Tuesday 2 June 2009

Exercises on Free Writing

He, She and Time

As the Cambridge-bound train pulled out of King's Cross station at 14:52, he gave his last sigh in a hospital in south London. His wife, now widow, was called two and half minutes after he’d died and broke down in tears by his bedside. The funeral was arranged for four days hence at 15:32 the way he had always wanted it.

Theirs had been a fruitful if methodical life. Ruled always by the ever ubiquitous Lord Time their existence had been full of minutes, seconds and nanoseconds. They, however, did not care one jot.

He was born at 05:09am in the year the Third World War finally came to an end and the electric car became a must-have fashion accessory.

She was born at 06:09am in the year people finally drove to work in their trendy, dynamo-charged vehicles and Eurasia, Oceania and Eastasia put their weapons down once and for all.

They met on the 16th day of the 11th month at university at 17:12 as they came out of the building. He was eighteen years, eleven months, twenty-nine days, eleven hours, fifty-seven minutes old. She was eighteen years, eleven months, twenty—nine days, twelve hours, fifty-seven minutes old. They both smiled at each other for twelve seconds before being pushed roughly aside by the exiting crowd.

From that moment on, they both grew fond of each other. He was so gentle, always caressing her hands, ten seconds flat each. She was so demure and dainty, usually stroking his handsome face and pinching his chubby, rosy cheeks. For three seconds each.

Sex was an activity in which they delighted. His penis always lay coiled like a spring, waiting to be awakened fifty-three seconds after her skilful hands fondled it. Likewise, her own sex became moist a whole two minutes and twenty-two seconds after he initiated foreplay. Penetration+orgasms= four minutes thirty seconds always. On one occasion he came two seconds earlier than usual and refused to talk to his sexual organ for a month as punishment. His penis limped off in abject sadness.

Their children arrived eighteen years, eleven months, twenty-nine days, eleven hours, fifty-seven minutes later. And of course they were twins. Born with an hour's difference. They all had a marvellous life together. Father worked for a software company and mother was a lecturer at a nearby university.


The pallbearers got underway at 15:20. Twelve minutes separated the coffin from the hole. Eight legs (one of them prosthetic) supported the bodies of four men carrying the wooden box to its final destination. With one minute left and nearer his final resting place, one of the men tripped up (not the one with the prosthetic leg) causing the coffin to slide down and fall into the hole sixty seconds before it was due to be placed inside it. At the same time the delayed 15:22 Peterborough-bound train was leaving from Kings Cross station. Inside the coffin an eyebrow raised.

Written by the blog's author

Image of the King's Cross Clock taken from www.flickr.com

Next Post 'Baller Rambert (Dance Review)' to be be published on Thursday 4th June at 11:59pm (GMT)

Copyright 2009


  1. I loved this! I popped over to see what was new...and was delighted to find your story, your small tale of moments in humanity...neatly measured out by time. It made me chuckle delightedly with its quipy thoughtfulness and insight and it's tongue in cheek humor.
    Nicely done!

  2. A witty take on our carefully measured existences...

  3. Actually, I am sort of disappointed. It appears to be sort of pointless, exhibitionist writing from my seat in the audience. Art is art; playboy is playboy. But, I have been wrong before. So, who knows?

  4. It took me exactly 32 seconds to read this charming post. Love it! Did you know this Theme Thursday is "clock"? You should link in, if you haven't already.

    Is this perchance Mr. Cuban in your fabulous new dance header?

  5. It's nine o'clock exactly and I should be starting work but I got distracted by your post.

    Great idea. I agree with Fram on the pointless/exhibitionist writing but that's the whole point of creative writing exercise, isn't it. The point is not the story itself but the context... I wish that was my idea :-)

  6. Many thanks to you all for your kind comments.

    Fram, The short story is exhibitionist in extremis, I wanted it to be that way. Whenever I have written before, or write now (usually in Spanish) I start with an exploration of language. I love the way language sounds and I have occasionally changed a word in my mother tongue for one in German, English or French. I love the way they pair up together.

    Art is art. And a bed is a bed. But when Tracey Emin decided to name her bed a piece of art who was there to counteract her argument? The same happens in literature. My type of reading and favourite authors (and there was a slight nod to George Orwell in my narrative, at the end of the day this week is "1984"'s 60th anniversary) are those who subvert both the traditional structure of the novel (if ever there was one) and who play with language, hence my life-long affair with writers like Salman Rushdie, Virgilio Pinera, Margaret Atwood and many others. It is not a surprise that they have also been accused of pointlessness. By the way, I am not comparing my little experimental outing with the authors of 'The Satanic Verses', 'Aire Frio' and 'The Blind Assassin' respectively. But when you decide to go public and make your writing known to the outside world, you should at least have the panache to be daring in your approach.

    Many thanks for your comment. It was very welcome. As to the question, who knows? based on whether you're wrong or not. There's no right or wrong when it comes to liking or disliking art. You either do, or you don't. Or maybe, you dislike it now, and you will like it someday based on your life experience.

    Greetings from London.

  7. For some reason blogger was playing up when I was trying to leave a comment ON MY OWN BLOG so I have to start this second part of my response again.

    Thanks, willow, yes, I will be linking it to the Thursday's theme and morevoer, I will be linking it to Pink Floy's 'Time'.

    Cecile, strange that that thought never crossed my mind, but there you have it. I write, you interpret :-).

    Thanks, Polly. The story was based on an actual couple (minus the obsession with time, of course) whom I met in my first year in uni in 1989. She was in my class. He was a year older than us and in second year. But they did seem to conduct their affair in a very sad way. And being observant as I am I kep tthat image in my head during all these years. You're right, creative writing is exploring, seeking out, investigating, digging and probing. That's why I love it.

    Many thanks to you all for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  8. I shall be thinking about that post, at least fro the rest of today. It is fabulously, brilliantly different from anything I have read in a very long time. Congratulations, and at the risk of encouraging repetition, if you've any more like it....

  9. Art is what I call it. You write sex funny, not an easy thing to do.
    I loved the raised eyebrow in the coffin..death, or near death? What's next? This was so AI..and daring.. thank you...
    Rushdie, yes. Eco, yes!!

  10. I am not kidding. I absolutely love it. I loved every single thing about it.

    I was completly took in. I was there every step of the way.

    I laughed at quite a few parts and it was a short story so you may as well say I smiled or laughed throughout. I love that someone fell and it wasn't the guy with the prosthetic leg.

    Renee's review: Great story, interesting, humourous, and made me care about the characters.

    Love Renee xoxoxo

  11. Kudos to the blog author. Thoroughly enjoyable, but like all short stories, too short!

  12. I should have stopped last night here when I had insomnia. What a delightful well crafted little story. Hermano as escrito un libro? Si no lo as hecho, que lo dudo, deberias hacerlo. Y limpiate tu sabes que, con el otro comentario.

  13. Thanks for posting that. You made me smile and giggle just a little bit. And don't take Fram too seriously, he does a little bit of exhibitionist writing on his own blog.

    Kinda reminds me of Garcia Marquez. Notes of the trivial that characterize and round out the prose. I always like reading his work because he messes with your perception of the world a little more than most writers do.

  14. Hello, many thanks to you all for your wonderful comments.

    Now, let me just state for the record that I do not disagree with Fram's feedback. In fact I welcome it. It was done respectfully and I believe I have had the same approach to his posts on his blog when the occasion has arisen. Some I like, some I don't. Taking into consideration that we both share a passion for literature and history there are far more articles I enjoy than the opposite.

    This is not the first time I have written fiction in English and it won't be the last time either. But it is not an activity in which I indulge blithely. For starters, there's the linguistic barrier. Writing posts, reviews, or just mucking about on one's blog is a different ballgame from writing a fictitious piece. This challenge becomes more daunting when one is doing it in a foreign language.

    Art is there for the taking, that's my opinion anyway. There's a world of difference between saying 'I don't like that painting/book/movie' and 'I think that artist/author/film-maker should change his/her job because they are not very good at what they do'. The former is based on our perception of that work of art and sometimes our opinions change with the passing of time. The latter is just a thoughtless kneejerk response. And I should know. I have used the latter many times before. But now I realise that in the same way Martina Cole is not my cup of tea, there might be people out there for whom she represents a lifeline.

    There'll be more exercises on free writing. I have a very thick skin (maybe I was a rhinoceros in a previous life? :-D) and as long as the criticism is constructive then I will welcome it. Many thanks to you all, Fram included, for your comments.

    Greetings from London.

  15. What an interesting juxtaposition: death and sex. You capture time with strong images. This passage, however is too sexually graphic for a blog – you should be careful of what you post. You write well though – keep going!

  16. Sorry. I think that my tone didn't come across correctly. I have a great respect for Fram and read his stuff regularly. My tone was meant to be gently teasing, but that is a little hard to convey with only typing.

    I don't think I've ever tried composing fiction in another language. I find that I feel lucky to have learned English first, as it gives me a very large pool of words to choose from. German is my second language and it is very, well, terse comparatively. Maybe I just need to study vocabulary more.

  17. I found this post to be very entertaining. I like the juxtapostion of death and tongue-in-cheek wit with the eyebrow. I'm a short story writer as well and never considered it to be exibitionist. There are some clever passages here and I don't think the sexual content was offensive at all. Do your readers realize that you're a scorpio and all its associations? By the way, that 11/16 meeting date happens to be my husband's birthday and I'm figuring it holds some other significance to you..

  18. this was interesting...!
    electric cars as accessories?
    and a story of love and sexuality...
    it's good to see something written freely by you

  19. Many thanks to everyone. Fly Girl, 16th Nov is my birthday, too, hence the reference :-).

    Greetings from London.

  20. I cannot recall having had such a good time reading comments before as I have had here on this post.

    Too many times, I think, people comment blindly out of love, respect or any number of other reasons without really thinking about what they are saying and why they are saying it. CiL obviously is a man of several talents. One of them is writing. He also is a man of several attributes. One of them is having the courage to post what he wishes, without worry about reactions.

    The best part about this, to me, is being able to comment what I think without worry, either. I do not have to worry about CiL's reaction to my comment. Just as I read his post, digest it and react to it, so will he read my comment, digest it and react to it. Knowing more than a little about the inner workings of each other's times and experiences creates a greater understanding of the comment. Then, we both move along to the next day and to the next post, having learned more about ourselves and about each other. Everything about our exchange has been a positive, for both of us, I believe. I treasure knowing him and value his words beyond ordinary measure.

    As for you, Chocobo, a writer you shall be and a friend you always will be. You know me better than I realized.

  21. I really enjoyed reading this, CiL, and had a good chuckle over the limpid, abject sadness, and the raised eyebrow. I think you used humor well to convey a rather dark undertone - at least for me - the question of when do we stop being human, how much control is too much and how can we know? I saw the sexual impulse, the strongest, as the last to be tamed/controlled, submerged into machine-like efficiency. Efficiency to perfection. With nothing left untamed, loss of life means nothing, so the eyebrow can raise even in the coffin.

    That's how I read it, and at the end I had an involuntary chuckle and also a shudder...

    Thanks for this, looking forward to more.

  22. I have to agree with Fram, the comments made in regard to your posts are insightful and intelligent, no doubt due to your posts which are always interesting and invite thoughtful comments.
    My very favourite part of this story is "Inside the coffin an eyebrow raised." What an unexpected conclusion to the story - the author with tongue firmly in cheek! As if the corpse, in his coffin, were insulted at the train’s delay at the moment of his burial.

    I also agree with Chocobo in his comment regarding the similarities with the writing of Garcia Marquez, but I also saw a different aspect. Marquez style of writing scenes depicting sexuality is understated, sort of aloof and an impersonal descriptive style. Your brief few sentences regarding their sex lives is very much the same in that respect which ensures that they are not offensive as Fly Girl has noted.

    While on the topic of your description of their sex lives – very clever! You communicate the couple’s happiness and satisfaction with the physical aspects of their relationship and in those same words allow the reader to conclude the contrary – that these routine and precisely timed encounters would have been entirely unsatisfactory to most. Which, imo might be the central theme. An account of a couple of extremely tedious and boring lives, lived by the clock, but found to be entirely satisfactory, by those who chose to live them.

    In all seriousness, my dear CiL, you can craft a nice piece and the story abounds with clever use of words and imagery – a delight to read. Thanks for the creative treat. I look forward to another of your stories at some point soon – this one just wet my appetite for more!

  23. Cuban, how wonderful that you and I seem to think alike: in increments. Every time I come for a visit there is something new and innovative in your approach to life.

  24. So, so interesting and entertaining! And I like your new layout!

  25. Many thanks to you all for your kind comments.

    Greetings from London.

  26. I just read it again and I still love it and I still smiled.

    What the heck is wrong with a story being entertaining, it is only about two minutes long. I love it.

    Love Renee xoxo

  27. Agree, Renee, agree :-). Many thanks.

    Greetings from London.



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