Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Old Beginnings 20

1. Megan Murphy scuffed through a thick layer of autumn leaves in her round-toed, black leather, gold-buckled shoes. Regulation colonial clodhoppers, she thought happily, bending over to pick leaves out of her buckles. Especially stylish with her blue-flowered thermal underwear and thick gray woolen socks. Yup, she was a real eighteenth-century sex goddess. But hey, it was cold out. Besides, what did the average slovenly trollop wear back then? Silk teddies and designer panty hose?

She did a little tap dance in her big black shoes and kicked at the leaves. When she was a child the leaves in her yard had been immediately whisked away. They were packed in leaf bags, sucked into leaf suckers, or pulverized by the mulch maker, but they were never scuffed through or jumped into or simply enjoyed. That was one of the things that had drawn Megan to Colonial Williamsburg. In its effort to recreate the eighteenth century, Williamsburg had slowed to a walking pace. There was time to enjoy leaves. Even Megan Murphy, who had a strong tendency to hurtle through life at warp speed, found tranquility in the back alleys of Williamsburg.

2. From the first overlook of the Sky Line Drive, heading south, you can only see the old part of Point Royal--washed in hazy distance, an intricately laced aggregate of antique houses and white steeples, set among many shades of blue and green and tawny summer. A sleepy, lovely, Virginia country setting.

Up close there are, of course, the complications of the age.

Antebellum porches mixed in with two-car garages and fast-food chains; an Internet café in a glass-front, low-slung building within a block of a town hall that is almost two hundred years old--all of this across from a parking lot and a red-brick radio station with flags out front and a skinny seventy-foot tower behind.

On the radio station lately there's mostly talk, and the subject is invariably the president and his recent troubles. The call-in shows are full of moral outrage.

3. From under his hat, Deputy Sheriff Harry Gowan surveyed the scene at the local steak house and bar in Rawhide, Wyoming. It was Friday, the second busiest night in town. And he was in charge of keeping the peace.

His roving gaze stopped when it lit on a young woman sitting at a table in the center of the room. She didn't look like an inhabitant of Rawhide, with her short, spiky brown hair and that bright red lipstick on her pouty lips. Still, she was beautiful...and she was alone.

He strolled over to her table. He had no objection to strangers in his town, and besides, as an employee of the city, wasn't it part of his job to make people feel at home in Rawhide? "Evening, ma'am," he said, tipping his hat. "I suspect you might be new to town. If there's anything I can do to help you enjoy your stay, please let me know."

The young woman smiled at him and he was struck by her beautiful blue eyes. "How nice of you. I could use a dance partner," she said, looking expectantly at him.

4. Later when word of what had happened got about and, in variously garbled versions, was for a time the common property of the entire nation-a television crew set up a satellite dish in a clearing on the hillside at the back of the Faigano property, paying what in local terms amounted to a small fortune for the temporary rights to a few square metres of land so poor, so barren, so utterly useless, that it had virtually ceased to exist on anyone's mental map of the vicinity. People scratched their heads and murmured, 'They paid that? For il Bric Liserdin?', seemingly as shocked by this anomaly as they had been by the thing itself.

That was how it was always referred to: 'the thing', as though it had nothing more to do with them than the metal bowl which the outsiders from Milan trucked in and mounted for a fat fee on the steep, scrub-covered hillside where rocks perpetually shouldered their way to the surface like moles, infesting the ground on which Gianni and Maurizio's ancestors had expended such futile labour, its only produce the stones used for terracing the slopes on the other side of the hill, the vineyards with the good exposure.

Sources below:

Old Beginnings 20

1. Thanksgiving.....Janet Evanovich
2. Thanksgiving Night.....Richard Bausch
3. A Randall Thanksgiving.....Judy Christenbury
4. Thanksgiving.....Michael Dibdin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't help it, I feel so sorry for these poor neglected openings.
And because I'm Canadian, and we did our Thanksgiving the month before (why do Americans have a harvest festival a month after all the harvest is in?) I am not stunned by turkey leftovers either.

1. reads a bit like chicklit, but an engaging voice and makes me wonder why this young woman is (apparently) working at a re-enactment site. I'd probably read on.
2. Landscape description has always left me cold, and the distant tone isn't providing anything to spark my interest. It reads as litfic so far and no characters have appeared on the horizon. The call-in radio ref strikes a note of authorial condescension. I'd close the book.
3. um, how did the writer miss putting the word 'Rawhide' in the fourth paragraph? What if I forgot where the story was set? Would continue reading if it were a choice between this and an old People magazine at the laundromat, otherwise probably not.
4. style verging on opaque - litfic again? My interest is very slightly piqued by the appearance of the satellite dish, but the writer seems more interested in constructing very long sentences that remain grammatically correct than in constructing a story.