Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Beginning 827

“I’ve got nothing to do,” I told Mum.

“I’ve got a headache. You need to play quietly, Oliver.”

“Playing quietly is boring. It’s not fun without Jack.”

But Mum had already shut the door to her bedroom. Why did all my toys look so dull whenever Jack was out? Maybe there was something fun in the kitchen.

Nope, the tidy kitchen was as quiet as the rest of the house. What about the fridge? I wasn’t hungry. Well, not really hungry. Not hungry enough to eat a carrot, but I would munch on something tasty.

And that’s when I saw it. How could I have forgotten yesterday’s birthday dinner?

The cake. The fattest, squashiest cake ever. It was so tall it couldn’t fit in your mouth, even if you opened up as wide as it could go. It was a moist, gooey chocolate cake that stuck to your tongue. There was a shiny frosting on top, so deep that the red cherries sunk almost all the way through. A layer of raspberry jam ran through the middle, so the top and bottom bits stuck together.

It looked so yumalicious.

There wasn’t much left. How could this wedge be shared between us all? It would need to be cut into tiny, thin bits for everyone.

But what if the cake had gone bad? Then nobody would be able to eat it.

I had to make sure that it was still ok.

Very carefully, I lifted the cake from the fridge. It looked fine. I had a sniff. What a sweet, creamy smell.

But how could I be sure it was still good?

“Hey, buddy. What'cha got? Some cake?”

I turned around, and there was Jack! His fur shone in the morning light through the kitchen window, and his silly floppy ears were waving around. He smiled, showing his funny buck teeth.

“I'm just making sure it's okay.” I held the plate out to him. “Want some?”

“No thanks, pal. I'm an herbivore.” He looked at the kitchen door. “Where's your mum?”

“Aw, she's lying down. She has a headache again.”

“Hmm.” Jack frowned. “Maybe we should check her.”

I set the plate on the counter, and started measuring a slice with the knife. “What do you mean, Jack?”

“You know-- take a look inside. Make sure everything's tick-tock and shipshape. Like with the cake.”

I decided on a fair-sized piece. Pretty big, but not so huge Da would be cross. He told Mum I was 'porky', one night when they thought I was asleep. “You're silly, Jack.”

“Well, if you don't care about her...”

Same old Jack, with his games. 'Let's see what's inside puppies'. 'Let's find out what makes kittens go'. 'Let's make Danny Haskins stop taking your lunch'. I cut the cake and put a chunk in my mouth, pressing it flat to fit. Raspberry filling oozed over my fingers. I dropped the knife into the sink so I could lick my hands. “Are you sure you don't want some?” My voice was muffled, but Jack always understood me. “It's yumalicious.”

Jack shook his head. “I should'a picked a skinny kid,” he muttered.

Opening: Anony Mouse.....Continuation: Sean


Evil Editor said...

I'm no expert on kid lit, but I'm thinking even your target audience of 6 - 7 year olds wouldn't mind if this were shortened a bit. For instance:

The first three paragraphs could be cut to two:

“I’ve got a headache, Oliver. Please play quietly.”

“Playing quietly is boring, I told Mum. "It’s no fun without Jack.”

P5: After "I wasn't hungry" all you need is: Not hungry enough to eat a carrot, anyway, but...

P6: Is "bits" what they call the top and bottom of a huge cake somewhere? As the word is used for tiny thin pieces in P8, I don't like it here. "...to stick the top and bottom together." works fine.

I don't think Oliver needs two excuses to eat the cake. He starts by saying there isn't enough for everyone to share, then moves on to having to test to see it hasn't spoiled.

If you drop the "not enough for everyone" paragraph entirely, there's good transition into the last four paragraphs, which can be shortened to two:

But what if the cake had gone bad? Someone had to make sure it was still ok.

Very carefully, I lifted the cake from the fridge. It looked fine. I had a sniff. What a sweet, creamy smell.

Adele said...

I'm no kid lit expert either, so I expect I'm all wrong, but I'm getting mixed messages from this opening.

The narrator seems to be about six, but "Why did all my toys look so dull whenever Jack was out?" is an abstraction that comes from a much older mind. Same with the reasoning that the jam is in the cake to stick the layers together (how does he know that? In my family we put it in for the flavour, along with another layer of icing so it slides anyway.)

I can see the excuses for eating the cake coming after he has eaten it and been discovered, but thinking it all out beforehand ... I don't know. In my experience small children do this stuff and then come up with these crazy excuses afterwards.

Also, if this is for younger readers the setup may be confusing. Mom's got a headache is one storyline, then Jack being absent is another, and then we hit the cake which seems to be the major point of the story. If you just continue with the cake, I'm going to be thinking about Jack and wondering who is he and why he is gone. And how is Mom doing?

Jo-Ann said...

Author here. Thanks for taking the trouble to make suggestions.

Yes, this is junior fiction, so brevity is important, I'll take the suggestions on board. I'm aiming for 2000 words. The whole story is the answer to "what happened to the cake?".

Oliver therefore rationalises why he took it out of the fridge in the first place.

The story is a pun on the cake "going bad" - the cake has gone "evil" and chases the boy, threatening to eat him instead, wreaking havoc throughout the house in the process.

Having jam in the middle is significant (the two halves open so the redness is like a inside of the cake's hungry mouth), so I'll work on the description.

Thanks again.

BuffySquirrel said...

Wait, this kid just had a birthday, and he's bored with his new toys already? Or was it someone else's birthday?

Ditto on the rationalisation coming after the fact.

Also, instead of 'Playing quietly is boring' how about 'I'm bored'.

If you have a kid in the house and your cake goes missing, is it really much of a mystery what happened to it? XD

Bran Flakes said...

It doesn't seem like Jack is essential to the story, and right now he's a little distracting. I wanna know more about him. Is he real, imaginary, etc.

If I'm right, and the story is all about the evil cake chasing him around the house, leave Jack out.

If Jack is going to reappear and play a part in the story, I would probably suggest introducing him a little later, after we've already been introduced to Cakemonster. That way he won't confuse the focus of the story right off the bat.

Sounds like a cute idea, playing off "The cake went bad." Good luck :)!

Anonymous said...

Wait, this kid just had a birthday, and he's bored with his new toys already?

You don't have kids, then, right...?

BuffySquirrel said...

You know what, Anon, I don't! lol