Sunday, October 07, 2007

New Beginning 380

February 25, 1865 [Three miles west of Petersburg, Virginia]

Will had been cold so many times in the last three years he lost count, but nothing like this. The wetness, the slime of the hole, trenches as Captain Taylor called them, was unbearable. He had accepted the foul odor of the other men as normal, but how could you get used to blinding cold? A panic said get out?.If this was trench warfare as Captain Taylor said he would just as soon take his chances in the open. You either live or die in no man’s land, no more dying little by little.

Fifteen more minutes of duty and he would try to sleep. Although his fatigue was overwhelming it had a benefit. He was losing the deep dread that had plagued his whole being the whole day. He stuffed three rags inside his shirt to try and help keep out the cold. It was not only the cold but apprehension of a mortar shell caving in the trench was on his mind constantly. Three days ago the company took a blast in which two men died under the debris, while nine somehow dug their way out. And where was the Sentry relief?

Will crept over the lip of the trench and tried to bury himself deep in a wet crevice, but the tangled foliage all around disoriented him.

Suddenly, he heard loud voices and the camp came alive. Was it the sentry relief at last? No, the sentries knew better than to make so much noise. He dove back into the trench and huddled silently, waiting . . . waiting for a rocket to penetrate without warning and explode all around.

Damn it all, Will yelled silently. I can't take this. Why? Why was I born a vaginal mite?

Opening: Bernard St. James.....Continuation: Pacatrue


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

And where was the Sentry relief?

That's right. Working on your neighbor's house. Or your family's house across town.

No pest problem is too big or too small for the Sentry Relief team.

Call 1-800-BUG-DEAD

15% discount if you mention Captain Taylor

--Church Lady



"This is one of those trick questions, isn't it? Like: How many were going to St. Ives? or What was the driver's name?"

"You think?"

"Yeah. That's gotta be it. Where was the sentry relief? It was Will! Will was the sentry relief, right?"

"I don't-- Wait! Your name's Will!"

"Dude! You're right! I'm the sentry relief! I knew it -- God damned trick question. Awesome! So, where was I?"


Evil Editor said...

This gives a good sense of the character's misery. The sentence "Although his fatigue was overwhelming it had a benefit." sounds like the narrator rather than Will, and takes me out of his pain. I'd delete it and continue: At least he was losing the deep dread that had plagued his whole being all day; fatigue will do that for you.

I wouldn't say both "trenches, as Captain Taylor called them" and "trench warfare, as Captain Taylor said." The first one isn't necessary; if it's a trench, it's a trench, whether Talor calls it one or not. It's not unlikely Will would have heard the word "trench," if not in the warfare sense, then in irrigation.
Just say, The wetness, the slime of the trenches, was unbearable.

Chris Eldin said...

I. Feel. Itchy.

Dave Fragments said...

"Trenches" puzzled me. Not that the Civil War didn't have trenches. It did, but only at the siege of a fort in a large town. Petersburg Virginia is rural and without forts. But I did discover that it was one of the last battles before Lee's surrender at Appamatox and the town did undergo a siege with trenches.

I thought this description was more suited to WW1 in France or WW2 in the Pacific. Perhaps that's because I'm more familar with those wars but I tend to view the Civil War as not siege and not trench warfare. If this was dated 1914 or 18, I would have said "great opening" but the descriptions are at odds with the dates. It just sounds so much like WW1 and WW2. It doesn't have the feel of the Civil War.

none said...

It's possibly phrases like "trench warfare" and "no man's land" that are giving the impression of WWI rather than the US Civil War. It may be those phrases were also used then, but in many people's minds I suspect they're indelibly associated with WWI.

It wouldn't hurt to try to develop more of a sense of a US Civil War setting to offset that problem.

Robin S. said...

Hi author,

Like Dave, I was surprised with trenches in the Civil War setting. I liked this feeling. I liked finding something out I didn't know.

I thought this description was really good: "Although his fatigue was overwhelming it had a benefit. He was losing the deep dread that had plagued his whole being the whole day." Theonly thing I'd change is the double use of 'whole' in the second sentence -
just my opinion.

I feel guilty having read this; I'm living right in the middle of Civil War battlefield country - but I've only been to see a few battlefield sites- one Revolutionary War, and one Civil War. When I think about the slogging, painful misery that took place in the places we drive by now, off of on I-95 and other roads, it seems rude not to stop in and pay our respects.

And pacatrue- that was one killer continuation.

Now you've got me all worried about vaginal mites. Thanks loads. I NEEDED another thing to worry about right now. I'm not Googling to find out if they really exist. I still remember finding out mites live in our eyebrows, and how I swabbed my eyebrows with alcohol for weeks after that, until the inevitable happened, and I said, oh, to hell with it. Just have at it.

pacatrue said...

As far as I know there are no vaginal mites. I did do a quick search on "vaginal infections" but that mostly came up with yeast. I wanted something a little bigger than a yeast, and so, I took the eyebrow mites and moved them down.

writtenwyrdd said...

This reads like a rough draft to me still, but the scene is very evocative. I had to reread before I got anything related to Civil War. I thought it was WWI era.

Robin S. said...

Well, paca, you did a good and funny job!

And your mite story makes me think of that talking flea character on the cartoons.

McKoala said...


This read a little rough in places, for example, I wasn't sure what "A panic said get out?." meant right in the middle of the description, with no action to follow. And those would want to be pretty big rags to help with the cold, plus coming after the dread, rather than after the cold, I thought that this might be in the wrong place. However, it's laden with atmosphere and slime, which is all good.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Living just two miles south of the site of the Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, trench warfare in the Civil War is not at all unfamiliar to me. In fact, our Civil War was the proving ground for many of the tactics and weapons used in WWI, WWII, and later conflicts.

Ann (bunnygirl) said...

Author, although it is true that trenches were used in the American Civil War, the term "trench warfare" is so strongly associated with WWI that IMO, the opening of this story should use words more frequently associated with the Civil War, such as breastworks.

Most Americans don't know much about history, so it's not wise to insist upon a particular term just because it's accurate. Perception is everything in those critical first few paragraphs.

none said...

Dave's right, but I think this might be a case where the writer's knowledge outstretches that of some of their readers, and the initial reaction is (unfortunately) that the writer has got it wrong.

This is probably more of a problem at the critique stage. Once something gets into print, it acquires a glamour ;).

Bernita said...

I agree with Buffy and Bunny.

writtenwyrdd said...

Ditto Buffy and Bunnygirl. Accuracy in that first paragraph should be secondary to giving the proper sense of place to the ignorant readers. Then you can educate us a bit further in. :)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what they said. And it's not like February 25, 1865 [Three miles west of Petersburg, Virginia] is much of a clue, anyway.