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Souvenirs

Short Story Christmas Souvenirs Soldier

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6 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Velox

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Posted Feb 29 2012 - 10:32 PM

Souvenirs

Here’s to the twilight / Here’s to the memoriesThese are my souvenirs / My mental pictures of everythingHere’s to the late nights / Here’s to the firelightThese are my souvenirs / My souvenirs

~::~

A whiff of sweetness from the pine tree in her living room filled her nose as she walked past the Christmas tree. She stopped for a moment, smelling the sweet, syrupy scent. The lights sparkled around her; lights from the tree; light reflecting off the ornaments; rays from the sun shining an incandescent illumination upon the room through the drawn shades; all part of the conglomeration of lights forming a radiant brilliancy throughout the room...........Music played from a stereo on the far side of the room; “Carol of the Bells.” The music and light filled her with warmth as she observed the room around her. Packages in various states of disarray, wrapping paper torn to pieces, children squealing, giggling with delight in the playroom upstairs as they made use of the goods they had received, their grandparents laughing heartily at seeing the young children at play...........And, for the briefest of moments, it brought a smile to her face. Until tears clouded her vision again; wet globules of water streaming down her unblemished cheeks. She had turned her head to the single, non-Christmas picture hanging on the wall. Her husband, in his USMC Dress Uniform, his expression stoic; so plain just as all military pictures were. Seeing his face only brought more tears, wishing he could be with her now...........But his absence wasn’t the worst part. It was not knowing if he’d ever come home alive; not knowing if he was alive now with the delayed notifications from the chaos of war. An organized chaos, but chaos all the same. She knew his body may never make it home – one wrong step and he may become millions of unidentifiable pieces. An empty coffin with only a flag...........That was what she feared, why she cried herself to sleep every night. Are you alive tonight? was her constant query. Part of her liked to think that she would know – that they were connected by some unseen force, binding them together, letting her know when he breathed and when he didn’t – but she knew that wasn’t possible. So instead she hoped, she prayed, she cried; begging God to give him just one more day. Until the next night when she repeated the same desperate plea...........She lifted her head from her hands, unconsciously having sat on the sofa as the memory of her husband controlled her thoughts. The pine still sharp in the air. The music still playing. The lights still dazzling. Her children still shrieking. Pull yourself together. It’s Christmas for God’s sake. She grabbed a tissue. Wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She sniffled and stood up...........Her children ran down the stairs, proudly displaying their recently acquired gifts. She smiled again as they tugged and pulled on her hands and clothes. She acquiesced, allowing them to drag her into the backyard, then chasing them, tickling them – all the while letting herself become more and more involved in the game, her sorrows melting away through the joyous squealing of her children. Children too young to understand the gravity of their father’s situation.

~::~

Mike Colson, USMC, sat on his cot in Afghanistan. Memories flooded his mind. Memories of his wife, his children, his life. He could see them smiling, playing on the sands of a beach the day before he shipped off. He held a picture in his hands – a small black-and-white portrait of him and his wife taken shortly after they started dating...........“Hey, Colson, c’mon,” one of his fellow soldiers called from the entranceway to the large tent. “We’re making ornaments by the fire outside. It’s Christmas Eve, you know.”..........Colson remained silent, just staring at the picture in his hands. His comrade started to leave when Colson finally spoke, his voice shaky, his eyes watering. “I can hardly even imagine her anymore; it’s been so long since I’ve seen her face.” He paused, choking back tears. “What kind of husband am I?”..........“Colson, don’t do this.”..........Colson looked up and into his friend’s eyes. “This is killing me, Fawley. What kind of man am I when I can’t even remember the color of my wife’s eyes? My children’s faces?”..........“You can’t keep beating yourself over this. We’re in war. It’s an awful mess, but it’s war. You can’t expect to remember all that with all this here. Come on, you’re the only one still in here. Come sit by the fire with us; the warmth may do you some good.”..........Colson nodded, wiped his eyes with his palms, and stood up, following Fawley outside the tent and to the campfire the rest of his squad had created...........Scraps of metal lay around them; shrapnel from explosions. They held pieces of the metal in their hand, forming crosses or other ornaments for the small tree they used as a Christmas Tree, using the fire, tongs and knives to bend the metal into shapes. Smiles adorned all their faces, and deep, hearty laughter could be heard from their lips. The laughter subsided as Colson approached. They welcomed him, motioning to sit, and one threw a piece of metal at him. Colson caught it and opened his hand, revealing a small, iron cross. He smiled inwardly at his comrades, a serene look on his face...........He pulled out the picture of his wife again, a slight smile on his face. “I love you,” he whispered, kissing the picture before putting it away and joining his fellow soldiers’ conversation.

~::~

“Colson,” a soldier called, tossing a package at Colson before making his way through the rest of the room, handing out various packages and letters from loved ones. It was December 28th and the first time anyone had been able to receive mail in a week...........Eager to see what his family had sent him, Colson quickly opened the package, finding a letter, various paper creations from his kids, and A Charlie Brown Christmas recordable storybook narrated by his six-year-old son; their Christmas presents to him. He read through all the letters before he leaned forward and opened the book...........His son’s voice filled the room as the little boy read the book. His eyes watered, tears fell down his cheeks. He closed his eyes, going back in time as more memories of his past life filled his mind; souvenirs of his life at home. When the call for his squad to move out came, he slowly put down the book, gently resting it among the other contents of the package. He picked up his gear, wiped his face and eyes, kissed the picture of his wife, and followed his comrades out the tent and into the cold...........Throughout the fighting that day, throughout all the explosions, all the gunfire, the screaming, one voice and one face stayed with him: his son’s voice and his wife’s face. The voice and face he took to the grave.

~::~

It was New Year’s Eve, and Mrs. Colson was busy cleaning up the house for the small family party they were having later that night. She was walking down the stairs when she saw the two Marines in Dress Blues approaching her house. Immediately she knew what had happened. She knew her husband had been killed...........“No…” she whispered to herself, tears filling her eyes. The Marines saluted through the large glass oval in the door. “Nonono.” She stumbled backward, falling on the foot of the stairs. The tears streamed down her cheeks. She covered her face with her hands as the two Marines stepped forward, opening the unlocked door...........“Ma’am,” one of them started slowly, before telling her what had happened. “He was a hero, ma’am; if it weren’t for him the rest of his squad would have been killed. He’s been nominated for a silver star.”..........When he finished recounting the details, the other said, “we found this clenched in his hand.” He handed her a small picture; the picture her husband had. She accepted it with trembling hands, holding the crumpled, worn image tightly when she received it. Her last souvenir.

~ :: ~

I close my eyes and go back in time / I can see you smiling, you’re so alive

I close my eyes and go back in time / You were wide eyed, you were wide eyed

These are my souvenirs / My souvenirs

~ :: ~

Song: "Souvenirs" by Switchfoot.

I know it's a little late for a Christmas story, but the first half-ish of this I wrote Christmas day and then didn't write any more until two days ago. I've had part of this story lingering in the back of my head since Christmas of 2010 and was quite happy when I was able to fit it into this story. I originally started writing it because this is the first year my family has had a real tree for Christmas (having a fake tree every other year), and so when I woke up Christmas morning, smelling the pine, seeing the lights, et cetera I just wanted to write about it. Then listening to the song "Souvenirs" helped craft the rest of it, along with my great love and respect for the military.

Hope you all enjoy; all comments/criticisms/etc. are very much appreciated.

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#2 Offline xccj

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Posted Mar 01 2012 - 12:26 AM

Wow. Very deep, Andrew. You really captured the emotion and everything in this, and it was sad when I got to the end. (That would probably be my main criticism: sad short stories are just depressing.)However, it was very well written, and had a decent flow as you switched from scene to scene. Nice job!:music:
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#3 Offline Legolover-361

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Posted Mar 01 2012 - 08:13 PM

You stole my inspiration! :oJoking aside, I think the story was a little too short to properly build up suspense. While the first two sections were good, the fighting at the end of the third section felt breezed over. It would have worked if more suspense had been built up, I think -- as it is, the first two sections by themselves make a sweet super-short story alone, and the next two sections feel a little tacked on.Your writing style itself is nice. I'd like to point out, however, the below semicolon usage isn't correct:

The lights sparkled around her; lights from the tree; light reflecting off the ornaments; rays from the sun shining an incandescent illumination upon the room through the drawn shades; all part of the conglomeration of lights forming a radiant brilliancy throughout the room.

The first boldfaced semicolon should be changed to a colon. I don't think the second boldfaced semicolon is used incorrectly, per se, but it seems awkward in that position.In conclusion, though Souvenirs was short, I enjoyed it.

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#4 Offline Velox

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Posted Apr 03 2012 - 11:20 PM

xccj ~ Thanks, Jason; glad you enjoyed it, and I do apologize for it's depressingness. =P Someone else also told me I should write something happier, so maybe I will -- this story, however, was meant to be sad and emotion-capturing, so I'm glad I accomplished that. Legolover-361 ~ Yeah, I realized that after I had finished the story, but decided to just leave it be; I enjoyed your story, though -- I remember it being one of my favorites out of the COT Contest. Great song, too -- personally I can think of several story ideas to be based purely on the song. Perhaps, but the point of this story was to show how great a soldier's sacrifice is. Originally I had planned for it to have four sections, where the last two would have been different from the last two here, ending in him returning home. But I felt like it didn't emotionally touch the reader enough, then, to fit the message of the story. And I also originally planned on featuring the fighting more, but I decided against it mostly because, again, it wasn't the point of the story -- it was more about his and her missing each other, her loss and his sacrifice (in other words, their emotions) than about him and his fighting. Maybe you're right, though.And yeah, I knew that was wrong...I could've sworn the first one was a colon, and the latter was the one I was unsure about; perhaps a dash instead. Anyway, thank you both for your reviews!Posted Image
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#5 Offline Peach 00

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Posted Apr 04 2012 - 05:48 PM

Because of your providing me with a wonderful review, I did as I promised and decided to post. I'm not necessarily sure my review will even hold a candle to yours, but I'll do my best.This is a very touching piece, and does indeed show the pain and grief caused by the loss of a family member. You showed that pain quite well when the men are approaching the front door of the house, although I think the sequence was slightly rushed. It might have been better off that way, though. The part which you displayed of him first being introduced to the story was an interesting scene, adding a better viewpoint to the story instead of seeing the wife's perspective throughout.I would say this is immensely deep, showing quite a bit of emotion. It makes you feel more than sympathetic towards people who have lost relatives or others close to them because of the war. It was interesting to see how the story seemed all the more cheerful until the end, which made it so sad.I don't believe I have anything to criticize in this, nor spelling mistakes. In short, Velox, this is probably one of my favorite stories by you I have read. It is an enjoyable read, and although with a depressing touch to it, it still was a great story. Keep up the good work - can't wait to see more. :)
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On the day the wall came down / They threw the locks onto the ground
And with glasses high / We raised a cry / For freedom had arrived
 
On the day the wall came down / The ship of fools had finally run aground
Promises lit up the night / Like paper doves in flight
 
I dreamed you had left my side / No warmth, not even pride remained
And even though you needed me / It was clear that I could not do a thing for you
 
Now life devalues day by day / As friends and neighbors turn away
And there's a change that even with regret / Cannot be undone
 
Now frontiers shift like desert sands / While nations wash their bloodied hands
Of loyalty, of history / In shades of grey
 
I woke to the sound of drums / The music played, the morning sun streamed in
I turned and I looked at you / And all but the bitter residues slipped away
 
slipped away...
 




#6 Offline Tolkien

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Posted Aug 05 2012 - 04:47 PM

Hi Velox. SSCC review time. This won’t hurt a bit.I think the previous reviews have pretty much captured the spectrum of positive reactions for this story. It’s a very emotional tale, dealing with themes of hope and loss. Very effecting stuff, and portrayed in a way that’s easy to connect with. For that, you should be commended, Velox.But we both know that’s not why I’m here, so I’ll get to the point (i.e. the critique!). After reading through the story, I have two main issues to note, as follows:The first deals with the overall thematic pacing of the story. Each section is very independent, beginning with the introduction of a character, and each character undergoes much the same progression, moving from personal introspection to a broader perspective (the children, the other soldiers). It works, and the sections are certainly well-written, but as I read, it felt somewhat repetitive, like it needed to be broken up a bit. Not sure how you might resolve that inparticular, but I think the story would benefit from switching up the means by which each different section is structured. That includes the transitions between the sections—each has a definite beginning and end, and they may have been your intention when you wrote them, but because they are presented as a full story, there isn’t much transitional material to connect each section. One ends, the other begins, etc. It’s up to you, but that’s my suggestion.The second issue concerns the writing style—description, there’s a bit too much. I noticed this mainly in the first section. The other two sections are much more descriptively reserved. The introductory paragraph struck me in particular:

A whiff of sweetness from the pine tree in her living room filled her nose as she walked past the Christmas tree. She stopped for a moment, smelling the sweet, syrupy scent. The lights sparkled around her; lights from the tree; light reflecting off the ornaments; rays from the sun shining an incandescent illumination upon the room through the drawn shades; all part of the conglomeration of lights forming a radiant brilliancy throughout the room.

Now, I’m not usually one to criticize when it comes to choices about the description of a scene, but the mental picture I got here was pretty much that the room was blindingly bright. :P I’d definitely consider trimming this down, and in a few other places throughout the story. Remember, phrases like “incandescent illumination” and “radiant brilliancy” are almost redundant when you consider what they mean (“bright brightness”). Description is a powerful tool in writing, but it can overpower the scene if you’re not careful. I’m sure you’re well aware of that though, so why am I telling you?!Maybe because that’s pretty much the extent of my criticisms. Couldn’t find any nitpicks or anything either, so you’ve escaped pretty much unscathed, I’d say. All in all, I enjoyed the story. Nicely done. Keep it up.JRRT

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#7 Offline Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa

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Posted Jan 27 2013 - 02:27 PM

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Nuile reporting with a charity review, courtesy of the SSCC.[/color]

 

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]. . . You broke my heart.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]This was beautiful. Their emotions were so real--I could feel everything right alongside the characters. I expected what the end would bring, but that didn't make it any less heartending, tragic, and dramatic.You're making my job really difficult, here. I have nothing to praise, and there's so little I can criticize.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]The description at the beginning was great; it set the scene, and your choice of detail was immaculate. But there was just a little something missing. You omitted the tone. The happy Christmas scene leaves us unprepared for the sudden sorrow. Now, there's nothing wrong with juxtaposing the two; contrast is good. But the change was a little jarring. An adumbration of tone would have done well. For instance:[/color]

 

The music and light filled her with warmth as she observed the room around her.

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Here you could have sneaked in a little hint of her pain. A nostalgic, yearning, or perhaps bitter warmth would set the tone.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]The scenes in the military camp were beautiful. Colson admiring his wife's picture, his dialogue, the tree; all beautiful.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Ah, the ending! What a potent moment! But alas! this:[/color]

 

She knew her husband had been killed.

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]It was unnecessary, and its effect was something like uttering a taboo; it very powerfully killed the moment.[/color]

 

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]A few other nitpicks here and there:[/color]

 

She lifted her head from her hands, unconsciously having sat on the sofa as the memory of her husband controlled her thoughts. The pine still sharp in the air. The music still playing. The lights still dazzling. Her children still shrieking. Pull yourself together. It’s Christmas for God’s sake. She grabbed a tissue. Wiped her eyes and blew her nose. She sniffled and stood up.

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]This whole paragraph was endlessly choppy. It starts out fine; then suddenly transitions to abrupt descriptions; then switches to internal dialogue; and then we're back to descriptions that really shouldn't be minced into separate sentences like that.[/color]

 

She acquiesced, allowing them to drag her into the backyard, then chasing them, tickling them – all the while letting herself become more and more involved in the game, her sorrows melting away through the joyous squealing of her children.

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]This; yes, this. I know this very well; it is so true. And it just enhanced the emotions that much more for me.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Well, that one wasn't a nitpick.[/color]

 

“Nonono.”

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]I would separate those by commas rather than combining them, personally.[/color]

 

When he finished recounting the details, the other said, “we found this clenched in his hand.”

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]That should be capitalized.[/color]

 

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Now, I wonder . . . was it Colson who received a bullet to the heart? or his wife? . . . Or was it your reader?[/color]

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Excellent work.[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Keep writing,[/color]

 

[color=rgb(0,128,0);]Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith :smilemirunu: [/color]

[color=rgb(0,128,0);] [/color]


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