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No more tears (Draft 3.0)

by Traves


                                                            No more tears

“I hate myself more than I hate mirrors. This morning I looked into one. Three hours later I was writhing on the school ground. Tears in my eyes (as predicted), because of a kick below the belt. Every attempt to avoid it fails. Once I’ve seen the numbers, all I can do is wait.

The only upside is that I saw Mack’s eyes before he kicked me. So I know he’s got it coming too courtesy his drunk father. Or maybe someone else. Who cares? He’ll cry.

The next time, I’ll tell him though he’ll hit me again when he finds out I was right.

Can’t avoid shiny things forever anyway.”

His hands quivered as he shut the tattered journal — he knew he’d best skip the next entry. Seven decades later, the weight of it all had hardened like an invisible shell around him. It did the job of maintaining a safe distance for him, because it bit into him whenever he tried to get too close to people, to memories and to himself. Thus he stayed in bed caressing the cover of his teenage journal, amazed that he still had it. It had been in a box of belongings dropped off at the nursing home by his college-bound grandson yesterday. A surprise, but not unwelcome.

Someone began to play the piano downstairs, and he wandered back into pleasant memories stirred up by the journal. Two pages back there was an older entry, above which was pinned a Polaroid photograph of three boys. One of them was standing awkwardly and the others were laughing hard. He smiled at it, lingering before continuing onto the not-so-pleasant words written under it.

“This has to be the gayest power possible. (And caused me a world of pain in checking if it wasn’t anything else)

There’s no way to switch them off. Whenever I look anyone in the eye, the numbers appear next to the head. Ticking away the seconds till they cry next. The moment a tear drops, they start ticking down to the next one. Dan’s father who just returned from the war overseas is different though. He just shows 88...88:88:88:88 now as if the timer broke. The day counter stretches to the left as far as I can see. His smile never reaches his eyes.

Anyhow, this photo shows my attempt at explaining this nonsense to the fellas, and their reaction on hearing that both of them were about to cry. They did cry of course, but the tears came from laughing their asses off.

I have the best friends.”

He loved photographs and covered the walls with them wherever he lived. He could look at them for as long as he wanted, and the static eyes wouldn’t yell back the moments he had left till his friends would be down on the ground laughing at his stupid “power”, till his mother would cry silently every year on his father’s death anniversary, till the next time he was kicked in the groin or told to stay away.

Till forever, because the numbers next to her head stopped ticking when his wife bid him a rushed goodbye for the last time. The realization came too late though, and he had lived long enough to know nobody would believe him. Since then every peek at a mirror had been accompanied by a deep wish to see the numbers next to his head stop ticking similarly, but he trudged on under his curse’s determinism.

He wiped a lone tear with a sigh of resigned regret and looked around. The frames on the wall showed a life lived on tip-toes that tried to dance in its better moments, and was crushed by its own weight in the others. It had settled for the faces that acquiesced to smiling so that a lonely man could glare at them at length.

The entries got more sporadic as he continued flipping through, more carefully since he had a stubborn lump in his throat after the previous entry. Each bitter reverie they caused was an old traitorous friend’s greeting. The last entry read,

“I can’t stop it. If I don’t look in someone’s eyes they think I’m not interested and they leave. Or they see an easy target and they push me to the ground.

If I do look and show up with tissues and a bottle of water, people think I am nice. But given time, I’m the person they see when they cry, and they stay away. Always. Even ma.

Which makes sense, I shouldn’t exist.

I try not to look in mirrors, but how do I stop?”

Now that his cheeks were dry, a familiar thought urged him to look at a mirror but painfully gained experience prevailed for the moment. This vicious cycle of deciding to look and regretting it, or avoiding and regretting it more till the next time someone was hurt, was as much a part of him as the by-lanes of memory he would travel down to avoid looking into eyes, mirrors and himself. Yet, he kept sneaking glances. The questions in them swirled around, some settling down, others floating to the forefront of his mind, needling him till he tried to answer even if it always ended in tears.

A chill wind blew in, turning the pages over to a dog-eared page near the end. That’s odd, he thought as he turned over to find written in a scribble recognizably different from his —

“Grandpa, I have it too. Don’t worry.”

He flicked the journal aside and stood up. An urgent phone call was needed to be made. After relieving himself, of course. He was still an ailing old man.

For the first time in a long while he did not glance at the mirror on his way out of the washroom. He could not make the call though, and if he had looked at the mirror he would have seen that the numbers had stopped ticking.

______________________________________________________________________________

Prompt — An octagenarian man on his deathbed, is given a diary he maintained through his adolescence. Describe the emotions that surge up in his mind.

IF you're writing a review or even just commenting, I'd really appreciate it if you could also add how relevant you thought the story was to the prompt. ( It did reach the 1 k word limit)This is the 3rd draft, initially the story was named "The Absurdity of hope". Do comment on the title too, if possible.

Link to the first/second version of this story — No more tears v 2.0


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Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:05 am
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EternalRain wrote a review...



Hey! Sorry this is a bit late. I finally got around to it.

This will probably be shorter than normal because I've already reviewed the previous draft. Anyway, here we go!

This draft feels much stronger to me than the first. Maybe it's because I already had the previous informaton/reading of the first draft, but this one felt a lot clearer and more understandable. I like how it was explained in the diary entries.

Speaking of the diary entries, I think those worked really well. We get to see more of the personality of his younger years and I think it really builds up this man's character, which adds to the emotional appeal.

One thing I'm missing is the lack of a reason for him to be reading this journal. Previously, he was given the journal by his grandson. Now, we're just thrust into this man reflecting on the journal with no background of why he's doing this. It doesn't have to be the same (his grandson giving it to him) but I think a little something would strengthen the entire piece because it gives the reader a reason of WHY they should care about him reflecting back on this piece.

Also, a comment on the title: I think it's good! It works well.

I think that's it! I hope this helps you out.

~ EternalRain




Traves says...


Thanks for the review @EternalRain !

I've sent this as my entry to the contest let's see how it fares xD

Yeah I agree that that reasoning is a bit flimsy but the word limit got in the way. I will incorporate everyone's suggestions once I expand this into a complete short story.



Traves says...


Thanks for the review @EternalRain !

I've sent this as my entry to the contest let's see how it fares xD

Yeah I agree that that reasoning is a bit flimsy but the word limit got in the way. I will incorporate everyone's suggestions once I expand this into a complete short story.



EternalRain says...


Oh! Good luck with the contest! :)



Traves says...


Thanks!



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Sat Dec 22, 2018 2:27 am
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Mea wrote a review...



Okay, back to review the second part of this like you asked.

I think you should consider giving the main character a name. I know that this is such a short, concept-based story that you're hoping to avoid the baggage a name carries and keep more of an anonymous feeling to it, but there were multiple times as I was reading that saying the character's name would have really helped me slip back into his head and ground me in the story after one of the flashbacks or anecdotes. Because you're sort of moving fluidly through time, clarity is really needed, and the atmospheric effect of not having a name for the main character may not be worth the sacrifice of clarity.

I really like how you wound up explaining what the timer looks like and what happens when a person is never going to cry again - I thought both explanations really helped. I didn't think the way you addressed what happens when he does try to help worked as well. It seems unlikely to me that he'd even be able to be there for the person enough times that they cry (considering that he'd have to remember the time on their timer, calculate ahead to the right date and time, and then not be busy or somewhere else at the time) for them to associate him with sadness. Instead, it would make more sense if people started finding it creepy, or if they didn't like that he seemed to know too much about their private fears and sorrows.

Oh, I also really like the title. I think it's the best of the titles you've used so far.

(And caused me a world of pain in checking if it wasn’t anything else)

I liked this line - it was another thing I'd kinda wondered about.

his vicious cycle of deciding to look and regretting it, or avoiding and regretting it more till the next time someone was hurt, was as much a part of him as the by-lanes of memory he would travel down to avoid looking into eyes, mirrors and himself.

This is good. I can see the internal conflict this would produce, and how there's not really a right answer to the dilemma.

I'm kind of sad to notice the reference to the suicide attempt and his grandpa helping him hasn't made the cut. I think it helped emphasize how difficult this was for him when he was younger, and to me it also hinted at the idea that maybe his grandfather had the curse too, even if he never told the main character. I'm guessing it was cut for space, and I think it lightens the tone of the story a lot more - the weight of how much this has impacted his life for the worse isn't quite so apparent. That's not necessarily a bad thing - in the last draft, like I'd mentioned, I almost thought it was overboard how much his life revolved around this one thing. You'll have to decide how you want to fine-tune that balance.

I think that's about all my thoughts on this second draft - I definitely think the logistics of it are greatly improved. I think the wording and the flow could still use a bit of work, so that the poetic nature of the piece doesn't fall flat with awkward-sounding sentences. Overall, a definite improvement.




Traves says...


Thanks, @Mea !

How do you mean a name will help? And where did you feel the need? I'm sorry I didn't understand that.

I really appreciate everybody's suggestions and I think I'll incorporate them when I convert this flash fiction into a short story.

I'm still trying to add whatever seems to clarify the story and removing other things... Because of the stupid word limit, that grandfather part had to be switched out with more clarity on his power and why he has a problem

I wasn't gonna imply that all people associated him with sadness, indeed many of them just consider him a creep/freak /weirdo .

Can you suggest some way of improving the flow without adding more words? I'll add that ASAP

Yours (and others') reviews have really helped me towards future projects though ( :



Traves says...


Thanks, @Mea !

How do you mean a name will help? And where did you feel the need? I'm sorry I didn't understand that.

I really appreciate everybody's suggestions and I think I'll incorporate them when I convert this flash fiction into a short story.

I'm still trying to add whatever seems to clarify the story and removing other things... Because of the stupid word limit, that grandfather part had to be switched out with more clarity on his power and why he has a problem

I wasn't gonna imply that all people associated him with sadness, indeed many of them just consider him a creep/freak /weirdo .

Can you suggest some way of improving the flow without adding more words? I'll add that ASAP

Yours (and others') reviews have really helped me towards future projects though ( :



Mea says...


"He," because it's a pronoun, makes me automatically try to remember its antecedent. The problem is, it has none in this story. It's just a linguistic oddity in the story that adds more work for me as a reader in the transitions between the different times/scenes in the story, because I have to do more guesswork to figure out who "he" refers to (as there are other "he"s in this story). You don't necessarily need a name - you need an antecedent. I'm realizing you don't even ever use anything like "The old man" or "the man" or any similar noun. Even that would help a lot. A name I think would be better, because we're really deep inside this old man's head, and it would add a bit of distance to refer to him as "the old man" or something similar, but I think even that is better than the lack of clarity from just using "he."

On flow - flow is definitely not about adding more words. It's about making the words you already have sound good. My number-one recommendation is to read the story out loud. Anywhere you stumble over the wording or the sentence sounds a little awkward, revise that. Take it on a sentence-by-sentence basis.



Traves says...


Alright, I'll try that!



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Fri Dec 21, 2018 4:13 pm
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LanaOverland wrote a review...



Hey-o. Sorry if this review is a little late. I've been busy putting my life in order and all my free time has gone to a stupid bet I made to myself about writing 1000 words everyday. But I'm here with that review you requested. I hope you're not like on v. 5 and all my criticism is useless at this point. I know you said this was for a contests, so I hope it's not useless because the contest ended, that would suck. Anyway...

So I normally start with a synopsis, but it hasn't changed much narrative wise from the last one I looked at. You definitely made it more emotionally driven and the MC came off as less of a jerk in his later diary entries. I could feel that he was haunted by his power in this one a lot better than the first one.

A couple of my line-by-lines are the same criticism which can only mean one thing! Awkward phrasing! I think in an effort to make it sound more poetic and sophisticated some of your sentences were hard to understand or off-putting grammatically (if that makes sense, like the grammar was weird or sentence structure was weird and it made it hard to comprehend). I don't normally point this kind of thing off, but since this is the second draft you've asked me to look at I figured I could point it out. The best way to find it for yourself is to read your draft out loud (tedious I know) and make a quick mark where ever you stumble. So... here we go:

"because it bit into him whenever he tried to get too close to people, to memories and to himself."
"It had been in a box of belongings dropped off at the nursing home by his college-bound grandson yesterday." ((Side note: “It had been” is a clunky verb phrase that you should try to avoid as often as possible. Also I don’t know if you meant to do this or not, but you buried your grandson in this sentence. And is it important that we know he’s college-bound?))
"Dan’s father who just returned from the war overseas is different though."
"Anyhow..." ((Awkward transition especially from a person with PTSD))
"and the static eyes wouldn’t yell back the moments he had left till his friends would be down on the ground laughing at his stupid “power"" ((Confusing phrasing))
"he trudged on under his curse’s determinism."
"The entries got more sporadic as he continued flipping through, more carefully since he had a stubborn lump in his throat after the previous entry."

With that out of the way...

"Once I’ve seen the numbers, all I can do is wait."
----In a perfect world you could describe what that anxiety feels like

"So I know he’s got it coming too courtesy his drunk father. Or maybe someone else. Who cares? He’ll cry."
----How does he know it’s coming from his drunk father? Why suggest that it is if he’s not sure?

The next time, I’ll tell him though he’ll hit me again when he finds out I was right.
Can’t avoid shiny things forever anyway.”
----awkward sentence structure. And what’s the emotional reasoning behind telling him? Is it vengeful? Does he like lording any amount of power over his bully? Or is it a warning? Is it just something he does whenever he can? Does he just want to be heard?

"His hands quivered as he shut the tattered journal — he knew he’d best skip the next entry."
----Oooo nice. Creates tension.

"Thus he stayed in bed caressing the cover of his teenage journal, amazed that he still had it."
----You’re still creating distance between us and the MC. The “Thus” is too logical and removed from the MC, like it’s not a decision he made, but a logical course of events. Watch your filler words.

"“This has to be the gayest power possible...""
----I don’t think I said this last time, but are you sure about your use of the word “gay?”

"(And caused me a world of pain in checking if it wasn’t anything else)"
----???

"and the static eyes wouldn’t yell back the moments he had left till his friends would be down on the ground laughing at his stupid “power”, till his mother would cry silently every year on his father’s death anniversary, till the next time he was kicked in the groin or told to stay away."
----One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong. It’s the last one, about being kicked in the groin.

"stop ticking similarly"
----remove similarly

"The frames on the wall showed a life lived on tip-toes that tried to dance in its better moments"
----???

"After relieving himself, of course. He was still an ailing old man."
----I said this last time, and I’ll say it again. NOT THE TIME! You break the tension too early.

I think that's it, I kind of addressed my thoughts on the bigger changes in the piece up top. I talked about what I thought of the general narrative in my last review, and other than some awkward phrasing that you need to adjust there's not all that much for me to talk about. I guess I wonder what the point of the grandson is in this piece and what's the reveal at the end supposed to mean? Is it that he has someone like him so he'll never cry again, or that he's going to die. Cause you seem to be insinuating that he's going to die by the...everything that came before. I'm not sure what it's supposed to be saying that his numbers are gone especially in conjunction with the mysterious grandson character who we still don't know much about.




Traves says...


Thanks for the thorough review @LanaOverland !
It is in time, I haven't yet submitted so no worries about that.

The reveal at the end indeed means that he died before he could call. It's supposed to be sort of an ironic twist, where he had been waiting to die for a long time and finally when he found a reason to live, a dear one to help, he dies i.e. numbers stop ticking , thus being denied any kind of closure at all.

The two things you mention in the diary entry , i.e. the awkward transition of PTSD, well I' m trying to work within the word limit so I can't do much about that, I'm hoping it can be covered by the fact that he's a teen in a tough spot.

A similar reasoning for "gayest" . He's a teen, and using accurate or sensitive words in his personal diary, when he's in a tough spot might've been the wrong choice what with the word limit and I felt that "gayest" manages to capture his feelings about his power, even though he hates
He has matured as he grew up,and understands that now, but again, there's no space to explore that.

Other than that, could you please elaborate on what you mean by the "weird" sentence structure part?



Traves says...


*even though he hates only himself and not gay people. I also thought that since we use the language the people around us use, it might add to the toxicity of his teenage environment .



LanaOverland says...


So by weird I mean that it's not the traditional English sentence structure, which isn't always a problem, in fact it can be helpful on occasion if you're trying to emphasize something that wouldn't normally be emphasized. For instance in... "He punched the dork in the face." The emphasis is on the punch and then the face. A variant might be "The dork's face was punched by him" (passive voice) The emphasis is on the dork's face and the person punching isn't immediately in the action. In your case the problem is organizing descriptions. For instance: "The entries got more sporadic as he continued flipping through, more carefully since he had a stubborn lump in his throat after the previous entry." This one is confusing because the sentence seems to be talking about the books but the second phrase (after the comma) is related to the verb and the verb alone. Which is confusing because when you put two clauses together they tend to be related to the noun and not the verb. I'm personally not great at grammar, but sentence structure is the best way to visualize it when you're pointing it out, but it's really all about how the sentence progresses into the next ones and how it sounds when you read it out loud. Does it feel natural or uncomfortable to say do you tend to stumble when you say it or read it. Is what you want to focus on prominent.

As for the use of the word "gay" I don't doubt that it's the word a young boy might use, it's just got a complicated history. Using gay as a descriptor for something not homosexual or queer, it tends to be an insult and when you use another community's name as an insult it insults the community. For me it was uncomfortable to read and I don't think it came across in the way you want. It might be too controversial of a word to use. I think there are better (and more accurate) words to describe the way he feels about his power that don't involve delving into that controversy when you don't have to.



Traves says...


Thanks a lot, your description really made it clear!

I couldn't think of any other word atm that the character would use that wouldn't sound too unnatural or flowery while carrying as much unsavoury meaning . If you have any suggestions they are welcome .I understand how it might be controversial though and I hope I can handle the controversy as well as can be managed, since my intent has never been to insult anyone while posting on YWS.
(The connotations behind the character's usage actually include almost everything for which "gay" is/was used as an insult. )



Traves says...


Thanks a lot, your description really made it clear!

I couldn't think of any other word atm that the character would use that wouldn't sound too unnatural or flowery while carrying as much unsavoury meaning . If you have any suggestions they are welcome .I understand how it might be controversial though and I hope I can handle the controversy as well as can be managed, since my intent has never been to insult anyone while posting on YWS.
(The connotations behind the character's usage actually include almost everything for which "gay" is/was used as an insult. )



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Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:44 pm
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MaybeInk wrote a review...



Hello, it's MaybeInk here for a review.

The emotions in this was amazing, I loved every moment of it. In my own opinion, I think it was closely connected to the prompt. The only thing that you've added that wasn't in the prompt was the fantasy, the fact that he could see when you would cry next.

However, it was a little jumbled in the beginning, kind of hard to read, with the sentences choppy.

"Till forever, because the numbers stopped ticking when his wife bid him a rushed goodbye for the last time. The realization" this word is spelt wrong, it should be realisation, "came too late though, and he had lived long enough to know nobody would believe him." This part doesn't make much sense to me.

So, that first sentence, I take it that his wife died and he cried. Now, the second sentence, does it mean that he blames himself for not stopping her?

Anyway, that is all.
Keep writing
~ MaybeInk




Traves says...


Thanks for the review @MaybeInk and welcome to YWS!
Realization and realisation both are correct spellings actually, one is used in North America and the other in other places. both are interchangeable.

And yes, that part means both that he did not save her, so others wouldn't understand why he blamed himself and and also that he could not save others similarly because people don't like him and so they don't wanna believe him if he tried to save others in a similar situation.



Traves says...


Thanks for the review @MaybeInk and welcome to YWS!
Realization and realisation both are correct spellings actually, one is used in North America and the other in other places. both are interchangeable.

And yes, that part means both that he did not save her, so others wouldn't understand why he blamed himself and and also that he could not save others similarly because people don't like him and so they don't wanna believe him if he tried to save others in a similar situation.




"Do not try to be pretty. You weren't meant to be pretty; you were meant to burn down the earth and graffiti the sky. Don't let anyone ever simplify you to just 'pretty'"
— Unknown