Author Topic: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?  (Read 2727 times)

Offline Quemaqua

  • 古い塩
  • Administrator
  • Forum god
  • *
  • Posts: 16,405
  • パンダは触るな。
    • Bookruptcy
I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« on: Saturday, December 04, 2010, 03:07:55 PM »
Having trouble figuring out exactly where I'm at with this one.  Gotten a little useful feedback from some friends and family, but thought I'd open it up to you guys and see if I could get a little more.  I imagine this is one you'll either love or hate.  It's a bit more literary than my usual.

Any feedback would be super appreciated.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

The Secret Language of Fish


He pulled another of them into the boat, straining against it as it fought bitterly on the end of his line.  This one was putting up a real fight, more than the others of that grey morning, and as he reached to grab the squirming thing, nearly losing his balance in the process, he involuntarily let out a "Whoa, there!" as if it would somehow steady him.

The sound of his own voice was startling.  He hadn't heard it in several days, and it resounded in his chest unapologetically, a thing dark and deep.  It was at once like hearing an old friend after a long absence, and like meeting a dangerous man in a shadowed corner of a black street.

He grasped for the fish again, his equilibrium restored, and quickly removed it from the hook with practiced grace.  It was a beautiful catch that would get a good price at the market after he had cleaned and prepared it.  This one would be served simply, he thought, with just some butter and a light mix of herbs almost more for the color than the flavor.  No sauces, no side dishes.  Just fish.

He tossed it into one of his buckets, taking a quick mental inventory that told him he'd caught plenty for the day.  He would take these to the market, set up his stall, and spend his day cooking, taking sips of wine throughout, selling whatever fish remained after lunch to whomever would buy them.  Then he'd go home by the route that took him to Giovanni's, where he'd buy another case of wine with the week's earnings so he could drink until he forgot his God, all that he had lost, and the way everything had seemed both right and wrong since the first day of her absence.

He glanced at the fish beside him.  Did they regret their choice to pursue the bait that brought their end?  Did they despair over those that were to become food for the villagers?  Or perhaps, he thought, as his mind turned to her again, they felt some secret sorrow that was too great for them to live with, and they bit his hooks willingly in an effort to escape the endlessness of the water, to escape to a world of lands and limitations.

He watched the movements of their mouths as they lay helpless in his boat.  A coldness swept the surface his heart, burning, a bare hand held to snow.  "What are you saying?" he asked.  His voice crunched like the sound of boots on wet gravel.  "There must be at least one truth you can share with me.  At least one."

His eyes, which had stared at them unfocused for some time, looked at last back up to the ocean.  The horizon had not held her visage today, so he began to row back to shore.

Perhaps he would see her tomorrow.  Perhaps the fish would tell him where she'd gone if he pleaded with them long enough.  His heart was heavy with their secrets, and he rowed in silence, arms flexing unseen in the protection of his thick, army-green coat.

The market that morning provided him with the wealth he had hoped for, Giovanni's too with a surprising price on a rich Barbaresco.  He retreated home as planned, sipping his wine in front of the fire, his long legs stretched out across the floor, declaring their comfort with frequent, sleepy stretches.
He stared absently in the direction of his fireplace much as he'd stared at the fish early that morning.  Though he'd spent the last three years cooking at the market most every day, and had bought this small fisherman's shack beneath the towering cliffside because it was big enough to support a functional, if rustic, kitchen, he took no food that night.  He walked outside onto the small, unstable deck that hung above the water off to one side of his home and stared up at the cliffs that brimmed with ivy, moss, small green plants, and orange stone.  They were beautiful, he thought.  And as with everything else that surrounded him, their beauty was lost on him.

His sleep that night came in waves, like the tide.  They were waves white with froth that sparkled in contrasting delight against the redness of their host.  On this sea of wine his dream-ship was tossed, and his lips opened and closed in fishy, wordless murmurings that might have been chants, or prayers, or screams.  Had he watched himself as he slept, he'd not have ventured to guess.

In the morning, he looked out over the grey sky as it brightened from the swirling soup of dawn, and he made some coffee with breakfast.  Stopping at his fishtank on the way to the boat, he took a moment to feed his pets.  All but one of them responded instantly to the food, swimming up to it and knocking it down into the water or across its surface in their haste.

He stared at the fish who did not eat, a small, blue thing that held his gaze as if to communicate.  It had ceased swimming and stared at him.  It blinked and moved its mouth.

"Because sometimes we kill love," he said in response to the question he wasn't sure the fish had asked.  "And sometimes what we love kills us."

He went out to sea again that day but couldn't bring himself to function.  The silvery ocean danced into his cove in the growing sunlight, begging him to open his chest and pour himself into its vastness.  Hours passed, and the sun slowly covered the world in glittering tones of gold.

And then he saw her.  She was just as he had seen her before, only the image was clearer now than even it had been.  Though he had expected to see it, he hadn't known when, and the surprise of it made his chest quiver with regret.  He coughed up the remnants of last week's cigarettes.

Her hand rose up from beneath the surface of the water, through a loose tangle of once beautiful hair that flowered from around her head.  Her hand was white and slender, like a shell that floated silently, the merest hint of all the beauty she had possessed.  It bobbed with the cadence of the waves, seeming to sing the crystal harmonies of the whole body like the stroked rim of a half-empty glass.

He stood.  Whether ghost or corpse or hallucination, he would not let her go.  Whether she was calling him near or trying to punish him, he knew he had to go to her.  He had let her slip away the last time in his confusion, back into the ocean where she might have existed anywhere, as anything, with any conceivable thought in her heart.  He wouldn't let her go again into that morass of uncertainty.  Not ever.

He pulled off his coat and dove into the water, icy shards of glass in the crook of his neck and against his back.  He swam out from the cove toward the sea, where her unbeckoning hand had shone in the sunlight.  He would lose sight of it, pushing himself forward against the cold in a paroxysm of muscular effort, then catch it again when he raised his head for air and tread the water to get his bearings.  His hair felt like a mop of grease against the pure, redemptive frigidity of the sea.  The fish, his breathless brothers and sisters, swam with him, and he heard their voices encircle his head.  Did they understand his mission?  Did they care?

The sea swallowed and spat, and he was lost in its remonstrance.  The crystal song that she sang from beneath the waves became a muffled sound like the searching tendrils of deep sonar.  He darted his head, looking around for her as the wind beat against his frozen skin, but she was gone.

His limbs began to freeze, and without her song to guide him, he stumbled.  His sea of despair turned to black oil, his heart crumbling like hardtack to drift amongst the schools and be eaten, the chorus of fish-words rising around him in a tempest of elegant, winding, ancient speech.  They propelled him downward, darker and more softly.  They spoke him into the ocean that he had called home as he waited for her, and the icy waters began to feel warm.  The resistance between skin and sea departed.  He closed his eyes.

His brothers and sisters were all around him now, stoic and solemn as he fell past their columns of watchful luminescence.  They moved their mouths in the shapes of that unknown tongue, perhaps in mockery, perhaps in pity.  He still didn't know; and had his eyes not stared out empty and unfocused as he fell, he'd not have ventured to guess.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline TheOtherBelmont

  • Post-aholic
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,340
Re: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« Reply #1 on: Saturday, December 04, 2010, 07:25:20 PM »
I don't have any useful feedback, but I do like it.

Offline Quemaqua

  • 古い塩
  • Administrator
  • Forum god
  • *
  • Posts: 16,405
  • パンダは触るな。
    • Bookruptcy
Re: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« Reply #2 on: Monday, December 06, 2010, 08:12:55 AM »
Well, that in itself is useful feedback.  Thanks dude.  I'm guessing everyone else either didn't read it or is sticking by the old "if you don't have anything nice to say" axiom.  But as you're an intelligent man and avid reader, I value your opinion, so appreciate you taking the time.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野

Offline PyroMenace

  • Senior Member
  • *
  • Posts: 3,923
Re: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« Reply #3 on: Monday, December 06, 2010, 08:46:19 AM »
I like your descriptions and you do an amazing job at establishing a mood. Other than that though, I really don't know what the story is about. At first I thought he was ship wrecked and because he hasnt heard his voice in a while and he didnt have a need to speak, but he sells fish and hes not ship wrecked so I guess he is really isolated then? Also is he crazy? Is the body of the woman real? or a figment of his imagination? is she Beatrice? Those are the questions that popped in my head when I read it.

Offline Antares

  • Veteran
  • ****
  • Posts: 1,179
Re: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« Reply #4 on: Friday, February 11, 2011, 04:47:29 PM »
Quote
and he rowed in silence, arms flexing unseen in the protection of his thick, army-green coat.

"Arms flexing" sounds so vague compared to the description you go into throughout the rest of the story

Quote
"Because sometimes we kill love," he said in response to the question he wasn't sure the fish had asked.  "And sometimes what we love kills us."

did you mean to say sometimes we kill love, or sometimes we kill what we love?  I expected to read ...sometimes love kills us, but maybe you didn't want to be so direct that early in the story.

Also, in the first half of the story, you never mention the sea, and in the second half you go into much more detail about the water, how it shines and behaves? Is this intentional?  For whatever reason I can't help but think about Hemingway's Old man and the sea and find myself expecting obsessive detail as a result.

Either way I wish I could write like you que.  You have an amazing way of changing my frame of mind based on your word choice without being overt that makes me insanely jealous.

Quote
Her hand rose up from beneath the surface of the water, through a loose tangle of once beautiful hair that flowered from around her head.  Her hand was white and slender, like a shell that floated silently, the merest hint of all the beauty she had possessed.  It bobbed with the cadence of the waves, seeming to sing the crystal harmonies of the whole body like the stroked rim of a half-empty glass.

I love this part.  I'm not sure if that makes me morbid or deranged... either way its my favorite bit of the story.



Offline Pugnate

  • What? You no like?
  • Global Moderator
  • Forum god
  • *
  • Posts: 12,122
    • OW
Re: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« Reply #5 on: Saturday, February 12, 2011, 12:50:44 AM »
ANTARESSSSSS

Offline Quemaqua

  • 古い塩
  • Administrator
  • Forum god
  • *
  • Posts: 16,405
  • パンダは触るな。
    • Bookruptcy
Re: I could really use some opinions on this short story. Any takers?
« Reply #6 on: Saturday, February 12, 2011, 06:34:25 PM »
Wow, thanks man.  Appreciate the feedback.  And good to see you around, as it always is.

天才的な閃きと平均以下のテクニックやな。 課長有野