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Thread: To Catch the Dawn

  1. #1
    Justifiably inexcusable DocHeart's Avatar
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    To Catch the Dawn

    To Catch the Dawn



    =======================



    To my father





    Slight, pale and quiet as a spectre, Yorgo lurked among the cherry trees.

    It was that vague moment when the blackness of night begins to slowly dissolve into the milky edges of daylight. Many times Yorgo had tried to capture that second, to keep it as a memory and relive it later, in the blazing sunshine of the afternoon, or under the starlit sky he could see out of his window at bedtime. But he couldn't. No matter how hard he focused, in turns glaring and squinting beyond the cherry branches, he could never perceive the moment the transition began. A blink, or even the thought of a blink, would be enough for daybreak to creep up without him realizing. Suddenly tree trunks were brown, not black; suddenly dew on the long blades of grass was visible.

    He waited in absolute stillness, caressing his slingshot with his fingers. This was a brand-new one, only made yesterday out of olive wood. Yorgo had tested it on rocks before dinner; it shot far more straight than his old one. He was proud of himself.

    But proof is always in the pudding.

    There was a fast patter of wings, then leaves fluttered. Twenty yards ahead of him a quail sat down to breakfast. Moving with expert swiftness and stealth, Yorgo took a rock from his pocket and armed his slingshot. Without breathing, he took aim.

    "You have to get them in the head, Giorgio," Luigi had said. "If you get them in the chest, it leaves a big dent in the flesh. We can't serve the officers a bird with a big dent in the flesh. Capito?"

    The beheaded bird fell on the grass, its chest perfectly shaped, its flesh undented.


    ***


    "Giorgino!"

    Luigi greeted the boy with a beaming smile, as he always did. Yorgo had known him for a while now, but the man's size still overwhelmed him sometimes, and he felt small. Luigi was taller than any other Italian soldier Yorgo had seen, with long, thick arms and hands with massive palms and thick fingers. When Luigi would start gesturing excitedly, his arms looked more scary than the machine gun across his back.

    "Why are you not at school, Giorgino? Come here!" The soldier hugged the boy and kissed him on both cheeks. "What have you got in that bag? Birds again?"

    "Si, siniore Luigi. Five!" Yorgo smiled, and opened the bag to show off his kills.

    "Five! Mama mia! Hey, sergente! Come look at this! Giorgio brought quail again."

    The soldier Luigi had addressed briefly took his eyes from his magazine, and mumbled something in Italian with a shrug.

    Luigi laughed. "You know why he is not happy, Giorgio? Because he knows I'm going to tell the cook to put these in the oven with oil and herbs, and then smother them in cream, and then throw lots of parmesan over them. And then he's not going to get any. You know why he's not going to get any? You do, don't you?"

    "No, siniore Luigi."

    The Italian grabbed the boy's arm and pulled him close. He leant over him. Yorgo was lost in the big man's shadow, and felt shielded -- from the sun, from the cool morning breeze, from the very war itself.

    "Perche e stupido," Luigi whispered in his hear. Then, much louder, and facing his comrade: "Because he's as stupid as a mule!"

    "Eh, vafancullo," said the other soldier, without taking his eyes off his magazine. "Why do you keep giving our supplies to this boy to get his bloody birds, I'll never know. Birds. What do you want birds for? Who's coming to dinner? Mussolini?"

    "Nice language, in front of the boy, Maldini. How about I write you up?"

    "Yea, how about vafancullo?"

    At the repeated sound of bad words, Yorgo giggled. Luigi laughed then, infected with the boy's mirth, exposing yellow teeth and a big tongue. And this made Yorgo giggle even harder. This always happened.

    "Come inside. Come inside, my boy. You are the best boy in all of Corfu, that's what you are!"

    Yorgo followed Luigi inside Troubeta's Inn. He remembered when old Troubeta was still running the place and renting rooms to tourists from England and America. They all used to walk down the beach as a group, undress as a group and swim around as a group in a small area, as if the sea wasn't big enough. When the occupation started, the Italians took the place from Troubeta and turned it into a barracks, as they did with several buildings in the village. At least, Yorgo thought, the Italian soldiers went to the beach whenever each one of them could, and they swam wherever they fancied. Freely.

    "Here, what you want today?"

    "Some flour, siniore Luigi."

    "Flour again? Flour, flour, flour! Come downstairs. I'll give you some flour."

    Yorgo enjoyed being in that cellar. There were so many things to eat down there -- stacks and stacks of cans of ham, beans, pasta in tomato sauce, oblong cans of sardines and tuna and octopus in oil and vinegar, a barrel full of butter, fat bottles of wine, ouzo, olive oil, orange juice, massive sacks of potatoes, and of course, flour. Flour to make bread and pancakes with, so useful for padding out whatever edible his older brother could afford to buy.

    "We'll take this," the soldier said, and grabbed a sack of flour. "Put it down. I'll carry it upstairs for you. We'll take these, too. Empty your bag, set the birds over there. That a boy. Here, we'll take these, too." And he stuffed four cans of ham into Yorgo's bag.

    "Grazie, siniore Luigi," Yorgo said.

    "Best boy in all of Corfu," Luigi smiled, and kissed the boy's forehead with his great big mouth.


    ***


    Yorgo was thinking about football. He was picturing Niko Youtso dribbling his way through three, four, five defenders, and then firing a magnificent shot past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Thousands of people jumped up and cheered. He had read it all in the newspaper which Mario had stolen from Metalino's shop. He had seen the photographs: Youtso ecstatic with his fists up in the air; in the background, team-mates rushing to congratulate him, and the opposition's goalkeeper with his head bowed. The article talked about next week's fixtures being suspended because of the situation north of Athens, were the Greek military was bravely fighting off German invaders. But that was less important. What was important was that magnificent shot, the ball deep inside the goal, the crowd in ruptures.

    "Your father's glass is empty." Grigori's voice broke the boy's trance.

    "I'm sorry," Yorgo apologized, and served.

    "Not too much, now, son," said Vassili.

    "Here you are, father. I only poured half a glass."

    "You're a good boy."

    "Yes, a good boy," mumbled Grigori, still displeased with his younger brother's inattentiveness "but he doesn't go to school." He said this chewing a large piece of ham.

    "I go to school. I just didn't go today."

    "And why not? Eh? You've got to finish school, then go off to town to go to high school. Isn't that what we agreed? What do you think I'm doing carrying bags of cement all day, so that I become a weight-lifter? I'm saving you money to go to high school."

    "I had to hunt for birds."

    "You hunt for birds at dawn. School starts at eight. You could have gone. And anyway, enough with the birds business. Who said we need the Italians' charity, anyway? Did I ever let you go hungry? Eh?"

    "Grigori," Vassili intervened. "You yell at the boy too much. Do not yell. Yorgo, no more missing school. You listen to what your brother says. He is right." All of this was spoken softly, with a smile. It was the only way Vassili ever spoke, like a wise old man, like someone who has seen everything war brings and now needs to see no more.

    "Yes, father," said Yorgo.

    He reached out for his wine glass, tentatively. Blinded by a bomb shell two years ago, he could only find things if they were always left exactly in the same place in relation to his place at the table. This time his younger son was paying attention. Noiselessly, he pushed the wine glass a couple of inches to the left, so that his father's hand would meet with it.


    ***


    Some old socks worked into a ball served as a football, and the village kids played in the main square, outside the church. Autumn leaves were covering the ground, and as evening drew in a cool breeze blew across the village hill. The adult men that would sit around the wooden tables outside Metalino's shop sipping brandy were getting fewer and fewer by the day; most of them sat indoors now. But to the boys, running, jumping, colliding with each other, such changes in temperature were imperceptible.

    Yorgo tried to hit the sock-ball towards Mario. Had this pass been successful, his team-mate would have found himself with only Stamati, the opposition's goalkeeper, to beat. But Yorgo kicked hurriedly, clumsily, and the ball flew to a totally different direction to the one he had intended. It landed on one of the wooden tables, where Metalino himself and Father Andreas, the village priest, had been sitting. It knocked their glasses and the bottle of brandy to the ground, smashing it, sending its contents splashing on the stone pavement, but also on Father Andreas' gown.

    The game stopped.

    "The devil take you lot of no-good brats," shouted Metalino. He was a short, stout man, with thin grey hair parted in the middle, and an almost-white moustache. His narrow brown eyes always looked angry; but then, so did the eyes of many adults in the village.

    "Which one of you brats kicked this thing over here? Eh? Haven't I told you a million times not to play here? What if you had broken my window? Who would pay for it then?"

    "Metalino, sit down," intervened Father Andreas, while he was still wiping brandy off his beard. "Sit down, now. Let's get another bottle. Little harm done."

    "I said, which one of you mongrels kicked this thing over here," repeated Metalino. He was standing among the boys now, who all seemed transfixed, unable to move, aware of a sudden crisis they had no idea how to deal with.

    Yorgo was behind the angry man. He wanted to make a run for it, leaving the other boys to deal with the trouble. Hurry home for his dinner. But he knew that if he did that, the boys would call him a coward. Maybe his brother would think that, too. Even his father.

    "I did, sir."

    Metalino turned. He grabbed Yorgo's chin and made the boy look him in the eyes.

    "You did, eh?"

    "Metalino, for shame! Leave the boy alone," the priest called out.

    "You useless, scrawny thing," continued Metalino, "do you think just because you are a little collaborator scum and the Italians give your family food you can do anything you want and get away with it?"

    He raised his hand and brought it on Yorgo's face with all his strength. The sound of the slap bounced against the walls of the buildings surrounding the square and the hillside beyond it. It echoed there, twice, until the next autumn breeze carried it away.

    The adults who had been sitting indoors were outside now, looking at the unfolding events muttering words of disapproval. "For shame, Metalino, you no-good bully," shouted the priest, and walked over to assist the boy back to his feet.

    Yorgo's nose was bleeding, and his left ear sent strange sounds to his brain, loud, pulsating sounds, screaming sounds, unfair, ugly, cruel sounds. He wished he had his own crowd of fans, like Youtso did. They wouldn't have let this happen. No, they wouldn't have let the war itself happen. They would have stopped the Italians from ever occupying the island; they would have stopped the Germans from advancing on Athens. The league matches would have taken place as scheduled.

    "Now the boy goes home to his brother, Metalino," said the priest, holding Yorgo up. "His brother sees him like this, what do you think happens? He'll come find you and beat the life out of you."

    "No need for that," shouted a voice from the opposite corner of the square.

    Luigi and another soldier had been on patrol, and witnessed it all. They too had stood transfixed at the unexpected violence until now.

    The villagers froze. A complete, eerie silence fell. Luigi started walking towards Metalino, the priest and the boy. The other boys and some men disappeared into the narrow streets around the square. Even the sun, it seemed, was in a rush to hide behind the hill and end his watch, let night fall swiftly.

    Luigi grabbed Metalino's shirt collar and dragged him across the square; he threw him onto the chair on which he had been sitting and stood above him.

    "I'm sorry, sir," muttered Metalino, terrified.

    "Saint Spyridon help us all, leave it, young man!" shouted the priest. Yorgo wished Saint Spyridon would listen to the priest's plea and stop Luigi from hurting Metalino. Despite the sounds that were still howling inside his ear, despite the blood he kept running down his throat from his broken nose, he managed to pray. He prayed to Saint Spyridon he wouldn't let Luigi harm one of his fellow villagers. Then, when he saw Luigi pulling his machine gun from his back and smashing its back against Metalino's face, twice, three times, until the small fat man was on the ground, unconscious, drenched in his own blood -- then Yorgo prayed to Saint Spyridon that he would just turn time back.

    He prayed for a chance to kick the ball again. He would kick it straight to Mario this time. No mistakes.


    ***


    The priest walked Yorgo back home. He spoke to his brother and his father in the yard while the boy sat on his bed, a thick, bloody piece of cotton blocking his left nostril, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the swelling in his face burning him. But even more painful to him was the image of Luigi smashing Metalino in the face with all his might. The sudden and extreme violence kept playing itself out in the boy's mind no matter how hard he tried not to remember it. And each time he saw Luigi's weapon landing on his fellow villager's face, he understood that he wouldn't be able to take birds to him any longer.

    "Where's my beloved boy?"

    His father had come through the door without Yorgo hearing him or seeing him. He stood and took his hand.

    "I'm here, father."

    "Let's sit down together for a while. How's your nose?"

    "It's fine. It hurts a little."

    "When I go back inside, I'll tell Grigori to come clean it up some more for you."

    "Okay."

    Vassili shifted closer to his son, and put his hand on the boy's knee. "We're going to have to keep our heads down for a while. You understand this, don't you?"

    Yorgo nodded, trying to suppress a sob that had been welling up for a few seconds. "Yes, father."

    "I want to tell you something, son. And I want you to listen very carefully now. I want you to clear your head of all other thoughts, if you can, and hear only what I'm telling you. And understand it."

    Yorgo breathed deeply. Tears were now running down his cheeks, and he let them. If he moved his hand to wipe them his father would feel it, and then he would know. He didn't want him to know.

    "It wasn't your fault, Yorgo. None of it."

    But now the sob could not be controlled any longer. It came out in three successive gasps.

    "It wasn't your fault," his father repeated.

    The abundant tears dislodged the bloody cotton and it fell on the floor. The boy turned and looked at his father, who had set his dead eyes on the opposite wall, and his mouth set in a gentle, quiet smile, as always.

    Later, Yorgo twisted and turned in his bed. When his father had urged him to pay attention to what he had to say, the boy had hoped he would receive an explanation about why Luigi had hurt Metalino so badly. With this lacking, he made several guesses of his own. Perhaps Luigi was drunk. Perhaps he had just got some bad news from home back in Italy. Maybe his girlfriend had written to him to tell him she was leaving him. Or it could be that he had a bone of his own to pick with Metalino, something that had happened between them in the past that Yorgo did not know about.

    Whatever the explanation was, however, Yorgo found it hard to understand what his father had said. How can it not be my fault, he thought. I kicked the ball all wrong. If only I hadn't.

    When dawn finally approached he tried to catch that moment again, the moment when darkness turns into light, without success.


    ***


    "Yorgo," said Grigori, "stop sitting there like a fool. Bone a bird for your father."

    "Don't yell at the boy so much, Grigori," said Vassili. "He will bone a bird for me. There is no rush."

    "I'm sorry father," apologised the elder son. "I just don't know what he sits there thinking about all the time."

    Yorgo used his fingers to peel the breasts off the quail's skeleton and set them on his father's plate. As long as he was back home before the morning patrol at seven, he could go hunting as much as he liked these days. The Italians had gone and the Germans had replaced them. The Germans didn't speak to the locals like the Italians used to. They were the occupiers, and Yorgo and his family and all the other Greeks in the village were the occupied. The Germans patrolled the village in groups of four, in impeccable uniforms, in boots you could hear hitting the ground from a long distance. When Yorgo had tried to offer his birds to a German soldier, he kicked him in the arse and shouted at him. Things were clear-cut now. Disciplined.

    Some folk in the village said that when the Germans came they took the Italians and they put them on fishing boats and drowned them in the sea. Yorgo thought that was nonsense. Maybe they could have done that to some of the smaller Italian soldiers, but not to all of them. Certainly not to Luigi. They wouldn't even have dared go near Luigi aiming to hurt him. No, Luigi was back in Italy now, and he probably had his girlfriend back. He thought of her as a beautiful long-haired girl who went to bed with him at night and he told her stories about his time in Greece, and about the boy who used to bring him quail. And the girlfriend would say, why don't you write him a letter? And Luigi would write a letter soon, and tell Yorgo all of his news.

    "When will the school open again, Grigori?" asked Yorgo.

    "Oh, now you miss school? When you could have gone you didn't."

    "But when will it open again? Do you know?"

    Grigori put his fork down and looked at the boy. He smiled. When Grigori smiled he was the spitting image of Vassili, and Yorgo noticed that. When Grigori smiled, Yorgo sometimes thought he had two fathers, not one.

    "Didn't I tell you already? The English ships are in Albania and the Russians have kicked the arse of Hitler's troops. It's a matter of days. Pour some wine for your father."

    Yorgo filled his father's glass, and pushed it quietly towards the location where he knew his father would look for it. The English would be here soon. The schools would open again.

    "Thank you, my boy," said Vassili. "The worst is past, son. The worst is past."

    The worst was past. And as long as Luigi would write soon and tell him his news, everything would be alright, he thought. Especially if Luigi mentioned somewhere that he doesn't blame him for the way their friendship ended, and that he still thought he was the best boy in all of Corfu, and that he was sorry for hitting Metalino so hard but he had been drinking a bit too much that evening. If that happened, Yorgo thought, it would make things clear. It would prove that friendships can survive all sorts of hardships, even war itself.

    The sound of German boots stomping on the cobble stone was heard from outside.

    "Hear them donkeys, little brother? Now you remember this, this is new-fashioned Third Reich technology. Donkeys in helmets can learn to goose-step all at the same time. It's scientific. Really something."

    The boy giggled, and the older men could not help but follow suit. Only Luigi's letter was missing to make everything alright again. And in his heart, Yorgo knew it would come soon.
    Last edited by DocHeart; 05-27-2012 at 03:24 PM.
    Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...

  2. #2
    Doc, this is a fine story about the occupation of Greece first by the Italians and then by the Germans. But not really. This is the story of a boy living through that time. The soldier Luigi has taken a liking to the boy and avenges the beating given to him due to the soccer mishap. The events hardly matter. It's a humanistic account of character and relationships through a tumultuous time in Greek history.

    It definitely deserves a deep treatment like your other stories have gotten, but this old horse doesn't have it in him at the moment. Hopefully this mini reply will do you some sort of good. While it certainly was good to read, this reader wouldn't want to placate you. So take the rest of this reply in that context, a little jab to rile you up and see if we can't get you foaming at the mouth a bit (to write, of course).

    A metaphor for this story might be like something a sculpture in wood. Right now we have the great form and every part speaks to the other and so forth. But if you get in there and do a little etching this reader feels like there's an even greater possibility for beauty and artistic expression. So much potential, and you've got the skill, it just wants a little more attention to ramp it up a notch. Like when Yorgo gets hit and the revenge that ensues. What are these actions to these characters? There's a bit about Yorgo's response to it, but how can you really get the reader in there? It's such a powerful moment in the story, you really ought to get in there more. And why is the revenge so important in the context of things? Just an example that came to mind.

    Your subtle hand will find the way here. In case you didn't read anything above, here's the bottom line; this story is good enough for a revision/second draft. Take us further, speak to us more humanly. In other words, just do more of what you do!





    J

  3. #3
    The puddytat you saw Hawkman's Avatar
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    This is extremely good Doc, but then I'd expect nothing less form you. Two things, very minor things, which struck me as I read the tale. While you are describing Yorgo's football fantasy this line pops up:

    "He had read it all in the newspaper Mario had stolen from Metalino's shop."

    This really threw me. Inserted in the narrative as it is, the sense of it is distorted. I read this as: He read it in the newspaper (that) Mario had stolen from Metalino's shop. And quite frankly I couldn't work out what was going on, because it reads as part of the game, I wondered if it was a typo for having stolen Metalino's shot. If you insert "which", so that it reads: "He read it in the newspaper which mario had stolen from Metalino's shop, it dispells the ambiguity.

    The other thing I noticed was the description of the moustache -Thin - and then the eyes - Thin. The second would be better as "narrow".

    I'm inclined to feel the transition in the narrative from the incident between the shopkeeper and the italian soldier is too abrupt. As Jack says, there is room for expansion here, how did it affect the relationship between the townspeople and the Italian Soldiers, between Yorgo and Luigi? Then I also think there is room for development in describing the transition from italian to German occupation, but maybe Louis de Bernieres covered this ground in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, although this tale has it's flaws.

    One is always conscious that one is writing a short story, not a novel, so I guess it's a fine balancing act when determining how much to include and what shortcuts to take. Overall, I'd say you've done very well here, but for a bit of a hole in the narrative. What you have written is a very human picture with very believable characters, except that Luigi hitting Metalino with his weapon sounds a bit like overkill, but then, I don't know if this is annecdotal or imagined. In context, the general picture you have painted of Luigi is of a gentle giant, which doesn't quite mesh with his actions in assaulting Metalino. He'd definitley defend young Yorgo, but would he hit an unarmed man with the barrel of his gun?

    However, it was a compulsive read, Doc, and your tale is generally well observed with nice details. You certainly kept this reader hooked.

    Live and be well - H
    Last edited by Hawkman; 05-07-2012 at 08:00 AM.
    Oh no, not again...

  4. #4
    Justifiably inexcusable DocHeart's Avatar
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    Thank you, dear friends, for your readership and critique. I find some of the points you both made very valuable. Real life is keeping me very busy right now, but I will be revising this story soon.

    Best regards,
    DH
    Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...

  5. #5
    Oh no you don't. Get back here and work on this before we turn you into souvlaki!







    J

  6. #6
    Justifiably inexcusable DocHeart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of Hearts View Post
    Oh no you don't. Get back here and work on this before we turn you into souvlaki!







    J

    LMAO... I promise I will!
    Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...

  7. #7
    Hello Doc, a few things I noted while reading your short story. All I can spot out is the use of dialogue. It's a bit dry and here a few examples.

    "You have to get them in the head, Giorgio," Luigi had said.
    "Eh, vafancullo," said the other soldier
    "The devil take you lot of no-good brats," shouted Metalino.
    "We'll take this," the soldier said
    "Metalino, for shame! Leave the boy alone," the priest called out.
    "For shame, Metalino, you no-good bully," shouted the priest
    "No need for that," shouted a voice from the opposite corner of the square.
    "Now the boy goes home to his brother, Metalino," said the priest, holding Yorgo up.

    I stopped about half way through, but it seems you use common statements to clarify who is speaking rather than setting up dialogue prior to it happening. The dialogue itself was excellent. Each character was easily identifiable. I feel that the "He said, he shouted, he called out" really drags the quality down since it's used so much.

    Another thing that caught my eye was your use of past vs present tense in the same thought. Here is an example:

    The boy twisted and turned in his bed, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the burning swelling in his face hurting so much that he wept, quietly, all through the night.

    you clarify that it's present tense with the words: burning swelling in his face hurting (the sentence begins in past tense because of "twisted, turned" then revert to present with "still" which is alright so long as the rest stays present but it doesn't. It goes back to past with the words: wept and all through the night.) Some people may not care about the past vs present tensing, but this is something I thought I would bring up.

    I made an edit if you care to see what I was talking about. (present)
    The boy twists and turns in his bed, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the burning swelling in his face hurting so much that he weeps, quietly, all through the night.

    (original) The boy twisted and turned in his bed, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the burning swelling in his face hurting so much that he wept, quietly, all through the night.
    NEW to this, so thanks for your time!
    ~Michael S Bearre~

  8. #8
    Justifiably inexcusable DocHeart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by michaelsbearre View Post
    Hello Doc, a few things I noted while reading your short story. All I can spot out is the use of dialogue. It's a bit dry and here a few examples.

    "You have to get them in the head, Giorgio," Luigi had said.
    "Eh, vafancullo," said the other soldier
    "The devil take you lot of no-good brats," shouted Metalino.
    "We'll take this," the soldier said
    "Metalino, for shame! Leave the boy alone," the priest called out.
    "For shame, Metalino, you no-good bully," shouted the priest
    "No need for that," shouted a voice from the opposite corner of the square.
    "Now the boy goes home to his brother, Metalino," said the priest, holding Yorgo up.

    I stopped about half way through, but it seems you use common statements to clarify who is speaking rather than setting up dialogue prior to it happening. The dialogue itself was excellent. Each character was easily identifiable. I feel that the "He said, he shouted, he called out" really drags the quality down since it's used so much.

    Another thing that caught my eye was your use of past vs present tense in the same thought. Here is an example:

    The boy twisted and turned in his bed, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the burning swelling in his face hurting so much that he wept, quietly, all through the night.

    you clarify that it's present tense with the words: burning swelling in his face hurting (the sentence begins in past tense because of "twisted, turned" then revert to present with "still" which is alright so long as the rest stays present but it doesn't. It goes back to past with the words: wept and all through the night.) Some people may not care about the past vs present tensing, but this is something I thought I would bring up.

    I made an edit if you care to see what I was talking about. (present)
    The boy twists and turns in his bed, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the burning swelling in his face hurting so much that he weeps, quietly, all through the night.

    (original) The boy twisted and turned in his bed, that horrible sound still in his left ear, the burning swelling in his face hurting so much that he wept, quietly, all through the night.

    Thanks for your comment, Michael.

    Best,
    DH
    Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...

  9. #9
    Now this reader clearly has a bias in favor of the piece and DocHeart's work in general, so take this response for what that's worth. But there doesn't seem to be an issue of tense in that example. What se have here is the intuitive use of a rhetorical device who's function is to omit the auxiliary verb in that particular compound tense so as to make the succeeding clauses dependent. It only resembles thr present tense because the second verb in the phrase shares thst conjugation in the compound trnse being used.







    J

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of Hearts View Post
    Now this reader clearly has a bias in favor of the piece and DocHeart's work in general, so take this response for what that's worth. But there doesn't seem to be an issue of tense in that example. What se have here is the intuitive use of a rhetorical device who's function is to omit the auxiliary verb in that particular compound tense so as to make the succeeding clauses dependent. It only resembles thr present tense because the second verb in the phrase shares thst conjugation in the compound trnse being used.
    I understand what it is that you are saying. I was just pointing out something editors point out to me frequently. I am not bias to the work, I was just making helpful observations. Dialogue was the only thing that alarmed me and I made that statement in the beginning. The past vs present tense was something that can be thrown out the window because it's the writers choice. HOWEVER, it is a common mistake writers make. (I make it a lot). After I posted my last comment, I re-read doc's story again and got a better sense of it. Like I said, he did a excellent job with character development(which is the hardest thing to any story.) I said that in the previous comment, if I was bias towards it, I would of bashed it all together but I didn't because he introduced promising descriptions, flow, structure and characterization. LIKE I SAID, the only real issue I saw was that of dialogue. I cannot be held responsible if you perceive my words different from what they really are.

    As for Doc, Great story, do you have a blog with more short stories I could subscribe to?
    NEW to this, so thanks for your time!
    ~Michael S Bearre~

  11. #11
    You might have to take this on faith, but trust that a whole lot of mis-communication just happened.

    Anyways, hopefully Doc is ok and comes back to do this thing. His country is not doing so well atm, so he may be quite busy.








    J

  12. #12
    Registered User Delta40's Avatar
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    What a fantastic story Doc! I'm on board with Joh with the revenge scene. It's the heart of the story and it seems so anti-climax in some way to go from that to suddenly have his village occupied by the Germans. You're a marvellous writer and I didn't stop till the very end with every image clear in my mind.

    Great work!
    The Rotten Apple Injures its Neighbour

  13. #13
    Registered User Steven Hunley's Avatar
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    response to story

    Well Doc, I just have to say this: The final piece is great. I like the touching scenes and the relationships between the characters, both occupiers and natives and family members too, the setting and tumultuous times. Relationships between characters is what it's about and as you know I enjoy realism. I find it hasn't a false note in it. We can write all we want and do a good job writing but if the story isn't there all the fine words and clever phrases in the world won't save it. Sorry it took me so long to read it.

  14. #14
    Inexplicably Undiscovered
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    I'm going to open with a comment which I have to confess that I've use on the LitNet only a few times before. I say "only a few times" because it's rare that I find a piece on the LitNet that illustrates it. But your piece certainly does.

    Over here we used to have a weekly tv show in which two movie reviewers from the two major Chicago newspapers would expound upon --and occasionally argue with each other over-- the movies they were reviewing each week. One of them, the late Gene Siskel, would occasionally praise a film (such as the movie version of The Unbearable Lightness of Being) for the way it expresses the impact of world events through the eyes and experiences of the film's main characters. This story about a boy caught up in the midst of the Second World War does just that.

    For instance:
    At least, Yorgo thought, the Italian soldiers went to the beach whenever each one of them could, and they swam wherever they fancied. Freely.
    That single little word "Freely" speaks volumes.

    Because of the Occupying forces, the schools are closed; the boy's education and soccer playing are interrupted, but his life as a whole has been plunged into turmoil and anxiety. The story shows how he,with the aid of his slingshot, provides the main course for sumptuous meals of which he himself is not allowed to partake. Very subtly the narrative sets up a metaphorical parallel--in a way, the boy is sort of like a defenseless "quail" himself. He incurs the disdain of his elder countrymen:
    "You useless, scrawny thing," continued Metalino, "do you think just because you are a little collaborator scum and the Italians give your family food you can do anything you want and get away with it?"
    Although he can't really resist the overwhelming forces around him, at least he never really whines; he has an optimistic attitude that is heroic.

    I say "subtly"-- I know that this is a delicate balance. You want to show us how much the kid knows what's going on, but it's realloy hard to resist the temptation to reveal too much, to overstate the situation, as in this passage:
    Vassili had explained that when the world is bad, people see injustice and cruelty, and it makes them angry. It doesn't mean they are bad people, he had said; just that they've seen too many bad things. It doesn't even mean that the world will stay like this for ever, and that men's eyes will be like this for ever. Just for now. Just until things get better.
    On the other hand, there are two passages referring to the occupiers, that you handle beautifully:

    The article talked about next week's fixtures being suspended because of the situation north of Athens, were the Greek military was bravely fighting off German invaders. But that was less important. What was important was that magnificent shot, the ball deep inside the goal, the crowd in ruptures.

    The Italians had gone and the Germans had replaced them. The Germans didn't speak to the locals like the Italians used to. They were the occupiers, and Yorgo and his family and all the other Greeks in the village were the occupied. The Germans patrolled the village in groups of four, in impeccable uniforms, in boots you could hear hitting the ground from a long distance. When Yorgo had tried to offer his birds to a German soldier, he kicked him in the arse and shouted at him. Things were clear-cut now. Disciplined.


    Couple other quibbles:
    Yorgo lurked among the cherry trees, slight, pale and quiet as a spectre.
    Move the "slight, pale and quiet as a spectre" closer to Yorgo, because where it's positioned now, the phrase modifies cherry trees.

    Also the concluding sentence is anti-climactic; needs something with a little more "oomph" than "It will be all right."

    Overall, I'd say this is a fine piece of work though, and any changes you might want to make would merely be minor ones.
    Last edited by AuntShecky; 05-18-2012 at 05:14 PM.

  15. #15
    Justifiably inexcusable DocHeart's Avatar
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    Dear friends,

    Once more, I would like to express my gratitude for the time you took to read and comment. This is a story that means a lot to me, one that I had been planning to write for some years. It's a true story (at least my father, Yorgo, says it's true) and my first attempt at writing something based on someone else's account and not on something I have experienced or imagined myself.

    This fact, along with the quality of the feedback you all supplied, made it compulsory that I rework it. I did so tonight, and here it is. I've taken on board most of your suggestions, and I have to admit I like it much better now. So, many thanks!


    Quote Originally Posted by Jack of Hearts View Post

    Like when Yorgo gets hit and the revenge that ensues. What are these actions to these characters? There's a bit about Yorgo's response to it, but how can you really get the reader in there? It's such a powerful moment in the story, you really ought to get in there more. And why is the revenge so important in the context of things? Just an example that came to mind.

    Thank you, Jack, and everyone else who pointed this out. You're right in saying that such an event must mean more to all involved, and the reader must be let in. I've given the few hours that follow the incident some space and it's made the story about 800 words longer. I chose to tell it through Yorgo, and to relate only what Yorgo felt, thought, and came to know. After all, the story is about his understanding (or lack thereof) of the aggression that infects people's nature in turbulent times.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkman View Post

    I'm inclined to feel the transition in the narrative from the incident between the shopkeeper and the italian soldier is too abrupt. As Jack says, there is room for expansion here, how did it affect the relationship between the townspeople and the Italian Soldiers, between Yorgo and Luigi?
    Thanks, Hawk! If you find the time, let me know what you think now.


    Quote Originally Posted by Hawkman View Post

    What you have written is a very human picture with very believable characters, except that Luigi hitting Metalino with his weapon sounds a bit like overkill, but then, I don't know if this is annecdotal or imagined. In context, the general picture you have painted of Luigi is of a gentle giant, which doesn't quite mesh with his actions in assaulting Metalino. He'd definitley defend young Yorgo, but would he hit an unarmed man with the barrel of his gun?

    Excellent point -- and one that should have concerned me not only as a writer, but also as a listener when the story was being told to me. It turns out that the question you ask was never answered. It also turns out that it haunted the boy for quite a while, and could indeed be understood as a pivotal point in his transition from childhood to young adulthood. But that's just biography. I hope the story works better now, with a bit of extra space given to the boy's thoughts after the incident.


    Quote Originally Posted by Delta40 View Post
    What a fantastic story Doc! I'm on board with Joh with the revenge scene. It's the heart of the story and it seems so anti-climax in some way to go from that to suddenly have his village occupied by the Germans. You're a marvellous writer and I didn't stop till the very end with every image clear in my mind.

    Great work!

    Thank you, Delta, for your kindness!


    Quote Originally Posted by Steven Hunley View Post
    Well Doc, I just have to say this: The final piece is great. I like the touching scenes and the relationships between the characters, both occupiers and natives and family members too, the setting and tumultuous times. Relationships between characters is what it's about and as you know I enjoy realism. I find it hasn't a false note in it. We can write all we want and do a good job writing but if the story isn't there all the fine words and clever phrases in the world won't save it. Sorry it took me so long to read it.

    Steven, my sincere thanks!


    Quote Originally Posted by AuntShecky View Post

    I say "subtly"-- I know that this is a delicate balance. You want to show us how much the kid knows what's going on, but it's really hard to resist the temptation to reveal too much, to overstate the situation, as in this passage:

    Couple other quibbles:
    Move the "slight, pale and quiet as a spectre" closer to Yorgo, because where it's positioned now, the phrase modifies cherry trees.

    Also the concluding sentence is anti-climactic; needs something with a little more "oomph" than "It will be all right."

    Overall, I'd say this is a fine piece of work though, and any changes you might want to make would merely be minor ones.
    Dear Aunt, thank you so much. I hope you're feeling a lot better. Be careful with that hip. Give it some love. It joins your leg to your torso!

    I have implemented all of your suggestions, as I believe they make perfect sense and improve the story significantly. I'm slightly concerned that the ending is now a bit wooly, but I'm not sure. What do you think?

    Once again, many thanks to everybody -- not just for your feedback on this story, but on everything I post.

    Good health to all,
    DH
    Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine...

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