Saturday, June 02, 2007

New Beginning 285

The first time Death came to visit George Waterson, it took the form of young Japanese private nervously staring down the barrel of a new Arisaka Type 38 rifle. The sharp point of its menacing bayonet glinted with the rays of the midday sun peeking through the thick jungle canopy. Both men on scouting patrol for opposing armies, startled to come upon each other so suddenly and alone in the dense foliage of the lowland rainforest.

Like small mammals sensing a predator, the men had frozen in place, weapons in firing position. Sweat trickled down from under George's steel helmet. He felt incapable of thought, the image before him seared into his brain but his arms remained steady under the weight of his ancient Springfield rifle. A relic of the first war, but the only weapon made available to the hastily convened Air Corps Provisional Infantry. George found it an unnatural weight, heavy and awkward both physically and mentally. He had never fired it outside of target practice which had lasted all of two weeks. And now faced with the enemy, George was incapacitated.

"George," the Japanese soldier said. "I am Death."

"Shit," was all George could manage as a reply.

"I come back another time," Death grinned. "Not here for you. War keep me very busy. I catch you later, G.I.!"

The second time Death came to visit George Waterson, it was years later and George was racing his Toyota pickup on the 91 Freeway, blissfully unaware that Death was cruising toward him in the black Honda.

Opening: Ello.....Continuation: Kate Thornton


Evil Editor said...

The ones I didn't choose:

Luckily, at that moment, a tree fell over and killed the Japanese soldier.

The second time Death visited George Waterson, it was in the form of his soon-to-be mother-in-law who showed up, unexpected, on his doorstep with a poisoned fruit cake. George wasn't marrying her daughter, no sir.

The Japanese private fired first and George hit the ground like a small mammal dropped from a Messerschmitt.

The second time Death visited George Waterson, it came in the form of a sixteen-year-old named Christine Darlington who had signed up for Driver’s Ed. George could see she was nervous and tried to calm her by suggesting they sing "Row Row Row Your Boat," but that was obviously a bad idea when the girl became so flustered trying to sing in rounds that she crashed into an eighteen-wheeler.

The third time Death…

Which brings us to the second time Death paid a visit to old George (and the seventh time for poor Shiro Kaniwa). This time it took the form of a wildcat. When George and his foe heard a snapping twig and a rustle in the dense foliage, they both flinched, but they remained intently focused on one another. But when the leaves parted and a fireball of fur and claws came hurtling at them, they shrieked and threw up their arms (the fleshy ones, not the rifles). They tripped over themselves, falling and scrambling, trying to flee. The Iriomote Cat was only two feet or so in length, but it was fierce, and it was fast.

Days later, the remains were discovered by George's squad while out on patrol. They were appalled at the sight and puzzled as to its cause. Some suggested cannibals, while others mentioned rumors of enemy canine patrols. As they stood around the carnage, trying to sort out just what the hell had happened, there was a rustling in the leaves.

Many historians believe the Battle of Okinawa to be the most brutal of the Pacific Theater. None know of the true cause, nor of the haunting yowl that echoes through the island's misty mountains.
--G Clemmons

Beth said...

The first sentence got my attention, but the rest wandered off track during the middle section where the jungle is described and the backstory is inserted about how George ended up there, and again during the discourse about his rifle. Save all that for later. What you need up front is the event itself--two enemy soldiers facing each other down. Make the reader live in that moment, and you do that by writing with great immediacy. Use verbs and nouns with edge. Use the five senses. But don't wander off on sidetrails. Not here.

So--the first sentence is fine. (I'd maybe quibble with "took the form of," which is kind of vague and distant. "Looked through the eyes of" or something similar would be more concrete.) I'm ambivalent about the second sentence. The sun glinting off the sharp point of the bayonet is a nicely specific detail--it gives the reader (and George) something visual to focus on--but then the description descends into the idyllic with the midday sun peeking (a playful image, not so appropriate here) through the thick (an unnecessary descriptor) jungle canopy. You have a tense moment here--don't dilute it! I'd stop with the sun glinting off the bayonet and move on to "Sweat trickled from under his helmet." And then show us what happens next. Give us his thoughts only as they pertain to the immediate situation.

Anonymous said...

Some of these continuations just kill me! I catch you later, GI very funny. "Row Row your boat is likely to cause nasal overflow for somebody.

Anonymous said...

I read this several times (Openings) and I would read more. The descriptions might be a little over done, but that's a style thing and I have no complaints. Except I did stumble a little on "Both men . . ., startled".The author certainly does a good job of setting up an extremly tense life/death moment. I wonder where the story line (war, memories, 'nam veteran?)will go from here!
It does seem to beg the question, "What happened the second time Death came to visit?"

Dave Fragments said...

I liked this when I read it, but I think that comments about it getting bogged down are correct. The language slows down. tighten it and make the language taut. Don't let the tension drain away.

Anonymous said...

Nice imagery, but, yes, it could use some tightening.

The nits:
"It" is used in the first sentence to reference Death and in the second to reference the rifle. Maybe change to: "The sharp point of the menacing bayonet glinted in the sun's dappled rays [or dappled rays of sunlight, etc.].

"thick jungle canopy" and "dense foliage" and "rainforest" all imply the same thing, which is why I suggest nixing "thick jungle canopy" in that second sentence.

"for opposing armies" is established, so can be deleted.

The "both men on scouting..." line is a sentence frag that doesn't work well. If you have to read it more than once to understand it, it needs to be rewritten. (NOTHING wrong with stylistic frags appropriately written and used!)

"Like small mammals" can also be nixed, I think. That they're facing off is pretty well implied. You also indicate their "frozen" attitude when you tell us "his arms remained steady" and that he "was incapacitated."

Delete "down" - sweat rarely trickles up.

How do you feel incapable of thought?

"ancient" and "relic" - again, redundant.

Don't need to know how long target practice lasts during a tense-moment scene. Besides, 2 weeks sounds like a long time to practice to me, so that took me right out of the moment. As did the "all of two weeks" phrasing.

Don't tell us "George was incapacitated" - show us. Is he trying to pull the trigger but his finger is paralyzed? Is he wondering how the bullet from an Arisaka will feel as it rips through his chest? Or wondering if the private will decide to use the bayonet instead?

It's an intriguing opening. Just put us more in the moment with George.

Thank you for including the also submitteds, EE. If it isn't too much trouble for you, I think it would be fun to routinely see them.

writtenwyrdd said...

Author, you chose a gripping moment to begin with, but then you immediately bog it down with irrelevancies. I would suggest a more staccato pacing, less description (Ariska rifle and much of the second paragraph).

Also, Kate's continuation points out the problem with capitalizing Death: You make it sound as if death personified showed up.

This still needs tightening up, because as is it lacks punch and drama. Go for the details that give that sense of danger, stunned motionlessness, etc. that you tell us about. Now you need to show it convincingly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone! Great comments. It sounds so good coming straight from your head to your screen but doesn't seem as good reading it after a suitable period of rest. Sometimes clarity only comes after others point it out to you! I will most definitely revise and tighten!

And I loved all the continuations! Everyone's creativity always amazes me!