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The Sculptor's Knife: Chapter 5.2

by redvictory


~~~

Later in the day, Lily had to leave for her final show. Ms. Hartley said we could stay at her house for as long as we wanted, but Connie spoke for all of us and declined. I don’t think any of us were comfortable working in a home without a host. Except for Payton, they could be comfortable anywhere. They definitely were at ease in the boughs of the tree we ended up in an hour later.

It was fairly warm for the time of the year, but still too cold to sit on the solid dirt that seeped the warmth out of your bones.

The girls were below, picking their way across rocks and throwing the frozen acorns of autumn at each other. As my eyes followed them, I caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. A mouse, russet-furred and bug-eyed, had scurried up the tree and clung to the branch beside me, pressed flat against the bark. I watched it, for a moment, then held out my hand. It sniffed me, but jerked back when I jumped as something hard hit the back of my head. I leaned aside, and something flew past me and clacked against the mouse’s branch, and it ran and scurried down. I peered over my shoulder and saw Jace leaning well out of the way of Payton, whose hand was still extended in the aftermath of a throw. Their other hand was in the oddly bulbous pocket of their hoodie. They saw me looking, and slipped another acorn out of their pocket with a flourish.

“Took these from the girls,” they smirked. “I had to get that mouse away from you. You could have gotten the plague.”

“That was rats, Payton,” Jace sighed. They bickered on while my eyes were drawn back to where the mouse had been sitting. I noticed something on the branch below. The mouse was there, still watching me. I looked back to my friends. In my subconscious, the inky-black eyes scratched at the inside of my skull in a way that struck resonance with the thin wire of the sculpting rake that I was currently removing from its home in a repurposed leather pencil case.

Payton saw the small tool, and their eyes lit up. “Ashton, would that be sharp enough to cut into the bark?”

I shrugged.

“You should carve our initials into the tree,” Payton babbled on, “all of them. Just the first and last names, though, not the middle. Or maybe we could go bigger. Write all of us little mottos, like those ones they carve into gravestones-”“Epitaphs,” Jace mumbled, already paging through his book. It looked like a horror novel. I didn’t think I had seen him read one of those before.

“Sure, those,” Payton continued. “Mine would say ‘Payton Ververs, the funniest kid who ever lived in the whole world, and also the hottest. Because of this fact, they had night after night of wild sex with your mom…’” They babbled on and on, and from the familiar haze on Jace’s face I knew he had tuned them out. Their words fell to the back of my mind, not necessarily understood but churning like some inhernal wheel, this oddball thing they wanted me to do. The sentences fell into line with the thoughts that had crowded into my head when my mother had urged me not to go to the hospital and. When I had caught her eyes, they had all vacated, and I had not gone. But now both narratives fell into cycle together, lighting a dim memory of me as a kid, brushing long hair over my shoulders and pressing my nose flat against the glass top of the washing machine, watching the clothes spin until the glass became clouded with steam.

Cycling around like dirty laundry were the things people wanted me to do, and the compliance and apathy that shot through me in response. I resented that urge, hated the way time slipped through my fingers as loosely and unshapable as sand. And in that moment, something in my snapped and splintered in away that would have ruined a sculpture if I had been one.

“No.” I said.

Payton started, cut off mid-sentence after talking over my single word. “Hm?”

“I’m not carving into the trees. It would dull my tools and hurt the tree. No.”

Payton’s tongue worked against their upper teeth. I hoped I hadn’t seemed angry, but the dim in Payton’s vibrancy told me that I had.

“Sorry man,” they said, words chased away by the girls’ laughter coming from underneath us. They looked down and tilted their sweatshirt pocket, sending a small stream of acorns down. Cries of humor and anger echoed through our branches from below. Payton looked back at me, their usually fluffy hair hanging limp in their eyes. “I’m heading down. See you guys in the car.” They swung through the branches with an adeptness learned over the past few weeks, shouting something I chose not to hear in favor of the rustling leaves and the soft thump of Jace’s book closing.

He sidled to sit on the branch across from me.

“What was that about?” he asked, pushing his dark hair out of his face to reveal the concerned blue eyes, still chasing away the mist of reading.

I knitted my eyebrows. “Got mad.”

“Ashton, you don’t get mad-”

“How do you know what I do and don’t do?” I snapped. Jace looked hurt this time, but he didn’t look away.

“Ashton, do you want to talk about what’s wrong?”

I sighed. “Yes. I mean, no. I mean… I don’t think I even know what’s wrong.”

“Then we can just sit.” Jace’s smile was sharp enough to cut mist, but in an impossibly gentle way. “Let me know if you figure it out... If you want of course.”

“I will.” I smiled, and Jace opened his book again, hanging his legs loosely enough to swing and brush loosely against mine. I sat in thought, drinking in the sound of Jace turning pages and the feel of his warmth bleeding through black denim that fought off the cold of the afternoon.

But at the end of the day, I came up empty when Addison sounded for us to come to her car. Jace did not ask me about our earlier conversation. He just squeezed my knee with a glint in his eye to match the one lighting up his silver ring. He suddenly leapt forward and threaded between branches toward the forest floor. I knew him well enough to see the unspoken challenge to a race in his speed. I picked my way down carefully and slowly, letting Jace win by a long shot. I spent the car ride to my house still silently lost in musings.


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Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:09 pm
ShadowVyper wrote a review...



Heya redvictory,

Shady back with my fourth and final review for your lovely story, courtesy of the Slytherins on this fine review day. Let's jump right in...

Okay! I read through this and don't actually have any specific comments, so I'll get straight to the overall comments like I generally leave at the end. I liked this chapter, but if I'm honest, not quite as much as I loved the others. Which is fine!

I guess my thing for this bit of the chapter is just that it was so short it was hard to get fully immersed in the scene before it was over. And it kind of felt like it jumped around a bunch. You've got three chances of scenery and a bit of volatile emotion from Ashton and it just feels a tiny bit rushed. Since this is so short I think you've got plenty of room in your next draft to slow this scene down a bit, flesh it out, so it feels more satisfying than the rapid glance we get in this pass-through.

My other minor critique is that you have Ashton climbing trees right after he had a panic attack so bad he passed out and then was super shaky and physically un-well when he first woke up. And now he thinks it's a good idea to climb to the top of a tree? It just feels like a bit strange, why they'd think that was a good idea? Like, if it was a bunch of 12-year-olds? Sure. But 18-year-olds, in general, don't tend to hang out by sitting around in a literal tree, and you'd think at least one of them would realize that wasn't a good idea with someone who can pass out at any moment with no warning. I like the teasing you get with the multiple vantage points from the tree but maybe a park or a beach or something would be a more natural setting for this scene? Idk, just spit-balling here. Take anything useful from that and disregard the rest lol

As always, gotta drop in that schadenfreude and fahrvergnügen, in the spirit of review day ;)

Hope some of these comments I've made in the past few chapters have been generally useful to you! This is a really interesting story and you're writing it very well!

Keep writing!

~Shady 8)


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Thu Apr 02, 2020 12:14 am
AndName wrote a review...



Hi!

I had waited for this and I'm not disappointed! Ashton is changing before my eyes and it's slightly uneasy. He snapped at Peyton. He said no. Good lord he's present in this, vividly so. This chapter part dances. I'll have to reread it to see if there's anyway to improve it, but even then it's iffy.

Oh, this might just be a me thing but you put 'still chasing away the mist of reading' (I adore this) and then how Jace's smile could cut mist. These can get confused since they're only a few lines apart. I'm bringing up petty stuff lol.

I love how you transform the memory of the washing machine into this intricate metaphor to visualize what exactly he's feeling. It's something completely new feeling. You just keep getting better and better (so jealous). And another petty thing but 'brushing long hair over my shoulders' is a little strange. Yes, some young boys have longer hair, but I don't know. It just kinda reads weird with the hair part, everything else is phenomenal. Maybe you should put wild hair instead? Kids have wild hair plus it might add to the texture of that part, how disheveled he feels inside.

Jace squeezed Ashton's knee with a glint in his eye. *swoons* XD

I feel bad this isn't longer but I have nothing else besides praise so I'll stop myself here!

Your first fan,
AndName




redvictory says...


Psssst,,, Ashton is trans ;) I%u2019m trying to make it a more implied thing, because that%u2019s not what his story is about. But I will just drop that here to clear up confusion! I%u2019ll have to play with that more to make it both subtle and clear.

Thank you so much for your reviews!! Every time i see your name in my notifications I get a big smile on my face. :) Hope you%u2019re staying safe and happy with all this crazy stuff going on! <3



AndName says...


Oh goodness did I just commit an offense *frets* I didn't pick up on that at all. So that's why he felt so jealous of Lily? Not just because she's awesome? I love how you have such a large cast of under represented peoples. It seems like him being trans would be such a big part of him and his mental health which is mainly what this is about! Maybe you could dive into that a little bit as well. (Though you've already got a lot on your plate with the questions that need to be answered so far and the wounds healed.)
I really enjoy keeping up with this but you already know that :)
I've been doing better than a lot of people regarding the craziness though I haven't been to the library in about two weeks so I'm going a little crazy XD
(Seriously though, I hope I haven't offended. His being trans flew over my head)



redvictory says...


Oh no, it's alright! I have a couple things lined up where I imply it, but don't say it outright. I want Ashton to be seen as an artist, an addict, and lonely, not as "The Trans Man." Not offensive at all! I kind of invite statements and questions like that writing it the way I do.

That sucks about not getting to the library! I'm lucky, I stocked up at a library sale a few weeks before everything started, so I have a pretty hefty book stack to get through!




“I don't talk things, sir. I talk the meaning of things.”
— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451