An Exercise in Structural Repetition

February 10, 2010 at 11:39 am Leave a comment

:Steering the Craft, Exercise Four – Part 3: Structural Repetition
Write a short narrative (350-1000 words) in which something is said or done, and then something is said or done that echoes or repeats it, perhaps in a different context, or by different people, or on a different scale.

Long ago in China there was a young boy named Chen who lived in a small house at the edge of the village with his mother, Kuan Yin. Times were hard. Chen and Kuan Yin struggled to grow enough food to eat. The growing season had been too hot and too dry. The earth was hard and cracked and nothing could grow in the vegetable garden behind their house. Chen and Kuan Yin were hungry most of the time.
One day, Chen came up with a plan. “Mother, I am going away today and I will not be back until I have earned enough money to feed us both. Now don’t be angry with me, but this morning I went to the market in our village and sold my kite. I have used that money to buy rice and vegetables so that you can eat until I return.”
Kuan Yin had tears in her eyes. “Chen, no. You are too young. Not your kite, not your only toy.”
Chen pushed his shoulders back, “I want to take care of you.” With that Chen kissed his mother, “tsai chien” he called, and walked down the dusty road.

Chen had been walking for days. Times were hard. No one had a job for a boy. Late one afternoon, Chen came to a river and sat down at the water’s edge. That’s when Chen saw it – in the fading sunlight – a small, sickly-looking golden snake lying motionless in the grass. “Oh no!” Chen cried. “You look like you are dying! But don’t worry; I will take care of you!” Chen picked up the snake very carefully. He used grass and mud and made a cool, soft bed for it, fed it drops of water from the river, and when Chen had done all he could for the snake he finally fell asleep.
In the morning Chen was happy to see that he had helped the snake, for it was bigger than it had been the night before. The snake slithered to the river’s edge and disappeared beneath the water. “No! Come back! I was hoping to sell you in the market. I need the money. Come back!” Chen watched as the golden snake swam toward the center of the river, but then, hearing Chen’s cries, turned back. As the snake poked its head out of the water Chen could see it was no longer a snake, but a small, golden dragon. The golden dragon spoke to Chen. “What is it you want? You have been kind to me; you have saved my life. I will do what I can for you.”
“I need a job. I need money. I need to buy food for my mother and me so that we will not starve.”
The golden dragon spoke again. “Take the magic donkey. Ask it to show you the money.” And with those words the golden dragon swam away.
Chen did not know what the golden dragon was talking about. A magic donkey? What donkey? Where? That’s when Chen heard behind him, “Hee-haw.” Chen whirled around to see a small donkey. “I’m supposed to ask a donkey to show me the money? I’m supposed to believe this is a magic donkey?” With a deep breath and shaking his head, Chen shouted at the donkey, “Donkey, Donkey, show me the money!” And then, just to make sure the donkey had heard, Chen said it again, “Donkey, Donkey, show me the money!”
The donkey turned his head to the right, “Hee-haw”.
The donkey twisted his head to the left, “Hee-haw”.
The donkey looked right at Chen and bellowed, “Hee-haw, Hee-haw, Hee-haw.”
Each time the donkey opened his mouth gold coins fell to the ground. Chen dropped to his knees and began stuffing his pockets with those coins.
“Golden Dragon, Golden Dragon, sha, sha, nee. Sha, sha, nee.” (thank you, thank you!) The golden dragon was already far away in the river. “I will take this donkey home! No one in our village will ever be hungry again!”

Chen started to lead the donkey. By nightfall, Chen needed to stop and rest. Because he now had money in his pockets, Chen wouldn’t need to sleep in the grass near the river. No. Chen stopped at an inn and asked for a bed. Then Chen said to the innkeeper, “Please feed my donkey, but whatever you do, do not ask him to show you the money.”
The innkeeper thought this was a very strange request, but he said nothing for he welcomed – finally – a paying customer. Times were hard. Strangers had not been stopping at the small inn at the edge of the village. Without coins in his pockets the innkeeper could not buy food at the market. The innkeeper was hungry most of the time.
The innkeeper led Chen’s donkey to the stable. He fed the donkey and gave it water. While he worked, the innkeeper began to wonder why he should not talk to the donkey; why he should not ask it to show him the money. Was the boy silly? Or was this a magic donkey?
The innkeeper leaned down and whispered into the donkey’s ear, “Donkey, donkey, show me the money!” And then, just to make sure the donkey had heard, the innkeeper said it again, “Donkey, Donkey, show me the money!”
The donkey turned his head to the right, “Hee-haw”.
The donkey twisted his head to the left, “Hee-haw”.
The donkey looked right at the innkeeper and bellowed, “Hee-haw, Hee-haw, Hee-haw.”
Each time the donkey opened his mouth gold coins fell to the ground. The innkeeper dropped to his knees and began stuffing his pockets with those coins.
By morning the innkeeper had come up with a plan. “I will hide this donkey. I will replace Chen’s magic donkey with one that looks identical to it.” As he hid Chen’s donkey safely out of sight the innkeeper said, “This donkey is mine now. All mine. I will never go hungry again.”

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Entry filed under: Steering the Craft_Writing Exercises.

An Exercise in Syntactic Repetition Writing Exercise: The Postcard

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