Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Beginning 370

The neighbours’ kids were out there playing with their puppy again. Sounds of laughter and tormented yips, mingled with the scent of marigolds and the coolness of summer's last breaths, carried through the open window. Dinner plates stood at ease in the drying rack, squeaky clean, no evidence of the half-eaten roast, while breaking bubbles whispered in the sink.

Emma plunged her reddened hands back into water so hot she could barely stand it: it was no less than she deserved. Her fingers found the cloth and a steak knife, and as she took the knife out of the water, orange sunlight glinted off its lifetime guaranteed serrated edge. It was one of a set, a wedding gift from one of their friends. One of his friends. She wiped off the suds and set it to dry.

The white detergent bottle perched on the window ledge brought to mind her tiny ceramic Madonna on the dining-room sill. She’d have to wash the blood off that, too.

Emma cursed the day she'd stumbled upon that article in Cosmo, "12 Ways to Spice Up Your Love Life." Number five had been, "Reenact a sexy scene from your favorite movie."

Emma had expected Phil to pick a scene from a romantic movie like 9 1/2 Weeks. But Phil had chosen the crucifix scene from The Exorcist. Not having a crucifix handy, Emma had been forced to improvise with the ceramic Madonna. She was still sore.

The only consolation was that next time it would be Emma's turn to choose the movie. And macho Phil would be spending the night on Brokeback Mountain.



Opening: ril.....Continuation: Lightsmith

17 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


Emma wiped her hands on her paisley-print apron and walked into the dining room. Sunlight slanted through the blinds, and apple-cinnamon spice wafted in from the kitchen.

Emma reached for the Madonna, but a new sound gave her pause. The neighbor's puppy wasn't yipping anymore. It was growling.

Emma opened the blinds and saw the neighbor's kids forming a circle around the puppy. Clenched within the puppy's tiny jaws was the fleshy, bloody, and freshly-chewed hand of Mrs. Sorenson.

"You're right, Mrs. Sorenson. This was a great wedding present," thought Emma as she placed the knife back with its set and filled up the sink with enough water and detergent to clean a growling puppy.

--Church Lady


The last of the cutlery cleaned, she dried her hands and wandered through to the hallway. Passing traffic flashed across the glass-paned front door, Low moans carried through from the dining room; she slid the door closed. She reached for the phone. The elbowed curve of the red receiver reminded her of the severed arm on the dining-room floor; she’d have to find the carpet cleaner later.

Her fingers dialed the all too familiar number and waited for the operator to pick up. “Home Shopping Network?” Emma confirmed. “I ordered the Slice-EZ electric carving knife from Wednesday’s Kitchen Convenience two hour special? I think you sent me the Branch-Buster Heavy Duty Hedge Trimmer by mistake.”

--anon.


But that was no problem because she would take care of that too. After all her whole life had been ruled by one compulsion or another, and one of them was planning ahead. It had become her dominant compulsion. She became so accomplished in her mission it amazed even her.

After she lifted the Madonna off the sill she made sure no blood was left to trace and went back to the kitchen, washed off the blood, set the figurine in the drying rack, and then poured bleach in the sink, rinsed it out and went to the den where she sat in her favorite chair.

She poured herself a glass of her favorite wine, drank some, and experienced a swell of exulatation
as never before. Now she would review her plan for the next step. There was plenty of time.

--Willoughby3601


Emma walked back into the dining room, where she scrubbed, and scrubbed again.

Mother of God, she thought, who’d have thought a rare roast beef could make so much mess.

--Robin S.


Blood on the Madonna. Blood on the table cloth. Blood on the drapes and the walls and floor.

She sighed as the same thought repeated through her head: No more rare roasts. Cook them well done. No more roasts. Cook them...

--whoever

Robin S. said...

I don't remember seeing a ril opening before. Good one!
I really like your phrasing - such as "Dinner plates stood at ease in the drying rack" and just the simple way you said - "She’d have to wash the blood off that, too" without a lot of fanfare.

So, he's dead, right?

And lightsmith - really good continuation.

Dave F. said...

I'd like you to try this:
Combine the first two sentences into one long or two short sentences.
Start with Emma and the hot water. then use the first paragraph and then return to the second paragraph.

Something like this:
Emma plunged her hands into water so hot she could barely stand it. the scent of marigolds and the coolness of summer's last breaths, carried through the kitchen window along with the sounds of laughter from the neighbor kids and yips from their puppy. Dinner plates stood at ease in the drying rack, squeaky clean, no evidence of the half-eaten roast, while breaking bubbles whispered in the sink.

The hot water was no less than she deserved. Her fingers found the cloth and a steak knife, and as she took the knife out of the water, the evening sun glinted off its lifetime guaranteed serrated edge. It was one of a set, a wedding gift from one of their friends. One of his friends. She rinsed off the suds and set it to dry.


The first paragraph is: hot water to mundane things to whispering bubble.
The second paragraph is: hot water to not-so-mundane things to suds (perhaps it should be bubbles again).

Church Lady said...

I *almost* want to say this was the second continuation in a row I didn't like. Just kidding. It's great, but eww. :-)

I've been waiting for this opening to come up. One nit that I have trouble with-way too many commas.

I really like this opening-a lot. But there's something that needs editing and I don't know what it is exactly. I almost want to build the first paragraph more. Really make the neighborhood look like a Norman Rockwell painting. For example (just an opinion) switch the first and second sentences like this:

Sounds of laughter and tormented yips mingled with the scent of marigolds and the coolness of summer's last breaths carried through the open window. The neighbours’ kids were out there playing with their puppy again. ((and expand here. Add one or two more sentences about normal neighborhood stuff.))

Great job. I'm looking forward to the other comments here.

CL

McKoala said...

I do like this. See, hear, smell, touch, taste. I did wonder if you should introduce Emma slightly earlier, though. I'm not saying cut the description, simply show us that it's from her POV.

Ali said...

The opening definitely intrigued me, I wanted to find out what had happened with the ceramic Madonna. The tormented puppy yips, combined with the knife, brought violence to mind, so if that's what you intended, nicely done.

I have a couple of quibbles. First, Sounds of laughter and tormented yips, mingled with the scent of marigolds and the coolness of summer's last breaths, carried through the open window. I read it, twice, with the word mingled as an active verb rather than a, um...??conjunction? Read that way, carried through the open window is an odd extra phrase that doesn't connect to anything. If you moved carried through the open window to right after the tormented yips it might be more clear.

I also got stuck at "it was no less than she deserved." I thought I knew what you meant, but the double negative threw me. If it was no less than she deserved, that means it was more than she deserved...but why would scalding hot water be more than she deserved? Does that mean she deserves only lukewarm water, but she got hot, instead? I think you could get the same effect with "It was what she deserved," which would be simpler.

Sarah said...

Great work! I love the writing, the descriptions.

I got stuck right off the bat though with the possibility of an abused puppy next door. Maybe if his yips weren't tormented?

And I'm not sure, but I think the steak knife should be 'the' knife and not 'a' knife. Unless, of course, she used more than one on him.

I like the suggestions of having the second paragraph first. And perhaps, some of the commas should be periods breaking this up just a bit more. I think it would flow better for the reader.

Approaching Pat Conroy with the descriptive flow here!

Anonymous said...

Generally well written opening, but I have a few comments.
"No evidence of the half-eaten roast" struck me as odd, since dished in a drying rack never have evidence of what was on them. I think that phrase could be removed from the sentence. BTW, I really like the "at ease in the drying rack".
I think you might also want to cut "it was no less than she deserved". The knife itself does the work of slight forshadowing.
I like the casual mention of the blood!
Good luck, Ril.

ril said...

Wouldn't you know this would come up when I'm out of town. Three weeks in upstate New York and I'm ready to go home...

So many great continuations!

Thank you for reading and for commenting. It really is a gift to get to see your writing through someone else's eyes.

This is from a short story, not a novel, by the way.

"So, he's dead, right?"

No, he isn't dead.

Would it be better if he were dead? I could finish him off. I -- uh, she -- still has the knives. He's right here -- uh, there...

WouldBe said...

I like this opening (first two paragraphs switched or not), and especially liked the offhandedness of the last sentence.

One tiny nit:
The neighbours’ kids were out there playing with their puppy again.

I suggest dropping the "there." It doesn't augment "out" particularly, and unappealingly mirrors the sound of "their," also in the sentence.

Robin S. said...

You've written a good opening, ril, because I really wanna know what happens. Really.

So, if he doesn't die, is he, uh, sculpted in some way? Maybe trimmed? Trimmed might be good.

If not, who's bleeding?

I feel like the kid who says, "Tell me a story."

Bernita said...

Teeny, tiny nit to go along with the half-eaten roast: she wiped off the suds...doesn't she rinse?
The squeaky clean dinner plates suggests she does.
But it's a good beginning.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this and agree with robin s. I want to know what happens next and would like to read this story in its entirety.

This passage kind of reminds me of a Hitchcock setting. Lamb to the Slaughter . . . with a knife, of course.

To answer one of your questions, ril, I'd kill the guy, but that's just me. I did think he was dead already, so if you don't finish him off, it'll be an element of surprise for the reader.

Either way, good work!

GutterBall said...

How funny is that? I didn't assume he was dead at all. I assumed he'd hit her so hard that blood flew. Something about how she's trying so hard to focus on the normality outside her window while nothing inside is right just...I dunno. Tells me it's abuse, not murder.

*wink* At least, not yet. Heh.

ME said...

I liked this quite a bit. The tone was strong in suggestions of violence (words such as tormented, evidence, plunged, knife and of course, blood) and strange pathology, so I was intrigued. I considered writing a cont (too much considering not enough writing)but couldn't decide whether the blood was his or hers. Unless the neighbour kids figure into the story, I would start with "Emma plunged" as others have suggested. I would read on. As a matter of fact, I thought of it while doing the dishes yesterday, so I would also add that the scene has a "haunting" quality.

Anonymous said...

It never crossed my mind that the blood could be hers b/c she's healthy enough to be standing there cleaning it up. Also - with all the details, if she were hurt, I'd think we'd get some hint of her pain.

I agree that the word choice does a lot for the mood/tone of the section.

ril said...

Many thanks again for all the comments. This will help a lot for the next edit.

-ril