Splitting Actuals from Counteractuals

Yesterday’s post identified the counteractuals in each fictional excerpt from the Flâneurie 8 post. Today, a little experiment: what if the counteractuals are left out, leaving only the observable events transpiring in the narrative’s here and now? Inversely, what if the actuals are removed, leaving only observations that invoke alternate realities — past, future, inferred, desired, feared, unexpected, imagined?

First, in italics, the original excerpt;  second, indented, that same excerpt stripped of everything but the actuals, third, also indented, the excerpt with only the counteractuals remaining

*   *   *

He passes the carousel, the inflatables, the Fun House. When the base of the Ferris wheel comes into view, he’s surprised at the sight of unfamiliar men by one of the tower supports, starting to break it down with their own equipment. He jolts into an unsteady run. Ferris wheel thieves are something he’s never considered. (from Tom Gresham, “The Heir”)

He passes the carousel, the inflatables, the Fun House. When the base of the Ferris wheel comes into view, he sees men by one of the tower supports, starting to break it down with their own equipment. He jolts into an unsteady run.

He’s surprised at the sight of unfamiliar men. Ferris wheel thieves are something he’s never considered.

*   *   *

They summit the clear plastic cup that holds the remnants of my milk tea, steadily growing in numbers and alarm. More and more keep coming — I cannot possibly guess from where — they seem to be produced by the very grass. Several willful ants stray from the cup and try to obtain me for the colony. They are crawling on my bare feet, up my pant legs, through the wild reeds of my hair, some even cross the path of my pen on these pages — they are trying to keep me from writing this. (from Megan Jacobs, “The Ants”)

They summit the clear plastic cup that holds the remnants of my milk tea, steadily growing in numbers. More and more keep coming. Several ants stray from the cup. They are crawling on my bare feet, up my pant legs, through my hair, some even cross the path of my pen on these pages.

They are steadily growing in alarm. I cannot possibly guess from where — they seem to be produced by the very grass. Several willful ants try to obtain me for the colony. They are trying to keep me from writing this.

*   *   *

Close-ups were replaced by Closer-ups: single feature shots. Photographers trained cameras on feet, knees, noses, shoulders, and hands. They dismantled babies frame by frame and then gave the pieces back to mothers who studied the remarkable detail. “Look! Her third toe is the longest of the bunch!” a mother pointed out. Upon hearing such exclamations, photographers wondered if mothers looked at their children at all except in photographs.
Then came the Even Closer-ups: eyelashes, a dimple, a mole, nostril shadows. Again, mothers and photographers lost babies in the pictures. This time they were right in front of the lens but completely absent in the final JPEG files of veins and hair follicles. (from Lindsey Harding, “A Brief History of Baby Pictures)

Close-ups were replaced by Closer-ups: single feature shots. Photographers trained cameras on feet, knees, noses, shoulders, and hands. Mothers who studied the remarkable detail. “Look! Her third toe is the longest of the bunch!” a mother pointed out.
Then came the Even Closer-ups: eyelashes, a dimple, a mole, nostril shadows. This time the babies were right in front of the lens but completely absent in the final JPEG files of veins and hair follicles.

Photographers dismantled babies frame by frame and then gave the pieces back to mothers. Upon hearing their exclamations, photographers wondered if mothers looked at their children at all except in photographs.
Again, mothers and photographers lost babies in the pictures.

*   *   *

The priest lifted the silver cross from my forehead and touched it to his lips. He said the demon was gone but a monster remained. I spat blood in his face, accusing him of fake news, of failure to move on. He said if I loved my family, I’d get as far away from them as possible.
Afterwards, I tried to act normal but my wife refused to leave me alone with our daughters. A fortnight passed before I was allowed back in our bedroom and even then she wouldn’t let me see her naked, saying the way I looked at her made her uncomfortable. While she slept, I kissed the back of her neck where it curves into her shoulder and remembered the promises we made to each other on our wedding day. Then I licked my lips to savour the salty-sweet taste of her skin.
The night I bit her she said I had to go. (from Christopher Stanley, “Oymyakon”)

The priest lifted the silver cross from my forehead and touched it to his lips. He said the demon was gone but a monster remained. I spat blood in his face.
Afterwards, my wife refused to leave me alone with our daughters. A fortnight passed before I was allowed back in our bedroom and even then she wouldn’t let me see her naked. While she slept, I kissed the back of her neck where it curves into her shoulder. Then I licked my lips to savour the salty-sweet taste of her skin.
The night I bit her she said I had to go.

I accused the priest of fake news, of failure to move on. He said if I loved my family, I’d get as far away from them as possible.
Afterwards, I tried to act normal. My wife said the way I looked at her made her uncomfortable. I remembered the promises we made to each other on our wedding day.

*   *   *

But the stage down in theatre’s heart was a sea-pool and the failing light made distances fluid so that Zoe thought she only had to reach out a hand, for her fingers to dip beneath mysteries, to decant shadows and show her … what? Faces? The curve of a cheek or an unbending arm? Stones and bones and sorrow, or perhaps an imprint left by old joy?
Her fingers wrapped themselves into mazes in her lap and Zoe breathed in time with the wind. It was not so much fear holding her in its grip, as a sense of falling.
‘You came back.’ (from Lorraine Wilson, “We Have Always Been Here”)

But the stage down in theatre’s heart was a sea-pool and the failing light made distances fluid. Zoe breathed in time with the wind.
‘You came back.’

Zoe thought she only had to reach out a hand, for her fingers to dip beneath mysteries, to decant shadows and show her … what? Faces? The curve of a cheek or an unbending arm? Stones and bones and sorrow, or perhaps an imprint left by old joy?
Her fingers wrapped themselves into mazes in her lap. It was not so much fear holding her in its grip, as a sense of falling.

*   *   *

Townie boys with bamboo rakes scraped Hawthorne’s grassy common clean. Working for someone’s Uncle Ricco, saving up for a used Mustang to drag race till Uncle Sam dragged them off to fight in bamboo jungles. They’d whistle as you crossed their path, precisely because you were unattainable in the way that girls at a private boarding school were unattainable, like fur coats, soft and desirable but costing too much. (Judith Kessler, “Falling Season”)

Townie boys with bamboo rakes scraped Hawthorne’s grassy common clean. Working for someone’s Uncle Ricco. They’d whistle as you crossed their path.

Townie boys saving up for a used Mustang to drag race till Uncle Sam dragged them off to fight in bamboo jungles. You were unattainable in the way that girls at a private boarding school were unattainable, like fur coats, soft and desirable but costing too much.

*   *   *

Though I’d never been more than passable as a clarinetist, I did have one skill: I can take in an entire score at once, visually, and hear the piece in my head. During undergrad, my friends would come to me the night before projects were due because I could tell with one glance whether a note was off in their counterpoint or whether there was too much going on in the brass. (Kelly Luce, “Two of Swords Counterpoint”)

I’d never been more than passable as a clarinetist.

I did have one skill: I can take in an entire score at once, visually, and hear the piece in my head. During undergrad, my friends would come to me the night before projects were due because I could tell with one glance whether a note was off in their counterpoint or whether there was too much going on in the brass.

 

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