Thursday, February 28, 2008


Keep those votes for Readers' Choice coming! You all have done a wonderful job commenting and supporting each other.

Since these contests are about community building, I always like to do a story myself. Here is what spoke to me when I listened to the whispers.

by Jason Evans

The car slowed and crackled into dead grass alongside the road.

It sat before the engine cut.

In the shadow of the hill, a man emerged, followed by his son. The doors thumped shut.

"Is that an apple tree?"

"No," the man said. "A maple."

Hands in pockets, he didn't move. He stared up into ghostly layers of clouds.

"Can I ask you something?"

The boy shrugged.

"Am I a good dad?"

The boy looked up. "Um. Yeah. I guess."

The man began to climb. His feet tore wounds in the watery ground.

"If ever I'm not, I want you to tell me. Okay?"

"Um. Okay."

They stopped at the tree. The man avoided the boy's eyes.

"When I was your age," he said, "I had a friend who disappeared."

The boy perked. "He died?"

"Everyone figured he died. You reminded me of him today."

"Wow. Were you sad?"

"Yeah. I was sad. And afraid. I still think about him sometimes."

The man rubbed a squeezing pain in his forehead.

"He must feel cheated. He must be so mad about being left behind."

The tree branches chattered.

For a moment, the grey sky brightened, but the light slipped under the clouds.

"Can bad people ever become good?"

No longer listening, the boy dug mud with his heel.

The man straightened. "We should go."

Before moving to leave, he smoothed the broken ground and prayed an apology to the boy he buried beneath the tree.

And knew he'd never be redeemed.


Sarah Hina said...

"Can bad people ever become good?" Yes, but the ghosts of the past persist, and forever distort our perspective.

Very powerful writing, Jason. I loved "His feet tore wounds in the watery ground." The father's guilt, regret, and self-loathing all sliced through, even as his son's innocence remained intact.

These whispers of the past became shouts in his head. Spring's promise of renewal will have to wait.

Anonymous said...

I liked this a lot.

I like the voice of the boy, and how his attention is lost so quickly. Very real.

So the tree was a maple? I'll have to tell my friend.

Hoodie said...

Wow, multi-layered emotionally. Packed a punch to my gut. You filled this thing to overflowing in such a short space. Again, the master shows us how.

raine said...

Agree--a powerful piece.
Loved how the landscape reflected the quiet horror of the situation.
Very fine, Jason!

Precie said...

For a moment, the grey sky brightened, but the light slipped under the clouds.

Very revealing! Overall, nicely done!

Anonymous said...

Wow! I didn't see that one coming! Wonderful story, Jason!

It's amazing how the stories tend to reflect the loneliness of that tree.

Anonymous said...

I liked the dialogue best. I stink at writing dialogue, and I love being able to read someone who's truly deft with it.

I didn't see the end coming, either, but I like the theme of redemption; also appropriate for Lent.

And in terms of the dad knowing he'd never been redeemed, I worried that "you reminded me of him today" was foreshadowing. I love the way it leaves the piece open-ended, but without being incomplete.

Sameera Ansari said...

That was absolutely wonderful!

Can good people ever become bad?I believe with true repentance,they can..

Anonymous said...

I agree with Aerin in the skill you have in using dialog. To set tone, develop a sense of the characters, and move us along the process in discovering the layers of those characters and their lives is a gift.

I also like that you gave us just enough information so we want to know more, yet it is our imaginations which have to figure out what we think it all means.

Very nicely done.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I thought this was incredibly well done. Dialogue captured perfectly as well as actions. The man's inner turmoil is strong and I love your last line. Very moving.

bluesugarpoet said...

Double wow. So much is said here in so few words. Your vignette tugged at my heart; I could almost tangibly feel the main character's regret. Fantastic!

pattinase (abbott) said...

You had me worried someone would be joining the boy that disappeared. I read too many crime stories.

paisley said...

i am forced to wonder about the circumatances surrounding the friends death... with children,, it would not be unheard of that the death itself was accidental,, and the guilt shame and fear enough to cause him to bury him...


Clare said...

Hey Jason - how do we get on your contest list on the blog? We are just about to start our first international "unpblished" contest on March 3rd. It's free to enter and top prize is $5000.

Any chance of adding it to your blog roll? URL is:

Many thanks,


bekbek said...

I like how open this is to interpretation, Jason. "Bad people" is subjective. I saw a father reminded of another child, and thought about how easy it is to feel 100% guilt for anything that happens to a child. Did this man do something "wrong," or was he just an ordinary man felt responsible for a sadly everyday tragedy, with a tree as a constant reminder of his loss?

Touching one way, creepy another. I like that it is so full of possibilitiy.

Gnewvegan said...

Did not expect that ending.. A story which leads you in right from the beginning..

Anonymous said...

Sarah, Strugglingwriter, Hoodie, Raine, Precie, Sandra, Aerin, Sameera, J.C., Ello, Bluesugarpoet, Pattinase, Paisley, Bekbek, Gnewvegan, thanks for letting me take part too. :) The kind words on the technical elements were much appreciated. As for the story itself and the emotions behind it, you are all very insightful. It's a pleasure to put out these ideas and share them. For me, this blog has been (and hopefully will continue to be) an amazing experience. Those of you who have been along for the ride a while know that I often tear into emotions and character motivations. This man is not dealing with the question of true redemption (in the eyes of others), since what he did is known only to himself. How do you live as two people? That is his question. He is the evil one he condemns as well as the good one he has strived so hard to be. Each one should cancel the other, but because both have great power, they seesaw in a perpetual dance.

Anyway, enough philosophizing. It's late, and I very well could be delirious. :)

This contest has been spectacular!!

Anonymous said...

Clare, I'll stop over and check it out.

Unknown said...

Wow, powerful and intense piece of multi-layered writing, Jason. Beautifully rounded and constructed,

JaneyV said...

I like this piece very much. The man strives every day to redeem himself from this terrible act by being a good father and person. Through these actions he is redeemed as a human being [we certainly like him and think of him as a 'good' man] but he can find no forgiveness because he's the only one who knows what has been done. How can you be priest and confessor? The final line was brutal and honest.

It was a very moving story which unfolded beautifully, gently and powerfully.

This has been a magic contest and it's been wonderful to be in the company of so many talented people. I have learnt so much.


Terri said...

I believe your biggest talent is how you are able to draw readers into the story so quickly and keep them there... apart from all the other stuff that other have mentioned, of course ;-)
Somehow I feel sorry for the man, though by the end, I don't want to.

DBA Lehane said... mean I can't vote for this one!? ;)

Unknown said...

great story. and apt title. makes a powerful read

Gone said...

Brilliant Ending, shame we can't vote for you in Reader's choice.

Steve H said...

wow! that was fantastic!!!

PJD said...

Echoing everyone's sentiments on the story and especially the craft. The words the father uses are most intriguing to me. "He must feel cheated. He must be so mad about being left behind." Using the present tense indicates a belief in afterlife or something similar, and a belief in a connection between the physical world and whatever else there is. The fact that he prays his apology to the boy rather than whispering or thinking it reinforces this.

The phrase "left behind" also makes me wonder about your intent. On the one hand, when you couple it with the light in the clouds, the remote location, and the "everyone figured he died," there's an implication of, dare I say, alien abduction. Of course the penultimate paragraph kills that inference.

But then it serves double duty. "left behind" as in unable to move ahead with life like all his friends. But also "left behind" as in his death was due to an accident or prank and not a murder.

I do like this a lot. My only quibbles are that I don't think parents should ever ask their kids whether they're good parents. He should ask his wife, not his son. At least not until the son is grown enough to have his own kids.

Otherwise, I applaud this, especially the efficiency and depth of the prose.

Anonymous said...

Absolute Vanilla, Janeyv, Terri, DBA Lehane, Puresunshine, The Grocer, Hotwire, PJD, many many thanks!! I don't know if my experience is common, but the amount I've learned about the art of writing through interacting with other writers just like we are now is staggering. What I've learned in 2 1/2 years is worth 20 years going at it alone.

I'm really moved by all of your comments about what this man is thinking and feeling. It means that I've done my job. In a small way, you've become him. Your own beliefs and viewpoints are knocking around in his shoes. What did he do? Was it so bad? Has he done enough to overcome it? Should he have asked his son for a piece of forgiveness? These are his thoughts too.

Writing is an amazing thing, isn't it? We're all blessed to have the gift.

SzélsőFa said...

I liked the characterisation of the two people.
Very powerful.
I like your words on the experiences of writing, too.
While I understand that a parent should never ask this young a son about his own parenting abilities, this person, the main character is not an average person. He feels guilt and wants to justify his being a parent instead of being a prisoner by hearing that yes, he's a good person, after all.
The young kid's ignorance is also well captured :)

BTW:Is it a maple tree, then, or was that words just part of the writing?

Precie said...

...the amount I've learned about the art of writing through interacting with other writers just like we are now is staggering. What I've learned in 2 1/2 years is worth 20 years going at it alone.

DITTO!!!! I know some writers who prefer working alone...who prefer not to share their work until it's published. And I respect that. But I function very differently. I need interaction like this to thrive and grow as a see how others work...and I think a community like this one, open and generous and welcoming, is a gift.

Jaye Wells said...

The ending was a surprise, but as I look back over the descriptions earlier the foreshadowing is very well done. Again, you continue to amaze me not only with you writing, but with you dedication to encouraging other writers.

rel said...

I applaude your character developement. I've been both those charscters, at different times of course. Not to say I ever killed anyone as a child. I have had those conversations both with my Dad and with my sons. You captured the tenor perfectly.
I asked my kids, not "am I a good dad, but rather; how would you evaluate growing up in our house?
As far as this father's dilema; he'll never be able to forgive himself. He may be a more attendant father though.

Beth said...

A maple tree! I've been trying to figure out what the tree was this whole contest.

Jason, this is my favorite one of yours to date. The way the boy loses interest -- perfect. (if you have a child, you know this one too well)

The Anti-Wife said...

Very nicely done and once again dark! Hmmmm.

Geraldine said...

Interesting and compelling from beginning to end. The ending took me by surprise.

Geraldine H.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I wonder if seeing the scene in person, as you must have, alters your sense of what the narrative should be. Nice reading it.


I love the flow of the story and the dialogue is great! At the end though, I'm confused, did he kill the boy he once knew, did he kill his own son? I want more!

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, I'm not sure what kind of tree it is. I took the picture from the road. I'll have to see when it leafs out. Thanks for the kind words! :)

Precie, if someone hones great skill in isolation, it's a miraculous skill. Not impossible, but immensely impressive.

Jaye, yes, I threw quite a bit of foreshadowing in. ;) Thanks for all of the suport you've given too.

Anonymous said...

Rel, those heartfelt, rare's wonderful for you to have had the experience from both sides. What a great well to draw from.

Beth, glad you liked this one! It's important for me to try new approaches and experiments.

Anti-Wife, I suppose this is the confusion after the dark.

Geraldine, much appreciated. :)

Pattinase, I don't know why, but I wasn't drawn to the tree. For me, the entire scene was the inspiration. The temperature, the wind, the color, etc.

EP, he killed his friend long ago. He has been trying to make up for it ever since. Whether it was an accidental death, or a murder committed by a child, is up to the reader to decide. Thanks for the feedback on the technical elements!

Chris Eldin said...

Everything's already been said!

I think you totally captured the innocence of the boy. Juxtaposed with a tortured soul, this becomes striking.

Very nice indeed!!!

Linda Peters said...

Wow, what a powerful piece of writing. Bravo!!

Rob said...

Well done! Great job showing the father looking for redemption through his son, but knowing it will never be.

I enjoyed this.

Anonymous said...

for a moment, i was worried that the boy would be killed.

this is definitely a very well-crafted piece which engaged me right from the beginning.

and i like the tragic here.

Anonymous said...

I love how you wrote this. Saying, but not. Almost spelling it out, but hinting instead. It's more powerful than if you had said it in one bold sentence. I felt his heavy heart, and sighed.

mermaid said...

I like the questions you ask. There are no right answers. Just personal paths, regrets, and some redemption.

Bernita said...

"Redeemed" is such a powerful word to full stop a powerful ending.
Wonderful, Jason!

As are the entries for "Whispers."
I haven't had time to comment on them all but what a disdplay of talent!

Anonymous said...

Chris, I liked that part too. It makes the man feel even more alone.

Linda, thanks!

Rob, so true. I'm afraid it never will be also.

C.S., that was definitely a little bit of a misdirection. :) The boy did seem at risk.

Therese, I've become an strong champion of showing versus telling. My theory is to create the world for the reader, make it feel real, then let the reader experience it and make his/her own judgments.

Mermaid, those very complexities draw me. Many things in life have no right answer.

Bernita, it's been a brilliant contest! And thanks for the feedback. I think I managed to craft a technically strong piece with this one. :)

Patricia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Patricia said...

I envy your characterization with the Dad. The most intriguing characters or situations for me are those showing the capacity of both good and evil to coexist. The depth pulls me right in. I'm determined to enhance my work to get this scope.

Aniket Thakkar said...

This was awesome, Jason!

Liked it a lot. Kind of a story, I wish I had written.

Great use of dialogue to portray the grief and sadness.