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The Old Man And The Boy 2

by RandomTalks


The next day when he walked out of his house, he could've sworn that he hadn't intended to go back there. In fact, he had been roaming around thinking about something that didn't really matter to him and then all of a sudden there he was, standing in front of the lake, behind the bench where the old man sat, staring at the water just as he had the day before. 

The boy supposed it was the lake. There was something magnetic about the lake; it pulled you in with it's promise of solitude and secrecy, the gentle hum of the wind as it caressed the smooth surface of the water forcing you to reflect on things you wouldn't have thought about otherwise. That had to be it, he decided. There certainly was no other reason for him to be there.

He supposed it would take one immense courage to approach someone after they had been that rude to them, but the boy didn't think twice as he swiftly sat down beside him on the bench. Still the old man didn't look away from the water as if there was something in the depths of the mass of clear blue that wouldn't allow him to look away.

No one said anything for a while, and it was a peaceful kind of a quiet that surrounded the lake that day. And then -

"Why didn't you do anything?" he asked suddenly.

The old man didn't miss a beat. "Excuse me?" Still staring at the water.

"When they threw those mangoes at your window, you could've done something. Told your father or retaliated in some way. Why didn't you say something?" He did not know where the question came from or most importantly why, but he figured that the old man looked too comfortable there sitting in the shade of a tree, staring at the water and he couldn't allow that when he still felt guilty - no, not guilty, but slightly uncomfortable with the way they had parted ways the previous day.

The old man sighed as if answering his question took too much of his energy. "Because I realized that sometimes people use other people to feel better about themselves and it wouldn't do any good to get in their way."

The boy stared at him for a while, waiting for him to say something that actually made sense, but when a minute passed and the old man still stared at the water, he shook his head, "I don't understand..."

The old man sighed a little longer this time, and said, "There are some boys and girls who go after others who can't stand up for themselves because they think it puts them in a position of power. They think that their fear is something to achieve, something that would make them feel strong and powerful and they prey on those unfortunate ones to feel above the rest of us."

He looked at him then to make sure he understood.

How could he not? After all, he was one of them. He thought about all the classmates he had bullied and even forced to cry just for the fun of it, and suddenly he felt something in his heart that he had never felt before - something close to shame. The feeling confused him and he did not want to think about himself like that anymore. So he asked another question.

"But you just openly admitted that you couldn't stand up for yourself - that you were weak."

"And what is wrong with that?"

The boy stared.

"So it doesn't bother you? Knowing you are weak?"

The old man laughed. "My dear boy! I know who I am - the good and the bad. If I can be proud of the best in me, how can I be ashamed of the worst?"

The boy listened to him, not really understanding. He also acknowledged the fact that the old man was the strangest person he had ever met, but his words reached him in a way no one else's ever had before. Again, he blamed it on the lake. Sure he couldn't make sense of half the things he said, but something about him, something about this place gave him the space to think, to feel, to be curios. It was unlike anything he was used to in the noise and chaos of his own house.

So he shrugged, "Still I would've taken my revenge."

The old man sighed again and the boy wondered if that's just something old people do all the time. "I know," he said quietly and then they both went back to staring at the water.

After a while, he realized it bothered him how different they were from each other and how that difference seemed to matter so much to him and seem so insignificant to the old man. He knew he would rather hang himself before admitting that he was weak, even if he was the weakest person on the planet. Faults weren't something for him that he could just admit to and feel okay about. Maybe that was why he couldn't understand the old man. But then he decided he had done enough thinking for the day and if he spent one more minute wondering, his mind was going to sleep.

So he asked another question. "So, you think it's okay to be weak?"

The old man sighed for what seemed to be the hundredth time that day. "It is never okay to be less than who you think you can be. That's the only answer I can find for your question."

This, the boy could understand.

He thought about the person he wanted to be - smart, charming, happy, and instead he was angry and resentful and sometimes he felt tired of being so. He knew that he could be the person he wanted to be if he tried but the thoughts vaporized from his mind as soon as they had been born and he felt at ease, at home with all the resentment built up in his chest. It was so much easier to be horrible than to think about all the reasons that made him so.

He shook away the thoughts because they led him no where and he blamed the old man for the headache he could feel coming. He promised himself that he wouldn't ask another stupid question whose answer would intensify that pain behind his eyes and instead, he focused his entire being on the view in front of him, trying to welcome the peace the dissolving sun brought along with it. 


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Thu Sep 02, 2021 4:20 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks! I thought this chapter was a good continuation of the previous one, and that the themes seem to have developed a bit from there. The story seems to be framed a bit more narrowly here, focusing on the lake, the boy and the old man, rather than the wide view the introduction took.

Characters

I like how the boy approaches this conversation. It seems very in line with his character that he doesn’t apologise right away but tries to get the old man to explain more about his story from the previous day.

He supposed it would take one immense courage to approach someone after they had been that rude to them, but the boy didn't think twice as he swiftly sat down beside him on the bench.


This line had me a bit confused about where the boy stood. Is it that he knows other people would maybe hesitate more but he himself has no intention of doing so? Or is it that he thought he would need more courage at first, but when it came down to it he “didn’t think twice”.

After a while, he realized it bothered him how different they were from each other and how that difference seemed to matter so much to him and seem so insignificant to the old man.


I wonder how the boy was able to tell that the difference seemed insignificant to the old man. Does he find that the old man addresses him as though he was an adult? (as in, not patronising him or treating him ‘like a kid’) Or is he picking up on some other social cue here?

I thought this chapter cemented the characterisation of the boy’s spitefulness as having to do with his young age and perhaps a lack of certain lessons he is going to learn in this story. The idea that he wants to be a certain way yet can’t quite live up to it suggests that, and also makes him more sympathetic. I think it adds a level of nuance to his behaviour, rather than only having his brattiness stem from the new sibling.

The old man sighed as if answering his question took too much of his energy. "Because I realized that sometimes people use other people to feel better about themselves and it wouldn't do any good to get in their way."
. . .
The old man sighed for what seemed to be the hundredth time that day. "It is never okay to be less than who you think you can be. That's the only answer I can find for your question."


Somehow the old man seems quite sad in this scene. His sighing and also this sort of ambiguous remark he makes gives me the sense that maybe he doesn’t have all the answers either. He doesn’t tell the boy things directly, which gives me the impression that he is a non-confrontational personality, but also makes him seem mysterious.

Plot

The discussion about strength and weakness was quite interesting. To me, it seemed that the old man never claimed that being ‘weak’ on its own was good, but rather that he thought the boy specifically could do better for himself. The last quote from the old man also interested me, and it gave me the sense that he might be less easygoing than he appears.

Setting

The setting is the same location as the last chapter, the lake, but the boy seems to see another side of it here. The personification of the water as “forcing you to reflect on things” might be a bit on the nose for my taste, since it directly references what happens in this chapter, though I didn’t notice it on the first read, so take that with a grain of salt.

Again, he blamed it on the lake. Sure he couldn't make sense of half the things he said, but something about him, something about this place gave him the space to think, to feel, to be curios.


I wonder if there might be away to express this sentiment in a more tangible way by having them interact with the lake. For instance, maybe there’s a swan floating peacefully on the water, which gives him the sense of “space”. Or maybe a cool breeze blows by and refreshes him. Playing with the setting like that might be a fun way to mix up scenes with a lot of dialogue.

Style

The boy supposed it was the lake. There was something magnetic about the lake; it pulled you in with it's promise of solitude and secrecy, the gentle hum of the wind as it caressed the smooth surface of the water forcing you to reflect on things you wouldn't have thought about otherwise.


I love the structure of this paragraph. The first sentence is short and contemplative, and following it up with a much longer sentence reflects how the lake seems to draw the boy in.

Still the old man didn't look away from the water as if there was something in the depths of the mass of clear blue that wouldn't allow him to look away.

I think ‘look away’ doesn’t need to be repeated twice here?

"When they threw those mangoes at your window, you could've done something. Told your father or retaliated in some way. Why didn't you say something?"


I really like how this line is written. The boy seems to be speaking with a certain intensity here, going over all the ‘could-haves’, and then repeating and paraphrasing the question he asked before. It all sounds very natural.

It was so much easier to be horrible than to think about all the reasons that made him so.


Just wanted to say I love this line!

That's all

Hopefully some of these comments are helpful to you. Keep writing! <3

Cheers,
-Lim

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RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!



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Wed Jul 28, 2021 6:29 pm
MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

I liked reading your introduction. You got off to a very dynamic start here, and with a new sentence structure and choice of words. I like the inner life of the boy and how his previous world of thoughts is upset by the old man.

You have continued to build up the characters with this second chapter and I really like how it feels like the last chapter, only one step higher they have set themselves. I think the old man will continue in the - for the boy - cryptic explanations. I got the impression that the old man's intention was just that; to make the boy think and found that to be visibly successful.

I liked the boy's interactions and his hesitation. You could tell he didn't want to show weakness when he sat and asked something when it would actually be appropriate to apologise. I can well imagine that it takes a lot of courage to do that. What I really like about the story is how human both characters seem. I still have the impression that they are the only ones at this lake and everything around them disappears into thin air as soon as they sit on the bench.

You manage to portray the boy's ignorance well and the old man's perseverance and gentleness. You can clearly hear in some of his statements that he is trying to put the boy in a role where he is and doesn't realise it. Sometimes I found the boy's cluelessness (always well portrayed) a little too simplistically written. You repeated yourself in some words there and I don't think that was your attempt to achieve that.

Apart from that, I don't have anything to criticise directly now, also because I read through it quickly, because this conversation seems to me like a short episode of a series. I still like the different language of the two characters and how they stare spellbound at the lake, except when there is something that really upsets them.

I am already curious to see how the story continues and when the boy realises that he is meant and how he reflects on himself.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




RandomTalks says...


Thanks for the review!



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Wed Jul 28, 2021 9:08 am
ForeverYoung299 wrote a review...



Hey Forever here for a review and also with a new reviewing style: :D

Characters
The boy: I don't know what you really wanted to convey through this boy, but this actually makes me think the boy to be a representative of the youth. He was not a child nor an adult. He was in the middle, as you already told and it's the most confusing stage when one undergoes through this stage. He is self willed as I already mentioned in the last chapter. In this chapter, the boy has definitely underwent a huge transformation, as it seems. Earlier, he didn't care about what he did, it was all perfect. However, here you make him wonder if everything is really okay and perfect. He has to ponder over a lot of questions on whiuch he had never thought before. Hope he will get the answers. He seems to be a person who has a lot of things inside but his surroundings have affected him in an adverse way and has stopped the positive things from being manipulated. And did you mention the name of the boy in the last chapter or you want to keep it like this only?

The old man: In contrast to the boy, his character is completely different. He really seems to be the representative of the old age and will definitely influence the boy. Maybe, e will do a great job in manipulating the true self of the boy. His wisdom seems to be great and so is yours. After all, you are his creator. :D

Plot and setting
For the setting, maybe describe the place a little bit more. Like when you are writing about the dialogues, add certain points on the lake in middle. That would make the influence of the lake a lot better. But you still have managed to give us the feeling of the influence of the lake on the boy. Adjectives like 'magnetic' describe it in a great way.
For the plot, it has not advanced much in the chapter. It's kind of what happened in the first chapter but yes, it did a great job in the character development. Now, the readers have a good insight of the characters and the relationship between them. There seems to be something similar between the old man and the boy. Like, both love nature, i.e., the lake. And also, though not clearly mentioned, maybe they are not too attracted towards their homes. I am not very sure of it but seems so. There can obviously be different reasons based on that. For the boy, it seems to be his brother. He deosn't really like his brother. For the man, maybe no one cares about him in his house, again a typical representation of a not-cared-for old man. So, they have similarities and you know, birds of a feather flock together.
Pacing
The pacing was kind of slow, I think. You provided descriptions, thought process of the boy and together it made it slow-paced but that's not bad. But maybe, speed it up a bit. If you don't want to and you want to keep the peaceful atmosphere, it's perfectly fine.
I will be waiting for the next chapter and please tag me.
Keep writing!
~Forever




RandomTalks says...


Thanks for the review! But as I already mentioned, I wrote this story as a set of interactions between them, to highlight the journey of a boy who for the first time learns to think for himself. There's not much plot in this story, at least not until near the ending. Do you think that's a problem?
This was actually my first genuine attempt at writing, so I am not very sure. But my sister loved it, so I was hoping you guys would too! Thanks again!





Did you mention it? Maybe then I didn't notice.Obviously, it's great considering it's your first genuine attempt to writing and if itv were not your first, then too it would have been great. I can't say if it's a problem not to have a plot. You can have a plot highlighting the journey tho. A plot always need not to be full of actions and adventure, but I do think it should have a plot and also, I think your story has a plot. Well, I will not give my opinion on the plot now. After all, it's just the 2nd chapter. Maybe I will say about it in the 5th or 6th chapter. Whatever, good luck!




"Be yourself" is not advice. It's an existential crisis waiting to happen.
— Hank Green