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MrTickle
December 6th, 2019, 01:40 PM
Hey guys, I haven't posted here in a while. This is a surrealist short story I wrote recently. Thank you for reading!




Silhouette


Along the coastline I could make out the features of a giant sleeping. His eyes the black, dirt covered boulders that stuck out of the white rock face below. His grey hands the rocks that pierced the tide like long rods. His hands smashed by the water he bathed them in. His hair bristled by the wind in the neat, circular forest behind me. I wanted to pick out a glowing red rose on this dull day and offer it to the sleeping giant as a sign of comfort that he too was not alone in the sombre winds of a midday morning. My phone still hadn’t vibrated in my pocket. Still no call back from my fifth job interview this month. They say it’s who you know. Who do I know? Well, I’ve got Mom. Mom knows the teleshopping channel numbers off by heart. That’s something.

In front of me down below just by the bottom of the giants right arm was something I had not noticed before. A lighthouse. How had I missed it? I walk this route every morning to get the local paper just so I can look at the job pages and I’ve never seen one of those. The lighthouse stood alone like a widow on a stormy shoreline. Appearing there like condensation on a window. Its light wasn’t on and rotating like how I imagined lighthouses to do. Was it occupied? I walked to as near the edge of the cliff as possible. No a little further Carlton, come on, just poke your toes over the edge, if you fall at least you tried doing something risky for once.

I peered down and squinted to try and see if this lighthouse was occupied. But I had heard lighthouses were not manned anymore since two years ago. But I must have heard wrong, I traced a murky figure with my eyes, appearing from behind the misted window of the room just below the top of the lighthouse. A man leaning back in a chair in his office. I wonder if he had just been stationed there? He was looking up at the steel beams above his head. His slumped shoulders and the fact that he bit into his pencil gave away his boredom. His desk was not surrounded by any pictures of any sort – so no family I’m guessing – and he was only wearing a thin green jumper. The cold must be slashing his skin by now surely. It was as if he did not care about freezing to death. But oddly enough, he had some kind of leafed laurel wreath on his head like a Greek god. I’m sure the wreath was a sign of triumph, but this man doesn’t look too triumphant to me. The surreal nature of this image coupled with the condensation on the windows gave me the feeling of being half asleep in some lonely alleyway, unsure whether the two silhouetted figures you see tussling about like demented moths are real or part of your dream.

The lighthouse keeper stood up and tugged at the steel beam above with his hand, and slumped back into his chair again as if he had concluded a theory he so wished was right, but was in fact wrong. Damn, I hope he’s not testing the strength of that. Being a lighthouse keeper must test a fragile mind. I bet some pretty morbid thoughts can wonder in when you are in such a lonely profession. I tell you what he would appreciate. A visitor. A visitor must mean more to a lighthouse keeper than say a shopkeeper. To reach a lighthouse keeper you must navigate cold, harsh terrain and really go off the beaten track to pay visit. Yeah, he would like me. I could buy him a gift. And he would be so thankful that I had bought him a present that he would consider me a potential companion. We could be friends and he would teach me about keeping a lighthouse going. We would become co-workers. Yes, mom would be proud of me which would be as rare as the sun turning blue. We could even go for a celebratory meal. I hope I’m not getting too ahead of myself here. But how could I turn down this opportunity. This man was like an angel that had been banished by the heavens and was waiting for another lost soul to join him.
With the gift idea nestled in my mind, I headed off towards town leaving the giant and the lighthouse keeper to await my return. I knew I shouldn’t be too long. The goal in this man’s mind was chalked in clear. And I was sure I would be the one to rub it out. But first I needed to deliver a different gift.


*


I reached home. My street licked with rotted, grey bungalows, and net curtains that I’m pretty sure were welded onto the window panes. The whole street looked like a water painting that was dropped in the mud and then smeared. Colourless fireworks punched the mid afternoon sky above. Damn, this town is so dank even the residences think its night time.

I stumbled through the front door pushing just hard enough so the door would smack against the window ledge so as to alert my mom of my presence. Her eyes didn’t even flicker away from the TV screen that illuminated mom in her chocolate stained dressing gown, and further stained arm chair. I always like to make my entering louder each time to see if she’d notice me. It was as if I didn’t possess enough importance to be looked at. I said hello but she chose to pretend my voice was coming from the TV. I turned the light on in the hallway and rustled the bag in my coat pocket. And like a dog smelling a delicious scent she floated out of her seat and into the hallway like a toxic gas. She stood above me, taller than me, floating. She looked down towards my coat pocket, and smiled like she was trying to prove her innocence to something she just did. She now called me honey. She now asked what was in my pocket. I pulled out the silver necklace and she exploded in a fit of joy. Her hands waving manically like frail bird wings. She sprayed my face with sharp frantic, dry kisses, “I’m so lucky to have a son who buys his mother presents.”

To be honest, this was the other reason why I was walking back along the coast this morning. I had gone early to buy my mom a present. It’s like a guilty addiction now. And I sure feel guilty about my bank balance too. If it was a car it would be flashing red. I’ve got just enough money to carry me through until next month.

She tried on the necklace in front of the hall mirror, posing like a movie star and ran into the living room, turning a lamp on and placing the necklace next to the watch, scarf, day spa voucher, and earrings. All gifts I’d bought for her over the years. She spun round and asked if I would ‘love some dinner’. I couldn’t deny it, I was starving. Plus, I had a long journey back to the lighthouse ahead. But mainly, I just wanted to be mother and son for a moment. I loved the real genuine moments I had with her, always just after I bought her something nice. It was like a rush of heroin. She cooked and asked how my day went and I told her about how I went looking for a job this afternoon and how no shops were employing staff at the moment. She told me to look in the local paper, ‘there is always good paying jobs in there’. She said ‘good paying’ with a hint of excitement. I thanked her for the good idea, but I was more thankful for the warm moment. That was rare between her and me.

After the last mouthful of tomato soup I realised that mom had moved room again. I guess the rush of heroin from my gift had its inevitable come down. The lamp was off in the living room again and she was back sat like a moth in front of the square grainy light. Images of from the TV swallowed her. They were tattooed onto her body. It was like junk TV had scanned her body and she was left with the scars of fifty percent off on couches and ovens. I shouted to her, “I might need some dinner when I get back in tonight, mom.”

The enthusiastic voice of a teleshopping host was all I heard back. I had returned to being a silhouette in the hall.
Purchasing a gift for the lighthouse keeper seemed more like necessity now as my overall level of human connection in life was in a constant state of drought now. My mom was passed the point of forming lasting attachment I had just decided. Hopefully my gift to the keeper will last longer in meaning. But while walking the barren dull high street thoughts of the lighthouse keeper were lingering like storm clouds. It was as if the light from the lighthouse had just been switched on and its enchantment was beckoning me back like some a siren. I had a twang of dread. What if the keeper had gotten too lonely in the time I had been gone and finally used that iron beam for its non-intended purpose?

In the Jewellry store I placed the silver Dulex watch down on the counter trying to avoid thinking about what my bank account would be reading after this purchase. I also avoided looking at anything in the store that involved rope, as I knew I might have left it too long to help this struggling, lonely man. But I was struck by the sight of the flame haired cashier. Her features delicately arranged on her face so as to give the impression she needed a man to hold them in place. I spotted, almost by reflex she was wearing a ‘HC’ badge that stood for the local homeless charity. I flashed a half hearted smile and said, “Just these two plus an offer I have for you, miss,” (I couldn’t resist any kind of chance to acquire some kind of friend in any situation these days despite my better judgement telling me to leave and get to the coast straight away).

She raised her eyebrow, but in the amusement of my remark. She said, “You’re going to make my day are you?”

“Well I’ve got all these bags of clothes at home that I don’t wear anymore, and you know, I could give them to that charity on your badge . . .”

Her face lit up. Yes I had a good chance of making two friends today. She burst out, “Sure, bring them to the address of - ”

“No,” I chuckled, “I meant, we can maybe take them down to the charity together, then you know, get some food or - ”

The electric glee fused out. She slid away from the till and trudged off into the staff room.

I didn’t wait around or pursue her. Damn it, Carlton, the lighthouse keeper is still your best bet here. So I headed back to the coast with my original goal in mind as daylight was beginning to dim.

The light was out in the lighthouse the time I got there. The milk coloured clouds of the day had turned to slate. Proceeding across the rock
face was not suitable for fast stepping. I had to use my phone as a torch but now it had run out of battery, and worse, I feel I may have run out of time.

I got to the still darkened lighthouse through sheer balance and focus. I wrapped my knuckles on the metal door in suppressed panic. I hope he hasn’t done anything drastic. And it was as if the door was sensitive to movement. It creaked open like an automatic door. In front of me was a spiral staircase. A bucket dangled down from the top set of railing that led straight into the keepers’ office. “H-Hello?” A shot of light eradicated the gloom, and I was exposed at the bottom of the staircase like a creepy neighbour sneaking up next door’s front drive.
The silhouette of the man and his wreath came in to view in the wall above me. “If you got lost, take the path that leads to the laurels on the cliff edge.”

“N-No sir, I saw you were alone and I wanted to make sure you weren’t trapped here. I mean, look at those waves. They could move those rocks around like a game of Tetris.”

“You navigated those rocks, for what reason?”

“Well, I guess the loneliness of one man must sense the loneliness of another. We are like this lighthouse, warning others of the dangers of our own mind, don’t you think?”

There was no answer, I placed the watch in the bucket and watched it lift into the air, expecting a response when the bucket reach the top but still nothing. I thought about being a little more aggressive in my tactics now. I told him the truth of me coming here was to learn more about lighthouse keeping. My grandfather was a lighthouse keeper but he always refused to show me the ropes because I was too small according to him. He always said I’d get ‘blown out to sea like an abandoned kite. So I said I would like him to teach me how to run a lighthouse, to give me a job. “I did bring you a gift so . . .”

The lighthouse let the pause drag out to play on my brain, and then said, “Where in all of this did you ask about how I might feel. The only question that ever entered your brain was how much I am, not how I am.”

He turned the light out. Then a spotlight beamed onto the pathway outside. I couldn’t respond, my tongue carrying dead weight. I didn’t know how to respond. Did I not understand him because my subconscious didn’t want to understand? I went outside and looked up to where his office sat, the keeper was watching from his window. Like earlier with mom, I was now a silhouette. The watch I bought him was lying on the desk unopened. I began my ascent of the rock face, feeling pretty damn defeated. But while I was only half way to getting back to the top of the cliff edge, the spotlight faded to black. Is this all the gifts buy me? A few moments of false companionship? I continued to edge the slimy damp surface unaided by the light. I lost my footing. Slid. Hit a rock that sent a sword up my spine. Searing cold pain. I laid back, and tilted my head to the side. All round me were discarded, broken boxes that people dumped. Full of old toys and furniture they no longer valued. They had all had their moment to give joy to the person receiving them, but like me, they would only buy a few moments of love. I lay among them, to be forgotten.

gohn67
January 5th, 2020, 11:22 PM
Hi Mr. Tickle,

I really liked your story. Good work.

I really liked the voice of the narrator and the tone of the story. Slightly weird and humorous in a sort of dry way. You also capture the narrator's loneliness well. I like the narrator's optimism through it all.

Along the coastline I could make out the features of a giant sleeping

Maybe change to "features of a sleeping giant" instead. I accidentally read "giant" as an adjective which cause me some confusion.

His eyes the black, dirt covered boulders that stuck out of the white rock face below.

This line was also kind of awkward in its phrasing. Overall I wasn't too big a fan of the image of the giant and it comparing it to the rocks. It's surreal but not surreal in a fresh way I think.

I wanted to pick out a glowing red rose on this dull day and offer it to the sleeping giant as a sign of comfort that he too was not alone in the sombre winds of a midday morning.

I really liked this line. I liked the good intention of the narrator, his kind of naiveté. This is a good illustration of the voice/tone that I liked about this story.

In front of me down below just by the bottom of the giants right arm

Need an apostrophe at "giants" -> "giant's". The story as a whole could use some revision at the sentence level to fix some SPAG issues.

I tell you what he would appreciate. A visitor. A visitor must mean more to a lighthouse keeper than say a shopkeeper. To reach a lighthouse keeper you must navigate cold, harsh terrain and really go off the beaten track to pay visit. Yeah, he would like me. I could buy him a gift. And he would be so thankful that I had bought him a present that he would consider me a potential companion. We could be friends and he would teach me about keeping a lighthouse going. We would become co-workers. Yes, mom would be proud of me which would be as rare as the sun turning blue.

I loved this section here. This was the part that got me into your story. Once again I really liked the tone of the narrator and his intentions. I love the weirdness of his idea to become a lighthouse keeper. Great stuff. Endearing and weird and funny.

The whole street looked like a water painting that was dropped in the mud and then smeared.

Minor suggestion. I was wondering if maybe this would work better without the explicit simile. Maybe instead try "The whole street was a water painting that was...". Since you're writing a surreal piece, you skip the similes which make your imagery less surreal.

I also avoided looking at anything in the store that involved rope, as I knew I might have left it too long to help this struggling, lonely man.

Nice dark humor here. I like that's dark and kind of morbid, but once it's infused with the narrator's naive optimism, which really works.

“Well, I guess the loneliness of one man must sense the loneliness of another. We are like this lighthouse, warning others of the dangers of our own mind, don’t you think?”

Nice line of dialogue. I like how direct the narrator is about this. Fits his character.

I laid back, and tilted my head to the side. All round me were discarded, broken boxes that people dumped. Full of old toys and furniture they no longer valued. They had all had their moment to give joy to the person receiving them, but like me, they would only buy a few moments of love. I lay among them, to be forgotten.

The ending didn't work for me. It's a nice message, but I think you explain and wrap up your story too nicely. And that kind of ruined its overall effect for me.

----

Overall, really good stuff. I enjoyed the read. A nice surprise.

Olly Buckle
January 6th, 2020, 01:08 AM
The lighthouse stood alone like a widow on a stormy shoreline. Appearing there like condensation on a window. nice

Its light wasn’t on and rotating like how I imagined lighthouses to dohorrid, I suppose it could be 'like what I imagine, or 'like that which what I imagine', could be worse, but try '...as I imagine lighthouses.'
It hit me because the two are so close together,

Nice story, but look for the stuff you don't really need, when someone squints we know he perceives something with his eyes, that sort of stuff. You don't have to double explain stuff.

MrTickle
January 6th, 2020, 01:07 PM
Hi Mr. Tickle,

I really liked your story. Good work.

I really liked the voice of the narrator and the tone of the story. Slightly weird and humorous in a sort of dry way. You also capture the narrator's loneliness well. I like the narrator's optimism through it all.

Along the coastline I could make out the features of a giant sleeping

Maybe change to "features of a sleeping giant" instead. I accidentally read "giant" as an adjective which cause me some confusion.

His eyes the black, dirt covered boulders that stuck out of the white rock face below.

This line was also kind of awkward in its phrasing. Overall I wasn't too big a fan of the image of the giant and it comparing it to the rocks. It's surreal but not surreal in a fresh way I think.

I wanted to pick out a glowing red rose on this dull day and offer it to the sleeping giant as a sign of comfort that he too was not alone in the sombre winds of a midday morning.

I really liked this line. I liked the good intention of the narrator, his kind of naiveté. This is a good illustration of the voice/tone that I liked about this story.

In front of me down below just by the bottom of the giants right arm

Need an apostrophe at "giants" -> "giant's". The story as a whole could use some revision at the sentence level to fix some SPAG issues.

I tell you what he would appreciate. A visitor. A visitor must mean more to a lighthouse keeper than say a shopkeeper. To reach a lighthouse keeper you must navigate cold, harsh terrain and really go off the beaten track to pay visit. Yeah, he would like me. I could buy him a gift. And he would be so thankful that I had bought him a present that he would consider me a potential companion. We could be friends and he would teach me about keeping a lighthouse going. We would become co-workers. Yes, mom would be proud of me which would be as rare as the sun turning blue.

I loved this section here. This was the part that got me into your story. Once again I really liked the tone of the narrator and his intentions. I love the weirdness of his idea to become a lighthouse keeper. Great stuff. Endearing and weird and funny.

The whole street looked like a water painting that was dropped in the mud and then smeared.

Minor suggestion. I was wondering if maybe this would work better without the explicit simile. Maybe instead try "The whole street was a water painting that was...". Since you're writing a surreal piece, you skip the similes which make your imagery less surreal.

I also avoided looking at anything in the store that involved rope, as I knew I might have left it too long to help this struggling, lonely man.

Nice dark humor here. I like that's dark and kind of morbid, but once it's infused with the narrator's naive optimism, which really works.

“Well, I guess the loneliness of one man must sense the loneliness of another. We are like this lighthouse, warning others of the dangers of our own mind, don’t you think?”

Nice line of dialogue. I like how direct the narrator is about this. Fits his character.

I laid back, and tilted my head to the side. All round me were discarded, broken boxes that people dumped. Full of old toys and furniture they no longer valued. They had all had their moment to give joy to the person receiving them, but like me, they would only buy a few moments of love. I lay among them, to be forgotten.

The ending didn't work for me. It's a nice message, but I think you explain and wrap up your story too nicely. And that kind of ruined its overall effect for me.

----

Overall, really good stuff. I enjoyed the read. A nice surprise.

Thank you very much gohn67 for the thorough feedback :-) I will have a look through the story again and try to incorporate the changes you suggested as I agree with most of them. Its unlike me to try and wrap up an ending too 'neatly' so I will try and make it feel less like that haha. Thank you for reading!

EternalGreen
July 20th, 2020, 09:49 PM
That's sad. Good, though. I wasn't a huge fan of the giant metaphor, to be honest. It doesn't really fit tonally.