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garza
January 17th, 2012, 04:14 PM
The old man stopped, bent to tie his shoelace, pitched headfirst to the ground, and died. The sniper may have intended a body shot but instead drilled the old man through the top of the head when the target bent forward.

'Down, Jol. Get down', said Carlos. Both boys flattened themselves in the grass beside the street. Gunfire sounded from in front of them and to their right, all single shots.

'They've killed profesor Mateo', said Jol. The old man was a teacher at their school.

'He was a spy for the Guardia Nacional', said Carlos. 'Everybody knows that.'

'He was a good teacher. I liked him.'

'He was a spy. Maybe you are a spy', said ten-year-old Carlos to his eight-year-old brother. 'So maybe you'd better watch yourself.'

'What do we do now?'

'We wait, like papi says, until we see people walking in the street again and there is no more gunfire, then go to school.'

'I'm afraid.'

'If you're not a spy you should not be afraid.'

There was no more gunfire, and the boys could see people starting to move in the street, staying close to the sides. No one approached the body.

A truck filled with troops drove fast into the village. One man jumped down and rolled the body of the old man over face up. The soldier said something to an officer in the cab of the truck, then climbed in the back and the truck drove fast out of the village. Soon more gunfire could be heard, but now it was some distance away. More people began to move in the street. A few approached the body and looked but did not touch.

'Vamos', said Carlos. 'We can go to school now.'

'Will there be school today?'

'Of course.'

The two boys gathered up the books they had dropped and walked on to school. As instructed by their father in the event they saw such an incident, they did not look at the body as they passed but walked on ahead as though nothing had happened.

Twenty years later Jol told the story of that morning to a visitor from the north, a writer curious about the days of the civil war.

'So was there school that day?'

'Oh yes', said Jol. 'No one even mentioned what happened. In some places the village would have been deserted for a week, but in our village life went on. In our classroom that day no notice was taken of the fact that there was no teacher in the next room. We adjusted. Another teacher was appointed. Life went on.'

Jol and the visitor sat in the kitchen of the small house on the edge of the village. They drank strong coffee, laced with cream and sugar, and ate a breakfast of fried beans and tortilla. The visitor had arrived just before daybreak, knowing that was the best time to catch Jol, a farmer who would be in his field once the sun was up.

'Where is your brother now?'

'Long dead. Two years after we saw Mateo killed, Carlos went to the bush and joined a guerilla group. We never saw him again. After a few years we heard he was killed. My father still grieves. He is an old man now and weeps when he has a bit to drink. I weep with him.'

'Was the teacher who was killed a government spy?'

'He had a brother in the Guardia Nacional and whenever there was word that there were rebels in the area, soldiers would arrive. I have always believed Mateo knew a rebel squad had slipped into the village the night before and that he had told his brother. That's how the soldiers happened to be there when Mateo was killed. Probably he did not know the guerillas had come to the village for no other reason than to kill him. That's what we heard later.'

The visitor thanked Jol for breakfast and for his stories about the war, said goodbye, and left.

'Who was that?' said an old man who entered the room as the sound of the visitor's car faded.

'A writer I knew ten years ago, about the time the war was over. He's writing abook about the war and talking to people about it.'

'What did he want to know?'

'He asked about Carlos.'

'What did you tell him?'

'That Carlos is long dead.'

'Good.' The old man sat at the table and poured a cup of coffee. 'The government put a price on his head before he was 14 years old. He never had a chance to live.'

'They'll have forgotten by now.'

'They don't forget. They don't forgive. They tracked my own brother through half of Mexico before they caught and killed him, and the Mexican authorities could do nothing about it. They will not do that to my son.'

'He is a cripple. He can do them no harm now.'

'He can tell the world the truth. For that they do not forget. They do not forgive. Let him be dead, if you want your brother to live.'

In the next room Carlos sat in a dark corner, away from the window. The voices from the next room were clear, but there was no sign Carlos heard. There was no sign he understood. For many years there had been no sign that he understood anything at all, or that he recognised the two men who tended to him, or that he had any memory of childhood or, for that matter, any memory of yesterday.

'He cannot speak', said Jol. 'He has not spoken for 15 years. He likely will never speak again. But you are right. He may not remember, but they do, and they do not forgive. He is dead. Let him stay dead.'

Foxee
January 17th, 2012, 06:39 PM
Liked this, Garza, it felt solid and real. Good smooth dialogue, too.

Felt like I wanted a little bit more out of the ending but that's not uncommon, sometimes it's my own pique that the story is over. I'd probably spell out 'fifteen' rather than using '15' there toward the end, too.

Kevin
January 17th, 2012, 06:54 PM
Very interesting subject matter. L.A. times just posted a story about the largest (known?) massacre in central america, 1981.

garza
January 17th, 2012, 07:29 PM
Foxee - Thank you. Since posting this I've written an entirely new ending, with the revelation that the person in the other room is Carlos held until the very end. It's no better - just different.

Kevin - Was the story about El Salvador or Guatemala? I'll go look for it.

Kevin
January 17th, 2012, 08:10 PM
I actually bought a real paper this morning (Dec. 17) Now, when I search the LATimes site , I can't find the story. So, I did a web search and it came up as a "A.P."release in the NYTimes: "President of El Salvador apologizes for 1981 massacre"

garza
January 17th, 2012, 08:53 PM
El Mozote happened about a year before my arrival in El Salvador, but was still the primary topic of conversation. Unfortunately some guerrila groups used the El Mozote massacre as a reason for killing anyone suspected of supporting the government. The army unit that took part in the massacre was demobilised, but many of its former members turned up the Guarda Nacional, the Salvdoran National Guard which became the government's primary security force. There's a bit of irony here, if you haven't noticed. The present government is made up of, and backed by, the the rebels of 1981 and their descendents.

edit - Another thought - as for El Mozote having been the worst massacre in Central America during the civil wars, I'm not sure about that. There were some terrible things done during those years. But if it was not the worst, certainly it was one of the worst.

Kevin
January 17th, 2012, 09:05 PM
L.A. has a vibrant El Salvadorean section near downtown,(aka "pico/union") thanks to that war. It's adjacent to "Koreatown." which is just south of "Little Armenia"....and "fliptown"....

garza
January 17th, 2012, 10:15 PM
...and on and on.

We have Salvapan, which is part of Belmopan and is a Salvadoran village inside the town. And we have Valley of Peace Village, another Salvadoran Village near Belmopan and one of the most violent villages in the country. The United Nations asked Belize to allow refugees displaced by the civil wars to settle in Belize. Too many of the refugees who came here brought the culture of the civil wars with them, and that has caused some problems.

The Backward OX
January 17th, 2012, 11:06 PM
Being as this reader is neither Central American nor interested in war I can’t be drawn into those comments. All I’m here for is to review the writing. Never again let me hear you say, 'I lack imagination.' You write fiction as well as anybody and a dang sight better than lots I’ve read. What I think your problem is, is a lack of understanding of the ways in which writers use the word "imagination."

Quite recently I posted something on this site which has the appearance of fiction, yet a number of those who read it have commented that it seems as if it may have been drawn from life. This is what writers do. You’re no different.





I actually bought a real paper this morning (Dec. 17)
Rip Van Winkle lives :smile:




L.A. has a vibrant El Salvadorean section near downtown,(aka "pico/union") thanks to that war. It's adjacent to "Koreatown." which is just south of "Little Armenia"....and "fliptown"....


...and on and on.

We have Salvapan, which is part of Belmopan and is a Salvadoran village inside the town. And we have Valley of Peace Village, another Salvadoran Village near Belmopan and one of the most violent villages in the country. The United Nations asked Belize to allow refugees displaced by the civil wars to settle in Belize. Too many of the refugees who came here brought the culture of the civil wars with them, and that has caused some problems.
You guys. I didn’t realise this localised ethnicity was so widespread. One way it manifests down here is at the big soccer games. Different teams are made up of players originally from different parts of what used to be Yugoslavia; the supporters are similarly aligned and savage fights and even murders occur.

Foxee
January 17th, 2012, 11:38 PM
...big soccer games. Different teams are made up of players originally from different parts of what used to be Yugoslavia; the supporters are similarly aligned and savage fights and even murders occur.
And I thought hockey was tough.

The Backward OX
January 21st, 2012, 06:14 AM
The present government is made up of, and backed by, the the rebels of 1981 and their descendents.


You've done it again. I remember a policeman once saying, "If you're going to tell porkies, you need a good memory." Let's have no more of these old, tired spell-check excuses.

garza
January 21st, 2012, 12:23 PM
If I keep at it, sooner or later the scholars at Oxford will realise I've got it right and they've had it wrong all these years and they will make the correction in the next edition of the OED.

There are some words that absolutely defy my efforts to spell correctly. Descendant is one. Probably it comes from the way I learned to pronounce, or mispronounce, it as a child, and if I don't stop to think about it, the wrong spelling will be the one I use. That's why I keep the Oxford Concise at my elbow, along Fowler to help me with usage.

In the old days there were line editors who silently changed these slips. I no longer have them downstream from my notebook, but fortunately I now have you at my back to help keep me straight until such time as the University catches up or I finally learn.

Now while you are here, would you like to point out what is good, what is bad, and what needs to be changed in 'The Fugitive'?

The Backward OX
January 21st, 2012, 01:35 PM
Look, I've just run screaming from a four-hour battle with another writer. I need serious bye-bye time to replenish the grey matter. I may sneak back while you're in your Land of Nod.

bazz cargo
January 21st, 2012, 03:36 PM
Hi Garza,
I liked this a lot. I am unable to give you any critique, only a thanks for posting.

Slightly off topic. Are you going to 'do a book?' If so this would be a great jumping off point.

garza
January 21st, 2012, 04:14 PM
This was a one-off composed in a couple of hours as a result of some sort of dare in another thread. I think it was xO who inspired me to write it. I started with the old man bending down to tie his shoelace with no idea of where that would lead. When he fell down dead I was reminded of something I'd seen many years ago, and that led to remembering a conversation I had with an ex-guerilla some years after that. The ending is totally made up.

I am working on two books, neither having to do with the subject of 'The Fugitive'. One book, called Seven Miles on a Dirt Road, is a series of sketches set in rural Mississippi and is similar in style to Miguel Street by V.S. Naipaul. I've posted bits and pieces of that here. The other book, barely started, is called A Missionary's Tale and is based very loosely on an incident that happened in Belize some years ago.

Foxee
January 21st, 2012, 04:57 PM
The ending is totally made up.
Without your imagination? ;)

Gumby
January 21st, 2012, 05:10 PM
This is a lack of imagination??? :) Not that I can see. Maybe what you lack is confidence in your abilities to stir the readers imagination, but believe me, mine was stirred.

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 01:58 AM
Not my cup of tea story wise, but superbly written.

I don't have much more to offer than that.

The Backward OX
January 22nd, 2012, 02:34 AM
"Now while you are here, would you like to point out what is good, what is bad, and what needs to be changed in 'The Fugitive'?"

Overall as I remarked earlier the story is good. And also as I remarked earlier I fail to see why you keep on with this nonsense about lacking imagination. The way this came into being, if your remarks are to be believed, is exactly the same way any other writer’s similar stuff would come into being.


#

The old man stopped, bent to tie his shoelace, pitched headfirst to the ground, and died. The sniper may have intended a body shot but instead drilled the old man through the top of the head when the target bent forward.

Old man is repetitious. Change second use for ‘him’. ‘The target’ sounds like something our Sam would write, whereas your story has more human values. Try "he".

'Down, Jol. Get down', said Carlos.

Even though later on we see Carlos talking in a wise fashion about spies, ‘Down, Joel’ sounds more like an adult speaking. It jars just a tad.

'They've killed profesor Mateo', said Jol.

Professor


'He was a spy. Maybe you are a spy', said ten-year-old Carlos to his eight-year-old brother. 'So maybe you'd better watch yourself.'

And you say you have no imagination? Pull the other one.


'We wait, like papi says, until we see people walking in the street again and there is no more gunfire, then go to school.'

If this were being pored over by scholars of English at Oxford, no doubt they’d say “then go” is correct. But this is a kid talking. My view is he’s more likely to repeat himself with the use of “we”, and say “then we go etc.”



A truck filled with troops drove fast into the village. One man jumped down and rolled the body of the old man over face up. The soldier said something to an officer in the cab of the truck, then climbed in the back and the truck drove fast out of the village. Soon more gunfire could be heard, but now it was some distance away. More people began to move in the street. A few approached the body and looked but did not touch.

1)See earlier remark re repetition. 2) I’m confused. The opening scene was of a single sniper shooting one man. Now it’s “more gunfire”, which tells of a group. Something needs to be done with the opening scene to eliminate this confusion.

'Vamos', said Carlos. 'We can go to school now.'

Repeating ‘We go’ like this is simply you showing off. Not very professional. No muy professional.




they did not look at the body as they passed but walked on ahead as though nothing had happened.

Redundant

'Oh yes', said Jol. 'No one even mentioned what happened. In some places the village would have been deserted for a week, but in our village life went on.

There’s something about this. “Some places” and “village” mean much the same thing. How about “In some parts of the country the village etc”?

The visitor had arrived just before daybreak, knowing that was the best time to catch Jol, a farmer who would be in his field once the sun was up.

From this, it’s clear the meeting was pre-arranged. I personally would have preferred the meeting to be fortuitous. A writer simply wandering from place to place picking up snippets is far more “romantic” than a pre-arranged meeting. Many will disagree with the idea of romanticism. Phooey to them.

Eek. I have just read on down the page. Clearly a fortuitous meeting will not work in that context. Thinks…maybe both would work. The writer knows Joel but is still a wanderer. That could have loads of potential.



Two years after we saw Mateo killed, Carlos went to the bush and joined a guerilla group.

This could well be local idiom. After all, Aussies say “went bush”, but even so… It jars. If it’s not idiomatic, could you play with it?

Probably he did not know the guerillas had come to the village for no other reason than to kill him. That's what we heard later.'

Here’s this confusion again about how many gorillas were in the village.


'A writer I knew ten years ago, about the time the war was over. He's writing abook (sic) about the war and talking to people about it.'

Aha! So they were known to each other. See earlier remarks.


In the next room Carlos sat in a dark corner, away from the window. The voices from the next room were clear, but there was no sign Carlos heard.

To this point I have had no quibbles about Point of View. Now I have. “The voices from the next room were clear” can only be from the pov of Carlos, which simply isn’t possible. The entire passage will need re-writing.

With that, my stomach is rumbling, and I must go. Good luck with the writing.

Olly Buckle
January 22nd, 2012, 04:37 AM
In the next room Carlos sat in a dark corner, away from the window. The voices from the next room were clear, but there was no sign Carlos heard. There was no sign he understood. For many years there had been no sign that he understood anything at all, or that he recognised the two men who tended to him, or that he had any memory of childhood or, for that matter, any memory of yesterday.I know you have re-written this, but an observation, if you intend repeating for effect do it wholeheartedly, otherwise it simply becomes repetition, so,

In the next room Carlos sat in a dark corner, away from the window. The voices from the next room were clear, but there was no sign Carlos heard. There was no sign he understood. For many years there had been no sign that he understood anything at all, no sign he recognised the two men who tended to him, no sign he had any memory of childhood or, for that matter, any memory of yesterday.

A friend of mine once said "We write 'faction' mostly", that's a mixture of fact and fiction. For me the imagination is not concerned so much with the events, as being able to see them from another's point of view, you are not a young man, but the boys' conversation and viewpoint seems believable.

garza
January 22nd, 2012, 12:26 PM
Thank you both. I am reworking the story with both of your comments taken into consideration, and making a few other changes.

xO - 'Professor' is English and means a ranking teacher in university, while 'profesor' is Spanish and generally means a high school teacher, but can be used for lower grade teachers as a mark of respect. Given the easy confusion, I'm changing it to 'Mister'. I'm also changing 'Vamos' to 'Let's go'. I'd thought that a sprinkling of Spanish would help to set the scene, but have decided that going with all English is probably best.

Edit - Regarding the first paragraph, avoiding the use of pronouns is a holdover from radio news writing. Repetition, I like to tell students, is preferable to confusion.

garza
January 22nd, 2012, 12:35 PM
Jamie - Sorry, I missed your comment earlier. Thank you.

Jamie
January 22nd, 2012, 02:05 PM
Jamie - Sorry, I missed your comment earlier. Thank you.

No problem. I think the dialogue is fantastic, and it's just my opinion but I'd have kept the Profesor and Vamos in it as well, especially the latter.

garza
January 22nd, 2012, 02:26 PM
Thanks Jamie. I think profesor has to go because of the likelihood that people will, as xO did, mistake it as a misspelling of professor. I'm thinking of keeping 'vamos', as most English-speaking people know what it means. Also, I'm keeping 'papi'. There should be no translation problem there. And I'm keeping Guardia Nacional. The literal English translation is National Guard, but the meaning in El Salvador is quite different from the meaning in the U.S.

SeaBee1
January 26th, 2012, 03:17 PM
Hi Garza,

Apart from the things already mentioned, the entire piece worked well for me. I understood the Hispanic sprinkling instinctively, except for the 'profesor' part. For me, it made the players real. Regarding the child speaking like an adult, I suspect that children living in such circumstances tend to grow up fast, and may speak accordingly. That is just my opinion, however. I really can't imagine what that would be like, but your work helped me with that, so, thank you!

Best regards

CB