Wednesday, March 28, 2007

New Beginning 247

“Because you can see that, can’t you, honey?” she said in her quick, nervous voice. My aunt, a woman with big, swollen, thyroid eyes and a propensity for wearing striped shirt-waisted dresses, a childless aunt-by-marriage who rattled on relentlessly about things I knew I never wanted to know, patiently and insistently explained why the name Eileen had to be spelled Ilene.

“If it starts with an E the name has to be pronounced with the sound of an E, the full sound, you know, like the word E-ven.” The Oxford English Women’s First Names Pronunciation Committee had moved its headquarters to the middle of American nowhere, and was in fact chaired by this woman who had barely managed to finish high school. Or so I'd been told - about the high school part, anyway.

She, the aunt with the logic flow of a turnip, knelt down, looked my small self dead in the eyes and asked me again, to make sure I understood. “You can see that, can’t you?”

“Why, yes,” I said, knowing and accepting I was trapped here for the time being, and counting the minutes until I was picked up. I figured maybe I had ten to go. “I can.”

It was too much; I couldn’t stand it. I reached for Auntie’s dictionary -- I loved dictionaries and the way my finger fit into the lettered thumbholes down the edge. I flipped it open to “E” and flicked the pages looking for Eileen. Strange: not there. Out of curiosity I turned to “I.” There was Ilene! Odd. I started to shuffle through the pages: Filossofer; Krissmuss; Oksfird . . . What the . . . ? This didn’t make any sense. I closed the book and looked at the front. Eevul Edditters Dikshunery.

Krapp, I thought. Dat figgers.

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Anonymous


Rei said...

I have trouble believing that the aunt would be that daft when it comes to pronunciation. Only a small percentage of the words begin with 'E' begin with the pronunciation 'E as in Even'. I don't find it believable that a person who natively speaks English would not realize this.

Anonymous said...

I liked this opening. Quirky and smoothly written.

Dave Fragments said...

This is a self-contained little vignette of a crazy relative and the "duties" of being a child.

While it reads well, {a few too many words for me} (but it's a friendly and breezy style), it doesn't seem to be the opening page of a novel. The biggest problem is that it is all about the Aunt and not about the child.

Is this loony Aunt going to be a principal character in the novel from beginning to end? Is the child going to narrate her Aunt's story? That story would be just as agonizing as listening the the Aunt's ravings about the name Eileen or Aleen, or Aileen, or "I leane dover"... AND the Aunt sounds like Betty White's crazy, foul-mouthed character who fed her husband, a couple cows, and some chickens (the legal limit) to a mutant alligator in that weird movie about Lake Placid, Maine.

I like the words and meaning of the segment, but I don't think that it's an opening the way it is written.

Perhaps it is the lack of context and I just don't "get it".

Bernita said...

Amd I have trouble with such a "small self" answering "Why, yes."
Strikes me as an adult's reply, not a child's.
Unless, of course, this is a vigilante midget.

Anonymous said...

It just didn't generate any interest for me. Having read that much, I'm lke -- fine. Whatever. Fussing over diction is not my idea of a gripping introduction to a gripping plot.

Anonymous said...

It happens. There's a branch in my family tree that honestly believes the name Karen is misspelled because if the name starts with a K, you have to say Kay-ren instead of Karen. So the name we think of as Karen has to be spelled Caren.

No joke.

There are a lot of peole who natively speak English who just happen to be certifiable.

AmyB said...

I like the quirkiness of this opening. But it's too wordy for me, and that makes it a struggle to parse and read. I'd cut down on the descriptive phrases. In a way, I hate to say that, because they are GOOD descriptive phrases, but too many of them just get in the way of the story.

Robin S. said...

Hi anon 12:18, and thanks.

Dave, This is the beginning of a short story. It's about a self-contained world that is askew but considered normal by those who have "designed" the world they inhabit.

I think households, neighborhoods, family groups, as well as larger-group social norms, with their inherent world-building and definitions of what constitutes normal, are interesting.


You're right - this would be over the top for a typical 7-8 year old child. But this kid is mimicking the adults around her with her "why, yesses".

Anonymous said...

The second sentence is so long I forgot there was a first sentence. The "logic flow of a turnip" didn't work for me. These paragraphs definitely painted the picture of the child's momentary misery but I think you can pick up the pace by trimming unnecessary description. I don't think you want the reader to wallow in that misery for long if this is an opening. Good work!

GutterBall said...

AND the Aunt sounds like Betty White's crazy, foul-mouthed character who fed her husband, a couple cows, and some chickens (the legal limit) to a mutant alligator in that weird movie about Lake Placid, Maine.

God, I thought that was great! Of course, I'm easily amused.

As for the opening, I had no problems with it. Duty visit or whatever, I can just see this kid fidgeting (and trying not to) while casting quick, desperate glances toward the nearest window in hopes of seeing Mom's car pull up. I had an uncle that told me I needed to go to Grace School, so I can easily imagine the irritation factor here.

I should probably admit that I am a little clumsy, but not nearly that bad!

Robin S. said...

Forgot to say that I loved the continuation.

Dave Fragments said...

Saying that your aunt has the "logic flow of a turnip" is so deliciousy wicked.

Anonymous said...

Awesome continuation.

2nd sentence woman with big, swollen thyroid eyes...
Maybe cut 'big' - with swollen thyroid eyes.

Twill said...


By the end of the first paragraph, I was expecting that the viewpoint character was pregnant and the aunt was attempting to enforce her idea of a good name on the child. A few paragraphs later, I had no idea what the scene was about.

Robin S. said...

Hi Amy, stick and move, gutterball -

Thanks for your comments. Sounds like I should consider some trimming.

Dave- I'm glad you liked the turnip line - you're right - it is wicked.

If EE allows this it, the next opening I send in center on the sexual. Not sure how much he likes that, or how much is allowed. I may have to do a little archive digging.

Evil Editor said...

Sex between 2 people is a beautiful thing ; between 5 it's fantastic--Woody Allen

Robin S. said...

Hi EE,

I see that you and Woody have given me the go ahead. Good to know!

I'll wait a little while before sending - Don't want to wear out my welcome on openings.

Anonymous said...

"thyroid eyes?" "small self?"

I didn't like those phrasings.

McKoala said...

Nice writing, but maybe a bit too much of it, I thought. The description got in the way of the story a bit.

Loved the continuation!

Anonymous said...

I realize why "logic flow of a turnip" doesn't work for me. Turnips don't flow at all. I think "logic flow of a mud puddle" works better. Maybe it's just my crazy way of thinking.