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hghwriting
September 27th, 2016, 08:33 PM
Hi people!
I'm a 26 year old Norwegian male who have just finished my business stuides. While writing my dissertation this summer i decided to take on my first fiction project as I have always enjoyed writing and reading.

I was hoping some of you might be bothered to critique my short-story "Fog & Ice", as I am trying to develop my writing and storytelling.
The story is around 4500 words and I hope that doesn't scare people from checking it out.

Any feedback is warmly welcomed.

Please feel free to read and share my story if you like it.
I hope you do!

Regards,
H.G.H

The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year and the sun had not yet lit up the world. Maybe it did not intend to any longer. Staring into the mist, the Captain could not suppress his joy of once again being free from the real world. As he looked south, the Captain could see Nome becoming smaller and smaller and to the north the Beaufort Sea growing wider and wider. Familiar dark shapes bobbing up and down in the water began to take presence in his mind. Priorities were changing now.

'The real world', he muttered. 'What could be more real than this?'
Earl climbed out of the cabin and onto deck, map in hand, clearly sleep deprived and eager. The fog was begging to grow heavier now, and the Captain summoned Earl out of his map and onto the helm. Earl, whose body was molded by his ranging Montana home country, could feel the seafaring life take its toll. Challenging his perspective, that's why he did this with all the heart he could muster.

The environment still being somewhat charitable, Earl was assigned to mast duty. His eyesight was exceptional from growing up in Bozeman's hills and he was pleased to be useful. With nervous tension and lack of grace, Earl struggled to climb the rope ladder. The Captain offered what he believed to be comfort;
'It's difficult to find your way home if you don't know the path... My friend, do not worry, the voyage is my home...'.
Earl shrugged with his whole body, 'How could it be your home if you don't know the way?'.
Pausing at this, Earl felt tense and unfamiliar with the Captain. He knew this natural space offered little room for reflection and that action is rewarded over meditation. The true healing properties of this creation is action, then at night rumination.
It's always easy being brave in the day, Earl thought. The long shadows of the night, however, requires a different man. It could not have been any truer at these latitudes. Earl arrested himself in acting against his own rationale and was set straight as his first ice appeared. No familiarity was to be found in the patterns of this world. Therefore, now action, later rumination.

'To my liking, we should pass through the Prince of Wales Strait', Earl suggested timidly, knowing his true place.
'Agreed...and continue north of Victoria Island', Haynes added, who was confidently performing the morning routine.
With eight years of sailing yachts across the Atlantic for billionaires wanting to spend their summer in the blue of the French Riviera, Haynes' sea legs were steady. At least in somewhat decent conditions. Feeling unproven in his trade, he wanted to earn his stripes by undertaking this journey. Both Earl and Haynes knew that democracy was left at shore, and started to untie the long poles from the gunwale without expecting and answer from the Captain. The boat screeched as Earl and Haynes barely pushed it clear of an iceberg. It was exhausting work, and heavy on fuel, as they had to run solely on engine. Propulsion by sail was too risky, as the regulation of speed had to be immediate. A concern both Earl and Haynes shared materialized when they saw the western tip of Baffin Island and Sachs Harbor. Both began to realize that the Captain never intended to break north through the Prince of Wales Strait. Rather, the route of Roald Amundsen's 1903 expedition was to be followed. Earl glared over at Haynes who was putting on his coat of doubt. Though being a stoic character, Earl had seen the unmistakable colors of disbelief on Haynes before. Being ruthlessly introspective, he only wore them when he was uncertain about his decisions. Both had the warnings of the sailors floating in their minds.

Earl and Haynes, both Bozeman natives, had met the Captain at the infamous Monkey Wharf bar in Anchorage. It was a place known for two things; being a shelter for sailors and for the business-minded macaque monkeys they kept in cages. Seeking hire, Earl and Haynes entered the jungle and sought the barmaid's advice. Lifting her arm from the sticky bar counter, she directed their attention towards a rugged whaler who was holding court at the corner table. Though the grace of young years was behind her, she was refreshingly eager to see other people fulfill their dreams. Clearly excited and serious, the whaler at the table said;
'I trust this man with all my heart...I saw his true colors on a hard antarctic whaling expedition twenty years ago. Whatever he says or writes, I believe'.
Earl and Haynes' pondering over what this talk was about was swiftly cleared by the barmaid.
'Talk of the town is that Roald Amundsen has Inuit descendants. Apparently, the elements wasn't all he conquered on his voyages...', she said with a grin.
The Captain's character, with his weather-beaten face, Norwegian accent and snow-goggles hanging from his neck quickly pleased Earl and Haynes' attention. Asking around, people cautioned them about sailing with the Captain. He preferred traversing the Northwest Passage closer to the main land, rather than chasing open waters further north. Why was a mystery to even the experienced sailors who had been familiar with him for years. Rumor was that the Captain was looking for crew as he intended to sell his old faithful to a buyer in Saint John's, Newfoundland. With a goal rising above their alcohol clouded minds, Earl and Haynes decided they would spend the night plotting how to approach the Captain. Young in their years, both men wanted to earn their stories.

Earl, who on a Kenyan safari had lost his grandfather's watch to a thieving monkey despised the kind. Upon darkness, Earl could no longer stand the sight of the monkeys, whom he said mocked him with their being. Still a man of action, however drunk, Earl knocked the legs of the wooden chair he was sitting on, grabbed the newly constructed bat, and staggered over to one of the cages. In good sporting spirit, Haynes knew what was up and rushed over to open the cage. Earl raised the bat and smashed the monkeys head in. Needles dropping to the floor, the Captain walked over and graced them with his proximity. As smoke cleared, the Captain said;
'I just love animals!', patting Earl on the back...
The ambiguous words kept Earl and Haynes on their toes. Not knowing what to expect, the entire jungle was relieved when it's king traded calm words with the barmaid before bolting out the door.

Standing at the helm, glaring out over the ice through his snow-goggles, the Captain's voice demanded Earl and Haynes' attention;
'I truly love animals! Not necessarily the wildlife kind. That's why you lads sail with me...'
Getting the feeling that the Captain had arrived back at his place in life, Earl and Haynes looked at each other with uneasy tempers. Accompanying an old sailor on his last voyage was maybe not the most intelligent decision people ever made. Sailing south of Ulukhatok, the concentration of ice grew denser, and it did not look like it was about to open up. The fog was still quite heavy and constant direction changes from circumventing the ice made it difficult to stick to the correct bearing.
'I'll go get my second compass...', the Captain said, '...to verify that we're on course'.
Quickly, he summoned Earl down from the mast and onto the helm. Haynes, trying to help, was on his way downstairs when the Captain's voice halted him.
'It's in my cabin. I'll go get it', he said.
Without reflection, Haynes turned around and headed back up. The Captain emerged compass in hand, checked the bearing against the other compass and disappeared below deck again.
'We're good!', the Captain yelled from his cabin.
How he could see anything through his cracked and worn out snow-goggles was still a mystery to Earl and Haynes. Not feeling too good about the situation, they both decided to trust the Captain's judgment. Supply-wise, it was too late to sail back to Anchorage or head back west and north through the Prince of Wales Strait anyway. From here on, commitment was total. As they started to zero in on Cambridge Bay, still battling the increasing ice and hunting for landmarks through the fog, speed had to be further decelerated. Choosing paths through the ice-maze was a bygone luxury. Rhythm was no longer a choice of two partners and nature solely dictatored the dance. Earl stood at the helm, together with Haynes who had the wheel. The Captain wanted some exercise and was frantically moving around the bow, pushing and cracking at oncoming ice. The railings on the boat were beginning to freeze, making the deck a hazardous space. Earl whipped out a hammer and began to hack away ice from deck, gunwale and railings. Conditions worsened as mother earth and father sky's quarreling summoned denser fog and heavy ice. There was no use in dedicating a man to lookout duty in the mast as the fog tightened its grip.

While waging war on the ice, Earl got an uneasy feeling which drew his hawk-like eyes up and out. In the fog, he felt something staring back at him. He held his gaze for a couple of minutes, trying to recognize shapes and patterns his mind had been exposed to before. Without response and thinking his senses were numb from the lack of changing landscapes, he tried to relaxed himself. As the Captain began to grow tired from pushing ice, he changed positions with Haynes. The Captain could feel the tension on board and made an effort to brighten the mood. Standing next to Haynes at the helm, he slapped his coat around in search for something. Haynes felt distracted and was getting bothered by the performance. The Captain summoned Earl onto the helm as well, suddenly having found what he was looking for. From his jacket pocket the Captain produced a black and white picture torn out of something larger.
'Remember Amundsen and the Inuit rumors? This is the closest you'll ever come to the truth and evidence!'
All started laughing as they took in the naked pale body Roald Amundsen lying on a bed without blankets.
'How could anyone resist?!', the Captain said, clearly pleased with the emotions he produced.
Earl and Haynes felt comfort in the Captains broken Norwegian accent and suddenly he felt human to them again. They all shared in some more laughs and with gained trust, the Captain commanded Earl and Haynes back to their previous work stations. The Captain climbed ranks in Haynes mind at this. Having been at sea for many days of his life, Haynes knew that keeping the mind occupied was key to a healthy head. Lack of new impressions can overthrow even the mightiest kings of sanity at sea.

Earl resumed his onslaught. He used to enjoy winters with the snow, ice and cold it brought. This was challenged now as he battled the seemingly endless produces of it. The cold was different at sea. Wet and not dry like he was used to. It made all the difference. Trying to stay warm through activity, Earl had the feeling of being watched again. At first he tried to suppress his urge to look out. It hadn't done him any good before. The rumbling sound of ice settling after movement made him look up instinctively. Glassing, he could make out the characteristic shape of a polar bear. Earl turned around to gather the Captain and Haynes' attention. No need. They were already looking. The bear was moving about restlessly, clearly anxious and curious about what information its' senses provided. Without obvious determination, the bear walked back and forth weaving his head a couple of times, before the fog encapsulated him again. It was gone, just like it was there a second ago.
'It's looking for seals...', the Captain said. 'The trail of open water behind us attracts seals that hunt for fish. That's why the old fellow is trailing us.'
Haynes who had been at the helm for the better part of the morning had not seen a single seal following in their path. The gained moral from the picture faded rapidly. Haynes shook his head at Earl. He didn't felt any connection or emotion attached to this animal in the usual way. Neither did Earl. Earl stood by the railing and evaluated whether or not exchange of words was needed to gather Haynes. Growing up, Haynes never liked otherworldly Native American stories that was told around the summer campfires. Stories of spirit animals and ancestral presence never did him any good. He saw no use in them. Knowing Haynes was truly a man devoted to the tangible, Earl could tell his mind was occupied with assessing the potential danger the bear presented. His mind was exactly where it needed to be and exchange of words was unnecessary. A bear was not an unfamiliar creature and for Earl and Haynes it wouldn't be the first time an inquisitive animal produced a dangerous situation.

Being true Montana natives, Earl and Haynes respected bears deeply and both still wore their community's mental scars of the 1967 tragedy. Since the opening of Glacier National Park in 1910, no people had been killed by bears in Montana. That would all change one August night when two women were brutally slaughtered in their sleep by a curious grizzly. Earl's mind wavered at this. He remembered the faces of the ones left behind vividly. Again, his moral lessened and he started to feel manic from the emotional roller coaster. The sound of ice crashing into the bow snapped him back to the present moment.
'Focus!', the Captain barked. 'What is more dangerous, a bear looking for seals or getting stuck on an iceberg?!'.
Both responded instinctively to the Captain's command in agreeing fashion.
Focused, Haynes demanded replacement as he saw splintered fiberglass floating past the rudder.
'On it.', Haynes said.
Knowing his previous life at sea, the Captain trusted his repairing abilities. Haynes went below deck and arrived back up moments later strapped in his harness. Hooking up to the railing and checking that it would hold his weight, Haynes disappeared below the bow. The Captain now stood at the helm and devoted his full attention towards avoiding oncoming ice. Haynes, who hung in his harness at the bow, planted his legs on the hull and was searching for the damage, hoping it was not severe. As the cold chills of the water began to creep up his spine, Haynes identified the hurt. The damage only seemed to be aesthetic, but one could never be too sure. Some time passed before frostbitten fingers grabbed the railing and a content face emerged. All was well, as the smell of duct tape filled the air.

'About those seals...', Haynes said as he scaled the helm.
The Captain stood there with a proud thousand yard stare, convincing himself that he was in control of the future.
'They're might good to eat!', the Captain replied. 'We'll catch one soon. I'm sure of it'
Words were no comfort for Haynes any longer. Narrow corridors, cold waters and dangerous animals wasn't his usual recipe for a successful voyage.
'Would you go get my shotgun?', the Captain asked Haynes in an unusual and friendly way.'I'm sick of eating grains and canned meat. Let's see about those seals.'
Haynes went down below deck and by instinct tried to enter the Captain's private cabin. As he pushed the handle down, he remembered that the door was locked and that the twelve gauge was hanging over the doorway leading up onto deck. Walking up, Haynes chambered two shells in the side-by-side.
'Here you are. But there's only two shells' Haynes said handing the gun to the Captain.
'Sufficient.', the Captain replied.
The Captain handled the gun without thought like a singer handles her microphone. Adjusting his goggles, the Captain scanned the water behind them for movement. Haynes at the wheel, tried to pay attention while still maneuvering the boat safely. Failing to do so, Haynes adjusted his priorities and focused ahead. Moments later, a big boom, a splash and a shove from the Captains back, made him turn around. And another round went of into the blue with authority.
'I got one!', the Captain shouted.
Haynes looked into the water behind them. No sign of a seal.
'I must have punctured it's lungs. They drown and disappear instantly when that happens', the Captain said.
'Yea. Must have', Haynes replied.
Earl had followed the scene with half an eye and said;
'You'll get one next chance you get. Don't worry.'
'Out of shells...'the Captain replied while stumbling back downstairs to his gun back in place.
'Not fun anymore', Haynes said to Earl, who replied;
'It's fun alright. I enjoy the smell of gunpowder and failure. I just don't know how much longer were going to be if this keeps up.'

Earl was taking a short breather and covered up by pretending to inspect the railings for damage from the hacking. The Captain had significantly dropped in stature for him. But he knew that maintaining roles was still important for safety. He tried to concentrate on the picture of Amundsen and in what setting and state of mind the picture was taken in. Doing this he caught eye of the bear again. Big and white and close to 600 pounds Earl reckoned. It's demeanor had changed and curiosity had been replaced by deliberate intention. At thirty meters out, running full clip without much noise, fear came barreling down on Earl and Haynes who both had eyed the threat. The bear's dead eyes signaled a demon of the past. Something that is best left unchallenged. Both Earl and Haynes were perplexed by its dark gaze. It was much like a grizzly's blackened and psychotic stare. Their hypnotic state was interrupted when the ice opened up under the bear. It seemed like the beasts heavy intentions became too burdensome for mother nature. Dipping its' tail in the water, the bear clawed itself back onto the ice where it came from. Looking up at the Captain who had not noticed the ruckus, neither Earl nor Haynes could understand why the bear was trailing them. Rarely did polar bears become man-eaters. None of them knew if it was because they rarely come in contact with humans or if it was in their nature to stay away from people.
'Perhaps we've got ourselves a Tsavo-bear!', Haynes joked quietly trying to brighten Earl's mood.'We too have a bridge, you know...'.
Earl despised Haynes attempt to brighten his mood;
'Please don't. Not needed. Not now.'
Keeping their chatter indistinguishable, neither Earl nor Haynes wanted to ignite the Captain's temper by not focusing on operational tasks. At these latitudes focus and grace is survival. Defying his cold hands, Earl scaled the mast again, his mind desperate for new impressions. The fog was still quite heavy and no relief was found in the whiteout. Still seeking to comfort his mind, Earl remained in the mast. He could feel the wind beginning to pick up. Like on a familiar forest lake, the fog had to slowly give in to the motions of the wind. Though only for brief moments, a clearing in the fog leaked the sight of a narrow ice corridor. Before Earl could warn the Captain to decelerate, the boat jammed itself between the two ice sheets. The squeaking noise caused by the pressure on the boats frame made them all brace for the worst. Like walls, the ice towered over the ship reaching halfway up the mast. Luckily, no significant damage was done to the hull, as the railings were the boat's widest points. However, the boat frame was subject to heavy stress as the gunwale was bent inward. The Captain took action and began to inspect for damage. After assessment, he motioned Earl and Haynes to pick up the long poles and to push the boat loose of the ice. No blame was directed, as all men put their backs into it. In spite of the strenuous work, Earl could not get the bear out of his head who had clawed itself a place in his mind. Engaging with animals on their terms was not to his liking.

After hours of unsuccessful work, a sincere sadness came down on the Captain. Dropping down, resting his back against the wheel, this was not how his last voyage was supposed to end. Affected by this drop in moral, Earl and Haynes took a breather. Both felt they had made a bold decision in sailing with the Captain. In their minds, though, the situation was still the product of circumstance.
'Seen any seals lately?', Haynes asked the Captain.
'I know they're there and I know you don't trust me', the Captain replied.
'You're wrong and you're right', Earl shot in. '...and I don't know how you ever see anything through those glasses!'
The masses of ice made everything sound strangely. It suppressed and blunted out otherwise unpleasant pitches, in an unpleasing way. Earl began to grow cold, got to his feet and began swinging his hands in large circular motions. A trick he had learned from the Captain to get blood flowing out to the extremities again. Whipping away crystallized sweat from his face, Earl noticed a damp white cloud emerging from the top of the ice shelf. Trusting his instincts he understood what was coming, as the source of the vapor was particular. Familiar black eyes appeared above them on the ice shelf, accompanied by a deep grunt and bowing head. Before Earl could warn the Captain, the bear leaped onto the helm where he rested, partially smashing the railing under its weight. The Captain staggered to his feet quicker than Earl and Haynes had ever seen him moved. Futile though as his sudden agility was greeted with a crushing paw across the face. Beaten down by the bear's stroke, the Captain's head bounced off the deck and his legs went limp with slight spasms. Haynes stormed down into the kitchen and made for the shotgun. As he was about to grab the gun, he remembered that they were out of shells. In total problem-solving mode, Haynes turned and grabbed a big butchers knife. As he emerged back up, Earl had tied his hammer to one of the long poles they used for controlling the ice. Together they closed the distance. Acting on instinct, Earl took a big swing at the bear and smashed the hammer over the its' neck as it stood weaving over the Captain's body. Issuing a marrow shattering roar, the bear directed its' attention toward Earl and Haynes. Keeping their distance, Earl tried to jab the bear with the now fractured pole. The wooden splinter nailed the bear in the shoulder, increasing its' rage. The bear stood up on two legs, trying to make itself as big and terrifying as possible. Haynes matched the bear's posture, attracting attention away from Earl. Exploiting the moment, Earl cocked his arm back and trust the pole deep into the bear's chest. The bear was stunned, as its' white fur changed color. Haynes seized the opportunity, moved closer and thrust the big butcher's knife into the bear's throat. Warm blood trickled down Haynes' face and the bear moaned as its legs gave out. The old polar relaxed as its' physical body was drained of last life and the bloody smell of iron made all survivors gag in agony and victory.

Drenched in blood from the struggle, Earl and Haynes quickly began to skin and clean the bear. Knowing that bears are notorious opportunists, they did not want to attract more of them. With a couple of hours slight of hand, the bear was skinned out, and they pushed the carcass through the smashed railing and into the ocean. The blood and guts left a trail where they had pushed the carcass. Without exchange, Earl and Haynes wrapped the Captain in the bear's hide and pushed them overboard. Man and beast sinking as one on their last journey into oblivion. The stillness of loss came bearing down on Earl and Haynes. Seeking to comfort them both, Haynes said;
'This sense of loss is the proof of worth. Everything of worth dies, that is not a loss, but a proof of its' worth'.
Trying to internalize this and not feeling the need to be reverential, Earl added;
'Indeed, also, a fitting departure for an animal lover... Don't you think?'.
Earl tried to muster a grin. But Haynes knew that every man has a space of loneliness inside not even the dearest ones can fill. He had seen this void revealed by death before.

Earl felt the chills of the adrenaline dump and put on the Captains bloodied greatcoat. The smell of insides still hanging heavy around the boat. Trying to escape the whiff, Haynes went down into the Captain's private cabin with curious intent. None of them had ever been in the Captain's cabin. Haynes, who had brought the hammer with him, crushed the lock and entered the room. Upon entering, he was overwhelmed by a even more hideous stench. How could they not have noticed this smell before? Turning around, he observed a rubber skirting that was sealing the doorway gap. Trying to localize the source, Haynes caught eye of a dozen wooden crates stacked in the corner. He yanked one open with the bloodstained hammer and revealed the crate to be filled with slabs of whale meat. Expecting the same, Haynes opened the other crates and revealed equal content. Continuing to search the room for more secrets, he revealed a crack in the wall towards the rear of the helm. Confused, Haynes grabbed a cut of whale meat and went back onto deck. Upon scaling the steps to the helm, Haynes noticed that Earl was devoting his attention to a small color photograph. The sight of an Inuit mother, with sucked in cheeks, and her child perplexed him as he focused his eyes on the picture. Both origin and infant had struggle and trauma in their stare. Haynes smacked the whale slab onto deck with authority and walked off preparing to resume work to free the boat.
'There's plenty more', he said.
The fog now began to clear and revealed a shattered horizon in the distance. Smooth lines were interrupted by sharp peaks and valleys.
'Well, I guess the preferred route was not the only thing Amundsen and the Captain had in common...' Earl added.
'Alright, battle stations...'

Non Serviam
October 2nd, 2016, 08:19 PM
"How do I format dialogue in a story?" he asked.

"Like this," she replied. "Start a new line for each new speaker."

"Where does the punctuation go?"

"Punctuation goes inside the speech marks," she said. "End each sentence with one (1) full stop, question mark, or exclamation mark. Not two."

Does this seem like picking nits? It's not. It's really important. Getting your SPaG right before you ask for a critique is like brushing your hair and cleaning your teeth before you go on a first date.

Hope this helps

NS

Harper J. Cole
October 22nd, 2016, 01:04 AM
Hi there hghwriting,

Some interesting ideas here. You set the scene rather atmospherically, I think. Inevitably when one is writing in one's second language, there are some issues with the construction of sentences. I'll highlight a few things that leaped out at me.



The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year and the sun had not yet lit up the world. Maybe it did not intend to any longer. Staring into the mist, the Captain could not suppress his joy of ["at" is a more natural word here] once again being free from the real world. As he looked south, the Captain could see Nome becoming smaller and smaller and to the north the Beaufort Sea growing wider and wider. Familiar dark shapes bobbing up and down in the water began to take presence in his mind [slightly awkward phrasing - maybe "loom large in his mind"]. Priorities were changing now.

'The real world', he muttered. 'What could be more real than this?'
Earl climbed out of the cabin and onto deck, map in hand, clearly sleep deprived and eager. The fog was beggin ["beginning"] to grow heavier now, and the Captain summoned Earl out of his map and onto the helm. Earl, whose body was molded by his ranging Montana home country, could feel the seafaring life take its toll. Challenging his perspective, that's why he did this with all the heart he could muster.

The environment still being somewhat charitable, Earl was assigned to mast duty. His eyesight was exceptional from growing up in Bozeman's hills and he was pleased to be useful. With nervous tension and lack of grace, Earl struggled to climb the rope ladder. The Captain offered what he believed to be comfort;
'It's difficult to find your way home if you don't know the path... My friend, do not worry, the voyage is my home...'. [you can drop this full stop - the ellipsis ends the sentence]
Earl shrugged with his whole body, 'How could it be your home if you don't know the way?'.
Pausing at this, Earl felt tense and unfamiliar with the Captain. He knew this natural space offered little room for reflection and that action is rewarded over meditation. The true healing properties of this creation is [should be "are", as you describe two properties] action, then at night rumination.
It's always easy being brave in the day, Earl thought. The long shadows of the night, however, requires [should be "require", as "shadows" is plural - in pars like this, one word will the singular and other plural] a different man. It could not have been any truer at these latitudes. Earl arrested himself in acting against his own rationale and was set straight as his first ice appeared. No familiarity was to be found in the patterns of this world. Therefore, now action, later rumination ["action first, rumination later" sounds more natural].

'To my liking, we should pass through the Prince of Wales Strait', Earl suggested timidly, knowing his true place.
'Agreed...and continue north of Victoria Island' [as Non Serviam noted, a new speaker means that you need to start a new paragraph], Haynes added, who [you can't put any words between "Haynes" and "who", so put "added" before "Haynes"] was confidently performing the morning routine.
With eight years of sailing yachts across the Atlantic for billionaires wanting to spend their summer in the blue of the French Riviera, Haynes' sea legs were steady. At least in somewhat decent conditions. Feeling unproven in his trade, he wanted to earn his stripes by undertaking this journey. Both Earl and Haynes knew that democracy was left at shore, and started to untie the long poles from the gunwale without expecting and ["an"] answer from the Captain. The boat screeched as Earl and Haynes barely pushed it clear of an iceberg. It was exhausting work, and heavy on fuel, as they had to run solely on engine. Propulsion by sail was too risky, as the regulation of speed had to be immediate. A concern both Earl and Haynes shared materialized when they saw the western tip of Baffin Island and Sachs Harbor. Both began to realize that the Captain never intended to break north through the Prince of Wales Strait. Rather, the route of Roald Amundsen's 1903 expedition was to be followed. Earl glared over at Haynes who was putting on his coat of doubt. Though being a stoic character, Earl had seen the unmistakable colors of disbelief on Haynes before. Being ruthlessly introspective, he only wore them when he was uncertain about his decisions. Both had the warnings of the sailors floating in their minds.

Earl and Haynes, both Bozeman natives, had met the Captain at the infamous Monkey Wharf bar in Anchorage. It was a place known for two things; being a shelter for sailors and for the business-minded macaque monkeys they kept in cages. Seeking hire, Earl and Haynes entered the jungle and sought the barmaid's advice. Lifting her arm from the sticky bar counter, she directed their attention towards a rugged whaler who was holding court at the corner table. Though the grace of young years was behind her, she was refreshingly eager to see other people fulfill their dreams. Clearly excited and serious, the whaler at the table said;
'I trust this man with all my heart...I saw his true colors on a hard antarctic whaling expedition twenty years ago. Whatever he says or writes, I believe'.
Earl and Haynes' pondering over what this talk was about was swiftly cleared by the barmaid.
'Talk of the town is that Roald Amundsen has Inuit descendants. Apparently, the elements wasn't all he conquered on his voyages...', she said with a grin.
The Captain's character, with his weather-beaten face, Norwegian accent and snow-goggles hanging from his neck quickly pleased Earl and Haynes' attention [I'd drop this word - pleasing someone's attention isn't a phrase in English]. Asking around, people cautioned them about sailing with the Captain. He preferred traversing the Northwest Passage closer to the main land, rather than chasing open waters further north. Why was a mystery to even the experienced sailors who had been familiar with him for years. Rumor was that the Captain was looking for crew as he intended to sell his old faithful to a buyer in Saint John's, Newfoundland. With a goal rising above their alcohol clouded minds, Earl and Haynes decided they would spend the night plotting how to approach the Captain. Young in their years, both men wanted to earn their stories.

Earl, who on a Kenyan safari had lost his grandfather's watch to a thieving monkey [add a comma after this word, to set apart the extra info about Earl] despised the kind. Upon darkness, Earl could no longer stand the sight of the monkeys, whom he said mocked him with their being. Still a man of action, however drunk, Earl knocked the legs of the wooden chair he was sitting on, grabbed the newly constructed bat, and staggered over to one of the cages. In good sporting spirit, Haynes knew what was up and rushed over to open the cage. Earl raised the bat and smashed the monkeys [possessive apostrophe here - "monkey's"] head in. Needles dropping to the floor, the Captain walked over and graced them with his proximity. As smoke cleared, the Captain said;
'I just love animals!', patting Earl on the back...
The ambiguous words kept Earl and Haynes on their toes. Not knowing what to expect, the entire jungle was relieved when it's [however, "its" is an exception, and does not take a possessive apostrophe] king traded calm words with the barmaid before bolting out the door.

Standing at the helm, glaring out over the ice through his snow-goggles, the Captain's voice demanded Earl and Haynes' attention;
'I truly love animals! Not necessarily the wildlife kind. That's why you lads sail with me...'
Getting the feeling that the Captain had arrived back at his place in life, Earl and Haynes looked at each other with uneasy tempers. Accompanying an old sailor on his last voyage was maybe not the most intelligent decision people ever made. Sailing south of Ulukhatok, the concentration of ice grew denser, and it did not look like it was about to open up. The fog was still quite heavy and constant direction changes from circumventing the ice made it difficult to stick to the correct bearing.
'I'll go get my second compass...', the Captain said, '...to verify that we're on course'.
Quickly, he summoned Earl down from the mast and onto the helm. Haynes, trying to help, was on his way downstairs when the Captain's voice halted him.
'It's in my cabin. I'll go get it', he said.
Without reflection, Haynes turned around and headed back up. The Captain emerged compass in hand, checked the bearing against the other compass and disappeared below deck again.
'We're good!', the Captain yelled from his cabin.
How he could see anything through his cracked and worn out snow-goggles was still a mystery to Earl and Haynes. Not feeling too good about the situation, they both decided to trust the Captain's judgment. Supply-wise, it was too late to sail back to Anchorage or head back west and north through the Prince of Wales Strait anyway. From here on, commitment was total. As they started to zero in on Cambridge Bay, still battling the increasing ice and hunting for landmarks through the fog, speed had to be further decelerated. Choosing paths through the ice-maze was a bygone luxury. Rhythm was no longer a choice of two partners and nature solely dictatored ["dictatored" isn't a word - how about "was the sole dictator of" instead?] the dance. Earl stood at the helm, together with Haynes who had the wheel. The Captain wanted some exercise and was frantically moving around the bow, pushing and cracking at oncoming ice. The railings on the boat were beginning to freeze, making the deck a hazardous space. Earl whipped out a hammer and began to hack away ice from deck, gunwale and railings. Conditions worsened as mother earth and father sky's [these should be capitalised - "Mother Earth and Father Sky"] quarreling summoned denser fog and heavy ice. There was no use in dedicating a man to lookout duty in the mast as the fog tightened its grip.

While waging war on the ice, Earl got an uneasy feeling which drew his hawk-like eyes up and out. In the fog, he felt something staring back at him. He held his gaze for a couple of minutes, trying to recognize shapes and patterns his mind had been exposed to before. Without response and thinking his senses were numb from the lack of changing landscapes, he tried to relaxed himself. As the Captain began to grow tired from pushing ice, he changed positions with Haynes. The Captain could feel the tension on board and made an effort to brighten the mood. Standing next to Haynes at the helm, he slapped his coat around in search for something. Haynes felt distracted and was getting bothered by the performance. The Captain summoned Earl onto the helm as well, suddenly having found what he was looking for. From his jacket pocket the Captain produced a black and white picture torn out of something larger.
'Remember Amundsen and the Inuit rumors? This is the closest you'll ever come to the truth and evidence!'
All started laughing as they took in the naked pale body Roald [missing "of" between these two words] Amundsen lying on a bed without blankets.
'How could anyone resist?!', the Captain said, clearly pleased with the emotions he produced.
Earl and Haynes felt comfort in the Captains [Captain's] broken Norwegian accent and suddenly he felt human to them again. They all shared in some more laughs and with gained trust, the Captain commanded Earl and Haynes back to their previous work stations. The Captain climbed ranks in Haynes [Haynes'] mind at this. Having been at sea for many days of his life, Haynes knew that keeping the mind occupied was key to a healthy head. Lack of new impressions can overthrow even the mightiest kings of sanity at sea.

Earl resumed his onslaught. He used to enjoy winters with the snow, ice and cold it brought. This was challenged now as he battled the seemingly endless produces of it. The cold was different at sea. Wet and not dry like he was used to. It made all the difference. Trying to stay warm through activity, Earl had the feeling of being watched again. At first he tried to suppress his urge to look out. It hadn't done him any good before. The rumbling sound of ice settling after movement made him look up instinctively. Glassing, he could make out the characteristic shape of a polar bear. Earl turned around to gather the Captain and Haynes' attention. No need. They were already looking. The bear was moving about restlessly, clearly anxious and curious about what information its' [no apostrophe] senses provided. Without obvious determination, the bear walked back and forth weaving his head a couple of times, before the fog encapsulated him again. It was gone, just like it was there a second ago.
'It's looking for seals...', the Captain said. 'The trail of open water behind us attracts seals that hunt for fish. That's why the old fellow is trailing us.'
Haynes who had been at the helm for the better part of the morning had not seen a single seal following in their path. The gained moral [a moral is an ethical point; I think this should be "morale", meaning spirit] from the picture faded rapidly. Haynes shook his head at Earl. He didn't felt any connection or emotion attached to this animal in the usual way. Neither did Earl. Earl stood by the railing and evaluated whether or not exchange of words was needed to gather Haynes. Growing up, Haynes never liked otherworldly Native American stories that was [should be"were" as you are talking in past tense] told around the summer campfires. Stories of spirit animals and ancestral presence never did him any good. He saw no use in them. Knowing Haynes was truly a man devoted to the tangible, Earl could tell his mind was occupied with assessing the potential danger the bear presented. His mind was exactly where it needed to be and exchange of words was unnecessary. A bear was not an unfamiliar creature and for Earl and Haynes it wouldn't be the first time an inquisitive animal produced a dangerous situation.

Being true Montana natives, Earl and Haynes respected bears deeply and both still wore their community's mental scars of the 1967 tragedy. Since the opening of Glacier National Park in 1910, no people had been killed by bears in Montana. That would all change one August night when two women were brutally slaughtered in their sleep by a curious grizzly. Earl's mind wavered at this. He remembered the faces of the ones left behind vividly. Again, his moral lessened and he started to feel manic from the emotional roller coaster. The sound of ice crashing into the bow snapped him back to the present moment.
'Focus!', the Captain barked. 'What is more dangerous, a bear looking for seals or getting stuck on an iceberg?!'.
Both responded instinctively to the Captain's command in agreeing fashion.
Focused, Haynes demanded replacement as he saw splintered fiberglass floating past the rudder.
'On it.', Haynes said. [You need the comma where the period is - 'On it,' Haynes said.]
Knowing his previous life at sea, the Captain trusted his repairing abilities. Haynes went below deck and arrived back up moments later strapped in his harness. Hooking up to the railing and checking that it would hold his weight, Haynes disappeared below the bow. The Captain now stood at the helm and devoted his full attention towards avoiding oncoming ice. Haynes, who hung in his harness at the bow, planted his legs on the hull and was searching for the damage, hoping it was not severe. As the cold chills of the water began to creep up his spine, Haynes identified the hurt. The damage only seemed to be aesthetic, but one could never be too sure. Some time passed before frostbitten fingers grabbed the railing and a content face emerged. All was well, as the smell of duct tape filled the air.

'About those seals...', Haynes said as he scaled the helm.
The Captain stood there with a proud thousand yard stare, convincing himself that he was in control of the future.
'They're might [mighty] good to eat!', the Captain replied. 'We'll catch one soon. I'm sure of it'
Words were no comfort for Haynes any longer. Narrow corridors, cold waters and dangerous animals wasn't his usual recipe for a successful voyage.
'Would you go get my shotgun?', the Captain asked Haynes in an unusual and friendly way.'I'm sick of eating grains and canned meat. Let's see about those seals.'
Haynes went down below deck and by instinct tried to enter the Captain's private cabin. As he pushed the handle down, he remembered that the door was locked and that the twelve gauge was hanging over the doorway leading up onto deck. Walking up, Haynes chambered two shells in the side-by-side.
'Here you are. But there's only two shells' Haynes said handing the gun to the Captain.
'Sufficient.', the Captain replied.
The Captain handled the gun without thought like a singer handles her microphone. Adjusting his goggles, the Captain scanned the water behind them for movement. Haynes at the wheel, tried to pay attention while still maneuvering the boat safely. Failing to do so, Haynes adjusted his priorities and focused ahead. Moments later, a big boom, a splash and a shove from the Captains [Captain's] back, made him turn around. And another round went of into the blue with authority.
'I got one!', the Captain shouted.
Haynes looked into the water behind them. No sign of a seal.
'I must have punctured it's [its] lungs. They drown and disappear instantly when that happens', [the comma needs to be inside the quotes] the Captain said.
'Yea. Must have', Haynes replied.
Earl had followed the scene with half an eye and said;
'You'll get one next chance you get. Don't worry.'
'Out of shells...'the Captain replied while stumbling back downstairs to his gun back in place.
'Not fun anymore', Haynes said to Earl, who replied;
'It's fun alright. I enjoy the smell of gunpowder and failure. I just don't know how much longer were going to be if this keeps up.'

Earl was taking a short breather and covered up by pretending to inspect the railings for damage from the hacking. The Captain had significantly dropped in stature for him. But he knew that maintaining roles was still important for safety. He tried to concentrate on the picture of Amundsen and in what setting and state of mind the picture was taken in. Doing this he caught eye of the bear again. Big and white and close to 600 pounds Earl reckoned. It's [Its] demeanor had changed and curiosity had been replaced by deliberate intention. At thirty meters out, running full clip without much noise, fear came barreling down on Earl and Haynes who both had eyed the threat. The bear's dead eyes signaled a demon of the past. Something that is best left unchallenged. Both Earl and Haynes were perplexed by its dark gaze. It was much like a grizzly's blackened and psychotic stare. Their hypnotic state was interrupted when the ice opened up under the bear. It seemed like the beasts heavy intentions became too burdensome for mother nature. Dipping its' [its] tail in the water, the bear clawed itself back onto the ice where it came from. Looking up at the Captain who had not noticed the ruckus, neither Earl nor Haynes could understand why the bear was trailing them. Rarely did polar bears become man-eaters. None of them knew if it was because they rarely come in contact with humans or if it was in their nature to stay away from people.
'Perhaps we've got ourselves a Tsavo-bear!', Haynes joked quietly trying to brighten Earl's mood.'We too have a bridge, you know...'.
Earl despised Haynes attempt to brighten his mood;
'Please don't. Not needed. Not now.'
Keeping their chatter indistinguishable, neither Earl nor Haynes wanted to ignite the Captain's temper by not focusing on operational tasks. At these latitudes focus and grace is survival. Defying his cold hands, Earl scaled the mast again, his mind desperate for new impressions. The fog was still quite heavy and no relief was found in the whiteout. Still seeking to comfort his mind, Earl remained in the mast. He could feel the wind beginning to pick up. Like on a familiar forest lake, the fog had to slowly give in to the motions of the wind. Though only for brief moments, a clearing in the fog leaked the sight of a narrow ice corridor. Before Earl could warn the Captain to decelerate, the boat jammed itself between the two ice sheets. The squeaking noise caused by the pressure on the boats [boat's] frame made them all brace for the worst. Like walls, the ice towered over the ship reaching halfway up the mast. Luckily, no significant damage was done to the hull, as the railings were the boat's widest points. However, the boat frame was subject to heavy stress as the gunwale was bent inward. The Captain took action and began to inspect for damage. After assessment, he motioned Earl and Haynes to pick up the long poles and to push the boat loose of the ice. No blame was directed, as all men put their backs into it. In spite of the strenuous work, Earl could not get the bear out of his head who had clawed itself a place in his mind. Engaging with animals on their terms was not to his liking.

After hours of unsuccessful work, a sincere sadness came down on the Captain. Dropping down, resting his back against the wheel, this was not how his last voyage was supposed to end. Affected by this drop in moral [morale], Earl and Haynes took a breather. Both felt they had made a bold decision in sailing with the Captain. In their minds, though, the situation was still the product of circumstance.
'Seen any seals lately?', Haynes asked the Captain.
'I know they're there and I know you don't trust me', the Captain replied.
'You're wrong and you're right', Earl shot in. '...and I don't know how you ever see anything through those glasses!'
The masses of ice made everything sound strangely. It suppressed and blunted out otherwise unpleasant pitches, in an unpleasing way. Earl began to grow cold, got to his feet and began swinging his hands in large circular motions. A trick he had learned from the Captain to get blood flowing out to the extremities again. Whipping away crystallized sweat from his face, Earl noticed a damp white cloud emerging from the top of the ice shelf. Trusting his instincts he understood what was coming, as the source of the vapor was particular. Familiar black eyes appeared above them on the ice shelf, accompanied by a deep grunt and bowing head. Before Earl could warn the Captain, the bear leaped onto the helm where he rested, partially smashing the railing under its weight. [I'd suggest starting a new paragraph with this line, as you're shifting into an action sequence] The Captain staggered to his feet quicker than Earl and Haynes had ever seen him moved [moved]. Futile though as his sudden agility was greeted with a crushing paw across the face. Beaten down by the bear's stroke, the Captain's head bounced off the deck and his legs went limp with slight spasms. Haynes stormed down into the kitchen and made for the shotgun. As he was about to grab the gun, he remembered that they were out of shells. In total problem-solving mode, Haynes turned and grabbed a big butchers knife. As he emerged back up, Earl had tied his hammer to one of the long poles they used for controlling the ice. Together they closed the distance. Acting on instinct, Earl took a big swing at the bear and smashed the hammer over [B]the its' [its] neck as it stood weaving over the Captain's body. Issuing a marrow shattering roar, the bear directed its' [its] attention toward Earl and Haynes. Keeping their distance, Earl tried to jab the bear with the now fractured pole. The wooden splinter nailed the bear in the shoulder, increasing its' [its] rage. The bear stood up on two legs, trying to make itself as big and terrifying as possible. Haynes matched the bear's posture, attracting attention away from Earl. Exploiting the moment, Earl cocked his arm back and trust [thrust] the pole deep into the bear's chest. The bear was stunned, as its' [its] white fur changed color. Haynes seized the opportunity, moved closer and thrust the big butcher's knife into the bear's throat. Warm blood trickled down Haynes' face and the bear moaned as its legs gave out. The old polar relaxed as its' [its] physical body was drained of last life and the bloody smell of iron made all survivors gag in agony and victory.

Drenched in blood from the struggle, Earl and Haynes quickly began to skin and clean the bear. Knowing that bears are notorious opportunists, they did not want to attract more of them. With a couple of hours slight of hand [sleight of hand], the bear was skinned out, and they pushed the carcass through the smashed railing and into the ocean. The blood and guts left a trail where they had pushed the carcass. Without exchange, Earl and Haynes wrapped the Captain in the bear's hide and pushed them overboard. Man and beast sinking as one on their last journey into oblivion. The stillness of loss came bearing down on Earl and Haynes. Seeking to comfort them both, Haynes said;
'This sense of loss is the proof of worth. Everything of worth dies, that is not a loss, but a proof of its' [its] worth'.
Trying to internalize this and not feeling the need to be reverential, Earl added;
'Indeed, also, a fitting departure for an animal lover... Don't you think?'.
Earl tried to muster a grin. But Haynes knew that every man has a space of loneliness inside not even the dearest ones can fill. He had seen this void revealed by death before.

Earl felt the chills of the adrenaline dump and put on the Captains [Captain's] bloodied greatcoat. The smell of insides still hanging heavy around the boat. Trying to escape the whiff, Haynes went down into the Captain's private cabin with curious intent. None of them had ever been in the Captain's cabin. Haynes, who had brought the hammer with him, crushed the lock and entered the room. Upon entering, he was overwhelmed by a [this needs to be "an", as it precedes a vowel] even more hideous stench. How could they not have noticed this smell before? Turning around, he observed a rubber skirting that was sealing the doorway gap. Trying to localize the source, Haynes caught eye of a dozen wooden crates stacked in the corner. He yanked one open with the bloodstained hammer and revealed the crate to be filled with slabs of whale meat. Expecting the same, Haynes opened the other crates and revealed equal content. Continuing to search the room for more secrets, he revealed a crack in the wall towards the rear of the helm. Confused, Haynes grabbed a cut of whale meat and went back onto deck. Upon scaling the steps to the helm, Haynes noticed that Earl was devoting his attention to a small color photograph. The sight of an Inuit mother, with sucked in cheeks, and her child perplexed him as he focused his eyes on the picture. Both origin and infant had struggle and trauma in their stare. Haynes smacked the whale slab onto deck with authority and walked off preparing to resume work to free the boat.
'There's plenty more', he said.
The fog now began to clear and revealed a shattered horizon in the distance. Smooth lines were interrupted by sharp peaks and valleys.
'Well, I guess the preferred route was not the only thing Amundsen and the Captain had in common...' Earl added.
'Alright, battle stations...'

I hope that some of this has been helpful.

HC

hghwriting
October 25th, 2016, 10:26 PM
HC,
I can't thank you enough!
This truly helps me out a ton!

Hope you enjoyed the story and the plot even though there is alot to work on still...

All the best!

- H.G.H

Sebald
March 11th, 2017, 02:22 AM
Couldn't add anything to those brilliant summaries. I do think you are a natural storyteller. Your piece is excellent; evocative and full of brio. Maybe tweak the title (it's too close to A Song of Fire and Ice). Seb

mark_schaeffer
March 18th, 2017, 10:42 AM
The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year and the sun had not yet lit up the world. Maybe it did not intend to any longer. Staring into the mist, the Captain could not suppress his joy of once again being free from the real world. As he looked south, the Captain could see Nome becoming smaller and smaller and to the north the Beaufort Sea growing wider and wider. Familiar dark shapes bobbing up and down in the water began to take presence in his mind. Priorities were changing now.


The days grew shorter and the nights longer this time of year. The Captain could no longer suppress the pleasure of being set free from the known world. To the south, he saw Nome becoming smaller; to the north, the Beaufort Sea growing wider. Shapes emerging from the water reminded him that his priorities had changed.

___________________________________

1) the less you tell me, the more you draw me in
2) the first draft is for you; the second draft is for the reader
3) it's not a bad strategy to overwrite in the early drafts, but then pick and choose
4) don't wear the reader out trying to explain/describe everything that occurs to you
5) A chapter you should commit to memory is Liposuctioning Flab, ch 21 from Stein on Writing

:salut: :salut: :salut: