January 21, 2008

Apologies to People Who Are Interested In My Blog

I have been unbelievably absentminded over the period since my last posting. I have been busy procrastinating and essay writing. Plus performances in Sweeney Todd have tired me out to no end. Sorry to the people who I'd like to think are fans of the blog. In apology, here is an orgy of material I have churned out.

ICW Assignment number 1:

3rd Person Past Tense Exercise with Dialogue

  Going against the typecast, he understood the importance of secrets: how you should keep them when they’re told to you and harbour your own and sometimes share them with others. As he waited down the corridor, he remembered the riddle: When you have it, you want to share it. When you share it, you haven’t got it. Sharing was so much and so little at the same time. He knew that if you share too much, you become vulnerable. At least, that’s how he felt.

  He’d got it wrong with her.

She had the appearance of someone intrinsically – well, not local. One of the things you notice about the British face is that it falls into an angular frame. Her face was curves, gentleness that sweeps. Her nose was not severe. The eyebrows had a thick wildness to them that is indescribable. Impressionable in life as well: a low burning vigou that stands out against the local damp. And there was more. She was a listener, a rare breed of person. From years of people being put up with his vocal garbage, it was great to have someone who listened. She had something interesting to say, and she said it to him. Maybe he was a bit slow, but he understood the importance of being a friend as well as having them.

  He wanted to say sorry to her. It was the least he could do, after she found out. The problem was the time, manner and place. He set down texting as wrong: he knew a little ‘I’m Sorry’ at 5p a text is not worth it. Giving a call wouldn’t work either. He hadn’t the knack at seeing what the other person was doing at the other end. So today he was waiting near her front door for the moment she’d get back from a 5 o’clock lecture.

  It was strange. He expected her to be more surprised to see him by the door.

  ‘So,’ he said. Starting these conversations was never his strong suit.


  ‘Don’t be like that.’

  ‘I’m not acting any different than before.’

  That wasn’t true, he thought. He knew that before she was more receptive. Then again, it was his fault. He shouldn’t hide important things from people. ‘It’s not fair.’

  ‘Well, you shouldn’t keep things from me.’

  ‘How could I? You dragged it out of someone else.’

  ‘I shouldn’t have to.’

  ‘Look, I’m sorry but-’

  ‘But what?’

  ‘Stop it. It’s immature.’ He didn’t want to say it. Why did I say it, he wanted to ask himself.

  ‘Nice one to talk.’

  ‘It’s not fair.’

  ‘Stop that. I don’t have the time for that.’

  ‘Sorry.’ From a young age, he learnt to apologise for himself. That came with his problems.

  ‘And stop saying sorry,’ She told him in the same firm way that she told him over the last few months. ‘I don’t hate you, so don’t make me.’

  ‘I just want to forget it all.’

  ‘Some people can’t forget.’

  ‘What do you want me to do?’

  ‘You want to do something for me?’

  ‘Yes. I don’t like you like this all the time.’

  She took the keys from her pocket. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t keep these things from me.’

  ‘I know I shouldn’t, but please. I want to go back.’

  ‘I wish it was as easy as that.’ She was in through the door, which she shut firmly between them.

Excerpt from An Assignment Which I Misunderstood Completely:

First Person Exercise

  I had to take a look. Aaron had been hiding again. John told me it was just a phase for him and that he’d snap out of it soon. I had to accept that, just as I had to accept John bringing Aaron into the house. We’d just settled in a new street for our new life, and John thought to give a friend a hand in his troubled times. I would like to be asked about these things before they happen. Now he – Aaron – spends most of his time between work, hiding in the spare room. Sometimes he disappears for a good few days. I worry that he’s dead in there. He must eat when no one’s looking: food just disappears and plates return to the kitchen cleaned and packed into cupboards. He never paid for anything he took or used. So one day I took a look in. I don’t know what I was expecting. I sasw the crusty plates lying around, clothes on the floor and Aaron on the fold-down. He wasn’t even asleep. He was lying there, stubble all over his face. I don’t think the pyjama shorts he was wearing had seen a washer in a while.

  ‘I’m not feeling well,’ he said.

  ‘You’ve been in here for a week.’

  ‘Really?’ He was actually surprised.

  ‘Yes. Did you let your work know?’

  ‘No. Didn’t want to.’

  ‘What do you mean?’

  ‘Had enough. They laugh at me behind my back. Don’t want to go back.’

  ‘You can’t say that. Phone them back now and tell them you’re ill. You need to work.’

  ‘I don’t want to. They think I’m a bum.’

  I couldn’t believe this. ‘You have to work. I’ve put up with you so far because I thought you could help yourself, but if you can’t be bothered to do that then I don’t know what I will do.’

  ‘Leave me alone.’

  ‘I can’t. Phone or I’ll throw you out myself.’

  ‘Give me ten minutes.’

  Everyone needs ten minutes to do something that will never get done. I left Aaron for now, but next time I might really throw him out.

Finally, this week's assignment based on the continuation of a continuation of a first sentence that I wrote last week. Nice.

And In That Moment…

And in that moment, I was forgotten.

  Geoff and Wife began life in winter, a harsh time for my cousins. The cold contracts, makes them brittle. Old Pipey blew a while back. Built up inside him, grew until his skin couldn’t hold it. They’re on their guard from ice. But not for me. Not for us. We shift with the cold. Cold suits us. It’s the hot we fear. I’m afraid of melting. Sometimes, when someone removes themselves from me, I worry that they’d chuck me in some fire and let me melt there. Would they watch? Could they? But they never do. I’ve been around for a while now, since my blood was in the rocks. Vain people dug me out of the ground, said I was theirs. But I told them earth-like, I am me. I am mine.

  And in that moment, I was forgotten.

  Geoff and Wife began life in winter. But I was here before Wife. Always with Geoff and Last Wife. Even before Last Wife was here, I was kept in the jewelry box which Geoff owned. The red walls are soft for a subtle prison. I am mine in there, though. Pure white, and always have been.

  Last Wife was gone. I had been in the red walls prison for a while, and it was cold. Cold suits us. We shift with the cold. But I was taken out by Geoff, he put the finger of New Girlfriend inside me to say that he’d be constant to her. She turned from pearl to ruby in the curves beneath her sapphires. He was too forward. New Girlfriend sounded a chime and reduced to Wife.

  And in that moment, I was forgotten.

  I am not constant. But I was taken out by Geoff, he put the finger of New Girlfriend inside me to say that he’d be constant to her. Last Wife’s finger was unimposing, it sat right. She was no brass fake or copper with arsenic makeshift. Pure white, and always has been. Geoff said he’d be constant to her. When Wife stuck her finger in, she didn’t fill the space. She wanted alterations made and I was cut up, remade for her. But I am the same. Pure white, and always has been.

  He told her Last Wife was pure white. Sweet girl, except for one thing. Constant. He wanted a constant wife to be constant to. I don’t care. We shift with the cold. Cold suits us. But he said never to open the door to the cellar. There was nothing there but dust and boxes of old magazines, fickle paper things that fell apart. Not like me. I’ve been around for a while now. Pure white, and always have been. He trusted her so much.

  He left the brass key in the lock, unturned in the shapely hole. Wife stared at it when she passed it by the door. One day she groped its handles like a pervert. Sick. They were alike, both brass. Not pure white. Not even close to Last Wife, who was just offshade. Not a carat in her heart. Her promise wasn’t set.

  It’s the hot we fear. Built up inside her, grew until her skin couldn’t hold it. She melted.

  And at that moment, I was forgotten.

  The cellar is off white from what Geoff says. He never lies about the magazines. They were gold to him until he tired of it. Trash, I thought, but he never cashes them. Wife never looked at them though. She followed the minted dust, footprints set in them, to the polished table and chair. She saw the album, full of obsene pictures. There she saw Last Wife: wedding photos, cuddling, and on display dripping rubies. Further back, there was Last Last Wife, and Last Last Last Wife.

  Geoff touched her shoulder. Her voice clanged in her throat.

  And in that moment, I was forgotten.

   It’s the hot we fear. Dripping rubies. Cold suits us. I nuzzled in the cold snow beside the shallow grave he dug for her, next to Last Last and Last Last Last. He puts them in the same place. I am not constant. We shift with the cold. Yet Geoff put me back in the jewelry box that he owned.

  Last Wife was the best. She lasted for years without touching the brass. But the brass got into her. Not pure. But I am the same. Pure white and always has been. Always will be, until the day someone takes me off and thinks to throw me into the fire. Would they? Could they?

  Geoff and Wife began life in Spring.

Ok, that's that done. By the way, if you want to, you can read my play based on the story of Cassandra here.


- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Johnny, this is brilliant. I love the format and structure – perfect short story set up, especially with the twist at the end (even though it was my twist, I had no idea whether it was coming or not >.<). I love the conscious circularity of it, the repetition of phrases as you come full circle round the ring and start back round again; I love the focus on elemental composition, the idea that what you’re made of defines who you are and how good you are. The relationship to Geoff is nicely played, and I love the perspective of people removing themselves from ‘him’ (I feel it wants to be a him). I got a very vivid LOTR image of the ring being thrown in the fire, and maybe not burning ;)

    My only criticisms is that sometimes the persperctive is a little too oblique – I still can’t decipher the line: “She turned from pearl to ruby in the curves beneath her sapphires.” If you had long, like a whole book, to get under the skin of the language, you could really play with it, but as it is, in the short story form demands a little more accessibility, in my opinion.

    Anyway, it’s great.

    22 Jan 2008, 00:36

  2. I fully concur with Jimmy: Sorry, I was full of stuff to say, but he seems to have said most of it – and well. Lol, ‘sorry.’

    I’d also like to highlight the recurrence of ‘And in that moment I was forgotten.’ It makes me feel almost sad and guilty for the way in which we use objects – ‘use’ in the forceful sense: we butter them with meaning, memory, and feeling only to forget them again and again.

    I also liked the dialogue because I feel you have put some of yourself in it – it feels sincere, even if sometimes the content of the conversation is – painfully? – slow: like puberty?

    22 Jan 2008, 20:45

  3. Hehe, puberty is a funny word :D

    I was thinking about this a little earlier, and I thought perhaps the line:

    “Geoff touched her shoulder. Her voice clanged in her throat.”

    might be better expressed as

    “Geoff touched her shoulder; her voice clanged in its throat.”

    To kind of carry on the theme of inverted possession, with the idea that the throat actually belongs to the voice, rather than to her. Just an idea, though.

    22 Jan 2008, 21:26

  4. George Ttoouli

    Johnny, coming late to this, but I’m particularly struck by your 1st person exercise. I can’t remember what the exercise was and I’m not actually bothered by the exercise at this stage.

    If you drop the initial impetus, what you’re left with is an excellent character study, followed by a believable dialogue, focusing on how to deal with someone with depression. There’s something genuine underlying it – if you do a bit of work to blend the dialogue with narration, work out who your speaker is and chop the last sentence, you’ve got space to work on something potentially quite powerful. Think about why the narrator hasn’t thrown Aaron out already – what’s the relationship? Why Aaron doesn’t want to go to work (even if the answer is you’ve no idea), etc. Find out character emotions, connections, motivations from this little bit, imagine their lives, write a few scenes with them to get to know them.

    The basic premise of Aaron suddenly turning and the narrator having to deal with it is an excellent start and you’ve captured some of the emotional truth in this situation. The hinge is: does narrator care enough about Aaron to take on some of that burden, or is he going to watch Aaron’s downward spiral?

    16 Feb 2008, 13:49

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