radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)

I've been reading Hemingway. Here's a thing.

* * * * * *

I took the bones and scraps and put them in the bag and took the bag out to the trash. On the way back an armless hand leapt out of the air and grabbed my sleeve. I jerked back and dragged Henry from the deep evening shadow behind the cans.

“Jesus Christ, Hank, you scared me.” I shook my arm; his fingers clenched, then let go, and he flexed them as though they were sore. His knuckles were cut.

“Sorry, Tom, sorry,” he looked around quickly. He was wearing a woman's close-fitting cloche hat, blue. His coat was a woman's coat as well, but it was cheap and plain and old, so it was less noticeable. The hat was at once rather modest and extraordinary. What made it extraordinary? A man in a woman's hat is joking, or destitute, or drunk – but not in himself (or in his hat) extraordinary. I think it was because it looked a bit like an aviator's soft helmet from the war. He had set it too far back on his head, so that his own balding forehead stuck out. It was like a baby's bonnet on him--so he looked like an infant lady aviator.

“Tom,” he said, “Tom, for God's sake, don't tell on me.”

“All right, Hank. Come inside for a minute.”

“Don't tell Helen on me, Tom.”

“Come in and have a drink.”

His coat was too short in the sleeves. Four inches of bony arm stuck out. Where the hell had he got it? It wasn't any coat of Helen's. Some woman—not too well off, yet too proud to go on wearing it—had given her old coat to a church or a neighbor, or thrown it away, and now Jake was wearing it and he'd buttoned it up wrong. Underneath his trousers were rolled up and his bare feet and legs filthy with mud. Reeking river clay.

You saw how skinny he was in that coat, how long it must have been since he had a decent meal, how his joints bulged like knots in a tree. He used to be a big man, Henry, before the war.

* * * * * *

I'm doing something very complicated on the Internet in a fresh attempt to read ebooks from my library.


radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I have something here in my hand, she said.
What is it? Shouted the children, though we all knew.
It's a story, she said.
About a girl? Shouted one child. About a boy? Shouted another.
Yes, about a girl and a boy, she said.
Were they brother and sister?
Yes, and they were twins. They looked exactly alike. And they had a beautiful blue boat.
Did the boat sink?
It did, she affirmed.
Did they die? I cried out in an ecstasy of catastrophism. I had seen a picture of a shipwreck, bodies green and beautiful wrack upon the waves.
No, they didn't die, she said. They sank very deep down into the sea, and there they met a mermaid who taught them to breathe underwater. But I had stopped listening out of embarrassment, since I was the only one who had not known that for a story to be a story, it must go on.
radfrac_archive: (writing)
So I was thinking about why the last story felt kind of limp.

First I thought it was the length, but I think actually it's not a formal issue -- not the thing that's bothering me, anyway. It's the emotional content--it wants. I think probably a story shouldn't want anything (or shouldn't appear to.) It should present something, and leave you to feel how you feel. Hopefully really bad.

So maybe this, written over lunch, gets a little closer to what I wanted to do with the previous story. )

(901 words)
radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)
I seem to be interested in red and green just now. This is actually almost one and a half k -- that is, in this increasingly nonsensical conversion, 275 words, give or take.

I had this nice orderly idea to post a series of stories graduated from 100 to 300 words in length and then comment thoughtfully about the differences in building each one, but production did not precisely accommodate itself to my schema and I feel too worn out tonight to insist. Anyway, I'll think about it.

True Red

This isn't a true red. He holds two paint cards against one another, frowning to intensify the contrast. That little bit of red-green colour blindness undermines not so much his perception as his faith. He could be choosing something too brown, because he likes brown, or likes that colour that he sees while other people are seeing reddish-brown and brown and greenish-brown. Dried blood, mossy grave-dirt. Or worse, he could be choosing something too bold because he's over-compensating. The names should be helpful, but they draw him down avenues of uneasy speculation. Sweet Wild Cherry might have blue undertones. Sticky Candy could be too stark. Raw Carnelian would be faded, sickly. He thumbs the striped sample cards. His fingers are tacky under a thin coating of sweat.

The clerk is making helpful faces and offering him a colour disambiguation lens, attached to the paint display by a chain of plastic beads. He is supposed to look through the lens with his non-dominant eye to clarify the shade. The clerk has a hand-held scanner that will match anything they present to its glassy gaze: a peony, a photograph of someone's gaping mouth, a pinprick of blood. The clerk gestures to a luminous surface on which he can test out phantom versions of his colour. None of this can help.

A true red. Moulting Cardinal. Dying Caesar. He pulls out colours he knows are nothing like what he needs. Vintage Burgundy, Sugar Plum Fairy, In the Navy. Whatever he brings back will be wrong, will be glanced over and set aside—no, ignored—no, laughed at—no, greeted with semi-compassionate silence. Still, hands stuffed with wrong answers, he feels compelled to choose.

radfrac_archive: (dichotomy)

That was the house where the hot water tank burst. I was going to say boiler, but it was a hot water tank. The house was heated by oil, and that system may have used a boiler, or anyway a furnace, since I don't think that it actually boiled the oil, but this was definitely water. I think it's just that boiler sounds better. More Victorian. More substantial.

The hot water heater burst and ruined sixteen boxes full of clothes, linens (though none of the towels or sheets were actually made of linen), books and electronics peripherals. I say burst, but obviously the heater didn't explode. It didn't pop, blister-like. I guess it leaked. Badly. It ruined a bunch of other things no one really wanted but no one had thrown away, things that still had the smell and texture of utility, though they were not actually used. Several rolls of ugly maps made archaic by wars and apps. A strange pair of short, broad, blunt-nosed skis no one claimed. An old-fashioned tennis racket that warped like a melting mirror. These things got moldy and rotten and ruined just like the useful things, but no one knew how to feel about that.

radfrac_archive: (writing)
So I defended my master's paper. That happened. And now I've signed up for a spring course because I missed being out of classes so much. It's just an undergrad course -- second year, which is almost embarrassing.

I have to stop myself from speaking up too much because, you know, probably in this case it's not my job to compete with people half my age to Impress the Teacher. Especially since he knows me.

Anyway, here's a 100-word story. I used to do things like that.

I am waiting for a blizzard so that I can kiss you. No blizzards are predicted for this year. In fact, it has been unseasonably warm since Christmas, probably due to changes in global climate patterns. We're unlikely even to get a good hard frost. I may have to wait a year or two or more until I can kiss you, since the climate here is so temperate, but I know I'm in the right place. You told me that you would kiss me when hell froze over. This is certainly hell. Therefore, all I need to do is wait.
radfrac_archive: (Default)
That's right. I write stories, don't I? It's spring and I am coming back to life, unfurling like a fiddlehead.

Here are two depressing and aseasonal tales. Hurray. 1k stories, if you recall, and I don't see why you would, are not stories of 1000 words, but stories that would take about 1k to store, at least at the time I read that random statistic, meaning that they're about 200 words long.

One's a bit short and one's a bit long, but together they make about 2k. They bear no known relation except that I wrote them both in the library on Friday night, before [livejournal.com profile] inlandsea and [livejournal.com profile] stitchinmyside and I went to the movies.

war love revenge grief )

mermaids )

radfrac_archive: (Default)
Fruits of a week off: an actual tiny fragment of fiction. Apparently what I've been calling postcard fiction is known webside as The Drabble.

Their Palimpsest Was Dust

Plotting war was their delight for aeons. They'd never gotten farther than obtaining a huge roll of parchment and some colourful chalk. They scribbled, wiped out, redrew, bickered over the meaning of their own symbols, and swept out whole campaigns with an angry, a contemptuous, or a conciliatory twitch of one glittering powder-streaked wing.

Our plague felled them. I was their enemy, but I stepped among the wreckage of their silly grandeur with regret. By my order, a squad dragged away the empty scroll. A bad death and a blank page are no fit end even for fools and dragons.

I guess that's DragonDrabble.

I enjoy the paring down that very short fiction requires. I take issue with this: "There is no room in microfiction for... digression." I call it a hat trick if you can pull off a successful digression in 300 words or less. (Or, say, two digressions, for three full threads.)(Did you know that hat trick was originally from cricket? I always assumed hockey.)

radfrac_archive: (Default)
I think I have to take a vow to write something upbeat, active, and forward-looking. Just to give my style some exercise. I've been looking back to the lost since before I had anything to lose.

Here's another 1k tale. (I shouldn't say the 200 words thing is unverifiable –- it's easy to verify. I just imagined that it must vary among applications.)

* * * * * *

Miracle Escape Pilot Comes Home

Meteors showering onto the house woke her. As she struggled up from sleep's void, the meteors shrank to fists of hail pounding holes in the shake roof. She rubbed her face on the pillow, and the hail became pea-sized. She opened her eyes into darkness, and lay listening to the rain.

The little rental cottage trembled under the storm. She thought about rogue waves, logs caber-tossed through the front windows. She tried to be uneasy; instead she felt quietly amused.

The storm was loud, though. She got up and, perversely, started the washing machine. The old front-loader's glass dish rattled in its door. Inside and outside were one sloshing din.

She closed her eyes. Tried to feel the tremor of machinery surrounding her. To contract the tiny cottage until it fit her space-cramped senses.

A lurch, a sleeper's stumble. She opened her eyes to wood and damp air, no burning womb of white metal. Falling, she'd only thought how strange it was that coming home would kill her.

She fixed herself a cup of tea. "It's still falling." she told the washing machine. She tasted a crystal of salt from the table. There was a newspaper rolled up next to the trash. She knew what it said without looking. Micrometeor Fells Doomed Mission. Miracle Escape Pilot Comes Home.

"Eventually." she said.
radfrac_archive: (Default)
The Spirit of the Law had not counted on technical problems. The Letter of the Law was nothing but technicalities, and he did not care if one contradicted the other; but the Spirit had to achieve, even in Her most profound paradoxes, something like an integrity, a wholeness of purpose, and though she was much more flexible that Letter, some things could stop her cold; whereas he could grind happily along, producing justice and injustice in varying measures, but always keeping to his One Clear Track.

Which is by way of saying that I did not, after all, post a ten-minute story the other night. I was going to get through on a technicality by posting in the same 24-hour period, but instead technical difficulties intervened.

That is, technically, there isn't really any good time to get ahold of me while I'm in Work School, so people have taken to calling me in the middle of the night.

Let me instead introduce a new story format, and invite discussion and, er, partacion. Partaking. Participation. You can do it too.

I was told the other day that 1k of data works out to approximately 200 words. It was one of those unverifiable bits of trivia, but it made me want to coin another short format -- the 1k story.

That's about twice as long as the postcard stories I was doing, which were to come in within ten or so words of a hundred. That format makes me strip away extraneous words -- it makes my style much cleaner. I lose the elaborate formations I enjoy for their absurdity, because I am trying to crush in as much narrative as possible, or fit in an extra character detail that I hope will make a reader see what I do.

What happens when you double that length? You give yourself space for a little more narrative or a little more description, but you also introduce the possibility of slack. How are your judgements about what can fit changed by the new length?

Here is my first 1k story. I am still feeling 'round the form, so I expect better things later, but I really wanted to post some writing, as token to myself that I am putting some effort into this, so here it is.

* * * * *

In the morning, I find a glass eye under the bathroom sink.

I'd put some towels in there the night before -- I keep forgetting until I'm in the shower, and having to dry myself on my pyjamas. There may have been an ant-trap in there. No eye. Also, the towels seem to be missing, but I'm not positive they went in. I've had unpacking dreams all week. I keep finding the birdcage in odd places, its cover shivering.

The eye looks antique. Older than a 70's-vintage apartment with gold-leaf mirrors and 'intimate' ceilings. It's not an everyday prosthetic. A Dress Eye?

I hold it up in front of my puckered left socket and meet the gaze of my brother in the mirror, his sudden glaring symmetry. Strange not to see out of what observes me there.

"You don't tempt me." I tell my mirror-twin. He smiles.

At first I was afraid of the cavern in my skull. Now I know what it is: My spirit cabinet. The gape of mortality. The space in me where heaven would be, if it existed. I imagine that if the eye were restored, I would forget; the space would close, and I could put away fear and shock, death and remorse.

The eye is cold and heavy on my cheek. "I am not tempted." I repeat. But I am.
radfrac_archive: (Default)
Well, early evening of, anyway. Here's a short Tale of Magic for you. Maybe even of Magick, if we're all feeling that pretentious.

(Points to E. at work. I told her my (deeply, if briefly, held) theory that a better past tense of "pretend" than the cumbersome "pretended" was "pretent", and she pointed out that it also formed a tidier root for "pretentious". Let us award her the Hooked on Phonics Tidying Up the Language plaque for September.)

Right, the story. Let's call it... um...

The Examination

"Like becomes like," said the examiners together.
"Like becomes like," I answered, numb to the usual pleasures of ritual.

The examiners were certainly alike, and could have been transformed one into the other without anyone, possibly including themselves, taking notice. They say that's true -- the more you transform things, move them through possibility according to their characteristics, the more nondescript you become.

They showed me the transformation exercise.
"That's all?" I said, surprised. The three shifted. A smile, a frown, a cough.
"That's all." said one of them.

I looked at the two cups. This, after all my study? Endless listing of analogies and similes. Taking random things from a sack and likening them as quickly as possible. Sorting and resorting endless nearly identical buttons. Find their differences, so that similarity wouldn't obscure likeness.

Two cups. One of blue glass, shuddering with ribbons of light cast up the river. The other (no, not other -- the same, the equal) a grey mug of indifferent manufacture, lumpy, badly glazed, unappealing.

Their only real difference was their Final Shape -- the glass cup had none, but the mug was a ring, the hole through the handle defining it, limiting the changes it could make. So. Logically, you change along the path of least resistance. It preserves energy. I thought briefly of doing it the hard way to impress them, but the rule won out.

I fixed my eyes on the glass cup, holding the clay in my mind. It gave way easily, growing thicker, shorter, becoming opaque. That handle. I split the cup's side along a thread of weakness in the glass. It folded back, lips parting to speak, petals, pages. Bent forward in a spout, a beak, a tube, an arc, then, touching, only a handle. The glass flowed into itself. I shivered. A hole appeared along the flaw in the wall of the new mug, where I'd encouraged division. I struggled to seal it. I thought of soft things, sticky things, things glad to join, but I could tell I was losing. I let go. Left the eye-shaped hole under the handle. It was a magic test, not a pottery competition.

I sat back, stretching out my neck, shaking my shoulders. I glanced up at the examiners. They'd been nothing to me while I worked: scenery. Now they moved into slow life, like unliving things animated by magic.

Together, they peered down at the table. There was a silence.

"No good?" I said cheerfully. I thought I'd done quite well. The new mug didn't look exactly like the old. It was almost a caricature of its ugliness, like a cup made out of a toad's carcass. And there was the hole.

An examiner cleared her throat. The cougher. "No, it's not that." she said. "It was a very good showing for your level." She looked towards the others, perplexed.

The frowner frowned. "It's just," he said, "Usually people turn the clay into glass."

I looked down at my two ugly cups. A flush of humiliation spread up my neck, into my face.

"It doesn't matter," said the smiler, smiling. "It's a skills test, and you did very well."

I ignored her. I knew what test I'd failed, though none of us had known it was being set. Other people knew enough to turn the ugly into the beautiful. I was a manufacturer of ugliness.


radfrac_archive: (Default)

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