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Close Your Eyes

by andinadia 

Posted: 10 February 2015
Word Count: 787
Summary: Ok this one could divide opinions. It's nothing like I imagined when I started it. More than a little reference to Where the Wild Things Are, but I wanted to push the surreal even further. I'm not very sure of it myself! I see the 'large shapes' as ever-present in the outdoor scenes, but indistinct. The 'small shapes' are the mini-equivalents of the large shapes. (The shapes help make things happen.)

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Close your eyes
Spread 1
Alfie’s mum dropped him off and hooted the horn twice. She saw Max’s dad wave from the window. Max opened the door.
Alfie looked back at his mum.
‘See you at six,’ she said.
(a/w: Max is opening the door. We can see the head of Max’s dog Jax peering past Max’s legs. Max’s mum is at the window. There are indistinct ‘shapes’ at the upper windows.  There are ‘large shapes’ in the background/garden.)
Spread 2
‘Hey, Alfie,’ Max said. ‘Follow me.’
Alfie followed Max. He kept his coat on. He never knew with Max.
‘Everything’s ready,’ Max said. ‘Let’s go.’
(a/w: They are standing in a room in the house. There is furniture that will re-form itself in Spread 3. We can see a painting of Max’s mum waving, hanging on the wall. We can also see that the dog is wearing a life jacket. There is a closed door in the background. We can see glimpses of ‘people’ scattering, their legs just visible as they run off into other rooms and corridors.)
Spread 3
‘Go where?’ Alfie asked. ‘My mum’s coming at six.’
‘That’s OK,’ Max said, ‘We’re only going to Five O’Clock Island. Close your eyes and hum. Hum, two, three! Now open them.’
(a/w: The furniture has changed into a boat. Max is holding what could be a mechanical diagram or a map.)
Spread 4
‘Hey, do you like cabbage?’ Max asked.
‘I…,’ Alfie began.
‘Close your eyes and say CABBAGE!’ Max said. He put his hands over Alfie’s eyes. ‘Say CARROT! Say STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR!’
Max took Alfie by the hands and they jumped up and down around the boat as they shouted ‘STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR, STAR!’
‘Open your eyes, Alfie.’
(a/w: The two boys jumping up and down around the boat. Jax is also jumping around excitedly.)
Spread 5
Alfie loved the boat. The sail smelled strong.
‘It’s a very strong sail,’ Max said. ‘It’s the strongest.’
‘It can take us to Five O’Clock Island!’ Alfie said.
‘But we can’t sail from here,’ Max said. ‘You pick up the prow.’
(a/w: Now the boat has a sail made of cabbage leaves covered in stars, and a carrot for a mast. Jax has got into the boat.)
Spread 6
They carried the boat up the stairs to a room at the top of the house. The window was open. 
(a/w: Carrying the boat into the room, followed by the excitable dog. Alfie has the front end. There are two rucksacks in the middle of the floor, with a small pile of books, binoculars, flare gun, life vests, as well as a grandfather clock.)
Spread 7
They loaded the boat. Max blew into Alfie’s hands. Alfie felt a ball of air grow between his hands.
‘Now throw it!’ Max shouted.
Alfie threw the air ball into the sail and the boat began to rise up. They jumped in and the boat floated through the open window.
(a/w: They’re floating out of the window, into the hands of the ‘large shapes’. The dog jumps onto the boat.)
Spread 8
The boat sailed and sailed towards the sun.
‘Jax loves Five O’Clock Island,’ said Max. Jax licked Max’s face. Then he licked Alfie.
(a/w: The indistinct large shapes are passing the boat from hand to hand. Back in the house we can see the ‘small shapes’ at the window they have just sailed from.)
Spread 9
Jax stood at the front of the boat and smelled the air. He began to sing. Alfie picked up the binoculars.
The boat landed on the island and they put the clock on the shore so that they could see the time.
Spread 10
There were hundreds of cats on the island. They all stood in a line and sang with Jax.
The sun was going down. The clock struck five.
‘Max …,’ Alfie said.
‘Time to go, Jax,’ Max said.
(a/w: The row of cats, paying their respects to Jax.)
Spread 11
Alfie threw an air ball into the sail. They sailed and sailed, away from the sun. Max closed his eyes. Alfie closed his eyes.
‘Is your friend staying for dinner?’ Max’s dad asked. Alfie opened his eyes. The boat was gone but there was a strong smell of cabbage.
(a/w: Max’s parents come out of the side room – the door that we saw in Spread 2)
Spread 12
A horn hooted twice outside. Alfie looked around for the clock.
‘We must have left it there,’ said Max. ‘We’ll get it next time. No one will notice.’
(a/w: View from inside the house, towards the open front door. Alfie’s mum at the door.)

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Comments by other Members

a.m.edge at 10:02 on 11 February 2015  Report this post
Ah, surreal indeed. I love the way they carry the boat and sail out of the window. The idea of five o'clock island is great too, and Jax the dog. I don't think the story would be any different without the 'shapes' though - surely the boys' imagination makes things happen?
Fundamentally though, I think the story lacks a point/theme to give it substance. Where the WIld Things Are has the theme of, no matter how naughty a child is, their parents' love for them is unconditional (the porridge was still warm). Could you turn yours into a quest somehow? A quest for more time (maybe Alfie is worried as soon as he turns up that he's not there very long and they won't have enough time)?  As they are searching for 'more time', maybe Alfie starts to forget about it and enjoys the adventure? Could there be a point about enjoying the moment rather than worrying about how much time you have (a pretty universal theme really). Just thinking aloud about how to give it more depth.
And do you need all the mums and dads in it? The start confused me with Max's dad mentioned in the same line as Alfie's mum. You have this line from Alfie's mum's point of view and I think this maybe detracts from Alfie and his adventure. Could you start the story with Alfie waving his mum away?
As always, feel free to ignore the above.

andinadia at 10:14 on 11 February 2015  Report this post
Absolutely brilliant comments, Annie. Pure gold. Nothing to ignore! Thank you. 

Freebird at 14:33 on 11 February 2015  Report this post

Hi Andy,

I do like this, especially the illustrations. I think it's a great concept and suitably surreal that readers would love it. Very strong, in fact.
However, I'm not sure that the text actually matches up to the idea and the artwork.
'She saw Max's dad wave from the window '  - this is from Mum's pov, so jolts us a bit from one head to another. Plus why does she see Max's dad wave from the window when it's his mum standing there?

It would work equally well as :
Mum dropped Alfie off at Max's house. "See you at six," she said.
"Everything's ready," said Max. "Let's go."

Parts like 'The boat sailed and sailed towards the sun' work well. They are simple but evocative, and I can imagine a small boy sitting in a cardboard box and reciting, 'I will sail and sail towards the sun.'

I found the cats a bit random (unless they can be linked with the beginning, e g there's a cat sitting on the driveway when Alfie arrives) but I liked the way they paid homage to Jax. In fact, Jax is a great character!

Likewise, the cabbage bit , especially since cabbage doesnt' really figure much in a small child's life. Could they use something else, like the pages from some storybooks or something? Surreal is good, but surely it has to be refer back to itself or something relevant rather than being entirely random?

And I don't really get the 'shapes', but I think that's because I can't picture what they might look like. And I agree with Annie that they're probably not necessary.

The title could be 'Five O'Clock Island' or 'See You at Six'.

It sounds a bit negative, but I do think this is a fantastic idea that's worth pursuing.  Just the words need sharpening and the links within it need strengthening. But I love it that you are just letting your imagination run wild and are willing to share it with us.


andinadia at 15:19 on 11 February 2015  Report this post
Wow, Sarah, you and Annie have given me priceless feedback.

You're probably right about the beginning. (The fact that it was the dad waving from the window but the mum waving in the picture was just a blooper!) What I wanted to do was to somehow make it OK for a mum to drop off a young boy without stopping to make sure the parents were there. Then I thought I'd exploit the potential of a picture book to play tricks, so what looked like the dad waving from the window would turn out to be only a picture of a dad waving - keeping with the surreal theme, a bit like Magritte's 'Ceci n'est pas une pipe' because it was a picture not an actual pipe.) But like Annie suggested, I think the parents might need to be pushed further back.

I see what you mean about the cabbage. I'm not sure where that came from in fact. I liked the idea of it being odd/random and I love the sound of the word, which is why I had them shouting it out. And then they both get a bit mad and just shout STAR over and over again. It also seemed nicely fortuitous to be able to play on the idea of 'strong'.

The cats, yes I see that too. I mainly wanted to invert the relationship between cats and dogs. (The original idea was an island where all the lost cats end up.) 

What I was also trying to do with this story is make it fun as a readaloud. So, when Max says 'Close your eyes' the parent reader would get the listener to close his/her eyes. (While the parent turns the page to reveal what happens when Alfie closes his eyes.) And when the characters shout, the reader and listener can shout too! Even the air ball image lends itself to actions with the listener.

I can see the shapes will have to go, at least the big ones (maybe I'll keep the small ones because they'll be fun for the reader to spot). In my mind was the amazing films of Studio Ghibli, like Spirited Away.

I'm happy you both liked it. I hope others do too.

TassieDevil at 19:20 on 12 February 2015  Report this post
Hi Andy,
Lovely feel for this - showing the reader the value of imagination. I had visions of two scenes like the boat in the air -Peter Pan flying out the bedroom window and Disney's Spirit Of Imagination at the Epcot way back when.
The boat and Five O'clock Island are great although I also had problems with cabbage leaves. Jax, the line of cats singing and paying homage to Jax are all magical.
I asked myself what happened on the island apart from the singing. Possibly using something else from the rucksacks?
The readaloud concept is brilliant. Audience participation is always a winner

andinadia at 19:42 on 12 February 2015  Report this post
Great comments, thanks Alan. Yes, the cabbage is in the bin. Glad you like the singing cats. Good idea about the rucksacks too. I was thinking of Peter Pan too. (The Lost Cats were a reflection of the Lost Boys, in fact, but there isn't enough room here to develop that idea. Still, maybe the Lost Cats will turn up somewhere else!)

a.m.edge at 20:05 on 12 February 2015  Report this post
What about lettuce? Instead of cabbage, I mean?

Issy at 14:39 on 19 February 2015  Report this post
Fabulous ideas, and I love the ideas of shapes of things changing. However I was thinking along the same lines as Annie when I was reading, in that we need something compelling.

What is it about, is the question - what does the changeability of everything actually mean to yourself? The story underneath the story so to speak.

Could it be something along the lines of that things (to a child) change so rapidly, (situations) that they are confused and destabilised until the new shape becomes clear. Children aren't clear on cause and effect and often feel responsible for what is happening - hence think of a cabbage or a star, and there it is.

Or does one of the boys have myopic eyesight, so that he uses his other senses to help him make things out. Like the smell of cabbage.

Or does it represent a child's view in that they can only see a part of things at a time, being so small, and they have to make sense of something from very little and it could be anything .... including monsters that so many children fear, but in your story it is fun things, which twists this round delightfully.

Or is it magic, and one of the boys has secret access - or maybe his family has. At the beginning there is the mention that Alfie never knew with Max.

Just some ideas that occured to me - it is probably something quite different! I think though, once it is clear what it means, the story will almost rewrite itself!

For  me personally it touches some ideas lurking below the surface, in that all matter is energy, and energy can transform into anything. So a very powerful idea for me.

There are some wonderful touches, like all the cats. Do they have a significance? Also the time, 6 oclock, Time to go, and the 5 oclock part - does the story in fact have a theme about time in it - adults governed by the clock, but not children so much who as soon as they are having fun are called to go and do something else.

Just some thoughts. Please ignore if not helpful

andinadia at 17:50 on 19 February 2015  Report this post
Many thanks, Barbara. You've given me a huge amount to think about, which is great.

I intended this story (unlike the previous 3) to have no theme apart from 'the imagination'. It was meant to have as much grounding in reality as Alice in Wonderland (ie very little!) As I wrote it I just tried to give free reign to any ideas that came into my head, a surrealist exercise with the randomness of young children at play. As you say, all very much 'below the surface'!

As for the cats I just liked the idea of a regiment of cats all paying homage to this lovable singing dog. And there was also in my mind the notion of an Island of Lost Cats (where all the cats that seem to disappear end up), sort of reflecting the Lost Boys from Peter pan.

Yes, I wanted to get at adults' and children's different ideas about time.

Issy at 18:31 on 19 February 2015  Report this post
Wow, I really like the idea of a land of lost cats...could you interweave that more into the story? Popping up like the cheshire cat?   I very much like the idea of a theme of "imagination" and perhaps that could be even more prominent, so that when Alfie thinks of anything - there it is. Even when his friend says, don't think of ...(an elephant perhaps) there it is - could end up in such exciting chaos. This has the makings of a wonderful pb. about imagination.

So who was dreaming or not?

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