Tuesday, January 15, 2008

New Beginning 431

Having lived my entire life as the youngest of eight siblings, it was startling, to say the least, when I became an only child at the age of fourteen. The funny thing is, nobody died.

Two months later, it was still enough to send me into a dull trance if I thought too hard about it.

"You watering those plants, or drowning them?"

I turned around, but kept the spray from the hose pointed loosely in the direction of the garden. Brad was coated in a thin layer of dust that clung to his sweaty arms and face like an extra layer of skin, and I wondered if he had left any dirt in the paddock. I smiled. "It looks like you could use a watering."

"What do you think I'm here for?" Brad pulled his shirt off, and I handed him the hose. He bent over at the waist, pressed the nozzle against the back of his neck, and let out a sigh of relief as the water ran along his face and dripped onto the ground in front of us. Brad stood back upright and gave his head a shake. "I swear, your father is out to kill me, a little at a time."

"Don't worry, you don't actually die," I said. 'You just take root."

I went back to putting water on my brothers and sisters. Sally was about to bloom and she always got mad at me if her buds dropped too soon.

Dad's horticulture experiments had gone horribly wrong, but the irrigation system would be installed by the end of the week and I wouldn't have to spend all my time watering.

Brad would be a magnificent ash tree by then. I'm thinking I might cut him down and use his lumber for baseball bats.



Opening: Liz Royer.....Continuation: Mignon

13 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


"He's got you working Cobra, doesn't he?"

"Yeah," he grimaced.

I nodded. Cobra was sixteen hands of Quarter horse fury, fresh off the track with attitude to spare. Dad bought him because he was cheap and fast, as a replacement for old Argyle who was no longer interested in doing anything more exciting than grazing. Cobra would be the stud that got us into the big time.

I watched Brad as he replaced his shirt. I knew why he was here, too. We used to have Juan, a wiry Mexican who could really break a colt in. But when Dad caught him breaking in my sister Michelle, Juan was sent packing with a few parts missing.

Brad could ride the hair off a horse, and had a way with the colts that made Dad happy. And while most horse people are close to their animals, I knew that Brad was just a little bit closer than the rest of us.

-Khazar-khum


But no. There was no reason for Dad to kill Brad. But by breaking Brad's legs and pocketing the disability payments, he could maybe make up for what he lost when the child support scam fell apart.

--anon.


"Better to die a little bit at a time than to get planted in the ground straight away."

I looked at my brothers and sisters in the garden. The boys were now carrots and celery, more or less, and the girls were sugar beets, eggplants and evergreen saplings for cinnamon and nutmeg.

Dad was a pretty good gardener, and a hell of an algronomist, kind of like an alchemist for plants. He swears he'll transform Brad and me into mushrooms and plant us in dung if we don't keep the place up. I believe him. Brad doesn't.

--Bill H.


Of course, my father was a good and honest man and had never harmed a soul.

So, when the authorities caught up with me and demanded what had possessed me to shove the hosepipe down Brad's throat, causing death by drowning and internal rupture, the answer was simple: Though the manner of my Sibling's loss was intriguing, a book without a body is scarcely worth the cover price.

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

I feel a need for some transition between the opening two paragraphs and the rest. It's like we're moving from a mystery or a historical novel into a romance on a horse ranch with no warning. How long do we have to wait to find out what the narrator's talking about up front?

If she's lived her whole life on a ranch/farm maybe she would say

Having lived my whole life as the youngest of eight kids, it was confounding, to say the least, when I became an only child at fourteen. Funny thing is, nobody died.

Now the transition to the conversation seems less abrupt.

Another possibility is to startwith the conversation and save the info in the first two paragraphs for when you're ready to explain. (I'm assuming this conversation is going somewhere of import pretty fast.)

BuffySquirrel said...

I can believe a fourteen-year-old talking about their "entire life". But as EE says, the sudden switch is jarring. Like ouch.

Sarah said...

Funny. I thought it was a guy talking and you guys think it's a girl. I went back and read it again. It doesn't say.

This is an interesting beginning, but I'd like just a touch more grounding - like is the MC male or female.

It does jar a bit in the transition as was already said.

Dave F. said...

I kept thinking that the narrator was somehow "switched at birth." That would explain "when I became an only child at the age of fourteen."
and "I swear, your father."

I too thought the character a boy. If this were a horse farm, I doubt that the Brad character would suddenly be shirtless in front of a 14 year old girl. He wouldn't think twice about taking off his shirt in front of a 14 year old boy. Unless of course, this is Brad Pitt. There;s sufficient naked photos of Brad Pitt on the internet to satisfy any curiosity we have about "brads"...

IMHO there ought to be a law that the name and / or sex of a character should be revealed in the first 250 - 200 words. I stand about as much chance of being heard on that opinion as snowballs in hades and pork chops at temple.

I knew a fellow who was at home when a car accident wiped out his family. He was cynical and very dark-humored but he never did state his loss in the words you chose - - - Having lived my entire life as the youngest of eight siblings, it was startling, to say the least, when I became an only child. I think I would like that opening better if you explained it in the third paragraph.

I also expected a further reference to "it was still enough to send me into a dull trance".
Instead, the character is just watering the posies and paying attention to them. the way I read Brad's dialog is that he never noticed that the narrator was entranced. The way I read the fourth paragraph, the narrator wasn't deep in thought, either.

Have Brad walk up and poke the narrator with a line like "You water those plants anymore, they'll wash away." and then have the narrator turn and spray/squirt/water Brad's boots. Mindlessly in deep thought. Brad grabs the nozzle and turns it on his head to wet down his hair.

Speaking of that wet hair, why did he take off his shirt if he wasn't going to wash off his shoulders and arms?" Is Brad wearing a tank top? Brad could hand his shirt to the narrator and ask him or her to shake the dust out of it.

lizr said...

Hi, I'm the author. Great continuations! I think it's really funny that two different people turned her siblings into plants.

I appreciate all of the input, because this was originally written as a sequel, and I went back to write it as a stand-alone. It's been way more confusing than I had anticipated.

She's a 14-year-old girl, Rachel (that comes out on page 2). The next line after what's posted is:
I shrugged. "Hey, he's your brother."

What she found out two months earlier was that her oldest brother, Kurt, is actually her father. Brad, who is the brother she was closest to, is her uncle.

There is so much backstory, I've had trouble distancing myself enough to figure out how to begin the story smoothly, and how to sprinkle in all the relevant information without being confusing. I've also considered going back to the point two months earlier and starting the story there.

The gist of it is that other than finding out who she really is (her oldest brother's child who she believed had been aborted), almost nothing else in Rachel's life has changed - still living in the same house, going to the same school, surrounded by the same family members, etc. But over the course of the story, even as she tries to convince herself that she's still the same person, Rachel gradually realizes that this shift in her identity is having a significant emotional impact on her.

Thanks again for the comments. It helps so much to know how it looks to somebody who is completely unfamiliar with all of the backstory.

Anonymous said...

I read this as like a Brokeback Mountain, sexual awakening, kind of thing: both characters are male. Am I right?

Anonymous said...

What she found out two months earlier was that her oldest brother, Kurt, is actually her father. Brad, who is the brother she was closest to, is her uncle.


Oh, OK -- not Brokeback Mountain... Deliverance.

Anonymous said...

Lizr- a really interesting story line. And knowing this, it makes your line about " I swear your father is out to kill me..." (with the hard work) quite poignant, in that they are talking about her father, his brother. A man she had thought was her brother as well.

I've heard a 'real life' story like this. A friend of my husband's. While it wasn't truly devastating for him to learn this, he's said it shook his world view for a long while.

I think you could take care of the jarring by simply placing an extra space of two between the second and third paragraphs, to distance them in the narrative.

I'd read on.

Robin

Anonymous said...

forgot to say - love that continuation!

Robin

Margaret said...

I like the "hook" opening.

Sarah said...

I think you can weave in the backstory with just a little bit here and there. See if this makes sense to you. I think it still needs work.


I became an only child at the age of fourteen. Having been the youngest of eight siblings, it was startling, to say the least. The funny thing is, nobody died.

Two months later, it was still enough to send me into a dull trance if I thought too hard about it.

"Rachel. You watering those plants or drowning them?" Brad was coated in a thin layer of dust that clung to his sweaty arms and face like an extra layer of skin. Two months ago, he was the best brother in the world. Now, he was my uncle.

I smiled and wondered if he had left any dirt in the paddock. "It looks like you could use a watering."

"What do you think I'm here for?" Brad pulled his shirt off and grabbed the hose. He bent over at the waist, pressed the nozzle against the back of his neck, and let out a sigh of relief as the water ran along his face and dripped onto the ground in front of us. Brad stood back upright and gave his head a shake. "I swear, your father is out to kill me, a little at a time."

lizr said...

Deliverance, heheh.

Thanks for the comments.

dave - I see what you're saying, about making it clearer that she's lost in thought. Good suggestions.

Robin - Thanks, and that's really interesting. When I described the premise of the story to my mom, she told me that when she was a bus aide for a special services school, one of the boys on her bus was living with what he thought were his mom and older sister. In reality they were his grandmother and mother. He was about ten years old and, although the bus driver and my mom knew, he had no idea.

margaret - thanks :)

Sarah - I was thinking the same thing about having Brad say her name to get her attention, after a few people suggested getting her gender in there earlier. I also like having her comment on Brad being her uncle. Originally I had Rachel thinking how it was kind of a joke between them, Brad saying "your father" and her saying "your brother", since Kurt had been her brother not too long ago as well, but it kept coming out sounding bulky and awkward. I'll keep working on it. As it stands now, page 3 is where she actually says something about Kurt being her father now instead of her oldest brother.

EE - thanks again!