No Fun at All

I miss writing stories here. I am originally a story-writer, you see. But lack of a steady thought process, and dedicated time makes it difficult to write one to my liking. And then there is the confusion of whether or not to accept instructions. The instructions say, a story must have a character, a conflict, a resolution. A plot. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find a reasonable via-way between my belief that a story needn’t have a plot, and these instructions. So, in all of this confusion — which is quite a normal thing for me, by the way — I’ve decided to try out a vignette today. I didn’t know it existed until 5 minutes ago, when I searched for types of short stories through Google. I am, however, breaking rules here as well, and not writing anything to do with theatre or poetry.Β  And, even before I publish it, I am half-sure I’ll want to take it off and throw it in the garbage bin. But I won’t, because these writing times are few and far between, and I want to keep their fruits.

No Fun at All

The dusty glass sarcophagus showed fingerprints of silly people, who touched it in spite of the earnest warnings by the museum. Like everything else in the building, the unnamed, lost old Egyptian inside the glass case was without a guard. She stood there, staring at her reflection on the sullied surface. Her own face was pockmarked with the fingerprints of countless people she never would know. Her glasses reflected more of the post-death charade lying in front of her. It hadn’t been easy getting used to the glasses she had recently begun wearing, and when she looked at their reflection now, she felt a sudden urge to take them out and throw them away; they didn’t help her see. She couldn’t see what she wanted to.

The old and tired pedestal fan next to the ugly grey wall turned its head every now and then towards her. Tucking a few stray hair behind her ears, she moved on, unaware that she was doing it. That she was. That things were. She just kept moving on.

It was a Sunday, there were more people than this narrow gallery of a mansion turned into a museum could hold on a sultry May afternoon. Sweating uncharacteristically, she didn’t care that she had left behind her party of friends, and that they must be missing her. The buzz of empty air blocked out everything perfectly. Perhaps this is what she needed today. Dainty porcelain things on glass shelves looked at her from behind surprisingly clean glass walls. She smiled, perhaps remembering something pleasant.

It must have been a while in front of the porcelain things, because when she looked around, she realised that all those, who were strolling around with her seemed to have gone ahead. It must have been long enough for everyone to leave. The gallery was about to meet a huge hall, which would lead her outside to the sprawling lawns. Walking uncharacteristically slowly, she knew she had to find everyone else now. They must be somewhere. Waiting for her. She walked on, slow, straight, unfaltering. But the heart was pounding inside her chest, and it shouted for air. She needed to breathe. Deep, and slow. She needed to stop. She needed. She needed to know her son was not dead. But not all needs are met.

*

Idea for this little piece: About year after my brother died, we took some of my very young cousins to a museum. My mother got ‘lost’ forΒ  a couple of hours inside the huge place. We waited outside, wondering where she was. There were no mobile phones then. We found each other on the central lawn outside. There must have been some system to find lost people — some announcement system — but I don’t remember using it. To this day, I wonder what she must have been thinking. Or not.
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26 thoughts on “No Fun at All”

  1. Well, what do I know? But ‘instructions’ and ‘rules’ for writing stories… Hm… If everybody follows the ‘rules’, how does the artform move on?

  2. I like it–especially the clever use of words “post-death charade” and “she couldn’t see what she wanted to.”
    I hope you don’t mind a little editorialising: The only issue is that I liked the story better after I read the post script because before that I didn’t really have a human connection with the lady. The problem comes in the second paragraph–the imagery is perfect (who hasn’t been in museum gallery like that, so the setting is immediately evident)–but the use of phrases like “old and tired” and “ugly grey wall” followed by the lady tucking hair behind her ears sets a tone that she, too, is old, tired, ugly and grey. The last few short sentences, e.g., “That she was,” “That things were,” are crucial to her psyche but in the context of the images in the paragraph, I initially got the sense that she was crazy, or demented and out of touch with reality. Only on the second reading, after I’d read the post script, did I appreciate what those sentences meant.
    My suggestion–if you want to describe the setting, keep what you have, but have a separate paragraph where you set up the lady as a separate entity–you could make her stylish and with a vibrant group of friends and then put in the short sentences that hint that something is wrong. Then, and most important, the use of the word “needed” in the last few sentences is fantastic, but “She needed to know her son was not dead” leaves the impression that the son may or may not be dead, which makes for a very different reading of the last sentence. Could you maybe say, “She needed life to be like it was before her son died,” or something like that?

    Forgive my presumptuousness in offering editorial changes, but the story and writing interested and engaged me so much I couldn’t resist!

    1. There is nothing presumptuous in what you’ve written and told me, dear friend. You’ve helped me no end. I will try to make these changes and see if it reads better. Editing is not an option for me these days — I just write and post. But then, even at the cost of offering you trash, I must write!
      Your response has also given me an idea — perhaps I could open my short-shorts for advice and editing suggestions. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if all, who came here told me just how my work is good and just how I can improve it? Lovely.

  3. I read this twice, Priya – in my first reading I got a little confused, thinking ‘she’ was the Egyptian from the glass case! On second reading the pieces began to fall into place! πŸ™‚

  4. “The gallery was about to meet a huge hall, which would lead her outside to the sprawling lawns.” Love it! Very poetic. Love the flow of movement, gentle and slow. Kudos, Priya! πŸ™‚

  5. I think it would be a mistake to open up your writing space here to the “corrections” and editorializing of others. We come here to gain a sense of your thought, your emotion, your wanderings though a world of detail and description. Be brave! Write what you will! If we like it, good for us. If we don’t – what does that matter to you? Use your writing to find your style, your own way of moving deeper into story.

    Of course – a misspelled word, an awkward bit of grammar? These can be pointed out. But response is the key. When I hear from readers, I want to hear, “I agree with this”. “I don’t agree with that”. But even more precious is, “I felt this way.” “You made me remember that.”

    Here’s what you made me remember today – my trip to the King Tut exhibit in Houston. There was a marvelous sarcophagus for his cat. There were dozens of signs saying, DO NOT TOUCH!!! I touched it anyway. One finger, gently. Time collapsed. Like your woman, I needed to breathe.

    1. For a while now, I have been wondering whether my only problem is that I look for problems where there are none. I am going to let it all rest, Linda. And come back. Hopefully with a clearer mind, and a sense of being me (not what I think I could or should be).

      Thank you.

      P.S. I’ll someday look at King Tut’s things and feel a rush. And then find myself needing to breathe. What an experience it must be!

  6. I like the wonderment of this piece, and the pace; When I visit places that preserve what has passed, I can not help but recall those that are no longer in my own life. Some environments invite the past more than others. I hope you keep writing.

    As for rules, perhaps you will find your own. Just so long as there is some level of devotion, that’s all that really matters. My sense is, if you look closely you will find most passions have within them a hidden arc. Most emotions have some sort of beginning, a middle and an end. Structure is all around us, we breath in, we breath out, we eat and then digest. No moment passes without tension, without expansion and the requisite collapse. If you document the reality of the senses somewhat accurately, you probably won’t be able to escape some manner of plot.

    1. “If you document the reality of the senses somewhat accurately, you probably won’t be able to escape some manner of plot.”
      Exactly. So, there isn’t any point looking for a plot, or a conflict. If you find realistic characters, they will end up in some conflict or the other. And where there is conflict, there’s resolution.

  7. This is the kind of writing at which you most excel: short, vivid pieces told from an unexpected perspective. It’s the way you write before you catch yourself and realize that you’re writing, and before you turn self-conscious and self-doubting. Perfect phrases seem to appear out of nowhere — “the buzz of empty air” and “porcelain things on glass shelves looked at her…” I think the trick is to stay one step ahead of that critic in your head, because when you do, you produce memorable work such as this. I’ll always remember the invisible barrier you created between life and death, covered with the “fingerprints of silly people.”

  8. When it comes to creativity, there are no rules. Write Just write what comes naturally from your heart and the words will come together. You are a beautiful writer, Priya. πŸ™‚

  9. I didn’t realise you were still writing Priya. I am not getting any notifications, wonder why?!!..

    I read the PS first, don’t know why I did that, but I did, and it made me relate to the story better.

    Don’t you worry about the rules Priya. They almost always lead us astray than let us be in the path. Write as you would like to write, and that story you talk about will follow through.

    It always does. πŸ™‚

    1. And I’ve stopped wondering why people are often missing from my blog these days — WordPress decides to not notify about my writing. So what? I’ll keep at it.
      Thank you for the encouragement I need. I shall remember this when times are murky.

      1. Voila. I have figured it out. Looks like WP’s ‘follow’ settings have changed off late.

        Apart from the general notification setting, they offer a notification setting for each blog that we follow, and unless we go and change the setting under reader tab, they are all listed under no email/comment setting 😦 No wonder I didn’t get your updates. I have changed that now πŸ™‚

        PS. Always πŸ™‚

  10. Uff… I thought the comment didn’t pull through the first time, and now I see my comment twice. Do delete it, sorry for the unintended spamming πŸ˜›

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