Compartments

Oct. 29, 2019
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Average Rating: 3.75
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Some people need swear jars; you and your mother need a fight jar. Seconds into this argument and you’re in the wrong again—she’s driving you three hours down to campus to help you move in, so she’s entitled to gripe about your screw-ups. The high rent. The roommate who never was—you had a fight and Anna doesn’t want to live with you anymore. But you sink into the passenger seat and insist your mother isn’t listening because it’s better she thinks she doesn’t understand you rather than you don’t understand yourself. You win when veins crack like thawing ice across her temples, unburdening a violence of words she’ll later regret. You always cry when yelled at so you’ll burst into tears. She’ll say sorry like it was her fault. You’ll toss into the fight jar apologies that should be yours. Thunk. Screw tight.

You could have other jars, too. Your mother skids a sharp left into the first Exxon-Mobil lot, grainy and yellowed by streetlights, and you think about the possibilities. A jar for white lies like you’re adjusting well to college freedom, a jar for lies that’ll ruin you—maybe the same jar. Thunk. For things you say don’t matter but do. Thunk. “Thank you for applying.” Thunk. Plans your friends forget to make with you. Thunk. Staying home.

Your mother asks who’s not listening now. She feels most disrespected by silence—convenient because you don’t have anything to say. The response is in some jar somewhere, probably. She calls you ungrateful and the word slides slickly down the car window, the spindly letters jumbling as they pool around your fingers. Once you tried to articulate the feeling and she said you think too much.

Knuckles white on the wheel, she threatens to drive off the highway but still flings out an arm to shield you when she brakes too hard. Her raised voice twists your tear duct faucets. You leak. The tears are only wetness; your chest sears as though you’ve taken too large a bite of her tomato egg over rice. It’s not sadness. You remember sadness differently, before mornings sagged and you woke up wiping the corners of dry eyes.

You rest her apology at the foot of the apartment stairs and batter the wheels of your suitcase against each ascending step. Behind you, she strains her neck to peer around the storage container in her arms. You told her you were missing a binder and she’s brought you a whole box.

Once upstairs, she wilts in the doorway, hands at her sides awkwardly afloat, gravitating toward you.

You have a brimming gratitude jar; you pass out “thank you”s like candy at the close of emails, through doors held open, in immediate blue text bubbles to Anna’s weeks-late messages, and you must take for granted only the unconditional because this time you twist the lid until your palms blister pink but the jar remains sealed tightly shut.


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Great language throughout, but some points of confusion...
A.C.Tucker rated this work:

Oct. 31, 2019, 11:31 a.m.

Things that work for me:
1) First of all, I think you do a good job of setting up the tone. I love the language you use throughout the piece.
Some of my personal favorites
- You win when veins crack like thawing ice across her temples, unburdening a violence of words she’ll later regret.
- Knuckles white on the wheel, she threatens to drive off the highway but still flings out an arm to shield you when she brakes too hard.
- You rest her apology at the foot of the apartment stairs and batter the wheels of your suitcase against each ascending step.
- She calls you ungrateful and the word slides slickly down the car window, the spindly letters jumbling as they pool around your fingers
2) I also really appreciate how well you used a second-person point of view. I think it worked well for this particular narrative

Things that don't work for me:
1) While your language and word choice are great, there are a few lines that either left me confused or wanting more
- Her raised voice twists your tear duct faucets. You leak. The tears are only wetness (I just feel like this phrasing and the image could be a little stronger and succinct/unique)
- But you sink into the passenger seat and insist your mother isn’t listening because it’s better she thinks she doesn’t understand you rather than you don’t understand yourself. (maybe just a little confusing, especially toward the end)
- She feels most disrespected by silence—convenient because you don’t have anything to say (again, slightly confused by the phrasing. Why/how is it "convenient"?)

2) I'm not sure how I feel about "Thunk" as your onomatopoeia of choice. It seems like an odd way to describe the sound of something falling into a jar...
3) Not sure how I feel about the title. "Compartment" doesn't feel like it truly connects to the "jars" when I think of compartments I think more of drawers on a desk... (but that could just be me)
4) While I love the idea of there being multiple jars, I wonder if you need the ones used in paragraph two. I love the "gratitude jar" so much that I wish it was used more in the whole piece as a contrasting image to the narrator's mother. I think that would make a really great image

Again, this is a really good piece overall. I love flash as a genre and I think you use it really well. You didn't tell us the "why" behind their relationship, but I like it that way, and you still make the emotions of the piece really strong and clear.
Your narrative has an almost poetic element that made it a really enjoyable read. If you're confused by anything I said here, feel free to ask.

Cliches Diction Sentence Structure Concision

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Short but powerful
whatdoyouneed rated this work:

Nov. 6, 2019, 3:11 p.m.

What encapsulates this story for me is this line:
"Knuckles white on the wheel, she threatens to drive off the highway but still flings out an arm to shield you when she brakes too hard." Your story strikes to the heart of so much of the messiness of a parent-child relationship and the love that can be embedded so deeply into that relationship it's instinctive and reflexive and you never bother to question it.

Character Motivation

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