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

Comment Rating: 4.0

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oc:

Hi! Thank you for this detailed comment. I really appreciate your breaking down what worked for you and what didn't. Reading back, I see there are a lot of places where the sentences are a little wordy/vague.
As for "thunk," I suppose I wanted the sound of something heavy falling into a jar, but I do see that it takes away from the tone. A little clunky.
I'm really intrigued by the idea of nixing all the jars. The piece starts out with two jars that aren't the gratitude jar (swear jar and fight jar,) so would that necessitate reworking the entire piece? Would love to hear more about what you were envisioning.
Finally, thanks so much again. Your feedback is appreciated!

A.C.Tucker:

Hi again! First of all, congrats on getting featured!
As for the idea of nixing the jars, I don't think you have to completely rework the entire piece. The swear jar is good for the beginning it contextualizes the purpose of the "jars". I think the jar of lies works, especially if you include lies the mother has said or lies the person tells themselves about their mother. Maybe the mother's apology feel more like a lie, this might work as a transition to that second paragraph.
As for the gratitude jar, I think it would be interesting to hear how the mother behaves toward other people. Maybe at the Exxon-Mobil, she's kind and always grateful before she gets back in the car and continues to berate the child. Just something to add to that ending sentence. Maybe even return to the lie jar and have the person say thank you to their mother and realize that it is a lie rather than genuine gratitude.
Maybe my issue isn't that they other jars are there, but that they aren't very connected at times.
These are just suggestions. I seriously love this whole story even the way it is now. Every once in a while I come across something and think "damn, why didn't I think of this idea".

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

Comment Rating: 2.0

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oc:

Thank you so much for the response! I feel like that image (a mom throwing out her hand in a car even though it's useless) is particularly commonplace and it really strikes a chord with me.

Great
SarahViecelli rated this work:

Dec. 16, 2019, 11:12 a.m.

Some very well done imagery in here. I think it could've used a bit more punctuation in some areas though. I also feel thunk is a bit odd for the sound.

Sentence Structure

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Compartments
oddone rated this work:

March 19, 2020, 6:36 p.m.

Great piece, very well written with wonderful vibrant imagery.

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Setting

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Experiment With Confusing Readers
ifyouseekay468 rated this work:

May 19, 2020, 4:58 p.m.

First things first this is a really great work, the description is so sharp and tactile-- really depicts a world of splintered glass that is the character's relationships. I love how you're able to describe unintended guilt tripping that the character experiences, as someone whose had their fair share of guilt issues. My only real issue isn't the vagueness of the events necessarily, but the potential it has and how it can be used. As someone who is a huge fan of imagery in writing, you can go two ways in my opinion (this is gonna get a little book nerdy so bear with me): Wilde and Joyce. For example, Oscar Wilde's writing gives in depth description to make the reader feel grounded in the scene, Joyce uses in depth description to make the reader feel grounded in the character's mind. So, in my opinion, it's not the fact that some parts are unclear that's the issue, but it's how you deliver that uncertainty. You can use the vagueness and confusion to your advantage to spin a web of racing thoughts in a sea of emptiness, to make it seem that there's something missing that will leave the reader digging. I often start writing a piece with more traditional imagery 'the sky is a white pendulum...' but then slowly melt into a more modern use of it, which can be really fun if you write a short story- kind of like what I see is going on in this piece. One of my favorite things about writing is breaking the rules and bleeding metaphors into reality, and I suggest it as something every writer should try; both to improve skills and for their own enjoyment.

Voice

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