Daniel Bird Daniel Bird
Recommendations: 47

" - During Milton's childhood years the casement window of his ground floor bedroom... - " By losing the word 'casement' and simply saying 'window' you will be smoothing a slight speed bump. The word 'casement' - despite its obvious detail is unnecessary. By simply saying 'window' people will automatically register an image.

Davide Castel Davide Castel
Recommendations: 39

He had never seen a rat, that means he could have mistaken a person for a rat? That was the way I saw it.

Daniel Bird Daniel Bird
Recommendations: 47

The sudden shift from Milton to Arthur is rather fast and quite unexpected and a tad confusing the way it starts. If you were to offer a 'who' in terms of placement in the storyline right off, you would clear up any immediate confusion that this new and sudden shift in characters produces. If you were to begin the paragraph with (and this is only my opinion) " - Arthur - Milton's father - wouldn't describe himself as unhappy... - " By doing it this way, by stating the relationship (granddad, uncle, older brother, etc.) between Milton and Arthur you give your readers a definite sense of clarity, alleviating any confusion when the next transition comes along. Your readers will then know who, exactly, Arthur is.

Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
Recommendations: 21

"only yesterday he had been..."an interesting problem sometimes arises when describing past events when you need to speak about the day before the day you wish to talk about. In these situations it would be best to use something like "only the day before." Using "Yesterday" implies you are now back in the present and speaking about an event that happened the day before now. I know that sounds a bit confusing but it is important for the reader to be clear as to what moment in the story is being spoken of. IE are we now back in the present speaking about that yesterday, or still in the past speaking about the yesterday of that period?

Daniel Bird Daniel Bird
Recommendations: 47

The word " - digressions - " acts as a barrier for the imagination. Words like this...big words, complex words, often complicate - and at times even disrupt the natural flow of the image that the story has thus far conjured. By using simple words - words that bring about an immediate response or image allows for a better flow. If there's one thing that readers shouldn't have to deal with when reading fiction its the awful, flow busting, image disrupting use of a complex word that could be better remedied by keeping it simple. By keeping the flow simple and concise your readers will keep their flow, moving through the story with ease and without disruption which, in turn, will keep them interested.

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Mark Dh Mark Dh
Recommendations: 2

Midnight Sounds

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She had a friend.

A short story about a young boy that likes to get out of bed at night, his family and his gardening loving neighbour.

During Milton's childhood years the casement window of his ground floor bedroom - allowing entrance to the narrow, deep garden - outweighed the inconveniences of sleeping next to the living room. The window, or more precisely, the cigarette smoke that found its way through a vent hole and into master bedroom above, was the reason he came to sleep in the ground floor room in the first place. It turned out that Milton’s older sister had appreciated the window too. In an attempt to end her nocturnal smoking in the garden, Milton and Libby were forced to swap bedrooms on the morning following the young smoker’s unmasking. 1 comment

Like his sister, Milton was strongly drawn to the window. The choking size of the room, paired with his curious spirit, got Milton out of bed and into the garden nearly every night. At midnight, the overgrown garden felt like a different world waiting to be explored. What intrigued Milton the most were the sounds. To an attentive listener there was a lot to hear in the darkness. His socks on the windowsill, Milton was able to sneak around unnoticed. Following the sounds he heard in the undergrowth, Milton had found a few animals in the garden before. Mice, neighborhood cats, birds that flew away before he could get close enough to see them and hedgehogs had already made it onto his list of discovered species. Luckily, the eight year old had never seen a rat on his midnight explorations. 1 comment

Milton’s mother had killed a rat once. In the broad daylight, the rat came creeping out from under the row of conifers that lined the garden. A lucky direct hit with an apple followed by a smack with a shovel proved to be more than the animal could take. His dad had burned the rat and disinfected the shovel twice. According to Milton’s mother, rats were the lowest of all of God’s creations. ‘Be careful with those filthy things, they transfer diseases that could kill a boy your size.’  

Arthur wouldn’t describe himself as unhappy. Though his job at a local real estate agency was not exactly fulfilling, it had helped him find his house. Arthur loved the house and the narrow, deep garden. Over time the jungle with potential had been turned into a beautiful garden with Adagio and Damascus rose borders. It even had a small fountain at the center. 1 comment

At first, Arthur’s wife Aleida had cared less for the garden than for the two spare bedrooms in the house. While her husband was envisioning what he could do with the untamed wilderness outside, Lydia – which she preferred over her given name - was mentally picking colors for the two rooms. Pink for the largest, bright blue for the other. They bought the house just before they got married in the summer of 1986. Instead of pink and bright blue, the rooms had always kept their original shades of broken white. Along with her hopes of ever seeing her kids playing in the spare rooms, her need for physical contact had declined to near zero. Whenever Arthur caught himself glancing at other women - which appeared to happen with increasing frequency - he felt like an asshole. After all, Arthur loved his wife. Occasionally the women he unintentionally observed returned his glances with a smile. Some shy but flattered, some teasing or downright flirty.

Arthur’s arrangement with the attractive middle aged neighbor from across the street was initiated by a smile of the latter category. The trembling gardening enthusiast still didn’t fully grasp how a series of innocent flirtations had led him to his front door in the middle of the night. On a whim he had flicked the light switch in the living room twice. On, off. On, off. Within seconds his signal had been answered from across the street. On, off. On off.

With the burning sensation that normally accompanies a heavy fever, Arthur struggled to close the door without a sound. Only yesterday he had been talking to his flirting neighbor about his love for gardening. Looking back, he was sure he must have bored her with his digressions on the optimal methods and timings for clipping Catalpa’s. Arthur was about to get back to his gardening, when she’d softly squeezed his arm.
‘Listen… If you think you are ready for a slightly more exciting hobby, meet me in the alley tomorrow night.’ The concise practical instructions that followed left him with his head racing and his mouth open. Halfway back to her front door, the apparent expert on extramarital hobbies turned around and opened her mouth too. For just a few seconds, she shaped her lips like a perfect ‘O’ and moved her head back and forth, the way pigeons do when they walk. 2 comments

Waiting for the appointed ten minutes to pass, Arthur stood listening in the alley. It was surprising how different the familiar neighborhood felt under the veil of the night. The multitude of undisclosed sounds got on his nerves. He could have sworn there was something moving around near the badly trimmed conifers that lined the alley. ‘It’s just one of those pesky neighborhood cats’, Arthur calmed himself, ‘be glad it’s here and not in your rose borders.’ From the alley he could see that the lights in the bedroom across the street were turned off. ‘Seems like I didn’t wake up Lydia.’ The leaves to his right crackled.

‘GET LOST YOU FILTHY RAT ’, a soft, angry voice hissed at him from the other side of the conifers, ‘go transfer your diseases to someone else’.

Sunday was Milton's favourite day of the week. When it was not raining, Sundays followed a more or less fixed pattern. Usually waking up around seven o’clock, Milton would play or watch cartoons in the living room until his mother came down to prepare breakfast. This particular Sunday morning his mother woke up later than usual. This happened occasionally. After breakfast Milton filled a bucket with hot water and soap while his dad finished a cup of coffee. Milton loved the warm trickle of the thick, soapy water creeping down his sleeves. Over time, he and his dad had developed an efficient routine. The small Milton would wash the bottom half of the car – up to the windows – while his dad washed the roof and the windows itself.

Careful not to give away what he was really up to when he was supposed to be sleeping, Milton slightly reworked last night’s adventure. ‘I heard something scuffing in the leaves just outside my window. When I scared it off,  it made a lot of noise. I bet it was huge dad.’

‘See… that’s exactly why I always tell you to keep that window closed when you’re sleeping. You wouldn’t want those monsters climbing into the house at night.’
‘If that happened I’d be screaming for Mom.’

‘To have her kill it with a shovel like she did with her last victim?’ His father laughed. ‘I’d rather see them stay away from our house altogether. Cleaning up and burning the mess your mother left behind was not as fun as it may seem son.’  
Walking away from the spotless car, neither Milton, nor his father noticed their friendly neighbor glued to the sidewalk on the other side of the street. His lips forming a perfect ‘O’, his trembling hands losing their grip on the telescopic handles of his hedge trimmer.

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