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Cobblestone Waterloo (Language) (1 Viewer)

sageburgamot

Senior Member
THE FOLLOWING IS A CONSIDERABLY SHORT STORY I WORKED ON SOME MONTHS BACK--CURRENTLY AND PERHAPS INFINITELY UNTITLED. FEEDBACK WOULD BE APPRECIATED AND ADORED. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.




The breeze from the open window carried a nearly angelic scent of magnolia into the room where it hung in the air, unseen but entirely present to anyone with even the faintest sense of smell. Accompanying the scent was the natural ambiance of the Princeton campus consisting of murmured musings from English students and melancholic songs from wandering birds alike. To those unacquainted with such senses, the particular dormitory in which Zeke lay sprawled out lazily on the Egyptian cotton sheets that were fixed firmly to his bed--his blue Oxford shirt buttoned to the top with its sleeves rolled casually to the elbows--would have been likely considered cliché.

His eyes were timidly shut, the lids fluttering slightly like the wings of a nervous butterfly on its first apprehensive flight. His mouth lay slightly agape, not unattractively wide, and emitted a weak unconscious exhale. A copy of a Camus text was sprawled midway through at the foot of his bed, its cover confidently wearing several stains of oolong tea in near-perfect rings. The dresser at the head of his bed was similarly littered with a plethora of books atop which rest an ashtray in the shape of a fox nestling up to bed. Three cigarettes smoked down to the filter were firmly set in the gut of the tray, balancing vertically, their butts pointing towards the ceiling.

Beneath their lids, a pair of eyes colored with a green comparable to the freshly rebirthed grass of the springtime darted back and forth in a panic. His body rolled itself unconsciously to its side, and his face buried itself firmly into the farthest end of the pillow. A less civilized human would have unknowingly allowed a tremendous amount of drool to seep from the corners of their mouth, but Zeke’s remained particularly dry. The sight of him laying delicately asleep on his bed was nearly picturesque, or at the very least could act considerably well as a still life for a painter’s collective strokes; one looking at him from the other side of the room might even expect to see an easeled canvas resting adjacent to them.

A knock at his door jostled him awake. He lay there for some time before finally rolling out of his bed and giving a small stretch. He walked in the opposite direction of the door to the window and leaned out slightly, looking straight down at the pale cobblestone. The tops of some heads passed in both directions, and he watched them for nearly a full minute before another knock stole his attention. He made his way to the door with no haste whatsoever, then paused to scratch the back of his neck directly beneath his hairline. Just as another knock began he swiftly opened the door.

In the doorway stood a man roughly of Zeke’s age, though he was of a considerably more thick build and was at least a full head taller than Zeke. He too wore an Oxford button-up, his being white with unrolled sleeves tightly hugging his thick forearms. An impressively expensive watch peeked out from under the sleeve of his right arm, and as the two stood there the silence was so thick that the ticking of the watch seemed to consume not only the room, but the entire hallway which the man stood in.

“Barnes,” Ezekiel politely greeted the man and entered his room, pacing again to look out the window. Barnes followed silently. “Nice day, isn’t it?”

“I didn’t peg you as someone who contributes to idle small talk, Emory.” Barnes was always referring to people by their surnames, ever so rarely making an exception. He stood near the head of Zeke’s bed, his fists intentionally clenched to make his arms pulse noticeably. It was entirely menacing and Zeke tried to ignore it by diverting his gaze back out the window. He laughed nervously, “neither did I. Funny how some things work out, isn’t it?”

“Hilarious.”

Zeke made great attempt to avoid eye contact with his visitor as he slid to the other side of the room, past Barnes, to fish out a soft pack of cigarettes from his top dresser drawer. He rest one in between his lips and glanced at Barnes before emitting a flame from his flip-top lighter. “Want one?” he asked, clapping the lighter closed.

“I don’t smoke.”

“That’s right. You don’t smoke. That’s right, you told me that.” He nodded vigorously as if he had acquired some enlightened bit of knowledge and paced back to the window to let loose an anxious exhale of smoke. “So what is it that you want, buddy? Just here to chew the fat?”

“Chew the fat? You sound like a character from a fifties novel. Don’t tell me you actually use such colloquialisms in real-life.”

He took a long drag on which he choked, coughing a number of times before talking, “What? No, no. I was just kidding around.” From afar he looked an absolute wreck, his gaze was never fixed in one place for longer than two seconds, his arms beginning to nervously perspire. “But, really: what do you want, buddy? I have a load of work to do. I’m supposed to write this goddamn paper on Camus by next week. You ever read The Plague? It’s terrific. I was going to write it on Dostoevsky, but then I read The Plague. Ever read it?”

“I’ve read The Plague. Yeah, I’ve read it. I don’t give a damn about Camus. Not right now.”

“You don’t like Camus? Really? Why don’t you like Camus?”

“I didn’t say I don’t like Camus. I adore Camus. But I’m not here to talk about goddamn Camus.”

Zeke nervously laughed and exhaled an ominous veil of smoke. “What then? What do you want?”

“I talked to Hannah.”

“She’s your girlfriend, of course you talked to her, buddy.”

“About you.”

“De moi? I don’t understand.”

“Yes you do. You understand.”

Zeke tossed his cigarette carelessly out the window. A draft of wind carried it several yards north of his window, narrowly missing the ear of a passerby who stopped and turned around to investigate the phenomena.

“You and her are awfully acquainted, she says. She told me you and her are terribly close.”

He looked at Barnes for the first time all afternoon. “Yeah, we’re friends. You know that. We’re pals.”

“Friends.”

“Of course, buddy. Strictly platonic. I mean, she’s gorgeous, but she’s yours. It’s strictly platonic what her and I have. Really, buddy.” Zeke was about to say another word when Barnes’s fist rocketed from its motionless position at his side and collided directly with Zeke’s nose. He tumbled backward, landing breathlessly on the ground. He looked up at Barnes, who immediately pressed the rubber sole of his left boot on Zeke’s throat.

“She told me everything. I don’t ever want to see you talk to her again. Do you understand?”

As he lay there, his face bloodied by the blodgening nature of Barnes’s right hook, he looked up at the man, dressed casually for a man like himself, and swore that he saw in his eyes a reflection of the dilapidated ruins of the Roman colosseum.


 
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sstokol

Senior Member
I like this generally, to me it aspire after a sort of "old world" or 1930s style of writing about young people when the world still had both hope and recognisable darkness (e.g. Evelyn Waugh) so take these comments as advice on style and form than creative ideals...

So overall my feedback is you try too hard to be "literary" or "wordy" and sometimes it just gets a bit carried away...

For example, the first sentence is awful. "The breeze from the open window carried a nearly angelic scent of magnolia into the room where it hung in the air, unseen but entirely present to anyone with even the faintest sense of smell." Just delete the underlined bit.

Among the rest I have just gone through and dotted notes:
- I don't like your character in the first two paragraphs, make him a bit less of a wanker, because by the end I rather like him (or maybe you want that, in which case it worked!)
- Can you jostle a guy that awake? I would have thought for the tone you set, he would awake drowsily, lazily, something soft, not a hard jostle
- Can you give a stretch? I think you take, or have, a stretch
- Without knowing the names of the 2 characters, your first dialogue is very confusing
- The "bit of knowledge" could not become enlightened, it is inanimate. But your character could become enlightened with a bit of knowledge.
- He cannot laugh nervously and then blow smoke ominously - he is not in control, he would blow it something else nervous - shakily, quickly, recklessly... something like that.

Love to read more if its got a longer story line or otherwise hope to see more of your writing.
cheers
 

Sara Haasis

Senior Member
to me it aspire after a sort of "old world" or 1930s style of writing about young people when the world still had both hope and recognisable darkness

I got this impression too. I like everything about the structure-- the pleasant opening image, the exchange between the two characters, the comparison to a gladiator battle. I think its biggest weakness is a falsely inflated vocabulary, particularly when it comes to redundant adverbs. For instance, I don't know what eyes look like when they are closed timidly vs not timidly, or what a book looks like when it's wearing a stain confidently vs not confidently. It doesn't add anything for me when I read a scent is nearly angelic rather than just angelic, and so on. If you were to edit for conciseness, I think you would still have a piece with a sophisticated voice that fits the setting.
 

Alabastrine

Senior Member
Very nice beginning! I agree with sstokol about it being just a tad too wordy. I felt like I was watching a watercolor painting come to life through your words. I think you should continue on with this and see where it goes. I too would like to meet the girlfriend and I think Barnes is interesting as well.

Anyways, that is my two cents.
 

BryanJ62

Senior Member
Personally I would not call the first sentence awful. That is a tad harsh. I'm guilty, as I'm sure a lot of us are, of over wording a scene in order to get the feel of the story. The key, for me at least, is coming back to the story and trimming it down during the rewrite. Sometimes it's best to throw everything out there and see what sticks and whatever doesn't is swept away.
 

sstokol

Senior Member
Personally I would not call the first sentence awful. That is a tad harsh. I'm guilty, as I'm sure a lot of us are, of over wording a scene in order to get the feel of the story. The key, for me at least, is coming back to the story and trimming it down during the rewrite. Sometimes it's best to throw everything out there and see what sticks and whatever doesn't is swept away.

Yes, sorry I didn't really mean it as harsh as "awful", lets just say too wordy IMHO
 

sageburgamot

Senior Member
Thanks for the feedback, guys!!! I can't deny to being guilty to over-wording some of my writing sometimes, but I entirely agree. Sometimes it's hard to realize how overboard it is when you're actually writing it, but I guess that's why 'feedback' exists. :)
 

BryanJ62

Senior Member
Don't let that stop you from saying it all while everything is fresh in your mind. Afterwards you can pick and choose what works. Wouldn't it be nice if the real world worked that way. I might have saved a relationship or two in my early days.
 
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