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Thread: Glitter (one-shot)

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    Default Glitter (one-shot)

    Glitter

    Another of the fleet of golden coaches pulled into the entrance of Casino Lux, Johannesburg. As each passenger alighted, a young man in wait by the coach door took off his top hat and executed a well-rehearsed bow. A full coach meant sixteen repetitions, and by the time the last passenger, a Mr. Yamamoto Kenji, dipped his shoe onto the asphalt, the sweltering heat got the better of the man’s wind-up mechanism. The hat slipped out of his hand in a gust of warm wind, and only his scrambling reflexes kept it from tumbling under the wheels. Mr. Yamamoto cast a sharp glance at him; the man froze, sweat trickling down his forehead. To his relief, the lines on Mr. Yamamoto’s face slackened. He reached into his pocket and offered the boy a napkin. “Wages have been docked over less than that, boy,” he said. Then, to the boy’s surprise, he winked before disappearing through the glass doors flanked by identical guards.

    Mr. Yamamoto surveyed his surroundings. The place was just as he remembered. The lobby was an endless mosaic of marble, polished as shiny as its patrons’ leather shoes by cleaners who lurked beyond the solid oak panels concealed in the walls. At intervals, the walls were engraved with a phoenix design rising three metres above the ground, the edges of its feathers encrusted with gold, its plume mother-of-pearl. Overhead, from every inch of ceiling hung strings of crystals, reflecting dazzling rainbows into the eyes of anyone who raised their head. The moment a cigarette was dumped in one of the ashtrays lining the walls, a porter in a crisply ironed suit would waltz by and whisk it away to be replaced by a clean one; where the ashes went was a mystery. Every detail down to the silver cuff links on the porters’ uniforms (classy, yet inferior to the patron’s gold versions), every tiny gesture, was engineered to fool its patrons that each of them was a distinguished guest, that they were the masters and the world lay before their feet. Every guest held their head a little higher; fake diamonds were showcased in women’s bosoms and around their fingers; money was spilled like largesse to the poor casino. Mr. Yamamoto chuckled, then stopped himself and shook his head ruefully. It was easy for him to lord over it all now…

    It was not so long ago that the allure of Fortune had him, too, wrapped around her finger. As the children flew the nest and the pinnacle of his career became a plateau with no end in sight, as his hairline receded and his moustache acquired white hairs, ambition raised its terrible head. It became increasingly urgent that he should not leave this earth as merely another one of six billion. He began his ‘investments’, first in the lottery, soon moving on to a touch more sophistication. The first time he entered a casino, its brilliance attracted him like a moth to the flame, encompassing him. He tried his hand at blackjack, reveling in the rarity of adrenaline rushing through his veins as he watched the dealer’s every move. He took to roulette; the trajectory of the ball as it whirled around, trapped in the vortex of chance, was almost therapeutic. However, none appealed to him more than the simplicity of the slot machine; insert a coin, pull the lever, watch the reels spin with a satisfying whirr – at that instant, anything could happen. Sometimes, as he reclined on his chair, downing a can of complimentary beer, glazed eyes hypnotized by the crystal chandelier seemingly swaying overhead, he thought that everything had already happened – he would happily live this life forever.

    The glitter blinded him to the nights spent away from home, the hours spent ‘recuperating’ (otherwise known as napping in the office), the dwindling bank statements. At the age of sixty-one, he had arrived at his desk one late morning to find a neatly typed letter suggesting his ‘premature retirement’. Returning home, he broke the news to his wife, who walked out on him. The flame was extinguished and he was now painfully aware of his burns. His wife’s slamming of the door replaced the familiar ‘ka-ching’ in his dreams. Months were spent in darkness, nursing his wounds and bringing fresh ones upon himself until he was uncertain if he would ever heal.

    But today it would be different. Today he came to the casino with a different purpose – for revenge, to outsmart his old foes in any small way. His little scheme was so childish he had not even mentioned it to Smit the diamond miner, his closest companion of forty years. Nevertheless, it was precisely its triviality and ingenuity which amused him. He entered the inner circle of the casino, grey hair slicked back with hair gel, dressed in a freshly ironed pinstripe suit; to the people watching the surveillance cameras, he was in all appearances another addicted businessman shirking on a Friday afternoon, save a cheeky smirk around the lips and a twinkle in his dark eyes.

    Even at this time of day, the place was by no means quiet. There were the enthusiastic bidders slamming stacks of tokens down on the tables; the clueless following the others’ every move (one could almost hear them bleating); the surrounding people milling about, more than willing to spend an afternoon watching others signing their paychecks away. Waiters and waitresses in identical uniforms weaved between the masses, tempting gamblers with more varieties of complimentary refreshments than one would find on an airplane trolley. He still fit right in, Mr. Yamamoto thought, half-amused as his feet headed straight for the slot machines.

    He found himself an empty seat in the corner. It was as secluded as he could hope for; due to security concerns the machines were placed so anyone walking past could easily discern a player’s action. The machine was old-fashioned with mechanical reels, their paint fading. Mr. Yamamoto had a certain fondness for them, the tangible feeling of pulling the lever, some levers sliding smoothly, some sticking, each with its own personality. He took a 1 rand coin and began to insert it into the slot, then stopped. His other hand fumbled with his tie, loosening it, then tightening it up again. His feet tapped against the marble floor. He coughed, raising his hand to cover his mouth. The coin remained in his thick fingers. He hoped he was putting up a decent pretence; perhaps someone walking past would think him a nervous first-timer, hesitating, hanging onto his last moment as an innocent man.

    No such luck. Out of the corner of his eye he saw a waitress standing a few feet behind him to the side, watching with head cocked to one side. Indeed, he had remained frozen a while too long to be convincing. The waitress’ eyes flashed coldly; he willed her to look away, but her stare remained fixed. How he longed to read her mind… He let the coin slip between his fingers, bounce off the front of the machine and clatter to the floor. Bending down to retrieve it, he dawdled, taking the chance to retie his shoelaces as well. Head between his knees, he watched as the woman began to shrug and walked away. He mentally patted himself on the back.

    A few minutes later, he was still biding his time when a man caught his attention. At the moment the young waiter was occupied talking to two patrons, but soon he would turn around and spot him. Mr. Yamamoto and he had gotten on fairly well; Zuma was nice enough, which was the current problem. Zuma detested his job and would rather work elsewhere were it not for the high pay and the young wife and child to feed. He had told Mr. Yamamoto as much when they went for a drink after his shift, and had consoled him after his wife’s departure, encouraging him to stay away from the casino, although he knew the words would cost him his job if overheard. Zuma would never approve of his plan, would say his very presence among the machines posed a temptation to sin. Mr. Yamamoto rather thought the joke would be lost on him.

    But this wasn’t the time to enlighten him. Slowly, slowly, Zuma turned his head. Mr. Yamamoto panicked and did the first thing that popped into his head – bang his forehead against the machine in mock frustration. People did this all the time, so he ought not to be attracting much attention, he thought, forehead still pressed against the glass panel covering the reels. Still, he should get his instincts checked to see if there was a loose wire in there somewhere. Not daring to turn around, he strained his ears for any signs of Zuma amid the triumphant shouts and ever-present groans that made up the cacophony of the casino. Were those receding footsteps? Taking a risk and a glance, he saw that Zuma had moved to a further table. He released a breath he did not realize he had been holding.

    Fifteen minutes seemed a reasonable time to get hungry, did it not? Waiting until Zuma was truly out of sight, he beckoned a waitress with a lazy flick of the wrist. “I’d like… a coffee please. No milk, two sugars,” he said in a sprightly voice. His original object had been a club sandwich, but he had lost his nerve. Ridiculous really. He looked at the waitress expectantly. Would she see through his scheme? A moment passed and the well-trained girl curtseyed, spun around and walked away, returning with a coffee, no milk, two sugars, even a stirrer and saucer he had not requested. “Your coffee, sir.” The girl curtseyed again and retreated before he could thank her. Throughout, she had a smile plastered on her face and never raised her eyes to meet his, which unnerved him slightly as there was no way of ascertaining her thoughts.

    But all that was irrelevant as he sat back and sipped his freshly brewed Colombian coffee, the exotic aroma rising to meet his nostrils. His prize in hand, he stretched his legs out and relaxed. Fifteen minutes later only the dregs remained. He left the cup and saucer at the side of the machine and walked towards the exit with a measured calm. Once out in the fresh(er) air, he punched his fist in the air, getting some odd stares from passersby. One quality coffee, and the thought of surrendering to the slots had not even entered his head. Yamamoto Kenji one; Lux zero.

    _____________________

    If one, for whatever reason, happened to lift up the third tapestry from the left on the back wall of Duke Casino, a plain door would be seen. It led to a downward spiraling staircase, lit by one bare light bulb. Newcomers tripping down the stairs without allowing their eyes to adjust from the brilliance outside were known to end up sprawled at the bottom with ailments ranging from sprained ankles to broken wrists. This basement, with its whitewashed walls marred by the occasional cockroach, was where the surveillance workers lived.

    Downie sat on a stool, his gaze lazily floating around the nine flat-screen monitors, which were normally caked with dust, but were in a cleaner state today as his partner Zlata had resorted to cleaning to relieve her boredom. Each monitor showed a different scene which changed every three seconds. In front of him lay a grid of buttons, including one which beamed selected footage onto the casino executive’s plasma television screen (for the Almighty could hardly duck behind a tapestry and risk ruining his tailor-made suit) should anything suspicious happen, which it never did. Downie would have preferred a bit more excitement, but he could hardly complain – watching ten such hours of reality television a day earned him twice the amount his labourer brother did.

    He was counting down the minutes until lunchtime when he noticed the man on monitor no. 3, sitting in a corner booth, invisible to all but the camera above his head. A few black hairs on his otherwise grey head betrayed his ancestry; Chinese, or perhaps Japanese, Downie thought. It wasn’t his clothing that caught Downie’s eye, nor the determinedly-pretending-to-be-relaxed look which was so common upon these screens; it was that he kept half-inserting his coin and taking it out again. The image flickered and changed to focus on the mass surrounding a roulette table; then a poker table; then back to the man. This time he was running his fingers through his hair distractedly. The slot machine remained still. The image changed again, again, and once more back to the man. Now he was inserting the coin yet again, this time a little deeper, hesitating a little longer. Downie thought he saw the man’s bushy brows furrow, his mouth twisted into a frown. His hand was trembling, and the coin seemed on the verge of falling from his fingers and into the slot. His eyes lost their focus for a while… then suddenly sharpened. Shaking his head, he regripped the coin so tightly his misshapen nails dug into his palm, then pocketed it, glancing over his shoulder as he did so.

    When the man flashed onto the screen again, Downie saw him fish around in his pocket and take out the coin again, letting it lie on the palm of his hand. He remained frozen, staring at the coin, lost in thought. Downie shook his head; he had watched countless men like him, holding onto the coin meant for his next meal before inevitably giving in to hope. The man disappeared again; by now Downie had neglected the myriad of images on surrounding screens, and waited impatiently for him to reappear. When he did, he remained still, as if anticipating something – but suddenly he sprang to his feet. Downie leaned forward to see what he would do next, but the image gave way to a rotund woman cussing in German, waving her porky arms in the air.

    The next Downie saw of the man, he carried a hefty sandwich in his hand, pristinely wrapped in embossed paper. This reminded Downie’s stomach of its emptiness and it began to growl. He closed his eyes, dreaming of hot chips and coffee. When he opened his eyes, the sandwich was gone, and the man strode quickly out of the picture, as if he had sensed Downie’s eyes on him. A bulge had appeared where his inner coat pocket would be.

    Bizarre indeed.

    The few minutes until lunchtime Downie squandered on an e-mail to his fellow workers in other establishments, complaining of general boredom and enclosing a random screenshot of the Super Sandwich Swiper. By his afternoon tea break, the picture had been forwarded to every restless surveillance worker in Johannesburg. By dinner, Yamamoto Kenji was a wanted man.

    _____________________

    Mr. Yamamoto Kenji unconsciously followed his feet as they traced out a path they had worn out every Sunday for forty years, ever since he had made Smit the diamond miner’s acquaintance as a struggling university student working as a driver on the mines. Back then, although sweat would glisten on their limbs after work, without fail they would make the steep ascent to Smit’s village and laugh at each other’s jokes over a cup of watery coffee. By now, Kenji’s palate had experience creamy cappuccinos, aromatic espressos and luxurious lattes, but the smile was gone.

    As he walked through the village, his eyes remained downcast at the dust swirling and settling on his shoes. He did not look up at the huts assembled from misshapen pieces of wood, barely holding up, recent rain dripping from roofs as bark rotted; he did not see the blankets riddled with moth-eaten holes hung up in glassless windows, used as makeshift curtains; he did not smell the human waste dribbling into the soil on the edges of the houses, its scent mixing with that of blood from corpses of slaughtered birds and hares. He did not register the children’s eyes silently following him, his bronze watch, his bag, their fingers twitching, their stomachs growling, their brains insisting they held back, for any friend of a villager was not to be touched. But the hunger was too much for the younger ones to bear, and only their siblings’ restraint prevented them from rushing out in bare feet and snatching anything they could. One of them, a girl of four, almost made it before her brother wrestled her back, but Kenji was beyond noticing. The children looked on curiously, for they were used to his jokes and little games, and they wondered who had kidnapped his spirit.

    He walked up to Smit’s door, and for the first time in a long time, hesitated. However, before he could make a decision, the door opened to reveal his friend. “Come on in,” he said gruffly.

    As Kenji settled in his usual wicker chair, Smit splashed water over two mugs of instant coffee and offered one to him. Then, sitting in the only other chair in the hut and glancing at Kenji’s unmistakably brooding face, he waited. Their postures were mirror images of each other, each leaning their elbow across the table between them, swilling the coffee, looking down into its opaque black whirlpool. Physically they could be no more different; while office lighting had bleached Kenji’s face, Smit’s was as dark as the infusion he drank. Kenji was by no means overweight, but even his frame seemed bloated in comparison to Smit’s sinewy limbs and sunken cheeks. The most noticeable difference was the scar Smit sported over one permanently closed eye, bestowed on him by a mining accident seventeen years ago. However, the physical differences were no barrier to the friends reading each others’ minds, and Smit sensed Kenji needed some prodding. “Just come out with it, won’t you?” he said, no time wasted.

    If it were not for the traces of dignity that came with age, one would have said Kenji positively squirmed in his seat. As it were, he put the coffee down and drew one leg up onto the seat, hugging it as a child would. He reached into his pocket for his offering – a ham, cheese and tomato sandwich, slightly squashed, but with its wrapping intact. “For you,” he said, tossing it across the table.

    Smit raised his good eyebrow and unwrapped the gift. “Good stuff,” he said between bites as he gulped it down, tomato juice dripping out of the corner of his mouth. He paused for a moment to squint at the lettering on the wrapping. “Solaris” – he read with difficulty – “Casino?”

    The sandwich plopped onto the table. Smit looked up, brows knit, eye stern. “Have you been there again?”

    Kenji laughed weakly. “Yeah,” – seeing Smit’s glare deepen he carried on quickly, almost tripping over his words – “but I haven’t put any money in. Honest.” He fidgeted with his thumbs, already loathing his next words. “Well, it was a bit of a silly idea I had, but I thought it was pretty funny – I thought I’d make a bit off the casino –“

    “You WHAT?” Smit spat, his gravelly voice rumbling. Grabbing Kenji by the shoulders, his stick-like arms shook him with surprising force until the veins bulged in Kenji’s neck and he thought it would snap. “After what they did to you, the shitloads they took from you, you still think you can beat them? Are you out – of – your – mind?”

    “Let me go,” Kenji gasped, “let me explain,” as he clasped his hand on Smit’s wrist, trying to peel his hand from his collarbone, straining to get a grip. “Let me breathe, damn it!”

    Smit seemed to come to his senses, for he suddenly stopped and let go of Kenji, allowing him to collapse into his chair. Slightly in shock, Smit continued to watch Kenji, whose chest was still heaving. The struggling man took a few moments to gather his breath and scraps of words, then opened his mouth.

    “Well, you know how I was sitting at home and doing nothing and getting bored?” More than bored, as intruding thoughts in his head told him, but restless, pacing his empty rooms, facing the possessions his wife left behind, growing to despise the chores he suddenly found he had to take over. “And I was pissed off because this stupid game, this bunch of tycoons had beaten me hands down. I couldn’t just sit there and live with that for the rest of my life; I needed to do something, any little thing, to show them they haven’t killed me.” Smit made as if to get up again, but Kenji put up his hand and he stayed put. “Let me continue.

    “I knew the odds were against me. I wasn’t that far gone. But the idea just popped into my head and I couldn’t resist. You know the ‘slaves’, the ones who stand around in the casino and give the ‘privileged customers’ whatever they want?” He criss-crossed his fingers around his mug.

    “No, actually,” Smit replied, half-heartedly raising an eyebrow at the use of the term ‘slave’. “Like I’ve been inside one of those things.”

    “Well,” Kenji continued, “if you hang around long enough, free stuff comes your way. Which is what I did. Sitting around pretending to be” – he swallowed –“ one of those suckers.”

    Smit eyed the sandwich again, tomato slipping out between the slices of bread. He picked it up and resumed munching. “But isn’t that kind of… risky?”

    “Yeah. Sometimes I had to go and hide in the toilets, or disappear behind a machine” – he gestured – “or pretend to have lost everything, leaning against the thing and crying” – his eyes grew animated – “but I got away with it every time. It was ace.” He grinned, but the corners of his mouth would not obey, as if they could not forget something.

    Smit looked at him. “No, I mean, hanging around that place and all, when it took you so long to get out…”

    “I’m fine. Really.”

    “Do I believe you?” Smit held his friend’s gaze, his eyes steady. Silence enveloped the pair. Kenji’s eyes flickered and finally slipped away, and he resumed the twiddling of his fingers. But after a while his look brightened, as if he had just remembered something.

    “Well, I can show you, if you want,” he said cheerily. “That’s what I brought these for, I wanted you to come with me.” He handed the plastic bag he had almost forgotten to Smit, who held the contents out at arm’s length and peered at them curiously. Within were a shirt with scruffy elbows, black trousers, striped tie and shoes, all faded but clean.

    He looked confused for a moment. “You want me to wear this?”

    Kenji laughed. “Yeah. The sandals won’t cut it, I’m afraid.” He did well to hide it, but his mind was already churning, half-regretting the invitation.

    _____________________

    The guards bowed before opening the glass doors in unison for Smit, which made him smirk. Once, desperate to return Kenji to his home from an all-night gambling session, he had turned up at the doors and been refused entry due to ‘inappropriate attire’ – what he deemed a euphemism for ‘not enough coin to make it worthwhile’. Now the porters walked past him without a glance. Smit’s head swiveled, taking in all the artificial beauty, but the one thing that caught his eye above all was the crystal-lined ceiling. In all his life excavating chunks of diamond ore, he had never seen so much glitter in one place. He thought about how long it must have taken to excavate the lead crystal, how many pairs of bleeding hands it must have inflicted, and sighed.

    Once within, Kenji found them seats at adjacent slot machines. “This is how you do it,” he said grandly. He took a coin between his thumb and forefinger, as he had done so many times before that his fingertips remembered its imprint. He took his time, rolling the disk between his fingertips while Smit looked on. Then he began to insert it into the slot.

    And it all came back. He was pretending no more.

    The comforting grip of the lever, the feeling that the future was in his hands, crept back to him, as if it had been waiting to ambush him, biding its time. The dizzying whirl of the reels, fleeting glimpses of the golden 7s, danced before his eyes. The feeling of his heart leaping into his throat, the clinking of coins falling into his palm, the weight of a wallet he struggled to close – it all beckoned. He shook his head to clear his senses, and Smit’s eyes sharpened in an instant. “This doesn’t feel right, Kenji,” he said, but kept his distance for the moment.

    His words barely penetrated Kenji’s thoughts, for the light had strangled his mind like a black widow spider embracing its prey. Gone were the red-rimmed nights of coin after coin swallowed by the bottomless pit. Forgotten was the humiliation of increasing debt to gradually non-existent friends. Shed was the burden of losing his wife – or so he wished. But it was precisely because of this darkness that the light shone brighter than ever – it represented a release from the restraint of the truth, from staying sober. It allowed him to surrender his chances to the powers above. It was the hope that things could change for once in his favour. He found that his right hand had shifted subconsciously to the machine’s lever, and both hands were trembling. He vaguely remembered that this was the real reason he wanted Smit with him.

    Smit grabbed hold of Kenji’s elbow. “We have to go now. I’m not letting you stay here!”

    Kenji flung his hand away, eyes transfixed on the machine. “Just give me a minute, won’t you?” he snapped.

    Smit continued to tug insistently. “No, I mean now! What would she say if she saw you like this?” He pulled at Kenji’s wrist as well, but he seemed to be glued to the chair.

    Kenji’s gaze lowered a little. He was still shouting, but a note of pleading crept into his voice. “Look, I know what I’m doing, o-“

    “No you don’t!” Smit snarled, dragging Kenji towards him by a couple of inches.

    Kenji’s voice cracked. “Just let me decide this for myself. Please.”

    Smit’s fury subsided. Blood still pounded through his temples, but an insistent voice was creeping in. Kenji was right. Even if Smit succeeded in keeping him away today, he would be back tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. Kenji was neither child nor prisoner. His grip slackened.

    “Thank you,” Kenji whispered. Smit’s restraint reminded him what he was fighting for: his freedom of choice. His power over a little coin. He began to pull the coin back.

    Right at that moment, someone clasped his shoulder from behind, and in shock he released the coin. It slid into the machine with a faint clink. Funny how things worked out, he thought as he turned to face the unfamiliar men behind him, who flashed laminated name tags. Guards.

    “Mr. Yamamoto, is it?” the taller one of them said.

    “Yes…”

    The shorter one whipped out a sheet of paper. “We have here an order that you are to be henceforth blacklisted from Casino Lux and all others in Johannesburg,” he read.

    “On what grounds, may I ask?” Kenji said, plainly puzzled.

    Read the guard solemnly, “Reason: exploitation of casino services and excessive consumption of refreshments. Now would you please come with me sir,” he said, then proceeded to escort Kenji from the premises. Smit stared, dumbfounded.

    “He never finished that game, did he?” the remaining guard remarked. Smit turned to face him, breaking out of his trance. The guard pulled the lever of Kenji’s slot machine, setting the reels in motion. “A gift from me to you,” he said, before bowing with an exaggerated flourish and walking away.

    Kenji rose up after being dumped unceremoniously outside the doors. Somehow he didn’t think he would be welcome on the golden coach any more, which was a shame. Another missed chance to scam services. On the other hand, he doubted he ever wanted to see the interior of one of those again. He could now walk away from all that, the glittering mirage, as one insignificant conqueror.

    Within, Smit watched as the reels stilled. Five coins bounced into his hand. He grinned, his single eye gleaming, showing his yellowed teeth. No jackpot, but enough to buy him more than a few sandwiches.



    _____________________

    Should probably work on this a bit more, but I've done several revisions already and I'm impatient. Inspiration for this came when we were away in the holidays and the parents randomly took me to a casino where we didn't go anything. Alternative tourist attraction, I guess. The original idea was a bit Roald Dahl-ish, but as I wrote it it became a lot more focussed on emotion. I like what I did with the setting. Am terrible at building up suspensse and controlling the pace though, and also the tone's kinda weird because I can't figure out if I'm taking this seriously. That's it. All comments are really, really appreciated.
    mistysakura
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    Glitter (one-shot).
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Glitter (one-shot)

    Told you I'd read this eventually.

    Alright, so first up I have to say: I loved this story. I don't think "really like" cuts it here. It drew me in as strongly as any of Martin's short stories, which are among my favourites. So hopefully that gives you a gauge of how much I enjoyed this.

    What made it so good? A lot of different aspects, all pulling together as one. I think a lot of the writing style you used in this piece - it was clear, it flowed beautifully, and there were a lot of strong and memorable uses of figurative language throughout. "The flame was extinguished and he was now painfully aware of his burns." I thought that line was fantastic. And "He released a breath he did not realize he had been holding", even though I feel like I might have read a similar line somewhere before in my life, just worked perfectly for that moment. I didn't find the tone weird like you said, but I think I get where you're coming from about taking it seriously. I suppose the writing style could be a bit ... light? Like it doesn't quite match the darkness of Kenji's addiction? I don't know - but in any case, I like it the way it is. Too much seriousness would leave the reader feeling very differently in the end, I think; and besides, the lucid and clean writing style depicting a dark subject kind of ties in nicely with the glittery facade of the casino hiding a heap of addicts.

    What else? You were right about the setting here: the way you used it was breathtaking. Yes, I think breathtaking is the right word. It's not just that I could see things, but I could feel them - feel the mood projected by them, almost. The description in this story was thorough and really vivid; I saw the silver cuff links and felt that warm wind. The characters, too, were realistic and well-depicted - and never overdone or oversimplified either, which was good. You wrote a good amount of detail, but you also left enough to the imagination of the reader, which is something I've yet to master.

    Oh - and the symbolism of the coffees was really cool, too. "Back then, although sweat would glisten on their limbs after work, without fail they would make the steep ascent to Smit’s village and laugh at each other’s jokes over a cup of watery coffee. By now, Kenji’s palate had experience creamy cappuccinos, aromatic espressos and luxurious lattes, but the smile was gone." I loved the comment that part of the story made: about the simple purity of the working class, and about the effect glitter has on one's perceptions of that. (On a slightly related note, I kind of screamed "No!" in my head when Smit got the five coins. I thought for a second that he was going to become an addict, and this gambling cycle would continue, from Kenji to him. Maybe that's actually what did happen, because you left the ending slightly open, I suppose. But I hoped he would take the money for the food and then never go into a casino again.)

    Apart from general laziness and procrastination, I'm not sure why I didn't read this sooner. I admit that the opening paragraph didn't really grab me, so I didn't get immediately suckered in. If you do a further revision, that could be a possible thing to look at, as well as the slight ambiguity of the ending. But to be frank, I don't know if this needs any further revision. It was slick and well constructed - and even though there wasn't outright "action", the tension was well-maintained, and there was suspense - I didn't know whether Kenji was going to lose control and backslide or not. The fact that the conflict was within himself kind of means (though not necessarily) that the tension will be internal rather than manifested in an action scene - but there was tension nonetheless.

    All in all, seriously good job; this is a brilliant piece of writing, Ada.
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    Default Re: Glitter (one-shot)

    ...Martin's short stories? Wow, that's high praise indeed. With the tone, I felt I wanted it to stay lighthearted overall but also have the reader feel the gravity of Kenji's situation, so the tone varied quite a bit like I couldn't decide what to do with it. Glad it worked out to be a nice balance though. Okay, the opening paragraph could have been more attention-grabbing. I liked the image of the porter as a wind-up mechanism too much though. The ambiguity of the ending could be argued to fit the rest of the fic because the main thread running throughout is that you never know if you are going to lose control. It was also because having Smit sprial into depression would leave things on a sour note while having him take the coins and leave would make it a perfectly happy ending, so I opted to keep it open and kinda flippant. In other words, I couldn't decide.

    Thanks for the essay. It's really quite flattering. Gives me more motivation to revamp my contest entry as well.
    mistysakura
    2007 Golden Pens: Co-winner of Best Poem (Rain Eternal) and Best Reviewer
    2007 Silver Pencils: Winner of Best Poem (Death Sonnet -- Untitled)
    2004 Silver Pencils: Winner of Nicest Fanficcer & Least Likely Couple (with PancaKe)
    Former 3-time winner of Most Dedicated Reader at the Fanfiction Forums
    Also Keeper of the 'A'ctivator Unown

    Brimstone Diamonds. The Artist. Tightrope. Solitude. Autopsy.
    Glitter (one-shot).
    Listen to Rain Eternal -- a song.

    Random thought: 2+2=5.

  4. #4
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    Gavin Luper's Avatar
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    Default Re: Glitter (one-shot)

    Quote Originally Posted by mistysakura View Post
    The ambiguity of the ending could be argued to fit the rest of the fic because the main thread running throughout is that you never know if you are going to lose control.
    OK, I really like that way of looking at it. It definitely feels like a fitting end now.

    And no probs about the "essay". I wanted to write a decent response, and I thought I'd have difficulty thinking of enough substantial things to say, but after I read the story I found I had plenty to say about it anyway.
    ...Quest for the Truth of the Legend ...

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    ...Far too many references!! You're like the Swiss army knife of discussion.

  5. #5
    The Aura is with me. Elite Trainer
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    Crystalmaster Mike's Avatar
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    Default Re: Glitter (one-shot)

    Brilliantly phrased, certainly for a non-addict (which I wholeheartedly hope you are)! I felt I really understood the inner conflict Kenji is going through during the whole story.

    I do find, in retrospect, that the reaction to Kenji's 'revenge-taking' from the casino could have been more severe. Then again, the infraction is only so severe, too: getting a measly free sandwich as payback from the monolithical organized money-takers.

    You do an excellent job describing the boredom of the security worker, and his subsequent fixation on Kenji out of sheer boredom. In fact, the entire 'scenery' is molded in the image of real life:
    • how the job as security worker, or any desk-job, can be a brain-killer;
    • how bureaucrats tend to send e-mails during working hours, among other; things about the work they despise in all sorts of gradations;
    • how a juicy sandwich tastes;
    • how the poverty clashes with Mr. Yamamoto (a familiar-sounding name, by the way)'s riches
    • etc.


    And yes, I also had an "Oh no's!" alert from the final paragraph, but being informed of the duality in the possible explanation for it reassured me, luckily. A story named Glitter deserves a glamourous ending, anyway, I feel.

    I have to admit to scanning for anything Pokémologic in the fic, but that's just my personal addiction calling out, heh. (Also, I have to admit I was determined to write a reply at least a bit larger than half of Gavin's: you sure know how to "motivate" a guy into cooking up some semi-decent comments, mate!)

    You've written a perfect one-shot, it unfolds and ultimately wraps itself up quite nicely. Ku-do's to you-do's!
    Thanks Orion, for my reflection...
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Glitter (one-shot)

    Crystalmaster Mike: wow, thanks! Hehe, yeah I suppose the punishment was fairly trivial... but Kenji wasn't doing anything that serious either. Besides, blacklisting would actually be fairly severe if Kenji was a serious gambler. Yeah I try to put little details like the juiciness of a sandwich into fics; I find it makes people relate to the fic more because it's stuff they've experienced themselves. About the ending, perhaps it does need a bit of reworking because an out-of-fic explanation shouldn't be needed (although different people will interpret things dfferently anyway). Thanks again!
    mistysakura
    2007 Golden Pens: Co-winner of Best Poem (Rain Eternal) and Best Reviewer
    2007 Silver Pencils: Winner of Best Poem (Death Sonnet -- Untitled)
    2004 Silver Pencils: Winner of Nicest Fanficcer & Least Likely Couple (with PancaKe)
    Former 3-time winner of Most Dedicated Reader at the Fanfiction Forums
    Also Keeper of the 'A'ctivator Unown

    Brimstone Diamonds. The Artist. Tightrope. Solitude. Autopsy.
    Glitter (one-shot).
    Listen to Rain Eternal -- a song.

    Random thought: 2+2=5.

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