Monday, January 30, 2006

fact or fiction?

Note This is for a creative writing class I'm taking. The brief - to write two 500 word strong stories told in the first person and set in the past. One must be fact and the other fiction.

Both stories are now up.


My family and I spent the summer of 1990 with my aunt in the small and sleepy town of Gorakhpur. She and her husband - a professor of biology lived in squat, ugly staff quarters on campus with their two daughters. Approaching their late 20s, my cousins were still unmarried – earning their mother the collective sympathy of friends, relatives and even the occasional stranger. Like products close to their expiry date, they were nearing the end of their shelf life and people were wary of taking them home.

Though my cousins had all the girlish notions of love and romance they were to marry men their parents chose. And till that time they were to preserve their virtue at any cost. So their pent up fantasies and longings found release in an ageing almirah that stood in the corner of their bedroom its shelves weighed down by romance novels of every kind. Books called ‘McGowan’s Woman’ and ‘Branded by Passion’ emblazoned with images of attractive people who looked both angry and aroused. I was fascinated. A sentiment heightened by the knowledge that I was forbidden from reading them. I remember the burning resentment I felt towards my elder sister and cousins. Why should they get to read ‘Viking Lover’ while I had to make do with the Famous Five?

So one hot afternoon as the soporific combination of a heavy lunch and the
heat-burdened air took its toll on my family, I lay in wait. The house was
soon silent but for the indignant droning of the fans that seemed to be
protesting that others rested while they worked.

The illicit almirah stood in its corner, one door half open as though it
knew I was coming. I fed a plump arm in to the narrow opening and rummaged silently for a book. I tugged one out at random and made my way to the balcony where the prolific creepers and potted palms shielded me from prying eyes and the heat.

I finally looked at the cover. ‘Blackmail’ - a story of betrayal and revenge. At first I wondered why the book was forbidden fruit. It seemed so – normal. And then Giles swept Felicity in to his arms and began making passionate if somewhat violent love to her. I couldn’t understand most of the words and phrases but something about them told me that this was the part I wasn’t meant to read. This alien tangling of arms and legs, the hurried disrobing and mute protests. Was this what my eyes were shielded from when we watched television? Nauseous excitement coursed through my body. The fear of being caught is a potent aphrodisiac.

As their love scene reached its climax, the sweet smell of soon to be wet earth tickled my nose. Clouds of a freak summer storm gathered with alarming speed and relieved themselves over the campus forcing me indoors, where I kept the incomprehensible book for adults aside. And fell into the open arms of my waiting childhood.


I remember everything about the day I first saw him. The bright sunshine. The sky a real sky blue. The bare trees and overdressed pedestrians that ruined the illusion of a perfect summer day.

He was standing inside one of those dinky life style boutiques. You know – the kind that sells empty coconut husks as salad bowls for £150. My eyes were drawn to the lean muscles that strained under his perfect black skin. Angular. That was the word. Even in such a feminine environment he exuded a masculinity that made me a little week in the knees. A sudden, vicious gust of wind jolted me out of my reverie and I hurried away, not wanting to be caught staring.

A week later I found myself taking a walk in the same area. I stopped to tie my shoelaces and as I straightened up realised I was standing outside the shop again. He was there and just as beautiful. I remember being relieved that he wasn’t a figment of my imagination.

It took me two weeks to summon the courage to go inside. I agonised for hours over what to wear – like it was our first date or something. I wore my best jeans, a crisp white shirt and a beige trench. He seemed the clean and classic type and I wanted to make a good impression. I couldn't bring myself to walk up to him though, so I pretended to be absorbed by a candleholder in the shape of a turbaned native. After throwing a few furtive glances in his direction I left.

I dreamt about him that night. His strong arms. That lean body that I knew would be soft and almost liquid to curl up against. I could see the two of u together – we were a perfect fit.

I soon settled in to a routine. I would visit the store once a month - usually in some kind of disguise. Funny but not outlandish hats, oversized glasses, sometimes just a newspaper. Once a week I would walk by, slowing down as I passed the store and casually look for him. I even managed to take a picture of him, which became my desktop wallpaper at work. Friends and colleagues teased me and called me a stalker. They said I was obsessed. But it wasn’t like that. Honest.

It was during one of my monthly visits the self-imposed restraining order was breached. I couldn’t help it - after so many months of knowing him I just had to. I was so close I could smell his earthy scent. Before I knew what I was doing I had extended a trembling hand and was lightly caressing his back.

"Lovely to touch isn’t it? It's hand crafted Italian leather. Would you like to sit down and see how it feels?” a helpful assistant asked.

I don’t remember what I said. But I do remember the sense of loss I felt as I walked away. And the smell of his skin.


MumbaiGirl said...

So many of these romance novels are based in Texas. Ranchers making violent love to good cooks. That was a lovely short story. Write MORE.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Very nice. If I might paint the lily etc. - that "incomprehensive" in the last para would be better off as "incomprehensible".

But if this is where you are already, you don't need the class.


Primalsoup said...

Like products close to their expiry date, they were nearing the end of their shelf life and people were wary of taking them home.
That was priceless, nothing rings louder than the Biological Clock going tick-tock!

And those were good days, reading about men with barely controlled aggression and anger-and strong yet fundamentally helpless women! Ah the joys of gender stereotypes!

Terri said...

Rain = hero climaxing (naughty, naughty) ;)

I agree with J.A.P; you don’t need to take a creative writing class.

Mridula said...

I can still 'see' those staff quarters, quite close to the university and on my way to school!

shub said...

And fell into the open arms of my waiting childhood.

Nessa said...

I can't wait for the second story :-)

Leela said...

You've built a nice air of expectation, and ended most unpredictably but efficiently. Looking forward to more.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Mumbai Girl - thanks! one of the first romance novels I ever read was called This Calder sky and was set in a Texan ranch!

J.A.P - Thank you! I've made the change and you're right - it sounds much better!

Primalsoup - Don't forget how the hero always thought the heroine was a woman of loose morals! Till he 'ravaged' her and realised she was a virgin!

terri - ;) Thanks!

mridula - :D

shub - thanks!

nessa - story no 2 is up

lee - thank you! hope no 2 doesn't disappoint

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

The second one - I thought it was a cat. Forgot that you're a self-confessed furniture junkie.

The first one was way better. Here, I think we were all expecting the twist in the tale.


The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

J.A.P - A CAT??? oh well! you're right though - i think i've structured this in a way that people are expecting a 'twist' of some sort. Thanks for the feedback!

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... said...

Now, why do you need creative writing classes, again?

Shyam said...

Hmmm... Shoefie, I didnt think cat. My question is: Crocodile or snake? :)

Falstaff said...

Nice, though I thought the 'Fact' one was much, much better than the 'Fiction'. The 'Fiction' piece has some good writing, but you can see the end coming a mile away, and there's a temptation, I think, to skip over all the intervening rhapsodising and just confirm that the end is what you expected. Plus, this is probably just personal taste, but the whole "surprise! I wasn't talking about what you thought I was talking about" theme is such a cliche.

That said, I loved the 'Fact' story - it felt so perfectly crafted - just the right mix of nostalgia and whimsy, of sadness and bemusement. Like reading Anita Desai at her best. Seriously.

Nessa said...

Expected / unexpected, you've written it extremely well.. and I guess that was the purpose of the entire exercise, wasn't it?

Btw, in spite of reading all your stuff here and knowing that you're mostly into kahaani mein twists, I wasn't really expecting that. Erm, does that make me dumb or too thick? I hope there are others like me *blush*

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

Keya - :D - thanks but i think there's lots of room for improvement

Shyam :P

Falstaff - Thanks for the feedback. I agree - the fiction one is trying a bit too hard to throw readers off the scent and not succeeding. But we learn as we write! Anita Desai? :D :D :D

Nessa - I'm glad atleast one person didn't get it :D

Arun said...

Loved 'fiction'. For some reason, I thought 'he' would be a mannequin

Ash said...

Loved the first one !

TomCruiseChellum said...

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The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

arun, ash, tcc - Thanks :D

alpha said...

both were great. loved the ficton better though I knew there had to be twist. i need classes from you. No, seriously I hope you get what you are looking for in those classes.

Sunil said...

I was describing a typical Louis L'amour Western to my wife (she'd never read any). She patiently heard me through......and said it's like a "Mills and Boon", but with more gun fights and blood, and less romance.

Same difference :-)

And i don't think you need a class. Just keep writing.

The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

alpha - thanks! the classes are great fun! Next story should be up by wednesday :D

Sunil - thanks :D! Your wife is right btw :)