Digging

PHOTO PROMPT - © Connie Gayer (Mrs. Russell)

Photo prompt courtesy and copyright property of Connie Gayer via the Friday Fictioneers event hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Join in and/or get your drabble fix here.

Digging

Between my finger and my thumb, the squat pen rests. “Snug as a gun.”

“What?!” The cosmetically composed woman a table away eyes my scarred surface, the irrepressible stains that forever remain. She doesn’t look at the stack of poetry or the notebook before me. Only me. The untenable me.

“Sorry, just about to do some digging.” I thump my pen on Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist that was buried on the shelf behind me. Her eyes are too narrowly drawn to notice.

As she shakes in her seat, I rise from mine. I’ll have to find better turf today.


*The first paragraph is the excerpted beginning of Seamus Heaney’s poem, “Digging,” from the collection referenced within the story. One of my professors once mentioned that I write similarly to Heaney and that I should study him. (Aside from teaching my poetry courses, he also instructed the Irish Literature class, which might explain why he used such a reference.) My conversations with that professor (often after class) were probably the most influential moments of my undergraduate experience, and I remain grateful even now. (PLEA TO TEACHERS: Support your students beyond the necessary material!)

Anyway, I graciously await your criticisms.

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27 thoughts on “Digging

  1. “Cosmetically composed woman” Love this line and brings to mind a number of faces, all of whom also have the scent of perfume about them! Juxtapose this to “narrowly drawn eyes” and there’s double meaning here….are her eyes literally carefully lined with midnight black pencil? Perhaps in cat eyes with the far ends of black titled up and the lower lids smudged too? Or is she looking narrowly at his scarred visage and shaking because somehow she sees only the ridges and not his eyes and who he is beyond that face? As you can see, your tale brings questions to the mind — a good thing!
    I must say, as a former (very former — I’m in my rejuvenatement period — definitely not retirement) teacher and education administrator, I love your personal plea beyond your tale. So true so true! A good teacher, mentor, is someone we remember who goes beyond the mundane assignments.
    Enjoyed this….shall meander your site a bit more during my second cup of coffee this AM.

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    • Quite honestly, I didn’t recognize a connection between the “cosmetically composed woman” and her “narrowly drawn eyes” until you mentioned it. Instead, I was trying to draw a contradiction with the illusion of composure to her shaking. It just goes to show the value in separating a work from authorial intent; there is much more that can be dissected than ever intended.
      As for the bit about teachers, I actually started out college as a physics major (though I swiftly changed that after one semester of calculus). I never had much confidence in my creative writing, but that professor was incredibly encouraging and pushed me to further my education. (I had every intent to obtain a Master’s degree regardless, but he suggested I pursue a Doctorate. Monetary circumstances, however, kept that beyond my vision.)
      And by all means, your meanderings are welcome and appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear ATC,

    I’ve had a few teachers who left huge imprints on my life.

    It seems that she has made some assumptions about him by virtue of his scarred appearance. Pity. Well written. Now I’ll have to look up Heaney.

    Shalom,

    Rochelle

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  3. What a wonderful compliment to be told you write similarly to Heaney. I adore his work. One of my closest friends studied in Ireland and met him. I was so jealous.

    This is a well told tale and the terrors of eavesdropping. I love that final sentence and your word choice of turf.

    My concrit would be to somehow quote the whole first paragraph. I don’t know, other than maybe starting with “I read, ‘Between my finger…'” I say, “Snug as a gun.” But that’s four words you have to deal with. Also, it wouldn’t hurt the story to just say Heaney’s collection, rather than writing out the entire title. Anyone who know his work will recognize immediately from the title and the opening, and those who don’t aren’t missing out because you do carry the theme of digging throughout the whole story.

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    • I was certainly delighted to hear such a compliment, but I didn’t really see the similarities. That being said, I used to emulate Li-Young Lee and Philip Levine, and their writings aren’t drastically different stylistically from Heaney. Regardless, I’d have been jealous of someone having such an opportunity, too.

      I have to admit that I used “turf” because Heaney’s phrase, “For the good turf.” I kept reading his “Digging” while trying to piece this together.

      As for the criticisms, I can see the value in restructuring the opening paragraph as if the narrator was reading the poem, but I originally envisioned that they were planning to write and subconsciously started to quote the poem while looking at their hand. However, evidence of that is hardly recognizable, so I may have been better suited to make it a direct reading as you suggested. And it does seem that I was a bit heavy-handed in the second reference; I didn’t need to signify the book as “Heaney’s.” Thank you for taking the time to bring these possible issues to my attention. I will keep such concerns in mind during future endeavors.

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  4. The vanity of the “cosmetically composed woman” came through clearly, just like skinny people look down on fat ones. I’m not familiar with Heaney, but enjoyed it just the same. And I agree with your comment regarding teachers. Nicely done.

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    • Thank you. Vanity, in some instances, can be frightfully destructive. Fortunately, the protagonist was much more composed than makeup could ever suggest for that woman.
      And thank you to your wife for supplying the photo prompt.

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  5. I don’t know Heaney but the story still worked for me (I think :) ). I didn’t see the woman’s reaction as vanity, but as prejudice, and fear resulting from it. He’s talking about a gun, she sees his scarred exterior, nothing else comes through. It’s an often seen reaction, judgement solely based on appearance. C–the contrast between the cosmetically composed woman and the scarred narrator makes this work very well.

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    • I feared that the initiation for the conflict (the very use of the word “gun”) had been lost, but I’m glad to see that your reading developed from it. Based on that alone, I trust that you may have gotten plenty out of this; your summary is essentially what I envisioned when I wrote it. Thank you for drawing it out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I guess the easiest explanation would be that the narrator wanted to write (“dig”), but the soil in that area was made toxic by the woman’s reaction toward him. And you are surely right; even the best patches of land will fail to produce if overworked without cycling crops, so we must always seek other possible sources.

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