Thursday, August 4, 2011

Night

"Now we wait ..."  He stretched away from his tray, a crumb or two of chocolate reminiscent of the tiny wedge of cake slice I served him earlier.  The cake came from a local bakery, overstocked goods from previous days.

"Wait..." I chewed on this, weighing the possibilities. Not having time to think, fearing that he would see through my panic and nervousness, I grasped for words.  "Wait for..., what's next?"


"Next?  Next thing is the night."

"Oh? What happens at night?"

"It gets dark."

I peered outside through the small windows.  A layer of yellow crust and gray dust had taken up long term residence over the glass panes, but I could still see the early evening light.  It was only seven, still a long way from darkness.  But I felt the characteristic desert night chill, suddenly.

"And?"

"We sleep out there, on the streets."  His chin lifted toward the double door, through which others had walked out with as much ease as they did walking in, filling this hall a short thirty or thirty five minutes ago.  It was empty now.  The benches and tables laid bare for the first time tonight. I had walked amongst them earlier, tripping over backpacks, shopping sacks, and worn blankets.  Their overdressed owners, layering four seasons of clothing on their backs, indulged me in small talks while waiting patiently for their food.

I bit my lips and bowed my head low.  I despised myself then, my spotless clothes, my almost new car parked outside, my warm, small and messy home, a short ride away.  Most of all, I hated not having the right words.

His voice rose.  "I was doing great. I had gotten my certificates. I can weld, make pottery and...," he paused, making sure I was listening, I held my breath, nodding like one of those toy dolls people place on the dash board of their cars. 

"..., I taught martial arts.  I have skills, this just isn't my time. But, my time will come."

He almost leaped, as if catching himself. A black backpack tossed over his shoulder with one hand, and the empty tray in the other, he walked towards the cleanup line.  I stood to walk with him, offering to take his tray, but he shook me away. His eyes flashed at me, young, intelligent, dark, proud, deep, spirited eyes.  I felt small as a child, walking next to his wiry athletic frame. I surrendered my hands high and stepped aside.

-- Ending #1

As lines shortened and voices subsided, I traced his steps out the door with my eyes, trying hard to distinguish his all black ensemble from the shadows cast by the dimming light of dusk.  His words lingered in those shadows, moving into a daydream, where I watched him lay down on the concrete, shivering in the desert night.

-- Ending #2

The clinks of trays getting cleaned in the kitchen continued, through the night. They walked in, they walked out, leaving stories that stirred me, all night.


Which ending do you prefer?  Would you mind helping me decide?
(*This is a true story, and both endings are real as far as my memory holds)

24 comments:

  1. The first one. It's more stirring.

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  2. I already answered on twitter but #1.

    As for the rest of the piece, I like that so many of your pieces start so abruptly. The first line leaves the reader (or me at least) wondering, almost uncertain of reading on but needing to.

    I was pleasantly surprised that this was just a man telling his story, rather than some suspenseful story.

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  3. I chuckled at the "It gets dark." I'd also probably got with #1, just because it has a little more substance and feels like it should resonate.

    Minor error in para4 - missing ending punctuation, probably a question mark.

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  4. John - thanks for spotting the error!


    Kristi - I like those reasons. Thanks also for the opening critique. Keep'em coming please!


    All - come on, no one likes #2? Thanks for your suggestions and leaving a comment!

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  5. The story is killer, very well done. The endings however leave me wanting something more. I know it sounds odd, but if it's fiction you're after I suggest you make up the ending (even if it's based on a real experience). It sounds nuts, but sometimes with a lie you can get a more accurate representation of the truth:)

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  6. #2 has almost too many possibilities in the 'stories that stirred me, all night' - so it's hard for me to think about how you'd narrow it down.
    But I think you could - and would do it very well.
    Or you could have #1 weaving in and out of all the other characters in #2; always out there, in the dark, in your mind.
    Either way - great writing and you can see you've got my imagination going!

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  7. I also prefer the first one.

    The whole story is perfect. I like how you throw the reader in the story. Perfect.

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  8. I prefer the second ending, simply because it does lend itself to all manner of possibilities. If you're choosing to end on one of these two options, I would choose the second one for that reason. If you're choosing to go further with the story, then the first option might be best at this stage because it defines more. Just my thoughts. :) I'm following you now, btw.

    ~ Dawn

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  9. I like the second one. Sounds more... Cold?

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  10. wondering if this is fiction or reality.. good write either way..i think i'd prefer ending #2 but would cut "all night" and just end it with ......leaving stories that stirred me.

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  11. I like the first ending better. But they're both great... Now I'm second-guessing myself. XD

    You told this story so well - it makes my heart ache. Especially since it's true. It's so hard not having any words that could make anything better.

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  12. Simple. Put End #2 after End #1. In End #1 you watched the man going outside, and then you go back inside with End #2. You migh want to change a few words when you put the two Ending together, but it makes sense to put them together.
    You are inside the store, you watch him going out, and then you are back in the store.

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  13. Loved this story, and I'd end it with #2. It just seems, to me, to be in harmony with the overall narrative. We (the reader) know his words lingered--that's why the story was written. ;)
    Wonderful!

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  14. enjoyed reading this. like most of the people who've commented, I go for ending #1. But number 2 with fewer words, sounds mysterious too, which kinda appeal to me, personally. As a reader, the right amount of vagueness stimulates my imaginations. And I agree with Jayne about it being in harmony with the entire tale. So yep I like them both. (oops i'm not helping at all!lol) Either ending is great!

    Maybe you can figure a way to fuse them. I think with just a bit of polishing, with your talent with words, you can easily throw in transitions to arrive to a great culmination of this piece.

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  15. I had to stop by after seeing your work on Angela's site. What a great blog you have here. Please consider me a new follower.

    I'm with everyone else, I like number one. I LOVE the second one too, but gotta pick a fave, and you certainly make that hard to do.

    Best-

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  16. All sorry I couldn't have responded earlier to the comments, they were so inspiring that I wanted to see how I could expand this into a longer story. Thank you all for pitching in these great suggestions and feedback.

    Mark -

    I like it when I hear "wanting to read more". I met others who told me their stories that night so I might add one or two other scenes onto this story and make it into an essay. Not after fiction in this particular piece though but I enjoy writing fiction too.


    Sharon - your possibilities got me going too. I guess when I wrote #2 I did think there were other stories I could write about so very insightful for you to spot that. Thanks also for your suggestions. I like that a lot.


    Starlight - Oh thanks. I did intentionally made it abrupt here as I know everyone's busy so I went to the heart of the story and skipped some setups. Always a trade off though.


    Dawn - I really like that thought as I felt inspired by all the insightful comments and wanted to do just that.


    MDIAS - In a way I suppose, more distant you mean?


    Claudia - It is reality (at a homeless mission) sorry I skipped the setup and there may be confusion. I like writing reality with fiction techniques so the story grabs you though it is true. Thanks for your feedback. I like and agree with that suggestion.



    Melee - His words made my heart ache so out of all the people I talked to I wanted to share that starkness of the reality he faced every night. Though we hear about homelessness a lot, when he said it straight to my face like that, it still felt surreal somehow. That drove me to think and write about him.



    Giora - I agree. There is some room for both but I didn't see how they could co-exist earlier. Thanks for the suggestion




    Jayne - You are always insightful, I so appreciate your comments. That was a great feedback, I will probably keep some sort of daydream and cut the "lingering" redundancy.



    Maria - Glad you liked it. I definitely think there are value in #2 as well, I might integrate it like you suggested.





    Bryce - I am so glad you found my blog from Angela's. Welcome and feel free to browse around in the "Favorites" and thanks for commenting.

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  17. Moving piece! How wonderful that you were able to serve the homeless in this way - not only with a meal, but with words of kindness and concern. I think the first ending spoke to me more than the second. It follows the story of this man who has fallen on hard times, yet has continued to maintain his dignity.

    Thanks for sharing your story! God bless!

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  18. The first one seems more satisfying to me.

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  19. This story really touched me... but I'm kind of at a loss for words to describe my feelings about it.

    I prefer ending #2...it says a lot in only a few words, direct, yet metaphorical.

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  20. I think with your talent you can merge both endings. Ending number 1 seems to be what you see as you 'traced his steps' and ending number 2 could be the sounds you hear in the background as you watch or most likely were the thoughts that continued to 'clink' around in your head as you drove home.

    I think both endings merged gives a real mental image of where you stood, what you saw, and what you heard.

    I liked it very much -- as usual :)

    <3
    Your biggest fan :)

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  21. I like no 2. I prefer the more open ending, less final. Also (even if it is true) it seems odd that he'd go and lie down on the concrete when it wasn't night. But that's just me.

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