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Sixteen comrades, and the house of the dying man.

by hawk


There is no dialog in here, it varies between first and thrd, and may be slightly confusingm but bear with me, tell me what you think.

I sat there, quietly, my left hand with the Cuban cigar resting on the table, watching as the last of them collaborated in the halls. There was really only one person I wanted to listen to, to sit beside. I drank from the can, in Germany they hate it, but I drink from it anyway. The woman used to speak to me in German, and I didn’t turn my head but I disliked her with that fizzle of annoyance in distrust. I knew too early that I did not want to talk for this woman. She put the handkerchief to her mouth and coughed, and at every sentence she declared, I smiled, my cheek resting in my palm, and replied with a small Qué va, then turned to the parlour and the lovely window. Of course, I knew them all, with their chardonnay and their women in cocktail dresses and long, Spanish eyes. I knew them, but the clamour made me pause, and remember them before the movement had ended, when the butt of our jokes were not the bureaucrats, for it was true hatred of them in those days, but our jokes were for ourselves and comrades for we knew the true embodiment of humour was something vile and true and dirty. Yes, we knew the jokes, and the wine, the wine was not watered, and the shot glasses were tall and broad, and we called them shot glasses although they were not, they were whiskey glasses, but it did not matter for we used them like that, and we laughed and joked, and we drank. And there was no chardonnay, and no beautiful women in cocktail dresses and long, Spanish eyes.

I moved my long, Cuban cigar to the other hand, and clutched the wooden balcony in that tight grip I never used save for the calibre and the reins, but that was in the late days, the late days of the movement and we were all strained and I have believed for a long time that much longer under no true regime and I would not have woken. No one would have. Maybe we would have woken, but the end of the resistance would not have meant winning, or if it was lost it would not have meant so; it would have meant no place to go but dining with old war mongers who speak like cynics as only the activist of war can be cynical, and drinking good wine but with no flavour, and with no movement in their voices but the passing of spoiled passion. Although now I think it would not have happened, because the resistance was in a country I loved, and wanted to live in after it had been won by the right people. That was the difference, but you didn’t fight if you weren’t going to stay.

I leaned as stupor against the white-washed panelling, and thought about the cynical war mongers inside. No, they were not war mongers, but maybe it would have been better for them if they were. I raised the cigar to my lips, and inhaled long and deeply, as though I were a child and had stolen the great beautiful cigars of my grandfather. But no, I did not have that precision, the precision I had as a child had been lost, with the hearty laugh, when the others lost their war.

Some of them, inside there, they still had that hearty laugh, but only I know who because you knew if it had died with them. No one that had been in the resistance could fake that hearty laugh that one found in the caves and in the dark, soil bases, where that laugh was the only thing to stop you from forgetting. Maybe they were wrong, you often thought, maybe you did forget, and maybe the laughing just made it easier. Yes, that must be it, you had thought. But now you’re not so sure.

I drained the can, and dropped the Cuban cigar in the dust; you had no heel to hamper it, but the tall, Buckley boots with the impossible laces. You wish you were drunk, you wish it were still possible. Now the calibre and the sabre were gone, but you never had a sabre, but the calibre, still, was gone, and its smooth snout still cold and silken as I ran the tip of my finger along it, the cool metal between my fingers. I glanced across at the ricochet marks on the stone cement walls, trailing my fingers over their sharp, shattering rivets, like the footprint of small animals in new snow.

Andrés said how that you own nothing but the wind and the sun and an empty belly. He said but the wind is small, and there is no sun. He said how you would have four grenades in your pocket, but they were only good for throwing away, and you would have the carbine on your back but it was only good to give away bullets, and when you had the message, it was to be given away. And he always said that how we’re full of crap that we give to the earth, he said this as he grinned in the dark, and he said you can anoint it with your urine. Everything you have is to give.

It was the same in every story, the tall, beautiful women in the cocktail dresses with the long, Spanish eyes knew this, and they knew this when their husbands did not because their husbands had told them every night after they made love, and of all the people the husbands were the only ones who never listened.

I wonder how they will go out. Like mad men on the streets, waving red flags in castanet heels? No. That was the dreams of young boys. But at which point, you had always believed that it would come back to you, you had hoped back then. But now you’re not so sure.

Always you wanted to talk to someone about it, always after the killing. But you would never have, what would you have said? It would never have come out the way you had it in your head. So you did what they all did, you sat on the old rubber tires in the empty caves and you drank the rum in the whiskey glasses and you joked, and you talked about what you would do after the resistance, the sweetheart you would marry and the house with the two dogs and the son you would have, and two lovely daughters, and you talked for hours and hours like this but it didn’t matter when the time came to fight, because your carbine was over your shoulder, and there were the men you loved and the country you hated and loved also, and there were the others who wanted to deflower you of this. You remember the first thing they said to you was that you must love this country, or you would not be here fighting for her, but you must learn to hate her also, you must hate her with such a passion that there could be no possibility of turning back. There was no notion regret, it would not have fit. And it did not matter what you loved when the time came, as long as you had that, and your carbine, and the wind and the sun on your back.

You always smiled when you remembered this, you remember holding your chin up and worrying about your ankles rubbing too close, and you never thought that you would be here. You never thought you would be standing here, with the last wind of a Cuban cigar and with four in your pocket like your grandfather's caught on the tip of your tongue, with a thousand words to say but unable to say them, and with no one to listen, or if there were someone to listen, no one to know what it meant. Because after all those years of saying all the important and unimportant things in Spanish and German and Russian and English, there was nothing left to think and to feel and to laugh about, and to have meaning after all meaning had been left behind, left back there in the empty caves with the ricochet marks and the dirty jokes and the hatred of the country that you loved but was not your own. And that, that was the reason no one would understand it, even if they wanted to.


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Tue May 31, 2005 8:34 am
hawk says...



Wow. I forgot about this.

As it remains rather unclear, this is set after the republicans lost the Spanish civil war to the fascists; my character is, of course, a republican.




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Sat Dec 18, 2004 9:27 pm
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J. Wilder wrote a review...



I started a critique on this on Thursday but when I tried to send it the computer messed up and it didn't work. Hopefully it will this time.

I like the very beginning; it intrigued me for some reason.

I drank from the can, in Germany they hate it, but I drink from it anyway.


This should be two sentences: "I drank from the can. In Germany they hate it, but I drink from it anyway."

I knew too early that I did not want to talk for this woman.


Talk for? Does this mean "talk to" or something else?

She put the handkerchief to her mouth and coughed, and at every sentence she declared, I smiled, my cheek resting in my palm, and replied with a small Qué va, then turned to the parlour and the lovely window. Of course, I knew them all, with their chardonnay and their women in cocktail dresses and long, Spanish eyes.


I love these two sentences. I don't know what Spanish eyes are, though. I've heard that phrase a few times before. What does it mean?

I knew them, but the clamour made me pause, and remember them before the movement had ended, when the butt of our jokes were not the bureaucrats, for it was true hatred of them in those days, but our jokes were for ourselves and comrades for we knew the true embodiment of humour was something vile and true and dirty.


Maybe you should separate this into more than one sentence.

Yes, we knew the jokes, and the wine, the wine was not watered, and the shot glasses were tall and broad, and we called them shot glasses although they were not, they were whiskey glasses, but it did not matter for we used them like that, and we laughed and joked, and we drank.


This is a run-on, but I get the impression that you know it's a run-on and chose to break the rule, so that's okay.

I moved my long, Cuban cigar to the other hand, and clutched the wooden balcony in that tight grip I never used save for the calibre and the reins, but that was in the late days, the late days of the movement and we were all strained and I have believed for a long time that much longer under no true regime and I would not have woken.


We already know the cigar's Cuban, since it was mentioned in the first sentence. This is another sentence I think should be split. "I moved my cigar to the other hand and clutched the wooden balcony in that tight grip I never used save for the calibre and the reins. That was in the late days of the movement and we were all strained. I have believed for a long time that much longer under the true regime and I would not have woken."

I leaned as stupor against the white-washed panelling


I've never heard the phrase "as stupor." Are you sure it shouldn't be "in a stupor"?

But no, I did not have that precision, the precision I had as a child had been lost, with the hearty laugh, when the others lost their war.


I think the comma after "precision" should be a semicolon, and since the whole thing's in the past tense maybe the second "I" should actually be "I'd."

And he always said that how we’re full of crap that we give to the earth, he said this as he grinned in the dark, and he said you can anoint it with your urine.


This should be split into two sentences.

It was the same in every story, the tall, beautiful women in the cocktail dresses with the long, Spanish eyes knew this, and they knew this when their husbands did not because their husbands had told them every night after they made love, and of all the people the husbands were the only ones who never listened.


The sentence should end with "It was the same in every story" and then the rest should be a new sentence.

But you would never have, what would you have said?


I think the comma should be a semicolon.

You always smiled when you remembered this, you remember holding your chin up and worrying about your ankles rubbing too close, and you never thought that you would be here.


Another sentence that I think should be split.

I love the rest of the last paragraph.

You're right, it's really confusing. Actually it varies between first and second, not first and third. Is there more of it? If there is I'd like to read it.




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Fri Dec 03, 2004 2:04 pm
Chevy wrote a review...



I agree with marzipan--this was really nice but yet, it was hard to understand in some places, especially with a couple of run-on sentences here and there. But other than that, if you spread it out a little and turn it into a novel--here comes the next Tom Clancy or Stephen King!




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Fri Dec 03, 2004 4:16 am
marzipan wrote a review...



AAUGH! Loved this! I didn't entirely understand, which adds to my love because confusion is my boyfriend. The repetition was lovely, added emphasis and gave it a distinct style (long, Cuban cigar; long, Spanish eyes etc). Switching tenses didn't bother me...it gave it this sort of rambling, thoughtful tone that...well, I love this piece.





Look, a good poem is a poem that exists. Any poem you write is better than the poem you don't.
— WeepingWisteria