Monday, September 27, 2010

New Beginning 787

In retrospect, Thomas Kidd decided, they shouldn't have followed the ghost to the strip club.

They'd been tracking Aubrey Littleton for just under a week. In life the guy had been a real-estate developer, not a master criminal, so he made the classic fugitive mistake of contacting family members. He had called his daughter, which Kidd learned by stealing her cellphone from a gym locker, dumping the 'recent calls' list, and returning it before she'd finished Pilates.

The list showed a fourteen minute call from a payphone. Littleton probably thought that was clever, but it was actually pretty stupid. In the twenty-first century, when everybody walked around with a phone in their pocket, payphones had become as rare as pinball machines. And, like pinball, they'd somehow become objects of nostalgia. There were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining public telephones, appended with little notes about them ('lots of graffiti'; 'classic aluminum booth'; 'handset smells like piss'). Maybe they even had annual conventions.

Kidd thought it was silly and a little sad, but the sites were occasionally useful. An aficionado named 'Crunchwhistle 2600' had pinpointed Littleton's payphone ('coin-return lever broken') to a gas station in Kent, a small town about sixty miles north of New York City. The phone was within walking distance of a motel, where two twenty dollar bills bought them Littleton's room number and the license plate of the car he was using. The car wasn't there, but the counter clerk, still happy from his $40 windfall, told them that Littleton frequented a titty bar down the road in Mahopac, the next town over. And that's where the trouble began.

Now, it shouldn't be hard to find a titty bar in a place the size of Mahopec. You just drive down the main drag until you spot a place that's open at night and has a parking lot full of semi-trucks and cop cars. But Kidd was that rare male who refused to use his instincts and intuition for directions; he wanted a road map. Trouble was, in the twenty-first century, when everyone drove around with a GPS in their car, road maps had become as rare as video cassettes. But as luck would have it, there were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining gas stations that stocked road maps, along with the usual notes ('bathroom smells like an outhouse'; 'still carries Pixi Stix'; 'condom machine broken').

MapGeek2006 had pinpointed an Exxon station that still had road maps and still had its Esso sign. Kidd made his way there, but all they had were maps of West Virginia and Ohio. The owner said there was no demand for road maps of the local area because the only people who stopped at the station were locals and they already knew their way around, but some of them had family in West Virginia and Ohio, so they would buy maps when they were going visiting. Anyway, Kidd bought himself some Pixi Stix and walked out, and that's when they met the ghost, who said he'd lead them to the titty bar, the one where, as I mentioned, the trouble began.


Opening: Sean McCluskey.....Continuation: Evil Editor

15 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


You see Aubrey Littleton, what a girlie name, was more than a real-estate developer and less than a master criminal. He was an contest enterer, and consequently, a winner which made him the new star of Gost Hunters and if that doesn't spell trouble in a tittie bar, I don't know what does.

--anon



One of the strippers at the titty bar had a biker boyfriend. Kidd tried to use his tough guy routine; the one that used to work on the Meth heads in Tarrytown, it didn't work. Kidd confused the biker's girlfriend, Titania the Teutonic Titmouse, with her BFF Tiffany of Tonowanda and the ensuing tussle toppled his tactics. Those weren't the days he wanted to remember. Kidd cursed his ADD. Three days ago, he found Littleton's "lady luck" at Lester's Lick & Prayer Ladies On A Pole Pub at the corner of Lois Road and Lake Lane near Lenny's Lascivious Licorice Kart. Lunkhead, the muscle-bound, hairy and unbathed protector, pimp and live-in lover of Lady Luck was offended and took after Kidd with a lug wrench. In the annals of bar fights, this was the only time a pay phone was embedded in a patrons anatomy.

--Dave F.

Evil Editor said...

Usually men's gym lockers are in a different room from women's, so a guy would look pretty conspicuous going into a women's locker room and breaking into her locker and fiddling with her cell phone.

Also, if the guy hasn't checked out of his room, I might wait for his return rather than drive to another town if there's no certainty he's at the bar. Unless he's a dangerous criminal, of course.

But those are minor points that are probably dealt with in the book. I do think once the ghost is mentioned, we want you to get to that without quite so much detail about other stuff.

arhooley said...

I think you can cut some chatter. Specifically:

Once you say he's stolen his daughter's cell phone, I don't need "dumping the 'recent calls' list, and returning it before she'd finished Pilates." He broke into her locker and looked at her cell phone records.

"And, like pinball, they'd somehow become objects of nostalgia." Doesn't need "somehow."

You can lose "Kidd thought it was silly and a little sad, but the sites were occasionally useful."

And I'd read on -- it seems clever and lively.

fairyhedgehog said...

The first line is absolutely brilliant! I do think as EE says that it would be good to get on to the exciting stuff a bit quicker after that. There are lots of fun details but they slow the story up a lot.

sylvia said...

I think the continuation does a great job of explaining how the beginning is slowed right down by the excessive explanations. The opening line is great though and I'd read through a few pages of chatter to find out more!

_*rachel*_ said...

It's not my genre, and I shy away from media with strip clubs.

I do wonder how Kidd was able to steal the cell phone. He sounds like the sort of person who'd be conspicuous in a gym.

That said, this is excellent. If I set it down, it would be for personal tastes, not the writing or story. The first line is what really grabs you.

Dave F. said...

Cut in half. One of my favorite editorial comments. Even my best friends at work used to curse me for saying that to them.

Like this:

In retrospect, Thomas Kidd decided, they shouldn't have followed the ghost to the strip club.

They'd been tracking Aubrey Littleton for just under a week. In life the guy had been a real-estate developer, not a master criminal, so he made the classic fugitive mistake of contacting family members.


The list showed a fourteen minute call from a payphone. Littleton probably thought that was clever, but it was actually pretty stupid. There were websites where people listed the numbers and locations of the few remaining public telephones,

The phone was within walking distance of a motel, where two twenty dollar bills bought them ...the fact that ... Littleton frequented a titty bar down the road in Mahopac... And that's where the trouble began.

Keep all the deleted words for other times but open with brevity. I would even shorten what I left -- but that gets into stylistic concerns. Like the others say, get to the trouble.

Anonymous said...

Usually it works best to begin with a gripping scene that has a beginning, middle, and end. You have some intriguing elements etc but the rambling reminiscences structure isn't working.

vkw said...

I liked the first line and then was disappointed. There is some clever writing here and clever ideas but I'm halfway through the 2nd paragraph wondering what happened to the ghost.

do ghost use phones?

And, do they really call loved ones if they can?

I want the answers to these questions not the descriptions of payphones.

vkw

Dominique said...

I'm in love with your first line.

The rest of it, not so much. You've got a great voice, and it really shows, which is a great quality, and you're writing's funny, which can keep a reader going longer than they might otherwise. But, you've just devoted 200 words to phone booths. Even if they're the most brilliant 200 words, you'll lose your reader by 150. I'd recommend boiling that down to the essentials.

Keep the voice. Trim the fat.

Sean said...

Thank you for the feedback, everybody. The chosen continuation was brutally effective in highlighting the problems, not to mention very funny.

This is actually the whole first chapter. I want to show that Kidd is a clever and experienced investigator, but I also want people to keep reading. Time for a trim.

Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Okay, isn't this the second titty in a cont. in the past few days?

Chicory said...

What, no occlusion of a payphone jokes?

I really like the voice, and the first line is definitely a grabber. :)

Evil Editor said...

Okay, isn't this the second titty in a cont. in the past few days?

It doesn't count if there was also a titty in the opening.

alaskaravenclaw said...

Sean, you've got a whole novel to show he's a clever and experienced investigator, right? Your first page, hit the ground running. And then don't stop to explain why you're running.