The gun lay gleaming in the cushions of the packing case. I touched it with my fingertips, tracings its metal decorations. A fly was crawling on the desk beside me. I watched it clean its legs.

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Come in,” I said and lifted the rifle up, feeling its solid weight.

“Your Excellency?”

Amalis closed the door behind him and stood to attention at the far side of the room. His uniform, as always, was neatly creased down the trouser legs. His officer’s cap sat perfectly straight on his head.

But I could not ask him straight away.

“Stand there,” I said, “And let me show you my present.”

I settled the rifle across my knee and ran my hands over its long, sleek length.

“It was sent by President Kafani,” said Amalis. “With his best regards.”

“Indeed. He is a true friend of the regime, is he not?”

“Yes, Your Excellency,” said Amalis. “A true friend. For you have many.”

Was it really so?

I lifted the gun to my shoulder, feeling how neatly it settled in the space between my cheek and arm. I turned it towards the ceiling, to the shields and photographs and trophies on the wall, to the thick blue sky out over the balcony.

The windows were all open but there was no breeze; only the fan above us, whirring slowly. I never understood how Amalis could stand so still in such heat. The fly bumped and buzzed away into a corner.

“Do I? How many exactly?” I looked through the sights and pictured the bullets nestling within their chamber.

His voice was not quite steady. “Your Excellency should take care… if the gun is loaded.”

“I learned to shoot in the People’s Army. You should not forget this.”

I slowly turned the rifle towards him. He knew what I was about to ask.

“Tell me, Amalis, what the bulletins say.”

He did not move and neither did I. But he hesitated.

“Your Excellency…”

I did indeed take care: I fired into the wall just beside him.

Amalis jerked and I saw his knees sag. Then he pulled himself in and was standing upright again, straight as ever. His pale skin glistened under his cap.

It seemed we had been playing some great game, with toys we had both grown tired of. I was sorry for him. I was sorry for myself.

I held the rifle steady.

“Tell me.”

“Your people… Your people love you passionately, and believe in the regime. They laugh in the streets at the reports of the British and are outraged by the accusations against you.”

I waited, then flicked the barrel of the gun. “Go on.”

“I have seen their banners. I have heard their prayers. They will stand by you if the invasion comes.”

I hated him then, with his empty words. I did not want to play. I lowered the gun onto the desk beside me and lifted myself heavily from the chair.

Amalis stared straight ahead as I came towards him. There was not a flicker in those blue eyes. Up close, his skin was so thin I could almost see the blood moving underneath. So young he looked, I couldn’t help but smooth my fingers over his cheek.

I asked him one more time.

“Is all this true, Amalis?”

He did not blink. He did not move. His eyes looked up at mine, fear and love fighting one another.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, Your Excellency.”

His officer’s cap was so perfectly, perfectly straight.

I swung at that cap, knocking it to the floor, exposing his flushed ears and damp hair. I felt my eyes stinging as I leaned against his shoulder, shaping the words against his cheek.

“Liar,” I whispered. “Liar!”

Instructor Response

Really well done!  You’ve got everything moving well, logically and with clarity.  I’ll make suggestions to tidy up the prose below, and with comments here and there.

Thanks for the submission.

WHC

The gun lay gleaming gleamed in the cushions of the packing case. I touched it with my fingertips, tracing its metal decorations. A fly was crawling crawled on the desk beside me. I watched it clean  and cleaned its legs.  THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF FILTERING ACTION THROUGH THE POINT OF VIEW.  I SEE, I LOOKED, I THOUGHT, I IMAGINED, I HEARD, IT SEEMED, ETC.  GOOD WRITING RARELY ACCEPTS THIS INDERECT DELIVERY OF INFORMATION.

There was a soft knock at the door.

“Come in,” I said and lifted the rifle up, feeling its solid weight DOESN’T ADD.

“Your Excellency?”

Amalis closed the door behind him and stood to attention at the far side of the room. His uniform, as always, was neatly creased down the trouser legs. His officer’s cap sat perfectly straight on his head. GREAT!

But I could not ask him straight away.

“Stand there,” I said, “And let me show you my present.”

I settled the rifle across my knee and ran my hands over its long, sleek length  THIS IS FILL AND STOPS THE MOMENTUM OF THE SCENE.

“It was sent by President Kafani,” said Amalis. “With his best regards.”

“Indeed. He is a true friend of the regime, is he not?”

“Yes, Your Excellency,” said Amalis. “A true friend. For you have many.”

Was it really so?

I lifted the gun to my shoulder, feeling how neatly it settled in the space between my cheek and arm. I turned turning it towards the ceiling, to the shields and photographs and trophies on the wall, to the thick blue sky out over the balcony.

The windows were all open but there was no breeze No breeze flowed through the open windows; only the air from the fan above us, whirring slowly. I never understood FILTERING AGAIN how Amalis could How could Armalis stand so still in such heat. The fly bumped and buzzed away into a corner. FILL THAT IS NOT NECESSARY.  AVOID.

“Do I? How many exactly?” ATTRIBUTION NECESSARY.  WHO SAID THIS?  DON’T MAKE THE READER FINGURE IT OUT.  THAT IS YOUR GIFT TO THE READER AS AN AUTHOR.  I looked through the sights and pictured the bullets nestling within their chamber.

His voice was not quite steady. “Your Excellency should take care… if the gun is loaded.”

“I learned to shoot in the People’s Army. You should not forget this.”

I slowly turned the rifle towards him. He knew what I was about to ask.

“Tell me, Amalis, what the bulletins say.”

He did not move and neither did I. But he hesitated.

“Your Excellency…”

I did indeed take care: I fired into the wall just beside him.

Amalis jerked and I saw FILTERING AGAIN his knees sagged. Then he pulled himself in and was standing upright again, straight as ever. His pale skin glistened under his cap.

It seemed OKAY AND NEEDED HERE we had been playing some great game, with toys we had both grown tired of. I was sorry for him. I was sorry for myself.

I held the rifle steady.

“Tell me.”

“Your people… Your people love you passionately, and believe in the regime. They laugh in the streets at the reports of the British and are outraged by the accusations against you.” 

I waited, then flicked the barrel of the gun. “Go on.”

“I have seen their banners. I have heard their prayers. They will stand by you if the invasion comes.”

I hated him then, with his empty words. I did not want to play. I lowered the gun onto the desk beside me KEEP THE PROSE SIMPLE, ESPECIALLY WHEN IN HIGH ACTION, HIGHT TENSION and lifted myself heavily from the chair.

Amalis stared straight ahead asThis action doesn’t add anything to the scene and diminishes the writing. I came  went towards him. There was not a flicker in those His blue eyes didn’t move. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF TOO MUCH, AND IT MAKES THE READER PAUSE.  ALWAYS AIM TO BE CONCISE, ACCURATE, AND EXPRESS IN THE SHORTEST POSSIBLE TERMS (WITH SOME EXCEPTIONS).  Up close, his skin was so thin I could almost see the blood moving underneath. So young he looked; I couldn’t help but smoothed my fingers over his cheek.

I asked him one more time. “Is all this true, Amalis?” I asked again.

He did not blink. He did not or move.  His eyes showed fear and love fighting one another.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, Your Excellency.”

His officer’s cap was so perfectly, perfectly straight.

I swung at that cap, knocking it to the floor, exposing his flushed ears and damp hair. I felt my eyes stinging as I leaned against his shoulder, shaping the words against his cheek.

“Liar,” I whispered. “Liar!”

  1. Many thanks WHC

    I see what you mean about filtering and “filling”, especially in high-tension scenes. I will keep an eye out for this in future assignments.

    Much appreciated.

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