Wednesday, February 27, 2008

New Beginning 454

My mother used to tell me the year I was born was the coldest she could remember. Inches from my womb, at the foot of the bed, her hot water bottle froze in the night, she said.

I miss her. And I miss those stories.

Sometimes, it feels like she’s watching over me. At first, I thought - why not? I’m her son, after all. But I’m a scientist, now. I should know how I know - should feel - all of this.

I’m half an hour late getting back to Roland, but I can’t let it go.

So: an experiment.

I shut my eyes and I see my unfinished email hovering in the darkness; medication 50mg etc etc; Vista, photo of kids. And now - yes - now I can see my Mother. Easy.

Mother. Vista. Photo. Mother. Yes: that’s what the brain does. 11th birthday, degree ceremony - I can even balance a Christmas tree bauble on the top of her head if I want.

A tap at the door. "Professor?" The bauble becomes a hat. A tea cozy. Got to keep the head warm. Medication, 100mg.


Of course. Roland's waiting. I am a scientist; it's not an act. I return to the operating theatre. Bone saw. Stem cells.

Don't worry, Mr. Roland. It's a breakthrough. We'll have your brain fixed in no time -- just like mine.

We went bowling sometimes, mother and I. The ball thumps on the lane and rolls toward the tenpins. Everyone gasps! A strike?

"Professor! Oh Jesus! Oh my God! Professor!"

Oh dear. A slip of the saw. How unfortunate.

Opening: Whirlochre.....Continuation:: ril


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

But it isn't enough. I click the mouse and the DVD whirs in the machine. I can't have Mother here, so I turn to the next best thing. Leaning back in my leather chair, I watch the credits roll across the screen. Roland can wait. Once again, Anthony Perkins will help me remember exactly how I should feel. Maybe, afterward, I'll put on Mother's old dress and haul out the tree ornaments. After that, I'll walk over to the psychology department. I'm sure Dr. Roland won't mind me being late for my appointment. Of all people, he should understand my need for some quality Mother time.


I can do anything. At Easter I give her bunny ears and on Shrove Tuesday I drape pancakes over her shoulders.

I love her, you see. So I want to share things. Like I do with Roland.

Roland. Where is he? I need to tell him about the Martian antennae I popped on Mother's head this morning.

I shut my eyes. E-mail. Medication 50mg. Vista... No. Roland. A change. Medication 70mg.

Oh Roland. Now Mother can have anything she wants.

--Anon.? (Can't find the email; if it's your and you wanted credit let me know.)

Evil Editor said...

Having trouble getting grounded here, which presumably is the idea, but it would be better if there weren't confusing points:

Inches from my womb her hot water bottle froze: Are "my" and "her" both the mother? If so, confusing. If not, who's who?

Why is her womb at the foot of the bed?

I should know how I know - should feel - all of this: could be more clear.

What's Vista? Vista, CA? Windows Vista? A plain old vista? They all make as much sense, especially in a piece that consists of random thoughts.

In short, following this narrator's train of thought will require work, which we're less willing to do if the randomness is accompanied by a lack of clarity.

Bernita said...

I found the first three paragraphs endearing.
Then you lost me.

Dave Fragments said...

I remember that there was more to this when it was first posted. I'm guessing that the author did some editing and EE posted the changes.

This is too harsh of a transition. It's asking too much of the reader to stay with the opening. I’m half an hour late getting back to Roland, but I can’t let it go.

When I was a kid I walked to school two miles uphill both ways, spring, summer, winter, fall. Hyperbole... That's the type of nostalgic statement in the first paragraph. I like the feelings it creates. A frozen hot water bottle is hyperbolically cold.

I like the statement I can even balance a Christmas tree bauble on the top of her head if I want. It's charming and cute. But the transition between the two where you reveal the speaker to be slightly (what?) crazy, minor-league nuts, kookie, schizophrenic, whatever is happening is too rough.

You have to work out what thought process gets the speaker from the first three paragraphs to the experiment paragraphs. "I'm a half hour late... go." doesn't work as the transition between the two.

Robin S. said...

Hi WO,

I'm there with you in the first half, and again in the second half, but the two halves aren't making a whole for me - which is a different way, I guess, of saying what's already been said.

You have a good and striking way of finding the quirky, strange appeal lying beneath the surface of the ordinary - and I like that- but I do find myself struggling, sometimes, to work through your prose, and I find myself rereading to make certain I've received what you've worked to give.

McKoala said...

I'm interested, but confused.

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by this, but, as others have said, I have to work a little too hard to actually like it. It seems to start off one story and become another.

I like the opening paragraph, but echo EE's comments: how is the womb close to the foot of the bed, and who's womb is it? POV glitch?

I should know how I know - should feel - all of this.

If I deconstruct the sentence, I can make two sentences that pretty much make sense ("I should know how I know all of this." "I should know how I should feel all of this.") But contracted, it's less clear. And I'm tempted to think there's an "about" missing.

So, to the experiment. Yeah, the transition here clunks a little bit for me, too. I think it's because it's not clear to me, looking back, what we're experimenting about.

Then, I like it again. I like the way the disjointed images and thoughts get inside the character's head and tell us something about her/his state of mind. And the idea that you can slice and dice images from your history like an in-head photoshop is neat.

But, I don't feel grounded. I don't know who it is or where it is. Maybe that's coming soon? By the end of the excerpt, I'm not sure if the hook is the first part or the second part -- don't know where to hang my hat; so I'm hovering at the door, not even sure whether to step inside. And while I like the technique and style of the second half, I wonder if it's in the wrong place? Its hesitancy makes me hesitant to read on. It's a cracked-open door rather than an invitation inside.

I wonder if you really need the "I'm a half an hour late..." line, or the "So: an experiment" line. I wonder if you could edit just a couple of the fragmented thoughts out to entice me along a little easier?

I'm guessing he/she sees the email because it's a latent image from what she/he was looking at. I can't connect to the medication references and not sure about the "etc. etc." "Vista" too is "WTF?"

But: I wouldn't have written so much about this if I didn't, overall, think it was worthwhile. I think I like where you're going, but I want a clearer invitiation I'm welcome along for the ride...

Whirlochre said...

Many thanks for your comments on this one.

The original submission was a hundred or so words longer thanks to my inability to follow the simplest of instructions and though it's tempting to proclaim, 'ah, but if you'd been able to read that, the whole thing would have made absolute sense,' this died on the cusp of the 150 word threshold as it should and I'm more than happy to consign it to the Repository Of Ultimate Suction.

It's a ghost story, the premise of which is that a cerebral psychiatrist finds himself party to what he believes to be the the same uncontrollable delusions as his ultra-medicated charges. As he's emailing a colleague, he performs a reality check by manipulating his mental furniture, in particular, his memories of his mother, over which he presently has full control. His major problem - clearly - is that the half-wit writer breathing life into his thought processes has inflated the balloons in the wrong order, presented the would-be ghost as a midget and twisted his testicles getting from A to B. And that's just for starters.

I'm grateful to Bernita for finding the opening endearing. When I wrote it, my concern was that it would sound twee or sentimental. As it happens, that bit is all true and if it hadn't been for flanellette bedsheets, I'd have been born a stiff.

And, Robin, you've commented before on my tendency to present the reader with an uphill struggle - which I don't actually mind of itself if I can be sure of luring my victims to the monument at the summit - but this one gurgles in the marsh at the foot of the slope, doesn't it? A marsh with a huge bull shitting in it. A farmer with a 12 bore shotgun. Godzilla...

So - assembled minions - I hope in future I can repay your interest with something more tangible to sink your teeth into.

none said...

I don't mind an uphill struggle, but seriously weird anatomy is another matter :).

Robin S. said...

Hey, WO,

Please don't forget about the first part of what I said/wrote:

You have a good and striking way of finding the quirky, strange appeal lying beneath the surface of the ordinary...

I wouldn't want you to lose your interesting takes and singular self in your overhaul (honestly- no teasing here)- just to make it easier to follow, is all.

Whirlochre said...

To Buffy & Robin

OK - I'm happy to soldier on despite being a two-antenna typist....

Sarah Laurenson said...

OK. I'm very late to this party.

inches from my womb
I took this to mean that the babe was claiming mom's womb as his own since he just came from there, but I can see how it's confusing in general. I like the idea that the babe is thinking my womb though.

I like the overall tone and the voice here. I agree it needs a bit of tweaking. Lots of good suggestions already here for that.

Good luck, WO!