Lunching with Justin

Reply Mon 21 Jan, 2008 01:54 pm
I'm enjoying this . . .

note: "'what're" - I'd use "what are", instead. Laughing
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Reply Sun 27 Jan, 2008 08:26 pm
SULLYFISH66 wrote:
I'm enjoying this . . .

note: "'what're" - I'd use "what are", instead. Laughing

Thank you sullyfish- I'm enjoying writing it. Every new installment is like a visit with my buddy for me.
(But where'd I use "what're"? I looked for it and couldn't find it- maybe I'm just missing it- but it's definitely not appropriate for the dialogue of these two - especially if HE said it....)

Lunching with Justin (cont.)
We turned right as we walked out the door and proceeded down the pavement. At the first doorway, we stopped and Justin lit his cigarette. Taking the first drag, he directed the smoke away from me and said, "So now you know all about me- right down to whether I was breastfed or not. I think it's time for some disclosure on your end." He raised an eyebrow and looked at me meaningfully.

"Sure. What would you like to know?" I asked, internally steadying myself. I had no idea what he might ask, and I found that I did not feel ready for it. I forestalled his question with a statement, "In case you were wondering, I was breastfed." I smiled at his obvious discomfiture. I continued, " I was not reared by a nanny and although breastfeeding was not en vogue during my infancy either, my mother was a woman ahead of her time in many ways. She knew what she wanted to do and she did it- and as I myself am a woman and have been pregnant and have borne a child, she and I have had many opportunities during which to broach the subject."

He smiled knowingly at me. 'How very intriguing. But that's not at all what I was interested in knowing." I readied myself again. "I was going to ask you how many siblings you have, but I was only going to ask that to seem polite. I'm not really interested in knowing that either- at least not yet."
I waited. I could feel his eyes studying the side of my face.
"How did you enjoy being pregnant?" he finally asked me.

With an inward sigh of relief, I answered, "I loved it. It was the most miraculous nine months of my life," I smiled, remembering.
He continued watching my face. When I turned my face to meet his eyes again, he spoke,"That's the one feminine experience of which I've always wished I could have been a part - even if only vicariously, through fatherhood."

"You don't have children?" I asked. He shook his head, exhaling and blowing the smoke toward the pavement.
"Have you ever been married?" I asked. He nodded his head and held up three fingers. "You've been married three times?" I asked in order to clarify. He laughed ruefully and nodded again.
"Which was your favorite wife?" I asked. He smiled again.
"The first. The other two were short-lived mistakes. I was attempting to gird myself against loneliness. It didn't work- I learned that if you're going to be lonely anyway, it's easier being lonely alone."
He turned to me, "Okay, my turn. Why did you marry your husband? You were or are married to the father of your child, I assume."

"Yes, I did marry him," I answered. "But why? That's a question no one has asked me in a while. I'll try to make this as succinct and clear as possible.
"Clarity and brevity are always appreciated," he said smiling.

"Okay, I married him because I liked the way he seemed to be able to connect with anyone, from every walk of life. We met at university and being somewhat shy myself, I was drawn to his openness and magnanimity of spirit. It was only later that I learned that sometimes people who seem to connect with everyone, are really not able to connect with anyone on a very deep level."

"How interesting. I've always thought such was the case with your former President, Mr. Clinton. Such a charming and charasmatic character on the outside, but obviously desperately needing or missing something on the inside, to the point that he'd risk everything to try to find it."

I smiled. "Yes. And I know that this is not a popular view, but I think Monica Lewinsky and he were much more similar personalities in most respects than he and Hillary- they always seemed to me to be a better fit, at least as far as personalities went. Too bad politics played such a major role. Aside from that factor, being with Monica was probably somewhat of a relief for him...."

"Well ye-es- and in more ways than one, Miss Sunnybrook Farm," he laughed, shaking his head as he ground out his cigarette butt on the pavement and turned into a doorway. He opened the door.

"Where are we going now?" I asked as he waited for me to enter.
"My favorite bookshop. Have you not discovered this place yet?" he asked.
I shook my head, indicating that I hadn't.
"Well then it's high time you did. There's not a better used book shop in the city. See how much you've learned from me today? I think you and I are really connecting," he said smiling.
"Yes, or something to that effect," I answered vaguely as I entered the shop.
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Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2008 02:59 pm
Hello Aiden. I read here your name is Rebecca. How LOVELY.
Your story of Justin is good reading. I feel we all get to know one, when we READ them frequently.
May I say, you are a really NICE person to know.
I haven't been on the forum much in awhile... and probably wont be here a lot. But when I do read, I come to Original writing, I can always count on SOMEONE, usually you, Endy, Letty Jespah and edgar (and more) to entertain me completely. There are some really BRIGHT personalities and talents in this forum.
It is good that you keep your talent sharp and in use. I am just too slow and lazy anymore... and past my expiration date anyway Very Happy
Good to read you
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Reply Tue 29 Jan, 2008 05:01 pm
Hi Ollady! Or do you prefer Lou? (also a lovely name- is it short for Louise? I do love that name- it was my piano teacher's name- and she was an awesomely talented and kind woman). Thanks for the compliment on my name - I'm glad my parents chose it for me- it's served me well. I think it has alot of dignity and strength - not one of those cutesy, flimsy flash in the pan type of names).

Anyway I also was so happy to see that you'd returned. I will read your piece in the prose writing challenge when I get the chance- I don't do alot of reading on here until the weekend, as these days, I'm working full time and spend most of my time here either acronymming or writing this Justin thing. Much has changed in my life since we last communicated- but in the main- things are good for me. I hope they are for you as well.

I'm sure you're still spry and fresh. I don't think any of us have expiration dates - do we? I certainly hope not. I don't like the thought of that at all.

Yes, this is a good exercise for me. It's something that's fun for me to write and I don't tend to write at all unless it's fun - but this guy keeps me supplied with an endless string of anecdotes - we write or speak almost every day and he's just so damn funny - or at least I find him to be so - and refreshingly honest.

Lovely to see you back - Rebecca
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Reply Sat 2 Feb, 2008 12:52 pm
Hi again aidan or rather REBECCA.
I don't have a preference for 'lou' which is short for Louise...
or theollady... I just named myself that on the basis of TRUTH. maybe I am a little hostile at being OLD instead of lou, ha ha ha ha ha ha.
As for spry and fresh... it depends on the day and the hour, and maybe
a bit- on the mood. Very Happy
Us Seniors are generally sprinkled with a little kindness, wit, frosted hair, long term memory, a splash of paranoia, just a shade demented, and whether we wish or not, we may drag along or walk fast. Razz

Any way, it is nice to be welcomed, and I am sorry you have to work so much. I hope it nets you lots of spending money.
I am waiting for more Justin...
later, lou
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Reply Sun 3 Feb, 2008 11:01 am
Ollady said:
Any way, it is nice to be welcomed, and I am sorry you have to work so much. I hope it nets you lots of spending money.

I don't mind working- I'd actually work at this job even if I didn't get paid...I like it- I like it ALOT- and it's a good thing I do because I work my butt off and I get paid even less than a public school teacher...but I knew the drill when I signed up for the gig - so que sera sera.

Lunching with Justin (cont.)
Slowing our pace to give our eyes time to adjust to the dimness of the shop, we continued talking. As he held my arm and pointed to a step down, Justin said, "Well you may not be sure that we're connecting, but I most assuredly am. In fact, I'd like to connect further," he said, guiding me toward the back wall of the shop which was lined floor to ceiling with books.
"Because not to belabor the point, but I found your comments about the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky affair not only interesting, but somewhat surprising. It sounds to me as if you condone his behavior, and you being a woman, and one who has been married, I find that quite an intriguing response." He paused to catch his breath, " Don't you believe, as every other woman in the world seemed to feel compelled to announce at the time, that he behaved little better than the proverbial male dog in that situation, by humiliating his wife in front of the whole world?"

We had reached the back of the shop and turned to face each other as I
answered, "Well sure...yes, definitely, his behavior was not exemplary, but whose is? And I never understood how any of the whole sad affair could possibly be any of my business. But since it was thrust upon the American public..."- he winced at the implied pun, as I smiled and continued, " I was only stating what I believe, that with the pressures of his job and the reality of what would appear to be certain of Hillary's more obviously apparent and somewhat forbidding personality characteristics, I can understand how an associated personality, and certainly one as seemingly jovial as Bill Clinton's, would feel compelled to look for lighter moments elsewhere. I mean, it's not exactly as if Monica Lewinsky had usurped duties that you can imagine Hillary performing."

He laughed out loud. "Yes, I guess that's true. One can't really imagine her assuming that particular position..."
I interrupted, "Although she is such a competent and capable woman that there's no reason to believe that she would not be so in every single one of her endeavors, if you get my drift..." I was delighted to see that again, he seemed at a loss for words. So I took the opportunity to insert a thought that had been occurring to me as we'd been speaking. "Have you noticed how we refer to Monica Lewinsky by both her Christian and surnames, while Hillary, though older, more mature and undoubtedly the more substantial personality, is more commonly referred to by simply her Christian name? Why do you think that is?"

He shook his head as if clearing it before answering vaguely while staring at me intently, "Yes, I have noticed that. I've also noticed that you, Miss Sunnybrook Farms are full of surprises."
"Yes, well, maybe you'll stop calling me that now," I answered.
"Oh was that what this was all about?" he asked smiling. I smiled back at him smugly, happy to have made my point. "You know, you could have just told me to stop being such an insufferably condescending prat."
"Why would I do that? It wouldn't have been half as much fun," I informed him.
"Lovely, and duly noted. But are you planning to vote for her?" he asked, changing the subject abruptly.

"No, I like her way too much to do that to her. In fact, I think the greater kindness would be to vote for someone else in an attempt to save her from her own ambition, because if she were to be elected, that would essentially ruin any chance for any future happiness she might possibly achieve in the rest of her life."
I was scanning the shelves as I spoke, "I don't see her as being head and shoulders above several of the other candidates- and the fact is she's just too divisive. The American people would be relentlessly cruel to her- they already are- and always have been. Think of how that would intensify were she to be the first woman elected President."

He raised his eyebrows, "So you will be her savior, by not giving her what she so desperately wants...interesting approach. If you are sure who you will not vote for- have you decided who you will vote for? He continued, "This, again, is something in which I'm extremely interested, as is the rest of the world- all of us waiting with baited breath to see what demigod the American public will choose to foist upon us next."

I could understand his concern, but unfortunately was unable to give him a definitive reply. I shrugged my shoulders apologetically, "Well, as far as my choice goes- you'll just have to keep waiting. I haven't decided yet, but I promise that I'll try to use my brain and common sense and make an enlightened choice," I answered as I pulled a book from the shelf. "I like this title, and the authors name: 'The Well of Loneliness', by Radclyffe Hall. Have you read it?"

He guffawed. "Have you really not heard of that book?" he seemed amazed.
I shook my head, affirming that I hadn't.
"It caused quite the scandal when it was published here in the UK."
"How so?" I asked as I leafed through the introduction and began scanning the first few pages.
"It's a rather infamous expose on lesbianism- and as it was written during the first half of the twentieth century- which as you know, was the whole "love that dares not speak its name" era, as I said, it caused quite an uproar at the time of its publication."

"Well, now I really am intrigued," I murmurred still reading. I looked up at him. He was smiling at me again. I smiled back, "Okay, listen- the protagonist is a female named Stephen. She's described as having broad shoulders and slim hips...fascinating stuff, how can I possibly pass this up?"

"And why should you have to?" he asked, laughing. "You go pay for your book and I'll meet you at the door. I'd rather enjoy the clerk's reaction to your purchase from afar, if you don't mind," he said chuckling to himself and heading down the aisle toward the front of the store.
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Reply Mon 4 Feb, 2008 12:52 pm
It just gets BETTER, Aidan...
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Reply Sat 9 Feb, 2008 09:04 pm
Thank you ollady.

Lunching with Justin (cont.)
We prepared to part that afternoon outside the door of the bookshop.
"I'm sorry to have to leave, as we've been having so much fun, but I have to give a lesson at three," Justin told me. "And in all actuality, I'm glad that I do, because I'd be embarrassed to walk down the street with you holding that book," he said glancing distastefully at the cover of the volume which depicted two very stern looking women drawn in pen and ink. "Why didn't you ask for a carrier bag to put it in?" he asked me, rather scoldingly.

I was surprised at how much fun I found disconcerting him, in whatever way, so I merely answered, "What? And contribute to global warming?" I asked, looking at him with undisguised amusement. I continued, "Anyway, what's the big deal? Why should you even care what other people think about what I choose to read?"

"You seem to forget I'm British. I don't believe in making a spectacle of myself. I know that's the American way of life, but those of us who have been raised to behave in public with a modicum of decorum find it tasteless and somewhat crass." I turned to look at him to try to discern if he was in any way serious. He continued, " I'm surprised at you; I had given you more credit than to act in such a typically American way."

"Give me a break," I replied. "If walking down the street with my choice of reading material is making a spectacle of myself, then so be it." I looked disdainfully at him. "You need to give up on that little piece of manipulative bullÂ…I mean, hogwash. Do you know what that means- hogwash? It's an American term. Have you heard that term before? Because you are absolutely full of it."

By this time, his shoulders were obviously shaking with laughter. "I have to say, one of the things I find most enjoyable about spending time with you is the way in which you seem to feel so free, and yes, even entitled , to say whatever it is you think."
I was shocked at his lack of self-recognition. "Me? I'm the one who says whatever I think? If you only knew how much of what I really think that I have neglected to voice aloud."
This seemed to give him a moment's hesitation. I saw the confusion on his face, and I knew he was searching his memory for examples to which I might be referring. Satisfied, I continued, " While you, on the other hand saddle absolute strangers of whom you know nothing whatsoever with monikers like, "Cheeseburger queen" and "beef-witted", and announce as much to other perfect strangers, of whom you also know absolutely nothing ."

He smiled. "Yes, I guess you do have a point. But I have to ask, and I want you to answer honestly- are you happy, in any small or insignificant way, that I chose you to announce those thoughts to?"

I couldn't lie. I looked him in the eye and nodded, as I said, "Yes, actually. Very happy. I find you to be one of the most interesting people I've met in quite a while. And I have no trouble telling you that, as I am American and that is what I think."

"Well, that's all right then, isn't it?" he asked. He didn't wait for an answer. "Meet me at our spot tomorrow- lunchtime," he called over his shoulder as he walked briskly away.
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Reply Sun 10 Feb, 2008 12:41 pm

This excerpt could be the beginning of a very handsome short story. In a brief space, you've created three interesting characters and raised the reader's interest in their motivations as well as their behavior.

If we pretend that this piece is the start of a short story, I would make the following suggestions, based on the general principle that readers prefer to enjoy the illusion of drawing their own conclusions--although the writer, of course, is largely in charge of the breadth and depth of the reader's vision.

How a short story begins is, along with its conclusion, artistically demanding. The writer must snag the reader's interest as quickly and seemingly casually as possible. If the reader feels he or she is simply going to be told something, the reader may flip forward to the next story. If, on the other hand, the reader has the immediate sense that he is going to discover something interesting, he will likely stay the course.

With these precepts in mind, you might consider:

1) Beginning your opening paragraph with "That morning, etc.," as this sentence constitutes a subtler version of the "How could she have known..." sentence, which pretty forcefully leads the witness.

2) Turning down a bit the level of foreshadowing drama. For example, you might write, "It never occurred to her," rather than "It had certainly never occurred to her..." Similarly, you might consider striking the word "significant."

"So orders the cheeseburger queen of Basingstoke" is a splendid line. I instantly want to know MUCH more about the speaker!

I realize that, when you wrote this exercise, you may have had a different genre--a long piece?--in mind, but, being struck by how many of the ingredients of a good short story you've assembled on this one page, I thought I'd at least mention the possibility. Also, the suggestions above are pertinent in lengthier fiction, too.

Another possibility is a short-short-story, more difficult to write, but a lot of fun to play with.

In sum, Aidan, you have MANY possibilities here. Bravo.
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Reply Sun 10 Feb, 2008 02:20 pm
Hey Miklos- Thank you for your comments and suggestions. I don't know what will happen with this. At this point it continues to be a writing exercise for me, as well as just something I'm enjoying recreationally, because it brings back good memories - although I have started fictionalizing it a bit more now -since I'm not in England anymore and we're not eating lunch everyday.

This character, Justin, is my best friend (even though we met less than a year ago). We just have a lot of common interests and are both the kind of people who just say whatever, and actually prefer not to have to play social games, and we recognized that in each other right away, so we've gotten to know each other really well, very quickly.

So I guess right now, I don't want to be constricted (I just laughed at myself, because the truth is I can NEVER stand to feel constricted) into any literary format. This is kind of my way to visit with him until I get back to England. But after that - if you have any editing tips - I always need to be pared down...I write just like I talk - too much for most people. Laughing (luckily, some people like it...)

But guess what? I AM definitely moving to England at the end of June. So if you did want to do a houseswap- not for this year (2008) but maybe summer of 2009- I'd be very interested.

I'll be back in my old job, so I have to live somewhere within commuting distance of that - so I'm thinking Wells- which is a lovely little city with one of the most magnificent cathedral fronts in the whole of England, (or Europe for that matter). Here's my favorite part of the interior:

I have lots of friends there-actually my old writing group meets and does poetry readings at the Cafe Piano in town there- so you might have the opportunity to go to a poetry reading while you're there.
Two of my friends do the caretaking and gardening for the Bishop's Palace of Well's Cathedral, and I could get them to take you and your wife on the special tour - where you'd have access to all the parts of the cathedral and grounds most people don't ever get to see, like the original underground springs and source for the "wells" that give Wells its name.

Anyway - if you're visiting England - Wells is right smack dab in the middle of so many amazing historical sights and exquisitely beautiful landscapes - so many walks...I'd have to stay a day or two after you got there to tell you and your wife about all the wonderful things to do and see and show you where to walk.
I was looking at some of my old photos today (I haven't been able to even look at them since I left without crying- but now that I'm going back, I can look at them again)
I can't really verbalize it, it's beautiful here, but the beauty there is just on a whole different plane- at least to me.

Anyway - thanks for your interest and comments and suggestions in my story. I'd definitely appreciate any help or suggestions you have to give.

Hope you are well. Is it snowing there? It's like a white out here- very beautiful after alll the rain much of last week - another beautiful, clean white blanket covering everything - I love it.
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Reply Wed 13 Feb, 2008 01:33 pm

CONGRATULATIONS on your upcoming return to England. Wells is a beautiful area; I've always admired the extraordinary cathedral. But I've never seen the town or the building in person. Therefore, let's definitely explore a house-exchange for summer of 2009!

Don't ever be concerned about having to pare down your writing. I would venture that almost all the best writing has been pared down at least once. The best way of looking at needing to pare is that you already have in hand most of what you need. It's merely a superabundance of good material. Pity the writer who studies what's in hand and realizes there's too little; that issue can be truly a bear, for one must go back to the beginning to expand AND get the narrative details and tone right.

Always great to make a new and amusing friend, who "gets" what you talk about. He must be enjoying these stories.

Best Wishes again on a smooth transition back to England!
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Reply Sun 24 Feb, 2008 06:58 pm
Thanks Miklos
Lunching with Justin (cont.)
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Reply Sun 24 Feb, 2008 07:54 pm

This is going well: your characters feel genuine; their conversation is natural; your descriptive details are good.

The pace of the narrative is too slow for a short story but just right for a longer genre. As you seem to be adept at gradual character development--a hard skill to learn from scratch; since you have this talent, have fun using it--you might want to keep going with this piece to see if you come up with a chunk of a short novel.

Some highly successful novelists "grow" their books; they develop characters to the point at which they seem real to the writer, and then, they present these characters with situations to see what they would do, etc. One reaction suggests another, and so on.

You might consider removing the unnecessary tag words that accompany some of your dialogue. The dialogue is so good that it's a shame to risk diluting its force with the forms like "she said," "he said," and "he continued" that don't need to be there because the reader can infer them.

Your characters are very likeable individually, and an appealing relationship is beginning to evolve between them. Why not keep rolling?
You have a good thing going!
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Reply Sun 24 Feb, 2008 08:16 pm
Thank you Miklos - I know it's good for me to write this- because it always makes me smile to write this particular story.

I was feeling so sad this weekend - I watched The Diary of Anne Frank and then this person in the library asked me to do something that just made me feel so sad - (I think I've got a story to do about that on Ashermans' "the last will be first thread" if I can keep figuing it out).
Anyway, I was just feeling so overwhelmed by the sadness in the world
so I decided to drink a glass of wine - write a few acronyms about Mathos (you'll have to become familiar with HIM when he returns- talk about a CHARACTER) and then I revisited Justin - and abracadabra - I was happy again...

I always appreciate your comments. I'll edit those he said, she said instances on my microsoft word copy. Thanks so much for the advice.
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Reply Sun 24 Feb, 2008 08:41 pm

Very sorry that you experienced sad times this weekend. However, it is an EXCELLENT sign--about both your state of mind and your writing--that working on your Justin story made you happy again! Many of my friends who write--and I, too--feel really good when we're deep into constructing a narrative. The process has its own deep fascination--and satisfaction, when it's moving well--and immersion in it can filter out distractions and worries, and, to a degree, the entire outside world.

The immersion--especially, when a writer is on a roll--can be so deep that his or her family can feel left out or ignored. I have dealt with this by telling my wife that she may interrupt me ANY time I'm writing, and that I will then move away from my work to another room so that she may have my full attention. If I don't leave my desk, my mind keeps turning on the writing project at hand. Knowing that she can, anytime she wishes, break into my "trance" and have my complete attention, without irritating me, she seldom interrupts unless it's important to her. Most writers have a similar system in place. I cannot imagine what happens in a house with TWO writers; if both are in deep with a project, a lot of time could go before someone surfaces!
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Reply Sat 8 Mar, 2008 09:29 pm
Miklos - I love your avatar. I'm assuming it references Blue Hill in Maine, but it reminds me also of the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains one gets driving east to west across North Carolina and into Tennessee. At some points and at certain times of the day - they range from blue to lavender to almost violet. Aren't mountains (everywhere and anywhere) inspiring?

You're better than I am about being interrupted. I'm one of those people who also seems to be the opposite of ADHD, as in when I get focused- I am hyperfocused. My children will ask me a question, and it will not even register, or I'll just nod and then later have to be told exactly what it was that I agreed to.

Anyway - another sad and troubling news day - time to escape...

Lunching with Justin (cont.)
When he called me that night at home, I asked him if it would be alright if I brought my dog with us to Wales, as my children would be with their father and there'd be no one at home to take care of her.
"I love dogs...and children for that matter. Bring the dog, bring the kids, bring the whole family if that suits you," he laughed.
"No, just the dog this time," I told him. "So you're sure there won't be an issue with her staying wherever we are staying?"
"No, it's a cottage that belongs to friends of mine. They have dogs themselves. I'm sure they'll have no problem with it- but just to set your mind at ease, I'll call and confirm that that's the case and I'll let you know for sure tomorrow."

When I walked into the pub the next day, he was seated at our table and smiled expansively as he motioned me to sit across from him where a cup of tea and a glass of wine sat waiting for me.
"What's this?" I asked, motioning toward the glass of wine.
"I thought you might enjoy something a little more spirited, so I took the liberty of ordering you a glass of my favorite wine."
"Well, ordinarily, I'd love to try it, but I'm working today. I don't think it'd be appropriate for me to go back into the classroom smelling of alcohol, do you?"
"Don't be so insufferably American," he spouted. "It's uncivilized to expect anyone to have lunch without enjoying a glass of wine. I think you'll find that's the prevailing wisdom in this country. I shouldn't worry about it if I were you."
"Oh. Okay. I guess one glass won't hurt- especially as I'll be eating and having tea as well. Has anyone ever told you you're a bad influence?" I asked as I sipped the wine.
"Oh many, many times," he smiled. "So what's the subject matter today Miss?"
"Well, as the bicentennial of the abolition of slavery in this country is this month, and I find that my students- though none are American- are fascinated by anything American, I'm introducing the subject of the underground railroad and Harriet Tubman."
"Who's she," he asked casually, sipping his own wine.
"You've never heard of Harriet Tubman?" I asked, somewhat amazed.
"Never. As I asked, who is she?"

"She was a freed slave. She was considered to be the Moses of her people as she led them out of bondage via the underground railroad. Have you ever heard of the underground railroad?"

"Yes, I have heard of that. And I've actually read a wonderful biography of Lincoln by an American chap named Krutch. It's called, 'Lincoln: A Life'. Have you read it?"
"No. I haven't. But it might be a good resource for me in this unit. Do you own a copy or do you know if it's available in this library?"

"I'll let you borrow mine. It's amazing to me how Americans seem to care so much more about preserving our history than the British do."
"Wait a minute...you are talking about Abraham Lincoln, right? Or is there another British Lincoln I'm forgetting who was instrumental in the abolition of slavery?"
"No, I'm talking about Abraham."
""Well, how would he be considered a part of British history?"
"He's not a part of British history," he almost spat at me disgustedly. "But it's highly irritating to me to constantly be forced to observe the way in which Americans seem so much more adept at adopting British methods to record and preserve their history than the British themselves do."
"Oh- whatever Justin. Try not to be so territorial - okay? But there is something you can help me with. I'm trying to come up with a list of vocabulary words that are instrumental to the comprehension of this unit. I don't want to insult these men by assuming they don't know words which might actually be very commonplace to them, although I might not think the same words would be as commonly used by Americans at the same reading and vocabulary level. Do you see what I'm getting at?"

"Yes, yes, I think I do," he nodded sagely. "You're asking me, as I'm English, to advise you in terms of which may be commonly used words in Britain that are not so commonly used in America?"

"Yes, that's it exactly. For instance, one of the words that I'm deliberating over including on the list is "bondage". That was a word very commonly used at the time to describe the condition of slavery. I know that people in America who are reading at such a low reading level would need at least to be reminded of what it means. But I guess I need to ascertain if that would be the case in Britain as well.

"Well, now...we are talking about adult men, are we not?"
I nodded innocently.
"Then, I'd guess that would depend on what type of magazines they read - wouldn't you?"
I couldn't speak for laughing. I'd walked right into that one.
He continued , "You know, I think I will volunteer in your classroom. The more I hear, the more I'm convinced that this just sounds like too much fun to pass up. And besides - I can see you need me."
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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2008 07:45 am
Good morning, Aidan

A good installment! The conversation has more crackle to it--and fewer unnecessary words. The dialogue still sounds a bit formal in syntax, however, even when one considers that one of the speakers is a Briton, who would, to American ears, use a slightly more formal syntax (although combined with a wider spread in level of vocabulary than most Americans would use). You might try reading the discourse aloud to yourself, to see if it can be less precise in construction. These are two quick-witted speakers, and their conversation will have already evolved to a level of communication at which not all detail needs to be made clear. The reader will have no trouble following, as the characters have been artfully built.

"Almost spat at me disgustedly" is a harsh enough phrase that it stands out for the reader. You may wish this effect, as you may be prefiguring future conflicts?

You probably know the French borrowing "badinage." In French and in both American and British English, it means "the exchange of playful or joking remarks between people in conversation." As the dialogue between these two witty people develops, there will be more badinage, and that change requires a more rapid, elliptical style of speech. These two people like each other, so some of the back-and-forth can be distinctly ad hominem, as it already is. Neither would take offense, and the reader will enjoy jokes with an edge to them.

There are few references to the setting in this section of your story. These details--visual, aural, textural, etc.--need not be many, but they should be just frequent enough that the reader is subliminally aware that the conversation is occurring in an actual place. A little bit of color reference packs a lot of verisimilitude: you might, for instance, refer to the color of the offered wine. Or you might refer to its taste, which will, subtly, be positively affected by the company.

I am trafficking in small stuff here. Please don't let my comments distract you. The piece, as it stands, is very good. I'm simply suggesting the tightening of a few screws in the construction!

Thank you for complimenting my avatar. I was delighted to find it. It references both Blue Hill and the Blue Ridge, two of my favorite places.

Good story, Aidan--and good visual inference!
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Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 03:47 pm
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Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 04:15 pm

So very glad to see more of Justin!

This piece has excellent dialogue--mostly very natural in sound, AND the musical topics are truly interesting. I would love to chat with a British violinist about American blues--and the violin. He is delightfully open-minded.

Somewhere, here and there, I'd add a couple of short references to the setting. Sure, your readers know you all are in a car and that Justin is not the driver. But a small bit more detail is needed to make the scene completely alive: a color or texture of the interior; the color or a gesture of the dog; the gestures of the speakers. Little stuff and only a little of it--but it will make the reader feel entirely present.

Again, I'm greatly impressed with the quality of the dialogue. If one has great dialogue, one needs very little by way of setting. For an extreme example of a writer who's so talented with dialogue that it comprises almost his entire novels is George V. Higgins--specifically in FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE. A different genre from your piece, but the example will still be valid if you check it out.

Brava, Aidan! Another great piece. You excel at dialogue, the hardest part of a story.
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Reply Sun 30 Mar, 2008 04:35 pm
Thanks Miklos - I just get in the rhythm of remembering and I don't want to interrupt myself with other stuff, messing up the flow and throwing myself off. If I ever did anything with this - that's when I'd probably go back and try to beef it up with description, etc.

I don't know how talented I am at dialogue - this is mostly straight remembering of things that were actually said. Justin is so funny and a trip - and one of the biggest connections we have is music - he plays everything from classical to jazz to country acoustic and electric violin- and that's kind of the range of my musical interest and taste so we have a lot in common there. We also both love to sing- and he sings bass and I can sing alto and second soprano - so car trips are musical as well as fun and educational - he knows the history of every single castle and fort and cathedral. Like I said in the story - I think I'm the one making out on the friendship.

I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for your help. I did take your advice and put less of the he said, she said interjections. And I do think it made it read more smoothly - so thank you for that suggestion.
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