Saturday, 1 December 2018

Write...Edit...Publish...December 2018: Ribbons & Candles





It is time for the last post at Write...Edit...Publish... and to wrap up the year I have another part of the same story I posted for the last two challenges. You’ll find the previous posts here (Change of Heart) and here (Déjà vu or Voodoo) in case you wish to reread. Now, for the whole backstory of the bloodstained rug...here’s my entry for Ribbons and Candles :

Small windows 

It takes only a few years. For worlds to fall apart. For rooms to stop breathing. For windows to go blind. The climate is unforgiving. The land is too fertile for its own good. A banyan can take root anywhere. In the cracks. Beside the exposed pipes. Wherever there is a toehold.

The garden used to be fragrant with jasmine. Not any more. The squatters were here till last Monday. It took endless visits to the thana. Under the table, over the table, sunlit, bulblit negotiations.  The local AdSP finally had a word with the goons. The squatters magically left the next day. But traces remain. Ugly blue plastic awnings. The smell of stale urine and unwashed bodies. Stink pressed hard into the cracks. Bald patches on the ground. Where the lawns once were. Deep holes in the earth for bamboo. The marks of tent pegs and scaffolding. Holding together canopies of borrowed space and time.

The front door has still not been breached. It is teak gone black with age. The shutters are nearly three inches thick. The wood logged out of the forests of Burma. In some dim past when trees had solidity and girth.  And a lifespan greater than men.

But one cannot be too cautious. The sisters have got those ugly collapsible gates installed. Two heavy locks. Chains with fat links on the backdoor as well. The interiors remain secure. For now.

It used to be a happy house. Oil lamps around the porch at Diwali. Ribbons of smoke from the sugar snakes, ribbons of sparks from the Roman candles. Children in the garden messing up the beds. Paper lanterns and streamers at birthday parties. A pair of hilsa fish brought in. On the day for the worship of goddess Saraswati. The faded marks of vermilion on the walls. From the offerings to the deities. They always showed faintly through. Even after the painter's quick job of cover up. No amount of repainting seemed to help.


No-one passing by would guess. An ordinary house. Washing strung out on wire clothes lines. Pegged with wooden pegs. Little frocks and shorts gradually giving way to bigger and bigger sizes. Frocks replaced by saris.  Shorts replaced by trousers. Then a sudden fall in the feminine items. Two daughters married and moved away. No daughter-in-law to replace their presence. Only the mother’s sari flapping lonely in the wind. First in multicolour. Shading to pale pastels shading to white. A new one joined it. Both like the start of an oversized prayer bunting. All traces of red on the white ones’ borders vanished.  Then the white one vanished altogether. The coloured one billowed lonely again. But there is more heartbreak and loneliness layered into the rooms inside. The clothesline can only tell a partial tale.

The rooms are closed now. But the air stirs an uneasy dust inside.  The dining room rug has a patch of discolouration. It is an old Turkish kilim. The cleaners tried the strongest agents they dared. But they could not get the bloodstain off. The patch is quite prominent.  The sisters cannot bring themselves to throw it away. A valuable rug.  Sentimental. Brought back from Istanbul by the grandfather. They cannot agree on its disposal. But it needs to go. If they are ever to find a tenant. Or a buyer. They are not agreed on that either. One of them favours selling. The other is reluctant. 

The stories hang like the cobwebs. They are like the bloodstain. Faded but still distinct. Recognisable for what they are. No polite pretence is possible. The mésalliance. The resentment. The brother’s stubbornness. The long illness through which his wife nursed him. Losing her own balance a few times. Then the sudden heart transplant and heady hopes. Which came crashing down with the death. The killing. It was not deemed murder. She was judged ‘not criminally responsible.’ The trial was endless. So was the gossip. The family name in tatters. Splashed luridly across the tabloids.

She died later in the institution. No one claimed her body. No one performed the last rites. Given a shoddy send off by the penny-pinching government. Not exactly a tragic heroine.

The unsavoury stories still keep tenants away. Not much talked about these days. But enough to cast a shadow. It must be handled delicately. Easy to scare off prospects. Only the squatters do not scare easy.  They will probably be back in a month. There is only a small window. Always too small a window. And such a lot to address.

~~~

WC- 757
FCA

This is part of the same story I developed for Moving the Margins, a MOOC from the International Writing Program at Uni Iowa. Totally a fan. 

In this exercise I tried 'moving the margins' of my language by using parataxis. The idea was to keep it a little stark, spare. Thank you, as always for reading. 

A very happy Christmas to you who are celebrating and happy holidays/December to you if you are not. Wishing you peace, joy and love this festive season and all through 2019.

Read the other entries here and join in with your own. 






55 comments:

  1. Human hearts seem to breathe anguish in the aftermath of tragedy. Great entry. :-)

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    1. They're okay so long as they're breathing...something :-)
      Thanks for being here. It's lovely to have your feedback.

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  2. stark and spare and yet, strong. Good writing and tight descriptions of despair, insanity, death - physical and mental.

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    1. Thank you, Joanne. The mental deaths cause more despair I think than just the physical.

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  3. I can totally see this due to your stark, spare yet emotive descriptive language. Do we have a book when you join all these storeis together. Checked out your youtube videos too. Beautiful poetry. :-)

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    1. The several parts of this story are written in such different styles that I don't know if they can make a unified piece without radical revisions...hmmm, food for thought there. Thanks for watching the videos! :-)

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  4. Oh.
    And oh again.
    This story continues to pluck at my heart strings.

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    1. Ooh pleased it did, EC. Thanks for being here and your support of the WEP. Much appreciated.

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  5. Your experiment with short stark sentences is very effective, and your writing evokes emotions beautifully. Great job!

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  6. I went back and read the other two installments. Yes, it all fit together quite smoothly. Great job!

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    1. Thanks for doing that! The fitting together issue has been bothering me..

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  7. As always, your descriptions are vivid and breathtaking. This is such a haunting tale, and it's amazing how much is contained within such a short piece. Marvelous work!

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    1. I found the constraint of extreme shortness of sentences liberating, I know it sounds contradictory, but that's the way it felt. Thanks, LG.

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  8. Love the tight imagery. What genre will it be when done?

    Dixie Jarchow

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    1. Thanks Dixie. Not sure what genre really...speculative fiction?

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  9. I love the different writing techniques, you are always a teacher. Such atmosphere. The use of short sentences is difficult to get right, but you did it perfectly. Using the same story for all, simply ingenious. Wish I had the patience for such lessons. There is an art to perfection, but I'm too impatient. I muddle through and get close though! :)
    Wishing you a lovely Holiday Season and the brightest of New Year's!

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    1. You get more than close! No-one does horror quite like that.

      This too is something I love about the WEP, that I can learn simply by watching and reading and quietly absorbing stuff.

      Happy Holidays to you too and a brilliant New Year 2019 - hope it brings lots of good things to you and yours!

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  10. Very effective. Especially love the line ... the stories hung like cobwebs. Nicely done!

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  11. So well done. Ribbons of of smoke from the sugar snakes. I have never seen a lot of what you wrote, but I could imagine it all the same just from your descriptions. Beautifully done. Using only periods took a bit to get used to but it added a depressing quality that is necessary for the feeling of the story. Well done.

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    1. Ya, it too some effort to write that way too. Thank you for reading and the feedback.

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  12. Very evocative! I went back and read the other two stories, as well, and love the way this ties them together with that distressing back-story.

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    1. Thank you for reading. Value that perspective!

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  13. I love your metaphor: stories are like bloodstains, faded but distinct. I guess, when a family lives in the same house for generations, those stories accumulate. Unfortunately, my family moved so much in all the upheavals of the 20th century in Russia, I never had such an experience. I value it greatly when I can read about it. Your story reflects the way of life that's gradually disappearing, not only in North America but everywhere. Everybody moves multiple times, and an old family house with the attic full of history becomes almost a myth. The young don't want that history, they look forward to their new life, and the elders who still remember die out. Sad, really.

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    1. My family too moved all over the place, some because of political reasons and others voluntarily, for jobs or livelihoods. Perhaps this is why we both have learnt to value the houses with 'an attic full of history.'

      The sad thing is in my hometown all the old single family residences are being demolished because of population pressure/urbanisation and are being rebuilt into blocks of flats. I guess this is happening everywhere as you say, and it is very disheartening.

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  14. Wonderful descriptions. Your words are so concise yet full of emotions. A perfect continuation to your story. Thanks for sharing it.

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  15. I love the way you've shown how this house has sad stories clinging to its foundations. Beautifully written!

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  16. It was certainly stark. I found it difficult to concentrate on until the story developed more. But I've had a busy day and it probably deserved better concentration than I had left :)

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    1. Stark is exactly the desired outcome. Thank you for reading.

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  17. As I began to read, I remembered the other segments. Stark, spare, yes it is and says so much.

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    1. Much appreciate the feedback Kristin, thank you.

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  18. Well, you blew me away with this. My heart ached reading, "Only the mother’s sari flapping lonely in the wind." And later, "The stories hang like the cobwebs." Poignant images, both. The concept of the small window...time, life itself caught me up and held my attention.

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    1. Thank you very much for that specific feedback. It always helps to know exactly what worked for the reader and what didn't.

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  19. A touching story about the changes that occur in life suddenly when some sudden illness happen or a tragedy takes place. We go from one end of the spectrum to the other. Happiness soon becomes sorrow.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. Life is precarious and fragile. We forget that most times. Glad you liked the flash, thanks.

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  20. You had my attention from beginning to end! Loved it!
    The parataxis concept really appeals to the flash fiction junkie in me. I love the stark and tight writing style.

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    1. Glad you liked it, Michelle. My reason for trying it was exactly that - suited flash fiction really well.

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    2. I really like it, Nila.
      I popped over to the MOOC from the International Writing Program at Uni Iowa and discovered that they do allow access to the courses that have been completed.

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    3. Oh that is so lucky! I find I can't really access any of the assignments I submitted for the old courses...though the discussions etc are still open..

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  21. The different take with the descriptions really sucked me in indeed. Can't blame any tenants for not wanting to live there.

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    1. Ya, I would think twice about renting a property where horrendous things had happened, and I'm not overly superstitious even. Thanks.

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  22. I guess with such stories tenants will surely be afraid of living there.

    Loved the way you told the story so simply & effectively, I especially loved the clothesline bit. (Though personally I prefer longer sentences).

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    1. Negative stories about houses can keep away the most courageous of tenants, everyone wants a 'happy house' though all old houses would naturally have a mixed history. Thanks much for your feedback.

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  23. This is a fabulous piece of writing. The short sentences of course, evoking emotions. The entire story of the clotheslines. The rug. Thoroughly enjoyable. You must have had fun writing this.

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  24. Great imagery and use of language. Using parataxis is difficult to get right and you soared with it. [I try using it, especially when I'm writing deep POV.) I've lived in houses with memories - and ghosts. You brought this one alive - and "Ribbons of smoke from the sugar snakes, ribbons of sparks from the Roman candles" is the cream/icing/bow on the top.

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    1. Parataxis is really great for deep POV. Thank you for the detailed feedback.

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  25. A impressive use of imagery with simple flowing metaphors. Well done.

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  26. You've created tension by using short choppy sentences, so I felt on edge while reading. Like waiting for the guillotine to drop. . .you've created an aura of uneasiness. Enjoyed reading this, Nila. So you extended your story over a few prompts too, Well done!

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    1. That was a one off :) or maybe I should say a three-off. Thanks for the specific feedback, DG.

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