Learning to Swim

Any closet novelists, short story writers, script-writers or prose poets out there?
Post Reply
User avatar
camus
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5014
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2004 12:51 am
antispam: no
Location: Grimbia
Contact:

Learning to Swim

Post by camus » Fri Mar 27, 2015 2:46 am

By bash at starting a short story!

Learning to Swim.

Nathan had listed several ways of ending his own life, each one impractical and ultimately painful. Try as he might, his suicidal plans always reverted (to what he considered) the undignified cowards approach to the destruction or ruin of one's own interests - the overdose. Against the overdose he fought night and day. The simplicity of the act struck him as unimaginative and boring. He pictured his funeral, the looks of pain and betrayal on friends and relatives’ faces, their eyes damp with truth. Therefore he refused to be typical; hence he was still a living breathing member of a fringe society, one where you exist, but are not quite sure why.

Nathan didn’t work. He felt he couldn’t work; the effort taken to arise at the same time each morning was beyond him. Nathan didn’t have a girlfriend. He felt he couldn’t have a girlfriend; he feared he had nothing to offer another human being. He often thought of buying a dog as a companion, but found the concept of walking around with shit in a bag overwhelmingly repellent.
So, he spent his days thinking of ways to end them.

This day he awoke around 11.00 am, set his alarm for 12:30 am, pulled his duvet over his head to warm his nose, and drifted off into his favourite arena, the arena of dreams. He dreamt of a swimming pool, and of walking fully clothed into that pool. He started at the deep end. Used the steps to lower himself in, then just let go…He sunk slowly, and found himself resting at the bottom of a vast ocean. Fishes of all colours streamed by him, vibrant coral almost blinded him, and he sat Buddha-stanced, waiting…

The alarm re-surfaced him.

He awoke, alive.

He yawned, considered his lack of hard-on, thought briefly of the ocean floor, then scraped himself out of bed, plumped his pillows, straightened his duvet, headed for the kitchen and a strong cup of tea. Whilst the tea worked its rejuvenating magic, he decided on a visit the library. That was his mission for the day.

Nathan was fond of the library. He referred to it as his local, containing as it did familiar faces and quiet corners to sit and be solitary, clearing ones throat occasionally.

This day, approaching the library, he noticed an unfamiliar bulk. The library had an extensive front window, masses of glass, and from a lessening distance the bulk proved to be a man.
A man sat down, shrouded in thick anorak, his face barely visible with a quality street tin set in front of him.

On arrival Nathan stopped before the automatic doors, and before alerting the automation, looked at the man, then stared at him, for time was passing…A look can all too quickly turn to a stare, as it did.

“Hello” came a surprisingly smooth, almost feminine voice from beneath the anorak.
“Hello” replied Nathan.

The hood from the anorak was pulled back and down, to reveal a bald head, recently shaven, and a mass of beard, initially counteracting any face. A head and a beard.
A face eventually honed into view, unexpectedly young looking, amidst the potential desert and forest of old age. A short smooth forehead, leading to a prominent, regal nose, (a cold drip of snot quickly palmed away) bright eyes, colour indeterminate.

“I like you”, he said
“You don’t know me.” Nathan replied, somewhat startled at the announcement.
“I know you've taken the time from your loneliness to address me. Me, a vagabond, a vagrant, a deviant with possible criminal intentions, not many people do.”
“What makes you think I’m lonely?” Nathan said, somewhat irked at this insight.
“You’re talking to a homeless man outside a library on a freezing Wednesday afternoon, call me presumptuous…”

Nathan smiled at this remark, unbeknownst to him, the first time he’d smiled in several days.

His intention of continuing the conversation, of perhaps taking it to a level where by he was committed, dawned on him, and he simply bid the man “so long” and disappeared through the doors.

The aroma of new carpet and freshly fingered pages were immediate. Unusual, but refreshing in a mall kind of way. The new carpet was maroon in colour. The gates to the children’s reading area were blue and the ceiling was yellow. The place was awash, the librarians less so, but the contrast suited Nathan - bright, dour and stinking just right.

When he was a child, his mother would take him to this very library and almost without fail his bowels would react. “I need a poo” he’d whisper and his mother would smile her knowing smile and say “Off you go then” and Nathan would enter a world of huge metal doors and low seated pooing facilities. He always held on to the red solid curved tubing arranged thoughtfully next to the toilet. It was there to stop him falling into the abyss below, he knew that, and only in his dreams would he ever let go, absorbed into yet another ocean beyond his reckoning.
http://www.closetpoet.co.uk

Nash

Re: Learning to Swim

Post by Nash » Fri Mar 27, 2015 2:44 pm

I've no idea how to crit a short story but I'll have a stab.

The bones of the story seem fine so far but I'm getting the feeling that you're being a bit restrained. I know that there's a freshness and a sense of freedom to your poetry, a feeling that you're really letting yourself go and I'm not getting that at the moment from your prose. Seems a bit self-conscious to me.

Also, perhaps there's a bit too much padding in places? Taking a line at random:
camus wrote:Nathan smiled at this remark, unbeknownst to him, the first time he’d smiled in several days.
Would this be better as:
camus wrote:Nathan smiled at this remark, the first time in several days.
Like I say though, no idea what I'm talking about really, just a couple of initial views. I've been having a stab at short stories myself recently (being bored shitless with poetry) and I'm finding it exceptionally difficult.

Best of luck with it, Kris.

All the best,
Nash.

User avatar
camus
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 5014
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2004 12:51 am
antispam: no
Location: Grimbia
Contact:

Re: Learning to Swim

Post by camus » Fri Mar 27, 2015 3:59 pm

Thanks Nash.

I think your comments are pretty much spot on.

Something was annoying the hell out of me and it's the unnecessary "padding." I seem to want to overcompensate, as though things require explaining when they don't "Show not tell" applies to prose as well, I just forgot!

I think I was concentrating too hard on the short story structure so all thoughts of originality, style and substance went out of the window.

Your comments pretty much sum up what i was thinking though, so that's a start.

It's hard ain't it? How's your attempts coming along?

Cheers
Kris
http://www.closetpoet.co.uk

Gbn
Productive Poster
Productive Poster
Posts: 87
Joined: Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:35 pm

Re: Learning to Swim

Post by Gbn » Fri Mar 27, 2015 4:22 pm

Some very original thoughts and lines, combined with some that seem obvious and spurious....the padding?..extensive front window, masses of glass...shrouded, face not really visible....this kind of repetition of concept can interrupt the flow i think.

Hunter thompson wrote that he was heavily influenced by the fact that fitzgerald's the great gatsby was only 55k words, he cites it as a huge technical achievement and says 'not a word wasted' became his mantra. I still try to remeber this whatever I write, but hey, i waffle. Just a point to consider, gbn

Antcliff
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 6539
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 1:35 am
Location: At the end of stanza 3

Re: Learning to Swim

Post by Antcliff » Mon Mar 30, 2015 7:25 pm

I do not know how to crit a short story start...but it must be doing something right since I would read on.

seth
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
Richard Wilbur

Post Reply