PDA

View Full Version : General Fiction, Indeed!



Pluralized
June 27th, 2013, 09:18 PM
Reggie's Aunties

Not long ago, Reggie’s mother started bringing home these paintings and hanging them all over the hallways of their dark little apartment. She’d hung one every evening, and now that it was Saturday, she was up early to presumably fill the halls.

He heard some strange tapping and walked out one morning, scratched himself and yawned, and nearly tripped over a stack of them leaned against the wall. His mother, Pahla, seemed scattered, half-smiling at him with the sharp end of several small nails sticking out of her mouth. Her silvery bangs formed a small canopy over her sweaty brow, and as she turned sideways to let him through, he saw the portrait she’d apparently just finished hanging.

It was a large oil painting on canvas with a shiny black frame the width of your fist and poorly mitered corners. The sheen on the painting itself required him to move his head around to get a good look at the image. Pahla sipped her coffee, set it down, then went to the stack and ruminated over her next choice. She spoke without looking at him, “Good morning, Reg. Did you sleep well?”

“What is this horrible thing?” He winced and turned to look at her.

She leered at him, jaw clenched and her smile replaced with a tight-lipped frown. “These paintings are very special to our family, given to us by your famous Uncle Alan. You simply don’t see the beauty in heirlooms, do you,” she said, not seeming to want an answer. He turned to look at the beast in the painting beside him. He definitely did not.

The background of the painting alternated between too-shiny black and dark green, with palm trees set against a very dark sky and in the foreground, the pimply visage of a mule-faced woman, frozen in a look of aloof but shaming disapproval. Reggie considered the reasons and motivation that would drive someone to paint this hideous thing, but could produce nothing. It resembled a character from Bosch’s Garden, replete with round teeth, gapped and facing different directions. The face was pale, with thin red lips parted in a sneer, the bulbous nose slightly crooked, and squat. Bushy, dark eyebrows under a wrinkled forehead, the sandy-brown hair feathered into an aggressive mullet.

He stood there, mesmerized. A magnificent beast it was, and the pinnacle of ugly. Shuffling through his mental catalog, he could generate no sufficient image to compete with this stout human, and trying threatened gastrointestinal discomfort. A cramp went gurgling its way through his innards as he scanned the image, doubled over. Large as life, it gnarled there, splendid and horrible. He backed away and exhaled, then turned toward his mother. With a hand up beside his face to block the painting’s gaze, he whispered, “Mother! What have you visited upon me? Is this your final effort to get rid of me for good?”

“Calm down, you twit,” she said, lovingly staring at the painting, “this is Aunt Erma. You should remember her from our old house. Your father’s late sister.

He gulped, “I’m – you mean I’m related to this? That won’t do at all, mother. Say it isn’t so. Please, I beg you,” he said, as he backed slowly away from the painting and eyed the stack of frames.

“The women on your father’s side, they were, uh – handsome, in their own way,” Pahla said. She marveled at the painting with a look of admiration, and Reggie swallowed against his gag reflex. “Oh God, mother. I hope you have some landscape scenes in that stack over there. Let’s have a look.” He shuffled over to the stack and flipped through them, shuddering at the gruesome female faces staring back at him, their pursed lips and moustache hairs, their pockmarks and moles. Obviously done by various painters at different times throughout the past few decades, he said a silent prayer asking Zeus to bring nightfall so they could be destroyed. “Reggie, these are all your aunties. Your father had six sisters, and his father had four daughters from a previous marriage. In all, you have ten of them. Of course, now they’re all dead, but we have these lovely portraits to remember them by. You look sick; can I get you a wastebasket? Perhaps you should lie down, son.” She hurried out of the hallway, disappearing into the laundry room. He slipped back into his bedroom and shut the door.

That night, Reggie couldn’t sleep, and his chest throbbed. Looking in the mirror, he shrieked and ran out into the hall. The painting grinned at him, and winked as he lifted it off the wall and headed for the door.

Folcro
June 27th, 2013, 10:27 PM
Overall, good writing. Descriptive, intriguing.

You encumber your narrative with words like "presumable" and "apparently." I'm sure your intent is to develop the character's voice, but it comes out sounding like he's (or you're) trying too careful not to be presumptuous. It's good that you aim to stick to the sole perspective of the narrator, but let him tell the story.

Her silvery bangs formed a small canopy over her sweaty brow, and as she turned sideways to let him through, he saw the portrait she’d apparently just finished hanging. This should be two sentences (a period instead of "and").

On that note, watch out for "ands" & "thens." The "ands" are often mischievous buggers who act to tie sentences that should be separated. The "thens" are often not needed at all. We already assume that things are happening in the order that you write them. "Buts" can also commit similar atrocities.

She leered at him, jaw clenched and her smile replaced with a tight-lipped frown. This seems a little redundant. "She leered at him" is good enough, or say "Her jaw clenched and her smile faded. She turned, leering at him."

The background of the painting alternated between too-shiny black and dark green, with palm trees set against a very dark sky and in the foreground, the pimply visage of a mule-faced woman, frozen in a look of aloof but shaming disapproval. Take another look at this sentence. I think you're a good enough writer to see where it needs to be fixed.

...motivation that would drive someone to paint this hideous thing, but could produce nothing. It's a style thing and purely taste on my part, but I think it would fit the feel of the story better if you watch your "but." I would put a period there. "He produced nothing."

A magnificent beast it was, and the pinnacle of ugly. I would make this two sentences.

“Mother! What have you visited upon me? Is this your final effort to get rid of me for good?” Is he being facetious, or is this how he talks?

Overall, I'm not sure what to make of this. I see potential for both humor and terror. As of now, it seems to slip and fall between both, going from serious to silly half-way through.

What were you going for?

Pluralized
June 27th, 2013, 11:08 PM
Wow, thanks Folcro! Great points.

This was something I had written back in January, sort of a short-fused attempt at Dunces-style absurdity.

All your comments were helpful. I must study! :)

shinyford
June 27th, 2013, 11:28 PM
Rob, I love this. The arcanery of the language is just lovely.

There are technical things to fix: the second to last paragraph, for example, needs to be separated out so that different people's speeches are presented on different lines. Occasionally there are punctuation problems, especially around speech marks: '"You simply don’t see the beauty in heirlooms, do you,” she said' should read '"You simply don’t see the beauty in heirlooms, do you?” she said' for example; and '“Calm down, you twit,” she said, lovingly staring at the painting, “this is Aunt Erma.”' should read '“Calm down, you twit,” she said, lovingly staring at the painting. “This is Aunt Erma.”'. But those are very minor points.

Personally, I would disagree with Folcro on one thing: I think "A magnificent beast it was, and the pinnacle of ugly" works really well as a single sentence - a really nice rhythm to it.

Overall, I love this. Have to say, I don't know where you're going with it either, but if you can tease it out into a character journey worthy of a full story, I think you'd be onto something good.

Cheers

Nic

Ariel
June 27th, 2013, 11:43 PM
I like the absurdity of this piece. There's a spot where you break perspective and that is in speaking about the frame of the painting. It's the only spot and it's jarring.

Gargh
June 27th, 2013, 11:53 PM
This definitely has a dark, absurd tone to it that I like. There are some formatting issues, as you are aware, but I like this. I'm not fond of Reggie, but I love the eccentric Pahla who I have visions of holding court amongst these portraits of gruesome Aunts. It feels like they will develop some operational sense of pack that Reggie could react against to develop further...? The one thing I slightly stumbled on was the description of Pahla's mouth full of nails. I would change it to tacks or pins because my first thought there was that you meant fingernails... maybe that's just me.

Pluralized
June 28th, 2013, 11:41 AM
Nic - so glad you enjoyed. This is the kind of tone that exists in my inner monologue, chock full of absurd scenes. Getting them out in an entertaining way, that's the struggle. Your advice is really helpful, and I appreciate it.

Amsawtell - Thanks for reading. I see what you mean about the frame. Reading it through again, I could have just left that out. I am glad you liked the absurdity, though. :)

Gargh! (I always have to put an exclamation point after your handle, hope that's okay) - Thanks for your insights as well. You have given me ideas for where to take this and I thank you. Glad you took the time to read and comment.

Thanks to you all. This is a silly little piece, but I had fun writing it. Maybe I can spend a bit more time cleaning it up and making it go somewhere, and have a micro-story that's worth the effort. Either way - I've learned some things today. :)