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The Old Man And The Boy 4

by RandomTalks


He did not know what made him go back there that afternoon or every other afternoon after that.

He told himself that it was because he had nothing better to do, but he knew that was a lie. He enjoyed those afternoons and he enjoyed sitting with the old man and watching the sun sink down below the horizon with him. It was like having a friend, only one who was older and did not wait for him to always say the first word and did not mind if he said nothing at all. He had never had this before, he had never had someone who made him want to just sit and listen. But he found that he quite liked this new friendship, it was new and different and so less exhausting.

Some days they would just sit and not talk at all and the silence still wouldn't press around them, forcing out words that were unnecessary and added nothing to the moment. Other days, they would talk and he would listen until the stars came out and they both retreated to their respective worlds.

The old man loved to talk, he realized this one day as he watched him recount the old days. His face would light up and the boy would know a lame attempt at a joke was coming just from that slight gleam in his eyes. He wondered why he had never noticed this in other people, why he had never stopped to guess what they were going to say by just looking at their face. But then again, he was quite new at this. 

So he did all his guessing and wondering with the old man. And the old man continued to tell him stories of his childhood and of days gone by. He made them sound as if they were something worth remembering, something worth preserving, and the boy got the distinct feeling sometimes that he would rather be there and then than here and now. He wondered  if that was why he kept coming back to the lake - to relive his childhood in him. But he never asked, just like the old man never asked why he kept coming back. It was an agreement between them that they had never made and for that he respected the old man and tried to understand.

Of course, he never understood the little things like playing cricket in the rain, or breaking your mother's vase and burying the pieces with your sibling in the garden. He never understood because he had never recognized these little moments in his own life, he had never deemed them important enough to remember. But the old man had so many of them and he held on to them with such reverence and longing that it made the boy wonder.

"Did you have any siblings?" he asked that afternoon.

They had been sitting in the bench for a while and watching the slight ripples in the water as it responded to the wind.

"Four, actually."

"Four?" he shuddered. "How are you alive? I have only one and I feel like stuffing a rug in his mouth every time he opens it to scream."

The old man laughed. His laugh was just like his smile - kind and gentle. 

"Living with siblings can get rough. Especially when you are used to being the sun of your parent's solar system. I remember when my little sister came along, I used to dream about hiding her somewhere in the attic so that I could have my parents back again and things could go back to normal. It was alright at first when she was cute, but then she started growing and walking and I just could not understand everyone's fixation with her," he smiled.

"So one day, while we were playing hide and seek, I took my revenge. I was supposed to look for her and I had just got started when a friend of mine came along to invite me for a game of carrom at his house. I thought it was finally my chance of achieving my childhood dream of hiding her away somewhere. So I left with my friend and did not remember about her until I returned home and found my mother running around the house and calling her name. I had thought that she would come out once she realized I was gone, but I had forgotten the fact that she was just a child and this was all just a game to her."

The boy swallowed. "What happened then?"

"We found her in the attic," he laughed, "Curled up in a corner and fast asleep. It wasn't just because she never uttered a word about our game that I hugged her and kissed her that day. It was because I was tired of my unreasonable resentment against her for something she had never done. I had always held her responsible for stealing my parents away from me but it was so stupid! She was just a little girl who needed her parents and her big brother. And instead of being what she needed me to be, I was letting my insecurities turn me into someone I never wanted to be. So I got over it, and yes, you will too," he added, looking over at him with pointed eyes.

The boy sighed and looked at the water as the fading sunlight hit it at an angle that caught the ripples in it's golden halo, so that the entire blue surface sparkled like diamonds. Gleaming white diamonds.

"I don't know about that," the boy said. He wished he knew how to do what he did - let go. But so much was in the way and so much of it was him, that he did not even want to venture that venue of thought.

"You are brothers," the old man said, "You will find a way."

He wondered if it made him a terrible person for not wanting to try. It was so much easier to be selfish and uncaring and blame his infant brother for making him that way. In some corner of his mind, he realized his need for attention, he just wasn't ready to accept it yet. But he did not want to forget it either; he did not want to start from scratch and go through all that resentment on his own. So he made some space in his mind and let the thoughts just remain for the time. You will find a way, the old man had said. Maybe someday he will.

He looked at the sunset.

"What do you see?" the old man asked suddenly.

The boy was startled by thee sudden question put in front of him. "What?" he asked, confused.

The old man didn't look at him as he asked again, "What do you see? When you look at the sky?"

He said that very quietly and for a moment the boy was sure that he had lost his mind. He wasn't sure if normal people asked questions like that, but then he looked ahead and sighed, and wondered if he was the one who had lost his mind. For despite himself, he found himself speaking.

"I see..." he said, "I see the sky and it is wide and open like an endless canvas of blended colors. I see the sun and it is a brilliant ball of red and orange, inching slowly towards the ground, further and further away behind the trees and the bushes. I can see the birds, flying towards their home in great flocks across the pale sky. And if I try really hard, I can see the stars, points of white light speckled across the great canvas of the sky."

It was quiet for a moment after that and the boy felt as if he could feel every breath that came in and left his body.

Then the old man sighed, "That was good. You could be a writer."

"No," the boy said, "I am going to be a painter."

"Really?" the old man asked at the confidence in his voice. "When did you decide that?"

"About a minute ago."

And then he laughed. Because he realized it was true and because it was the first time in his life he had thought about something he wanted to do, something that was important, to him and to the world. He wanted to capture this moment and many more like this for the rest of his life, and in the fading light of the last rays of the sun, he believed that he could.

The old man confused him him with his casual admission of being weak and his talk about enjoying the climb while reaching for the mountain peak. He did not always understand him, did not always agree with him, but he was the one person in his life who gave him the thing he had never had - the space to think and listen; and for some reason he did not know, he respected him for that.


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Tue Sep 07, 2021 1:17 am
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks!

I thought this chapter was an interesting one. I enjoyed a lot of the new developments, especially the story about the old man’s siblings.

Characters

His face would light up and the boy would know a lame attempt at a joke was coming just from that slight gleam in his eyes.


This is very endearing. I wonder how it would look if it were more embedded in the scenes where the old man is talking to the boy. He seemed quite melancholy in the last few chapters, but maybe there’s a funny story he could share in dialogue.

He made them sound as if they were something worth remembering, something worth preserving . . .


‘Hearing’ the dialogue here could also be something very interesting. I think so far the only memory he’s talked about as though to preserve it has been the first one, with the children and the mangoes? That’s just the impression I get, though.

. . . the boy got the distinct feeling sometimes that he would rather be there and then than here and now.


Ooh melancholy. I’m still curious about this old man!

“So I got over it, and yes, you will too," he added, looking over at him with pointed eyes.


This line seemed oddly forceful for his character. I wonder if there is a reason for it.

He had never had this before, he had never had someone who made him want to just sit and listen. But he found that he quite liked this new friendship, it was new and different and so less exhausting.


I like the sense in these lines of the boy’s lack of life experience, so the events of the novella come across as very ‘new’ to him. I thought it helped build the impression that this really is a child’s perspective.

I also liked how the boy is becoming more observant of the old man’s expressions and perhaps also what he’s not saying. I think that shows some growth there.

He wondered if it made him a terrible person for not wanting to try. It was so much easier to be selfish and uncaring and blame his infant brother for making him that way.


This definitely makes a lot of sense. I like that there’s still some resistance to him changing himself. It makes me wonder how he’ll be able to resolve it.

Plot

At this point I’m getting the overall sense that maybe the whole novella is a memory play of sorts, and there isn’t going to be some dramatic event, unless it occurs in the old man’s stories. Speaking of which, I liked the story about the little sister.

I had thought that she would come out once she realized I was gone, but I had forgotten the fact that she was just a child and this was all just a game to her.

This felt very realistic! I also thought it was funny and very child-like that he thought he could just . . . hide her in the attic and have her disappear.

He wanted to capture this moment and many more like this for the rest of his life, and in the fading light of the last rays of the sun, he believed that he could.


I realised on the second read that his newfound ambition relates to wanting to keep memories like the old man does, and I thought that was pretty neat. It’s nice when re-reading a story lets the reader notice new things about it.

Setting

Other days, they would talk and he would listen until the stars came out and they both retreated to their respective worlds.


I like the idea of this lake being a meeting point between different ‘worlds’ or walks of life the boy and the old man come from.

The description of the water rippling in the middle of the conversation was also a nice touch and I think gives more of a sense of place and atmosphere. The chapter ending at sunset makes it feel like there’s more of an ‘end’, too.

Style

“ the sun of your parent's solar system” -> I couldn’t help but wonder why the old man uses this exact phrase that the boy used to describe himself in the first chapter. Does he have, I don’t know, telepathy?

"I see..." he said, "I see the sky and it is wide and open like an endless canvas of blended colors. I see the sun and it is a brilliant ball of red and orange, . . .

I chuckled a little reading this bit. It felt very dramatic? For this scene. I think it’s cute that he comes up with this poetic description that impresses the old man, of course, but something about him saying “it is” and not using any contractions or speech-like features kind of makes it seem like this is something he’s writing down rather than saying out loud, if that makes sense.

"No," the boy said, "I am going to be a painter."
"Really?" the old man asked at the confidence in his voice. "When did you decide that?"
"About a minute ago."


I really like this bit of dialogue. It seems abrupt, but in that natural way a child would be abrupt. It also conveys the personalities of both characters well, I think – I could really envision them saying that.

That's all

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

Cheers,
-Lim




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!



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Mon Aug 02, 2021 8:34 am
ForeverYoung299 wrote a review...



Heyyy RandomTalks! Forever here with a review!

Till now, of all the chapters I have read of the novel, this was the best. It had a very calming and soothing style of writing accompanied by a good pace. The most surprising thing is the beginning. The other chapters except for the 1st one started like this but they were different. I really like how you managed to write the very same begiining,i.e., the boy coming to the lake in so many different ways.

The boy is becoming knowledgeable slowly and steadily. It's great how you managed to provide an insight to how the World has changed. Like, a century ago, people used to attach importance to each and every small things. The children of those days were thoughtful, curious, great in one word. And talking about now, they are becoming kind of ignorant about little things. Obviously, there are tona of exceptions.

The old man shows the way to the boy. All the experiences he acquired in his childhood actually helps the boy a lot. I guess he tries to find his own childhood in the boy and he wants to recall the memories of his childhood. The boy is becoming thoughtful. Here, in this chapter, a large thing took place. The boy thought or rather decided about his ambition. And I hope the friendship keeps on growing and the old man keeps in supporting him through the river of existance.

Please tag me when you post the next.

Keep writing!

~Forever




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Sat Jul 31, 2021 9:25 am
MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

I like your beginning very much. You made it simple and it's a good summary of the last chapters. But the most important thing is that you finally see the boy doing some kind of self-reflection for the first time and thinking about his relationship with the old man. I like the way you've set that up. I also like the fact that you have created a kind of timeskip in order to tighten the relationship and give the reader the opportunity to think about what else the two of them might talk about.

I liked how more precise details of the old man came out in this chapter and I really liked the story with his sister and how he left. You could also see a reasonable self-reflection in his voice and the path he took afterwards. I found it a very personal conversation between the two of them when they talked about the siblings.

I think you've taken a different style in portraying that and I think that's also to do with the two characters now knowing each other better and the boy and also the old man realising that they have more in common than they thought at the beginning. I like this development in the story.

What struck me, and I also thought a very clever move on your part, was the alternation between a summary at the beginning, which you did not write in dialogue, and the old way of writing in dialogue, which you returned to later. It now seems like a real meeting that took place days after the first meeting.

Your story is special in that it's more about the relationship and the reflection than the action itself, which I don't think you find that often here. I think that's why I like the story so much. It has a certain simplicity to it, but when you look deeper into it, the complex argument seems much more profound.

One last point that struck me was the end, where the boy has made a decision and is going to make it. I think it's a great balance for all the time where he himself didn't know what he was going to start. That short question from the old man, it did something to him.

The old man confused him him with his casual admission of being weak

Here is a “him” too much.

Have fun writing!

Mailice




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!




People ask if I ever experience writer's block and I just have to laugh... that's my default position.
— Aaron Sorkin