Tuesday, August 30, 2011

They Found Me.

This was an assignment we had at the writing workshop  conducted by Robert Raymer on 13 August. It was his second with our group in KK. The first was last April which I had also attended. I didn’t go because I thought I’d be able to push myself into completing a short story in one afternoon. It was more for the opportunity to listen and learn something new—and to meet the other ‘writers-in-waiting’. 

Pic Courtesy of Robert Raymer
Robert seemed to feel bad that we weren’t rushing to complete a masterpiece before we left the hall!
 Anyway, “They Found Me” was one interesting exercise with countless possibilities and a novel way (I think) of letting your imagination run wild.  Just consider: who or what are ‘they’? Your kids? Bosses? Ex-husbands? The police? Wild animals? And who or what is ‘me’? A child? A convict? A tumour? An elf? A secret diary? It gets more interesting when you try to answer all the ‘wh questions’! And that was exactly what I did.

After several days of selecting and discarding one potential protagonist after another, I found the ‘me’ I could identify with (hah) and then I let my ideas simmer while I thought of plausible scenes in my head. When I had a fair idea of what my story was going to be, I simply wrote-edited-rewrote-edited and then left my story overnight. Normally, the following day, all (well, almost all!) the ‘mistakes’ would jump out and so got corrected or re-written until I was happy with the result.

I hope you like my 'masterpiece' enough to leave comments so I can turn it into a really good story! Thanks!


 “There you are!”

The hoarse voice came from a reclining chair somewhere to my left. I froze, one foot in mid-air and my heart hammering in my chest. An old hag lay motionless in the chair. Despite the stifling heat she was covered from the neck down. Her eyes, like bright fifty-sen coins, reflected the light from window. Only her eyes and lips were moving. “I have waited ten years for you.”

Of course it couldn’t have been me she had waited for ten long years. I was sure of that because I know I didn’t owe anyone any money; I have no parents, no siblings, no wife, not even any food which was why I had entered this house. It sat at the end of a quiet lane, the yard was a little jungle and I thought they would never find this place. The front door was unlocked, too.

“Where is that bag of bones you have for a wife? Didn’t she say you should be here on time?” I needn’t worry about answering her because she went on and on… and on.

From Google Images
The only part of her that was strong seemed to be her voice so I knew it was safe to sink down into the chair nearest the door; the one next to a side table where there was a bottle of some kind of drink and a plastic box of what looked like half a dozen muffins and a few red apples. I could use the bottle to thump her on the head if she tried to do anything funny.

“Ah,” she said as she watched me studying the bottle. “You want a drink? Some food maybe?”

‘Well,” I began as my thoughts drifted back to my last meal. It had been three days ago and the crazy men had splattered my rice with spittle. They claimed they were only returning the favour.

 “Eat!” She roared. “Drink! You haven’t changed at all, have you?”

I tried not to pig on the muffins in case the old lady noticed and asked awkward questions.

“Always late. Never on time. Don't you have a clock?” She stopped to take a breath. “You should have been here at five this morning.”

 Ah, so it wasn’t ten years she had waited. Merely five hours.

“I let your good-for-nothing wife take the day off because she swore you’d be here at dawn. Damn if I’m ever going to believe her word again. Turn me! Turn me!”

I stopped in mid-swallow. Turn her? Did she mean turn her on? I gasped.
 “Stop gawking, you nincompoop! Go wash the filth off your hands and turn me onto my side. Use that soap. Don’t want your germs all over me.”

I found the bathroom. I washed my hands twice while studying my head in the mirror. My hair was growing back and the deep gash near my ear, the one caused by the blunt blade, was healing nicely. I splashed water onto my head and washed my neck. I thought a change of clothes would be good.
By the time I returned to the front room, the old lady was snoring softly. Asleep, she didn’t look too intimidating but even I knew to let sleeping dogs lie. So I went looking for clothes and hoped the woman had married a man and that he had died and left his clothes behind.

The first room yielded nothing but dolls. There were dolls arranged on shelves, stuffed in boxes, attached to strings and hung on hooks. There were all kinds of dolls in all kinds of condition: big, tiny, black, blonde, gowned, naked, bald. They had eyes of beads, buttons and glass in blue, brown, red, black or had no eyes at all. Was the woman a doll collector? A doll maker? A weirdo?
The next room had cabinets along one wall and looked more promising. The first cabinet had enough linen and towels for all the inmates of the mental hospital. In the middle cabinet there was nothing but women’s under-things, jars of cream and tubes of lotion. The last one had dresses and skirts; shorts, floral blouses and nightclothes. 

Not a single thing for a man!

The shorts wouldn’t hide the tattoo on my calf and I’d look ridiculous in a dress so I pulled a few items from the last cabinet and changed my clothes.

Then the wardens came.

They found me in front of the bathroom mirror brushing my teeth. Their eyes popped out and they backed out of the room hurriedly. Perhaps it was because I was all in shocking pink and white: pink pajamas, pink towel wrapped around my head, white cold cream on my face and white toothpaste foaming out of my mouth.

Or maybe it was because the old lady woke up suddenly and, outraged by the arrival of unexpected company, she did the only thing she was capable of doing. She shrieked like a mad woman.


  1. I like the story. I have yet to complete mine.

  2. Hi Tina. Glad you liked They Found Me. I was going to give you another topic, similar to that, but approached in a different manner. I'll introduce it at the third workshop, as a bonus.

    By the way, no one can finish a masterpiece during a writing workshop, so no way am I ever disappointed. But you can start a masterpiece, and I find that rather exciting!

    I'm just happy when people enjoy themselves and also put in the effort to get something going since that's why we're there...

  3. Like your language. It's beyond my reach.

  4. Interesting plot :) I didn't think you'd identify with a male protagonist and one with a tatoo! Hehehe.

    I think the story is quite comical with elements of ambiguity - the identity of the characters, the setting, ending were all very vague so it made me want to read on and find out more.

    The only thing I'm not sure about is the way the main character was 'discovered' towards the end. I just felt that the transition from when he was getting dressed to how he was suddenly found came too abruptly. Please forgive if I'm wrong or you have intended it to be that way. Cheers :)

  5. Hi Charles! Glad you liked the story. Looking forward to reading your story too!

  6. Robert, we enjoyed ourselves! I'm waiting patiently for the next course.

  7. Hi Lizee! Thanks for your feedback!! I didn't realise the ambiguity! I've changed ONE word and hope it helps in answering the 'who' and so helps readers understand the story. I'm hoping for more comments and then I'll say more. Cheers!

  8. Wow, seems like the words were dancing infront of my eyes when I read your piece aunty. Really! As I read your words, scenes, images started forming in my head. I could see the old woman, the rooms, the dolls... Love it..Very creative and descriptive (don't know whether the last word is the correct "jargon" in the writer's circle hehehe)

  9. Is the protagonist a tramp? Is he naked, and desperate to clad himself with clothes? Was the old woman a mistress when she was young, and she thinks her man is coming back to her after being dead for many years? Just a conjecture.

  10. I attended one of Robert's workshops in April but I haven't even started writing anything that resembled creative writing piece yet...:) You are such a natural writer, Tina...

  11. First, my sincere thanks to you all for leaving comments.

    Verone, that's a big compliment. Thank you!!

    I like short stories where some of the info is deliberately left out so the reader has to supply the missing details and in doing so, gets more involved in the story. The danger is that the writer could leave too many important bits missing and instead of amusing the reader with an engaging story, he succeeds only in irritating the poor fellow! I may have done just that!
    (I’m leaving the story as it is for the time being but I’ll edit it so it's less confusing before my next blog entry.)

    Now, to answer your questions…

    The main character (MC) is not a tramp.
    You can tell he’s running away from something/one. He hasn’t eaten for three days. He chooses this house because it looks safe.
    He wants a change of clothes, so he’s not naked.

    The old lady is expecting her maid’s husband to come and take care of her because her maid has taken the day off. (She mistakes the MC for the maid's husband. The MC takes advantage of this genuine mistake!)

    The MC is careful not to give away his identity to the old lady (and the reader) so all he ever says is: “Well…”!!

    I gave hints: crazy men… splattered my rice with spittle, inmates of the mental hospital, etc. so you could guess who/what the MC is.

    The MC takes the precaution to ‘hide’ himself (most of us would do the same) in case his pursuers find him. And they do but they don’t recognize him. What they see in the bathroom is a ‘woman’… or a ghost!!

    I'm delighted to see interest in the short story! More questions??

  12. Ah..I see..I originally thought that MC's an ex-convict hehe..Thanks for the info! Now I can see the whole picture.

    The question is, what's next? Hehehe..I know it's meant to be open ended but I just had to ask :)

  13. Lizee, at first I wanted the MC to be an ex-con, too. Later I thought someone who escaped from Bukit Padang would be more fun and unpredictable!

    What next ah?? Let me confer with MC first. Who knows, we may surprise you all! :-)

  14. Great for you Tina. I am inspired by your variety chosen vocabularies. Please continue writing.