Another short story I wrote

Dec 25, 2005
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Me! said:
The only distant memory which had some sense of reality to him was of his father from when John was a toddler. Everything else perplexed john, and didn't seem comparably real to him. He had a jumbled mess of implanted memories with bits and pieces of reality scattered around. John had to scrutinize every bit and piece as if they were all implanted as it had become second nature to him by now. He wasn't always like this though, but he didn't really remember what or who he was before, if before even existed, or if his name was really John. He would also test every scenario he was in to look for discrepancies. Paranoia was his seeming ally at these times.

"Excuse me, do you have change for a dollar?" He asked the cashier at a 7-11

"No sir, but would like some lottery tickets? Who knows, that dollar might make you rich!"

"No thanks"

He went outside the store, and thought over what the conversation was. He tore it to minutiae like hidden contexts, micro expressions, critical thinking lapses, and so on, holding simultaneously in his mind the fact that the brief conversation couldn't possibly yield something tangible. He came to the conclusion that the cashier was probably real. But his metal projection of reality was muddled up with images that would conjure up as his own personal thoughts, so he was never really sure, yet he thought that his unbeatable, universal logic would be capable of determining the ultimate truth. He drove around in an old Hummer truck. It was yellow, but he distinctly felt that yellow was the worst colour that he could have chosen, ultimately he would get in and drive anyways. So he got in the hummer and drove.

During the drive, he began thinking about the flashes that he had of his childhood, and the clear image he had imprinted on his retina of his form. He was fairly confident that he could pick the man up from a police lineup. Too bad John forgot his name or it would have been even easier. The fact that he forgot his name didn't even occur to him, and he continued to drive. Knowing nothing of the destination he was actively seeking, John decided to stop at bar. He parked the truck and went inside the bar. he would later find out that the truck gets impounded for an earlier parking ticket he'd received. But it was one of the scenarios he would have thought of if he remembered the parking ticket. John entered the bar, and it was almost empty. He had seen this place before, but didn't remember where and when. He went up to the bartender and asked him for a rare single malt. Surprising feat, considering he couldn't remember a simple parking ticket. In a strange pied piper-esque turn of events, John went to the restroom. He looked at himself in the mirror and was startled for a moment. He then proceeded to wash his hands and dry them off. The blower wasn't working, so he wiped it on his jeans and went back to the bar. There was some female pop-star's music video playing on the TV and it held the attention of the 3 people in the bar. None of them seemed interested in the liquor, but only in the TV. This might have been an indication of the quality of the liquor at the bar to some people, but John was different. He savored the flurry of flavours in the single malt while the others were lost in the trance of the TV. He paid the bartender. Over-paid rather, but the bartender obviously assumed this as a generous tip for his grand hospitality and service. John came out of the bar and noticed that he had very little money in his pockets. He went back into the bar.

"Hey, did I drop any money in here? I seem to be missing a whole lot of it!"

"No sir, I don't think so, but I can check for you, the least I can do after your generous tip" The bartender said, smiling.

John analyzed the situation for a bit.

"No, no need to search for it. I think I know where it is"

Both people smiled. John punched the bartender hard. The bartender hit the alarm, the police were on their way. John stayed there watching the TV for a while, as the bartender lay down unconscious. The other patrons didn't seem to mind so long as the TV was running. As the sirens started wailing, John grabbed his keys and coat and left the bar calmly. The police arrived just as he had left the bar. John was wasted and the walk was taking a toll on him. Luckily, he had the some of the single malt still left with him. He drank it all and continued walking. The hummer was impounded, but John seemed to have forgotten about it at the moment. John fell into a gutter babbling something about the name of his father.

Next morning he woke up. He wasn't entirely sure where he had left his watch, but he remembered he had lost his wrist-watch somewhere in a park. It was 1962 in India, but he didn't remember the specifics and even remembering the fact that he even had a wrist-watch in the first place. He also didn't know that he had been to other cities, let alone countries and continents.

"Excuse me sir, what's the time?" He asked an elderly passer-by.

"Half-past eight. You look like you need a bath!"

He walked down the street while thinking that the elderly man could have been a Spy working for the government, and formulating scenarios on how to kill the spy.

By now, the people around him had started to recognize his quirks. But only a select few at that. They would equate him with a certain state of "dehumanization", but not in those words. His forgetfulness hindered his scrutinizing now, though it wasn't always like this. This condition could be pinpointed to him losing his watch, and thus losing track of time. John used to recognize some faces in the crowd as well, but seeing as his memories about places overlapped, he couldn't be too sure about ascertaining the quality of those memories. But he knew that those were real. Even without the need for his overtly blanketing paranoia, he felt something. John walked into a coffee shop and sat there, trying to remember what there was to remember. The meta-memory monster that was his brain, would not relent those pure memories that John so utterly felt he possessed. Looking out the window of the coffee shop, he could recognize the street from many occasions, different times and at different hours. Which one of those flashes of knowing would win the fight, was unknown. But he thought that if his memories are overlapping in that aspect, there might be some truth to it. Suddenly he remembered all the traffic tickets that he had not paid heed to from the last many years. This overwhelmed him mentally, so he got out of the coffee house to catch some fresh air. Outside, he had that eureka! moment that he was vying for.

"I am my father?"

He thought that he probably should have thought the wording through. Though he was correct in a way. His memory of his father was a memory of his own self. He felt like patting himself on the back for the brilliant deduction and thought about honouring the universal logic that he so dearly latched on to, even in moments of amnesia that he frequently had. He vaguely remembered that he had a loving family, a daughter and life was good. In some strange arcane time, he was as human as they come. He was drowned with emotion, emotion that he hadn't felt in quite some while. But the moment was short-lived as soon as he realized that he had a ****load of traffic tickets to pay back.
Some critique would be awesome, and thanks for reading! :)

Here is my first story thread;
http://www.psu.com/forums/showthread.php?t=237302

For more of these, please visit my blog.
 
May 2, 2010
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#4
My criticism:

-You tend to give a lot of irrelevant detail in the form of short, abrupt sentences. "He washed his hands". "He dried his hands" (paraphrasing there). It's far more effective to use high levels of detail during an event rather than leading up to it, e.g. when he punches the barman.

An obvious example of this was:

He drove around in an old Hummer truck. It was yellow, but he distinctly felt that yellow was the worst colour that he could have chosen, ultimately he would get in and drive anyways. So he got in the hummer and drove.
More effective:

"While driving the seven year-old, yellow hummer, John's mind wandered to the seemingly perennial flashes..."

Also, watch your tenses there. You switched from present to past and back to present.

-Vocabulary was extensive but with an abundance of clichés - 'pat on the back', 'alcohol and gutters', 'eureka!'.

-
Both people smiled. John punched the bartender hard. The bartender hit the alarm, the police were on their way. John stayed there watching the TV for a while, as the bartender lay down unconscious.
How could the bartender hit the alarm if the punch rendered him unconscious? I also felt this scene would have benefited from more emotive and dramatic descriptions. It seemed a little dull.

-There are an enormous number of sentences starting with "John did this" and "John saw that". Maybe try rephrasing, e.g. "After analysing the situation, John falsely replied..." instead of "John analyzed the situation for a bit.".

-There are times when you write like you talk (slang). For example, "anyways", "John analyzed the situation for a bit.", "John was wasted" (wasted after a single malt?!), "meta-memory monster".

-
and even remembering the fact that he even had a wrist-watch"
Grammatical error.


Overall, I think it just lacks some elegance and in-depth proof-reading. The most difficult aspect of writing short stories is immersing the reader, rather than solely story-telling; "John did this", "John went there" etc.

It could also be an idea to leave the ending a little vague. You seem to conclude the story uncomfortably quickly with John, quite literally, telling the reader the answer.

Hope this helps and sorry if it's harsh. I improved my writing enormously with criticism that was to-the-point rather than polite.
 
Dec 25, 2005
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#5
Thanks very much for the detailed critique, and for taking the time out to do so. I have been working on my tenses and proof reading. I realized that I need to sort out my editing process a bit.

(wasted after a single malt?!)
In my defense, it was a cask strenth single malt, and he drank the whole bottle. :snicker