[identity profile] spacemutineer.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] acdholmesfest
Title: Literary Shortcomings
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] scfrankles
Author: [livejournal.com profile] rachelindeed
Rating: G
Characters, including any pairing(s): John Watson; main focus is on Watson & Holmes, also touches on John/Mary marriage
Warnings: minor character death, non-specific references to illness and depression
Summary: Glimpses of a shared life.
Author’s note: Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] thesmallhobbit for the beta! I know that [livejournal.com profile] scfrankles has a special love for micro-fiction, so I chose to use the "1sentence" format, wherein one takes a prompt table of 50 words, writes one sentence for each prompt, and ultimately combines them to examine a character or relationship.
Disclaimer: Thank you, Sir Arthur. Also, I am grateful to the [livejournal.com profile] 1sentence LJ community for the format and also for the prompt table (I used their theme set Epsilon).

The shrapnel did its work in under a second, but if I live to a hundred, I shall feel it still.

“You don't know Sherlock Holmes yet,” young Stamford demurred; “perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.”

In those first weeks, for the only time in our acquaintance, I was more bored than he; his eccentricity proved a godsend.

Rooming with one of the greatest forensic minds of our generation taught me many valuable lessons, and the first was to avoid the butter dish.

When making music, Holmes, like all violinists, became an awkward clash of crooked limbs, head listing while his arms flew out, all elbow.

Thank heaven we quarreled but rarely, for my temper ran hot and his cold; as in nature, any return to equilibrium required collisions both thunderous and brief.

I viewed my newly bared flesh with distaste and resolved never again to surrender my mustache.

I used to fancy myself a natural bohemian, but on closer examination, that allegiance is less to my liking.

Only once did I fail to make rent; I was preparing to pawn my pistol when I found that Holmes, without a word, had locked it -- and my cheque-book -- in his desk.

My stories contain no printed acknowledgements, but privately I consider them as dedicated to Mr. Victor Trevor and his father; the one was the first to see in Holmes the makings of a great friend, the other the first to see in him the makings of a great detective, and the public no less than myself shall be forever in their debt.

Holmes chose to ignore the law when he felt the arrest of a criminal would do more harm than good; I needed no convincing to act as his accessory, for these ethics were mine by oath -- felonies be damned.

As he relived his early triumph in deciphering the Musgrave Ritual, I shared his exaltation, for the excavation of his past was as rare a prize as any crown.

He had a keen appetite for interest and applause, but I learned with some unease that he considered common fame a step too far.

He summoned me to Lyon by means of a telegram which consisted of only two words -- ILL SH -- for he knew I would need no further instruction.

“When it comes to tearing incriminating notes from the stiffened hands of corpses, the modern criminal cannot be relied on to do a thorough job,” Holmes remarked with some asperity.

I am aware that he plays upon me too readily, yet the marvelous results he achieves so far outweigh his trespasses that I cannot resent them -- but if I have learnt the wisdom of trust, cannot he?

He referred to his drugs as his solution.

I knew what he must do, but it took me a long time to find the courage to tell him.

She preferred my hand, empty as it was, to a treasure of untold price -- has ever a man married into such good fortune?

Afghanistan has never left my dreams, but gradually its beauties rather than its terrors have grown predominant -- last night I stood in the Hindu Kush, surrounded by snow, while the proud notes of a distant azan called the faithful to their prayer.

Holmes was so well-versed in Shakespeare that it surprised me to find him no admirer of Hamlet; he resented the implication that a man of resolution could ill afford deep thought, of course, but I believe the secret root of his antipathy lay in the Bard’s decision to solve the murder by means of ghost within five minutes.

Many mistook my wife for the retiring sort, but self-effacement was no virtue for a lighthouse; she faced the dark and blazed.

From January to the close of April, my friend’s worst enemy knew far more of his doings than did I.

When he judged the danger had grown too great, Holmes proposed that I should leave him and return to England; I was forced to remind him that he must begin by eliminating the impossible.

“Pray give my greetings to Mrs. Watson, and believe me to be, my dear fellow, very sincerely yours.”

Holmes had been only thirty-seven; Mary, the following year, was twenty-nine.

My wife’s was not the first deathbed I have attended, but a quarter hour after her last breath I found myself still staring down at my clenched hands, waiting to hear another.

Death was a chasm and grief a cliff wall, and I had no heart left to climb or to fall.

As I slid to the floor I caught a confused glimpse of ‘tree worship’ and brown mahogany; my dazed brain informed me: he has only been buried until the sun cleared the oak and the shadow fell under the elm.

I may have been owed a thousand apologies, but regardless, accepted the first.

The water pouring into the Friesland’s hold was near to freezing; I caught his hand, determined that if he were to drown, this time it should be in good company.

“I begin to notice, Watson, that these accounts of yours, embroidered as they are, provide vivid descriptions of everyone except yourself -- what are we to make of that?”

Our humble sitting room has hosted many an eminent guest; at times I tried to observe what effect these commanding presences produced on my companion, but I found that his eyes -- when they were open -- turned less often to them than to me.

“Mr. Holmes,” our landlady said, “I read The Strand the same as everyone, and if you can solve a man’s disappearance with a bit of soap and water, like you did with Mr. St. Clair, then rinsing out your chemicals before they stain is not beyond you.”

Crouched behind the headboard, I listened to Culverton Smith and slowly grasped the extent and aim of Holmes’s performance; he was a keen emotional tactician, for he had secured me in such arrangements that I could not storm out, but had to sit in silence until the first flush of both relief and anger passed.

Most days his cravings lie, if not quiet, then at least submerged, but in idle hours his eyes glaze over and his hard-won peace can neither be seen nor observed.

Holmes turned his great powers to the pursuit of justice, yet in the face of guilt he still found place for charity; a remarkable brain he undoubtedly possessed, but his true pre-eminence was that of spirit.

Unsolved mysteries rankled him as nothing else could; one afternoon, a full five years after my Mary’s passing, he finally buckled under the strain and humbly asked, “why James?”

No secrets were safe from him, but a vast number were safe with him.

“Watson, please,” he said, “at this late date the subject is hardly worth discussing, but if you must know, I found your absence costly and the price of your practice a pittance in comparison.”

It was hope, rather than faith, that Holmes placed in God, but that hope was as profound, perhaps, as any mystery.

Age has crept in on me so gradually, I barely noticed when our lovely clients ceased to evoke ‘my dear lady’ and became instead ‘my poor child.’

When I asked him if he had given any thought to retirement, I assumed he would defer the subject -- I’d have thought he’d sooner settle on the moon than in the countryside, but he tells me he has actually bought a cottage.

The borrowed, broad-brimmed hat with its sheer veil covered my face in friendly shadow; the approaching bees, however, seemed decidedly less friendly.

Where are the days going, where the years...how can it be so long since we have spoken?

I’ve a telegram in my pocket, a German scowling at the back of my head, and a song in my heart.

Dear God, what a hideous goatee.

I am not the one fixed point in our changing age; he has always moved me and he always will.

He tells me our dear country will survive the coming storm.

There will be last words for us, of course there shall…but I do not think that there will be an ending.

Date: 2015-05-19 06:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laurose8.livejournal.com
What a great collection! Thank you so much.

I'm not sure the comment box is big enough to name all the best. Learn, Vision, Command, Ghost, Never...and most definitely Bother. I hope we find out, someday.
Edited Date: 2015-05-19 06:13 pm (UTC)

Date: 2015-06-01 11:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thanks so much, I'm so happy that you enjoyed these! I loved hearing which ones stood out to you, that is a special pleasure with this kind of writing :)

...and most definitely Bother. I hope we find out, someday.

Hee, I'm so glad that one made you smile! I do have a personal headcanon about why Mary calls John "James," actually -- a story for another day! Thanks so much for reading, I always look forward to your comments <3 <3

Date: 2015-05-19 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tripleransom.livejournal.com
These are brilliant! I love the way they fit together to tell the story of their lives. The last one is absolutely perfect ...but I do not the that there will be an ending.

And so there never has been.

Date: 2015-06-01 11:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, I'm so happy you enjoyed these! That last one was a favorite of mine, too (and, as you noticed, the most meta of them all!) Thanks so much for reading, your comment really picked me up on a stressful day. Many thanks.

Date: 2015-05-19 06:22 pm (UTC)
ext_1620665: knight on horseback (Default)
From: [identity profile] scfrankles.livejournal.com
(You know that I love microfiction, anon? I wonder how on earth that secret could have leaked out ^^)

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to express how I feel about your story but I’ll have a go.

It’s wonderful. Absolutely wonderful. I was intrigued when I read the header, but a little uncertain. I’d never come across this particular form of microfiction before and I wondered what could be said in single sentences, even when combining them into something bigger. (For me, microfiction is about setting up a situation and then commenting on it. Even within six word stories I like to use as many sentences as possible.)

Then I started reading… and I was just blown away. You say so much using so little. Your writing style is gorgeous—the individual scenes and stories are so, so beautiful. And though they stand alone, they seem to go so naturally together—the cumulative effect had a powerful impact on me.

Really, I could quote everything back at you but I’ll try and pick out the sentences that made the greatest impression on me. “Learn” made me laugh. “Vision” made me nod in agreement with Watson. “Torn” made me smile. “Need” made me come to a complete halt—you so elegantly express a truth. And then there were the ones for Mary: “Fortune”, and “Gentle”—you took that rather bizarre metaphor that Watson uses and gave it such a perfect reinterpretation. And talking about perfect: “Never” ^^ Other ones I especially liked: “Fool”, “Sing”, “Ghost”, “Wall”, “Blur”, “Hold”, “Wash” (^_^), “Bother” (again, ^_^).

Your portrayal of Watson’s grief over Holmes and Mary brought me to tears, and then once I’d recovered, your final sentences made me cry all over again—especially the last three. ...but I do not think that there will be an ending is such a lovely conclusion.

I’m aware that I didn’t give my future assigned writer much to go on in my sign-up. I’m so touched that you took a kind of writing that is very personal and dear to me, and used it to produce this magnificent story. And you even got a pun into the title ^_^ Thank you so very much.

Date: 2015-06-02 12:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Dear scfrankles, thank you so much for this beautiful comment and for the recommendation you wrote on your LJ page, I can't tell you how happy I am that you enjoyed this story. Seeing that you enjoyed it really lifted me up and had me feeling delightfully buoyant! I was very thrilled when I was matched with you and I hoped that I knew you well enough to write a gift you would like.

It was a pleasure to work on it, getting down a few sentences every night and gradually developing a sense of what fit where and how it should come together. One of the things I particularly enjoy about this format of writing is that it invites you to try to make each individual piece as meaningful as possible but also to think about how they can play off of each other and carry on the longer story that the earlier pieces have started. It's very satisfying to work on. And I agree with you that one of the great things about microfiction is the ability to set up a situation, theme, or expectation and then comment on it, and I find that putting those one word titles up front and then showing your readers which way you have spun them is particularly fun in that respect.

Thanks so much for telling me which individual pieces were particular stand-outs for you, that's so fun to hear! And as it happens you picked many of my personal favorites, too. I'm especially glad that you liked the ones about Mary. I've always thought it was beautiful that Watson, the famous 'conductor of light' and 'stormy petrel,' referred to the woman he loved as a lighthouse who stood as a beacon to birdlike, storm-tossed souls.

Ha, yes, also glad you noticed the pun in the title! That line of Watson's from The Copper Beeches is possibly my favorite bit of his snark in the whole canon (though the opening of Musgrave Ritual and Valley of Fear give it stiff competition). I can just hear his wry tones in my head saying from which he emerged, in no very sweet temper, to lecture me upon my literary shortcomings -- so I was very gleeful about having a chance to steal it :)

Thanks again for your lovely and generous feedback, and for the inspiration to write this piece. It has made me happy, and I'm very glad you were happy with it, too <3 <3

Date: 2015-06-02 09:05 pm (UTC)
ext_1620665: knight on horseback (Default)
From: [identity profile] scfrankles.livejournal.com
I must say I'd guessed you were the author of this work ^^ I wasn't absolutely certain but it did seem like your style.

I feel so terribly lucky that you were matched to me. You're an exceptional writer - thank you again for writing this brilliant piece. I hope many, many more readers see it and enjoy it!

Date: 2015-05-19 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] jcporter1.livejournal.com
I'm sure I'm not the only one hurriedly printing this out and pinning it to the wall by my desk.

Date: 2015-06-02 12:40 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Wow, that's an amazing compliment and I can't tell you how happy I am that you enjoyed this! Thank you so much <3 <3

Let the Squee Resound Throughout the Fandom!

Date: 2015-05-19 10:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] scfrankles referenced to your post from Let the Squee Resound Throughout the Fandom! (http://scfrankles.livejournal.com/14521.html) saying: [...] My gift fic has been posted on , and it's astounding ^^ It's called Literary Shortcomings [...]

Date: 2015-05-19 10:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] debriswoman.livejournal.com
Absolutely wonderful work:-)

Date: 2015-06-02 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! You have such an elegant way with words, I'm so pleased that you enjoyed this :)

Date: 2015-06-03 02:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] debriswoman.livejournal.com
Delighted to learn who the author was:-)
Very well done...and my pleasure.

Date: 2015-05-19 10:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saki101.livejournal.com
These are beautiful, in letter and spirit. Each sentence evokes so much and their total is so poignant. Lovely!

Date: 2015-06-02 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! I always admire your beautiful writing, so I'm very pleased that you enjoyed this :)

Date: 2015-06-02 01:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saki101.livejournal.com
You are most welcome!

Date: 2015-05-19 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gardnerhill.livejournal.com
Brilliantly done. My favorite is "Never" but these are all marvelous and tell the story of their lives together.

Date: 2015-06-02 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! 'Never' might be my favorite, too :) I'm so happy you enjoyed this!

Date: 2015-05-20 01:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hiddenlacuna.livejournal.com
Holy. Shit.

I had never heard of micro fiction before this fic, but I am instantly a fan. So, so beautifully and poignantly done! Bravo.

Date: 2015-06-02 12:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! Your lovely comment made my day when I received it (cussing over my work = SWEET VICTORY). I'm so glad that you enjoyed this and that I got the chance to introduce you to microfiction -- it's a lot of fun to write :) I'm very glad that this managed to strike a poignant tone, that's exactly what I had hoped for. Thanks so much for reading <3 <3

Date: 2015-05-20 10:16 am (UTC)
hardboiledbaby: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hardboiledbaby
Oh, so much love for this fic ♥ ♥ ♥ Every sentence is spot-on, every word, perfection. It's beautiful, anon.

Date: 2015-06-02 12:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Oh, thank you so much! What a beautiful comment to receive, it really meant a lot to me. Thanks so much for reading and for your lovely note, I'm so happy you liked this :)

<3 <3 <3

Date: 2015-05-20 11:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maestress83.livejournal.com
Count me another new fan for micro-fiction, especially when it produces such powerful sentences! I loved Gentle, Never, One, and of course, Last.

Date: 2015-06-02 01:00 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! The ones you've picked out are personal favorites of mine as well, I'm so happy to hear that they came across the way I had hoped they would. I'm so glad that you enjoyed this, and thank you for your lovely note. I do like this form of writing, because it does feel like a challenge to make every line count -- that's the virtue of microfiction :)

Date: 2015-05-20 11:42 am (UTC)
kerravonsen: An open book: "All books are either dreams or swords." (books)
From: [personal profile] kerravonsen
A scattering of gems upon the tables of our minds.

Date: 2015-06-02 01:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Oh, what a beautiful thing to say. Thank you so much, I am so happy you enjoyed this!

Date: 2015-06-02 01:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much, what a wonderful comment to receive! I'm so happy you enjoyed this, and that it succeeded in sketching the lines of Holmes and Watson's lives as they wove together -- microfiction can be such a delicate, impressionistic form, and I'm delighted that this collection managed to speak to you. That is really the highest compliment. And thank you for pointing out the one that stood out most to you, that is so fun to hear! Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words <3 <3 <3

Date: 2015-06-02 01:36 am (UTC)
ancientreader: black and white pet rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] ancientreader
Oh, I somehow missed this till the reveals. Thank you not only for this elegant and moving story but also for introducing me to a form I hadn't been aware of.

And "Wash" made me laugh outright.

Date: 2015-06-02 02:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Yay! I'm so glad that got a laugh! :)

Thank you so much for your lovely comment, I'm so happy that you enjoyed this both as a story and as a writing form. It's a fun challenge to shape a story around a tight kind of structure, and sometimes I surprised myself with the associations that came to mind with particular words. Thanks again for reading -- I always admire your writing and I'm very glad you liked this <3 <3

Date: 2015-06-06 01:41 am (UTC)
ancientreader: black and white pet rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] ancientreader
Meanwhile, I finally got around to looking for your username on AO3. Subscribed!

Date: 2015-06-06 05:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Yay! Thanks so much! That makes me feel great, to be honest. Now if only I didn't write at the speed of molasses :) Many thanks for reading <3 <3

Date: 2015-06-02 10:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] capt-facepalm.livejournal.com
Many mistook my wife for the retiring sort, but self-effacement was no virtue for a lighthouse; she faced the dark and blazed."
I think this is the best description/interpretation of Mary that I have ever read.

Date: 2015-06-02 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rachelindeed.livejournal.com
Thank you so much! That is a wonderful thing to hear, I have always imagined Mary as an extraordinary person. Thanks for reading, I'm so happy you enjoyed it :)

July Tomorrow...

Date: 2015-06-30 06:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] livejournal.livejournal.com
User [livejournal.com profile] scfrankles referenced to your post from July Tomorrow... (http://scfrankles.livejournal.com/15300.html) saying: [...] and I received a wonderful gift fic [...]
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