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THE STORYTELLER about 3000 words

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Old 03-23-2011, 11:21 AM
Chris Dean (Offline)
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Default THE STORYTELLER about 3000 words


This is my natural writing style, though not the type of plot I normally use. I am concerned with the proliferate P.O.V. (charater perspective) transitions in this piece and would like to know if they appear smooth and readable. Also, the ending and beginning, are they respectively good? Thanks!
-Chris
THE STORYTELLER

"Let me tell you a story," the old man said to the child as they sat there on the bench beneath the tall oak tree in the park.

Brushing the mischievous yellow bangs back from her bright blue eyes, the little girl nodded. Her name was Amanda Jean Anderson and she was nine and she liked stories very much.

"This is a story about an animal called a kangaroo," the old man began with a smile. "Now let me tell you, kangaroos are the funniest animals that God ever thought up. They have long floppy ears and a stupendous tail and when they move, they don't walk at all but they hop!" The old man finished with a chuckle. Thomas Platt enjoyed telling stories more than anything. And he knew that children make the very best audiences because they knew how to laugh so well.

Amanda was just a slight bit confused. The old man had a warm broad face and kindly brown eyes and she certainly appreciated his pleasantness, but she could not understand why he was talking like this. She ventured hesitantly, "Was it a robot kangaroo?"

"A robot?" Thomas said with astonishment.

"We have a robot kangaroo at school," Amanda explained.

"Oh," said Thomas. "Then you know about kangaroos."

Amanda's smile burst over her face like a warm spring rain. "Oh yes. It is a marsupial that lives in Australia. Kangaroos are herbivores." She was a bright girl who enjoyed learning and she did not mind showing off just a little.

"Oh," said Thomas. His story was funny, but he suspected it would fall flat if he told it to this little girl. Thomas had thick violet lips that would purse when he was flustered and they did it now. He said quietly, "You know they have pouches."

Amanda wondered if the old man was just being silly. She said, "The marsupial pouch of the female kangaroo gives shelter and safety to the kangaroo young, which are called joeys."

Now Thomas was extremely disappointed. The girl not only knew about the kangaroo pouches but she was aware that their offspring were called joeys. His whole story about a kangaroo named Joey who fell out of his mother's pouch might bore someone who knew so much about kangaroos. He wasn't sure and his lips pursed.

He stared across wide field of green and shifted uncomfortably over the blue plastic bench. The plastic was yielding and comfortable, but it felt foreign, like the soft silvery suit he wore and the pristine unpolluted air that filled his lungs. It was all foreign to him. Beyond the grass that marked the park's border, he saw the white buildings of the proud modern city and wondered if he belonged here at all. He sighed.

"Go on," urged Amanda. She could tell that she had upset the old man somehow. It did not matter what kind of story he told her. What mattered was that she had upset him and she had to fix that. "Tell me your story."

A bit embarrassed, Thomas considered the circumstances. Could he even entertain a child of the 22nd century with stories that were more than one hundred years old? He hadn't been sure when he'd sat down on the bench and now he was less sure. In fact, he was nearly sure that he couldn't.

Amanda put a happy lilt in her voice, "Go on."

"I'm don't know," Thomas said. He remembered the last little girl he'd told the kangaroo story to. His granddaughter, Marie, and how her round face had lit up when she laughed. It was a sad memory because Marie was gone now. Everyone he had ever known was gone. Thomas had been part of a secret military cryogenics program in the 1960's that had literally saved his life but now his whole family was gone and he was alone. He so much wanted to be able to fit in, in this new place.

"Now, you promised me a story," Amanda nudged playfully. "I think you owe me a story, sir."

He decided to try again, with another story. It had been just an accident of fate that he'd picked the kangaroo story, which was so obviously inappropriate. Why, he had many more tales of whimsy and mischief that he was certain would entertain this little girl. His face softened and he smiled. "I think I'll try a different one. A story just for you."

Relieved, Amanda pinched her each ear between fingers and thumbs and said, "I'm ready." The old man laughed.

"Now, this story is just a little scary so I don't want you to be frightened," Thomas said in a soothing voice. "Remember it's just make believe." The story he'd picked was about a battle between monstrous sea creatures and the beginning might be scary to a little girl. But it had a fine ending, with happy fishes and a wonderful mermaid princess. He cautioned himself to tone down the dark parts of the story and rush to the part where the fish named Arthur escaped. He began, "Now, at the bottom of the deep blue ocean there live huge creatures that no man's eye has ever seen. They have eight extraordinary long arms and only one bulging eye at the top of their bodies." He stopped, looking at the little girl's face. Her cheeks were drawn and her tiny mouth was pressed tight.

Amanda blinked. She did not understand why the old man was talking this way again. Didn't he know that people visited the bottom of the ocean? She said quietly, "I've been to Ocean World with my parents."

Thomas felt a hot flush. His voice was shrill. "What?"

"I've seen the giant squids. On the Marianas Trench ride. I'm sorry," Amanda said. "I don't mean to ruin your stories."

"No," Thomas said in a soft voice. "It's not your fault." This was no one's fault. The cryogenics technology that could freeze a man so he could hibernate safely had one flaw, that was the problem. It could bring that man into the future but it could not take away his past. "I apologize. I guess I don't really have a story that you would like."

The creases of distress that surrounded the old man's brown eyes were disheartening to Amanda. He was a very nice man and she felt guilty about disappointing him this way. Smoothing her auburn dress, she watched the fabric crinkle and bounce back as she struggled to come up with a solution to this problem. There was one thing she might be able to do but it was a disobedient act, and she hated even thinking about doing it.

Amanda knew the grown up word for what she was considering was fibbery. Children called them fibs and scoos but she was old enough to know that fibbery was more than just telling scoos. Fibbery included all the aspects of deceit. And what she wanted to do was pretend that she liked the old man's story, no matter what she really thought. This was definitely fibbery. She promised herself that she would admit her misdeed to her parents later and ask for their judgment. "Go on," she said. "I may have seen the giant squids but I have never heard your story before. Please go on."

"No," Thomas said sadly. He thought dismally about all the expense and trouble involved with freezing him and bringing him to an era where medical technology could save him from the cancer. It had all been a waste. He wouldn't be happy in a place if he was useless. And storytelling was the best thing he knew how to do.

"Please," Amanda said. "Tell me a different story. I promise not to interrupt this time. Please."

Touched by the little girl's concern, Thomas studied the tiny hands clasped in her lap and that beautiful shy smile made up of magical rose lips. And her eyes, he watched the wonderful blue sparks of life. They were drawn with worry because of him. This was not what storytellers do, he scolded himself. Storytellers are the shapers of happy eyes.

A great rush of air moved slowly into his lungs. And when it came out, it took his fears away. Though it might not be easy, Thomas was determined to make this little girl laugh. He would make those eyes bright again. He began slowly, "Now, I would like to tell you a story that is only told to special little girls that know most everything. You see, this is a story about rocket ships and very tall green aliens that no one has ever seen. They live on the other side of the universe. On a beautiful world called Rainbow Planet."

Amanda was concentrating on smiling. Committing fibbery. She knew about aliens, everyone did. There was an alien neighborhood right there in New York and the Andorans were blue with black ears, the Crem were red, and the Phantosians were bright yellow. But she would not interrupt to tell the old man the truth. That aliens were not green and that rocket ships had been replaced by wormhole science before Amanda was even born. She did fibbery so she could bring back the old man's smile. She knew her parents would forgive her, because they loved her very much.

His heart was pounding with joy as Thomas watched the satisfaction on the little girl's face. This was what made living worthwhile. He continued, a laugh rising in his voice, "The green aliens that live on Rainbow Planet are called Thumpers. They're called that because they're so tall that their feet have to be very large and they thump when they walk. Now, the universe is a very big place but the Thumper's rockets are very, very fast and they travel everywhere. Sometimes they even come here to Earth."

For a moment, Amanda dropped her facade. She could not help it. Her father had explained to her in detail just why wormholes were necessary to travel in space. She was very proud of understanding that nothing could travel faster than light and that it would take far too long to explore the universe using rockets. It was a struggle not to tell the old man the truth. And so just for a moment her chin drooped.

Thomas ceased talking. He had seen some distress in the little girl for a split second. And he believed it was still there. She was hiding it. He felt like a fool. She was just trying to be nice so his feelings wouldn't get hurt again. He was just an old fool. He said, "People travel to other stars now? I'm sorry."

"No, go on," Amanda begged. "I am listening."

Thomas couldn't put her through this anymore. He should not have ever sat on the bench. He was no storyteller in this era, that was clear. There was still his concern for her feelings though and so he said, "Tell me about the rocket ships. Where do they go?"

Amanda felt terrible. She knew that the old man had lost something because of her. She couldn't do fibbery right and he had seen the truth. And that truth had stolen something from this nice man. She wanted to give it back to him but she didn't know how. "People go to all the stars," she answered slowly. "But not with rockets anymore." Suddenly, desperation rose inside her and she blurted, "I really like you talking with me."

Thomas was touched. "Thank you," he said. "Don't feel bad. I'm not from here and that's the problem." He laughed morosely. "I'm not from now."

"Are you a New Arrival?" Amanda asked. Curiosity sparked inside her. She knew about people that came from the past. They slept for hundreds of years. She wanted to ask the old man how long he'd been sleeping, but she thought it might be impolite.

"That's what they call us, don't they," Thomas said.

The tone of Amanda's voice was very respectful as she said, "I hope that wasn't impolite to call you that." She was concerned about offending him in any way.

"No, of course not," Thomas said. "This is actually the first day I've been out on my own. I would say qualifies as a New Arrival. I'm not familiar with your time, as you can tell. Would it be impolite to introduce myself?"

With a glad smile, Amanda told him, "People introduce themselves all the time and it is not impolite."

"My name is Thomas."

"I'm Amanda Jean Anderson," said Amanda, her heart light. Something nice was happening now. They didn't need stories to enjoy one another's company. And they certainly did not need fibbery. How could she have been so foolish as to expect a bad thing to make things good? She pointed to the row of houses on the street past the little pond. "I live right there. The gray house in the middle. My little brother Jim is four. My parents are very nice." Amanda canted her head gaily and announced, with a dainty finger to her chin and the blue eyes poised just so, "We are a very happy family." And then she smiled.

His heart melting like butter, Thomas murmured, "I bet you are." He was overwhelmed by this wonderful creature. Here was the joy that he would have given to her. Here was her spirit soaring. There was no use trying to tell her a story. Amanda was all the wonder and mystery that good stories are made of without even trying.

"I wonder if I can ask you a question," Amanda said. She admitted, "It may be impolite."

"Of course," Thomas assured. He swept out a hand with a flourish. "I am completely at your disposal, Madam."

Amanda giggled and said, "I'm not sure if I'm a Madam, yet. I think you have to be older."

"You're only as old as you feel," Thomas said.

"I don't feel old enough to be a Madam." Amanda's voice was high and light. She was certainly enjoying this. "What I really wanted to know is how long you were sleeping. I hope that's not impolite."

"I was asleep for over a hundred years." Thomas said. "They froze me on October 5, 1969."

Amanda was surprised. She had assumed that Thomas was several centuries old.

There was something about the girl's reaction that struck Thomas as odd. She looked perplexed. He wasn't sure what it meant and he asked, "Didn't you know they put people to sleep for that long?"

Amanda said, "No, I thought you were longer. I'm sorry. I thought maybe you were sleeping longer."

"Really?" Thomas knew there was a twinkle in his eye. "And just how old did you think I was?"

Sighing playfully, Amanda admitted, "I was going to ask if you knew King Arthur."

"Now I am surprised," Thomas said. "You know everything about the universe but you don't know this. I think you may be interested to hear that I was the fifth person in history to be cryogenically frozen."

That made no sense to Amanda. She was sure cryogenics had been around for a very long time. "You told me 1969," she said. "When did they start doing it?"

"Two years before I was frozen, in 1967. Captain John Brinker was the first successful attempt. He was frozen for only a short while. Just a few weeks."

"I really don't know about cryogenics," Amanda said. "I thought they were doing it for a long time."

Thomas was interested in Amanda's perspective of the past. He asked, "When do you think rocket ships were invented?"

"I never asked my father that," Amanda said. "That is a very good question. I learned in school that in China they had gunpowder a long time ago. So, a thousand years ago?"

Thomas was delighted with this charming moment the universe had given to him. Amanda's eyes glistened with wonder and curiosity, and lips like soft petals perched in anticipation. He told her, "I saw the first rocket that was ever shot into outer space on television."

Amanda was amazed. "I am going to ask my father about rocket ships," she said very seriously. "I do not know about rocket ships."

"Well, let me see what I remember," Thomas said. "The first rockets were called Mercury rockets. American rockets. The Russians had theirs. There was a big competition between our two countries. It had to do with politics. And it carried over into the space race."

Amanda was enthralled. She knew where Russia was and she thought the Russians were exotic. This was a very exciting story. She asked, "Did you see the race?"

Thomas chuckled. "It wasn't a race of speed, it was a race that lasted over years to get to the moon. They just call it that. Can you guess who won? America or Russia?"

"I think I know," Amanda said. "I've seen the Moon flag."

"Well, you thought space ships were a thousand years old," Thomas kidded. "I didn't know you knew about the Moon."

"I think I do," Amanda said.

"I saw a picture of that flag on the Moon and I was surprised," Thomas said. "That flag is always fluttering like that. I was surprised it gets so windy on the Moon."

"I don't think it gets windy on the Moon." Amanda responded with glee. "I think you need wind for it to be windy."

Thomas smiled and said, "You're probably right." He was enjoying himself remarkably. He marveled at the thrill inside him as he watched Amanda's eyes dance with pleasure. Like tiny blue feathers, tickling his soul.

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Old 03-25-2011, 08:04 AM
IanG (Offline)
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The basic idea is interesting but let me suggest a few improvements.

There is a lot of repetition of 'the' in your opening sentences.

'He was enjoying himself remarkably.' It might be better to put 'enjoying himself at last,' or 'remarkably, he was starting to enjoy himself.'

Also, I'm not sure if a child in the future would sit down and talk with a man she hardly knew without one of her family or an adult she knows being present. People in the 1960s might have been that innocent but probably not now and so perhaps not in the future. Maybe it would be more plausible if the girl was a bit older.
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Old 03-25-2011, 08:59 AM
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I liked the dialogue, it was very natural and flowed. I don't know that I felt the proper amount of "pity" for the fellow. I understand that the piece is short, but I didn't connect with his sense of loss where it concerned his family. I also found myself feeling conflicted about the age of the girl. Her manner of speaking is very mature and evolved, but her actions are more childlike. You spend a lot of time registering their facial expressions and concentrate on the lips and the eyes. It's intimate, but it's also a bit repetitive.

In the end, I wanted more... which can't be a bad thing. I think the old man has a real story to tell, one that is much deeper and more involved than the one that he is telling to the girl. As a reader, I wanted to tell the girl to run along and play, because I had so many questions of my own, for the man.
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