Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Beginning 951

I’d never been to Adam’s place before; it wasn’t the sort of neighbourhood I usually visited.

I’d been given keys to his apartment; since I was all he had left it was up to me to take care of everything. His lease was due at the end of the month so I had to get all his stuff out. I don’t know what I was supposed to do with it.

When I opened the door I made the decision to hire a Skip bin. I wondered whether the place looked better before whoever it was had ransacked it. It certainly couldn’t have been clean. Jesus, was I going to have to clean it as well?

I guess that was kind of thoughtless of me.

My brother’s dead and all I can think about is whether I have to clean his place. The hell with that though. The landlord could use his security deposit and hire a cleaner. I didn’t want his deposit anyway. What would I do with it?

Though the place was a mess – everything had been dumped on the floor and trodden on – and it was pretty dirty, it kind of had a homey feel to it. I immediately felt comfortable.


I could imagine living there.


I'm in. Sure the place is a wreck, and it stinks to high heaven, but it's a step up from the refrigerator box I've been sleeping in the past few months. The landlord was unexpectedly amenable to my staying after I agreed to clean it out.

First things first, now. I'd better get Adam's body out of the bathroom and into the Skip bin.

Opening: Belinda Rees.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

I wedged the front door open with some folded junk mail and dragged Adam's body inside, feet first. His head made a dull, watermelon thud as it bounced over the threshold.

"Here we are, Bro," I told him. "Home." But he wasn't listening. He never listened to me, his dumb little brother. Well, tomorrow it's into the skip bin with you, Bro, I thought. And your girlfriend. And the two dogs. And Muddy, the cat. And the pizza guy who interrupted us while I was taking care of your nosey upstairs neighbor. And the pizza guy's buddy who was out in the car smoking a joint. I'll have to get rid of the car once it's empty, too. I wonder if a Civic will fit in a skip bin? The rest of this stuff, I can sell, easy. Hope there's still beer in the fridge.


Evil Editor said...

P1: "before" isn't needed; it's assumed.

P2: In my neck of the woods it's rent that's due; the lease is "up." I'd change "don't" to "didn't."

P3: If you know the place has been ransacked, I don't see how you'd be considering the possibility that it looked worse before the ransacking.

P4: "Cold" or "insensitive" would be better than "thoughtless." Also, the following sentence conveys the same idea this one does. You don't need both.

P5: I'd change "The hell with that though." to "Screw that." As for what the narrator would do with the security deposit, he could use it to pay for the Skip bin.

P6: It's unlikely someone who doesn't normally even come into neighbourhoods like this would find this ransacked dump homey. In any case, how can the narrator say "I "immediately" felt comfortable? If it takes six paragraphs to describe what a dump the place is, there's nothing "immediate" about feeling comfortable there.

Dave Fragments said...

When I was in college there were several suicides and as unfortunate and tragic as those were, possessions had to be packed and moved away. Usually security came with boxes, assembled the roommates (if it was a dorm room) and just packed what didn't belong to the roommates and took it. Security dealt with the family in a quiet and compassionate way. They didn't waste time.

And there is my point -- the tears are finished and this is a duty to one's family.

If this was my opening and I was in edit mode then this is what I would do.
1) move "it wasn’t the sort of neighbourhood I usually visited." to the end of paragraph #4...
2) delete paragraph #5 most of paragraph #6 except for "and it was pretty dirty, it kind of had a homey feel to it. I immediately felt comfortable." and incorporate that into paragraph #4.
Then I would smooth the sentence structure so it read well.

It's a good opening and setup. When I read it, I appreciate the power of the word "ransack" and thought paragraphs 5 and 6 were repeating and diluting that word.

One last thought -- I was exector on a relatives estate and it is cold and heartless work. All the exector worries about is reducing the deceased's possessions to an $$$ amount to pay taxes and distributing those possession to the living. And I had to direct emptying an apartment and although you feel the sorrow, you don't stop packing and removing items. There's a time limit of a lease or the State's year to file the papers, or the bills to pay, the stone to order. The sorrow is all internalized and the physical actions are merely business.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

K-k's continuation points up the problem with the opening: this passage is mainly about the apartment.

In paragraph 2, I assumed Adam had become seriously ill and was no longer able to live alone. I hung on to that impression till graf 5, when boom, he's dead. My readerly patience slipped a notch.

There is a teensy hint about what happened-- unknown person(s) who ransacked the place-- but it's not enough to re-awaken my curiosity.

My advice: rewrite with the focus on the brother and what happened to him. Tone down the concern with keys, landlords, cleaning services and dumpsters.

150 said...

I'd keep reading for sure.

BuffySquirrel said...

I would start here:

My brother’s dead and all I can think about is whether I have to clean his place.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

Exector or executor? Sorry you had to go through the experience. Very terrible. Once you do it it kind of changes you. I faced it at 20 for my mom, 22 for my dad. Sad stuff.

arhooley said...

I'd get rid of the second paragraph. Read the opening without it, and you'll see the situation is still perfectly clear and the voice, IMO, is a little truer.

vkw said...

Actually, I liked this opening. Dave has some good points, however, I had a friend die while I was in college. He lived in married student housing while his kids and wife remained in their home town.

She had a month or longer before she moved stuff out. I and other friends helped her and it was sad but we were not crying. We were drinking, but not crying. I almost got a tattoo that night - fortunately it was late Sunday night before we decided that was a good idea.

Anyhoo . . I don't think his lease was due at the end of the month but rather his rent.

There is some repetition that could be curbed - mention only once the apartment was dirty and ransacked.

And, I am wondering why our narrative thinks she/he could imagine living there at this point. This is in a bad neighborhood, has never been there before and its dirty and ransacked on top of all that location problem.

If the story involves the narrator moving into the apartment, move this thought on down the road - after the apartment is cleaned, after the narrator meets the kind yet quirky neighbors or finds out that the apartment is cheap or across from the best Italian restaurant in the entire city.

Give us a reason the narrator moves from OMG to this isn't that bad. If the story doesn't involve a move then delete the thought.


BuffySquirrel said...

The narrator is clearly aware that the response of finding this dirty, unsafe place homey is strange, so I don't see it as a problem. Rather, I find it intriguing. It's a reason to read on.

khazar-khum said...

Lots of little details could tell us why it's homey. There's the beer sign he won at the county fair ball toss when he was 13 & things like that were kickin rad. On the wall is the picture of the family in Micky Mouse hats. and so on.

Dave Fragments said...

Wilkins MacQueen said...
Exector or executor?

Oops, missed that -- Executor.

Her rental agency waved the 30 day notice as long as we cleared her apartment by the end of the month and then the State had a 1 year requirement to file and probate the estate for their tax purposes. Basically, you have to pay all the bills, close all the accounts, pay all of the taxes, and dispose of the remaining possessions by sale or other means.

It's thankless work (And it is work, no other word to describe it).

BTW, I knew for many years that I was named executor in her will and I agreed to do it. I knew where the valuables were kept and how to access the financial accounts.

The death in the story was apparently sudden and unexpected so the narrator has no knowledge of what she (I assume she) is going to find in that apartment. That provides mystery and intrigue.

When I first read this I thought Adam was a murder victim or that he died suddenly. If he had lingered with a fatal disease in a hospital, maybe the narrator would have had reason to get him clothes or mail or bills. As it is, she has never been to the apartment before.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, nothing was on the wall as "everything had been dumped on the floor and trodden on."

BuffySquirrel said...

Without knowing the genre, it's hard to comment on whether the opening needs to give specific examples of what's creating the homey feeling. Then again, if we had the genre, half of us would ignore it and about a third of the rest say something derogatory about it.