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My Father Who Art.

by firethorne 

Posted: 08 March 2011
Word Count: 1111
Summary: My father who art. Childrens story for grown up children. Confusion of religion, art and loss through the lens of a eleven year old boy's imagination. Or is it? Slight, but not yucky sentiment warning.

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Note: I originally put this in Flash, but someone pointed out its density is more in keeping with a short story than a Flash, so I moved it over here for you guys to have a look at. I like most of the words and the images and I don't want to cut anything out really. If anything I've got an urge to put more words in.

A fine drizzle blew over the gravestones and muddy grass. Like a fading line of lanterns, posters glowed luminous green in the mist . Trees dripped, and ink ran down the bright sodden paper : "Minster Art Market Today", the dissolving words read.

A trundling noise came out of the mist. Boys a year or so older than Joe were riding skateboards down the flagstone path from New Cemetery Gate .

“Freak,”the biggest one shouted at Joe . He ‘d got Joe’s Airfix F16 : ” Give us that and you can play with us, “ the boy had said . The boy drew his arm back and launched Joe's model into the air ." Whaa, " he made the sound of it doing a nosedive and shouted "Bang," when it crashed into a gravestone.

The boy scooted off towards the bottom gate disappearing into the mist. The others dead- eyed Joe as they rolled past.
“Looser,” one called over his shoulder.

Joe's fists curled and his cheeks flushed. It didn’t matter how big they were, he was going after them.

Joe felt a huge hand on his shoulder. “Ah, There you are. I got the empty stall next to your mum . She’s set up now and worrying where you are.”

Joe turned his head. Scarred knuckles with L O V E across them ,the tattooed tip of a blue wing disappearing under the sleeve of a leather jacket was resting on his shoulder . Joe looked up at the bearded, hard face of the artist . He was enormous , like the bad Jesus Hell’s Angels he’d seen in motorway cafes as a young kid .

“Maybe those lad’s will play nicely if I’m here,” the artist said.

Joe shook his head .

“I didn’t think you would want to play with them after that, but I had to ask the question anyway. You, know I got wound up like you when I was your age. My advice is don't bite, unless you want to be some else's entertainment for the day.
Do you know why I came out here ?" The artist winked down at him. “It’s just not because your mum’s a pretty woman”.

Joe felt his throat tighten and he wanted to swing a fist at the artist’s stomach.

The artist shook Joe’s shoulder “Hey don’t get angry with me kiddo , you don’t help her out much do you?

Joe shrugged, it was the truth . Setting out the stall with his mum wound him up , and he always came outside.

‘Here’s the truth Joe, I came looking for you because I have a question for you. So close your eyes and picture all this in your mind. See the colours of the posters and the way they brighten in the mist?”

Joe did as he was told, closed his eyes and nodded as he recalled the posters in vivid detail.

“ First the light comes in through your eyes,“ the artist continued, “ but now they’re shut, you’re remembering , and it’s like you’re looking at a stained glass window inside The Minster. My question is : Where does the light come from so you can see such things in your head?”

A trickle of cold rain ran inside Joe’s collar . He opened his eyes and felt stupid he couldn’t answer the question.

The artist glanced around. The mist was closing in. “I can’t tell you . I have to show you”. He crouched down
” Hold on to my arms.”

Joe grabbed the sleeves of his fringed leather jacket .

“One , two , three: JUMP !”

Like thunderclap, Joe hurtled up through the mist as if ejected out of fighter pilot's cockpit into the clouds. His heels clipped the tip of the ridge of The Minster roof then he and the artist were running full pelt down the steep lead hill before leaping the gutters and falling through the pillow-soft pummelling air .

They crashed and tumbled through the branches of an overgrown privet tree and Joe found himself lying on top of the artist, who was shaking in a gale of laughter.

“OK, OK, Joe,” the artist said shoving Joe off him and up onto his feet, “but this time you need to jump as well.”

The artist got on his feet , puffed his cheeks and made his eyes bulge like balloons. He started turning in a circle , boots skidding , soles smoking blue with the smell of burning rubber. It like he was doing a doughnut burnout on a motorcycle back tyre . Joe couldn't help it, he laughed.

”See when you're angry you don't go nowhere. All right let’s jump again !”

This time it sounded like rising motorcycle gears and they were climbing the fiery arc faster than any boy or man had ever gone, they leaped over The Minster and fired themselves headlong , straight into the oncoming full headlight beams of heaven .

The artist put his arm around Joe like Superman “Don’t be afraid of it,” he yelled, “looks different to everyone, but all its the same light .”

When they landed Joe staggered about and rubbed his eyes.

“Come on let’s get you back inside.” The artist buffed the top of Joe’s head with his big hand, “and not a word of this to your mum, OK. Hey Joe , you might want to pick up those pieces of your toy.”

The Airfix F16 only looked like broken plastic now . Joe dropped it in the bin by The Minster door. When he looked up the artist had already gone inside.

There was the buzz of people buying and Joe’s mum was out the front busily selling her stuff. Joe decided he’d fetch his mum a cup of tea, in a bit, when he’d finished his painting. Joe was on the empty stall behind her. He’d already drawn the outline of the frame and wheels. It would need lots of brilliant , soaring light and colour.

When Joe finished his painting , he wrote “Love from Joe” above the motorcycle tank. When boys on skateboards had gone, he'd go back up to New Cemetery and lay the picture on his dad’s grave .

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Comments by other Members

Kali at 11:14 on 09 March 2011  Report this post
Hi Andrew,

I really enjoyed this. I've read this four times now, and I do like how you are able to capture the sentiment without it getting too gooey. Nice touch!

But I have to admit, I am having a hard time imagining the literal nature of the 'jump' sequence. I thought at first it was just the artist throwing Joe up into the air, with Joe imagining from his perspective that his feet had actually "clipped the tip of the ridge of The Minster roof." But then the artists body is caught up in the jump as well, and I could not imagine how he could toss a child in the air and jump as well -? Could be me failing to get it, sorry. But picturing that part confused me.

And I really liked the opening a lot, very lyrical: but on my second read through, I paused at this: "A fine drizzle blew over the gravestones and muddy grass" because isn't 'drizzle' by definition 'fine'? I thought the rhythm of the sentence definitely needed a short qualifier before drizzled (thinking more in poetry terms now, but your whole piece is very lyrical, so it evokes poetic criticism from me) but 'fine' appears redundant. I wonder if it's an opportunity to use a different adjective and tell us something more about the rain or the day...?

As to your question about putting in more rather than taking anything out I can see that. Definitely, you don't want this tighter or shorter. But from my standpoint, I guess I would say if it were to be fleshed out, I could use a bit more time on the moments with Joe and the artist and a more in depth vision of this 'ju,p' and the communion, it seems, with light.

Anyway, my critiquing skills are very rusty, so I hope that was helpful.

AnneC at 09:51 on 10 March 2011  Report this post
Hi Andy

I think your urge to put more words in is the right one! I am inclined to agree with Kali about the jump sequence needing a bit more explanation - I think it is a lovely idea and that you could get away with fleshing it out a bit, perhaps spending a bit more time on it and giving a bit more detail about what it felt/looked like to Joe. Perhaps you could build up a bit more to the moment when they break through into the open skies and see the light, and have a little bit more about the return to earth and how that felt, and how it affected Joe.

Re: the fine drizzle - I think this works fine actually.

A couple of typos - lad's - no apostrophe! - and looser should be loser.

I was also a little confused about the biker - was he some sort of personification of God/an angel? Or was he the ghost of Joe's dad. Could you make this a little clearer?

I like the premise and the execution, but I think you could wring a bit more out of these ideas.


GaiusCoffey at 14:58 on 12 March 2011  Report this post
Hi Andy,
As ever, I'll begin with a disclaimer that this is just my opinion, so take whatever is useful and don't fret about the rest. However, I'll also give you advance notice that it may seem a tad critical - if so, I apologise, my intention is to be constructive and I am taking you at your word that I should "Go on!" as I know you can take it! ;

Once I reached the end of this piece, I realised that there was a strong and engaging storyline underneath it; a small boy, grieving the loss of his father, overcomes both his grief and bullying through a supernatural experience. We can all identify with the emotions of the boy and (your "yucky sentiment" warning notwithstanding) readers tend to love characters and storylines that tug at the heart strings, just a little.

But, for me, that storyline didn't come through on first read. Sorry.

I think part of the problem was that I was never quite sure where I was or what was happening and, for possibly the first time ever, I concur that more words may be better than fewer. But I don't think that simply adding wordcount is enough unless it addresses the core issue.

So what do I think that core issue is?

In my opinion, you skate over a lot of the drama and take a lot of things as read that aren't on the page to be read.

Take the bullying scene for example;
A trundling noise came out of the mist. Boys a year or so older than Joe were riding skateboards down the flagstone path from New Cemetery Gate .

This is the first time we've met Joe. He is your main character but up until now, even after this point, it isn't clear that is who he is. Equally, you have not previously mentioned that there was anybody in the graveyard. As such, I thought the trundling noise was your main character coming into view for the first time rather than others approaching Joe. In fact, Joe could just as easily be amongst the group trundling down the path... We simply don't know where or who Joe is.

“Freak,”the biggest one shouted at Joe . He ‘d got Joe’s Airfix F16 : ” Give us that and you can play with us, “ the boy had said . The boy drew his arm back and launched Joe's model into the air ." Whaa, " he made the sound of it doing a nosedive and shouted "Bang," when it crashed into a gravestone.

This should be a tense scene; you have all the ingredients in there. For example, where did the airfix model come from? Why do the boys think he is a freak? Did Joe give the plane to the bigger boy willingly? What did Joe do when the plane crashed? All of those questions are dramatic possibilities to exploit.

But the scene doesn't come across for me. It doesn't come across because it feels as if you are writing in shorthand - as if this is the notes to describe the scene you meant to write. Worse, those notes feel as if they are out of order. A logical sequence of events is surely; boy asks for plane, boy gets plane, boy breaks plane. What you have instead is; boy has plane, boy asks for plane, boy breaks plane.

Because you are skimming so quickly over what could have been a compelling and moving piece of dramatic action, there is no sense of the characters involved and their motivation. Which is a pity, because I have a hunch that you understand their motivation rather well, and I want to feel that too.

I think this is where you should put in some of those extra words so that when you reach "It didn’t matter how big they were, he was going after them." we really feel his impotent rage and really, really want to batter those bullies for him.

For exmple, taking just that one brief excerpt and resynching it, expanding it and getting in close to your main character (Joe), you might end up with something like;
'Joe was alone playing with an Airfix F16. He heard a trundling noise and boys a year or so older than him appeared out of the mist riding skateboards along the flagstone path.
"What's that you've got?" The biggest one asked. "Give it here if you want to play with us."
Joe didn't want to play with them but he didn't know how to say so and the boy wrenched the plane from his grasp.
"Give that back!" Joe protested and leapt forward to retrieve his toy but the bigger boy launched the plane high into the air.
As the plane fell, he made the sound of it doing a nosedive. It landed and shattered against the flagstones and the boy imitated the sound of an explosion. Everyone laughed. Everyone except Joe. "Freak," the boy said then pushed off down the path on his skateboard, followed by the others who dead-eyed Joe as they passed.'

It's a lot more words, but it expands the detail of your story to allow readers to sense what is happening and to feel much closer to Joe - which is what you want, I think.

As I say, I am aware this may seem critical, but my intention is constructive so I hope some of it is useful - there is a strong and engaging storyline underlying this and I think with a bit of redrafting you can make this into a compelling and thought-provoking short story.

Thanks for the read,


Roboburns at 14:13 on 25 March 2011  Report this post
I enjoyed this alot,read it a few days ago, and kept thinking about it. I agree, wasn't too sure what was happening, if it really was happening at one stage. But, it truly evoked feelings and memories of my own father, who died when I was quite young, a teenager. And the blinding realisation, back then, my mother had lost her loving husband, not just me losing, Dad.
Also, felt it had a bit of a feel of Skellig, by David Almomd. Lovely atmosphere. Again,I must say, your story was very evocative of my formative years: looking out at a scary world.

firethorne at 18:48 on 25 March 2011  Report this post

Thanks Will, spent a day with a kid on the next stall like this on an art fair a few weeks back. Didn't have him jumping over the roof though. Read some comics on a digital thing he had when it was quiet. Love Skellig, my kids favorite book- cover's good as well.

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