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CMBeckett's picture

School Vacation

By CMBeckett in Arrest Us

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Old Testament justice is alive and well on a small island off the coast of Maine.  And when a personal feud between childhood friends is passed along to the next generation, things spiral out of control and the consequences could prove fatal.


jorjon21's picture
jorjon21 from Wisconsin is reading Shotgun Lovesongs June 24, 2014 - 10:46am

I like the dual story lines following the parents and kids.  The end is ambiguous, which I'm sure you intended, but I wonder if it would be more interesting if you identified a winner in the gun fight.  Also I really like how you led off the story with an introduction to frontier justice, and then you returned to it at the end of the story.  You did a good job of working in the callback, and I think one of the reasons it worked so well is because the participants weren't who I expected.

Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 25, 2014 - 8:30am

Interesting story, definitely a different perspective. The cuts between characters were easy to follow, which is good, and each character had a unique voice. It does, however, feel like something is lacking, but I can't quite place it. Still, I liked it.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch June 26, 2014 - 2:40pm

I do agree that there does feel like something's missing in this story. I wanted to completely like it, but at the end, something didn't click.

It feels like you maybe tried too much, as we not only have dueling perspectives for the adults, but also for the children. As such, a lot of the characters are kinda shortchanged. Cy and Hank, who we first meet, seem the most fully fleshed out. They have different voices and reactions, and that's good. The kids, I honestly couldn't tell you much about them.

If you are wanting to do a generational kind of story, which this feels like, my suggestion is to focus one one pair of children, rather than a whole family. When you introduce Stephanie and Kailey, I got what you were doing and was interested, but as more characters popped up, I started to lose interest.

I like your writing style, and you really capture Hank's voice, making it distinct and familiar at the same time. You also have some good lines through out the piece, like:

Cyrus swung again; missed again.  Hank Philbrook had been in the Golden Gloves in college.  Cyrus watched action flicks.

One final thing, I would reconsider the start of the piece. It does a lot of telling rather than showing, and I'm not a fan of pieces that speak directly to the reader. Cutting that out gives you more room to focus on the story itself, and gets you a more immediate beginning.

CMBeckett's picture
CMBeckett from the heart of Maine is reading The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson June 26, 2014 - 4:37pm

Thanks for reading and for your thoughts.  I really appreciate it, and will use them when I revisit this story.  


Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) July 3, 2014 - 2:17pm

I thought for the most part this was really written and engaging. The idea that hate begats hate is a well worn trope, but props for not going down the clichéd Romeo and Juliet route. Any time I see warring families with mixed gender kids, my eyes already begin to roll back in their sockets. This felt far more authentic. I also love the escalation involved.

I would have to agree with some of the other comments that the children come off worse here. Obviously having them be the ones at the end gives this an extra kick of power, but it would have more impact if we had stayed with them the whole time. You have AJ and Stephenie at the end, but we've barely spent time with either. While I think both Cy and Hank come across as well formed characters, I think you have relegate both within the story. You need to have AJ witness his father's rage, and feel protective of his sister being bullied, and that's why he goes to damage the house. You can keep Stephenie more mysterious if you choose, but we need to have more access to at least one of them. Make us care.

The ending does lack a little something. You fuse this thread of building tragedy so well throughout the story, that the climax needs to have a bang to it. You pull away too early which allows for that nice ambiguity but if the reader is invested in the story and these people, they want to see the end result. They want to feel the sadness as one or both kids lie bleeding their lives away, a product of a ridiculous feud. Or maybe both bullets miss, and this is the kick they need to start getting on with each other. Most likely the former though.

I did think this very well written, and the flow of it is good despite cutting to the different perspectives. It is a solid thumbs up from me.

CMBeckett's picture
CMBeckett from the heart of Maine is reading The Dark Beyond the Stars by Frank M. Robinson July 6, 2014 - 4:30am


Thanks for reading and for your comments.  I went back and forth on the ending before submitting it here.  I did have a coda, but I was wedded to the ambiguous ending and decided to cut it.  But reading your thoughts, I can see where the story could benefit from some closure.  Also, your points regarding the kids are spot on.  I'm going to return to this one soon and rework with these ideas in mind.  Looking forward to it.  Thanks.