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The Mill Falls: A short story

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Old 04-01-2016, 08:43 AM
Binx B
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Default The Mill Falls: A short story


The Mill Falls

Maria slept wrapped to her waist in the frayed white sheets, with her head crooked and arms outstretched like a scarecrow against a winter sky. David imagined they would make love when she awoke, as they had each morning of the seventeen days they’d lived together. He savored her image, then closed his eyes and listened to her breath. The sound had become familiar to him, and for a moment, he lamented the inevitable waning of excitement that comes from routine. Then he heard her stir.

“Good morning,” he said. He propped himself up on one elbow and brushed her cheek with the back of his hand.

“Hello there,” she said, as she blinked herself into consciousness. “You’ve got on your picture face.”

“Picture face?”

“The face you make when you’re composing a picture.”

It was true. He was thinking of a photograph and imagining the print as something he could keep as a reminder of when everything between them was new. He swallowed hard as she hooked her thumbs under the waistband of her panties and wriggled out of them. She snaked toward him, and for a time they lay tangled, caressing and whispering their intentions. He moved over her, and just as she opened her legs to take him in, the doorbell rang.

“Who could that be?” Maria asked.

“Fuck. Ignore it. I bet it’s Randall. And the only time he comes over without calling is when he wants to borrow money.”

“Poor baby. That blimp of yours went down faster than the Hindenburg.”

“Very funny.” he said. “And the Hindenburg was a dirigible.”

“Of course. But the word blimp is a lot funnier. Now, get the door. I don't care if it's Randall. He's never up this early, so it might be important.”

David rolled off the bed and threw on jeans. Maria moaned and whispered his name as he stumbled across the uneven pine-planked floor to the spiral stair case. He looked back at her as he descended, and could see her hand working below the sheets.

“You can’t wait for me?” he said.

“There’s more for you.”

“Goddamn you Randall, this better be important.”

He shivered when his feet hit the cold concrete. The bell rang again.

“I coming, damn it!” he shouted

Through the peep-hole he could see his brother’s face, a fish-eye lens view of wild blond hair, aviator sunglasses and a wide, chip-toothed smile. Randall put his eye up to the hole and laughed. David cracked the door and Randall shouldered his way in.

“Hey, man.” Randall said.

“Do come in,” David said, while ushering him past with an extravagant gesture.

“I’ve got the plan for today…”

“RandallMaria and I just woke up.” He cocked his head toward the stair case. “And we’re kind ofbusy.”

“Shit. Maria’s here?”

“She lives here, man.”

“Oh, right.”

David heard the staircase rattle and turned to see Maria descending, wearing an expression of secret satisfaction and his favorite flannel shirt.

“So what’s up?” David said.

“I was thinkingit’s a perfect day to go to the Mill Falls.”

“The Mill Falls? I haven’t thought about that place in ages.” He felt Maria move up behind him, she hugged him and then moved on to Randall. She put her arm around Randall’s shoulders and kissed his cheek.

“What’s the Mill Falls?” Maria asked.

“It’s an old cotton mill on Mabry Creek,” David said. “It’s off the rivernorth of Barnwell. We used to hang out there in high school.”

“It’s awesome, Maria.” Randall said. “There’s an old stone dam, and the water spills over the top. There’s always a cool mist coming off the rocks. You just lie out on those rocks and chill. A couple of brews and a fatty and you’re all set.”

“I don’t know,” David said. “We were going to look at furniture today.” He looked at Maria, expecting her compliance, but could tell by her smile that she was intrigued by Randall’s proposal.

“You can look at furniture any old day,” Randall said.

“The idea sounds lovely to me,” Maria said. “Let’s do something different.”

“I’m not gonna to win this, am I?

“Two against one,” Randall said.

David wagged his finger at Maria. “I don’t want to hear you complain about the mattress for another week—all right?”

“Cross my heart,” she said. “Now let me make some coffee.”

He watched Maria walk across the studio to the kitchen, her hips and pony-tail swinging in opposite directions. He followed, with Randall on his heels before veering off to a sitting area at the corner of the studio. For months he’d asked Maria to move in with him, but she’d refused, saying the loft was too cold and sterile. So David created the area just for her by assembling a rug, floor lamps, plants and assorted knickknacks in a corner the studio. His efforts had swayed her more than the results.

“Who wants a buttermilk biscuit?” Maria called out from the kitchen. “Made ’em fresh last night for supper, Randall.”

“Yes Ma’am!” he answered, in a phony southern drawl. “You got it so sweet, bro.” His knees buckled, and he fell to the couch. David sat on the opposite end and tossed the remote to Randall who poked through several channels before settling on a Bugs Bunny cartoon. He nodded and whispered, “What’s up Doc?”

So what’s going on—really?” David said, as he moved toward Randall. “You never get up before ten on a Saturday.”

“You know, Bugs is an ancient archetype—The Trickster.”

“Cut the shit.”

“Mom kicked me out. I slept in the truck last night.”

“I warned you—if Mom sobered up she wouldn’t put up with your mooching. Did you ever think about getting a job?”

“I sold seven prints last week.”

“Big deal. You can’t make a living selling prints.”

“Dad did.”

“Yeah. That was New York. In the eighties. People would buy anything and pay too much for it.”

“What are you saying?”

“The market was inflated—that’s all. Nothing against Dad.”

“I could go to New York”

“But you won’t.”

Randall stood and looked at the large photographic print hanging over the couch. The image was of a nude young woman on her knees with barbed-wire wrapped around her torso.

“Did you ever notice this?” David said. He stood and pointed at the woman’s lower belly. “She’s cut.”

“It’s amazing what women did to be in one of Dad’s pictures.”

“You’re not kidding.”

“She looks like Maria.”

“No she doesn’t.”

David walked over to the window and looked out at the landscape of rusted machinery and abandoned warehouses. Two men by the railroad tracks warmed their hands over a fire built in a metal drum.

“It’s too cold to go the mill,” David said.

“It’s gonna warm up.”

“I guess you want to stay here, right?”

“Well...”

“It’s not like you have choice. I mean—you’re broke, right?” He tapped a window pain with his index finger and drew a circle in the condensation.

“Just for a few days,” Randall said.

“You know it’s not for a few days. So—if you want to stay, you’re going to have to help out. I’ve got a catalog shoot next week. Women’s shoes. You can do the secondary shots.”

“I can’t take pictures of shoes, David. I warned you, didn’t I? Since you started all this—have you made any art? I mean shot for you?

“I need to ask Maria.”

David walked across the studio to the kitchen area and moved behind her. He slipped his hands around her waist and spoke into her ear.

“I guess Mom’s really sober. She gave Randall the boot, and he wants to stay here.”

“He’s you brother,” she said.

“He never listens.”

“Then quit telling him what to do. I swear—you need him more than he needs you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Nothing. If you’re asking me—it’s fine. I like Randall. You know that.”

David looked across the studio at is brother. He sat spread-eagle on the couch with his bare feet on the glass coffee table. Maria poured two cups of coffee and put them on a tray with a plate of biscuits.

“I’m going to shower,” she said.

David carried the tray out to the sitting area. He placed it on the coffee table and sat on a rocker across from his brother. He could hear the rumble and clatter of a train as it approached the rail yard on the track that ran alongside his studio. The building shook and the vibration broke the black, mirrored surface of his coffee.

“Do you get used to that?” Randall asked.

“Eventually. I guess you’ll see for yourself.”

Randall smiled and nodded. David left the rocker and sat next to him on the couch. He pinched Randall’s neck and tousled his hair.

“You’re going to have to help me shoot.”

“All right.”

“And it can’t be like last time, little brother,” David said

He was thinking of the time Randall had last stayed with him. He’d come home to find his brother passed out on the floor and two drunken club girls modeling the evening gowns he’d steamed for the next day’s shoot.

“I know, man. I can be real a fuck up,” Randall said, as he sniffed and wiped is eyes with his thumb and forefinger.

David put his hand on his brother’s back and leaned toward him.

“This could be the opportunity to get your shit together. Maria and I—we’ll be getting married. And you can’t raise kids in a place like this. You could live here. We could both shoot here. There’s plenty of space. You could even...”

Then he noticed that Randall was far away, staring out the window at the passing train, mouthing the names of the railroads emblazoned on the cars.

“Did you ever wish you could just hop on one of those trains and just leave it all behind?” Randall asked.

“Leaving never solved a goddamn thing.”

The train passed and the studio fell silent. He looked at his brother and recalled the night his mother, in a drunken rage, had dropped them at his father’s studio. They’d called out for him repeatedly, their voices echoing through the cavernous space of his studio in the East Village. They found him dead. Gun in hand, on a blood soaked mattress in the room where David knew his father slept with his models.

“It can’t be like last time,” David repeated.

Oblivious to David’s admonition, Randall took a joint from his shirt pocket and lit it. He took a drag and then aimed it at David. David held up his palm and Randall stabbed the air around it like a fencer.

“Come on man, you need to relax.”

“I don’t want to fucking relax.”

Maria came down the spiral staircase in a flower print sundress, like a Renoir superimposed on a cold, industrial interior. The brothers moved apart and Maria sat between them.

“So if we’re going to the Mill Falls, what will do about lunch?”

“We could got to Maybelle’s”

“I don’t know if I could handle that,” David said. See, Maria, when Mom was hammered—which was most of the time—she’d give us money and we’d walk to Maybelle’s Diner. Good food. Bad memories.”

“That’s your fucking problem. You just focus on bad memories.”

“If y'all are going to bicker, I don’t want to go,” Maria said.

They both nodded and crossed their arms in unison.

“You two are just alike.”

Randall smiled and briefly touched his head to Maria’s shoulder. Bristling at the suggestion, David stood, walked to a set and took a camera off a tripod.

“I think I’ll shoot a little today. Just for the hell of it.”

“Awesome,” Randall said. “But digital?”

“Yes, for Christ’s sake, digital. Film’s expensive. And I’m not getting into another glory of film versus digital argument with you.”

He placed the camera in a metal case and put it by the door before ascending the stair case to the loft. He brushed his teeth and finished dressing while he listened to Maria and Randall talk and laugh—probably at his expense. He paused in front of a cabinet, opened it and took out a camera, the Nikon F3 his father gave him for his sixteenth birthday.

“Hey Randall,” he shouted. “Do you have your camera?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You got film?”

“A few rolls of Plus-X, why?”

He remembered that when his father’s work had fallen out of favor, bright yellow boxes of Kodak Pus-X were often the only thing in the refrigerator.

“Just asking.” David said.

He leaned over the railing and held his camera to his eye. He zoomed in on Maria, standing in a column of dusty light cast from a soot-covered skylight, with his father’s print of the barbed-wire wrapped girl behind her; and for the first time, he saw a resemblance to the woman in the picture. He zoomed in closer on Maria, cropping out the print, and took an imaginary photograph. She looked up at him and smiled.

“Come on slow-poke!” she said.

David went down to the studio and to the kitchen area, to find his brother filling a cooler with beer.

“That’s for clients, Randall.”

Randall shrugged. Maria looked at David and cocked her head in a way that said he needed to relax and go easy on his brother.

“Okay. Might as well grab that bottle of wine too, while you’re at it,” he said.

Maria finished filling a basket with snacks and leftover biscuits. They gathered their things and carried them out to the loading dock outside the studio. David bolted the studio door and they walked across a gravel parking lot, strewn with empty forty-ounce beer bottles and rusted scrap metal.

“I’d like to see some trees and some spring flowers. That’s what I miss down here,” Maria said.

“You'll see them all right,” Randall said. “But from what I hear, we’ll be one step ahead of the bulldozers. They’re clearing out all the land near the mill north of Barnwell and building houses and condos and shit.”

The three slid on to the bench seat of Randall’s old pickup truck, with Maria in the middle.

“Let’s switch,” David said. “You’re stoned.”

“Like you’ve never driven stoned.”

“And why are we taking the truck? I’d like to get there and back in one piece.”

Randal started the old pickup on the third try. “This way, you won’t get that fancy new ride of yours all dirty.”

They left the warehouse district, and drove up the main artery that bisected the city, past the loop highway and into the vast arc of suburbs that lay to the north. As they approached the town of Barnwell, traffic thinned and the road narrowed. David fiddled with his camera and looked though the lens. In the distance, he could see the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

“I guess it was culture shock for you guys—moving from New York to Barnwell,” Maria said. “Why did you come back?”

“Mom didn’t see any reason to stay in New York without Dad,” Randall said. “And down here, she had Grandma to help out. And Mom says David was starting to fuck up.”

“You mean Mom could dump us on Grandma, David said. “And Mom did figure out if you’re going to let your teenagers run amok, better here in the boondocks then on the streets of New York. She gets points for that.”

Maria put her hands to her ears and then elbowed the brothers.

“Sorry I asked,” she said. “If y'all are going to pick at each other, just turn the truck around. I’ve had quite enough of your family dysfunction for one day.”

“You’d better get used to it,” David said.

“I don’t have to get used to a damned thing, David.” She looked at him and squinted.

“Is your film in here, Randall?” he said, as he pointed at the camera bag on the floorboard. Randall nodded. David opened the bag and froze.

“Fuck Randall—what are doing with Dad’s Leica? Does Mom know you have it?”

“What’s a Leica?” Maria asked.

“That’s my Dad’s camera.” David said.

“What the fuck? Randall asked. “Do think it’s yours?”

“I don’t want it, believe me.”

“I don’t get your lack of respect.”

“I respect Dad’s work.” He took a deep breath and looked at Maria. “See, Dad was in the habit of fucking his models. That, and of course, he fucked us all by offing himself.”

“Can you really blame him?” Randall said. "Mom was bat-shit crazy—and his art was passé.”

“You’re all about making excuses, Randall. “He did nothing to help Mom. And every artist has his day. You live with it.”

“Stop the damned truck. And I mean it,” Maria said.

Randall pulled the truck on to the shoulder, just at the exit to Barnwell.

“Now look,” she continued. “This is your last chance. It’s a beautiful spring day. Let’s enjoy it and stop all this nonsense. I don’t want to hear another word about your mother or father—unless it’s something nice—you hear?”

“Sorry, baby.” David said. “Sometime when we’re together—we just regress.”

Randall nodded in agreement. The brothers shook hands over Maria’s lap, and they drove up the exit ramp and turned toward Barnwell. David put film in his camera, and as they approached the street of Victorian houses where his mother lived, he pointed the lens into the dark tunnel made by the massive, gnarled oaks that lined the street like tired sentries. His fingered hovered over the shutter release before he lowered the camera. He stared out the window and Maria moved up against him and put her head on his shoulder.

“It’s pretty,” Maria whispered.

“Yeah, pretty." David said. “Especially this time of year—with the dogwoods in bloom.”

“When will I meet your Mom?” We’ve been together nearly a year.”

“Soon. If she stays sober.”

They drove in silence around the center of the town square, past the courthouse and First Baptist church and by a street of antebellum houses spared when Sherman circumvented the town. Once through the town proper and over the mill spur tracks, they entered the old mill town; an enclave of dilapidated clapboard homes. Randal smiled and waved at two boys carrying fishing poles and a string of trout. “That brings back memories,” he said. Finally, they turned onto a rutted dirt road and drove through the remnants of an iron gate before parking next to a crumbling stone guardhouse.

“We’ve got company,” David said, pointing at the SUV next to them.

“Chicks, I hope,” Randal said.

“Good for you. You can use your, 'I’m a photographer, let me take your picture' shtick.”

“It works. Because I am a photographer. Besides, you’ve used it plenty. Maria fell for it, I bet.”

“He didn’t use that on me,” Maria said, laughing. “And it wouldn’t have worked if he had.”

“Speaking of chicks—see that old shed down there, or what’s left of it? That’s were David lost it—to Angela Maples. Right David?”

David laughed. “Yeah, me and half the guys in Barnwell.”

They slid out of the truck. Randall threw his camera bag over his shoulder. Maria and David grabbed the picnic basket, a folded blanket and the cooler from the back of the truck.

“I can hear the falls!” Maria said.

“This way, folks,” Randall said. They walked up a kudzu covered embankment, through a stand of pine trees to the edge of a steep gorge. Through the overhanging pine boughs, they could see the wall of white water flowing over the old stone dam into the swirling dark pools at the foot of the falls.

“It’s beautiful,” said Maria.

“Look at that,” David said, pointing to the opposite side of the gorge. He could see heavy equipment through the trees, parked on a swath of bare red clay. “I guess there gonna fuck all this up. That's progress.”

Randall sidestepped down the trail that led to the base of the dam. Maria took David’s hand and they followed. Half-way down, he stopped and took a picture of the falls.

“Stay here,” he said, as he walked backwards up the trail.

“Be careful!” Maria warned.

David held the camera to his eye and composed a picture of Maria with the falls as her backdrop. She turned half-way from him, looking back over a bare, winter-white shoulder.

“Do you want me to smile?” she said.

“No.”

She parted her lips and looked into the lens. Just before David pushed the shutter release, a breeze lifted the hem of her sun-dress, and blew her hair across one eye like a mysterious mask.

“Beautiful,” David mouthed, as he took the picture. She brushed the hair from her face and smiled. He held his hand out to her, and they made their way down the trail to the foot of the falls. They could see Randall across the creek, talking with two women who were sun bathing on the rocks.


“He didn’t waste any time,” David said.

“They’re a little old for him, aren’t they?”

“That wouldn’t stop Randall.”

Maria walked out on to a flat rock that cut into the creek and preformed a slow pirouette while taking in her surroundings. She spread out the blanket and sat down, leaning back on one hand. David took her picture.

“Are you going to do that all day?” she asked.

“I might.”

“He has his charms,” she said, as she looked at Randall.

“We’ll see how charming you think he is after a week or two.”

“I was thinking—how are we going to—you know.”

Now you think of it. Quietly, I suppose. If you can manage that.”

“Maybe later, we can sneak up to that shed and reenact your deflowering.”

“I’d have to get sloppy drunk, and you’d have to gain fifty pounds. A lot of effort for a five minute scene.” He sat next to her and opened a beer.

“Seeing your father’s camera really upset you,” she said.

“When I was in art school, I came to class late one day. When I opened the door, I was confronted by a life-size projection of one of Dad’s prints; a nude of my mother, which was unsettling enough. But then the professor lectured on that one image for almost the whole class. It really wasn’t until then that realized how important Dad was. My father used that camera to take the picture. If anything, it should be in a fucking museum.”

“Is it so bad he wants something that was his father’s? Is there more to it?”

“Maybe it’s because he doesn’t really know what kind of man my father was.”

“Is it your place to tell him? Can’t he have his own picture?”

David saw a shadow fall over Maria. He turned to see his brother.

“Hand me a cold one, man,” Randall said, as he patted David's shoulder.

He drank most of the beer at once, and waved at the women across the creek. He walked on the rocks across the water, and began climbing the gorge wall.

“What are doing, man?” David shouted.

“Getting the shot!”

“Jesus. You’ll break your fucking neck!”

The two women across the creek looked at David, and then up at Randall. Randall shrugged and aimed his camera at the falls. He took several pictures before climbing to a rock ledge half-way up the gorge wall. He aimed the camera at David and Maria and called out to them.

“Smile guys!” he said.

Maria waved, and David forced smile.

“Get the fuck down, Randall!”

“Stop screaming, David. He’s not listening.”

“Of course not,” he mumbled.

“Randall—please!” Maria yelled.

David watched the camera fall first. The sun sparked off the lens as it skipped down the gorge wall. Randal swung his arms in wide circles and then grasped an over-hanging branch. David heard the branch snap and watched his brother tumble head-first after the camera and on to the flat moss covered rock at the base of the wall.

David stood and ran into the creek, splashing and floundering through the water. Maria followed. By the time he reached his brother, one of the women was kneeling beside him. David tried to push the woman aside, but the other woman grabbed his arm.

“Let her work,” the woman said. “She’s a nurse.”

David squatted next to the woman. Maria knelt beside him. She tented her hands and whispered, “Please, God—please, God.”

The other woman took out her phone. He could hear her describing what had happened and providing directions to the falls from the main road. The nurse put her ear against Randall’s face. Then she put her mouth on his. She blew twice, then crossed her hands over his chest and pressed numerous times. She repeated the process. David could see blood pooling beneath his brother’s head. The woman looked up at David briefly, and the expression on her face told him she knew her efforts were futile. Yet she continued.

“Goddamn it—is he alive? Please tell me he’s alive!”

“Let her work,” the woman repeated.

But David knew his brother was dead. He took Randall’s hand and pressed it to his face.

“How am I going to tell Mom?” he said over and over, until Maria put her hand over his mouth. She sat on the rocks next to him and drew her knees up to her chest. David pulled her in and wrapped his arms around her. He sobbed, and Maria gasped and moaned. The woman put a blanket around them. David closed his eyes. They waited; shivering in the cool mist, and he listened to the sirens come to a shrill crescendo over the rush of the falling water.

...

David cracked open the lid on a pint of Seagram’s 7 and took a long drink. When he opened his car door, he could smell the creek and hear the falls. He shook his head as he surveyed the changes that had taken place in only two years. New homes jutted from the ridge above the gorge, all positioned to provide a picture window view of the creek and the falls. Across a newly paved parking lot, mothers sat on park benches and watched their children play on brightly colored playground equipment. A woman in overalls and a wide-brimmed hat planted begonias on the freshly terraced embankment below the stand of pine trees at the edge of the gorge. She looked up and smiled as he walked past her and up stairs made from railroad ties.

Crossing the stand of pines on a flagstone path, he squatted where Maria had stopped to first take in the falls. He wondered where she was, what she could be doing at that moment and if she might be with someone new.

He’d sought solace in his art. But his images had grown dark, in the manner of his father. And like his father, he’d been seduced by the dangerous sensuality of his vision and had slept with the model he’d hired when Maria had refused to pose for the increasingly brutal images. He had burned the film and prints in a conflagration of remorse and loathing, but it was too late. Maria had fallen out of love with him.

David wiped his eyes on the sleeve of his jacket, then made his way down the new, gently slopping trail that zigzagged down the gorge wall. When he reached the foot of the trail, he stopped and looked up at the falls before walking out on to the rocks and across the creek. He looked up at the outcrop of granite where he had last seen his brother alive.

“Why didn’t you listen?” he whispered. “Just one time, Randall—just one goddamn time.”

When he looked down, something shiny in the underbrush caught his eye. He knelt and thrust his hand into the thick tangle of vines and withdrew a camera.

“It can't fucking be.”

He held it in one palm, and ran his fingers over the leather covering and around the lens. He pushed the shutter button and was surprised when the shutter slowly opened like a time-lapse film of a budding flower. He shook the camera and it snapped shut. Then he pressed the film release and wound the film into the canister. As he opened the back of the camera, a stiff wind blew down the gorge. He flipped his jacket collar up and turned toward the falls.

David imagined his father aiming and focusing the camera while issuing the only advice he’d ever offered his sons: “You don’t take pictures of things or people, boys. You take pictures of light and shadow.”

And as he removed the film canister, he could imagine the last frame—the final image as seen through his brother’s eyes, through the lens of his father’s camera—a picture of himself and Maria on the rocks across the rushing creek, in the diffused white sunlight that shines through the mist on the Mill Falls.


Last edited by Binx B; 04-02-2016 at 11:50 AM..
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:12 AM
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It's fairly well structured it passes my test of "Can I read it in one pass"

Some minor SPAG issues (A there instead of a they're) and at least on instance of spelling Randall with one l. With a little clean up it's one of the better shorts I've seen in a while.
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Old 04-01-2016, 01:46 PM
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After finally reading one of your stories Binx-- I feel pretty stupid for assuming the other piece was your real work. I should have known, I should have known a lot Binx...

Very nice structure, and the dialogue and human sentiment is flawless as always.

I would suggest, when you go through line-editing, that you look into adjectivial and adverbial phrasing. Outside of the dialogue the prose is in discord in a few places. You could make it mesh very well, and use discord instead of just having it; if that makes any sense.

Anyway, nice piece and glad I could read. Hope something I said helps.
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Old 04-01-2016, 02:38 PM
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Mohican, thanks for reading. Went back through and made some edits. I think I might have caught a few things. Glad it worked for you otherwise.

daes13, no way you could have known that piece was a lark. I think it says a lot about you that you tried to say something nice about it, and it kind of makes me feel bad for posting it. Like I said, kind of a silly performance piece gone awry.

Glad this one mostly worked for you. To me it's kind of loaded with things that feel like independent film cliches—the overbearing, artistic father who casts the big shadow, the good son and the fuck up son struggling with his legacy and each other, the alcoholic mother, and finally the level-headed outsider. Can't think of any one film or story just like it, but I know I've seen those elements before, presented in one way or the other.

I could see it as I was writing it, but couldn't stop myself. I was hoping that maybe the storytelling would transcend the expected. Not sure it does, but I guess that's up to readers to decide.

I would suggest, when you go through line-editing, that you look into adjectivial and adverbial phrasing. Outside of the dialogue the prose is in discord in a few places. You could make it mesh very well, and use discord instead of just having it; if that makes any sense.
I'd love clarification on this. It smacks of something useful. From what I've seen of your critiques, you are an astute reader, so any example you could give would be appreciated.

Cheers, guys and thanks again for reading and commenting.
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Old 04-01-2016, 03:37 PM
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Deleuze said "There is no such thing as a blank canvas; it is riddled with every cliché of your generation and the previous. You can only destroy every cliché until one remains." Clichés are there for a reason, I mean shit people love watching a series where the same damn thing happens in every episode. It's all about how it's told...

Alright, I cannot do poetry, but it fascinates me. Keats wrote perfectly measured lines and rhymes that read like prose. I have studied it for one reason, and I reason that I try to access in a marring way.

Trochaic, iambic, anapestic, spondee yadda yadda ya... It's not just for poetry guys! Read Poe's short stories for a superb example of trochaic prose.

It's more than just tempo, but meter all together. Take for example a nice flowing prose, let's say iambic, and then when the crisis arises one line switches to trochaic. Subconsciously the reader notes the discord, but cannot really discern anything consciously. This is a superb example of efficient discord.

Sounds complicated, but it has a really simple aspect that can just be used normally:

"She said, as she blinked"

The tempo goes off a bit, but if you use an adverbial phrase (or adjectivial depending on your stance of form vs function)

"She said, blinking"

It keeps the tempo.

Another aspect is the fact that English is not a monosyllabic language, even though we assume we can clap syllables. Some "syllables" we count are really .7-1.6 as opposed to only 1.

Three believe
Then you will see.

Say it smoothly together, if you clap its 3 and four, but if you just let it flow its 4x4ish. You can implement pace of the reader with these excess and recess syllables. It works better than a comma or period for pacing.

Ok, I'm drunk. The point is... I don't know, somewhere up there. I'll let you read my thesis when I'm finished. This is what I'm trying to get to with editing and then, hopefully, perform it subconsciously.

Did one drop make sense? Or would you like more examples from your story?

Oh yeah, read "Don Ju-an"...
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Old 04-01-2016, 10:00 PM
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You wrote: clapboards houses... Don't really know what that is, but isn't it clapboard houses? And you missed a 'we' in there somewhere in the first third.

This is very good writing. It felt to me as though you could have built more tension in the scene leading up to his brother's death.
Felt like it happened too quick.
No specific advice there; you probably don't need it.
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Old 04-02-2016, 08:17 AM
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It's well-written, flows smoothly, but is somewhat lacking in emotional intensity, perhaps. But maybe you were going for a more muted feel overall?

Enjoyed the read, thanks for sharing.

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Old 04-02-2016, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by leila View Post
It's well-written, flows smoothly, but is somewhat lacking in emotional intensity, perhaps. But maybe you were going for a more muted feel overall?

Enjoyed the read, thanks for sharing.
If I read this right, the MC is a bit emotionally stunted.
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Old 04-03-2016, 07:39 AM
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Originally Posted by daes13 View Post
Clichés are there for a reason.
It's fine line between what could be considered acceptable, natural cliche and the hackneyed and obvious. The thing is, I try to be aware of cliche or what could be, and that's half the battle. Much better than thinking that you're writing something stunningly original.

Originally Posted by daes13 View Post
Did one drop make sense?
Sure. I always read my work aloud for flow, rhythm, variation, etc.

I try to mix up the sentence length and structure. To keep things varied you sometimes have to make little sacrifices. Because it's like— "She said, blinking" — oh, I just did that and now I need to do something else. Combinations and ways you can vary things can seem endless, but they really aren't.

Thanks for the double dose!

Originally Posted by brianpatrick View Post
Felt like it happened too quick.
No specific advice there; you probably don't need it.
That is specific advice. And it's good advice too. Something about the pacing has been nagging at me and I think that's it. So that's quite helpful.

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Originally Posted by leila View Post
It's well-written, flows smoothly, but is somewhat lacking in emotional intensity, perhaps. But maybe you were going for a more muted feel overall?
Hi Leila.

Hmm. I think there's enough emotional intensity. In fact, I was thinking it might be too melodramatic.

It feels to me that the character's reactions and emotions are appropriate considering what's going in the story and what's happened in the backstory. I think anything more might be gratuitous or come across as a more blatant attempt to elicit emotion from readers, and I try to be cautious about that. I'm still thinking I may have done it anyway, regardless.

So it doesn't feel muted to me. But then again, I like Raymond Carver, Cheever, Amy Hempel—authors who mostly keep the emotions bubbling under the surface. So to a degree, it's probably a matter of taste.

Thanks for reading and commenting. Glad you enjoyed it.

Originally Posted by Mohican View Post
If I read this right, the MC is a bit emotionally stunted.
That's true. But I didn't try to reflect that in the story with any intentional lack of emotional intensity.

Cheers, all!

Last edited by Binx B; 04-03-2016 at 07:45 AM..
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Old 04-03-2016, 08:40 AM
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The Fall was kind of rushed and you've got a few typos but your character development and dialogue are spot-on.

And yes, it is a long series of cliches, but isn't that what writing's all about? Presenting the same story in a different way? Nothing's original, and I think you did a good job on this, Binx.
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Old 04-05-2016, 04:16 AM
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I like your descriptive style, I could imagine myself in the setting. Pogniant evocation of the despoiling of special places too.
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Old 04-05-2016, 07:41 PM
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Hi Binx.

It was great to read your work again. I still remember your story about the people in the hospital.

I wish I had your talent for disciption and narrative. I felt like I was there.

This story was good but I think a problem in dramatic tension held me off. Until the fall and death, the thrust of the story was two men in a contest of bickering. And it didn't matter to me who won so here was no tension to keep me reading to discover the outcome. (There was no question to be answered. No conflict to resolve. No fear to be dwelt with. Just a couple of guys not getting along.) Early, a small reference was made by David that maybe this affair would end as the others. But the reference was so small I didn't read to onward to find the answer.

Because I had learned the BG of the characters, following the fall 2 years later I was glued to the words.

I did enjoy the 'mindset' of professional photographers because of my BG. But it didn't compel me to turn pages.

I noticed a few nit pickers. The only one I recall now was choice for choices.

This feels like a 2nd or 3rd rewrite. Not a polish.

Beyond all that, it was great you to read your work again. Please keep writing and sharing.

Have a nice writing day.

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Old 04-07-2016, 09:01 AM
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Prodigalson, thanks for reading. I agree the fall seem rushed. Probably needs a longer scene at the falls building up to it, just not sure what to do with it yet.

Glad it worked for you otherwise.

IanG, thanks for the read. It's based on all real locations. That makes things a lot easier to describe.

wrc, Thanks. The brothers are bickering, but I think the conversation is pretty loaded. A lot of the story is about how people can grow up in a dysfunctional family and be affected in totally different ways, based on combinations of denial and exaggeration etc. That's the source of the conflict and tension. I think the suggested fear is that this new curve in David's life is going to screw up his relationship. Then I think the point is that it can never be resolved.

Always a fine line between what's below the surface and what you make more obvious, so all that may need additional work.

Anyway, I appreciate the read and comments.

Cheers, all.
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Old 05-19-2016, 10:21 AM
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It's been a while since I've logged in at WB.

I spent a lot of time going through the posted stories, looking for something with a solid intro that would draw me in.

I suppose I was looking for something I would expect to see in a literary magazine or published collection of short stories. This did the trick.

I have to agree with the author that a story centered around this kind of family dysfunction feels a little cliche. But not in a bad way. I think it comes off as relatable more than anything else.

It is also predictable to some extent, knowing how we're sometimes destined to play out our lives based on how we are raised no matter how we might try to resist it. That's not a bad thing either.

I also agree that the fall seems rushed. I would recommend establishing the nurse and her friend as minor characters. I think that would allow for a longer build up and a level of emotion to the scene after the fall that would give it far more depth.

The story would be a lot longer, but I'd challenge you to write the flash forward in more detail, as a more complete part of the story with dialog etc. rather than a kind of cursory block of narrative. Despite the really nice poetic writing, it feels tacked on. Or maybe even lead with that part and then flash back?

But everything else is here. Fully drawn characters, a real sense of place and an actual story that feels like it could be a nice little indie movie. The writing itself is clean and professional. In that respect alone, it was a pleasure to read.

I think a lot of people here could learn something from this. Despite any flaws, this is real storytelling.

Last edited by Myers; 05-19-2016 at 02:59 PM..
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Old 06-05-2016, 06:54 AM
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Myers, thanks for reading and thanks for the encouraging comments. I completely missed this. And it looks like you're not around any more, but I'm replying in case you drop back by.

Good suggestions. The last part is kind of cursory and too telling. I admit that it even felt a little lazy as I was writing it. I read your comments a few days ago and based on your suggestion, I'm writing a scene with David and Maria that happens right before David drives up to the falls for the final scene. I cover most of that backstory with dialog and I think it works a lot better. And the story isn't really that much longer. I'm going to take a stab at including a little interaction between Randal and the nurse and her friend prior to the accident. I do think that will help with the pacing.

I really appreciate the input. Cheers!
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