Parker’s Book Report

Parker drummed on the notepad with the tip of his pen. Mr Oswald told them he wanted to see “an honest book review mentioning at least three positive points.”

“Guess I can say it’s well written — as far as the actual writing goes.” Parker mumbled, and scribbled the words on his pad. The story flowed naturally, no glaring faults, no plot holes. Now, what else?

He tapped the book with his pen and wondered if “Nice colors on the front cover” would pass for one positive point. He sat up in his chair and stretched his arms above him. The screen on his cell phone showed 10:00 and this crummy book report was due for Lit class in twelve hours. On teacher’s desk, neatly typed, no spelling errors.

Was it interesting? Maybe — in a stretch. Okay, the story was interesting enough to keep a reader hooked. Worthwhile reading? Two thumbs down. What were people supposed to get out of reading this garbage, anyway? The impression that cops were brutal, corrupt — murderers even? Great take-away.

Parker’s Dad was a cop. His older brother was in police college. Every day cops like his dad put their lives on the line to keep the peace, catch the bad guys and lock them up. To try and prevent gang wars and pick up the pieces after. His dad had a couple of serious scars from knife-wielding toughs. He knew that many a night when some big operation was afoot Mom walked the floor until she heard the garage door open and knew Dad was home.

He read the author’s name on the cover and scowled. If someone breaks into this guy’s house, who’s he going to call for help? If some scammer empties his bank account, or some drunk driver plows into him on the way home from work, who’s supposed to deal with it? But he makes big bucks writing this story where the main character’s a violent ex-cop, police joke about beating up suspects in detention, and in the end the murderer turns out to be a greedy cop trying to get his hands on the bankroll he thinks the victim stole.

Parker felt like snapping his pen in half. Instead, he set it down and wandered to the kitchen, where he pulled a can of pop out of the fridge.

With all the books out there, why did Mr Oswald assign this one? He’d sounded so pumped about it. “Great example of a flawed hero,” he’d told them. “You gotta like this guy, warts and all.”

Oh, no, you didn’t. Did Oswald think they needed to get more of an attitude toward cops than most kids have now? Or maybe it was on the curriculum and Oswald was just getting paid to rave about it.

His dad walked into the kitchen right then and threw an arm over his shoulder. “Up late, buddy?”

“Got a book report to write for tomorrow’s Lit class. Can’t get into it.” He pulled the tab off his pop can and took a drink.

“Like the book? Was it worth reading?”

Parker shrugged and turned his free thumb down. “A book about a bad ex-cop. Had to retire because he couldn’t control his temper. Fantasizes about smashing peoples’ faces when they make him mad. You know what they say nowadays. ‘We need to see heroes with faults’ and all that.”

His father grimaced. “Well, I’ll admit it’s tempting to give some petty crooks with an attitude one good punch. You catch them robbing a store and they start wailing that a criminal record will mess up their life. It’ll be all your fault if they can’t get a job now.” He rolled his eyes. “Like, couldn’t you figure this out before you got caught?”

Then he gave Parker a light slap on the back. “But, like we say to the perps we haul in, ‘Why don’t you just tell the truth.’ The good Lord didn’t make you to be a herd animal. Be respectful, point out the positives where you can, but if you think the book is trash, say so. And say why.”

“Even if I get, like 20%, for this review because I don’t ‘get’ the hero?”

“Even if you get 20%. But get it done by the deadline. That you can do.”

Parker grinned and headed back to his room. Okay. Here goes. He picked up his pen to scribble a few ideas — and suddenly his words were flowing. He nodded in satisfaction. I’m gonna make this!

.
Fandango’s one-word challenge: DEADLINE
This prompt has led me into quite a tale today! I won’t tell you which book Parker was writing a  review on. As you can probably tell, I can’t recommend reading it. 😉

Best If Cut

Word of the Day prompt for today: SUCCINCT
Merriam-Webster says: marked by compact precise expression without wasted words

Like A Jewel, Best If Cut

Publisher John Murray was known as a man with a sense of humour. He read through a manuscript from an aspiring author one day and wrote this encouraging note of critique: “Sir, I have read your manuscript and it is like a precious jewel. And like a precious jewel, it will sparkle the more if cut.”

Flash Fiction Alters You

Two years ago I joined Friday Fictioneers, a group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. The goal is to write a hundred-word story in response to the photo prompt she sends around every Wednesday. One hundred words means barest bones. Every superfluous word goes. Every phrase that can possibly be omitted is deleted.

TMI

This paragraph comes from a cozy mystery I started reading and abandoned. Remember that a mystery, by definition, is built on tension. A writer has to keep the action moving, the readers on edge. All the unnecessary description of the room, the carpet, the furniture, slows this particular scene down to a crawl:

My mind registered a familiar ring tone and I reached for my navy faux-leather handbag, the one I’d bought with the gift certificate Mom gave me for the trendy new fashion store that just opened up three months ago at a nearby mall. I rummaged around, feeling my wallet, a few tissues, and several small spiral notebooks I carried for jotting down bits of poetry before I pulled out my shiny pink cell phone, now steadily tinkling out the tune to “Fleur Elise,” my favorite of all the tone options on this phone, hit the tiny green Talk button and said “Hello.”

Sum total: a female answers her phone.
(Her Mom is calling to ask if she’s seen her sister.)

Succinct version:
I grabbed my ringing phone from my purse. “Hello.”
Mom’s voice sounded worried. “Sue, I can’t reach Patty. Have you seen her lately?”

Word count: 23
I could have to cut out the purse, though the purse tells readers it’s a cell phone and she isn’t at home. This type of editing is terrific practice for “writing tight,” which is the kind of writing that sells these days.

Mark Twain’s succinct writing advice:
“When you see an adjective, kill it.”

Is Honesty Always Best?

Today’s Word of the Day prompt is CANDOR

Here I am rattling on this keyboard in hopes of conveying some thoughts on this topic. HONESTY; TRUTH. Deep subjects!

According to Merriam-Webster candor is the free expression of one’s true feelings.
Adjectives: honest, open-hearted, truthful, direct, forthright, frank, plain-spoken, straightforward, blunt.

How candid can you be in your relationships? How much open sharing do you think is okay between spouses, friends, family? How honest are you with your competitors and antagonists? And when do you just keep quiet and hope for the best, letting others make their own choices and learn their own lessons?

How much candor can you handle from others? If you have a fault, do you want to know about it? Are friends allowed special privileges in this department? Do you expect more gentleness or less frankness from your spouse than close friends?

I can look back on a few times when a friend has been very forthright with me about one of my faults. I sure didn’t appreciate it at the moment, but later on I thanked them for what they said. I’d fallen into a rut and their words put me back on track again.

And I remember a time when I wrote a candid reply to a friend. Her letter informed me that she’d discovered her husband was cheating on her. She was deeply wounded, insulted, and furious. She referred to the “other woman” as “That…that SLUT!”

Do you blame her? I didn’t. Yet I sensed that the fountain of fury I saw splashed across her letter, if she kept bathing in it, would finally drown her. As they say, “Acid corrodes the container it’s in.”

I wrote back to sympathize a bit, yet told her as kindly as I could that she had to let go of that anger or it would destroy her. And as for “that SLUT!” where was she coming from? Though this affair was wrong, maybe the other woman was a hurting, confused person, dealing with self-esteem issues too. I reminded my friend of her own teen years when she had such negative feelings about herself and what this led her into.

(My friend’s mom died young and her dad was abusive to them. One day he decided she needed to work on her math, so he sat her down at the table and sat down across from her with a textbook in one hand and a ping pong paddle in the other. Every time she gave him the wrong answer, he smacked her face with the paddle. As a teen her need for love and approval drove her into a relationship with a married man, which led to an abortion.)

It was a hard letter to write. Honesty stings. She might well hate me when she read it. But my conscience wouldn’t let me just pat her on the back, say “Poor you,” and leave her to drown in that acid.

I didn’t hear from her for a long time, but finally we did resume correspondence. She told me all her other friends were full of sympathy. When she read my letter she raged, “How can she? She’s supposed to be my friend!” But then she wrote, “In the end your letter helped me more than all the sympathy I got.”

Having seen people flounder for years in bitterness, I do believe that sometimes, to help a friend in need, you simply must be openhearted and call a spade a spade.

What do you think?

The Comfort of A Garden

IN THE GARDEN

by Edgar Guest

I sometimes get weary of people
and weary of being polite;
I sometimes grow tired of the dull man,
and sometimes am bored by the bright.
And then when my nerves are a-tingle,
I walk in the yard that is ours,
And I thank the good Lord for the comfort
of songbirds and blue skies and flowers.

I never grow tired of the martens
which circle about overhead;
I never grow weary of robins —
there is nothing about them I dread.
I smile when I see them returning,
I sigh when at last they depart,
and perhaps it’s because they are never
vindictive or petty or smart.

And the trees don’t expect to be talked to.
I can lie there and dream in the shade
and not have to think up an answer
to some dreary question that’s made.
So I often slip into my garden
when I’m weary of hearing things said,
and thank the good Lord for my roses
and trees and the birds overhead.

.Walk-edged-daylilies
From the book, Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
© 1934 by the Reilly & Lee Company

My Response to Fandango’s FOWC prompt: COMFORTABLE

Mini-Review for Mini-Tales

Beginnings and Endings: a Selection of Short Stories

© 2017 by Jane Suen

This book contains four short tales, nothing profound or suspenseful; just everyday scenes in the lives of several people — and one growing thing. A quick read, interesting and well edited. I noticed several wordings that made me wonder if the writer’s first language is English, but over all it’s very well done. Makes you want to read the longer background story or the “what happens next?”

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Going through my Kobo e-reader this afternoon, taking a look at the books I’ve downloaded. A number of these are coming from new authors, giving away their books in the hopes the recipients would write a review. So I’d best do my part. 🙂