Short Story Snippets

Hi!
I’m working on a short story about a carnival set in PH 2041. Here’s a snippet. Actually I’m done with it because I submitted it as an output for one of my comprehensive exams. But I guess, I’m editing it and might submit it somewhere. I’m not entirely sure. But here it goes!

When Timpi manned the gambling booths, he was unsure how much of the night’s earnings he could slide into his pocket. Huni caught a small glimpse of the box a few nights ago and gave him a suspicious look so he had to be more discreet about his ‘earnings’. If things weren’t so unpredictable he would slip a couple of coins a day, enough to get unnoticed. Two 50-peso coins couldn’t even buy him a cigarette stick in this economy. Maybe 2 pieces of hard candy. He tried to calculate a negligible absence, the balance between useful for him and unnoticed for Alpas. If only they made half the size of a cigarette so it would cost half as much and maybe lessen his chance of ending up in hell for he stole such a small amount that Satan wouldn’t even want him there. 

The gambling table was slippery from the gunk that accumulated from the decades worth of games. He cleaned it twice a week, scrubbed it hard that some of the paint faded. He had to trace them back with paint markers, it did not look decent. But it was enough for the gamblers, aesthetics was never an issue for them anyway. 

Timpi couldn’t resist. It was just not like him. It is not like he needed the money. He had everything within the confines of the land. Shelter – a decent sized room in a concrete structure. Alpas almost legally adopted him a decade ago but he still went on and stole from his foster father. He needed a cigarette to be sane and get through the week before the announcement. 

He couldn’t even remember that last time he held paper money. Maybe he hasn’t. It doesn’t matter because he would have no use for it anyway. Timpi was secure that he was going to stay. So when Aruga and Huni suggested that they randomly draw the ones who get to stay, he was furious.   

“It should be a fair fight,” he said. 

“Not everyone makes enough money for the land. We need the ones who are good to stay.” 

 “Are you saying, you make enough?” Huni said. 

“I guess you’re only saying that because you hold the money, unlike the rest of us who had to depend on whatever Alpas thinks we deserve.”  

“Physically holding money is not always earning money, Timpi.” Aruga added. 

“It’s just supposed to slip through your fingers rather than straight to the box.” 

 Huni finally spoke, “unless he slides it into his pockets, then…”  

Timpi couldn’t hold his temper. He was about to hit Aruga when the dog started barking. Aruga signaled Tahol to sit. 

“Watch your beast,” said Huni. “It might just cost you your spot.” 

Tahol whimpered. Aruga walked away and it followed him away from them.

Short Thoughts on Kurosawa’s Adaptation of Akutagawa

On the surface of Akira Kurosawa’s adaptation of Rashomon, it may seem like we are merely presented conflicting accounts of a murder. The film is a loose adaptation of two Ryunosuke Akutagawa short stories: In a Grove and Rashomon. Although the plot comes from In a Grove, the significant contribution of the titular story is the narrative device and the psychological and sociological state of the film’s characters. The woman and the servant merged into one ethically confused character, the woodcutter.  

There are seven simple statements, written as if pleading for the readers to believe their version of the story, with relevant inconsistencies. Akutagawa gave scarce descriptions, giving readers the characters’ absolute versions of the facts. Kurosawa bridges this scarcity with cinematic narration and possible clues to what transpired that afternoon.

© 1951 RKO Radio Pictures Inc.

Egotism and pride fueled the inconsistencies in the narrative which reveal more about their characterization and not the actual events. No one in the film shifts the blame – each one admitting accountability to the murder and trying to put themselves in the best possible light. The wife thinks that killing her husband would preserve her virtue, the husband gave one last attempt to maintain his dignity by suicide, and the bandit maintaining his notriety. But then comes the interruption of the last testimony, the woodcutter’s. I believe he has a pivotal role in the crime or that he has a self-serving agenda like concealing the fact that he stole the dagger. The fact that it is unresolved is the functional core of the film. Viewers could analyze the cues given by Kurosawa such as camera angles, lighting, length of statements, and body language. Kurosawa’s adaptation could either be a homage of a rebellion against Akutagawa’s withholding of a resolution.  I found a valuable academic article about this by Redfern, which I will reference below. Here is my attempt at tabulating the events that transpired.

If we follow the generalization that there is a protagonist in every story, I’m safely assuming that it is whoever killed the husband because everyone wants to be the killer. I’m taking the cynicism from the film as something we should exercise during these trying times. Fake news are everywhere, time to do some research and reading.

Film:

Kurosawa, Akira, director. Rashomon. RKO Radio Pictures, 1951.

Further Reading:

Redfern, Nick. “Film Style and Narration in Rashomon.” Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, vol. 5, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 21–36., doi:10.1080/17564905.2013.10820070.