The Boy in the Sewer. A True Story

Home Forums Critique Central Nonfiction The Boy in the Sewer. A True Story

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  maxiuomc48 5 months, 1 week ago.

  • Author
  • #346907


    I almost never walked in that part of the city. I do not remember why that particular day I was out there. Maybe I had gone looking for something or  I was going to see someone. I just remember I had some time to spare.

    At that time I was a Music student at the University. I decided to go to a park and sit under a tree to work on some pending tasks. While working, I noticed a large sewer a few meters away. Inside, there was a boy about 11 or 14 years old, he started peeking at me. After a while, the boy came out of the sewer and, at first, kept his distance but never lost sight of me. Slowly and quietly, he came closer until he sat next to me.

    Without saying anything at first, he curiously watched me working. After a while, he asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was learning to read and write music.– I know some songs. Would you like to listen to them? –he said. Without waiting for an answer, he started singing. He sang several songs, I do not remember how many, I only remember how enthusiastically he sang. When he finished, without saying a word, he got up and ran back to the sewer.

    I stayed a while longer working. Occasionally some other boys would enter or leave the sewer, but I did not see him again.

    The next day, in the newspaper, a photograph immediately struck me. It was a photo of the same sewer from which the boy had come out the day before. The news narrated that during the night someone had thrown gasoline into the sewers and set them on fire, killing several boys who lived inside. The note did not mention any suspect or the reason for such an act.

    During the next few days I looked for some other news related to the murder of the boys. Nothing was mentioned again about it. It was as if it had never happened.

    I do not know if the boy I met died that night or not, but I’ve never been able to forget him. The boy who sang to me in the park.

  • #655823


    That’s such a sad story. You could expand it into a book – I won’t say a ‘novel’ because you say it is a true account. However, I am truly surprised that no attempt seems to have been made at identifying those unfortunate boys. Did nobody grieve for them?

  • #655824


    I tend to write like I’m demanding something. Let me say up front that this is not the case. These are all suggestions, and I’ll try to back it up with why.

    I think it’s important that you ID this as a true story, but doing that in the title feels to me like that reduces the impact.

    I also think you need to give the story a perspective. Not just what you know or don’t know. Drop the first sentence. I think the second one sort of implies it, but lends the area a sort of mystique.

    “At the time” feels a little bit distant to me. Maybe something like “Back then,” or even drop that phrase. “I was a Music student at the university.” Since you don’t name the university, I think that should not be capitalized. I’m less sure about the major. I think not, but will defer to others on capitalizing majors.

    Let the dialogue be dialogue.

    > Without saying anything, he watched me work.
    > “What’cha doing?” he asked.
    > “Learning to read music,” I replied. “And to write it.”
    > He stared at my sheets for a moment, then said, “I know
    > some songs. Would you like to hear?”
    > He didn’t wait for an answer before he started singing.

    I added a couple of details related to my last point. Basically, please let us in. By describing events instead of “making things happen,” it feels like you’re keeping me at a distance. As a reader, I want to be in the moment, actually feeling like you could be me, or that I could be that boy. They way I see it, that means getting me in close on the scene. As the boy actually talks, and as you respond, both of you start to feel more real, and I feel a reason to become invested in both of you. I start to care even before I’m confronted with the apparent tragedy of that boy.

    By the way, about that tragedy, let my imagination run with it.

    Something like:
    > The next day, on page five, I saw a photo of that sewer in my local paper. The caption read, “Sewer where five boys were killed Tuesday night.”
    > I picked through the story underneath, but no names were given.

    Let us sort of experience you not knowing, and never finding out. It kind of goes back to my previous point: Let me in. Let me be there with you, experiencing what you experienced.

    You have an experience here that is impactful, even the way you wrote it. But it feels like you’re keeping me at a distance. As a reader, I’m not satisfied with that. It feels like I’m missing something I shouldn’t be missing. Let the reader be part of the experience. Let us in.

    And keep working at it. It’s an awful and touching tale.

  • #655825


    It is a sad and touching story.

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.