Wednesday, February 09, 2011

New Beginning 832

What came in my post today was despair.

The doorbell rang a cheerful tune, the complete opposite of how I was feeling. The postman must have waited a long time as I dragged myself to the cheery wood front door, and crossed the yard to the copper gate because he looked completely bored. He was even examining the doodles my dad and I had drawn on the letterbox.

“Sign here,” he said, not looking up from his observations. He held out a pen and paper. I took the blue ball point pen from him and slowly etched my name on the slip of paper. Then I passed the items back to him. I must have shocked him when our fingers almost touched because he looked up, his black eyes boring into mine.

Immediately I wished I had bothered to comb my hair, or had changed out of my black long sleeved dress when I came home. I felt conscious of his unwavering gaze, so I looked down. The dress was wrinkled; it wasn’t the right material to sleep in. My auburn hair was frizzy and tangled, evidence that I’ve been trying to find the right position so that I could fall asleep.

The call came later that afternoon. The post office; the United States Postal Service. They have a legal department, and their legal department was investigating me! They claimed I had sexually harrassed one of their mail bringers. They claimed I greeted him, my hair in wanton disarray, my black dress loose and revealing. He told them I touched his hand, and then -- when I looked down -- I stared at his crotch.

Me! Can you believe it? An innocent spinster, living in the care of her aging father in this simple, lonely cottage. Of course I was mortified.

What? Yes . . . Yes, I do want the milk. Yes, I know you have other deliveries to make. Yes, I suppose I could take my hand off your balls so you can be on your way . . .


Opening: Georgia.....Continuation: anon.

11 comments:

Evil Editor said...

She has a good idea how long the postman waited, so to say he must have waited a long time is bothersome. Assuming examining the doodles shows boredom, there's no need to also declare that the postman looked completely bored. Thus something like:

The doorbell rang a cheerful tune, the complete opposite of how I was feeling. I dragged myself to the front door and across the yard to the copper gate. The postman was there, examining the doodles my dad and I had drawn on the letterbox.

If the postman is so entranced by the doodles that he doesn't even look up when he hands over the pen and paper, maybe he isn't completely bored after all.

I don't see how the postman making eye contact as you pass him his pen indicates that you shocked him unless you literally shocked him, but I would think any static electricity built up from her trudging across the carpet would already have been released in a shock when she opened the front door or when the items went to her from him.

I can't tell if she finds the postman attractive or threatening. Is it supposed to be obvious which?

In view of how groggy she seems to be, I find the description a little too specific: "cheery wood front door," "blue ball point pen," "black long sleeved dress." Under certain circumstances these descriptions would be fine, but these aren't details she would have paid attention to as the scene unfolded, so I doubt she'd be relating them as she tells the story.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to try and be helpful. What was in the the letter? I don't care what you were dressed in or about your hair or clothes. What was the letter about?

Dave Fragments said...

If I can put my remarks in a humorous statement, I was in despair of ever finding out the bad news.

Please get to what caused the despair. Trim, snip and cut down the sheer number of words.

Anonymous said...

Seems like this story is about the dame & her notions about fashions and this postman. Is it the beginning of their torrid affair? If you meant it to be about the contents of the letter and this guy never warrants mention again, you can skip the minutia about him and her attire.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

You're a bit bogged down here with so many unnecessary details.

Take for example p4. You tell us everything we need to know in that first sentence: the protagonist is embarrassed that hair is messy and she slept in her clothes. But then you give us three more sentences explaining exactly how wrinkled her dress was and the deeper significance of tangled hair. You need to trust your writing and trust your audience to get it on the first time through.

You can get across the necessary details in half the words:


What came in my post today was despair.

The doorbell rang a cheerful tune, the complete opposite of how I was feeling. The postman must have waited a long time as I dragged myself out of bed and down to the copper gate. He looked bored, examining the doodles my dad and I had drawn on the letterbox.

“Sign here,” he said, holding out a pen and paper. As our fingers almost touched he looked up, his black eyes boring into mine.

Immediately I wished I had bothered to comb my hair, or at least changed out of last night's dress after sleeping in it.

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

For me, the tone of the piece doesn't match the first sentence. I don't understand how the postman or her clothes--or even her lack of sleep--have anything to do with the despair that the whole story is going to be based on. I don't know about you, but when I'm despairing, I focus on how I'm feeling, not what I'm doing, wearing, or anything else.

150 said...

Where is this going? Should I be unnerved or aroused by his gaze? Should I feel sympathetic for or disdainful of the sloppily-dressed protagonist? What's the woman's age?

More specific word choices could help set the tone.

BuffySquirrel said...

There's a lot of detail here for very little payoff. It's unfair to the reader to promise them letters brimming with despair then spend loads of time on trivia about the postman.

If he was working for our Post Office he'd have been long gone by the time she got to the door anyway. They have a schedule to keep.

chelsea said...

I think you could clear up the waiting issue by changing the line to, "The postman acted like I'd made him wait an hour . . ." or something similar.

The best way to keep some of the details might be to take out the first line entirely. Otherwise, the whole time, we'll be inwardly chanting, "Get to the despair. Get to the despair!"

Jo-Ann said...

Sounds like the last thing your MC needed was more despair - she had enough already.

The part about shocking him made me wonder if there was an element of fantasy to the story, and that made me want to know more.

The part that jarred for me was "cheery wood door". You'd already used the word "cheerful" in that para, and I struggled to imagine how a door could look cheery - was there a smiley face on it? Or was it a typo and the door was cherry wood?

I imagined the protag as an extremely self-conscious adolescent. So what was her age? Or his? (not enough stories about cross-dressers these days - and that may explain what shocked the postman).

Beth said...

In addition to the overwriting and irrelevant details that everyone else pointed out, one additional thing bothered me: The first sentence sort of implied (to me, anyway) that she didn't experience despair until the she got whatever it was in the mail. Yet clearly she's already in despair before ever opening the door.

I'd advise dropping the first sentence entirely, and then rewrite to focus on what's important.