Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Beginning 418

When Sandra called from the airport, I was asleep and the brilliant ringing of the telephone clashed badly with my attempts to mend a dream that had already spiraled too far out of control.

"You woke me up," I told her petulantly. Her apology was mostly laughter. Airport security had confiscated a bottle of her favorite perfume, and the singular boredom of an hour spent in hard plastic seats by Gate 14 had surrendered her to her cell-phone. 5:45 in the morning. I was not allowed to complain. If she had been born a crueler, angrier person, she said, she would have woken me two hours before. A hundred pounds of dropped luggage, stilettos on the hardwood floor, all the lights on. But no. She had taken great pains to do everything in relative darkness, the pale yellow glow of the dining room lamp acting as sole beacon to her luggage-laden descent. In a grand show of consideration, she had donned her shoes on the front steps, closed the door without a sound, and gingerly carried her bags to the curb.

"Really," she said, "you should be extraordinarily well-rested by now. All that extra sleep." Her tone was bright and self-congratulatory.

"True," I said, but it wasn't. A sharp jab of consternation had caught me in the chest shortly after 4 AM, waking me just in time to watch her cab pull away. Back in bed, I had suffocated myself with blankets and the knowledge that I was, once again, alone.

"They just opened the doors; we'll be boarding soon." I could hear staccato airport announcements in the background. "So, how do you feel?"

I wasn't sure. Relieved? Rejected? She was really going. I was feeling the need to unload. "I'm just happy to have some room," I said. "I hope they don't sell cheeseburgers where you're going. Go somewhere where they have salads, that's my advice. I hope they got you sitting in the middle on the plane. Listen, Sandy, was there anything else? Only I'm on my own here and it's my first chance in years to have sex with someone who really gets what I need. Oh, and I'm selling that ridiculous buffalo hide sofa of yours, it just reminds me of your mother, anyway."

I woke up for the last time, shivering and blanketless, with winter light streaming under the shades. Sandra was sitting staring at me in her flannel PJ's. "You were talking in your sleep again," she said.

This wasn't looking good.

Opening: Regina.....Continuation: Anonymous


Dave Fragments said...

Your character is waking from a dream and recalling events that happened a few hours before. It's a great character description of Sandra but that's it. It's not a very dynamic opening. The only ways I can think to make this opening work is if the next paragraph contains an event.

for instance:
- - Sandra died in the plane crash. That was the last time I talked to her.
- - I didn't want to tell her I was leaving her. The movers were coming this afternoon while she was away.

Now if you opened with the sentence, "Sandra died that day," or with "Our affair ended with her business trip." That would make the exchange emotionally interesting.

Evil Editor said...

Presumably they've dicussed her leaving, so phoning to ask how he feels seems premature. Not just because it's 5:45 AM; I'd expect her to wait a week or two.

Also, phoning at 5:45 AM to brag that you didn't slam the door, just because you're bored, is hard to swallow.

Nonetheless, I liked this.

You might change

"True," I said, but it wasn't.


"True," I said, but I wasn't.

Possibly he should be well-rested (depending on when he went to bed), but he isn't because he woke up at 4 (which she doesn't know).

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I would personally stick with "'True,' I said, but it wasn't." i.e. It wasn't true. That scans better for me.

I liked the scenario. I felt the prose was just a tad over-written -- it sometimes feels a little labored getting to the point. Nice words, but rather a lot of them...

Evil Editor said...

Not sure what "scans better" means, nor am I saying there's something wrong with "it."

"I wasn't" means I wasn't well-rested.

"it wasn't" means it wasn't true that I should be well-rested.

It's a lot easier for him to determine whether he is well-rested than whether he should be.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough -- makes sense now I read it again.

Wasn't really trying to pick a fight, just expressing a subjective preference.

McKoala said...

I think phoning at 5.45 am to boast about how you didn't slam the door is a great comment on the character.

I would have thought that the confiscation and boredom would make her tetchy rather than giggly.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Maybe if it becomes two sentences, then it's a little more clear?

"True," I said. I wasn't.

I like this. Yeah, there's no immediate action, but the characters are being established very nicely. A lot does depend on what happens next and if that will continue to pull me into the story.

Instead of yanking me in, it's wafting me gently through the words. I hope it continues.

Anonymous said...

From the first sentence in the second paragraph, I read the narrator as a female: "You woke me up," I told her petulantly.

I don't care much for adverbs in dialogue tags to start with, and if this is a male character telling us he did anything petulantly, I don't like him at all. In fact, it makes me want to pimp slap him and tell him to grow up. If it's a female, I still don't like the adverb but I wouldn't rip the book in half.

I like "I" rather than "it" in the "True" argument.

I agree with the comments about needing some action soon, but I'd keep reading... unless the MC is a dude.

Unknown said...

Narrator = female! Congrats to "stick and move" for that keen observation. As the story is being told from a set point in the near future (two weeks from the story's opening), the adverb "petulantly" functions as self-mocking commentary on the narrator's own behaviour. I do agree that overuse of adverbs in dialogue tags is problematic, but this one has a specific function.

EE, I definitely see your point about "I" versus "it"... The first bit of your comment, however,

"Presumably they've dicussed her leaving, so phoning to ask how he feels seems premature. Not just because it's 5:45 AM; I'd expect her to wait a week or two."

...seems to refer to the continuation and not my opening. Is that right? It's the continuation that has Sandra asking about feelings.

Mckoala: yes! An immediate, if unflattering, characterisation of Sandra was exactly what I was going for.

Sarah: thanks for the positive review. This is another "quiet" short story. Basically: Sandra's absence leaves the narrator vulnerable to an encounter with a man she once rejected (they had a deeply complicated relationship and have not spoken in four years). He now does abstract modern paintings and, when she visits his gallery show, she becomes convinced that all his paintings are violent destructions of her portrait. The narrator's childlike dependence on her superficial relationship with Sandra, coupled with Sandra's absence at key moments of emotional instability, determine how the events play out.

A far cry from what most of you likely expected, no doubt... I realise Sandra's leaving is not necessarily the most intriguing event to open with, but it's so crucial to the rhythm of the story that I couldn't see it any other way. Thoughts?