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JESS - The Love of a Shepherd [CHAPTER 1]

by Blue Haze


I wasn't quite sure where to put this post. You see this story is based very closely on true events, however because it is written in the third person, it almost appears 'story like', and it didn't quite seem to fit into the non-fiction forum under auto biographies or the like.

Other than a quick poem that I got mixed reactions about, this is my first decent post so I am very much only learning. I hope that you like it!

...................................................................................................................................................................................

Jessica tried to curl up tighter underneath the blankets. She covered her ears to try and drown out the raised voices that were coming from the other room. As she lay there sobbing, tears streamed from her beautiful big brown eyes. Her brown hair lay wet and lifeless across her shoulders. She was shaking, and her body was tense with fear. Even her breathing was controlled in small tight inhalations. It felt as though she had been frozen like this for an eternity now. Horror gripped her from head to toe.

Jessica’s bladder was ready to burst but the journey from her room to the toilet was just too treacherous and dangerous to even contemplate. So she lay there praying with all her might that just this once, she would be able to hold off until the morning. She prayed once again she would not have to sleep the night in a cold wet pool of her own urine. She prayed that tomorrow she wouldn't smell of that familiar ‘rat’ odor, that the kids would not tease her, if only for a day.

“Get up right now! If I have to get up then so do you. Now move it!” her mothers voice bellowed, startling little Jess from her deep slumber. The usual daily rituals had officially begun.

Jessica rubbed her eyes and looked around the room that she shared with her younger sister Natalie. The bunks moved and squeaked as Natalie stirred on the bed above. Dust fell lightly onto Jessica as she climbed from the bottom bunk and placed her bare feet onto the dirty, dusty carpet below. Jessica’s young hands quickly struggled with the awkward bunk bed in order to remove her saturated sheets from the equally moist tattered mattress beneath.

Little Jess pushed her hair from her eyes and made her way into the tiny, filthy, kitchen. Her eldest sister Daphne had just finished putting some sandwiches into her school bag and was heading into the lounge in order to have her hair put up in ribbons by their mother. The bread lay out on the bench amongst leaflets, old unused containers and other miscellaneous items. Jessica pulled the Vegemite from the nearby cupboard and preceded the best that her little seven year old hands could manage to make her daily Vegemite sandwich. How she longed to have the luncheon sandwiches, the fruit, the biscuits, so lovingly wrapped, that she saw her fellow classmates complaining about. Jessica couldn't understand for the life of her what on earth these kids had to moan about, as far as she could tell their lunchboxes looked exciting and she couldn't even begin to imagine wanting for anything more.

Out in the lounge Jessica’s mother sat straddling Daphne. With a cigarette in one hand she pulled Daphne’s hair back tightly into a little pig tail that shot out from the top of her head like some kind of rocket that was about to launch. Then it was Jessica’s turn. Her mother beckoned her to go and sit in the small triangular space in front of her which Jessica did without question. The stale cigarette odor from her mother drifted forward readily. She could feel her mother’s large breasts and swollen belly resting against her small back. Jess cringed at the feeling, and at the odor. She sat still and rigid, occasionally flying back towards her mother with the force of the small comb running through her knotted hair. Pain intermittently shot through her head as her mother roughly attempted to remove each little knot without an ounce of compassion or empathy. Jessica began to whimper ever so quietly, yet obviously not quietly enough. Her mother threw down the comb and promptly slapped Jessica’s young cheek.

“Sit bloody still you little bitch! Stop your whimpering!” came her mothers muffled command, shooting forth from the sides of her mouth, angrily making its way around the cigarette limply perched in the center of her lips.

The tears flowed freely now. Jessica couldn't hold back. Her mother suddenly pushed her forward taking her cigarette from her mouth at the same time with the opposite hand, and in doing so accidentally smeared the cigarette into Jessica’s otherwise beautiful, young, olive, untarnished skin.

“Fine", she triumphed. "Have it your way then. Go to school with your hair half done”.

Jessica clutched at her burning arm, now marred by a little round black ring, but she knew better than to say anything. Slowly she walked outside with her bag slung across her left shoulder to where Daphne was already waiting. Both girls walked in silence, their heads hung low, and their young shoulders slumped over as though they were years older than what they actually were.

Outside, Jess motioned for her sister to wait. She slowly climbed the wonky, concrete steps towards the kennel at the top of the hill. True to her usual good form, Princess clambered out towards Jess wagging her tail rapidly. Momentarily Jess lent down and tightly wrapped her arms around the Shepherd’s neck. Once again the tears began to flow, gently falling onto Princess’s black and tan coat.

“I love you,” Jess whispered before heading off to join her sister who ignoring Jess’s request was already part way up the long stony, steep drive way.

……………………………………………………………………………………………


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Sun Feb 26, 2006 8:33 pm
Blue Haze says...



Hi Dammerung

Thanks for your post.

I did have trouble coming up with a title for this. My plan was to eventually have a whole lot of different stories about "Jess". I thought that they would always be called JESS and then would just have something added onto that. Something additional that related to that particular piece of writing. Hence JESS - The love of a shepherd,[just one particular snippet of this girls life involving the dog]. It is my intention to use the shepherd as a little bit of a focus in this particular piece. The part that I have written to date is almost just like an introduction, not only to the story in general, but also to the dog.

I'll see how it goes. You could be right about the title. It may be that i have to review it further down the track.

As for your two questions. IT was my intention to capture the readers interest with this opening and then later in the story to describe in detail why this child is scared to go to the bathroom and why there was shouting from the other room. All this should become painfully clear as the story unravels. I don't know that I have done this in the right order. Hopefully it will end up reading OK. This was never going to be an exceptional piece of writing as I am very much just learning. I have so much to say, so many stories to tell, and now I just have to learn how to do so in an interesting manner.

Thank you kindly for your comments.




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Sat Feb 25, 2006 7:27 pm
Jerikas wrote a review...



I liked this piece but the title confused me - it wasn't what I expected.What has a shepard got to do with the story?

You also need to link the start to the rest of it better. Why was Jess scaed to go to the bathroom? & who was shouting at the beginning of the story? are the two main questions that come to mind.

I liked your description in the middle of how she wished she could have what the other kids were eating for lunch. It add a sense of realism to the piece.

I think it got better as it went along but dropped of slightly at the end. Keep going with this and I think it will be really good.




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Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:17 am
Fishr says...



Wow! I take my hat off to you. Not only have you helped me heaps but more importantly you have done it in a gentle and kind manner. THANK YOU! I will certainly go back over my piece of writing when i have the time and I will most definitely use your tips to change some things. I will also do my best to improve a little with the next piece that I write. No promises though, I am very 'rusty' shall we say.
You're certainly very welcome. In this community, it's our job to help others improve where possible. Now, I've gotten over my 'ring rust' so to speak, I'm more able to catch mistakes. Speaking from my stand point, I've taken great ideas and smashed them into the ground. Another one bites the dust, lol. So, if you think you're rusty, you haven't seen my portfolio. I can promise you, there is a lot of mistakes and someday I will edit them all. All you can do is learn from the mistakes and move forward. :) Again, you are welcome and I'm humbled by the compliment. THANK YOU! :)

As for a seven year old being so 'together', I guess you could call it. Sadly there are many VERY young children out there who have to keep it together in order just to survive. They grow up VERY quickly and in a lot of situations they become 'parents' to their own parents.
Aw, this makes sense. It never occur ed to me. Thanks for clearing it up.

Best of luck with your story. My only other suggestion is to not hold anything back. Depending where your comfort level is; go all out with this story. The subject of abuse is a strong subject and to properly explain this particular situation, please don't withdraw details. That's right. I'm encouraging more details, more descriptions; everything. Heh, I want to know it all.

Have a great night, or day. :D




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Wed Feb 22, 2006 11:59 pm
Blue Haze says...



Wow! I take my hat off to you. Not only have you helped me heaps but more importantly you have done it in a gentle and kind manner. THANK YOU! I will certainly go back over my piece of writing when i have the time and I will most definitely use your tips to change some things. I will also do my best to improve a little with the next piece that I write. No promises though, I am very 'rusty' shall we say.

I will also try hard to distinguish the difference between things that may have been important to the child that really was in that situation, and those that are of interest to the reader.

As for your last comments. It is my intention that in the following piece there will be some insight into why the mother is as she is, and also whether or not there is a father in the picture. As for a seven year old being so 'together', I guess you could call it. Sadly there are many VERY young children out there who have to keep it together in order just to survive. They grow up VERY quickly and in a lot of situations they become 'parents' to their own parents.

Jess does rebel to some degree as you will probably see later on should I continue with writing this. However it doesn't occur at home where she is too frightened to express any emotion, but rather at school where she feels safe to do so.




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Wed Feb 22, 2006 11:06 pm
Fishr says...



Since it's raining out now, there goes all my plans, which works nicely for you. ;) Be warned; I will be pulling the story apart by pointing out grammar errors and other things that require improvement. Keep in mind that it's not because I didn't enjoy the story but because I see its potential.

Jessica tried to curl up tighter underneath the blankets that protected her from the din that was coming from the other room. She lay there sobbing, tears streaming from her beautiful big brown eyes. Her brown shoulder length hair was wet from her tears. Her body tense, rigid, with fear. Even her breathing was controlled in small tight inhalations. It felt as though she had been frozen like this for an eternity now. Horror gripped her from head to toe.
First, I had no idea what the term 'din' meant until I went through a dictionary. So, the first sentence confused me right away. To properly distinguish what your intention was by using that word, try describing other interferences in the other room.

Example:
Jessica tried to curl up tighter underneath the blankets. She stuffed cotton in her eardrums in an effort to shield herself from the echoing din in the other room.

I changed the sentence slightly as an example only. As the writer, it's your decision. But take note that having a person roll themselves in blankets doesn't automatically mean their trying to block out noise. I personally roll myself in mountains of blankets because to me, it's more comfortable while sleeping. I, by no means, am trying to block out noise. Just take that into consideration. Maybe she placed a pillow on top of her head, if the cotton stuffed in ear scenario doesn't please you. Either way, both suggestions are not a normal practice and signal something is wrong.

Her brown shoulder length hair was wet from her tears. Her body tense, rigid, with fear. Even her breathing was controlled in small tight inhalations.
These sentences should be revised. They just sound odd as a reader.

Try something along the lines of this:
The brown hair traveled down to her shoulders and was wet from her tears.
Her body tensedwith fear.
Rigid is unneeded in my opinion. Think what happens when you are tense? How does your body react? Tense and fear being used in the same sentence is enough to describe how Jessica's body is reacting.

Jessica’s bladder was ready to burst but the journey from her room to the toilet was just too treacherous and dangerous to even contemplate. So she lay there praying with all her might that just this once, she would be able to hold off until the morning. She prayed once again she would not have to sleep the night in a cold wet pool of her own urine.
This sentence is extremely run-on. While it's quoted, I placed periods to break up the sentence so it flows more clearly. I also removed a few unneeded words. If you look at your original paragraph, you should notice which words I erased. Does it sound better to you?

“Get up, get up now, right now, if I have to get up then so do you, now move it!”, her mothers voice bellowed before she turned promptly from the room, startling little Jess from her deep slumber. The usual daily rituals had officially begun.
Dialogue, ut oh. ;) Dialogue took me a while to master and I'm still learning, lol. However, there are basic mistakes. First, you're trying to describe how miserable the mother is, right? The first few lines are too casual for someone bellowing or yelling. Second, you're missing places where periods should be placed. The first sentence is also a little confusing and run-on.

Get up right now! If I have to get up, then so do you. Now move it!" her mother's voice bellowed, startling little(is 'little a title? Should it be capitalized? You capitalized Little Jess towards the end. Just wondering)Jess from her slumber.

I removed the 'before she turned promptly from the room,' because I don't think it is needed. It clutters the sentence. As for the dialogue, I shortened that too. ;) The repetition of get up is unneeded and also clutters the sentences by distracting the reader.

Quickly Jessica struggled with the awkward bunk bed in order to remove her saturated sheets from the equally moist tattered mattress beneath.
Reverse quickly with Jessica. It sounds more pleasing, doesn't it? ;) Also, how is Jessica exactly struggling? Last time I threw my sheets in the laundry, they came lose from the mattress with ease. What problems are causing her to struggle? Fear? Or are their objects in her way?

Out in the lounge Jessica’s mother sat with her legs splayed, a cigarette in one hand and the other hand resting upon the top of her head. Occasionally she would have a vicious coughing attack during which she would rapidly reach down with her free hand in order to hold her crutch in the hope that she would not wet herself. Her pelvic floor muscles were not what they used to be following the birth of four children in quick succession.
Again, I had to use a dictionary because I didn't know the meaning of the word 'splayed.' It's my personal opinion, but using vocabulary words(as I put it)should be precise and accurate in the context their being used in. Not every reader will run to a dictionary, like me, and find its meaning. I will bet, most readers would be confused and distracted. This is a no, no because it could turn them away from the story. Try revising the first sentence so it has 'clues' to signal the mother is spread out.

Second sentence; which is not needed. Instead of using during which, try removing them both and place and. Also, unless I missed it, how does holding a crutch dismiss the mother's bodily functions? I don't see how that would help her. Maybe gripping it intently to relieve the pressure on her bladder, but reaching for the crutch doesn't signal a solution in this scenario.

Little Jess pushed her hair from her eyes and made her way into the tiny, filthy, kitchen. Her eldest sister Daphne had just finished putting some sandwiches into her school bag and was heading into the lounge in order to have her hair put up in ribbons by their mother. The bread lay out on the bench amongst leaflets, old unused containers and other miscellaneous items. Jessica pulled the Vegemite from the nearby cupboard and preceded the best that her little seven year old hands could manage to make her daily Vegemite sandwich. How she longed to have the luncheon sandwiches, the fruit, the biscuits, so lovingly wrapped, that she saw her fellow classmates complaining about. Jessica couldn't understand for the life of her what on earth these kids had to moan about, as far as she could tell their lunchboxes looked exciting and she couldn't even begin to imagine wanting for anything more.
There's nothing wrong in this paragraph. I just wanted to compliment you. :) This paragraph is very descriptive and brings home what Jessica's life is like. Great job!

Once Daphne’s hair had been pulled back tightly into a little pig tail that shot out from the top of her head like some kind of rocket that was about to launch, it was Jessica’s turn. Jessica’s mother spread her already splayed legs out even further and beckoned Jessica to go and sit in the small triangular space in front of her. Jessica did so without question and in doing so, could smell the stale cigarette odor that drifted so readily from her mother sitting straddled behind her.
The name Jessica is being used too frequently. Notice where it's bolded? We already know Jessica's mother is combing her hair so the repetitive use of the name is unneeded. After it says, Jessica's turn, use Her mother spread.... Second sentence; her already is also not needed. By using spread in the same sentence with splayed, along with 'out even further,' there is enough evidence what the mother is doing with her legs. Third sentence; where it's bolded, a comma should be placed and she in front of could smell.

could smell the stale cigarette odor that drifted so readily from her mother sitting straddled behind her. I'm not sure, but this sentence, or half of it, doesn't sit with me. It's the 'mother sitting straddled' part that doesn't seem to flow well. Perhaps, try placing a comma in between 'sitting' and 'straddled.'[/i]

“Sit bloody still you little bitch, stop your whimpering!” came her mothers muffled command, shooting forth from the sides of her mouth, angrily making its way around the cigarette limply perched in the center of her pale lips.
Place a period after bitch and capitalize stop. Also, this whole sentence is awkward. It's another run-on. Personally, I don't think shooting forth from the sides of her mouth, angrily making its way around the cigarette limply perched in the center of her pale lips.is needed. What purpose does it serve? You're trying to express how cruel the mother is, not her pale lips or how the cigarette is placed in her mouth. It's distracting and frankly, I don't think many readers want to know about her complexion in this scenario.

smeared the cigarette into Jessica’s otherwise beautiful, young, olive, untarnished skin, “Fine", she triumphed, "have it your way then, go to school with your hair half done”.
Place a period after skin. Start a new paragraph. Place a period after triumphed and capitalize have. Place a period after then and capitalize go.

Outside Jess motioned for her sister to wait as she slowly climbed the wonky concrete steps towards the kennel at the top of the hill. True to her usual good form Princess clambered out towards Jess wagging her tail rapidly. Momentarily Jess lent down and tightly wrapped her arms around the Shepherd’s neck, once again the tears began to flow, gently falling onto Princess’s black and tan coat.
Place a comma after Outside and place another after wonky. First sentence needs a minor revision as well. It doesn't flow well to me.

Try this:
Outside, Jess motioned for her sister to wait. She slowly climbed the wonky, concrete steps towards the kennel at the top of the hill. Notice the sentence is broken up by a period. It seems to flow a little better, instead of the overuse of commas.

Second sentence; place a comma after form. Third sentence; place a period after Shepard's neck.

Besides the mistakes, I enjoyed the story and look forward to gaining more insight into Jessica's family problems. More importantly, why is the Mom so cruel and unkempt? And is there a Dad? For a seven year old, she seems to handle this situation awfully well. Maybe too well, considering her age? I think I would have a nervous breakdown, lol.

And now, I'm finished. It was a long crit, but I hope it will help improve the story and strengthen it. Good luck and happy writing.




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Wed Feb 22, 2006 8:10 pm
Blue Haze says...



Thank you kindly for your comments Jess. I look forward to your critique as it has been a little while now since I was last at school, and one does tend to forget some of the basics after having an idle mind for a period of time.




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Wed Feb 22, 2006 5:34 pm
Fishr wrote a review...



Well, well. This was certainly a different approach to abuse/neglect to children. The way you've explained the story sends a message of Jessica's plight. It's clear she is a survivor. The other thing I enjoyed was this is based on a true story, which cements the cold truth; famlies are not the caring individuals they should be.

There is many grammatical errors and the sentences need improvement. But alas, I have to go for a few hours. However, I will return and properly critique your work. It has tremendous potencial. If I don't return by tonight, PM me a reminder. :)

-Jess(My name is also Jessica, so this story was :shock: lol)





"Yesterday you said tomorrow, so JUST DO IT."
— Shia Labeouf