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The Blue Box

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PostSubject: Grandfather's House   Sat Mar 20, 2010 11:41 pm

Grandfather’s House

Tick. Tick. Tick.
The clock’s monotonous metronome is the only thing that indicates the passage of time. For all the rest, she might have thought time was standing still. The dust dances in the beam of sunlight from the window before settling on the table in front of her. The table, half-covered with cards – birthday, Christmas, Father’s Day, sympathy, mounting up from years past. No attempt has been made to tidy them up. They accumulate, memories of the people he knows, the people who want to remind him that they care, remind him that it’s still worth it.
She coughs, drily. The dust irritates her throat. The soft noise cuts through the deafening quiet in the living room. She finds the silence oppressive. It is as if a thick blanket of snow (or perhaps dust) has blanketed the room, stifling all noise. Stifling time. Stifling life.
Fidgeting uncomfortably in her chair, she stares past the pages of the book she’s supposed to be reading for English class at the piles of papers strewn over the remaining half of the table – all numbers, tables and charts detailing the ups and downs of the stock market for the past who-knows-how-long. A myriad of back-issues of newspapers, magazines, Engineers’ Monthly are half-arranged in stacks on the floor next to his chair. She looks over at the piano. It, too, is buried – barely visible under layers of photographs, many of them showing increasingly tall versions of the same two smiling young people.
She wonders if this is what happens when people get old – they cling to the past, hoping that if they don’t let anything go the world won’t let them go.
The thought makes her nervous. He went upstairs with an upset stomach over an hour ago. Would she know if he wasn’t there any more? She strains her ears, listening intently for any sign of life. Nothing. The thick air fills her mind, faint noises of car engines and dogs and children welcome, if infrequent, reminders that there is a world outside this oppressive room. And still she sits, motionless, always that slight worry in the corner of her mind that he won’t come down the stairs, that she won’t hear him trudging across the landing to the bathroom, that this is it. And it would be her – not her fault, of course. But. It would have been her there.
The resounding silence increases gradually but almost overwhelmingly, and she fancies she can hear every last dust particle as it settles on the furniture. She feels hemmed in, claustrophobic, smothered. She wants to leap up and run outside, down the street to see the children at the park, watch them run and jump and fall and cry; to get on a bus and then a train and to stand with five other people in a space three feet square, smelling their sweat and feeling their body heat; to sit on a bench at the high street and contemplate the people, feel their energy, their aliveness. She wants to scream – I’M STILL HERE! But she doesn’t.
She breathes out slowly, breaking the hush. She’d go mad if she lived like this, she thinks. It’s a wonder he’s still chugging along. (Hopefully.) So many memories, both good and painful, all preserved in these trinkets and cards and newspapers and photographs. So many marks of humanity – but so little life.
The front door opens, noisily. She starts. Her father walks into the room carrying bags of shopping. She hears movement upstairs, and then the toilet flushes. Heavy footsteps make their way slowly down the steep staircase as she puts away tinned pears. She smiles at her grandfather as he walks into the kitchen; but behind the smile she thinks, I don’t ever want to get old.


Alternative ending
She smiles at her grandfather as he walks into the kitchen, while inside she thinks I don’t ever want to get old.






Goodness me Katie is on a roll this week. Anyway, I began this while at my Granddad's house in Toronto this week. It is so oppressive and stressful being there. Let me know what y'all think Smile especially about the ending - which one is better?
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Owle Gray

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PostSubject: Re: Grandfather's House   Sun Mar 21, 2010 1:16 am

I like the excessive detail in this. OK, Let's see what colour appears less violent than the red...

Check how 'the'-overloaded your first few sentences are. I've asked you to cross one of them out. I'd also recomend putting in 'Dust dances in a beam...' I think the rest of the 'the's are fitting, establishing their objects, but it's just too much in that one sentence...
'The clock’s monotonous metronome is the only thing that indicates the passage of time. For all the rest, she might have thought time was standing still. The dust dances in the {a} beam of sunlight from the window before settling on the table in front of her. The table stands alone, half-covered with cards – birthday, Christmas, Father’s Day, sympathy, mounting up from years past. ...
She coughs, drily. The dust irritates her throat. The soft noise cuts through the deafening quiet in of the living room. ... perfect rest of paragraph
...

The thick air fills her mind, faint noises of car engines and dogs and children - welcome, if infrequent, reminders that there is a world outside this oppressive room.
...
She wants to leap up and run outside, down the street to see the children at the park, watch them run and jump and fall and cry; to get on a bus and then a train and to stand with five other people in a space three feet square {I think it's a bit awkward} , smelling their sweat and feeling their body heat; to sit on a bench at the high street and contemplate the people, feel their energy, their aliveness. {I LIKE this sentence}

'She’d go mad if she lived like this, she thinks. ' It breaks the flow for me. I don't think you need the 'she thinks' in there, it's an unnecessary distraction.
'carrying bags of shopping.' Perhaps 'shopping bags' or, better yet, 'bags of groceries'?
'She hears movement upstairs, and then the toilet flushes.' Mmm, I'd remove one of: and/then/the. I'd remove 'and'.

Now for the ending.... I don't think there is really a relevant difference. I liked the first ending more.
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The Blue Box

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PostSubject: Re: Grandfather's House   Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:11 am

Hrmmmm, okay.

I accepted your correction with regard to the 'the's (and a beam of sunlight) - I hadn't noticed that. Thanks.
I'm not, however, accepting your suggestion to add "stands alone" - I know there's no verb in that sentence, but I like it that way. It's meant to kind of carry on from the previous sentence - almost as an afterthought.
I'm not sure about "[...] car engines and dogs and children - welcome, if infrequent, reminders that there is a world outside this oppressive room. " The way I read it, it was more like "car engines and dogs and children [are] welcome, if infrequent, reminders", except that you take out the 'are' because you can do that.
As for the 'space three feet square', I appreciate the slight awkwardness but I'm not sure how else I could express that thought. And to be honest I kind of like it.
Agree with taking out the 'she thinks'.
Changed to 'bags of groceries'.
What do you think of "She hears movement upstairs; the toilet flushes." Removing them all Razz Otherwise, as you say, I'd just take out the 'and'.

I think I like the first ending more too.

Thaaaaank you Smile
PS Any overall thoughts about the efficacy of the piece?
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Dark S3cret
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PostSubject: Re: Grandfather's House   Sun Mar 21, 2010 11:25 am

How fitting it is to have a clock opening a piece entitled "grandfather's house".
All the different marks of time you detail in the passage is really really eloquent and powerful... Also because it's not just mentions of time, but also metaphors that mark it. I.e. the cards, the newspapers, the photographs, the dust, the quiet.

Since Yuliya has already done her thing in orange, I'm just going to continue to tell you what really worked for me. Very Happy

This line here made me go "oh" because it was so beautiful.

She wonders if this is what happens when people get old – they cling to the past, hoping that if they don’t let anything go the world won’t let them go.

I really like how you reverse the idea. It seems almost paradoxical in the way it weighs out. I always find that if you chance upon the right words to express the feeling and reverse it properly, it alwas creates a wonderfully eloquent, powerful statement. The sentiment expressed in that sentence is just so real; the almost irrational logic, the difficulty of letting go, of accepting...

I also think that the interjection of what she feels, rather than what she observes of her grandfather's life is very vivid; her need to feel alive because she is still young and full of life. The fact that you chose the children as a prevalent image of still living life is really really powerful when juxtaposed with the prevalence of all things grandfather.

And finally, the conclusion...
She smiles at her grandfather as he walks into the kitchen; but behind the smile she thinks, I don’t ever want to get old.
Maybe it's just me but the semicolon kind of breaks up the impact of the sentiment?
And a purely stylistic choice to italicize the thought... although I must comment on the grammar of that finishing thought!

So the she in the piece, is you, right?
The whole piece describing the house, the life just really struck a chord with me. If there's one thing I am scared of is getting old and just... fading.
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The Blue Box

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PostSubject: Re: Grandfather's House   Sun Mar 21, 2010 12:33 pm

Oooh, I hadn't thought of that. (The "grandfather clock" thing.) Oooooh. I like it :]

Thank you Smile I was really proud of that line. It was actually a thought I had, and I was pleased for thinking something vaguely original. What do you mean by reversing the idea, though? I almost wanted to say something more along the lines of "they cling to the past, hoping that if they don't let anything go the world won't notice them/will forget them and won't let them go" but it's kind of too long and awkward. But that was what I was thinking/the logic behind it.

What's wrong with the grammar of the ending thought? I am confused. As for the semicolon... I didn't like how it felt with two commas in a row. So I put in a semicolon. But I dunno. I like the general structure of the last sentence but it's not perfect, which is annoying me.

It is me. I get really nervous when I'm with my granddad - he's just so old. It really scares me. I constantly worry that he's going to up and die on me. Fading is exactly the right way to put it... because getting old is inevitable. Dying isn't so scary, in a way, because then it's just over - but I don't want to become a grumpy old person. I'm sure part of it is just the way my grampy is; he's always been grumpy. But I still really don't want that to be me.
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Owle Gray

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PostSubject: Re: Grandfather's House   Mon Mar 22, 2010 10:21 am

Thoughts...Thooooouuuuuughts....thoughts.

I just failed french, so there aren't that many thoughts. Mon mind, il est blank.

I thought it was a good piece - the tone was carried across, like dust settling on your heart. Shivers at thought of wasting away...

Um, I don't think you should remove all of them. Just remove the end. Smile
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