Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Beginning 304

He’s forgotten now, or maybe he never remembered about that afternoon, about the screaming.

It happened, Charlie.

You were always the strong one, he says to me. He sits in his dark red leather chair in his dark-walled family room and talks to me late at night, when everyone else is asleep and we’re alone, after I’ve driven down to the beach house for the weekend to visit him. He looks at me when he’s been drinking and looks away when we talk about it and I think it’s because it makes him feel again like he’s not a strong one and no one wants to think about that, do they. That they’re not a strong one.

But he wants to talk about it. You’ve got my back, you’ve always got my back, he says. Yes I do, Charlie. I have it.

He tells me how much he always cared about me, growing up, picking out Christmas trees and trying not to find one that was frosted because it wasn't in the spirit of the season. He tells me how much it meant that I stuck around during my brother's battle with cancer, and how much my brother meant to him as a friend. I thank him.

He leans forward; his scalp, nearly bald from alopecia since his youth, shines in the firelight. "But," he says, "about all of those footballs, Lucy . . . "

Lightning flashes, illuminating the kite-eating tree outside the window, and I realize in one horrible instant what he's really brought me here for.

Opening: Robin Sinnott.....Continuation: Rei


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

I try to console Charlie. I speak softly, “Dad, I’m going to bed now.”

“Do you have to, son? Can’t you come sit with me while I finish my drink?”

“No, I really need to hit the sack. Tommy Reinhold’s been a real jerk on the playground lately, picking on all the other third graders. I’m probably going to have to kick his butt tomorrow and I want to be rested.”

Charlie nods, but I can see he’s disappointed. He takes a long pull from the glass and looks over at me, his eyes fractured with blood-red veins. “I remember screams,” he says.

“Yeah, I know. It’s okay, dad. I’ve got your back.”

--circus boy

Yes I do, Charlie. I have it, along with your sides, the top, and the front.

I'm sorry you don't like your haircut, man, but it's just a haircut. It'll grow out. Now if you'll excuse me, I must pack to visit my next client.


I can count on you, right, he asks, over and over. Yes, I'm here for you, Charlie. Always have been. Always will be.

You know I would have done the same for you, he says. I know it, Charlie. Of course, I do.

He takes another swig from the bottle, maybe thinking it'll give him the strength he didn't have that day. He shakes his head, shamed. A second chance, he says. That's all I need. One more chance to make things right.

You'll get that chance, I tell him. When one of those horseshoe crabs comes up onto the beach again, you take it out, Charlie. Alone. But if you need backup, I'll be right behind you. We'll relocate that sucker and drink a toast after. Just you and me, Charlie. You hear, just you and me.


Anonymous said...

This opening is so deliberately obscure that it is alienating. Yes, dark obscurity does set up an atmosphere of ... well ... dark obscurity, but it does nothing else. Can't you tell me who the narrator is? Perhaps even the narrator's gender or his/her relationship to Charlie? I don't need a map and a concordance, but a simple clue would be nice.

As it is, Charlie seems to have ignored screaming at some point in his early life. That suggests he ignored another human in agony, and makes me despise him. I also am not too thrilled about the unknown narrator, who is apparently protecting Charlie from whatever-it-was he did.

Don't care to hear more about either of them. Not going to be something I'd read.

Anonymous said...

LMFAO at the continuation. Perfection, rei.

I kinda liked the opening. At first I thought I didn't like the style, without quotes, and I didn't like the voice, but actually I think they really create a mood. And it makes me wonder about the screaming, and why the narrator is the strong one, so I'd read on.

Beth said...

The continuation is brilliant.

The opening? The voice is strong, but the POV is hard to pin down until the third paragraph. I wouldn't want this style to continue for an entire book, but it works here, at least.

Anonymous said...

This just didn't make much sense to me. It was confusing and annoying. If Charlie doesn't remember that afternoon, why would he feel again like he's not a strong one (strong one what?)? The absence of quotation marks and having two different characters speak in the same paragraph added to my annoyance, as if the author was careless. I had to force myself to get to the blue words and I would not read more.

writtenwyrdd said...

I rather liked this opening, too. I say that trusting that the hinting will become a bit broader, at the very least, really soon. Remembering screams and blood just makes us prick up our ears; we need something substantial quickly.

Dave Fragments said...

I have the feeling that we need to read the next few hundred words because this opening is either going to be a wild-eyed, screaming success, or, it's headed to the big prat fall right on it's face. It's too hard to predict.

Anonymous said...

I like the opening a lot. It demonstrates, however, that with such a strong voice and dramatic set-up, a little goes a long way. I usually don't like present-tense narrative and for that reason I might not finish a whole book of this. Maybe you switch to past tense first person soon. Anyhow, it is good.

Also, rei--again with the funniness!


Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by the opening. Not bothered by the lack of quotes. I'm dying to know about the screams.

Xenith said...

I love the mood, and the voice. I keep going back to read it to work out how you do it.

It doesn't seem the sort of thing I'dusually read, but if this was the start of a short story, I'd quite happily read on. If it's novel though, right where it ends I want a strong hint that there's going to be more than just two people siting talking.

McKoala said...

This really isn't to my taste and I wouldn't be a ble to read on. Too high on significant-sounding phrases and too low on content for my taste. The writing is mostly fine, though I think this sentence needs to be trimmed a bit:

He sits in his dark red leather chair in his dark-walled family room and talks to me late at night, when everyone else is asleep and we’re alone, after I’ve driven down to the beach house for the weekend to visit him.

pacatrue said...

Hi Robin,

I like the voice. It sounds exactly like something from this literary magazine that my lit prof mother-in-law sends to me called The Sun. It's not my thing, but she loves it enough to give subscriptions to everyone. So, that's great.

That said, I too was confused by Charlie and what he remembers. It starts off that he may not remember it, but later I get the impression that he wants to talk about it and is traumatized by it. On my third reading or so, it seemed to all work, but is there a way to keep the voice and clear this up?

Chris Eldin said...

Rei's continuation was brilliant!

I liked the tone, but I can't get "Charlie Brown" and "Check-point Charlie" out of my head. That might just be me, but it made it harder to focus.

Author, Can you post the next 50 words, to let us know where this is going?

Bernita said...

Very smooth.
However,there is an obvious contradiction between "forgotten/never remembered"and "wants to talk about it."
I assume the screaming is a specific, key incident in a general event that he does remember, but you might want to make that clear.

Anonymous said...

To me, it reads like an amateur trying to write "literary" fiction. Style for the sake of style.

But I really dislike present tense narration.

It's clearly a taste thing--people seem to either love it or hate it.

Lyz said...

There are meaning sense and clarity issues right off the bat. "He’s forgotten now, or maybe he never remembered..."

Forgetting is not remembering, so that seems a little redundant. Although it is the sort of sentence that sounds good, it kind of falls apart.

Also, "He looks at me when he’s been drinking and looks away when we talk about it and I think it’s because it makes him feel again like he’s not a strong one and no one wants to think about that, do they. That they’re not a strong one." This comes right after Charlie saying he is not the strong one. So, he isn't avoiding the issue. He may not like it, but this seems to contradict what was said before. I think that this opening could be straightened up pretty easily by the narrator just being more consistent and specific. Specifics make me interested, obscurity does not.

Robin S. said...


Just saw this last night, after being away for a while.

rei- loved the continuation!

Thanks, you all, for taking the time to comment.

Anon 5:09, Charlie wasn't ignoring a person in agony. He WAS the person in agony, and he was the one being screamed at.

Cheryl and others who liked it - thanks. Dave- I really hope your first option is right- and it's a wild-eyed screaming success. sounds good to me.

I only submitted approx. 140 words because just after this, there's a pause - (a space in teh writing) - the tense changes at this time, and the explanation for the passage you just read comes quickly.

I don't know if this is literary fiction- this was a five minute writing job (unusual for me, but enjoyable when it happens). The last two short sentences came during the reread and revise. Unfortunately for me, the rest of this chapter/short story took quite a bit longer to compose.

I've been reworking this last chapter for a while now. I think I have it where I want it. I'll know after a few weeks.

Hi paca,

You're right about the guess that Charlie was traumatized and wants to talk. Explanation coming shortly...(in the next few paragraphs.