Missing you

Richard stood proudly before the full length mirror. Unlike him, it was plain and unadorned where is hung behind the bathroom door. Unlike some, he could get into trouble if he felt without a final check of his appearance, it was very important all the time but especially today. Today he stood making sure it was all perfect. He would make them proud. He gave his appearance a final once over in his mind –

Shoes – black, standard issue, buffed and polished; laces, new and taut. Socks – black, new, folded down once. Pants – new, pressed to a crease, firm blue with clean white stripe. Belt – old, black leather, polished, buffed steel buckle. Shirt – crisp, white and starched, all buttons accounted for. Jacket – dress, pressed, firm blue with clean white stripe; brass button – polished front and cuffs; lapel – embroidered insignia free of loose strands, Star of Bravery, gold strip for surviving the war; epaulette – brushed, stripe of rank Colonel. Peaked cap – polished and starched. Lastly, face – clean shaven, no hint of bruising, composed.

He had had his hair cut but no one would see under his cap but he would know. Today had to be perfect because it was not perfect at all. Richard didn’t know if he could be perfect when his friends were lying in the ground. No gold strip on the lapel for them. They were gone, and today he would stand in the cloudless sky as the rain fell down his face.

8 thoughts on “Missing you”

  1. Wonderful!
    Lovely idea – I love the sketching of the soldier on the outside and the human on the inside.

    At first one is just seeing a overly self-involved military man; but then one finds ‘for surviving the war’ and ‘no hint of bruising’ adn you begin to see something more.

    By the time I got to the last a paragraph it was totally clear to me that he had lost faith in the whole ‘soldiers are heroes to die for their countries’ even through you never actually say that.

    Love how little you say explicitly about how he feels, and how much I felt was implicitly there.

    It isn’t entirely clear that he is going to their funeral (although that is what I automatically assumed) but I don’t think that is a negative.

    Although I like the middle paragraph with the dashes and embedded phrases around the semi-colons it got very hard for me to parse well – the sentence structures are just too complex for me to handle without breaking the flow of the reading. I like the repetition of structure and phrasing and don’t want to change it too much but would prefer it too be simpler so I could read it out loud without stumbling.

    My favourite phrases:
    Today had to be perfect because it was not perfect at all. – brilliant and clever and insightful into our natures.
    They were gone, and today he would stand in the cloudless sky as the rain fell down his face – I generally hated squirmy euphemism like this but it really works for the proud military man in your context.

  2. Wow. Thank you for that awesome comment.

    I didn’t plan the ‘lost faith’ bit [fantastic that you saw something like that though] but I had wanted to show the soldier and the man. With his fussing over his clothes I really wanted to show how he was struggling to be the soldier he is when he actually wanted to be the man.

  3. I struggled a bit on the first paragraph, especially the two Unlike sentences – some typos / grammatical errors?

    I really liked the second paragraph. Very military listing and checking.
    The “no hint of bruising, composed.” felt very spot on.

  4. I loved the feeling in this. You capture the emotions of the soldier very well. I particularly enjoyed the middle paragraph, where you say so much just through carefully listing what the soldier is wearing, conveying the soldierliness through bits like the buffed and polished shoes and carefully pressed trousers, and the man through bits like “for surviving the war” and “no hint of bruising”.

    I also really like the way that you slowly lead the reader to the event for which Richard is dressing, a funeral or memorial service. It is all beautifully downplayed, which fits with the stiff-upper-lip soldierly vibe well, and yet one still gets the deep connection that existed between the soldier and his dead comrades.

    I found the first paragraph harder to read than the others. In the first, the closeness of the two “unlikes” didn’t work for me and the sentence, “Unlike some, he could get into trouble if he felt without a final check of his appearance, it was very important all the time but especially today”, I think would scan better as two sentences. Also, the first line of the third paragraph (“He had had his hair cut but no one would see under his cap but he would know.”) felt a bit clumsy. I would also break this after hair cut.

    Very enjoyable, thanks.

    1. Thank you. I also find the first paragraph a bit odd on second reading. I’m glad the second paragraph was liked, I like it as well but wondered if others would find it too stiff.

  5. I enjoyed this piece, which is essentially a description of a person. I especially think that the language in the second paragraph is great. Very tight and precise, almost (in a good way) list like. Also, it’s both detailed and revealing about the character.

    I have some small nits:
    > where is hung
    Should be, “where it hung”

    > he could get into trouble if he felt without a final check of his
    > appearance
    It seems that “felt” is the wrong verb here, unless I’m misreading the sentence.

    > He had had his hair cut but no one would see under his cap but he
    > would know.
    I think that this sentence reads a bit clumsily. I think it’s the two uses of “but” in the same sentence.

    1. Thanks.

      ‘Felt’ is wrong – it should be ‘left’ and ‘is’ is wrong as well – too last minute lately to check my stories. I hadn’t noticed the double ‘but’ until you pointed it out 😀

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