Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Beginning 219

When he was a kid he'd never known any different, but now that he was eight, it was hard going home. He checked to make sure nobody was watching, and took a swig from the bottle he'd hidden in his school bag. One more glance around - nobody looking his way - and he ran down the alley to sneak in through the back. With luck, nobody would be up yet.

No such luck. Missus Swindell was sitting in the kitchen in her massive pink robe and curlers, smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee. She grinned when he burst in. "Hey, Fox. Yer ma ain't up yet. You want some breakfast?"

He tried his most impish little-boy grin, hoping she wouldn't smell his breath. "Missus Swindell, it's noon. I already et, anyway."

"Suit yerself, boy. There's some toast on the counter, anyway."

"Thank you, ma'am. I gotta go see ma."

"All right. You see that Addie Mae, tell her she needs to settle up."

"Yes'm, I sure will." Fox ran up the stairs. He paused outside the closed door of their apartment. Through the thin wooden panels he could hear the television blaring. He opened his school bag and pulled out the bottle, eyed the level of the amber liquid. Only noon, and the bottle was half gone. He shouldn't drink any more today, but on the other side of the door was his mother, that wretched alcoholic slattern with her impossible expectations.

Fox shrugged. It's beyond my strength. If I do not drink, I cannot keep up this churlish, lowbred, straight-out-of-Faulkner dialect. He raised the bottle.

A moment later, the whiskey still burning in his throat, Fox burst through the door and called out, "Howdy, ma! Y'still feelin' poorly?"

Opening: kt.....Continuation: Theo Katz


shaded-lily said...

EE, thank you for fixing up my continuation! (I was too embarrassed to submit it under my real pseudonym because I had never tried a continuation before.)

Evil Editor said...

And now that the katz out of the bag, I can put your name on it?

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by the liquor-swilling eight-year old. I'd read on.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant continuation. That dialogue in the beginning was already too much.

shaded-lily said...

And now that the katz out of the bag, I can put your name on it?

Yes. I'd be honored.

writtenwyrdd said...

I found the beginning intriguing, but I honestly didn't like it that much. I'd have kept reading, mostly because of the booze-swilling eight-year-old.

The continuation was hilarious and it pretty much captured my feelings about the dialect. It felt really twangy and false to me. "Yes'm," for example, is a groaner.

What I would suggest for revisions is that the author examine the voice. It is waaaaaay too old for an eight year old. Throw in the drinking, and my expectation was that we would be shown that the kid is an adult trapped in a child's body. Like, maybe the drinking is a coping mechanism? But that, too, didn't sound plausible to me.

GutterBall said...

HA! to the continuation. Cracked me right up.

Dialect is a double-edged sword. You need a certain amount for authenticity. After all, it's hard to place a story in, say, Scotland without at least one character expounding with a "sure'n begorrah" or to drop something into my own Missouri without half the locals ending our state name as Missourah.

But, if done too brown, the spellings and apostrophes quickly wear a reader out.

I can't help with a happy medium becuase I haven't found it yet. Stephen King does dialect pretty well because he refuses to use apostrophes outside of usual grammar -- contractions, possessives, etc. If he shortens "going", he just writes "goin". That doesn't seem so bad somehow.

Anonymous said...

Author, I read it a couple of times, thinking something besides voice was out of place. Then I realized it was Missus Swindell's behavior. Maybe we get to know Fox later as a super charmer or find that the Missus has a night job, but here's a woman still in robe and curlers, huffing a cigarette and it's noon. She's just getting up and since Fox's even thinking no one might be up yet says this is pretty normal, that would typically indicate a depressed or unhappy type of personality. Plus, one of her renters is behind in their rent. Yet when she sees that renter's kid, she grins at him and offers him something to eat. Then she tells him to tell his ma to settle up.

Something about that just grates me a bit wrong. Given the setup, I expect a grumpy landlady grudgingly offering food then sending Fox off to remind his ma about the rent. Of course, their relationship could all be cleared up in the next few hundred words, and Missus really is a perky, motherly soul who wouldn't begrudge a fly a bit of toast. Just workin' with what we've got here.

But hey, what's not to like about an eight-year-old who swills alcohol before noon! It's a good hook.

theo katz ... you'll find continuation writing can be addictive. I bet you'll be sending in more soon :o)

KT said...

Yeah, I knew when I posted that the dialogue would be the thing picked out. (And I use the term lovingly, of course.) Does it help if I mention that the continuation is nearly exactly how the story plays out? (Except for the anachronism, since it takes place in 1901.) Perhaps it just means that it's a cliche, on top of everything else. (I was going for "gentle parody", but it is a fine line...)
Just for the record, Fox lives in a whorehouse, Missus Swindell owns it, Addie Mae is another working girl (not his mother) and I swear, you know all these things within the next 500 words. (Too little, too late?)

Robin S. said...

The story line is interesting and I'd read on to find out what was going on. Already feel for the little eight year old guy, and want to know how he got where he is, and what is going to happen to him.

The dialogue is a little bit of a trip up, but I have no answer for this - I'm having my own problems with it.

I agree that Stephen King is great with dialect in dialogue by the way he plays it down, makes it seem like every day speech, by simply dropping g's, etc.

I really like the first sentence:
"When he was a kid he'd never known any different, but now that he was eight, it was hard going home" - great entry into his world and his thinking.

Really enjoyed the continuation as well.

McKoala said...

That's a cool way to slip age into the first sentence. Makes perfect sense and sets us up beautifully for the swigging. Not sure I could read such strong dialect for so long, but this looks like good writing to me. I can wait out the next 500 words to find out more.

HA! Gutterball! Did you concentrate in Geography? We in Scotland leave the 'sure n' begorrah's to our cousins in Ireland. Och aye. It's a braw, bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht. Lang may yer lum reek.

GutterBall said...

Did you concentrate in Geography?

I bow and grin, McKoala, because no, I did not. Heheh.

Anonymous said...

ROFL over the continuation. Take that, Mr. Faulkner!

As for the real opening -- pretty good. I got the whorehouse bit. I liked the kid thinking he's all grown-up now. I was pretty sure it wasn't a contemporary setting. "Yes'm" and some of the other dialog was a big clue, and I'd be willing to allow it in the context if it didn't get too heavy-handed.

The opening didn't grab me, but it didn't turn me off, either. I 'd have to keep reading for a bit to find out if the story appealed, but I'd be willing to give you that time.