Author Topic: The Crazy Man  (Read 3081 times)

Offline pete_dog

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The Crazy Man
« on: February 02, 2006, 01:03:31 PM »
This is a short story I've been working on for a little while to break a bit of writers block (hopefully I'll be bombarding you with more postings soon!) and am looking for some feedback on - all comments gratefully received. It's a bit long (1,800 words) but if you can make your way through it and give me your thoughts that would be great.

Thanks...
 ;D


The waves crashed on the peaceful shore. A gull landed on the sand, hopped around hopefully and then flew off, ignoring the man who stood on the beach as still as a wind-swept statue.

He tilted his head on one side to hear the waves, letting unkempt hair fall limply down onto his shoulder. Some people would think that the noise was just music but he knew better, for the waves were the sea’s way of speaking to him. They told him about far off lands, places where the people were always happy and friendly and welcoming. Each rush and roll of the water described the colour of the sand on the distant beaches, the lush vegetation and exotic animals that could be seen from the shore. A wave broke a little way out and reached towards him, chatting gleefully of the sea creatures it had played with on its way to this quiet, deserted shore. He smiled at the joyous abandon of these dear friends, trying to ignore the hollowness he felt deep inside; the wrenching pull of each sound, reminding him that he wanted to be out there. If only he knew how.

A crash of water against rock made him start; this one was talking about something he did not want to remember. He tried to block it out, concentrate on something else, but it knew him too well and was far too persistent for him to ignore. The spray stirred memories of unhappier times and then mocked him for reasons he could not understand.

A welcome interruption came as the boy named Teck jumped down from a rock behind him, landing in a spray of sand. He carefully placed a cloth filled with food outside the man’s hut and then walked over to stand next to him, watching the waves and the swirl of the clouds on the horizon.

“Hello,” the boy said. The man nodded slightly. “Have you remembered your name yet?”

The man shrugged. “Doesn’t matter,” he mumbled, his eyes not moving from the rolling scene before them.

“Where are you from?” the boy persisted. He looked up at the man and was not surprised at the lack of response.  It was youthful curiosity and lack of a telling off that encouraged him to go through the same motions each day, even though he had long ago given up on getting any answers.

After a few minutes with no response, the boy tried a different question. “Everyone in the village say you’re a seer; that you’re here to protect us. Is that true?”

The waves continued to crash on the shore as a breeze whipped up small clutches of sand and threw them against their bare legs. The man continued to listen without replying.

Bored, Teck picked up a shell and threw it into the water, earning a wounded glance from the man. The boy blushed and asked quickly, “What do you look at out there?”

The man looked back out to sea, all other thoughts instantly forgotten. “I listen to the stories of the sea. All the things that no-one else bothers to hear.”

“The sea talks to you?” The boy’s voice was uncertain and disbelieving.

“Yes - listen.” He paused with a proud smile. “That is the voice of the sea. Can’t you hear it speaking to us?”

The boy frowned. “That’s just the waves.” The man nodded and so Teck continued. “My father tells me the waves are made by the pulling of the moons and the wind because of the changing temperatures out to sea.” His father was the best fisherman in the village and knew all about these things.

The man blinked, looking down at him, and for a moment Teck thought that he could see tears in those big, dark eyes. “But you don’t believe him?” the man asked. “He’s not right, is he?”

After a pause the boy smiled reassuringly at his big friend and shook his head. “Of course he’s not right. My father’s a grown-up: they don’t know anything.”

The concern lingered for a second longer and then vanished in a broad grin. “I know, and one day I’m going where the waves come from. As soon as they tell me how.”

Teck could not remain any longer, as his dinner would be on the table soon and he did not want to get in trouble. He pointed out the food he had brought, explained which items should be cooked and which should be peeled and then ran home.

Life went on as it always had. A few days later a farmer came into the village with only a handful of crops, complaining that his harvest had failed. He was joined by another man who explained how a plague of insects had laid waste to his land. There had been no rain for weeks and the ground was hard.

The villagers were concerned by these omens and a meeting was held in the chieftain’s hut. This was the largest in the village with room enough for everyone plus a large roaring fire in its centre. All the men of the village were there, plus a few women – some old and wise, others not so old but widowed and thus entitled to speak in their husbands’ stead. Teck and the other curious children huddled in corners, sat on beams or ran round the still forms of the grown-ups.

The meeting began and one man after another stood to tell of the omens which had affected them. Some were well-known, others not so; one man’s wife was still without child, another had miscarried, while strange creatures had been seen out to sea. The meeting then turned to the reasons for these omens. This they could not so readily explain, for they had made all the proper offerings and prayed to all the gods, treating each equally so as not to incur their jealousy or displeasure.

Everyone soon agreed that there was only one solution – to seek guidance from their guardian, the silent man by the sea. Teck felt his pulse race as the agreement was reached; fearing for his friend when they realised he would not be able to help them. He wanted to say something, to give them some other option, but could not find the words, and would not have been listened to even if he had.

The chieftain and priest went to speak to the quiet giant while Teck and a scattering of other curious souls followed at a distance.

As they approached the man he did not move or show any sign that he registered their presence. After a few moments the chieftain stepped closer and cleared his throat. “We have come to speak with you.”

Receiving no response he continued nervously. “We seek answers. Crops are failing, the drought continues. Our women are barren.”

There was a slight silence, then the man moved his lips. “So?”

It was the first time either of them had heard him speak and they were so shocked by the sound that for a moment they did not register what he had said. The chieftain then looked at the priest and, receiving no assistance, continued. “We come to you for answers. Why does this happen to us? What should we do?”

The silence hung there between them, punctuated only by the crash and hiss of the waves. A seagull lazily arced through the sky, capturing the man’s attention for a while. Then he turned to look at the chieftain. “I have no answers for you,” he said. “Why ask me? Why not just do as you have always done?”

He turned back to face the endless horizon.

Realising that there was nothing more to be gained, the chieftain and priest went back to the village and recounted the exchange to the gathered council. There was much debate and one or two villagers declaimed the man as a fraud. The priest listened to the arguments for a while before holding up his hand and watched as all fell silent. “I have given his words much thought and I believe he was telling us that we have done nothing wrong. We should continue as before. These are mere false omens and all will soon be well.” The villagers respected the priest’s words and went back to their homes, satisfied that everything would soon be better.

Things did not improve, however. In the following weeks the drought’s grip tightened and soon the villagers feared that they would not have enough supplies to last the winter. A further gathering decided that they would return to the silent guardian and demand that he do something to end the drought or show them what must be done. This time most of the villagers accompanied the chieftain and the priest, although it was only the latter two who again made their way to the shore.

“We have come to seek your guidance,” said the chieftain. “The drought continues, yet we have made all the prayers and offerings. What would you have us do?”

After a time the man spoke. “Why ask me?” he said.

The chieftain and priest exchanged a look and then, emboldened by his audience and their desperate circumstances, the chieftain raised his voice. “That is of no help! You would have us all die, after all the aid we have given you over the years! You are a fraud!”

The man blinked, suddenly afraid as the crowd surged forward. Teck tried to fight his way to the front, shouting in defence of his friend. It was not his fault; he was just a simple man who liked to listen to the sea. The boy’s cries went unheeded as the crowd quickly turned vicious. The man’s rude shelter was ripped down and its contents, including the gifts from the previous day, were stolen. The man was kicked and beaten while stones and shells were thrown at him until, bruised and bloody, he ran away, pursued by a dozen angry villagers.

After a while the remaining villagers wandered away, ignoring the little boy who, distraught and crying, stared after his where his friend had disappeared.

For a time nothing changed. Then the weather broke and brought much needed rain, driving away the insects and nourishing the land. The villagers congratulated themselves on their actions, for clearly the man had been the cause of all their troubles. They now realised that driving him away had appeased the gods and brought about their new good fortune.

There were some, however, who believed that the cause was actually the young boy who could be seen holding a silent vigil on the beach, staring out to sea; as if he were a guardian of the village’s fortunes.
"Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

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Offline Foxy

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Re: The Crazy Man
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2006, 03:58:32 PM »
Pete, I just read your story and I thought it was very good. It held my attention throughout. I think that the opening paragraph, though short, is excellent and very visual. The whole thing kind of had a feel of a parable or a folk tale. You should submit this to a magazine. Twisted Tongue magazine are looking for submissions for their second issue, I know this because I have got a story in the first issue which is out now. Their website is www.twistedtongue.com why not check it out.

Patrick
My novel, Trinity, available from Amazon.
UK http://tinyurl.com/7fq8rzt  US http://tinyurl.com/7ecvkom

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Offline pete_dog

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Re: The Crazy Man
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2006, 04:25:03 PM »
Thanks Pattrick - will do.  Feedback very much appreciated.
Cheers
Pete
"Outside a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside a dog, it's too dark to read." - Groucho Marx

http://igg.me/at/the-infernal-aether/x/6432405

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www.peterdoxley.co.uk

Offline mary

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Re: The Crazy Man
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2006, 10:55:18 AM »
Hi Pete Dog

  I just read your story and agree w/Patrick. It does have the ring of a folk tale. I have one humble question though. If the villagers have been supporting the man for "years" might they have given him a moniker even if he didn't know his real name? This might make the story a little more familiar to the reader and "the man" a little more endearing. For whatever it's worth....very much good luck with submission. Hope we all see you in print soon.  :) mary

Offline GlennQ

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Re: The Crazy Man
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2006, 11:13:47 AM »
Hiya Pete,

I also liked this a great deal, and think you could publish it.  I did wonder though, whether you might more effectively paint what you describe by the use of a bit more dialogue - women discussing the loss of children, farmer's lamenting failed harvests etc.

Anyway, do try 'Twisted Tongue' and the very best of luck to you.

Glenn

Offline Symphony

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Re: The Crazy Man
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2006, 12:46:55 PM »
I think this is the link for Twisted Tongue. The .com link above will bring to a For Sale ad!!!

http://www.eastoftheweb.com/uncut/node/view/24683

Symphony

Offline Foxy

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Re: The Crazy Man
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2006, 12:55:57 PM »
Oops! Sorry guys, I got the address slightly wrong, it's a dot co dot uk address and not a dot com. Here is the correct address:
http://www.twistedtongue.co.uk
My novel, Trinity, available from Amazon.
UK http://tinyurl.com/7fq8rzt  US http://tinyurl.com/7ecvkom

Blog: One Loose Cannon http://wp.me/2fgNI

Book Covers and artwork: http://patrickfox.crevado.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/PatrickFox_