Alright, please read through the author's excerpt, then provide your feedback in the comments. My detailed critique is below.
Title: In the Hallway
Genre: Literary Fiction
I can't hear the words yet, but I can isolate the two voices at the center of the scene.
One male. One female. Both of them loud over the almost controlled chaos in the hallway.
Even over the cacophony, I can identify the sound of imminent confrontation, feel it, alive and humming, shimmering in the air as I walk and wonder what’s going on and how bad it’s going to be.
It’s the lunch block.
Twenty-two hundred students fed and watered during a two hour chunk of time.
It’s never good. The hallways leading there are never better.
I try never to be in this part of the building during this time of the day, but in spite of my best efforts my timing, like almost everything else in my life lately, is just a little bit off today.
I've gotten close enough to identify the center of attention, Owen Johnson and his girlfriend Chloe Maxwell, our very own poster children for dysfunctional teenage relationships everywhere.
All about the drama, they were always either fighting in public, having sex in public places and on couches at parties, doing it for posterity on videotape, cheating on one another, abusing a variety of substances together, or simply being co-dependent.
Beyond unhealthy, they are now putting on quite a show for the lunchtime crowd, complete with him red-faced and raging and her with tears running down her cheeks.
I can see they’ve already reached the pushing and shoving part of the program.
Owen’s push off Chloe’s shoulders forces her back up to the bank of windows running long lower D wing, framing her against the bright blue sky and well manicured green grass of the outside common area.
After the sterile, brown brick walls and dark, dirty-blue carpet that makes up my interior life in the institution, the bright almost burns.
The study in contrast seems lost on Owen. “You're such a whore!”
“F**k you! I hate you!” Chloe shoves him back, hard in the chest. “You are such a f***ing a**hole!”
There’s never been any doubt in my mind that Chloe can wax poetic when the mood hits her.
I watch with some kind of morbid fascination as I pick up my pace.
The audience is appreciative enough to take up sides and whisper amongst themselves. They stand a respectful distance off, giving the two combatants a clearing in the middle to work with.
Just as I reach the back of the group, Owen's right hand balls up into a fist and cocks back.
S**t, s**t, s**t.
I have a new mantra running unbidden through my mind.
He's gonna hit her.
I run my eyes along the hallway searching for either a uniform or another staff member, but it’s lunchtime and everybody’s in the commons.
That's just f***ing fine.
I start pushing bodies out of my way, using my elbows and shoulders and hands to clear a path and kept moving through the crowd.
“Don't leave me.” Owen's scream of pain, frustration, and anger bounces off the walls, loud and clear over the din coming from the commons. “I love you!”
He pivots on his heel.
What the f**k?
Time slows to a crawl. I watch his hand trace an arc in the air in what seems like slow motion, and then it’s through the floor to ceiling windowpane.
The sound of impact explodes as shards of glass fall everywhere. Cracks run through the glass and sun glints on the spider web pattern.
A river of blood gushes down the broken window and down Owen's right arm and hand as reflexes kick in and he pulls it back through the broken pane.
The sight and smell of the blood dripping down onto the carpet causes everyone closest to the pair to step back. The sight and smell and sound seem to start the normal flow of time for me once again.
In a confluence of the surreal and the ludicrous, I hear the sound of the bell ringing.