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The Peanut Butter Girl (909 words)

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sockycat

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Hi guys! Here's a flash piece that I wrote for one of my workshops. I'm experimenting with a narrative technique that I don't typically use (usually I like to write inside the characters head and vomit explanations, for better or worse) so this was interesting to write. The title is up in the air. The original title was "Fishing Buddy", but I'm also not wild about that title, either. As always, thank you for reading!


His friend said, “I just don’t understand how you catch so many.”

So the old man said, “Let me show you.”

And that’s how they ended up in tiny dingy on the fringe of the Pacific with twelve peanut butter sandwiches.

He was an old man and he had been fishing for tuna all his life, but it had not been until his wife had started packing his lunches that he had started catching so many tuna. The first time it had happened he had thought it an accident. The second time a blessing. But even miracles don’t always happen in threes, and after the fifth time it became a routine.

They took the boat right as dawn started to splatter across the sky. The birds were just waking up, mostly pelicans and seagulls, flying in clumsy lurches as if they were drunk. The pelicans were the clumsiest, but he liked pelicans, so he forgave them.

“I just don’t see how you catch so many tuna.” His friend insisted.

“Be quiet.” The old man said. He kept his hand on the basket of peanut butter sandwiches as if protecting it. He reached inside and pulled out one sandwich and set it on his knee. It sagged downwards like a deflated parachute.

“What are you doing?” His friend asked. “I’m not hungry.”

“Shhh.” The old man said. He broke off a piece of the sandwich and threw it into the sea. It bobbed for a moment until the water made it heavy, and then it sank. The seagulls above them started to scream.

A head poked above the waves.

Bobbing in the sea was a girl. She had risen only so far up so that her eyes gleamed above the water. Instead of hair what looked like ropy seaweed sprang from her skull and spread across the waves like an oil slick. Her eyes were fat and round like that of a fish, her irises the color of dried algae.

“Sweet baby Jesus.” His friend said.

“Good morning.” The old man said. He set his oar across his knees and smiled at the girl. She blinked slowly at them, her eyelids closing sideways like an alligators.

“Is this a joke?” His friend asked.

“Watch.” The old man said. He tossed the rest of the sandwich to her.

She caught it with her teeth. The girl ate the sandwich snapping bites and the sound of her teeth clicking made the hair stand up on the old man’s arms. She looked at the old man, and sunk back up to her nose in the water, her eyes gleaming.

The old man sighed. “Well, go on then, shoo.” He waved a hand at her. “You know how it goes.”

The girl blew bubbles in the water. A light danced in her eyes, and the old man’s friend stared with his mouth hanging open so wide that one of the pelicans would have been able to fly right inside his head.

The old man drummed his fingers against the basket. “There’s more.” He told her. He winked. “You know the rules.”

The girl blew more bubbles, and then she ducked beneath the waves and shot away.

“What kind of trick is this?” His friend demanded, not sure whether he should be furious or delighted. “What game are you playing?”

The old man looked at him sideways. “You asked me how I catch so many.”

His friend waved his hand at the sea. “This isn’t funny. Do you think I’m a fool?”

“Look.” The old man said, pointing.

The girl was back but she was not alone. In her hands was a tuna larger than the old man’s stomach. It was a great silver fish striped with yellow and blue, and its eyes rolled in fear. It writhed a little and the girl tightened her grip, and the fish went still. The old man always wondered what kind of strength the girl had to hold it so easily. She looked at the fish, and then at the old man. She swam towards the boat with her peanut butter teeth flashing in what seemed to be her best imitation of his smile.

“My God.” His friend said.

She heaved the tuna up. The old man had to lean away to balance the boat when she rested her hips on the edge to throw the tuna in. His friend stared at her. Where her legs should have been was one long tail covered in scales that shimmered like an oil slick. The girl pushed the tuna into his boat and then flopped back into the water. She sank down to her nose and blew bubbles.

The old man stared at the tuna dying in his boat and then stared at the girl. His friend put his hand on the fish to make sure it was real. It writhed under his touch, cold from the sea and very much alive. The old man looked at her, and he said, “Thank you.”

The girl smiled. There was still peanut butter all over her teeth.

The old man looked at his friend, and the wrinkles of his face folded into a smile. “That’s how I catch my tuna.” He said, as if it was the most simple thing in the world, and for once his friend had absolutely nothing to say.

The girl attempted to smile at them from the waves and she clicked her teeth for another sandwich.
 
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The Urban Spaceman

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Hi guys! Here's a flash piece that I wrote for one of my workshops. I'm experimenting with a narrative technique that I don't typically use (usually I like to write inside the characters head and vomit explanations, for better or worse) so this was interesting to write. The title is up in the air. The original title was "Fishing Buddy", but I'm also not wild about that title, either. As always, thank you for reading!


His friend said, “I just don’t understand how you catch so many.”

So the old man said, “Let me show you.”

And that’s how they ended up in tiny dingy on the fringe of the Pacific with twelve peanut butter sandwiches. <<I've touched on this elsewhere, but basically, the undefined "it" makes it sound like they're out there to catch peanut butter sandwiches>>

He was an old man and he had been fishing for tuna all his life, but it had not been until his wife had started packing his lunches that he had started catching so many tuna. The first time it had happened he had thought it an accident. The second time a blessing. But even miracles don’t always happen in threes, and after the fifth time it became a routine. <<Once you've established "had" a couple of times, you don't need to keep using it, as it's too past-perfect heavy. Try "but it wasn't until his wife had started..." and don't be afraid to take some 'had' out.>>

They took the boat out before dawn was able to splatter across in the sky. The birds were just waking up, flying in clumsy lurches as if they were drunk. The pelicans were the clumsiest, but he liked pelicans, so he forgave them.

“I just don’t see how you catch so many tuna.” His friend insisted. <<Incorrect grammar. Dialogue tags are separated from speech by a comma, not by a full stop (period). You should then use lower-case to continue the tag. "I just don't see how you catch so many tuna," his friend insisted. >>

“Be quiet.” The old man said. He kept his hand on the basket of peanut butter sandwiches as if protecting it. He reached inside and pulled out one sandwich and set it on his knee. It sagged downwards like a deflated parachute.

“What are you doing?” His friend asked. “I’m not hungry.”

“Shhh.” The old man said. <<You don't need to add speakers/dialogue tags to every sentence when there are only 2 speakers. "said" tags are said to be invisible, but not when they're unnecessary like they are here.>> He broke off a piece of the sandwich and threw it into the sea. It bobbed for a moment until the water made it heavy, and then it sank. The seagulls above them started to scream.

A head poked above the waves.

Bobbing in the sea was a girl. She had risen only so far up so that her eyes gleamed above the water. Instead of hair <<add a comma here>> what looked like ropy seaweed sprang from her skull and spread across the waves like an oil slick. Her eyes were fat and round like that <<those>> of a fish, her irises the color of dried algae. <<there are many different species of algae, which have different colours when dry.>>

“Sweet baby Jesus.” His friend said.

“Good morning.” The old man said. He set his oar across his knees and smiled at the girl. She blinked slowly at them, her eyelids closing sideways like an alligators.

“Is this a joke?” His friend asked. <<again, too many alternating "he said" which aren't required.>>

“Watch.” The old man said. He tossed the rest of the sandwich to her.

She caught it with her teeth. The girl ate the sandwich snapping bites and the sound of her teeth clicking made the hair stand up on the old man’s arms. She looked at the old man, and sunk back up to her nose in the water, her eyes gleaming.

The old man sighed. “Well, go on then, shoo.” He waved a hand at her. “You know how it goes.” <<this sentence is the first involving dialogue which you've punctuated correctly, but mostly because there are no tags involved, just independent actions.>>

The girl blew bubbles in the water. A light danced in her eyes, and the old man’s friend stared with his mouth hanging open so wide that one of the pelicans would have been able to fly right inside his head.

The old man drummed his fingers against the basket. “There’s more.” He told her. He winked. <<Why not, "There's more," he told her with a wink. ?>> “You know the rules.”

The girl blew more bubbles, and then she ducked beneath the waves and shot away.

“What kind of trick is this?” His friend demanded, not sure whether he should be furious or delighted. “What game are you playing?”

The old man looked at him sideways. “You asked me how I catch so many.”

His friend waved his hand at the sea. “This isn’t funny. Do you think I’m a fool?”

“Look.” The old man said, pointing.

The girl was back but she was not alone. In her hands was a tuna larger than the old man’s stomach. <<bigger than someone's stomach is an odd way of measuring something unless the stomach is grossly obese. Tuna are large, anywhere from 0.5 metres to over 6ft, so I'd find another way of saying this.>> It was a great silver fish striped with yellow and blue, and its eyes rolled in fear. It writhed a little and the girl tightened her grip, and the fish went still. The old man always wondered what kind of strength the girl had to hold it so easily. She looked at the fish, and then at the old man. She swam towards the boat with her peanut butter teeth flashing in what seemed to be her best imitation of his smile.

“My God.” His friend said.

She heaved the tuna up and the old man had to lean away to balance the boat when she rested her hips on the edge of it to throw the tuna in. His friend stared at her. Where her legs should have been was one long tail covered in scales that shimmered like an oil slick. The girl pushed the tuna into his boat and then flopped back into the water. She sank down to her nose and blew bubbles.

The old man stared at the tuna dying in his boat and then stared at the girl. <<why is he staring?>> His friend put his hand on the fish to make sure it was real. It writhed under his touch, cold from the sea and very much alive. The old man looked at her, and he said, “Thank you.”

The girl smiled. There was still peanut butter all over her teeth.

The old man looked at his friend, and the wrinkles of his face folded into a smile. “That’s how I catch my tuna.” He said, as if it was the most simple thing in the world, and for once his friend had absolutely nothing to say.

The girl attempted to smile at them from the waves and she clicked her teeth for another sandwich.

I like the story but it could use a little polishing on the grammar. Also, try to avoid starting consecutive sentences "she..." or "he..." Vary things a little. And good luck, the story is a fun one and has real promise! :)
 

sockycat

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I like the story but it could use a little polishing on the grammar. Also, try to avoid starting consecutive sentences "she..." or "he..." Vary things a little. And good luck, the story is a fun one and has real promise! :)

Good point on the stomach comparison. I'll try to find a better descriptor. And thank you for the feedback with the tags! For some reason that's one element that has never really stuck in my head. Thank you for the feedback!
 

The Urban Spaceman

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And thank you for the feedback with the tags! For some reason that's one element that has never really stuck in my head.

It's a veeeeery common mistake. I see it on a lot of blogs. Once you've got the hang of the tags, you'll wonder how you ever struggled.
 

sockycat

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It's a veeeeery common mistake. I see it on a lot of blogs. Once you've got the hang of the tags, you'll wonder how you ever struggled.

Do you have any suggestions on resources? I know people say "read more" but I read a ton and it seems like that's the part that always goes over my head.
 

Gunpowder Nash

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I enjoyed your story sockeycat and here I was expecting the fish to be attracted to the peanut butter! keep up the good work!
I also enjoyed the critique from Urban Spaceman. I wish I had such a handle on all he mentioned!
 

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