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JustRob
April 13th, 2015, 01:52 PM
This is the opening part of the third chapter of my novel Never Upon A Time. This story is described in the beta readers' forum here (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/152668-Authors-Requesting-Beta-Reading?p=1842149&viewfull=1#post1842149) if anyone is interested in reading more of it. In NUAT Chapter 1 (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/154180-NUAT-Chapter-1-5320-words-(Suggestive-scantily-clad-girl-is-disappointed)?p=1822516&viewfull=1#post1822516) my main character Graham was asked by his doubtful companion whether he was real, to which he answered that both he and his feelings were very real. In NUAT Chapter 2 (http://www.writingforums.com/threads/154305-NUAT-Chapter-2-2400-words?p=1824190&viewfull=1#post1824190) his perception of reality as a young child was explored and in this chapter his life as a young man is examined, by himself in effect. Things do occasionally happen in this story but here he's on his lunch break and being contemplative.

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‘I thought you were a lady. That was uncalled for.’ Graham looked at the scratches on his wrist and then at his guilty companion. He was working on a Honda NSX with his arm down inside the engine bay alongside her V6 engine when a hot spot had made him wrench his hand back and she’d taken a dig at him. Nevertheless it was a pleasure to be in the company of an ageing supercar that wasn’t showing her years despite having been around the block many many times. He’d been very lucky to get this job working on high performance cars in the garage tucked away in the Kent countryside. It was an area where people had been tinkering with cars since the earliest days of motoring. His engineering achievements at technical college had gained him the job and he really enjoyed it.

‘Arguing with the customers now then Graham?’ He spun around on hearing the voice of Mister Arnold, his boss. ‘Continue your love affair with this beauty later. You shouldn't confuse your cars with your women though; neither of them appreciate it. They can be unforgiving and hurt you when you least expect it and then later you discover that some other man has been working on them.’

‘The cars or the women?’ Graham asked in confusion.

‘What? Oh, I see what you mean. There, that’s what comes of getting the two mixed up. Let that be a lesson to you.’

Graham was sure that it might be eventually, but apparently not today.

‘Anyway,’ Mister Arnold went on, certain that he’d made his point, ‘take your break now and give this thing time to cool off. It’ll still be waiting for you when you come back. I don’t think you can always be sure of that with a woman.’

Graham accepted the sound advice, at least the currently relevant part of it, cleaned up his hands and took his lunch out of the workshop down to the riverbank where he always took his break. He walked along the towpath, now just an overgrown footpath which hadn’t seen horses pulling barges in a very long time, and as he passed a solitary angler he nodded to the man, who looked back at him from his bubble of isolation without uttering a word. Bubbles in the river might have grabbed his attention more than Graham. The garage with its workshop stood by the quiet rural upper reaches of the river Medway far from the more commercial waterway below Maidstone. Here the river was wide enough for two boats to pass each other but narrow enough for a man of Kent on one bank to speak to a Kentish man on the other, although such a loud conversation across the ancient demarcation line would have disturbed the air of tranquillity. It was navigable here and had been a commercial route in the past with timber felled on Baltic shores finding its way up through the locks from the Thames estuary on barges, but now only pleasure craft plied its path. Further downstream the smaller timber would have been digested by the papermills that in their turn fed the presses of Fleet Street, but only whole logs made it this far upstream for structural purposes. The most important traditional industry on this sleepy stretch had once been the manufacture of cricket balls, another product essential to the contents of an English newspaper.

He found a comfortable patch off the path to sit and pulled his meal out of the bag in his hand. At lunchtime he found a few bananas to be adequate and convenient sustenance requiring no thought or preparation, so they were his usual fare as they were today, a day like any other. As he ate a small cabin cruiser chugged up the river and passed a group of kayaks working their way downstream. The occupants of the kayaks didn’t look athletic enough to turn around and compete with the current; it would probably take all the paddling they could do to keep in the same place. Following the recent rain the river was in an enthusiastic mood, making up for its lack of width with a surfeit of flow. The cruiser was having no trouble though, its tireless machinery overcoming the natural tendency of the flow to take everything down to that ultimate destination, the directionless sea.

High in the sky above the engine of a light aircraft suddenly cut out and the craft corkscrewed down to earth in a steep spiral dive. Graham took another bite out of his second banana and watched it for a moment. Yes, it took a lot of effort to keep in the same place, not to get washed out to sea or dragged down to the ground. It seemed that mankind spent a lot of time and energy fighting against nature – old-time horses pulling logs upstream when they’d prefer to float the other way and the modern boat and plane equally resisting the natural flow – and even when mankind wasn’t fighting nature it turned on itself. With a roar the plane climbed back into the sky. Hereabouts nobody paid any attention to an aircraft engine cutting out; it was usually a trainee pilot practising for emergencies in the safe skies over the river valley. This one was no trainee though, far from it; this was an accomplished pilot taking a Pitts Special through its paces. Graham had often seen the performance and it was no longer a novelty. It probably flew over from the airfield at Biggin Hill where there wasn’t so much space below the busy commercial air lanes over south-east England to attempt such stunts.

In a field on the Kentish side of the river a skylark took umbrage at the impertinent imitator and climbed into the air singing its song. Where once there would have been hopfields and orchards now there were less labour-demanding open arable cropfields and more profitable soft fruits such as strawberries destined to be eaten with cream at Wimbledon. There’d also been a time in this corner of England when the sound of birdsong would have attracted far less attention than the sound of aircraft engines cutting out. In the earlier years of the second world war eyes would have turned skywards to see whose plane had just lost its share of the battle of Britain, while later it would have been safer to dive for cover as a doodlebug cruised blindly towards its arbitrary target, possibly just a nondescript piece of riverbank such as this. Such things were just memories now but they were second-hand memories, other people’s not Graham’s own. Even so there remained the odd reminders of a time before his, like the defensive concrete pill-boxes set along the river banks still waiting for an invasion that would never come, antibodies to a past infection in the bloodstream of a land where no rivers of blood were now likely to flow. The skylark’s piercing song still came down clearly from the almost invisible speck up above and then suddenly cut off as the bird plummeted back towards the ground. It seemed that nature could surpass humanity without any fuss every time.

Graham wondered where real satisfaction with life lay, who felt the most fulfilment. Was it the completely motionless angler dreaming of fish he’d never catch, the boaters following the predefined course of the river, sailors choosing their own heading somewhere out at sea or that pilot freely experiencing movement in every dimension? For his own part he’d driven powerful cars over slippery mud and ice, where they behaved more like speedboats than the more predictable vehicles that they were meant to be, and he’d felt the essential adrenaline rush that kept him safe, but he wondered whether even that pilot was truly satisfied with his achievements or whether he’d rather have lived in another time when he could have had a genuine adversary and something real to achieve apart from fighting against gravity.

Graham could understand that feeling, of living the wrong life, maybe even at the wrong time, of being on the wrong side of some determining line, something as subtle as being Kentish but not of Kent. He had the ambition to become a real engineer, not just a motor mechanic, but he wondered how, when and whether the opportunity would arise. He dreamed of forcing it by coming up with some remarkable invention, something that he could patent, the well-known Graham patent – thing. Well, whatever that thing was perhaps it would be well-known in the future but he’d really like to know what it was much sooner. He was sure that it existed somewhere, sometime just waiting for him to put his name to it. If only. Perhaps the answer to the question of satisfaction with life, certainly for the people he’d seen, was that enjoyment of the journey was far more important than the destination and that gave him a sense of achievement in what he was already doing, for the types of cars that he worked on were certainly much more than a way of reaching a destination.

Now that very work was again his destination and having finished his musing and meal he put the banana skins back in the bag and got up to leave. Certainly the skins were biodegradable and he could simply have thrown them away, but with their bright colour they would have stood out in this scenery as evidence of the existence of another alien world, silently disrupting the fundamentally unchanging nature of the place by suggesting that communication with that same world was easier than ever before. He passed the still inert angler and as he went back into the workshop he threw the bag into a waste bin. Looking at the NSX he saw that Dave, another mechanic, was peering into its engine bay. Perhaps Mister Arnold had been right about the fickleness of cars and women.

LMFlores
April 13th, 2015, 04:21 PM
Do you feel maybe calling the car "her" instead of "it" as the narrator might sound weird?

I wouldn't go with that since this story isn't a first person narrative.

JustRob
April 13th, 2015, 08:09 PM
Do you feel maybe calling the car "her" instead of "it" as the narrator might sound weird?

I wouldn't go with that since this story isn't a first person narrative.

Thanks for the comment and I see your point. I always write my narration from inside the mind of the character with the current POV and adopt their style of thinking. My narration is seldom from a purely external perspective. For example when narrating from an English character's POV I refer to a pack of cards but when from an American one it becomes a deck of cards. I am seeing the world through Graham's eyes and therefore my narrative reflects that. I've no idea whether that is conventional but it's how I have to do it because I do not consider myself to be present, if you see what I mean. Equally I only write about what Graham knows or believes. There may be a technical term for this style of writing but I'm not experienced enough to know what it is. I think the question is whether anyone reading the story not from an analytical perspective would have a problem with this.

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After a bit of hunting in the terminology I think the narrative style here is technically third person subjective. Perhaps someone who understands these things better might comment.