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Bridges (Parts 1 & 2) (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
This is the beginnings of a short story about a civil rights movement between right and left-brained people. There will be setting development later on in the story, but for right now, I'm trying to get a feel for the characters and their thoughts towards themselves.

“Breathe,” Tafari says, rubbing my shoulders. My hands are covered in red, and a mound of mutilated clay slows to a stop on the pottery wheel. The work of a sculptor is terrible for posture, and my shoulders chronically slump. My brother tenderly straightens my back and kneads my sore muscles, hoping to alleviate the stress on my spine.
“Your work is beautiful, Ash,” he states. Aching joints cry out as firm thumbs rub away tension. The sculptor is being sculpted, I think, ashamed of my vulnerability. Tears sting in the corners of my eyes, and I swat them away with the backs of my hands, undoubtedly smearing clay on my face.
“You’re my brother; you’re obligated like my work,” I reply, resting my arms on my knees. Freckled, tan skin painted with orange is decorated with motley patterns in black ink. A simple, straight arrow shoots from beneath the sleeve of my shirt and stretches to the middle of my forearm, pointing to the word breathe. On the other wrist, written in the same cursive script, is live.
I couldn’t be one of them even if I wanted to be.
My skin is permanently marked with evidence of my roots.
“I’m not obligated to anything,” he says. His touch fades, but I feel him fiddling with the beads in my hair. “I honestly think your work is beautiful.”
“Thanks, big brother,” I answer, unmoving. Green eyes glued to the heap of earth before me. It’s potential, ready to be shaped and spun.
“I have to get going,” he tells me, planting a kiss on the top of my head. “I’ll see you later.” He leaves the studio without another word, wood floors creaking beneath his feet. I’m alone, and I shake, shoulders slumped and back bent. I inhale the musty, herbal air, hoping to feel the oxygen flood to the bottoms of my lungs. The breath is shallow.
Tight chest squeezes shriveled lungs. I exhale.
. . .
The wheel hums as it spins, swirling the clay through my fingertips and creating smooth lines. It’s nothing, not yet. Still formless and useless, nothing more than a distraction.
Art is nothing more than a distraction.
My eyes skim my hands, weary fingers drifting along the clay. Breathe.
Art is useless.
My muscles contract in a fierce, sudden tremor. Fingers crush terra cotta, and the wheel slows to a stop.
You are useless.
“Shut up!” I yell, squeezing my project. Bits of sludge seep through the spaces between my fingers, and I shake off the excess material. Damp hands are dried on canvas pants, and I stand.
The room is cluttered, filled with various pots and vases, all crafted by my hands. The long, scarred, tattooed hands. Artist’s hands. Worthless hands.
. . .
“Hey there, Aberash,” Sidney greets. He’s the only person in the community who uses my full name.
“Morning, Sidney,” I reply, pulling a pair of wide sunglasses from my face and tucking them into the collar of my shirt. The tug on the fabric reveals my inked collar bones, and I pretend not to notice his eyes skimming the curvature of my neckline.
“What can I get for you today?” He asks, wiping his hands on his apron.
“Black pour-over,” I state, swinging my bag onto the counter and taking a seat as Sidney busies himself preparing my drink.
“I really want you to try one of my specialties one day,” he says as he scoops coffee grounds into a filter. Metal clanking, beans sifting, and water steaming.
“You know I’m a purist,” I reply, pulling a notebook from my bag and a pen from behind my ear.
“It will be purely delicious,” he grins at his own joke. Rolling my eyes, I watch the piping hot water stream through the grounds and into a chipped mug.
Rumpled and stained, my notebook holds drawings. I flip to the page near the back containing a sketch of the barista affront me.
“Is it time for me to model again?” He asks, brushing a lock of long, honey hair away from his face.
“If by ‘model’ you mean ‘make me coffee’, then yes. It’s definitely time for you to model,” I reply without looking up. Hot water hisses through the grounds and trickles into the cup. His utensils clank against the concrete counter tops in a sort of unorganized tune. Humming like a bird, he works. Carefully. Skillfully. He’s happy, proud of his accomplishments.
He’s a free-verse poet who works part time at a cheap coffee shop, I tell myself. There is nothing honorable about him.
Stop it.
“Here’s your boring house blend,” he says, sliding the cup across the counter with a smile. I’m sure there are dimples hidden beneath his uneven scruff, but I don’t have the nerve to search his face for the tiny craters. “That’ll be $1.10.”
I count out four quarters and a dime and drop them into the palm of his thick, cracked hand. Short, bare fingernails close around the change. We all have the same hands. Artists hands. Worthless hands.
Stop it.
I draw a smirk on the sketch of Sidney and hide dimples deep within his beard. Ink glides smoothly, breathing life into pages and sucking air from lungs. The world stops, frozen on its axis and my lungs shrivel. I love this. How can I love this?
This is nothing.
Each stroke, each flick of the wrist, each crisp smooth line pushes against my negativity.
This is so much.


WF Veterans
Hmm, well, sir/madam, you certainly are good at weaving imagery and dialogue together to create a cohesive picture. It's like a one-two formula. Quite frankly, I wasn't sure that I was going to like this because the idea seemed so odd (you know, everyone thinks they need a weird idea). Yet, you're the exception that proves the rule: ideas are relative to the skill of the creator.

I suppose the main character is interesting because he's vulnerable and because he is slightly mysterious. It's the first person perspective, I guess. Otherwise, I'm not sure how this is going to turn out. It's like how some writers just sit their characters down and let them talk. Yet, as I'm coming to understand, the best characters are those that subtly hint at inner depth. I get this feeling from ... Ash, is it? The conversations, read without description, are pretty simple. But they: 1. show character relationships, and 2. allow your character to be both proactive and reactive, which is very interesting, even when there's no real conflict. It's the sort of dialogue that could really happen, and it makes your story a pleasure to read. Seriously, re-reading it was fun.

I've not any more to say, except that I hope to read more. I'm sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but it's honestly great.


Senior Member
I like this, and I'd definitely read more. There's a sort of hidden darkness here. Ash clearly has issues, yet she's fighting every worthless thought so I don't write her (him?) off as emo.
The feeling is tense, but not overdone. I love the rhythm. Your sentences flow, pause, swirl a little and then move on again. All your characters are believable, without you having to waste words explaining them.
This is exactly the kind of thing I like to read.

Now for notes and things:
... and a mound of mutilated clay slows to a stop on the pottery wheel. - Gives me an image of... well, some pretty mutilated clay. At first I thought that Ash couldn't sculpt to save her life, and the artistic people were going to be the boss ones, and so she (he?) was trying terribly hard to be artistic, and just couldn't do it.
Clearly, I read too much into one sentence.
But my point is, if you want her to be good that this (which it seems like you do, because Ash's brother says it's good, and because of the drawing thing later) it might be an idea to change the word 'mutilated'... otherwise, I'm not really sure of Ash's talents. She can draw but not sculpt?

Freckled, tan skin painted with orange is decorated with motley patterns in black ink.
Maybe you could put a 'my' at the start of this sentence? I have to flounder for a moment otherwise, not knowing if I should picture this skin on her or her brother.

I answer, unmoving. Green eyes glued to the heap of earth before me.
- Again, no pronoun, but here I feel it would be lovely if you made that full stop a comma.

Fingers crush terra cotta... -
A technicality: terracotta is, I believe, only used for earthenware once the clay is baked. It's actually Italian for 'baked earth.'

Damp hands are dried on canvas pants... -
This, to me, sounds like damp hands worldwide are dried on canvas pants, and it made me grin... pulled me out of the story, if you like, to imagine something weird. Even though I knew you meant her (his?) hands.
On a side note, I think maybe you should clarify if Ash is a guy or a girl...

He’s the only person in the community who uses my full name. - I'm just enough into the story to trust you on this, but I'd hope later to find out why...

“Black pour-over,”
A brilliant name for instant coffee!

... into a chipped mug.
A bit later on, you call it a cup and cups and mugs are different to me...

Woaa... wait, do the artists pay for their work with breath? Like, they can draw but the penalty is breath? The idea is still very vague, but I feel like I'm starting to glean some kind of binding magic here...
This is seriously cool.

There ^_^
Thanks for the read, Yay (can I call you that for short?)