PDA

View Full Version : Tears of regret. 695 word language



Plasticweld
September 17th, 2014, 02:31 AM
Tears of regret by Bob Brown
He sat across from me, slumped in the chair, a broken man.

I tried to speak, yet no words came. A crying man is not something I am used to. This is not easy for me, my throat was dry and I wished I had a drink of water.

***

I was surprised that evening by a banging on the door. Bill stood in the doorway, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“I didn’t know who else to go see. I was hoping we could talk?”

I lead him into my office, he walked as if in a daze. Wiping his nose on his sleeve as he sat. His eyes red. His cheeks still showed the tears he had tried to brush away. He sat there, for a moment he seemed lifeless, eyes closed his chest barely moving. We sat there in an awkward silence, he must have needed time to compose himself.

The clock on the wall ticked, marking the time that did not seem to be moving.

Bill rubbed his eyes with his dirty hand, leaning back, and squinted at me, still holding his hand in front of his face.

“Fuck my family.” He broke down and cried, his chest heaved and he sobbed.

He sputtered.

“I should have never listened-- my old man--my grandfather. They're full of shit, they have no idea.”

I wasn't sure how to process this, I had no idea what he was talking about and had no idea how to respond.

“They told me my whole life, don’t get involved. Grandpa, he protested the Vietnam War. He bragged about it. He said ‘we had no business over there, what business is it of ours if they want to be Communists?’ Dad was no different, he was against the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, the War in Iraq, yesterday he was going on about Syria. ‘We should keep our boy’s home, none of our business.”

I sat there for a moment, speechless, trying to compose my thoughts and figure out, where this was going.

“Bill, this is what has you so upset?”

“No…no… its just not that, my whole life they both drummed into me, Stantons don’t get involved; we mind our own business. Stanton men did not die in foolish wars. I come from a long line of conscientious objectors, maybe that is the wrong word, but we do not fight and we don't ever volunteer to fight. There was never a valid reason to help the other guy, the other country, it didn't matter, there was never a just reason for war or to put yourself in danger.”

His nose was dripping, tears still welled in his eyes.

“I can still hear them cry out.” He mumbled

“What!-- what did you just say?”

“I just got off work-- I was heading for my car. There was an apartment building on fire, it must have just started. I could hear a woman scream ‘My Baby’ I just froze. Smoke billowed from the windows. I could hear others screaming, I couldn't do anything, The screams got louder-- more desperate. My feet wouldn't move.

Running through my head where my Dads words. ‘Be safe, don’t get involved.’ I stood there till the screams stopped-- they went on for what seemed like hours. The fire trucks started to arrive, sirens blaring, just as the fire just broke through the roof. They ran towards the fire like I should have! I couldn't look them in the eye. My head held down in shame, hoping no one would notice me., I ran”

“I’m sorry Bill I don’t know what to say.”

In a defiant manor he looked at me.

“Yes you do! you know what you wanna say, I'm a coward.”

“I wasn’t there Bill, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Tell me what you would have done?”

“Bill, it’s easy for me, I would just go and help, do whatever I could.”

Bill looked down at the floor, tears dripped from his cheeks. He ran his hands through his matted hair. He did not look up he quietly he said,
“All I hear are the screams in my head, I wish I had died trying to do something, anything!"

I had no answer.

“Bill let me get you a glass of water.”

I came back with a glass of water for both of us, he downed his as though it were alcohol and would kill the pain, for me just plain old water, had never tasted sweeter.

"Bill lets do the one thing I know that will help--Lets pray."

And both men knelt to pray to God, both looking for answers.

LeeC
September 17th, 2014, 04:06 AM
Well Plasticweld, not sure what to say here. It sounds more like a statement framed in a fictional setting than a story.

As far as the writing, I think a little more brevity would have made it feel more realistic, and better coursed the arrow to the point. Take for instance:


I was not sure what to say, I am never at a loss for words, yet no words came. Comforting a crying man is not something I am used to. I struggled with my breath, this is not easy for me. I wish I had a drink of water.


might have moved things along better as something like:

I felt uncomfortable, not sure what to say, unaccustomed as I was to comforting a crying man.

Maybe even dispensing with the opening, and beginning with Bill banging on the door. Then you might have lead him into your office, and more briefly assessed his condition, followed by your reaction (sentence above).

Without me rambling on, I think you get the point. Grab the reader by the lapels and drag them into your setting, hopefully to get your message across.

And of course being more of a statement than a story, the ending seemed to leave me hanging. Easy for me to say, not having any idea how to wrap it up properly.

If the message is more what you're interested in than the writing, I admire you overall perspective, and respect your taking a stance. There have been many good reasons to intervene, as the society of man depends on balance of power. At the same time history shows us, that being human, many mistakes have been made, even with the best of intentions. I'd tell you of my own involvement in IndoChina, and of my mixed feelings, but thats not the point here. I think what you're trying to say is that if a man doesn't stand up for what he believes right, then he doesn't stand for anything.

Nemesis
September 17th, 2014, 05:18 AM
He sat across from me, slumped in the chair, rumpled. Abroken man.

The flow to this first line doesn’t read quite right, I’d trysomething more like: He sat across from me slumped in the chair; a rumpled,broken man.

I was not sure what to say, I am never at a loss for words,yet no words came. Comforting a crying man is not something I am used to. Istruggled with my breath, this is not easy for me. I wish I had a drink ofwater.

Noticed, starting from this point on, that you don’t use any of thecommon contractions that people tend to use when speaking informally. “I wasn’tsure, Comforting isn’t” ect and not using them here really chopped up thewriting for me, made it sound overly and uncomfortably formal when all we’redoing is listening in on the the MC’s thoughts.
Additionally, there is a bit of a tense problem every nowand again. “I wish I had a drink of water” should probably be “I wished I had”,“this is not easy” to “this wasn’t easy”
While I like that you’re writing it in a similar way that hewould be thinking it, it feels like there are a lot of misplaced or misusedcomma’s and it tends to distract me from the story.

***

Bill had come to see me, banged on the door and begged tocome in, he was sobbing.

“I didn’t know who to go see, I thought maybe we couldtalk?”

I lead him into myoffice, he walked as if in a daze, wiping his nose on his sleeve as he sat inthe chair, across from my desk. His eyes red, his cheeks still showed the tearshe had tried to brush away. He sat there. For a moment he seemed lifeless, eyesclosed his chest barely moving. I sat there in an awkward silence, figuring heneeded time to compose himself. The clock on the wall ticked, marking the timethat did not seem to be moving.
Maybe a semicolon after office and removal of the unnecessarycomma after chair? The flow is a bit clunky, I’d recommend reading it out loudto see where it can be smoothed over.

Bill rubbed his eyeswith his dirty hand, leaning back, he squinted at me, still holding his hand infront of his face.
Don’t be afraid of using the word “and” sometimes!

“Fuck my family.” He broke down and cried, his chest heavedand he sobbed. Ouch. -_-

I was not sure what to say, so said nothing. Again, wasn’tmight sound better here than was not

“I should have never listen-- my old man--my grandfather.They are full of shit, they have no idea.” Listen should probably be listened

I was not sure how to process this, he seemed to think Iwould know what he was talking about. Repetition on “I was not sure”, youstarted the last sentence with it as well.

“They told me my whole life, don’t get involved. First itwas grandpa, he protested the Vietnam War. He bragged about it. He said ‘we hadno business over there, what business is it of ours if they want to beCommunists?’ Dad was no different, he was against the Gulf War, the War inAfghanistan, the War in Iraq, yesterday he was going on about Syria. ‘We shouldkeep our boy’s home, none of our business.”
I like the dialogue here
I sat there for amoment, speechless, trying to compose my thoughts and figure out, where thiswas going. Comma after figure out not needed.

“Bill, this is whathas you so upset?”

“No…no… its just notthat, my whole life they both drummed into me, Stantons don’t get involved; wemind our own business. They looked at it as, self-preservation. Stanton men didnot die in foolish wars. I come from a long line of conscientious objectors,maybe that is the wrong word, but we did not fight and we did not evervolunteer to help fight. There was never a reason to help the other guy, theother country, it did not matter, there was never a just reason to go war orput yourself in danger.”

His nose wasdripping, tears still welled in his eyes.

“I can still hear them cry out.” He mumbled

“What! what did youjust say?”

“On my way home from work, I was heading for my car. Therewas an apartment building on fire, it must have just started. I could hear awoman scream ‘My Baby’ I just froze. I could hear others screaming, I could donothing. Running through my head where my Dads words. ‘Be safe, don’t getinvolved.’ I stood there till the screams stopped, they went on for what seemedlike hours. The fire trucks started to arrive, I left in shame.”
OUCH. Strong emotional impact for me here, make sure youkeep the emphasis here. I think it could be driven home a bit more of he wentin a little moredetail, did someone ask him to help (the woman whose mbaby wasin there maybe? The idea of her screaming to him, crying and burnt, begging himto help save her baby as she tries to get through a blocked door makes mecringe. If you make it more specific it will really drive home the fact that hecould have done something, but didn’t

“I’m sorry Bill I don’t know what to say.”

In a defiant manor he looked at me.

“Yes you do, you knowwhat to say, I am a coward.”

“I wasn’t there Bill,I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Tell me what you would have done?”

“Bill, it’s easy forme, I would just go and help, do whatever I could.”

Bill looked down atthe floor, tears dripped from his cheeks. He ran his hands through his mattedhair. He did not look up

“All I hear are thescreams, I wish I had died trying to do something than have to live with this.”Possible rephrase here, had to reread it to understand what he was trying tosay, also, semicolon after screams.

I had no answer.

“Bill let me get you a glass of water.” I’d use a commaafter Bill J

Overall, nice story, it just needs some work to make it floweasier and hit a little harder when the kicker comes :)


Hope this helped!

Plasticweld
September 17th, 2014, 11:08 PM
Lee thanks for the time and the suggestions, this was difficult for me to write, based more on truth than fiction. I tried to take a story that was similar and make it have a little broader appeal.

I have done lots of work as a councilor, this is why I used the description of banging on the door. People show up at all times, never it seems, at a good time but always when you are in the middle of something. I started out this way to just let the reader know that as upset Bill was, there is the other side of the story. It is tough for me to deal with a grown man crying, I tried to share that with reader. I like your suggestion.


I used a war setting, the real story-- two guys who are friends and ride motorcycles together, one is a Christian and part of the CSBA which I was in charge of at the time. The other young man does not make it around the corner on his bike while they were our riding one day, ends up in the woods and dies in the arms of the guy who is a member of my group. The anguish comes from two different aspects, Bill, "not his real name" does not know enough first aid to keep his friend alive. He is also concerned that he has never shared Christ with his new friend and that he died not knowing the Lord. It was a double whammy of guilt. Most of this was written from memory not as part of my imagination...

As for the ending, I am sure that today, Bill wished there could have been some sort of closure, some sort of finish that night, this would go on to haunt him for many years.

How it really ended... "Bill can I get you a drink of water?" I return with the water and watch him down the entire glass.

"Bill, lets pray!"
No Hollywood ending, just two guys who prayed for guidance and support, and leaned on God.


I was only reminded of this story during the past few days, Bills family was Catholic that pretty much kept to themselves, they were not the "Lets share Jesus" types. Bill battled with this when he joined the CSBA as it is a ministry for Christian bikers and believes in sharing the Word. All of the talk of going to war again and the reasons why we should just mind our own business must have struck a nerve with me and stirred up old memories.

I come to this forum to learn how to write, I have always enjoyed your advice and respect your opinion.

Now that you have a little more back round if you have any other suggestions to make this as horrible, as it was in real life please pass them on. The intent of the story was to let someone know that there are consequences for both action and in-action...Bob


Well Plasticweld, not sure what to say here. It sounds more like a statement framed in a fictional setting than a story.

As far as the writing, I think a little more brevity would have made it feel more realistic, and better coursed the arrow to the point. Take for instance:



might have moved things along better as something like:
I felt uncomfortable, not sure what to say, unaccustomed as I was to comforting a crying man.

Maybe even dispensing with the opening, and beginning with Bill banging on the door. Then you might have lead him into your office, and more briefly assessed his condition, followed by your reaction (sentence above).

Without me rambling on, I think you get the point. Grab the reader by the lapels and drag them into your setting, hopefully to get your message across.

And of course being more of a statement than a story, the ending seemed to leave me hanging. Easy for me to say, not having any idea how to wrap it up properly.

If the message is more what you're interested in than the writing, I admire you overall perspective, and respect your taking a stance. There have been many good reasons to intervene, as the society of man depends on balance of power. At the same time history shows us, that being human, many mistakes have been made, even with the best of intentions. I'd tell you of my own involvement in IndoChina, and of my mixed feelings, but thats not the point here. I think what you're trying to say is that if a man doesn't stand up for what he believes right, then he doesn't stand for anything.

LeeC
September 18th, 2014, 01:24 AM
Understanding the background certainly exemplifies the potential for error in acting on first impressions. It was late and I apologize.



The intent of the story was to let someone know that there are consequences for both action and in-action.


Amen.

Back to writing thoughts, I can best make my point by offering up an example. To really get the reader into the characters, get them into the main character's head. As an example of what I'm talking about, see my last posted sketch of Garden Life:
http://www.writingforums.com/threads/148720-New-version-of-Garden-Life-sketch-(2335-words-mild-language-and-gore)?

You've got more of a related interaction at present, so the primary character's consciousness to use would be the one that best conveys your story thread. To my thinking that would be Bill.

Peace,
LeeC

EmmaSohan
September 18th, 2014, 03:05 AM
You wrote: "Comforting a crying man is not something I am used to." Then you said, "It is tough for me to deal with a grown man crying." To me, the second one had emotion.

Ah, I liked more the story of the Biker. His pain came alive for me.

Did you mean, "I got him a glass a water. There was nothing else I could do." Or. "I felt helpless. 'Let me get you a glass of water."

One more and then I'll stop. Did you want, "Just say it. I'm a coward”?

So, it's like your writing with your head and not doing that painful thing of writing with your heart. Actually being that anguished man. Actually being that listener. I'm guessing most people can't. I think you can, and I think you'll like it.

But I'm an emotion-junky, I know that. Maybe I'm just saying how I would write it.

thepancreas11
September 18th, 2014, 10:32 PM
Wow. I read this out loud as I like to do with first person pieces and no one else can hear me. I like to act out the drama as I see it more than how it's written so I can understand where Emma comes from when she says she doesn't see much of it. You don't explicitly state the emotional intentions of the characters. That being said, a better piece in terms of dialogue I have not seen on this website. Albeit a bit clunky without the natural rhythm in places, I found if driving subtly expository and containing raw emotion the likes of which I expect to see in a conversation like this. You really opened up and let the flood gates out. To clean it up further why not try and say it out loud yourself. That's been helping me a lot lately.

The ending could use something to the effect that Emma was hinting at, something a bit stronger. It needs resolution really. That doesn't mean the problem must be solved, it just needs something final. Maybe a bit of inspiration from our narrator might be in order you know? The glass of water thing works because when you dig down deep you realize that he has the opposite reaction as bill: he will do whatever he can even if it's not much. Play up that dichotomy more. I thought it showed guts. Maybe it should be, "well, helping someone else starts small. How about we get you a glad of water." Or something way better than that. I tend to write clunky when I try to enter someone else's voice.

Amazing stuff. Would have loved to seen this published, you know?

Plasticweld
September 18th, 2014, 11:34 PM
Thank you all for the encouragement, I have struggled with bringing some of the real life tension and drama to words. There are many times I feel I fall far short of bringing the reality of the moment to the page. I will go back and rewrite and try and fill in some of the voids clean up the dialog so it reads a little smoother.


One part I am still struggling with is the amount of depth that I should go into about the characters, as the story un-folds.


In the moment, when all of this happens much has already transpired that is un-spoken. I have been successful if it is even possible to use that word in this context as a councilor only because, I rely on the Word of God, not my own wisdom. For some reason some of the tragedies that have occurred in my life have all seemed to make me stronger and I have never been shy about sharing my past mistakes and some of the bad stuff with others for that very same reason.

I also can not write stories about real people, it would be un-ethical as a councilor, these people are all still around and there would be no way to do that unless I had their ok....Bob

Jean Bathurst
September 19th, 2014, 06:23 PM
I think it’s very well done. Feels immediate, powerful. I like the brevity and unadorned prose. Certainly a very strong POV. All I can suggest are minor changes. A few grammar issues, tense, but that’s about it. I'm not very good with tense myself. I took a shot at editing it, cutting repeated words, tightening, that sort of thing; hope you don’t mind. Just suggestions. Plenty of valid ways to approach it. Hope this helps.
cheers, Jean



I tried to speak, yet no words came. A crying man was not something I was used to. It wasn't easy. My throat was dry and I wanted a glass of water.

***

I was surprised that evening by banging on the door. Bill stood at the entrance, tears streaming down his cheeks.

“I didn’t know who else to go see. I was hoping we could talk?”

I lead him into my office. He walked as if in a daze. Wiping his nose on his sleeve as he sat. Eyes red. His cheeks still showed tears he had tried to brush away. For a moment he seemed lifeless, eyes closed, chest barely moving. We sat in an awkward silence. He must have needed time to compose himself.


The clock on the wall ticked idly, marking time that did not seem to pass.

Bill rubbed his eyes with a dirty hand, leaned back, and squinted at me, still holding a hand in front of his face.

“Fuck my family.” And he broke down and cried. His chest heaved as he sobbed and sputtered.

“I should have never listened-- my old man--my grandfather. They're full of shit, they have no idea.”

I wasn't sure how to process this. I had no idea what he was talking about. No idea how to respond.

“They told me my whole life, don’t get involved. Grandpa, he protested the Vietnam War. He bragged about it. He said ‘we had no business over there, what business is it of ours if they want to be Communists?’ Dad was no different, he was against the Gulf War, the War in Afghanistan, the War in Iraq, yesterday he was going on about Syria. ‘We should keep our boy’s home, none of our business.'”

I sat there for a moment, speechless, and tried to compose my thoughts. Figure out where this was going.

“Bill, this is what has you so upset?”

“No…no… its just not that, my whole life they both drummed into me, Stantons don’t get involved; we mind our own business. Stanton men did not die in foolish wars. I come from a long line of conscientious objectors, maybe that is the wrong word, but we do not fight and we don't ever volunteer to fight. There was never a valid reason to help the other guy, the other country, it didn't matter, there was never ajust reason for war or to put yourself in danger.”

His nose was dripping, tears still welled in his eyes.

“I can still hear them cry out,” he mumbled.

“What!-- what did you just say?”

“I just got off work-- I was heading for my car. There was an apartment building on fire, it must have just started. I could hear a woman scream ‘My Baby’ I just froze. There was a lot of smoke. I could hear others screaming, I couldn't do anything, The screams got louder and louder but my feet wouldn't move. Running through my head where my Dads words. ‘Be safe, don’t get involved.’ I stood there till the screams stopped-- they went on for what seemed like hours. The fire trucks started to arrive, sirens blaring, just as the fire just broke through the roof. They ran towards the fire like I should have! I couldn't look them in the eye. My head held down in shame, hoping no one would notice me. I ran”

“I’m sorry Bill I don’t know what to say.”

He looked at me defiantly. “Yes you do! You know what you wanna say. I'm a coward.”

“I wasn’t there Bill, I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Tell me: what you would have done?”

“Bill, it’s easy for me, I would just go and help, do whatever I could.”

Bill looked down at the floor, tears dripped from his cheeks. He ran his hands through his matted hair. He did not look up. Quietly, he said, “All I hear are the screams in my head, I wish I had died trying to do something, anything!"

I had no answer.

“Bill let me get you a glass of water.”

I came back with a glass of water for both of us. He downed his as though it were alcohol and would kill the pain. For me it was just plain old water, but had never tasted sweeter.

"Bill lets do the one thing I know that will help--Lets pray."

And both men knelt, to pray to God.

Each looking for answers.

Misty Mirrors
September 20th, 2014, 11:59 PM
Hello Plasticworld.
That is a great story.
I cried when I read it.
The bodylanguage is well described.

Sc0pe
September 21st, 2014, 12:41 AM
I think you really grabbed the human nature with this piece. I'm sure all of us at one point wondered if we was put in that scenario would be be able to take action. Most of us would tall ourselves yes but well it's not really something you can put a simple yes or no answer to. Well at least thats how I think. The very subject can make for it's own debate.

Sorry I don't have any CC on this myself, the comments above seemed to have covered stuff that i did not even notice, I felt I got the message that was put in there clear enough. It was very human and rateable, got me thinking, cant think of how to CC sadly, but no criticism is good criticism... right?