Wednesday, April 04, 2012

New Beginning 937

The sun outside gradually climbed high enough to burn as I sat at the dirty counter with an iced coffee. Next to me, with an unlabeled bottle and a rarely empty shot-glass, Roan told me all about the oyster beds. My attention wandered as he explained the difference between pearl oysters and his oysters, true oysters; the breeding cycle; the difference between a good oyster and a mediocre oyster; how to shuck an oyster and all the different ways to eat one. He told me everything I didn’t want to hear about oysters, pausing only to drain and refill the shot-glass in front of him. I only wanted to hear two things, though. I wanted to know how much the job paid, and I wanted to hear the story of how he lost his hand.

“I pay by the bushel,” he told me, and he wrote a number on a torn-off piece of newspaper and showed it to me, shielding it from the barman. It was enough. “And maybe if you work hard enough, I’ll tell you the rest. Too many boys like you come to hear the stories and have no intention to work. There’s no money in telling stories.” He drained the last of the bottle into his glass. “So what do you say?”

I stared at his glass. "What's the catch?"

Roan laughed. "There's no catch. You work hard, I pay you well. You don't like the number I showed you, find another job. But it's a small island."

He shook his head and stood up. There was loud "thud" and Roan doubled up in pain. Tears streamed from his eyes. "Damn it! Okay, there is one catch," he said, between gasps. "Don't eat only oysters." He sat down again. "I've had this God-damned boner for fifteen years."

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


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Still, I hesitated. Even if Roan didn't want to talk about it, I already had a pretty good guess as to how he'd lost his hand. I had heard the fantastic tales of the legendary Moby Mollusk, the great white oyster, famed for avenging little oysters everywhere they were exploited by people just like Roan...and me, if I took the job. Was the money really worth the risk?

"Look, if you're not interested, something tells me those two waiting outside will be," Roan said, as he waved the arm that was missing its hand at the open window beside me.

I looked out and saw the two he spoke of: a walrus and a carpenter, who had that hungry look about them that made me think they really wanted the job.

Time to put up or shut up.

"I'll take it," I said.

That was a year ago. Now I'm typing these words with my nose.


I desperately needed a job. "Sure Sounds good."

"What did ya do before coming here?"

"I was just paroled," I lied.

He nodded. "Fine. That's your business. Oysters are mine. See you tomorrow."

I sighed in relief. What was I going to tell him--that I was yet another writer who'd had my dreams crushed by Evil Editor?


Evil Editor said...

Well-written, and I'd read on, although I admit that just as the narrator's attention wandered as Roan explained everything about oysters, mine wandered as he listed everything Roan explained. If you cut the first paragraph to something like:

We sat at the dirty counter, me with an iced coffee and Roan with an unlabeled bottle and a rarely empty shot-glass. My attention wandered as he talked about the oyster beds, about the kinds of oysters, their breeding cycle, how to shuck them, how to eat them. He told me everything I didn’t want to know about oysters. I wanted to know only two things: how much the job paid, and how he lost his hand. might get us more quickly to what will hook us for good.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Mm. I would not read on. My doctor told me to limit my adjective intake.

I'd read on if this started with the second paragraph, though.

Dave Fragments said...

The opening can use fewer words in that first paragraph or said in a different way, fewer words before the main character says "I wanted to hear the story of how he lost his hand."
That's the money line that attracts the reader. If you can figure out a cleverer way to reveal he has only one flesh and blood hand earlier in the paragraph

However, if the entire tone of the story is as laid back as this, then don't worry. It's a good opening.

BTW for those who never had friends with prosthetic hands. They always start with metal claws and here is why:
Dimes are hard to pick off a counter are taught first.
Zippers are taught second. Yes, zippers.
Whiskey bottles and shot glasses are not a priority in a rehab room.

Anonymous said...

I liked this and would definitely read on. The well-used adjective is a fine word capable of greatly enriching your prose. Overused, it can be problematic, but that's not happening here. Totally omitted -- the world of your story will be colorless.

Laurie said...

I liked this, though I agree, perhaps it could stand to lose a few of those oyster descriptions in the first paragraph. And I like Dave's idea of showing us the missing hand, because it's cool.

But those are only nits. Well done.

BuffySquirrel said...

I don't like that first line, which seems to be trying to do too much. Apart from that, it's readable and engaging. But I hope there isn't too much more about oysters.

150 said...

I'd read on, but I'm with James: pretty sure Roan lost his hand to an oyster and the narrator will end up the same way by the end of the story.

Anonymous said...

I'd start here:
I wanted to know only two things: how much the job paid, and how he lost his hand.

The man interviewing me... over the dirty counter.

Or something along those lines.

I'd go forward into the oyster bed.

BuffySquirrel said...

Hmm, no, I wouldn't start there and lose the discourse about the oysters, because it establishes Roan's character. Unless of course Roan doesn't feature much in the rest of the book.

PLaF said...

LOL on the unchosen continuations.

There was a "Bubba Gump" moment on the oyster discourse. Maybe put the narraters comment about wandering attention towards the end of the oyster roster instead of warning the reader of possibe tedium ahead of time.

However, the line about the missing hand was enough for me to forgive you for making me read all about oysters.

oysterman said...

Thanks for the feedback everyone. Very helpful.

But I hope there isn't too much more about oysters.

It's narrative non-fiction about the history and plight of the oystering industry, so...


Beth said...

"The sun outside gradually climbed high enough to burn..."

Isn't the sun always burning?

"My attention wandered..."

Mine did, too, I'm afraid. I think this needs to get to the point faster.