Tuesday, January 18, 2011

New Beginning 825

She wasn’t at school.

“She has to be. I saw her get on the bus this morning,” Katie said. She tried to keep her voice calm, reasonable, measured. But already the panic and guilt were setting in. She hadn’t actually seen her sister get on the bus. Sure she’d seen the bus pulling up. And yeah, she’d seen her sister walk out the door. But the truth was she hadn’t actually seen her sister get on the bus. Now it was five hours later and her mother was calling.

“I just turned my phone on and there’s a message from the school saying she isn’t there. You’re sure she’s not at home?”

Katie kept her breath steady. “I’ve been home for the last hour and I haven’t seen her. Maybe she went out somewhere?” That was silly. Her sister never went out anywhere. She barely got out of bed. That’s why she went to a special school and that’s why Katie was supposed to watch to make sure she got on the bus.

“I’m on my way home,” Katie’s mom said.

“Yeah, okay.” Katie ended the call on her phone. The school must have made a mistake. Her sister wasn’t home. Katie would know if she was home.

Katie walked through the house once more, shouting her sister's name, as though she might be hiding in a closet or something. She was definitely not in the house.

Ten minutes later she heard the front door and ran downstairs.

"She here?" Mom asked.

"Not a sign," Katie replied, grabbing Mom's coat.

"I'm guessing she might have locked herself in the neighbor's garage again. They won't be home from work for hours."

"What are we going to do?"

Mom closed the front door, looked at me, and took a deep breath. "I rented a couple of DVDs and ordered Vietnamese on the way home. After that . . . it's makeover time! God, when will people realize we have special needs too?"

Opening: Lauren Krystaf.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

I think it's better without the first sentence. It feels like the second sentence is a reply to the first, which makes the reader wonder why there were no quotation marks around the first. It's clear once the mother speaks what the situation is, so we don't need the first sentence.

At some point in this piece someone would mention the sister's name. Surely Katie doesn't always refer to her sister as "my sister."

The conversation is illogical. Once Katie says, "I saw her get on the bus this morning," it should be assumed by the mother that sis got lost after getting off the bus. Yet she seems to think sis is in the house or at the neighbor's house. Katie needs to retract her claim that she saw sis get on the bus, or never make it.

When you're a bus driver picking up kids for a special school, and you pull up in front of a house and see your passenger come out of the house, but she goes somewhere else instead of getting on the bus, you don't just drive off to the next kid's house.

Katie says: “I’ve been home for the last hour and I haven’t seen her. Maybe she went out somewhere?”

So Katie is home when sis leaves for school, and five hours later Katie's been home an hour. Where was she for those other four hours? Surely school lasts longer than four hours. Does Katie attend school?

Katie thinks: The school must have made a mistake. Her sister wasn’t home. Katie would know if she was home. The school didn't say she was at home. They said she wasn't at school. That can hardly be a mistake after this much time has passed.

none said...

We're told that panic and guilt are setting in, but nothing in this opening shows us that Katie feels anything at all. She's able to conduct a rational conversation, for one thing. I remember having a panicked conversation with the police, once; I couldn't even get out my phone number correctly. Someone who was monitoring on the police end had to interrupt to say what the number was.

That's the sort of state of mind you might want to show us here. When you panic, your brain stutters.

Also, if the school couldn't get hold of the mother on her cell phone, wouldn't they call the house?

Anonymous said...

What mother doesn't turn her phone on for five hours?? Throw in the special needs and I just don't buy it. Also, our school doesn't just leave a message--if you haven't called your child in and she doesn't show up and the school can't reach you, the police will follow up. That may be extreme, but it seems to me that when a special needs child doesn't show up and no one has called to excuse her, they might do more than leave a message.

If you want us to believe that the bus driver didn't see her, you need to make clear that the bus stop is not right in front of the house.

Calm, reasonable and measured all telegraph essentially the same thing and none is interesting enough on it's own to make the listing add to your writing. Otherwise, the voice feels about right for the character and is well done.

LOVE the continuation!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Yes, all the logic issues that EE notes. I especially wondered why if the sister had walked out after the bus pulled up why the bus had either left without her or the kids weren't watched when they were left off at school.

Maybe the sister planned an escape, and snuck out somewhere between walking into school and going to her first class, but right now this doesn't read quite true to circumstance.

What I like about this passage, though, is how the author lets it unfold, serving out bits as the story rolls along. Too often we see an unrelenting info dump. It also seems to start in the right place, too. So good job on those points!

Dave Fragments said...

When you're a bus driver picking up kids for a special school
you don't just drive off ...

My Mother watched a neighbor's child get picked up every day for many years. The drivers of the vans didn't move that van until they knew everything was OK. They would knock on the door if she didn't come out for a pick-up and would walk the girl to the house and make sure she was inside before they left.

And on the rare occasion an adult wasn't at home for a drop-off, the van sat and waited. they were not allowed to leave the child with a neighbor.

Sylvia said...

What I loved about this was that sinking stomach-ache feeling that Katie hadn't *actually* done what she was supposed to do and that it might be a very big deal indeed.

Although the details may not be as strong as they could, I think that childhood oh-no-please-don't-let-this-be-my-fault comes through loud and clear.

vkw said...

I read this opening in hopes to be inspired for a new beginning submit and I couldn't get into it.

Now I know why.

There are logic problems.

I'm okay about the phone but the bus is problematic. If Katie saw the bus pull up then it is logical to assume the bus driver can also see Katie's sister leave the house.

fairyhedgehog said...

I didn't spot the first sentence on a first read (!) and I agree with EE it's better without it.

But I really liked this. I had a real sense of the growing panic and guilt (until I laughed at the continuation).

Jo-Ann said...

I was going to submit a continuation in which the sister had been having a great day at Disneyland, thanks to a teleportation device that she whipped up in her bedroom, as she had savant skills. However, the chosen continuation was better than that, so I'm glad that laziness ruled.

I liked the opening, and I'm wondering if this was the start of a thriller.

Here's my theory about the girl's disappearance, that fits the details: the bus-driver was a pedophile. When he saw the girl was unsupervised when she entered the bus, he made an unschedulled stop at his home to drop her off, knowing his non-verbal charges would not tell. Then he went on his regular route, and when he reached school, claimed that she had not come aboard. Then it's up to Katie to solve the mystery.

Author - are you planning on submitting a query for it?

Lauren K said...

Thanks so much for all the feedback. I really appreciate it. The opening is actually based off something that happened when I was in my teens. (Everything ended up being fine.) I definitely need to rework this a bit to fix or explain some of the logic issues. Thanks for pointing that out.
It's only a short story so I won't be submitting a query for it.
Thanks again for all the help.

batgirl said...

Granting the logic issues that EE notes, I still liked this and found that it drew me in. I like the voice, and I took the 'calm, measured, reasonable' repetition to be Katie trying to convince herself that she was being that, while panicking underneath - though as Buffy notes, that could be brought out more clearly. And I'm with phoenix about liking the way the information is pieced out and not dumped. And I did get a feeling of growing dismay and fear, which is great.
So I think you have the skills to fix the logic issues here.

Oh, and the continuation is great, black humour with a dash of pathos.

none said...

Special needs /= non-verbal, as it happens.

Lauren K said...

Thanks so much for all the responses. I really appreciate them. I'm kicking myself for forgetting to add in the details that take care of most of the logic issues mentioned. I'm working on dealing with that now. Thanks again.