Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Challenge 8: The imagination knows no bounds

I laughed, watching the small cat meowing and trying to catch the wool, which was rapidly unravelling. It tripped over a string, became distracted by a bird, and chased off, leaping up the wall.

The jade lawns stretched ahead, broken only by the tall brick fence and occasional cherry trees scattering snow-petals over even leaves of grass. I sat down gingerly on the long grey wooden bench. Below, where chair legs dug into the turf, sprang sprays of fresh daisies, bluebells, unknown strands of green clustered with dusty white clumps. The mid-afternoon’s sun donated a patch of light to my repose and refreshing warmth to the garden, peering with vague interest through sheets of steel clouds.

Silence; no movement disturbed the serenity until the approach of twilight, which was followed by a young man. “Mother says please come in before you catch a chill, dinner is ready if you want it, and she has heated water if you would like a bath instead,” he said, dropping a fluffy plaid blanket lightly on my lap, leading me inside to a room lit by a healthy fire.

A frying pan was hissing on the stove and an array of food laid out, just leaving room for the four places around the circular board. My brother sat in his place and the chubby cat perched on his plate. He lifted the feline, passing it to the man who entered the room through an inside door. The newcomer was middle-aged, solid in a plain, loose shirt with rolled-up sleeves, and baggy pants. The cat curled up in one of his arms, and the woman near the stove smiled. “How was your day?” The man washed his hands at the sink and sat. “Not bad at all. Looks like a good harvest this year. We can repay that loan soon. Good news,” he added, turning to us two. “We’ll be able to send you to study whatever you want. You can even be a lawyer if you insist,” he finished, with a curious look at his son.

I’d been watching my sister. She was surprisingly quiet all day; sitting on the broken plank stool in the untended backyard; laughing when the wind brushed through the flower-cadavers, rattling the vestiges of leaves, flinging them over the cracked railing; remaining there when the rain came tumbling down. When called to finish the household chores, wet washing dumped on her lap, she went to the cold kitchen and sat at the wobbly table without doing anything about dinner. Father arrived from the fields where we were working, and Yolande cheerfully ignored his protests at the lack of food, his tirade of “Your mother would never have let this happen!”

Finally, weary of father’s complaints at being unable to find work, his whining at my ambitions, I left. Perhaps, when mother was alive, things would never have gone this way, but I’ll be hanged before staying and listening to him insulting me and my sister. I walked out the back and stood a moment studying the broken tree trunk that adorned the buried garden path before jumping the fence and sitting dejectedly in the yellow sward.
I would be hanged before going in there again.


I smiled contentedly as mother sat next to me and asked, “Shall we eat?”


Word count: 550
Based on a story written in 2003.


  1. Further information:

    'She'/'he', and the narrator's name in similar usage occurred in reference to the narrator 15 times. 'I' in this version occurs 7 times. Correctly or otherwise, the pronouns 'she'/'he', 'his'/'her' and names, when referring to other characters, were not counted and the number of occurrences were not deliberately altered.

    The word count has been reduced from 739 to 550.
    This was, for me, more difficult and interesting than altering the perspective, though this could be due to the nature of the story (or perhaps misinterpretation of the challenge!) I'd like to hear what other people thought of this one - which aspects did you particularly enjoy/not enjoy?

  2. Hehehe this is coool... though are you implying he killed himself, or has an active imagination - it wasn't quite clear in that last sentence.

    Still love it though. Great attention to detail!

  3. Not brain was even stranger six years ago. However, there were two PoV shifts which didn't come through thanks to my exceptional formatting skills - it goes back from Johannes (the brother) to Yolande (the sister) in the last line - somehow it all worked better in third person! May have missed the point of the challenge there...

    The main point of the story was the description, though - that's why it was interesting to cut the word count. The original is on my wiki if you're curious :)

  4. I got both the POV shifts but not the implication of suicide :)
    The long sentences lend it a languid pace and feel but make it hard for non-readers like me to concentrate on over a long passage (though this probably counts as a short passage to most ppl). Like a film sequence made entirely of long shots! So the brief dialogue over the dinner table was welcome as a shift.

    I'd be interested in what impression you wanted to leave the reader with :)

  5. Good question. I didn't write this for people to read (originally) - it was just something I felt like writing. there wasn't a particular impression I was aiming for, but I did want very strong images.

    Not sure I knew where it was going - I was indulging myself with long sentences and far too many adjectives (after removing several for the challenge, there are still plenty). In fact, I remember being happier with the outside than the dinner table, perhaps because there weren't any people there to mess with my descriptions :P