Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Beginning 199

Call me Mandy. No really, I insist. Amanda is cute but it’s too proper. Mandy? Now that’s young, hot, fresh. Plus, it makes things easier on guests when my great aunt Amelia comes around.

How often do great aunts come around, you might wonder. Quite often in these parts, actually. Of course, mine has been lolling around in the garden, hoping to stumble into another mystery, but even my neighbors have had theirs stop by to check on them. I think most people like to keep an eye on family, especially when said family’s town has recently suffered through the strangest set of events this side of Armageddon.

To be honest, I wished my aunt had stopped by sooner. Instead, when things started that Saturday morning, I was by myself. My husband was around, I suppose, but, let’s just say, he wasn’t all there.

No, when I awoke, there was just the smell of copper. I rolled on my side to see what it was, but something cold and wet lapped at my thigh. I didn’t quite make it out of the sheets and ended up rolling away, falling to a crumpled pile at the side of the bed. Swearing, I rose. And went silent.

A large red stain had turned our sheets into a passable Japanese flag.

Of course, it’s not like this was totally unexpected. My husband was always very impressionable. His muffled groans led me to the bathroom where his botched attempt at seppuku had left him sterile but stoic. He bowed his head and apologized profusely, while trying to stanch the flow.

I put on my dressing-gown and padded barefoot downstairs, following the trail of blood. Near the front door I found the newspaper, folded into artful representations of a crane in flight, a black bear and a ’93 Toyota Corolla. With trepidation, I passed through to the kitchen. The inhabitants of my tropical aquarium, as I'd feared, had been sushi’d to death.

With a sigh, I went over to the TV, took the rental DVD out of the player, and cursed the subliminal messages in Letters from Iwo Jima.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Kobayashi


Saipan Writer said...

LOL at the continuation. I especially liked the first line-not totally unexpected! And the take-off on he wasn't all there--OMG!

Gee, I hate the name Mandy (ever since that ridiculous song). Sorry, that's irrelevant.

Who is the narrator talking to? Me the reader? Why?

I liked the great aunt part--I'm partial to them and the reference here makes this sound like it's going to be a cozy.

The attitude seems way to cute and clever for someone who's just woken up to find her husband gone (dead) and a large blood stain in the bed.

The reference to strangest set of events this side of Armageddon hints at backstory. Not sure I like it here, but at least it doesn't sidetrack the forward motion.

Good luck.

Dave Fragments said...

That ending is so jarring. It's like the end of the movie Carrie where the survivor sees the little sign about Carrie White living in hell (then the hand reaches up).
Do you really want that jarring of an image,that much contrast, on the first page of the book?

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

Great-aunt Amelia? Amelia Pettipants?

Yeah, that's really all I could think of. EE, minions, my brain has been forever poisoned.

shaded-lily said...

Brilliant continuation! :D

Rei said...

In my opinion, the author takes too long to get to the interesting stuff. There were two interesting things amidst a bunch of ho-hum (the mystery-seeking aunt and the bloody sheets).

Also: personal pet peeve: I writers talking about fresh blood having a "smell of copper" that draws their attention immediately. Fresh blood has very little scent. It has a strong taste (*iron*, not copper, although most people can't tell the difference; if you're really curious, lick the side of a pair of old scissors or the edge of a rusted nail), but its smell isn't very strong. The older blood gets, the stronger the smell, until it dries out. That's because you've given bacteria the time to break it down and time for the iron to react with organic compounds. What we recognize as the smell of iron (or incorrectly, "copper"), isn't. There are no iron or copper atoms in the aromatic compounds we smell. Rather, it's the byproducts of the metal interacting with skin:

As they note, the "smell of blood" is commonly the smell of a reaction between iron in the blood and lipids in the skin (not blood and the cellulose in sheets!). Yet even this isn't produced in large amounts. When was the last time that you cut yourself and noticed it because of the smell (as opposed to from the pain, from sight, or from feeling it dripping?) Never, right? You probably had to hold the wound up close to smell it, if you smelled it at all, didn't you? When was the last time you had a nosebleed and were left with a foul-smelling kleenex? (even when you have a nosebleed, the smell isn't that major -- yet there's blood pouring out of your nose itself!). When did you last have to use gauze to cover up a profusely bleeding wound, and just had to get it out of the room once it was soaked because of some overpowering stench?

Fresh blood just doesn't have a strong smell. Older blood, however, does. If the sheets had been drenched in it and were fermenting for days, sure, you'll have quite the strong smell. But if this blood has only been there for a couple hours, it's not going to be a "what on earth is that smell?" moment. Mercaptans (decay) could do that, as could many household chemicals (ammonia, bleach, etc). But not fresh blood.

Sorry -- just a pet peeve.

batgirl said...

I second kiss-me - the first thing I thought was that this must be a Pettipants mystery.
It was nicely written, and I was curious enough about the disconnect between the narrator's tone and the events to keep reading, but that's about all I can say.

merper said...

I'd like to point out that this is the first 150 words for the query, Worse than Death.

Might shed light on some of your suspicions.

Anonymous said...

I didn't like any of thus up to "A large red stain had turned our sheets into a passable Japanese flag", which is a kickin' line. I think you should start the story right there; cut everything up to that point.

All the discussion about what to call the protag and how her dire aunts vex her is irrelevant backstory. Get me hooked into the story first. When I first open the book, I couldn't care less about Mandy and her aunts, but you can make me care about a humungoid bloodstain darned pretty quickly. Ooh, yeah!

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...

Thanks Merper! I knew it!


writtenwyrdd said...

The continuation was unexpected indeed!

In the beginning section, I really loved that image of blood like a passable Japanese flag.

writtenwyrdd said...

PS, this was a Pettipants beginning, wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

I agree that the opening with the backstory about the aunt isn't particularly gripping (sorry, author). The bit about the blood caught my interest. However, I think the narrator's observation that the blood looks like the Japanese flag denotes a level of objectivity and detachment that I'm not sure would be present in that situation. Although, never having woken up bathed in blood, I wouldn't really know.