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sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


In.

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Fuschia tude
Dec 26, 2004

THUNDERDOME LOSER 2019



Week 241 crits:

Is a Mushroom a Thallic Symbol?

Not a good start.

This is a whole lot of dialog saying little.

All right. So: it's The Lion King/Hamlet/Dune with mushroom-people, and pigs as the antagonists.

Just a goofy take on this, and I don't think it did the story any favors. You're constantly winking at the camera and parody rarely works when it's tongue-in-cheek. So, I don't think it works as comedy, and the narrative is too thin to work on its own.

mid-low


Who Suffers Their Penance

It's a good introductory few paragraphs.

These bits get confusing:

quote:

It spelled it all out, how she’d hit her brother, killed him, then her and godparents, her adoptive family buried him in a shallow grave.

quote:

Her uncle made her hit her brother if he wronged her, but never him her.
There's got to be better ways to phrase those, even if they need to be split into multiple sentences each. They take several read throughs to parse. Even the first one really can't be unwrapped properly until you read on for more context.

You used most of your 3000 word limit, and you did so well, I'd say. Good balance between dialog and description.

But it kind of falls off somewhat in the middle dialog with Mulryan, and the final confession is something of a disappointment as well. I felt like it was too formula-predictable in the ending scene. And who or what gets redeemed? I don't think it really happens.

mid


Something in the Blood

Ok, cute story of bat-as-The-Raven so far.

Maybe a little heavy-handed ending, but nice. Nothing really to complain about here. Other judges noted some features were noted but then dropped, like the bat's white stripe and the evelope from the hospital, each mentioned early and then never again.

I don't think the story really meets the prompt, though. What he did hardly feels like a crime needing to be atoned for, it was more of a kind of not coming to peace with his wife's death and the hungry bat forcing him to accept that by passive-agressively staring at him while eating her pictures.

also giving him rabies

mid


Steamed

I am very confused by this ending. I was following this and into the story until the end section, but there's just not enough information given about who these people are, or who they're waiting for, or why. That makes the bit with David meaningless and the resolution of Jamie's brief appearance kind of inexplicable.

And why do cops show up?

Prompt-wise, I don't see anybody redeeming anything. Nicole's attempts fail spectacularly--buying a Chai is the closely she gets--but self-sabotages everything, if she was even trying to redeem herself at all. And if Jamie is supposed to be the redeemed, we don't see him do anything in the first place to warrant it. We'd need a significant passage from his POV to make that resonate at all; we barely get a glimpse of him in this story.

mid


Suffer

Strong opening.

I like where this is going, I think.

"regretting it interestingly"? I think you mean "instantly", but I like it, interestingly. I kind of want that to appear properly in a story, now.

Aren't all spines segmented and hence bendy? I would think you'd need something long and rigid to pick most locks.

"she had just tried to poison everyone." Had she? I see missed what Va was explaining early on. OK, going back, I get it now. That does make the only other use of the word "poison" in the story stand out interestingly, though.

Several well-sketched characters and a good story progression overall.

high


The Hanged Men

Some glaring grammar errors, some said bookisms and awkward dialog tags.

But this is a good, well-crafted story despite the low-level errors. And I'd say it certainly meets the prompt. Maybe it points that out a bit too explicitly, but it's not too blatant, either.

I like the atypical choice of war to focus on. It was a bit meandering, but I feel like that fit the story, being about deserters trying to ride out the war without drawing attention to themselves, not quite sure what to do themselves.

high


Lessons

Oh hey, the continuing story of Millie and Owen Hot-Hands.

"Millie jolted in surprise and fumbled to regain her voice. " That's a kind of awkward combination of physical actions. Needs to be separate sentences at least.

All right, not a bad personal connection story.

I think Millie could have been a little less on-the-nose in her diagnosis and changes prescribed. It feels like another case of pointing at the prompt a bit too blatantly. But maybe that's her personality and she's not necessarily correct in everything just because she says it.

I think this started off strong and got really bogged down as it went on. And the redemption really faltered for it. The whole fire hands issue, everything about it, was handled well. Other judges think Millie shouldn't have been there at all--burnt face man should have--and I can see that.

mid


Metamorphic

Fair story. Some nice mini-descriptions. I found some of the geography a bit confusing on my first time through.

It also feels a bit contrived, first of all, that someone would have had the same problem as the protagonist, and also the same other problem as the protagonist, and then that it would have been someone connected to someone he(?) knew, and that he(?) was just able to help him. Also, surprise, the child saved him, too. How long was he stuck down there, anyway?

Also, the main character seems to recover from an incredible fall way too quickly. Didn't he just sprain or break his kneecap? To climb back up a sheer cliff face with a knee he can't put weight on and also he has added dozens more pounds on his back...

I liked the first half a lot better than the second; I kind of wish the whole problem-redemption arc was replaced with something entirely different.

mid


Oasis

This is not a very compelling opening. All the too-long sentences don't help; some are comma splices, others just have way too many clauses, continuing on and on, like some kind of 19th century romantic work. I admit that's more of my personal bias.

Um. I'm not quite sure what the purpose of this story was supposed to be, but I don't think you achieved it. And the separation between the real world and the game world robs the story of some effectiveness; we never see any more of the former than Wilbur's surface thoughts.

I think you missed the prompt entirely. The ending just says that he wasting his whole time playing the game, and since that was 100% of this story, you wasted the reader's time, too.

low


Pale Stars and Bones

I'm guessing the mysterious traveller is the witch-queen she keeps referring to. Flash fiction apparently conforms to a law of economy of female characters: if one of the principal actors is female, and there is some female figure spoken of in the past or in rumor, she's her.

" no magic nor prayer could bring back the dead." But isn't that exactly her power? I think you mean it couldn't bring them back to life, which is a different thing.

mid-high


Effigy

Interesting setup, the opening few paragraphs.

The dialog tends to meander, repeating itself a little too much. You could trim down a lot of that in the middle without really affecting the action of the story.

Something about that ending doesn't quite click so much as clunk, to me. Feels like it ends a couple beats too soon, like it thinks it has everything all wrapped up, but it doesn't. This has more of a cohesive ending than many other stories this week, though.

But one thing that bothers me about this story is the prompt. Does Ethan change, at all, let alone to redeem himself? I don't think he does. Hunter seems to do pretty much everything in this story; actions, revelations, exhortations, and he's kind of preachy besides. Ethan is just dragged along for the ride the whole time, yet the story is limited to his view.

mid-high


Sitting Back and Doing Nothing Works Sometimes

Uh. Ok, that looked like it might be going somewhere interesting at first, and then it just became more conventional and obvious. Like, I don't know, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf in reverse.

Who is redeeming herself? Sue? Because she struck out and came home to her husband, the winner by default?

And that last part is just pure cringe.

low

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

give me some music please

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Thanks for the crits Hawklad and Fuschia tude. There's enough encouragement in both your comments for me to keep working on this. I've showed it to a few other people and their comments along with yours makes me think the framework is there. It's workable in a few places but there's definitely something missing. Looking back over it keeping your comments in my mind there are places where what you said matched up exactly with what I was thinking now I have some separation from the story. Thanks for the judgement.

Fuschia tude posted:

But it kind of falls off somewhat in the middle dialog with Mulryan, and the final confession is something of a disappointment as well.

Hawklad posted:

and in the end she gets nothing she came for. No discovery of her brother’s body, no confession to the police (as far as we know - I suppose that could still happen), no burning of her childhood home, no vengeance against the priest, nothing. So everything in the story sets up for the redemption and then it ends with nothing at all resolved for Aoife, nothing changed, no accountability, just keep the past in the past. That she gets no redemption is a problem for this story. I’m not looking for a happy ending here, that wouldn’t suit the piece. But something should change, something should get resolved, otherwise what was the point?

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Mrenda posted:

Thanks for the crits Hawklad and Fuschia tude. There's enough encouragement in both your comments for me to keep working on this. I've showed it to a few other people and their comments along with yours makes me think the framework is there. It's workable in a few places but there's definitely something missing. Looking back over it keeping your comments in my mind there are places where what you said matched up exactly with what I was thinking now I have some separation from the story. Thanks for the judgement.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012




You show appreciation for someone's work and effort by letting them know it's had an effect on you. And their critiques did have an effect. What I said wasn't an offhand thanks for politeness, or for the sake of decorum. It was an attempt to show appreciation by me making an effort, albeit a small one in pointing out that their critiques had informed what I now take from the story with their help.

I held back on pointing out the specific aspects of their response that I'm hoping to address, because I'm not rewriting a story for their benefit (not that they'd want a second version of it,) nor was my post an effort to rewrite what I submitted after the fact. I was trying to go some way to show I appreciated what they said.

I know sometimes I feel a simple "thanks" is hollow, a formality rather than a real understanding and acknowledgement of someone's work for your benefit. I also know that a lot of the time it takes a lot of effort to say that simple, "thanks." But this was me going beyond what I know is typical for Thunderdome because I integrated what they said into my own writing. You can poo poo on me for trying to show appreciation, and engagement with what they said about my story but that's all I was trying to do: show appreciation by saying how their response effected me.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!


Mrenda posted:

You show appreciation for someone's work and effort by letting them know it's had an effect on you. And their critiques did have an effect. What I said wasn't an offhand thanks for politeness, or for the sake of decorum. It was an attempt to show appreciation by me making an effort, albeit a small one in pointing out that their critiques had informed what I now take from the story with their help.

I held back on pointing out the specific aspects of their response that I'm hoping to address, because I'm not rewriting a story for their benefit (not that they'd want a second version of it,) nor was my post an effort to rewrite what I submitted after the fact. I was trying to go some way to show I appreciated what they said.

I know sometimes I feel a simple "thanks" is hollow, a formality rather than a real understanding and acknowledgement of someone's work for your benefit. I also know that a lot of the time it takes a lot of effort to say that simple, "thanks." But this was me going beyond what I know is typical for Thunderdome because I integrated what they said into my own writing. You can poo poo on me for trying to show appreciation, and engagement with what they said about my story but that's all I was trying to do: show appreciation by saying how their response effected me.

no

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Mrenda posted:

You show appreciation for someone's work and effort by letting them know it's had an effect on you. And their critiques did have an effect. What I said wasn't an offhand thanks for politeness, or for the sake of decorum. It was an attempt to show appreciation by me making an effort, albeit a small one in pointing out that their critiques had informed what I now take from the story with their help.

I held back on pointing out the specific aspects of their response that I'm hoping to address, because I'm not rewriting a story for their benefit (not that they'd want a second version of it,) nor was my post an effort to rewrite what I submitted after the fact. I was trying to go some way to show I appreciated what they said.

I know sometimes I feel a simple "thanks" is hollow, a formality rather than a real understanding and acknowledgement of someone's work for your benefit. I also know that a lot of the time it takes a lot of effort to say that simple, "thanks." But this was me going beyond what I know is typical for Thunderdome because I integrated what they said into my own writing. You can poo poo on me for trying to show appreciation, and engagement with what they said about my story but that's all I was trying to do: show appreciation by saying how their response effected me.

This is a good attitude for a college critique circle or w/e but that's not what this thread is for. Feel free to brawl me if you feel strongly about this

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



sparksbloom posted:

This is a good attitude for a college critique circle or w/e but that's not what this thread is for. Feel free to brawl me if you feel strongly about this

I feel strongly about writing, the improvement of writing, and thunderdome. I don't feel anything about a fight with you other than it seems kind of pointless. I'd love to critique your writing, or critiques from you. I'd like to be a better writer. I'd like to engage with people on their writing, and for them to engage with me. I'd like a connection through writing, and response. I don't feel trumped up brawls and $10 accounts are the way to go. I'm not trying to prove anything, just engage. And this isn't the place.

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


lol

e: lol

ee: v yeah that's right about the toxx it's only if you don't submit. brawls are great if you're here to write, all my favourite stories are brawls

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 18:57 on Mar 21, 2017

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


Mrenda posted:

I feel strongly about writing, the improvement of writing, and thunderdome. I don't feel anything about a fight with you other than it seems kind of pointless. I'd love to critique your writing, or critiques from you. I'd like to be a better writer. I'd like to engage with people on their writing, and for them to engage with me. I'd like a connection through writing, and response. I don't feel trumped up brawls and $10 accounts are the way to go. I'm not trying to prove anything, just engage. And this isn't the place.

afaik the toxx only comes into effect if you fail to submit for the brawl, not if you lose. Brawl entries tend to get elaborate critique and writing more stories is a great way to get people to engage with your work and be a better writer without getting earnestness all over the kayfabe thread.

vintagepurple
Jan 31, 2014

by Nyc_Tattoo


In

(USER WAS BANNED FOR THIS POST)

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


You got "clarinet" and your example song is Vienna Clarinet Connectoin "Czernowitzer Skizzen I"
#1382 in list mode

Chairchucker posted:

give me some music please
You got "deep indian pop" and your example song is Naresh lyer "Arere Yekkada"
#846 in list mode

You got "c86" and your example song is Orange Juice "Falling and Laughing"
#911 in list mode

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016


Got Out.

Grimey Drawer

In

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


You got "desi" and your example song is Kumar Sanu "Ladki Badi Anjani Hai"
#506 in list mode

magnificent7
Sep 22, 2005

THUNDERDOME LOSER


I'm in. I can do this. Just look at my avatar.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


magnificent7 posted:

I'm in. I can do this. Just look at my avatar.

Dr. Kloctopussy
Apr 22, 2003

"It's time....to DIE!"


I'm also in, because look at my avatar

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


magnificent7 posted:

I'm in. I can do this. Just look at my avatar.
You got "bangla" and your example song is Tahsan "Chhuye Dile Mon - Duet"
#1366 in list mode

Dr. Kloctopussy posted:

I'm also in, because look at my avatar
You got "goregrind" and your example song is Napalm Death "The Wolf I Feed"
#858 in list mode

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


sebmojo posted:

Entrhino chaos wizzard brawl judgment

these both plough a similar kind of operatic mythic furrow and do it reasonably well which makes me happy - I read rhino's and loved his magical adventures of monkey stylings then took about four increasingly perplexed runs at Ent's gnarled farrago of wordspittle and thought Rhino had it at a walk.

But then I got what ent was doing and put together the wires and admired the coiled shape they made, and went back to rhino's and ... for all its fine words and font-trickery flash and sizzle there's basically nothing there, is there? Tripitaka and his merry band of public domain chums arrive, demon goes FUK U some special fx happen and tripitaka says HEY IT'S KOOL TO STAY IN SKOOL and they live happily ever after.

So this brawl goes to Entenzahn, gj fella keep it comin

I finally did a crit for this, thanks for hassling me about it Rhino.

BeefSupreme
Sep 14, 2007


Critique: Mrenda's "Who Suffers Their Penance"

Summary: A young woman (named Aoife as we will find out later) returns to the town she grew up in. She's at a combination bar/gas station; she orders a coffee, and her accent is noticeably American, since she has been gone for three decades. She is in Ireland, based on her name, the mention of the Gardaí, and the Christian Brothers. She reveals to the reader that she killed her brother here as a child, and her godparents then buried him in a shallow grave. Her godparents made her hit her (younger) brother as his punishment (though never the reverse). This was a common practice among believers of the Christian Brothers, apparently. An old man starts asking her questions, since I'm guessing this little town gets few visitors. Why does she need petrol, he asks? Why indeed (gonna burn something, I'd say). They start going back and forth, we sort of figure out that she's staying at her godparents' house, the man brings up the missing child, gives us the town's perspective on what happened. An accident, unfortunate isn't it?

Aoife goes into the woods, and starts digging. Can't find the body of her brother. Somebody comes up to the house, says Father Mulryan wants her to visit, and she doesn't need to change, because apparently he knows what she is doing. She goes and visits. Mulryan is not dressed sharply in his priestly garb as he would usually be. He is normally an imposing figure, mostly due to his presence, but not so today, or at least not to Aoife. They talk. She says she's there to right wrongs, he says what will burning down a house do, digging up a grave do? Also his body isn't there anymore. She decides he's right, and that she should burn him instead. She douses the house in gasoline petrol. But she doesn't actually light him on fire. Instead, she goes to confession. There, she confesses her old sin, and her new, to a young father. He also makes excuses for her. He notifies the police, they come, say that Mulryan is okay, doesn't want to press charges, the young guy doesn't either, because apparently it's also his house. The end.

Analysis: There are a couple of big strands here. There appears to be a very specific diatribe against the Christian Brothers faith, and its willingness to excuse tremendous sins, but also its willingness to perpetrate specific draconian disciplinary measures against youth. Perhaps this is about hypocrisy, considering she is never punished for killing her brother, yet her brother was constantly punished (and, presumably, that punishment led to his death) for likely lesser sins. Perhaps its about gender disparity, since she is not punished, yet her brother was constantly punished. Whatever the case, this story does not have a positive view of the Congregation of Christian Brothers.

There is also a strong whiff of Crime and Punishment here. Aoife cannot forgive herself for her actions, and cannot forgive Mulryan for absolving her of her sin. Just as Raskolnikov seeks punishment as absolution to his crime, so does Aoife. She wants to pay for her sin, so she is going to turn herself in to the police. She is also going to try to right the other wrong done to her brother, and give him a proper burial as opposed to the shallow grave he was given as a child. This again, though, is presumably for her, and her need to give her brother dignity. She is ultimately unfulfilled in her quest for sanctification, though, as the body has been moved, she doesn't burn down her godparents' house, and neither Mulryan nor the younger father gives her any punishment beyond a few Hail Marys.

Speaking of that younger father, it appears he may be the son of Father Mulryan? Since he apparently lives with Mulryan. There are several possible interpretations of that situation, but the most sensible based on the story is that they are father and son. That's another theme this story wants to tell: in small towns, abhorrent (according to this story) beliefs are codified when they are passed down generation to generation. The Christian Brothers taught her godparents, her godparents visited those beliefs on Aoife and her brother, Mulryan helped and now his son is doing the same. The townspeople all buy into the specific beliefs of this story, as well, as they all apparently are either willing to excuse the sin or willingly believe in Father Mulryan's story, or whatever.

Comments: I summarize the stories because it helps me get the details straight for analysis, make me sure I'm understanding the story as best as I can. Goddamn, your stories are a pain in the rear end to summarize. The last few stories I've read have been very convoluted in terms of plot details, but also in the telling. For a short story, there is so much different crap going on in here... It's not necessarily a bad thing, because I think there is a fair amount of meat here. There is a lot of thematic stuff to analyze. But your storytelling makes it challenging to get through, and not in the good way. It feels as if you care much more about the details of your story than in how that story is told. You need both.

Overall, this story is fine. I find the subject matter interesting (see the analysis section above). I find your style insufferable, though. My biggest complaint is that you withhold or give information haphazardly. For example, you tell us early that she intends to turn herself in, and she has this note which details the whole crime. You also withhold the bit about her wanting to burn the house down, though I figured that out the minute I realized she was there for penance. Part of the problem is that little of it is done with any drama (except for the scene when she's pouring gas on Mulryan, that scene has some verve). Sometimes, you tell us details like these:

quote:

She knew her voice held no excitement over a holiday.

She wrapped her arms around herself but knew the shaking wasn’t from coldness.
Seems like it would have been a good opportunity for show, not tell. Let me come to that conclusion. Describe it in some interesting way!

Another problem with this story: it's mostly exposition, even in the dialogue. Sometimes that's okay, if it's like David Fincher-style exposition, where characters are learning important, revelatory details, things that alter the plot and the themes. I think you're going for that here, but you don't quite get there. Some of that is because sometimes the dialogue doesn't make much sense. A couple of times, Aoife says things that seem exceptionally out of context:

quote:

“It’s a tragedy what happened. That young lad who went missing.”

“I wouldn’t want to intrude on their grief.” She turned back to her coffee, but the man persisted.
I can actually see the potential artistry in that. Her mind is somewhere else, only tangentially related to the conversation at hand. You don't quite pull it off, though.

Your story is so full of details (it's almost 3000 words because it probably has to be), but I'm not sure you always choose the most interesting ones to actually show us. There is a lot left unsaid between the lines, some of which seems more interesting than what we do see. Why is she coming back now? What happened with her godparents? What was she actually doing in America? You don't have to answer everything, but a few missing details feel like they could have helped to flesh out the story. This story really reminds me of Manchester by the Sea. If you haven't seen that movie, I recommend it; it does a lot of similar things but does them better. That's not a knock on you--you are not an Oscar-winning screenplay writer. *SPOILER* This scene in particular feels like the emotion that you don't quite hit.

A good thing: specificity. Your story feels more realistic because of the details that tie it to Ireland, and that tie it to this specific branch of faith. It definitely carries an acerbic tone, as I mentioned in my analysis section, which I'm not sure if you are going for or not.

EDIT: I forgot to mention that your story is chock full of comma splices, both inside dialogue and out. Like these two:

quote:

She wanted to close her eyes, instead she rested her arm against the bar to try and steady her hand.

"There’s no-one left from the family, except the girl, she’d be about as old as you now."
Gotta clean that up. You also repeat the same sentence construction a fair number of times, enough that it was noticeable. Particularly an independent and dependent clause, joined by the subordinating conjunction 'but'. At first [...], but [...]. Not a huge problem, but distracting when I saw it.

Overall, your story is fine. There is a lot here to work with. It's not a good story right now, though, because of style and because of the pacing of information revelation. Those are the two biggest things in my mind. If the prose in this story had more life, I would like it more. The themes here are very interesting, and hit on some stuff that has come up in timeless literature and in recent, very good movies (also Spotlight, for another pretty close tie). Another couple of drafts and this is a much better story. If you want to discuss this crit, I am often available in IRC.

BeefSupreme fucked around with this message at 19:40 on Mar 24, 2017

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

In.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


You got "didgeridoo" and your example song is Kristian Benton "Spirit Alive"
#1131 in list mode

Signups are now closed!

Unless you're signing up to judge, in which case there are still 2 spots open.

flerp
Feb 25, 2014

I DON'T ALWAYS
HERDY DUR MUR FLERP FLERPITY
FLOOPIN
BUT WHEN I DO
I YER DER FLERPITY
THURN DER DERMIN
BORK! BORK! BORK!


melodic progressive metal
song is Illusion Suite "The Iron Cemetery"

976 words

Blood and death and all that fun stuff

flerp fucked around with this message at 21:14 on Oct 11, 2017

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


I still need 2 judges 1 more judge for this week. It would probably be preferable to have stories judged by two td vets debating people's stories in a reasoned fashion, rather than the personal whims of a radioactive bird.

Uranium Phoenix fucked around with this message at 17:58 on Mar 26, 2017

Chairchucker
Nov 14, 2006

The man was stunningly well dressed. He had a smart looking jacket, and a really neat looking cape, the lining of which was shimmering and sparkling in more than Oriental splendour, which is a great deal of splendour indeed, just ask Kipling.

Did he who Made the Lamb Make Thee?

Khuram wasn’t doing anything overtly menacing as he walked down the road. Nothing in his demeanour that warranted such reactions from the residents. Indeed, he had a very pleasant and warm smile. Yet did they greet him?

Certainly not. They ran in terror, yelling such things as “Run, there’s a tiger on the loose!” or “It looks super hungry and will probably try to eat me!” which Khuram found a bit insulting, but also confusing. Were they saying he looked underweight, in which case rude, or were they saying he looked like he loved eating, in which case, also rude.

In any case, he ignored their very impolite words and continued down the road until he came to a marketplace. Mostly the marketplace was quickly emptying itself in the opposite direction to that from which Khuram approached, but in the middle of the marketplace was an elephant.

“Oh, hey there,” said Khuram. “How’s things, bro?”

“Not so much with the bro, thanks,” said the elephant. “We sisters don’t care for that.”

“Oh sorry,” said Khuram, “you elephants all kind of look the same, you know?”

The elephant frowned. “I don’t really see it, myself.”

“Sorry, I think we got off on the wrong paw, I’m Khuram.”

“Lakshmi,” said the elephant.

“Oh hey,” said Khuram, “you’ve got one of those dudes on your back there.

“Yeah,” said Lakshmi. “That’s my life, thanks for the reminder.” The dude in question looked a little pale. He also was looking increasingly interested in maybe running away, but also maybe not because maybe he was safer on top of an elephant, who knows.

“Why not just get rid of him?” asked Khuram. “He’s much smaller than you.”

“Ha sure,” said Lakshmi. “Just get rid of him. Simple as that.”

“Well, yeah?”

“I suppose you think I should just shake him off my back, or pick him up with my trunk and throw him in the trash?”

“Well I wasn’t suggesting anything in particular,” said Khuram, “but yeah, either of those work I guess?”

“Yeah, well…” and here Lakshmi stopped for a moment and pondered. “Hmmm, he is actually way smaller than me, now.”

“Right?” said Khuram.

And Lakshmi picked up the man from her back and placed him head first inside a bin. “Hmmm,” she said, “not really sure what to do with my life now.”

“I dunno, maybe hang out with some other elephants, have pool parties, whatever it is elephants do?”

“I guess,” said Lakshmi. “Know where any elephants are?”

“Not really sure,” said Khuram. “I can help you look, if you’d like.”

“Promise you won’t try to eat me?”

“Why do people keep saying that?”

Lakshmi shrugged. “I just heard some of those little guys saying it.”

“Yeah, well, I think your hide would probably be too tough. Anyway, wanna blow this joint?”

So, the two wandered off in search of more elephants, and would’ve become friends for life except that the next morning Lakshmi woke to find Khuram trying to chew on her leg. “Come on, really?” she said, and slapped him in the face with her trunk, dislocating his jaw.

By the time he managed to put his jaw back into place, she’d gone. “Well I had to try,” he said to no one in particular. “Imagine being the tiger who successfully ate a whole elephant. You’d be famous.”

Instead of a friendless loser again, which is what he was.

Mrenda
Mar 14, 2012



Genre: Mbalax

Nourishment and Fuel
Words 2,489

You open the door with the same hope you’ve felt every night for weeks but there’s no wave of steam or heat to greet you. Still you breathe in deeply searching for the smell of smoked paprika or frying onion. There’s nothing on the air. Maybe he’s preparing something fresh? Three weeks without a solid meal might mean all he can stomach is a salad. You turn into the living room and see his recipe books littering the coffee table. The scent of the lemon floor cleaner is there but no smell of food, and no sight of Pierre.

When he stood up to your brothers and told them he was going to look after your mother so you could complete your studies it was his passion that convinced them to back down. It was his love for you that drove him to take on that responsibility. “Put off your studies for a year,” your brothers said. “You need to care for Mom.” Pierre knew you couldn’t back off from your research. It would mean abandoning your PhD so he cared for your mother while keeping up his night shift at the restaurant. For the nine months until she passed he survived on five hours of sleep a night. His passion for cooking was the same passion he showed for you. It was that passion and his cooking talent that kept him employed in the town’s best kitchen despite the tired mistakes he made. He tried not to show the stress he was under. There was always a smile when you walked in the door. Now you can’t remember the last time he smiled.

“Pierre,” you call. “Are you sleeping?”

You walk into the kitchen and see him standing with his arm thrown over the open door of the fridge. “This is pointless,” he says.

“What’s wrong, love?” Seeing him at the fridge sets your chest in a flurry despite his downbeat comment. It’s well stocked because you were sure to keep it that way in case he felt the drive to cook again. Him looking at his recipes and taking account of ingredients could be the first step. It could also be him pushing too hard.

He holds up the stewing beef you bought. “It’s meat,” he says. “It’s always meat. That’s all they want me to cook.” He’s complained about the restaurant every few days but you know the restaurant isn’t the problem. After you moved here and he had his interview with the head chef he couldn’t hide his smile. The first few weeks on the brunch shift had him so enthusiastic he would cook one of his ideas for you every morning before he set off to work. Watching him walk into your bedroom with his newest creation laid out on a tray made the cold winter days feel warmer, like the rays of the sun were shining solely on you. Now you’re either pulling conversation from him or talking down his complaints about the job.

“You can cook for me,” you say. “Or cook for yourself, even if the restaurant isn’t working out right now.”

“I’m not hungry,” he says. He shuts the fridge door carefully and you appreciate that. His touch has always been gentle no matter what he’s going through. You walk up to him and put your hand on the small of his back. His hand clutches onto your forearm but he doesn’t move you away. Ever since he’s felt like this you’ve missed out on closeness to him. You close up to him a little more but his gaze is distant. He steps away from you.

“You have to eat,” you say. “Please. You’re losing weight.”

“I don’t feel like eating,” he says. “The food doesn’t excite me.”

“You need to do something. You can’t just fill your day with your shift and staying in the apartment. You’re obsessing over this. It won’t help.”

“What can I do?” he says. “I clean. I look through old recipes. I’ve been walking in the park, and the open space can’t relax me anymore. All I can think of is the idea it was a mistake moving here.”

“You know it wasn’t. Moving away from what you know will always take its toll.”

“We’ve been here eighteen months.”

“So it’s not new anymore. You don’t have to fight to make things work. You’re allowed enjoy the comfort of a routine.”

He shuts the fridge door but his eyes stay locked on the same point.

“Let’s go for a meal,” you say. “We’ll go somewhere new. It’ll be good to do something.”

“Sure. In a few days,” he says. “Somewhere new will be fun.” He squeezes your waist as he moves past you.

***

When you put on your sleek blue dress at the start of the night you were excited but now its delicacy makes you feel exposed. Asking Pierre to fasten the chain of your diamond necklace reminded you of the nights he’d take you to a restaurant but wouldn’t tell you which one. He might describe white tablecloths and different knives and forks and you knew you’d have to dress up, or he’d tell you about the stacks of napkins for all the sauce that would spill and you’d put on a comfortable t-shirt and jeans ready for the touch of his messy hands. Fretting about the whole experience would make him say idiotic things that you tutted over but really you loved his innocent worry. “This place isn’t that dressy,” he’d say, or he’d caution that a studded leather jacket would draw the wrong kind of attention but going on his clues you always knew what styles suited the restaurant better than him. Getting ready you’d try your best to entice him. You’d sway and smile and ask him to pull your hair out from beneath your top but his excitement was always focused on the meal. He communicates best through food, and he always wants you to enjoy his passions with him. Now you feel like you stick out in the restaurant you brought him to. It was supposed to be a relief. It’s an experience he always loves but he’s spent the evening eyes locked on his barely touched food.

“Are you going to finish your dessert?” you ask.

“No. You can have it.”

“You’re not going to fight me?” You move your fork over to steal the cake from his plate but he just picks it up and places it in front of you. Your lips tighten. Nothing he’s done has never made you cry but these past few weeks there were tears when you think of the mood he’s been trapped in.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’ve not been great to be around.”

“You haven’t been.” You lean in over the table. “What’s changed? What’s going on in there?” You hope you sound firm rather than angry.

“Drive,” he says. “I don’t feel the press of anything. I know I’m not doing well but no matter how I try push myself it’s not working. And I know it’s not fair, not on you. I’m trying.”

The waitress arrives next to you and you realise the dessert he passed to you has gone untouched. “If you’d like to take the cake away I can wrap it,” she says. She looks at you with big eyes and tilts her head. You finger your engagement ring.

“Yes, please,” Pierre says to the waitress. She picks up the dessert plates and Pierre stands. “I’ll go and pay.” He leaves you at the table as he walks to the cash register.

You take your coat from behind your chair and make your way outside the restaurant. The Spring air has some warmth but you still feel a chill. Sleep hasn’t been coming easily which you blame for your feeling the cold. He steps out of the restaurant and puts his arm around you pulling you in close. “Let’s walk,” you say. “I haven’t been sleeping. Maybe the fresh air will help me tonight.”

“You should sleep,” he says. “You work hard.”

“And so do you,” you say. “I know it’s difficult to show up every day when you’re not feeling it.”

“I pushed myself harder when I was looking after your mother.”

“She didn’t appreciate what you did for her, or me,” you say. “You had no time for yourself.”

“It was the right thing to do,” he says. “For you, but for her as well. She didn’t argue with me half as much when it was only the two of us together.” His face breaks into a rare, sly smile.

“You never told me that,” you say. You bounce on your feet imagining Pierre and your argumentative mother laughing over the same TV shows. “Still, it’s not typical for someone to do that for their girlfriend’s mother. My brothers refused to care for her, said it was up to me.” They were on the phone to you last week asking if you’d help them with money. It took every fibre of your strength not to hang up on them. Family is important and you don’t want to cut off contact but they only ever ask of you. The way Pierre gives to people is what attracted you to him. He thinks nothing of doing with less if it helps someone else.

“I’ve asked for some time off,” he says. “Next week I have Monday to Friday for me.”

“You know I can’t take time off on short notice,” you say. “But you can make that time your own.”

“I know. I want to spend it in the apartment. I’ll force myself to cook. Looking into that fridge last week I knew it wasn’t coming back, so maybe I have to push myself.” You want to argue. He’s falling into an obsession and trying to force joy into the thing that’s causing him difficulty.

“Get out of the apartment,” you say. “At least some of the time. Just spend a day walking around. I’ll fill your phone with our high school tunes and you can just walk and not have to do anything.”

“Not doing anything is the problem,” he says. “I’ve been doing nothing for weeks. I’ve been sitting in the apartment and going to work. I need to create.” Creating happiness for people is what he’s always done. For him cooking isn’t an art, it’s a tool to bring about joy. He’s not feeling any desire right now, but you still appreciate this walk through the night with him.

“Let’s keep walking,” you say. You rest your head on his shoulder and feel the warmth of his body against yours.

“This will pass,” he says. You feel his stubble catch onto a few strands of your hair.

“I know it will,” you say.

***

You open the front door, and for the third day of his break there’s no smell of food. The time off was to force himself to cook, but you knew it wouldn’t give him the drive. The apartment was tidy after his first day off and it shone after his second. Last night you wracked your brain for something that could give him a sense of purpose again. When your brothers called complaining about having to store your mother’s old belongings they reminded you of your days back home. Pierre was always happiest when he was helping and caring. He was tired by the time you finished your doctorate, but he was proud that he could look after your mother, and help you.

“Pierre!” you call.

“Why are you home?” He points at the bags you’re carrying. “What’s this?”

“They’re ingredients,” you say. You set a bag down on the coffee table. “And this is lunch.” You pull out a styrofoam container from the top of the bag.

“I’m not really hungry.”

“Well, you have to eat this.” You hope seeing what those elderly people are eating motivates him. If he can get involved with the charity centre doing what he loves and feeding people who need his kind of warmth it might give him purpose again.

“A nice lunch might be good another time but not when I’m too lazy to even cook for myself.”

“I doubt you’ll think it’s nice, but it might inspire.” You open back the styrofoam lid. He draws a quick breath when he sees the gelatinous gloop of food in the container.

“That’s not going to inspire anything,” he says.

“This is a list for you, but you can’t look at it until you taste that lunch.” You start to pull out boxes of food from the bag, setting each down carefully on the table. “This is what you can cook with,” you say. “With seventy-five cents per head to buy what you like and you have to come up with a meal better than this.” You dig a fork into the cooling, congealing mix.

“What even is it?” he asks.

“I don’t know what the food is, but it’s for the people who attend a charity day centre for the elderly.”

“They feed them this?” he asks. He’s digging around the food slurry with the fork you poked into it.

“They have student chefs. They have dedicated volunteers who try very hard with limited resources. They say it’s better than it looks, but they don’t have anyone with as much talent as you.”

He takes a bite of the meal. “They’re right. It’s not as bad as it looks,” he says. He grimaces as he sticks the fork back into the container. “But nothing could be. It’s just bland.”

You hand him the sheet of paper you had the centre write out. “Your list of herbs and spices.”

“This is all they have?” he asks.

You feel like a game show host as you wave your hands over the basic foods you’ve laid out on the table. “Like I said, after these staples and the spices you have seventy-five cents per head to make something great.” He rubs his temples and looks over the charity’s food again. Turning to the list of herbs and spices his eyes open wide and he shakes his head.

“They can eat better than this,” he says. He leans over the container and sniffs at it. “It’s not flavoured at all.”

You hand him a pencil and notepad as he rearranges the collection of basic ingredients you bought around himself on the table. “With your help I’m sure they’ll eat better,” you say. His eyes dart back and forth between the lunch, the list of herbs and the ingredients. You step back and open the door to leave as he absentmindedly picks the container of food up, digs in and takes a bite. His lips curl but he still shovels another forkful of food into his mouth. Taking time to gently close the door you smile over the man you love. His appetite is back.

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Uranium Phoenix posted:

I still need 2 judges 1 more judge for this week. It would probably be preferable to have stories judged by two td vets debating people's stories in a reasoned fashion, rather than the personal whims of a radioactive bird.

someone step the hell up. Gersh durn ingrates.

Thranguy
Apr 21, 2010


writers should not be afraid of thunderdome
THUNDERDOME SHOULD BE AFRAID OF WRITERS


Sable

https://thunderdome.cc/?story=5596&title=Sable

Thranguy fucked around with this message at 01:51 on Dec 7, 2017

Chili
Jan 23, 2004

College kids ain't shit


Fun Shoe

Uranium Phoenix posted:

I still need 2 judges 1 more judge for this week. It would probably be preferable to have stories judged by two td vets debating people's stories in a reasoned fashion, rather than the personal whims of a radioactive bird.

I gotchu

sparksbloom
Apr 30, 2006


.

sparksbloom fucked around with this message at 03:35 on Nov 27, 2017

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


archives

sebmojo fucked around with this message at 21:25 on Jan 8, 2018

Jay W. Friks
Oct 4, 2016


Got Out.

Grimey Drawer

अतीत से (Out of the Past) 1226 words
[Prompt: Desi [https://youtu.be/8Tj_YHi2oIA?list=P...S2T1zAks3ztKcqz ]

During the hottest summer that the village had experienced the doors to the temple were left open for all seeking refuge from the sun. The temple was shaped from the craggy side of a mountain. It looked like a double stack of slate boxes with tiny ramps hewn from juts in the mountain side encircling it. What ice survived in the mountains peaks would melt away and circulate to basins beneath the sloped juts.


The water would trickle and flow through pathways in the domed ceiling raining a fine mist. This would cool the interior of the building and provide a place for the villagers to relax.The ancient guru who served this temple called the rain, “The gift to Ablhur.” He had lived in this temple for many generations but didn’t name the spirit it served or who Ablhur was.The guru only gave guidance on the present, not the past.


As the midday sun shrunk the shadows of farmers to nothing and sent the horses towards the grass growing beneath the eaves of the temple the remaining villagers ended the day early. They went into the temple the guru graciously opened for all. The last one in was the songstress.


She was an elderly woman who told stories and lessons through the songs her mother taught her and her mother before her. She didn’t like the guru as he wasn’t mentioned at all in the histories and legends she sang of during celebrations and wakes. He represented an enigma out of the past and her songs were tools to teach the lessons of the past. Whatever secrets he kept made her anxious and she did not like that feeling.


She entered the temple and breathed a hearty sigh as the mist cooled her. A young boy, freed from chores due to the heat excitedly pranced around her begging for song. She looked about the room to see if the guru was here or in the upper chambers. “Alright young one I will do so.’ She said


He sat on a broken pillar.
“However,” she added
“You must keep an eye out for the guru. Since he won’t tell his secrets I do not think he deserves to hear this story.”


He responded, “But he likes your tales! He’s heard them before.”
She winked at him,
“Not this one. It’s a song that isn’t finished but I will only sing it here to you and the town, not to him.”


He looked around him. His parents and the other villagers had listened in on the conversation and agreed to keep an eye out if the guru came down from the second floor. It was rare the songstress would sing something new. She hummed. A deep melodious rising of energy lifted the hairs on the backs of the villagers. The songstress began to sing and chant in a way only she could.


Her words became dancing colors and formed the images of people. The villagers stared enraptured as she sang the past into life,
“There was a man and a woman. They came from deep sands where no life should exist.”
She blew a kiss out to them which became a breeze for their heated bodies. She carried a high note as the couple struggled to reach a deep lake.


“The woman’s name was Krelta. She was a spirit of the land who had given up on being a spirit. When the rains stopped coming she decided to become human for she had a better chance to survive if she had legs and arms to find water. She saw birds fly towards a place in the mountains and took form to see if they had found water.”


The image of Krelta became more defined, her body resembled light cracked sand in a feminine form, her hair a dune sweeping behind her. “She met a traveler spirit, a man who never slept. He could never stay in one place else his body would be trapped there and all his stories would become lies. He had seen many places and knew of the lake.”


It showed the man, less defined than the woman. His clothes were like a savage, a hood of fox hide and a belt made from ox bones and leather. She sang cheerfully now, her voice was light and airy,


“The traveler entertained Krelta with tales of faraway places and made her laugh. The man was impressed by Krelta’s wisdom as she told him of the few plants left that would heal wounds and make one see into other worlds. She lamented that she would need to become a water spirit when she found the lake, her human form was only temporary till she found a place of life again. He regretted that he could not stay with her as he could never go anywhere else once he had found a home.”


Her voice bellowed sadness and a deepening gloom, the images slowed their quest and as the lake came into view became unsure and disappeared. The guru had come down as the story ended. The villagers hadn’t noticed but the songstress had.


The kid sat up, “And?”
She shook her head, “That is all that my grandmother told my mother.”
The guru, a light skinned man with dark eyes smiled shyly and asked her,
“There is no more? I would very much like to hear what happened.”


The room became frigid. The songstresses patience with guru had turned to dislike in recent years, and they could feel her coldness towards him.
“I will tell you the rest if you tell me a story.” She bargained.
The villagers turned to the guru and then back to the songstress. The boy said,
“I thought you said it was unfinished?”
She lied, “There is more, but he is in the room now.”


The guru sat on the floor and crossed his legs, he stroked his beard and sighed.
“Alright. I have only one tale I’ve been saving all these years as it’s all I have to offer. “
The villagers were shocked at this, the songstress nearly fell from her cane as he casually offered.


“It is the only story I have as it is the story of this temple and this temple-” He touched a lone statue of a woman with a basin of water in her hands, “-has always been my home.” The guru’s face was full of sorrow and reminiscence. The songstress stayed anymore words with a hand,


“Wait.” She looked into his eyes. She had hadn’t ever spent so long looking into those eyes which had always been so ancient. They reminded her of her mother, who told her the unfinished song on her deathbed.She thought hard about the memories he was keeping behind his eyes. He had never seemed so human and earthly as of right now. Right as she sang the unfinished song. A revelation shook her spirit.


“So. That’s it.” She said.
He smiled as he was relieved.
“Alright, keep your one story. “ She said


The villagers murmured to themselves, confused by the old woman and the ever ancient man.
She sat down and enjoyed the mist descending and watched the guru closely as he rubbed the hand of the woman holding the basin.

The Cut of Your Jib
Apr 23, 2007

THUNDERDOME LOSER

There's a Little Beauty, Here and There
1648 Words


Every morning, Papa pushed his hot dog cart across the bridge from Queens, stopping at every corner to play a song on his old guitar. There were chips and dings and it needed a fresh coat of varnish, but he always kept it in tune. Gradually, he made his way towards Fifth Avenue, where the tourists would pay more for the songs than the two-dollar hot dogs.

It didn’t matter how many other Nikolaos Papadopouloses there were (and there were a lot), everyone called him Papa. Even before Manhattan extended a squeaky-clean breakwater to hide the tired borough from airline passengers as they taxied to their skyscrapers and Broadway shows, if you drove through just before eleven, you could see the hot dog slinging troubadour wrapped neatly in his red-and-white striped apron with a slick of jet black hair peeking from under the matching paper cap, and say, “Look, there’s Papa. Let’s stop for a song and a dog.” That first taste of the Big Apple was a moment people took home with them, the first of, undoubtedly many, “remember whens.”

And if your flight was in the summer, you’d see three little planets orbiting under the pull of Papa and his cart. He named his firstborn Nicky, Jr., and it was on his birth certificate that way, maybe because Papa’s English wasn’t the best or maybe he just wanted Nicky, Jr. to stand out. Not too much, just a little.

Lysander hated the diminutive “Sandy” and one day, when he was barely a wisp of hair and a clutch of knuckles poking over the top of the cart he pushed for Papa because Papa’s foot was in a boot cast after another vendor ran his toes over in an argument, declared, “My name is Sands.” Then it was.

In the mornings, Xenia orbited erratically, bouncing up and down the blocks, doubling the necessary steps between home and the patch of pavement near the museums where they’d make most of the money for the mortgage on their little house near the water. On the return trip, she’d sing until she drifted off while she rode on Papa’s shoulders.

Every evening, Papa would lay her on the porch swing, and the boys would nest against the bannister to listen to the songs he remembered from his childhood; the ones he listened to his Papa play on the same guitar, near a coastline half-a-world away. With Xenia’s tiny feet in his lap, he’d strum to the accompaniment of the creaking of the chains as he rocked, and the gulls, and the dull roar of the airport, punctuated with the occasional ‘bzzt’ of the bug zapper.

Maman would call from inside and the boys would look at each other, then to Papa. It was dinnertime. He smiled at them, then shrugged as he set his guitar against the peeling paint, and rose to peek through the screendoor at what Maman had prepared as she worked her way through the Betty Crocker cookbook. Sands once took the grossest pages from the three ring binder and rather than destroy them, he hid them between his mattress and box spring as kids will do. Maman noticed immediately, of course, and for the next week meat was suspended in Jell-o. It was American, and so that was dinner.

Then there was a night when Papa and his little ones returned home and they sang songs on the porch like they always did. But Maman didn’t call for supper. She was gone. The cookbook was gone. The suitcase she brought from Greece was gone. For the first time, Papa let his boys make hot dogs for themselves. They coated them in onions and dolloped on the spicy mustard while Xenia slept on the swing as always, and Papa came close to smashing his guitar.

The boys never inquired, but Xenia was too young to be couth. When she asked Papa where Maman was, he looked like he was Atlas holding up the world. “I don’t know,” is all he said at first. There was a long pause before he added, “I think she was a mermaid. She probably swam back to Greece.”

Long after Xenia grew too big to be carried on Papa’s shoulders, she helped Sands push the cart for the final summer before he moved to California. Nicky, Jr. was already married and had a Nicky the Third on the way. And before she knew it, Xenia and Papa were alone in the old house near the shore.

“She left us,” he said one day, long after we all knew she was gone for good. Papa still had the old guitar and strummed the same old tunes that Xenia loved, but her feet were too grown to fit comfortably in his lap while he played. “I don’t know where she is. I wish. . . .”

He trailed off, but the sentiment was evident on his face. It was time for grown-up talk whether Xenia was ready or not. Whether Nickolaos was ready or not. “She’s gone,” he said. “Abandoned us.”

In that moment, Papa too, was gone. “I love you,“ he said, but it would take years to decode its true meaning. Love skittered away like a cockroach slipping under the couch, waiting to be found years later, as the upholstery rotted to a pile.

Eventually, we found ourselves staring at that old, rotted couch. Nicky, Jr., Sands, and me. Somehow, I had been elected pragmatist, the one who would divvy up all the memories. The one who would smooth over all the rough edges. Papa wasn’t perfect, no parent was. But for the sake of twenty minutes of funeral, he was the purveyor of light and good tidings and all the things he always dreamt he was. The man who changed each corner and intersection by his very presence, simply by appearing, guitar in hand, and strumming a few notes.

It was real easy to believe otherwise, until you bumped against the sincerity he carried with him. That life was a series of trials to be conquered. And certainly, that was the way Sands lived. But there was an ease to which Papa rose to each occasion, and even when he argued until it escalated to violence, each story mullified the scenarios and downplayed the circumstances until there was a hero. And that hero was always Papa.

There’s where your own regret runs an end-around and you get tackled into the pile of grasping fingers and clutching palms that want to drag you into the all-too-familiar misery of childhood.
You embrace that familiarity, and you count on Papa’s infallibility. Maybe there’s nothing else to count on. Just a father and a daughter, and a father and his sons, and the routine that puts bread on the table.

“Did Maman die?” Little Xenia asked one day.

“In a manner of speaking,” Papa replied. It was all he ever said. In a manner of speaking. There was love and life and a manner of speaking. Each blended into each other until truth was simply a manner of speaking, and Maman faded into the recesses of forgetfulness and carelessness.

There was simply nothing more to say.

Then, one day, Papa’s heart gave out, and the children found a few more things to say. Sands made a great argument about selling the hot dog cart and collecting a tidy sum on the licensing fees. Nicky, Jr., wanted to carry on his father’s legacy. Never mind the disruption to his own little life. But Xenia just wanted the guitar. It was a simple request.

“Give me the guitar, and I’ll be happy.” It was half a lie, but half truth. She would feel happy for at least a moment. She would even walk across the bridge that gapped Queens and Manhattan with that guitar on her shoulder and pretend she was her father. Strum it and feel that she was a throwback to the bygone era that her father echoed. He was never more than a brightly lit shadow, some deco receipt, the dream of America made whole.

Mother never showed up for Papa’s funeral, she didn’t immortalize him, didn’t dream him into Americana. She may have been displaying her own strength simply by staying away. To the children, though, it was a wicked slice that never healed.

The life that made a little money and ended unsatisfactorily, it was the American dream; realized. None of them got the chance to ask whether Papa would do anything differently. But he seemed content. His children grew to adulthood. What more was there?

On the third day, as Xenia, the grown woman, made her way from MoMA to the house she grew up in, she carried her father’s guitar, but left the hot dog cart in its Flushings warehouse berth. She made the journey back and forth, the same as her father had done for nearly forty years, and she had accompanied him on many of those trips. For a second she thought she did something bad, throwing the old guitar into the East River, then she realized that Papa wasn’t perfectly clean, and it floated out into the greater Atlantic, on to bigger and better things that Papa would never see. It floated, and she watched it as the the wood took on the pallor of the water. That was Papa, absorbent and malleable. The little bit of cedar making its way against the hard current of dirty water called the good old U S of A.

Papa tried, and for a while, he succeeded. Xenia wondered if it was stronger to buck against the current, but then she bit her lip and said, “No. Papa was a simple man.” Then she turned and all the tourists paused as she lifted her hands to the sky and she sang. She didn’t need Papa’s guitar to stay in key. She just sang.

Killer-of-Lawyers
Apr 22, 2008


*snip*

Killer-of-Lawyers fucked around with this message at 03:58 on Jan 3, 2018

Solitair
Feb 18, 2014

This statement is a lie!


Wise Up Ghost
1,665 Words
Genre: NL Folk
Sample Song: "No Change in Me" by Ron Hynes.

(I might be able to rework and publish this, so it's gone now.)

Solitair fucked around with this message at 20:04 on Dec 28, 2017

Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


Genre: Classic schlager
Song: Rote Rosen, Rote Lippen, roter Wein by Rene Carol

All the Future Behind You
1000 words

I do not care if you watch me from beyond the lamplight as I dance with the memory of my lover. Look, you gawkers, as I hug myself like a madman. Watch from your cowardly shadows as I rest my head on the ghost of my wife’s shoulder. Pah!

Do you know what it’s like to leave the ashes of your home behind? Do you know what it is like to move into a tired, stale apartment building with nothing but the clothes on your back and an envelope full of sympathetic cheques from your few remaining family members?

Yes. Watch me sway and clutch at myself. Take your blurry photos and giggle at them with your friends. Would you like to hear me sing? I will sing you the first song she and I danced to, in the park, under the moon.

“Du bist mir fern und doch nicht fern, denn uns're Seelen sind eins.” You’re so far away from me, and still not far, because our souls are one. Are you recording now, little spies? Are you laughing at an old man’s pathetic crooning?

I will raise my voice, for the benefit of your cell phone microphones. “Und ich weiss dass wir uns wiederseh'n!” And I know that we’ll see each other again.

Perhaps you are here because of my clothing. Perhaps I should not have taken these dresses from the communal laundry room. Perhaps I should not be wearing them like a feverishly layered cake. I will return them, eventually. But not until I’ve danced all our dances, sang all of our songs.

This is a public park. You are free to record with your devices, as I am free to sway and dance in fine women’s accouterments. I would remind you that, according to the signage, none of us should be here, since it is past dusk. You are nearly as culpable in this crime as I.

Oh, little spies. If you only knew what it was like, that long ago night in the park. Her cheeks were pink from the cold, yet she dipped and spun as though we were on some warm Hawaiian shore. The band never missed a beat. It was as though fall’s chill was helpless against the warmth of our love. There were other couples dancing, but they were stiff and confined. Very German, you might say. We were something more. We were the fire at the heart of Berlin.

She and I, we sailed to the Americas, hand in hand, and held each other close when nuclear war was on the tip of every American tongue. We saw the wall fall and a new world rise. Your world, young gawkers. We watched ascension of the devices that you now use to mock me.

You think I am too old to see you in the sylvan shadows, too old to hear you over the babbling of this fountain. He’s the laundry thief, you are likely muttering to each other. This is the monster that is stealing our clothing.

One day, I left my home and went to work. I closed the door on a place, a space delineated from all other spaces. Our place. I was running late and did not kiss my wife goodbye. When I returned to that space, it was no longer a place. It was a square of land that contained some ashes and some fire fighters.

She loved to shop, my wife did. She loved cashmere things and silk things. I loved the feeling of those things under my fingers as we dipped and twirled around the living room. I loved the swish and sway of her skirts. I would prefer to wear my wife’s dresses, instead of the garments of strangers, but fate and fire took those away from me when they took her.

“Keinem ist mein Herz so gut gewesen wie dem einen der mich jetzt verlassen hat.” To nobody my heart was as kind as to the one who has now left me.

All you see is an old man draped in mismatched women’s clothing. All you hear is the guttural intonations of a language you do not understand.

I do not hate you, gawkers; I only lament your ignorance. You could never know the kind of love I had, the love I still carry with me. You think I enjoy the cheap cotton and polyester of these garments. You think I get off on these shoddy approximations of graceful attire. You tell each other that I clutch at myself as part of some disturbed sexual act. The truth--a truth you are not worthy of--is that I only want to feel the heat of a body beneath fine, womanly things. I want to hear the swish of skirts and the songs we used to love. I want to feel the chill of the fall air, smell grassy park smells, and imagine that I am back in that night in Berlin, when my whole future was still in front of me.

You are getting bolder, now. Creeping forward into the lamplight that illuminates the fountain. Ah--I see how it is. You are a young man and a young woman, trying to impress each other by straying dangerously close to the old laundry thief.

Here, let me sing louder for you. Let me flip and twirl my skirts for you.

Yes, good. Take her hand. Lead her into the lamplight and wrap your arms around her waist. I do not sing for you, little spies, but I will keep singing so long as someone dances beneath the moon with love in their eyes. And I see it, now--the love. Perhaps you don’t know it yet yourselves. But I know.

Decades from now, you’ll remind each other of an old man in stolen women’s clothing, crooning to himself in the park, acting the fool. You’ll laugh about my silly songs, and remark that my foolishness is what made you brave enough to love each other.

Kaishai
Nov 3, 2010

Scoffing at modernity.

Violet Fire
(1,476 words)
Music genre: Didgeridoo

Read it in the archive.

Kaishai fucked around with this message at 20:18 on Jan 1, 2018

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


If you're still frantically mashing the keyboard, fret not because I'll accept submissions that are an hour or two late. After that, submissions will be closed.

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Sitting Here
Dec 31, 2007


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