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Castro the Extraordinary (part one)

by joeyh 

Posted: 19 February 2006
Word Count: 390
Summary: A short story began under the influence of beer and Bulgakov at half one on a Monday morning. Owes debts to Paul Theroux (Millroy the Magician) and Ian Thompson (Bonjour Blanc) - but with no pretence of equality.


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Castro the Extraordinary was wiggling his toes by the side of the stage before his big entrance. As usual, he was barefoot. Flexing the front of his right, then his left foot, he was concentrating on the different registers sounded by the creaking floorboards under each foot.

Left creak higher, sharper, right creak softer, a note merely peeking out from beneath the stage - it's head above the parapet before shrining back as the toes elevated themselves.

Then the hammond organ struck up a truer, more strident note, before breaking into the Radetzky March. Da-da-da da-da-da daa da-da-da da-da-da da-da-daaa... Castro the Extraordinary considered this counterpoint to the floorboards' groanings, before straightening his posture, adjusting the human pelvis bone he'd fashioned into a hat, tugging the creases from his whale-hair shirt (these immediately, stubbornly sprang back) and propelled his tiny frame onto the stage in a single bound.

-----

Monsieur Codify watched from the back of the small theatre, leaning disdainfully on a tobacco-stained wall. Unable to take a seat ('booked up two weeks ago, boss. Could've sold this one out three times over'), a discreetly slipped banknote had got him the standing room all to himself. 50 baksheesh and fire regs be damned, eh? Monsieur Codify thought to himself, particularly noting the fuggy miasma fully unfurling from a number of expressively held Gitanes and Gauloises. Monsieur Codify's rarified nostrils also detected pipe tobacco, hashish (Moroccan, he thought) and a faint tang of urine, which roused a memory of an old Irish novel he had read as a student back in Montreal. He allowed himself to fall into a semi-reverie of kidney sandwiches before: da-da-da da-da-da da-da-da daaa da-da-da da-da-da da-da-daaa; the Radetzky March. Then his half-brother leapt barefoot onstage with a pelvis bone on his head and a dead eel for a scarf. The gap between his light snakeskin trousers and his hideously itchy-looking grey shirt was enough to reveal his hirsute navel. Castro the Incredible pulled a small cuddly toy dog from his rear pocket with his right hand, and rattling the bracelet of tiny skulls around his left wrist produced an expensive-looking black lighter from his sleeve, and in one swift motion, with eyes rolled back, he set fire to the dog's head. Then a member of the audience emitted a scream of the purest agony.

-----






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Comments by other Members



lang-lad at 22:03 on 20 February 2006  Report this post
Hi, joeyh,
Don't know quite what you want here with such a coquettish glimpse of your writing knickers rather than the full blown can-can this story seems to suggest it could be. It's a densely packed kaleidoscope of a beginning of ... something. There's atmosphere, there's life, there's a glimpse of intrigue ... there's a bit of self-consciousness in the writing and the odd wonky bit too but that's to be expected in an early draft - if that's what this is, and from what you say, it is.
Like what? Well toes elevating themselves isn't quite what you mean, unless of course the piece really is heading off into surrealist territory, in which case ... fine. A few picky grammary things but, who cares about that if there's something more important than that keeping you back from writing this? Go on, take the plunge. What happens next? Why is the M. Codify watching his half brother?
Does Castro know he's there? Is this a short story? How do you know? Is it already finished? Can we see it? Do you want a pat on the back for starting it at all or a bravo for sticking your toe in the water at all? If you only knew how much I want to say bravo but there's just not enough to go on - so do go on and wade in a little bit deeper, feel the sand fall away and start swimming, doggy paddle if you have to. Check the thing for the obvious typos, read it through, read it out loud, but most of all write it.
Post it to the group and let's get on with this emerging gem.
Cheers
eliza

lang-lad at 22:03 on 20 February 2006  Report this post
Hi, joeyh,
Don't know quite what you want here with such a coquettish glimpse of your writing knickers rather than the full blown can-can this story seems to suggest it could be. It's a densely packed kaleidoscope of a beginning of ... something. There's atmosphere, there's life, there's a glimpse of intrigue ... there's a bit of self-consciousness in the writing and the odd wonky bit too but that's to be expected in an early draft - if that's what this is, and from what you say, it is.
Like what? Well toes elevating themselves isn't quite what you mean, unless of course the piece really is heading off into surrealist territory, in which case ... fine. A few picky grammary things but, who cares about that if there's something more important than that keeping you back from writing this? Go on, take the plunge. What happens next? Why is the M. Codify watching his half brother?
Does Castro know he's there? Is this a short story? How do you know? Is it already finished? Can we see it? Do you want a pat on the back for starting it at all or a bravo for sticking your toe in the water at all? If you only knew how much I want to say bravo but there's just not enough to go on - so do go on and wade in a little bit deeper, feel the sand fall away and start swimming, doggy paddle if you have to. Check the thing for the obvious typos, read it through, read it out loud, but most of all write it.
Post it to the group and let's get on with this emerging gem.
Cheers
eliza

lang-lad at 22:03 on 20 February 2006  Report this post
Hi, joeyh,
Don't know quite what you want here with such a coquettish glimpse of your writing knickers rather than the full blown can-can this story seems to suggest it could be. It's a densely packed kaleidoscope of a beginning of ... something. There's atmosphere, there's life, there's a glimpse of intrigue ... there's a bit of self-consciousness in the writing and the odd wonky bit too but that's to be expected in an early draft - if that's what this is, and from what you say, it is.
Like what? Well toes elevating themselves isn't quite what you mean, unless of course the piece really is heading off into surrealist territory, in which case ... fine. A few picky grammary things but, who cares about that if there's something more important than that keeping you back from writing this? Go on, take the plunge. What happens next? Why is the M. Codify watching his half brother?
Does Castro know he's there? Is this a short story? How do you know? Is it already finished? Can we see it? Do you want a pat on the back for starting it at all or a bravo for sticking your toe in the water at all? If you only knew how much I want to say bravo but there's just not enough to go on - so do go on and wade in a little bit deeper, feel the sand fall away and start swimming, doggy paddle if you have to. Check the thing for the obvious typos, read it through, read it out loud, but most of all write it.
Post it to the group and let's get on with this emerging gem.
Cheers
eliza

Nell at 07:02 on 21 February 2006  Report this post
Hi joey,

Welcome to Fiction 2. I'd type in some thoughts and post them three times just to top Eliza, but she's said everything that struck me, and so much more creatively than I'd have managed off the cuff so early in the morning. This writing, the characters, show confidence and sparkle, a slightly surreal anarchy that I love and the promise of a dangerous ride. Millroy is one of my favourite books/characters (why the heck does PT write travel books?!), and is there anything comparable to The Master and Marguerita?

So I won't castigate you re. the few glitches/typos or the little dog but just say Go for it, write on, and let's see more of these two. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Nell.

<Added>

I'd have to post four times to top Eliza!!

lang-lad at 09:51 on 21 February 2006  Report this post
What what what is is is going going going on on on on! I'm I'm I'm trying tryin trying to to to reply reply reply to to to Nell Nell hang on the bell Nell to say sya say ddddddon't ttttop me! But nnnno I'm offfff to rrrrread the Mmmmaster and Mmmmmar... oh stuff this. Erudition indeed, Nell. But how does this get to Fiction II so the others can chip in?
cheerio, here we go here we go ...
daft as a brush, but what is daft about a brush anyway.

elizarrrrrrr me hearties.


lang-lad at 10:00 on 21 February 2006  Report this post
Ah Haaaaaaaa!Success, Joe! Hope you get lots of feedback now.
cheers
elixa

DJC at 18:43 on 21 February 2006  Report this post
Joey - a very interesting beginning, and I would agree with Eliza all three times in saying it seems like this is the beginning of something much more involved. There is a surreality which works well in itself, but I think that lots of things here could be extended.

I loved the ending, with the dog being set alight - not that I'm into pet cruelty, I hasten to add, but it's just such a cliff-hanger. Interested to see what happens next.

Just one minor thing, and that is the form of the verb you use at the beginning. You use passive voice a number of times ('was wiggling', 'was concentrating') - and it would sound more dynamic if you used the active voice:

Castro the Extraordinary wiggled his toes by the side of the stage before his big entrance. As usual, he was barefoot. Flexing the front of his right, then his left foot, he concentrated on the different registers sounded by the creaking floorboards under each foot.

Other than this it's a very well-written piece.

Darren


joeyh at 01:40 on 22 February 2006  Report this post
Wow, thanks all for your comments and everything! Genuinely wasn't expecting this level of feedback. I clicked the 'go on, I can take it!' button, cos, y'know, I can, and proper criticism is what I need. So thanks to all of you!

Eliza/langlad - you really know how to cut to the core, don'tcha?! You're very much correct about where I stand at the moment (thinking particularly about your 'Danish Church' comments), and I'm not sure where I'm going etc. etc. Stick with me though! It'll come good. I'll be uploading Castro part deux soon enough. Thanks Darren for your points too - useful, incisive.

Nell - one point you made overrides all others in your comment: Paul Theroux's travel books are superb! Yes, he should probably get more kudos for his novels (and it's great to meet a fellow 'Millroy' fan - now out of print, apparently), but for me he's the best post-war travel writer of the bunch. Better than Chatwin, better than Bryson, better than Jan Morris too! But then I'm biased; the first book that really inspired me to write was The Great Railway Bazaar. Phew. Sorry. In real life I run the travel section in a 'major chain' bookshop, if that explains anything.

On a more serious note, I should definitely be castigated for the poor little toy dog...

Thanks again, all of you,

Joe

Nell at 07:15 on 22 February 2006  Report this post
Joey, re. the travel books, I guess it's a personal thing, but after negotiating the depression and downright misery of his walk around the coast of Britain I felt like emigrating...

Nell.

davedave at 00:59 on 27 February 2006  Report this post
Joe,

Just a quick note to say welcome to the group. I'll wait until you post the next bit before commenting - I agree pretty much with what the others have said thus far, though.

Dave


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