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  1. #1
    old time

    Please Critique My Short Story

    Actually, just the first 1200 (of ~3000) words or so.

    Any and all critiques welcome.


    (By the way, I'm new around here. I'm digging this place quite a bit already).

    The story was originally called "Shake, Shake," then was changed to "Pipsqueaks," and is now tentatively titled "The Paper Television," which no doubt makes little sense because it is s a reference to the other part of the story. I suppose I'm wondering which of these titles make you most interested to read the story.


    Martin is eleven. His best friend is Camille, thirteen. Martin is taller than Camille and has dark hair; Camille is heavier and has light hair and dark spots on her arms. Camille was held back in school two years because of cancer, so they are in the same grade. Martin is a vegetarian because his mother is a vegetarian; Camille is a vegetarian because Martin is a vegetarian. Four years ago Camille's Uncle Philip decided they should move away from Florida to Northern Illinois. Shortly thereafter she met Martin in school during recess. Camille was pushed into a jungle gym and their teacher said, "Martin, take Camille to the nurse's office."

    It is the last day of school before summer break begins. Martin and Camille are eating lunch, working together on a grilled cheese sandwich and a small bag of carrots. No one sits with them.
    "What are we doing later?" asks Martin.
    "We shall go a-rumbling through the nearby forests," says Camille.
    Martin enjoys when Camille speaks this way. He believes it lends her eccentricity.
    "Okay, cool," says Martin, "we can walk out there right after school. I really wish we didn't have to go to Field Day."
    "I know."
    On the final day of each school year, Ronald Reagan Elementary holds a "Field Day" from 1 until 3 PM during which students compete in a variety of competitive physical activities -- softball, kickball, tug-of-war and the like. Neither Martin nor Camille is constructed for athletic success. This does not bother Camille very much but it does bother her friend. Martin's assertion that his unpopularity is directly tied to his inability to shag a flyball is not an inaccurate one.
    The final three class periods of the day ease Martin's nervousness. In Science class Martin successfully demonstrates from the roof of the school that an egg generously wrapped in tinfoil can fall several stories without shattering. In Math class Martin makes a wisecrack at his teacher's expense that not only provokes laughter from his classmates, but also coaxes a smile from the ordinarily frigid butt of his joke. And in Homeroom Martin receives two A's on his final report card, the first such grades he has ever been awarded.
    Martin and Camille are quiet as they exit the school's back doors and approach the soccer field. Four sets of fifteen small orange cones are lined up two feet apart from one another on the right side of the field. They are directed to walk toward the cones to a man with a whistle. Neither Martin nor Camille has seen this man before.
    "Alright guys -- is everybody here? Okay. My name's Coach Gambagglia. I coach the junior varsity soccer team over at the high school. Now what you guys are going to be doing is negotiating your way through these cones while handling a soccer ball. Four of you will go at a time. I’ll time you with my stopwatch. When I blow this whistle you'll go. Whoever gets . . ."

    Martin thinks about the last time he handled a soccer ball. His mother placed him in a day camp the previous summer. It was a sports camp. On the first day they played soccer. Martin avoided actively participating in the game. He and his teammates had a silent understanding. They would direct the action away from Martin, and he in turn would stay clear of them and not attempt to kick the ball. On occasion the ball would make its way toward him. The first two times this happened Martin ran into his teammates while attempting to flee. But as the game progressed Martin developed a knack for evading both the soccer ball and the two to three boys who would violently converge upon it. The game wound down into a 7-7 tie. Martin felt good. He knew he could transfer these talents to other sports.
    Martin's camp counselor Ed ran to the middle of the field.

    "Can't end in a tie. We're going to have a shootout. Five guys a side."
    Martin didn't know what a shootout was. He continued walking off the field.
    "Hey! Get over here. I want you kicking. Come on!"
    Martin was the third boy to kick for his side. His team was ahead 2-0 in the shootout when he lined up behind the ball. Martin did not care whether or not he scored; he wanted only to make an attempt on the ball solid enough to except him from humiliation. In this he was not successful. Most of Martin’s right foot missed the ball. The portion of his foot that did make contact sent the ball awkwardly puttering off to the right.

    Coach Gambagglia nudges two boys and two girls to the starting area. Martin's hands begin to sweat.
    "Why don’t we just go," he says.
    Camille looks at Martin.
    "Are you kidding? Why would I want to run around kicking a soccer ball, Martin? Let’s just hang back here and hopefully they send us to another station before our turns come up."
    "No, that's not what I mean. I mean let's go. I don't wanna do any of this Field Day stuff. He's not even watching us. We'll sneak off to the other side of the field around the side of the school where they're doing wall-climbing and then we'll run."
    "That will not work, Martin. But okay."
    Martin grabs Camille’s wrist. The pair inelegantly scutter away from the group. Camille moves too slowly for Martin. He drops her wrist and whispers:
    “Come on.”
    Camille’s deliberate movements are those of a well-fed young woman. She cannot speed up to Martin’s pace. Camille heaves dramatically. Martin does not look back. She heaves again. He does not slow down.
    Camille hears a man yelling “Hey! Hey!” as she and Martin turn the corner around the school and approach the climbing wall. Martin slows to a brisk walk so as not to look conspicuous.
    “Martin, stop. Stop. Did you hear that?”
    “Hear what?”
    “Someone yelling. I think it was that Coach Gerbagglia yelling after us.”
    “I don’t think so. Let’s just keep walking, okay?”
    “I’m going to go look and see.”
    Camille begins jogging back. As she stops and peeks her head around the corner of the school, she locks eyes with Coach Gambagglia. He is charging at her.
    Camille turns around and starts running.
    “Go go go!”
    Martin and Camille run past the small group of students who are waiting their turns to climb the wall. Martin runs painfully. His ankles and knees bend awkwardly with each gallop. He looks back for Camille. She is struggling. Coach Gambagglia is a few yards behind her. Martin turns his head forward and runs toward the fence that separates the school from the Hardee’s parking lot. When he reaches the fence he crawls through a small opening where it has been cut. Martin thinks for a moment that hiding in the Hardee’s is a good idea. He approaches the entrance of the restaurant but does not go in. Martin pauses, then runs across the drive thru lane and down to the end of the block to a crosswalk. There is a retirement village on the other side of the street. He crosses quickly and trespasses into the community. The houses are identically constructed and alternate light yellow and light blue. This makes Martin uncomfortable.
    Bordering the retirement village on one side is a meadow. The backyards of the houses on the right side of the street spill into this meadow; there is a car in the driveway in each but one of these homes. Martin shortcuts into the meadow through the backyard of the car-less residence. It is a large meadow – long and wide, filled with reeds. Martin takes a minute to groan and place his hands on his knees. He hears no sound. There is nothing behind him.
    Martin has escaped.

  2. #2
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: Please Critique My Short Story

    The first couple sentences read like a story problem in a math textbook.

  3. #3
    Patrick Edwards

    Re: Please Critique My Short Story

    Hey, old time

    Welcome aboard.

    Once I walked around in here and checked out the scene, it was a done deal: couldn't leave.

    As for the story critique, I've yet to get to it; however, looking over the titles, I'd have to say that the one that vibes of intrigue is (drumroll, please):

    "The Paper Television"

  4. #4
    david lidz

    Re: Please Critique My Short Story

    I might just cut out the first paragraph altogether. I don't think you need it; maybe my opinion would change if I saw the rest of the story and saw how the opening description and history of your characters contribute to the whole story.

    Once I got past that, I felt the story develop a certain pace, particularly as the escape and chase scene developed. Here again, being overly descriptive got in the way when Martin gets to the retirement community. You've got this nice pace/rhythm going with the children huffing and puffing and crawling and climbing to escape the Coach, and then it all stops with the detailed description of the old folks community, which, again, I don't think really adds to the story.

    Otherwise, I was drawn in by your story and characters, and enjoyed the read...

  5. #5
    Tricia Willis

    Re: Please Critique My Short Story

    I agree...I enjoyed it, although I agree that a few parts are a bit blocky and need to be reworked a bit. Overall, though, I could relate to your characters and already I felt empathy toward Martin. I look forward to reading more, if you have more work you would like to share.

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