Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Beginning 426

I moved in during the winter, a bad time for moving, especially when one has bought a place out in the country, where the roads are not paved and traveling is already arduous. My friends grumbled and bitched about having to help me move in the cold, but there was really not all that much to move, and they cheered up once I served them hot coffee and pizza. They left me alone that evening, all of them ready to go back to their families or friends, their own lives. There were promises to call, on both sides. But I think they knew I didn’t really mean it. I don’t think they did, either.

My mother did not agree with my move. She especially did not agree with my having moved in winter. She said it was bad luck. She wondered aloud about the statistical possibility of my being killed by an axeman or some other form of serial killer.

And so I conducted an empirical study of serial killer habits and winter. Combing through news articles and police records for the last 30 years, I was able to gather 1827 murders attributed to serial killers, including axemen, knifemen, wiremen, and quarrymen, that also could be matched to a record of the local temperature at the time of murder. A 2X3 MANOVA found no statistically significant correlations between temperatures and axemen. However, a two-tailed t-test did border on significance (p<.06), but in the wrong direction! Indeed axemen were more likely to attack in warm weather.

Unfortunately, and this is where my tale begins, I forgot to look at attacks of the Yeti.

Opening: Freddie.....Continuation: Pacatrue


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

But she cheered up once I reminded her that - since we were no longer living under the same roof - the statistical possibility of my smothering her with a pillow was now nearly nonexistent.


Getting back to my friends-they got in their cars. Mostly older Japanese cars with lots of mileage. As soon as they turned on the music and pulled out of the driveway, they were gone. Gone baby gone.

My mother continued her rant about axe murderers. Said a friend told her about a cousin who married some guy in Tennessee who was the brother of another friend who moved in the winter and got himself killed.

I cleaned up the pizza boxes and thought about calling my friends.

My mother said the only thing worse than axe murderers were stranglers.

I changed my mind about calling my friends.

My mother said that the only thing worse than axe murderers and stranglers were editors. She ranted about how they chop everything and choke the life out of all things living.

--Church Lady

I went to bed still chuckling over my mother's overwrought speculations, leaving me even more unprepared for the tragedy disclosed by the phone call in the middle of the night. My friends, all of them, dead in traffic accidents after losing control of their vehicles.

"We traced all of them to your home earlier in the day," the police sergeant explained. "Then the medical examiner's report came in. Sudden paralysis caused by acute acid reflux. What did you feed those people?"

--Paul Penna

"Oh, Mom, puh-leeze," I told her on the phone that night. "The worst that could happen is the power will go out in this storm--"
Just then, I heard the sputter of appliances whirring to a stop. The cozy lamplight snapped into darkness.

"Is everything okay, dear?" were the last words I heard before Mom's worried voice disappeared into a crackle of static, then silence.

Okay, I told myself. Don't panic. I still have that leftover coffee and pizza left to get by until the power comes back on...

WHUMP. WHUMP. WHUMP. The thuds hammered my front door.
Oh God. I peered through the peephole. I could barely make him out. The pizza guy...

"I want to axe you..." I heard him groan.
I froze, unable to move.
"I want to AXE you..." he said, louder.
I started to feel dizzy. He banged harder on the door. Shouting.
"I WANT TO AXE YOU..." he yelled just as I passed out. "DID I LEAVE MY GLOVES IN THERE?"


When I woke the next morning, I made some toast with melted cheese and a pot of coffee. I peeked out the door to gauge the weather and noticed I had a complimentary newspaper.

The top story of the day was about a grisly axeman murder just ten miles away. It took them long enough to find him. I chopped him up over a month ago when I was looking for this house. That's country life, for you. I'll have to go mince Mother, I guess; she must be on to me.

--Bill H.

I remember chuckling and soothing her fears. I remember telling her that here in Canada, those types didn't exist.

I'm still right on that note, at least, the way she expected. No human serial killers ever made it out my way.

No one ever bothered to warn me about the meese.


But who would come all the way out here, where even the cellphone signal doesn't reach?

A scuffle downstairs reminded me how old the place was. Mice. I opened the basement door and flicked the light switch. The bulb burned bright for a moment and then plinked out. No matter, the mice could wait until morning.

As I waited for the tub to fill, I wandered round my new abode. I had not noticed before, the front door lock was broken. Something else to fix tommorow. I did not want raccoons in the house -- I could hear one scrabbling outside, now. I turned off the lights, so as not to attract them closer.

Relaxing in my bath, I already felt at home. Here, miles from anywhere -- anyone -- suited me just fine. I could go outside and scream my lungs out if I wanted. No one was around to complain.

A loose shutter tapped a rhythm against the side of the house. It had become quite drafty. I stretched my arm out, reaching to add another bar on the electric fi-pffzt.


Evil Editor said...

When there are axemen about, it makes no sense to worry about other forms of serial killer.

I don't care how cold it is, you serve beer with pizza, not coffee.

This was obviously stolen from Robert Frost's poem, "Helping a Casual Acquaintance Move on a Snowy Evening.":

Whose truck is this? I think I know.
His house is in the boondocks though.
To help him move I did agree.
Who knew that it was going to snow?
It's falling so hard I can't see.
He'd better have some beer for me.
I barely know this guy at all.
Ouch I think I wrenched my knee.
I'm lucky I didn't take a fall,
And I have promises to call.
Most likely we'll all hurt our backs.
This asshole has a lot of gall.
When this is done he'll give us snacks.
Then we'll all leave while he unpacks.
But I'll sneak back here with my axe.
But I'll sneak back here with my axe.

Dave Fragments said...

The woods are lovely dark and deep and so's your heart for me to eat.

I live in the country and I moved into my house in a cold, spring month and I had to spend my first night alone. That was thirty years ago and although I did the usual work and family things, nothing special happened in 30 years except for EE's blog. Nothing did involve pizza and occasionally beer.

And nothing seems to happen here.

Robin S. said...

Oh, damn. This is as good as it gets, freddie. Congratulations!

An EE original poem AND a pacatrue continuation, not to mention a boatload of other really, really good ones.

Wow - Family Guy isn't even looking that good tonight compared to this.

McKoala said...

I really loved this start. It rang true.

Stacy said...

Oh, dear God. For two weeks the phone has remained silent. E-mails were all going into my bulk folder (job-related e-mails). And that was when my computer was working! I was beginning to feel like I fell of the face of the earth and no one noticed.

Then, this morning I woke up to this. Laughed so hard I spit my coffee through my nose. All the continuations were good, but pacatrue's was my favorite. I had no idea this was generating so much entertainment. Well done!

Robert Frost my ass. That poem is classic EE. I love it.

Not one of my best openings, I agree. In fact, it sucks. It was just one of those ideas that refused to take shape as I was writing (and rewriting). But even the idea sucked, so I guess that's okay. I guess I just wanted to see if it was as bad as I suspected it was. Ah well. I shall bury this one in the backyard.

Thanks for the comments! Now that my computer is working (for now) I shall return the favor.

Anonymous said...

The continuations were all great, and I love that poem!

Stacy said...

mckoala, did you like the opening or the continuation? I'm just curious. And an attention whore.

Anonymous said...

LOL at EE's poem.

Robin S. said...

Well, EE did have a little Frost snowy evening structural help, you know, whoch made his poem even funnier...

freddie, I wouldn't call this a crap opening, as you mentioned. sounds like the narrator is lonely, sounds like her mother is a pain the ass, sounds like maybe something's gonna happen now that she's out there, isolated. works for me.

Stacy said...

Well, shucks, Robin. Thanks!

I'm working on my two novels right now, but maybe in time I will come back to this.

PJD said...

I wouldn't call this a crap opening either, but I have a hard time calling it anything other than back story. It reads like notes to yourself about the situation so you can start the actual story in the next chapter. For example, it could perhaps be rewritten, "My friends helped me move to a lonely country place in the dead of winter. Mom said it was bad luck and I should watch out for serial killers."

Also, the first two sentences clashed for me from a voice perspective. The first reads a bit like a literary epic ("when one has bought a place out in the country," "the roads are not paved", "the traveling is arduous") while the second reads like chic-lit (my friends bitched and I fed them pizza).

I am intrigued by the thought that the mom thinks moving in the winter is bad luck. Is the bad luck related to the statistical probability of being killed by an ax murderer?

Delightful poem, EE.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Depending on what happens next, there are things that you can do with this.

You can make it show and not tell, by actually having the moving done in real time, and/or the phone call to mom.

You can make this a journal entry.

You can cut the heck out of it and bury it in the first chapter since it's mostly back story.

Nice bit of writing, just maybe not a beginning.

Love EE's poem! And the continuation.

Kanani said...

I like the rhythm of your writing a lot. I get the feeling of someone leaving something for a new life, though lonely as it's coming across. Introspective and devoid of sentimentality --which are 2 good things.

Small things --if you want to make us feel the heaviness of the move, try uncoupling the grumbling and bitching in the cold with being cheered up by hot coffee and pizza. Since this has such gloomy tone, you might consider making the offerings meager --cold pizza and water from the tap. And were they fully cheered, or would it work to have it be tepid? Anyway, it's just a thought. As you've found in so few words, there's a lot you can do.

Also, watch your commas. Sometimes two things together can muddle the meaning or more to the point, the effect you're trying to push forth. Go for variation of sentence length to break up the rhythm you've got now an then.

Good job. Thanks for sharing.

Stacy said...

Excellent suggestions, pjd and sarah.

Stacy said...

*blushes furiously and smiles*

Okay, I guess it isn't shit, but clearly it needs serious editing or a rewrite. Thanks, everyone!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I moved to the country in winter. No big deal. Then again, the weather was cooperative so the roads weren't hazardous. I read this through a couple of times, trying to get why, while it's nicely written, I wasn't feeling it so much. I think maybe it's lacking the little details. You kind of imply that maybe there's snow or ice on the roads, but all you give us concretely is that it's cold. Is that Michigan cold or Louisiana cold? High mountains cold or low desert cold? Is it icy and treacherous or snowy and inconvenient? No need to dwell on it; just a descriptor or two that will help establish the setting, which I'm assuming is quite important to the story. I think that because your first words are "I moved in during the winter." Having in there leads me to believe that home will be of consequence else you would simply have written "I moved during the winter."

As EE points out, some other form of serial killer seems too much. Depending on where this is taking place, perhaps have Mom worrying about wolves or bears or a generic pack of wild animals in addition to the axeman.

I do like very much how you dismiss the friends here. That felt quite right and gives us a glimpse into the narrator's personality.

Ah, EE, you've outdone yourself this time! You shall need your own "Poet's Corner" in ND4!

Paca: I suspected that was your continuation. With due respect to the other contins, I voted for yours. Solidarity amongst geeks!

Stacy said...

Yes, phoenix, the home is definitely of consequence. The house the MC has moved into is (gasp in surprise) haunted. The house itself is a character in the story, somewhat like Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House) - only, somehow . . . not like that. Exactly. Er.

I'm going to let it simmer awhile underneath the ol' conscious before a rewrite. Will report back.

Evil Editor said...

Haunted by an axeman?

Stacy said...

No, the axeman is just the mother's fear.

I have a feeling the MC will have all sorts of problems to contend with, not the least of which the writer's decision-making skills. Or lack of them.

McKoala said...

I liked the opening, Freddie!

Robin S. said...

I would absolutely love to be freaked out in a haunted house.

I've tried. God knows I've tried.
But nothing haunted ever happens to me - even when I've stood in purportedly haunted places and quite literally said - "Well? Where are you? Make it occur....I'm waiting." Squat happened. Nothing. Nada. How disappointing.

Which is why I don't believe in them, although I like to read about them - because I really wish they were real. So let me know when you finish your story, please, freddie.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Um, Robin, ghosts don't like to be taunted. No one who taunts a ghost gets haunted by them.

Haven't you heard the old sayings:

The taunted haunt never haunts.
Don't count your haunts after you've taunted.
Don't put your taunt before the haunt.
Don't use a taunt where a haunt will do.
Good taunts never make good haunts.
Haven't got a haunt to taunt.
Can't see the haunts for the taunts.
The haunt that taunt forgot.
Many taunts make light the haunt.
Haunts don't grow on taunts.
No use taunting a dead haunt.
One bad taunt spoils the haunt.
Nothing haunts under the taunt.
Like looking for a haunting in a taunting.
Taunt not lest they haunt not.
Don't taunt the haunt that brung ya.

pacatrue said...

Phoenix said: "Paca: I suspected that was your continuation. With due respect to the other contins, I voted for yours. Solidarity amongst geeks!"

Geek? Moi?

Robin S. said...

Hi Phoenix - Love the adages! My favorite:

"Don't taunt the haunt that brung ya." That one explains so, so many things.

Well, I never knew that about taunting. I'm never gonna see a ghost, then, because you know that guy, Doubting Thomas? He's a relative.

Oh, yeah, paca. So cute. So academic. So, uh...what phoenix said. It's great, actually. That solidarity stuff.

talpianna said...

I can't wait for EE's poem about his experiences as a cross-dressing pseudo-dominatrix: "A Bircher of Swingers"....

Evil Editor said...

You wanna know what happens when you taunt a haunt, rent 1408.

Chris Eldin said...

I liked the beginning. I'm late to this party (again) but I agree with many of the suggestions.

I don't mind losing a continuation to a llama. Really.

EE, you're a kick-ass poet.


Robin S. said...

OK - just checked the 1408 synopsis.

Based on a Stephen King short story. That's kinda cool.

We stayed in a "stately home" in Ireland a few years ago, an dit was attached, in a manner of speaking, to the ruins of an old castle. We stayed there because I'd heard it was haunted. The girls freaked themselves out, as they do - but nothing actually happened. And I'd have paid extra for the ghost. I sat in that ruin (and I do mean it was a pit of a ruin) for quite a while, by myself, waiting. Nothing.

So freddie, feel free to scare the hell out of us with your story, whenever you finish the other two. OK?