Monthly Archives: February 2012

I should have listened to them

I should have listened to them [32/40]
(Original)

My parents have always discouraged me from lying, but I never did listen to them. They always thought that I would end up as a crook of some sort. Especially Ma. She always told me how she would disown me if I were ever convicted of some villainous act.

Today, I make my living by a vile profession.

I remember how it had all started. I was in junior school then, and I had broken a vase in the school garden. On recollection, a vase on display in the school garden could not have cost very much, but I was young then and everything was expensive to me. There was also the problem of studying in an English-style boarding school, where the discipline masters were unreasonably harsh and their caning skills incredibly well-honed. Or so I had been told.

With no intention of finding out the truth of the stereotype, I withdrew from the scene of the crime, thankful that no one had seen me.

I then proceeded to create an alibi. I went on to delibrately create a scene in the cafeteria, letting all the coins in my wallet drop to the ground. Yes, I know it was not the best of scenes to create, but I was only nine then. Anyway, it served its purpose. A total of three other students noticed me. I know. I counted.

Today, I am forced to create alibis on a monthly basis.

The next day, the much-afeared discipline master made an appearance during assembly.

“Does anyone here have anything to do with the broken vase in the garden? If so, I suggest he own up immediately.”

The discipline master had a disconcerting habit of clawing a nearby smooth surface while he spoke. I was trying to avoid the image of myself being the one clawed. Yet, I kept silent.

With the usual threats of punishment if no one confessed, the discipline master dismissed the school. I got away with the crime, scot-free.

On further hindsight, my attempt to create an alibi was totally useless, not to mention poor, as no discipline master would check through the hundreds of students just to find out who had broken a cheap vase. The damage had been done, however. I discovered, or thought I had, that you can be proven innocent of a crime with the proper techniques, dishonesty being foremost of them.

I should have listened to them. Ma was right.

Today, I am a lawyer.


16-year-old writer’s commentary:

Extremely disappointing piece. When I typed through it, I discovered many places where I could have improved the style of writing, not to mention the content. Well, exam conditions. My excuse. And in an examination which -mattered-, as in well it decides whether or not I get into the JC of my choice. Well, this is one of the papers which does so anyway.

As you can see most of the story was redundant. I even said so toward the end. Well, not so explicitly, but I may as well have. The whole thing was meant to build up the idea that ‘I’ was a criminal and twist it by using the stereotype of the evil lawyer. Could have been done much more skillfully, I repeat once more, but now I think the idea was quite sad. But it was either that or write a (more or less) descriptive piece on a post-apocalyptical scene. Didn’t really want to try that because of my fantasy/science-fiction tendencies. So. Well.

At least it’s still an A1 grade, but when practically everyone gets that anyway, it’s kinda sad. Oh well.

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Jealousy

Jealousy [37/40]
(Original)

It all began with the buttermilk cookies.

I was over at Alma’s apartment the other time and lounging on her sofa when she failed to tribute me with buttermilk cookies. Having been my fiancée for some years now, she knew that I absolutely loved them, and would normally come up with a platter whenever I visited. Baked by herself, of course.

She’d said that she didn’t have time these few days to make them, and I’d have left it as such – I am, after all, an understanding man – if I had not chanced upon an empty platter, with cookie crumbs on it, by the sink.

Repeated occurrences of this phenomenon led me to conclude that my original hypothesis was correct – I was being cuckolded.

I did not, as most irrational men would, immediately fly into a rage. Such was for the undisciplined, the weak of will. I pondered over what I should do in such an occasion, whether I should approach her about it, or whether I should quietly give up the girl who no longer loved me. Then I remembered how she’d claimed to love me, and all the wonderful years we’d had together; then, I flew into a rage.

I came up with a plan, of course. No educated man should ever jump into a course of action unprepared. I would follow her every action somehow and find out who she’d been seeing and confront him later when he was alone and give him a walloping. Nothing less than what a proper English gentleman would do, and I was nothing short of an English gentleman.

A week later I had my chance. I was at Alma’s watching the television when I noted her exiting the apartment with a platter of cookies in hand – the audacity! I was still there! – and thus I followed her. She didn’t notice me, of course. I did not go through those years in boarding school without picking up some useful sneaking skills.

Peeved as I was about the faithlessness of my fiancée, I was surprised to see her lay the plate on the ground. Perhaps she did not feel as much for this new man as I’d thought.

As she moved away from the platter and returned up the stairs, I looked at the adorable puppy dog munching away at the cookies. In such a situation, there was only one thing for an English gentleman to do – I gave the canine a kick on its rear.


16-year-old writer’s commentary:

Alma is another female game character name. Couldn’t think of anything else at the time.

The writer in this piece is a stereotypical stuffy ol’ English gentleman, the type who stops at goodness-knows-when to drink tea. Ends up making a fool of himself, it’s a jibe. I don’t really like this piece that much, but I was desperate. I’d spent the earlier 25 minutes trying to come up with an idea, rejecting the idea of writing a tale in which at the end it is revealed that the writer is in fact the physical incarnation of Jealousy as it was too fantastical.

The term ‘fly into a rage’ is extremely amusing to me, thus I used it obsessively in one paragraph. Something about some charades my class had once, and to mime it (well cheating partially), this group wrote the word ‘rage’ on the board and someone flapped his arms and smashed into the word.

There are many ironic instances of gentlemanly pride in this piece, and I believe I’ve made them blatantly obvious. I somewhat like how the writer is proud of his years of boarding school and the thieving skills he’d picked up from them. Something I thought was more subtle was how his ‘plan’ was extremely weak and ill-concieved. So much for education.

Aside from an attack on the stuffy gentleman, I wrote this in an anti-education mood as well. I’m not against education specifically, but the way in which grades matter so much and all just horrifies me. There’s a common name for this stuff – The System. But I’m sure you’ve all had enough exposure to anti-System sentiments, so I shan’t go on.


27-year-old addendum:

I find it rather ironic that I am now, once again, a part of The System.

After School

After School [36/40]
(Based on Just Good Friends by Jeffrey Archer)

Each day, I would wait outside the building, looking out for him. My friends criticised me as being desperate, and I do admit that I was obsessed with this guy. After about an hour, he appeared.

There he stood in his crisp school uniform, a tall youth, handsome in his own way. Clarence was his name. I first met him when he helped me chase away a dog which, to put it mildly, was threatening me. I doubt he even remembered the incident, but I have admired him ever since.

Today, he was waiting. Waiting, just as I had been. School had just ended, and his waiting by the school gates probably meant that he was waiting for a fellow classmate to accompany him home – or not. My heart flared with jealousy as I saw him holding his hand out to a pretty girl, just about his age. From the way they talked and smiled, I knew I did not stand a chance.

Rydia, her name was – oh, how I hated that name. For days, I plotted against her, scheming up ways to break the two apart, but I knew I could never bear to put any of the plans into action. After all, or so they say, true love knows no bounds. I was determined not to cause him unhappiness just to further my selfish desires.

So, for days, I watched the two as they met daily, after school, by the gates. Agonised, I observed them become more intimate, moving from holding hands to hugging and kissing. Jealously I remembered every smile he had for her, as though they had been for me.

Oh, how I wanted to let him know how much I loved him, but all I did was to watch him.

One day, however, things changed. When Rydia appeared at the gates that day, she was not smiling. Neither did she stop at the gates. Clarence ran up after her, asking her to stop. She did so, and they started quarreling.

I observed, glad that I was hidden among the crowd, sorrowful that so many would observe what was obviously an embarrassing moment for Clarence. The fight climaxed with Rydia slapping him, then leaving in a huff. With nothing interesting left to see, people started leaving.

I knew that this was my chance. After the crowd had dispersed, I walked up to Clarence. Nervous, apprehensive, I looked at him, wishing with all my heart that he would know how much I cared. There was no need for words. He looked at me for a while, smiled, and started walking home. Surprisingly, he didn’t stop me when I followed.

When I reached his house, I was envious once more – of him. I was a stray, a child with no parents, and had grown up in the streets. He had a beautiful home.

He let me into his house, and for hours we lounged in the living room. Later, to my surprise, he asked his mother if I could stay over. To my greater surprise, she agreed.

Days passed, and I was happy. Finally, I had found a home. Recently I’d heard that he had patched it up with Rydia, a fact which had caused me some anxiety, but seeing as how the way he treated me did not change, I did not mind.

This morning, I walk into Clarence’s room and gaze upon him once again. I think that he looks cute sleeping. The alarm clock rings, and he wakes up. He gives me some milk to drink and proceeds to give me a hug.

It is a myth that we only swish our tails when angry.


16-year-old writer’s commentary:

I remembered really little of the original story except for the last line which is entirely copied, so I based the writer’s thoughts on my own. Kind of.

Anyway, in case you hadn’t figured out, the writer is a cat. My teacher once said something to the extent of please don’t write at the end that you’d died, that’s illogical, but apparently being a cat author is totally alright. Well, I guess it isn’t really but I think the necessity of it’s effect on the story made it acceptable.

Clues that the writer is a cat (in case you really didn’t catch it) include the mention of the dog threatening the writer, the term stray, the milk given by Clarence and of course the swishing tail. There are other behavourial traits that I think I’d included, but those are more minor. Things like how the writer had so much time to wait for Clarence everyday, how the writer could follow him home and the mother just letting her stay like this, etc.

Rydia is a female game character name. When I want to use abnormal (nonconventional) names, I use game or book character names. A habit of mine.

But at the end of it, although I liked the piece, I was quite unsatisfied since the twist was still totally unoriginal. Oh well, at least I was on the way.

Saying Goodbye

Saying Goodbye [36/40]
(Based on Christina Rosenthal by Jeffrey Archer)

Dearest Father,

I remember clearly the first time I’d told you about Rosenthal. I was in High School then, and a member of the school track team. Our team was competing against an invited rival; I remember not which, but I do remember the results. As I sped around the track, I would pass by a group of Germans after every round, and as I did I would hear them chanting ‘Jew boy, Jew boy’ over and over again. In the final lap of the race, a girl within the group shouted something so offensive I have no wish to repeat it. I stopped dead in the middle of the race, and glared at her. That girl was Rosenthal.

Rabbi Benji put the letter down, mind awash with memories. He did remember his son relating the experience to him, and how he had praised Simon for not resorting to violence. As he glanced at the familiar handwriting, he wondered whether he really wanted to continue reading it. Giving a sigh, he did.

The next time I saw her was in college. By a strange quirk of fate perhaps, we had ended up in the same one. I’d first noticed her at a ball sometime at the end of the first year, and perhaps to spite her, I walked up to her and asked for a dance. Surprisingly, she accepted. At the end of the dance, she’d commented with a twinkle in her eye, “Not bad, for a Jew.” It was then that we started dating.

Rabbi Benji remembered that much as well. He also remembered expressing disapproval of the relationship between German and Jew, but never actually tried forcing Simon to give her up. It was, after all, his right to choose.

The most painful occurrence of racism I’d ever experienced was the day I asked Rosenthal’s parents for her hand in marriage. I was, of course, flatly rejected. Rosenthal’s parents normally harboured no great hatred for Jews, but apparently the thought of a Jewish son-in-law was something else altogether. A week later, Rosenthal disappeared from the college. I later found out from her friends that she’d been married to a young German, a fine army officer at that. Her parents also warned me not to try to contact her. Wishing to avoid trouble, I complied.

The Rabbi had always wondered about the cause of the depression Simon had experienced late in university. However, he never did figure out. The two were not particularly close, although they could get along pretty well.

The next time I saw her, a few years had passed. We both tried to avoid each other, but in the end, it all happened anyway. She told me of how her marriage was an empty one, and I told her how much I still loved her. Though we both knew it to be extremely wrong, we were involved in an affair. I’d never told you this, of course, as you’d never have approved.

She filed for divorce soon after that, and the two of us chose to get married. This time, you actually forbade it. I was surprised, for I knew you’d object, but never thought you’d actually forbid it. We got married anyway, without approval from either of our parents.

Rabbi Benji rubbed his eyes. Of course he had a reason for forbidding it. He’d known about the affair, though Simon hadn’t told him about it before, and just could not let him break another’s marriage. What Simon did not know was that though the Rabbi had not attended his wedding, he prayed constantly for him.

Rosenthal died in childbirth. She’d known that the pregnancy would be a difficult one, yet decided to carry it through anyway. I was, of course, shattered. I was left with a baby girl, Claire, as my only valued possession in the whole world.

I reconciled with Rosenthal’s parents that day, as they came to grieve for their daughter. How ironic that such things always happen too late. I was not really concerned about their opinion of me anymore, though I appreciated it.

The next day, the hospital called. Claire had passed away during the night.

Rabbi Benji folded up the letter and placed it back where he’d always kept it. He knew how the rest of the letter went. After all, it’d been five years since Simon had written to say goodbye.


16-year-old writer’s commentary:

As could have been guessed, ‘a girl within the group shouted something so offensive I have no wish to repeat it’ is crap. I couldn’t think of something which the girl would do which was so offensive. And I think stopping dead in the middle of the race to glare is stupid, but it was the only reasonable hostile reaction I could think of. Not too good.

Rabbi Benji is quite an original (mine) character. This is largely because I’d read the story ages ago and it was an in-class assignment, so his responses were largely based on what I would do as a parent. Although the tragic end of his offspring leads me to wonder how I’d fare myself.

From the line ‘Rabbi Benji rubbed his eyes’ onward, the essay was rather rushed. I was running out of time (remember, it was an in-class). This is very clearly seen at the last paragraph where the Rabbi folds up the letter and knew how the rest of the letter went. But I think the ending is superior for it. In Archer’s version, the letter goes on even after we’d known how it’d end, and it makes the son’s (whose name wasn’t Simon, I believe) death blatantly obvious. I intended more for a shocker with this, and I think I’ve achieved it. Or at least, I hope I did.

Old writings, new writings

My form class started asking me when the last time I’d written a short story was, and whether they could take a look at what I’d written. That’s when I remembered that I’d put some of my old essays online back in 2000, and could probably rescue a few to share in class.

(A part of me wonders if that’s a wise move, but I guess if they were rated as well-written for a 16-year-old student, they won’t be judged too critically by overly-perceptive 13-year-olds.)

Will need to clean up some of the commentary, though. 16-year-old me (who was apparently EmoBoy and decidedly not a bot) was a real whiner! Guess I’ll post some of the old stuff here when done, and who knows? Maybe I’ll feel inspired to try my hand at writing fiction again this year!

Monetised geekdom

So I was spending some time resuscitating my domain names earlier (I’m about US$1 away from receiving my next US$100 AdSense cheque, so I figured it was worth paying $10 to achieve that target on the MWBS Wiki) when the wife asked how much I’d made off that site.

I was rather curious too, so I did a quick search on my AdSense history and it seems that I’ve actually made US$800 (probably more than S$1000) over four years. That’s not too much in terms of monthly income, but it’s a pretty decent amount gained from what stemmed from a brief obsession with a Facebook game.

I’m not particularly entrepreneurial by nature (probably too averse to risk), but this brief flirtation with online advertising has convinced me that it’s definitely worth aligning your passions with money-making opportunities. Now, if only I could think up another hobby that could help supplement my income to an even greater degree!