Write Me Better! – Amatuer Short StoryPosted: January 15, 2020
by Jeff Bowles
We’re starting a new monthly writing challenge series here on Writing to Be Read. Have you ever read a book or a short story and thought to yourself, I can do way better than this? Well, here’s your chance. Write Me Better will highlight a new prose passage by a different author each month, ranging from masterful to, well, just plain amateurish. Anyone and everyone will be open for a little revision, Shakespeare, Steven King, Ernest Hemingway, even the folks who write for this blog, and maybe someday down the line if you’re up for it, even you. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to rewrite what’s already been written. Give it a new style, a new focus. Make it a comedy routine or just plain tear it to shreds. It’s up to you! The following month, I’ll show off my version, and then we’ll look at some of yours. Sound Fun?
Our first piece comes from a little known master named Jeff Bowles. Before you go getting excited, this is one of the first short stories I ever wrote, and yes, I was being cheeky with the whole “master” thing. See for yourself. Let me forewarn all you armchair authors, this passage is not for the faint of heart. It’s bad. I mean real bad. So bad I had to write dozens of other stories just to wash the taste from my mouth. Okay, here we go. This is a little thing I like to call Tsar Alexei. Now Write me Better!
They hunt me even now. Aristocrat boyars, holy men, those who profess loyalty and who have received my kindness. All of them, cursing me in their thoughts even as they toast to my divine rule. A tsar must anticipate dissent. Even on the day of his wedding, he must be on guard and govern with an iron will. These things are expected of me, of Ivan’s son, Alexei. Russia needs Alexei. Even the malcontents gathered here need Alexei.
Regrettably, I am not Alexei. I’m not even human. But these are small matters; always, confidence is key.
I have allowed only two others to sit with me at the main banquet table, a fact which surely displeases the boyars and Metropolitan Boris, the head of the church. Boris rubs his bald head as his eyes trace the empty length of my table. I simply tip my glass to him and smile.
My bride, my lovely Tsarina Sofia sits beside me. Her dark hair flows along her neck, shimmering with highlights of brown and deep red in the candlelight. Her royal wedding necklace glints and sparkles. Her supple lips upturn in a smile as she examines a knife that belonged to Vasily III. She is happy. Her thoughts are of her troubled beginnings, of famine, of my grace and judgment in choosing her, above all others in Muskovy, to be mine.
“Are you well, my love?” I say.
Sofia smiles. “Yes. I could not have dreamed of all this, Alexei.”
“I always hoped to marry, but…”
“Now you are tsarina. You were granted fortune when you least expected it. I understand completely.”
I touch Sofia’s hand. Her cheeks darken; her eyes widen. She smiles again.
Fëdor, my loyal servant, nudges me. I chose him first as honorific thousandman for the ceremony. Were he any other man, I would kill him for the distraction.
“Alexei,” he says, “please, we must speak in private.”
I try my best to swallow my anger. “I know, Fëdor. I knew when the celebration began, and I knew in the procession. I’ve known these past three days. It’s difficult to forget when your lapdog constantly nibbles at your heel.”
“I’m sorry, Alexei.” Fëdor averts his eyes. His large brow tightens and his thick lips purse. “But you must hear the message from our…from the Lord.”
“Speak openly. None here would dream of harming me.”
“Fëdor, I am tsar, yes? Wasn’t it I, through sheer power and intelligence, that supplanted that feeble-minded Vladimir?”
“It was,” says Fëdor.
“Then respect me. Respect my bride and my guests, and only distract me from the festivities as long as you must. Speak openly.”
Okay, everybody, that does it for this month. Don’t forget to rewrite the above passage and share it in the comment section. Adios!
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