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The Son Becomes the Father

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#1 Offline Jean Valjean

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Posted Nov 19 2012 - 09:46 PM

JOHNNY ALWAYS WORE WHITE, UNTIL HE WORE BLACK...........However, I’m not going to do that to you and speak of myself in third person this whole time. I’m not some anonymous third-person narrator. I’m here to tell you, frankly, and in all honesty, about how this all happened. Call it a story if you like, and from a perspective more divine than my own I suppose there is a narrative, but this is the simple truth of my life and it’s my intent to share it with those who need to hear it...........Now when looking at my life, I had always been the man in white. I had hopes, enthusiasm, optimism, but what really drove me to identify with the color of snow was an undying sense of faith and a commitment to love. Not a lot could change that. The world needs its white knights...........Then there was my father, who wore black. You could say it was ironic, but I guess we evened each other out, for when there was one there always had to be the other. He wore black for all the reasons Johnny did – that is to say Cash. He was also very silent and almost never talked, but when he did, you listened, because if he had something to say he had something to say...........He was a strange man, and I wasn’t happy with his parenting, but I respect him. I never would have been the man I am today if it wasn’t for the subtle ways that he held my spirit accountable, when you look at the big picture...........There was a time when I was bullied on the bus and beat up, and the guys threw my shoe out the bus window. When I came back home he told me that it was just their way. It wasn’t much of a comfort, but then he went out and found my shoe along the road. Maybe he thought about me more than I knew. He also made me walk to and from school, except for in the snow and rain, when he would pick me up...........There were stories, too. Oh, there were stories, but they went untold. Vietnam. I guess he would have shared them if I had asked him, but I asked nothing...........See, I mostly loved my mother. She took care of me, fed me, and showed immediate understanding. Father was just a ghost lingering in his blue chair in the living room. Not much there, and he seemed content to be left alone, so I ignored him...........Then one day he didn’t pick me up at school...........Nor did he do his other favorite things. Playing chess, checkers, spades...........It turned out that he was suffering from brain cancer. It started in his lungs, but spread to the rest of his body. The killing blow would be to the head...........I still remember being in that room. It was filled with half-light. I wasn’t sure if he could understand me. He was fighting for consciousness, but I had to tell him through my tears, “Father, I’m sorry I didn’t love you as much as you deserved. I could have done more.” Those words were so hard to get out, and I still cry whenever I write about it...........Then dying, he died...........For some reasons after that I didn’t cry, or at least not in the short term. Months later, I had to leave class when I heard someone humming the taps. I’ve never really been the same since. I’m still ashamed of the people I’ve failed to love...........My cousin...........One of my brothers...........My uncle...........Yes, other people have died since then and they will continue to die, and I will never love them enough. For all that I cannot give them, I wear black...........Well, some things have changed now. College graduation and the marines. He always liked them and would’ve joined them instead of the army if he could go back again. What we all would do to take it all back and lie down in a pasture of light rather than to raise an empire of dirt...........And then there was yesterday. I went to visit his gravestone on the anniversary of his death, this time with a friend. Her name is Grace...........I knelt down next to the grave and put my hand over where the shiny stone read the lines from Psalm 23...........“Grace, what do you want your last words to be?”..........“If I have any children, I’d just want to say that I love them,” she said...........“Maybe that’s more realistic.” I ran my hand across the verse. “I think I want mine to be Psalm 23. I’ve been told that a man prays before he dies.”..........“Who told you that?”..........“I don’t know. It was from a movie. My father taught me how to pray.”..........“What was he like?”..........“Silent. Vietnam veteran. Kept a lot of stuff inside. That’s about all there is to say. I never thought he’d have this big of an impact on me, but he does.”..........“Well he was your father, Johnny.”..........“Yeah. I cry when you’re not looking.”..........“I know,” she said. I wasn’t surprised...........“He was also a Johnny Cash fan. I always think of him when I hear the song ‘Hurt’, and how everybody turns away from an old man in the end. That’s me. I turned away.”..........“How do you cope?”..........“Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean the relationship’s over. I guess he’s an angel now. He looks over me and protects me. Funny thing is, it looks like he’s the one who wears white.”..........“I remember when that was you.”..........“About that. I come here every so often to pray and feel close to him, and I’ve been listening.” I unbuttoned my shirt, revealing a white t-shirt underneath, and I put the black shirt on his gravestone. “I think I can go back to being his son again.”

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:kaukau: AFTERWORD: It should be noted, for clarity and for integrity's sake, that this is a fictional story and not an account of my personal life, although I draw heavily from my own experiences. My true, uncensored thoughts on such analogous matters, and indeed all of my feelings and experiences, are far more powerful than anything I can either write and they are something I will never share with anyone but family and my best friends.There is much I wanted to put in this story and much I wished I could have included. There was certainly a subplot developing with the reference to the Big Blue Chair, given the strong narrative that follows it, but with this amount of space I left it at a reference, because I trust that most readers recognize the Big Blue Chair from their own lives and could see the story arc for themselves if they stop and think about how each word of this story applies to their own lives. I also intended for the final scene to work very differently and bring in an entirely new story that would have doubled Johnny's reasons to wear white, but for now I will keep that alternate ending a secret. Trust me, though, the scene doesn't really end there. Something happens after this story cuts off.


Edited by Jean Valjean, Nov 20 2012 - 01:57 AM.

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#2 Offline SkyLandOceAnna

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Posted Nov 19 2012 - 11:10 PM

I thought this was a really great story. I thought it actually occurred which made me feel remorse for you. I think it is great when stories allow the reader to feel what the characters feel. I was raised most of my life by just my dad, so I guess my story would be opposite of Johnnys, except my parents are divorced and I'm not sure what my 'blue chair' would be. Thank you!
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#3 Offline Nuile the Paracosmic Tulpa

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Posted Nov 28 2012 - 08:38 PM

It occurred to me that this is the first work of yours that I have read. That being as it is, I did not entirely know what to expect. Knowing you only through critique and causerie, both of a written nature, I had only these to draw upon to premonish what your creative writing would be like. Even casual writing often reflects the style of the writer, and I thought that you were the type in whom this would hold especially true. The conclusion, then, of my conjecture was that your style would be of a technical tone, much more than an artistic one. I foresaw prudence and volition, stiff refinement, character but not as much personality.Having now read one piece, at least, of your writing, I see I was not far wrong. In fact, all that exceeded my expectations was a warmth I had not anticipated, something of a saving grace, in my opinion. It loosened the stiffness and allowed an opening through which to be engaging. In your sentence structure there was the sagacity and deliberation, as well as the complaint, I expcted. The complaint is that there was no real beauty in it. You chose words like the nuts and bolts of a machine, rather than the flowers of a bouquet. You can't build beauty. Prudence is vital for writing, I do not argue that point, but it also needs aesthetics, otherwise it ceases to be an art and becomes a science.My other criticism is the overabundance of similes and metaphors. It had the affect of making up proverbs and thrusting them in to add personality where otherwise it is lacking. "I do not say a proverb is amiss when aptly and reasonably applied, but to be forever discharging them, right or wrong, hit or miss, renders conversation insipid and vulgar."Overall your style is very much a structure, which may not be to my taste, but it is well-built, that I will grant you. If a mechanic, to which you have a similitude, can be called an artist, then your style is artistic in its own way.As regards plot, I got here exactly what I expected: a sound foundation, a firm frame, over which was built a facade not unpleasing to the eye. I really have no complaints here. On the contrary, I am impressed that you so adroitly compacted this story into so small a space. It could have been bigger, but it didn't have to be, and it was excellent as it was. It was sweet and very touching. There was a lack of emotion, but that suited the characters, so all is well.Speaking of characters, my favorite is Grace. I would have liked to know a little bit more about her, but it wasn't necessary. She holds an important, allegorical place in the story, and she didn't need anything more for that than a name.There are two kinds of a good story: one with a great plot, one with a great style. Note carefully my choice of adjectives. A great plot can't rise above a poor style, nor can a poor plot rise above a great style. Such combinations even it the quality out merely to "good." A great story consists of great plot and great style. Of all this, I am sure, you are well aware. All this, moreover, is digressive.A few annotative comments:

"Father, I’m sorry I didn’t love you as much as you deserved. I could have done more."

Well, of course he could have. But he should have; that's more to the point, I think. I realize, however, that this is just a cavil.

And then there was yesterday. I went to visit his gravestone on the anniversary of his death, this time with a friend. Her name is Grace.

This was an example of how stiff your style got at times. There was no flow; the sentences were abrupt and terse. Mostly it's the last one that set my teeth on edge. The others would have been fine, but the last one ground it all to a jarring stop that ruined this whole paragraph.

"Yeah. I cry when you’re not looking.""I know," she said. I wasn’t surprised.

This sentence was unnatural and pathetic; and that's exactly why it was apt. It was an unnatural moment, he felt a bit pathetic, and though at superficial glance it doesn't feel right, looking closer it does.I take as much pride in my grammar as, clearly, do you. When there's an error to be found, however, I find it.

"I always think of him when I hear the song ‘Hurt’, and how everybody turns away from an old man in the end."

That comma should have gone inside the quotation marks.You will probably consider this as an insult, and consider it as such if you wish; but I think our styles are not very much dissimilar. They may be antipodal, in that the one is technical while the other is artistic, but they are not antipolar. Either you're fond of speech of a metaphorical caliber or just Johnny is, but "our difference is East to West, not North to South." In my own opinion, this is not an insult, but in part a commendation, and in another part a criticism.While this story was not a great story, it was a good one. You met my expectations, which were not low. I enjoyed it very much, and I look forward to reading more of your work.And so absorbed was I in reviewing it that I burned my muffins. Consider that a compliment, because those are my favorite muffins.

Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith :smilemirunu:

Edited by Nuile: The Wiseguy, Nov 28 2012 - 09:05 PM.

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