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gerdun
April 22nd, 2017, 05:42 PM
Chapter 1
John’s body felt like it had smashed headfirst into a wall of physical and emotional exhaustion. He stared into the mirror of the rusted cream Nissan Vanette and saw the guilt in his puffy, bloodshot eyes. The image of his wife’s departure from their crumbling eight-year marriage kept running through his mind. He tried to push the thought aside, but the other, older memories that replaced it were worse. Her parting words echoed in his mind like a chant: loser, loser, l-o-o-ser, lo-o-o-o-ser.
John swerved to the right and slammed on the brakes. The vehicle went into a slide, zigzagging along the dirt road. He fought the uncontrollable vehicle to a standstill and slammed the steering wheel, swearing and screaming into the swirling red dust cloud enveloping the car.
The radio blasted a Roxette love song. He tore out the cassette. Only the ringing in his ears broke the silence. He noticed the dust had caused a reddish ochre stain on his ironed white shirt. His attempts to brush it off only made the smudge worse. How was he expected to make a sale looking like this?
He got out of the car to stretch and squinted through the fierce African sun. He saw why he had given up his secure office job as a draughtsman. A valley of breath-taking beauty and rolling green hills surrounded him for as far as he could see.
A warm, fresh wind blew his long, sun-bleached hair against his sweat-dampened skin. He gazed upward at the deep green vale that connected the two mounds in front of him and could make out a traditional Zulu village under the cloudless blue sky. Umgababa was timeless. He imagined this unchanged view was exactly what the colonial settlers had seen 200 years ago, and fantasized of venturing into the unknown.
The alarm had repeated twice that morning before he had forced himself out of bed. Head throbbing, he had kicked an empty vodka bottle as he stumbled his way to stand under a cold shower. Jenny’s presence and the scent of her perfume had lingered, worsening his hangover and his crippling loneliness. The senseless and bloody murder of their three-year-old son was the first stage of failure in the marriage. had beguncaused recriminations between them
He forced the thoughts from his mind and resumed driving. After a few minutes, he pulled up to a brightly painted green-and-white, windowless building. He grabbed his briefcase and tried not to think about how terrible he looked. Head down and shoulders slumped, he headed towards the local nursing clinic. Elderly men, women and sick villagers stood in line, waiting for what little medical assistance could be offered. They stared at him with fear and incredulity. Children hid behind their mothers’ skirts.
White people were a strange sight in rural South Africa.
Although Nelson Mandala had recently been released from prison and multi-party peace talks had begun, violence had erupted around the country, and the white police force were being ruthless in retaliation. To allay any suspicion, John smiled and greeted a few of the elders in their local dialect and handed out mints that he always kept in his pocket to the hiding children. The shifty eyes and suspicious faces soon turned to smiles.
John approached the lone attending nurse and asked, “Can I speak to Sister Makanya?”
The woman, dressed in a purple uniform, peered at him over the top of her spectacles and then pointed up the steep hill toward a small, red-earthed rondavel. She waved for the next patient to enter her bare examination room.
By the time John reached the top of the hill, the cartilage damage in his right knee ached. A dark plume of charcoal smoke hung above the rondavel, and the odour of burnt sour flesh churned his insides.
Unwilling to move closer, he shouted, “Anyone home?” John regretted even getting out of bed this morning.
A low dull voice said, “Ah, Mr. Dillon, finally you are here. Come in.”
Dread paralysed him. This experience was a first in his failed venture into direct marketing. His eyes took their time to adjust from the bright sunshine to the darkened interior. He noticed straw mats covered the clean floor, and a streak of sunlight slanted through a small window in place of electric light.
The outline of a young woman came slowly into view. She sat behind a three-legged cast iron pot, the source of the fetid aroma. She was slender and small and wore a colourful chitenge skirt, but that was as far as the traditional dress went. A long, white braided wig covered her head. She wore a cluster of goat horns and beads around her neck and shoulders, the ornaments balancing above her small, naked breasts. Her dark chocolate skin contrasted against the thin strips of goat skin tied around her wrists and ankles.
He started to apologize and turned to leave the room when dizziness from the smoky odours and the unexpected sight of a beautiful half-dressed Bantu girl made him hold onto the cold earthy wall.
She laughed. “No, no, do not go, Mr. Dillon. It is me…Sister Makanya.” She stabbed her finger in the direction of the clinic below. “Well, at least down there I am.” She swished the air with a cow’s tail and stroked her cheek. “Here, you may call me Zodidi. Please, sit.”
He shook his head to clear the dizziness and decided the best way to get through this was to be a salesman.
“Sister Makanya, I believe you would like to purchase—”
Her laughter interrupted him again. “I am Zodidi, remember? Sister Makanya is down there. You have been in my dreams for some time, Mr. Dillon. I am to help you…. We are to help each other.”
The playfulness had vanished.
“I don’t know what this is about,” John said, “but if you’re not interested or if somebody put you up to this—”
“You are suffering, Mr. Dillon. The loss of a loved one is bad, but to lose two…is suffocating, no?”
“Who told you—”
“Sit, sit,” she said, her brow creased. “I believe we can help each other.” She shooed the flies that swirled around the pot. She threw something into the fire, and a flash brightened the room. While John needed to shield his eyes, the woman stared unblinkingly into the flames.
“Mr. Dillon, I believe both our daughters were killed by the same man. This man also slaughtered my husband. But…I cannot see where he is.” She tossed more incendiary herbs into the fire, creating large shadows across the stark interior walls.
“I have seen you fight and kill this man,” she said. “He is a tokoloshe. But he is beyond my visions.” She spat twice into the fire like a venomous cobra.
John knew a tokoloshe was a mythical creature of the local culture, the same as the devil in the Western world. In Zulu culture, one could never have a happy life until the tokoloshe was expunged. He shook his head and ran his hand through his hair.
“Listen, miss, I don’t wish to be rude, and I don’t exactly know how you know about my life, but what you said…me killing and all that…well, it’s just not me.” He spread his arms wide and looked down at himself in shame and disgust, exposing a hopelessness that he had never shared with another person.
There was a long silence.
“John,” she whispered his name, her eyes shining, “I am Zodidi. I am a fourth-generation Sangoma of the Makanya tribe, but I am also a first-generation nursing sister of the Umgababa village. I am in constant turmoil with the past and the present.” She touched her heart. “I have no understanding of the forces that move the world and beyond, but I know my visions as a Sangoma have helped just as many people as my modern medical knowledge.”
She placed one hand on top of the other and lifted them into a prayer position, interlocking her fingers and bringing them to her lips.
“What I am certain of is that our lives are now intertwined. Our fates have been set in motion. I have seen this as clearly as I see you beside me.” She spread her arms, and the room brightened with her smile.
“Will you drink with me, John?”
She opened the foul-smelling pot and dipped in a jug. She poured equal portions into two small, yellow plastic cups. Her movements were slow and deliberate. She held a cup out for him, her large, brown almond eyes unmovable, transfixing him.
John searched for a good reason to refuse the foul liquid she held in her elegant hand. He didn’t question the woman’s sincerity. She no doubt truly believed what she said. But he didn’t have it in him to believe such a fantastical story. His Christian upbringing had made him sceptical of the local superstitions. Yet there was something strange about this exotic woman, something irresistible.
He accepted the cup and drained its unknown, bitter contents.

BlondeAverageReader
April 23rd, 2017, 08:32 AM
I would happily have carried on reading this story. From my point of view as reader, not a writer, you did enough in this chapter to get me hooked.

gerdun
April 23rd, 2017, 02:16 PM
Thank you for the positive feedback.
Although scary that there was no critism :-o

sas
April 25th, 2017, 05:02 PM
I like it.

Highlight every adjective and see if you must have it for the story. They get in the way. Adjectives do not make a writer. The story does.

For instance, many adjectives used relating to eyes: puffy; bloodshot; large; brown; almond. Tell the story, man. Tell the story.

gerdun
April 26th, 2017, 10:51 AM
hi
are you saying adjectives should be used sparingly or not at all as part of creative writing i.e. puffy bloodshot eyes showing extreme insomnia/internal pain? are you saying the motto 'show don't tell' which has been drummed into me should not be applied? would it read better if I said nothing about the eyes but tell the fact he hasn't slept properly for months? I know there is a balance in good writing but I am really confused when to show and when to tell should be applied.
I want to thank you for this though as it is something which for me is an unknown tightrope.

sas
April 26th, 2017, 12:41 PM
Do not spoon feed the reader. Adjectives do that. Yes, show. Adjectives tell. That's not to say that adjectives (hate adverbs, too) should never be used. They should be used only after considering if really necessary. Highlight every adjective and adverb in your story. Then try to exterminate them. Try to replace them, if really necessary, without adjectives. Adjectives reflect a lazy writer, to me. Think of adjectives as dust balls that need cleaning up for a clean read. Does that make sense to you?

gerdun
April 26th, 2017, 02:12 PM
My redraft following your advice:
John’s body felt like it had crushed headfirst into a barrier of physical and emotional exhaustion. He gawked into the mirror of the oxidized cream Nissan bakkie and saw culpability in his swollen red eyes. The image of his wife’s departure from their crumbling eight-year marriage kept running through his mind. He tried to push this image from his mind, but the other, older memories that replaced it were worse. Her parting words echoed in his mind like a chant: loser, loser, l-o-o-ser, lo-o-o-o-ser.
John realised the presence of the goat too late. He veered to the right and slammed on the brake pedal. Pushing him into a slide, zigzagging along the dirt road. He wrestled the out of control van to a standstill and pummelled the steering wheel, profanities and spit flew into the swirling red dust cloud enveloping the car. He tried to breathe as his heart battered his lungs with a furious beating.
The radio blasted a Roxette love song. He tore out the cassette and hurled it out the open window his face turning red. All was silent. All was still. Only the ringing in his ears broke this cocoon quietness. He saw that the dust had caused a reddish ochre stain on his crisply ironed white shirt. His awkward attempts to brush it off made the smudge worse. How am I expected to make a sale looking like this?
He got out of the van and squinted through the fierce African sun to assess if any damage had happened. Looking up, he saw why he had given up his secure office job as a draughtsman. A valley of breath-taking beauty of rolling green hills encircled him for as far as he could see. Interspersed were trees of wild purple Honeysuckle flowers whose scent emitted a heady, intoxicating sweet blend of floral and honey. He breathed a deep lungful and felt serene.
A warm, fresh wind blew through his long, sun-bleached hair freshening his sweat-dampened skin. He looked up the rising deep green valley that connected the two mounds in front and could spot the outline of a Zulu village. Above it the clouds were bracketed to the eternal, summer sky. It was like a dome of solar blue. Umgababa was timeless. He imagined this unchanged view was what the colonial settlers had seen two hundred years ago and imagined what it must have felt like to venture into the unknown.
The alarm had annoyed him twice that morning before he had forced himself out of bed. Head throbbing, he had kicked an empty vodka bottle and stumbled his way to stand under a cold shower. Jenny’s presence and the scent of her perfume had lingered, worsening his hangover and his crippling loneliness. His once honed physique was now a growing potbelly of fat. Only the obsidian jaw remained determined and unyielding on his jowly face.
The senseless slaughter of their five-year-old son still paralysed him. It also was the first stage of failure in his marriage. After the shock had dissipated, Jenny had struggled to exhaust her sorrow by dedicating long hours to work and punishing exercise. John had turned to the solace of alcohol. Any attempts to spend time together always ended in nasty recriminations. After a time, they coexisted together like passing ships, drifting further apart, day by day. Now I am alone and it’s all my fault.
“Snap out of it.” He yelled.
After he had calmed down he resumed driving and after a short time pulled up to a bright painted green-and-white, windowless building. He could hear a babble of voices and loud laughter above him. He grabbed his briefcase and tried not to think about how terrible he looked. Head down and shoulders slumped, he headed towards the local nursing clinic. Elderly men, women and sick villagers stood in a long line, waiting for what little medical assistance could be offered. They became quiet and stared at him with fear and incredulity. Children hid behind their mothers’ skirts.
A white man was a strange sight in rural South Africa.
Even though Nelson Mandala had been released from prison three months past and multi-party peace talks had begun, violence had erupted around the country, and the white police force were being ruthless in retaliation. To allay any suspicion, John gave his best jaunty smile, and passing along the queue he took time to greet a few of the elders in their local dialect. He handed out mints that he always kept in his pocket to the hiding children. The shifty eyes and suspicious faces soon turned to smiles.
John approached the lone attending nurse, “Can I speak to Sister Makanya?”
The woman, dressed in a crisp purple uniform, peered at him over the top of her spectacles and then pointed up the steep hill toward a small, red-earthed rondavel. Dismissing him and waving for the next patient to enter her bare examination room.
By the time John had scrambled to the top of the hill he was breathless, the cartilage damage in his right knee throbbed. A dark plume of charcoal smoke hung above the rondavel, the stink of burnt flesh was sour and churned his stomach. The area had been swept but something else exuded from the thatched roof that slowed his steps.
Unwilling to move closer, “Anyone home?” He said, regretting even getting out of bed that morning.
A low dull voice came from within, “Ah, Mr. Dillon, at last you are here. Come in.”
Dread paralysed him. He swallowed hard and entered the dark shadowed doorway. This experience was a first in his failed venture into direct marketing. His eyes took their time to adjust from the bright sunshine to the darkened interior. He noticed straw mats covered the clean floor, and a streak of sunlight slanted through a small window in place of electric light. It was so cold, it was so cold that a shiver rampaged through his veins.
The outline of a young woman appeared from the shadows into view. She sat behind a three-legged cast iron pot, the source of the fetid aroma. She had a supple, curvaceous figure and wore a colourful chitenge skirt, but that was as far as the traditional dress went. A long white braided wig covered her head. She wore a cluster of goat horns and beads around her neck and slender shoulders, the ornaments balancing above her small, perky naked breasts. Her flawless dark chocolate skin contrasted against the thin strips of white goat skin tied around her wrists and ankles.
He started to apologize and turned to leave the room when dizziness from the smoky odours and the unexpected sight of a beautiful half-dressed Bantu woman made him hold onto the cold earthy wall.
She laughed at him. “No, no, do not go, Mr. Dillon. It is me…Sister Makanya.” She stabbed her finger in the direction of the clinic below. “Well, at least down there I am.” She swished the air with a cow’s tail and stroked her domed cheekbone. “Here, you may call me Zodidi. Please, sit.”
He shook his head to clear it. Then decided the best way to remove himself from this awkward encounter was to be a salesman.
“Sister Makanya, I believe you would like to purchase—”
Her laughter interrupted him again. “I am Zodidi, remember? Sister Makanya is down there. “You have been in my dreams for some time, Mr. Dillon. I am to help you…. We are to help each other.”
The playfulness had vanished.
John frowned at this statement glancing around the sparse room blinking. Suddenly the room temperature was hot, his eyes narrowed.
“I…. I…. don’t know …. what is going on here?” John demanded, “If you are not interested or if somebody put you up to this—”
“I invited you here today, we have much to discuss—”
“So, you don’t want to buy—”
“You are suffering, Mr. Dillon. The loss of a loved one is bad, but to lose two…is suffocating, no?”
“Who told you—”
“Sit, sit,” she said, her brow creased. “I believe we can help each other.” She shooed the flies that swirled around the pot. She threw something into the fire, and a flash brightened the room. While John needed to shield his eyes, she stared unblinkingly into the flames.
This personal information piqued Johns interest how can she know any of this? he sat down beside Zodidi. The scent of a natural sweet oil came from her glistened body enveloping him. He noticed little crinkles beside her dark brown eyes that belied her youthful look.
“Mr. Dillon, I believe both our daughters were killed by the same man. This man also slaughtered my husband. But…I cannot see where he is.” She tossed more incendiary herbs into the fire, creating large shadows across the stark interior walls.
“I have seen you fight and kill this man,” she said. “He is a tokoloshe. But he is beyond my visions.” She spat twice into the fire like a venomous cobra.
John knew a tokoloshe was a mythical creature of the local folklore, the same as the devil in the Western world. In Zulu culture, one could never live a happy life until the tokoloshe was expunged. He shook his head again and ran his hand through his hair.
“Listen, miss, I don’t wish to be rude, and I don’t know how you know about my life, but what you said…me killing and all that…well, that just isn’t me.” He spread his arms wide and looked down at himself in shame and disgust, exposing a hopelessness that he had never shared with another person.
“John,” she whispered his name for the first time, her eyes shining, “I am Zodidi. I am a fourth-generation Sangoma of the Makanya tribe, but I am also a first-generation nursing sister of the Umgababa village. I am in a constant turmoil with the past and the present.” She touched her heart. “I have no understanding of the forces that move this world and beyond, but I have a gift that was passed onto me. I know my visions as a Sangoma have helped just as many people as my modern medical knowledge.”
She placed one hand on top of the other and lifted them into a prayer position, interlocking her fingers and bringing them to her full lips.
“What I am certain of is that our lives are now intertwined. Our fates have been set in motion and my visions are now yours until you kill this tokoloshe. I have seen this as clear as I see you beside me.” She spread her arms, and the room brightened as she flashed her pristine, calcite-white teeth and an electrifying smile.
“Will you drink with me, John?”
She opened the foul-smelling pot and dipped in a jug. She poured equal portions into two small, yellow plastic cups. Her movements were slow and deliberate. She held a cup out for him, her large eyes unmovable, transfixing him.
John searched for a good reason to refuse the foul liquid she held in her elegant hand. He didn’t question the woman’s sincerity. She no doubt believed everything she had told him. But he didn’t have it in him to believe such a fantastical story. His Christian upbringing had made him sceptical of these local superstitions. Yet there was something strange about this exotic woman, something irresistible.
He accepted the cup and drained its unknown, bitter contents.


xxxx

gerdun
April 26th, 2017, 02:13 PM
better?

sas
April 26th, 2017, 03:38 PM
Hi... I need to go out, so did not want to rush read. Later, pal. Sas

sas
April 26th, 2017, 10:33 PM
Hi, gerdun!

Actually, my friend, a pretty good effort at trimming!

While in high school, my class was assigned to take a magazine and strike out all the advertisements, to see just how much of worth was left. In two words: not much. I never forgot it. You shouldn’t either. After you take out all the worthless description, just how much of a story is left?

Writers use worthless filler. Tell the story, man.

I’ve struck out what is filler. I did not strike all the filler. This is what remained:

(Be sure to use spell check. Best invention. I’ve no idea why not used. I had to use my dad)


John’s body felt like it had crushed headfirst into a barrier of physical and emotional exhaustion. He gawked into the mirror of the oxidized cream Nissan bakkie and saw culpability in his swollen red eyes. The image of his wife’s departure from their crumbling eight-year marriage kept running through his mind. He tried to push this image from his mind, but the other, older memories that replaced it were worse. Her parting words echoed in his mind like a chant: loser, loser, l-o-o-ser, lo-o-o-o-ser.


John realized the presence of the goat too late. He veered to the right and slammed on the brake pedal. Pushing him into a slide, zigzagging along the dirt road. He wrestled the out of control van to a standstill and pummeled the steering wheel, profanities and spit flew into the (swirling) red dust cloud enveloping the car. He tried to breathe as his heart battered his lungs with a furious beating.


The radio blasted a Roxette love song. He tore out the cassette and hurled it out the open window. (his face turning red.) (All was silent.) All was still. Only the ringing in his ears broke the (is cocoon) quiet.(ness). He saw that the red dust had caused a (reddish ochre) stain on his (crisply ironed) white shirt. (His awkward attempts to brush it off made the smudge worse.)

How am I expected to make a sale looking like this?


He got out of the van and squinted through the fierce African sun to assess if any damage had happened. (Looking up,) He saw why he had given up his secure office job as a draughtsman, a valley of breath-taking beauty. (of rolling green hills encircled him for as far as he could see. Interspersed were trees of wild purple Honeysuckle flowers whose scent emitted a heady, intoxicating sweet blend of floral and honey. He breathed a deep lungful and felt serene. )


(A warm, fresh wind blew through his long, sun-bleached hair freshening his sweat-dampened skin.) He looked up, (the rising deep green valley that connected the two mounds in front) and could spot the outline of a Zulu village. (Above it the clouds were bracketed to the eternal, summer sky. It was like a dome of solar blue.) Umgababa was timeless. He imagined this unchanged view was what the colonial settlers had seen two hundred years ago and imagined what it must have felt like to venture into the unknown.


The alarm had annoyed him twice that morning before he had forced himself out of bed. Head throbbing, he had kicked an empty vodka bottle and stumbled his way to stand under a cold shower. Jenny’s presence and the scent of her perfume had lingered, worsening his hangover and his crippling loneliness. His once honed physique was now a growing potbelly of fat. Only the (obsidian) jaw remained determined and unyielding on his jowly face.
The senseless slaughter of their five-year-old son still paralyzed him. It (also) was the first stage of failure in his marriage. After the shock (had dissipated), Jenny had struggled to exhaust her sorrow by dedicating long hours to work and punishing exercise. John had turned to (the solace of) alcohol. Any attempts to spend time together always ended in nasty recriminations. (After a time,) They coexisted together like passing ships. (drifting further apart, day by day.)

Now I am alone and it’s all my fault.
“Snap out of it.” He yelled.


(After he had calmed down) He resumed driving and after a short time pulled up to a (bright painted) green-and-white, windowless building. He could hear (a babble of) voices and (loud) laughter above him. He grabbed his briefcase and tried not to think about how terrible he looked. Head down and shoulders slumped, he headed towards the local nursing clinic. Elderly men, women and sick villagers stood in a long line, waiting for what little medical assistance could be offered. They became quiet and stared at him. (with fear and incredulity). Children hid behind their mothers’ skirts.


A white man was a strange sight in rural South Africa.
Even though Nelson Mandela had been released from prison three months past and (multi-party) peace talks had begun, violence had erupted (around the country), and the white police force were being ruthless in retaliation. To allay any suspicion, John gave his best jaunty smile, and passing along the queue he took time to greet a few of the elders in their local dialect. He handed out mints that he always kept in his pocket to the hiding children. The (shifty eyes and) suspicious faces soon turned to smiles.


John approached the lone attending nurse, “Can I speak to Sister Makanya?”
The woman (dressed in a crisp purple uniform), peered at him (over the top of her spectacles) and then pointed up the steep hill toward a small, red-earthed rondavel. Dismissing him by (and) waving for the next patient to enter. (her bare examination room).


(By the time) John (had) scrambled to the top of the hill, (he was) breathless. The cartilage damage in his right knee throbbed. (A dark plume of) Charcoal smoke hung above the rondavel, the stink of burnt flesh (was sour and) churned his stomach. The area had been swept but something else exuded from the thatched roof that slowed his steps.


Unwilling to move closer, “Anyone home?” He said, regretting even getting out of bed that morning.


A (low dull) voice came, (from within) “Ah, Mr. Dillon, at last you are here. Come in.”


Dread paralyzed him. He swallowed hard and entered the dark. (shadowed doorway) This experience was a first in his failed venture into direct marketing. His eyes took their time to adjust from the bright sunshine. (to the darkened interior.) He noticed straw mats covered the clean floor, and (a streak of) sunlight slanted through a small window in place of electric light. It was so cold (it was so cold that) a shiver rampaged through his veins.
(The outline of) A young woman appeared from the shadows. (into view.) She sat behind a (three-legged) cast iron pot, the source of the fetid aroma. She had (a supple,) curvaceous figure and wore a colorful chitenge skirt, but that was as far as the traditional dress went. A long white braided wig covered her head. She wore a cluster of goat horns and beads around her neck and (slender) shoulders, the ornaments balancing above her (small, perky) naked breasts. Her (flawless) dark (chocolate) skin contrasted against the (thin) strips of white goat skin tied around her wrists and ankles.


He started to apologize and turned to leave the room when dizziness from the smoky odours and the unexpected sight of a beautiful half-dressed Bantu woman made him hold onto the (cold earthy) wall.


She laughed at him. “No, no, do not go, Mr. Dillon. It is me…Sister Makanya.” She stabbed her finger in the direction of the clinic below. “Well, at least down there I am.” She swished the air with a cow’s tail and stroked her domed cheekbone. “Here, you may call me Zodidi. Please, sit.”


(He shook his head to clear it. Then) He decided the best way to remove himself from this awkward encounter was to be a salesman.
“Sister Makanya, I believe you would like to purchase—”


Her laughter interrupted him. (again.) “I am Zodidi, remember? Sister Makanya is down there. “You have been in my dreams for some time, Mr. Dillon. I am to help you…. We are to help each other.”


The playfulness had vanished.


(John frowned at this statement glancing around the sparse room blinking. Suddenly the room temperature was hot, his eyes narrowed.

“I…. I…. don’t know …. what is going on here?” John demanded, “If you are not interested or if somebody put you up to this—”


“I invited you here today, we have much to discuss—”


“So, you don’t want to buy—”


“You are suffering, Mr. Dillon. The loss of a loved one is bad, but to lose two…is suffocating, no?”


“Who told you—”


“Sit, sit,” she said. (her brow creased.) “I believe we can help each other.”

She shooed the flies that swirled around the pot. She threw something into the fire, and a flash brightened the room. While John needed to shield his eyes, she stared unblinkingly into the flames.


(This personal information piqued Johns interest how can she know any of this? he sat down beside Zodidi. The scent of a natural sweet oil came from her glistened body enveloping him. He noticed little crinkles beside her dark brown eyes that belied her youthful look.)


“Mr. Dillon, I believe both our daughters were killed by the same man. This man also slaughtered my husband. But…I cannot see where he is.”

She tossed more incendiary herbs into the fire, creating large shadows across the stark (interior) walls.


“I have seen you fight and kill this man,” she said. “He is a tokoloshe. But he is beyond my visions.” She spat twice into the fire like a (venomous) cobra.


John knew a tokoloshe was a mythical creature of the local folklore, the same as the devil in the Western world. In Zulu culture, one could never live a happy life until the tokoloshe was expunged. He shook his head again and ran his hand through his hair.


“Listen, miss, I don’t wish to be rude, and I don’t know how you know about my life, but what you said…me killing and all that…well, that just isn’t me.” He spread his arms wide and looked down at himself in shame and disgust, exposing a hopelessness that he had never shared with another person.


“John,” she whispered his name for the first time, her eyes shining, “I am Zodidi. I am a fourth-generation Sangoma of the Makanya tribe, but I am also a first-generation nursing sister of the Umgababa village. I am in a constant turmoil with the past and the present.”

She touched her heart. “I have no understanding of the forces that move this world and beyond, but I have a gift that was passed onto me. I know my visions as a Sangoma have helped just as many people as my modern medical knowledge.”


She placed one hand on top of the other and lifted them into a prayer position, interlocking her fingers and bringing them to her full lips.


“What I am certain of is that our lives are now intertwined. Our fates have been set in motion and my visions are now yours until you kill this tokoloshe. I have seen this as clear as I see you beside me.” She spread her arms, and the room brightened as she flashed her (pristine,) calcite-white teeth (and an electrifying) in a smile.


“Will you drink with me, John?”


She opened the foul-smelling pot and dipped (in) a jug. She poured equal portions into two (small, yellow plastic) cups. Her movements were slow and deliberate. She held a cup out for him, her large eyes unmovable, transfixing him.


John searched for a good reason to refuse the foul liquid she held. (in her elegant hand). He didn’t question the woman’s sincerity. She no doubt believed everything she had told him. But he didn’t have it in him to believe such a (fantastical) story. His Christian upbringing had made him sceptical of these local superstitions. Yet there was something strange about this exotic woman, something irresistible.


He accepted the cup and drained its unknown, bitter contents.


Hope helpful. sas

.

gerdun
April 27th, 2017, 11:52 AM
Hi sas
Thank you so much for this. Your time and effort really is appreciated. Or should I say appreciated :-o
My wordiness has always been a problem. So lesson learned here.

sas
April 27th, 2017, 12:45 PM
Hi sas
Thank you so much for this. Your time and effort really is appreciated. Or should I say appreciated :-o
My wordiness has always been a problem. So lesson learned here.

Glad you were not offended, my friend. But, more, hope you saw what I was trying to demonstrate, so you can do that type of edit on your work. Sit down and just write, keeping the story foremost in your mind; not scene description. Then go back and, depending on how you wrote it, either edit out the unnecessary (long scenery descriptions; eye or shirt color; etc) or add the "color" that enhances the story-line. This ability separates out wanna bees from writers. It looks easy. It isn't. And that is why even the most published writers are successful. They have ruthless editors who can cut the fat for them. As I keep saying, all writers love words...too much.

Onward, gerdun, ever onward. Sas
.

loueleven
May 7th, 2017, 02:29 AM
I really like the dialogue. Not everyone can do dialogue well— nice job.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Bard_Daniel
May 7th, 2017, 03:04 AM
Hello gerdun!

This has the marks of a fine piece. As sas mentioned, it's important to cut down on the words that you don't need. I went right for the second draft and I still felt it could use a little trimming, but this has the elements to make it shine. You have a fine imagination and penchant for making things interesting. Your ending, especially, made me want to keep reading. Nice.

One last little thing I'll mention is that your formatting is off. The spacing between the paragraphs is not quite there. I just wanted to point it out.

As sas said, onward! You have the tools and I like what you're doing. Keep going! : D

Jay Greenstein
May 7th, 2017, 05:07 AM
John’s body felt like it had crushed headfirst into a barrier of physical and emotional exhaustion. This is the narrator explaining what happened.
He gawked into the mirror of the oxidized cream Nissan bakkie and saw culpability in his swollen red eyes.This is the narrator explaining what happened.
The image of his wife’s departure from their crumbling eight-year marriage kept running through his mind.This is the narrator explaining what happened.
He tried to push this image from his mind, but the other, older memories that replaced it were worse. This is the narrator explaining what happened.
Her parting words echoed in his mind like a chant: loser, loser, l-o-o-ser, lo-o-o-o-ser.This is the narrator explaining what happened.

So why did I keep saying the same thing? Because only you can hear the emotion in your narrator's voice. When you read, you can hear that emotion. And making that possible, you know the story and the character. You know where your characters are and what's going on. And as you read you perform the story, using all the tricks available to a verbal storyteller. You make use of the finest, most versatile instrument on the face of the planet: the human voice. You fill the story with emotion by placing it in your voice. A strategic pause, coupled with a knowing wink, a shake of the head, or a sigh speaks the the reader of the nuance of mood or intent. A gesture provides visual punctuation, and body language completes the performance. But how much of that makes it to the page? None.

But forget that. Look at is this way: If you're reading a novel, which would you prefer: a) Being made to feel as if you are the protagonist, and living the story moment-to-moment. b) Reading the words of a narrator who is listing events and explaining their meaning and importance, and telling the story in overview?

See the problem? The storytelling techniques you're using are inappropriate to the medium. They're designed to accompany a visual performance, either that of a storyteller or a graphic novel. For what I mean, read a few pages of this graphic novel (http://www.gocomics.com/lostsideofsuburbia/2011/07/26). Then go back to page one and reread, focusing on the words, alone, to see how much emotional content you would have gotten had they been presented without the pictures. I suggest this because without the pictures you have writing very like your own. To hear what the reader gets, have your computer read the opening section aloud. I think you'll find that whet they get is very unlike what you intended.

Our medium is unlike others. Vision allows us to get a huge amount of information in an eye blink. It allows an actor (or a human living the events) to demonstrate the the way they feel, moment to moment, and that amounts to about 50% of the communication in a conversation—the emotional part, because how you say something matters as much as what you say.

Take six simple words: "John, you truly are a bastard." How did you read them? As high praise? As deadly insult? How about as a DNA report? The words could mean any of those three and a host of others, depending on how they were spoken. But on the page, there must be more than just the words that were spoken, something our medium insists on. And in our schooling we learned none of the tricks of writing fiction for the printed word.

So it's not a matter of good/bad writing. Nor is it a matter of talent and potential. It's as Mark Twain so wisely said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

So how do you fix it? Simple. You add the tricks of the fiction writing trade to those you already own. I wish I could also say it's easy. Unfortunately, as in any other profession, it takes time, study, and practice. To give you a feel for how hard, the average writer creates, edits, and puts aside more than a half million words before they have the skill, necessary to get a yes from an acquiring editor (it took me a million). And while we can self publish at any time, unless our writing is on a professional level—the kind your reader expects—sales will be limited to friends and family.

But on the other hand, if you are meant to be a writer, the learning is fun. And the practice is writing, which we already know you like. And, given that any field requires us to acquire a set of skills unique to it, it's no big deal.

There are lots of places to get the necessary knowledge. The net is filled with articles. I like to feel that mine are pretty good. But on the other hand, I'd be the first to say that going to the pros makes a lot of sense. The views of career writers, agents and other publishing people, and noteworthy teachers, is better because we know that for them, at least, their advice works, reliably.

My personal recommendation is the local library system's fiction department. And while you're there, look for the names Dwight Swain, Jack Bickham, or Debra Dixon on the cover. they're pure gold.

Not what you were hoping to hear, I know, but given that roughly 50% of hopeful writers suffer the same problem, it's nothing to get upset over. And the good news? Most of that 50% Never learn what their problem is. But you have. And that puts you in a position to fix it.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

gerdun
May 7th, 2017, 12:31 PM
Hello Everyone on WF

I am very happy I joined this forum the help and guidance from mentors and members alike has been invaluable and motivational.

I would like to thank again sas in helping me edit this piece. It was both helpful and educational at the same time. This is exactly the kind of support and guidance I need with my writing at this level.


Likewise, I appreciate danielstj and all others who gave comments of encouragement and tips for improvement.


Finally, can I thank Jay Greenstein for the detailed critique and advice but also for the sobering facts on how difficult it is to become a successful professional writer.



Something to consider as I write my final EMA draft this week.

sas
May 7th, 2017, 08:42 PM
gerdun, Today I read all of Jay's advice on writing (blog). I hope you also clicked on the link he provided. It is a gift to all serious writers; and, all who seriously think they should be published. I am a serious poet, but do not seriously think I will be published by anyone other than myself. Jay offers, in his advice, both a warm bath and a cold shower. Every writer should come clean with themselves.