WEP: in Translation

a566d-thumbnail_badge_girlcastle5Yolanda and Denise of the WEP website encouraged me to write to this challenge, but it wasn’t easy. For a long time, I couldn’t come up with anything on the theme of Utopian Dreams. And then, a crazy idea came to me. It’s not exactly a true story yet but it could be. It’s not exactly fiction either. But it could be. It all depends…

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On Friday, Genie shut the email program with an angry click of her mouse. “I hate rejections. Why don’t they want my stories?”

Chuck didn’t reply, just nuzzled her thigh in a show of support, or maybe in a demand for a treat. It was hard to tell.

“Oh, Chuck.” Genie picked him up, burying her face in his deep fur. “I want to get one of my stories published in Can Cocoa. It’s my one big dream. I even blogged about it, and everyone encouraged me to keep trying, but the editor keeps rejecting my stories. Only small cheap e-zines accept them. Stupid Can Cocoa!”

Chuck grinned, his tongue lolling.

“You think I’m obsessed with Can Cocoa, don’t you?”

Chuck licked her nose.

“You’re my partisan.” Genie laughed.

On Monday after work, she logged in the Can Cocoa website again. Checking their masthead had become a routine by now. One day, they might change their fiction editor, and the new one might like her stories better. She would be ready. A girl could dream, couldn’t she? Without her impossible dreams, she would be too pathetic: a middle-aged aspiring writer working a mind-numbing office job.

The magazine didn’t change their fiction editor that day but they announced a new section: short stories in translation. The text in the original language and the original writer’s permission should be included in the submissions, together with the English translation.

Genie closed the window with a derisive huff. “Translation, my ass,” she muttered. “Well, I’m bilingual. I could translate anything from Russian. I have, in fact, and put my translated stories on wattpad. People love them. I have thousands of readers.”

Sitting beside her desk, Chuck thumped his tail in encouragement.

“You think I should?” Genie asked doubtfully. “I have a magic realism story, set in Russia during the war. I’ve never submitted it to them before. I could pretend it’s a translation. The editor of their translation section is a different lady. Maybe she’ll accept my story.”

The idea stayed with her. On Thursday, she decided to try. She wrote an email to the translation editor. “I don’t have the original manuscript,” she explained in a burst of rabid imagination. “It never existed. The author is my maternal great aunt. She was a wonderful storyteller but she never wrote down her stories. She narrated them. They were all about magic and fantastic creatures in the everyday Russia. Although she died more than 30 years ago, I still remember some of her stories. Recently, I wrote down one of them in English.” She ended the message by asking if they would be interested in such a story and clicked Send.

“What do you think, Chuck? Is it a good frame for my story? I did have a great aunt by that name, although she never told any stories. She was a cantankerous old hen, lived alone and died alone, no kids, no family. Nobody can check anything.”

Enthusiastic as always, Chuck flopped on his back, so she could rub his tummy.

The reply came promptly the next day: yes, they wanted her translation from Russian.

“What do you know?” Genie muttered. “Maybe they don’t have enough submissions to fill the section?” She sent her story.

Several months later, on Wednesday, the reply came. The magazine would publish her story in December and pay her the usual translation rate – five times more than she had ever been paid by any of the small circulation magazines that habitually published her stories. Of course, the writer’s part of the payment would be withheld, as the writer was dead, but if she had more stories from the same source, they would be glad to consider them.

“Yahoo! My dream came true after all!” She would be published in Can Cocoa, if only as a translator… of her own story, but it was a start. Her story was finally good enough for those literary eggheads. She turned on her favorite Andre Rieu concert and waltzed around her tiny apartment, singing out of tune. Chuck was so concerned about the cacophony, he started barking.

On Saturday, another email arrived from Can Cocoa – a congratulation. Her story, or rather her imaginary aunt’s story, was awarded the prestigious Dennis Yoland Prize as the best translated story of the year. She was invited to accept the prize on behalf of the dead author. The ceremony would take place just before Christmas, in New York, during the annual translators’ summit. Her air fare and hotel for two nights would be paid by the organizers.

Genie’s heart thumped wildly. Her story was good enough to win the award, the best story of the year, but only as someone else’s story. Those New York publishing snobs were ready to pay for her to fly there, but her dream-come-true suddenly felt like a mockery.

“What do you think, Chuck? Should I tell them the truth in my acceptance speech? What would they do: denounce me? Take away the prize? But translated or not, it is the same story. Or should I cowardly ignore the invitation, say I can’t come? Or should I make up my aunt’s tragic life story and tell it to those idiots who can’t separate truth from fiction? Would it be fraud?”

Chuck pushed his nose into her trembling hands, but this time, his unquestioning loyalty didn’t bring relief, nor clarity. She had lied and got punished… by a free flight and hotel in New York. And a monetary prize. She didn’t know what to do.
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Word count: 930

Posted in Olga Godim, WEP, Writing Challenge | Tagged , , | 14 Comments

Five Days of Elf complete on wattpad

cover_girlnight3_2by3For those who like urban fantasy writer Wen Spencer and her Elfhome universe, I’ve written a short story set in it. I love Wen Spencer and I adore her Elfhome series. Five Days of Elf is my first ever piece of fan-fiction. I have never written it before – never been tempted – but Elfhome got the better of me.

I wanted to post my story where other Elfhome fans were sure to find it but discovered, to my surprise, there is no such site, no place where the fans of this writer congregate. Not even her own website; it doesn’t invite communication, just serves as an information dispensary.

The only place where I found a couple of Elfhome fan-fiction stories is Fanfiction.net, but the stories there are at least 2 years old. No new ones.

So I posted my baby on wattpad. It is based on the Elfhome universe, but the characters and the plot are my own. In this story, Lisa, a film school student from Vancouver, Canada, attends a local Shakespearean festival, when a gun-toting terrorist starts a shooting spree. She could’ve been killed, if not for a young man in a gray turban who risks his life stopping the shooter. But the turbaned guy turns out not what he seems.

The story is complete. You can read it here.

I made the cover myself. The photo came from Pixabay, a wonderful free image website, and the girl on it looks exactly how I pictured Lisa, while I wrote her story.

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Tail to Treasure published!

My short fantasy story Tail to Treasure was published in the November issue of the Bloodbond magazine. I received my complimentary copy of the paper magazine in the mail yesterday.

cover_tetharthaag2_2by3The storys protagonist, Yanick, is a shapeshifter, but his other form is not anything glamorous, like a wolf or a tiger. No, Yanich is a monkey shifter. He lives in a city at the edge of the jungle, and his main sort of income derives from the lost treasures he finds in the jungle. Unfortunately, his occupation is somewhat illegal in the city, as he isnt a member of the treasure hunters guild. He wants to become a member. That’s how his story starts:
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Yanick slammed the door shut. “They wouldn’t let me in. The stupid snobs wouldn’t accept my application. They laughed in my face. They said I couldn’t carry my share in any expedition with this… twisted arm of mine. What do they know? Rude, ignorant rats. I could’ve led them to amazing riches, but no. Idiots.”
He breathed heavily. He wanted to use stronger words, condemning words, but his mother wouldn’t approve. His sisters were watching too. He swallowed the rest of his curses and plopped down on a kitchen bench, his fists still bunched. He wanted to pound something, preferably the smug fat face of the guild clerk who had rejected him, but the guild hall was half the city away. Yanick resorted to scowling.
His mother shook her head. “You applied to the treasure hunters’ guild, didn’t you?”
He growled a vague affirmative.
“Have some soup.” She ladled a huge portion of thick soup into his bowl and pushed it towards him. “I told you they wouldn’t accept you…”
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I created the cover for this story, using a painting by Tethart Haag, a famous 18th century Dutch artist. Haag was a court painter to William V of Orange-Nassau and the director of various cultural institutions in The Hague. This particular painting seems to be custom-made for my story, even though it was painted almost 300 years ago. It even has a parrot, just like my story.

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Romance vs. fantasy

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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The IWSG question this month: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?

My answer: I don’t usually plan so far ahead, but… I think I see my complete sword and sorcery fantasy series self-published. The first two novels of it are still under contract with my publisher, but the contract will expire early in 2017. After that, I plan to republish them myself, plus another four novels. At the moment, one of them is practically ready. Two others need full revisions before they are fit to go, and one (plus a couple of novellas) – I’ve only partially written the first draft.

Also I’m thinking of self-publishing a second anthology of my short stories. Unlike my first collection, SQUIRREL OF MAGIC, the second one wouldn’t be united by the same characters or the same world. Just a series of unconnected stories, most of them previously published in magazines, all of them in various speculative fiction subgenres: fantasy, sci-fi, and magic realism. I have a couple dozen stories to choose from.

I also intend to make a serious attempt to conquer another genre – romance. That’s what my post below is about.
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Since I was a child, I’ve always made up stories, and the majority of my stories had their foundation in speculative fiction. Nowadays, I mostly write high fantasy. Sometimes, I veer off into the subgenres of science fiction, urban fantasy, or magical realism. But in all my life, I’ve only written one mainstream novel and a couple of flash fiction stories. I don’t think I’ll be writing many more. My brain doesn’t seem wired that way. It always wants some sort of magic in a story, and here lies the gist of my insecurity.

Last year, I experimented with romance. I wrote a regency novella, Fibs in the Family, and put it up on wattpad. It was my first attempt at romance, and it’s done surprisingly well. By now, it has collected over 13K readers. Every time I check my account, I see the numbers rising, and many people put the story into their reading lists.

cover_withcityairship7Last month, I put up another story of mine on wattpad, this one a steampunk novelette Open, Charlie. (You could read it here.) It’s a good story, with magic, humor, dirigibles, and a whiff of romance, but the number of its readers has hardly topped 100. Not many people seem interested. Although I am hopeful – it’s only been one month – but the much more pronounced interest in romance on wattpad echoes what happens in the reading and publishing world outside the enclosed wattpad community.

According to statistics, romance is the winner among all the other genres. It sells more copies than all of the others together. The way for a writer is clear: write romance. Unfortunately, writing a love story is extremely hard for me. I have an outline for a second regency romance – it’s already partly written – but the story keeps resisting. For the past year, I’ve been trying to finish it without success. I will push again in December and hope this time I will prevail.

Still, romance doesn’t feel organic to me. Although I enjoy romance as a reader, I’m not by nature a romance writer. Love eluded me in my personal life and it continues doing so in my fiction. But if I want my stories to find readers, I should at least try to write what they want to read.

This conundrum tears me apart. Both directions – fantasy with its magic and its boundless possibilities and romance with its formulaic approach and its allure for readers – beckon me, but for different reasons. Where should I go? Maybe I should try to combine the two? Maybe with the help of magic as a key, love would finally allow me to open the door into its enchanted kingdom?

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Posted in Fantasy, Insecure Writer's Support Group, Novella, Olga Godim, Open Charlie, Romance, wattpad | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

My fan-fiction on wattpad #1

cover_girlnight3_2by3Those of you who follow my blog know that I’ve been struggling with my first ever fan-fiction story. I finally finished it. It is a story based on Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe.

I love Wen Spencer’s writing – she is one of my favorite urban fantasy writers – and I’ve read and enjoyed everything she has written. Her Elfhome universe, the location of her latest series that started with Tinker, has fascinated me from the beginning. The novels blend seamlessly urban fantasy and science fiction, elves and space travels, and their characters are some of the most intriguing folks in both genres. As a tribute to the author, I decided to write a story set in her universe, although the heroes and setting are my own. My story, Five Days of Elf, takes place soon after Tinker ended. The entire story unfolds in Vancouver, Canada.

In the beginning of Five Days of Elf, Lisa, a film school student, attends a local Shakespearean festival. As soon as the performance is over, a gun-toting terrorist  hops onto the stage and starts shooting actors and audience. Lisa could’ve been killed, if not for a young man in a gray turban who risks his life stopping the shooter.

The story comes in 5 parts. I’ve started posting it on wattpad. Part 1 is already there.

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November 2016 report

DoYouHaveGoalsIt is time again for the monthly blog hop Do You Have Goals, hosted by Misha Gericke and Beth Fred. Here is what’s happened with my writing since the last update.

Short stories

Not much is happening on this front. No new acceptances or new rejections. I’m almost done with my fanfiction story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe. It unfolded slowly and came out longer than I expected, more of a novelette. I’m still debating inside whether I should post it as fanfiction on my wattpad page or tweak the little details that connect it to Wen Spencer’s world and submit it somewhere or publish it as an original story. Those changes wouldn’t be extensive. I didn’t use any of the author’s copyrighted characters, and all the action takes place in Vancouver, Canada – my home city – while Ms. Spencer’s novels take place in Pittsburg, USA.

One of my short fantasy stories, Tail to Treasure, a tale about a young monkey-shifter hunting for a forgotten treasure in the jungle, has been published in the November issue of Bloodbond. It is a print magazine, and I’m supposed to receive one contributor’s copy, but I guess the mailing of the magazine takes time. Haven’t received it yet.

Novellas

My steampunk novelette Open, Charlie is complete on wattpad. There are not many readers yet, but I’m hopeful. For those who were waiting to read it until it was fully posted, here is the link to Chapter One.

My regency novella Fibs in the Family on wattpad is doing very well. It has topped 13K readers, and the numbers keep climbing.

Non-fiction

Wrote three articles for my newspaper. The fourth one this month is in the works and should be ready by Sunday – my deadline.

Art projects

This is my favorite part of the report. I keep trying to make book covers for stories on wattpad, but this month, nothing was accepted by the writers. I’m still learning the craft of cover design and I enjoy the process, so that’s all good.

Made a badge for the December challenge hosted by the WEP websiteUtopian Dreams. If you’d like to participate, logon to the website on Dec 1 and sign up. The posting day is Dec 21. Those challenges are exciting. As a base for the badge, I used one of the ready photo artworks by Alan Ayers.

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Another of my art projects this month was a Bingo card for romance reading on BookLikes. A bunch of us, romance lovers, are going to participate in this project in 2017, starting January. I participated in other Bingo readings on BL, and it was fun. I loved creating this card.

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Goals for December

  • Resume working on my second regency novella.
  • Finish my fanfiction short story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe, and do something about it.
Posted in art, Do you have goals, Olga Godim, Short Story, wattpad, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Fanfiction

IWSG_NewBadge2016It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
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The IWSG question this month: What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?

My answer: Hard to tell. I love most aspects of being a writer. I love the freedom to daydream, the ability to turn my dreams into stories, the readers’ reaction to my stories. I love writing the first draft and the revising stage. I love my heroes. It would be easier to say what my least favorite aspect is: marketing and sales. I’m struggling to sell my short stories to magazines, and nobody buys my novels, but my free novella on wattpad, Fibs in the Family, has a life of its own. It’s already climbed over 11,000 readers, and the numbers are rising steadily. And I don’t do anything about it. Perhaps, releasing free fiction on Amazon is the way to go for me?
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My post for this IWSG Wednesday is connected in some way to my answer above. Lately, I have been writing a short story belonging to another writer’s universe. It is my first attempt at fanfiction. I love the novels set in that universe; they inspire me. So I’m trying my hand at this quirky subgenre, and like any novice, I’m struggling with various issues.

One of those issues is: what do I do with the story when it is done? Granted, there are some websites dedicated to fanfiction and I could post the story there. Do I want to?

In my story, I don’t use any of the leading or even secondary characters the original writer wrote. I have my own characters exploring the universe I’m interested in, playing in one of its corners the original writer never highlighted and never populated. Perhaps I could alter a few telltale details and make it my own original story? Neither the plot nor the characters will be impacted much by such a change; it will be purely cosmetic. Of course, some similarity to the original milieu will remain, but if I’m careful, the setting would become almost unrecognizable. Do I want to go that route?

What do you do when you face such a quandary? Do you write fanfiction at all? Is fanfiction a sort of plagiarism, a lazy writing, or a tribute to an admired author? Should I abandon the story? Keep going and post it on wattpad? Turn it around into something truly original? What is your take on fanfiction?

 

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October report

DoYouHaveGoalsIt is time again for the monthly blog hop Do You Have Goals, hosted by Misha Gericke and Beth Fred. Here is what’s happened with my writing since the last update.

Short stories

Several stories rejected and resubmitted. No new acceptances or new publications. Finished my fantasy story for the IWSG anthology and submitted it. Still working on my fanfiction story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe.

Novellas

I’ve finished revising my novelette Open, Charlie and started posting it on wattpad. So far, I’ve posted 5 chapters. Open, Charlie is a steampunk-ish story set in America at the beginning of the 20th century. It features a brave eighteen-year-old girl Charlie, gifted with metal magic, a dirigible, and a handsome stage magician. Love is in the air for Charlie… if she could escape her evil stepfather’s clutches. Here is a link to Chapter One.

My regency novella Fibs in the Family on wattpad is doing very well. It gets new readers every time I check. By now, it has over 11,000 reads and more than 700 likes.

Non-fiction

Wrote a memoir essay for the blog hop Constellations about my childhood, tomatoes, and a train trip. Here it is: https://olgagodim.wordpress.com/2016/10/19/tomato-train/. Got quite a few comments. What surprised me in those comments was that while I intended the story as an entertaining interlude, most readers’ reaction could be summed up with a phrase: “How horrible for you!” I’m glad my story inspired some emotional response, but it was not what I expected.

Art projects

October was a good month for my art projects. I created a map/schedule of the dirigible flights for Open, Charlie. Added it to Chapter Four on wattpad. Click on the map to see a larger image.

Also made an alternative cover for Open, Charlie. Added it to Chapter Five on wattpad.

Created a couple book covers for other wattpad writers. One is a sci-fi story about an android. Another an epistolary romance. Both were accepted by the writers, which makes me proud.  I’m still learning the craft of book cover design, so every acceptance counts.

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Goals for November

  • Resume working on my second regency novella.
  • Finish my fan fiction short story, set in Wen Spencer’s Elfhome universe, and publish it on wattpad.

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Posted in book cover, Do you have goals, Novella, Olga Godim, Open Charlie, Short Story, wattpad, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Open, Charlie on wattpad – chapter 4 and 5

I posted Chapters Four and Five of my steampunk novella Open, Charlie on Wattpad. In these chapters, Charlie flies a dirigible with her new friend Mary. They are heading to Denver, but troubles follow Charlie even into the sky. Chapter Four is here.

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Eighteen-year-old Charlie is running away from her criminal stepfather, a New York gang boss. For five long years, he has been forcing her to use her magical abilities to open bank vaults and safe boxes. Charlie wants to escape his brutal rule but where in America would she be safe from his ruthless avarice?
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Besides the text of the new chapters, I also posted a schedule and map of the dirigible company on wattpad and I want to display it here too. Such schedules hang in every dirigible terminal in America.

I also provided an alternative cover for the novella, but you’ll have to read Chapter Five to see it.

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Tomato train

When Yolanda Renee and Denise Covey, the hosts of the WEP website, settled on the two themes for our October blog hop – Constellations or Halloween – at first I thought to opt out. I didn’t want to write anything obvious and didn’t have any original ideas. Then I remembered something that happened long ago, when I was a schoolgirl. By a strange coincidence, there is a constellation in this story, although it has nothing to do with stars or Greek myths. It is all about tomatoes.
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When I was a child in the 1960s, my family lived in Moscow, Russia. Both my parents worked full time, so finding a good summer camp for their daughter was an ongoing concern. Most camps were in the Moscow suburbs, and every summer, when my parents did send me to a summer camp, I hated it. I’ve always disliked crowds, parties, and organized entertainment. I’ve never been a tin soldier, never fit well among my peers. Making friends has always been a chore for me. I usually preferred to stay home alone, snuggle on my sofa, and read a book – the activity not encouraged in a camp.

The year I turned 12 my dad worked for a prestigious government ministry, and the organization had an excellent summer camp for its employees’ children on the shore of the Black Sea. When my dad asked if I wanted to go, I agreed. It would be the first time for me on the Black Sea, and I was excited. I thought that a camp on a seashore would be different, that I’d like the adventure and the sea.

I was wrong. Despite the sea and the sun, I hated the camp, the same as any other camp I’d ever been to, with one serious difference. It was far away from Moscow, so my parents couldn’t visit on the weekends. And the term was longer, six weeks instead of the usual three.

I started sending teary letters to my parents on the first week of camp, begging them to get me back home. When they, upset by my letters, called the camp office and asked to speak to me (no cell phones or emails in those times) I cried on the phone and pleaded with them.

Eventually they folded. About three weeks into the camp, they bought me a train ticket to Moscow – air travels were too expensive then. The camp supervisor took me to the train station and watched me boarding the train. My parents would be meeting me in Moscow.

I was ecstatic to be going home and to travel by myself for the first time in my life. The trip to Moscow took two nights and one day. Fortunately, my ticket was for a good sleeper coach, with a row of closed compartments along a long corridor. I saw a similar one in the movie Murder on the Orient Express, based on Agatha Christie’s novel. Each compartment had four sleeping banks, two on the top level and two on the bottom; the latter serving as seats during the day.

tomatovine1My companions in the compartment were three middle-aged men, all traveling alone. Two of them didn’t pay me much attention. By comparison, the third one, a big swarthy fellow from Georgia, was very friendly. He was traveling to Moscow to sell his tomatoes in the Moscow markets. He told me that his tomatoes were of the most delicious sort, called Constellation, because they grew in big clusters. He had boxes of them stashed someplace on the train.

Whenever I settled on my lower bank during the day, to read or gaze out the window, he would be there too, chatting amicably, telling stories, making me laugh, and occasionally touching my bare knees or caressing my ankles. It was hot on the train, and I wore shorts. Both other men spent most of the day out of the stuffy compartment, but I had nowhere to go.

The Georgian tomato seller obviously liked my bare legs, and although I disliked his touch, I was a naive 12-year-old, very polite and timid, and I couldn’t say “No” to such an amusing man as old as my father. I squirmed, tried to conceal my revulsion, and endured his grabby hands. In the evening, the two other men came back, so nothing happened. I guess I was lucky.

When we arrived in Moscow in the morning of the second day, my parents came to my compartment to get me. The Georgian guy instantly made friends with my dad, and dad even helped him unload his Constellation tomatoes, boxes and boxes of them.

When we finally got home, I was happy. I also told my mother about the Georgian guy touching my knees. I wasn’t complaining exactly, it was more like a shameful question: was it normal? Should I have said anything? Done anything?

She was horrified, much more than I was, probably because she could well picture what could’ve been, while I couldn’t. She instantly shared her disgust with my dad. He went ballistic. “You should’ve told me right away,” he fumed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him this furious, before or after. “I helped that scoundrel to unload his Constellations. I should’ve painted the constellations on his face. I should’ve smashed all his boxes and all his tomatoes, and his nose too. The cad! I should’ve beaten him bloody.”

I was scared of my father that day, even though he wasn’t angry with me. I think this tiny incident stuck in my memory not because of the guy touching my knees – I would’ve forgotten it in a few years – but because of my parents’ explosive reaction. I really understood it only years later.

By the mutual agreement between me and my parents, I’ve never gone to any summer camp again.
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Word count: 900; FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

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