Sunday, June 10, 2007

New Beginning 290

"Jane," said my mother, "you simply cannot marry a dog. It is out of the question."

I continued to unfold my trousseau, putting the linen neatly to one side and the silk undies to the other. With determined patience I said, "I will brook no obstacle in this matter. I shall not be opposed."

Mother wrung her hands. Framed against the handsome proportions of the bedroom window, she stared into the afternoon's glow. "You always were a dreadfully wilful child, Boojum."

"Boring, Mother. Boring. Really." Some of the linen was the gift of my father's new or current wife or spouse; we had not yet, in fact, established my step parent's gender, due to the postal strike.

"It's all very well for you to take that attitude, my girl. The fact remains that it is we who must live with the neighbors."

I began to grow angry. "Damn the neighbors, Mother. If I cared what the Fosters deemed proper I should still be wearing a veil."

"You are being hysterical, dear," Mother told me in an etiolated tone. "You know as well as I that you have never worn a veil in your life."

"A figure of speech." She can be perfectly exasperating. "Look, Mother, I am marrying Spot and that's all there is to it." I finished the unfolding and closed the trunk. "Anyway," I added, "look at what you married. I don't see the Fosters grumbling about Father."

Mother smiled sweetly. "That's because they enjoy the wool, dear."

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Kate Thornton


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Jane! Jane! Get me off this crazy thing! Jaaaane!

Mr. Jeston, what are you doing out there? asked Jane from the towering column of her space port.

"I was looking for Astro," Mr. Jetson said. "He's a nervous wreck."

"Oh, no!" cried Jane to the starry sky above. "Astro doesn't want to marry me?"

Jane's mother smiles but surrounds her daughter in a tender embrace.

"No, Jane," Mr. Jetson said, "That's not it at all. He's just worried about the bachelor party tonight. One of his buddies mentioned a stag party and i think he got the wrong idea."


When mother spun from the doorway and huffed off down the stairs, I brought Fidel out of the closet. I always fancied myself with a Doberman, or an Alaskan malamute, but Fidel was nothing but a wretched fleabag, a common mongrel, a tyke! And that’s what I adored about him. “Oh come here you little cur and give me a big smooch!”

Fidel was on the bed dry-humping my silk undies when Mr. Foster barged in.

“Oh, dear god, child!” Mr. Foster said. “Look what that mutt is doing! It’s disgusting, and to think, Mrs. Foster is right below you in the kitchen fixing you and your mother a fine meal!”

“Oh please, Mr. Foster. You act as though you’ve never seen a healthy male dog before.” At that, Fidel ran over and started humping Mr. Foster’s leg.

“Get it away from me,” he screamed, kicking and gyrating and by the way the old man was wailing you would have thought he was being gang raped.

“Oh, come here, Fidel. Leave poor Mr. Foster alone,” I said with a wave of my hand toward the old balding fart. Fidel hurried back to my trousseau and urinated on it, then ran around the room hiking his leg on the walls, marking off our boundaries.

Mr. Foster ran from the bedroom shouting for my mother and I to remove ourselves from his house immediately. I never thought living with our neighbors was a good idea, but mother insisted. She can be absolutely tyrannical.

--circus boy

"Nevertheless, you've never been curtailed in any way at all-- something I've been regretting immensely now that you've nearly grown up."

I went to the closet, took down the clothes I'd be needing for the next two weeks. "I've repeated myself endlessly on this mother: You have no right to stop me from marrying anyone, no matter what their social standing. I'm old enough to choose for myself, and I'm doing so."

A long-suffering sigh. "Well fine then. You'll suit yourself no matter how you mangle my feelings." She paused for effect, noticeably wilted when it didn't work. "I suppose you'll want me at the ceremony, too?"

I looked up. Mother capitualating? Or merely a cease fire during negotiations? Probably the latter; she was the consummate manipulator.

"Don't come," I said. "You'll wreck everything."

"And this is the thanks I get? I hope that you get rabies."

I rolled my eyes. "Mother, how many times do I have to tell you that his stage name is Joey the Wolfman? He's really just a nice boy from the Bronx named Ira Silverman?"

A moment of silence in which my mother's knees buckled. She caught herself against the door frame and stared at me like she was seeing a ghost. Maybe she was: The ghost of her delusions.

"You mean he's...Jewish?"

"Yes." Surely she remembered our earlier conversation on this? But with my mother, one never knew.

"Honey...wouldn't you at least reconsider the Foster's Saint Bernard? He's at least a christian!"


Anonymous said...

Well, I made the assumption that "dog" refers to a despicable person beneath one's station. If that's correct, then I had a hard time locating the time period for this story. This is where flap/back copy or shelving would really help, I think.

The very proper syntax and some of the word choices remind me of late 18th/early 19th century (I'm thinking Jane Austen). But then words like "undies" and "postal strike" make me think 1950s boarding school. Then there's the line about not being certain about the step parent's gender. Had Jane thought "I" there, I would have thought a liberal-minded 1950s young lady who thinks herself quite worldly. But then she thinks "we" instead, meaning her mother might also think it's possible there's a question about the new spouse's gender, and Mother does not seem the precocious, worldly type, so maybe something more contemporary?

It's nicely written prose, and I probably would have felt more charitable toward it if I wasn't spending all my time trying to figure out when this is set.

Kate and writtenwyrd: *snicker*

Anonymous said...

Phoenix: no, the dog is indeed a dog. With EE's permission, here's a little more to clarify the situation:

"Nor a yashmak," she said, ploughing on heedless of my raised eyes and muttered imprecations, determined to have her say, "nor a garden hat. And I cannot imagine that this terrier gentleman—"

"Kelpie, Fiona. Do try."

"—that this kelpie fellow is without a degree of social sensitivity of his own. Don't deny it; I know you, my girl, we might differ on some things but I trust your instincts to that extent. This dog of yours will feel uncomfortable in our circles. You will recall that he expressed an interest in Mr Percy's peahens only to be misunderstood. How did you feel about that contretemps?"

Glacially I told her, "It is our intention to emigrate to Australia."

Mother uttered a ferocious bray. "I see. He's found an opening on a sheep station, then?"

"That's not even remotely funny." I closed the lid of the lacquered chinoiserie glory box, and crossed the room to the mirror. My hair had lost some of its gloss. I found part of a dry leaf tucked in above my ear and quickly crushed it between thumb and index finger, letting the fragments sift to the carpet. Try as one might, running through the woods is a dusty business in late September. "There is scarcely any call on a sheep station for a theoretical nuclear physicist."

"God forbid I should belittle his mathematical skills. In regard to this grotesque proposal, Jane, it's clear enough to me that Towser has calculated to a nicety—"

Seething, I let my brush fall to the floor and turned on her, cheeks so flushed I could feel their heat. "His name is Spot, Mother. As you know. I will not have—" My breast heaved; all the words whirled in my brain. "As you know because he has been often enough in our parlor, because we have conducted this tedious argument or others like it sufficiently often and with such a plethora of redundancy that I am heartily sick of it." I looked around blindly for the brush, took up instead a silver-backed comb. Mother held her tongue but I was not appeased. I watched her reflection. "Bitch," I muttered.

She gave a satirical snort, and left the room. I could have kicked myself.

writtenwyrdd said...

Whoa! I'm confused. The kelpie is a breed of dog, not a mythological critter, cuz that would be in the form of a horse (or so says the web).

Between that concept and the stiltified language, this is a bit strange for me. You use the language well, but it's a bit too much for me.

Just a suggestion, but I would like a bit more clarity about this dog right up front. You don't have to spill all the beans, but a bit more is going to help you keep some readers who will just close the book on seeing that first line.

Overall, I liked the voice, but not sure I'd actually read this at the beginning of a book. Might tuck it back on the shelf.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'll bite. Are Jane and her mother dogs, too?

Is this novel like Animal Farm in that animals are articulate?

PS aren't kelpie's seals in Celtic myth who turn into men (or women) when they fall in love with a human?

Xenith said...

I thought that was a fun read.

Although I'm wondering if mother is something? And are they shapechangers?

Xenith said...

Kelpies are a breed of sheep dog (which might explain a line of the opening)

AmyB said...

For me, this passed from "quirky" into "inscrutable." I just don't get it. The opening line is a great hook, but the conflicting setting cues made it hard for me to get grounded in the story. The writing is excellent. I'd keep reading to see if I could figure out what was going on.

This reminds me of the SF submission we saw earlier, where the writing was good, but it was confusing because so many unfamiliar concepts were flung at us at once. In SF, you expect a certain amount of that. I don't know what the genre is for this one. This opening might work perfectly well if I'd read jacket copy in advance.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's the late night and too much wine, but for me the "little more" offered by the author did very little to clarify the situation. I find it all just... weird.

I don't really like stories where animals are the characters. The Mouse and the Motorcycle is about as close as I get generally. Even Charlotte's Web had a little girl and farmers and all that. Animals were animals, without talk of emigrating to Australia. If the story could be told with human characters, why use an animal gimmick?

Without the additional prose from the author, I thought it might be just some odd girl who wanted to marry her dog. Some sort of political statement about a potential strange "logical extreme" of allowing gay marriage, perhaps. But the additional prose gave me to believe, perhaps wrongly, that all the characters are animals. Though I don't know what type Jane and her mother are. Oh, wait! Mother uttered a ferocious bray. An ass? Is Jane an ass? So, an ass is marrying a dog. Do I have that right?

On the other hand, I did find the prose enjoyable for the most part. Nice turn of phrase here and there, well paced, interesting dialog that clearly displays tension between mother and daughter.

But weird. Sorry, author, I don't get it and wouldn't bother reading on unless someone I respected a whole lot had recommended it to me.

Bernita said...

It's high quality clever - but am not sure I could stand an entire novel of it.

Beth said...

"That's not even remotely funny."

Well, I thought it was...

This opening (and the author's continuation of it) is wildly confusing. I initially thought it was satire, then I decided it was serious and that "dog" was just a slur, but now I don't know what to make of it. The mention of a kelpie, a seal-turned-man from Celtic mythology, left me truly adrift. And the tone--is it meant to be serious or perversely humorous? I honestly can't tell. I found myself snickering a few times, but I wasn't sure if I was meant to. But then, how can we take seriously someone who claims to have married a dog, and is arguing with her mother over whether his name is Towser or Spot?

Help us, author. What's this story about?

Robin S. said...

First of all, the continuation was really good.

Second, this was really well-written, and I can see myself standing in the bookstore aisle reading this and reading longer than I do with most of what I pick up when I'm in there.

I'd have to know what the "deal" was before continuing, however.

I'd need to know, as has been asked here, if these are, for instance, a hoity-toity New England mama and her aberrant daughter (as this sounds to me on initial reading), a shapeshifter family, an Animal Farm deal, or some combo plan thereof. If I was good with the answer, I'd read on.

Anonymous said...

If this is anthro, why is Mother wringing her hands? Shouldn't it be forepaws or front hooves or something?

Anonymous said...

...and if they're animals, how do they keep peahens and sheep?

Blogless Troll said...

Author, the extra bit certainly clarified the scene. This is hilarious. I'm guessing it's a short story though, unless Dick turns into a jealous psychopath after Jane and Spot run off to Australia.

Chris Eldin said...

This is from the opening of M. Bulgakov's "Heart of a Dog" Quote:

Ooow-ow-ooow-owow! Oh, look at me, I'm dying. There's a snowstorm moaning a requiem for me in this doorway and I'm howling with it. I'm finished. Some bastard in a dirty white cap - the cook in the office canteen at the National Economic Council - spilled some boiling water and scalded my left side. Filthy swine - and a proletarian, too. Christ, it hurts! That boiling water scalded me right through to the bone. I can howl and howl, but what's the use?

I read it 20 years ago, and I think it was a satire on the sciences under Stalin.

I copied that because I think if you're doing a satire using animals, we need to know that in the first couple of sentences. The reader wants to be in on the joke, not wondering if there is a joke or not.

Anyway, I say this to be helpful. I was truly confused also. And then the line about the veil along with the postal delivery line made me think it's in the Middle East, and we're talking about mail-order brides.


Anonymous said...

Leaving aside the what-kind-of-beings-are-these question, the scene doesn't read well.

Jane is unfolding her trousseau, indicating that she has just arrived, not that she's leaving to marry someone Mom doesn't like, which is how the conversation reads to me.

Jane talks oddly - "I will brook no obstacle" in one paragraph, and "Boring, Mother. Boring. Really." in the next. Mom wavers back and forth, too, though more unobtrusively.

I don't feel emotionally attached to either of these characters. There is no depth to them, the conflict is all on the surface. Both of these characters ought to be having serious inner conflicts as well as the surface argument, but none of that is portrayed.

Blogless Troll said...

I don't feel emotionally attached to either of these characters. There is no depth to them, the conflict is all on the surface.

I would say the author nailed it then. You guys are taking this way too seriously. Which makes it even funnier.

Marissa Doyle said...

A kelpie is a water horse, a type of faery creature. Are you all thinking of selkies?

It was interesting and quirky and I'd read more just to see where it goes, but I agree it needs a little polish per anonymous 12:59's suggestions. Too many mixed cues here.

And if Spot's a physicist moving to Australia, make him a cosmologist and send him to Jodrell Bank.

Beth said...

Marissa Doyle says: A kelpie is a water horse, a type of faery creature. Are you all thinking of selkies?

Yes. Duh.

Anonymous said...

Blogless wrote:
Author, the extra bit certainly clarified the scene. This is hilarious.

Thank you.

I'm guessing it's a short story


And yes, a kelpie is an Australian breed.

Blogless Troll said...

a dog's wife,

Would you mind emailing me the rest. I'd love to read the ending.

Anonymous said...

Whoops,yes. selkie or silkie
Sorry for adding to the confusion.

Anonymous said...

So dog's wife:

Are Jane & Mother people or dogs??

Dave Fragments said...

My doggie was a Silky Terrier, cute little beast, cousin to a Yorkshire Terrier and simply, the worst Aussie little boy that ever peed all over my carpets, walls, feet, tires, vacuum cleaner, etc...
I miss the little beast but I can't afford the cleaning bills.

Dave Fragments said...

PS - he rusted a hoover to the carpet

McKoala said...

Dave, how long was the hoover immobile for the pee and metal to turn into rust? Enquiring minds must know.

I had no idea what was going on, but liked the writing.(BUT why is she unfoldng her trousseau?)

Loved Kate's continuation!

none said...

Jodrell Bank would be quite a commute from Australia. It's in Britain.

Jess said...

I liked it a lot, both the beginning and the continuation, and I didn't have issues with the setting, but then, I read goofy fantasy a lot. This looks fun and I would've liked to see the rest.

batgirl said...

I liked it, but perhaps I have a higher tolerance for absurdist narrative? The only thing that bothered me was a feeling that one brooks no opposition, rather than no obstacle - minor point.