Critique Group – Courage to See

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Courage to See – by Hannah

“Eileen?” I called once I’d entered my house. “Dearest? Where are you?”

“In here, honey,” came her voice from the kitchen. I hurried through the living room and dining room and towards the kitchen. As I entered the kitchen, a small sigh of relief escaped me. Eileen stood beside the stove, in the middle of peeling potatoes. Her peaceful expression warped into surprise as I rushed to her and threw my arms around her waist, pulling her close.

“You’re safe,” I whispered into her gray hair.

Eileen laughed, “Just the same as when you left this morning, love.”

“Eli?”

“Yes?” She smiled.

“Did you call me earlier?”

“No.” As she said that, she looked as though she was trying not to grin.

I looked at her sternly, my eyebrows raised. “Eileen,” I demanded, while holding back a smile.

“What? I didn’t call you,” she played innocent. “I just… talked to you.”

“Who called me, then?”

Eileen’s eyes darted to the doorway. I rotated 180°, and there stood my little six year old granddaughter.

“Chloris! What are you doing here?” I crouched and held my arms open.

She ran to me and flung her arms around my chest. “Opère! I missed you!”

As I stood, I picked her up with me, and turned back to Eileen. “What’s she doing here?”

Someone–” Probably one of Chloris’s divorced parents “–dropped her off this morning after you left.” Eileen shifted her attention back to peeling potatoes.

“Ah.” I turned my head to Chloris, still in my arms, “Well, how about we go and get you settled?” I walked out of the kitchen.

“But Omère already helped me. I want you to tell me a story.” She looked at me with pleading eyes.

“Oh, alright.” I set her down. “I have a great story to tell. Come with me.”

 

Once in the living room, I sat down on the couch, and propped my feet on the coffee table. “Well, Chloris, I’m not sure if you’re old enough to understand, but some time ago… I was a superhero. My name was Voyant–which means Seer in French.”

Chloris’s eyes lit up. “You were a superhero?!” she squealed. “Really? Tell me more!! How’d you become Voivon?”

Voyant was my name, sweet. And… It’s a long story. Are you sure you’re up for it?”

She nodded. “Yes, sir.”

I inhaled slowly.

“40 years ago–in a small town in Maine–I was staying in a little hotel. One day, as I was walking to a job interview…”

“Justin!!”

I whipped around, scanning the street around me. Was my name just called? It couldn’t have; there was no one in sight.

Okay, then… I continued walking, but picked up my pace a bit, eager to get to my job interview at the pound, and be out of the barren streets.

“Sir! Justin Pocket, STOP!” There was no way I was stopping. I glanced around furtively, but to no avail. Everyone was working this time of day.

As I hurried along, I peered into one of the windows I was passing.

I gasped. A reflection in the window showed a thick man standing right behind me. I stopped in my tracks, my throat suddenly dry.

What should I do?

“Well, you should turn around, for starters.” It’s like the man had read my mind. How is that possible? Gulping, I pivoted on my right leg, slowly spinning around.

But–where was he? The man in the window was nowhere to be seen. And yet, he was still in the reflection. My mouth hung agape.

I examined the man in the reflection; he stood over 6 foot, for sure, and burly. Compared to him, my body equaled that of an ant. His attire looked almost knightly, and his hair was shoulder-length, but pulled into a ponytail.

“But… but, wh…at? Who are you?” I stammered. I could feel the heat of the man’s body, but I could not see him.  A pellet of icy cold fear shoved itself down my bloodstream, seeming to freeze my skin and organs. Running away would be a problem.

“Show yourself!!” I forced my voice into an air of confidence, although I hardly felt it. I balled my fists and lifted them into the air, but I doubted that I could even dent this solid man. Glancing into the window again, the reflection showed the man still standing in front of me.

“I ca–will not do that, son,” his voiced boomed, nearly shaking my insides, “but that is beside the point. I haven’t come here to have you stare at me like I’m an oaf.”

“Why have you come, then?”

“To give a gift.” An iridescent paper-covered package appeared where the man’s outstretched arms would’ve been.  “For you.”

“How am I to know that this is not a trick?” I scoffed. “What if there is a snake in that box, which is going to kill me when I open it? How do I know there is not a grenade in it? I am not stupid, I assure you, sir.”

“You do not know what is in this box, and I will not tell you. But I will guarantee it is not the slightest bit a danger to your life.”

“I don’t know you, though. I can’t trust someone I don’t know. Tell me your name.” I glared in the general vicinity of his face.

He stroked his wide chin, pondering. “Perhaps I can spare telling you my name.” He nodded his own approval.

Several minutes passed without a word. I cleared my throat. “Well? What is it?”

“Oh, you didn’t really expect me to tell you now, did you?” When he saw my scowl, he gave a hearty laugh. “You did, oh, I thought it was a joke! No, I will tell you my name once you open that package.”

I groaned. This is what I hated; deals. “I open the package, you tell me your name, correct?”

He nodded. “Yes, sire.”

“Okay, the– Wait, what? ‘Sire’? Why did you call me that?” I narrowed my eyes, crossed my arms, and glared at the man’s reflection.

The surprise on the man’s face gave away his words. He hadn’t meant to call me that. “I… uh… mmhmm… You look so much like my king, sir, it was an honest mistake.”

“You have a king?” My voice filled with skepticism.

The man nodded. “Indeed I do.”

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6 replies

  1. I will try to give my critique sometime this weekend.

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  2. I find this piece very interesting. it’s confusing but its the kind of confusing that is usually cleared up later in the story. I have yet to find any errors in this piece. With the possible exception:”Eileen stood beside the stove, in the middle of peeling potatoes.” I may be wrong but I think that you should rephrase this because the part “in the middle of peeling potatoes” is maybe a bit of a grammatical error. I know people talk that way in reality but to see it in print makes it sound awkward. It just kind of puts an odd image in my head.
    Overall, good job with this piece. I can hardly wait to read more. I leave you now with a note of encouragement. Enjoy what you write. If you like what you have written, then others will most likely enjoy it also.
    Keep writing,
    Lori

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  3. Intriguing! Although, I’m a bit confused. Is his name Justin or Opere? Or is Opere just like a word for a specific person, such as Grandpa, or father sort of thing? If that is the case, then ignore my comment, I was cofused for no reason. If not, then I think that needs clearing up….

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  4. Hannah,

    I enjoyed the mystery of this piece and the cute introduction. The storytelling intro allows you to make it as odd and offbeat as you care to make it. It should be fun.

    I would like to address a few issues.

    In the second paragraph, you used “kitchen” three times, which made the scene feel clumsy. Also, “in the middle of peeling potatoes” is awkward, because it sounds like she is standing in the midst of potatoes.

    Since the man walks into the kitchen, it is unlikely that he would immediately recognize how far along she is in the peeling process. Also, you report his sigh before the reason for the sigh, which puts the action out of order, and you reported his wife’s surprise before you reported the reason for her surprise, which is also out of order.

    A suggested rewrite:
    ************
    “In here, honey,” she called from the back of the house.

    I hurried to the kitchen and found her standing next to the stove peeling potatoes, a peaceful expression on her face. I sighed. Good. She was all right. I rushed to her, slid my arms around her waist, and pulled her close.

    She lifted her brow. “What’s all this about?”
    ************
    Next: “She looked as though …” and “I looked at her sternly …” Watch for repeated words (looked).

    Next: “What? I didn’t call you,” she played innocent. “I just… talked to you.”

    You punctuated this as if “she played innocent” is a speaker tag, which it cannot be. Punctuate it this way: “What? I didn’t call you.” She played innocent. “I just … talked to you.”

    Next: “Chloris! What are you doing here?” I crouched and held my arms open.

    I would delete the question, because the girl doesn’t answer it, and he repeats the question to his wife.

    Next: Once in the living room, I sat down on the couch, and propped my feet on the coffee table.

    Since he was carrying the girl, you might want to mention what he does with her. It is typical to set a child that age on one’s lap, but since he props his feet up, the lap would be less comfortable.

    Also, I would eliminate double exclamation marks. One is sufficient. In fact, I would eliminate as many single exclamation marks as possible when you can show the exclaiming without the mark.

    Next: I whipped around, scanning the street around me.

    Watch for repeated words (around).

    Next: I gasped. A reflection in the window showed a thick man standing right behind me. I stopped in my tracks, my throat suddenly dry.

    You reported the gasp before the reason for the gasp, which is out of order.

    Next: Gulping, I pivoted on my right leg, slowly spinning around.

    I would delete “on my right leg.” I don’t see the significance of that detail.

    Next: My mouth hung agape.

    This pulls readers out of your main character’s body and causes them to look at the face from the outside.

    Next: His attire looked almost knightly, and his hair was shoulder-length, but pulled into a ponytail.

    If you could show what “knightly” looks like, that would help. Just a couple of “knightly” attributes.

    Next: “I forced my voice into an air of confidence …” “lifted them into the air …” Repeated “air.”

    Next: Glancing into the window again, the reflection showed the man still standing in front of me.

    The way you wrote this means that the reflection glanced into the window, which is not true. Also, “still standing in front of me” means that he was standing in front earlier, yet you said he was behind earlier.

    Next: “I ca–will not do that, son.”

    I don’t know what this means.

    Next: He stroked his wide chin, pondering.

    Since the character is staring in the general direction of his face (previous paragraph), that means that he is not looking at the reflection and cannot see the man stroking his chin or the nod of approval in the next paragraph.

    Next: Several minutes passed without a word. I cleared my throat. “Well? What is it?”

    Would he really wait several minutes? That seems unlikely

    Next: When he saw my scowl, he gave a hearty laugh.

    How does Justin know that the man saw his scowl or that the sight would cause him to laugh?

    Next: The surprise on the man’s face gave away his words.

    Maybe “intent” instead of “words.”

    Next: My voice filled with skepticism.

    That makes it sound like he didn’t have control over his voice. Maybe, “I injected skepticism into my voice.”

    I think this can be a fun story. Keep up the good work.

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