A Writing Exercise Inspired by Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe
Thanks for this exercise. I have never seen it before and thought you did an outstanding job. That very short story seemed very long to me when it came to memorizing the exact words.
That's an interesting exercise. I actually low-key do a version of this exercise when I try to recreate one of my favorite Italo Calvino short stories called "Making Do." Here I will attempt to recreate it, then I will link a version I found online (which I DID NOT review before writing). I haven't read this story from its original text in well over a decade but I've retold it so many times, so, let's see:
There was a town where everything was forbidden. Because the authorities forbid everything one by one, and always with good reason, the townsfolk never complained and set their attentions to what wasn't forbidden. After a while the only activity not forbidden was tip-cat, so the townsfolk played tip-cat.
So it went for many years until the authorities considered the situation and realized they couldn't remember why anything was forbidden anymore. They talked it over and decided there was no cause to keep everything forbidden.
They went to the town field, where all the townsfolk were engaged in a game of tip-cat.
"Hear ye hear ye," they said, "Nothing is forbidden anymore."
"Great," the townsfolk said, and returned to their game of tip-cat.
"I don't think you understand," the authorities said, "nothing is forbidden. You can do anything you want to do now."
"Great," the townfolk said, "we would like to play tip-cat."
Well the authorities removed themselves from the field and discussed it amongst themselves. They determined the proper course to do was to forbid tip-cat.
"Hear ye hear ye," the authorities cried, "Tip-cat is forbidden!"
At which point the townsfolk revolted, executed all of the authorities, and without hesitation returned to their game of tip-cat.
Now, here's the original:
There was a town where everything was forbidden.
Now, since the only thing that wasn’t forbidden was the game tip-cat, the town’s subjects used to assemble on meadows behind the town and spend the day there playing tip-cat.
And as the laws forbidding things had been introduced one at a time and always with good reason, no one found any cause for complaint or had any trouble getting used to them.
Years passed. One day the constables saw that there was no longer any reason why everything should be forbidden and they sent messengers to inform their subjects that they could do whatever they wanted.
The messengers went to those places where the subjects were wont to assemble.
‘Hear ye, hear ye,’ the messengers announced. 'You are free to do what you want.’
The people went on playing tip-cat.
'Understand?' the messengers insisted. 'You are free to do what you want.’
'Good,’ replied the subjects. 'We’re playing tip-cat.’
The messengers busily reminded them on the many wonderful and useful occupations they had once engaged in and could now engage in once again. But the subjects wouldn’t listen and just went on playing, stroke after stroke, without even stopping for a breather.
Seeing that their efforts were in vain, the messengers went to tell the constables.
'Easy,’ the constables said. 'Let’s forbid the game of tip-cat.’
That was when the people rebelled and killed the lots of them.
Then without wasting time, they got back to playing tip-cat.