Friday, April 15, 2011

Retrospectives

Amara (1)

“How was school today, Amara?”

Today was ice cream day, and they were sharing their ritual treat as they meandered through the biopark, winding long lazy loops around the synthetic trees and through the organized gardens. Amara was more interested in her cone than any academic conversation, and she scrutinized it carefully, delicately licking up any errant drips of ice cream.

“Amara?” Sterner, this time.

“What?” The top of her cone was licked to a near perfect dome of dessert. A work of art.

“School? I assume you went to class, or how could you be complaining of having homework from a chemistry class you didn’t attend? That would be rather impressive.” A hand rested on her shoulder, stopping her from walking headfirst into a man walking fast and trying to sort several papers at the same time, making a beeline for one of the exits of the biopark.

“Of course I went to class, Daddy.” What a stupid question, and ultimately irrelevant compared to the question at hand: lick down the dome to a flat surface or take a solid crunch out of the side?

“And?”

“And what?” Her brow wrinkled in exasperation as she saw a line of ice cream had ran over the back of her hand. As she lifted the cone for a better angle, her small deep blue eyes met the grey-blue orbs of her father’s. He lifted one eyebrow, very slightly.

She sighed, with only a slight roll of her eyes. She straightened up, adjusted her backpack – standard for her class, white with a red cross – and gave him the most serious twelve year old look she could muster, “One Thing I Learned In School Today was the,” a pause, “toxsticity levels of all pre-op medications used in a standard hospital environment.”

“Toxicity.”

“That’s what I said.” She retorted, or rather, dads wad I said, as her attention had shifted back to her ice cream cone, which now had a girl-sized bite taken out of the side.

He laughed and ruffled her hair, earning a withering glare from the girl, and they continued through the biopark. He could see the creek up ahead, so they must almost be finishing their usual circuit. The creek water was almost clear today, the filters must be new.

* * *

Amara (2)

INSERT BETTER BEGINNING HERE

The door swung open easily, hitting the bell that hung in front of it. The large man behind the counter turned, half-eaten pastry in one hand, and his face split into a smile when he saw who entered his store, “Little Amara! How is my favorite customer today?”

Amara pulled off her backpack and set it on the chair in the corner, by the window that looked out at the sidewalk. It was their spot. Then she ran back up to the glass displaying the various forms of dessert, her own grin matching that of the man, “Good, Ricky. Do you know what I want today?”

“Hmm, let me think,” Ricky closed his eyes, messing his face up into an expression of the utmost concentration, “I’m seeing something,” rubbing his temples for effect, he opened one eye, as if searching her face for a clue, then quickly shut them tight, “Mint chocolate chip, with chocolate sprinkles on top.”

The little girl clapped and bounced on the spot, “Yes! Yes you guessed it! How do you always know?”

Ricky leaned against the counter, which creaked in quiet protest, and he waved a dismissive hand as if it was the simplest of things, “This is Dream Sweets, my dear, in my house I know all. Now get along and get to work or I’ll start seeing no treats in your future.”

As Amara ran back to her seat and started pulling out her homework (the first page about matching a list of medications to the ailment that they treat), her father stepped up to the counter in her place, “You’re good, Rick, I don’t know how you do it. What do I owe you?”

“Well, you know my original F.A.T.E. was to be a psychic, but I chose the dessert industry instead, on account of the better pay,” which brought an ironic smile to both men, “And it’s on the house.” He immediately raised a hand as Aram began to speak, “Don’t start. Think of it as a new customer loyalty program, including a complimentary cone for good fathers who brings his daughter in every week.


* * *


From The "Writer"

Ok, so what is going on here? Why are there two similar, and incomplete, stories posted? I was supposed to release the first full short story in the Retrospectives series today, and it would be awesome and people would think it was great and it would spur me on to greater heights and encourage me to continue on to writing the full novel. Only one problem.

I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I start writing and I immediately think of the nearly infinite ways I could be writing it instead. I think of how I'm doing things wrong - this transition is bad, my general grammer/structure is usually horrible, I have too much dialogue and not enough description so apparently disembodied voices are having conversations because god help me if I don't actually tell you what any of these people look or sound like. In my head it all makes sense, in my head I see Ricardo as a large man, his girth indicative of his love of treats and outsized only by his heart. When I try to show this (because remember we show we don't tell) it either comes out all jumbled or not at all coherent.

And how long is a short story supposed to be? How short is too short? Too long? And how is it a story if there isn't even any conflict? I was just trying to showcase a few "a day in the life of [Blank]" to get me into the habit of writing. But I've probably put more energy into avoiding it, and writing this rant about how I can't write, then actually writing it. If this is anything I'm supposed to even think of doing, why doesn't it come easier? I have a friend who journals because, according to her, "the words just flow, I couldn't hold them in if I tried". Ha. It's like blood-letting over here.

The only thing I can pretend was accomplished (so far) was introducing a few things: Amara, though in middle school - another point I failed to make clear in the second piece - is in an advanced medical program due to the society she is in. In their society, a profession or field is chosen for you at birth (see F.A.T.E. below), using your genetic biases for certain fields. They believe a test, based on family history, your genes, your family class/living situation, etc will be able to foretell a field (medical, music, manual labor) that you will be predisposed to excel at, and it will gear your instruction to that area as early as elementary school. The result is a group of highly skilled, focused individuals who are really good at what they do, and kind of bad at about everything else. The socialist-esque faith-driven culture they live in is based on the idea that everyone works for the common good, and the common good takes care of everyone. As its centered in a place where there is no separation between church and state, these ideas are not just economical or financial, but also spiritual.

"Fate", taken from their texts, does not have the foreboding, imposing meaning that we generally associate with it. We see 'fate' as something beyond our control, pushing us towards an outcome we may or may not want. For them, Fate is a path offered to you by god, and you are given the tools needed to walk that path. It has a feeling more like "destiny", in that if you work for it you can achieve this goal or destination that is generally considered ideal or good. So the group that made the aptitude tests (that you also re-take as a young child to account for any environmental/upbringing changes in your results) took the idea of fate to rally its support. Its the Future Aspiration Technical Examination. An extensive test that will show you what you should (and thus, what you will) want to be when you grow up. Sometimes its very specific - someone with just the right qualities might make an excellent math teacher at a ivy league college, due to their ability to understand the level of math, deal with students of that mental degree, etc - or it might just say a field, such as 'teacher' in the more general sense, or musical, or medical.

Is this a flawed system? Abso-freakin-lutely. But isn't all government?

Anyway, I guess the point I'm trying to get at, hacking away at my reputation as I am with a hatchet, is that this is incomplete and utter garbage, but I'm posting it because I swore to myself that I would post something today, and if I can't even keep that promise, what hope do I have?

So read if you want, comment if you want, and if you need me I'll be busy finding a shovel to dig myself a hole with.