Archive for December, 2010

Writing a short story is difficult

December 12, 2010

Writing a short story is more difficult than I first thought. It’s hard to capture characters and have something happen within a very short space. I quite often revert to a kind of ‘plan’ suggested to me a long time ago, by having the main character(s) have a couple of difficulties that they finally overcome. Although I am tempted to ramble on, writing as I speak, this is not the way to write a short story I am told. The character has to do or say something, these days you do not merely tell the story. Then, of course, we have the constant battle with our language being altered with text-speak. Information comes in very short bites – or tweets. So how can you give time to a character to get inside their head and make them realistic? I do not have the answer but I live in hope that people will revert to more lengthy and profound communication.  

I tried to write a story about my dog, Bramble and Christmas and realized that it may be just a bit too gorey for the general reading public.

Any comments would be most gratefully received – I thrive on criticism.

Short story: Bramble’s Christmas

The coffee cup rattled. Liquid splashed onto my skirt.

“Bramble,” I sighed, “I WISH you wouldn’t do that!” My lively mongrel had never outgrown puppyhood and had just nudged my elbow. Tongue hanging out, ears perked high she looked at me, a picture of innocence. She did not understand. Nothing else mattered when it was time for her walk.

I swept the liquid off my skirt with my hand, put down the half-finished drink and stood up. Bramble swiftly sat down on the carpet, tucking her tail under her legs. In spite of her scruffy multicolored fur that never seemed to be in place, Bramble’s body straightened into a very upright, obedient figure. NOW she was as good as gold, NOW she would do anything I asked, NOW that I was obviously going to take her for a walk. No matter how determined I was to be top dog in our house, there was always something that undermined this quest.

The pavements were covered in a watery sheen as the low winter sun shone directly towards us. The air was crisp and cold. Bramble tugged hard at the lead.

“Stop!” I shrieked. Bramble reluctantly paused. “Heel!” I shrieked again with my bossiest tone. Head down, Bramble slowly walked back to me and sat at my heel.

“Right,” I said, “Best behaviour from now on, Bramble, our visitors will be arriving soon after we return from our walk.” Bramble trotted beside me, exuding an air of ‘I’m doing as I am told, but it is only temporary, you know’.  

Suddenly, she pulled to the side.

“Oh all right, collect you emails then,” I let the lead stretch to accommodate her as she sniffed at every lamppost, fence and bush. I looked at my watch. There was still plenty of time. I gazed around. The street was quiet. Everyone must be indoors getting ready for the festive season. My pile of presents lay unattended on the desk in the study.

The tree ahead rustled as a pair of collared doves flew onto the lowest branch and huddled together. As we walked past, the birds took flight without a flicker of interest from Bramble. Then I saw it. There curled up under one of the bushes was a black and white cat. This could be interesting.

We walked towards the sleeping animal and I held my breath as we came close.  Bramble walked straight past it. What was the matter with her?

“Cat,” I pointed back to the cat. “Bramble,THAT was a cat!” She glanced at me with disdainful eyes and returned to her eyes-forward, neck-stretched, got-to-get-there position.

The sun streamed onto the field ahead. A family of rabbits was sitting bemused on the clumps of grass, warming themselves as much as they could in the weakened rays of the sun.

As we came nearer,  they lollopped away, one by one. We took the wider path that was lined with small bushes.  Then, without warning, Bramble shot into one of the plants. A soul-splitting screech resounded in the cold air as the bush thrashed violently. She’s got a bird! What should I do now? If I tried to rescue the bird it may be so badly injured that it would have a long and painful death, whereas, if Bramble was determined to kill it, its death would at least be clean and quick. The rustling finally ceased. I reined in the lead and bent down to see if there was any hope for the stricken creature.

This was no bird. It was one of the largest rabbits I had even seen. I leaned down to touch the animal. Bramble’s throat reverberated with a loud, menacing growl – a sound that seemed to come from the very depths of hell, a sound that I had never heard from her before. Bramble was NOT going to let this prize go!  I decided not to challenge her; I preferred keeping my hands intact. Yet again, Bramble ruled.

“Come on, “I pulled the lead, “We have to go.”

Bramble was not leaving the rabbit behind. She gripped the limp bundle of fur with her jaws clamped tight. She lifted her head. The animal was too heavy.

“You’ll have to leave it,” I pulled the lead again. Bramble bent her head down very low, gripped the animal again and dragged it up, lifting her head backwards to compensate for such a burden. With her whole body focused on supporting a weight that was almost equal to her own, she staggered forwards, the legs and head of rabbit falling ignominiously either side of her mouth as she lumbered on. Slowly we made our way home.

Bramble stopped. What was the problem? She dropped the animal to the ground. Was she leaving it behind? She immediately lowered her head, opened her jaws wide and grappled to wrap her mouth round the inert body of the rabbit again. Two more grabs and her prey was in position. She lifted it high, and strutted forwards.

A car drove past. The passengers pointed their fingers and chatted excitedly.

I began to worry about the visitors. They were Chinese, a couple I had never met before. No doubt they had their standards of cleanliness and how was I going to persuade Bramble to keep this ghastly carcass out of the house? Drops of blood were marking the pavement as I pondered my situation. The back gate, somehow I’ll have to get Bramble through the back gate so that she has to keep it outside. I’ll tie her to the tree at the front of the house, go into the house alone, dash to the back and unlock the gate and let her through. I prayed that the visitors would not arrive as I maneuvered the situation.

As we came to the front of our house, I could see a little green car had just turned the corner and was moving towards us. Please, I begged, please not let it be the visitors. I hurriedly tied Bramble to the tree, fumbled with my keys as I opened the front door, quickly snatched off my gumboots, dashed to the back door, unlocked it, rushed outside in my socks, unlocked the back gate and ran to get Bramble and her prey. I pulled hard at the lead.

“Come on, Bramble, come ON” I shouted as the car arrived at our entrance. The car drove straight past. I sighed. “Come on,” I said in a gentler tone and we eventually got into the back yard. Bramble’s mouth was dripping blood as she dropped the creature on pavement. She looked up at me with a hideous primeval grin. I grimaced, turned and dashed back inside to change my socks.

Liang and Ho made a delightful couple. Their tiny neat forms looked out of place in my ramshackle sitting room, their shiny dark eyes taking everything in. I had shown them to their rooms, lit the fire in the sitting room and settled them down while I went to make a cup of tea.  They did not need to see the back garden yet. I shut out the image of the dead rabbit’s torn flesh and Bramble’s blood-thirsty grin.

 The dog flap crashed. I gulped. Bramble had finished devouring her prey for the moment and was dashing in to see who the visitors were. She rushed into the sitting room before I could catch her. Her mouth no longer looked like a scene from Dracula. I smiled weakly at the couple and introduced them to Bramble, insisting the dog went to her basket while we continued our tea.

“Bed!” I snarled again menacingly as Bramble tried to slink out of her bed towards me. She reluctantly crawled back, curled up and looked at us with her most upsetting how-cruel-you-are eyes.

“Christmas is a wonderful time for children.” I began telling Liang and Ho about our Christmas customs. “Before we go to bed, we leave a couple of mince pies, a glass of sherry and a carrot on the hearth for Father Christmas and his reindeer.”

I took 2 mince pies from the plate and put them on the hearth, their tinfoil jackets protecting them from the ash I had not fully swept away. I turned to get the sherry from the drinks cabinet.

“But-“Liang said.  I looked at her quizzically. She pointed to the open doorway. I glanced at the hearth. One of the mince pies had disappeared!

“Bramble?” I called to the empty doorway.

The Chinese couple giggled.

I placed the sherry down on the hearth and moved to the open doorway to chastise naughty Bramble. As I turned into the hall – a furry figure streamed past me into the sitting room and with something shiny in her mouth, pushed rapidly past me again before I could touch her. The dog flap rattled loudly.

“Bramble!” I shouted towards the absent culprit. 

The Chinese couple laughed out loud.  

Well, I shrugged. Christmas is a time of good cheer is it not?