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Attic Treasure

Short Story

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2 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Velox

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Posted Jan 02 2013 - 09:12 PM

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Attic Treasure[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]I[/font] PULLED FORCEFULLY ON the string, and with a whoosh the wooden stairs slid down, landing with a thump onto the carpeted floor. My body shook nervously – I knew it was forbidden for me to go up there. But my parents were away, and my curiosity finally got the best of me. I jumped down from the bed which I had mounted so I could reach the string, and quickly ran to the foot of the ladder. Looking up I could see nothing but a Cimmerian hole, so black that it seemed to suck all light from the room like a black hole.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     My palms sweated furiously, and for the umpteenth time I had second thoughts on my decision to disobey my parents. But I had made up my mind – or rather, my curiosity had – and started my ascent up the wooden rungs and into the attic. My foot slipped on the second rung from the sweat my feet were coated in and my face hit the bottom bar of the ladder.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     “Ow!” I cried out to no one in particular. Sometimes it just seemed to make it better to yell out when I was in pain. I was on the floor now, my legs sprawled in front of me. I rubbed my mouth and forehead gently, smearing a few drops of blood that had dripped from my nose onto my otherwise unblemished head. Tears began to form in my eyes, but I quickly shook them away. I was eight years old, after all. Much too old for tears, as my dad would say.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     And immediately the memories came rushing back. Memories of my Daddy; far too few memories. He had been gone for five months, off on another tour of duty for the United States Navy. Every moment he was home seemed happier for the whole family: me, Mommy, and even little Johnny who was still crawling. I missed him so much. He was the one who had first given me the idea of going up here, but my mom adamantly refused, muttering things like “he’s too young” and “maybe when he’s older” and “a boy his age shouldn’t see that.” I didn’t know what she meant, but it only piqued my interest more and now I could wait no more.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I quickly stood up, rubbing my head again, knowing that I must hurry if I were to make it up and back down before my mom got home from grocery shopping. I took extra care to wipe my sweaty feet on the carpet and continued back up the ladder, toward the aphotic hole where I had no idea what awaited me.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I took each step slowly, remembering what had happened the last time when I had tried to move too quickly; I didn’t want to fall again.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     My head emerged, and finally my eyes adjusted. I wasn’t nearly as nebulous as it looked from below; rays were flying upward from the hole the ladder was connected to in the floor.  [/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I climbed out of the portal completely, pulling myself up with my arms. I stood up, stumbling at first on my short legs, but gaining my bearings and observing the scene around me. Along the walls were many boxes, tables, shelves, and other various objects, each box with assorted items hanging out. To my right, in front of a large window covered in drapes, was a colossal telescope, easily twice my size.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     For a moment I simply stood there, gawking at its magnificence. Slowly, as if under their own power, my legs began to move, directing my body toward the gold and silver contraption. I was completely mesmerized, taken aback at the elegance of the discovery before me. I placed a hand on the drapes and flung them open. Immediately the moon- and star-light shone brightly through the large window, sparkling when it hit the gleaming metal of the under parts of the telescope – the top was covered in a layer of dust.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     My mouth hung open, and I could do nothing as I neared it but stare. It was the most amazing thing I had ever seen. I knew it was a telescope: my dad had taught me about the stars and planets and other entities that roamed the skies, and how this device allowed you to see them more clearly. But I had never seen one this big in person, much less been able to use one.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     A smile crept onto my lips, the joy to receive the treasure of knowledge the telescope gave clearly present on my face.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I tried to reach the eyepiece, but its towering height made it much too far away for me to grasp. Instead I proceeded to the window again, enthralled by the stars. There were so many of them that the sky seemed almost a faded white instead of dark blue. But I could see the darkness creeping out from behind the brilliance – the background hanging behind the dots of light.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     The crescent moon shone brightest of all, like some sort of sideways smile of radiance. It was truly beautiful. I had seen the night sky before, of course, but I had never taken the time to really enjoy it. And it was amazing.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I finally looked down to see the grassy fields that surrounded our country home, a dirt path leading into the woods and beyond…[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     A tear dripped down my cheek as I remembered the times Daddy and I had gone into those woods together. At any foreign sound he would grip my hand even tighter and tell me it was okay. He would just continue walking forward, completely confident and unafraid.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     It didn’t seem like anything could ever scare him. He was always so brave, so unwavered by any scary noise or sight. I had always felt safe when I was with him. His large hand holding mine. His comforting smile. His eyes that showed how happy he was to be with me. They were the best moments of my life, spending time with him. I’d go anywhere with him. Even the scariest places imaginable.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I missed him so much. Why does he always have to be gone? I wiped my eyes and face, clearing the tears away. Daddy wouldn’t want me to cry. He always told me to be strong. I had to look after Mommy when he wasn’t here.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I tried to remain strong, but it was hard. He’s always gone so long. At least I knew it wouldn’t be much longer now.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     “Only another month,” I whispered to myself as I looked out to the woods again. I saw what I thought was a squirrel leap from one tree to another.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I looked up at the sky for a second time: the blanket of black and white hanging over my head. And suddenly, despite the beauty, I felt so small. I finally looked away and turned around.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I looked around the attic. There was so much – so much history, so many seemingly random things. The excitement in my chest grew again. There was so much, and I couldn’t possibly go through it all in time. My eyes landed on an old, beaten chest on the opposite side of the room. I quickly ran to it, my stubby legs probably looking ridiculous as I toddled across the wooden floor.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I flung myself onto it, searching for an opening before I found a rusted lock. I attempted to open it, but even in its antique shape it stayed true to its purpose: keeping unwanted people out. I searched for a key, but could find none. My eyes rested on the chest again, and for the first time I noticed all the stickers dotting its sides. Then I knew what the trunk was, what it contained. Daddy had told me a couple years ago about his own dad, and how he had fought in something called World War Two. He said it was in Germany, and that no one in our family had ever gone there since. The stickers revealed the contents of the case, all from Germany or about the military.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I knew this must be what my Mommy didn’t want me seeing. She had said the war was too horrible for me to learn about yet. And she knew that if I came up here I’d want to know what was in the chest and that nothing else would interest me, even the telescope. She was right – the chest fascinated me, and I rubbed my hands across its dust-lined surface.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I wanted to stay here, find a way to open it, to discover the treasures of Grandad’s past, but I heard a car pulling up in the driveway.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I quickly scurried back to the opening in the floor as fast I could, forgetting to close the drapes again and not caring to be careful with my descent on the steps, only concerned with not letting my mom catch me. I made it down without falling and I pushed the ladder back into its crevice, the flap with the string swinging shut behind it. I quickly jumped on my bed and picked up a comic book just as I heard the front door open.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     “Jack, I’m home!” I heard her call from downstairs.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     “Hi, Mommy!” I called back. I tried to focus on the pages before me, but I couldn’t think about anything besides the gems I had found above my room. I knew I had to find out what was in that chest. [/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]~ :: ~[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Library :: Blog[/font]


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#2 Offline SkyLandOceAnna

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Posted Jan 03 2013 - 02:16 AM

You did great on your descriptions thoughout your story. I could picture the attic with the overstuffed boxes, dust covering everything, the stairs one climbs to reach it with that rope-looking cord hanging from it, and the bright light from outside filling the room.

Now, thanks to another BZPer, I have got into the habit of noticing how many adverbs people use and thinking about whether or not they are necessary or useful in each short story or epic I read. In your story, I noticed some that I wouldn't deem necessary to your story:

 

1. I climbed out of the portal completely, pulling myself up with my arms.  -  Since they climbed out, I think we can assume they did it 'completely,' otherwise a mentioning of being stuck or just peering could be used.

 

2.  I finally looked down to see the grassy fields that surrounded our country home, a dirt path leading into the woods and beyond… - For this one, I don't think 'finally' is needed because it is just something that was done after looking at the sky. If you were meaning he 'finally' looked away from the sky that he was so mesmerized by, then I think it would work better, but it would need to be stated to get that effect.

 

Besides noticing all the adverbs, my only other thing I would say needs changed, is the boy's age. You said he was 8 and that a couple years previous to his present, he remembered his parents discussing World War II, but I think that many kids at age 6 wouldn't pay too much attention to their parents saying something like that and then remembering it two years later. When I was that age, all I cared about was playing, watching tv, and drawing or coloring. Now this can be open for debate, so this is just my opinion.

 

In the overall picture, disregarding my comments, I do like your story as I mentioned. Kids tend to be mischevious and curious, so this shows that well. I also like the 'treasure' idea you played with. I have found my number of hidden treasures in my home. I remembered about the hidden shelf in the top of my closet and found some old pencils, crayons, and even a picture there. I even looked again more recently and found my calculator from high school that I thought I misplaced. Also, when I pulled out and looked underneath the drawers below my closet, I found a baby spoon of ours and some cards from past holidays and birthdays.

 

Everyone treasures something different and has stories behind each treasure. So I hope you are able to extend more onto your story and allow us to see what treasures lie inside that chest and maybe the father could be back and share that moment with him.

 

Thank you!


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#3 Offline Yukiko

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Posted May 02 2013 - 09:30 PM

Official Short Stories Critics' Club Charity Review

 

The previous reviewer already commented on the use of adverbs, and I agree.  You should eliminate them whenever you can.  For example, you could have used "tugged," "yanked," or simply "pulled" instead of "pulled forcefully."

 

Now, on to other things.

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]I missed him so much. Why does he always have to be gone? I wiped my eyes and face, clearing the tears away. Daddy wouldn’t want me to cry. He always told me to be strong. I had to look after Mommy when he wasn’t here.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     I tried to remain strong, but it was hard. He’s always gone so long. At least I knew it wouldn’t be much longer now.[/font]

 

[font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]     “Only another month,” I whispered to myself as I looked out to the woods again. I saw what I thought was a squirrel leap from one tree to another.[/font]

 

This was the only part of the story where I honestly felt like I was in the head of an eight year old.   For the rest of it, the voice was too measured and world weary.  There wasn't enough excitement in it; children do not think in semi-colons. (=P)  They do not use words like "[font="'Times New Roman';color:#000080;"][font="'times new roman', times, serif;"]Cimmerian" [/font][/font][font="'times new roman', times, serif;"][font="tahoma, geneva, sans-serif;"]or "entities" and not think about how they used such a big and awesome word.  I know that purposefully[/font][/font] recapturing that youthful mindset is hard to do, so I will try to give you an example.

 

[font="'Times New Roman';color:#000080;"][font="'times new roman', times, serif;"] I tried to reach the eyepiece, but its towering height made it much too far away for me to grasp. Instead I proceeded to the window again, enthralled by the stars. There were so many of them that the sky seemed almost a faded white instead of dark blue. But I could see the darkness creeping out from behind the brilliance – the background hanging behind the dots of light.[/font][/font]

 

Here it is re-written:

 

I stood up on tiptoes to try and reach the eyepiece, but it was just too far away.  I decided to look out the window at the stars instead.  There were gajillions of them, so much that the sky seemed faded white instead of dark blue.  But I could see the darkness creeping out from behind their shine.

 

I'm not going to claim that this is a stellar piece of writing, but I hope it hints at the voice people expect to hear from a child.

 

Apart from coloring the voice, first person is also hard to write because you can't ever forget your protagonist.  Your narrative voice must always be present in the voice of your narrator.  Think not just of the mental constrictions of your prose, but the physical as well.   For example, I found it odd that when the protagonist hits his chin that he never mentally mentions that it hurts.  Similarly, we don't usually think about the way we look doing things, so careful not to let your narrative voice float above your narrator and observed them; it feels disconcerting.

 

Plotwise, I found nothing wrong with this.  I liked how you gave little hints that made the characters more real, such as the child remembering his father teaching him about stars and planets.  Stories like this are hard to write and I hope you keep writing them and improving upon them.


Edited by Yukiko, May 04 2013 - 07:55 AM.

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