Wednesday, October 10, 2007

New Beginning 383

It isn't that I don't care. I'm just late, again.

I run outside the diner for a minute. Jeanine, my best friend, is leaving me for her sixth grade class. I see Roger – and he's one of mine.

"Roger?" I call. He stops. He's pushing a kid's bike with a wicker laundry basket tied to the frame. He's clean shaven but his hair has a wild and wooly look to it. Salty gray and wiry, it pokes out from under his John Deere ball cap.

"Roger? I haven't seen you all last week. Are you O.K.?" I ask.

"I'm fine Nichelle," he says not quite looking at me. "I'm fine."

"Now – have you eaten today?" I ask.

"Eggy and bacon at the Lutheran's today. It's Wednesday." He says.

I reach out and hold his left wrist. His hands remain firmly on the bike's handlebars. I circle his wrist gently in both my hands.

"You're going to come by the center today – O.K.? I want to see you at the center today." I say.

He seems right enough. It takes more than a chance meeting on the street to know.

"O.K. Nichelle. I like your coffee. You have cream." He pulls off his John Deere cap, but his wooly hair keeps the same shape, like he's wearing an invisible hat.

"Good, I'll see you there," I say. "Gotta go. I'm late."

"Yes!" Roger's face cracks into a wide grin. Pumping his fists, he shouts out to the world, "My boys can still swim!"

He starts to dance around the parking lot. He seemed right enough, but now I'm starting to wonder . . . Did I pick the wrong hobo to father my second child?

Opening: A Snarkling.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

His pulse pounds against my thumbs. "I know you do, Roger." I lick my fangs. And I just love your type A positive in MY coffee.


She watches him walk away, stiff-legged like one of those wind-up metal toys. It's hard to believe he used to be a finance director at a city trading house. They all like to come and watch her make her coffee. They especially like to watch how she makes her cream. But eventually, they all become a little...vacant.


I nod. It seems I've been nodding incessantly all morning. I look Roger up and down again. Yep. He'd fit the part.

"Okay," I say.

"Okay. Okaaaay." He seems to like the sound of the word.

After another round of checking to make sure Roger knows where to go, I bid him my adieu and go back inside the diner.

I'm still new at this, but I think I'm going to hate being a casting director for Forrest Gump II.


Evil Editor said...

p.1 It isn't that I don't care . . . about what?

p.2 Jeanine is leaving me for her sixth grade class: Some will assume Jeanine and the narrator are in sixth grade.

p.4 Should "all" last week be "since" last week?

p.7 Eggy? If this is intentional, then I guess some people call eggs eggy. Those who aren't aware of this will think it's a typo. Roger has no other language idiosyncrasies in this piece; in fact, one might have expected him to say "Uh huh," when asked if he was O.K., rather than "I'm fine Nichelle."

p. 7,9 He says and I say shouldn't be separate sentences.

p. 10 You might put a "but" between the sentences or a "though" after the second one.

JL Carr said...

I agree with EE. The first paragraph has nothing to do with the rest of it. Me, I thought they were kids because of the sixth grade line.

And, for EE, a question - is O.K. the right format? I just right OK, or spell out okay. O.K. seems to distract the eyes for a minute. Am I nitpicking?

Evil Editor said...

I write out the word okay, but according to this wikipedia piece, anything goes:

Nancy Beck said...

Okay, I thought Nichelle and the eggy guy were in the 6th grade - they're not?

Also, what EE said about "He says" and "I say" shouldn't be separate sentences.

This sentence made me want to read more: I see Roger – and he's one of mine. I immediately thought, One of your - what? Intrigued, I read on, but I'm unsure as to what's going on here. Is Roger a student of Nichelle's, and is Nichelle a special ed teacher? (I saw the movie Charley a few weeks ago, and it sort of sounds the way Charley's teacher/therapist talked to him.)

Sorry if I'm completely off base on that, but after the beginning (where I thought they might be 6th graders), I decided on the other tack.

Then I came to this line, and giggled: "O.K. Nichelle. I like your coffee. You have cream."

Or she'll soon have the cream? ;-) Sorry, author, that was gross, but I guess you, um, came up on the 150 word limit right about there.

Interesting. I might read on, but I think you'd need to clear up the confusion with the 6th grade bit, and I'll need to know very soon where this is taking place.

Oh - and loved the chosen continuation!


Dave Fragments said...

There's too many characters and too few descriptives. The narrator is ambiguously male or female IF we ignore the sterotypical waitress. Then she becomes Nichelle. The only Nichelle I know of is Nichelle Nichols (Uhuru on Star Trek). Is this character African American. You know, that would be so nice. We seldom get characters "of color."
SIGH! We are left with a stereotyped image - waitress with a heart of gold.

Jeanine is leaving for class (I never thought she was the teacher, but that's important to establish Jeanine. Say that she's going to "teach" her class. It's not "her" class.

Why does Nichelle run out of the diner? To say goodbye to Jeanine? That's silly because it's a routine leaving. To see Roger (he appears two sentences later and we don't know at the time of the action.) Or because we think that she's a kid? Now do you see why the age mistakes arise? Jeanine would yell at the cook or another waitress if she had to step out to make sure that Roger (who could be losing weight and getting frail) comes to the shelter to eat. Instead, Nichelle acts like a little kid and not an adult. Eggies is childish. But Eggies is affectionate if they have a relationship (completely non-sexual BTW).

Now comes a homeless man - but we aren't told that. We have to piece it together. Why is Roger important? It's not that we're hard-hearted and want him to starve. It's because we don't know why he is important. She puts hands on him. She cares for him. she has a good heart and as we piece together feeds him at the homeless shelter (euphimistaclly called "center") My 80 y/o Mother goes to a Center to play bingo. A homeless guy with a shopping cart goes to a shelter that serves meals.

Why does It takes more than a chance meeting on the street to know.? To know what? In what sense? It only takes a few added words like: It takes more than a chance meeting on the street to recognize starvation in the homeless.

Now, I do know where this scene goes. It's a few posts back on Electra's Crapometer. And unfortunately, it gets worse. (I don't mean that in a cruel way. It's unfortunately the truth.)

Nichelle goes back into the eatery and a strange man askes her about her relationship with her brother that she was talking to Jeanine about a few moments before. Again, this second man looks homeless and Nichelle is outraged at the stranger poking into her personal business.

That leaves us with a fairly unknown waitress, a snooper homeless man, Jeanine who might or might not be a teacher, and Roger who pushes a bike with all his posessions. That's not enough to hold together a first chapter.

What is the action in this scene? What provides tension? Why does the reader want to find out what happens in chapter 2? Is this a novel of saving homeless men and is Roger her brother? What sort of conflict is Nichelle in?

Now 150 words is short and I know you can't answer all of that. Hell, I've written crap and nonsense so bad that it made no sense. This ain't like that.
This has a heart and good feelings and it seems like noble ambitions. Something good and wonderful is going to happen to these people, isn't it? Please hint at that.

Robin S. said...

Hi Mr. or Ms. Snarkling,

I can't decide if the "sixth grade class" of the 2nd paragraph is a good idea or not a good idea for what follows, but it may not matter, as, rereading, I see that it's about the narrator's friend.
But maybe needing to reread isn't a good thing in the very beginning of your work.

I really like your description of Roger - "clean shaven but his hair has a wild and wooly look to it. Salty gray and wiry, it pokes out from under his John Deere ball cap", because I know I'm getting ready to meet a character. And I do. And I like that.

And this:

"I like your coffee. You have cream." He pulls off his John Deere cap, but his wooly hair keeps the same shape, like he's wearing an invisible hat."

So- I really like your opening.
I just wonder about that one line.

Anonymous said...

You lost me.
I had no idea of what was going on here. This needs more explanation.

Evil Editor said...

He pulls off his John Deere cap, but his wooly hair keeps the same shape, like he's wearing an invisible hat. part of the continuation, though I'm sure the writer wouldn't mind if the opening author adopted it.

Chris Eldin said...

Author, I'm sorry, but I'm lost too. Every paragraph left me scratching my head. The sixth grade class confused me.

There's not much particularly wrong with the paragraphs, I just think the paragraphs need some glue to hold together better.

I like your voice. Maybe the next 150 words clarify things.
Good luck.

Robin S. said...

Oh- too bad about that second line-I like it.

That's what I get for rereading this in wehn there's no 'blue'.

Anonymous said...

I thought Jeanine taught sixth grade and that's why she left, not that they were in sixth grade. I also thought that he was one of her cases - like in social worker - but something not quite that official.

It gives me the feel that she does some volunteer work either with the homeless or the mentally challenged or something.

I like how this is going, but I'm not sure how much further I would read on. It doesn't seem like my kind of story.


Anonymous said...

I liked this - the voice - the characters - but also had some confusion.

Are Nichelle & Jeanine both teachers? At first, I thought they were both in middle school . . . then when I read the interaction with Nichelle & Roger I lost that.

If Nichelle is a teacher and Roger is a student - he must not be in the 6th grade. If you're going to clarify for the reader which grade one of the teachers teaches, clarify Nichelle's age group. The shaving thing threw me off on Roger's age or I'd assume he's younger b/c of the bike. Maybe he's failed several times.

If Nichelle is a teacher - and Roger a student - why is her calling her by her first name?

Author - you just need some clarifications on this stuff. I like the voice and scenario in all the different ways that I looked at it.

Bernita said...

This is very well done.
"Eggy" IS in dialogue, but perhaps you could try "bacon and eggies"

Anonymous said...

Thanks all-

Dave a razor editor just to the crux of the issues and , of course, EE for those clarifications as well.

I need to upgrade my own editing skills and while the comments as a whole contain the elements which I tried to convey, the comments also reveal the horrid confusion the writing created.

As an opening for an agent or publisher ... these first 150 need real work as does the rest of the story in light of this feedback.

Thanks to all ...

( I liked "eggy" too but it needs more context to avoid "typo" status ...)