to a wider age range audience is the most difficult part as I need to carefully phrase what is going on. I'm always liking this challenge and learning new stuff.