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  1. #1
    Stephanie Kraner
    Guest

    The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    Thought I'd post the intro to a short story I've been working on to get some feedback. I have a particular fondness for first person present tense writing and I wanted to experiment with it a bit. All feedback is welcome.

    ---

    The Things We Tell The Silence

    He doesn’t know but I know. I haven’t told him.

    The appointments are easy to explain away. Brunch with a friend, a drive through the countryside. The same excuses recycled into different words.

    Lies, all of them.

    I should have told him the truth after the very first check up.

    “How’d it go?” he’d asked.

    What I should have said was, “Oh, they’re not sure yet. They want me to go to a specialist for further testing.”

    It would have been so simple, but he always worries so much. It didn’t seem necessary to give him more cause for worry over something so little, so seemingly insignificant. A wheezing sound picked up by the stethoscope. Asthma, probably.

    “Fit as a fiddle,” I’d told Walt. “Healthy as a horse.”

    I think I thought such ridiculous similes would make the lie less immoral. But I didn’t tell him after the second appointment, either.

    I look at him lying next to me, breathing deeply, easily. The sheet caresses his waist, casting faint shadows over the contours of his hips and thighs. The hair on his chest, some of it peppered with gray, reflects the early morning light coming through the window. Two months ago, I would have snuggled close and gone back to sleep until the sun rose high enough to pull us out of bed.

    But now I can feel the coughs forcing their way out of my chest the way boiling water forces itself out of a geyser and I know I have to leave the bedroom so I don’t wake him with my maladies.

    I don’t even make it to the kitchen before the geyser erupts. A sudden fit catches me halfway down the stairs and I double over, grasping the railing as though it might save me.

    I’ve no idea how long it lasts except that when I’m finished I feel dizzy and I see specks of light floating in the corners of my vision like fireworks celebrating my survival. I taste blood and hurry to the kitchen to wash the flecks of it off my hand before I put the teakettle on.

    I hate mornings, the wee hours when Walt’s still asleep and I drink tea in the silent kitchen while trying to think of ways to tell him the truth. I wonder if perhaps I should just leave little clues for him to find, like evidence at a crime scene. A bloody handkerchief in the laundry. An open pill bottle on the counter.

    I’ve thought of at least a dozen ways to begin the conversation, but I don’t know how to make myself say them.

    So I know and he doesn’t and that comforts me and it frightens me.

    I hear him moving about upstairs and part of me wants him to interrogate me when he comes into the kitchen. It’s much easier to confess under pressure, rather than having to work up the nerve on my own, as though to put words to it would validate it in some way.

    Not that the doctor hasn’t made it clear already. With pictures.

    “These are your lungs,” he’d said while hanging X-rays on a lighted board. “Those are the abnormal cells.”

    He didn’t call it cancer. As I took in the thick patches dotting my lungs, I wondered why.

    “This is the cancer,” he should have said. “This is how you’re going to meet your maker.”

    Instead, he’d laid a gentle hand on my shoulder and looked me in the eye.

    “Do you understand?” he’d asked.

    Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t.

    “Good, you’ve made tea,” Walt says, rubbing his belly as he walks into the kitchen. “Pour me a cup. I’ll fetch the mail.”

    Not a word about the coughing or why I didn’t come back to bed. So I get up and pour him a cup of tea with two spoons of sugar the way he likes it.

    When he comes back inside, he tosses the mail on the table, the bills and brochures scattering across the varnished wood. He tastes his tea and nods his approval.

    “There’s an invitation there,” he says, gesturing with his cup toward the envelops he’s just brought in. “Erin’s getting married next Saturday.”

    “I’ll run out and buy them something tomorrow afternoon,” I say.

    “We can just write them a check.”

    “I need a new pair of heels anyways.”

    “Whatever you prefer, love,” he says. “I’ll just go watch the news, then.”

    When I hear the familiar creek of the couch springs followed by the newscaster reading the details about the latest catastrophe in the world, I pull the appointment card out of my purse and write myself a reminder on the back to pick up shoes and a wedding gift.



  2. #2
    Smiling Curmudgeon
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    I like this!

    There are a few typos and punctuation things to fix, but it grabbed me and kept me reading.

    Nice flow.

    Some nits---

    Consider changing the first paragraph to something like, "He doesn't know but I do." (Delete, "I haven't told him.")

    Consider "cliches" instead of "similies."

    Consider "now I feel..."

    There are other things, but I'm not trying to take over your tale. Hope these thoughts are useful.

    Oh, before I forget, betcha a very nice lunch the couch springs didn't "creek." Unless a river runs through it.

    Feel free to ignore.

    Cur

  3. #3
    Kitty Foyle
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    This held my interest too, Stephanie. I hope it's not based on your own experience -- although, if is is, I'd find it even more intriguing.

    I'd love to know if and how Walt finally learns the truth. I'm thinking he had already guessed and was trying to figure out a sympathetic way to show "you" that he knew.

    Ah, the games we feel we must play!

    *_*

  4. #4
    Karen Campbell
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    Nice, Stephanie. It's tightly written and effective in its simplicity. I like your style well enough that I'd keep reading if you gave us more. Beyond the typos (and I did love the couch creek!) my only criticism might be some closely spaced metaphors. The geyser works well, but it's followed by fireworks and then a crime scene. Individually, each of them are well chosen but the cumulative effect left me noticing the metaphors when I should have been moving deeper into her grief over her illness. Of course, that's just my opinion.

    Lovely work.

  5. #5
    nancy drew
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    Stephanie;

    Just going to bed but wanted to get my two cents in.

    This is wonderful stuff. I liked the metaphors, but admittedly am heavy-handed with them myself.

    Am most curious to see how it ends.

    Wonderful.

  6. #6
    Gregory White
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    I liked it too.

    One thing stuck out to me, though. It didn't sound very "manly" when he said, "I'll FETCH the mail."

    I think I would change it to 'get'. But, also, does anyone have mail in the mailbox first thing in the morning? We sure don't around here. The paper might be on the front porch, though.

    just observations...

    G.

  7. #7
    nom de plume
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    I liked it as well.

    A few observations: paragraphs consisting of one (short) sentence are fine but if you overdo this trick, it screams, "Look, look, look what I'm writing is so important!" (Dialogue by different speakers should have separate paragraphs, of course).

    You seem to like "know" and it weakens the writing. I don't care for the very first paragraph. I would have written, "Walt doesn'know my secret." I'm sure you could rewrite this beginning.

    "So I know and he doesn’t..." This is saying the same thing again. You also like the word "so."

    "But now I can feel the coughs forcing their way out of my chest the way boiling water forces itself out of a geyser and I know I have to leave the bedroom so I don’t wake him with my maladies."
    I suggest you ditch the "can feel" and "know." They dilute the very nice geyser metaphor. I find "maladies" awkward.

    "part of me wants him to interrogate me" Hmm, i don't believe "interrogate" is proper here. She isn't planning to have a question drill with him but to tell him her secret. Right?

    "There’s an invitation there," I'm sure you can do better than this. Also a typo in this paragraph.

    Walt comes across to me as either not very observant and/or an awfully sound sleeper. This is an observation to give you ONE reader's preliminary reaction. By the end of this excerpt I don't think much of Walt but might change my opinion if i get to know him better. Perhaps this is exactly the effect you intended and how you wanted to portray this character.

  8. #8
    Donatellia Austin
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    Caught My attention. I couldn't stop reading.
    I do believe Nom de Plume is right.
    Have fun!

    -D

  9. #9
    Stephanie Kraner
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    Thanks everyone for your excellent comments and suggestions.

    Nancy, I agree that I am a little heavy on the metaphors. You want to know what's worse? I had to cut my favorite metaphor from this in an earlier draft. It was very sad indeed.

    Nom, you're sort of right about Walt. He's a very patient, trusting sort of chap who doesn't push anything, but later on he has his moments. But still, I don't want him to just be another quietly supportive husband from the stock pile.

    Thanks again!

  10. #10
    Tricia Willis
    Guest

    Re: The Things We Tell The Silence -- intro critique?

    "I’ve thought of at least a dozen ways to begin the conversation, but I don’t know how to make myself say them. "
    Perhaps change to:
    "I've thought of at least a dozen ways to begin the conversation, but I don't know how to make myself say the words." Your use of "them" confused me a bit.
    Overall, though, I really liked it. Your style suited the story perfectly and I look forward to reading more.

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