Peer Review by anemoia (#words) (United States)

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By: tas (yellowbrickrd)

Dusty went missing yesterday. I always felt sad seeing the lost posters fluttering on the telephone poles, imagining the poor creatures stumbling through the islands’ wilderness or flattened by the side of a road. However, I always took comfort in the fact that that would never be Dusty. I’d taught him to bring in the newspaper and sit beside his water bowl when it was empty. But here I stand, taping him to the pole over the face of a cat that’s been missing since March. Even the smartest can get lost.
            “Don’t worry, we’ll find him.” Harry hands me another piece of tape. The adhesive clings to his fingers. I shake my head.
            “No, we won’t. Lost things are never found on Christmas Island.” He gives a sort of grimace, as if in pain.
Harry walks me home, soles slapping the pavement. Trees rise up on either side of the asphalt river, reaching towards a darkening sky. When we first moved here, I found them ominous, these solemn, whispering trees, but now they wave at us as we pass. “They warm up to you,” Harry had explained, “the whole island does.” Birds call back and forth making sleeping arrangements for the night and the gentle beating of the waves is ever-present, the alternate city hum.
            “I’ll see you tomorrow?” We’ve reached the turnaround point.
“Yeah.” He spins around on his heels and heads back into town, where all the normal people live. I watch until he disappears, the twilight folding itself around him, a hazy cloak. As I walk home, I call Dusty’s name.
“How are you feeling?” Mum studies me from across the table with her intense physiatrist stare. A limp Bok choy escapes from her chopsticks.
            “Fine.” I drop my eyes to the takeaway, begging her not to believe me. No Kai, you’re not fine. Then I would let myself cry and curl into her lap. But she wipes her mouth and leans back in her chair.
            “Alright then, keep you secrets.” I smile sadly. She’s too tired. I can hear her turbulent day at work rushing around in her head. Soon the fat droplets will fall, smudging the ink of our lives. I don’t want to hear them right now, the stories from her clean, white room in the detention centre. I don’t want to hear about the suffering of others I just want to wallow in mine. “I finally got Karim to tell me about his mother.” I stare past her, at the obsidian glass. “Their boat was sinking, but they could see the shore.” We are reflected, mother and daughter, together and alone, flung from one detention centre to another in an endless migration. “His mother cared very deeply for him, but her love was irrational, as love often is.” We are displaced people, displaced by the need to help other such displaced people. “She so desperately wanted her son to reach Australia that she grabbed his pregnant wife and threw her overboard, then followed her into the waves.” I let my head fall into my hands. How can I complain of a lost dog or fractured friendships when my mother is unable to sleep because of the horror they experience? I am stupid and selfish.
            “Mum,” she stops talking. “I can’t do this right now. A therapist shouldn’t need a therapist.” I don’t meet her eyes, instead I peer past her, out into the garden searching for a wagging tale and two familiar, glowing orbs.
“Isn’t this exciting!? The last few days of high school, what do you hope to accomplish? Yes, you heard me, write a goal.” A collective groan emanates from the class. Unperturbed, Ms Chen hands out sticky notes. How could this little, yellow square even hope to hold half my dreams? The future is too awash in possibility. I want success and happiness. Two words, they glare back at me, inscrutable. Really though, what does that mean? For me I suppose that means having a job I genuinely enjoy and being surrounded by- I should have written smaller. “Kai! Care to share?” Her smile smells of cheap, plastic toys.
            “Success and happiness.” Harry snorts. I ignore him.
“That’s you goal for this week?” Of course, just this week, can’t go getting ahead of ourselves. Harry’s laughter is uproarious as I reply,
“that’s my goal for every week.”
            “Well we made it, can tick ‘boring graduation’ of the bucket list.” I give Harry a sideways smile. The road glistens in the afternoon heat.
            “Now onto the next phase, one of smelly dorm rooms and over passionate professors.”
            “You can’t be over passionate!” The ridiculousness of my statement has caused his eyebrows to malfunction.
            “Yes, you can! Your dad!” We laugh remembering last year’s Christmas Crab Club which consisted of Mr Wei jumping up and down in time to the clicking of his slideshow. I would never appreciate the crabs as he did. Their “world-famous migration” had given me nightmares. The tremendous clacking of legs, the disconcerting, bestial shapes moving towards the ocean like a great wave of blood.
            “Oh god, do you smell that?” Harry screws up his face in disgust. Dead animal, the wind becomes heavy with the stench. It’s lying on the side of the road. Some sort of possum? No, it’s too big for that. White and black fur, suddenly I’m running. Don’t let it be- it is. We stare down at Dusty. Harry gags. “Oh no, oh god, poor dog.” I move to pick him up, I want to bury him, but Harry stops me. “You’ll get sick. He’s been here for a couple of days. Get your mum, the car and some garbage bags. We shouldn’t touch him.” I want to pat his ears, soft, like dryer lint, but I listen to Harry. The trees calmly watch us sprint past, our frenzied haste, barely a ripple, they’ve seen far worse.

Ok she's back for draft two! Got rid of some stuff word count now 985! well within!

Peer Review

The second sentence, mostly. The way Kai connects her experience to others, never thinking it would actually happen. And then, when she says that lost things are never found on Christmas Island. That's absolutely heartbreaking. And foreshadowing, it seems.

You made Kai feel real in her emotions, especially dealing with her mother. The interaction with her mother was the most vivid look into Kai's head and heart. The juxtaposition of Kai's thoughts versus her mother's words brought her to life.
I want to know where/who Kai's father is. When they moved to Christmas Island. What her past is like. (Not necessarily in this excerpt, but in general.)

I don't think so...

Yes. First, you state the name. It feels dark and gloomy right off. The trees detail was marvelous. The waves and birds really make it feel like an island. It seems like relatively modern day; definitely within the past 40 years or so. The sounds and the imagery all around bring Christmas Island to life.

PLEASE KEEP WRITING. Not just because I love this story, but because you've clearly dedicated your time and yourself to this story. If you love it, keep writing. And write because you want to, not to please others. Keep writing because you have a gift for making stories flow and words sing.

Reviewer Comments

I want to repeat this: Keep writing because you have a gift for making stories flow and words sing.
Also, I'm curious about Harry! He sounds so interesting and steady and dependable and normal and genuine.
And remember, these are only suggestions that are from one person's perspective that should never alter the fundamentals of your story or what you hope to accomplish/say.
Best of luck!