View Full Version : Manhattan Lunch - 275 words

October 25th, 2014, 04:33 PM
My first submission. Small, but I hope perfectly formed! LOL.

After writing for almost 40 years, here goes. This will be the first time anyone other than close friends and some family members have read anything I've written. In fact most don't even know that I do write.

This was very short, short story was written about 2 years. It came from the idea to see if I could write a complete, stand alone story that would be less than one side of a sheet of A4. Did I succeed?


Manhattan Lunch

Picture if you will that you are an observer perched on one of the skyscrapers that surround the plaza. It does not matter which one, just that your vantage point gives you a clear view from which to observe the open space below.

Now imagine that you are a diligent and attentive watcher. If you were, then at a quarter to one every Monday to Friday you would see Allan Carter appear at the southern end of the plaza.

With clear purpose he strides northwards. Now observe him closer as he walks. In his left hand he clutches a plain, non-descript brown paper bag. Its contents are exactly the same each day; one sandwich: Julia’s favourite of Mediterranean Roast Vegetables and light Cottage Cheese on Brown. In his right hand is a paper coffee cup: a latte, skinny, no sugar.

He heads towards the same bench where he waits for her without fail. If by chance the bench is fully occupied he waits patiently and quietly to one side for a space. Soon, no matter what the weather, he has the bench to himself.

He glances at his wristwatch. Julia will appear at any moment. He looks up and yes there is she, exiting the revolving door from the skyscraper where she now works. She is a coloured girl dressed in a nice, but not too expensive, suit. Her features are best called handsome rather than striking, but to Carter she possesses perfect and breath-taking beauty. His head turns slowly, watching as she walks by just as oblivious to his love now as she was on the day the Towers fell to earth.

October 25th, 2014, 07:13 PM
Hey Tjer

This is very interesting, and a great idea to try and write a story on one side, that is definitely something I need to try myself!

I think on the whole you have done a great job here. The characters are interesting, the tone of the piece is great, and I'm a big fan of narrators talking to readers, particularly in flash fiction like this. There was just one typo that I found, which was in the second paragraph "Now observer (observe) him closer", which is damn reasonable if you ask me!

I think you're descriptions are spot on, giving us just enough info about the characters to make us interested in them, without cluttering the narrative or wasting valuable word space. I particularly liked the way you introduced Julia through the sandwich, that was a lovely way to get the readers interested in who she might be, and what Allan's relationship to her is.

The only thing I have a problem with in the story is the final line, or in particular
the day the Towers fell to earth.

Maybe because I'm British, but this feels so so so out of place in your story, and I really believe there are so many other more organic ways to conclude it. Perhaps one day Julia decides to sit next Allan, still oblivious to his existence, and you leave it with him trying to muster up the courage to talk to her, or one day she doesn't show up, or Allan gets a phone call from his wife, or whatever takes your fancy.

But I really do feel that you do need to finish on something a bit more relevant to what we have seen of your characters, rather than a 9/11 reference which feels very disconnected from the rest of the story.

But I did really enjoy this, and very much looking forward to more of your writing!

October 25th, 2014, 09:11 PM
Thank Mousepot for the comments. I may need to rejig the story slightly to emphasise that Carter is in fact the ghost of someone who failed to get out of the World Trade Centre whereas Julia managed too. I like to be subtle, but maybe I was too subtle this time.

thanks for spotting the typo. The wood for the trees is so, so true when you've re-read a piece several times as I am sure you know.

October 25th, 2014, 09:37 PM
Hi tjer,

I have absolutely no experience with writing novels. It appears there are many rules that lots of people quote that I know nothing about; therefore I apologize that I have no writing tips as such. I can however attempt to tell you what I liked and perhaps where I stumbled as I read. Mind you though, my own stumbling is more often a reflection of my own lack of sight.

First of all - I talk to the readers in all my writings and yet to break away or learn other perspectives and or points of views. I too enjoy reading from such a perspective.

Your introduction clarifies just how much can be seen from such a position. I loved how you worded that out. "...does not matter..."

Descriptions can be over kill for me - I appreciate that you did not go on and on over the same things. Something I find common in love themes. I do it often myself with much that I wrote. I found your descriptions easy to read.

You pretty much had me all that way, but I too stumbled with the towers falling. For me, 9/11 was way off in the back of my head. In fact it was the last thing I thought of. I struggled with the alliteration. More so the sounds of the words and the way they were arranged. I find that when I struggle to express what I mean, that the flow of my words stumble and is an area that requires me to go over several times.

My brain works a little backwards and is quite slow. I thought about medieval towers and the simile being something so big it drew attention from something else. I believe I got the meaning - it just took a little more effort than all the words that came before.

I think MousePot says it better, with it feeling disconnected from the rest of the story.

I very much enjoyed it.

Thanks for sharing it.


October 30th, 2014, 02:25 AM
Hey tjer, okay, I am just reading this so had the benefit of your comment about him being a ghost. I did not get that at first. that is such a cool concept. I hope you rejig it (I like that...) because overall it was very nicely done! It made me think of the old shows like Twilight Zone or maybe it was Outer Limits (or both) where the narrator would start the show off similarly. the writing flowed nicely!

Thank Mousepot for the comments. I may need to rejig the story slightly to emphasise that Carter is in fact the ghost of someone who failed to get out of the World Trade Centre whereas Julia managed too. I like to be subtle, but maybe I was too subtle this time.

thanks for spotting the typo. The wood for the trees is so, so true when you've re-read a piece several times as I am sure you know.

October 31st, 2014, 03:42 PM
I enjoyed this. I related to Allan somewhat. The dullness of public transportation led to developing backstories for other passengers I would see regularly and this is what I felt with this, although to a much further degree (Allan's choice of food/drink being Julia's favourite. I never quite made it that far...).

To agree with MousePot, I thought the 9/11 connection was a strange one, but perhaps more because of what I had already taken from it.

I was expecting her to walk past, for her to be the woman he fantasises over and for him maybe to be happy with that; doing anything further would only lessen his feelings for her. At least he'd have the plaza. Much like having feelings for a friend, to act could jeopardise the friendship.

For me, the addition of the Towers feels like you tried to attach a meaning to a story that I had already found a meaning in.

Thanks for sharing.

October 31st, 2014, 06:12 PM
I'm with ChrisChandler, the Towers connection came after I already had ideas on the meaning. That isn't necessarily bad, as surprising the reader or challenging their initial take on things can work well. But it didn't sound like he was a ghost to me, so in this case the surprise was confusing, not surprising. The story up to that point was great.

October 31st, 2014, 06:24 PM
I say leave the 9/11 reference if that is what you are going for - it adds a splash of taste to the piece. But if you are going to go with the ghost motif, I would recommend throwing in stronger hints along the way. Either that or reveal it at the end with something like "the day he rode the falling towers to earth" etc.

October 31st, 2014, 07:25 PM
Not sure about the piece, to be honest. Obviously pretty clean, nicely written, but I think too short for what it sets out to accomplish.

"Perched" on a skyscraper, I'd have a hard time seeing Allan. I might see a person, maybe thousands. How I'm to know it's Allan, until we zoom in, is a little beyond my comprehension. Probably a menial complaint in the scheme of things.

I recoiled from two things, first being the 'coloured' girl (not sure if maybe because I just watched Gandhi again and marveled at the intolerance of all races; at one point Kingsley being referred to 'Get your black ass back to third class"), second being the reference to falling towers. Lower Manhattan, if you've ever been, is a hard place to chew sandwiches and ruminate on anything. Midtown, Central Park, maybe there are places which someone could regularly lunch and have this kind of surreal experience. Maybe I'm too married to realism.

Thought-provoking, however, just maybe a few clicks off 'perfection' for this jaded reader.

November 1st, 2014, 01:59 PM
Hey tjer222!

I really enjoyed the beginning of this story! The third paragraph is probably my favorite part, very nice wording. I would just try and make it clear that the main character is a ghost like what you said. I kind of assumed that he was a ghost but it could be more obvious. Other than that I really liked it and wanted to read more!

Threak 17
November 3rd, 2014, 07:46 PM
Otherworldly, and simple, I loved it, especially the falling towers ending. To me it lends gravitas to the piece.

November 4th, 2014, 04:29 PM
Hello, I really liked this little piece. It's no easy feat to get writing to work efficiently in a small space. There were a couple of punctuation questions I had which are so small they're hardly worth mentioning (shouldn't nondescript and breathtaking one word each rather than hyphenated?). Apart from that, I might just phrase the last sentence slightly differently to emphasise the remoteness of the event, perhaps:

His head turns slowly, watching as she walks by, just as oblivious to his love now as she had been all that time ago, on the day the Towers had fallen.

Of course, that's assuming it was "all that time ago" and not the previous Tuesday, but you get the idea

November 28th, 2014, 05:00 PM
By my standards, it's a decent story. An interesting start. Pretty short, though, so I don't exactly know what to think about it, since usually I write pretty lengthy stories. Still, like I said, it's interesting.

December 3rd, 2014, 06:55 AM
I loved it! The imagery was great and there was a sense of atmosphere that's very hard to convey in such few words. Even without the macabre twist it would still work, but with it I think it's a lot more memorable.

If I had to complain about something, I guess I would suggest that you change the line "Now imagine that you are a diligent and attentive watcher", as it seems a bit redundant considering the first paragraph. In any case, still a great story!

December 18th, 2014, 11:42 AM
tjer, i don't think you were too subtle. i think you were spot on. I got that the moment i read the last line. I mean, a story that starts with the reader imagining to be on a skyscraper looking down on the ghost on constant repeat loving someone that is still alive. All in that small word space. I enjoyed it.