honed

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This Friday, my  Wordpress “Writing 101” experiment comes to an end. I will miss the challenge and the fun, but perhaps not the stress 😉

The brief for day eighteen, “hone your point of view”.

This time round, part of the story has been written for us.

“The neighbourhood has seen better days, but Mrs. Pauley has lived there since before anyone can remember. She raised a family of six boys, who’ve all grown up and moved away. Since Mr. Pauley died three months ago, she’d had no income. She’s fallen behind in the rent. The landlord, accompanied by the police, have come to evict Mrs. Pauley from the house she’s lived in for forty years.”

As always the brief comes in two parts.

First, the prompt:

“Write this story in first person, told by the twelve-year-old sitting on the stoop across the street.”

Oh, and yes, then, there is the twist:

“For those of you who want an extra challenge, think about more than simply writing in first-person point of view — build this twelve-year-old as a character. Reveal at least one personality quirk, for example, either through spoken dialogue or inner monologue.”

I have tried to stretch myself with this piece. So, it’s a dark one.

It’s not real.

But, imagine. If it were.


Today is a bloody great day!

It’s so annoying, the way they don’t care. None of them. They never cared. They just don’t know what it was like. It went on and on and on.

So, yes, today, I feel bloody wonderful. And, who cares what anyone else thinks. At last. It’s finally over. For ever.

None of them ever cared. What they did. Ever!!!

Not my mum, my dad, none of them would bloody listen!!

Well maybe they will now? If they find out? Hid, I hope they don’t. They promised me that great new bike. I bet they wouldn’t if they knew. If they knew. No bike then!

What I did.

What they did. The bastards. All six of them. And him. And she. She bloody knew!

Right from the start, she bloody knew. It was him. Her eldest. he started it, and they all joined in. Bit bit by bloody bit.

Mom, “oh they’re such a lovely family, those boys, so good to their Mom”.

Yeah, right. Mommy’s little soldiers. Too bloody right.

“But mom…” I would start.

And yeah, suddenly she needed to do something. Anything. And me. And it. Well, yeah we vanished. Too hard to talk about. Like usual.

And bit by beautiful bit, they left. Moved on. Hid help anyone near to them now. All six of them. Bastards all.

And he, the youngest, he was the worst.

Ha! He had five brothers to learn from. And me. For practice. And no one bloody cared. No one!

But he left as well.

And I thought it was over.

But no.

It wasn’t.

He, remained. The father. The beast behind the beasts. I mean, they had to learn from somewhere? No? And he, he was the worst.

That day. What was I supposed to do? Hey? I mean, what would you do? I didn’t mean it. Not really. I promise. But. What would you do. I really didn’t mean it. It just happened. Just like that.

Three months ago.

All that blood.

But they never found out. None of them. Good!

And her. She. I think she knew. And looked away.

So. Great. Finally she’s going. Who cares?

Not me.

mirror

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Once more, I chose to explain this post before I begin, and not add one of my cryptic, and often ambiguous, notes, after the piece.  This time, it is the end of the piece that may, for some, appear ambiguous.  For which, I do not apologise.

This is my response to day seventeen of the Writing 101 Blogging U. course run by WordPress. The course will end on Friday.

The brief, came in two parts.

As usual, a prompt, with a twist.

Today’s prompt

“We all have anxieties, worries, and fears. What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears.”

And, the twist?

“Write this post in a style distinct from your own.”


The man sat at the bare wooden table. In the corner. Heavily. He was exhausted. It had been a long day. Again.

For him it was always so. Each day the same.

Alone. Contemplating his surroundings. The bar was dim, dingy after the searing sun in the street.  A long mirror behind the bar, an empty hatstand.

And cold. Very cold. The floor, stone, covered in dust and the remains of well chewed cigars. And other stuff. He didn’t want to think what stuff.

Turning, signalling to the bar tender, with a single raised finger.

The bar tender looked across the room. Blankly. No response. His head seeming to sweep slowly across the bar. And its solitary occupant. His reflection, in the long mirror behind the bar, completing the circle.

“Hey, what do I have to do to get served around here?”

The bar tender appeared unmoved by the request. Not a shrug. Not a raised eyebrow. Nothing. At all.

The man pushed back his chair, legs scraping through the detritus that covered the floor.

“Hey. I really. Could. Use. A. Drink. Here. Yeah?”

Nothing. The bar tender turned away. A finger rubbing his chin absently.

The couple entered the bar. He, sombre, miserable looking, black tuxedo, open white shirt, top buttons missing, unshaven. She, tight fitting little red dress, little else. Or so it seemed to the man, his attention distracted from the unresponsive bar tender.

The tuxedo and the red dress stopped, looked. Moved past his table. Saying nothing. At all.

They sat, fell, into a plump sofa pushed against the wall. So close, he could smell their heat, their lust. It disturbed him.

He looked away as the tuxedo explored the red dress. He didn’t need to see what he guessed was inevitable. Hearing their grunts and hot heavy breathing was enough. More than enough.

From the corner of his eye, he saw the tuxedo and the bar tender exchange a glance. No words. A nod. That was all.

Their drinks appeared quickly. Left on the low wooden table. It was covered in stains. He watched the ice melt in their glasses.

The man turned away. Looked directly into the bar tender’s cold grey eyes. Sought to hold his gaze for a moment. The bar tender turned away, his eyes drifting to the battered old TV set flickering, buzzing, in a corner above the bar.

Coughing, the man stood up. Walked to the bar. Angry now. Very.

“Listen. Can. I. Have. A. F******. Drink. Mate!”

His fingers, dry and twisted, drumming on the edge of the bar.

The bar tender turned. Checked out the tuxedo and the red dress. His face twisted in a sneer, one that made it clear he had seen it before. Seen them before. Knew how it played out. He walked away from the bar, past them. Towards the door in the corner. Left the bar. The door closing behind him. Slam.

The only sounds in the room, the TV, the moans from the couple on the sofa.

“What the f*** do I have. To. Do. To get a f***** drink in this bar!!!”

In a red veiled rage, he reached across the bar, fingers grasping for the bottle of whisky that lay there.

Bottle in hand, he splashed a heavy shot from the bottle. Filled the glass.

“I’ll f****** well help myself then!”

He raised his glass, looked directly into the mirror, saw the tuxedo, the red dress.

And nothing else.

(3:3)

Unusually, I have chosen to explain this post before I begin, and not add one of my cryptic, and often ambiguous, notes, after the piece.

Spoiler alert. In this post, I actually get to the point. With little, if no, ambiguity. You have been warned.

This is my response to day sixteen of the WordPress 101 Blogging U. course run by WordPress. The course will end on Friday. This post is also the third in a sequence of linked posts. The first, in response to the prompt on day four, serially lost (1:3) was my scene setter and probably (and perhaps of no surprise to some?) raised more questions than it answered. The second of the three posts, in response to day thirteen, serially found (2:3) developed my theme but, with complete consistency, I failed to offer any answers. Spoke in riddles.

The brief for part three, came in two parts.

As usual, a prompt, with a twist.

Today’s prompt

“Imagine you had a job in which you had to sift through forgotten or lost belongings. Describe a day in which you come upon something peculiar, or tell a story about something interesting you find in a pile.

For inspiration, ponder the phrase “lost and found.” What do you think about or visualize when you read this phrase? For an elementary schooler, it might be a box in their classroom, full of forgotten jackets and random toys. For a frequent traveler, it might be a facility in an airport, packed with lost phones, abandoned bags, and misplaced items.”

And, the twist?

“On day four, you wrote about losing something. On day thirteen, you then wrote about finding something. So, today’s twist: If you’d like to continue our serial challenge, also reflect on the theme of lost and found more generally in this post.”

In the piece that follows, I may, or more likely not, follow the prompt or the twist. I may try, now I am not so sure. What I do know, is that I will finish telling my story.

In serially lost (1:3) I said that I would unfold “A story which involves a tennis court, a phone call, a student sitting on the kerb, an elephant slide, a drive through the country.”  In serially found (2:3), after rambling a lot, I concluded that “I found, what I had lost.”

So, here, the third part.


I discovered the true extent of my loss over an unwanted cup of tea at a roadside cafe.

There really was an elephant slide.

I know.

I remember that, because I focused on the elephant’s trunk, down which, in that other world, the one where students play tennis before deciding where to get drunk, happy kids should slide.

As my own ears wanted to close and shrivel up.

I hoped, that if I kept looking at the elephant slide long enough, the story I was hearing would prove to be some insane dream. Or maybe I had misheard?

But no, I hadn’t.

Over a rapidly cooling cup of tea (unwanted), I was told crisply, what had happened.

Or, what my father had “happened”, to happen.

It had not been an accident. He had driven out in his car. Made all the preparations.

He scribbled a brief, emotional, note to my mother, left buried in the pages of a book, one that meant much to him.

And, under a motorway bridge, he turned the key, the act that ended whatever his sorrows were, and other things “happened”.

Just like that.

Just like that. He took his own life. Or, without mincing words, he committed suicide.


The (unwanted) cup of tea was followed by a drive through the country, I remember every tree and hedge on the way. Even now, decades later, I can see every leaf.

The drive through the country was followed by the “arrival” at home. Or hell, on earth.

I am writing here, selfishly about my experience, I had siblings, each of whom has their own story, they suffered, probably more than I did. I had a mother, well barely, as she was tranquillised into a state that was as close to death as I could imagine.

Then there were all the relatives and friends, who wanted to help and say and do the right thing.

But, there is no right thing. There just isn’t.

What followed in the next, almost catatonic days, was a blur of anger, resentment, hatred, grief and most other emotions you care to imagine. Or perhaps you don’t. Actually, yes (or no), you don’t.

You really don’t.

And, oh, yes, there were the boxes of papers, piles of clothes, remnants of a life. And, as the eldest sibling, and not on tranquilisers,  it fell, in large part, to me, to sift through all that remains of a life.

I won’t detail that, why bother, imagine or don’t imagine, makes no real difference.

What followed over the years?

An interminable period of grief, self blame, guilt, wondering what had happened? Could I have rescued him? If I had said something to him that last time, as I waved good bye as my train pulled out of the station, and his sad face diminished?

All these things and more.

The feeling that there must be more to it. Maybe he had been murdered? Or it had been a terrible mistake? All of these things kept me awake for night after night for years. And counselling, psychotherapy? No, what I got were the boxes of financial records, and official papers to read.

What I also got was a gaping sense of loss and, yes. Anger.

Seething anger. A poisonous mess of conflicting feelings.

Anger over my lost innocence. Anger over the pain in the eyes of my siblings, their lost innocence. Anger at the dead, drugged, eyes of my mother. Anger at all those people trying to help.

How could they?

And anger at all those people whose lives hadn’t been thrown into chaos by the simple act of turning a key.


Which brings me to my point.

The point is, it happened, I didn’t get over it for a long time, maybe I never will.

And yet, I must. Now.

For so long, I just wanted to be able to speak to him one more time. We had only really just started talking to each other, some months before the elephant slide entered my life.

And now, at last, I want to put it behind me. Move on, and stop hurting. And, stop hurting others.

So, here, my point is.


Dad, wherever you are, I forgive you.

voice

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Day Fifteen of Writing 101 requires us to

“think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.”

Many hours were spent cogitating, contemplating, considering.

To little avail.

When pressed to name something that I particularly like, or identify a favourite, my mind freezes.

My hometown. Yes, I have a hometown, the place where I was born. But, not a place I regard as “home”. That place lies within. Not outside.

And music festivals? Yeah. Done that. Maybe even have a tee shirt. But, life changing? Nope.

Conferences that shifted my world view? Right. Been to a lot of conferences, find it hard to shift in my sleep during the sessions, but world view shifted? Nope.

Oh, and, as always, the task had a “twist”

“While writing this post, focus again on your own voice. Pay attention to your word choice, tone, and rhythm. Read each sentence aloud multiple times, making edits as you read through. Before you hit “Publish,” read your entire piece out loud to ensure it sounds like you.”

Ok. Now we’re talking. I do like the sound of my own voice. At least, that’s what they say. And that’s good, right? Right? Ah.

So.

I thought a bit more and then it came to me.

I remembered the day I realised that my life as a student was over.

And, yes I mean the studying part.

Not the other.

The mistaken assumption that on leaving University, I would leave behind forever the world of learning.

That’s what I am writing about.

Walking along a pavement in London. Thinking, no more Schrödinger’s cat, no more complex organic compounds, no more contemplating the infinite.

No more questioning the why, what, how, when, where and if.

No. I realised that I had traded that life of learning for a living.

Instead of reading to discover, I would read to earn money.

Yes, they had taken my soul.

An evil corporate force, well actually several different evil corporate forces, would now determine my direction.

No more worrying about the fifth dimension, the forces that bind the universe, the philosophical questions about who we are. And why.

No, now, balance sheets and books of account, files and fiches, debits and credits. A trial balancing account. A life where learning would end.

So. Yes, at that moment my heart and soul went cold.

So. Yes, I was wrong.

The learning and lessons had only begun, the real class about to start.

The class of life.

People, relationships, love, loss. And all the bits in between.

The event I feared. The end of learning. It never happened.

Instead, it blossomed and grew.

And, not just in me. In the faces of those who followed. Upturned eyes, hands reaching out, those searching questions again from younger minds. And the total trust that I would know the answer.

So, next time. When someone asks why.

Think hard, before replying.

 

As today’s Writing 101 prompt involves the use of “voice”, I decided to accompany my writing with a recording of today’s response.

(for wordpress writing 101 – day fifteen)

to whom it may concern

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(To, whom ever) was (innocent),

Assumed that I was wrong when I heard about your case! I can hardly believe what I have heard, how could you have behaved so? Why?

Very many people have approached me and raised this issue with me, wondering if you are even real. Your entire life seems to be part dream, part real, and yet neither.

Experience suggests that I may need to think more. I mean, your case is perhaps not entirely unique? Maybe you don’t realise? What were you thinking, were you even thinking? This is so hard for me to write about in this way. You know I rarely write letters. But, in this case, I felt prompted to do so. Every word pressed out of me.

Bürstner, did you know Bürstner? It may be pointless to ask, because I haven’t even finished yet, but I do hope you can tell me? I mean, if not, what was the point of it all?

Know this, writing this letter is so very hard.

Particularly as I have had a long hard day at work, the thing I really needed today (I jest) was to be pressed to write about your case. Finding the words is so very hard, I think you know what I mean? Don’t you?

It is almost time, do you realise that? There is not much time left.

Month by month, I have worried about your case. You claim to be innocent, but are any of us? Really? I wrote recently about questions of morality and criminality and guilt. Your case makes me think of that. Maybe you should too? Please do. It may make all the difference.

That’s the point you see. Are you or are you not innocent, do you even know yourself?

Little by little, I am beginning to see why your case is so important. Important to us all as we consider the big questions. And you know I like to do that, and that writing letters is so hard for me, I feel so pressed, every word a prompt to think. Yes, I feel word pressed.

Bürstner. Why do I keep remembering that name? Have a think and let me know if you know the connection?

Knowledge of your case has become common, many people like what they hear, comments are frequently made about the circumstances of how you fell, did you do it alone or were you pressed?  Many felt your words prompted you to step over the edge and do what you did. I believe many may follow you, only time will tell?

Seriously, I mean, just imagine!

Need can be a difficult emotion to handle, I mean, here I am writing to you about your case, but what I really need, is to see you again, talk first hand, hold your hand. And try to forget, you know?

But what then?

Said, do you remember him? He told me that in his country your case would be closed by now. Justice is harsh there. It would all be over.  Done.

Know that I will never forget you, your case, what you are going through, what you have been through? My heart is aching.

Me, I have no bloody idea what I would do in your shoes, I mean your case is very challenging, no?

Was anyone ever so hurt, so challenged as you. Your case appears so clear cut. But, they don’t understand, maybe they never bloody will. I do, you know that! Don’t you?

And when will it all end, do you even care? All the trouble your case has caused. For all of us?

Been too long. I’m so tired, your case, I mean it is exhausting. I need to be free and happy again. You do know that? And yet the circumstances of your case. Keep pulling me back in, like a moth to a flame.

K. Yes, K. He knew. He went through, I think, what you are going through now.  He was too emotional to fix it?

I need you, sorry, as I write, that really is all that matters. Who cares about your case? The truth will come out, but will they care. No!

For no one cares about the truth. Only about their interpretation of the truth, their morals, their right(s). Who cares anyway? And yet. You know I care. Right??

Because, if you don’t, then the third part, you know, his third part, the hard one, the one he doesn’t really want to write about? Well, if you don’t care then maybe the third part will be the only way. The third way?

Interrogation. Yes, that awaits you, oh Hid, please be brave, they can try, but even in your case, they can’t break you, not if you are strong.

Commission, or omission, that will be the question. That will be the determinant in your case, did you commit, or omit, did you act or not. Did you know?

Laughed. Yes, they laughed, bastards, when they realised. When they realised you might have a point!

Said, he knew, yes, Said knew and understood why you did what you did. Do you miss him? I do.

For, now, there is no going back, we can only move on. Whatever the outcome of your case. There is only one real outcome.

Bürstner, I almost feel jealous, I wish you would, or could tell me?  Who?

Was there ever a case like this? Like your case?

Slowly, I can feel the cogs grinding, the machinery turns, your case, our case, will be determined, and then, and then there will be no turning back.

What’s the point? Oh Hid, I am so tired.

Asked them all, what will be the outcome of the case?

Move on, they said.

Fräulein, I remain.

(yours)

 

(For the last two weeks I have been attempting to learn how to write better. I’ve been taking part in Writing 101, an online course hosted by Michelle W from the WordPress Blogging U.  

Today’s prompt was “Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What’s the first word that jumps off the page? Use this word as your springboard for inspiration.”  The twist in the  prompt was  to “write the post in the form of a letter” .  I turned to page 29 of “The Trial” by Franz Kafka, I went a little further than the prompt, and if you find a copy of the book, you may see how I twisted the twist.”

(for wordpress writing 101 – day fourteen)

serially found (2:3)

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Absolute thinking.

Such thinking really sucks. Big time.

That morning, the sun shone. Yes, really, it did.

Until it stopped.

I remember how it felt to finally feel happy, accepted for who I was. Even if that meant I was a rather poor tennis opponent.  I laughed, I relaxed, I thought about a future.  Dared.

The day after the shortest night.

Only, the night was only just about to begin.

I ran to the net, managed to tip it across, laughed as my opponent floundered, shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

A leafy crescent in the centre of the world.

My world.

Which was about to implode.

Tired, and hot, we finished the game.

Walked back inside.

“Hey, there’s a call for you”.

Can you imagine. A time before mobiles existed. When shared phones in dingy corners were all that connected us? Or didn’t?

I took the handset, is that we called them then (I don’t think so?) and held it to my ear.

That familiar voice, one I thought had gone for ever. A voice full of things I could not, would not, hear.

“There’s been an accident. You need to come home.”

It wasn’t. But I did.

And so.  After a morning of tennis and smiles. Laughter and life. I sat on the dusty kerb.

Waited for a car from a familiar stranger.

To pick me up.

That sleek, sporty BMW.

White. Dark light.

Transported me from light. Into a night that seemed then without end.

And that afternoon, as my fingers turned numb, my breath caught in my throat.

I found, what I had lost.

(For the last two weeks I have been attempting to learn how to write better. I’ve been taking part in Writing 101, an online course hosted by Michelle W from the WordPress Blogging U.  

Today’s prompt was “if you wrote day four’s post as the first in a series, use this one as the second installment — loosely defined”

(for wordpress writing 101 – day thirteen)