It’s Week 3, friends! This week, my draft got a special treatment from my super awesome critique partner Ariana Townsend! Her critique was full of kind encouragement and great nuggets of grammatical wisdom, which helped rein in my bad habit of writing in fragments and repetition.
Below are screenshots of Ariana’s comments and suggestions. Based on her feedback, I tightened the draft with some quick revisions, which surprisingly resulted in a net increase of only 6 words!
And here it is, my first round of CP edits! Changes made are in bold.
The Crow on a Birch
Adult Contemporary – 830 Words
I sit stiff in the chair, wrapped in humiliation. Across the table, the trio wearing varying shades of managerial blue peer at me with pity in their eyes.
The middle one clears his throat. “I’m afraid the merger re-org has eliminated your position. We’re sorry, but we have to let you go.” The others nod solemnly, their lips turned down in false grief.
You bastard! I want to shriek into his lying, scheming face. For all the years I’ve loved him, I truly hate him now. My jaw aches from the clench of my teeth, but I have only my own stupidity to blame.
Shame on me for believing I could ever be more than a pawn to him. He’d seduced me, lured from me my greatest work, then claimed it for his own before dusting me aside like a pesky cobweb. He thinks my meekness means I’d never fight back, yet he can’t risk keeping me around. Not on the off chance I might expose his incompetence to his new overlords.
Fury consumes me, but I don’t give him the satisfaction of losing my cool. I refuse to let him see how his betrayal has broken me, how he’s crushed my heart and my self-worth with his hateful silver tongue.
I glare at him, watching him squirm, waiting for him to justify what he’s done. His theft I can stomach. Chalk it up to a lesson learned for my naive trust. But to take away my job, the one thing I live for? How could he?
For one miniscule second, his features soften. “You’ll be pleased with the severance package. It’s enough to set you up for early retirement.”
My rage threatens to shred my last ounce of dignity. How dare he try to buy me out! It’s not about the money. It was never about the money. My boring but rapidly compounding index funds alone can cover me and my orphan heirs at the local Casa de Los Ninos for perpetuity. So fuck him and his severance.
“You’ll regret this.” Fists balled, I get up and walk out, leaving all three sitting there slack-jawed.
I go to my desk to gather my things, but there’s nothing there worth gathering except for the lucky bamboo stalk I received from my assistant one Lunar New Year. She too has been let go. I grab it by its fragile blue vase and exit what was once my sanctuary into glaring sunshine.
Now what? I dread going back to my lonely apartment. To my lone chair at my lone table watching some laugh-tracked re-run with my lone microwave dinner. No, I’m not ready for that. Not when it’s barely even noon.
I stroll past the bus stop, wandering aimlessly, seeing things for the first time. Cars sitting in smoggy traffic. Candy wrappers littering the sidewalks. A hotdog cart inside a lush park I didn’t know existed.
I buy a footlong loaded with extra relish and take it to a wooden bench. Nearby, a shimmering crow caws at me from atop a speckled white birch. I toss a few crumbs in her direction, but a flock of geese quickly swoop in and swipe them away.
Tears flood my cheeks for us both. But the crow simply retreats, making no move to compete for the bread. She waits patiently, watching me until I break off a chunk of hotdog and offer it to her from my hand. She rewards me with a cock of her head and a stroke of her silken feathers, the obsidian beads of her eyes fast on mine as if to tell me a secret.
Let them act the geese, clambering for crumbs. Be the black crow, and feast atop the birch.
I decide I want revenge. Not the malicious kind where I hijack the firm’s system and turn my code onto itself, letting it eat away its efficiency like Pac-Man on dots. That isn’t me. I’m not that obvious.
Instead, I envision myself playing Andy Dufresne, crawling through five football fields of shit and coming out clean on the other side. That’s the kind of revenge I want.
It takes me two solid years, but I design a new software suite even more efficient than the last. I know my old code like the back of my hand—all its wonders and all its flaws. I use that to my advantage. I heed client reviews and develop features lover boy could never imagine with his non-existent creativity.
In short, I best my own work, then turn around and sell it anonymously to his competitor for half its worth. Yes, I’m petty like that.
It only takes three quarters for his clients to flip allegiance. Meanwhile, I make weekly visits to the park, feeding the crow and collecting the shiny trinkets she brings me. All while watching the startup I helped build crumble.
But my sadness is fleeting. My heart knows no sympathy for self-serving geese.
As you can see, things pretty much stayed the same content-wise, but thanks to Ariana, this version definitely feels cleaner and nippier. It’s been a blast working with her, and I’m so grateful for her help in getting my story one step closer to final.
And that’s it for my CP-edited third draft! I’ll be sending this version to my next round of critique partners, Rebecca and Kristen, and processing their feedback in next week’s post. Thanks for tuning in and following along!