Quantcast

Jump to content

» «
Photo

Virginia

7 replies to this topic
ToyMachine
  • ToyMachine

    Scum.

  • Members
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2003

#1

Posted 07 January 2009 - 05:57 AM

My last entry was a little bit too hard to digest. Thank you to the posters that gave me feedback on it. But I digress.
................

"Virginia"

Like all coffee shops, it was brown. There was an air of urgency about the place, as if ideas were waiting to leap from the top of every shelf. I spent my after work hours at this place because it was quiet, and honestly, I did not have anywhere else to go but home.

The first time I saw him, he was grabbing great handfuls of stirring straws in his greasy hands. He would then stuff them into the pockets of his huge green coat. I would see this constantly around 6 o’clock when I finished my shift and came around the shop to catch up on my Tolstoy.

He appeared to be homeless and seemed too caught up for small talk, but one day I decided to give him a try.

“Why do you need so many straws?”

“I’m building a time machine,” he said matter-of-factly, “it’s coming along.”

He would repeat this phrase each time he grabbed more straws from the poor dispenser.

He wore a winter hat and his shaggy, greasy hair stuck out from the bottom. Every time I try to recall his face, the image just doesn’t come about. The man’s shoulders were hunched forward. Always. He wore workman’s jeans tucked into construction boots. I couldn’t tell if his matted beard was partially gray, or if dark grime simply obscured most of the hair.

The two young people working behind the counter eyed one another with that glance that was half smiling, half baffled. Mentally unstable homeless people are no novelty to the streets of New York and I suppose a man taking a couple straws wasn’t a problem. Every day around six o’ clock, he came. Every day from the day I talked to him he would inform the shop that he was building a time machine. It was assumed that this is what the straws were for. I personally never saw him buy anything.

After a while he had become a novelty. The guys behind the counter would jokingly ask him about the status of the invention to which he would reply; “It’s coming along.”

I was curious about this man. I saw him as a crazy hobo just like everyone else but there was something about his drive. Perhaps most interesting to me was his certainty in his ability to achieve an impossible goal.

On one unspectacular day, the man sat at my table, directly across from me. I tried to ignore him buried deep in War and Peace and he just leered. Overcoming my hesitation for this man I asked, “Why a time machine?”

He looked at me a little strangely.

I tried another question, inexplicably quite nervous about his judgment. He waited patiently until I could form it.

“How do you build a time machine with straws?”

“Straws,” he said slowly, “are pathways. They transport things from one place to the other; time is not linear, or on a line in any way. Imagine each place in time is a cup, and other places in time are mouths. I am traveling from a cup to a mouth. However, it is not just a cup and a mouth. It is hundreds of enormous cups making up one even more enormous cups, and the same goes for the mouths. This takes a lot of straws!”

He then calmed down and continued staring at me as if I were the psychotic hobo in a posh coffee shop.

His explanation did not make sense to me. Nevertheless, he said it with such full confidence in the science of his endeavors that I could almost believe it.

Since I was already humiliated by my own naivety, I decided to change the subject from the process of time travel to his reason for its undertaking. He waited patiently on his answer.

“Well,” I asked with more confidence “Why are you traveling back in time?”

His eyes brightened and widened, and his face finally took some recognizable expression that told me that this was passion. He leaned in towards me and took a breath.

“I am going to save Virginia Woolf.”

This was quite possibly the last answer I was expecting. I thought maybe he wanted to fulfill childhood dreams of meeting Julius Caesar or picking up tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, but Virginia f*cking Woolf?

“I am going to save her from taking her own life. She will marry me and write everything she can write. She will put such things down about ourselves and the world that I cannot even fathom the truths we can reveal. We are the balance to each other. We are two sides to a scale; we are two ropes to a swing! She is the housing of so many things that I know we are the answer to the question of ourselves!”

I was filled with his conviction, and at the time I found myself investing more belief in his notions than I did in reason. Perhaps Virginia Woolf, who had sunk herself in a lake by filling her coat with stones, would live on.

He spoke again, this time back in his more natural voice, although he still was much more animated.

“I’m leaving tonight, I think.”

I took a sip of my coffee and then looked at him. He stared me down. I turned my eyes.

“Are you coming back?”

“I hope not.”

We were both silent for a few moments.

“I wouldn’t either.”

He nodded, stood up, and left without another word.

……

It would be weeks before he came back. During his leave I grew unconvinced of the reality of his endeavors. The whole thing was absurd.

He came back on October 22nd. In the city, this is precisely when things begin to take a turn for the cold. I was sitting a table, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a novel that now I can’t recall. However, I do recall the hobo’s entrance. It was a great nothing. He merely sauntered through the door. He didn’t take any straws. He stood and stared directly at them.

I called to him.

“Hey man! Let me buy you a drink!”

He turned, nodded, and sat at my table. He didn’t tell me what he wanted, so I got him some hot chocolate. For a while we simply sat there in silence. At this point, he was radiating defeat as much as he had weeks before radiated love. Finally, I spoke.

“How did it go?”

I tried a false smile.

He didn’t look up from his drink.

“Terrible,” he said softly, “Terrible.”

It had already dawned on me that he didn’t save her. He knew that I knew this. Minutes stretched on. The shop seemed offensive in its movement. After a long time of nothing he muttered something.

“It’s not just Virginia.”

He spoke as if he was calling out from under the earth. His voice was seemed pushed down, and it came from his mouth in a terrible and quiet way.

“It’s Leonard too. He gave her everything. Do you know what she wrote? Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. That destroyed him. He couldn’t even hate her. The love he had sat at the bottom of a river and he had nothing to retrieve it with. They both took their own lives. She filled her pockets with stone. He filled his with kindness and good. I saw it all happen: I saw everything that ever mattered in the world drown itself.”

I saw how he had witnessed the destruction of goodness and love in two different people. Everything seemed lost at that instant. I had nothing to say. It was clear everything that mattered had suddenly been tossed into the lake with Virginia.

It was hours later and the shop began to close when I took my turn to speak.

“You could still find her. There are other cups. Remember what you told me? Other places she’ll be. Some of them have to be different.”

“No.”

I refused to accept this answer. I was suddenly caught up again in the mission. It was contagious and if he couldn’t succeed then the greatest things in the world are impossible.

“You told me you would save her. I believed you then. You have a chance, more than any of us. You know you can save her. Man, you have the option. Save Virginia Woolf.”

He looked up into my eyes. For the last time he stood up and stared straight at me. He went to the counter. He stayed motionless there for a moment then grabbed a handful of straws. Stuffing them into his pocket, he turned to me.

“I’m building a time machine,” he said matter-of-factly, “it’s coming along.”

Canofceleri
  • Canofceleri

    OG

  • The Connection
  • Joined: 17 Nov 2001

#2

Posted 08 January 2009 - 12:42 AM Edited by Candarelli, 09 January 2009 - 01:22 AM.

My last entry was a little bit too hard to digest. Thank you to the posters that gave me feedback on it. But I digress. Well, I read quite a bit of your other piece as I mentioned. I liked it, in spite of its seemingly low "readability" and the fact that, of course, it wasn't perfect. I have a feeling that this piece might give me a similar effect, as I've skimmed a healthy bit of it earlier in the day. But I am going to stick it out and try and break this down for you. smile.gif Happy reading.
................

"Virginia"

Like all coffee shops, it was brown. There was an air of urgency about the place, as if ideas were waiting to leap from the top of every shelf. I spent my after work hours at this place because it was quiet, and honestly, I did not have anywhere else to go but home. I sort of liked your opening line there, I'm a fan of these short declarative openeres--it is slightly questionable, but weird and choppy enough to feel promising, as if it isn't just some awkward dash-off, but like it might indicate where your style is going. The next sentence is weak, I'm not sure that urgency is the best choice of word there and the second half of the sentence is equally questionable. Perhaps this indicates that beatnicks or hipsters hang here, though? The last sentence in this paragraph I felt was strong, in a way it has the ring of an almost sweet honesty about it.

The first time I saw him, he was grabbing great handfuls of stirring straws in his greasy hands. He would then stuff them into the pockets of his huge green coat. I would see this constantly around 6 o’clock when I finished my shift and came around the shop to catch up on my Tolstoy. Off the bat, he wasn't grabbing straws in his hands, rather with them. Also you could easily combine the first two sentences by subbing "he would then stuff" with merely adding a comma and using "stuffing". You could've taken more care with writing the last line, and the Tolstoy reference is questionable (I only say this as I don't know where you're coming from, it seems like it might be an arbitrary inclusion though at the same time I tally this now at three literary references, including Woolf and Nietzsche from your other story.

He appeared to be homeless and seemed too caught up for small talk, but one day I decided to give him a try.

“Why do you need so many straws?”

“I’m building a time machine,” he said matter-of-factly, “it’s coming along.”

He would repeat this phrase each time he grabbed more straws from the poor dispenser. Weird, where are you taking this. Also, I'd like to say, because I'm thinking it now, there are flaws that seem inherent all throughout both works I've seen from you. Yet, you still interest me as a writer. For some reason, and it seems wholly intangible, I just get this feeling from your writing that you have something special in there... and if you hone your craft it might show itself more clearly. But, again, this little stunted paragraph is weak. You should consider expressing this detail in the next paragraph, work it in there somewhere.

He wore a winter hat and his shaggy, greasy hair stuck out from the bottom. Every time I try to recall his face, the image just doesn’t come about. The man’s shoulders were hunched forward. Always. He wore workman’s jeans tucked into construction boots. I couldn’t tell if his matted beard was partially gray, or if dark grime simply obscured most of the hair. I think you could make the first line sound better by reversing it, something like GREASY HAIR STUCK OUT FROM THE BOTTOM OF THE WINTER HAT HE WORE. Just a tidbit there. Also, I think I'd save the part about not being able to remember his face for last... if you like describe all this nasty sh*t about him and then say But everytime...

The two young people working behind the counter eyed one another with that glance that was half smiling, half baffled. Mentally unstable homeless people are no novelty to the streets of New York and I suppose a man taking a couple straws wasn’t a problem. Every day around six o’ clock, he came. Every day from the day I talked to him he would inform the shop that he was building a time machine. It was assumed that this is what the straws were for. I personally never saw him buy anything.

After a while he had become a novelty. The guys behind the counter would jokingly ask him about the status of the invention to which he would reply; “It’s coming along.”

I was curious about this man. I saw him as a crazy hobo just like everyone else but there was something about his drive. Perhaps most interesting to me was his certainty in his ability to achieve an impossible goal.

On one unspectacular day, the man sat at my table, directly across from me. I tried to ignore him buried deep in War and Peace and he just leered. Overcoming my hesitation for this man I asked, “Why a time machine?”

He looked at me a little strangely.

I tried another question, inexplicably quite nervous about his judgment. He waited patiently until I could form it.

“How do you build a time machine with straws?”

“Straws,” he said slowly, “are pathways. They transport things from one place to the other; time is not linear, or on a line in any way. Imagine each place in time is a cup, and other places in time are mouths. I am traveling from a cup to a mouth. However, it is not just a cup and a mouth. It is hundreds of enormous cups making up one even more enormous cups, and the same goes for the mouths. This takes a lot of straws!”

He then calmed down and continued staring at me as if I were the psychotic hobo in a posh coffee shop.

His explanation did not make sense to me. Nevertheless, he said it with such full confidence in the science of his endeavors that I could almost believe it.

Since I was already humiliated by my own naivety, I decided to change the subject from the process of time travel to his reason for its undertaking. He waited patiently on his answer.

“Well,” I asked with more confidence “Why are you traveling back in time?”

His eyes brightened and widened, and his face finally took some recognizable expression that told me that this was passion. He leaned in towards me and took a breath.

“I am going to save Virginia Woolf.”

This was quite possibly the last answer I was expecting. I thought maybe he wanted to fulfill childhood dreams of meeting Julius Caesar or picking up tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, but Virginia f*cking Woolf?

“I am going to save her from taking her own life. She will marry me and write everything she can write. She will put such things down about ourselves and the world that I cannot even fathom the truths we can reveal. We are the balance to each other. We are two sides to a scale; we are two ropes to a swing! She is the housing of so many things that I know we are the answer to the question of ourselves!”

I was filled with his conviction, and at the time I found myself investing more belief in his notions than I did in reason. Perhaps Virginia Woolf, who had sunk herself in a lake by filling her coat with stones, would live on.

He spoke again, this time back in his more natural voice, although he still was much more animated.

“I’m leaving tonight, I think.”

I took a sip of my coffee and then looked at him. He stared me down. I turned my eyes.

“Are you coming back?”

“I hope not.”

We were both silent for a few moments.

“I wouldn’t either.”

He nodded, stood up, and left without another word.

……

It would be weeks before he came back. During his leave I grew unconvinced of the reality of his endeavors. The whole thing was absurd.

He came back on October 22nd. In the city, this is precisely when things begin to take a turn for the cold. I was sitting a table, drinking a cup of coffee and reading a novel that now I can’t recall. However, I do recall the hobo’s entrance. It was a great nothing. He merely sauntered through the door. He didn’t take any straws. He stood and stared directly at them.

I called to him.

“Hey man! Let me buy you a drink!”

He turned, nodded, and sat at my table. He didn’t tell me what he wanted, so I got him some hot chocolate. For a while we simply sat there in silence. At this point, he was radiating defeat as much as he had weeks before radiated love. Finally, I spoke.

“How did it go?”

I tried a false smile.

He didn’t look up from his drink.

“Terrible,” he said softly, “Terrible.”

It had already dawned on me that he didn’t save her. He knew that I knew this. Minutes stretched on. The shop seemed offensive in its movement. After a long time of nothing he muttered something.

“It’s not just Virginia.”

He spoke as if he was calling out from under the earth. His voice was seemed pushed down, and it came from his mouth in a terrible and quiet way.

“It’s Leonard too. He gave her everything. Do you know what she wrote? Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. That destroyed him. He couldn’t even hate her. The love he had sat at the bottom of a river and he had nothing to retrieve it with. They both took their own lives. She filled her pockets with stone. He filled his with kindness and good. I saw it all happen: I saw everything that ever mattered in the world drown itself.”

I saw how he had witnessed the destruction of goodness and love in two different people. Everything seemed lost at that instant. I had nothing to say. It was clear everything that mattered had suddenly been tossed into the lake with Virginia.

It was hours later and the shop began to close when I took my turn to speak.

“You could still find her. There are other cups. Remember what you told me? Other places she’ll be. Some of them have to be different.”

“No.”

I refused to accept this answer. I was suddenly caught up again in the mission. It was contagious and if he couldn’t succeed then the greatest things in the world are impossible.

“You told me you would save her. I believed you then. You have a chance, more than any of us. You know you can save her. Man, you have the option. Save Virginia Woolf.”

He looked up into my eyes. For the last time he stood up and stared straight at me. He went to the counter. He stayed motionless there for a moment then grabbed a handful of straws. Stuffing them into his pocket, he turned to me.

“I’m building a time machine,” he said matter-of-factly, “it’s coming along.”

============

At this time I have to stop, I have company. But, I will try and continue with this breakdown. If I don't, I will at the very least give it a full read and give you my thoughts on it overall. Keep it up though. biggrin.gif

Oxidizer
  • Oxidizer

  • The Connection
  • Joined: 13 Nov 2006

#3

Posted 08 January 2009 - 05:47 PM

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Though initially I only clicked this because I misread it as 'vagina'. ph34r.gif

Eminence
  • Eminence

  • Leone Family Mafia
  • Joined: 18 Nov 2006

#4

Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:09 PM

Very nice. I shan't go into detail on any opinions regarding the sentence structure and flow, as I think Frank's started very nicely with that and made some good points thus far, and I'd like to let him finish what he's started with his breakdown. tounge.gif

However, what I will say is that I enjoyed it greatly. For me, it flowed pretty consistently, and I really enjoyed the characterisation of the old hobo before he's truly been introduced: the lines about him becoming a novelty and describing what he did 'every day', for example.

One thing I did pick up on; why does he specifically remember the novel he is reading the first time, but not during the second encounter? I didn't quite get why the inconsistency - he brushes off what he was reading with an air of disinterest, yet was extremely specific to reference 'War and Peace' in the first instance.

This might be me being slow, but I also didn't quite get my head around why, specifically, the man repeats the time machine line at the end. Has the protagonist lost his goodness and so the hobo wants to go back and rescue him? Has he already gone back in time and now this is the first scene occurring again (something I thought due to the repetition of similar imagery, but realise mustn't be true as the protagonist is fully aware of both encounters and the links between the two). That's the only thing I don't really get; I'll either kick myself when I realise I haven't figured it out, or I'll wonder why, specifically, it's been incorporated... further. tounge.gif

Good piece, though. I enjoyed it.

ToyMachine
  • ToyMachine

    Scum.

  • Members
  • Joined: 16 Feb 2003

#5

Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:18 PM

One of the things I wanted to do throughout the piece is slowly show the hobo "sucking in" the protagonist into his little time machine idea. That's why I tried putting in little clues into the story. The Tolstoy/War and Peace serves as a tool for this. Not only is it one of my favorite works (I try to throw things like that into my writing) but it also shows the protagonist opening up to the hobo. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist is all into himself. He's hesitant to talk to the hobo. The actual book title symbolizes the man's absorption in himself. By the end, he's so into the homeless man's time travel that he doesn't pay as much attention to the book he's reading.

The hobo repeating his line in the end is just his rekindling of interest in the time machine. He was bummed that his little feat didn't exactly work but through another man's inspiration he is back on track.

Plus we don't actually know if the hobo is just a crazy asshole or does he actually travel through time. I thought that was cutesy.

Eminence
  • Eminence

  • Leone Family Mafia
  • Joined: 18 Nov 2006

#6

Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:22 PM

Ah, I was searching for a deeper meaning to it. I'm a sucker for never being able to read into meaning's too much, I don't really know why, haha. It's shown again through the two novels - really, I maybe should've picked up on that whole idea, which I quite like now that you've explained it - a very nice touch. Kudos! smile.gif

Craig
  • Craig

    Hell Interface

  • Members
  • Joined: 14 Sep 2007
  • None
  • Best Writer 2011

#7

Posted 08 January 2009 - 06:49 PM

While reading this I decided to take it at face value, and not as deep as Candarelli and Eminence seemed to do here. While this probably wasn't the best approach (both for reading and giving feedback) I found this a great piece, laid out good and not completely diluted with over the top description. A lot of pieces that are entered in SSOTM seem to be over-saturated with description in attempt to fit what they feel they have to in the word limit, but this is a good balance.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and after another read, I deliberately looked for another meaning, something a bit more complex and it seemed that the transient constantly knew something we didn't, I can't quite put my finger on it, but yeah, I felt that he was constantly one step ahead. I can't really explain what I mean, but I hope you understand.

Anyway, fantastic piece, I enjoyed this. icon14.gif

Canofceleri
  • Canofceleri

    OG

  • The Connection
  • Joined: 17 Nov 2001

#8

Posted 09 January 2009 - 01:32 AM

So, as you could tell from above I attempted to keep the breakdown going but decided against it... you sort of get the idea and can take away some things from it if you'd like.

One thing I'll say is that I think you are capable of more, in terms of the quality of your writing. Some people don't have it in them to pour over every word or sentencing, I don't know if you don't or if you do and you're meeting your limitations at this time. If either is the case, you can do better if you try. Which is not to say that this sucks, because it's a lot better than what an average person who doesn't write can do. But... you can develop much much further. The sort of mistakes that you're making are very easy to avoid. What's harder is to formulate cohesive stories with substance, which you seem to have an unhoned knack for.

However, I feel like this story wasn't done yet. It's very clever, but right now this feels like more of an outline for something bigger. Believe me, I've been there many times and recently. I know what it is to go in with a certain set of expectations and then get tired at a certain point and dash it off prematurely... sh*t, I did it with Mafia Jargon III... I just got exhausted. I don't know if that's exactly what happened here, but just a thought.

I'm no where near where my potential, I think, could have me. But, I think with my current lifestyle and amount of reading, writing, and studying I do I've met my natural limitation... I might get incrementally better just from maturing and writing more, but in order to truly be a "great" writer (if I am even capable of that regardless of effort) I'd have to study English and literary theory a lot more intensely and really beef up my writing and reading frequency.

I haven't read much of your sh*t, but I feel like maybe you're sort of at that place too give or take a few points of experience and honing. I feel like if you wanted to bad enough you might be able to attain some semblence of a "great" writer. I like your ideas.




1 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 1 guests, 0 anonymous users