Friday, October 2, 2009


Fiction Friday

Editor’s Note: In my WIP, some of the characters are trying to put on a play based on a scene from a movie. What the movie is about has nothing to do with the story, so I didn’t bother writing a script for them to use, but I keep wishing I knew what he movie was about. Almost anything would do. Since I started a story here, last week, I thought I might as well us it. Today, I offer you a continuation of that story.

The bloodhound sniffed around Shirley’s car. With his nose to the ground, he moved hurriedly across the drive, pulling the sheriff’s deputy along behind and came to the front door. The deputy said something to the dog and the dog turned back. He sniffed around the yard and came to the flowerbed. He sniffed around there and looked confused. The deputy directed him in another direction.

Chandra watched all of this from the front window. She went back to the couch and sat down next to her mother. She felt the breeze from the oscillating fan cross her face.

The sheriff, Denver Snider, came up the steps and opened the storm door. He was young for a sheriff, but the voters had put him in the place of his former boss in the last election. He pulled the door to, until it made a click. Then he looked at the two women seated on the couch.

“Miss Holden,” Denver said. “I’d like to take your statement, if I could. In the kitchen?”

“Miss Holden?” Chandra laughed. “Have you forgotten my name already? You didn’t have a problem remembering it when you were copying my homework in high school.”

Denver’s face turned red. Chandra knew it would. It wasn’t proper for a sheriff to have cheated on his homework in high school. At least, that’s what Denver thought.

“I need your statement, Miss Holden.” Denver sounded stern, cold and official.

“Only if you ask properly.”

“I’m not saying please,” Denver said, “if that’s what you’re waiting for.”

“No, silly! My name—call me by my name,” Chandra said. “You’ve forgotten, haven’t you?”

“I have not!” Denver’s face grew redder. It had been the cause of ridicule by Chandra and some of the others in high school. Kids could be so cruel.

“Then what is it?”

“It’s…” Denver looked very flustered, as if he wouldn’t have recalled his own name if she had asked. He took a deep breath and the red faded a little.

“It’s?” Chandra prompted him.

“It’s Chandra,” he said at last. “Chandra, would you please come back to the kitchen so I can take your statement?”

“See, that wasn’t so hard,” Chandra said, getting up from the couch. “I’d be delighted to give you my statement. And I thought you weren’t going to say please.”

“Chandra.” Denver sounded even more stern than he had when he had called her Miss Holden.

The dishes were left over from breakfast. Chandra swept them off the table and dropped them in the sink. Her mother had only taken a couple of bites of the toast, the eggs were scattered across the plate and she hadn’t touched the bacon at all. Chandra had tried to get her to eat more, but nothing she said helped. She’d try again later, but the clock was already approaching the eleven o’clock hour. She thought about asking if the bloodhound would like the scraps, but she’d already done enough to get Denver upset with her. He always had been a little too stiff for his own good. She pulled out a chair and sat down.

“When was the last time you saw your sister?” Denver sat in the chair opposite Chandra. He put his notepad on the table and pulled a pen out of his pocket.

“The night before last,” Chandra said. “I came over here and we had supper together.”

Denver nodded his head and wrote something in his notepad.

“Who else was here?”

“No one,” Chandra said. “It was just the three of us, Mom, Shirley and me.”

“Uh huh.” Denver scratched something else in his notepad. “Do you always come over here when Shirley is here?”

“No, of course not.”

“So, why this time? Was there some special reason why you came? Maybe there was something you needed to talk about? Something she wanted to tell you? Something you wanted to tell her?”

“No, I just came over to eat supper,” Chandra said. “Do you have to have a special reason to visit your parents?”

“What did you guys talk about while you were here?”

“Hey, wait! You didn’t answer my question.”

“I’m the one asking the questions,” Denver said. “What you talk about?”

“I won’t tell you till you answer my question.”

Denver stared at her for a moment, then scratched in his pad, then looked back at her. “It’s going to be difficult to find your sister if you don’t cooperate.”

“You aren’t going to find her sitting here talking to me. Now why aren’t you out there looking?”

“We are looking, but I need to know what happened that night. What did you talk about?”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

Denver sighed. He looked at his pad. “No,” he finally said. “No, I don’t have to have special reason to visit my parents.”

“See? That wasn’t so hard.”

“Now what did you talk about?”

“How should I know? I don’t remember every conversation I have. I’m sure it wasn’t important.”

“Just tell me something you talked about. One thing, if that’s all you remember.”

“I don’t know,” Chandra said, trying to remember sitting at the table that night. “Perfume? We had this argument about perfume. Shirley had this new perfume she liked. I said it smelled terrible.”

“So, you argued.”

“Yes—I mean, no—I mean, yeah, but not like you’re thinking.”

“How am I thinking?”

“You’re thinking I might have done something to her.”

“Why would I be thinking that? All siblings have disagreements.”

“Yeah, that’s right, but I can tell you think it might be more. You ought to be out looking for her and you’re trying to pin it on me.”

“Interesting,” Denver said and wrote something in his notepad. Chandra wondered if he had written, “guilty, guilty, guilty.”

More on Yesterday's Thought

This isn't the post I intended for today. I may get to that one yet, but in a similar train of thought to my original post yesterday, I was talking to a co-worker from India yesterday and he was telling me about his struggles with communication. He said that in his language he speaks very precisely. He chooses the word that means exactly what he means, but in English he is force to use simple terms that are less precise, making him feel that he appears dumb.

He gave as an example, the word thanks. In English, thanks can be used when speaking to anyone from the lowest bum to God himself. We would use it to show our appreciation for anything from a person holding the elevator for us to giving us a house. Apparently, his language works differently. There are different words they use that may apply to one situation but not another. I don't have all the details and I don't intend to turn this post into a lesson on his language.

As I listened to him, myself struggling to understand his broken English, I began to consider why he considers English to be less precise, but I told him that English handles precision differently. Yes, thanks can apply to many situations, but we often apply precision by applying modifying terms. If someone does something pedestrian and we want to show that we recognize their contribution, we might say, "thanks." If we appreciate something a lot, we might say, "thank you very much." If someone does something or gives us something that we consider to be of great value to us, we might say, "Thank you. I can't tell you how much this means to me."

The way we say it can imply meaning as well. Saying "Thanks!" means something far different than saying "thanks" with an icy tone in our voice. One means, I appreciate that, while the other means, I could have done without you saying that. In fact, the tone with which we say word in spoken English is so important that the came phrases in written English can lose their meaning or lead someone to believe someone is saying one thing when he means another. As writers, we are somewhat handicapped because of that. Even so, English provides the capability to express what we mean very precisely, if we know how to use it.