Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Beginning 487

There now, not so bad, not so crazy after all, this getting up and standing by the phone naked in the dark in the cold in the living room with a nutbag above me in the upstairs apartment, going off up there with her moaning. We might as well have been the only two people on earth, me and the nutbag. That’s the dizzy way reality changes sometimes in the middle of the night.

The phone rang again. If it can be said that you can answer a phone with a slam, that’s what I did. I slam-answered it, because it had to be her up there in her apartment, calling in between her moans.

“What’s the matter?” I said low into the phone.

“Please. Please help me,” said the voice calling from upstairs. It seemed as though her voice was disconnected from real life, as though it wasn’t coming from anyone’s flesh and vocal chords. “I’m afraid, and I don’t know . . . ”

I sucked a disapproving breath, sucked it through my teeth and wished she could feel it, feel it through the phone tugging at her eardrum, a whisper of haven't you better things to do? Because I had better things to do, not-talking-to-her things. "This is the third time tonight, darlin'," I told her. "I'm naked and cold and I have not-talking-to-you things to do. What do you want?"

"He never came home," she said, her voice a newspaper rustle of old news. "He went to get cigarettes and it's been hours and he didn't come home. I'm scared, alone. I need to hear him tell me, say it's going to be all right."

"Dammit," I said, "I can't believe you got me out of bed for this." I tore open the pack of Pall Malls on the table and lit up. "Harry! Get your naked butt in here! Sheila wants a word."

Opening: Robin.....Continuation: Anonymous


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

"Don't know what?" I asked, hoping this would be the last call of the night.

"Please help me. I'm afraid I can't see you," she said in a raspy voice. "Could you take a step over to your left?"

I did as she said, hoping that by humoring her she'd finally go to bed.

"One more step. Wait. Stop. Ah....yes. Mrs. Phelps was right."


"What?" I said, wishing the spittle I threw on the mouthpiece could make its way along the line and flick itself coldly into her waiting ear. "What do you want?"

"I don't know how... I mean, this is, ah..."

I'm impatient in the daytime. I'm an impatient woman, I don't like to be kept waiting, I don't like bad service, I don't like people who won't get to the point when the point is what it's all about, especially when I'm cold and naked in the dark. "Get to the point," I told her.

"Well," she said and paused again for Christ's sake before she continued, "Your husband says can you bring up another box of condoms from the bathroom cabinet 'cause we're all out up here."

Yes, that's the dizzy way reality changes alright.


"--Anyone else to call. Yes, yes. That's what you said the last fifty times you've called me in the middle of the night!"

I slam-hung up the phone and unplugged it from the wall. Not so crazy to ignore her pleas this time, not crazy to let her deal with her own problem. Not on my time. Time to sleep, yes. No matter that we really were the last two people on the earth and the Pods had taken over.

I ignored her moans as they grew paler with the dawn, pulled the covers over my head. So what if she was having Satan's love child and the birth might kill her? No way was I getting involved in that.

When I realised what I was thinking, I reached out and grabbed my lithium, popped a couple extra. I wasn't going to share delusions with anyone, ever again.


Evil Editor said...

Very nice.

I would remove "said the voice calling from upstairs." from the last paragraph. We know it's her voice because if it weren't, you would say so.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wonderful beginning. Sets the scene nicely. I get a good sense of the MC's character.

Only problem I have is I'm not sure if the MC is male or female. I may have missed that.

Good one, Robin! I'd read on.

writtenwyrdd said...

It's a matter of personal taste, but this one didn't grab me and I wouldn't have read on. It just left me feeling confused and uninterested. I suspect that my preference for genre fiction over literary offerings is part of it. In any case, I get it that something important is between these two people, but what or where it might be going? No idea.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this opening. It grabbed me and was well-written. Only thing that caught me was "The phone rang again" We didn't know it rang the first time, though I know the MC is standing by it. I wondered if I'd missed something.

Love the slam-answer. I do it all the time.

Whirlochre said...

Yes - go with EE and de-clutter the abundance of voices in the final para.

I'm concerned by the multiple 'in the's in the 1st para—but I'm guessing you have it this way for a reason.

But all of this is minor. On the whole I like it and it works. I've had dealings with mad women in adjacent rooms myself, though thankfully not in the Norman Bates way, so I would be interested to read on.

Oh - one other minor thing. Voice production is a VC thing, so the 'flesh' ref is superfluous. Plus, they are 'cords' as in strings—for 'chords' you probably need another nutbag.

Just read it again. Whoo—this could go anywhere.

Scott from Oregon said...

"going off up there with her moaning".

I suppose I should cut this voice some slack since it is familiar and common (I mean truer to life, not that YOUR voice here is familiar and common...)but this expression seemed odd to me.

The expression "going off" makes me think of someone really busting one out. When people go off, they are usually in the shouting, screaming range. Moaning seems a bit under the threshold for "going off". But ignore me if you disagree. I'm just spouting off...

Wes said...

Great voice, Robin. A good read.

Anonymous: You did an excellent job of maintaining Robin's voice, and your twist at the end was a delight.

Nancy Beck said...

I usually wouldn't go for something like this but, dammit, the voice really had me going (not off, but, erm, um... ;-)).

Anyway, I thought this was going to be something funny, but although it started out that way, it transitioned (very well, I thought) to something dark.

I'd read on. :-)

Kitty said...

I thought a nutbag were testicles. Or is that just me?


Julie Weathers said...

"Very nice.

I would remove "said the voice calling from upstairs." from the last paragraph. We know it's her voice because if it weren't, you would say so."

Yeah, this is why I have lurked here so long. Such little things we don't notice as writers, but are right on the money.

Good work, all of you.

Robin S. said...

Hi, and thanks for your comments, you all - and thanks EE, for saying very nice. That means a lot.

This is a chapter opening, or was, before I switched some stuff around on what passes for "a draft" I'm currently sweating my way through - so that's why "the phone rang again" sounds odd.

Sorry- when EE says he's low- I send him stuff. I can't help myself. (I blame the nuns - for making me a compulsive helper - that's how I got here in the first place - I happily lurked for a few weeks- then EE put one of his "we need openings" bulletins, and, like a Catholic-school-graduate moth to a guilt flame, I sent one in).

The continuation, by, ah, anon, is very good and funny.

Don't wanna go on and on - but Scott - the voice is Southern - and the wording you pointed out is a colloquial sort of way to turn a phrase.

WO- Hey, kid, I checked my now 30 year old Oxford dictionary (the oldie with the pruply blue cover) - and it looks like both ways are in there to spell cord/chord for the vocals, although I'm guessing you're correct in the rope/cord way.

I really miss being on this blog during the day.

Xenith said...

Having naked in the dark & nutbag in the same sentence is not a good idea

McKoala said...

LOL xenith. Naughty.

I liked this opening a lot, even if it is a chapter opening. Maybe US English is more flexible, but 'cords' is the usual UK spelling. Great continuation; nailed the voice and nice twist.

Anonymous said...

Really liked this and also it stayed with me in phrases likem, "the dizzy way reality changes . . ." and the slam-answer. So I liked the voice right off and I'm glad to know it's a chapter, etc. Also really thought the cont. captured that style quite nicely.


Anonymous said...

Mr Evil had his fingers in the deviation too - credit where credit's due.

And please don't call me a cont.

talpianna said...

I was intrigued. I'd read on.

Bernita said...

Robin: unique voice, eerily intriguing. Great stuff.

Chris Eldin said...

Hands off everybody. Robin's mine.

Robin S. said...

Good Lord.

I can't be good much longer- waiting until freaking nightfall to get on here.

Anyway, if anyone's still checking in here, thanks, you guys, for the comments.

Yeah- xenith - I do love the double meaning of this word. I could say more, but, well, you know. I have my sterling reputation to protect!