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Racine - Part Three

Racine - Part Three

Racine absconds from the orphanage and takes up a life of petty crime until Father Paulo rescues him from a rather unpleasant, chimney related escapade.

1

Literary fiction


Author Image

Dreyfus (Australia)


The elopement of an inmate could cause problems for the orphanage of a fiscal nature. It meant the government per child subsidy would have to be recalculated unfavourably. Finances were scarce, and in Racine’s case it was concluded the accounts remain unsullied by correction. It was only Lunetta who spared a thought for the boy, and from time to time she wondered what might have become of him.
It could be argued Racine had his subsequent career well mapped out by the surly postulants within the orphanage. Apart from Sister Lunetta and the senile old one, Fortunata, they punished him for being both evil and virtuous, for being nervous and confident, for being silly and serious, for being miserable and euphoric, for being both smart and stupid. It mattered not what the child did as it was met with either calamity or, worse still, indifference and we well know, there can be no more thorough a reproof than indifference.
He had grown into a short, wiry haired teenager with poor manners and unfortunate personal hygiene. At the tender age of thirteen, Racine absconded by leaving the raggedy flock as they crossed the dim lane for their daily lessons at the school. Astonished by the ease with which he made his escape he scampered off towards the great mountain to the east, the singularly enduring presence, his entire life. He travelled by foot, for he left the orphanage without bus money; in fact, he only had a vague notion of what money was, never having had any of it himself. His pilgrimage was interrupted by the vast road-works of what would become the dual-carriage freeway of Napoli – Reggio Calabria and now referred to as the A3. He was awestruck by the magnificent red and yellow earth moving vehicles. He saw one monster with its wheels taller than himself, violently pounding into the bedrock with a giant spike. Men beneath shiny plastic helmets scurried about between the growling behemoths.
Racine reached the outskirts of Portici on the Via della Liberta, but Vesuvius seemed as far away as it did looming over the walls of the orphanage. It was the longest journey he had ever taken. As he gazed at the mighty tower over the treetops, a signal of smoke rose from its broken funnel followed by a red flash spat high into the sky over Naples. Some of the portentous allure of the volcano departing, he turned back for what he thought to be less alarming, albeit homeless adventures in the malodorous alleys of Portici.
At this time in history the Camorra's influence pervaded both the alleys and high streets of Naples and indeed, greater Campania. There was not a pie these vermin weren’t fingering. Prostitution, drugs, protection rackets, illegal gambling and theft were pursued with a ruthlessness not seen since the Fascists reigned. It was not long before Racine managed to meet up with other delinquents in the thrall and employ of these ghastly creatures. Schooled in the rough ways of the street, he was pursuing a career in petty crime, by the time he had reached his fourteenth birthday. It is reasonable to suggest, if it had not been for the intervention of a certain Father Paulo, an early grave would have been his fate.
His small stature had made him eminently suited to insertion into cavities such as cat-flaps, crawlspaces and chimney flues for the purposes of ingress to properties that were not his own, to purloin goods to which he had no right. One night, such an exercise found him firmly wedged in a chimney stack on Via Arenaccia. The blood curdling screams for help from the chimney of the Gallacio family mansion caused, both the departure of his accomplice's and the arrival of the police in short order. It appeared that his girth was beginning to show signs of the corpulence with which he was graced in adult life, and he misjudged the size of the chimney cavity in question.
The following day, news of the incident appeared in the local newspaper ‘Il Inflame’ misconstrued as 'Un focolaio di invasioni di scarico adolescenti' and roughly translated in the Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia as ‘Teenage Flu Epidemic in Naples Mooted’. This caused a few flight cancellations. Several things occurred in Racine’s favour as a result of the chimney episode and one not so much in his favour. A block and tackle employed by the police rescue squad for the purposes of chimney extraction was the first favourable event. Near death by this time, the soot encrusted creature had to be first identified as human before certain unsavoury efforts were applied to revive him.
Present was a priest by the name of Paulo, summoned to read the last rights to the flue snipe. Once the Father was aware of his redundancy in one ministration he applied another. He suggested the poor creature had suffered enough and if the policemen were to place him in his care, he would ensure that Racine took a path that did not include activities of a felonious nature. The police were more than happy to forgo the extra paperwork and the bathing entailed in bringing the wretch to justice, and delivered him to the gates of Paulo’s church in Piazza Santa Drogo. Racine arrived at the church a little worse for wear, but among the living.
St. Drogo, Patron of Unattractive People was born in Epinoy, Flanders in the 11th century. He was also an orphan and this would play a significant role in the saint’s future. When he became aware his mother had died giving birth to him, he assumed a terrible responsibility and subsequently performed penances en extremis. At his earliest convenience, he discarded his scant belongings and embarked on a pilgrimage to Rome, so that he might better represent his guilt and receive instruction in the leading of a penitent life. For instance, there was some conjecture as to the efficacy of olive branches as opposed to that of the privet for the purpose of mortification. The stems of the wild rose were considered particularly pleasing to God. Flagellants of the Dark Ages had much to consider.
He eventually made ten pilgrimages to the Holy See and took up a position as a shepherd on the outskirts of what was then the Duchy of Naples. His flock grazed near the Duke’s castle known as Castel Capuana which is, in modern times, situated in the heart of the Metropolitan City of Naples. On one pilgrimage he became sick with a disorder of the body, rendering him horribly deformed. His resulting appearance scared the living daylights out of people in the town but, by now, he was considered a profoundly holy man. A suitable piece of land was procured in Portici and a church was built in his honour. In order to spare the parishioners his unlovely mien, a small cell was provided within the church. In this way he was able to continue attending to his spiritual needs incognito. He lived on water, grains softened in water, other water related products and the holy Eucharist for 40 years. It is said that he could magically be in two places at once. It was suggested by one unkind cynic that given his looks, who would have wanted to see two of him?
Father Paulo was a tall and impressive man. Fifty one years old at the time of his meeting with Racine. He combined a manly vigour with an urbane and cultured demeanour, peculiar to a certain type of Italian man. Steel grey curls fell to his dog collar, seemingly the only sartorial endorsement of his profession. He wore fashionable, blue loose fitting linen shirts and tan Chino's with a belt buckle that described a serpent consuming itself. The symbol of the serpent is a potent one, referring to the notion of cyclicality and it, knowing Paulo as I do, is most apt. His face partially concealed by a trimmed salt and pepper beard and a pair of old fashioned wire-rimmed glasses which he was perpetually adjusting on his not inconsiderable nose. As with a great many Neapolitan men, he smoked cigars, the acridity of which seemed to stain the very atmosphere of Piazza Drogo. He had a propensity for gesticulation that over-reached what we would normally expect, even from a Neapolitan. He thrust and waved about his large hands as if they were in need of wings to escape the confines of his land locked wrists. It was with these generous physical and self-assured attributes, he escorted the boy from the police vehicle to the humble portal of the St. Drogo rectory.
The good father’s first duty to Racine was to provide him with the bathroom where he was not to emerge until his true colour might be observed without the black soot and rags gracing his callow hide


Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • The grammar, typography, sentence structure and punctuation would benefit from a further round of editing to avoid distracting from the quality of the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Hi, I loved the setting and the idea of young Racine, and I would like to know more about him, but there are some basic problems with the writing that stop me enjoying the story. The problems are easy to put right once you know how. here are the top three. 1) I think you over-use the impersonal form. You start too many of your sentences start with 'It', which is a very unnatural form for a first-person narrative. 2) You also use the passive voice too often. 3) If there are any words that you can cut without losing an important distinction then cut them. 'Daily lessons' could be 'lessons'. 'Great mountain' could be 'mountain'. "Travelled by foot" should be "walked". "for the purposes of ingress to" should be "to get into". "which is, in modern times, situated in the heart of the Metropolitan City of Naples" could be "today in the heart of Naples". There are lots of other examples. You can get away with a few redundant words, but when a reader encounters a lot of them you are in trouble. 4) Check for clichés. Cliches are words, phrases or ideas that are horribly over-used. Good writers create fresh combinations of words. Examples in your chapter of clichéd phrases: Pursuing a career Suffered enough Made his escape Scared the living daylights Best of luck!

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • There needs to be more balance between narration and dialogue. Avoid overdoing the narrative and remember that dialogue can diffuse long claustrophobic text.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • The protagonist didn’t always respond believably against the backdrop of the story. Ask yourself if people would really answer to a situation in that way. Think about whether the characters’ voices could be more convincing for their age, background, gender, time period, genre, gender and ethnicity. Dialogue should be natural and consistent throughout the story.
Characterization
  • Make sure your characters are multidimensional. Do they have strengths and weaknesses? Mere mortals make the most interesting stories because they are like you and me and we are able to empathize with their journey. That’s how the connection with a character is formed.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • The reader’s experience of the story is heightened when the characters’ goals, conflicts and purpose are clear. Perhaps giving this aspect of the story further attention could be worthwhile.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The scene needs to be vivid and realistic in order to hold the reader’s attention. Being concise and plausible at the same time is tricky. Giving this further attention could perhaps be worthwhile.
Opening line and hook
  • Great books, nowadays, start with a powerful opening and compelling hook in order to keep the reader engaged. Have you baited the reader enough?
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
Your grammar and prose is superb, however the method behind the writing style is questionable. Typically, utilizing an omnipresent Narrator, who is capable of relaying facts and information beyond the knowledge of the Main Character, is a technique used to convey a general tone or feel to the book in question. There is a bluntness, a finished air, that leaves no room for reinterpretation or renewed interest in the current writing style. It is a compounded amount of statements, aligned one after another, with a distinct 'dryness' to the text that leaves inquisitiveness parched. The events that occur are almost afterthoughts to the statements and introduction of places and people. Racine arrives at a church, then it is immediately followed by an article regarding the history of the church, and finally a brief biography Father Paulo. Symbolism is all well and good, but used in such abundance it becomes clutter. I recommend that you read 'All The Light We Cannot See.' by Anthony Doerr for a combination of your perspective style and your excellent use of prose.