Thursday, January 07, 2010

New Beginning 718

Charlie Crampon walked out of the snack shop with a giant slushie in each hand. It was too early for caffeine, too late for food but just right for two double slushies -- giant-size, sugar-filled, brain-freezing buckets of ice shavings. The best companions for nighttime driving his Dad used to say. Two-thirty in the morning and insomniac crickets drowned out the lack of traffic on the highway. Fog chased the mosquitoes, blurred the face in the moon, turned the fireflies into smudges and made the rows of self-service gasoline pumps glow. At the far end of the grassy expanse, a pair of big black dogs, Russian wolfhounds thought Charlie, lumbered out of the woods, howling and baying as they ran across the lawn between the shop and the highway.

An ear-splitting shriek of feedback from the PA system broke the night. The clerk burst out the doors with a shotgun. Charlie ducked behind his car.

"Damn you, you bastards, I told ya not to pull this shit anymore," the clerk screamed in a high-pitched, twangy voice. He tracked the dogs and fired both barrels.

Both shots went wide and the dogs yelped off into the trees. The crickets waited for the last echo of the shotgun blast before resuming their symphony.

With shaking hands spilling brightly colored syrup over his fingers, Charlie drank from each cup, a big gulp of cold raspberry followed by two freezing mouthfuls of Hawaiian Punch. Then he stepped out from behind his car. "Geez, mister," he said, "you really hate dogs, doncha?"

"Hate those two," the clerk replied. "They keep sneakin in my back door and pissing in the Slushie machine."


Opening: Dave F......Continuation: jrmosher/anon.

18 comments:

Evil Editor said...

If there's no traffic, there's nothing for the crickets to drown out.

Too many things the fog is affecting. Get rid of the mosquitos.

I haven't seen black Russian Wolfhounds, although Google images shows a couple with black patches on their backs and faces.

Lumbering is slow. I would think they'd be doing more than lumbering if they're about to run across the lawn.

The clerk told the dogs not to do this, and expects they understood him? Even if he's that stupid, he oughta be smart enough to know he shouldn't be firing a shotgun near gas pumps.

2:30 in the morning is too early for caffeine? If you're driving at that hour, I'd think you'd want caffeine.

Dave F. said...

I really like the continuation. It's better than what I wrote after this.

Bernita said...

Snorted and giggled over the continuation.
The piece appears to have some logical fallacies as EE pointed out but it's nice writing, nevertheless.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

That continuation is hilarious.

I wondered about introducing the dogs at the end of your nice, gentle paragraph about fog chasing mosquitoes, etc. It seems like that's a moment that should get its own paragraph break - unless you're trying to convey that Charlie's in a bit of a stupor until the feedback shriek wakes him up.

I didn't have a problem with the clerk yelling after the dogs. I assumed he was blowing off steam, not that he seriously expected the dogs to understand him.

Matthew said...

Excellent continuation.

I liked some of the imagery, but I found it to be over descriptive.

Crickets are nocturnal. An insomniac cricket would be making noise during the day.

vkw said...

hmmm - I guess I kind of understood the coffee vs. slushi thing. I interpreted it to mean they were getting ready to stop driving but then the nighttime driving whell that threw me. I always thought you would get slushies at 2:30 a.m. if you just closed down the bar or had the munchies.

Moving on -


crickets drowned out traffic on a highway at 2:30 am. There is no traffic at 2:30 and thus they drowned nothing out.

I. . . I am speechless over the fog. I usually think of fog hugging the ground but not at 2:30 a.m. at dawn.

you don't lumber if your running.

This is too problematic and I know I didn't add much.

Here is the main problem - in my opinion - you have too much extracurricular activity going on that the reall hook gets lost in the fog.

sylvia said...

unless you're trying to convey that Charlie's in a bit of a stupor until the feedback shriek wakes him up.

That's how I read it - jolting me out of the quiet moment I was in.

But I did wonder about the clerk's reaction and who he thought he was talking to.

_*Rachel*_ said...

This is like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Leaving aside the matter of whether it works or not, it's a startling shift in tone.

As for whether it works, I don't know. It could. It's just such a shift I'm not sure I could tell from just this section.

driving[comma] his [d]ad used to say.

chelsea said...

You have some very eloquent phrases in here, as usual. I didn't have an issue with the slushie vs. caffeine thing. Caffeine affects people differently, and I'm guessing the coldness of the slushie helps to keep Charlie awake.

I did get the impression, upon first read, that the clerk came outside as a reaction to the shriek of the PA system, because of the way one sentence followed the other. But no one else seemed to have that issue.

Is the clerk yelling at the dogs themselves, or the dogs' elusive owners? From the way he speaks, I felt it could be either.

Dave F. said...

I looked at this with loving eyes and thought it was wonderful. Well, not completely loving eyes.

Later on in the story Charlie says that his dead father used to make a big deal of driving at night when taking the family on vacation. And he does the same out of remembrance. I was thinking of the Robert Duvall character in THE GREAT SANTINI and forgot that I might be the only one to make the connection. Maybe the only one here to have seen the movie.

Those crickets broke the silence of the night,

It's not that it's too early for caffeine, it's too early for breakfast. I should have realized that, too.

The clerk yelling at the dogs...
Either he's doing what we all do with pets and talking to them, or he knows the dogs are not what they seem but something else created by magic. It's this latter explanation BTW. The dogs are holding his two sons hostage. Wicked Wizards.

"He shouldn't be firing a gun near gas pumps." Yes, but the clerk isn't thinking straight. He's more than a bit deranged.

The mosquitoes have been recalled to that amazing example of bad movie making called MANsquito...
;)

Russian Wolfhounds -- I think big, black dogs baying and galloping or maybe galumphing across the green will not distract from the story.

"too much extracurricular activity"
This is why I sent this to EE. I couldn't decide if it was too much. I ought to trust that feeling more than I do.

sylvia said...

I saw The Great Santini!

The latter explanation makes more sense and I don't mind things like that as long as they come clear pretty quickly. (In fact, I kind of like the feeling that I stuck with it to find out the author IS competent, having found what I thought was an error - but it has to happen pretty fast)

Phoenix said...

Brilliant contin!

the dogs are not what they seem but something else created by magic.

Are they the wizards? Or intelligent if they're the ones holding the sons hostage? If so, wouldn't they know that the shotgun would have to be reloaded?It doesn't seem the blasts would scare them back into the trees if they're as close to the station as they appear to be. They -- being fast, long-legged, intelligent pseudodogs -- would likely know they have time to get to the man and tear his throat out or to go piss in the slushie machine. Whichever.

Dave F. said...

Wizards is perhaps a bad word to use in the context of this story. Telepath might be more appropriate.

I draw the reader into quiet nights like Antonio Carlos Jobim wrote about. We think Charlie is trustful, simple, all that. Sugary, over-caffeinated drinks.
The clerk's actions at the dogs are staged and out of the ordinary.
As Charlie drives away, he is flagged down by a young man wearing the remnants of a black suit and a dog. It turns out that the two "wizards" playing as dogs have kidnapped the Clerk's sons and are using them as leverage so the clerk notifies them of new "recruits" like Charlie.
They take Charlie to their farm house under some telepathic form of mind control and then convince him to turn into a dog. For catching Charlie, they give the clerk one of his sins and threaten to neuter and sell his other son as a pet dog.
Dastardly, ain't they? Not what anyone thought in the first 200 words.
But something happens. Charlie never was that innocent. He is freed. The two "wizards" are punished and three other "dogs" are returned to their human form and families.

BTW, I will edit this comment down to a tiny synopsis for when I send this story out to editors.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, the image of a young man wearing the remnants of a dog is a bit too much for me...

Evil Editor said...

If the wizards had my sons, I wouldn't be shooting at their dogs. And if I knew the dogs were the wizards, I wouldn't be shooting at them, either, unless I was confident I would kill them both and knew where they had my sons.

Anonymous said...

(strike)Charlie Crampon walked out of the snack shop with a giant slushie in each hand.(/strike) It was too early for caffeine, too late for food but just right for two double slushies -- giant-size, sugar-filled, brain-freezing buckets of ice (strike)shavings(/strike). The insomniac's best companion his Dad used to say. (strike)Two-thirty in the morning and insomniac(/strike) Crickets drowned out the (strike)lack of traffic on the highway Two-am quiet. Even the highway was dead.Fog (strike)chased the mosquitoes,(/strike) blurred the face in the moon, turned the fireflies into smudges and made the rows of self-service gasoline pumps glow. ( I don't know what you mean by this)

At the far end of the grassy expanse, a pair of big black dogs, Russian wolfhounds thought Charlie, (strike)lumbered(/strike) galloped out of the woods, howling and baying as they ran across the lawn between the shop and the highway.

(strike)An(/strike) Ear-splitting (strike)shriek of(/strike) feedback from the PA system broke the (strike)night(/strike) quiet. The clerk burst out of the (strike)doors (/strike)store with a shotgun, leaving the double doors open behind him. Charlie ducked behind his car.

(strike)"Damn you, you bastards, I told ya not to pull this shit anymore,"(/strike) "Ahhh!" the clerk screamed in a high-pitched, twangy voice. He tracked the dogs and fired(strike)both barrels.(/strike)

This is just a suggestion.

Dave F. said...

The next day when the clerk confronts the wizards, it becomes clear he was not firing real bullets.

Charlie might know that when the shots are fired but he is acting as bait to catch the wizards. The reader won't fully understand that until the end of the story. At this point Charlie only knows that someone is kidnapping young men and selling them into some weird form of slavery. But if you think about it, even that knowledge has to be blocked out of his mind because he's dealing with telepaths. From Charlie's POV, he's simply driving to college.

Somebody else is watching over Charlie.

Sarah Laurenson said...

OMG. That contnuation is priceless.