No Artificial Flavors

No Artificial Flavors

A Story by YouoweYoupay
"

It was my fault.

"




Just as I had calculated; I did not need a chair to climb the kitchen counter. The dining table was ugly as it already was without having to noisily drag one of its pale yellow chairs away from its place; the backrest and ears of the chairs made them seem like a dysfunctional family gathered around an invisible dinner, every member of this family refusing -in unison- to speak to one another or even touch the food on their plates. 

The marble of the kitchen counter was cool against my knees and palms. And when I opened the cabinet, I paled and froze for a second, but I did not cease my search. I scowled in determination, moving and swapping bottles of vinegar and cans of tuna to clear the view. I have learnt the hard way that candy was not evenly distributed in this household, contrary to what I had been told.

A crunch. The feeling of a familiar smoothness and packaging. I smiled, diving deeper and pulling my prize out of the dark sea of canned mushroom and tomato sauce. I was on top of the world.

I looked at the bag of sweets and sighed with relief. It was real. The same ones I had sneaked away from my cousins to savor in solitude.

The image came back to me. I was sitting on the outside wall that separated my grandmother's backyard and the vacant but fertile plot of land. The shade of the fig trees cooled my face and the taste of the strawberry flavored jelly bonbon pacified my anguish. For a few minutes, the rustling of the trees and the sound of plastic wrap fogged the chorus of wailing and mourning inside the family house. As I swung my feet and ate one bonbon after another, I began to wonder if the adults inside the living room had flooded the room with their tears and drowned, the wooden seats, lamps and coffee tables floating among motionless human bodies.

I hugged the bag of sweets and tried to read the words in small font on beneath the picture of various fruit. 

"No... arti...ar-arti...artifis...artifiseeyal...No artifiseeyal fl...flav-"

The door was unlocked. I gasped, clumsily jumping down from the counter to the kitchen floor. They were still quarreling at the entrance. I ran towards my bedroom so fast, my heel rasped against the carpet. 

He barked names at her and she spared no barking either. I still had time.

I opened my wardrobe with shaky hands, parted the jackets on the hanger, and curled inside the corner. 

I could see the afternoon sunlight through the slit of the wardrobe. I breathed hard, clutching the bag of sweets in one hand.

The transformation had already begun. But they would not find me. 

My father roared. My mother hissed and, I bet you, she showed her fangs.

Parent monsters did not have a keen sense of smell. They were never smart enough to consider searching under the beds or inside wardrobes. Their claws and hairy hands would not aid them in opening doors anyway. 

The howling and growling continued. And my stomach twisted in both nausea and hunger. I pretended to be asleep. My eyes popped open again.

I had forgotten to close the kitchen cabinet. I nervously eyed the bag of sweets crumpled in my fist. My left heel burned. Blaming Ameen would not have saved me; my baby brother would neither deny nor accept to take the blame for my crime. 

The bloodshed was coming to an end. My mother was now crying. Whenever she did that, my father would never be able to deliver the last strike, guiltily retracting his claws and withdrawing to the balcony for a smoke. Mama would live to see another day. Besides, she had promised me we would have lasagna for dinner tonight. She couldn't possibly risk losing her life before then.

It was my fault. If I had not stolen this stupid bag of sweets, my parents would have still loved each other. 

The sunlight glared at me with motherly concern from the slit of the dark brown wardrobe.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry.. I'm sorry, Mama. 

How could I ever forgive myself for destroying an entire family? 

The sharp plastic edge of the bag of sweets hurt the soft palm of my hand.

© 2019 YouoweYoupay


Author's Note

YouoweYoupay
Raw draft. First draft. Constructive criticism is welcome.
Thank you for reading. <3

My Review

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Featured Review

Hey Aysha

I found it amazing how you showed a serious incident in a family in such an innocent and pure raiment. The perspective of a toddler is unrestrained and brimming with curiosity, and you've shown that masterfully with her thoughts and inner dialogue. :)

There were two things, though, that I think you can work on here:
1. The sentence structuring. Although we are seeing the story through the eyes of a little girl, you can still use sentences that aren't all too plain and simple and colloquial. There are more than one ways of writing any sentence, and the way you phrase it can add more beauty, meaning, as well as context. Also, you don't need to write each detail. For example, "I gasped, clumsily jumping down from the counter to the kitchen floor." Here, you can simply say I gasped and clumsily jumped down. I'm sure you can think of other, better ways of phrasing this, but I hope you get what I'm saying here.

2. The transitions and storytelling. The first thing I found strange was talking about the dining table when the protagonist isn't even interacting with it. If you really want you can just sum it up in a single line. But writing an entire paragraph about something unimportant in the beginning can put the reader off. Also, why would she think that her stealing the bonbons has caused the quarrel between her parents? That didn't make sense to me.

Hope this helps :)

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

Child-like, innocent, and heavy with emotion. Wow! Your ability to paint a portrait with your words is enviable, Rain. I didn't spot anything wrong on the technical side so good work there. The narrator's conclusion that their transgression was what caused the parents to fight hit me hard. Poor thing! Blaming one's self is a defense for kids too young to understand the harsh world of grown ups. Two thumbs up! Great story!

Posted 1 Year Ago


YouoweYoupay

1 Year Ago

Thank you so much! I'm happy you enjoyed reading Artificial Colors.

While you think .. read more
Before I read, I checked other reviews. Seeing you have many long ones, I decided not to look at this from the view of writing construction. Agyani made good points & I'll address one in particular: the "voice" of your piece, how it does not sound like a young person. This is true & what Agyani suggests is one possibility. I want to present another. Why wouldn't this be the picture of this childhood memory in the mind of an adult? I have these visions all the time from my childhood of abuse. Like you, I am a complex writer & thinker, using complex sentences & words, etc. I used to feel bad about this becuz people tell me all the time that they cannot understand my writing, since I use unusual words. But I've come to just own my style now & I think you could do the same. You have a very complex & well-developed writing style that comes across as both sympathetic & cynical, which is a caustic blend that delivers your meaning powerfully. I love your writing. This is a very true-to-life story that's told in your unique style. I wouldn't change much, except for the usual tweaking we do (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Year Ago


YouoweYoupay

1 Year Ago

Constructive criticism will help me improve the quality of my writing. Your reviews on the other han.. read more
Hey Aysha

I found it amazing how you showed a serious incident in a family in such an innocent and pure raiment. The perspective of a toddler is unrestrained and brimming with curiosity, and you've shown that masterfully with her thoughts and inner dialogue. :)

There were two things, though, that I think you can work on here:
1. The sentence structuring. Although we are seeing the story through the eyes of a little girl, you can still use sentences that aren't all too plain and simple and colloquial. There are more than one ways of writing any sentence, and the way you phrase it can add more beauty, meaning, as well as context. Also, you don't need to write each detail. For example, "I gasped, clumsily jumping down from the counter to the kitchen floor." Here, you can simply say I gasped and clumsily jumped down. I'm sure you can think of other, better ways of phrasing this, but I hope you get what I'm saying here.

2. The transitions and storytelling. The first thing I found strange was talking about the dining table when the protagonist isn't even interacting with it. If you really want you can just sum it up in a single line. But writing an entire paragraph about something unimportant in the beginning can put the reader off. Also, why would she think that her stealing the bonbons has caused the quarrel between her parents? That didn't make sense to me.

Hope this helps :)

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Well, you did ask…

• Just as I had calculated; I did not need a chair to climb the kitchen counter.

Several problems. First, your use of “had” tells the reader that this is a report, not a story taking place as we watch. Stories happen in real-time, they’re not reported. And think about it. You report this after the climb took place. The story, at this point, is about finding candy. Why does the reader care if the chair was needed or not? The job is already done, and the one climbing isn’t dwelling on what happened. They’re deciding where to look first. And what possible interest does a reader have in knowing the color of chairs at the dining room table of someone they know nothing about?

In short, tell the story. Don’t waste time talking boaut things the reader can’t see and doesn’t care about. If the chairs and their condition become important enough to the protagonist to need to think abourt them, then they may be worth mentioning. But spending time on things the protagonist didn’t use? Not so much.

Can this line mean anything to the reader if they don’t know who’s speaking, where they are, or anything meaningful about the situation? No.

Why was there doubt as rto needing the chair? Dunno. Why does this unknown person want to climb? You don’t say. Where are we in time and space? Not a clue. So the lack of context shoots you down in the first line, so far as the reader understanding the situation.


And you cannot tell the reader to read on and find out, because readers won’t. People want to understand as-they-read. And remember, that reader has no assurance you will explain. There are, though, thousands of other books shouting, “Read me instead, I won’t confuse you.” So, the words make sense to the reader, as read, or they stop reading right where you confuse them. When the reader turns to page one you have an audition. Confuse for a line. Bore for a line. Lecture for a line, and it’s over.

“A novel is like a car—it won’t go anywhere until you turn on the engine. The “engine” of both fiction and nonfiction is the point at which the reader makes the decision not to put the book down. The engine should start in the first three pages, the closer to the top of page one the better.”
~ Sol Stein

And as another small point, the counter you mention is a flat work surface. One climbs TO it, they don’t climb it. In writing we can’t say, “You know what I mean,” because readers don’t. They have only what the words suggest to them, based on their background, not yours.

I know you’re working hard on your stories, and want people to enjoy them. But at the moment you’re transcribing yourself talking ABOUT the story—explaining it. That is not first-person point of view as a publisher views first-person. It’s not a matter of good or bad writing, it’s that because you’re missing the techniques of writing fiction for the page you’re trying to use techniques for another medium—verbal storytelling, a performance art—one that requires the audience to hear the emotion in the voice of the storyteller, and see their performance.

In that style of fiction, how you tell the story matters as much as what you say. But a reader has no idea of how you intend the reader to perform the role of narrator, and our medium reproduces none of the tricks of verbal storytelling. Have your computer read the story aloud and you’ll hear the problem.

I know that’s bad news, and I truly wish I didn’t have to be the bearer of such news. But none of the techniques of writing you learned in school work for fiction. We learn only nonfiction skills because that’s what adults require in life and on the job. Only those in the profession of writing fiction need the specialized knowledge of the pro. So, for good or bad, if you hope to please people like yourself, who have been reading only professionally prepared and written fiction since they entered school you need to know what the pro does. And a great resource in that acquisition is the library’s fiction-writing section.

The bad news? You won’t be a rich and famous author before year’s end. The good? If you learned the nonfiction skills we’re taught in school you can learn the tricks of fiction as easily (or with as much difficulty).

So dig in.

Jay Greenstein
https://jaygreenstein.wordpress.com/category/the-craft-of-writing/

Posted 1 Year Ago


Sad story! A kid accidentally(?)ruins his family turning them hostile. Though I also feel like the text font was a little large and could’ve been made easier to read.

Posted 1 Year Ago


YouoweYoupay

1 Year Ago

Hi, Connor. Thank you for the helpful review, I'll make sure to check the size of the font before I .. read more
Wow reminded me of times when sweets were rationed - they came out of your sugar allowance and they crossed out a square in your ration book - Three kids we liked different sweets mum had given us a jar each to keep our sweets in to stop squabbling "you have eaten my sweets"

Posted 1 Year Ago


YouoweYoupay

1 Year Ago

Hi, Wild Rose. I'm glad I brought back memories of your childhood, when a bag of sweets made us happ.. read more
Wow.
I had no idea where this story would go, and it really surprised me by how deep the content was.
You also gave some clues to the overall sombre feel of the story. I loved the symbolism of the ugly yellow table that looked like a lonely and dysfunctional family.
Many of the metaphors and the imagery were ones I'd never read before- they were very refreshing and creative in conveying the emotion of this story. You had vivid detail and descriptions, which helps the reader invest more in the story.
The ending was really well written and so moving.

If I had to give some constructive feedback:
- I felt like some of the grammar tenses were not consistent or accurate in the first and second paragraphs (for example: I have learned). There were a few run-on sentences that I felt could be cut up. Just be mindful of that, as that can affect the flow of the story.

- Some of the metaphors were contradictory: "the sunlight glared at me with motherly concern"
I loved this one, but can someone glare with concern? If it was intentional to convey something, then that's great, but otherwise, it's good to be intentional with word choice.

- I felt like less is more in terms of writing blatant and super clear statements of emotion. That should be conveyed subtly through your writing. So for example, I didn't feel like this line was needed:
"How could I ever forgive myself for destroying an entire family?"
The line after that was enough to convey your emotion.

Posted 1 Year Ago


well i enjoy short stories,and i enjoyed this one

Posted 1 Year Ago


YouoweYoupay

1 Year Ago

Thank you, wordman. :)
 wordman

10 Months Ago

you`re welcome

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Added on April 13, 2019
Last Updated on April 13, 2019
Tags: love, family, psychology, parenthood, childhood trauma, sweets, memories, nostalgia, abuse, domestic violence, story, poetry, writing

Author

YouoweYoupay
YouoweYoupay

Amman, ..., Jordan



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