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  1. #1
    Bassim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Please, would you proofread my short story

    This is the first part of my short story, The Lieutenant. Please would you proofread it.

    It was a beautiful, sunny spring day when I arrived with a train in a little town, together with dozens of other recruits. Here we were supposed to spend one year of our compulsory military service, learning how to defend our socialist homeland from the numerous enemies, who were envious of our successful country, and who wanted to carve it up and share among them, like jackals do with their prey.

    I looked around me and the scene was not encouraging. The station was unattractive, grey shabby building, and the streets sleepy. Above the roofs of the houses towered high hills covered in the patches of mists, which drifted around them uncovering a dense fir wood. The scene could have been from a romantic film, had it not been for a pungent stench coming probably from a factory. It was so strong that it bet me in my eyes and made them red.
    Two soldiers came up to us and ordered us to line up in twos, and lead us through the almost empty streets of the town. The only sign of life were numerous cars with scantily dressed tourists on their way to the Adriatic Sea. They would slow down their foreign cars and look at us with curiosity, and probably with pity. Their goal was beautiful beaches with golden sand and our thick barracks walls.
    When we arrived to our final destination we received the same treatment reserved for all recruits on this planet no matter the political system of their countries. And that means taking off civilian clothes and donning military uniforms, cutting hair short and turning into an anonymous cog in an enormous military machine.

    They gave us some weeks respite until we took an oath promising to defend our homeland until the last drop of our blood and be ready to sacrifice our own lives. I felt stupid uttering these solemn words because I was not ready to sacrifice my precious life for some communist bigwig, who lived like a king and at his spare time went into woods to shoot bears and deer, while ordinary people hardly made ends meet.

    However, the majority of my fellow recruits believed in every single word of the oath and were ready to die for the ideals of socialism and communism. Already from the beginning, I understood that it was impossible to discuss the veracity of these sacred ideals with other people without risk of being seen as a traitor and therefore I decided to keep my mouth closed.
    The next day started our drills with weapons and long marches into the hills. We were like cattle and our officers drove us whenever they wanted, forcing us to the limits of our physical and mental endurance, without anyone of us having the courage or own will to refuse to obey the orders, which often seemed completely meaningless. We were so exhausted at the end of the day that everyone was dreaming only of two things: a dinner and a bed.

    Watching the evening news in a TV lounge was compulsory, but I would simply close my eyes and imagine my girlfriend, her large, dark eyes and her long dark hair, while the newsreader from the TV set hanging from the ceiling was reading about new achievements of our country, as well as the new decrees issued by the leaders of the Party.

    These 30 minutes of ideological propaganda were meant to strengthen our belief in the political system and society, but I had used them to daydreaming, as an escape from the harsh reality. In those early days, I thought I should have fled the country as soon as I had received my draft card. Now I should have been somewhere in the West sitting in a cafe and enjoying warm days outside, but instead I was experiencing the most difficult moments of my life in this godforsaken town.

    One day I discussed our predicament with another soldier, who was elder than I was, and whose military service was nearing the end. I told him about my feelings and he chuckled and said, “You’ve seen nothing. Wait until the Lieutenant returns from his holiday.”
    I asked him who the Lieutenant was, because once I overheard people talking of him with unease, and the soldier answered, “Wait until you see him. But my advice to you is to give him a wide berth whenever you can.”
    TO BE CONTINUED

  2. #2
    licinio is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    I'm a learner myself and I've tried practising my knowledge by editing your well written and interesting story. Let's wait what other people have to say...

    It was a beautiful, sunny spring day when I arrived by train in a little town, together with dozens of other recruits. Here we were supposed to spend one year of compulsory military service, learning how to defend our socialist homeland from its numerous enemies who were envious of our successful country and wanted to carve it up and share it among them, as jackals do with their prey.

    I looked around me and the scene was not encouraging. The station was unattractive, a grey shabby building, and the streets sleepy. Above the roofs of the houses towered high hills covered by patches of mist, which drifted around them uncovering a dense fir wood. The scene could have been from a romantic film, had it not been for a pungent stench coming probably from a factory. It was so strong that it bit my eyes and made them red.
    Two soldiers came up to us, ordered us to line up in twos and led us through the almost empty streets of the town. The only sign of life were numerous cars with scantily dressed tourists on their way to the Adriatic Sea. They would slow down their foreign cars to look at us with curiosity, and probably with pity. Their goal was beautiful beaches of golden sand, ours thick barracks walls.
    When we arrived to our final destination we received the same treatment reserved for all recruits on this planet, no matter the political system of their countries. That means taking off civilian clothes and donning military uniforms, getting a buzz haircut and turning into an anonymous cog in an enormous military machine.

    They gave us a few weeks’ respite until we took the oath promising to defend our homeland to the last drop of our blood and be ready to sacrifice our own lives. I felt stupid uttering these solemn words because I was not ready to sacrifice my precious life for some communist bigwig, who lived like a king and in his spare time went into woods to shoot bears and deer, while ordinary people could hardly make both ends meet.

    However, the majority of my fellow recruits believed in every single word of the oath and were ready to die for the ideals of socialism and communism. From the very beginning, I understood that it was impossible to discuss these sacred ideals with other people without risk of being seen as a traitor and therefore I decided to keep my mouth shut.
    The next day we started our drills with weapons and long marches on the hills. We were treated like cattle as our officers drove us wherever they wanted, pushing us to the limits of our physical and mental endurance, without anyone of us having the courage or willpower to refuse to obey the orders, which often seemed completely meaningless. We were so exhausted at the end of the day that everyone was dreaming of only two things: a dinner and a bed.

    Watching the evening news in a TV lounge was compulsory, but I would simply close my eyes and imagine my girlfriend, her large brown eyes and her long dark hair, while the newscaster from the TV set hanging from the ceiling was reading about the new achievements of our country, as well as the latest decrees issued by the party leaders.

    These 30 minutes of ideological propaganda were meant to strengthen our belief in the political system and society, but I took advantage of them to get lost in a daydream, as an escape from the harsh reality. In those early days, I thought I should have fled the country as soon as I had received my draft card. Now I would be somewhere in the West sitting in a cafe and enjoying warm days outside, but instead I was experiencing the most difficult moments of my life in this godforsaken town.

    One day I discussed our predicament with another soldier who was older than me and whose military service was nearing the end. When I told him about my feelings he chuckled and said, “You’ve seen nothing yet. Wait until the Lieutenant returns from his holiday.”
    I asked him who the Lieutenant was, because once I had overheard people talking of him with unease, and the soldier answered, “Wait until you see him. But my advice to you is to give him a wide berth (?) whenever you can.”
    TO BE CONTINUED

  3. #3
    Bassim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    licinio,
    Thank you for trying to help me. Unfortunately, native English people who could help do not do that on this forum any more. Before, in the past there were teachers who would look at almost every text on this forum and come with suggestions, but they have gone. So I feel like an idiot every time when I post my short story here, knowing that nobody would bother to look at it.

    Good luck with your English.

  4. #4
    licinio is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    I know what you mean, Bassim. I've posted stories and articles myself, but seldom have I received feedback from more expert users, let alone teachers. Given that there is very little activity on the forum as far as essay correction is concerned, I've sometimes tried to liven up the threads with my posts, because, incidentally, I consider editing an interesting activity for an advanced learner and something that can teach him a lot.
    I realise on the other hand that editing is time-consuming and often requires interpreting someone else's thoughts that may not have been written in a crystal clear style, and this can discourage teachers from intervening in this section. It's a lot easier to correct blatant grammar mistakes in a prefab drill than taking the trouble to move words around in a sentence written by the speaker of another language, often free from errors but in a style that a native speaker would hardly have used.

  5. #5
    licinio is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    I would like to ask a question about this sentence Bassim wrote:

    In those early days, I thought I should have fled the country as soon as I had received my draft card. Now I should have been somewhere in the West sitting in a cafe and enjoying warm days outside, but instead I was experiencing the most difficult moments of my life in this godforsaken town.

    While I'm convinced that the use of perfect conditional (should have fled) is correct as it describes irreality, i.e. something that didn't happen, I'm not sure about the use of the same tense later in the sentence (I should have been).

    In this case it doesn't refer to something that didn't happen in the past, but to a contemporary action or state, and therefore I would choose a present conditional (I should be). What do you think?

  6. #6
    licinio is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    Nobody has ever replied to the last question I asked, so I'll just post this to revive the thread. Thanks.

  7. #7
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    It's OK because it's tied to the original decision not to flee.

  8. #8
    licinio is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    I see. I had a doubt because you can have mixed conditional sentences where a past impossible event (expressed in the if-clause with a past perfect), is speculated upon with regards to a present status, expressed with a present conditional, such as in:

    If I hadn't turned down his offer, I wouldn't be worrying about money.

    It is different from a type 3 conditional sentence that only refers to the past

    If I hadn't turned down his offer, I would have been able to take the new job right away.

    I just thought this might be a case of the mixed type. Would it sound grammatically wrong to use a present conditional?

  9. #9
    Tdol is online now Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    To me, it would work with would be somewhere in the West, but should be doesn't work as well.

  10. #10
    licinio is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Please, would you proofread my short story

    Are you saying now a present conditional is right? I thought you'd said the past conditional was ok! Now, to recapitulate: which (1. or 2.) would you choose in the following sentence? (Just leave the should/would choice behind. It's not what interests us now).
    My choice, as I said earlier, would be 2, present conditional, because it's a mixed conditional sentence in my opinion (impossible past event - unreal present situation). Thanks.

    In those early days, I thought I should have fled the country as soon as I had received my draft card. Now I
    1. should have been
    2. should be
    somewhere in the West sitting in a cafe and enjoying warm days outside, but instead I was experiencing the most difficult moments of my life in this godforsaken town.

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