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The Old Man And The Boy 3

by RandomTalks


"Are you sure you don't live here?" he asked when he saw the old man sitting in that same bench and staring at the water with the same gaze the next day. He did not want to think about what he was doing there because after the confusing thoughts that had bade him to bed last night, he didn't think he would return to the source of it all. Back to the lake, back to the old man. But here he was anyways.

"As a matter of fact, I do," the old man replied.

The boy looked around incredulously. "Here? In the middle of nowhere?" 

Sure, he had already admitted to himself that there was something about this lake, something that silenced all the other noises in his world until there was only that one voice in his head that he had only recently been acquainted with. The voice that questioned, that challenged and that sometimes took on the scratchy low one of the old man. Out in the real world, he would never get used to it, but  here, in the shrouded safety and silence of the lake, he would let it take over.

"Not here, but nearby," the old man answered.

The boy nodded. He didn't think the old man belonged outside in that world anyways.

"And have you lived here your entire life?" he asked. 

In some corner of his mind, he realized that this was the first question he had asked that wasn't an accusation, disbelief or a jab at his life choices. To be honest, he hadn't really meant to ask him anything, just like he hadn't really meant to come back here. But after hours of merely existing in his house among all the noise and the mess, coming back to the lake was like a welcome change, a breath of fresh air he wasn't used to having. It wasn't a choice. 

And since he was already there, he would rather not sit in silence, as refreshing as that might be.

"Mostly," the old man's voice pulled him out of his thoughts and made him listen once again, "Except for when I went to fight in the war," he said, staring into the water with strained eyes. It was different than his usual all-seeing gaze and it made him wonder.

"You fought in the war? But I thought you were scrawny and small?"

The old man smiled. "It doesn't really matter in times like those. Besides I might have been useless in a fight, but I could perform miracles with a barrel and a gun. I was the sharpest shooter in town. They used to say I had the eyes of an eagle, I got what I aimed for. But I wished that same applied for my life as well. But, alas, one must learn to be contented with what one has got."

The boy raised an eyebrow. "But if one was always contented with what they have, they would never reach out for something more, something better. Wouldn't that take half the zest out of life? And where would that get anybody?" He was surprised that the question had come from him, but the old man went on, unperturbed and uncaring of his mild expression of shock at himself.

"But son, if you are always wanting and reaching for more and more in life, how can you ever be satisfied? If you are always looking for the peak of the mountain, how can you ever enjoy your climb?"

The boy did not really understand, but old people talk of such strange things. Still, he couldn't brush the words out of his head as easily as he had before.

"So it's okay to settle then?"

"Never," the old man said earnestly, "But it's important to remember to be happy and grateful for all you have, for all you are."

The boy thought back to that conversation about faults - 'So it's okay to be weak then?' He remembered himself asking that question and decided that this was one point where they would always disagree. He knew he wanted to be the best or nothing at all. He wanted to be the smartest, the funniest, the most successful and loved person in the room. He had to be the first, and when he wasn't, he lost interest. Maybe that was why he could not stand being in his house for too long these days. One day he was the sun of their little family's solar system, the first priority of his parents and suddenly, the next day he was shoved to the corner of their minds, made almost nonexistent, and that too by an infant.

He did not want to think about that anymore. He listened to the faraway whistle of a bird from somewhere, and wondered distantly if the rest of the world had any idea how peaceful this place was. Cloaked away from the unnecessary worries and hurried paces of so many lives, this place was a haven.

"So," he said after a while, "Tell me about the war."

The old man frowned, the lines above his eyes scrunching up in comical shapes with the effort. "What do you want to know? It's war, not a fairytale."

He looked like he did not want to go down that road, but the boy knew he wouldn't deny his request if he asked him to, so he said, "Whatever you want to tell me, I guess. If I had been born a few decades earlier, you wouldn't have been the finest shooter in town. I would've shown them all."

The old man looked at him in a strange way, but not in the way his father did sometimes when he would recount the stories of the days gone by and the boy expressed the same opinion to him - like he didn't know what he was talking about, like he was ignorant, which he supposed he was in these matters. But the old man didn't look at him that way, he just launched straight into stories that were memories for him and he listened to his scratchy low voice all afternoon, something he hadn't done before, and watched his eyes glaze over and forget that he was there. 

But the boy was there and he listened. He laughed when he told him about rainy nights spent in tents and grew quiet when he talked about men lost in battle, but he listened all the same and decided that he quite liked this - he liked not being the center of everything for a moment and just sitting in a corner...and listening.

He did not realize when the light began to fade and when the stars began appearing from behind their hiding places, but as he walked home slowly, whistling all the way, he realized that he didn't hate spending his afternoons this way and almost did not mind walking into his house to the cries and rushed footsteps of everyday.


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Sun Sep 05, 2021 2:15 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hiya again RandomTalks!

I thought this chapter developed both characters pretty well. The story is still keeping a slow, steady pace, which gives me the impression that something new is about to happen. I like that the boy is starting to know the old man a little more and their conversations are taking a different direction.

Characters

Sure, he had already admitted to himself that there was something about this lake, something that silenced all the other noises in his world until there was only that one voice in his head that he had only recently been acquainted with.


The boy seems to be having a bit of a dramatic monologue to himself here. It did make me smile a little, though I’m not sure if that was the intention.

But after hours of merely existing in his house among all the noise and the mess, coming back to the lake was like a welcome change, a breath of fresh air he wasn't used to having. It wasn't a choice.


I didn’t quite understand why him returning to the lake “wasn’t a choice” based on just these lines alone. Is it that the lake compelled him or the “breath of fresh air” attracted him so much that he just had to go?

And since he was already there, he would rather not sit in silence, as refreshing as that might be.


This line made me wonder what motivates him to keep asking the old man questions, if he enjoyed the silence so much. Curiosity?

I enjoyed reading the boy’s realisation that he likes being ‘the best’ at everything and how that links his comment to the old man to his video games and the situation at his home. It was an interesting, deeper look into his character and was satisfying to see. The way his character develops, being able not to be the centre of attention while he was talking to the old man at the end was also satisfying.

The old man seems largely the same, though the fact he was in a war was something I had not expected. One thing that was different was that his earlier hesitancy and melancholy I picked up was expanded on with his comment: “I wished that same applied for my life”. I’m curious to see where that will lead.

Plot

There seems to be a conflict introduced here between being satisfied with the present and pursuing things for the future. I thought it was pretty interesting, although it’s a bit difficult I’d imagine to explore such themes only through dialogue alone.

Some questions I’m left with reading this chapter are: what experiences did the old man have that gave him his view on life? How will hearing about these affect the boy?

Setting

Now that a war has been mentioned, the setting seems to have more of a specific time and place. Since this is categorised under ‘Realistic’, I wonder if a specific armed conflict will be referenced, or if it will be vague as to what war the old man was fighting in.

As for the lake, I’m happy we got to see a bit of change in the setting at the end, where there is a glimpse of what it looks like at night time (namely, there being visible stars).

Style

He did not want to think about what he was doing there because after the confusing thoughts that had bade him to bed last night, he didn't think he would return to the source of it all. Back to the lake, back to the old man. But here he was anyways.


^ I really like how this was written. I enjoyed reading it, and felt that it had a nice rhythm and the right amount of intensity in describing how mysterious the boy finds the lake and the man and yet how curious he is to find out more, despite not wanting to admit it.

I found it a bit hard to understand the boy’s thought process in the next few paragraphs. Sometimes he seems to switch from one thing to another and then refer to the first thing again, like in:

The voice that questioned, that challenged and that sometimes took on the scratchy low one of the old man. Out in the real world, he would never get used to it, but here, in the shrouded safety and silence of the lake, he would let it take over.


All the bolded text refers to the same thing, the ‘voice’ in the boy’s head, but a bunch of different descriptions are applied to it, with a lot of references to other things like “the real world” and “the lake” inserted in between.

But the boy was there and he listened. He laughed when he told him about rainy nights spent in tents and grew quiet when he talked about men lost in battle, but he listened all the same and decided that he quite liked this - he liked not being the center of everything for a moment and just sitting in a corner...and listening.


When reading this paragraph, I could really imagine the quiet atmosphere of the long conversation they have. Even though it condenses a lot of dialogue that may have revealed interesting information, it’s a very poetic piece of prose, I find. I like the pause before “and listening” because it seems to convey how the boy is experiencing a conversation like this as something new in his life.

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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Fri Jul 30, 2021 1:15 am
ForeverYoung299 wrote a review...



Hey! Forever back here for a short review!

The chapter was pretty wonderful and I guess the whole novel is gonna great. Here, the story takes a nrw path or maybe it will take about the description of the War by the old man. The old man influences the boy and makes him to think about stuffs he had kind of never dreamt about thinking. Till this point of story, everything is going all right amd perfectly fine. Now, as you told there's not much plot, so it will go fine. The boy really has started to like the place and like him, I am also very curious about the Old man. What War did he fight in? What was the result? Maybe, if something is not gonna happen in the future, specify what War it was and when did that happen?
The Old man has a unique personality. He is neither self-sabotaging nor very toplofty. He is straightforward. It really makes the readers wonder about his past. Talking about the boy, the old man has obviously succeeded in manifesting the care of the boy for himself. The change is pretty cool.
Anyways, another great chapter and tag me in the next.
Keep writing
~Forever




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!



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Thu Jul 29, 2021 4:27 pm
MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks,

Mailice back with a short review! :D

One notices with this chapter that the ice is clearly beginning to break and the story has reached a new path. The old man and the boy have reached a point where the boy no longer looks down on him and immediately refuses him or is angry, but where he wants to listen to him and his questions are asked more sensitively and kindly.

I liked how in the first half the old man was brought more into focus and I had the impression there that he was now the one acting like the boy when he briefly told some things about his life. Maybe he seemed a bit angry because the boy hasn't told anything directly from his meetings yet. Here I am also now concerned with the question of why the old man is doing this and talking to the boy. Does he notice in the boy that he is different from the others and wants to change him?

Two things I noticed while reading:

"Are you sure you don't live here?" he asked when he saw the old man sitting in that same bench and staring at the water with the same gaze the next day.

I like the way you want to start the third chapter. It has a more flexible style than the previous ones and goes straight back to what was important before. But I think with your opening sentence you also created quite a long sentence that felt repetitive and bumpy to start with because of some of the structures. I would try to split the sentence so that the boy first just says "he asked" and then comes the explanation. This also gives the reader the necessary break to be able to empathise with the story again.

“As a matter fact, I do," the old man replied.

Here is an “of” missing between matter and fact.

In summary, it was a well-written sequel to the first two parts. I like how the old man and the boy are now already moving into personal life stories and hope that the boy will take something from this.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!




That there's some good in this world, Mr Frodo - and it's worth fighting for.
— Samwise Gamgee