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Intro

Song and Dance
What would you do if, in the distance, you saw two passenger trains heading towards each other at a high speed on the same track? My first reaction, same as yours, would be to try to stop them. I could shout out a warning, but it wouldn’t do any good. Bad luck would at that moment be beyond my control. So what’s left is a choice—do I close my eyes and turn away? No. I’d watch. I would watch as fate did what it had to do. How often in the course of a life would I or any of us get to watch a train wreck? I’d bet you’d do the same. Most behavior I think of as my own, and you probably feel the same, but you’d be surprised how many people out there don’t. All of us—we’re not that different.

Most people also choose to stay put, and I think highly of them. Me? I’ve been coming and going from one place or another all of my life. That’s probably no way to live.

As many times as I’ve run to someone or someplace, or from people and places, I’ve tried to make decisions based on good judgment; other times, I’ve made some questionable choices. There have been plenty of times I’ve had no choice.

I share an office with five guys. We teach basic English language skills on an army base in the Kingdom—Saudi Arabia. From 8 till 9, three of the guys are in class. Bob and I start teaching at 9, so for the first hour of the day, we sit in desks opposite each other and prepare for our classes.

Bob is a good dancer. He gives free ballroom dance lessons in the compound gym every Wednesday night at 7. Nurses from the adjacent compound come by. It’s the highlight of my week.

This morning, Bob breaks the silence, takes his eyes off his computer screen, looks at me, takes a deep breath and blurts out, "Have you ever had a song suddenly come into your head that you just couldn't get off your mind?"

“All the time,” I tell him. I stop what I’m doing and I asked him which song.

He says, "The Laotian national anthem."

“Can't say that I know it,” I tell him.

He tells me a story about the time he was in Laos, in the 70s. He had lived very near the Laotian army barracks as the civil war was nearing its end. Every night as the flag came down, the national anthem played on loudspeakers, mortar rounds exploding just a few neighborhoods away. The Pathet Lao were about to take control of the government. Recalling the song, he begins to remember all of those Laotian ladies trying to get the hell out of Laos by any means possible before the Pathet Lao took over. Nobody knew if they were going to be bad boys, like the Khmer Rouge. Bob had had dozens of marriage proposals in those final weeks. I ask him if he'd considered taking any of them up on their offer. He shakes his head firmly and says, "No.”

I ask, "Why not?"

He says he wasn't interested in marrying at the time.

I ask him why he hadn't considered holding auditions.

Again, he shakes his head, "No. No."

I tell him, "You, sir, have ethics!"

I would have held auditions.




Comments

The following comments are for "Past Imperfect"
by zaytuni

@ zaytuni
Because my current work consists of a collection of short stories, I get very excited when a piece of fiction shows up on litdotorg's servers. Very excited!

This introduction is good as a first draft, and it has a lot of promise. The way it ended, however, left me hanging a bit. The section was hilarious as it stands:

-------------------------------

I ask, "Why not?"

He says he wasn't interested in marrying at the time.

I ask him why he hadn't considered holding auditions.

Again, he shakes his head, "No. No."

I tell him, "You, sir, have ethics!"

I would have held auditions.

-------------------------------

However, in my opinion this little scene needs more development. Instead of telling us about what was said, let us read the dialogue. Not only will it give the reader a deeper understanding of what traspired between the two characters, but also it will help you, as the writer, develop your characters more deeply from the beginning of your work.

I can't wait to see how this story unfolds. Please, keep writing!

Ochani

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: April 4, 2009 )

@ zaytuni again
My 7 rating is there because I feel this is a first draft. I would love to see a rewrite with my simple suggestions incorporated, if you have time! I really believe dialogue between the two characters at the end of the scene would enliven this brilliant piece.

Ochani

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: April 4, 2009 )

re: Zaytuni
While I agree with Ochani that this feels a bit like a fragment of something larger, I don't know that I agree entirely with his comments about the dialogue.

Your use of dialogue, and the way you introduce it, are very different from both the generally 'accepted' way of doing things, and from my own personal style- however, reading over this piece, I am struck by how simple, subtle, and quietly excellent the writing is. To me, this piece demonstrates an excellent grasp of both mechanics and voice. Your use of dialogue doesn't bother me at all, because the cadence of the writing fits the understated nature of the character.

If we all played by Queensbury rules when writing, we'd be nixing out quite a few brilliant authors (Chuck Palahniuk comes to mind), and my take is: If you know the rules, then you can bend and break them.

This is good stuff. I hope to see more of it.

( Posted by: Beckett Grey [Member] On: April 5, 2009 )

@ Beckett Grey
You're right: The writing is simple, subtle, and excellent.

Pay no attention to me -- I just like dialogue. It gives me great pleasure to feel that I am "eavesdropping" on something private between two characters.

Beckett: I look forward to your comments and suggestions of more of Zaytuni's work, and my own when I get around to posting some in the next couple of days.

Ochani

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: April 5, 2009 )

PS @ everyone!
Don't forget to use the rating system when commenting on a writer's work! As you all know, I'm highlighting various authors in each month's newsletter, and I'd like to highlight what the members feel is excellent, and not just what I feel is excellent. The ratings help me do that!

Ochani

( Posted by: OchaniLele [Member] On: April 5, 2009 )





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