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Perfect by Charlie Mine Printer Friendly

Memory is a funny thing. Most days, it seemed like he couldn't rely on it at all. Yet, there were times when it would turn itself on, so strong and clear, it was like opening up a door and stepping back in time.

The scent of chlorine mingled with the sweet sound of “Melancholy Baby”, undercut by girlish laughter. It tickled his brain like Angel Dust, and his memory swept him away….

The girls were laughing hard. A boy they were both keen on had been showing them how to do the Lindy, and fell into the swimming pool. Across the lawn, “My Melancholy Baby” played on the new Victrola, and everywhere he looked, he saw friends and family, chatting, eating, dancing, or swimming.

Although the sun beat down on him from a cloudless sky, it had nothing to do with the warmth that filled him.

“Hey, Baby!” His mother tousled his hair, handing him a plate with a piece of cake carefully centered on it. “How’s my birthday boy?”

“Just Jake, Doll.” He gave her a smile and a wink.

The warmth grew as he watched her tip her head back and laugh. Her real laugh, the one she couldn’t control, always came with her head back like that.

“Just Jake, huh?” She winked back, knowing he was pulling her chain.

“Okay, okay, you got me. It is ab-so-lute-ly copacetic!” He paused for a minute, thinking hard, trying to figure out exactly what made him feel so good. “Everybody here is someone I really, really like. And there’s no wet blankets. They’re all swimming, and dancing, and having fun.”

She nodded, encouraging him.

“We’ve got wieners and Kool-aid, and Pop took us for a ride in the breezer with the top down, and Uncle Harold got me this darb yo-yo, and the Yanks trounced the Sox today, and laugh all you want, but I just know that Gehrig hit at least one of those home runs on account of it being my birthday.”

She hugged him, mindful of his cake. “So, it’s been a good birthday, then?”

“It’s the berries, Ma. The very best it could be. I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.”

The Great Depression, World War II, the intoxicating balm of Angelique's silken thighs, the crushing finality of a twenty-one gun salute…all of that came later. But the year that he turned ten—that had been his best year. Old enough to appreciate how good he had it, but too young for life to be complicated by lust, or sullied by expectations that could never be fulfilled. He was innocent, and life was simple, the year that he turned ten.

The barmaid moved on, taking her chlorine-scented rag with her. His song ended, replaced by something nasal and monotonous. The image he had held in his mind, his family and friends, the sunshine, the dancing, the laughter, it all faded.

The warmth remained.

He lifted his glass in a silent toast.

To the perfect day. The perfect memory.

Entered By 4 From 2 is negative 2
2009-04-21 23:19:43

You did the antiquated dialogue well, and are able to create a good focus set of images to create in my mind all the scenes described -- all of which make the story and its effect very strong and personally felt. Only criticism I have is the first paragraph after the memory, the one starting "The Depression...", it could be much more subtle and artful -- I think if you used some synecdoche and went with some very charged though disconnected particulars from the time between 10 and the present instead of the generalities (for example: the sharp odor of his 2nd wife's perfume... instead of "love", or the pettiness of people the people in the bread lines, instead of "The Depression") then the intense personal feal of the story would be emphasized instead of dissapated by that paragraph.

Entered By Charlie Mine From Coming soon to a theatre near you
2009-04-22 06:12:39

Why, thank you, -2! And compliment + criticism = platable critique. ;) So, I changed it a bit. Is that better? I personally am rather fond of the phrase "Angelique's silken thighs", but is the part about his grief okay? Or do I need to keep trying?

Entered By James From 2 is still, oddly, negative 2
2009-04-23 02:55:22

Well, I was hoping you would be able to work in something like "the hot and guilty pleasure of his first San Francisco omlete" but I suppose this will suffice. Seriously though, I love: "the intoxicating balm of Angelique's silken thighs, the crushing finality of a twenty-one gun salute" that part has the exact sensual/personal/visual effect of the rest of the story, and, through contrast, enhances it. What do you think of going from general to specific in that sentence though. So like, start the sentence with "The Depression, The War..." like it was, then go with the the tangible stuff of the thighs and the gun salute. I think that would mirror the thought process of melancholy memories and would better set up the volta that this paragraph is than leaping into the specifics like I originally suggested.

Entered By Charlie From An "Omelets R Us" near you
2009-04-23 15:50:10

I see what you mean....And to tell ya the truth, coming up with specifics for the Depression and WWII were hard, anyway, because...well, just BECAUSE! They were catastrophic events that spanned years. Awright...I'll change it, and we'll see. Thanks for the critique!

Entered By Charlie From The Chocolate Factory
2009-04-23 16:13:42

Hmmm...it still feels unbalanced to me. I think because, in my mind, it's going from two events that changed the entire world to two that only changed HIS world. So maybe, "The revelation that was the Great Depression, the paranoia spawned by World War II...." OR, general to specific as such: "True love, the War, the intoxicating balm of Angelique's silken thighs, the crushing finality of a twenty-one gun salute." Thoughts, O Sage?

Entered By James From Austin
2009-04-25 07:18:14

I agree, the two general pieces of data and then right afterward the two particulars is missing something still. You definately need the general at the begining, because it alerts the reader what this list of things is about, so it reads better with it at the beginning, otherwise you feel the need to re-read the list once you realize what its a list of -- ruins the flow. the two particulars are also needed, because they really make the list, set the tone of the volta, and keep the end of the story to the level of sensuality of the rest of the story. Here's my suggestion: I had this idea on one of my previous comments, but I did not want to be too pushy: So after the two general comments say something about his mother's funeral or her death, and then go with the two particulars you already have. This ties into the story itself and his memeory of his mother, and, while it is a particular still, it is a universal particular (don't you love oxymorons). Now this raises two problems, the proximity of his mothers death to the silken thighs -- sort of oedipal-- and now there are two references to funerals. Another option instead of the mother thing, how about somwething about him outliving all his friends. this also ties to the Birthday party, avoids the Oedipus problem, and leads into the funeral thing and actually gives the funeral thing more meaning and affect, as opposed to stealing its thunder and effect. All right, nice working with you Charlie, but now that shiny cannister of Nitrus Oxide is starting to call my name a little more loudly than I am completely comfortable with. Ta Ta.

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