Author Topic: Christine: a mini story (728 words)  (Read 2174 times)

Offline *Lorraine*

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Christine: a mini story (728 words)
« on: May 14, 2007, 09:39:20 AM »
Hi everyone

Here's a mini-story that sort of evolved on it's own.  Any comments and/or advice would be very welcome as usual.  At the moment it's a stand alone piece but I may be able to make use of it, you never know!

Thanks.
Lorraine



Christine

Two things happened around the time of my eighth birthday.  Firstly, my sixteen-year old sister left home.  Secondly, following closely on the heels of the first, I caught chicken-pox.

Many years later they both resurfaced.

Exactly one week before my twenty-first birthday, Christine made contact after thirteen years of silence.  She suggested that I catch a Greenline bus across London to Tooting where she said she’d meet me, but I had to promise not to tell Mum or Dad.  During the journey I became increasingly nervous and even more so when I looked from the bus window and there she was, standing alone, waiting for me on Amen Corner.  I could see that we had remained physical opposites.  She was still blond and pale, with sharp facial features; but now she was skinny in a way that had nothing to do with health or fitness.  As I approached her she took a final drag on a cigarette before throwing it to the curb.  We embraced awkwardly; I felt like a child again.

She took me back to her third-floor council flat and explained that Jason, her ten-year old son whose existence I wasn’t aware of, was at school.  Christine was living with someone called Alan but I gathered that he wasn’t Jason’s father.  We sat drinking coffee in the cramped living room.  My sister felt like a stranger and yet I immediately recognised the funny curl of her lip as she sipped at the hot drink.

I had a choice between perching on the edge of the sofa or being swallowed by the outsized, squashy cushions.
   “Sorry about the sofa, the suite’s completely knackered and we haven’t finished paying for it yet,” she said, showing no sign of concern.  I asked her about Jason and she showed me a photo of a round-faced boy in school uniform, long blond fringe hanging in his eyes, grinning exaggeratedly at the camera.
   “I was sick every single day of the pregnancy.  I couldn’t keep anything down.  Procol Harum were at number one that summer and every radio station was playing them, night and day.  Even now, I’ve only got to hear the opening bars of Whiter Shade of Pale and I feel like I’m going to throw up!”  Listening to her, it seemed clear to me that when Christine made choices she didn’t go back on them and she didn’t regret them either.  What she did do was make me feel like a spectator.

My sister asked about everything except our parents, she wanted to know all the details about the party for my twenty-first and it wasn’t until I was on the bus going home that I started to worry about her turning up at the Milford Arms and causing a scene.  I dreaded it happening and yet there was a part of me that wanted her to do just that.  Walk in and shock everyone.

I needn’t have worried.  She stayed away but she did send me a postcard of Peckham Rye sealed in an envelope with a fragile four-leaf clover, carefully preserved between sheets of tissue.  The card said: ‘Happy 21st - use the key of the door to get out and live, love Chris, your big Sis.’

Then, just like thirteen years earlier, I woke the next morning to find blisters encircling my throat and shoulders like the coiled necklaces of an African tribeswoman.  By the time I saw a doctor on the following day, the blisters had spread and there were painful sores breaking out around, as well as inside, my mouth.
   “Herpes zoster,” said the doctor, holding my tongue down with a depressor, “commonly known as shingles and usually triggered by stress; emotional or physical stress.  It’s the chicken-pox virus that’s been lying dormant in your nerve roots since you were a child.”

I discovered that my enforced silence, due to the pain in my mouth, made it easier to keep the truth hidden from my parents.  Whilst lying in bed and feeling sorry for myself, I wondered if it was the secret that was bubbling up in the form of yellow pus and then drying as scabs on my skin.

I made a full recovery and later that year I took Christine’s advice and flew to America to visit our cousin Denise in North Carolina.  Her friends were fascinated by my English accent and kept asking me to speak; to say something, anything.  In order to keep them amused I related some of the cockney rhyming slang that I knew and it was only then that I made the connection.

Skin and blister: sister.

   

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Offline Mayday

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Re: Christine: a mini story (728 words)
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2007, 10:03:09 AM »
Hi Lorraine,

Interesting story, and I definitely think you need to expand on it. I'm wondering why the sister left early, and harboured so much bitterness to home. And why did Christina long for her sister to gate crash her party...seems to be plenty of back story here that needs to be told!  :)

Write on!

M.

Offline Symphony

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Re: Christine: a mini story (728 words)
« Reply #2 on: May 14, 2007, 11:16:20 AM »
Hi Lorraine,

For what it's worth, here are a couple of first-impression comments which may or may not be of any use to you. I know Mayday has commented but I haven't read the comments because I don't want any words/ideas put in my mouth, so apols if there are any repetitions. Secondly, when commenting initially I DON'T read the whole story first. I tend to literally go for first impressions para by para so sometimes I'll comment on missing a piece of info that comes in the next paragraph. The crits work for me this way because I can concentrate on the writing rather than an overall plot.

Anyway - on with the show ...

Quote
Many years later they both resurfaced.
Love the intro - and adore this sentence. Great beginning.

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Exactly one week before my twenty-first birthday, Christine made contact after thirteen years of silence.
This sentence reads awkwardly - something about the before and after doesn't quite work. It might even work better the other way around ...

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She took me back to her third-floor council flat and explained that Jason, her ten-year old son whose existence I wasn’t aware of, was at school.
This sentence seems long-winded. Could you lead us into the 'son' thing a little more gently? Perhaps you notice lots of photos or school homework on the coffee table or something ... show us your discovery rather than simply telling the information

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and every radio station was playing them, night and day.
superfluous

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What she did do was make me feel like a spectator.
How, exactly? I didn't quite get this. She's only spoken a few sentences. I think you need to show more about this.

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Whilst lying in bed
I love this word 'whilst' but I've been admonished several times recently for using it - apparently, it's too old-fashioned or 'poetic' nowadays and is better replaced by plain old 'while' (personally, I disagree, but thought I'd point it out)

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bubbling up in the form of yellow pus
sounds a bit too contrived/forced and too wordy - why not simply 'causing the blisters'? Sometimes the simpler version works better (just my opinion, though  ::))

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In order to keep them amused I related some of the cockney rhyming slang that I knew and it was only then that I made the connection.
Great finish (incl. the 'rhyme' below), but I think the long sentence detracts from the overall effect. I'd cut out 'in order' because they're simply two more words that you don't need - and I'd rework this so that the 'It was only then that I ...' is in a sentence all on its own. It's such an important moment, you don't want to cloud it with other thoughts.


Thoroughly enjoyed this, Lorraine. Lovely, easy writing style, straight to the point and entertaining as well. I quite like this just the way it is, but I think a few bits and pieces need to be filled in - for example, a hint at a reason for the sister's silence. And I never really understood the relationship between these two girls - did they even like each other? This, I think, was my main problem - not being able to empathise with either character. A very little work and this piece could stand quite happily on its own and I'm sure there are lots of mags who'd be interested in it. You've also got so much material there for a much longer piece as well, though.

All the best with it,
Symphony


« Last Edit: May 14, 2007, 11:20:34 AM by Symphony »

Offline gooby46

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Re: Christine: a mini story (728 words)
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2007, 12:23:53 AM »
I think Symphony has said it all.  I'd love to read a re-work of this.  Certainly has potential and a few more clues would improve it no end. 

Offline Flossie

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Re: Christine: a mini story (728 words)
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2007, 08:33:57 AM »
I liked it very much. Very simple idea that makes a very atmospheric story.