Monday, July 31, 2006

The Larch Chapter 1

“…There is trouble with the trees…” Geddy Lee

There it was. Or maybe I should say, “there HE was.” He had been a man in life. That much you could tell, but lying there in the early morning wet snow, crushed like a bug under that huge tree, he looked like a used tube of tooth paste.

The tree had fallen from the edge of a small stand of trees that screened the baseball diamonds from Irving Park Road, ending a few dozen yards before the bend where Irving Park intersects Linder Avenue. He was just off an asphalt path that ran around the edge of the park inside the trees. The trees themselves were inside a four-foot fence that was between the park and the sidewalk on the Irving Park side. It was a quiet corner of the park that was now cordoned off with yellow police tape and uniforms telling joggers to go around.

The sun was making a pitiful attempt to rise but was still overpowered by the headlights and mars lights of half a dozen police cars. It was so early that the crowd of gawkers was still quite small.

“Watch your shoes in this snow, Alison.” My partner Joe warned. The snow was slurpee-wet and patchy.

“I’m alright. Cause of death?”

“Suicide?” Sawyer Woodruff, the Medical Examiner offered from beside the dead man.

“No, I doubt that.” Joe said. Always the straight man, Joe Mozambique. Which itself is funny because he used to be Joe Martin.

“Any chance the tree didn’t do it?” I asked.

“Well, if the ground hadn’t been right there underneath him.”

“Why was he here?” Joe asked.

“I think it is a regular cross country course.” I turned to the nearest uniform.

“Is this a running trail?” He looked at me like I was a Martian. I knew that word had gotten around about my operation, but I hadn’t known that people would know me on sight. In fact, since my SRS no one talked civil to me except Joe and Sawyer. It didn’t bother me.

“Answer her.” Joe said.

“Yeah. It’s a cross country trail that leads from Gompers Park through La Baugh.” He indicated the route with his hand. I pulled out my electronic notebook and started a scene sketch. The uniformed officer didn’t take his eyes off me. Like I would jump him if he did. It didn’t bother me, much. I kept sketching and writing notes. I drew a big box for the park and added the trail, stand of trees, the killer tree and the body. I added labels.
“Who is this guy?” I asked as I was finishing the labels. “Did he always run here, in the dark, in the dead of winter, in shorts?”

“There is something pinned to his sweatshirt.” Sawyer unpinned it and read. “Steven J. Hawkes, Editor in Chief of the Northwest Herald.”

“Is that his business card?”

“Looks more like a note from his mom.” Joe took it, looked and then handed it to me.

“Conveniently pinned to his back where it wouldn’t get any blood on it.”

“It was probably pinned there after the tree -, oh. That is what you were getting at.” Joe frowned and I winked at Sawyer. The Crime Scene Crew was working on the stump end of the tree. I dropped the card in a bag and followed Joe to the end of the tree.

“Was it accidental?” Joe asked.

“I’m no expert on cuttin' down trees, but it looks to me like it was cut deliberately so it wouldn’t look cut and would stand for a while. Oh, hello Alison.” Bertram Acker didn’t like me. He was near retirement and everyone called him The Colonel. Except Joe and me.

“How so?”

“Well, it looks all cracked, like it broke.” He scratched his belly and groaned as he leaned down to show the end of the tree.

“And I think these here are spots where somebody took a real long bit and drilled a lot of holes through the trunk.”

“So it was weak?”


“Prints?” I asked.

“On bark?” I knew the only reason he deigned to answer me was because he liked to hear his own voice.

“Now down here,” he groaned as he got up. “At the stump.” He led us over to the stump.

“Look familiar Alison?” He pointed to the stump. I ignored him.

“Anyway, the interesting thing here is that.” He pointed to a clear boot print.

“Great, now all we have to do is find somebody with a muddy Timberland size ten.”

“What size do you wear Alison.” He used my name like a dagger.

“Size seven, thank you very much.” I held one high-heeled boot out of the snow.

“Men’s or Women’s?”

“I can still kick you ass old man.” I whispered. Joe got his arm between us and steered me away by the shoulders. Sawyer walked up wiping his hands.

“That’s all I can do while he’s under the tree.”

“Can we cut it up so we can get it off?” Joe asked. Acker’s people were already pulling out the chainsaws.

“No, lift it off him. I want to check something. Call for a crane.”

“That’ll be expensive.”

“I think this was a homicide. I want to check to see if the branches were altered, or cut so that the trunk would hit the ground flat.” I pointed along the length of the tree. “While you’re waiting, look for a trigger mechanism. The killer prepped the tree and left it to stand until the victim was underneath, and then released it. How? I’ll be waiting in the car. I’m freezing.” I huddled in my black leather trench coat.

“A homicide?! What the hell are you talking about?” The colonel yelled.

“My call.” I said without turning.

Joe caught up to me. “You aren’t cold.”

“I am so.” I walked over to Lieutenant Jose Perez, the uniformed officer in charge.

“Do you have the person who found the body?”

He pointed to two teenage boys in track clothes.

“Would you please send them to us over in the car?” He grunted in the affirmative.
As we turned to walk away a young woman waved to us and called.

“Detectives. Could I ask you a few questions?”

“Ignore her.” I told Joe under my breath.

“May I help you ma’am?” Joe had walked over to her despite my warning.

“I’m Liz Sherman of the Northwest Herald. Could you tell me what is going on?”

“A tree fell on a man.”

“Is he okay? Did he die? Who was he?” She had had her notepad up her sleeve and she pulled it out.

“We can’t talk about it right now.” I said. “We’re conducting an investigation. You understand.” I smiled.

“There may be a press conference later if there is anything to tell you. Sorry.” I turned away with Joe’s arm.

“Could I just have your names?”

“That would have to be off the record for the time being.” Joe said.

“And since we know that that request couldn’t be guaranteed we can’t say. Good morning.”

She smiled ironically and wrote it down, but let us go.

“So you think it was murder?” Joe asked me in the car.


“Me too.” I smiled a thank you to him, but he wasn’t looking. I pulled out my PDA and prepared to interview the boys. Joe got out and opened the back door for them. He sat in the front passenger seat.

“Good morning boys.”

“Morning.” The heavier boy replied. Both boys had dark red hair. The taller, thinner one kept looking at his running shoes.

“What are your names?” Joe asked. The stocky boy stared at him.

“My name is Detective Alison Brickhouse and this is Detective Joe Mozambique. What are your names?”

He glanced at me and then stared at Joe again. “Harris.”

“Harris what?” Joe asked.

“Connor Harris.”

“What’s your friend’s name Connor?” I asked.

“Finbar. He’s not my friend he’s my brother.”

“Where do you live boys?” Joe asked.

Connor frowned at him. Finbar told us softly under his breath. We wrote it down.
“You boys run here often?” Joe asked. Finbar nodded and Connor shook his head violently.

“You don’t?” I asked.

“I don’t run at all. I’m a wrestler.”

“I made him come.” Finbar mumbled.

“Sure. ‘It’s good for you. You’ll build up your stamina. It can’t hurt!’ You said. Now we missed school and the coach is going to bump me off the team!”

“Did you boys see anything unusual this morning?”

“Dead guy under a tree.”

“Did you see anything before that?”

They shook their heads.

“Hear anything?”

“We heard a loud boom and then when we turned around we heard the tree fall.”

“You heard the tree fall?”


“We saw it too.”

“You saw it? You saw the tree fall?”

“Well, we saw the branches moving and the top of the tree go down.”

“When was that?”

“Right before we went back to look.”

“So you didn’t see the tree hit him?”

“Ew, no.”

“Ok. Do you boys want a note from us or anything?”

“No.” They were almost out the door.

“I don’t think we will be needing you…” I said to their backs.

“Are you, um, Guys interviewing witnesses?” Lieutenant Perez stuck his head into the car.

“What do you have?”

“Two old ladies from the corner.”

“Send them.”

We got out of the car to greet the ladies. A uniform brought them over. They were your garden-variety old widow women wearing long coats over their housecoats and golashes. They had the faint smell of Ben Gay and house cat under the pleasant aroma of jasmine. They walked arm in arm with the cop.

“This is Mrs. Pepper and Mrs. Nesbitt.”

“Good morning ladies. We have a few questions to ask you.”

“If that’s not too much trouble.” I added. “I think you’d be more comfortable in the car.

“Are we under arrest?”

“My husband was a doctor.”

“You aren’t under arrest. We just have a few questions ma’am.”

“Oh well, in that case.”

“Is this a murder investigation?”

“We think there may have been intent, yes.”

“Oh how exciting.”

I held the door and helped them in.

“Aren’t you a dear, and so pretty too. I was very pretty when I was a young woman.”

“Thank you.”

“Did you see anything unusual this morning? Anything out of the ordinary?”



“There was that man.”

“A man?”

“Yes. The one that the tree fell on. That poor man.”

“Did you see the tree fall, Mrs. Nesbitt?”

“No, but Gertrude did, didn’t you Gerttie?” She raised her voice to her companion.

“Oh yes. I was watering the houseplants by the window when Percy, that’s our tomcat, knocked over the ironwood. He’s such a naughty boy.”

“What did you see, Mrs. Pepper?”

“I looked up from the plant to see where Percy had gone to and I saw something large moving in the park.”

“A tree?”

“What’s that dear?”

“I said did you see the tree fall?”

“Oh yes, you can see the trees very clearly from our house, especially since the leaves have fallen.”

“When was that?’

“Oh, I would say right after breakfast. I always water the plants after breakfast on Thursday.”

“Only the plants in the front room,” Mrs. Nesbitt corrected.

“I can hear you,” Mrs. Pepper said.

“I said, you only water the plants in the front room on Thursday. You water the bedroom plants on Monday, the kitchen plants on Tuesday, the outside plants on Wednesday when they need it…”

“Not in the winter.”

“No dear, I said, only when they need it.”

“Only when they need it.”


“Do you know what time?”

“Oh I don’t know, Lilly, do you know what time it was that I told you that a tree fell in the park?”

“No. I was washing the breakfast dishes.”

“So, right after breakfast you saw a tree fall in the park. Did you see the man that it fell on?”

“I didn’t see anything I was washing the dishes.”

“We see lots of young men, and women,” she patted my knee, “running in the park now a days.”

“Did you specifically see the man that the tree fell on?”

“I can hear you.” She looked at Joe in a way that showed that she clearly did not hear him.

“Did you see the tree fall on the man who was running?”

“I a saw a man and a woman. I think that they must be married because they were running together and talking and laughing as they ran. But then I never exercised with my husband. Oh that wasn’t done. I saw a tall woman, like you.” She smiled at me. “But dark, like him. I saw a man and two boys, but they weren’t together. I saw a young dark woman with black hair who stopped. Oh, but that was after the tree fell. She ran to our house to use the phone. She called the police.”

“Where is she?”

“She said that she had to go to work. She asked us if we had seen it happen and I told her that I had seen the tree fall and she said that that was good and that I should tell the police. She left right away. Then police car came right after she left.”

“Did you hear an explosion?”

“I can hear you.”

“Did you hear any loud noises before you saw the tree go down?”

“Did I hear any loud noises?”


“Well Percy made a heck of a racket knocking the ironwood down.”

When the ladies had left we asked if Lieutenant Perez had any other witnesses. He said that he didn’t, but that the park groundskeeper wanted to talk to somebody.

“You wanted to make a statement to the police Mr. Bulltick?” Joe asked when we had gotten the large black man in the passenger seat. He was too thick and tall to fit in the backseat. I stayed in the backseat and Joe moved to the driver’s side. Bulltick was late middle aged with huge, hard hands.

“I wanted to talk to somebody, yeah.” He looked over the seat and eyed me thoroughly. He spoke to Joe.

“I heard you was doing an investigation and I don’t want nobody thinking anything bad about me.”

“Why would anybody think anything bad about you?” I asked.

He looked at me with respect, but surprised.
“These are my trees.”

“Your trees?”

“I’m responsible for this park and the care of it. I keep a safe park sir.”

“Do you prune the trees?”

“No, I call for the team when they need it, but I am responsible for calling in hanging branches and such.”

“You know these trees well.”

“Yes sir. I know every one of these trees. I walk the rounds every afternoon before I go home.”

“Walk the rounds?”

“I walk through the park and look at every tree, every field, every piece of equipment to make sure everything is safe, but I can’t be here all night sir.”

“So you didn’t see anything wrong with this tree yesterday?”

“No ma’am.”

“It looked fine to you.”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Did you get a good look at the tree this morning?”

“Pretty good. There are a lot of police around and they’re keeping everybody away. I tried to look, but the police told me to move back. That’s when I asked to speak to somebody, sir.”

“Do you know the man who was killed?”


“Do you know who was killed? Do you recognize him?”

“Oh, I thought you were asking if I was acquainted with the man. Do I know who he is, well sir, I couldn’t tell who he was from looking at him. Like I said the police were shooing everybody away, but I heard the policemen saying that it was Mr. Hawkes from the paper.”

“Do you know him?”

“Well, I’d recognize him. I mean I would’ve recognized him under normal circumstances sir. I couldn’t say that I know the man. We never had words sir. I just seen him running most every morning when I come in. He is mostly done when I come in. He don’t have no reason to talk with me sir.”

“Do you think that that tree could have fallen down by itself?”

“No sir. All the trees was safe when I left yesterday. There weren’t no snow on the branches and I didn’t see no damage on any of them.”

“Could the damage have been done last night, during the night?”

“It’s possible sir. Somebody could’ve drove a car into the tree. It would probably have taken a pretty big truck to fell a tree that size though.”

“But we would be able to see the damage on the tree.”

He nodded.

“And shouldn’t we see the truck or tire tracks or something?”

“Yes ma’am. We should see signs. You don’t take down a big healthy tree like that easy.”

“What if somebody cut it most of the way through and then stuck an explosive in the cut?”

“Hm. Like an M80? I guess. Yeah.”

“Would you have seen such a cut in the trunk during your walk through?”

“If the cut was away from the path and low so that the underbrush hid it.” I added.

“Yeah. The way that tree fell it would’ve had to have been away from the path. And if it were cut low to the ground I couldn’t have seen it no way.”

“It would be a good thing to have him look at that tree.”

“What kind of tree is it? Do you know?”

“Yes ma’am that was an American Larch, a Tamarack. Is that important?”

“I don’t know?”

By the time they had brought the crane, the sun had risen and a crowd had gathered. The tree had been altered. All of the biggest and lowest branches had been nearly cut through. We told Acker to let Bulltick work with the C.S. lab folks who were working on the tree.

The uniforms were holding the sizable crowd back beyond the sidewalk with some effort. Nobody paid us any attention while the M. E. people tried to un-skewer Mr. Hawkes. The trail had been muddy and several of the stumps from the branches had gone right through him. He came off with a sickening pop. The crowd groaned.
In my heels I was a shade taller than Joe and I scanned the back of the throng of people who had all thrown coats over sleeping clothes and come out to see the early morning spectacle. As I scanned, my vision was blocked by something dark. I looked and saw a pair of brown eyes looking down at me. Then they were gone.

“Did you see that?”

“What?” Joe had been watching the tree.

“Someone was watching me.” Normally this was not an uncommon or unwelcome experience. I am striking. I am a beautiful woman, if I do say so myself, tall, athletic, stacked. I paid a lot of money for it. I had never met anyone that guessed that I had not been born this way. I am quite proud of that, but nobody was good looking enough to distract a bystander from the spectacle of Mr. Hawkes.

“Where?” Joe and I were moving toward the crowd.

“Right there. I think it was somebody on a bike.” We tried to muscle our way through to the back of the crowd but we couldn’t make any headway. I pulled back.

“Forget it. They’re probably gone.”

“Why do you think it was somebody on a bike?”

“I think it was a black female about this tall.” I held my hand over my head. “And then she went down and away.”

“Looking down on you?”


“Probably somebody standing on a bike.”

“Hey, Brickhouse.” Sawyer was walking towards us and wiping his hands. “You sure you think this was a homicide?”

“Why, What did you find?”

“Well, there’s a lot to sort out. He is real messy, but the nearest I can tell he was standing up when the tree hit him, maybe even running.”

“How do you know? Show us.”

He led us back to the tree and pointed to the mud.

“It looks like he was hit by some branches while he tried to get away.” He pulled out a cigarette and continued to explain while he lit it. “He was running directly away from the tree. See the slip marks in the mud? He wasn’t even on the trail anymore. And there are a bunch of Pre-mortem bruises, abrasures and lacerations.”

“Cuts, bumps and scrapes for the rest of us.” Acker put in, as he over looked the work.

“Caused,” Sawyer continued with an angry glance toward the colonel, “most likely from branches that batted him around before that big one impaled him.” He shook his head.

“So he was running along, the tree started falling, he turned and ran. Then the tree smacked him around before splatting him?”

“A man wouldn’t run perpendicular to a falling tree.” Acker argued. He held his hands up like a man and a tree. That way it was perfectly clear which way to run.

“This wasn’t a pole falling, but a tree with wide, heavy branches. Also, suppose you are running along and you hear a loud sound, like an explosion on your left.” I turned and faced the way he had been running. I simulated being startled by an explosion and turned to my right.

“Nice imitation of a running MAN.”

“Hm. I don’t know.” Sawyer said. “I would have figured that if it were a homicide the killer might have knocked him out before putting him under a falling tree. It seems pretty risky trying to kill a man with a tree. What if it missed him? That’s a lot of preparation…”

“Exactly. A lot of preparation. Somebody planned it. And they weren’t trying to pull a harmless prank. Maybe that’s what they wanted it to look like. Who would plan on rigging a tree to fall just for fun?”

“The Tree Hater’s Club?” Acker said and pulled out a cheroot.

“We’ll see if any activist group claims this.”

“They may not.” Joe spoke up. “If they hadn’t planned on killing anyone they may not claim it for fear of hurting their cause.”

“Like tree hugging?”

“Anyway, somebody wanted that tree down. Either it was a pointless prank; a political statement of some kind or some one was aiming to deliberately drop a tree on Mr. Hawkes. I don’t care. It was definitely deliberate and whoever they are we got them at least on Reckless Endangerment.”

I looked at my watch. “Lets go to Northwest Herald.” I took out my cell phone to call Lieutenant Daniels, our boss and told him what we were doing. He wasn’t there so I left a message. Joe went to tell Bulltick to help out Acker however he could and to tell him whatever information he could. I looked around for the ranking uniform. I found Sergeant Chauvana Insular eating a donut. She was as wide as she was tall. I walked over to her.

“Are you the officer in charge?”

“Hey, you’re that man who got his thingie whacked off.”

“I’m Detective Brickhouse. Did Lieutenant Perez leave?” She was looking me up and down.

“Off shift at eight. Damn! Those look real.” She reached to poke my breasts. This was not new to me and I had anticipated it in time to put my hand up.

“They are. Are you the OIC?” She shook her head.

“Lord I would never believed it. You look just like a woman.”

“Sergeant. I need the OIC, now. Are you the OIC?”

“Now, no need to get all uppity and shit. Just because you had to get your little man snipped don’t make you any better than the rest of us. In fact, I don’t give a damn what you did to yourself, I deserve respect as a woman and.. .”

“Ready to go?” Joe walked up and interrupted.

“And don’t you start getting all up in my face Mr. Man.” She started swiveling her head on her neck.

“All apologizes to my most respected sister,” Joe said and bowed slightly.

“We have to go and we’re through with the interviews here,” I said.

“Would you inform the Officer in Charge and have a fine day my sister.”

As we walked away I heard her say, “His ass ain’t so fine anyhow.”

“What was all that ‘my sister’ talk?”

“Mandisa talks that way to the women in her quilting circle.”


'Kenna said... asked, you get!

In the interest of character developement...

(This is just my own outlook on for what its worth...ok?)

While i've been called beautiful, its not something i internally feel. I don't know too many trans women who will say (in an internal conversation of course) "I'm striking", or "I am a beautiful woman, if i do say so myself" .

Most women I know have serious issues with how they look, even if they truly ARE beautiful. Its even worse with someone who grew up totally at odds with their physical appearance.

I might say that "some might call me good looking..(or beautiful), but i don't think so. Yea, I paid a lot of money for these looks, and my workouts made sure my body stayed in good shape"...

Several transphobe cops...kewl. Good touch. true to life...but I wonder if it borders on harassment. I don't know.

Breast poking...big no no...touching without invitation is grounds for harassment from anyone. i would never tolerate it from a professional i worked with.

Brickhouse at times sounds way too patient with the way people are treating her. Did she transition on the job with these same people? did they know her before hand?

My experience is that if people knew her before hand, they might treat her with some derision. However, the memory fades from what WAS to what IS...and if this Brickhouse person had become as striking as you describe her, the minds eye of those who used to work with her as a man would fade pretty quickly. Its pretty hard to argue with what you are seeing, and with what you remember. I've been face to face and talked with people that knew me for a very long time, and they didn't even recognize me.

However, if they didn't know her before, and they met her AFTER all the work was done, they wouldn't treat her any differently than any other woman, especially if she were as passable enough so that "anyone that guessed I had not been born this way".

And If i was a cop, and had put up with the bullshit of transition on the job, I would be VERY in your face to people that demeaned me in any that cop named Mandisa.

Keep in mind as you write this, that as far as transition is concerned, the farther you are away from it, the smaller and smaller an issue it becomes for the transitioner. Yes, there are things that still come up from time to time, and, depending on your characters history (age of transition, maritial status, sexual orientation), things might be a little sort those out before you move on.

Inner Prop said...

Kenna, you are my new best friend! You are the first person who has ever officially commented on The Larch in public.

I started writing it several years ago, but had to stop because it was giving me problems. People who have read what I have so far (about five chapters) still ask for it though. I think I have improved my writing a lot since I started this and your comments are very helpful. Maybe what you're saying will help steer me in the right direction.

I have two other stories with Alison in them on this blog, The Ash is planned to be a book taking place after the events in The Larch and Surf's Down is a short story with Alison and her ex-wife Karen.

BTW - The Larch is named after a Monty Python sketch. It was originally intended as a comedy, but it turned out to be far more intersting than funny.

They did know her before and she has just finished her last surgery. I made her FFS her last surgery, does that make sense?

I intend for her to have really figured out for herself everything in life except where she stands romantically. She's pretty sure she's heterosexual (but not completely sure).

Kenna, I hope you read the other stories, make comments on them too and stick around for discussion. I am very grateful for your feedback.

What do you think of the murder, BTW?

'Kenna said... other thing...did Brickhouse have FFS?

'Kenna said... beat me to that FFS thing...:-)

'Kenna said...

As far as the murder mystery goes, its developing nicely. i like the concept so far. Its pulling me in!

Inner Prop said...

Wow, I think you now have the most comments on this whole blog.

You definitely earned your virtual Bass Ale.

I forgot to tell you that I wasn't really comfortable with her internal dialog either, but I wanted to convey that she was much happier and more comfortable "in her skin" now. I'll have to work on that.

I see what you mean about most women being very selfconcious about their looks. Most women I know who have straight hair want curly and the ones with curly hair want straight hair (in general, I hope I don't offend anyone).

Why wouldn't you consider yourself beautiful?

Major John said...

Oh sure...I read what had been done, waaay back in the day (in a three ring binder no less). Just because I made my comments FTF, no joy for me, eh?

'Kenna said...

[sips her pint of Bass]


Couple of things.

First, to answer your question about a forum where you could participate (from Amy's site)...I've been a participant on several trans forums, and most if not all of them are really only for trans people. Its because there are so few safe spaces to ask the questions that we ask ourselves that they are usually off limits to nons. (BTW< I like that you use a slang term that is very insider to trans people) In fact, the boards I've been on emphatically rule out anyone that isn't self identified as trans. Of course, you could go in and just register and pretend to be trans, but whats the point of that?

However, I've posted your blog link in a site that I'm a mod on, and made the following comment:

"This writer is sincerely trying to write an accurate portrayal of a post transition woman, and is seeking feedback. If you've got a minute, read what he's writing and comment"

We'll see if any respond...hows that?

Another question for you> Many many post transition women go stealth. I'm sure you know what that means. Leaving and restarting elsewhere. Did Alison have that opporunity, and reject it? Its something you might mention in your story line somewhere...for example when she is dealing with the Mantisa person. Leaving and starting over elsewhere is a common thing, especially when there is the possibility of a great deal of harassment, such as that experienced by Alison.

As for the "beautiful" question, I would only say that its a point of view thing. Since I'm on the inside looking out, I don't experience my own physical appearance the way someone looking at me would. Therefore I rely on my minds eye and that view is colored by years of NOT liking what I saw. So it goes...

Keep writing! Do you have research pals helping you with the other issues of policework?

Inner Prop said...

Thanks again Kenna (or should that really be 'Kenna) and "clink."

Alison is from a long line of Chicago cops. She wouldn't leave without a bitter struggle and you'll just have to wait until the end to find out if she stays or goes ;]

Thank you VERY much for the post on the other site. That was really nice of you.

I think I understand the caution that must be taken to make a site a place for meaningful and heartfelt discussion. I certainly don't want to go (even virtually) where I'm not wanted, but as you can understand, if I want the story to be genuine and have Alison be real I need to talk to subject matter experts. Your willingness to come here and throw in your two cents is VERY appreciated.

Books on the subject are one thing, but a two way dialog (even in text) can be much more helpful.

I hope some other people with knowledge in the subject, both directly and indirectly share their thoughts.

As for the other SMEs; my Dad was a Chicago cop for over thirty years and retired as a Captain.

BTW - go to for your virtual Bass. I posted it on the wrong site.

'Chelle said...

Mr. Prop,

I am one of the folks 'Kenna urged to read your piece, and if I may, I'd like to chime in with a comment or two. First of all, from the little I've read so far, I feel your story has potential. The beginning is intriguing, the characters interesting, and the tone seems right. Your dialog seems a bit stiff, but I've heard far worse. I'm heartened to hear you say, "I think I have improved my writing a lot since I started this..." because your story could use some attention in the punctuation department. For example: “What’s that dear?” Another: "We just have a few questions ma’am." Another: "...a bunch of Pre-mortem bruises..." Those are not isolated examples; the copy is riddled with similar punctuation mistakes and oversights that mar your work. In your case, I think it's just carelessness. You need to thoroughly proof your stuff before you invite people to read it. To order to be considered a professional writer, it's a given that you have total command of the basics -- spelling, punctuation, syntax -- as well as more esoteric matters such as style, tone, parallism, thematic development, logical flow of ideas, etc. Anything less brands your work as that of an amateur.

Okay, that aside, let's move on to more advanced matters. For my taste, the pacing of the first chapter is a bit slow; you might think about tightening it up. And the exposition of your character's transsexuality seems a bit premature to me: "He looked at me like I was a Martian. I knew that word had gotten around about my operation, but I hadn’t known that people would know me on sight. In fact, since my SRS no one talked civil to me except Joe and Sawyer. It didn’t bother me." I suggest it would be much more effective to have supporting characters make various odd remarks about her history to the protagonist, which would leave the reader wondering why. Delay the explanation instead of hitting the reader over the head with it. Finally, I agree completely with what 'Kenna had to say. Especially concerning this business: "I am striking. I am a beautiful woman, if I do say so myself..." Just doesn't ring true, sorry.

But I hope my comments haven't been discouraging. As I said, I think your piece has potential. It's refreshing to see a story that features a character whose transsexuality is incidental, rather than a purient focus. Do keep at it, by all means.

'Chelle said...

Correction -- "prurient," not "purient."

Inner Prop said...

Thank you 'Kenna for suggesting this blog to folks.

Thanks 'Chelle (hey did you know that your name starts with the same punctuation as 'Kenna's) I'm thankful for all comments. Even if I don't use the advice.

I'm working on my problem with punctuation. For some reason people started pointing it out to me more about a year ago. I started working on it then and will continue to.

I think I want to beginning to open slowly and cautiously, like someone coming upon something serious that they might really not want to see. I think it could be a little more under my control and not just hapenstance though, thanks for alerting me to that.

I'm very bad a proofing my own stuff and the stuff I put up here isn't intended to be "publishable" (I keep the more "finished" items and try to get them published).

Try the contest section of for some other examples of my flash fiction and I have a story called "Alone" in the past front page section.

Did you read "Surf's Down" yet? It is a short story that I wrote with Alison. You can find it here:

I'd be very interest in what you and 'Kenna think of that. It was written later and I think Alison's character is more refined.

I think I'm going to re-write chapter 1 with both of your suggestions and see what you think.

'Kenna said...

'Chelle is very much more of an analytical type when it comes to structure, continuity, punctuation and such. I was going to comment on some of those things, but decided to keep to the trans issues. They do affect the way the story flows.

Lets see the rewrite.

Shootin' the breeze said...

I'm another of 'Kenna's 'counterparts' and my initial criticism would be that when you are describing the cityscape at the beginning it becomes a little convoluted and hard to follow. Well it did for me anyway.

Also the majority of folks I know have FFS first and as quite often is the case SRS becomes a priority immediately afterwards. Myself, I booked in for SRS two days after returning from FFS. The reason that I had FFS first, as is normally the case, is because in the first instance this is effectively a sex change in the eyes of all those who see you. Nobody needs to know or could ever really be aware that you had SRS unless you had taken someone into your confidence as this is a very personal matter. It would take someone to betray that confidence for anyone else to be aware of it.

Also I immediately was annoyed that she didn't stick up for herself and someone else had to 'pipe in' to get the officer who was looking at her 'like I was a Martian' to answer her question. She would be pretty ineffectual at her job if she put up with that sort of crap. In all honesty I found it a bit sexist to imply she would.

My 2c worth.

Inner Prop said...

This is all a great help. I am so glad you are all commenting.

I am going to re-write the chapter when I get a chance. I hope everybody sticks around to check it out.

I really hope everybody on this thread reads all the Alison Brickhouse stuff on this blog while their waiting for the re-write.

You're also welcome to read anything else here of course and please do comment. Feedback is the greatest thrill of writing for me.

I have chapter 2 of The Larch. I'll post that as soon as I format it properly. Would you like to see it?

Inner Prop said...

Oh yeah, and you can go here and vote:

And you can go here and vote:

'Kenna said...

Here's what you need to do.

1.Change Alison name from "Brickhouse" to something else. Unless you're writing a porn thing, or you're joking, its not going over well with us. Everyone knows what the connotation is, and its not good. Think about it.

2. Unless you're a serious about your writing, and proofread before you post, not many are going to come back around to see the rewrites. As "Chelle" said to me, byr putting things up on the web, you are, in fact, publishing things.

Just some helpful hints.


Inner Prop said...


#2 was a given. The re-write will be proofed well.

#1 I'll have to work on a new name. The problem is that I think for most people in the Chicago area the first thing that comes to mind is Jack Brickhouse, a long time Chicago sports announcer. I can see that that's overshadowed by the pun with the other meaning so I'll change it.