Wednesday, December 16, 2009

New Beginning 713

I had yet to begin cleaning out Richard’s things. They still lingered in the kitchen, the closets, the den. I couldn’t even delete his old files from the computer. Some of them were years old, but I needed something to hold onto. Fifteen years of marriage, yet I still felt like the memories would become hazy.

Our daughter, Sarah, behaved differently than me. I daresay even better than I had. Everything Richard had been purged from her room. She no longer hung about the house. She’d come in and go straight to her room.

“This place feels like he’s still here, Mom.” She would look at me sadly, but on the edge of her voice was disgust. “Let him go. He was horrible.”

I didn’t know how to respond then, nor do I know how to now when she sees something of his and gives me that same look. Shame still floats on the edge of her sadness. I simply look away. She looks too much like Richard in those moments.

Our son, Andrew, keeps to himself too, now. He used to be very outgoing, popular. He’s become stoic, but sometimes he’ll have an outpouring of emotion. Those days are becoming less and less.

So you see? You couldn't have come at a better time. It's like it was ordained. I think, I have to believe, that vacuum cleaner is just what I need; I'd love to discuss it more with you. Did anyone ever tell you, you look like George Clooney? George is the kind of guy I should have married. Wait. Where are you going? Come on in!

Opening: Xiexie.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Well done. I would:

P1: delete the first "still." Possibly change "still felt like" to "feared."

P2: delete "than me. I daresay even better than I had."

P4: delete "simply" and change period to semicolon.

P5: delete "now." Change "less and less" to "fewer." Possibly change "days" to "times."

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

But that's one thin hope I keep nurturing, that in time such displays will cease entirely. They'll have to, if the kids know any better.

Anyway they'll come to understand it's better this way, no more messy human emotion, no more unseemly bursts of enthusiasm, no more defiant plans of ambition. It's nicer this way, I keep telling them, it's better for all of us with Richard gone.

And if I ply my web right, they'll never tell anyone where he is.

--Panda Rosa

Sighing, I moved the last parts of Richard from the freezer into the trash bags. Sarah was right; no matter how much I marinated, roasted, tenderized or barbecued him, Richard was horrible tasting. At least we still have his skull on the mantle.


The kids, well they are easy when compared to the cat and dog. Rocky, our red border collie, who is afraid of everything, including, and I do not exaggerate, his own shadow, started marking everything in the house. I catch him all of the time lifting his leg and I suspect it is where he smells Richard. I tell him "no" but I can't seem to talk to him any better than I can talk to the children. He also spends a lot of time looking out the window, as if wondering when Richard will be home. I wonder if Rocky will mark him, if he returns.

Now Socks, he doesn't even seem to know he is not around anymore. But, Socks has his own problems. . . .

--Vivian Whetham

Chris Eldin said...

This is really really good! I'd definitely keep reading. It's hard to write something like this without piling it on too thick. I think you nailed it, and I love your voice.

Anonymous said...

Nice. But I can't tell if there's a tense thing going on. Should the beginning be I have yet to begin cleaning out Richard's things?

Dave F. said...

I have bad thoughts about the opening sentence. However, it is my personal preference for language that is causing it. So this is just a suggestion.

If you change this:
I had yet to begin cleaning out Richard’s things. They still lingered in the kitchen, the closets, the den.

to this:
Richard’s things still lingered in the kitchen, the closets, the den.

I think it makes the opening a little bolder and a bit more secure in the statements you make about removing the dead man's belongings. It makes the first verb "lingered" eather than "to be"... And it makes the "yet" in the last sentence more meaningful.

Anonymous said...

You're starting with backstory?? Why?

The "I had yet to begin" phrase implies that the full concept would be "when x happened I had yet to begin..." You've withheld mentioning the X event, apparently to generate enough suspense to keep our interest during this backstory scene-setting description that goes on for Y pages before you finally get to the X event.

I would either start with the X event and somehow work in the critical info contained in the Y pages or else rework this so that the Y pages are not just you telling us how things were before X happened, but more like the inciting incident of your story.

Evil Editor said...

And as for Z, let's not even go there.

_*Rachel*_ said...

This is good. I especially like the subtle twist that starts with the "He was horrible."

Anonymous said...

It's well written. Not for me, but well written. Sorry, that's the best I can offer.

Robin S. said...

I agree it's well-written. I can't put my finger on why - it's not really the backstory issue for me one of the anons mentioned, but, hmmmm.

I just reread, and there's something about the para with Andrew that pulled me out.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like the tense or the distance the MC puts between herself and the story.

"I had yet to begin cleaning out Richard’s things."

While this tells readers the passage is a flashback, it's also a very clinical way to talk about Richard's things. I also feel that "things," is too vague. Yes the passage does become more specific, but "computer files," doesn't elicit an emotional response, nor do I find it odd that she wouldn't delete his files from the computer. Is her computer out of memory so that storing his files necessitates their deletion? Is there a reason she doesn't want to keep her husbands writings?

"Fifteen years of marriage, yet I still felt like the memories would become hazy." Again very clinical. The emotion "felt like" is mild and so is "hazy". Why are the words fear and forget avoided here?

"Our daughter, Sarah, behaved differently than me. I daresay even better than I had." This passage makes the MC sound snobby. How did Sarah behave differently?

I don't feel the emotional impact in the writing. I think this is relying heavily on the "weight of loss" to affect readers. But there's not real conversation with the reader.

Finally each paragraph follows a pattern: vague statement followed by vague example. Some wide brush strokes are in order, but the narrator never brings us in close to the characters.

"outpouring of emotions..." bah

Xiexie said...

Thanks everyone. I forgot that this was even here (I just had finals week and have spent most of this week doing my entire online math course in 4 days).

This does open up with backstory and I think that's mostly because as I began writing, first person present tense emerged and the narrator's reflections have been in the past.

The "clinical" feel of her reflections is more her doing so to cope.

And thanks EE for your changes too.

Xiexie said...

Also, last anonymous. Bah to you too, nameless complainer; however, I do thank you for your criticism.