The Curse

Posted by M ws On Thursday, September 15, 2011 8 comments
I have been very busy with marking college exam papers and have not been able to keep up with the news. I will be blogging later in the evening though. In the mean time, my friend's son just came to my house and showed me this essay which I thought was a brilliant piece of work for his AS practice for the A levels but the poor boy came to my house very upset because his teacher gave him a D which is a Band 4 for the exam. For Band 4, it means the student has made many technical errors, confusion of tenses, wrong subject-verb agreement, frequent spelling errors and absent punctuation apart from other problems. Judge for yourself if he did make such errors. (The teacher is a native speaker.) I just told him to continue to try his best because I believe in him and that he is a good writer. Here goes...

Write a short story called The Curse. In your writing create a sense of mystery and suspense.

At night, the harbour was always misty. The chill in physical form always drifted by you, sending shivers down the spine. Silhouettes of various boats, tankers and cruisers lying idly by the dockside could be seen through the dense fog. One couldn’t see their reflections in the black waters lapping the dock supports, only emptiness.

The air was silent and bone-chilling cold. Usually it was peaceful at night, full of people, mainly fishermen, enjoying the night sea breeze before heading home. But tonight, there was tension in the air. And there weren’t many people. Just one. He stood there on the docks, restlessly looking over the waters for a sign of his destiny.

Suddenly, it came. A bright light broke through the shroud of the fog, like opening the gates of heaven itself. The man’s eyes widened slightly. His breath quickened and his whole frame was shaking, not from the cold. However, he still held his ground. Right up until the lights got bigger and bigger. The foghorn got louder and louder. It engulfed him, and a shrill scream rose up into the frigid night air.

Six hours earlier...

Coming home from school, sixteen – year - old Marcus Damon came through the door like a tornado. Energetic and full of vigour, Marcus had just got back from a soccer match, where he was awarded the Most Valuable Player title. This came to no surprise as Marcus is the top athlete for Gekkoukan High School. With the top clubs clamouring for his signature , Marcus couldn’t wait any longer for his time in the sun.

However, there was a downside to his fame. Arrogance fuelled every step he took and his headstrong manner made him more enemies than friends. One of them was his own little sister, Tilly Damon. At thirteen, she was a freshman at Gekkoukan and lived under the cloud of her brother. Everybody, from classmates to the principal, expected her to be a great sportswoman like her brother.

Much to their surprise, she was cut from a whole different cloth. She was a musician, playing instruments ranging from the triangle to the tuba, and played them well. And what a singer! An angel in full tilt couldn’t have done better. Recording companies were looking for her signature and there was a bright future in the Japanese music industry

Both siblings were always at odds with each other. With their parents deceased, Marcus acted as the guardian. Thus, Marcus always placed his priorities ahead of Tilly’s. He knew of his sister’s amazing musical talent, but he was more concerned over his own sports career. More than once, he left his sister standing in the cold at her concerts, always exploring a new advertisement position or club contract.

That was the very reason why Marcus was home from school early today. Tilly finally had the star role in the school choir. She had very much wanted Marcus to see it. Although he had grudgingly promised to attend, it all changed. Marcus had received a text from his agent, and he was excited.

“Marcus, had an offer from Europe. Finally matched your evaluation, hundred thousand pounds a week, need to talk to you about this when you get back”.

Marcus knew he just couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this.

That was why he was home, and not at the concert.

He threw his bag on the kitchen counter and went upstairs to take a bath. To pass the time while waiting for his agent, he plopped himself in front of the TV. Time passed by. Somehow, Marcus had fallen asleep on the couch. When he woke up, he moaned groggily and tried to look at his watch. However, in the dark, he could pretty much guess it was night time.

Suddenly, he was blinded by a bright light. It was like a spear gouged in his retinas. Grunting in mild pain, he squinted to see a slight form at the light switch. It took several moments for his vision to clear. Once it was, he could clearly see the form and breathed out a sigh of relief. It was only Tilly.

Slightly built, with a cute baby face, her flaming red hair tied into a ponytail, she was usually quiet and never bothered Marcus. But tonight, her face was all red and she was trembling violently, looking like a volcano that just exploded. Her wild red hair, usually neat, accentuated this image. Marcus couldn’t help but start laughing. Loud.

Tilly suddenly snapped at the sound of that laughter, shouting, “What are you laughing about!”

“O-o-oh sis,” Marcus stuttered, unable to control himself, “Y-y-o-u should see yourself! All red and wild!” ending in another fit of giggles.

“Ah sis, I know what this is about,” he said, grinning, “I missed your play again, didn’t I?”

“You fool! How could you?! After I begged to tears!" Tilly said, unable to control her own flow of tears.

“My agent called, saying about some advertisement stuff I needed to do,” Marcus shrugged, thinking the argument winding down, turned back to the TV.

“Where is your ‘agent’?” Tilly said in a menacing low voice.

“Didn’t show!” Marcus retorted back.

Finally, the volcano.

Tilly hurled so many expletive descriptions at Marcus’s way that even he wondered where she learned so many words. However, the most important ones were these cursed words, “I hope an oil tanker runs over you!”. Which from here, tired of his sister’s insults, Marcus headed out of the door and walked towards the pier, and the black waters…

Written by I.K.

Please leave a comment to share your responses. I.K. would definitely appreciate your input.

8 comments to The Curse

  1. says:

    KoSong Cafe I think he is good and he is creative in his writing. Having said that, I am beginning to wonder if there was a mistake by the 'native speaker'. What is your opinion of his teacher? I have known native speakers who could not spell properly and these days, education in the west could have deteriorated too. We cannot assume they are all of high calibre.

    My elder daughter had been through a chancy situation where the Admissions Officer incorrectly assessed her based on her mediocre results in a course which she had scant interest. It was almost like divine intervention when shown an article she wrote which was published in a website, that he changed his mind (within 24 hours and he was about to go on sabbatical leave the following day!). He said he thoroughly enjoyed reading the interesting article and was convinced she could complete the course. She not only did that but was the best student in her course with the best dissertation! Having been through this experience, nobody should give up without trying their best in looking at the problem at hand to see if it could be someone else's mistake.

    I wish him all the best!

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear KoSong Cafe

    Thank you so much for such an objective and encouraging response. Thanks also for the inspiring sharing about your daughter's experience.

    I worked in an international school for 8 years from 1988 to 1995 and fully appreciate what you shared. For sure, standards in education have dropped drastically all over the world - not just in Malaysia. I see it even in external examination papers - the new ones are much easier than those set in the 1980's and 1990's.

    In m opinion, I.K. is a progressive thinker and writer - a very intelligent 16 year old young man whose parents are my old friends from the 1970's!

    I would have given him a Band 1 for this piece. To me, he has fulfilled most of the requirements for Band 1 and to improve it, I would have shifted the last sentence to be a stand-alone paragraph for greater effect. Apart from that, I have no other criticism for such a fine piece of work which is his own effort.

    Certainly, I hope I.K. will be undaunted by this setback but will work harder to hone his writing skills.

    Thanks so much for such a sensitively written response which I hope will inspire I.K. I posted another one of his stories here:

    I can see why your daughter is a class above them all - thanks to the wonderful encouragement from you and your wife and the guidance from you all and her other teachers/friends.

    God bless you and your family! Do keep in touch!


  1. says:

    KoSong Cafe Paula, you are ever so polite and generous with your compliments. I feel 'phaiseh'.


  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear KoSong Cafe

    Aiya - I only spoke the truth and in one sentence :-) so not that generous :-) but one that comes from my heart.

    Honestly, your comment has gone a long way to encourage a young man who was crushed in spirit and in heart by that D. I hope it spurs him to work even harder!

    I remember my Economics teacher in school used to tell me to stop asking questions cos I would not do well. In the end, I worked my butt off and had much delight in telling him 15 years later that I was teaching Economics :-) for 9 years.

    Take care and do keep in touch!


  1. says:

    Anonymous I would have given I.K. a Band 1. He had created a sense of mystery (the bright light, the sudden change in Tilly …..) and suspense (what happened in the end, the scream …). The plot was perfect – siblings at odds with each other and both being equally talented. Marcus was supposed to be the guardian but he failed in his duty and thus had to face the repercussion.
    I.K. is on the right track. Considering his tender age, his writing shows maturity and boldness. His style of writing is very different from most students of his age. Well done I.K.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear koonoon

    Thank you so much for your analytical assessment of I.K.'s creative piece. You have pointed out the salient strengths of the story and it warms my heart to read your validating comments with regards to his writing. I do concur with your views and wish Ian nothing but the best.

    Take care and do keep in touch.

    Best wishes

  1. says:

    Chester Khuan I'm not an educationist but I don 't think this creative work deserve a 'D'.

    Quote: "Usually it was peaceful at night, full of people, mainly fishermen, enjoying the night sea breeze before heading home. But tonight, there was tension in the air. And there weren’t many people. Just one." This part here doesn't - for want of a better word - gel. Full of people = peaceful, one person = tension in the air. I would have re-written it as "Usually it was peaceful at night even though full of people.... But tonight, there was tension in the air despite there weren't many people. Just one."

    Quote: "With their parents deceased, Marcus acted as the guardian. Thus, Marcus always placed his priorities ahead of Tilly’s." This part I would re-written it to " Selfishly, Marcus..." My reason being it is an accepted norm whether or parents or guardians to sacrifice their own needs for those who are under their care (just like you sacrificing yourself for your boys). If he wants to portrays Marcus as an exception to the norm, I believe stating it differently would helps.

    Quote: "Suddenly, he was blinded by a bright light. It was like a spear gouged in his retinas." Comment: "...light. It was like a spear gouging at his retinas."

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Chester

    Thanks a lot for your analytical and constructive comments! That you took the time to scrutinize his work and to give your input really warms my heart to know that you have gone the extra mile to encourage this young man in constructive ways. I will pass on the message to I.K.

    Take care and have a great weekend!


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