Naseau II

Naseau II

A Story by Malenkov
"

Guile, plasticity, and the search for meaning for a corporate drone. A parody of existentialism.

"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Naseau II

by

Malenkov

 

 

 

 

"Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."

"  Vonnegut.

 

 

 

                                     


“BRINNNGGGGGGG!!” The alarm clocked screamed its tinny clang. Derek’s cortex trickled into life. Protesting neurons dragged themselves along the billion cell highway of the Oculomotor nerve and then consciousness sparked alight like the dim flicker of an energy saving bulb. Jaundiced eyes furled to pinholes.

Then, a thought formed, a faucet drop that crystallised: Why bother?

His adams apple pulsed.

Why get up?

An arm, hairless and pale, snaked out. Following a muffled clang, the noise stopped. A large mound in the bed rolled, grunted and turned over with a “hmmph”. Strewn around the bed, next to the meditation cushion and yoga mat, lay opened copies of books: No Exit; How to Win Friends & Influence People and the The Now Habit.

The bedroom stood little larger than a broom cupboard: six paces in each direction hung thread bare grey wallpaper peeling off in plant leaf strips. Walls and picture frames rattled as a freight train thundered by.

On the side table, by the bed, lay an empty glass.
                                      * * *
In his thirty year career in the cubicles of Bigcorp, Derek Wann Abe had climbed the corporate ladder tenaciously. If he never floated t**d like to the top, then he ingratiated himself firmly onto the lower echelons. He had body shopped as apprentice assistant to his supervisor for thirteen years, which taught Derek a few tricks in the slippery art of corporate survival. For starters, one never carried bad news when one could palm it off onto someone else. And in the presence of a superior one nodded sagely to every utterance; which in practice, for Derek, meant virtually the whole company.

But still, Derek stood by his opinion where it truly counted: comments about the weather were fair game and he blew wind to corporate convention with a racy grey flannel suit that flattered his slight belly, complemented his other virtues, too. Derek counted his sycophantic plasticity of mind among them, and the fact that he could worm out of a bad spot faster than Houdini could escape a fish tank.

Derek had skulked out of line of sight of the last realignment which Harry Haveitoff--his jut chinned supervisor--presented at the last annual conference as “one which will massage Bigcorp into a leaner, fitter organization for us all.”

Only last July, twenty four of the two hundred surviving personnel at the Admin and Stationary Department where Derek worked, received “re-alignment offers” that “enabled them to pursue green field opportunities elsewhere.” The offers winged their way in little pink slips into the letterboxes of the lucky twenty four.

Sipping Rooibos tea at his cubicle desk, Derek mentally patted himself on the back. The announcements circulated that the July round of purges were mercifully over. As the Email communiqué from Managing Director Julia Caesem lucidly expressed it:

 

Dear Employee,

 

We thank you for the efforts involved in meeting our shareholder after tax return of thirty five percent. You shall be delighted to be informed that we have successfully achieved our goal through streamlined rebuilding, which we shall continue to implement to facilitate further cost containment measures to further strengthen our out-sourcing capability.

Yours,

            Julia Caesem


         A survivor of four rounds of corporate Darwinism, Derek reflected that Bigcorp made the Gulags look like a vacation in Disney World.

He endured, evaded, avoided with more slipperiness than Tsun Tzu, more conniving than Sheer-Kahn. By hook and by crook he siphoned every ounce of credit from his co-workers that he could get his grimy hands on. And when the whims of corporate hierarchy blew foul he could spin on a six pence, turn tail faster than a Marsupial.

Life had never been better.

Office life taught Derek valuable lessons in social etiquette. “Team work, is what it’s all about, dear boy,” said Harry, slapping Derek on the shoulder as he trailed by to his ten foot square open plan office over looking the harbour, at three in the afternoon. Harry sported a bronzed tan from the off-shore-vendor sponsored management off-site in Honolulu. Harry swung his golf clubs in one hand and his assistant Brenda Lovelegs, strode behind him, tan the same bronze as Harry’s face.

“Well Brenda,” Harry said, “I’ll expect you in my office to take down my particulars again at four thirty.”

She glanced down at his groin.

“The pad, Brenda.”

“Oh.”

Derek scrapped enough from his forty-k salary to put a down payment on a one and a half bedroom appartment in Mile End, London. He met Sally Truetears at the Mile End Bird Watchers Society Christmas party and it had been compatibility at first sight. Both adored blue tits, finches and ospreys. Their on-line date score which the man from the dating agency had arranged “on the house” predicted they were “well above the average match for first time couples” and forecast a “statistically significant fit at the ninety nine percent level”. Derek and Sally concurred, nodding heads. After all the vital signs were there--they both shared a subtle taste for neutral grey retro modern wall paper.

They planned too, of course: “Let’s live meaningfully and with an end in sight! Not like all the others!” declared Derek in a fit of rhetoric one night in the Bombay Palace, over a steaming dish of Chicken Masala. Calculator, wish list and pencils clutched in their hands they sat in the droopy kitchen light listing the components of marital bliss. After the apartment was sufficiently amortized, they wanted a stripy cheshire cat, a golden retriever. Then there was the crème de la crème: bunches of crisp five pound notes nestled in the marmalade jar by the Ikea kitchen cupboard, accumulating towards the six volume Encyclopaedia Britannica edition they’d marvelled at in Waterstones.

Birds bonded them. Each Saturday after You-Can-Win-A-Million they perched on the edge of their sofas, shoulders rubbing together, and munching home made butter popcorn as Birds-On-TV flashed on their Sanyo forty-two inch quadra-phonic plasma screen on which Sally admired the--“gorgeous cheeks”--of Jim Redjaw, the Birds-On-TV correspondent.

Their sexual mores were refreshingly modern. And Sally thought that “bolstered their relationship”. Actually, it had been Sally’s idea to subscribe that April to Rustler, Playboy and He and together they rummaged the stories and editorials. When a particularly tasteful set caught their imagination, they posted a letter to the editor complementing the photographer.

But then the sky fell upon Derek. Sally’s crush upon Jim Redjaw developed into full blown intoxication. She wrote Redjaw fan mail daily, feverishly scribbling into the small hours of night. Redjaw responded to her mail that August, his letter arrived by UPS express in an overlarge golden envelop marked ‘special delivery’. He’d be delighted, Redjaw wrote in florid Napoleon script, to give her a personal autograph in person and thanks for the photo, and added he’d never seen someone pierced there before and would she join him at the next Birds-On-TV Fan conference? It was exclusive in Rio de Janeiro and by invite only.

Sally found the lure of meeting the star--“bird man”--irresistible and yapped about it unrelentingly over croissants, ginseng tea and rough cut marmalade at breakfast. But Derek was a hardened man of the world, secure and adult enough to cope with a teeny, weenie bit of jealously, he reassured himself the day before Sally packed for her Rio trip. After all, he pondered one evening in his kitchen crunching a stick of celery, why be silly about such things? It’s true that Sally never bought that kind of lingerie while we were together but one should be philosophical. ‘Live and Let Live’, ‘Stercus accidit’, as they say. It was just, after all, a silly infatuation.

Sally sent Derek a postcard from Rio in December as he unpacked his presents alone by the dilapidated Christmas tree. I do hope you understand it is for the best but the birds are so gorgeous here. Having a whale of a time in Rio and wish you were here. Love and kisses. Ta, Ta. It was the last card he received from her. Sally joined Redjaw, starry eyed and breathless, for three episodes of Birds-On-TV in Rio as a bikini clad assistant.

“Wasn’t that Sally on birds last Tuesday?” his mother pointedly asked each time he trekked to her house to dump his monthly washing.

Mysteriously, Derek noted a new girl, fresher faced, and starrier eyed, bouncing on the set for Birds in Zimbabwe.

Derek’s misfortune avalanched.

The day Derek shredded Sally’s postcard he tramped aimlessly around the shopping mall. People’s faces swam like lobsters. In a surreal and nauseating way. Derek brushed it off. “I’ve read far too much Sartre, depressing existentialist stuff, and seen too many Taxi Driver reruns,” he thought aloud, slumped in his tatty arm chair. “These things happen to perfectly sane men.” Yet, try as he might to hold onto life’s pleasures, Derek’s interests floated away like dead autumn leaves in a sewer. Even Birds-On-TV. Redjaw’s swanning grin taunted Derek as Redjaw swapped pleasantries with a new-girl-a show. Enraged, Derek cancelled his subscription.

Even Timmy Scragfoot, the office underling that Derek beat up occasionally, had it better. Derek still rued the sore-throat that had necessitated a three day absence that coincided with the Super Bowl finals. As luck would have it--for Scragfoot--the Regional Marketing Director Brian Screwem stopped by the office during Derek’s ‘sickie’ to “grace them with his presence.”

Scragfoot struck audaciously, presenting for once his own idea as part of the New Logo Re-branding Initiative’s request for proposal meeting that was held on that day. What was the world coming to, people taking credit for their own ideas? Derek thought when the news reached him. They’d want democracy next.

Brian adored the New Logo proposal and asked Scragfoot to lead the Re-branding initiative--“Great men were scarce”--Brian beamed, hand imperiously clasped on Scragfoot’s shoulder, “and Bigcorp rewards those truly loyal.”

Even by the standards of Bigcorp’s motto " “a passion to perform”--Scragfoot rise was meteoric. Three months after his proposal Scragfoot unveiled his bold The New Logo concept. Envious malcontents spread malicious rumours: that The New Logo was “just two font sizes larger.” But Brian stamped out all such nonsense, declaring it, “a stroke of genius.” Scragfoot’s face bedecked the corporate announcements as Bigcorp Communications & Marketing whipped their Top Performing Leader campaign into a frenzy of purple blurb:

 

Scragfoot: Living Our Passion to Perform, and Daring Next Steps: project leader Scragfoot explains his six point plan for project Gravytrain.

 

“Blow it all”, Derek said aloud as he read about Scragfoot’s latest exploits in the corporate newsletter, The Truth. “Surely Scragfoot will give me something for old times sake, friends, Esprit de Corps and all that.”

Derek rang Scragfoot’s assistant, Lucille, to enquire about vacancies. “We were the best of ex-acquaintances,” Derek said.

Lucille promised to get back to him. She did--after Derek rang her three weeks later. She forwarded Derek an email from Scragfoot:

 

The Director thanks you for your interest in this exciting new opportunity, but regrets that it has been a considerable challenge to select from among the high quality of applicants.

 

We wish to inform you that currently no positions match your skill set but we encourage you try again in future.

 

A passion to perform.

 

Best,

           

Scragfoot

 

Incensed that a lesser vassal triumphed where men of principle, probity and propriety clawed finger by finger up the precipice, Derek declared a vendetta: “I’ll bring the system down.”

As he crunched his celery in the early hours of the morning, he took his first step as a revolutionary. Knowledge is power, Derek mused and trawled the internet for keys to prosecute his mission. Four in the morning, after a week of dredging the morass of internet soup, his answer materialised before his eyes--in the search results as a hyper link:

non-violent resistance, empowering the weak.

Derek pumped his fist. “Eureka!” he mused aloud. He read further about the idea in Ghandi’s Autobiography " ‘Truth will out,’ and ‘Power is maintained only by consent of the ruled.’ And so on. As he read, a plan coalesced in his mind. Well, I’ll be damned, he thought, sucking his liquorice Sherbet mixture as he leafed the pages of a book, I’ll rebel covertly.

For the next week, Derek applied his formidable intellect concocting heinous misdemeanours against Bigcorp. Derek’s lips curled, struck by the sheer brutal cunning of it all. “I’ll passively actively fight--resist the system right under their very noses,” he laughed, as he typed his ‘Ten Point Plan to Power’ into a bulleted list of subversive activities. The plan was an end of chapter exercise that came with the Amazon book:

 

Fighting the System for Dummies: The non-violent way to attain your dreams....

 

For the first time in months, Derek slept soundly.

Without delay Derek waged revolution. The next day, during peak office hours, Derek surfed the internet flagrantly. Had his boss read the latest story he’d written on the WritersCafe? Derek asked Harry. His boss merely tutted and showed Derek his own rankings.

Berserk with rage, Derek wheeled ‘plan B’ into motion. Derek secreted himself onto critical path tasks on which Derek surmised Harry’s performance hinged--and Harry’s annual two week Christmas jaunt to Bangkok.

“Leave it to me,” Derek reassured Harry during the next Task Assignment Meeting. Only after the task was screamingly overrun, and Derek had slipped all the slack possible, did Derek report in his quarterly status meeting to Harry, “File Maintenance Task is regrettably critically delayed as a consequence of unforeseen dependencies including over-budgeted man hours and higher than expected change requests. Reschedule to next quarter advised.”

As Derek smoothly delivered his report at the mid week team meeting, Harry merely smiled stone-faced. “Not to worry, Derek, Sheila’s already on this one. Oh, did I forget to say she’s your new colleague. She’ll be working with you and I’m sure, Derek,” Harry’s crocodile smile widened, “you’ll be happy to transfer to her all your valuable know how.”

Derek fumed.

In a moment of realisation that plummeted manna-like from heaven, Derek reflected, I never really worked much in the first place, anyway. Derek glanced at his colleague John Greylocks. Together they shared a table sized cubicle. Droop shouldered and pensionable, Derek affectionately referred Greylocks to colleagues as “a part of the office furniture”. Every now and then footsteps thudding along a corridor reanimated Greylocks into life: shoulders twitching, eyes startling from reverie, Greylocks would switch his browser from CNN to the Bigcorp News announcements web page.

If the head bobbing behind the cubicle rampart appeared to be a supervisor, invariably Greylocks swept a pen around his desk or restacked paper piles feverishly. Or in dire emergency, Greylocks would spring on the phone, tinny voice rising in an effort to sound important: "Yes, Sir, rest assured, Sir, we at Bigcorp receive the best customer service training ...what’s that? Yes, yes, of course Sir... I entirely agree--the customer always comes first. At Bigcorp we relish our motto--‘A passion to perform’--… yes, it is nice isn’t it? … What’s more, believe me when I say that we take your concerns with the utmost seriousness. Yes, I personally guarantee it will be dealt with the highest priority…."

It’s all a sham, Derek raged over his Rooibos tea. Nobody gives a damn.

It got worse.

Disgusted, Derek closed his account on WritersCafé. It had nothing to do with that dodgy Russian fella who ran amok around the web site ranting invective and sending abusive emails and hacking into valuable junk mail systems the world over. None of that fazed Derek.

Inflamed Derek threw out his Tonka cars, his Scalextric and, incredibly, the fluffy pink handcuffs, and feather quill he got as a birthday present from Amy Bellafonte.

Then November blew in, swirling maple leaves around the yards. A wintry gloom, if it wasn’t already blaringly obvious, hung about Mile End.

Alone, with not even a bird for company, Derek stayed later in bed. Waking at nine in the morning, nine twenty and once, even nine forty, on a particularly bad day, Derek paced around his bedroom like that strange man in the Notes from the Underground. Seized with apathy and ennui, Derek reopened his Writers Café account and wrote six-page rant pieces during midnight sojourns.

None of it helped; Derek slid ever further into despondency.

Derek stopped drinking Rooibos tea. Tea is bourgeois and decadent he reasoned, one particularly dark night, morosely leafing through his library copy of Existentialism is a Humanism, habitually peering at the peeling grey wallpaper in the corner of the bedroom to rest his bruised insomniac pouches for watery eyes, as the walls shook for the fiftieth time that night.

A tower of styrofoam coffee cups piled up on a corner of Derek’s rickety writing desk. Derek phoned Brenda frequently to call in his absence. He “had flu and needed a week off”. Then it was “polio”, then “hepatitis”. On a visit to the doctor’s surgery, the GP steepled his bony white fingers, hummed and reflected behind horn rimmed glasses and whipped out a white note. He scrawled on the sick note that earned Derek four months paid leave: afflicted by ‘Angst’ and ‘Alienation’.

Harry called Derek a week later at home, “Derek would you please clock your hours in the time sheet " for insurance purposes? You know we’ve got to be covered.”

But at least Derek could count on family. Alarmed, Derek’s mother plagued Derek with phone calls. She was “worried”. “Would you be a love and stop by?”, “By the way, love, did you forgot to send the money--you know for the highlights I had done last Wednesday?” and “The washing machine’s sprung a leak, dearie. Be a love and stop on Saturday and take a look, would you?” And so on.

Derek enlightened himself on the cause of his predicament as he beavered his way through Frankl’s hearty edition of Man's Search for Meaning. “One can have a jolly time even in Auschwitz if one puts one’s mind to it,” Derek concluded. But, bother it, he thought. I do seem to have lost the Will to Meaning thingy, Derek scribbled this conclusion in careful red strokes in his notepad after cross referencing it in his compendium of Chamberlain’s A Kierkegaard Reader. Derek mentally noted to himself to go first thing in the morning to the doctor’s surgery--and explain to his GP his very human predicament. Perhaps I’ll get a year off for that one, he pondered. Besides it was all insured, he supposed, as the pangs of bourgeois guilt attempted to riposte the fragile roots of Derek’s newly formed existential consciousnesses. Derek let the book slide by the side of his bed, sighed then rolled over in his sleeping bag. I’m as flaccid as those big brown saggy clouds hovering outside this ramshackle hut I live in. Brown you may well ask? He was after all, seeing Lobsters.
                                      * * *
For Derek it had been a particularly heavy night of self reflection. He squinted once more at the quote underlined in yellow marker in his copy of Heidegger: In Plain English:

 

To think Being itself explicitly requires disregarding Being to the extent that it is only grounded and interpreted in terms of beings and for beings as their ground, as in all metaphysics.

 

No wonder I stay in bed, he thought. “It’s completely meaningless,” Derek moaned.

One can’t be bothered to get up. After all, what is life for? Derek thought.

A voice, authorial and intrusive, echoed on the edge of Derek’s senses: surely you want a glass of water? That’s the very least a person could want?

“Nope,” Derek said. Firmly now, “Not even water.”

The voice frothed sea water like in Derek’s ear drums. Even a man who stays in bed must get a little itsy bitty thirsty, now and again. After all what’s the effort in a glass of water?

Derek humphed and rolled over facing the wall his sleeping bag lay next to.

Come now, the voice opined, it’s the last part of the story. Now the voice cooed. You must want something? A glass of water is very good for your health.

There was a strained pause. A pencil scribbled. Besides, the voice swelled harsher, it is getting rather hot. Outside, the weather flicked from Artic Autumn to Saharan Summer. The room blazed forty degrees centigrade, baked as a baking tray. A tongue, parched as the Kalahari Desert, rasped dryly in the background. The saccharine voice came again: a nice glass of refreshing carbonated water would be just the thing. Wouldn’t it?

Then a fizzing sound and images: mineral streams gurgled through verdant French valleys, a slinky siren in a tight, two-piece, leopard skin leotard poured water into a glass. A gulp, gulp, gulp as water slid down a parched throat. Then a dull clink of glass on wood and a long contented sigh, Ahhhhhh. That was nice. Nothing like a drop of eau de mineral to quench a thirst now is there " especially on a raging hot winter day like this?

Derek’s eyes winked shut like two clams. Lips tight as a mollusk.

The voice intoned, irately now. It’s no good. Bloody anti-heroes. Why do they make it so tough? Paper rustled. A tongue clicked. The leafing rustle of a book, a voice murmured. Desires, character, character is desire ... hmmm, I wonder now... Then a thud as a hardcover slapped shut.

Ok, forget the water. How about a nice pair of juicy tits to ogle at?

Derek sprang up in bed.

Two blue and black winged birds, yellow plumage blazed across their breasts, swooped as one onto the open bedroom window sill. “Tits! Tits!” Derek shot off the edge of the bed, hairy legs floundering as he yanked the camera off the door peg.


 

--END--


© 2010 Malenkov



My Review

Would you like to review this Story?
Login | Register




Featured Review

Dude, this is some funny-a*s-furious s**t. You had me chuckling throughout. As I read, I was noting funny sections, though I eventually gave up because there were so many. I think the plotting works and I stay involved throughout. I am, of course, a fan of Vonnegut and Pynchon and you pay homage to their brand of satire while maintaining a unique voice.

With the exception of some nits and pics below I had only one problem and that was Dereks home being Connecticut. While I could identify his dilemma as something a young Connecticut professional might have, the voice of the piece hollers Brit to me.

This could be as simple a fix as changing his location to the UK or perhaps all it needs is a few changes of words and phrase here and there (I pointed a few out along with my best guess at a Connecticut translation.) Or it may run deeper than that and have to do with pacing and rhythm and cadence. Or I could be all wet and you intended to have a British voice and an American protagonist.

Any way you slice it, this is some great stuff. Nits, picks and kudos below:

Infinitesimally slow, Dereks cortex trickled into life. cut Infinitesimally slow, the word trickled is strong enough without it.

nerve ways Id like a stronger phrase here.

dim flicker of an energy saving bulb.- great and funny

Jaundiced eyes furled to pinholes. nice phrasing.

The adams apple pulsed. I would prefer His adams apple pulsed as a way to start bringing the reader closer to the character. Sort of like zooming in. I like the distance created above this, but am now ready to see his adams apple and his arm

There was a muffled clang and the noise stopped. = Following a muffled clang, the noise stopped.

No Exit; How to Win Friends & Influence People and the The Now Habit. again great funny detail

semi broom cupboard bedroom, - a little clunky

Bigcorp Derek Wann Abe funny

For instance: never carry bad news when you can palm it off onto someone else and nod sagely when a superior, which meant virtually the whole company, expressed an opinion. kinda clunky

grey gray if you are going for the Connecticut spelling


If he never floated t**d like to the top of the ladder,- funny, but I was distracted by the mixed metaphor even if it was purposeful


Derek skulked out of line of sight during the last realignment, which massaged Bigcorp into, as his jut chinned supervisor Harry Haveitoff presented it at the last annual conference, a leaner, fitter organization for us all. - kinda clunky

letter boxes letterboxes

of the lucky twenty four.

rooibos tea Rooibos (I think)

The announcements circulated that the somewhat non-Connecticut like in the phrasing here.

lucidly expressed it: - cut it

Gulags look like a vacation in Disney World. up til now, the level of angst has not been quite so hyperbolic, so this line hits Dereks sympathy meter hard.

He endured, evaded, avoided with more slipperiness than Tsun Tzu, - great

Lovelegs, strode behind him, legs the same bronze as Harrys face. perhaps tan the same bronze as Harrys face. In order to avoid the double legs

forty K forty-k

christmas = Christmas

compatibility at first sight. Funny as s**t

wall paper = wallpaper

two point one kids kinda clichd more than the previous brilliant tidbits

he reassured the day before Sally packed for her Rio trip. kinda clunky

Yep not fond of this

rumours - rumors being the yank spelling

that The New Logo was just two font sizes larger. But Brian stamped out all such nonsense, declaring it, a stroke of genius. Hilarious

Blow it all, - not a very popular phrase in CT

quested the internet searched the internet (in CT)

materialised materialized (CT)

liquorice licorice

misdemeanours misdemeanors

Fighting the System for Dummies: The non-violent way to attain your dreams... Hilarious

For the first time that night, in months, - cut that night

screamingly not very CT

report in his quarterly status report report, report clunkiness

stone faced. = stone-faced

realisation = realization

Inflamed Derek throw out threw

Then November blew in, swirling maple leaves around the place. A wintry gloom, if it wasnt already blaringly obvious, hung about the place. around the place, about the place clunkiness

bed room bedroom

Sized with apathy and ennui = Seized with apathy and ennui

grey gray

styro foam styrofoam

polumino- ??

sickie not CT

rung called (CT)

lay facing the wall next to which his sleeping bag lay. lay, lay clunk


Characters the people in the story
Are the characters interesting? Sympathetic? Yes
Are the characters dimensional, or one-note? Dimensional
Are the characters well drawn? Are you able to "see" them? Yes
Is there enough character: action, dialogue, appearance, thought? Yes
Are the characters distinctive, different from each other? Yes
Does the protagonist have a strong desire? If you count thirst as a strong desire ;-)
Does the protagonist grow or change? Yes
Plot the sequence of events
Is the plot interesting? Dramatic? Is a good story being told? Yes
Is there enough conflict? Yes, it is inherent in his dilemna
Does enough "happen"? Yes
Is there a logical flow to the plot? Yes
Does the story move forward? Does the tension increase? Yes
Is there a strong enough climax? Yes
Are any parts of the plot unnecessary? Are any necessary parts missing? No
Is exposition provided effectively? Yes
Point of View the viewpoint from which the story is told
Is the right POV used (first person, third person, etc.)? yes
Is the POV too "close" or "distant"? All good
Is the POV consistent throughout the story? Yes
Description the way things are described
Are the descriptions effective? Yes
Is there too much or too little description? All good
Do the descriptions utilize the senses? Are they specific? Yes
Are adjectives and adverbs overused? Are the nouns and verbs strong All good
How is the use of figurative language (metaphor, simile, etc.)? Good
Are cliches being used? A few times I noted above
Dialogue what the characters say
Is there too much dialogue or not enough? Good
Is there enough use of "scene"? Good
Does the dialogue sound natural? yes
Is the dialogue rambling? No
How is the use of "stage directions" the staging of the dialogue scenes? Good
Does the dialogue reflect the characters? Good
Is the dialogue too "on the nose" where characters always say what they mean? Good
Are the tags (he said, she scolded, etc.) unobtrusive? Yes
Setting the place and time
Is the story grounded enough in place? In time? Not completely in place due to the Britishisms and this guy being in Connecticut
Is there too much or too little setting description? Good
Does the setting enhance the emotion or mood of the story? Yes
Pacing the manipulation of time
Are there sections that should be cut, or moved through more quickly? No
Are there sections that should be slowed down? No
Are there too many flashbacks? No
Voice the "sound" of the narrator
Do you find the narrator's voice appealing or off-putting? Good
Does the voice sound natural or affected? Good
Is the voice consistent throughout the story? Good
Style the stylistic choices
Are the words consistent with the narrator's voice? Yes
Are the sentences and paragraphs too long or too short? Good
Is the writing too wordy, or too spare? Good
Are there any style choices that distract you from the story? No
Theme the underlying meaning
Does there seem to be a point to the story? Yes
Is the theme too heavy-handed? No
Is the theme dramatized by the plot? Yes


Posted 10 Years Ago


6 of 6 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Wow..now this was an intriguing piece as well as interesting....Great job though..it was a great read...is there more coming..I would read that to..Keep up the great work..and Keep writing always..=)

Your friend and comrade,
Bereserk

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The initial phrase follows on near the end of the story. It twists and has a good spiral for the character. It is the new conflict style. Spirals play a different line in character story line. It goes well along, then it goes the other direction.

The choice of words has been well set. The message was well imparted.

This is a very good piece

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

This was witty and funny. I enjoyed tha names the most, Wan Nabe and all that, funny. Well written, and witty throughout. XX

Posted 9 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Exhilarating! Witty and fun to read!!

Malenkov offers to us here all his palette of literary skills. One is just immediately pulled into his story and is left voiceless by his successions of subtle descriptions and slightly cynical humour! But his characters are so genuine, so credible, so true!! The process of identification or projection is very skilfully snared along the text with the introduction here and there of references that most people know about. One might just regret that there is not more information about Brenda. Some might also find the slightly cynical innuendos a little too numerous. Indeed, one recognizes here some recurrent style in Malenkov's writings but surprisingly enough, one does not have enough of it! Excellent work!


Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Exhilarating! Witty and fun to read!!

Malenkov offers to us here all his palette of literary skills. One is just immediately pulled into his story and is left voiceless by his successions of subtle descriptions and slightly cynical humour! But his characters are so genuine, so credible, so true!! The process of identification or projection is very skilfully snared along the text with the introduction here and there of references that most people know about. One might just regret that there is not more information about Brenda. Some might also find the slightly cynical innuendos a little too numerous. Indeed, one recognizes here some recurrent style in Malenkov's writings but surprisingly enough, one does not have enough of it! Excellent work!


Posted 10 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Rob here from the Review Club. Let's just start with, I can't compete with CCs reviews. I'm a little embarrassed to follow her take on this piece, but here's my review.

"BRINNNGGGGGGG!!" The alarm clocked screamed its tinny clang. Derek's cortex trickled into life. Protesting neurons dragged themselves along the billion cell highway of the Oculomotor nerve and then consciousness sparked alight like the dim flicker of an energy saving bulb. Jaundiced eyes furled to pinholes. [I'm not so sure this is as strong an opening as it could be. I guess my issue boils down to having a scene, a waking up scene, but there isn't anything thought or done here that provokes us with a teaser about what this story is going to be about. It's just a waking up scene.]

Then, a thought formed, a faucet drop that crystallised: Why bother?

His adams apple pulsed.

Why get up?

An arm, hairless and pale, snaked out. Following a muffled clang, the noise stopped. A large mound in the bed rolled, grunted and turned over with a "hmmph". Strewn around the bed, next to the meditation cushion and yoga mat, lay opened copies of books: No Exit; How to Win Friends & Influence People and the The Now Habit.

The bedroom stood little larger than a broom cupboard: six paces in each direction hung thread bare grey wallpaper peeling off in plant leaf strips. Walls and picture frames rattled as a freight train thundered by.

On the side table by the bed lay an empty glass.

* * *

In his thirty year career in the cubicles of Bigcorp, Derek Wann Abe had climbed the corporate ladder tenaciously. If he never floated t**d like to the top, then he ingratiated himself firmly onto the lower echelons. He had body shopped as apprentice assistant to his supervisor for thirteen years, which taught Derek a few tricks in the slippery art of corporate survival. For starters, one never carried bad news when one could palm it off onto someone else. And in the presence of a superior one nodded sagely to every utterance; which in practice, for Derek, meant virtually the whole company. [I like the cynicism in this paragraph, which gives us a strong indication of where Derek fits into the world and how he feels about it. This is really critical.]

But still, Derek stood by his opinion where it truly counted: comments about the weather were fair game and he blew wind to corporate convention with a racy grey flannel suit that flattered his slight belly, complemented his other virtues, too. Derek counted his sycophantic plasticity of mind among them, and the fact that he could worm out of a bad spot faster than Houdini could escape a fish tank. [I like this continued discussion of Derek's personality. I'm just wondering here if we're getting too many sides of him at once, without really getting a clear picture if he's weak, manipulative, dull, lazy, etc. I think I would like this discussion to lead to a clearer picture of what he's about before he see how it actually contrasts with his actual behaviour.]

Derek had skulked out of [the] line of sight of the last realignment which Harry Haveitoff - his jut chinned supervisor - presented at the last annual conference as "one which will massage Bigcorp into a leaner, fitter organization for us all." [Need a line to explain what that means to him. Tie it up here.]

Only last July, twenty four of the two hundred surviving personnel at the Admin and Stationary Department where Derek worked, received "re-alignment offers" that "enabled them to pursue green field opportunities elsewhere." The offers winged their way in little pink slips into [their] letterboxes[.] [of the lucky twenty four - thought this was redundant since this paragraph is about the 24.].

Sipping Rooibos tea at his cubicle desk, Derek mentally patted himself on the back. The announcements circulated that the July round of purges were mercifully over. As the Email communiqu from Managing Director Julia Caesem lucidly expressed it:

"We thank you for the efforts involved in meeting our shareholder after tax return of thirty five percent. You shall be delighted to be informed that we have successfully achieved our goal through streamlined rebuilding, which we shall continue to implement to facilitate further cost containment measures to further strengthen our out-sourcing capability."

[To a degree I think you've introduced two management-types up to here, but haven't given us any detail of how they contrast with the grunts. A few lines somewhere above about the "tearful" parting would be good. As a result we don't see what is going to motivate the scene, the reactions. How Derek feels or responds. How the staff respond. How the interaction in this office works. How the management-worker lines are set or soft.]

A survivor of four rounds of corporate Darwinism, Derek reflected that Bigcorp made the Gulags look like a vacation in Disney World. [How so? See above note. Let's see how the parties interact. Seize that opportunity for exploration.]

He endured, evaded, avoided with more slipperiness than Tsun Tzu, more conniving than Sheer-Kahn. By hook and by crook he siphoned every ounce of credit from his co-workers that he could get his grimy hands on. And when the whims of corporate hierarchy blew foul he could spin on a six pence, turn tail faster than a Marsupial. [But we don't "see" how he did it. Is it in his mind? Is he really clever? The motivation for the reader is to see how he fools himself or how he cleverly finds the loopholes. Show us him being a fool.]

Life had never been better. [This doesn't work here. He is at the bottom of the food chain so how can life never be better, unless there something else. Maybe he surfs the net at work and pretends to be working, passing off work to others. Show why he believes life was never better.]

Office life taught Derek valuable lessons in social etiquette. "Team work, is what it's all about, dear boy," said Harry, slapping Derek on the shoulder as he trailed by to his ten foot square open plan office over looking the harbour[, at three in the afternoon - doesn't add anything]. Harry sported a bronzed tan from the off-shore-vendor sponsored management off-site in Honolulu. Harry swung his golf clubs in one hand and his assistant Brenda Lovelegs, strode behind him, tan the same bronze as Harry's face. [Ok, here's a contrast. Management is lazy. The opposite must mean that the workers do the work of management. And with the cutbacks means more work passed off on less workers. How doesn't Derek fit in to this system?]

"Well Brenda," Harry said, "I'll expect you in my office to take down my particulars again at four thirty."

She glanced down at his groin.

"The pad, Brenda."

"Oh." [How did Derek react to this? The scene tells us about management. It tells us nothing about how Derek perceives his place in this system. We need that reaction here.]

Derek scrapped enough from his forty-k salary to put a down payment on a one and a half bedroom [apartment] in Mile End, London. He met Sally Truetears at the Mile End Bird Watchers Society Christmas party and it had been compatibility at first sight. Both adored blue tits, finches and ospreys. Their on-line date score which the man from the dating agency had arranged "on the house" predicted they were "well above the average match for first time couples" and forecast a "statistically significant fit at the ninety nine percent level". Derek and Sally concurred, nodding heads. After all the vital signs were there - they both shared a subtle taste for neutral grey retro modern wall paper. [Too quick to a new character without resolving the workplace issues. However, this will show how Derek reacts outside the office setting. Why the dating service? We need some indication that Derek is socially inept.]

They planned too, of course: "Let's live meaningfully and with an end in sight! Not like all the others!" declared Derek in a fit of rhetoric one night in the Bombay Palace, over a steaming dish of Chicken Masala. Calculator, wish list and pencils clutched in their hands they sat in the droopy kitchen light listing the components of marital bliss. After the apartment was sufficiently amortized, they wanted a stripy cheshire cat, a golden retriever. Then there was the crme de la crme: bunches of crisp five pound notes nestled in the marmalade jar by the Ikea kitchen cupboard, accumulating towards the six volume Encyclopaedia Britannica edition they'd marvelled at in Waterstones. [Too quick a jump. I thought they just met for a first date. We need to see, even in a few lines, how the compatibility worked out. Is it ironic? Is it genuine? What about it makes it interesting and reveals theme or story? Why are they planning? What about their personalities made it so they sat down with pen and paper and worked out their future together? Lots of stuff happening without the motivation for it being defined.]

Birds bonded them. Each Saturday after You-Can-Win-A-Million they perched on the edge of their sofas, shoulders rubbing together, and munching home made butter popcorn as Birds-On-TV flashed on their Sanyo forty-two inch quadra-phonic plasma screen on which Sally admired the - "gorgeous cheeks" - of Jim Redjaw, the Birds-On-TV correspondent.

Their sexual mores were refreshingly modern. And Sally thought that "bolstered their relationship". Actually, it had been Sally's idea to subscribe that April to Rustler, Playboy and He and together they rummaged the stories and editorials. When a particularly tasteful set caught their imagination, they posted a letter to the editor complementing the photographer.

[Ok, up to this point you're just setting the upward climb on the wheel of fortune. The next paragraph is his fall. So, the problem is where's the upward climb? For this to work thematically we need to see that "life has never been better". The first part is to show how he's managing by crook and hook to reel in the perfect life. Everything needs to build towards the rise in the wheel of fortune. May be wins the office pool. He dates the secretary behind his bosses back. You see what I mean? He's stealing by his cleverness a better life. It must thematically follow the classical Greek wheel of fortune -- the Oedipal cycle. And the next part will be how it all unravels, not despite his best laid plans, but because of his best laid plans. That is the irony of the wheel of fortune theme story.]

But then the sky fell upon Derek. Sally's crush upon Jim Redjaw developed into full blown intoxication. She wrote Redjaw fan mail daily, feverishly scribbling into the small hours of night. Redjaw responded to her mail that August, his letter arrived by UPS express in an overlarge golden envelop marked 'special delivery'. He'd be delighted, Redjaw wrote in florid Napoleon script, to give her a personal autograph in person and thanks for the photo, and added he'd never seen someone pierced there before and would she join him at the next Birds-On-TV Fan conference? It was exclusive in Rio de Janeiro and by invite only. [With this character flaw of Sally's we need to see her obsessive-compulsive behaviour earlier. There are opportunities: the planning the future, the writing fan mail. These can be used. Perhaps for the Oedipal flaw -- Derek pretends he's Redjaw in bed. He's exploiting her weakness for his ends, but doesn't realize that he's only serving as a surrogate for the real Redjaw. Does that make sense?]

Sally found the lure of meeting the star - "bird man" - irresistible and yapped about it unrelentingly over croissants, ginseng tea and rough cut marmalade at breakfast. But Derek was a hardened man of the world, secure and adult enough to cope with a teeny, weenie bit of jealously, he reassured himself the day before Sally packed for her Rio trip. After all, he pondered one evening in his kitchen crunching a stick of celery, why be silly about such things? It's true that Sally never bought that kind of lingerie while we were together but one should be philosophical. 'Live and Let Live', 'Stercus accidit', as they say. It was just, after all, a silly infatuation. [Too quick a jump. What about her meeting Redjaw? Where did the trip come from? We need the scenes inserted here. Show us the interaction and let us see the irony of it.]

Sally sent Derek a postcard from Rio in December as he unpacked his presents alone by the dilapidated Christmas tree. [Why is he alone? At Christmas? Perhaps he can be at the Christmas party with the Secretary. That would be ironic. Not seeing what's in plain sight.] I do hope you understand it is for the best but the birds are so gorgeous here. Having a whale of a time in Rio and wish you were here. Love and kisses. Ta, Ta. It was the last card he received from her. Sally joined Redjaw, starry eyed and breathless, for three episodes of Birds-On-TV in Rio as a bikini clad assistant. [Where did this come from? How did she wind up being the assistant. Perhaps he could've arranged it for: (a) to get alone with the Secretary for Christmas; and (b) to win brownie points from Sally. It makes it ironic. It sets the Oedipal flaw.]

"Wasn't that Sally on birds last Tuesday?" his mother pointedly asked each time he trekked to her house to dump his monthly washing. [Where did this scene come from?]

Mysteriously, Derek noted a new girl, fresher faced, and starrier eyed, bouncing on the set for Birds in Zimbabwe. [No, this runs contrary to the wheel of fortune. If things are going to get worst then we can't have there be a glimmer of hope for Derek. Maybe Sally's looking happier. Maybe Sally and Redjaw are flirting on TV. Set the wheel in motion and keep it going. It's a trainwreck...]

Derek's misfortune avalanched. [Here, it's getting worse. He's freefalling. Let him fall.]

The day Derek shredded Sally's postcard he tramped aimlessly around the shopping mall. People's faces swam like lobsters [I'm not sure about this simile. What does it tie to? Maybe use it while he's eating fish and chips, or at the waterfront watching fishing boats. Otherwise it dangles.]. In a surreal and nauseating way. Derek brushed it off. "I've read far too much Sartre, depressing existentialist stuff, and seen too many Taxi Driver reruns," he thought aloud, slumped in his tatty arm chair. "These things happen to perfectly sane men." Yet, try as he might to hold onto life's pleasures, Derek's interests floated away like dead autumn leaves in a sewer. Even Birds-On-TV. Redjaw's swanning grin taunted Derek as Redjaw swapped pleasantries with a new-girl-a show. Enraged, Derek cancelled his subscription. [He's suddenly become philosophical. If you're going to get him to be philosophical, perhaps he can be Nietzschean at the start. Now's he's into Schopenhauer -- life's a b***h and then you die.]

Even Timmy Scragfoot, the office underling that Derek beat up occasionally, had it better. [Where did he come from? At this point don't introduce new characters. Use them as contrasts to define Derek. Show him beating up Timmy when he's in control of his world. Show him passing work off on poor Timmy, and now even Timmy is higher up the food chain than Derek at work. It's the wheel of fortune. That's the theme you have going here.] Derek still rued the sore-throat that had necessitated a three day absence that coincided with the Super Bowl finals. As luck would have it - for Scragfoot - the Regional Marketing Director Brian Screwem stopped by the office during Derek's 'sickie' to "grace them with his presence." [Not sure why we need to know this.]

Scragfoot struck audaciously, presenting for once his own idea as part of the New Logo Re-branding Initiative's request for proposal meeting that was held on that day. What was the world coming to, people taking credit for their own ideas? Derek thought when the news reached him. They'd want democracy next. [What would work thematically better is if Scragfoot learned well from Derek, and while Derek was sick he stole the ideas from Derek. After years of Derek stealing Timmy's ideas, Timmy stole Derek's ideas and passed them off as his own. The one really good idea Derek "ever" had was stolen. See the irony?]

Brian adored the New Logo proposal and asked Scragfoot to lead the Re-branding initiative - "Great men were scarce" - Brian beamed, hand imperiously clasped on Scragfoot's shoulder, "and Bigcorp rewards those truly loyal."

Even by the standards of Bigcorp's motto "a passion to perform" - Scragfoot rise was meteoric. Three months after his proposal Scragfoot unveiled his bold The New Logo concept. [Time is passing to quickly here. Slow down the pace. Let's also see the scenes. Show us.] Envious malcontents spread malicious rumours: that The New Logo was "just two font sizes larger." But Brian stamped out all such nonsense, declaring it, "a stroke of genius." Scragfoot's face bedecked the corporate announcements as Bigcorp Communications & Marketing whipped their Top Performing Leader campaign into a frenzy of purple blurb:

Scragfoot: Living Our Passion to Perform, and Daring Next Steps: project leader Scragfoot explains his six point plan for project Gravytrain.

"Blow it all", Derek said aloud as he read about Scragfoot's latest exploits in the corporate newsletter, The Truth. "Surely Scragfoot will give me something for old times sake, friends, Esprit de Corps and all that."

Derek rang Scragfoot's assistant, Lucille, to enquire about vacancies. "We were the best of ex-acquaintances," Derek said. [Why is he changing jobs? Why does he want to? We don't have any indication that things changed at the office. Show us the change. How Derek has less than what he had before. Perhaps the boss found out about Derek and the Secretary, and has been demoted to office boy. See the irony of the wheel of fortune? He got Timmy's old job.]

Lucille promised to get back to him. She did - after Derek rang her three weeks later. She forwarded Derek an email from Scragfoot:

The Director thanks you for your interest in this exciting new opportunity, but regrets that it has been a considerable challenge to select from among the high quality of applicants. We wish to inform you that currently no positions match your skill set but we encourage you try again in future. A passion to perform. Regards.

Incensed that a lesser vassal triumphed where men of principle, probity and propriety clawed finger by finger up the precipice, Derek declared a vendetta: "I'll bring the system down." [Careful. After show us the wheel of fortunate, and Derek's fall from grace, you must now show Oedipus at Colonus. You must show us Derek as the quiet, reflective, philosphical man. He has learned his lesson. He has nothing. He needs nothing. He has only a story to tell to fools. Ultimately, that is the problem is memes like the wheel of fortunate structure to stories -- they only work properly if the new story is build on the old chassis. If he rises again, then nothing was learned from the story -- the character doesn't develop. If he continues to fall, fate is cruel and malicious, which it can't be for any free will to operate. Thematically it's a problem.]
As he crunched his celery in the early hours of the morning, he took his first step as a revolutionary. Knowledge is power, Derek mused and trawled the internet for keys to prosecute his mission. Four in the morning, after a week of dredging the morass of internet soup, his answer materialised before his eyes - in the search results as a hyper link:

"non-violent resistance, empowering the weak."

Derek pumped his fist. "Eureka!" he mused aloud. He read further about the idea in Ghandi's Autobiography 'Truth will out,' and 'Power is maintained only by consent of the ruled.' And so on. As he read, a plan coalesced in his mind. Well, I'll be damned, he thought, sucking his liquorice Sherbet mixture as he leafed the pages of a book, I'll rebel covertly. [This I have problems with because Derek is acting out of greed, so while Ghandi fits the Oedipus at Colonus model, Ghandi acts out of "selflessness" at this point, and Derek is acting out of "selfishness". Thematically, it's a problem. As you see, I'm fixated on theme!]

For the next week, Derek applied his formidable intellect concocting heinous misdemeanours against Bigcorp. Derek's lips curled, struck by the sheer brutal cunning of it all. "I'll passively actively fight - resist the system right under their very noses," he laughed, as he typed his 'Ten Point Plan to Power' into a bulleted list of subversive activities. The plan was an end of chapter exercise that came with the Amazon book:

Fighting the System for Dummies: The non-violent way to attain your dreams..

For the first time in months, Derek slept soundly.

Without delay Derek waged revolution. The next day, during peak office hours, Derek surfed the internet flagrantly. Had his boss read the latest story he'd written on the WritersCafe? Derek asked Harry. His boss merely tutted and showed Derek his own rankings.

[By the way, what happened to Sally? How does this come around to make sense for his running off with Redjaw?]

[The shift to meaninglessness is interesting here, but the first 2/3 needs to be set for a discussion of meaninglessness. We don't really get that up to this point. What works well to express meaninglessness is repetition and mundane repetition. Show us at the end mundane repetition. Nothing can change about the character but the supporting cast changes, or the reverse, the supporting cast changes, but the character shows a change of outlook. It means he must still drink his tea and go to his office and repeat over and over.]

Berserk with rage, Derek wheeled 'plan B' into motion. Derek secreted himself onto critical path tasks on which Derek surmised Harry's performance hinged - and Harry's annual two week Christmas jaunt to Bangkok.

"Leave it to me," Derek reassured Harry during the next Task Assignment Meeting. Only after the task was screamingly overrun, and Derek had slipped all the slack possible, did Derek report in his quarterly status meeting to Harry, "File Maintenance Task is regrettably critically delayed as a consequence of unforeseen dependencies including over-budgeted man hours and higher than expected change requests. Reschedule to next quarter advised."

As Derek smoothly delivered his report at the mid week team meeting, Harry merely smiled stone-faced. "Not to worry, Derek, Sheila's already on this one. Oh, did I forget to say she's your new colleague. She'll be working with you and I'm sure, Derek," Harry's crocodile smile widened, "you'll be happy to transfer to her all your valuable know how."

Derek fumed.

In a moment of realisation that plummeted manna-like from heaven, Derek reflected, I never really worked much in the first place, anyway. Derek glanced at his colleague John Greylocks. Together they shared a table sized cubicle. Droop shouldered and pensionable, Derek affectionately referred Greylocks to colleagues as "a part of the office furniture". Every now and then footsteps thudding along a corridor reanimated Greylocks into life: shoulders twitching, eyes startling from reverie, Greylocks would switch his browser from CNN to the Bigcorp News announcements web page.

If the head bobbing behind the cubicle rampart appeared to be a supervisor, invariably Greylocks swept a pen around his desk or restacked paper piles feverishly. Or in dire emergency, Greylocks would spring on the phone, tinny voice rising in an effort to sound important: "Yes, Sir, rest assured, Sir, we at Bigcorp receive the best customer service training ...what's that? Yes, yes, of course Sir... I entirely agree - the customer always comes first. At Bigcorp we relish our motto - 'A passion to perform' - yes, it is nice isn't it? What's more, believe me when I say that we take your concerns with the utmost seriousness. Yes, I personally guarantee it will be dealt with the highest priority"

It's all a sham, Derek raged over his Rooibos tea. Nobody gives a damn.

It got worse.

Disgusted, Derek closed his account on WritersCaf. It had nothing to do with that dodgy Russian fella who ran amok around the web site ranting invective and sending abusive emails and hacking into valuable junk mail systems the world over. None of that fazed Derek.

Inflamed Derek threw out his Tonka cars, his Scalextric and, incredibly, the fluffy pink handcuffs, and feather quill he got as a birthday present from Amy Bellafonte.

Then November blew in, swirling maple leaves around the yards. A wintry gloom, if it wasn't already blaringly obvious, hung about Mile End.

Alone, with not even a bird for company, Derek stayed later in bed. Waking at nine in the morning, nine twenty and once, even nine forty, on a particularly bad day, Derek paced around his bedroom like that strange man in the Notes from the Underground. Seized with apathy and ennui, Derek reopened his Writers Caf account and wrote six-page rant pieces during midnight sojourns.

None of it helped; Derek slid ever further into despondency.

Derek stopped drinking Rooibos tea. Tea is bourgeois and decadent he reasoned, one particularly dark night, morosely leafing through his library copy of Existentialism is a Humanism, habitually peering at the peeling grey wallpaper in the corner of the bedroom to rest his bruised insomniac pouches for watery eyes, as the walls shook for the fiftieth time that night.

A tower of styrofoam coffee cups piled up on a corner of Derek's rickety writing desk. Derek phoned Brenda frequently to call in his absence. He "had flu and needed a week off". Then it was "polio", then "hepatitis". On a visit to the doctor's surgery, the GP steepled his bony white fingers, hummed and reflected behind horn rimmed glasses and whipped out a white note. He scrawled on the sick note that earned Derek four months paid leave: afflicted by 'Angst' and 'Alienation'.

Harry called Derek a week later at home, "Derek would you please clock your hours in the time sheet for insurance purposes? You know we've got to be covered."

But at least Derek could count on family. Alarmed, Derek's mother plagued Derek with phone calls. She was "worried". "Would you be a love and stop by?", "By the way, love, did you forgot to send the money - you know for the highlights I had done last Wednesday?" and "The washing machine's sprung a leak, dearie. Be a love and stop on Saturday and take a look, would you?" And so on.

Derek enlightened himself on the cause of his predicament as he beavered his way through Frankl's hearty edition of Man's Search for Meaning. "One can have a jolly time even in Auschwitz if one puts one's mind to it," Derek concluded. But, bother it, he thought. I do seem to have lost the Will to Meaning thingy, Derek scribbled this conclusion in careful red strokes in his notepad after cross referencing it in his compendium of Chamberlain's A Kierkegaard Reader. Derek mentally noted to himself to go first thing in the morning to the doctor's surgery - and explain to his GP his very human predicament. Perhaps I'll get a year off for that one, he pondered. Besides it was all insured, he supposed, as the pangs of bourgeois guilt attempted to riposte the fragile roots of Derek's newly formed existential consciousnesses. Derek let the book slide by the side of his bed, sighed then rolled over in his sleeping bag. I'm as flaccid as those big brown saggy clouds hovering outside this ramshackle hut I live in. Brown you may well ask? He was after all, seeing Lobsters.

* * *

For Derek it had been a particularly heavy night of self reflection. He squinted once more at the quote underlined in yellow marker in his copy of Heidegger: In Plain English:

"To think Being itself explicitly requires disregarding Being to the extent that it is only grounded and interpreted in terms of beings and for beings as their ground, as in all metaphysics. "

No wonder I stay in bed, he thought. "It's completely meaningless," Derek moaned.

One can't be bothered to get up. After all, what is life for? Derek thought.

A voice, authorial and intrusive, echoed on the edge of Derek's senses: surely you want a glass of water? That's the very least a person could want?

"Nope," Derek said. Firmly now, "Not even water."

The voice frothed sea water like in Derek's ear drums. Even a man who stays in bed must get a little itsy bitty thirsty, now and again. After all what's the effort in a glass of water?

Derek humphed and rolled over facing the wall his sleeping bag lay next to.

Come now, the voice opined, it's the last part of the story. Now the voice cooed. You must want something? A glass of water is very good for your health.

There was a strained pause. A pencil scribbled. Besides, the voice swelled harsher, it is getting rather hot. Outside, the weather flicked from Artic Autumn to Saharan Summer. The room blazed forty degrees centigrade, baked as a baking tray. A tongue, parched as the Kalahari Desert, rasped dryly in the background. The saccharine voice came again: a nice glass of refreshing carbonated water would be just the thing. Wouldn't it?

Then a fizzing sound and images: mineral streams gurgled through verdant French valleys, a slinky siren in a tight, two-piece, leopard skin leotard poured water into a glass. A gulp, gulp, gulp as water slid down a parched throat. Then a dull clink of glass on wood and a long contented sigh, Ahhhhhh. That was nice. Nothing like a drop of eau de mineral to quench a thirst now is there especially on a raging hot winter day like this?

Derek's eyes winked shut like two clams. Lips tight as a mollusk.

The voice intoned, irately now. It's no good. Bloody anti-heroes. Why do they make it so tough? Paper rustled. A tongue clicked. The leafing rustle of a book, a voice murmured. Desires, character, character is desire ... hmmm, I wonder now... Then a thud as a hardcover slapped shut.

Ok, forget the water. How about a nice pair of juicy tits to ogle at?

Derek sprang up in bed.

Two blue and black winged birds, yellow plumage blazed across their breasts, swooped as one onto the open bedroom window sill. "Tits! Tits!" Derek shot off the edge of the bed, hairy legs floundering as he yanked the camera off the door peg.

[Some interesting thoughts here. I hope my comments help thematically. Cheers.]

Posted 10 Years Ago


2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Malenkov...

My first read of your work. I like. Your writing is very crisp and sharp for the most part and your choice of expressions and images are well thought out, even if sometimes they feel overdone or wordy. What do I mean?

The the story has a very british feel to it because of phrases and termonology. This also may be where I am picking up the wordiness in many places, becasue the terms are over the top with what we yanks use. lol. Also, and maybe its me, but I am not sure what the morals of the story is...so to speak. lol. Its mostly narration, its mostly passive voice, (except the opening and closing), but as a short...it also works somewhat. Not sure if the makes sense. I kept asking myself while reading...if this or that section could be stronger if show more by Derek verses the narrator. Don't get me wrong. I think narrators have their places, but I alway have to ask if the narrator is necessary or if the writer, (me included), could have made the piece strong in active voice. But this may be a issue of personal taste and not the mechanics.

After the opening, (Derek waking up which I though was express very well), I had a troubling time after the transition. I am unsure if what followed was backstory in thoughts, or if the narrator was jumping in. During this section, which is really the story, we go in and out of Derek and the narrator. Was this intentional? Could it be stronger if just in one or the other...perferrably Dereks. Then when you transition back to the morning waking...I knew where we were and what was going on. Unsure if this is a personal taste issue or not, but I would have liked to have seen the transition to the back story instead of just jumping in. So...it might me a personal taste issue and if so...never mind. lol.

Below are some other observations or nit piks. Hope they help.

1....Bringgggggg....the alarm clock clanged? Bringgggg seems to be more of a ring than a clank? Just something to think on.

2...Walls and picture frames rattled as a freight train thundered by

Good image, but I am unsure about this reference. Why? Alarm clock wakes him, he is slowly coming out of sleep, but not much time seems to pass and the freight train suddenly appears? I use to live near a train tracks...and you hear a train coming long before it arrives...and that includes the rumbling of the rails. Not sure what to do...ditch this or note the train earlier. Your call.

3...If he never floated t**d like to the top,

I know what you mean, but it seams awkwardly phrased. "like to the". I am unsure if this is just a missed edit or a local saying I am unfamiliar with.

4...And in the presence of a superior one nodded sagely to every utterance;...

Again, I understand what your saying, but I was unsure if the superior one nodded or if it was Derek? I think its a punctuation and gerund problem. Maybe something like this...And in the presence of a superior one, nod with every utterance. (Not sure sagely is really needed. Remember your "Elements of Style."

5...Only last July, twenty four of the two hundred surviving personnel at the Admin and Stationary Department where Derek worked, received "re-alignment offers" that "enabled them to pursue green field opportunities elsewhere."

Ok bare with me here, several issues. 1, overly writen, or wordy sentence as is. 2, is where Derek worked needed? I don't think he would be remembering about some other company when you have been showing where he works all along. 3. I am not a big fan of "that or which." I try to weed out all the thats and whichs I can find, and as William Strunk said in the Elements of Style, it can only improve the writing. So, how to solve? Perhaps something like this...just a thought.

Only last July, twenty four of the two hundred surviving personnel (in) the Admin and Stationary Department, received "re-alignment offers," enabling them to pursue green field opportunities elsewhere.

Notice I subbed "in" for "at," because "in" is a direct identifier while "at" makes it sould like its somewhere else other than where he worked.

6...look like a vacation in Disney World.

Vacation "in" Disney World, or "at" Disney World. This is the opposite of the reference above. I think.

7...He endured, evaded, avoided with more slipperiness than Tsun Tzu, more conniving than Sheer-Kahn.

Ok...I think after Tsun Tzu, you need a ...(and) more conniving than... Reason? Sentence feels incomplete, like it stopped short of the image or goal.

8...Harry sported a bronzed tan from the off-shore-vendor sponsored management off-site in Honolulu.

off-shore....off-site. Hmmm word and slightly redundant. Harry sproted a bronzed tan from the management sponsored vendor trip to Honolulu. Less confusing, less wordy, less redundant.

There are more area's where I think you could tighten up some lines, or phrases, grammar choices and add some punctuation, but I really don't want to beat you up with every little nit pikking thing that may or may not be a matter of personal taste.

Let me know if this helps or if perchance I missed the mark. Always glad to discuss and learn.
Nick.


Posted 10 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

what an awesomely quirky story this is - so much going on in it - loved the inside refs to the cafe...the name Wann Abe...nice.
I also liked the set up of this one - short statements interspersed between longer paragraphs.. the little oddities that make this a great read. Humorous, refreshing, unique. NICELY DONE

Posted 10 Years Ago


3 of 3 people found this review constructive.

Please forgive me if I fail to give an epic-length review. I'm usually spare of words. This is such a great story. I agree with the comments left by w.k. kortas. Except the part about the names, I liked the absurd rather too obvious names. I thought it was a nice touch.I enjoyed this and look forward to reading more of your work in the future.

Posted 10 Years Ago


4 of 4 people found this review constructive.

Hi Malenkov,

Yeah, OK, I always do my reviews on Sunday night hoping I can get them done before Cameron shows up to do the list. I suck. I'm going to use Brent's handy-dandy reviewing questionaire because while I think I hit most of this stuff anyway, this keeps it all a whole lot more organized. I try to focus on giving a really good story review, unless, of course, I don't have anything to say. You're a pretty clean writer, and have had some line editing from other reviewers already, so I hope you won't miss the nit picks from me.

As an introductory note to set up what you'll be seeing repeating throughout. I like it, generally. It's well written, funny at points, relatable. There's a lot of good stuff here. You'll also see a few comments about how this feels a little long to me, or places that I felt like there were plot things stuck in that don't really need to be there, or some ideas to freshen up the frame for the story. OK, but I'm going to get to the nuts and bolts.

Characters the people in the story

Are the characters interesting? Sympathetic? I think that Derek is certainly special. As a person, I'd give him a wide, wide berth. As a character, however, he's great. Bumbling, hapless, strange and nerdy and generally unlikable, but we as the readers nonetheless root for him because he's so obviously the underdog and life has it out for him. Similarly, Sally is just strange enough that I'm curious about her. The co-workers don't exactly stand out to me but they're funny enough in their roles, as is the bird-watching TV personality (I suck at names, doesn't mean they weren't meaningful). Here's the first of my comments about freshening up the frame. The co-workers come off definitely like charicatures. Which is a good thing, because you're making fun of the banalities of office life. Unfortunately, a LOT of people have made fun of the banalities of office life. A lot of things here remind me of the tone of Max Barry's books. On the one hand, I think some of the co-workers are fairly unique, like the guy that rises to the top with the logo project and the boss that blissfully subverts Derek's attempts at sabotage, so I'd focus on those and cut the attention given to more stock characters, like Greylocks the co-worker doing nothing but always looking busy.
Are the characters dimensional, or one-note? Some of them are dimensional, some aren't. Derek is dimensional, of course. He's the main character, he's got desires (or not although his desireless situation comes about through the failure of his desires which is interesting and I'll talk about later). Sally is just strange enough that I couldn't call her one-dimensional even if I wanted to. The co-workers and foils are a lot more "one-note" but I think that's not only OK, but a strength. You're making fun of them as types, and if you round them out more, they sort of lose that power. But you do good throwing in enough details to keep it rich.
Are the characters well drawn? Are you able to "see" them? Generally, yeah. If you described Derek at the beginning, I've forgotten by the time I've read through to the end, although, because I can imagine his personality, I don't need a lot of physical details. Just a few real standout things would be nice. I remember the Rooibos better than what he looks like, so something like that. You're otherwise really good with the details about characters and otherwise.
Is there enough character: action, dialogue, appearance, thought? Um, yeah. After all, it's pretty much all character. The story is a little light on dialogue, but I don't think that's a problem, because it's primarily a story about internal conflict. The only thing I'd like a little LESS of are the italicized thoughts. It's really easy to get into that habit, and I've been a far worse offender (I did it through a whole NOVEL) but I think it gets to feel like a voice over or a short cut to tell while making it look like showing or to get first person while staying in third. This comment does NOT apply to the funny little authorial italiics at the end, when somebody is looking for a motivation for Derek, cuz those are sheer brilliance.
Are the characters distinctive, different from each other? Yep. Not much to say here. Because you're working with archetypes, each supporting character is going to be necessarily distinct.
Does the protagonist have a strong desire? Well, no, err... yes? No? Like I said above, that's one of the cleverest things about this piece. The end of the novel is all about Derek not desiring anything, not sabotage of his job, not Sally, not writing, nada, but the irony is that he comes there by having all of his desires thwarted one after another, even the destructive ones. And then you flip it around with a double reverse on the tits joke at the end. So I think that not only do you not have a desire problem, but working with this element of story is what makes the story work here.
Does the protagonist grow or change? Yep, see my comments above. The change is integral to the story and I think it works really well. And then we see that this change is superficial, at least to a certain extent, because everybody wants something, even if it's wanting nothing, so I think you do a nice thing with what is inherent too.

Plot the sequence of events

Is the plot interesting? Dramatic? Is a good story being told? The plot is, of course, primarily internal. Sure, lots of external stuff happens to Derek, but the core of the story is how he's changing inside. I think you have more than enough funny stuff happening on the outside to keep the plot interesting however, and the sly, undercover tone and humor makes for a nice, undestated drama.
Is there enough conflict? Again, I think so. There's the internal conflict of Derek slowly losing his desires and being thwarted. There's the external conflict with Sally's betrayal and the struggles at work. And then there's the conflict between the writer that has to give each character a desire and the character that doesn't wanna. So I think you have enough here.
Does enough "happen"? Yep. I'm not going to repeat my answers to the last two questions, where, in the case of this story, they are essentially the same.
Is there a logical flow to the plot? Yep. I like how you make things steadily worse and worse for Derek. First its little things, little losses, then the girlfriend, and finally, he can't even self-destruct. I think it's a nice progression.
Does the story move forward? Does the tension increase? See the last answer.
Is there a strong enough climax? Um, yes and no. I like where you end up and how you get there. I don't feel the loss of desire strongly enough, though. I get the glass of water as metaphor and reference, but I think I want to see things that would be stronger desires contrasted to show how very empty Derek is. Because of how easy it is to revive him with "tits" I think I need more things rejected or something. I need to buy into him really not wanting anything just a bit more.
Are any parts of the plot unnecessary? Are any necessary parts missing? OK, so here's my plot problem. I think this just goes on a bit too long for me and there's a few too many cute or tongue in cheek plot events for me. They're all funny and entertaining, but I think they start to lose some of their impact because there's so much of the same. For example, there are tons of incidents to point out the idiocy of Derek's employer, and I get a little bogged down in all of them, so much that I'm not paying as much attention to the more important ones at the end. So trimming here I think could add impact in the long run.
Is exposition provided effectively? Well, definitely see my comment above. There's a lot of summary so you can cover a lot of details and incidents and facets, whereas if you focused and cut a little bit, I think you'd trim a little of the exposition and speed up the story a bit. Bear in mind that this is a pretty accomplished story, and these are only suggestions, left a little vague on purpose so you can make whatever decisions you like or comfortably ignore me. This is my way of explaining why the story, as funny as it was, read a little long to me.

Point of View the viewpoint from which the story is told

Is the right POV used (first person, third person, etc.)? I think the third is great. As I mentioned above, dont feel like you have to use a lot of thought italics to show us Derek or make up for not having the closeness of first person. I think the more objective feel of third, even the close third you have here, really works for you, as my next comment will explain further. In fact, I feel like too much of italic first person thoughts takes me out of the nice tone of the third person. I want those to be stronger and not so prevalent, apparently pretty badly.
Is the POV too "close" or "distant"? Neither. Just right. You're close enough that the reader clearly associates with Derek, which, given his "wannabe" attitude and dorkiness is important, but just distant enough to give the story a sort of fable quality, which, given the archetype co-workers and snarky, satirical humor, works.
Is the POV consistent throughout the story? Yep. It is internally consistent. No breaks that I noticed.

Description the way things are described

Are the descriptions effective? One of your strengths. Great details, just enough sensory imagery to root me in the story, and great images, great details chosen.
Is there too much or too little description? Like Goldilocks said, just right. I'm going to resist the urge to gust over your choice of what to show and strength with narrative.
Do the descriptions utilize the senses? Are they specific? Sheesh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, this is a nice and easy section for me. Great details, great choices of images and other sensory descriptions. Getting tired of the praise yet?
Are adjectives and adverbs overused? Are the nouns and verbs strong enough? Yep, and yep. You've got a knack for pretty, specific nouns, and for not getting purple. I like the almost utilitarian tone of some of the writing, so that works for me. And as for the verbs, well, I don't count "to be" verbs as they go, but like the US Supreme Court said about obscenity, I know it when I see it. There's a flatness to too many boring verbs, and I don't get that here, nor do I get the converse sin--too many fancy verbs forced in to avoid "to had" and "to be" verbs.
How is the use of figurative language (metaphor, simile, etc.)? There's actually not a ton of this, and I think that's really good. Figurative language is too often used (myself included) to get at emotions, images, feelings, tones, whatever, that the writer can't figure out how to show just from the action, setting, and character. You don't have that problem or need that help. So good job.
Are cliches being used? Other than my comment about freshening up the frame in characters, no. You've got some great things going in this story. I don't know if you want to sell it eventually, but I would hate for some editor to hit on a co-worker or setting thing that they think they've seen in The Office or Harrison Bergeron (god, I'm almost sure I butchered that spelling because I'm too lazy to go to the bookshelf and look it up) or Max Barry. Stick with the new cool stuff you've developed (which I've already mentioned, mostly, but a few more examples, the bird watching hobby, or the girlfriend run off with the TV personality, or the author voice) and draw it up while downplaying hte more common elements.

Dialogue what the characters say

Is there too much dialogue or not enough? Well, like I said above, normally I would say this is light on dialogue (I like a 50/50 or 60/40 balance in favor of dialogue personally, but that's what I like to write, so I'm biased), but I think given the fable-like tone, the internal conflicts, and the funny scenes you give us, it doesn't hurt the story.
Is there enough use of "scene"? Again, I think so, although, as mentioned above, if you trimmed some exposition, you would err on the side of caution here.
Does the dialogue sound natural? What there is, yes.
Is the dialogue rambling? No. I think it's very focused to show the particular moments of interaction that really count. Great job there.
How is the use of "stage directions" the staging of the dialogue scenes? Good. Generally, I see problems here in long dialogue scenes where the writer is struggling to keep the staging interesting with a lot of lines. You don't have that issue, and the staging is usually pretty good. Mutually reinforcing of the dialogue.
Does the dialogue reflect the characters? Again, yes. See my comment about how essential you've made your lines. I like that.
Is the dialogue too "on the nose" where characters always say what they mean? Nope. This is one of the dangers with light, but very essential dialogue. It gets to be too direct and obvious. I think you avoid that snare by giving us the context for meaning in the narrative and letting the dialogue stay ostensibly commonplace.
Are the tags (he said, she scolded, etc.) unobtrusive? Yep. There's not much of tags, or at least I didn't notice them, which is the definition of unobtrusive.

Setting the place and time

Is the story grounded enough in place? In time? Definitely, both. At least, I presume the story is set in modern day, so if I'm wildly wrong, I guess you have a time problem, although somehow I doubt that. I think the sense of place is particularly strong here with the sort of monotony of the settings and the life of Derek working together. I don't have a ton of setting details to contend with, but I can defintely put myself into the story.
Is there too much or too little setting description? Didn't I already answer this? Just right.
Does the setting enhance the emotion or mood of the story? Absolutely. As I said above in description, this is really one of your strengths. The setting adds a feel of uniformity, monotony, even hopelessness that works well with Derek's loss of desire and motivation.

Pacing the manipulation of time

Are there sections that should be cut, or moved through more quickly? OK, YES. The story did feel like it read slowly to me, and I tried to work through some of the issues that led me to that sense above in plot, so I'm going to reference you back there. I think it may also be a combination of a lot of details that are less important getting a lot of attention, while other things seem to come more out of left field (like Sally's obsession with TV bird watching guy).
Are there sections that should be slowed down? A few things I wanted to see more developed, mostly already mentioned (Sally and TV guy, not wanting anything at the end).
Are there too many flashbacks? Nope. There aren't really any flashbacks, unless you count the whole story, because with the intro section, I definitely get the impression that you're starting at the end and then recapping. I'm not sure I like that. It seems mostly unnecessary or forgotten by the end, so maybe a stronger lead would be the beginning of the second section? Just an idle thought though.

Voice the "sound" of the narrator

Do you find the narrator's voice appealing or off-putting? I like it. I think it works for associating with Derek. A little flat, uninspired, wannabe and desperate, so I like that. I gotta agree with Brent though (so I always read the first few lines of other reviews, so sue me) that the voice sounds British, not American.
Does the voice sound natural or affected? Natural to me, at least for a Brit. (I'm teasing.)
Is the voice consistent throughout the story? Definitely, and it changes in the nuances nicely to mirror Derek's internal changes.

Style the stylistic choices

Are the words consistent with the narrator's voice? Yeah. What else can I say about this. It's a little wordy, but the fancy descriptions settle down as Derek loses interest, and pick up in big, bold colors at the very end when he gets it back. So the diction works on a couple of levels.
Are the sentences and paragraphs too long or too short? Neither.
Is the writing too wordy, or too spare? Neither.
Are there any style choices that distract you from the story? Other than the italics, which I've belabored to death elsewhere, no.

Theme the underlying meaning

Does there seem to be a point to the story? Absolutely. I've talked about the movement to no desire and then back to interest elsewhere, but I think it's a clever thematic idea, that all humans want something, that soemthing will come along, and that we can't udnerstand not wanting something as humans.
Is the theme too heavy-handed? No, I don't think so. It gets more so at the end, but I think that works into a different theme that's subtly handled, so it works.
Is the theme dramatized by the plot? Of course. The theme only works because of the movement of the plot. I plan to remember and point this story out to others in the future as a great example of putting theme in characters and action instead of having to hit the reader on the head with it.

Whew. At the end. I hope this helped, at least in some little way. If you have further questions, please leave a post in the forum or shoot me an email and I'd be happy to be of additional help.

-cc


Posted 10 Years Ago


5 of 5 people found this review constructive.


First Page first
Previous Page prev
1
Request Read Request
Add to Library My Library
Subscribe Subscribe


Stats

518 Views
13 Reviews
Added on February 6, 2008
Last Updated on August 10, 2010
Tags: short story, humor, parody, fiction

Author

Malenkov
Malenkov

Frankfurt, Germany, Hessen, Germany



About
I'm a Brit, a child born to the war, the Angolan civil war my mother escaped from. So I grew up in the shadow of London--Small town of Ilford, Essex, right on the end of London’s Zone 6. Portu.. more..

Writing

Related Writing

People who liked this story also liked..