Graham - Cast in Bronze

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Graham - Cast in Bronze

Post by Graham on Fri Feb 09, 2018 5:22 pm

This is the first short story I wrote for my OU creative writing course. It got reasonable marks but wasn’t entirely successful. (I’ll post my tutor’s comments below.) The main reason was too many characters, plot lines and scenes, leading to a confused storyline. My plan is to use it for the basis of a longer story, perhaps novel length. To this end I’m inviting critical comment but not for the piece as it stands.

What I want to know is what I should expand on, what I should leave out and what I should add. I’ve learned a lot since writing this so I should be able to make it less confusing but do comment on anything that needs clarifying.

Tutor’s comments
These come in two forms, a summary reproduced below, and comments inserted in the text. The latter I will attached as a word document if I can find out how to.

This is a lot to entertain in this lively  piece of writing Graham. There is some good, pacey and often funny dialogue. I like the idea of statues and pigeons talking and I like the idea of the dope smoking gun wielding Granny.

However the sheer number of characters, scene and point of view changes and sub plots do make this a rather confusing read. The spiky dialogue and scene changes do make for the  sort of material which might translate into a humorous radio series- but one  where the audience has more time to get to grip with the large cast of characters.

I feel you need to find a stronger structure for this story which at present reads as a series of interesting but not always cohesive scenes involving rather underdeveloped often stereotypical characters. I feel point of view might be at the heart of this and wonder if you might consider choosing the point of view of one of the statues- probably George- and filtering events more closely through his eyes. The events might be restricted to what he can see - although if he can talk I can' t really see why in a magical realist piece he couldn't turn his head. If you are going to indulge in magical realism you might as well exploit it fully. Events and overheard conversations could be alternated with George's discussion with Queenie. Perhaps she could be enlisted to help. And perhaps George himself might be enlisted to bring justice to the culprits.

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Re: Graham - Cast in Bronze

Post by Graham on Fri Feb 09, 2018 6:33 pm

Words 2376

Cast in Bronze 

In the pre-dawn quiet of a large Northern city, an anguished cry rang out over the ether. 
       
           ‘Queenie, Queenie.’

It came from George Pearce, People’s Poet, 1759-1796, newly resplendent on his plinth on the corner of Mildew and Resin Streets. The grey light seeping over the horizon made little impact on the obscure shadows lining the street ahead, but George was almost certain he had seen a suspicious character dragging a long pliable object from the tailgate of a 4 x 4 up the steps towards number 27.
       
           ‘Queenie,’ he called again.
           
           ‘Yes, George, what is it?’ replied Queen Victoria, 1819-1901, with bemused tolerance. ‘And “Your Majesty” if you don’t mind.’

           ‘Oh, sorry, yes, your Madge. Looks like something fishy up Mildew Street.’

           ‘Yes, I know where you are. You are not likely to have moved,’

           ‘No, ma’am.’

           ‘being a statue. What is it?’

           ‘Looks like a body to me. Someone’s dragging it out of a car, at the North end.’

           ‘George that’s the fourth body this week. The first two came out of a General Carpets showroom and went into a General Carpets van. I think we are all agreed they were carpets. Then there was the punch bag being carried out of Bart’s gym, well beaten if not actually dead I’ll grant you. Yes,’ she continued over George’s protests ‘the fourth was a cadaver but a funeral home is a perfectly natural place for one. Please, George, we appreciate your vigilance but a little more thought perhaps before you call in.’

Not being able to turn his head George strained his peripheral vision, and with the aid of the first ray of sun made out the rotund form of Councillor William Brodie heaving his golf bag through the fake regency door of number 27. As the door closed a square of fabric blew down the steps.
          
           ‘Oh well,’ thought George returning to his vigil. 

Inside number 27 Councillor Brodie leaned heavily on the door and wiped the perspiration from his forehead. Now what to do with it?

                                                                                   *

The door of 8 Heliotrope Mansions opened and a head of powder blue hair turned and bobbed unsteadily ahead of the constable into the living room trailing a heady aroma of lily of the valley and Capstan full strength. Granny Thompson levered her birdlike frame onto the sofa, and let out a sigh as her bones settled into its comfortable embrace. Without further acknowledgement, she removed her spectacles and bending low over the table began assembling a three-skinner with practiced ease. Sitting up, she licked the paper with a satisfied smile, seemingly oblivious to the constable’s bulging eyes.
        
           ‘Granny, is that what I think it is?’
       
           ‘Aye, whit are ye gaun tae dae aboot it? Arrest yir ane granny?’

P.C. Daniel Thompson scratched his spotty neck. ‘Erm, no Granny, but look I need your advice. These dogs that disappeared. The sergeant is breathing down my neck. Have you heard anything?’

           ‘Heard anything?’  He was her favourite grandson but easily embarrassed and polite to a fault. He could do with a leg up, if not a leg-over. 

           ‘Aye, maybe.’

           ‘Uh huh, what?’

She lit the joint and breathed out a plume of dense smoke in Danny’s direction. He coughed.
  
           ‘Granny!’

           ‘Oh, sorry. Look oot the back windae.’

           ‘Aye.’

           ‘See, the back a’ Pastie’s, the shed. Hae a wee look in there.’

           ‘What? Jumpin’ Jesus. Thanks Granny. I’m on it.’

Cap still in hand he headed for the door. Granny shook her head and with a little grunt pushed herself up. Making her way to the window she paused at the ancient grandfather clock, opened its door, and took out the Armalite AR-50 sniper rifle.

Through the scope, Granny watched Danny try the shed door. Panning left she caught sight of Pastie peering around the corner of the alley, a length of lead piping in his hand. Granny chambered a round, slipped the bolt home, and unlatched the safety. As Danny reached the window, Pastie crept around the corner and raised his arm. Granny placed a shot two inches beyond his nose. 

The sound echoed round the tenements sending pigeons flying and giving the rats pause for thought. Outside in the streets citizens looked up, shook their heads, and carried on with their business. From his position on the ground Pastie cast a suspicious eye on the fourth-floor window of the tenement opposite. Granny gave him two fingers. Danny had retreated behind a coal-shed and was shouting into his radio.

                                                                                                      *

Sergeant McGinley strode through the doors of St Cuthbert’s Police Station. ‘Morning, Simmonds,’ he called to the young constable behind the desk. Before the startled youth had time to reply McGinley was through the security door and halfway to his office. He was a purposeful man and his determined features were seldom troubled by a smile. But as he stopped by the secretaries’ desks his face softened to a reasonable approximation. 

           ‘Ah, Alicia, good morning. Could you get me the K9 file, thanks dear?’

As he kicked his office door closed he caught the phone on its last ring. 
          
           ‘Shots, where?’ McGinley groaned. ‘No, Simmonds, we will not be calling out the SWAT squad, mainly because we haven’t got a SWAT squad,’ and, he added to himself, Granny Thompson would make mincemeat of them.

                                                                                        *

In the normal course of events Councillor Brodie wouldn’t hurt a fly but what else could he have done? The drug hadn’t had the desired effect and the animal wobbling before him had growled like a hell hound and leapt for his throat. It had only made it as far as Brodie’s left nipple where it had clamped its fangs round his ample man breast before falling limply to the floor dragging Brodie painfully with it. 
He had hit it with the only object to hand, a brass statue of Jesus. It had little effect and it took him five minutes to prise the jaws apart. Now he silently cursed as he thought how to explain this to Pastie. How did he get into this mess? Dodgy scrap metal contracts were one thing but dognapping was not his choice of a second career. Pastie had made it brutally clear it was either that or his face on the front page of the Kildennan Chronicle, and not as councillor of the month.

Now he spoke hesitantly into the phone, 

            ‘No, it’s not dead, just, ah, sleeping.’

Neither of them laughed. The voice on the other end was more agitated than angry and Brodie was having difficulty understanding. Why was Pastie going on holiday? 

            ‘What do you mean, the man will pick it up? What man?’ When he heard the name, Brodie felt a tiny worm of terror squirm its way up his spine.

Thirty minutes later a shiny, black size twelve shoe planted itself between two pigeons outside no 27. They separated just enough to accommodate it.

           ‘He’s very big.’
           
           ‘Yes, he is big, isn’t he?’

The second shoe descended directly towards one of the pigeons and as it fluttered upwards there came an almost silent sqrrtt and a white splotch was deposited on the toecap of the shoe. Before the pigeon could take another flap, a large hand snatched it in mid-air and with three brisk strokes wiped the shoe clean.

           ‘Blimey,’ said the second pigeon, ‘I’ve never seen that bef..’ and before she could finish the sentence she too was plucked from the ground and employed to give the shoe a final polish. As the shoes marched off the pigeons shook themselves.
           
           ‘Shit.’
  
           ‘You just did.’

           ‘Yeah, here, do you fancy a bit.’

           ‘No.’

           ‘Why not?’

           ‘Wrong time of year.’

           ‘Wrong time of year? You said that yesterday.’

From his post, George took note but decided to keep his suspicions to himself.

                                                                                                             *

As he picked his way through the detritus of the community garden behind Heliotrope Mansions, McGinley quickly put two and two together and reached PC Thompson before he could do any serious harm to the fabric of society or himself by attempting to apprehend Percival ‘point-taken’ Pastie. The ’point-taken’ was the bruiser’s usual reply when sore losers objected to the points he was racking up after one of his outrageous snooker fouls.

           ‘Good work, Thompson. We need to find Mr Pastie but I doubt if he knows a cocker spaniel from a Chihuahua. We’re looking for someone a bit more sophisticated.’

                                                                                  *

In Bella Ramsbottom Park Queenie heard the whirring of wings and called out imperatively.

           ‘Could you not.’

            Sqrrrt.

           ‘Damn.’
 
            Sqrrrt.

           ‘Hello Queenie.’

           ‘There was a bang.’

           ‘A bang, yes. Very loud. Peter was disturbed.’

           ‘I was disturbed, yes. You were disturbed too.’

           ‘We were all disturbed, except the rats. They’re not very disturbable.’

Statues large and small had already reported Granny Thompson’s armed initiative and Queenie was quietly impressed. 

                                                                                                  *

The wind was quite taken with the new statue of George Pearce, and expressed it in her own subtle language of sighs and whispers. She tickled his toes and gently caressed his poetic locks. Then just to see what he was made of she gave him a powerful gust. George didn’t know about the wind yet but in his surprise said 

            ‘Here, what are you doing?’ Wind immediately fell in love with George Pearce, and continued to play around him for the rest of the day.

Brodie cowered before the dark suited figure which seemed to have blotted out all the light in the apartment. The velvet tones only loosened his bowels further.

           ‘Well, Councillor Brodie, it’s William, isn’t it? May I call you William?’

Brodie whimpered.

           ‘I’ll take that as a yes. And when you hit the dog with the statue did you say a little prayer. Because you are going to need it. Now, where is it?’

In an obstinately still functioning part of his brain Brodie was sure he’d heard that voice somewhere before. Selling something he thought, life insurance maybe, or was it babies’ nappies, no, probably just babies. His head hanging dejectedly, he led the way to the bathroom.

           ‘Hmm, he’s certainly been here.’

Brodie raised his eyes to the blood-spattered but vacant bathtub.

           ‘Oh, thank God.’

Then his eyes took in the open window. 

           ‘You won’t have anything to thank God for by the end of today unless we find that animal. Now at least you still have Lady Sebastopol’s little pugapoo. They are very endearing I’m told.’

The two men’s eyes simultaneously fell on the tiny but sadly empty doggie jacket.

            ‘William, please tell me you didn’t leave a pugapoo the size of a large steak in the same room as a Carpathian wolfhound. Oh, do stop snivelling. When we find it, I’ll let you tend its wounds, in here, with the door locked for safety. Now my dear, cretinous, little codpiece, let us scour the mews. It can’t have gone far with 500 milligrams of ketamine in its bloodstream.
                      
                                                                                                                     *   

Inside Pastie’s shed Danny and McGinley were checking the drugged animals off their list.

             ‘All here, Sir, except the wolfhound and the pugapoo.’

Danny was not unhappy about that. At the morning briefing, there had been guffaws when the duty sergeant reminded them of the importance of locating Lady Sebastopol’s little pugapoo. 

             ‘Last seen wearing his Abercrombie and Fitch, God forbid, McWhirter tartan doggie jacket. As I’m sure you all know Lady Sebastopol is chair of the police and crime panel and she will be suitably grateful for Genghis’s safe return.’

The laughter had turned to silence when the latest canine abductee was described as a Czechoslovakian Wolfhound, part German shepherd and part Carpathian wolf, the sergeant adding 

             ‘Both parts have teeth.’

             ‘What was he wearing Sarge?’

              ‘A she actually, and since you ask it was a blue polka dot bandana.’

Danny’s thoughts were temporarily diverted to Alicia. The canteen gossip was that she was having an affair with McGinley but he couldn’t believe it. All the same he thought he’d better be careful. This was a rationalisation. Danny‘s brain went into knots at the thought of speaking to her. Would she like a pugapoo?

                                                                                               *

PC Thompson looked up at the blank windows of the house. No one answered the bell and he was about to turn away when he thought to push at the door with his foot. It opened. From his perch, George silently shouted a jubilant ‘Yes,’ and then, as the constable turned away, a despairing ‘No.’ Danny had no grounds for entering and anyway it was only an anonymous tip off. Across the street, a floral curtain twitched.
In desperation George called 
              
              ‘Queenie, Queenie, anybody, what can I do?’ 

The wind listened attentively. The words themselves meant nothing but she understood on an animal level that George needed something, something to do with the constable. Out of her boundless energy and love she stirred the leaves at PC Thompson’s feet and showed him the bandana. ‘It’s a good bandana, let’s play with it,’ and she picked it up in a little whirlwind and dropped it across his boots.

In the hallway, a dog growled. Danny bent down and holding out his hand said 
              
              ‘Here boy.’ 

Genghis bared his teeth and stood his ground over the gently snoring form of a Czechoslovakian wolfhound.

                                                                                              *

In Kildennan police headquarters Danny’s star was rising. It wasn’t the only thing rising as he stood asking Alicia for a photocopy while twisting his right boot on the carpet. Alicia smiled at him.

              ‘Are you going to the Ghoulie’s Ball, Danny? I was going with Lena but she’s got to stay at home and look after her grandpa.’ 

Lena’s face opened with surprise quickly followed by a wince as Alicia kicked her under the desk.

              ‘Oh, erm,’ said Danny.

              ‘I was really looking forward to it,’ said Alicia.

              ‘Erm, would you ....’

              ‘Yes, shall we meet outside the station at 6?’ 

                                                                                                  *

An old lady with a shopping trolley stopped at the statue in the centre of the park. Pulling out a packet of Benson and Hedges Superkings, she lit one and took a long drag.

              ‘Queenie.’

              ‘Good morning Granny.’

              ‘Glad we got that doggie business cleared up.’

              ‘Yes, the little dears.’

A shaggy brown mutt appraising the base of the statue finally found the perfect spot and lifted a leg. Queen Victoria let out a regal sigh.

Graham
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