This week’s exercise based on Betrayal by Patricia Duncker:
Think about a group or sub-culture the narrator belongs to. Put a couple of those people in one room and create a scene where some tension exists between the characters. However, the narrator is not part of the tension, and is mainly an observer. Focus on the use of language. The narrator obviously has a love for language and injects a lot of humour and colourful descriptions into the scenes.
The other students were stomping and shouting loudly as they entered the classroom, and I tagged behind them slowly even though we were already late, not wanting to interrupt their boisterous behavior, fearing the possible repercussions. The fat one was called G’romm whose hobby was to smash things. The fatter one was called K’romm who loved nothing more than to bash things. And the fattest one was called Q’romm whose favorite activity was to trash things. Amidst all the smashing, bashing and trashing, you have yours truly who is dashing. And all this while our teacher Tom’s teeth were gnashing. He loathed tardiness, and he gave us all the evil eye, but he did not dare reproach us, as his physique was rather unimpressive, feeble even for an orc. He had nothing to fear from me obviously, but if the others were to fully unleash their barely suppressed violent tendencies and to come smashing, bashing and trashing towards him, we would be in immediate need of a replacement teacher, of which there is none.
Tom was not his real name. His real name was in fact T’Gromm Orkenstein III, and he hailed from a noble family of distinguished marauders, but he changed his name to Tom when he ventured out into the human world. The shame and scandal he brought onto his family were unprecedented. But that was back then. Times, as they say, are a-changing, and in some progressive circles he was now regarded as a visionary and a pioneer. And thus I find myself in this classroom with G’romm, K’romm and Q’romm. We were all young orcs from well-to-do families who believed we needed to integrate with human society to survive in this modern era, as pillaging and plundering were no longer fashionable nowadays, what with their competitive advantage in weapons technology.
Laid out on the tables in front of us was some freshly cooked mutton. The delicious smell emanated from the mutton and tickled my nostrils. “In today’s lesson I would like to discuss etiquette at the dinner table,” Tom began. “Eating is a simple activity for us, but you’ll be amazed by all the rules humans have invented. Understanding and adhering to these rules is essential to gain acceptance into their society. Now if you could…”
“Eat!” G’romm shouted, before the teacher could finish his well-prepared speech, waving his meaty arms excitedly in the air.
“Meat!” K’romm yelled, emulating G’romm’s movements.
“Sheep!” Q’romm roared, imitating K’romm’s movements.
“Wheat!” I exclaimed, parodying Q’romm’s movements.
It didn’t make sense, but an opportunity to recite poetry with my fellow students didn’t come by very often, so I couldn’t let it pass by. My brilliant sarcasm however was fallen upon deaf ears, as no one paid me any attention. G’romm, K’romm and Q’romm’s minds were preoccupied by the mutton, and Tom’s mind was preoccupied by keeping those esteemed gentle-orcs away from the mutton. This led to a merry chase around the teacher’s table. Round and round it went, until I started to become dizzy watching them, so I snatched the mutton away from Tom’s hands and placed it behind me. This magnificent evasive maneuver was enough even to dumbfound the tactical genius of the others. They halted abruptly, crashing into each other and they stared around them confusedly. “Thank you.” Tom mouthed soundlessly at me. After a few minutes, the others had calmed down sufficiently to pay attention to Tom again. They were really quite amiable creatures when no food was involved. Well, sometimes at least.
“Now if you could pick up the fork and knife in front of you.” Tom said.
I knew the purpose of these strange relics as I’ve read about them, but the others were looking confusedly at those artifacts, twirling them in their hands, scratching their heads and letting out the occasional snorts and grunts. K’romm even jabbed his fork into his right arm repeatedly. They were probably wondering why the trident and the sword they were holding were so tiny, and were trying to figure out whether they held hidden magical powers that belied their miniature stature.
Tom was demonstrating how to use the knife and fork and started cutting the mutton into smaller pieces. I was mesmerized by his movements, eager to try it myself later. Fortunately, the others were still too confused to create another huge scene about the mutton. After demonstrating for a few slices, Tom asked if there were any questions.
What resulted was total and complete silence and inertia from the others. Tom and I looked at each other, wondering if we should interrupt. Orcs were never this quiet and still, except when concentrating on an upcoming epic battle and probably not even then, so we were unsure of the consequences if we dared to break the spell. The tension was becoming unbearable and I started to imagine chirping crickets in my mind. It was G’romm who finally broke the silence. “G’romm does not understand. G’romm likes cutting sheep, but G’romm does not see point of cutting sheep when sheep is dead.”
After class I stayed a little longer to talk to Tom. “What’s the point?” he cried. “Why should I keep teaching these prehistoric barbarians when they never ever learn? It’s been a year, and they still behave like uncivilized brutes.”
I started telling him that he shouldn’t give up that easily. How I myself was little more than an uncivilized brute a year ago, and look how far I had come. And didn’t he have to overcome a lot of adversity when he chose his own path all those years ago? It was true; I admired Tom and was grateful for everything he had taught me.
He looked at me. Finally he sighed and said: “I suppose you’re right. But let’s forget about that for now, shall we? And let’s go and get some ale.”