Monday March 5th, 2012

The exercise:

We're starting off the week with: the old ways.

It was threatening to hit 20 degrees here today, which sounds lovely, right? I'm sure it would have been, had the wind not been screeching from sun up until sun... actually, it's still going out there.

At least it's a warm wind?


Mikhail turned into the narrow alley, leaving behind the sunny, crowded sidewalk. Strangely, no pedestrians appeared to notice the elderly man's departure from their midst.

He moved slowly, prodding the ground ahead of him with his wooden cane. It seemed to him only yesterday he had strode this same path, kicking garbage and stray cats out of his way.

The door was up ahead on his right, unmarked and unlit. Mikhail rapped his cane against its faded yellow wood twice, paused, then four more times. He frowned as he watched flakes of paint flutter to the pavement.

On silent hinges the door swung inward and Mikhail stepped inside. The air was thick with cigar smoke, a familiar comfort that eased some of the tension from his shoulders. The mute doorman accepted Mikhail's coat once the door had been locked shut, then held up two fingers to let him know in which room the meeting would be found.

Mikhail made his way down the hallway, cane and shoes clicking against tiles like an out of synch clock. He paused outside the second room he came to, collecting his thoughts.

Inside, he knew, his fellow Keepers would be impatiently awaiting his arrival. He liked being the last to arrive and, despite his efforts to conceal his pleasure, the others knew it.

Oh well, he thought as he reached for the doorknob, I'm far too old to change my ways now.


Greg said...

Ah, glad to hear that the manufacturer is sorting your pole out for you... hmm, there's a double entendre lurking in there somewhere, isn't there? I'm sure that once your new greenhouse is all sorted you'll be able to enjoy the sun and ignore the wind completely!
The pace of your story is spot on, though it does mean that I know I'm still only right at the start. I did notice that most of your paragraphs this time are only two or three sentences long, which seems a little short. Is it the narrow format of the view that encourages that, do you think?

The old ways
"Where is Green?" Dr. Septopus's therapist had advised him to take a less aggressive tone with Sylvestra as it would only make her resent him more, but he found it very hard. He often thought of her and Green as naughty children, something else his therapist didn't want him doing. And she was talking about electro-shock therapy if he didn't improve soon.
"Outside," said Sylvestra, not looking up from her cross-stitch. Dr. Septopus nodded, and then paused. Why on earth would Sylvestra be cross-stitching?
"Outside where?" he said, checking his iPhone app. "It's -8 out there!"
"Kelvin?" Sylvestra's tone was light and innocent.
"No of course not," said Dr. Septopus. "All material motion ceases at 0 Kelvin, although the chances of getting to that point are... wait, you're not distracting me. Where is Green? Why is he outside."
Sylvestra sighed and put down her cross-stitch. "I thought we'd go back to the old ways," she said.
"Good?" asked Dr. Septopus.
"He's old and useless, so I've exposed him outside so he can die with dignity."

Anonymous said...

greg...ah, dr septopus, i have been missing you! not a old way to resort to, hehheh

The Old Ways

“When I was a lad, we walked to school in the snow, one pair of shoes to last all year, struggling on. Taught us self-discipline. Nowadays kids are driven to school, new pair of Nikes every school holidays, no wonder obesity is on the rise...”

Grandpa’s voice droned on. Whatever half truths he was saying weren’t sinking in. Us kids had heard it too many times. 

- (We didn’t want to admit to the kernel of truth) -

“You kids got no respect for authority any more. When I was a lad, if we played up we got a good hiding, and none the worse for wear. Teaches a kid to toughen up. Know who’s boss. I turned out alright, didn’t I?”
We flinched at the thought of corporal punishment.It is so politically incorrect now. We’d sue for abuse, if it happened to us.

- (We didn’t want to admit we had lost respect for authority,  but was that really the way to earn it?) -

“When I was a lad, meat ’n’ three veg for your dinner and a healthy serve of bacon and eggs to getcha goin’ in the morning was all you needed. Nowadays you kids have to have seven kinds of muesli and lettuce leaves for lunch. It’s good for you, it’s bad for you, pasteurise this, radiate that. And don’t get me started on all that fast food stuff. You kids’ll live longer ’cause you’re full of preservatives, not good, solid food, that’s what I reckon,” Grandpa continued.

Yeah, yeah. Every week it was the same lecture we heard as we chucked out the bits of the Big Mac we didn’t like. 

- (We didn’t want to admit that Grandpa was nearly ninety and hadn’t even needed a bypass operation) -

“When I was a lad, I lost my two younger siblings to childhood disease,” Grandpa continued, wistfully. The puff had gone out of him.

He told us that one day after we’d had our vaccinations for school.

(He didn’t want to admit that just some the old ways weren’t so good, after all) -

Iron Bess said...

@Marc - intriguing.

@Greg - a little confusing in the middle but I loved the ending. Reminds me of a Heinlein short story I read once.

@WB - touche, I love it when things are not so one-sided.

Here's mine.

Sand, dry and static, shifted under Devon’s feet while he stood staring out over the dunes. In days gone by, when he had been a tiny child, this had been a green, vibrant valley filled with orchards, gardens and fields burgeoning with wild flowers. The sun, hot and bright, cast a crisp shadow of his upright form down the dune in front of him. He looked down at his new high tops and marvelled at the way they looked and felt. It had been years since he had a new pair of shoes and was still trying to adjust to the comfort. It felt wrong somehow to wear them, more like, wear them out, because that is what was going to happen to them.

Suddenly the air around him was filled with smoke and the stench of burning flesh, the wind must have shifted. Coughing the foulness from his lungs he moved away from the smoke, sliding down a long ridge and heading towards the old town site. He could still hear the singing and shouts from his crew as his strides took him towards his long vanished home. “Crew,” he snorted aloud. More like mob of thugs then crew, he thought.

Shortly he came upon a few bits of concrete, smooth and rounded, scoured by blowing sand storms; foundations of stores, or residences, it was hard to tell. But as he swung his head scanning the area his gazed rested on a large circular object lying on top of a rubble pile. Instantly he knew what it was and where exactly he was standing, it was off the bell tower at city hall. A time keeper, a chronograph, a clock, a bit of technology only used by those who had come before, part of the old ways, the evil ways. He felt uneasy in its presence it felt almost as if it were lying there accusing him of something. Briefly he wondered about the burnt bodies still hanging from the stakes which he had just left behind, who had they been? Locals who had never left? He felt a little nauseous. Were they old neighbours? Old friends? “Family?” he whispered.

Cathryn Leigh said...

some many nice and different ways to take the prompt. It's always frun reading what everyone wrote - which is why I'm sad that for some reason the comments aren't coming to my inbox anymore (no option to follow under the comment box)...

But anyway let's see what I can pull out of the hat for you. :}

The Old Ways

Elorie grumbled as she lay dead once more upon the field. She flicked through her tool bar trying to remember where she put things, nealry missing the ressurection meant for her.

"Accept the rez hun," Brigom spoke from beside her.

"Oh right."

Elorie clicked the button on ehr screen, and sat down for a few second to rest while their healer buffed her.

"I know Thanes are supposed to wield hammers, wielding the power of Thor and all."

Elorie sighed as she moved back up to join the fight, AE Hammering the multiple mobs.

"But I just can't get used to the styles."

"You get better bonuses as a Thane with a Hammer," Brigom countered.

"But I liked my Axe, and we wouldn't have to be re-leveling my ML weapon."

"Then go back to axe," Brigom shrugged.

Elorie groaned as she used her taunt style to get a mob off the healer.

"Yeah and then I'dh ave to re-level the thing again... No thanks."

True story - but not a true conversation, from my days playing Dark Age of Camalot; Midgard, Bedevere, with the Children of Loki. I should totally have kept with axe - made it esier switching between ELorie and Loneliness. :}

morganna said...

New ways become
Old ways, pass out of fashion
Return again as the new.

Krystin Scott said...

Today I would like to point out rule number three. I fell alseep while writing this piece and i'm not sure its quite coherent.

The withered old man shuffled out to his workshop and closed the door behind him. Inside he toils away at a solitary table. He uses a hand saw to cut longs planks of mahogany into two foot pieces. Then time and time again he places the two foot sections into an old wooden lathe. Its blades cut into the wood as he slowly turns the crank carving out identical patterns. As each of the elaborate spindles are created they are stacked in a neat pile on the other side of the table where they wait to be sanded. Other pieces are cut to size and then planed down by hand, sanded and nailed together to make a frame. While carving tools are used to create ornate designs.

Sure he could have saved money and bought a crib. He also could have completed the job faster by using electric or battery operated tools. But there’s a certain satisfaction when you complete a project by hand and when you’re finished you have an heirloom piece of quality furniture which will stand the test of time and be used for future generations.

Anonymous said...

Over the past 8 months, she had heard the recitation of the old ways so often, sometimes it replayed in her head while she lay on her camp mat, waiting for sleep to find her. Even this much had come to Eric from books he'd read during a period he lived in an abandoned library. No one had practiced them in centuries, probably longer, no one she had known or even heard of, that is. But now Eric was dead, only days before the group reached their own personal Promised Land, having spent considerable effort determining it existed at all. The endless days of scavenging thru ruined city landscape before stepping into the barren desert surrounding what they knew as their world, seemed a lifetime away. Especially now with this foreign object clutched tightly in one hand, staring awkwardly at the ground. Everyone knew food was made by IFS bots in greenhouses big as Atlanta but Eric insisted it was something they could easily do themselves. And now she couldn't remember a goddamn thing he said. How exactly could she get this 'hoe' and tiny bag of seeds to make them things to eat?

Anonymous said...

“Call me crazy if you have to,” said Steven who paused to have a sip of coffee. “But I'm a big fan of the Old Ways”. He drew braces in the air with his fingers to emphasize his point.

“You remember them don't you? You know back when having a 'friend' meant that you knew someone who you got along with and might occasionally get together with for a drink or a meal. Someone you could count on for a hand if you needed one. Someone who had a vague notion of the social contract and that friendship was about degrees of give and take.

'Friends' certainly weren't a bunch of clowns who felt the overwhelming need to tell you about their tedious daily minutiae. I certainly don't recall 'friends' desperate to search me out and inform me that they'd just had a great meal or a bowel movement, for Christ's sake. Friends certainly didn't try to draw me into their ever expanding circle of vacuous jack-asses who were all busy chirping meaningless bullshit at one another twenty-four seven.

Oddly enough, I never felt a deep desire to be friends with as many of the other six point nine nine nine billions slobs out there as possible and I'm guessing that I'm just too old world to appreciate how aiming thusly is even remotely useful. It's...”

Steven threw his hands up.

“It's just a bunch of meaningless, useless Noise!”

“Sorry! What was that?” Replied Alex, looking up from his cell phone. “I was just checking my Twitter feed.”

Marc said...

Greg - hah :P

And yeah, I find with this narrow space that the paragraphs just look too long/bulky if I get past two or three sentences. Sometimes I should just ignore it, but I have trouble with that.

I can only imagine what the good Dr's therapy sessions must be like!

Writebite - love the format, and the way you brought things back around at the end. Great work!

Iron Bess - speaking of intriguing... you had some great imagery and descriptions in there.

Cathryn - yeah, I'm not sure what's up with the commenting window. I prefer the old version, but I don't see an option to revert it.

I had a little flashback to my WoW days there. Too much time spent waiting for rezzes...

Morganna - that's some excellent line break usage. Short and to the point, nicely done.

Krystin - sleep is dangerous when it uses sneak attacks like that.

But no worries, definitely still coherent. I quite like your carpenter :)

H.N. - ah, old ways after my own heart :)

Great little scene.

GZ - I am definitely in Steven's camp on that one. Things have really gotten out of hand.