Tuesday, July 12, 2011

New Beginning 868

Prentice Carnahan stopped his bike at the pedestrian crossing for three women with a baker's gang of children to pass; little girls in pink and purple swimsuits, scrawny boys in hip-hugging shorts chattered as they balanced and dragged beach chairs, umbrellas, towels and watery floats across the bikeway. A trio of ghosts, the tattooed older siblings not too many years older than the boys, floated alongside like angels guarding their charges. Would that the dead could talk to the living. Would that the living listened.

"You're the Poe-Lease Man who came around when the gang bangers shot my poor Billy. They done set me and my chillun up in the group home over here. We're doing better now, thanks to you," the woman said in her own slightly fragmented English that Prentice remembered. Details like that never left his head, gift of an eidetic memory.

"Yes Ma'am, I'm glad to hear you're doing better."

The bike path paralleled the automobile traffic for several miles next to the park and created a sweaty paradise for Prentice until the jitney appeared.

The jitney was packed by a driver and a butcher’s gang of teenagers; three vampire-wanna-be girls in dark makeup and bikinis, a fat sweaty swearing boy . . . A screaming unisex mob stood on toes, slapped rear ends and threw dry sand across the jitney’s interior. A phalanx of ghosts—a pair of Chinese coolies with conical hats, who were much older than the teenagers, but not that much older—floated alongside the jitney, like diaphanous people with halos.

Prentice recalled one of the coolies saying; “Ah-so, you da porrice-a-maan who herp when my fair-haired lovely little numba’ one daughter Lisa get chop-chop by biker gang. Biker gang make up fo’ dat by providing new chicken coop for white rollers, which we sell for a substantial mark-up resulting in marginally increased profitability at our new ethnic market. Thanks to you, sexy man!”

Sometimes an eidetic memory is an odd thing, Prentice thought. He waited for the jitney to park, then wobbled his bike into the parking lot of the Dunkin Donuts. Because you can never have too many stereotypes.

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Dixon/anon.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

A few bestselling authors of advanced age are still letting their minor characters speak in dialect, giving the impression that this is still acceptable...

It's hard to get past the first sentence on this one. A suggested edit:

Prentice stopped his bike to let three women and a gang of children pass.

Then you can get to the ghosts in the second sentence.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

"Jitney" means "chutney" in this man's language. When the jitney/chutney appeared I wanted a jitney/chutney hotdog to celebrate the Bruins finally getting the greatest cup in the world. The Stanley with 87 bottoms attached. Long time no win. Which takes me to China and the rats.

Toe Blake and Tim Horton faded as I gazed at the rats. Red Kelly completed the trio of ghosts. Donuts were floating just out of reach. Stanlel alas, was nowhere near.


Prentice could see Clemens and Santos eagerly peering out through the side and back windows of the jitney. He thought he'd lost them, but must be they'd commandeered the van a few miles back. Luckily, the windows couldn't be rolled down, or they'd both have been pointing their Magnums right at him.

"Shit," he thought to himself, "here we go again."

Standing up out of his seat, Prentice forcefully pushed the bicycle's pedals, trying to gain momentum and struggling against the rust that was built up on the chain. He knew that if they got close enough, he'd have to ditch the old bike. Alice's old bike.

Prentice couldn't quite remember Alice riding it. That was before the accident, before things had gotten so bad. Before his memory changed. But he did remember one thing: Alice loved that bike. And if she loved it, he wasn't about to let some other kid take it home from that garage sale.


Jitneys are hard to catch on a bicycle but Prentice wouldn’t allow illegal taxi operations on his beat. A group of boyz gathered around the jitney started shouting “Yo man, Five-O, run.”

“Now you young hooligans hold it right there darn it.” Prentice shouted as he peddled as hard as he could.

Prentice’s front tire bumped into the rouge cabbies 1964 purple Cadillac. The gold-toothed man behind the wheel stuck his head out the window. “Watch you goin PO-PO! You be scarrin muh motha fuckin `64 ah will slap you off o' yo' bike.”

Prentice put his kickstand down as he dismounted his bike and straightened his gun belt and spandex shorts. “Now there is no need for language such as that sir. I will need to see your valid taxi license for operating this vehicle in the city.”

“Otay po-po, ah gots muh motha fuckin license right here peep this shit.” The man pulled his zipper down. “Yo just reach in dere an' you will find muh license and shit.”

Prentice gave the man a serious look as he pulled his mirrored sunglasses from his face. “I have had just about enough out of you young man.”

“I be fuckin wit you po-po, I just be movin chronic out my hooptie fo medicininalic reasons you dig?”

“Ok,” Prentice said as he remounted his bicycle, “Just don’t be trying to run a jitney in my town.”

"You gots it Uncle Tom, you be havin nice ride muther fucka."


Carnahan waved at the grinning passengers crammed inside as the little bus bounced along the rutted, makeshift road out of town.

He wiped his nose with the back of his hand and lifted a foot to his bike pedal. Just about to push off, he heard a loud, mournful wail behind him. He turned and his mouth dropped open as he saw the spindly legs of a moose carrying their ungainly load across the road.

My God, he thought. I've seen the darndest things since I moved up here to Barrow, AK.


Evil Editor said...

I would just drop the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs unless those people are important to the story. It sounds like the jitney is where the story begins and the gang of pedestrians is just there to reveal that Prentice is a policeman and can see ghosts. We get the ghosts in paragraph 1, and he can be called Officer Prentice Carnahan at the beginning to get in his copness.

In P2, the dialogue tag is "the woman said," as if we know which woman you mean. There are three women.

If this is Prentice's POV, how does he know that all three ghosts are older siblings of the children? Does he recognize all of these people?

Dave said...

"Jitney" means "chutney" in this man's language.

A jitney in this part of the world is an illegally run taxi service. One of the locals who has a car "hires" himself out for food shopping, doctor visits and other stuff.

Adele said...

Aren't women in groups of three with a baker's gang of children an awfully small pedestrian niche? I'm surprised that they get their own sidewalk.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

The Dixon/Anon mashup continuation cracked me up. Didactically perfect. Read, learn, laugh. I have nothing to add after that. It pretty much says it all.

sarahhawthorne said...

I like the set up, but your word choice isn't always helping your meaning come across. Right from the first sentence, "baker's gang" tripped me up. It's like a mash up of baker's dozen and biker gang, which doesn't really give me a clear mental image.

Then when you say "ghosts," I assume you mean that figuratively too and I have to go back again to figure out that now you're being literal and these are actual ghosts.

As represented here the woman's English isn't really "fragmented" since she's speaking in complete sentences. (And I agree with Alaska about using a light or non-existant hand with dialect.)

Also I'm also confused why Prentice would need a perfect memory for remembering the speech patterns of a person who's standing right there talking to him. It would be more impressive if the sight of her makes him flash back to something else not present.

Hope this is helpful!

Dave said...

First off, "Prentice" the name died. I am very picky about names and that one did not fit the character. I got 2/3 through the story and came to hate the name. So I changed it. Prentice is no longer "Prentice."

I did change the "Baker's gang of" to "Baker's dozen" a few weeks ago. Then I simplified that very long sentence structure in the opening paragraph.

"Fragmented" should always have been "fractured" but then no one online likes that paragraph or wants it in the opening.

Second, Would that the dead could talk to the living. Would that the living listened.
is a mistake thanks to my computer's keyboard that has two malfunctioning keys. I used a few quotes from Joyce at the beginning of the story. This is the quote from James Joyce and my slight addition to it.
The dead haunt the dead haunts of their own deaths and not the lairs of the living. Would that the dead could talk to the living. Would that the living might listen. Jonah thought.
If by that time people don't realize the ghosts are real and not figurative, I cal change the title to "Ghosts of" whatever the rest is...

I understand the excesses of the second paragraph. I don't necessarily need the woman to talk. I will cut it.

Sapphire wrote "PUSH" in dialect. Tom Wolfe opens "Bonfire of the Vanities" with dialect. Now I am not comparing myself to Wolfe. I'm a curmudgeon but I’m not that crazy. I use the example as a counter argument to what seems to me to be a concerted effort to make bland and vanilla characters.
I do not feel bad about creating a woman who mispronounces "police" and slurs "children."
Later in the story, one of the ghosts speaks a lot of Yiddish in one of his speeches. I want those characters to be identifiable as people of color or some ethnicity and not homogenize them into blandness. Too many stories I read today have ethnically unidentifiable characters. Even when they are described as "red head" or "blond" or "half oriental" or coffee colored, tall, short, feisty, etc... They act like sliced white bread on a grocery store shelf. The plastic bag exteriors are different but inside, they are all the same. I Read Vampire stories and all of the vampire hunters look and sound like Hugh Jackman's Van Helsing. I read political thrillers and half the good guys sound like Jason Bourne and the villains sound like Blofeld and Dr No. There was a boring 2002 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES on tonight and dear Sherlock could be played by anyone. He wasn't Robert Downy Jr and that's why whoever he was failed as Holmes. And I’m ranting, sorry about that. I needed a rant today. Don't ask why or encourage me.

Dave said...

Prentice has an eidetic memory. He remembers everything and later in the story that becomes of crucial importance. Prentice sees the ghosts and remembers the murder that the woman talked about. He is a policeman who remembers all of the victims when they are most vulnerable and least attractive. If Prentice's wife passed away, he would remember not only the best of times he had with her but also he would remember the bad times in stunning, hurtful detail. For every gift there is a curse. Later in the story one of the villains changes Prentice's memory and that is a plot point. It reveals the conspiracy.

Prentice is also going to see the villain transplant a brain into a robotic body. Prentice is Mary Shelley in modern form. He watches the creature as it becomes animate. The "haunts of their own deaths" for each ghost is an operating room. The ghosts must testify to the crimes of the living (I'm not giving away stuff here.) and because Prentice can see and talk to ghosts, he is prosecutor, jury and executioner. My character of Death incarnate is less fearsome and gentle than most depictions. The dead pass judgment on themselves. Death only facilitates that.

I identify people more by their voices than by their looks. I memorize voices. It's an odd facility I picked up from playing electric organ and learning lots of music (mostly 1950's bar music and classical). When I said that Prentice remembered the woman from her voice and speech patterns, I meant that kind of facility. I can pick out certain violins and identify the player unseen and I can "hear" certain pianists from their technique. It is a learned ability on my part. However, when I was in college, the kids at the school of music had the natural ability. I used it at work for phone conferences which occurred twice a week. It was either memorize voices or travel 90 miles every other day.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

/bangs head on keyboard.

Dave, I mispronounce "police". I pronounce it "puh-LEECE". I mispronounce lots of words. It wud be vary vary annoyn if aye startud to rite duh weyaye tawk.

If your characters' color is important to you, just say their color. If you insert the word "black," once, your characters' color will be identified and you will probably offend no one.

It also won't appear to be a value judgment.

batgirl said...

Writing eye-dialect is dangerous. If I see Poe-Lease, I might not (mentally) pronounce it in anything like the way you would pronounce it - and thus I would have entirely the wrong impression of the woman's accent. Also, I'm probably not the only reader who will stop reading if I have to sound out someone's speech in order to get an idea what that character is actually saying.
That's aside from the whole stereotype / racist aspect.

Why not try the safer route of using speech patterns, rather than misspellings? You've done that already with the use of 'done', and I think that would probably carry the impression without the 'chillun'.
I'm kind of dubious that the dialect as shown is accurate, but what do I know?

batgirl said...

Also, do group homes take whole families? I think of them as holding children and teens without parents, supervised by paid adults.
Aha, wikipedia "A group home is a private residence designed or converted to serve as a non-secure home for unrelated persons who share a common characteristic. In the United States, the term most often refers to homes designed for those in need of social assistance, and who are usually deemed incapable of living alone or without proper supervision."

Perhaps 'shelter' is the word wanted?

Dave said...

We're on nearly different sides of the continent. That is why "group home" could mean something so different. I used that simply to indicate a woman moving a family from either no housing or a run down and crime ridden project into a house with some law and order and stability.

"Section 8" is the real name of that type of housing and refers to a Section 8 of a law that provides subsidized rents. However, in this story, to invoke Section 8 housing would have made a political or cultural statement beyond what is already their (drug dealing teenage gangbangers, fatherless children and bad neighborhoods).

So I just punted the reference into "group home" and left it at that. The two paragraphs set up Prentice's charitable or benevolent tendencies to help the poor and less fortunate. That's where he ends up when the story finishes - in social and community work.

D Jason Cooper said...

AlaskaRavenclaw - dialect is not mispronunciation. That you mispronounce police does not mean Dave's character is mispronouncing anything. Nor does saying someone is "black" settle much of anything. Black American (descended mostly from Yoruba and Gkonga slaves)? Australian Aborigies? Current West Africans? Kenyans? Tanzanians? If I read you right, you would never let a cowboy say 'howdy, ma'am,' nor would you accept the word 'sup. These come from dialects.
You also won't accept "authors of advanced age." Discrimination against a person for their age is exactly as illegal as discriminating against them for their race. But, to take these "bestselling authors of advanced age" to task, perhaps you can point out your own best sellers. - D Jason Cooper

Dave said...

I know the woman who talks that way and says Poe-lease and Chillun and all sorts of other fractured English. She's a delight to be with and definitely has a college education but she talks funny. She says I talk too fast, like a New Yorker.

Listen to strangers talk when they are talking to their families and friends. They say all sorts of funky things in non-grammatical ways.