Racine - Part 5

Racine - Part 5

We are introduced to Flavia's homelife, her father and how she came to be working at the rectory of St.Drogo. A menacing presence, makes itself known once again.


Literary fiction

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Dreyfus (Australia)

Paulo knew from her father, an unhealed wound lay at the bottom of her question, and hoped their conversation allayed Flavia’s anxieties to some degree. She was blessed with long and luxurious black hair and if she had allowed, it would have swung down the length of her back. Instead she bundled her tresses up with the aid of clips and pins. Her delicate, pale face presented the world with a somewhat quizzical expression, but it happened to be part of the architecture of her appearance. She found it exceedingly annoying when people told her to smile more or say things like ‘it will never happen Flavia’, when she looked distracted or less than happy. She, on the other hand, considered it not necessarily normal for people to wander around with permanent smiles affixed to their lips. If anything she took life as it came, although, it has to be said she generally veered towards the melancholy.

She excelled at school but the lessons failed to engage her. Through her father, who happened to be the principal purveyor of smoked meats to the local clergy, and a great deal of the laity, she found employment with his friend, Father Paulo. This was a temporary arrangement, until something more splendid made itself known to her. Her father knew his daughter well; she possessed a bright mind full to the brim with the awkward prerogatives and plosive resonances of youth and her time would come.

Flavia and her father lived at the rear of his delicatessen. Her mother had abandoned them when the child was only six years old. She was a wild and beautiful girl from a nasty little Camorra, riddled village called Palo in the district of Eboli, southern Campania. She was visiting the capital one weekend with a loud brute who abandoned her outside a bar, where she met her future husband. She drank him under the table and married the smitten fellow two days later, giving birth to little Flavia within six months of their union.
No explanation has been given in regard to the premature birth, but Flavia bore none of the usual characteristics of such an entry into the world. She was of a healthy weight, pink of cheek, and conveyed no resemblance to the small-goods vendor whatsoever. This inconsistency of dates, times and weights made no difference to Falvia's father, who loved the child unconditionally from the day he set eyes on her. Her mother cited unmitigated boredom and an overwhelming distaste for the smell of fermented sausage, as her principal reasons for leaving, and was never seen again. Flavia's father, Janek was Polish by descent and nature. As with most self-respecting Poles, he had a fondness for Vodka and pork in all its forms, and in that order. His ambition was to smoke pork sausage like his father and grandfather before him. Life in the Soviet Bloc was too morbid and confining for the aspiring pork butcher, and he decamped for soil not requiring the presence of Soviet boots.

Janek's skill’s soon became known. The Neapolitan’s, already in favour of every manner of sausage, found the Polish variations irresistible. Salowski's Delicatessen was established in the Piazza Nolano, known for its fifteenth century entrance gate to the old city. It is flanked by two bastions, the Tower of Faith to the south and the Tower of Hope to the north and below these is a bustling market. The Salowski’s Delicatessen was beside the Tower of Hope and close to the bus depot where a commuter returning home, might purchase a string of the finest Kabanossi for their evening meal. Flavia and her father were devoted to each other, and in Janek's eyes she could do no wrong. They brought solace to each other and Janek did his best to replace, what might have been lacking for a little girl without a mother. He was a man with a naturally sunny disposition, making up elaborate and hilarious games such as 'toothless vegetables' with which to amuse Flavia. Her nervy and melancholy demeanour, eventually gave way to smiles and occasional merriment. He told her jokes and stories, which may have scandalised Signora Paciolla in the apartment across the courtyard, but were a source of much mirth in the Salowski household.

Janek loved nothing than to wind up straight-laced Luigi, the bootmaker from the store on the corner of their building. He had Flavia laughing, when he described an unusual encounter in the shop one day.
“Luigi arrived and ordered his customary panino for lunch. I began telling him a saucy joke about why Jesus wasn't born in Napoli and in walks, of all people, a rather flustered young nun, clearly overcome with the heat of the day and her heavy black garment. I didn’t stop telling the joke, why should I,” he said. He winked at Flavia, she was aware of his cheeky irreverence. “Once I finished and got the customary outraged response from Luigi, I was astonished to hear the nun burst into raucous laughter. So overcome with mirth was the good sister, I was obliged to provide a chair and a glass of water for her, fanning her with a copy of the salacious Il Inflame, from which I had purloined the joke earlier that day. The young nun, who had the most sparkling of blue eyes and a small cowlick of bright red hair escaping her veil, explained to me and the now stupefied Luigi, she had never heard a joke before. When Luigi had left, she pleaded with me to tell another one. I obliged and was met again with unabated hilarity.”

By the time Flavia was fifteen she was as schooled in the ways of the world as any young woman still in the thrall of adolescence. She had engaged in fumbling and unsatisfactory fornication with a very stupid but libidinous boy, and became orally familiar with the human penis. The boy presented his rigid, spindly member with the hope it may be admired in close up, however Flavia’s interest was one of curiosity rather than idolatry. She examined its veiny bumps, its strangely textured, but soft silkiness, from the purple head to the strange, spongy egg-sacs below; she tasted, licked and sucked but then decided she didn’t like any of it very much, and refused entry to the alternative cavities the boy suggested. Sensibly, she chalked it up as another of life's experiences. Other exploits included the stealing of a cherry red lipstick, a ball point pen and a chocolate frog from a discount shop in the city. She spent one mid-summer night with her girlfriends on the beach at Sorrento, ill-advisedly drinking a large quantity of cheap Amaretto and sharing a potent marihuana cigarette.

That may well have been the sum of her vices but for a chance meeting at the fruit stand in the supermarket; she was on an errand for Paulo. Whilst selecting some apples, Marta, a friend from her school days, appeared from behind one of the fixtures. They talked of this and that, when a young man approached them from another aisle, and snaked a proprietary arm around Marta’s flinching neck. He was introduced as Roberto and Flavia was taken the young man’s darkly handsome features, although simultaneously repelled by his serpentine eyes.

Roberto’s insolent gaze left her feeling breathless. This along with a cool change to Marta’s quiet levity of only moments before, caused her to feel uneasy about the couple. Marta was no longer the happy child of her school years; Flavia detected a sorrowful demeanour and a tension to her pale skin. As she left the supermarket, she caught sight of them walking towards a sleek, black motorbike and noticed something about Roberto she had not seen before. This disturbing, beautiful young man was flawed by a slightly awkward gate, and as he swung his right leg over the saddle of the bike she noticed his boot had been modified, to compensate for a club foot. I will confirm, this Roberto chap was indeed the very same person who cruelly left Racine so low within the orphanage courtyard. As we know, Roberto was as bitter and twisted a person as one would ever chance to meet, and the years had not corrected the odious singularity of his nature.

The old church of Santa Drogo sits like an austere reproach in the impoverished piazza. If a car found itself planted below its red brick bell tower, with its ugly black cross fixed to the gable, and if it could do such a thing, it would be wondering how it got there and how it would get the hell out. The only entrance to the Piazza was by an unmarked narrow lane, which took you into one the most grey and penurious squares one might happen upon in the whole of Naples. Immediately one arrives within it, the lane seems to merge with the drab structures of the square and simply disappear.

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Compelling hook?


Strong characters?


Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
  • 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
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Character conflict
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Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a difficult balancing act. Are you sure all the material is relevant to the plot, setting and atmosphere? Make sure each sentence makes sense to the reader, and each paragraph moves their experience forward.
Suspense and conflict
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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
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
Style and originality
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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
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Opening line and hook
  • Your strong opening and compelling hook was a promise of wonderful things to come!