Friday, May 02, 2008

New Beginning 495

It’s cherry blossom time, the beginning of spring, but the chill in the air still tugs at winter’s coat-tails. It rained last night, and now a breeze troubles the branches. The ground is carpeted with pale petals that are soft underneath my feet, and I feel like a king. Yesterday, we sat on blue tarpaulin under the cotton candy canopy; we drank beer and ate fried soba to welcome in the new season. The cherry blossoms are always the start of something new.

A fading trail of petals leads me down into the subway station where I wave my pass at the ticket gate. The gate waves me through without pause, and as I go, it gently reminds me I have seven hundred yen remaining. I love this technology; but you can’t go far on seven hundred yen.

There’s no blossom in the subway station. It’s not allowed.

A train is approaching as I descend to the platform. The tunneled air has nowhere else to go and rushes up the stairs: I fight against the draught. A woman in front of me holds on to her skirt and her handbag and her umbrella, barely. Her feet are too close together; her knees almost touch as she walks; she’s as awkward as a pondless duck. Her umbrella slips and clatters on the steps. I swoop and grab it and tuck it under her wing, and she smiles, but I can see she’s embarrassed.

I take the train to Dupont Circle, then follow the cherry blossom petals to the edge of the Tidal Basin, where Senator Randiman meets me. The floor of his limousine is carpeted with pale petals. We drink champagne and drop a hit of acid while his driver looks away discretely.

The Mayflower Hotel beckons, waving us up to the room that has been rented for an hour. I swipe his credit card. I love this technology; $2000 plus tip is added to my account, to be converted to yen at a favorable exchange rate.

The Cherry Blossom Pink condom slips from his awkward grasp and I grab it. If he thinks he's getting anything without using it, he's sadly mistaken.

Opening: anon?.....Continuation: mignon


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

"Excuse me," she asks, eyes carefully aimed beyond my shoulder, "Have you seen Godot?"--writtenwyrdd

But I'm a King. And Kings don't have to wear clothes if they don't want to. --anon.

"No need to be embarrassed, ma'am," I say as I hand her umbrella back to her. "Well, maybe a little need. Perhaps if you put your skirt on you could carry the other things easier."

I stared at her cute little duck butt and then forced myself to look away. There were just some things you didn't have lustful thoughts about. Daisy Duck was one of them. I tried to remember if Goofy had impure thoughts about her. Didn't she have some ducklings?

My eyes narrowed and my imagination expanded at the thought.

That's it. I was going to pluck her well and soundly.
--Julie Weathers

Evil Editor said...

Very nice. The words are soft, like a delicate flower, which leads me to believe the speaker is female, but "she" feels like a king rather than a queen or princess, so I suspect it may be a male. Readers may want an indication which it is.

I would change The ground is carpeted with pale petals that are soft underneath my feet, and I feel like a king.


The ground is carpeted with pale petals, soft beneath my feet.

Feeling like a king doesn't have the same feel as the rest.

Anonymous said...

EE, sorry if you were ignoring my question on purpose (or maybe the comment gobbler got it). Are we no longer limiting openings to 150 words? I'm preparing mine for submission, that's why I'm asking.

Evil Editor said...

150 words is an approximation. Shorter ones are easier to write funny continuations for, but I seldom cut them if they're under 200. Try counting 150, then letting it continue to the end of the paragraph. Don't continue just to give it closure; that's the continuer's job.

Sarah Laurenson said...

I, too, got the impression of female from the words, except for king and picking up the umbrella.

Loved the rhythm of this voice. Very nice. I'd read on, but I'd like my gender confusion cleared up, please.

Anonymous said...

Loved it.

Her feet are too close together; her knees almost touch as she walks; she’s as awkward as a pondless duck. Her umbrella slips and clatters on the steps. I swoop and grab it and tuck it under her wing, and she smiles, but I can see she’s embarrassed.

Beautiful picture drawn - evocative and telling in its implications. I'd read on.

Anonymous said...

You know, I often think that first-person is too crude a tool for any kind of decent writing, although I've done it many times. After reading this, I realize that it's only too crude a tool when it's in MY hands.

This is beautiful.

...dave conifer

Anonymous said...

Even a caveman can do it.

Dave Fragments said...

This has a very literary style. I think it needs a little tightening so that if flows a bit better.

I'm not sure why you say "A train is approaching" rather than "A train rolls into the platform" because the wind only works as the train passes and stops. think about the sequence of events there.

Also, the woman with the umbrella is on the steps (apparently). I'm not sure that the narrator is above or below the woman. I'm not sure it matters but the visual image is not clear. It's a word or two off.

The phrase "as I descend" might be the cause of my trouble. Trying to suspend the narrator on the stairs is tricky.

But all in all, this is very nice -- atmospheric and well written. The first person works well here.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I've been in Washington Metro stations. The air starts blowing out of those tunnels before the train emerges (maybe the tunnels are airtight or something). That might get lost for somebody who hasn't been there but that was one of my favorite details.

writtenwyrdd said...

This is really lovely writing. No nits to pick from me! And I also thought the rush of air brought a realism to the scene. Any underground train can bring a rush of air, but someplaces are really bad for it. Downtown San Francisco was, that's for certain!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Got the same wind with the train approaching in L.A. That took me back to all the times of standing on the platform, feeling the rush of air and trying to decide which train was coming in, mine or the one behind me.

Scott from Oregon said...

Well, I must have bounced before. Deja Vu, here we go again...

Having lived in Tokyo for a year, once, this interested me. I liked the tone of the writing, agreed that "the king" comment should go, and was very puzzled by--

"There’s no blossom in the subway station. It’s not allowed."

That just made no sense to me, at all.

I loved the wind blowing up the hallways when the trains arrived. I remember that from some stations (I had an apartment attached by concrete to a station behind my window. Every twelve minutes, I experienced an earthquake.)

If the tone of this remained rather ethereal without anything significant happening, I would put it down. So I hope a ninja meets the Yakusa for a game of nine ball and Gojira gets free dinners in a Roppongi nightclub...

Dave Fragments said...

I understand about the wind in the tunnel. In fact, The subway train pushing and pulling air through the openings is a great detail. My problem is the way you describe the scene in the sentence A train is approaching as I descend to the platform.

Let me get the science out of my system.
A blast of air precedes the train because the train pushes the air in the narrow tunnel rather than moves through the air. This pushes stale air out of the stairway leading to the station and pulls fresh air into the station as the train leaves. The subway system saves on the energy of a blower to force air into and out of the tunnel. The longer the tunnel, the more air you need to keep the oxygen level at the midpoint from dropping too low. Some surface tunnels require constant traffic to maintain fresh air from one end to the other. Some don't because of blowers installed in the walls and ceilings.

But that is just background and not writing.

I understand the rush of air. However, draft implies air that is sucked behind the train and into the tunnel.

The narrator anticipates the train because of the rush of air.
as I descend to the platform, the wind blows past me and up the stairs heralding the arrival of the train. This is only a slight change of words. I'm sure you can phrase that in your style. What it gains is putting the narrator onto the stairs as the forced air blows by and not as the draft air is sucked into the tunnel.
Then I lean into the wind. A few steps below me, a woman holds her skirt and handbag and an umbrella, barely.

See how that resolves the directions. Now you can say, I swoop down the stairs to the platform or something like it. All the movements make sense. The wind blows ahead of the train. The draft sucks behind. The good Samaritan helps the lady in distress.

none said...

I like the writing, but I'd also like to know this is going to have a story to tell.

Robin S. said...

Anon - I wouldn't change a thing.
I don't often say that, but I'm saying it now.

McKoala said...

Really lovely writing, no need to change it, but I'm with the 'is something going to happen soon?' group.

Build up's good, though, so my complaint could be meaningless.

Chris Eldin said...

Author, very beautiful!
I would definitely read on. The only thing that stopped me was the sentence "I feel like a King." But everything else was pitch perfect. And the sentences about the air I love. I've ridden the DC metro more times than I can remember, and yes, that is exactly how it feels.
Please keep us posted on your progress!

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for your comments -- much appreciated! Sorry if it looked like I wasn't coming back, I've been out of internet range for a couple of days.

I'd never thought of the writing feeling "female" so I guess I'll either have to change the tone, or change the MC. Might be better to change the MC.

The "I feel like a King" line was meant to be a bit incongruous, but I'll take it in advisement that it doesn't work.

Does anything happen? Well, yes, but not Godzilla I'm afraid. It's a short story, but it does have a twist at the end.

Thanks again for your help!

Robin S. said...

Two things (okay, three really)-

1-Hi anon? - I liked the 'feel like a king' - I'd keep it.

And- I think there's plenty of action here - it simply isn't overt.

2-Mignon- I feel really bad - your continuation was so damn good, and I just now read it. Sorry!

Senator Randiman. Yeah.