Friday 22 November 2013

Write....Edit....Publish - Sharing this one for November

Great to be back at Write....Edit....Publish again, this time for the prompt “Sharing”.  I am here with a flash, a teeny bit over word count, but I can’t pare it down any further without going crazy.  (If you are pressed for time or patience, then you could just cut to the story from here by ignoring the next two paragraphs J thanks!)

Writing poetry in the first and second person pov is much easier for me than fiction/prose.   Most of my poetry is written in the first anyways, not because it is autobiographical or anything, but simply because I feel it has a greater immediacy and connects more deeply with the reader.  But I am not as free and easy with the first person in prose.  The whole thing becomes a pile of I, I, I and it is incredibly hard/tedious to wrestle the monotony out of it.  Writing second person is probably even more awful.

However, what RFW and now WEP has done for me (thank you!) is to encourage me to venture out of comfort zones.  So I have attempted a second person pov in this flash.  I would love to hear your views on using it, how do you make it work, do you like working with it, any tips and tricks.  Above all, whether you think it can tell a story more effectively than the others? 



Strictly within limits 


How do you know where to draw the line?  Time out of mind you have been hearing it, “Play nice. Take turns.  Share.” And honestly? What choice is there when you are the eighth child?  True, treated a little special initially because eighth children are special, particularly if they are sons.  Well, you know the story about Lord Krishna being the eighth child.  But you are the youngest, and resources are stretched, your father’s business of jute sacks is failing because there’s a growing world of plastics out there. You learn from the very beginning to make do.  With hand-me-downs.  Books and shoes.   Coats with holey pockets.  You make do with sharing spaces. Affections.  Attention. 

The job of raising you is delegated to your elder sister, a child herself.  Your mother is often tired, she works two shifts that add up to more than the sum of their parts in exhaustion. Your father is mostly away resurrecting a dying product.  The insecurities trickle into the family somehow.  Holey pockets, worn soles and stretches of loneliness surrounded by the sea of an extended family; sharing things that are never enough.  You don’t know any other ways of growing up.

There are others like you at school, but you don’t know them either. You always feel the weirdest, most impoverished, clinging onto some precarious pretence at normal life.  You furtively compare your books with the crisp new ones that some students buy, and yours look the most dog-eared, with so many generations of scribbled annotations in the margins as to be useless and illegible.  You never make any annotations yourself. You are a passable student with a meagre scholarship that guarantees you will finish school, no matter what destiny decides about jute sacks.  You volunteer little of yourself in classes, blend in between the last bench and the first somewhere.  

A couple of students bully you.  You deal with it. Do exactly as asked with aloof impassiveness.   You volunteer nothing of yourself here either.  It is an effective defence and makes the bullies, and other people as well, quickly lose interest.  You get by with a carefully constructed carapace of self-sufficiency over a jelly-like self-esteem.    

The jute business finally crashes, your father is now at home, frustrated, boiling with rage and seeking the softest target available.  That of course is your elder sister, who is also your mother.  Your real mother takes on some more extra hours at work, that makes her practically disappear from home and your father angrier than ever.  He spends most of his time yelling at everybody within earshot.  Worse things than yelling happen too, which you witness from the shared bed, pulling the tattered covers over your ears.  The bread becomes chewier, the lentils more watery, the beautifully rounded scoops of steamed rice are shaped with smaller ladles.  You’re always hungry, there is never enough food.  The hand-me-downs hang looser on your frame.  Your carapace becomes harder, your self-esteem more fragile.

An older brother escapes with the housekeeping money, no-one hears from him again.  Another goes away to the Gulf to work, promises to send money home.  But he tumbles off a twenty floor high scaffolding, and then it comes out he was illegally there so there’s no compensation.  A sister escapes too, elopes with a much older man, one of your father’s former customers who’s transitioned now to modern packaging.  This makes your father incandescent with fury. He is openly violent with the women, when you try to intervene he cuffs you so hard that you have to be taken to the hospital. 

Home becomes intolerable, you hang around the street corners and the old park more than you need.  The park particularly, the grass there is balding in patches, the benches are either bent or broken, only a couple of lights work. Petty crime and clandestine romance are what mostly go on there.  But it’s comfortable - no-one will disturb you - you don’t carry anything that could lure pickpockets or prostitutes.

On a day of feeling especially raw and fragile, a stranger asks if she can share the bench where you are grappling with your maths, and then offers to split her parathas in exchange. You have to suddenly blink back embarrassing, unmacho tears.  She doesn’t pay any mind to your efforts at brushing her off, insists you try some. So you do, just to shut her up. She watches you wolfing down a paratha at top speed and then offers you another in silence.  Your mouth is too full of saliva, and your guts twist too tightly to articulate a refusal.  You take it and wolf it down again.  She doesn’t ask many questions.  She is back the next day.  You are reading – “Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look.  He thinks too much.” - and trying to pretend you’re neither hungry nor thinking too much about her or food. The pattern repeats. Some kind of shaky friendship results; it will last till you graduate school, and the park, and the city.

A few weeks later she lights up a cigarette and passes it to you, ”Try it, it’ll help you focus,” and you cough and cough in the beginning but it does feel good. It’s just another thing to share, you think nothing of it when she offers another.  Because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, share and take turns?  During a slightly murky dusk, the light above the broken bench flickers on and then a long off - the couples have withdrawn into the shrubbery, and the pickpockets haven’t yet descended on their beats - she offers you a syringe.  “Try it. Bloody wicked, man.”  Your fingers fumble, you have never injected yourself before.  She takes it from your hand and plunges it into herself first and then into you in one swift, practised movement.  You wait for it to kick in and you think nothing of it.  Only remember it years later at a clinic as a piece of paper flutters in your trembling hand and your world comes crashing down.  How do you know where to draw the line?


WC -1025
All feedback welcome.

Read the other entries here

1. DeniseCCovey 2. Laura Clipson
3. Chrys Fey 4. The Armchair Squid
5. Jen Chandler 6. Trisha @ WORD STUFF
7. Lisa Buie-Collard 8. Nilanjana Bose
9. Michelle @Writer~In~Transit 10. Adornments for Dreams
11. 12. Jenny Brigalow
13. PK HREZO 14. Sharing
15. Li @ Flash Fiction (Direct Link)



  1. Hello Nilijana. Sorry, this Simply LInked is no fun. I can't delete either, but don't worry, your No 8 leads to this story. And what a story it is! So well told in the second person. I like first and second person storytelling, but I know some don't, so it will be interesting to see the differing opinions.
    The story itself was powerful, a wonderful sketch of life in a desperate household with all its frustrations brought on by not having enough. I just finished re-reading Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt. Another story of gruelling poverty and tragedy.

    Thank you for posting for WEP. I love the way you managed to get 'sharing' into the story. If I manage to delete your second link I will.


    1. Thank you, Denise. The very first mag I submitted to had a guideline that said "no second pov" - scarred me for life, probably! :) Glad to know this one's worked. Happy childhoods don't make for good stories, as FMcC says.

  2. I'm fine with 2nd person, although I think it could get a bit much if there was a whole book full of it. Then again I did read a book lately that had a lot of 2nd person, because the character was talking to her dead sister ("you"), and it didn't bother me at all.

    This was a terrible story - as in so very depressing and sad. And yet you write extremely well and the story definitely had me gripped from beginning to end.

    I feel sorry for this kid though :(

    1. In which case, the story has done the job. Thanks!

  3. It's amazing how slippery that slope can become. Well written, I was rather hoping there would be an escape route in there somewhere after everything that had happened.

  4. What a shocking piece! In the beginning, I could relate as the youngest child in a family five kids, and even how I felt at school.

    At first, when the girl/woman gives him a paratha I was filled with hope, thinking they would build a life-long friendship and even fall in love. But then she gave him a syringe and my stomach dropped. So shocking, but so wonderfully written. I don't believe I've read fiction in the second person before, but I really think you did an amazing job!

  5. Nice work. Very compelling story. I hurt for your protagonist.

  6. And yet I still see redemption in the future! Beautifully told, a sad but true tale for so many and yet possible to turn it around! Here is from where the true hero's arise!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I agree. A sad childhood's silver lining is the better ability to fight back as an adult. Thanks for being here, Yolanda.

  7. Well done, very realistic. And congrats on tackling 2nd POV, it's definitely the toughest but you made it work.

  8. Thank you all for reading and the feedback. Much appreciated.

  9. It's a beautiful story and as a reader i can say that I really connected with it. I had an inkling of a tear in my eyes by the time i was done with it. However, I was dissatisfied because you ended it to quickly with the last few lines and sequence of events moving in too rapid a progression to follow with the kind of empathy one would like to feel.
    But maybe I felt that way because you've written it very well or you meant it to be that way.

  10. Well written and it pulled me in right away. So sad. I disagree with Brendan. I thought the ending left the reader guessing what happened and that is good.

  11. Sorry it took me so long to stop by and visit from WEP. My computer has been on the fritz!
    This is a beautiful story. Very sad but picturesque. I can tell that you are a poet, all of your words are carefully chosen as are your images. The pacing is really nice; I felt like I was tumbling along with the character, wondering what would happen next, as lost and confused as they were.

    Thank you for sharing and nice to "meet" you!

    1. Lovely to meet you too Jen, and thanks for the kind words.

  12. I think that 2nd POV is difficult, yet you seemed to mange very well. A raw and edgy real-life story. Great writing and flow of ideas.
    I like the way you incorporated the "sharing" theme into your story. Smart.
    Writer In Transit

  13. Wow, this was chilling and sad. I love how you ended it, "How do you know where to draw the line?" Very effective. Thank you for sharing it...