Aug 30, 2009 by

Read UTAH 1 here

Read UTAH 2 here

Round 3 Challenge: Incorporate the death of a dog into your next passage. It should be no more than 400 words long.

“Who was that man?” Delia demanded.

“Does it even matter anymore since I can’t even get online?” Corey yelled, pushing her cereal bowl away and storming out of the kitchen.

It had been a week since Delia had cancelled the Internet subscription after walking in on Corey live messaging with the hooded man. Corey insisted it was the first time she’d ever gone online at night or spoken with a stranger, but Delia knew she was lying. For several months Corey had been uncharacteristically lethargic, sometimes even dozing off on the couch in mid-day.

Not that Delia was over-protective. Free-range was as much her philosophy for childrearing as for animal husbandry. She vocally criticized the Dutch authorities’ decision to prevent a 13-year-old girl from sailing around the world alone. She believed children grew strongest and healthiest when roaming under open skies.

But her love of freedom didn’t extend to the Internet. Delia, whose childhood consisted of mud, chalk, hula hoops, and heaps of dried leaves, couldn’t comprehend how kids could spend their days riveted to a 17-inch screen. To her this seemed the denial of life, a technology of death, a furtive oppression that swaddled its seductive form of bondage as human connection. It made her recall the parable of Plato’s cave. The shadows on the cave wall were now illuminations on a screen.

There had once been a time when Corey and Delia went out into the cornfield every new moon to gaze at the stars and Delia would narrate myths of the constellations. She remembered the first night she’d explained how Corey could always locate north on a clear night by following the Big Dipper’s handle to the North Star.

“But that’s not the brightest star,” Corey had said, pointing instead towards Canis Major.

“That’s Sirius, the Dog Star. We get the phrase ‘dog days of summer’ because it rose before the hottest days of the year.”

“What do dogs have to do with hot days?” Corey asked. Delia opened her mouth to answer only to realize she had no idea.

That time was gone. In recent years Corey had lost her interest in the stars, even in the outdoors. Delia finally gave in to her pleas and installed high speed Internet. Six months later, for fear of losing her daughter, she cancelled it. Two weeks after that, Corey ran away.

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  1. The death of ‘dog’ is very tenuous but the angle, in spite of the understatement, is interesting and deserves credit – I think it makes it!

  2. I liked the use of the Dog Star. The end of their nights star-gazing is the death. Now that I have read your last line it seems like you might have been better starting your story with the discovery of Corey having run away and the reaction to that, filling in the rest as backstory. That said, it possibly wouldn’t follow the challenge requirements. All said and done, I am keen to read on. Hope you make it through the vote.

    • Thanks, Dan. I’m glad the challenge came through in my use of the Dog Star. I agree with you yet again on the opening sentence. But I’m discovering the plot as I go along! This story isn’t developing exactly as I’d expected but I’m not unhappy with the direction.

  3. Like Olaf – I like the creative use of the “dog” prompt but found the connection pretty tenuous even with Dan’s thoughts. Maybe a cool autum-ish breeze would have emphasised the connection – the end of summer (a halycon period) the passing of that time of the dog days and movement towards something more barren. Given the setting I think the weather would work particularly well for you.

    I didn’t realise either that’s where you get “dog days of Summer” – though it is not an expression we use in the Southern Hemisphere.

    I love your writing Utah and want to see where this mother’s journey takes her, and her daughter.

  4. This DEFINITELY makes it. Wonderful story, very real and solid on character. I loved the “dog star,” and also love the reference to Plato’s shadows on the cave wall. Brava!

    • Thank you, Kaylie. You’ve been leaving some wonderful comments. I’m just coming back to Fourth Fiction after some time away and am flabbergasted by the number of comments today!

  5. Get used to it Utah – it will only grow as the comp continues and draws in even more readers and followers.

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