Monday, November 20, 2006

hush my inner critic!

i am so behind the target number of words for the na na nee nee writing competition. i have decided i can no longer claim to be writing a novel, but perhaps what is left may become a novella. here is another tiny excerpt, describing the streetcar ride to the old jewish cemetery in berlin.

"The cemetery was way out on the eastern side of the city. Rafi took the train to Haeckische Markt, and then went to find the tram stop. She punched her ticket again on her way in, just to make sure, and found a seat. Although it was the end of October, the weather was unseasonably warm. However, the person in charge of the heating system for the carriage had not taken this fact into account, and hot air blasted from a vent beside Rafi’s right knee. Another passenger leaned over her to open a window, and caught her eye. They smiled, and Rafi reached for her purple bandana. To take her mind off her discomfort, she looked out of the window. It was not long before the construction sites and modern superstructures of the centre of Berlin gave way to the East that she remembered. The buildings were old and pockmarked. People always said the holes were made by Russian bullets back in 1945, and maybe some of them were. Rafi felt a general air of apathy, and thought that many of the houses were just crumbling from neglect. The tram passed a small green area, and at its centre was a giant bust of Lenin, gazing unsmilingly at the passers-by. People on the street were wearing drab colours, and seemed to lack the forward drive that propelled pedestrians on the streets of London or New York. Many of the shops along the way had posters announcing bargains for that week, and most of the shops were either video stores or shoe shops. There were no Starbucks, no Macdonalds, no Dunkin Donuts to be seen. In the early 1980’s, Rafi had spent a couple of days in East Berlin. A memory of that visit suddenly came to mind. It was about a piece of chocolate that she had bought there. As she walked down Unter den Linden, admiring the Prussian architecture that reminded her of her grandfather, she began to eat the chocolate. It tasted like sawdust, and she spat it out. The next day, she found some of it still in her pocket, and tried it again. It didn’t taste so bad this time. She supposed that if it was all there was, one could get used to it after a while. The people on the street looked as if sawdust-flavoured chocolate would be a big treat for them.

Rafi pulled the cord and waited for the streetcar to stop. She stepped down onto the pavement and crossed onto the shady side of the main street. She turned left into Herbert-Baum Strasse, and began to walk up the hill. The road was lined by two rows of tall trees, and when Rafi looked at the leaves on the ground to see if she might identify the type of trees they were, she was delighted to find the ground covered with conkers. She picked a few, and continued up the slope, examining each chestnut to see if it had the pattern and shininess that gave her pleasure. She cast the losers back to the pavement, and pocketed the rest."

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