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Two Extra Bullets

by Margarita 

Posted: 14 April 2012
Word Count: 1211

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"Hello," she said entering my office reluctantly. Another interview-hopefully the last one for today. "Hello," said I. "Please make yourself comfortable." I ran through her C.V. again.
"Would you like anything to drink?" I asked her.
"One black coffee with no sugar please," she said now with more confidence. It must have been the look of approval that she could easily read on my face. She had quite a strong perfume for a young lady like her.
"Can I smoke?" she asked. I nodded. She lit a cigarette. Then another one as we chatted. Then I had this weird feeling. This mixture of cigarette smell mixed with her strong perfume took control of my head. I even opened the window though it was cold enough, but it didn't help. I got lost in this smoke; somewhere twenty years ago. It took me back to that autumn.

During that autumn, my parents had to leave for a couple of weeks and I had no choice but to stay at my aunts’ house. She lived in a neighborhood where streets were so clean and people so perfect that it was even boring to look at them. My aunt was a middle-aged, skinny, cold woman with thin lips and a high forehead. Her hair was always pulled back tightly into a bun with no single hair astray. She was a school teacher at one of the most prestigious schools, and it was funny how her occupation somehow left an apparent trace on everything she said and did. She was one of those people who worshiped discipline and one of those who had ready answers for any questions related to life or morals. It even seemed to me as a child that somewhere in her closet she was hiding a very lengthy list of people who would end up burning in hell. But there was one thing I admired about her; it was her incredible patience. It was unthinkable that something or someone could make her lose her temper, except when she saw that woman or talked about her. I would see her face growing rigid and her body almost paralyzed. I remember once she spotted that woman from some distance. She then addressed me, but in a weird way without even seeing me; her eyes narrowing and her breath becoming heavy. She then said, "Had she lost all the feeling of self-respect at all? Oh just look at her wearing that outfit! Could she possibly be more vulgar than that? And her poor kid! Oh I can only imagine how torturing it must be to have a mother like that! No wonder she is not allowed to see her only daughter!"

I looked carefully at that woman who could drive my aunt crazy just by passing near her, or just breathing the same air that filled my aunts’ lungs. When she passed by, it seemed to me that all the air around absorbed that smell of cigarette smoke mixed with strong perfume. She was a tall, full-bodied, middle-aged woman with long, wavy black hair that mysteriously covered part of her face. She was wearing tiger leather boots nearly up to her hips, a black sweater and enormous earrings. She had some wrinkles on her face but time was rather merciful to her, especially when compared to my aunt. I wouldn’t say that she was beautiful, rather she had that magical ability to steal and captivate all the attention and it was impossible to take her for someone else or not to notice her in the crowd. Not one single woman in my aunts’ neighborhood would dare to show up in public wearing similar outfit. She always wore fewer clothes than other women did and much more- make up. After seeing her for a couple of times I noticed that she frequently changed her company of relatively young men ,most of them riding in exceptionally luxurious cars, but there was one thing she would never change- the color of her long, red, carefully polished nails .But no! Once I actually saw her without her red nail polish. It was early in the morning, when I had that habit of waking up a little bit earlier than the rest of the family and going for a short walk. Usually, I would go straight to my friend`s house but we had a fight the day before, so I've decided to change my course of direction, and after a few minutes of walking I was amused by that picture appearing in front of me. I saw that woman feeding that dog which almost scared me to death. He was thin, ugly, blind, helpless creature. So thin- that I could almost count his ribs, his eyes were sunk deep inside and his left ear bitten by other dogs. He was so exhausted that he could barely walk. I never saw anybody feeding that dog, and when people passed him by, there wouldn’t be any reflection of sympathy in their eyes; it was replaced by collective hatred and complete rejection to his ugly existence. I stood there mesmerized looking at both of them. There was something indescribable about that picture. The two of them were looking each other in the eye as if there was a kind of muted mutual language no one else could hear. She was wearing no make- up and her red nail polish was removed, and the dog was waving his tail in excitement. Then I saw her wrapping him in her expensive pink shawl and taking him to her place saying with pure sarcasm "Those nice bastards wouldn’t feed you, would they"

Before my parents' arrival in few days, I accidentally heard that she had poisoned herself. They found her dead in the kitchen, with a picture of her daughter in her hands and bottles of empty vodka all around her. Next day in the morning they held a meeting at my aunt`s school. The children were banned from entering, but I was too curious to miss it. Anyway, I managed to find a good place to hide in, but I didn’t benefit a lot from it. They were saying things I couldn`t understand; they spoke of religion, the importance of life, the severity of punishment and they used weird words like suicide. Suicide. That was the first time when I heard this word. Also I heard distinctly my aunt`` firm voice and her insistence upon killing the dog. On the same day one of the most respectable men in the neighborhood killed the dog. He missed the first time and shot him in his back, and despite having two extra bullets he decided that it was enough for a creature like that. It took poor dog a few hours to die. Then all of them…….
A breeze of cold air took me back to reality. "So Mrs. Zainab you mentioned in your C.V. that you have 3 years of experience in the field?" She stared at me without answering for a few seconds, and then she replied:
"Yes, actually it was three years and three months, but I haven’t mentioned the training period."
"Well, what can I say? You’re the kind of person we’ve been searching for. By the way do you like dogs?"

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Comments by other Members

lang-lad at 21:11 on 15 April 2012  Report this post
Hi, Margarita, I made some notes as I read this but I found they were tending to be about things like your occasional minor slip with a tense of a verb or use of a word which suggested to me that perhaps English is not you first language. Am I right? If so, that would make a difference to how I might respond to this piece.
What sort of feedback are you looking for? I notice you've asked not too harsh, not too soft.

Margarita at 07:08 on 16 April 2012  Report this post
Hi Eliza,

Yes, you are right, English is not my first language. Regarding your comment just tell me what you though about the piece and I`d really like to know what should I work on , I mean my faults.

Becca at 19:29 on 16 April 2012  Report this post
Hi Rita,
I can 'see' the story you are trying to tell and it's a very good story. It's a strange one, it's about two outcasts, a dog and woman both on the fringes of society. There could be a hundred ways to tell it of course. In your story, I think you tell the main bulk of the story as a child, but the narrator is an adult who is reminded of the woman when interviewing a different woman. You may not necessarily need this particular set-up to tell the story through. Part of the story is about how the young girl sees the 'real' woman who doesn't go out in make up and with painted nails. That's a huge subject all wrapped up in a tiny subject and therefore perfect short story material.
Thinking about how to improve on the story, in para three that starts 'I looked carefully at the woman' most of it is a description of her, and the description is that of a whore. The rest of that para is an action part in which the main character, [the MC] saw her with the dog. What you could do here is reduce the description of the woman to one single very acutely written line that tells your reader exactly what the woman is. You don't have to describe her physically, each reader can invent their own whore. You could even do this job by having a short piece of dialogue between some villagers or the parents and the aunt about her so that the reader knows what she is because of what they say. That will save you all those words. Let the reader do the work!

I think over all what you have to aim for is the sense of showing the story rather than telling the story. If you tell it, which I think you have here, it's called exposition, which just means you've explained everything. But the art of writing fiction is to write in such a way as to allow the reader to understand it without ever actually telling them anything, if that makes sense?
So, take that dog for example. If you'd put him in much earlier in the picture and had a couple of kids throwing stones at him, or a man trying to shoot him, or a woman throwing water on him, something like that, so the reader knows already that he's an outcast, then later at the scene with the woman and the dog, you don't have to say a thing about the dog, you don't have to say 'I never saw anyone feeding that dog' and so on. Then all you have to do is paint a tender scene between woman and dog with no explanation and the reader understands what you mean with no need to explain a thing.
I hope this is of help, and welcome to the group.

Margarita at 20:34 on 17 April 2012  Report this post
Hi Becca,

Thank you very much for reading the story and for your time. I will re-read the story and i`ll definately take your advice into consideration.
Regarding the exposition, i guess you are right, I could have showed peoples attitute towards the dog in less obvious way ( i had this idea before but couldn`t apply it). Maybe few lines would do it(throwing stones is a great idea). Regarding the woman, she is really a whore and maybe, to be honest ,i had a clear image of her, but maybe I`ll be able to limit the description by making people tak about her.

Thank you very much for your warm welcoming

Buzzard at 15:10 on 22 April 2012  Report this post
Hi, Margarita
Sorry it's taken me so long to get round to reading this. I shan't say anything about exposition, because Becca's said it all. Actually, she's also touched on the main point I wanted to raise too - which is the framing of the story. It's a really handy device for any short story. I think bringing it back to its beginning at the end can work really well because it rounds everything off nicely. I think it works especially well when you do what you've done, and use the point of return to reveal something new - in this case, the narrator's sympathy with the woman and the dog in her recollection. Throughout the account, you've largely withheld this from us, which is a good thing, of course.

That said, Becca says you may not need the set up, and in this instance I agree, but simply because the story in its present form is too short to accommodate it. The frame is almost as big as its subject, as it were, and for me begs too many questions about the narrator that can't be answered here for lack of space or time.

One other thing: I did wonder why there would have been a meeting about the woman's death at the school. Was this a formal meeting, as I initially understand, or more of a casual conversation which the narrator overheard?

I do think it's a really worthwhile story. A child's better - or more sympathetic - appreciation of a person than the supposedly more responsible adults involved makes for a wonderful subject. And that the climax of the story is a revelation that this narrator's generosity of spirit has endured makes it a very warm and rewarding read.

Thanks very much,

Margarita at 13:59 on 22 May 2012  Report this post
Hello Clayton,

Thank you so much for making time to read my story and I really apologize for the delay in a response. I totally agree with Becca regarding the point she made on the exposition, I will definitely rewrite some parts of the story - maybe adding few lines that will show people`s attitude towards the dog without saying it directly.

Regarding the framing, though it could work without the set up , to be honest I don`t see this story without the introduction, as you said it would be too short.

As for the meeting, I think it is a very important part of the story. It shows that the decision to kill the dog was not the decision of an individual, but rather the whole group of people, and the prominent figures of the neighborhood. It is an official meeting, you can see that through the setting which is the school.Also what I`ve been meaning to say is that though they highly think of themselves (the neighborhood I mean) and of their morals, they didn`t care to kill the dog at least appropriately, though they had one more bullet left.

I am very happy to receive such great comments on my work , so thank you so much for your compliment you`ve made my day .

Margarita at 15:54 on 22 May 2012  Report this post
P.S. Just out of curiosity, you`ve said that 'the frame is almost as big as its subject, as it were, and for me begs too many questions about the narrator that can't be answered here for lack of space or time. ‘What kind of questions did you had in mind?

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