Title: Shovelfuls
Subtext: All that one will hold.
Author:
Date: 02 May 16 (Monday in the PM)
Copyright:
Time: 1 minute
Replies: 7
Revisions: 6
Publicity: Superfeed
Upfeed:

A tornado went through a cemetery and toppled only the gravestones of Confederate soldiers.

During the winter, after a snowstorm, my father took me and the rest of the boy scout troop to shovel pathways.

Under the snow, it was so icy that I could stand on a shovel, and one of my friends could push me hard and let go of the shovel, leaving me to surf on it and to skid fast down a patch we had cleared, the handle of the shovel clanking. My father said that’s no way to behave around graves.

For Veterans Day, my father had us put flags on the soldiers’ graves, even those of the Confederates. Afterward, in a small shack on the cemetery’s grounds, he made us pancakes on a hotplate.

“These are the worst I’ve ever had,” one of my friends said to me. This friend had a caved-in chest. Last year on a camping trip, as a joke, we had woken him up by putting Corn Pops and cold milk in his cavity.

“But they have chocolate chips inside,” I said.

We don’t know what the meeting had been for, but there are still men standing around, holding coffee cups and sipping from them.

When I sniffed my father’s head, I smelled unwashed scalp. His hair was yellowy white – and very thick – so it reminded me of crab meat.

My father has us put away metal folding chairs after a meeting. We do not know what the meeting had been for, but there are still men standing around after it, holding coffee cups and sipping from them. The ass-shaped dents in the chairs, meant for comfort, are still warm, and we laugh when we touch their warmth.

Before my father had me, he said he was once lying in a boat on a river, looking up at clouds. One of the clouds was very low and had black wrestling shapes in it.

“One shape was me,” he said, “and I didn’t know it at the time, but the other shape was you.”

Revisions

Myna » Authorship
Elk » 5:38 AM 19 May 16
Elk » 8:18 PM 02 May 16
Elk » 5:04 PM 02 May 16
Myna » 4:33 PM 02 May 16
Myna » 4:31 PM 02 May 16

The Thread (7)

 Author's voice in grey. 

  1. Just as I read “hotplate” I stopped and looked up from my device, feeling its warmth in my hand, and thought, “Those must have been the best damn pancakes ever.” Then the next line rolled itself off the screen.

    This piece is immediate superfeed material. So many good sensory sentiments, like color of hair, smell of head, feel of seats, sound of shovel, and the allusions to taste from Corn Pops to chocolate chips.

    And the cemetery, the war, the riverboat, the wrestling clouds — a father and a son.

    This is my new fav RL piece.

  2. Wow! Thanks for the praise, @elk.

    I do have to say that I did have your writing prompt in mind as I wrote this. Though there is small conflict between the father and the son, I tried to challenge myself to write a parental figure that isn’t odious or severe.

  3. Seconded — superfed.

  4. Concave might be a better word than caved-in.

    Also — what’s the shift to present tense all about here (as well as some internal re-shift to past perfect)? Is this the moment we’re actually in and the other stuff is reflective at that time? Or should this all be reset to some form of past?

    My father has us put away metal folding chairs after a meeting. We do not know what the meeting had been for, but there are still men standing around after it, holding coffee cups and sipping from them. The ass-shaped dents in the chairs, meant for comfort, are still warm, and we laugh when we touch their warmth.

  5. I thought “caved-in” might be more of what a kid would say.

    In terms of the present tense trick, I think that’s something I did here once before – or maybe another animal used it.

    What I like about it is that it pushes us into a moment as it’s happening. Plus, it creates an odd effect in that, for the first 3/4 of the story, everything is in the past, which perhaps makes the reader think that the past is the narrative present. But once the present tense comes in, it trumps that past and establishes itself as the narrative present.

    All that being said, I didn’t realize what I did until after the fact. It’s as if, instead of trying to paint a face, I threw some paint and got a face that I liked.

  6. I’m working through the same past/past/past/present/past dynamic on a non-RL piece now. It’s weird, but occasionally has to be done.

  7. Yes! There are tricks/effects that one can try – some of which are super old. (I’m thinking framed narratives like Don Quixote or meta games like those in Tristam Shandy.) This past week, I’ve been reading a detective novel called Faceless Killers by Henning Mankel, and in its first few chapters I noticed a clever trick I might use.

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