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Thread: A sad case

  1. #1
    Registered User sweety's Avatar
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    Sep 2010

    A sad case

    Walking along the rocky shore, eating soggy pancakes, he watched the yellow foam wash onto the pebbled strand. The craggy hill-side was abloom with heather, the thorn-bushes with their sharp thorns gave shelter to the wild life. He watched the fisher fleet sail into the pretty little harbour across the bay. A little further on an owls feather caught his eye, he was about to pick it up when a warm summer breeze blew in from the Atlantic ocean and it flew out of his reach.

    His first few days out of prison. He enjoyed the freedom and beauty of the rocky coastline, it made him happy and sad he was alive. How long could he stay in the little village of his birth he did not know. His first day back he sought out his friends and neighbours, but they ignored him. It grieved him that they should treat him that way.

    It was a terrible thing he done. But was he really to blame? His old cottage was burned to the ground after an arson attack.

    There was nothing for it but go to his grandmothers old house. Looking at it now, all the old memories started to haunt him. The salty taste of tear-drops fell on his lips when he saw how neglected the cottage had become. The whitewashed walls now a dirty grey, the years had laid old age on it. He wanted to turn and run, but felt compelled to enter. The front door was in a sorry state of affairs: paint peeling and crumbling to form an abstract painting.

    Pushing the old door it groaned and creaked but refused to open. Putting it under pressure with his shoulder, it relinquished. Inside he found part of the thatch roof on the floor. The crows had found a new home, it was a mess but still the same. A small one-bedroom cottage for a poor family.

    Feeling a chill he folded his newspaper, the same one he bought when he was released from prison just a few days ago and placed it in the open hearth. He put a few sticks on top and started a fire.
    In no time it was blazing and he fed it with turf. The old black kettle was still hanging on the fireplace crane. Filling it with water from the well he let it boil. Sitting outside with a mug of tea he saw the mist approach from the sea, under the clouds the sun was still shining.

    He sat there with his thoughts till the crimson twilight lit up the sky. Then he went back inside.

    He walked to the bedroom. The old photograph torn and stained of his grandmother stood on the side table, seeing the tape-recorder next to it, brought it all back.

    He felt a sadness remembering the day his sister asked him to keep an eye on Grandma till she was feeling better. His sister was not a well person. Surviving the horrible car crash at a young age, which killed both their parents, changed her forever. Without her medication she would walk the rocky-shore all night.

    He recalled that first day: it was a beautiful summer's morning, the smell of fresh mown grass was on the wind when he arrived at Grandma's. She was asleep when he arrived so he fed the fire and made a pot of tea before awakening her.

    It was then he saw the tape-recorder on the side table for the first time. There was a closed envelope on top addressed to himself. Opening it, he read:

    "Press and play the tape-recorder." Pushing the button, his Grandmother's voice escaped from the contraption:
    "I want you to switch me off, Michael. I'm asking you this way, because if I tell you face to face I know you will try and talk me out of it. My time has come. We will not talk of this when I'm awake. Over and out."

    He thought about what she wanted and it filled him with dread. Should he tell his sister..? No, he thought better of it. She wasn't well. It might drive her back to the asylum. No, he would have to deal with it himself. Grandmother had cancer and the pain was getting to her, she had enough.

    Hoping she might have changed her mind, he switched the recorder on the following day, but it was the same message . And the day after: there was still no change. The next day he took his bicycle and went off for a spin to give him time to think about her request and what was the right thing to do.

    Cycling to grandma's late that night, a little under the weather from a few drinks, he made up his mind that he would bow to grandma's wishes.

    With a heavy heart he opened the front door and crossed to the bedroom. It was pitch dark but he heard her snoring. Picking up a pillow from the chair he walked to the bed and placed the pillow over her head.
    About to leave, the snoring started up again.... shocked he had a closer look. He had smothered his sister! What was she doing in bed with Grandma? His thoughts running wild.
    Walking over to the tape recorder he pressed "Play."

    "Michael, your sister is in a bad way. She needs me, so don’t do anything until further notice. Over and out."

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Gosh - I wasn't expecting that.

    I enjoyed the gentle introduction to the story - the character returning to his home village, ostracised by the locals because of some unspecified crime.

    I was eager to know more - but in the end things happened in rather a rush. And after the revelation of the crime..... nothing. Was the point of the story to expose his crime or tell the reader how he intended to reconcile himself to what he had done? I think there should be more to follow.

    There were a couple of holes in the plot where I needed to double-back in order to make sense of what was happening - or more to the point make sense of when it was happening.

    He recalled that first day - the first day he was to look after his grandma I now realise, but on first reading I thought it might have been his first day back in the cottage.

    And if his grandmother's cottage has now become a ruin it's surprising her bedroom has survived virtually intact. I'm curious as to why she would have a photograph of herself in her bedroom - and how come the tape-recorder was still there?

    As far as the writing style is concerned - it could be tightened up some more. You sometimes say too much when there's no need :

    The front door was in a sorry state of affairs: paint peeling and crumbling to form an abstract painting.

    'in a sorry state of affairs' is a cliche - and it tells us the condition of the door. What you are better doing is showing us the state of the door - and the second half of the sentence does it for you superbly.

    Another good start to what can be a stronger piece with a little tlc


  3. #3
    Registered User sweety's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Thanks H. for reading (and re-reading) my short story.

    I always look forward to reading your comments (sometimes I even read your comments first and the story you're critiquing comes second).

    You’re right on the use of the cliché, mea culpa on having pictures of myself in my bedroom, so "grandma's photo" made sense to me.

    The "still" being there of the tape-recorder could mean : surprise that the police didn't take it away, or that it wasn't stolen.

    1 Hole in a roof doesn't have to mean that the whole cottage is a ruin, the bedroom was (miraculously) spared...

    My way of telling a story is not spelling it all out to the reader(s), but leave a bit of mystery in it (if I can...); but I do try to learn from the comments, so don't give up on me.....

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    I'm not giving up on you!!!

    And my being picky was how the reader in your worst nightmares would approach this kind of story - trying to find holes in the plot.

    Not spelling it out too clearly is the best approach - give the reader some credit for having the brains to work things out for himself.

    H :-)

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