The Tower

There is a village. A village almost like all the other villages dotted around Hungary. Almost. The church. The shop. The bar. The cemetery. The old ladies sitting on the benches outside their homes, watching the world go by, which it must be said it did quite infrequently.

Almost like all the others. The village had at this precise moment two differences to define the “almost”. One ancient. One transient.

The ancient? The village had its very own castle. Perhaps there were more impressive structures defined as castles, but this castle had the distinct benefit of being intact. Quite an impressive feat for a 500 year old tower in a country that was prone to invasion and conquest.

The transient? A person. Someone many thousands of miles away from home. A different world. A different culture.

In fact he was even more transient because at that precise moment he was travelling at 76.69 km/h. Though he probably had other things on his mind, If he had wanted to follow the simple physics of the moment, he had 2.26 seconds to admire the 25m high tower and its surroundings. Marvel that such a tower had survived invasions by Turks, Austrians, Romanians, Germans, Russians. A tower from the top of which, he had departed those few seconds earlier. No wings, no parachute. 2.26 seconds to oblivion.

The waves of the sea of history had led this person to sink. To fall. Currents pushing him to be in a country distant from the place of his birth. And he was falling without life jacket, or indeed it must be said to his obvious detriment, without said parachute.

The storms of the second world war, of the Hungarian uprising, had fallen many years behind. The sea current change that would become the fall of the Berlin wall was still ten years hence. This minor piece of man-shaped flotsam had been floating on what he probably felt was some provincial backwater, as the competing winds of the Cold War blew him gently around Europe.

But those 2.26 seconds were the calm before the hurricane.

——

She didn’t like the telephone. It didn’t matter that it was one of the few in the village. A privilege. A sign of status. As far as the village was concerned, anything noteworthy she picked up from the frequent conversational stops she made on her bicycle. Stops between home and post office, post office and shop, shop and church, church and home. The village telegraph didn’t need wires or handsets.

Who had died? She knew this before they were cold. Who was ill? Street physicians were on every corner. The prescribed medicines discussed with dispassionate expertise. Who was divorcing? Who was having an affair? Often the names of school friends interspersed with the language of local intrigue and scandal. Tragedies? Local, national, international? It didn’t matter. All equally dissected. A plane crash in Russia discussed with as much relish as a car crash near the village.

It was a given fact that the national sport was football. The famous Magical Magyars as much a part of the folklore of the country as the chieftains who settled the Carpathian basin a thousand years before. Football? She often thought the national sport was actually melancholia. Perhaps that was just the effect of her job.

It was her village though. Her escape from the world that was on the other end of that telephone. But even being her world, even though she had grown with these people, and could count many as her friends, she knew she was treated differently.

The greeting “Good day Réka” could be a prelude to not just gossip, but to a request for advice or favours. She knew she was treated differently. Being on first name terms with “Dear Réka” was never seen as a disadvantage. She didn’t mind. She had learnt to recognise sincerity. And had tried to earn respect and not expect it. The old man had seen to that.

It was her village, but the outside world was ringing. The telephone ringing for Detective Réka Farkas.

6 thoughts on “The Tower

  1. Tayo says:

    The ‘voice’ you’re attempting is oft engaging but sometimes disarming (in a bad way). It sort of reminds me of an early Douglas Adams (in a good way).

    I think your biggest challenge with this story is to make it feel less loose. Yes you describe the setting “The church. The shop. The bar. The cemetery. The old ladies sitting on the benches outside….” but even that is a bit ‘sparse’. I too have an issue with description, it tends to be on the thin side in my stories, and your work has helped me to see that if the reader can’t ‘place’ themselves, if they don’t have a sense of where they are, everything beyond that feels ‘muddy.’

    You explain that there is a transient person in the village and talk about how “he was travelling at 76.69 km/h.” This makes me think he is travelling horizontally not falling. Again, the description is too ‘loose’ and open.

    This is perhaps the most confusing paragraph for me: “The waves of the sea of history had led this person to sink. To fall. Currents pushing him to be in a country distant from the place of his birth. And he was falling without life jacket, or indeed it must be said to his obvious detriment, without said parachute.” You’re evoking imagery of someone in the ocean, drowning. Then they’re falling? But you still reference the ocean: “And he was without a life-jacket” It’s almost as if you don’t want to commit to one metaphor. Perhaps if he was really drowning you could use ocean metaphors but he’s falling from a tower, right? It’s just confusing to me.

    Then you jumped from focusing on him to a woman. “She didn’t like the telephone.” This is head hopping which is very jarring for me to read. It took me completely out of the story – which already felt vague and tenuous – and reminded me I was reading rather than experiencing a story.

    I really do like what you’re trying to do with the narration but the story feels unfocused as does its metaphors and the head hopping is going to be a real thorn in a lot of people’s side, in my opinion.

    Good luck.

  2. packoffeathers says:

    The first two paragraphs give no information, and personally I can’t handle dependent clauses being used as sentences. Plus, there is no character and no conflict. Maybe it’s not my type of story, and maybe you need a bigger hook.

  3. Brett Mumford says:

    Your use of the short sentence to make ‘bullet point’ observations for the reader, can work. I have used it in my writing as well, but only to a certain extent, then you need to put something meatier in there.

    The lack of details makes it hard for me to envision the setting you are trying to paint. If I had never been to Europe, I would have no idea what to ‘see’ from the description. I understand how you were setting up the very blase/bland nature of the village, it’s very ‘every-village’ imagery. If you want to pick out specific things to use to demonstrate it’s averageness, I would suggest describing them and in the description you imply the universal nature of this kind of look…or something like that.

    I appreciate setting up the main character, describing how she is different from the regular townsfolk, but I don’t see why you needed to keep using the bullet point style writing. She is not supposed to be the mystery, at least not at that point.

    I would still say that there is enough to make me curious about what is going to happen next though. Hope you have fun writing it.

  4. Mr. Full-Stop says:

    Thanks for the comments. Even what appears to be at face value, the sightly snarky second one 🙂 They are the reason I posted.

    Let. Me. Combine. One. Answer. In. My. Next. Comment. 😉

  5. Roger Schulz says:

    I thought this was a physics test in school, for a moment. The precision of detail confuses and adds nothing.Like Tayo, I too was confused about reference to the sea and then to falling.

  6. Mr. Full-Stop says:

    Forgive me if I ignore the 2nd and 5th comments. The points they seem to want to prove appear to be a little more than just simple criticism. No time. However, they do help with the writing energy 😉

    The whole exercise has been interesting. I have learnt a lot. Not all of it positive. It is a strange world, creative writing in these forums or in classes. The filters to put in place to take on board the things you should and ignore those you shouldn’t.

    Thank you for the detailed balanced comments. They helped.

    The “fall” and “sink” mixing was actually deliberate. Not provocatively deliberate, just that there is humour there. It’s very, very dry though. I left it in to see if it worked. It doesn’t appear to have, but it was worth a try.

    Do I believe in my writing voice? The one in my head? Yes I do. Are there issues in translating that voice into words? For sure, it was one of the reasons for posting. And I realise I have to take greater care, and I am going to have to use some more guinea pigs. However as previously, guinea pigs that do not write 😉 I am actually a poet and that presents challenges in itself when attempting to write.

    My voice though will remain the same. It is me. In creative writing, and even on this boot camp, pretending to be something, follow a consensus of accepted writing, even hide behind it, and in some cases having it enforced by peer pressure, these things can occur. It is a balance, but if you can write reasonable English and are true to yourself then you will always leave something of yourself on the page.

    My situation is different. I’m British but my second language has written forms totally different than English. Where I live, the variety of literature styles that people are exposed to is far greater than the US and UK. I have more contact with excellent speaking non-native English speakers than I do with native speakers. It is interesting that they appreciate my writing voice.

    My book is not being written for the Anglo-Saxon world. If it ever gets completed, It will not be sent to an Anglo-Saxon publisher. Its voice also has to cover satire, sadness, tragedy, humour, black humour, history, irony, love, death but for cultures that are not Anglo-Saxon. Most things are relative, even the hooks. All you can do is trust yourself and those who make fair critiques.

    Anyway I just thought I would give some relevance to the exercise and try to add some value should anyone come across this entry in the future.

    Thanks to the Ellen, the contributors and commenters. I enjoyed it.

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