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OLDSOUL
May 16th, 2013, 01:37 PM
Hey pals. I've been dormant on the forums for a while. Working on scripts for upcoming films and what not. Decided on a whim to bust out a short story that will hopefully be for submission to horror magazines if it's good enough. You decide. I give you the beginning of Cayenne Pepper...

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The dismal, seeping chill of a cold front loitered over Havertown. It had caused much blithe small talk between shop keepers on Main street as poor weather often did in small towns stricken with the economic instability of a country at war. Fortunately, the return of Philadelphia's discharged servicemen from the infirmaries of the Pacific Theatre had accounted for reputable sales over the past few weeks. This was largely due to the shopping districts ransacking by untameable children brandishing plastic guns and sporting novelty M1 helmets with their overly-apologetic mothers on their heels like camera-laden wartime photojournalists. People from Haverford and even Drexel Hill had convened around the bus stop -equip with deck chairs and lemonade when the weather was fair- to welcome the discharged soldiers home from war.


John Savy looked on from his grocery store across the road as the blatant glorification of war melted away in the rain, as it began to fall silently onto the shoulders of the onlookers; they saw no heroism. The soldiers pined the crowds with their tired, lifeless eyes that held stories they couldn't bear to tell. Bandaged and spent, they lumbered out of the buses into the arms of their lovers and children.

As the erratic downpours continued through the afternoon John Savy watched the crowds disperse from his grocery store across the street. He began to see more soldiers than he'd have liked, limping home in the wet with little fanfare and no sweaty-palmed young women to offer them a bath and a meal at their parents houses. A few had even trudged into his store, alone and soaked to the bone, to buy groceries before walking home, downtrodden, in the rain.


John had read about one such soldier in the Philadelphia Inquirer for his efforts in a particularly garish battle on Guadalcanal. He'd been an officer in the 5th battalion that'd done a stint in the infirmary before his trip home. The article highlighted that he'd thrown himself on a grenade to save his platoon. He was certainly lucky to be alive, John reflected, after suffering deep shrapnel burns to half of his body and losing an arm to the concussion. John recalled the stiffness of the way the man had moved that told of concealed heavy bandages. His chest shone with the polished accoutrements of a war hero, even in the dim light of that overcast afternoon, his medal of honour stood a testament to his legacy, but it couldn't have been worn by a more bedraggled character. It was certainly a sight to behold. A man that'd stormed the beachfront at Guadalcanal and fought for Bloody Ridge on the front-lines no more than a few months prior, struggling to pick up fruit in hands that shook violently. When he'd finally approached the counter to pay, John waved him away and told him his groceries were free for any man or woman who had aided the war effort. The soldier had looked down at him blankly, his eyes sunken back and slightly yellowed in their sockets. Without a word he put the exact change onto the counter and turned to leave. It nearly brought him to tears. It was the look in his eyes that did it. Utter and clarifying defeat, for country and man. He'd read about that look in articles published by war journalists. The thousand yard stare is what they called it. It was a woebegone sight if ever there was one. He watched as the forlorn soldier made his way wordlessly from door to be greeted by the rain that had just begun to dot the pavement. John Savy witnessed another sight that would stay with him for many years to come, the very next day.


The rain had subsided and the air was cold and electric. On arriving at his store after taking lunch, he hadn't noticed any crowds forming and in anticipation of another slow afternoon, he had decided to bring his figure drawing book in from his car. He set up bouquets of flowers along the counter; a thought that had occurred to him when he'd noticed some people in the throngs holding flowers plucked from the neighbourhoods gardens for returning soldiers and after scrawling: Show your soldier what he means to you with a fresh bouquet on the store chalkboard - usually reserved for sales on overripe produce- he settled in to read Andrew Loomis' Figure drawing for all it's worth.


It was just before three when Samantha Dwid walked through the door. A languidly petite woman. She always looked as if she might be down with something. She was married to James Dwid, a soldier that had arrived backa few days prior on discharge. Usually done up pretty as a peach - an idiom John chimed to himself whenever he saw her -, today her blonde hair was hidden under a floral headscarf and her eyes under thick sunglasses. She seemed to be pretending to sift absent-mindedly through a pile of oranges while she stared unmistakably at the bus stop across the road. She hadn't, at this point, noticed John due to her preoccupation and the the array of flowers concealing him. She watched a bus pull up, from whatever Main Line railway station they came from; Wynnewood or Haverford, he supposed. Her eyes followed a woman with two children and an elderly man with a walking cane off the bus, and as it pulled away she walked frustratedly to the counter and rang the service bell. John put his book under the counter and stood up, straightening his tie and his apron.


"Oh, you're there," she said. An air of suppressed panic quivered in her voice that took John by surprise. A fleeting thought that she was planning on shoplifting crossed his mind.


"You haven't per chance seen a soldier with one arm today have you?" She had said, her hands shaking slightly. "He should've arrived back this week sometime."


The portly greengrocer took her in from over his half-moon lenses.
"Yes, I seen him," he said finally. "Was in here just this morning."

She peered over her sunglasses. Bloodshot eyes took the portly grocer in.


"See," she continued. "My husband James Dwid knew the man. Pardon me, knows the man. I believe his christian name is Peter. He doesn't know know family name but would very much like to get in contact with him. It's a matter of emergency."


"I read about a man of that description in the paper, the day before last and I'm certain he was in here just yesterday." John pulled an old newspaper from the shelf behind the counter and flipped through the pages while running his other hand through his thin, gossamer hair. "I'm sure it was Bills… Or Gills…or, Aha."


He punctuated his sentence by plonking a fat finger near the headline of the article: Hero Peter Fish saves platoon and earns Medal of Honour on Guadalcanal.


"Fish! Peter Fish!" She proclaimed desperately and turned to walk toward the door, leaving John scratching his head perplexedly in her wake. Before exiting the shop she stopped and turned around and began rummaging through her handbag. She pulled out a pen. "Oh, and one last thing; do you have a scrap of paper?"


"Yes ma'am, of course. One moment." He realised his hands were shaking slightly as he pushed yesterdays Philadelphia Inquirer toward the edge of the counter. She trotted over hastily and began writing a phone number on the front cover. He felt a sense of malaise for her situation as he watched her crossing out incomprehensible numbers in her haste. What small town curiosity she might've otherwise roused in him was satiated by the sheer panic in the woman's voice.


"Here's my phone number. If you see Mr Fish before I do, be sure to tell him to call me immediately when he gets this. Tell him I am 'Dwids' wife." She turned to run but stopped joltily and turned to face the grocer again. "Oh and Mr Savy, if you see him again, be sure to tell him to try Cayenne powder. Tell him to mix it with fruit juice or water. He'll know what that means."


John never saw her again.

Ceremony
May 17th, 2013, 09:55 AM
So is she a ghost or something? I'm sorry but I don't understand it

OLDSOUL
May 17th, 2013, 11:52 AM
You're really not meant to have any idea as to where the story is going yet. But just to clarify, you couldn't be further from it. I mostly put this up for critiques of the writing itself.

TheWritingWriter
May 17th, 2013, 06:15 PM
Try to keep the reader intrigued, not confused.

Bakslashjack
May 24th, 2013, 11:11 PM
He set up bouquets of flowers along the counter; a thought that had occurred to him when he'd noticed some people in the throngs holding flowers plucked from the neighbourhoods gardens for returning soldiers and after scrawling: Show your soldier what he means to you with a fresh bouquet on the store chalkboard - usually reserved for sales on overripe produce- he settled in to read Andrew Loomis' Figure drawing for all it's worth.

That's a BIG sentence man!!!!

It was just before three when Samantha Dwid walked through the door. A languidly petite woman. FRAGMENTED.

She hadn't, at this point, noticed John due to her preoccupation and the the array of flowers concealing him.

Her eyes followed a woman with two children and an elderly man with a walking cane off the bus, and as it pulled away she walked frustratedly to the counter and rang the service bell. John put his book under the counter and stood up, straightening his tie and his apron.
Frustratedly is quite ugly in that sentence and there is an issue with comma usage.

She was married to James Dwid, a soldier that had arrived backa few days prior on discharge.
oops.
He doesn't know know family name but would very much like to get in contact with him.
oops.

He watched as the forlorn soldier made his way wordlessly from door to be greeted by the rain that had just begun to dot the pavement.
Passive voice alert.

There is a lot more I've seen, but not to worry, its nothing a quick run through grammar check won't fix.

Gargh
May 24th, 2013, 11:34 PM
The story's interesting and your characterisation is good but something about the writing is just not there yet. It reads a bit like a pitch and/or stage/character directions in some places. I don't know if I'm projecting this on to it because you mention you write scripts? It just seems to be suffering from the stereotypical 'too much telling, not enough showing' in my opinion.

OLDSOUL
May 26th, 2013, 07:51 AM
Thanks for the critiques, friends.

I've found reading what you said fairly valuable as there's always the inkling of the suggested changes in the back of my mind. It's good that there is no abashed posting on forums like this. I really value the brutal honest truth that comes from posting your stories on forums for complete strangers that have no reason to be nice about their critiques. Sometimes it is pure denigration, but even in those critiques there is something to learn.

I agree that it had a bit too much tell and not enough show. I've pretty much ditched all of this seeing as it is the beginning of a short story and it's a bit too waffly. John Savy isn't a character that we see again in the story and his experience with Samantha just isn't valuable enough to warrant spending the first 1,500 words with him. I'll have something else up soon.

Thanks again!