tough day

“We did this long climb out in Moab, hours of uphill on a sunny day, and as soon as we got to the top I saw a big line of thunderstorms bearing down on us.”

His boat was whaleskin stretched over wood, sixteen feet long and scarcely wider than his hips. The steel harpoon head, with its barb, stayed in the walrus, and was slowly killing it.

” I was freezing, man, but back then I always carried a Space Blanket in my jersey pocket. We stopped at the top and I was in the bathroom, cutting up pieces of Space Blanket and taping them over my thighs and my torso. I always carried electrical tape back then.”

Early in the second night the walrus died. The Inuit began to tow it toward home, but he could not tow as fast as the walrus had. He lashed himself to the carcass and slept alone on the swelling ocean.”

“So we got down okay, but we got a motel room that night. It was the last night anyway and the campsite was soggy. Hot shower you know.”

He arrived near the village in the middle of the fifth day, and presented the walrus. Early in the evening he fell asleep again in his house of ice.



6 responses to this post.

  1. Good idea, good stuff, with detail the telling component. Since it’s short enough to regard as an exercise you might like to consider reducing the extremeness of some of the contrasts (eg, hot shower vs. house of ice). The two basic situations are strong enough to allow this.

    In short, have faith in what you’ve dealt yourself. No need to hammer it home. A shot or two of humour can help, especially when it’s unexpected as it would be from the Inuit.

    In fact I’m touching on the same problem here as I touched on regarding your comment on my recent short story. Author judgment about likely reader responses. Which could be the basis for another piece called Tough Day: car salesman failing to make a sale vs. author falling short with his irony. Except I hate stories where writers write about writing. Who in the world cares?


  2. Thanks Robbie….this is a convergence of two conversations I was involved with. The Eskimo bit recalls a conversation with relatives who were bemoaning their perceived lack of comfort (padding) in my kayak seat. Others boats are much more plush than mine, but I reminded them that Eskimos sat on the very floor of their boats, and we all began to riff a bit on Eskimo life. Rigors were described as in the story, and the retirement to a “house of ice” was my witty closing line ( we had just emerged from a pub, a little tired from kayaking, full of pizza, into a warm summer evening.) The line was well received, and I was not about to abandon it here
    The cyclist’s story, which I struggled a bit to convey as a CYCLIST’S story without referring to wheels (I thought for a bit about saddle bags being on horses, and so relocated the Space Blanket to a jersey pocket). Otherwise that story is a condensed version of a very (much too) wordy remembrance from a fellow rider at an otherwise similar post event gathering.
    I do see your point. It is very heavy handed, and if I were too try to make more of it than a jot (I really was just trying to get both ideas onto paper at the outset – so I wouldn’t forget them) I would employ your observations. In fact, I will try to revamp it in short form soon…but life is hectic, so don’t hold your breath. Cheers brother!


  3. Perhaps it was I who was heavy-handed. In pointing to the ultimate refinement of the story I loaded the scales against what you had invented and/or brought together. Critics should always remind themselves that there was a time – during a story’s creation – that the author faced a blank screen, sustained only by a jumble of thoughts, that there was no inevitability about what subsequently happened. Editing may well be desirable, as I’ve always preached, but it’s a very minor skill compared with the work involved in filling that blank screen first time round. Besides, now that we’ve nattered on for years I should have mentioned the pleasure I got from the various skeins of detail which took me back to what I’ve picked up about your roots as a writer. Also I should have actively celebrated the act of juxtaposition – the crux of the story – rather more positively.

    After the Lord Mayor’s show, then.


    • Criticism is as good as praise to me, probably better when it is applied compasssionately (and passionately) and with a quick foredose of praise. And that seems to be your M.O. The Lord Mayor? I’ll have to look that one up. Could you mean Trump’s address to the nation?
      I need only know when those are coming, so I can don tall boots.


  4. After the Lord Mayor’s show. The Lord Mayor of the City of London (quite different from the Mayor of London) refers to that part of London now occupied by our major financial services; in New York the equivalent would be Wall Street. The position is purely ceremonial but the appointment is marked by a parade through London in which the new mayor is towed along in an ostentatious gilded coach, aeons old. Anything that occurs after the coach has passed is thought to be anti-climactic, hence the phrase. In the case of my first comment it seemed as if I’d devoted rather too much wordage to finger-wagging. My appreciation arrived somewhat late in the day, rather like the man who follows the parade to pick up the horse-droppings. I felt I had to make good the sequence. It’s all a bit too Rosbif (for a definition of this, check with any articulate Frenchman).


  5. While frog hunting would be good tonight (it’s hot and rainy here), I opted for Wiktionary. I wonder what happened re Trump’s visit to the UK. I’d heard he wanted the gilded coach ride, then never heard more.


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