Friday, October 08, 2010

New Beginning 792

“My dear friend Engel, may I present the most dedicated secretary in the entire Free Russia Association, Nadezhda Volkov.” Sergei’s accent was barely noticeable compared to some in the room. “And Nadezhda, Engel Huber is a reporter from the Fluchtstadt Presse.”

I smiled dutifully as he made introductions, wondering if she was the scoop Sergei had told me about. “She survived a gulag,” he’d said. “Nobody survives the gulags.”

Nadezhda barely glanced up, concentrating instead on prying the pit from the inside of a peach. Some of the juice dribbled down the inside of her arm and soaked into her green silk dress, but it didn’t seem to bother her. “Charmed.”

“She’s the one,” Sergei mouthed.

I quirked an eyebrow. “So, Frau Volkov, how long have you been in the West Germany?”

“Two weeks.”

I was taken aback. “That’s all?”

“What she means,” Sergei interrupted, “is it’s been two weeks since she returned from her trip to the motherland. She’s worked here for over eight years now.”

“A trip to the USSR? That must have been quite a trip.”

Nadezhda smiled flatly. “The borders aren’t impenetrable.”

And neither are you, I thought with a sly smile. At last I would have the chance to prove my ex-wife was wrong when she declared no woman could bear to live with me more than a month.

The way I figured it, a woman who could survive the gulag oughta be able to stand five weeks with me.

Opening: Rachel.....Continuation: Janae/EE


Evil Editor said...

This is okay, assuming it's going somewhere soon. It'll get there faster if we eliminate the peach incident. If the woman's been out of the gulag eight+ years, she ought to be less involved with her peach when being introduced to someone.

It feels like they're at a cocktail party or a formal gathering. But I'd expect drinks and snacks rather than a peach, so I guess it's just lunch hour at work.

If it's been eight years, why is it a "scoop"? Seems like it would have been a scoop eight years ago.

Matt said...

Pretty good. I have no sense of place though.

Dave F. said...

The peach pit and juice getting on her green silk dress threw me off. If she doesn't care about her appearance, why is she dressed in silk? Sorry to be a fashionista but isn't silk hard to wear, too sexy for her and hot? It's not the piece of clothing any woman just throws on to do business all day. It just seemed too destructive and careless an action.

Ellie said...

I agree that it needs some sense of place. "Sergei’s accent was barely noticeable compared to some in the room." Some what? What room?

I liked the peach detail, actually. It made Nadezhda seem a little bit cracked in the head. If that's the intention, it worked for me.

Anonymous said...

I liked the peach part, too. I also like the dress being silk. It tells us something about her that she's not bothered by the peach juice. Like maybe she follows the conventions of dressing up for work, or whatever this scene is, but after surviving the gulag, she has a sense of what is worth getting upset about. The whole peach thing also, for me, wasn't about her wanting the food so much (i.e. becaue of being in a gulag) but about how little she was interested in the meeting at hand.

Overall, I thought this was well-written. Just need to orient the reader a bit.

Evil Editor said...

I contend that if you've been working in the west eight years, you've learned that whether you're interested in meeting someone or not, you act like you are, rather than half-ignoring the person while slobbering peach juice down your arm. It's etiquette 101.

Anonymous said...

Introducing three characters at once is confusing. Can you boot one of them out, say the guy who makes the introduction? His purpose seems to be mainly to provide backstory, and you don't want too much backstory at this point.

Phoenix said...

It kind of feels like this scene is here the way it is only to serve the reader and not the story. The dialog seems a bit stilted and redundant in places. "two weeks" - "been two weeks"; "trip to the motherland" - "trip to the USSR".

I'm wondering if this would work better with less intro'ing and with more internal reaction from the narrator.

When Sergei said he could get me an exclusive with a gulag survivor for the Fluchtstadt Presse, I was skeptical. Nobody survives the gulags. But here she was at the press luncheon for the Free Russia Association and Sergei was showing her off like a prized filly.

"Engel, my dear friend" Sergei said in that cultured voice of his that let slip only a hint of accent, "may I present our most dedicated secretary, Nadezhda Volkov."

We caught her in an awkward moment. Nadezhda was concentrating on prying the pit from the inside of a peach. Juice dribbled down her wrist and soaked into the arm of her green silk dress. Most women would have panicked, but she seemed remarkably unbothered -- by either the stain or me. She glanced up. "Charmed."

"Nadezhda has worked in West Germany now for over eight years," Sergei volunteered. "But she's just returned from a trip to the motherland."

I took quick notice of that, hoping she'd gone back to visit her gulag. Her reflections on what life was like in the USSR now compared to what it had been could be a powerful focus for my article. "That must have been a difficult trip," I prompted.

Nadezhda smiled flatly. “The borders aren’t impenetrable.”

BuffySquirrel said...

Too sexy for her? Wow, what bs.

I didn't get any sense of the narrator, which is a bad thing. The 'I' has to become real or they're just an empty space I don't want to read.

_*rachel*_ said...

Recent continuations continue to amaze and delight me; this is no exception.

You've given me a lot of good stuff to chew on; the story's up for critique on Tuesday, so I'll be doing a lot of chewing.

Yes, you'd think she'd be a little more stable now she's been out of the gulags 8 years. And yes, she's a bit... cracked. One of the reasons for that (the trip back to the USSR) shows up a paragraph or two later, so I'm not too worried yet.

Dave--You've got a point; I'm adding "rumpled" before "green silk."

Alaskaravenclaw--I'm going to have to ponder that. Sergei, Eitan, and Nadya are the three acting characters; the only other two named characters are off-screen.

Phoenix--Wow! I'm going to have to look more closely at that. (I've already fixed some of the "two weeks" redundancy as per your suggestion.)

I'm definitely going to look into elucidating the place (a 10th anniversary gala) and narrator. Eitan is a peripheral narrator, mostly, but more personality wouldn't hurt.

Thanks for the help, everyone!

Anonymous said...

No need to have all three of them in the opening scene, though.

Anonymous said...

'm not sure you need paragraph two. You're basically telling us what the MC was doing while the introductions were done, after the introductions happened.

The peach incident let me very confused for the reason's EE pointed out.

You have lots of description but I can't get a sense of who anybody is. It would also help if you were more clear about time and place. The language here isn't strong enough to set the year and the setting seems like a fancy dinner, but later feels like lunch. What kind of secretary wears silk to lunch? Hell, what kind of secretary can afford silk, let alone not care about it?