Tuesday, July 03, 2007

New Beginning 307

I met Bibliomancer for the first time at my uncle’s funeral. He stood two people down from me at the viewing. Between us there was this old lady I didn’t recognize with her six-year-old grandson in tow, already fidgeting. Bibliomancer kept leaning forward to look at me, past the old lady’s nose and the handkerchief she had clamped tightly over her mouth. I pretended to ignore him, kept my eyes fixed on the casket. I couldn’t wait to get out of this suit.

“Excuse me.” He was trying to catch my eye. I considered sidling away, as this guy was creeping me out. “You do know why it’s a closed casket, don’t you?”

“Do I know you?"

The old lady gave me a sidelong glance and I turned my gaze back to the casket. Bibliomancer shuffled his feet and I could imagine him still staring at me. The little boy coughed and his grandmother put a hand on his shoulder.

“Excuse me.” Bilbliomancer had taken a step back and now he was talking to me across the old woman’s back. “You didn’t know your uncle well, did you?”

I leaned slightly back, tried to keep my voice low. “Were you a friend of his?”

“An acquaintance. He used to visit my bookshop. He enjoyed reading.”

“And drinking and gambling and whoring.” The old woman’s voice was as dry and bitter as desiccated lemon.

“It’s a very special bookshop.” Bibliomancer was standing next to me now, the old woman still on my right. “Do you know why it’s a closed casket?”

The old woman turned to both of us. “So that -- just for once -- the old bastard will stay where I put him. Now shut the fuck up.” That’s when I realized the old woman was my Uncle’s second wife. And that’s when I heard the scratching noise from inside the casket.

Opening: The Green Cat.....Continuation: ril


writtenwyrdd said...

ROFL on the continuation! I liked this one a lot, except for the really dumb name Bibliomancer. It makes me think of a superhero in a cape waving a bible around every time I read it.

I'm left with the impression that there's a life-changing revelation about to happen and that this story is geared to the YA audience. Other than that, I have no guess where you plan to go with this, but I'd like to read more and find out! :)

A couple nit picks: In the first paragraph, your narrator knows the kid is 6, but not who the old lady is. The guy's omniscient, but only selectively, apparently. Also, you show the omniscient thing again when you use Bibliomancer's name repeatedly. This is fine in the first sentence because it's present time looking back at the past. But then you keep using the name Bibliomancer instead of describing the guy or referring to him as the weird guy or whatever. It reads omniscient done that way. But really, these are just minor tweaks.

Except, can we lose that awful name???

Bernita said...

Was always under the impression that a "viewing" meant an open casket. Is that incorrect?

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Great continuation, ril!

Anonymous said...

I usually don't object to an entire paragraph, but this one seems as excessive as a 30-month prison term for a little white lie. I would commute the whole thing for one much shorter in length. I was a little put off by Bibliomancer, but I randomly opened the dictionary and there was bibliomancy meaning divination by means of a book, opened at random to some passage, (or definition)which is then interpreted. So I thought, hey, I'll bibliomance the author's prospects on getting published. Sorry, but there in black and white was the term coon's age!! Why not just make him a good old fashioned necromancer and get it over with?

I couldn’t wait to get out of this suit.

That sentence bugged me because it seemed to fall out of the "omni" POV and made me think the narrator is still wearing the suit. Or is that what I'm supposed to think?

Anyway, I hope your reason for the casket being closed tops ril's continutation, which was excellent as usual.

PS even tho' I poked fun I would read a bit more(your style is quite readable), if only to find out the COD.

Dave Fragments said...

I have this "thing" about DREAD FAMILY SECRETS! I think they are fertilzer from equine species. ('m being nice because this is a pet peeve).

Uncle Buzz died thirty years and his wife still wears black because she'd in morning BUT great Aunt Tessie just told the DREAD FAMILY SECRET. Buzz's son Vitorio was not his, she had an affair with the neighbor and that's why Buzz was so hateful and miserable in his old age. That was fifty years ago and who the hell cares anymore. Dread Family secrets are like fuzzy-wuzzies.

Do you know why your Uncle's coffin is closed? Is a question you ask at the funeral while watching the coffin sink slowly into the ground? Old ladies weeping, men sniffling, the choir singing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and the pastor throwing dirt on the coffin lid with the biblical admonition "from dust thou art..." In mere seconds, the semi-pro mourners, the old ladies with black shawls and rosary beads clutched in their hands from the Sisters of St Rocco the Gimpy will burst into banshee-like weeping while the funeral party throws roses on the casket. Not to mention the half-drunken workmen sittin gon the backhoe waiting to seal the vault burping and farting in the sun.

Let me guess the reasons why the coffin is closed(well no, let me not guess. The point is that this is unrealistic dialog. And worse yet, it the the author preparing the reader for two men shaking hands. What we want to know is (A) what does Bibliomancer know that the nephew doesn't and (B) why does he want the nephew involved.

Bibliomancer comes across as Uncle Bozo the clown - Sorry about that. Maybe It's me. I am in an odd mood over politics today and tomorrow is 4th July of fireworks and bang bangs and cookouts. To my mond, if he has a serious message to deliver to the nephew, he doesn't oepn up with "Do you know why the coffin is closed?"

I think you can wirte a more engaging scene than this.

Dave Fragments said...

Wirte? Wirte?
where were my eyes - WRITE

I gotta quit drinking that cheap wine with dessert!

McKoala said...

If he doesn't recognize the old lady, how does he know that the boy is six, or even that he's her grandson?

PJD said...

ril: well done.

Author: Bibliomancer is someone's name? I thought it was a racehorse at first (well, OK, I didn't, but it would be a good name for a racehorse, don't you think?).

I had no problems with POV. It pretty much seems to be in first person the whole time. "six year old grandson" pushes it a little... are you sure the kid is six? Are you sure it's her grandson and not just some snot-nosed urchin she's watching... or her son? Are you sure it's a boy?

I do think the question about the closed casket at that moment seems abrupt and indescribably rude.

I didn't find myself particularly drawn in. Maybe it's the name "Bibliomancer." Maybe it's the old lady and the kid getting in the way. Maybe it's that I don't dig funeral scenes. I do get this kind of creepy "Six Feet Under" vibe from it, but not that creepy. I'd read on for a bit to know what it was that Bibliomancer was going to say.

none said...

Wow, I haven't encountered the term "fuzzy-wuzzies" since Alf Garnett was taken off the air. Dave, are you sure that word means what you think it means?

Bonnie said...

Overall, I liked the opening, and I don't have any issue with the name. For one thing, it clues me in immediately that we're dealing with either fantasy or organized crime (I can just see a bookie nicknaming himself the Bibliomancer). I did have the same issue others have mentioned with the narrator seeming to know some things a first-person narrator shouldn't, like the kid's age and relationship to the old woman.

Yeah, the guy is being unpardonably rude, but I thought the narrator's reaction was appropriate to a rude character at a funeral -- awkwardly trying to ignore it.

And I love deep dark family secrets :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, I haven't encountered the term "fuzzy-wuzzies" since Alf Garnett was taken off the air.

Wasn't it Dad's Army?

"They don't like it up 'em, you know..."

Twill said...

Written as a memoir, I don't have any problem with partial knowledge. Just because the scene isn't *written there*, doesn't mean that five seconds earlier she didn't say to the fidgeting boy, "Come on, you're six. Stand still!"
and he replied "But, Grandma, it itches!"

I'm a pretty good judge of kids' ages myself, usually not more than a year off. But if you have a real problem with it, maybe the author should change "six year old" to "sixish".

As far as using Bibliomancer's name, let me tell you about the time I met Fred. It was at this funeral, you see, and Fred was doing this and that. Fred asked me "la la la?" and I replied "Badabing!" Ha ha ha.

That's one way you can tell an anecdote. Since the author is clearly stating that he has an ongoing relationship with the guy, using his name and later information as part of the story is not a problem (for me). However, it does speak of a little distance from the story... the writer is looking back on the action from a later perspective. Many excellent novels have this "later me making observations about earlier me doing things" POV.

Margaret Taylor said...

For one thing, it clues me in immediately that we're dealing with either fantasy or organized crime (I can just see a bookie nicknaming himself the Bibliomancer).

Both, actually. Bibliomancer and dead uncle were both part of the magical mafia. We find out right away that dead uncle was murdered, quite gruesomely, and our hero has inherited his spot. Bibliomancer just likes opening conversations with morbid jokes.

As for the POV, the hero is recalling the events from afterwards. I didn't think the six-year-old kid line was going to be a problem. He's guessing about the kid's age and figures from his proximity to the old lady that they're related.

Bibliomancer has a real name, too. Should I use that to start out with?

none said...

You may be right, anon. And no, they don't.

AmyB said...

I liked this opening, and the name Bibliomancer didn't bother me. In fact, for me the name was a hook. A name that strange has to have an explanation behind it, and I was curious to find out what it was. I'd have read on.

Dave Fragments said...

DREAD FAMILY SECRETS are fuzzie-wuzzies because
they always come back and bite you in the ...

Dave Fragments said...

My very old fuzzy wuzzie joke is about a man who buys a tasmanian devil trained to rip apart anything on the order "Fuzzie Wuzzie" ... If the man says fuzzie wuzzie my chair, the beast rips apart the chair. Somehow, accidently, the guy says "Fuzzy Wuzzie my ass," and pays for his silliness.

Other than the Tasmanian devil, my FW is not Australian or British or related to Alf Garnett.

Bonnie said...

Green_cat, if the story is indeed organized magical crime, then Bibliomancer is the perfect name to use.

Do the kid and grandmother play a later role in the story? The current way you refer to them makes me think he didn't know them at the time but, as with Bibliomancer, met them later. If they're just props at the funeral, maybe you could add a qualfier of some kind to show he's guessing -- "about six" or "woman old enough to be his grandmother" or something like that. (You can't assume from age that she's not his mother these days -- I see women older than me towing preschoolers at the grocery store.)