Monday, September 08, 2008

New Beginning 549

I stopped by to chat, because how many times would that ever happen to me, getting to talk to the late-night TV carpet commercial lady, and we were just talking along and talking along and she starts telling me she's divorcing her husband, because neither one of them was really happy anymore, and maybe I missed something but that sure seemed to me to come out of the blue, me being basically a stranger and all.

So I said something like sorry about that, then she said that was all right, because it turned out, she said, masturbation feels a lot better than he ever did anyway, and I'm watching her mouth move, and I know she's the one saying the words, but right then I'm noticing her lips look wide and really colorful like a duck's bill against her pale, pale face, and I'm wondering if that's why her husband left, because he couldn't stand to look at her once he'd maybe looked down at her one time when he was up on top of her and he noticed that part about her lips looking like a duck's bill. You have to admit, that would be a hard one to get over.

And when she smiled, that made it even worse.

Still, choosy I'm not, and she pretty well had me at that masturbation line because a chick like that, a chick that would toss out a line like that to a stranger, is a hard find in this city; so I put my prejudices aside and suggested we break bread together. She was the kind to take what she could get, that was obvious, and while she kept her distance at first, soon she was eating out of my hand, which felt good and I liked it. We went back to her place that night, let nature take it's course, and I soon forgot about her duck face; and it was when I was there, my trousers around my ankles and my pumps primed, that all hell broke loose, as all hell will do given half a chance. And that's when it hit me--it wasn't carpets she advertised on TV, it was AFLAC.

And I'm not allowed in the park anymore.

Opening: Robin.....Continuation: ril


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Why couldn't she have a nice, neat, sharp bill like the rest of us chickens?


I thought about the time at Disney World, when I chased her down for an autograph. Seeing her like this, down on her luck, I couldn't bring myself to ask why she walked around bare-assed all the time. Bad enough to be reduced to selling carpet, after being a big movie star.

Maybe that's why Donald left her. How could he take it, with Mickey ogling her and she didn't even own a single pair of underpants.

And when she bent over, with the nephews and Ludwig von Drake right behind her, that was the worst.


Evil Editor said...

If there are parts of the world that don't have AFLAC duck commercials, and you didn't get the joke, here's the first ever AFLAC ad,

and a scene from The Birds

ril said...

And here's a couple more...

Anonymous said...

Best continuation ever. First time I ever *truly* laughed out loud.

Anonymous said...

Classic Robin. Classic ril. A great way to begin the week! Of course I would read on. When I got to the "duck's bill" line I suddenly had a vision of Howard the Duck, which was soon replaced by the image of a blonde, former-beauty with collagen-filled lips. Quite alot of personality packed into that narrator's voice!


Sarah Laurenson said...

Funny, but it didn't hit me that this was yours, Robin, when I was reading it. Usually I pick up on your voice as soon as I get into the first sentence. Not sure what the difference is here.

Enjoyed it very much. Wonderful rhythm. Pulled me right along. I'd read on.

Personally I would tighten it just a little in 2 places.
1st paragraph, lose the second talking along and
2nd paragraph, lose the second she said.

Great job!

Chris Eldin said...


Brilliant combination! And a Japanese AFLAC commercial to boot!

Love this, Robin. My only nit: I had to read this part of the sentence a couple of times--I think you can tweak it to make it flow better:
because he couldn't stand to look at her once he'd maybe looked down at her one time when he was up on top of her and he noticed that part about her lips looking like a duck's bill.

Love the visuals in this scene. As always...

Evil Editor said...

P.1: change "was" to "is" (or 's).

delete "to me"

p.2: Change first comma to period or semicolon

The already mentioned phrase could be shortened to:

because he couldn't stand to look at her anymore after he'd looked down at her once when he was on top of her and noticed her lips looking like a duck's bill.

You could even take out "looked down at her once when he was on top of her and" since one apparently doesn't need to be on top of her to notice her duckiness.

Whirlochre said...

This is like watching chunks of meat fall out of someone's mouth while they're eating. As it chomps along, its very pedestrian and understated, and the detail hits you without seeming to be hurled.

I have no idea where this is going, but you swept me up from the first sentence. And I bet this person has plenty more to say — and not just about ducks.

Stacy said...

Really liked the opening. I'd read on.

And the continuation was stellar.

Wes said...

OMG! Where is this headed? Nice job, Robin. And ril, your continuation is fabulous.

Ditto on the suggestions of tightening it up in a few places, Robin. I don't think doing so would change your intriguing voice which pulls people in.

Scott from Oregon said...

I like these informal "chats" and you'll win or lose in the details.

The informality will become unbearable if the guy gets boring. But so far, so good. Keep the details fresh and you're winning.

From a guy's perspective, a pretty woman with duck lips doesn't seem like such a bad thing... (as long as they aren't calcified and bony, mind you)...

Be a little careful you don't get too "chatty"-- that one repetitious expression "talking along" comes to mind.

I'd read on to see where those duck lips end up.

Robin S. said...

Hey guys,

Thanks for the nice thoughts, and thanks for the tightening ideas,
and thanks to ril for making me laugh myself almost out of my chair!

And EE, you know those visuals Chris mentioned? Well, I really like to write with visuals in mind, I guess because that's how I think, so that's why I included -
"looked down at her once when he was on top of her and" - for the viuals it gives a reader, and for the rhythm of the piece. Is that all right? I just thought it was funny. (Or course the other choice would be scary, if you were the guy up there.)

By the way, Meri, you're just about spot on with your idea of this woman - she's an ex TV personality- bleach blonde, the whole shebang.

Oh, forgot to say- this isn't a man talking. This is a woman's narration.

Evil Editor said...

It's not a problem at all. I'm sure it's possible her husband didn't notice her duckbill for years even though the narrator noticed it within minutes. Such things happen. It was just a way to make the sentence simpler if you cared to.

Dave Fragments said...

I had the same sort of thoughts that EE had. This portion is too long:
because he couldn't stand to look at her once he'd maybe looked down at her one time when he was up on top of her and he noticed that part about her lips looking like a duck's bill.

and I thought that dropping that part about and changing "looking" to "looked"... and in the earlier part of the sentence the "maybe" and changing the first "once" to "after". I think you overuse "once," "look" and "see"...

The clause would be:
because he couldn't stand to SEE her after he looked down at her one time when he was up on top of her and he noticed her lips looked like a duck's bill.

WouldBe said...

Very funny, Robin. I can see her talking about getting a perm while he's watching the duck bill.

(And ril must be watched at all times. Make him get a urine test once per month...and wear an ankle bracelet location-finder thingie.)

Bill H.

Robin S. said...

Ha ha, Sparky. Haven't you ever had
a BFO long after you should have, maybe when you were tired or angry with the recipient of the point of the BFO?

Thanks, Bill!

And Dave, I see what you guys mean.

Evil Editor said...

Ha ha, Sparky. Haven't you ever had

Didn't I say it was possible and "Such things happen."?

McKoala said...

Robin and ril: a match made in heaven.

Sorry Sparky.

writtenwyrdd said...

I liked this, but I'm not sure I'd have read on if this were an opening. I'm truly in the character's head and see the world as he sees it, totally unvarnished and really a skeezy guy I wouldn't want to hang around with. But I didn't get as clear a feeling of the environment in those two paragraphs. Perhaps just a couple of bits about the setting intermixed so the immersion in the character's head doesn't pull us away from the events. Because the plot needs to move on and it can be a jolt to the reader if they become unanchored from the scene during a bit of reflection or internal dialog.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I picked up on both Robin and Ril pretty much immediately. Scary.

Anon 10:08: You must live a very sheltered life. Perhaps you will laugh aloud again some day.

Rob: Another suggestion for that awkward bit (mainly just rearranging it some):

...because once, when he was up on top of her, he'd looked down and noticed her lips looking like a duck's bill, and after that he couldn't stand to look at her anymore.

Do you use second person much in the rest of the book? The "you" in the last sentence may rasp on some. I'm not picky myself about that fourth wall thing if it goes with the voice ...

Robin S. said...

Yeah - but you also said...even though the narrator noticed it within minutes.

I was hoping you'd give me some grief so we could have a discussion a la the 'tasty' discussion we had last winter.

But, it looks like a quiet night around here. People are pooped, probably.

Dave Fragments said...

Jeepers is this subtle.

It's not "noticed right away" that's not the type of conversation she (the speaker) is having with the carpet lady.

This isn't a conversation between friends. They are simply acquainted with each other. The speaker sees her on TV and has an assumed ID of the carpet lady in her head.
The carpet lady assumes that the speaker is safe and unloads about the divorce. It's not a "bare my soul" confessional but I "need to tell" story that just blurts out. The carpet lady might trust the speaker because she's a fan or because there's some relational link that makes her feel safe. The carpet lady is open and somewhat trusting.

I gotta step back here. For several years at my work, I did audits of the type that I had to ask lots of questions and listen to lots of answers. Then I had to interpret those answers into a "compliance" document. Since my laboratory was located in two cities and involved diverse research, no two set of answers were ever the same. YET, they had to match a single set of criteria. I learned to listen for content and listen so thoroughly, that I could repeat the research back to the scientist so that we all knew how it complied with the audit. In a few minutes, I had to learn what they did and understand it.

That's not what the speaker is doing in this opening or segment. She is in conversation with a person she likes from TV -- a relationship built not on substance (like my audits), but on a TV persona. Be careful that you don't confuse those two types of listening.

So the speaker is expecting and anticipating a conversation with a completely different person than she meets.

Suddenly, the speaker starts hearing of divorce, of unhappiness, of electric whoopie... and the speaker's mind begins to say "TMI, way TMI, oh what if she starts telling me more personal things"...

And that's when the mind makes the association of lips and duck's bill. You see, it's a defense mechanism. It lets the speaker get away from a subject they don't want to hear about. The mind enters a "never-never" land of disassociated twaddle. It's trying to get away and it starts thinking of anything but the carpet lady's vagina. I mean who really wants to talk to their TV idol about THAT! So enter the duck's bill.

It all comes back to the expectations of a conversation and how each person listens or adds to the dialog.

This needs emphasis, stronger language perhaps... maybe a repetition at the end of the first Paragraph like "Not what I expected"
just to highlight this: because how many times would that ever happen to me, getting to talk to the late-night TV carpet commercial lady,

And here: I'm watching her mouth move... she's not "watching." Her mind is trying not to listen but her politeness is controlling her behavior, so she has to listen. Her mind is wandering away from the topic under discussion. In that case, she "notices" the lips.

That's why the husband never noticd or didn't care. He liked the sex. Well, what men don't. Men are really inattentive when it comes to sex. More than the cheap reason that men can be sleezy, a man's mind will work toward the orgasm and overlook the big lips. A woman in a conversation must listen but doesn't want to listen. She will see duck's lips. A defense mechanism.

I used two words above "twaddle" and "vagina" to draw your attention to my remarks, as emphasis. Notice I steered clear of calling men pigs or some other HOT term in the later comment. That's how subtle this writing has to be crafted.

This is very close to very good. It just needs a few tiny, careful adjustments.

Now I really have to go sleep.

Robin S. said...

Hey you guys- EE was busy with his golf and his football and his roasting yesterday (it's actually kind of odd to think about him having a life other than living only for me - I mean, for us - yeah).

Anyway, now that these comments are on here, I wanted to mention that this is a chapter excerpt, not an opening, and it takes place in a convention center where the TV carpet commercial lady is working her booth. The narrator is female, and she's amazed when she stops by this booth and the woman, after a few minutes of chatting, goes on to talk about things you don't normally hear about from sane and total strangers.

Hope that helps clear things up?

oh - and phoenix - no worries on the "you" - I agree with you- it would be odd and strained if overused. The narrator in my novel switches to speaking in "yous" when she doesn't want to commit to admit to having thought some thoughts herself, so she switches to "you" usage sometimes during the narration.

Robin S. said...


I should have said before - this:
And here: I'm watching her mouth move... she's not "watching." Her mind is trying not to listen but her politeness is controlling her behavior, so she has to listen. Her mind is wandering away from the topic under discussion. In that case, she "notices" the lips. was spot on, sweetie.

none said...

Thanks for the enlightenment re AFLAC, EE :).

I like this, Robin--it's very readable and takes us right into the narrator's thoughts.

Anonymous said...

So Dave, you were a chemical Fair Witness? Interesting.

--Bill H.

Dave Fragments said...

chemical Fair Witness?

I don't know what that means. I was lead auditor for ISO 14000 which is an environmental standard. I also implemented a government order called "Conduct of Operations" which sounds complex but it just means doing your work in a systematic manner. I also was taught how to run public meetings so that everyone comes away satisfied. Hard but not impossible.

I also have the ability to look at numbers and see patterns, to look inside complex systems and see cause and effect. That's one of the reasons I made a good living doing scientific research. Math is easy for me. Back in the 80's I designed three bench scale units and then helped build them. That had over 1000 valves and several hundred vessels, pumps, tanks and all that. At that time, I could recall the specs for all of the equipment from memory. Not ot mention the seven or eight years of experimental results. It's a technique you can learn from memory books. Anyone can learn it.

But, I can't turn the brain on all the time. It's not like a light switch. It's work. It's about 250 to 500 words an hour at the best and then hours of editing. I am guessing that writing is the same for everyone else and that I'm not unique.

WouldBe said...

It was an allusion to the highly regarded fair witnesses of Stranger in a Strange Land, trained legal witnesses. In one scene, the Fair Witness was shown someone painting their house. She was asked what color the house was being painted. She answered something like, "Blue on this side; I don't know about the other sides."

So...she reports only what she actually sees, and doesn't read anything into it. So...Chemical engineering fair witness. (But you're more of a doer; the FWs were purely observers.)

Anonymous said...

I also have the ability to look at numbers and see patterns, to look inside complex systems and see cause and effect.

But davesweetie, you forgot to mention your awesom ability to create mind-numbingly dense paragraphs of esoteric and outlandish information and events, dahhling!!!


Dave Fragments said...

Thanks Meri. You're all heart, Meri. I really appreciate that, uh, comment, Meri. grrrrrr...

Dave ;)

talpianna said...

Dave, dear, this one's for you: