Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Beginning 879

I'm worried about my family picnic. Why?

My upstairs neighbor Ruth Cohen, widow on a pension, says, "such angst I've never seen" and my downstairs neighbor Patsy, a retired hit man, says, "drink a little wine, eat some linguini, take the cannoli." Cecily and Tina, the lesbian line chefs, offered to cook and pretend to be my girlfriends. That's why I’m worried.

I rented grove three in Mingo Park. Three's nice, away from the drunks at the ball fields, away from the covered bridge photographers traipsing through the poison ivy, away from the trout stream sans trout that now attracting children in leaky, poison-filled diapers. This might actually work, I think. But still, I worry Half the members of my family raise chickens and pigs and still got that big, old six-foot satellite dish rusting next to the coop, the other half are city folk, pretending they ain't related to the first half.

I might die before I stop worrying.

* * *

"That's it? That's all it says?"

"That's all it says, lieutenant. We found it next to the, ah, remains."

"Well, I guess we should be thankful we've got something to go on. Lucky the ants didn't eat that as well."

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

But there is some good news: I just saved 15% on my car insurance by switching to Geico.


Because Uncle Jep has threatened to bring his biggest sow, Beulah to the picnic to entertain the kids. Beulah is neck and neck with Mae weight wise. Mae is my Aunt. I can see them now driving up in the old Ranchero, pig and wife in the back.

Patsy, the hitman misnamed at birth hence his profession, has promised to take the pig out. I could die wondering if he'll get the right one. Mae will be in a frilly dress and Beulah will be in a matching neck frill.

The suspense is killing me. Patsy's new trifocals aren't working out too well.

--Wilkins MacQueen

Evil Editor said...

Some good stuff here.

P1: Either get rid of the word "Why?" (because the reader assumes you will answer it immediately and the next sentence doesn't) or move the next sentence to somewhere after P2.

P3: Change "that" to "that's" and put a period after "worry."

Dave Fragments said...

The "why" sucks. It has to go.

This picnic is ground zero for the zombie outbreak. I"m torn between spoiled potato salad causing the zombie outbreak OR a bad port-a-potty.

Speculation welcome. Horror a necessity. Humor appreciated.

Evil Editor said...

If it's a novel and the potato salad is responsible, Cecily and Tina will get the blame and the lesbian community will be outraged. This will lead to publicity and book sales, which is good, quickly followed by a boycott and your unexplained death, which is bad. On the other hand, if bad port-a-potties caused zombification, the world would already be crawling with zombies.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

The more sophisticated language at the top doesn't go with "they ain't related" at the bottom to me.

I prefer no "ain't" as all hillbilly/lower end end language is tough to read and stay with. Tends to annoy me. Fun opening.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Dave, I'm turned off by the stereotypes. It's much more interesting to subvert stereotypes than follow them.

Tamara said...

Ditto AlaskaRavenclaw. I didn't want to read past the Italian hitman exulting in wine and cannolis. Do widows on pensions usually use the word "angst"?

I also don't know many families who can subsist solely off of chicken and least not ones who have quaint little coops. Surely the majority of that Half doesn't stay home tending the chickens; they get jobs out in the world and lead independent lives. Maybe I'm naive from living in southern Indiana, but I don't know many people who are ashamed to be related to farmers. Farmers are respectable. The ones you would be ashamed of live in run-down trailers they don't bother to clean, take money from the state out of laziness rather than necessity, and pop out babies they can't feed or discipline because they're too busy trying to find the next lover to support them. And that kind wouldn't have a coop, much less a satellite dish.

Evil Editor said...

It's the city folk in the narrator's family who pretend they aren't related to the ones with the chickens and the giant rusty satellite dish. Not the author.

Comments that attack the author for the world view of some of the characters in his story are going overboard.

Anonymous said...

I think there's a problem with "that now attracting" in P3. It could just be me.

Dave Fragments said...

I have to ask some questions too.

a) are all of your characters homogenous, unaccented and the same? My characters aren't. I go to symphony concerts and stage plays (nothing classier than that) in a sea of blue haired widows who have wonderfully ethnic voices and aren't as prim and proper as they look. DO you want to write stories with plain, vanilla characters? Does a nice, sweet Jewish widow say "now young man, it's only a picnic, Do not worry" ? ? ? No, she waves her hands and says "Oiy Vey the anget, you should have such trouble in your life."

a#2) my speaker is describing his view of the world. Can I say his POV. He's a little screwed up in his view and I (as a reader) like that. My narrator isn't perfect. He won't become perfect but he does become better in he course of the story.

b) If I was reading Pasquale's line, I wouldn't take it seriously. THere are two interpretations in my mind: 1) Pat is teasing the narrator because he's heard the freak out before and citing THE GODFATHER is a way of minimizing the world of worry. 2) the narrator is just gilding his lily with an over-the-top description of his neighbor saying "big deal" or "another crisis?" ...

c) I definitetly know people who are ashamed or pissed off of/at their relatives and avoid socializing with them. One in particular simply moved to the richest neighborhood with the best schools for his five kids and his family never visited him because he moved out of he "old neighborhood" and acted better than them.
c#2) I don't want to see that family on NUMBERS (a V show) where the widowed father lives with the two sons and its kind of a symbiotic or an incetuous (non-sexual) love fest of Father Knows Best all over again.

I am adding and taking stuff out of this opening. I'm still working out the "zombie-fication device" and yes, I agree, the potato salad is not a good choice. However, it might kill he zombies or reverse the zombiefication. I'm thinking that sonce the bank of three port-a-potties was delivered the night before, diseased ferrets have claiemd them and at some point attack, etc... that's a thought.

Dave Fragments said...

By the way,
The 'T" key on my computer is broken and sometimes doesn't work. It causes funky typos.

Anonymous said...

The tense shifts make it more confusing than it needs to be - it works just fine all in the present or all in the past.

The opening two graphs seemed roughest. Pensioner, hit man and lesbians are all too different to pair with parallel structure like that. I liked it once you start renting the grove.

You might want to cut one of the references to poison; they come too close together.

Obviously the poison-filled diapers caused the zombies!

It's only a family picnic, right? My downstairs neighbor Patsy (retired hit man) says, "drink a little wine, eat some linguini, take the cannoli home." Cecily and Tina in 5B (lesbian line chefs) offer to cook and pretend to be my girlfriends. Why am I worried?

I rent grove three in Mingo Park. Three's nice, away from the drunks at the ball fields, away from the covered bridge photographers lining up for the drama shot, away from the trout stream sans trout now attracting children in leaky, poison-filled diapers. This might actually work, I think. But still, I worry. Half the members of my family raise chickens and pigs and still got a big, old six-foot satellite dish rusting next to the coop, the other half are city folk, pretending they're not related to the first half.

I might die before I stop worrying.

vkw said...

I kind of like this.

I would drop the "why?"

During my first three reads, I thought the narrator was saying the "family picnic" was going to be the tenants.

I was lost for the first three reads.

If the narrator is worried about the family picnic, I must beg the question why did he/she do it?

I maybe would go with

"Mom rented grove three in Mingo Park. I have to agree that three's nice. . . ."

That makes it clearer IMO.

Mom could be replaced with the something interesting like.
It was Aunt's Clare's idea; the picnic that is. She's a middle child and like all middle children she doesn't understand the concept of 'leave well enough alone."

Anyway, she rented grove three in Mingo Park. Three's nice, I have to agree. .....

But still I'm worried. Half my family members raise chickens and pigs and still get their 357 stations from the six foot wide sattelite roosting on the coop, while the other half are city folk, who've spent their lives pretending they aren't related to the first. They get 600 stations, don't watch Nascar and use TiVo as a verb.

I might die before I stop worrying.

I hope either the first or the second half don't show up.

I do like this, that's why I am so busy rewriting it. :) sorry

I would go with the potato salad over the ground squirrels. Or blame the outbreak on something totally unexpected like the Cheetos. Orange is just such a strange color I wonder what is in Cheetos every time I eat one. Doesn't stop me from eating the Cheetos, mind you, but it still makes me wonder.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

I loved this. Dave, you always have such a unique voice. I would personally make "That's why I'm worried" its own paragraph, because as it is, it felt like is was connected specifically to the lesbian sentence rather than the whole paragraph.

Could just be me.

I would also italicize "This might actually work," but again that's more of a preference thing.

Loved the "poison-filled diapers" line.

I'm voting porta-potty over potato salad. It just makes more sense to me.

Dave Fragments said...

I never thought of the neighbors as foodstuffs. It's very ghoulish and might be fun. Like Sweeney Todd fun.

I only thought about the motivation for the picnic and left it at it's just his turn to hold the picnic. I'll use the "middle child" suggestion later in the story. It's a good idea. Thanks.

But the other part about him hoping half don't show up, that's the whole reason that he's worried. He's he only unmarried one without a large family of his own (which isn't apparent to the reader yet) and he's sensitive about it. That's why he's so worried. He hasn't a clue how to set up a picnic for a crowd because everyone else did it and he just showed up. He's like one of my relatives who hasn't driven and is 30 y/o and bums rides off all the relatives to get to family affairs. Don't get me wrong, he's not stupid, just inexperienced.

And he wants to show the entire family he can do it. If half he family doesn't show up, he's a failure. And what are family gatherings without bickering, backstabbing and gossip?

I'm still on the fence about the source of the zombie plague, maybe dirty toilet seats will work. This is Bizarro Horror and all these solutions are not bizarre enough.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Plain vanilla or ethnic stereotype? Seems like a false dichotomy to me.

But if your question was addressed to me, then the answer is, no, my characters are not homogenous, and no, I never have my characters speak in an ethnic dialect.

Dave Fragments said...

As I keep looking at this all day and into the night, I think that I have of take car of the port-a-potty in one paragraph and the food problem in a second and the park statements in the third. My reasoning is to keep the reader focused on the narrator's scatterbrained worrying. So he worries about the pots and the neighbors tease. He worries about the food and his cook friends offer to help. He worries about the grove and reveals his family composition. Then the story continues with the picnic. Some idle chitchat and then the zombies arrive and all hell breaks lose. I also think that Aunt Betty's potato salad is toxic to zombies but that's not set in stone.

Alaska: I didn't address the comment to you.

Chelsea: Other people have said I have a distinctive voice. I hope they were being nice.

Dave Fragments said...

I think that I have of take car of the port-a-potty

What the hell did I type there? Should be:

I think that I have to take care of the port-a-potty

I hate phone calls and typos.