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The Ombudsman

Nana's hand shakes in slow motion as she reaches for her tea. I try not to stare but it always makes me nervous when I watch her reach for her tea. And she drinks it so hot. My tea still sits untouched in front of me; the curls of steam dance in the sun streaming through the window by her tiny kitchen table. I watch their shadowy ghosts writhe on the floor near the stove.

This is how I watch her shaking hand without staring. I sometimes feel silly watching the shape of her finely boned hand, floating across her kitchen floor. I know the wobbling will stop as soon as she touches the cup's handle; anchoring herself.

It's become our ritual: third Thursday at ten AM (give or take) the ombudsman from the Department of Health and Human Services comes to visit, to see how she's doing. Make sure she's not using her assistance money to buy cigarettes. Or crack. Who knows?

Nana's nervous when the ombudsman comes. She doesn't like to be alone with him, though he's always polite. She doesn't say it, but I know she feels like her privacy is being violated. I've tried to explain that Mr. Feltzing is very nice, and that there weren't very many that would drive out to see her.

She will wave her hand at me when I ramble on, screwing up her face. She knows. Her hand will flutter around like a baby bird coming in for an unsteady landing on my arm, as she turns from the cabinet with the sugar, or stands after taking cookies out of her fifty-year-old oven. Then she'll squeeze and give a short pat. It's octogenarian for 'shut up.'

The doorbell rings and Nana's eyes slide up from her tea. The ombudsman is here. I heard him coming up the walk. His shadow momentarily interrupted Nana's shadow-puppet show, but Nana missed those clues. I stand to get the door, touching her shoulder as I pass. I can hear her pushing the cookie plate a little closer to the third place she's set, as I step to the door.

"Nana," I say to Mr. Feltzing's smiling face through the door, "the ombudsman's here."




Comments

The following comments are for "The Ombudsman"
by Philo

Philo
The writing is good, as is the build-up, but then it just...end. I know that I'm supposed to sympathize with Gammy, but I just didn't get sucked in enough. You tell me things, like that the feels her privacy is being invaded, which I assume is the gist of this, or you announce the umbudsman then do it once more in your final line, negating any sort of wham! that it could have. I know wham! isn't necessarily what you were going for, but I think all flash, by nature of its length, should resonate a bit. You had something here, but it lacked subtlety, I think. You develop Nana's character really well, it just seems like there should be...more, or maybe something more subtle.

As I said, I think the writing is on the ball. Some brilliant, brilliant snippets like "I know the wobbling will stop as soon as she touches the cup's handle; anchoring herself." made this worth reading for in despite my aforementioned nitpicking qualms. I love good writing from some of lit's best.

Regards,

SD

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: September 15, 2005 )

Flashy Flash
SD, I was hoping to get a crit from a flash pro and if I had to pick anyone, you're it, so I'm delighted. (Just don't get too excited, I'm not proposing or anything.)

I'm new to flash (which I think describes this best) and I've heard that rather than just a conclusion, I should strive for more of a 'surprise' ending, for lack of a better word. Is this what you mean when you say it just kind of ends? Should the ombudsman's face recoil in horror as Nonni's gun shot hits him in the guts through the door?

I'm exagerating of course (or maybe I'm not, I've read your stuff afterall) but is an ending more like this what flash readers are looking for or does this piece just not have enough for the reader to chew on afterwards?

Any advice would be appreciated, from you or anyone else, and again I appreciate your thoughts on this. -Philo

( Posted by: Philo [Member] On: September 15, 2005 )

Philo
You got it, champ. The gunshot wound *might* be a bit much (and here I wink), but you're going to need something to send it home. If you want an example of such a thing, check out McLaren's piece, the Adventures of something something, Linus Rhames. I *try* to do the same thing in Parvati's Baby and The Second Coming, the latter being a reeeeally short piece, so I tried to make the punch more of a, well, punch...? You could also check out some flash at www.heavyglow.net, or www.flashquake.com. Both have nice things going on.

SD

PS I'm flattered, but also sad. Nobody ever proposes to me online. *tear*

( Posted by: strangedaze [Member] On: September 15, 2005 )

Philo's Nana

Philo,

This piece brings to me many times I have spent with elderly people. Not just relatives, either.

I had a paper route in a small town when I was a kid. This required that I go out on Saturdays to collect the money. There was a Mrs. Johnson, long widowed, who could keep me at her house for over an hour. She told me stories of the days before cars were common, just as if it were still so; just as if I could look out the window and catch Mr. So-and-So going by in his buggy. (Actually, having some Amish around in my youth, this wasn't too unusual.)

She showed me how to make soap in the bathtub. (How's that for an indeterminate sentence?)

I think your story is good; well-written. A bang at the end might frighten poor Nana.

~ John

( Posted by: Flonigus [Member] On: September 16, 2005 )

Nana
Thanks for stopping in John, I'm sorry for not writing sooner but I haven't been on line very much in the past weeks (vacation, back-to-school, other projects)

I'm delighted to have brought back some memories for you and I'm glad you included them. I think you're right about Nana being scared if the ending is more dramatic.

SD, I already undertaken your assignment and its been fun thusfar. -Philo

( Posted by: Philo [Member] On: September 18, 2005 )

The bang
What if the bang (a small one of course) came FROM Nana instead of at her... like the part where she squeezes with a pat to say "shut up"... thats a bit of a bang from nana... maybe a slit rearrangement can reveal that nanas nervous but still knows when to show shes the elder at the end....like I said said, a small change or bang from nana as the ending note.

Just a random brainstorm.

( Posted by: yadig [Member] On: October 12, 2005 )

Bang
Thanks yadig, thats an interesting take: a granma sized bang. Nothing too scary for the old woman to handle. Thanks for reading and commenting. -Philo

( Posted by: Philo [Member] On: October 13, 2005 )





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