Student or Learner
Please would you take a look at the first part of my short story, "The Nineties" and correct the mistakes.
The year was 1991, another great year in history of humankind. Statistically speaking, the world was becoming a better place. There would be less hunger, less suffering, less torture, fewer wars, and fewer incurable illnesses. There would be more schools, more books, more hospitals, more homes and more wealthy and satisfied people. 1991 was another small step humankind had to take on its interminable way towards the new trials, victories, explorations and achievements. Of course, some minor mishaps were bound to occur, some massacres and destruction, which humans had become experts on, but that would be forgotten and forgiven by the new generations, who would have their own problems, ideals, goals and preferences.
On a warm and sunny day of 1991, I went to my balcony to read a book. The long balcony was my favourite place. The grapevine, which my father planted years ago, had twined up the wall from the ground floor to the first floor, and its tendrils crept along the metal railing. It was a marvellous feeling to sit comfortably reading a good book and every so often stretch out my hand, pick purple berries and feel their smoothness on my tongue. In the evening, when the sky was teeming with myriads of sparkling stars, I would sip the wine that my father used to make from the same vine and think I was living in paradise.
On that day of 1991, I felt that my paradise was threatened, and I could not concentrate on reading. To the left of me, behind the hill, I could hear a continuous thud of artillery fire. It had been going for days, and I had prayed and hoped it would stop, but my prayers were never answered.
I looked up and saw an airplane buzzing above the sport airfield. In a moment, it seemed to come to standstill, and small dots fell quickly a few seconds before the parachutes opened like bright flowers. To the right of the airfield I could see two white gliders soaring soundlessly like two graceful birds. Sometimes I would watch them for hours, and I could not take my eyes off them. In my little world, they must have felt like the epitome of freedom and beauty. Opposite me, through the leaves of the grapevine, I saw my neighbour Fatima sitting on her porch, drinking coffee and exchanging the latest gossip with two other women. She was in her sixties, with deep lines on her forehead and grey hair she held in a bun. She could neither read nor write, but her knowledge about practical things as cleaning, cooking, gardening, agriculture, and sewing were enormous. Like the majority of women of her generation born before or during the Second World War, she did not have the opportunity to go to school and get education. Now when her five children had moved away and had their own families, she had to find a way to spend her spare time. Gossiping seemed to be the most popular and cheapest way, what with a few chatty women, pastries and pots of strong coffee.
Her husband Selim had recently become a pensioner, having worked as a bricklayer for almost forty years. He did not know what to do with his spare time. I watched him as he for the umpteenth time swept the concrete garden in front of his house. I did not understand why he had chosen the shortest broomstick he could find, and now he was walking bent almost to the ground, dragging the broom in all directions, searching for the microscopic particles of dust and dirt. He woke up at six every morning, as he had done when he went to work, and before breakfast, he would rush outside, grab the broom and meticulously sweep the garden. That work was not enough to calm his nerves, and he would sweep the garden and our street not once but several times a day. Thus, we must have had the cleanest street in the whole country.
To the left of Selim’s house I watched two white cats basking on the porch of the house of another neighbour. They seemed not to be bothered by the sound of the artillery fire. My eyes shifted away from them to my neighbour Mirsad, who was tinkering in the engine of his more than 20 years old Ford, which lately started to cause him problems. If the war in Croatia had not been going on, he would have travelled to Zagreb and easily found needed spare parts, but today he had to improvise and hope that the old Ford would roll a few more months before it finally stalled. The window of his house was wide open and the singer with a grating voice was yelling, “The day I met you I hit the jackpot, you are my jackpot, you are my jackpot.” It was a turbo folk song - a style that combined Balkan folk music with contemporary pop music. It was dreadful to listen to, but it was loved by yokels and uneducated people, who did not want to rack their brains with complicated texts and traditional melodies and preferred a hybrid, which defied all music theories and tastes. Intellectuals scorned it, but as soon as they became tipsy on slivovitz or wine, they would metamorphose into turbo folk fans and sing out, somehow knowing the texts by heart. The music coming from Mirsad’s house was unusually loud, and I asked myself if he with it wanted to drown the sound of artillery fire.
To be continued.
It was a shot by the howitzers every few seconds from a distance about 40, maybe 50 km. Do you still call it a barrage or is there some other word for that?
There might be some other word for that, but I don't know it. Perhaps (since it was constant and there was never any letup), you could say:
It was a constant artillery barrage. Every few seconds another thud. Then another. Then another. It had been going on for days, etc.
(Just imagining it is getting on my nerves. )
Thank you, Tarheel,
I also feel that sometimes my sentences are not written in a proper English, but due to lack of my deeper knowledge of the language, I am not able to express myself as I wished to. For example, now when you have correct the sentence above I see how it is much better than my version.
Thank you for helping me stay busy.