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Solitary Confinement.

by SofieR


It all started with a ring, I ‘spose. My neighbor, Old Mr. Finnegan, had a gold ring that he called a hair-loom and the way he loved that rusty thing you’d-a thunk it was made of the last piece of gold on earth. Well, anyhow, one day that ring turnt up missin’. That ain’t much of a surprise given he always takes the thing off to feed his cattle, you see, he sets it right there ‘a top of his white fence. Well, one day he finished feedin’ the cattle and when he went back to his fence, the ring weren’t there.

Old Finnegan bellyached so hard the whole town had to stop what it was doin’ and look for that ring. Wasn’t long before Mama and me were gettin’ a knock on our door. Sure ‘nough there was Sheriff Montgomery with Old Finnegan by his side.

“We’re searchin’ every home in the area, Ma’am,” Montgomery took his hat off before speaking to Mama. “That’s standard for cases like this one.”

“Come right on in. Y’all wont find a thing here.”

“Like heck,” Old Finnegan said, sudden-like. “That boy o’ yours is always thievin’. Why, just last week he done stole a full sack of my nectarines off my tree. You want to find my ring? Look through his coat.”

“What coat would that be, Mister F?” I asked.

“Don’t you go givin’ me that Mister F malarky. The plaid coat you were wearin’ this mornin’, where is it? Look through its pockets. I’d be willin’ to bet the hair on my head you’ll find my ring there.”

“Nonsense,” Mama said. “Why, you can just see for yourselves.”

She went over to the mudroom and fetched my best flannel coat, then she handed it over to the Sheriff. He stuck a big ‘ol hand in the left pocket and the hand came back up empty.

“See?” Mama said.

Then Montgomery went into the right pocket. He fiddled around in there a bit, then real sudden-like, he stopped cold and looked at me like I was Lucifer ‘imself. When the hand came back up, by gum, there was the crummy ring; shinnin’ and sparkiln’ like it was making fun of me. The whole thing was so strange, I thought somebody was pullin’ my leg. Maybe little Billy from down the street or my pal Tom. Any of ‘em could’ve been pullin' my leg. I Just started laughin’ right there in the sitting room. I just laughed and laughed.

The Sherriff didn’t think it was very funny, anyhow. He said what I had done was a grand larceny. I told him I aint had no notion of how the ring got in that coat, but it didn’t matter no how. The whole matter went to the courts of laws and sure as the skin on my nose they pronounced me guilty. I wasn’t sent to the grown-folks prison, on account of I was fifteen years of age and they call that a “juvenile”. That means you’re still just a youngin’. For that reason, they sent me to Saint Peter’s Reform School, down in Georgia. Mama done cried and cried and cried like I aint seen no one cry before.

I had an ugly time at Saint Peter’s from the jump. The other fellers in the school wouldn’t stop pickin’ on me. I’m tellin’ ya, only the Lord ‘imself knows why. They’d trip me when all I just tryin’ to walk someplace, they’d steal my food in the dinner hall so’s I didn’t eat a bite for three whole days. Three of ‘em even caught me in the middle of the night and beat me ‘till I was black and blue. Finally, I said 'nough was enough. The next time anybody tried to pick on me, I wouldn’t take it. So's when we was havin’ reading time in the library and I caught another feller lookin’ at me the wrong way, I gave a bookshelf a quick shove and it came ‘a tumblin’ down, right on top of ‘im.

Well, that was a mighty dim move. The headmaster said I fractured that feller’s skull in three places. That’s how I ended up in the solitary confinement. That’s where they put ya down-down-down in the basement all by your lonesome and you got no one to talk to and no one to see ‘cept the hand that slips some food underneath the door every now ‘n then. The sun came up and down and up and down. I seen it from a little window up above. After the sixth sun-up I lost count.

It's a right ugly place to be in. There aint nothin’ to pass the time ‘cept look at the critters crawl by. One day, a little snake slithered in through that crack under the door. He became my friend of sorts. I put ‘im in my pillowcase, so he couldn’t go nowhere. Then on a different day, I woke up after a long sleep and, like a gift from the almighty one, the little window was wide open. I still can’t figure how. I reckon someone on the outside opened it and just forgot to close it up again.

I must ‘a stood there starin’ up at the window for hours and hours, but every time I tried to climb up there my legs just wouldn’t budge. I got to thinkin’ ‘bout all the fellers I seen in Saint Peter’s every day. Sure, they aint angels or nothin’, but none of ‘em deserve to be locked up there. Why should I be free? What makes me the special one? Heck, I broke that poor feller’s skull in three places. And Old Finnegan was right, I did thieve his nectarines. I reckoned I belonged in there just for that alone.

So’s I shut the window closed, then I sat back down on the ground to wait for the hand to feed me again. I checked the pillow case to see how my snake was doin’, but it was empty. The little feller broke free, by gum.


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Sun Sep 16, 2018 5:42 pm
thedevinhiggins wrote a review...



Hello!

This is truly a unique story. I love the way you voiced the character and let the reader into his mind.

I also love the way the reader sees for him/herself how the narrator's character develops over such a short story, from ignorant to the consequences of his actions to taking responsibility for them.

The dialect is nearly flawless. I could imagine the accent of the MC's voice, as well as the background he came from.

I really can't think of any flaws in the story. The grammar is great, the plot is great, everything just flows together in harmony.

Keep writing, please!




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Thu Sep 13, 2018 12:04 am
wafflewolf7 wrote a review...



This is a really good story! This is kind of a tough story, but the accent of the main character really helps it not feel bogged down with flowery words or heavy symbolism. It is what it is. The only thing i would change is that you called the ring a hair-loom. I'm not sure if you did that on purpose, but if you did not, I would change it to heirloom.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this. It held my attention and I wanted to keep reading! It was sad that the snake deserted though- I liked it.




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Sun Sep 09, 2018 9:18 pm
BrumalHunter wrote a review...



Salutations!

This is an interesting topic for a short story, and one that lends itself to the genre quite nicely! It's good that you mentioned this was a creative assignment for your English class, as I gave what was basically a lecture on the specifics of cancer treatment in a review on another short story the other day, after which the author informed me it had been an unprepared creative writing exercise. All this is to say I'll keep in mind the circumstances under which this was written.


This was an excellent short story! It was concise, memorable, showed character development, and had a clear theme. I can be quite critical of short stories, but if I had been in your teacher's/lecturer's position, I'd have given you a solid mark for this. As I've already said, it contains all the elements necessary for a short story to shine overall, but the humour and familiarity with which this was written definitely stood out above the rest.

So, to start with, I think you nailed the country accent. I'm certain there can be serious, thought-provoking, philosophical individuals with such an accent, but where the individual is laid-back and not as sharp as could be, it certainly creates a more distinctly humorous atmosphere. However, there is one area where it feels slightly forced: "I 'spose"; the friction caused by S and P are about the same as a short vowel appearing between the two, so leaving the vowel out doesn't make much of a difference. There might be other such areas too, so just read it out loud and ask yourself whether a contraction sounds fitting or not.

A far more prevalent error is the placement of your apostrophes, and even the type of apostrophe, in places. I'll start with the latter. See, you mostly use slanted apostrophes, which suggests you typed the story in something like MS Word; nevertheless, you sometimes use unslanted apostropes, which might occur when you press undo after typing an apostrophe, removing the slantedness. As for the apostrophe placement, you sometimes use it in front of a word where the omitted sound was at the back (or vice versa), or you'd use an apostrophe instead of a hyphen. In fact, in the first paragraph, you use the hyphen with the addition of a dialectal A, which is correct, but throughout the rest of the short story, you don't. It's good to be consistent, since even if you'd erroneously left out all such hyphens, you'd at least be consistent in your, pardon me, "ignorance".

Your punctuation was otherwise largely spot on. There were a few missing commas here and there, but these are easily found during thorough proofreading. To ensure you don't miss anything, check the story for errors, put it aside and do something else, and then later, when you have a fresh perspective, come back to it and proofread without bias, i.e. read as if you've never seen the story before. Some errors are difficult to spot simply because we believe they aren't there.

The rest of my critiques are about two plot holes. No matter where in the USA you live, you need either a search warrant or consent to search anyone's premises or belongings, provided you don't have any suspicious circumstances that grant the involved officer the reasonable authority to investigate. The sheriff pitching up at the house and insisting on searching the property is therefore illegal, but since the mother invited the search, you narrowly dodged that bullet. As for the solitary confinement, though, that's technically a bit much. The narrator would be isolated for a while, and he'd definitely face an increase to his sentence, but solitary confinement is a very drastic measure. Still... not all prisons are run according to the established rules and regulations, and it's entirely possible the concerned juvenile detention centre is one such prison. Just some things to keep in mind.


And that's it! I don't have much to criticise here, since it was an enjoyable and memorable short story. I realise I never elaborated on the character growth and theme, so allow me to do that now: At the start of the story, the narrator was indifferent to the consequences of his actions and the feelings of others, but by the end, he's come to take responsibility for his actions and consider the well-being of others. Judging from that alone, I'd say he would make parole once the time comes, since he's genuinely reflected on his deeds and would show remorse, even if he didn't actually steal the ring. The theme plays closely into this, as the story revolves around the idea of actions and consequences. You kept the message simple, and due to the nature and length of the short story, it's easy for the reader to identify it. Well done!

I wish you the best of luck with your writing endeavours! If you can write a story like this, I'm certain you possess the skill to write many more entertaining and thoughtful short stories. Thank you for sharing this one with the site!

~ Hunter




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Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:16 am
Panikos wrote a review...



Hiya, SofieR! Pan dropping in for a quick review. Because this is such a short piece and it's generally very polished, I'm going to forgo the nitpicking and just give you my general thoughts.

First, I want to talk about the style this piece is written in. When I started the story, I wasn't sure what to make of it - writing in dialect is always a controversial choice, and I did find it almost too over-the-top at first. It felt like you were writing to a southern stereotype rather than cultivating an individual voice for the narrator. That said, I did settle into the style within a few paragraphs, and it did force me to read it in the accent you had intended. On the whole, I'd say I'm not against it, but perhaps tone it down a little in the first part of the story. The repetition of "Why, just do this" and "why, just do that" feels a bit parodied.

Also, bear in mind that characters should still have individual ways of talking, even if they do share a similar accent and dialect. The characters in this story are indistinguishable from each other when they talk, which means their personalities blur together too. Speech style is one of the few ways you can differentiate people in a narrative as short as this one.

Turning to the actual content of the story, it did keep me interested, but I'm sort of in two minds about it. On the one hand, I kind of like the straightforward realism of it and the flatness of the structure - it feels like a snapshot of somebody's real life, and real life doesn't have clever conclusions or a three-act structure. It's got a mundane simplicity that's quite refreshing. However, it didn't exactly satisfy me. When I finished it, I just thought 'oh. Okay.'

I also didn't really understand the protagonist's motivations. I didn't find his 'I deserve to be locked up in here' speech fully convincing, especially given that he didn't actually commit the crime that he was imprisoned for. I also don't see why he'd take such a conciliatory attitude towards the other boys at Saint Peter's when they've treated him so savagely. Sure, he fractured that other guy's skull, but it's only a case of pushing back after months of being pushed - if a kid punches someone for bullying them constantly, their crimes aren't equal. You can't shake a bottle of fizzy drink and complain when it explodes all over you.

To clarify, I do quite like the unexpected end. I love it when characters act outside how we expect them to, and I'm a fan of stories that opt for a mundane, realistic conclusion over a dramatic one. But the character still needs a reason to act unexpectedly. This guy spends ages telling us about how awful Saint Peter's is, how awful the other boys are, how awful the solitary confinement is, and I can't really find a shred of reason for him to neglect an escape attempt. Which makes the ending unexpected in the wrong way.

I think his final decision would be more understandable if the other boys had tormented him less, or if the conflict between all of them was more equal. The fact that there's been such a power imbalance between him and his tormentors is what makes me question his 'what makes me the special one?' line of thinking - you'd think he'd want to stick it to all of them and get out of there. If he'd instead found most of the boys to be similar to himself, just ticking on and getting by and minding their own, I can see why he might deign to escape. As it is, I'm not convinced.

So my overall suggestion for this piece would be to spend more time figuring out the main character's motivations and how they're shaped. Outside of that, though, I think the piece is highly original, unexpected, and underpinned by good writing. The tone of it is strong and you have some lovely images in there - I loved how he talks about 'the hand' slipping under the door like it's a character in its own right, not attached to a wider person. It creates a great sense of isolation.

Keep writing! :D
~Pan





In any free society, the conflict between social conformity and individual liberty is permanent, unresolvable, and necessary.
— Kathleen Norris