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The Lion and the Monkey

by LMJRayner


"Cow."

"Yes, well done. What's the next one?" He said, pointing to the picture above it. The cartoonish animal smiling straight at him.

"Luh...erm...erm I don't know." She said, she was only small, the letters becoming jumbled in her head as she tried to read them.

"Come on, you know this one, sound it out." She perked up, the challenge exciting her slightly.

"Okay, erm, luh...i...oh...ner."

"That's it, all together."

"Luh...i...Lion. Lion." She said again, her eyes widened and she wriggled in her bed. She looked straight at him and smiled, as if they both accomplished the hardest thing ever.

"Go on you've got loads left, look who's the Lion talking to." A crudely drawn speech bubble emanating from it's mouth. The dialogue was laughable, but that was the point. It kept the parents slightly amused, whilst the child sat there in awe of Leon the Lion the hero of the jungle. She fidgeted around, Dad leant over and puffed up her pillow. They weren't as soft as she was used to but that was all they had so they made do. Emily didn't mind, she was too preoccupied by the colours and characters of the book. She leant back and snuggled into the covers, sliding down into the bed. Her long blonde hair, resting ever so softly by her sides. One hundred brushes a day, keeping her innocence so beautiful.

She carried on reading on her own, caressing the pictures of the animals as she sounded out their names. The door opened to the dimly lit room they were in. A woman stepped in, she placed her bag on the floor next to the chair in the corner. Dad stood up and kissed her on the cheek, she smiled and sat down next to the bed on the other side.

"How is she?"

"She's fine. Aren't you dear?"

"Muh...muh...oh." She murmured, completely engrossed in the book. The woman smiled at her and stroked Emily's hair, up and down, up and down. It calmed her. It always does.

"What ya reading?" She said, peering over the top of the book.

"Leon the Lion, but...don't know this one." Emily said, turning the book around and pointing at the animal. "Mummy, help me." She said. Mum looked closely at the picture, half pretending she didn't know either.

"Hmmm, this is a hard one, it has this long tail though what usually has a long tail?" Emily looked into the sky and put her fingers in her mouth, biting slightly as she tried to think. She shook her head. "It has a banana in it's hand..." Mum hinted.

"Oh!" Emily shouted, bumping up and down. "It's Monkey, Leon's best friend!" She grabs the book back off of Mum and gets stuck into reading it again, with this new found knowledge.

"Oooo, best friend." Dad said.

"Yeah, they run and play and fight baddies and help each other and eat all the jungle food together." She said not taking a breath. The parents looked at each other, their eyes meeting in the middle, brief, but perfect. A true moment. "Daddy I'm thirsty. I want a drink."

"Don't be cheeky, ask nicely." Dad said, leaning over the side of his chair, reaching inside Mum's overnight bag.

"Please can I have a drink?" Emily said, her eyes still fixed on the book.

"That's better..." Dad pulled out two drink cartons. "Now we have, cherry or blackcurrent. Which one do you want you little rascal?"

"The red one." She said, thrusting her arm out and grabbing it from him. He usually would tell her off for being rude but it just didn't feel right. She was completely and totally happy, sitting there reading her book with Mummy and Daddy and it warmed his heart. Dad stuck the straw of the blackcurrent one in the carton and started slurping it.

"Mmmm..." He said poking Emily in the arm. "This tastes so much better."

"You're silly Daddy." She said, not being phased by him teasing her.

The moment of bliss was soon stopped, there was a knock at the door. It opened slightly, a young man poked his head through. The parents turned and glared at him. Hoping that they wouldn't have to see him that night but it was inevitable. Dad got up from his chair, Mum did as well. He held his hand up gesturing her to sit back down.

"It's okay, I've got it. You stay with her." He said, he passed her the drink carton and followed the young man out of the room. They reconvened outside, Mum turned to face the window, there was a lot going on outside their room but she focused in on them. The young man held up his clipboard, he clings to it as his lifeline, protecting him from the news it brings. She couldn't hear their voices the walls being too thick. She could only see the conversation.

The young man was hesitant at first, plucking up the courage to say what he had to say. Dad knew that was a bad thing as soon as he stepped outside. Mum didn't need to know what they were talking about it was written all over her husband. His left hand was beginning to tremble, the butterflies in his stomach trying to rip through and escape. The young man looked down to the floor for a moment, he reluctantly raised his head and started talking to Dad. Mum was confused and didn't know what was happening, she desperately wanted to be out there with him but at the same time she couldn't leave Emily.

Dad's lips started quivering, he bit his upper lip and breathed out slowly through his nose. He too looked at the ground, as if there was something down there to take you away from this place. But there wasn't, he was stuck there just like the man in the long white coat. The young man touched him on the shoulder and turned down the corridor. He wanted to get out of there as much as Emily's Dad did.

The door opened slowly, he trundled down to his seat next to Emily, she was playing with her fingers on top of the book, pretending to be the characters. Dad looked at Mum. Her eyes never wavering from him since he opened the door. He looked deep into her eyes, a thin glaze covering his vision. A small, lonely tear fell from his face and landed on his lap. She looked at him, pleading with him. Dad shook his head side to side. Her face crumbled, she tried to hold in her emotion but she was failing. She turned away from the bed and held her face in her hands. Dad was feeling exactly the same, but he was holding it back a lot better.

"Daddy?" Emily whispered.

"What's up baby?" Dad whispered back leaning in towards her. He was expecting a really hard question.

"I want to be a monkey." She said, with a completely straight face. Dad started laughing.

"Why?" He chuckled.

"I dunno, it looks like fun." She said, her curious logic breaking their hearts. Dad just smiled, he cuddled up with her and carried on reading Leon the Lion.

"You know what? You're right, it does look like fun." He whispered, she giggled and turned the page. Mum wiped the tears from her cheek and moved in closer, she started stroking her hair again as Emily read to them the story of the Monkey and the Lion. They all stayed up that night. Forgetting about everything else in the world, they were the only ones that existed. They cherished it. The Moment. They shared it. It was Brief. And it was Perfect.


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Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:08 am
Hannah wrote a review...



You said below that the exercise was trying to make the reader care for these characters and be crushed by the outcome, so that's how I'm going to look at this piece.

First of all, like 100% of the time, unless a sad person is specifically looking for sad stories that mirror their exact experiences (the way if we're feeling sad about a dead family pet, reading any related pet death story will make us cry), this story is not very moving. I think part of the problem lies in the fact that that's your specific goal. Because of this, it's very transparent and a little melodramatic. Things in our lives that are sad are not as perfectly sad as a perfect little girl with perfect parents who gets perfectly sterile-y sick (because you don't even tell us the problem), and whose mom cries a perfect single tear. This constructed-ness takes away from the real emotion a reader could feel.

I think you may have to take another approach. I've never set out with the goal to make a reader cry, but generally emotion only comes genuinely from a reader if they themselves have earned it. If you're trying to serve it up on a silver platter already packaged for them, it means nothing. They have to find it and earn it. What I liked about this piece was early on when we suddenly became aware of the overnight bag, and how we weren't told they were at a hospital, but we could earn it by figuring it out. That's the kind of subtle reality you want to go for (while you take out all the mentions of these people being perfect and innocent, because that doesn't exist in reality, or at least not in the reality we can swallow in fiction). You're going to have to make these characters REAL people instead of just "mom" and "dad" stand-ins. For sadness, we need specifics, I think. We need to know where these people came from BEFORE -- the normal before the crash.

As GodsGirl14 said below me, however, this type of plot probably still wouldn't feel complete. Usually a story is satisfying if we've had a journey, a change, or a realization. If you can pull it off well so that we earn our own realization, then it might be more satisfying, but you can't rely on "This story made you feel sad" as a bench-mark for completion.

I hope this makes sense to you.
Also, haha, you definitely don't need to break this into two parts. This is not a longer piece. I hadn't looked at it before commenting on your wall!

Good luck and reply if you have any questions/comments!




LMJRayner says...


Thanks for the feedback. I understand completely about making the characters real rather than cardboard cut outs, I'm used to writing longer fiction which means getting the time to characterise properly without it feeling rushed. I might rewrite it and make the characters less one dimensional to make the pay off a lot better.

Thanks



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Thu Aug 29, 2013 2:38 am
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GodsGirl14 wrote a review...



First of all you categorized this as a short story. I don't think it should be because short stories are short and complete. This was not complete. You can do so much more with it, even turn it into a novel, but as a short story it's not complete.
The whole story needs tons more detail and what it has needs to be earlier in the story. I imagine what's going on in my head, but then you give detail to late and I have to change the image in my head. Most readers get annoyed by that an will stop reading because of it.

"Luh...erm...erm I don't know." She said, she was only small, the lettters becoming jumbled in her head as she tried to read them."

In these sentences the word letters is misspelled, (always check your work carefully for simple mistakes before posting) and the words "She, said, she was only small" are repetitive and confusing. I would suggest this.

"Luh...erm...erm I don't know." A young girl replied as the letters became jumbled inside her head when she tried to decipher them.

Adding better word choice will also improve your writing: instead of said I put replied, and instead of read I put deciphered. You used good word choice with "jumbled," which is a great example.

"Go on you've got loads left, look whose the Lion talking to."

In this sentence "whose" should be who is, there should be an apostrophe after look, and a question mark at the end instead of a period.

"One hundred brushes a day, keeping her innocence so beautiful."

This sentence doesn't seem to fit into the story and I would suggest taking it out.

"It always does."

This would sound better as "It always did."

Also it says the mom was "peering over the top of the book," and then later it stated that Emily "grabs the book back off of Mum." It never stated that the mom took the book. Simple details like this make or break a story.

I love how you put such wonderful, true family moments in with this young child. It's really sweet and evoke the reader's emotions of happiness and contentment. The best part is though that you ruin it! I know that doesn't sound great but putting suspense and fear into a story after creating a calm, happy enviorment makes the reader feel for the characters and winder what's going to happen next. This will get you far in the writing world.

There are quite a few more grammatical errors but these can be easily fixed with some thorough editing. Overall I like the ideas and I hope you'll forgive me for being so critical.
Keep up the good work! God bless you!




LMJRayner says...


Thanks for being so critical but a few things you should know is. Replacing said with replied and words like that is not a better word choice. Using said is the best way 99% of the time. The reader knows they're replying to them so why say it. I'm glad you think it has more in it for a novel but it doesn't for me, it's an excercise in making the reader care for the characters and then being crushed by the outcome. And it sounds liked that worked with you.

Cheers,

LMJ




It is better to take what does not belong to you than to let it lie around neglected.
— Mark Twain