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#1 Offline Kragghle

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Posted Nov 18 2012 - 09:34 PM

HENRY WAS SHIFTING THROUGH OLD STUFF. Old old stuff. It was so strange to look back on. He was eighty-nine, so his high school memories seemed like an eternity ago, and yet like it was only yesterday. Surreality, the strange serendipity of looking at the things that looked like they were written by another person, yet he could feel that young man inside himself. This was the young man who, in third grade, wrote terrible letters and random doodles all over his schoolwork, and in eighth grade still had a scrawling handwriting that seemed nothing like his own but was filled with familiar ideas...........Then he encountered the gold mine, his high school papers. He looked them over, read every single one. These were from when he was discovering who he was, finding out what he believed in and what he stood for in this world. Even then he was still at the beginning, but at least it was a beginning. These were the manuscripts for the pilot episode of his life...........But they were more than that. In spite of being a wealth of knowledge documenting his early sense of wisdom, there were stories behind each paper and each note. He found a notebook with a handwriting he now recognized as his own detailing his observations on “Beowulf”, and another with notes he took for Mrs. Peterson’s Biology class. He got into an argument with someone at that time over how notes should be taken. There was also an essay about Theodore Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism”. Henry could still remember what other people had to say about it, and friends he had in that class...........They were filled with memories. Some painful, some beautiful. But they were only memories now. He remembered being sad knowing just how inevitable that was...........He put down his old, old stuff. How was it that he was a man with thin white hair now? He had become so used to being an adult. It was almost unthinkable that he was once a teenager...........“How’s your studying?” asked his wife, Josephine. She entered his office with a loaf of bread that she had cooked...........“I don’t think I want to study,” said Henry. “Younger minds can figure out this political drama. You know what I think I want to do? I want to find my friends from high school. I haven’t seen any of them in over thirty years.”..........“Are you sure you can do that?”..........“The doctors say I have a month to live. What else do I have to live for? I want my old friends there with me when I die. The ones who knew me when I was a child.” He got up and grabbed his cane. Josephine helped him along. They discussed the matter more as they walked through the house and they came to the conclusion that they were going to go through with it...........So Henry made a few calls. One was to his dear friend Rob, his best friend in high school. After some digging, Henry managed to find his letterman Jacket and met Rob at his house, all the way back to his home town...........Rob lived next to the cemetery...........As it turned out, Rob took the initiative to make a few calls of his own and invite other high school friends, including Emma, who was once a cheerleader, and Agatha, whom Henry had once dated. He blushed to see her. There was also his football friend Randall...........“This is such an unexpected surprise!” said Henry. He counted heads. There were four of his friends. “Where’s Dave and Gerald?”..........“They passed away,” said Rob. There was silence. Rob tapped his foot...........“Oh,” said Henry. Those two, Rob, and himself had been the best of friends. They were inseparable. They were always there for each other. They went to each other’s birthday parties, had meals at each other’s houses. They were family, man – family. “I wish I could have been there for them.”..........So they spent the afternoon eating the stale food associated with old people and enjoying themselves in the pale pastel colors of Rob’s living room. They talked about life, how far they had come in the last thirty years, their grandchildren, and what they were doing now, only to find that nobody had been doing anything. Emma and Agatha left, leaving just the men to hold counsel among themselves...........“Show me where they’re buried,” said Henry...........They left Robs house and visited the cemetery. Rob crossed a hill and found their friends’ gravestones. They weren’t too far off from the place where Henry’s parents were buried. They stood there in silence, and then fell to his knees, where he bowed his head in prayer for a long, long time in memory of his old, old friends...........“I’m so sorry I wasn’t there. Now there’s only two of us left,” said Henry...........“I’m here,” said Randall. “It don’t matter that I didn’t eat with your folks. I’m still your friend.”..........“Rob, Randall,” said Henry, “I want to spend as much time as I can with you before I go. Will you be there for my funeral?”..........“Yes,” said Rob. “Henry, I really miss you. I have other promises to keep. Do you remember those things we said we’d do, but we never did them?”..........“I do.”..........“Dave and Gerald aren’t around anymore to complete it, but Randall can help.”..........It wasn’t the same Randall wasn’t part of those times when the four had gone camping together and dared to share their dreams.. Yet, it was better than nothing. “Yes, I would like that very much.”..........He bowed his head one last time to Dave and Gerald’s graves. He had promises to keep, to them, to Rob, to himself, to his parents, to God. Even at this late hour, it was still necessary for him to remember who he was. Even now, a child...........And so it was that the beginning was the end.

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Edited by Jean Valjean, Nov 19 2012 - 08:23 PM.

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#2 Offline Grantaire

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Posted Nov 19 2012 - 06:07 PM

     I found two errors in this: foot instead of food, and you didn't indent the first paragraph.     Aside from that? This story was excellent; I'm glad I don't have to do a SSCC review, because I'd have to spend it all on praise, just because I can't find anything to nitpick. You painted a picture starkly haunting, and made the reader see through the character's eyes perfect. I liked especially how you balanced out the theme of death and dying, of final farewell, with that of putting one's house in order. I love your interpretation of Gravestone, definitely.

Edited by Zarayna, Nov 19 2012 - 06:10 PM.

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#3 Offline SkyLandOceAnna

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Posted Nov 20 2012 - 02:21 PM

I, too, thought this was a great story in reference to the picture of the Gravestone. I think you incorporated Death into the story well and still gave great life to it. A lot of times, people lose contact with their friends from high school, and at certain times in their lives, like the one represented in your story, they remember those times. They relive those special moments they had at that time with their friends and then they start a domino effect where they are thinking of their friends, which can lead to thinking of their parents and then to a pet and then to another thing. I think it is good to reflect on one's past in order to see how they have changed their future and understand that they are who they are today based on the decisions of the past. I think Gravestones can also give other people a description of someone's past based on inscriptions. Though they only remember the good things by stating how they were a 'devoted parent' or a 'great friend', but that is what most people want remembered by. Thank you!
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#4 Offline Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa

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Posted Nov 28 2012 - 08:37 PM

As pertains to style, I already went into as much depth as was necessary--and maybe more--when I reviewed The Son Becomes the Father. But I will say that this story confirms your style as, not one affected for a character in first person, but your own.Now on to the stories itself. It starts out deftly enough; this old man is sifting through long-ago memories. Then his wife comes in with a loaf of bread, which is as out of place as their exchange, which mentions something about studying politics, which is not at all what the man was doing. If he was reading the newspaper I could understand, or if it had even been established that he had been distracted from his reading.Then we find out abruptly that this man is about to die, and that he doesn't care enough about his wife to die in her company, but has to go gallivanting off to find out more about his "old, old friends." It doesn't make me fond of the man. No more am I fond of how quickly and simplistically the scene transition took place. Here you started stating facts and neglecting to make them worth reading about, condensing the story and leaving out the flavor.And then we're buried by names and people and it beings to get a little confusing. It took me a moment, when Randall spoke, to figure out who he was and disentangle what his words meant. Next we're thrown this unexplained matter of promises and some form of beginning. Finally we collide into a brick wall in the form of two words: "the end."I think it's a story worth telling, but not enough of it is told. I always say, "Let the length suit the story." In The Son Becomes the Father you showed me how it is possible to defy that rule, proving: "Otherwise, let the story suit the length." But you didn't do that here. Instead of tailoring it to fit you merely shrunk it in the wash, which with something so delicate results with unraveled threads and loss of color.(Apropos, I confess, I overuse similes and metaphors too, most commonly when I review.)So as I say, there was some structural integrity lacking, but I love the story itself. I want to see more, as much because I want to see it improved as elaborated. Your readers as much as your characters deserve more, and I would like to see that.You also touched upon a personal aversion, and that's the monotonous use of the word said. But I know your opinion on the point, and I won't argue such a matter of taste.Commentary:

HENRY WAS SHIFTING THROUGH OLD STUFF. Old old stuff.

It sounded repetitive here, and only became worse as it recurred. It's also inconsistent with all the subsequent times the phrase was used, when you include a comma between the olds.

They were family, man – family.

I wouldn't be happy about this in first person; I would tolerate it, but I wouldn't be happy with it. In third person it's entirely out of place.

So they spent the afternoon eating the stale food associated with old people and enjoying themselves in the pale pastel colors of Rob’s living room. They talked about life, how far they had come in the last thirty years, their grandchildren, and what they were doing now, only to find that nobody had been doing anything.

Now here's a little flavor added to the terseness of the middle story. The first sentence has an air of artificiality about it, but the second is golden and amusing.

It wasn’t the same Randall wasn’t part of those times when the four had gone camping together and dared to share their dreams..

I had to laugh at this. We all have these moments. I only wonder what manner of editing or what odd line of thought might have moved one of your periods from its proper place to the end of a second sentence.Overall, considering the two samples of your writing that I have read, this is not your best. But second is no dishonor. Although if you want to be pessimistic, it's also last. If you want to be pragmatic, I've only read two stories and that's not much to go by. And to stop rambling, I still like the story behind this story, if not this story itself as much. I would like to read more in the continuity, if there is any.

Keep writing,

Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith :smilemirunu:


Edited by Nuile: The Wiseguy, Nov 28 2012 - 08:41 PM.

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