One Day (684 words)

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EmperorWolf

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One Day


Isaac stared at the bowl clutched in his bony hands. It was soup. A few unidentifiable chunks floating in the watery liquid that passed for soup around here. Isaac took a sip, then another. It tasted terrible but it was still food. He consumed the soup quickly and greedily, savouring every drop as it entered his mouth. Once finished he placed the wooden bowl back on the table and stood. He followed the others outside the shoddily constructed canteen, resigned to yet another day of grueling, hard labour.


The capos raced around, organizing the work details for the day. Isaac was chosen for the logging detail. He smiled mirthlessly at his assignment. Thirty men wearing tattered, striped pajamas left the boundaries of the camp under the watchful eyes of a dozen capos and SS camp guards. A few of the men beginning to resemble skeletons. The prisoners trudged along a trail they knew all too well, for many had spent months and months wielding axes and cutting down trees. Weary and broken bodies a testament to that fact.


Soon the men arrived at a clearing and reluctantly set to work, ever watchful for a chance to escape or a chance to avoid the whip. Isaac worked tirelessly despite his age and lack of proper food. He raised the axe and brought it down at an angle, cutting into the young tree. After several blows with the axe the tree fell to the earth. Isaac bent down, his back aching, and began to cut off the branches with a knife. Every couple of minutes a sharp pain made itself known in the small of his back.


Once the branches were cut away Isaac rose and began to swing the axe again. Cutting the young tree into logs for easier transport. He felt pain in his arms, but ignored it. He did not want to appear weak, did not want to appear useless. For uselessness in the camp always meant death. At last he finished cutting the tree and called over a prisoner with a large empty wheelbarrow. Despite his extremely haggard appearance the prisoner quickly loaded the logs into his wheelbarrow as Isaac moved onto the next tree. The next tree was older and harder to cut. Isaac felt waves of sweat pouring down his back as he finished felling the tree. He raised his axe to begin splitting the tree into logs then he felt a tightening in his chest. The axe slipped from his fingers and collapsed onto the ground with a thud. Isaac stumbled backwards clutching at his chest with his bony hand. He felt his mouth slacken and his brain turn to mush. He felt confused, unsure of time and place. Slowly the attack passed and Isaac fearfully looked around. No one seemed to have noticed his attack, no one had seen his weakness. He smiled despite himself, happy to be alive, even in this hell. Carefully he began to split the tree, desperate to avoid another attack, hoping to live another day, to see another sunrise.


After many hours of labour it was time to go back to the camp. Wearily the men went back, tiredness and exhaustion haunting their every step. One man collapsed and did not get up even as the blows of a guard's truncheon struck him. He would never get up again. Another man collapsed while eating, his face landing directly into a bowl of soup. The more aggressive neighbour to his left moved the body and claimed the extra soup for himself. The neighbor on the right of the recently deceased fumed with impotent jealousy. Isaac watched both incidents with dispassionate eyes, born of seeing far too many horrors. He finished his watery soup and followed the rest to the lice infested barracks. As Isaac put his head down on a wooden cot he thought to himself, tomorrow is going to be another day just like this one. I just have to survive one day at a time. He smiled, closed his eyes and fell asleep. The pleasant dreams his only succor in this hell.
 

jaus tail

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I was very easily able to visualize the scenes. Your writing craft is very good. I wasn't able to understand the character's motivation. Why does Isaac want to remain alive in this place? Does he dream to be free one day? Does he have someone waiting for him outside?

Maybe if you gave a reason it would be easier to root for him.

But stories are very subjective.
 
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Phantasmagoria

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Let me preface this by saying I think you really have something here- I know this is a forum for polished work, but I feel that with a bit more polishing, this will shine like a diamond. And diamonds, well, they're flashy, and stand out amid a pile- like say, a slush pile... :)


One DayI love this title, because it encapsulates the story- it's a story of one of Isaac's many awful days in this hell- and also because there is a wistful quality underlying it, almost like someone is saying "One day, I'll be free of this..."


Isaac stared at the bowl clutched in his bony hands. It was soup. A few unidentifiable chunks floating in the watery liquid that passed for soup around here. Isaac took a sip, then another. It tasted terrible but it was still food. He consumed the soup quickly and greedily, savouring every drop as it entered his mouth. Once finished he placed the wooden bowl back on the table and stood. He followed the others outside the shoddily constructed canteen, resigned to yet another day of grueling, hard labour. I feel like too much time is spent on the soup, too much attention paid to every step of his soup consumption; especially with flash fiction, every word needs to count. Consider streamlining, like so:

Isaac stared at the bowl clutched in his bony hands. A few unidentifiable chunks floated in the watery soup. It tasted as terrible as it looked, but he consumed the soup greedily, savouring every drop. Once finished, he followed the others outside the shoddily constructed canteen, resigned to yet another day of grueling, hard labour.



The capos raced around, organizing the work details for the day. Isaac was chosen for the logging detail. He smiled mirthlessly at his assignment. Thirty men wearing tattered, striped pajamas left the boundaries of the camp under the watchful eyes of a dozen capos and SS camp guards. A few of the men beginning to resemble skeletons. This is a fragment: consider changing "beginning" to "were beginning."The prisoners trudged along a trail they knew all too well, for many had spent months and months wielding axes and cutting down trees. Seems like it's missing a word: "many had spent months and months there, wielding..." Weary and broken bodies a testament to that fact.Another fragment. Change to: "Their weary and broken bodies were a testament to that fact."


Soon the men arrived at a clearing and reluctantly set to work, ever watchful for a chance to escape or a chance to avoid the whip. Isaac worked tirelessly despite his age and lack of proper food. He raised the axe and brought it down at an angle, cutting into the young tree. After several blows with the axeneeds a comma after ax the tree fell to the earth. Isaac bent down, his back aching, and began to cut off the branches with a knife. Every couple of minutes a sharp pain made itself known consider a stronger phrase than "made itself known" ie: "a sharp pain pierced the small of his back" or "a stab of pain pulsed in the small of his back" in the small of his back.


Once the branches were cut away Isaac rose and began to swing the axe again. Cutting the young tree into logs for easier transport.This is a fragment; either merge with the previous sentence via a comma, or restructure (since you have several sentences in a row here that have the same rhythm if you simply join these two with a comma). He felt pain in his arms, but ignored it. He did not want to appear weak, did not want to appear useless. For uselessness in the camp always meant death. You don't need "for" here. At last he finished cutting the tree and called over a prisoner with a large empty wheelbarrow. Despite his extremelyunnecessary adjective haggard appearanceinsert comma here the prisoner quickly loaded the logs into his wheelbarrow as Isaac moved onto the next tree. The next tree Repetitive; rephrase to something like "This one"was older and harder to cut. I feel a paragraph break is needed here.Isaac felt waves of sweat pouring down his back as he finished felling the tree. He raised his axe to begin splitting the tree into logsneeds a comma here then he felt a tightening in his chest. The axe slipped from his fingers and collapsed onto the ground with a thud. Isaac stumbled backwards needs a comma hereclutching at his chest with his bony hand. He felt his mouth slacken and his brain turn to mush. He felt confused, unsure of time and place. Slowly the attack passed and Isaac fearfully looked around. No one seemed to have noticed his attack, no one had seen his weakness. I don't think you need both "his attack" and "his weakness" here; maybe "No one seemed to have noticed; no one had seen his weakness." He smiled despite himself, happy to be alive, even in this hell. Carefully he began to split the tree, desperate to avoid another attack, hoping to live another day, to see another sunrise. This is where I feel we need a bit more from him; why is he struggling on, how can he be happy to be alive in this situation? It seems due to more than a fear of/ aversion to death. I'm intrigued but not sold on it. Tell us more about him, what he's living for, what he hopes will come in the future- presumably, an escape from this hell, and a return to his old life/ a new start?


After many hours of labourneeds a comma here it was time to go back to the camp. Wearily the men went back, tiredness and exhaustion haunting their every step. One man collapsed and did not get up even as the blows of a guard's truncheon struck him. He would never get up again. Another man collapsed while eating, his face landing directly into a bowl of soup. The more aggressive neighbour to his left moved the body and claimed the extra soup for himself. The neighbor on the right of the recently deceased fumed with impotent jealousy. Isaac watched both incidents with dispassionate eyes, born of seeing far too many horrors. I love these last few lines, they are some of your strongest; you really sell the mindset of these men here, and their fragile physical state.He finished his watery soup and followed the rest to the lice infested barracks. As Isaac put his head down on a wooden cot he thought to himself, tomorrow is going to be another day just like this one. I just have to survive one day at a time. He smiled, closed his eyes and fell asleep. The pleasant dreams his only succor in this hell. Another fragment: if you say "the pleasant dreams were his only succor in this hell" that works, or you could merge the sentence with the previous one via a comma.

Overall I really enjoyed this; just be careful of the fragments, and please do give us more about Isaac- are there loved ones he hopes have survived and await him out in the world? Is he thinking this will be over soon, for some reason? Let the reader into his thought process here and they will be 100% invested. Another thing to consider: I had a writing professor once say that the question to ask oneself about any story is "What's different about today?" I'm assuming that for Isaac it's the attack he suffers, but maybe give us a bit more- is this his first, is he afraid this is the beginning of the end...? It feels a little too... subtle, maybe; like it could have been a small heat stroke, no big deal. And part of that is his reaction to it. He brushes it off too easily. Let us feel his fear, let us see the crack in his armor of optimism before he rallies again.
 

sockycat

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I think you already have a strong piece here, but a little bit of tweaking would make it stronger. You've set up the scenario that Isaac is in very well. When I read "SS" something in me sank, because Holocaust stories always seem to resonate very personally with me. That's an important detail that you include without lauding it.

I would trim down the first paragraph substantially. It's not until your second para that I felt pulled in. I care way more about Isaac and his situation than I do his soup. On a technical level your writing is quite strong and with the exception of a few of the run-on moments that Phantas has pointed out, I think the bare bones writing is fine.

What I want from this piece, then, is more about Isaac himself. You're throwing breadcrumbs here about his mental state (the part about him watching with dispassionate eyes absolutely sings for me. Keep that.) but I want more of your MC. What does he want? What is he afraid of? Is there family he misses?

Similar to Phantas' comments, I also had a professor tell our class that a short story or flash piece needs to answer the questions, "Why this character? Why right now?"

What is different? What is the event, the shattering moment, the thing in this piece that makes it a story instead of just an anecdote. What's different?
 

Wahara

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One Day


Isaac stared at the bowl clutched in his bony hands. It was soup. A few unidentifiable chunks floating in the watery liquid that passed for soup around here. Isaac took a sip, then another. It tasted terrible but it was still food. He consumed the soup quickly and greedily, savouring every drop as it entered his mouth. Once finished he placed the wooden bowl back on the table and stood. He followed the others outside the shoddily constructed canteen, resigned to yet another day of grueling, hard labour.

Considering exchanging quickly and greedily with "greedy gulps" or something similar. That's two adverbs in one sentence and the word greedy already implies speed. I think you can cut "as it entered his mouth" unless ofcourse, the soup is entering a different oriface! Oh my. I think you can probably remove "Once finished" too, because the reader would assume if he's placing it back on the table, he's most likely done. Remove "yet"


The capos raced around, organizing the work details for the day. Isaac was chosen for the logging detail. He smiled mirthlessly at his assignment. Thirty men wearing tattered, striped pajamas left the boundaries of the camp under the watchful eyes of a dozen capos and SS camp guards. A few of the men beginning to resemble skeletons. The prisoners trudged along a trail they knew all too well, for many had spent months and months wielding axes and cutting down trees. Weary and broken bodies a testament to that fact.

"A of the men" can be changed to "A few were beginning" I can infer we're still talking about about the previously mentioned thirty men. Remove "for" in "For many."

"Months and months" can be changed to just "months" Change "a testament to that fact" to "testified to that fact"



Soon the men arrived at a clearing and reluctantly set to work, ever watchful for a chance to escape or a chance to avoid the whip. Isaac worked tirelessly despite his age and lack of proper food. He raised the axe and brought it down at an angle, cutting into the young tree. After several blows with the axe the tree fell to the earth. Isaac bent down, his back aching, and began to cut off the branches with a knife. Every couple of minutes a sharp pain made itself known in the small of his back.

Consider removing "reluctantly" Try and keep a lid on your adverbs.

Remove "ever", it feels like extra wordiness. You can also remove the second usage of "chance." You can exchange tirelessly with "without stop, pause, rest. etc." Is it necessary for me to know the tree is young? I can infer we're still talking about the tree, mentioning it twice doesn't feel necessary. "Sharp pain" can be exchanged for something like "Pain shot from his ligaments and up his spine." Showing, not telling.



Once the branches were cut away Isaac rose and began to swing the axe again. Cutting the young tree into logs for easier transport. He felt pain in his arms, but ignored it. He did not want to appear weak, did not want to appear useless. For uselessness in the camp always meant death. At last he finished cutting the tree and called over a prisoner with a large empty wheelbarrow. Despite his extremely haggard appearance the prisoner quickly loaded the logs into his wheelbarrow as Isaac moved onto the next tree. The next tree was older and harder to cut. Isaac felt waves of sweat pouring down his back as he finished felling the tree. He raised his axe to begin splitting the tree into logs then he felt a tightening in his chest. The axe slipped from his fingers and collapsed onto the ground with a thud. Isaac stumbled backwards clutching at his chest with his bony hand. He felt his mouth slacken and his brain turn to mush. He felt confused, unsure of time and place. Slowly the attack passed and Isaac fearfully looked around. No one seemed to have noticed his attack, no one had seen his weakness. He smiled despite himself, happy to be alive, even in this hell. Carefully he began to split the tree, desperate to avoid another attack, hoping to live another day, to see another sunrise.

"Began to swing the axe again" should be changed to "swung the axe again"

Your next sentence begins with a filter word. "He felt" can be removed and exchanged for something else, perhaps "He struggled to keep his arms up through the burn." or what have you.


"He did not want to appear weak, did not want to appear useless." Remove did not want to appear to "nor" Your narraration is wordy and cuts into the story, a bit.

I'm going to cut off here because I think I'm repeating the same issues.

In summary:

Adverb control.
Careful of filter words.
Wordy narraration.


I'd still read to the end though. Probably because I'm a very morbidly curious person.
 
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