27 April 2011

8 help. please.

sooooooooooo, dear peoples... we're going to do something wildly random and exceedingly strange.

i've been working on this horrible bitch of a blasted exorcism/writing thing that the naked lady bar has savaged time and again. it's due to them for the fourth pass on friday and i've decided this has got to be the last go-round before we all go mad and it trots off into the ever after of whatever it's going to be.

a most inconvenient resolution given that the little shit appears to have belligerently set up camp in the parking lot adjacent to the arena of sensei's approval.

it's close. it's not there. i need help.

sensei demands imagery. so, think concrete details like water temperature and toenail polish, concussions and chlorine.

removed from all context and the 12 pages that surround it, here's what i've got (your assignment is at the end):

I was twelve. I was awkward and afraid of public speaking. Standing in front of 200 people and walking alone down an aisle was a nightmare for which juice and crackers and the vague connotations of cannibalism therein seemed a terribly small reward.

But this wasn't even the scariest part. Coupled with this was an intense terror of baptism.

Each new believer, after braving the aisle, was to be symbolically reborn through baptism. It was an odd production that, from my vantage point in the crowd below, seemed to have been pilfered from one of Busby Berkley's lesser water ballets.

The timid new believer would be led into the waters, which no one ever had the forethought to warm, so that the public profession of faith whispered into the microphone pinned on the minister's lapel would be punctuated with a near-deafening chattering of teeth that would ricochet about the sanctuary like gunfire bouncing off the walls. The preacher would then hold a cloth over the believer’s nose and dip him or her backwards into the water in what, more than anything, appeared to be a poorly executed drowning.

As this process was being conducted by ministers rather than life-guards and it was performed on victims in billowing robes and bare feet, there was always drama.

Dizzied by the lack of air, the believer frequently lost his or her footing, the feet kicked up and a wave of water went cascading over the baptistry’s edge, splashing the congregants in the front row as though this were Sea World rather than a sacrament. If that weren’t humiliation enough, water inevitably went up the victim’s nose and the remainder of the service would be interrupted by the hacking coughs of the recently reborn.

Baptism was in dire need of a better promotional campaign. Every week, smiling children walked up the aisle, beaming ecstatically, to commit their lives to Christ, only to be submerged the subsequent Sunday afternoon and emerge sobbing as though fresh from a face-to-face with the devil, their extremities gone blue from the water's cold.

It didn't exactly make one want to follow in their footsteps.

And so, when I finally did take those first steps down that aisle on my own way to a commitment to belief, I did so in spite of a host of fears, including a dread of being singled out in public and a near-certainty that I was going to drown. 

so there. now. tear it apart. tell me what else you want to know, what i've missed, what i've got all wrong and if you've got any good baptism stories i can exploit, spill...


Linda said...

I had a comment, and then blogger ate it.

I'll email my Baptism story (well, my non-story) to you, since it was apparently too long for this little dealie.

I'll let the English-head grown-ups talk now.

Osutein said...

God, if only I had an arena of approval. It's more like an abandoned sandlot with a few moldy baseballs hidden in the clumps of dandelions. And it's not so much a parking lot as a stained and cracked concrete patch where the dumpsters used to be.

oline said...

i'll be waiting, lindear. (in a far less creepy way than that made it sound.)

and damn, sensei. that was some major imagery one-up-manship.

Les Savy Ferd said...


I know that you are all up in recollection mode at the start but for me active is always more interesting than passive. I don't want to see 'I was 12' or 'I was awkward,' I want you to BE 12. And reading about shaky knees or whatever is more evocative than being told a person is feeling a certain way. I want to see it being felt. However possible.

Love the cannibalism line, obviously.

P3 = solid gold. Bravissimo

The monster sentence in P4 is doing a lot of work but I'm not sure it is all the way there yet. It is awkward, but maybe in a good way. You have something whispered being overwritten by something else that is chattering and also deafening, ricocheting and bouncing all at once. Its like the sentence itself is trying to transform into what is happening, caroming about the paragraph. But I did need to read it a few times to get my footing. As it stands its a bit of uneven pavement that I tripped over the first time and had to keep my eye on the next few passes. Which might be a good thing.

Poorly executed drowning = aweso0me.

P6 is fantastic. My favorite part.

One last note on the use of the generic 'a believer'. I kind of wish you were using actual people. I want to see water dribbling down the old guy's bald head or catching in his beard. Or see the child's eyes go wide when they feel the gown shrinkwrap against their legs as they go under. A believer makes the process both all encompassing, something we can all pour ourselves into, but it can also make things a vague. Both choices have their drawbacks, I just thought I would point it out (as if you hadn't considered it already).

Okay, above all else I want to say that this is awesome. I loved it lots. As a catholic it made me grateful that i was but a human grub having a cup of water doused on my head inside of the full submersion. Although it is pretty wonderful how many babies take revenge by urinating right back on their priests. And its never like, a trickle. Somehow they all summon fire-hose strength dousing ability.

Anyhow. Rock on O.

oline said...

how was i not aware of the monster sentence? surely the fact that, in reading it aloud, i had to pause for breath four times should've been an indication.

question- there are, like, ten metaphors evoked here: stage performance, murder, theme parks, etc. did you struggle anywhere and are any of them absolutely not working?

and on the matter of the believer, would it be better to follow one person through the entire process? it's generic because i thought that would be more easily identifiable. but would it be more effective if this were young oline watching another little girl go through this and inserting herself into a similar horror?

Les Savy Ferd said...

i mean, maybe? As I said, you get definite strengths from the work each option would do for you. I think its more about what you want the reader to see. Do you want them to see you looking at some little girl and dreading a similar fate? Or do you want them to be able to put anyone in there. Pluses / minuses on both sides.

Your metaphors are very strong and I don't think they compete with each other or cancel each other out.

I think they all share a common theatricality. I suppose even murder is a kind of performance piece, just (usually) a smaller audience.

oline said...

huzzah. my metaphors are operational.

and please do coax your wife into sharing some thoughts. for some reason the question of "what would croftie want to know?" came up a lot in the naked lady bar when we were discussing this.

Les Savy Ferd said...

She's a much better editor than me, that's for sure.

I just read her defense of a critique on her most recent HERO edits and was like OMG this is some academic level insight. In the good way, not in the Fog of Words Nobody Knows The Definition of way.

off to coax.