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xminnis
September 30th, 2010, 04:46 AM
I had to endure “going out” talks again on the bus home today. It’s so easy to recognize who are the freshmen just by how they talk about the things that they do. Like this chick on the bus.

“Did you go out last night?” My skin crawled. Here we go. There is only one possible voice this phrase can be spoken in, there is no way to explain the voice but everyone knows it, it's nails on a chalkboard. The hair must also be tousled in the back while this phrase is spoken.

I guess the other chick that the horrid question was proposed to answered yes because chick number one replied, me too! Very proud of it. Not only was she proud of it, but you could tell from the way the original question was stated, and the nature of the “me too!” that this was the ultimate point of the conversation for her. She didn’t care in the slightest what chick number two did with her time last night, her whole purpose was to let everyone on the bus know that she, in fact, accomplished something very important to her. The mission was accomplished and she proceeded to sit back in her seat and cross her arms with a big smile.

I proceed to zone out for a moment. Reflecting about these conversations that I hear everyday, and imagining this chick going straight back to her room, turning on the TV to Jersey Shore and frying her mind into this state. Just then, I got the feeling I get when my alarm goes off in the morning and I realize that it's Saturday and I can go back to sleep. But this time it was because I remembered what I had planned for this weekend.

No one believes me, but I have actually seen Bigfoot. Sasquatch, Bigfoot, whichever you prefer, and I am going to find proof of his existence. It has been so long and so many people have laughed at me and told me I am wrong that I'm beginning to wonder myself if I ever really saw him.

As we make a right turn on Westport Road the brakes screech the 30 year old bus to a stop and I hop off with a few of my fellow UMKC classmates. I'm excited for what lies ahead, but I can’t hold back thoughts of this weekend going terribly wrong as I climb the rusting wrought iron steps to the fourth floor of my apartment complex.

“How about a few beers before you head off to catch Bigfoot,” Craig said, as I flopped my backpack down on the sofa. My roommate Craig has been giving me hell about Bigfoot ever since I brought it up a few weeks ago. He says he wont believe in anything that hasn't been proven by science. He tries to act like he is some sort of worldy philosopher, but he spends all his days with no shirt on playing Call of Duty in the front room.

“Sounds great, I only have to drive for 4 hours,” I said.

My grandparents live in a small town called Arrow Point in southern Missouri. It is located on Table Rock Lake on the outskirts of Mark Twain National Forest. This is where I saw him about half a decade ago as a 15-year-old boy and this is where I am heading this weekend.

“And I’m not trying to catch him, just get some proof that he’s there,” I said.

“Ansel, if you bring back a lock of his golden curls, or a turd, or something like that, you know I’ll pick that evidence apart” Craig said.

“You love picking turds, but I’ll bring something back that you can’t argue with.” I yelled from my room as I’m tossing clothes into my suitcase. I don’t know if there is anything I would love more than to prove Craig wrong this time.

I laced up my trusty old boots I’ve had since my first encounter with Bigfoot, tossed a couple more plain white t shirts with pit stains under the arms into my suitcase, and headed out the door.

Fingers crossed as I turned the key of my ‘83 Oldsmobile Cutlass, the 350 motor that’s older than I am roared to life.

“I love you baby, you never let me down.” It never seems to start when I’m going to pick up some alcohol or one of those chicks that only talk about going out. But it starts on the first crank any Sunday morning that I decide to roll out of bed.

About an hour and a half down the road I pulled into a Phillips 66 right off the highway for some snackage. And I already knew I hated this place. The gas station itself I actually thoroughly enjoyed. The walls were crumbling some, there was no a/c just some old rusty fans, they had the Flaming Hot Munchies that I thought were no longer made (though they may have just been sitting there that long), and the clerk had no teeth or care in the world. The problem was with an obvious outsider of this town. Some guy with Kansas plates on a 2010 Dodge Ram that you could tell was washed every morning.

He had the loudest possible exhaust system you could put on a truck and was sitting there revving it up and looking around to see if he was being noticed. As I was beginning to pull back out to the highway he came up beside me and peeled out to show how cool he was. The 27 year old 350 could have easily kept up with him if I had chosen. But I decided to let him feel good about himself. This was probably all he had to be proud of.

The highway rolled on and on till it eventually turned to a curving serpent of a two lane road surrounded by nothing but forest. The forest gave way in about an hour and I could see the lake in the distance and the long bridge that crosses it. It is dark now and I remember what this bridge looks like on Fourth of July nights, with all the spectacular flashes of color exploding behind it and the laughter and chatter of the whole family.

I made my turn by the old abandoned shack on the corner that always reminded me of somewhere Leather Face from Texas Chainsaw Massacre would hide his victims, drove about 100 yards down the gravel hill towards the lake and pulled up to the old yellow house on stilts that has been my second home over the many summers in my life.

“There he is,” Papa said, as I walked through the front door. Then he let out one of his signature “WHEEE” noises I have never heard any other human make and poked me with his cane.

“How you doing, Papa?” I said as I leaned down to hug him in his La-Z-Boy, I could feel how he is really starting to thin out in his 84th year.

“Cora! Where are you? Ansel's here,” Papa said.

“I’ll go find her Papa, don’t worry.”

I headed straight for the kitchen because I knew from the smell lingering in my nostrils that that is where I would find Grandma. Of course she was pulling a fresh baked cherry pie out of the oven when I walked in, even though I told her on the phone before I left that she better not be doing anything extra for me. And not to my surprise there was already a newly baked jar of sugar cookies and a chocolate sheet cake sitting on the counter as well.

“Grandma, what are you doing?” I said as I gave her the type of delicate hug that you only give to the sweetest most fragile old ladies in the world. Even though I am sure she is as strong as I am from all the farm work she has helped with in her lifetime

“What did we talk about on the phone?” I said.

“I haven’t done too much, now baby, how about a slice of this pie.” Grandma said in her soft subtle southern accent.

“Cora!” Papa yelled from the front room, “Cora!”

“What, Howard?” Grandma said, walking around the corner.

“Come hold my hand”.

This is how things work with Papa, he is getting a little senile at his age and anytime Grandma gets out of his site for more than a couple minutes he can’t stand it. But this seems like a terrific stage in life in my opinion.

“Mom said you guys were thinking of coming back to Kansas City during the winter and only living down here in the summer is that right?” I asked.

“Well I don’t know “, Grandma said, “This is our home down here, we are too old for the bustle of the city. We really would rather just stay here.”

“But it scares us to death when it snows and no one can get down here to check up on you,” I said, “What do you think, Papa?”

“I’m going wherever she goes,” Papa said, and pointed his cane at Grandma. “So you think you’re going to find ol’ hair-back out in the woods?” Papa always has his own made up nickname for just about everything and everyone. Sometimes I have to sit and think for a minute about what he is referring to, but this one was semi-straightforward.

“I don’t know if I will or not, but I’m hoping so.”

“Ain't no such thing out there, I’ve lived here 30 years and never seen him,” Papa said leaning back in the recliner, forgetting to mention that he has also not left the house for the past 25 of those 30 years.

“You’ve had a long drive today and it’s getting pretty late honey, I made up that bed upstairs for you whenever you get tired,” Grandma said.

I took another piece of cherry pie with me as I went upstairs to sleep and dream up my plan for finding him tomorrow.

I woke up as the sun finally crept across the floor and up onto the bed, and I could instantly smell the wonderful smell of sizzling pig fat. Bacon, eggs, homemade biscuits with homemade gravy, toast, and Papa’s secret recipe jams all lined the table as I walked down the stairs and into the small dining room.

“Grandma!” I exclaimed, “It’s just me here this time not the whole family.”
“But this is the only way I know how to cook honey,” Grandma said, ”Now grab you a little something before you head out.”.

I filled myself to the point of bursting, but Grandma still wouldn’t let me walk out the front door till she packed me a lunch and a snack.

Finally out the front door I headed down the slope to the red boat dock that my uncles built a couple decades ago, tossed my back pack, camera bag, and lunch pale into the tiny silver fishing boat and hopped in.

I started the engine and angled across the lake and down the coast about a half mile to a cove where I knew I could tie up the boat and start my hike into the forest. I walked for about a half hour and found a nice spot to sit my stuff down and rest for a while. I decided that I would have just as good of a shot at finding him whether I walked around looking or I waited for him to come to me.

I sat back against a tree and just watched out over the whole forest. I was on a fairly steep incline of a hill, so looking down I could see for quite a way. The forest was quiet and beautiful. It was late late October so the trees were all orange, red, and yellow. I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew I was waking up hearing some sticks and leaves being crunched by footsteps behind me. I was so scared, I did not want to move. I could tell it was about 20 feet or more behind me so it may not have seen me yet.

I slowly unzipped my bag and pulled my camera out. I turned so slightly it would probably take me a half hour to do 360 and I saw it. It was a deer. I exhaled the breath I had been holding so loudly that the doe stopped munching on grass and looked straight at me with that blank faced deer stare. I snapped a quick picture, stood up and grabbed my bags and the deer took off running

I need to go deeper into the forest and hopefully find that cave I am sure I saw him going in and out of that day that was beginning to blur so badly in my memory. I looked at my watch, it had only been a little over an hour. I'm getting a little too impatient. Some guys spend there whole lives up in Oregon or Washington looking for Bigfoot. And I think I am going to find him in an hour. Who am I kidding. Although I do know that those guys are looking in the wrong forests.

Trekking deeper into the woods for the next 3 hours, I got bored and ate all the food Grandma had packed me. I wasn't even hungry yet. Cool idea. I'm not too much of a survivalist, I really needed to save some of that, I'm starting to wonder if I know how to get back to the boat at this point. I saw the doe again. The doe that I took a picture of and scared off just a few hours earlier was now lying on the ground with its intestines ripped out of its stomach and legs torn off. Oh ****, what is this. I should probably just find my boat and head back now. But what else in this forest could have done this except for him he must be close. I came to find him but I'm contemplating if I want to anymore.

I had no idea where my boat was. But I knew that the sun set on Grandma's side of the lake, so if I just headed towards the sun I should eventually hit the lake and then I could just walk the coast till I found my boat.

It was pitch black out now. I had been walking for over an hour, I wasn't even 100 percent sure that I was still heading toward where the sun disappeared behind the trees. Every few steps now I was knocking down a spider web with my face. I had a flash light in my bag but I didn't want to use it. If he was out here that would surely catch his attention. But then again, wasn't that why I came here? Wait, why did I come here? To impress other people? To prove to other people something that I already knew? If my memory was blurred at all before, that mutilated doe is enough evidence for me. I just want to find my boat and get out here.

I pulled out my flashlight and started running. I wished I could click the heels of my red slippers and be back home. Now I could clearly see the spider webs that were in front of me and they weren't slowing me down anymore. Finally I saw the glimmer of the moonlight off of lake water in the distance. But I saw something else as well. Ol' Hairback was about 30 feet behind me. I could not see him clearly even when I pointed my flash light that way because of how dark it was but I knew it was him. And he was headed straight for me.

When I got to the shore my boat was nowhere to be found but I could see our boat dock across the water and a little bit diagonal from where I was so I knew the cove wear I tied it up wasn't too far down the coast. I couldn't hear him coming anymore he probably doesn't want to come out of the thick forest but that didn't slow me down one bit I was still at full stride down the coast line, shoes sinking into the wet sandy soil with every step.

The sight of that tiny silver tin cup of a boat was like an oasis in a desert when I caught glimpse of it in the distance. Now lets only hope that it will start. I nudged it into the water, untied it from the tree, and yanked the starter. He burst out of the woods with a growl to match that of the fishing boat as I took off from the coast. Wading into the water after me even though he had no chance to catch up I pulled my camera from my bag and started taking picture after picture. It was obvious he couldn't swim so when I got out a little further, I just stopped the boat and watched him. He watched me. Neither one of us moved or made a sound. When the stars began to question what we were doing he headed back to shore and I managed a few full body shots before he vanished into the thicket.

I started toward the boat dock, slowly coasting, hoping to catch another glimpse of him. I never did. When I docked the boat and began to make my walk back to the house I took the camera out to check out the photos. Zooming in, he looked just as I had remembered him. Matted brown hair all over his, possibly seven foot frame, like a Golden Retriever that's never had a bath.

Slowly walking up the old cracked wooden stairs, still flipping through the photos it donned on me just how huge this news would be. I had nine photos that can be zoomed in so far you can see his pupils and the strands of saliva coming from his purple lips. No one could dare claim these Photoshop jobs.

“Do you believe me yet, Ansel?” Papa said gazing at the 10 o'clock news as he heard me walk through the front door.

I scrolled through the photos again, engraved them in my head, and hit the button.

“Yeah you're right Papa”.

WolfieReveles
September 30th, 2010, 10:32 AM
I notice your sense of humor has a tendency toward sarcasm and irony, you should allow yourself a more dramatic and exaggerated style. Also, when you analyze something, try to penetrate deeper and keep digging, especially with human behavior. This is a case of practice makes perfect, but it's something I think you can be good at. Experiment, see how much you can exaggerate a description before it goes over board. Dare to go too far, after all you can always press backspace. Especially when writing a short story, you need to make every word count. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I think you have the potential for satire and cynicism.

Oh, also keep an eye out for slips between present and past tense, I think I saw one or two. Over all, few errors.

B.T.W. Here's an exercise that you may wanna test: Try writing a story, then try to pick out the best bits only, scrap the rest and rewrite the blanks. Do this as many times as you like, possibly until you are so enamored with your story that you can't bare to part with a single phrase. Keep saving each version, and then read them all a week or two later. It's a fun exercise and it gives you perspective on your writing.

Olly Buckle
September 30th, 2010, 11:15 AM
Can't find it now but somewhere I saw a "wear" for a "where".
My main advice would be to forget the disclaimer at the beginning and let people make up their own mind, I think it is pretty good and for a first effort excellent.

The Backward OX
September 30th, 2010, 12:18 PM
Good attempt for a first story. My summary is that you need to do a lot of reading. Reading will teach you about stuff like pale/pail, wear/where, site/sight.

Here’s a few other things to consider:



The problem was with an obvious outsider of this town.

While it is perfectly okay to have “a resident of this town”, when the person referred to is an outsider it needs to be expressed differently. The simple reason is that “of” means “belonging to”. See what I’m getting at?




The highway rolled on and on till it eventually turned to a curving serpent of a two lane road surrounded by nothing but forest.

The words “nothing but” are unnecessary.




I headed straight for the kitchen because I knew from the smell lingering in my nostrils that that is where I would find Grandma.

A lingering smell is one left over after something has happened, whereas what you have here is a future event. I’m not going to tell you the right way to express this. If you have to figure it out for yourself, you’ll remember it.

garza
September 30th, 2010, 02:56 PM
Definitely a good first effort. I will echo what Olly and Ox have said. Lose the disclaimer. That sort of introduction to a piece will keep some people from reading further. And speaking of reading further, that's very much what you need to do; read more.

xminnis
September 30th, 2010, 08:30 PM
Thanks for all the advice so far! I will make as many of these changes that I can. The Backward Ox, I'm not sure if I understand the thing about the lingering smell.

And about reading more... I really want to but during school I have so many text books I have to be reading, I don't have much reading for fun time. Whenever I try to, I just get the overwhelming feeling that I am not using my time wisely and should be reading my texts for class.

I have a ton of books on my shelf that I want to read and I did a ton of reading over this summer. About one novel per week. I wish I could continue with this now but my schedule is so busy... I just got into reading about a year or so ago, so I have been going to thrift stores and just stocking up on every classic i come across. 10-75 cents each :D Can't beat that.

The Backward OX
October 1st, 2010, 07:10 AM
Ox, I'm not sure if I understand the thing about the lingering smell.

Okay, perhaps I could have expressed it differently. In the context in which you’ve used the verb “linger”, it means “to remain noticed by the senses for a long time”. So a lingering smell in one’s nostrils is a smell that’s been there for a long time. But that isn’t the case with the smell of Grandma’s cooking. He’s only just this minute noticed the smell.

xminnis
October 3rd, 2010, 03:10 PM
[QUOTE=The Backward OX;1384857]Okay, perhaps I could have expressed it differently. In the context in which you’ve used the verb “linger”, it means “to remain noticed by the senses for a long time”. So a lingering smell in one’s nostrils is a smell that’s been there for a long time. But that isn’t the case with the smell of Grandma’s cooking. He’s only just this minute noticed the smell.[/QUOTe\E]

Ok that makes sense. I'm not sure what I should put there instead, any suggestions?

xminnis
October 3rd, 2010, 03:18 PM
I notice your sense of humor has a tendency toward sarcasm and irony, you should allow yourself a more dramatic and exaggerated style. Also, when you analyze something, try to penetrate deeper and keep digging, especially with human behavior. This is a case of practice makes perfect, but it's something I think you can be good at. Experiment, see how much you can exaggerate a description before it goes over board. Dare to go too far, after all you can always press backspace. Especially when writing a short story, you need to make every word count. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I think you have the potential for satire and cynicism.

Oh, also keep an eye out for slips between present and past tense, I think I saw one or two. Over all, few errors.

B.T.W. Here's an exercise that you may wanna test: Try writing a story, then try to pick out the best bits only, scrap the rest and rewrite the blanks. Do this as many times as you like, possibly until you are so enamored with your story that you can't bare to part with a single phrase. Keep saving each version, and then read them all a week or two later. It's a fun exercise and it gives you perspective on your writing.

That's really encouraging, thanks. I don't think anyone has ever complimented me like that before, that really made my day. I had went a bit further with that first paragraph about the girl, but after going over it a few more times it seemed forced and a bit much so I just slimmed it down to what it is now.

WolfieReveles
October 6th, 2010, 03:47 AM
No worries, if it sounded forced it was better left out. It's hard to find that fine line between elaborate and overblown. Like I said, practice makes perfect and while being a cynic is easy, being a truly great cynic and knowing how to transmit this cynicism takes skill and wit, and you need to scrutinize people where ever you go.

Cynicism is not the same thing as being negative, and the best cynic enjoys his job. The cynic recognizes the downsides and absurdities of life, he is not negative, he is observant(it's not his fault there's so much crap in the world). When these observations are thrown back at the audience in a way that emphasizes what most people don't or don't want to focus on... well that's where we get a lot of fine humor from. The key is allways hanging between ruthless honesty and mild exaggeration while explaining any fault in a way that makes it sound utterly absurd or stupid.

Rip 'em a new one and don't be nice about it, but always do it with a smile :D

xminnis
October 8th, 2010, 08:57 PM
The people that I have let read this do not understand how the part on the bus at the beginning, and the guy that peels out in the truck, fit into the story. I guess I'm not doing a good enough job getting my point across. The overall theme of the story was supposed to be, not trying to please or impress others and to just make yourself happy. I tried to make this obvious by giving the two examples of people trying to impress others and having the main character condemn that. Then with the end of the story having the main character delete the pictures off the camera, since he has proven to himself he was not crazy and did see Bigfoot before, he doesn't feel like he needs anyone else's approval to validate his feeling of fulfillment.

What can I change to really help show the overall theme I was going for?

Stephanie J.
October 9th, 2010, 11:58 PM
The people that I have let read this do not understand how the part on the bus at the beginning, and the guy that peels out in the truck, fit into the story. I guess I'm not doing a good enough job getting my point across. The overall theme of the story was supposed to be, not trying to please or impress others and to just make yourself happy. I tried to make this obvious by giving the two examples of people trying to impress others and having the main character condemn that.

Hi xminnis...I think the issue you're running into is a very common one for first stories. You have inspiration, but possible inspiration for more than one compelling theme and point, even if you don't consciously realize it. And one of the tasks of the writer is to realistically examine if these themes work together or distract from each other. I can tell you that reading your story, my initial impression was that it was going to center on the narrator's sense of alienation and frustration with the world around him/her. Then I thought it was going to focus on an amazing discovery of a creature ingrained in our cultural mythology (Bigfoot). And THEN I thought it was going to tell the story of family relations.

I am not saying all those elements can't be weaved into one story. They certainly can. But it's not, as you have discovered, necessarily easy - and "easily done" is certainly not expected with your first story. It helps if you know THE main point you want to make, the main theme of your story, and know how to connect them with other events for a smoother segue way. What I really, really think you would benefit from...because I see passion and feeling in your writing, a yearning to break away from the dull and tedious...and thus, the promise of ability in your writing...is some studying up on the mechanical elements of a short story that really works. I'm sure a simple Google along the lines of "Tips for writing short stories" or "How to write a short story" will lead you to some useful information on the mechanics involved of writing in this medium. If you feel a passion in you to write, then it's absolutely worth learning the tips and tricks of doing so.

stonefly
October 17th, 2010, 04:50 PM
hey xminnis,

Have you given serious thought to becoming a writer?



You oughta' think it over real good.



That's my advice, seriously...




...because if you keep it up, I do believe you'll get published.



Then it'll be too late to change your mind.





stonefly

xminnis
October 19th, 2010, 10:58 PM
hey xminnis,

Have you given serious thought to becoming a writer?



You oughta' think it over real good.



That's my advice, seriously...




...because if you keep it up, I do believe you'll get published.



Then it'll be too late to change your mind.





stonefly

Wow really? That is so encouraging I can't even thank you enough, things have been going horribly for me lately in school and I was really depressed today, but I cheered right up when I read that. Can you explain a little what you liked about the story or why you think that? Thank you.

stonefly
October 20th, 2010, 01:29 AM
Wow really? That is so encouraging I can't even thank you enough, things have been going horribly for me lately in school and I was really depressed today, but I cheered right up when I read that. Can you explain a little what you liked about the story or why you think that? Thank you.


Yes, it made me wanna keep readin.'

The others made some good points, but in the end, the writer is the writer and the writer decides.

I thing spelling, punctuation, and grammar are important at all times.

I'm always going through my stuff with a fine tooth comb to weed out spag errors.

Most important thing to me is you made me wanna keep reading more.