Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Beginning 598

Phil burped. Lunch, breakfast, snack bars, pop and yesterday's late night king prawn curry all swilled round together in a throatquake of palate-shredding magnitude. He lifted his mobile phone from under the pile of empty pizza boxes and polystyrene cups littering the dashboard and pressed a squat thumb to a random selection of buttons. Still dead.

Squeezing a fart from his numb backside, he rocked forward onto the steering wheel and fumbled around for the hole in his bomber jacket pocket. Lost in the limbo of the lining, fluff and coins and dobbers and combs and biros and matches and fags took time out from the interface between his larval desires and the rest of the world. A foreign pack of cigarettes been marooned inside for a while, gradually whittled away by his cacked-up lungs when he'd gasped himself out of his regular brand, and as he dragged it kicking and screaming into the van's oil-stained interior, the scuffed filter tip of the one remaining D'Artagnan Lite poked from the cardboard like a rat's tail leaving the sinking ship of all hope in its wake.

He relaxed back into his seat, with another fart, this one more of a seat-shudderer. Good. If he could unload a few gutquakes, he might avoid the imminent throatquake.

Phil fumbled the scabby cigarette out of the packet while elevating one once-peach-like butt cheek to fire out a thunderous fart that shook the car beneath him. Better and better. He scrambled a match out of the bunnyfluff in his pocket. Solace beckoned. First, just one more. Lift, and release. He elevated the other butt cheek and the car shuddered like a nymphomaniac just freed from a chastity belt on her wedding night.

Then he struck the match on the dashboard.

Some time later, police followed the trail of wrappers, pizza boxes, polystyrene cups and shreds of car to find Phil's corpse floating in a nearby lake. Butt-less.

Opening: Whirl.....Continuation: McKoala


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Captions:

This is the story of that cigarette -- or fag, as they like to be called in the UK, not that there's anything wrong with that.


To my ever growing horror, he offered it to me as proudly as if it were a dozen fresh cut papilionanthe orchids.

"Oh dear god, no," I said without stopping to think how rude that sounded. I needn't have worried. Phil was delighted.

"Suit yourself." He chomped down on the protruding end with his yellowed gums.

I shuddered but said nothing: the strategy that usually got me through these things. Weirdly enough, this was still better than trying to explain again to poor, sweet Aunt Lettie why I didn't like blind dates.

--Sarah from Hawthorne

Evil Editor said...

I feel bad about not choosing Sarah's continuation which I thought was equally good. I do usually prefer the more subtle ones, but this being Whirl's opening, and Whirl being obsessed with farts lately, I knew he'd appreciate McKoala's. Sorry Sarah, maybe we can make your ending work with another opening.

Chris Eldin said...

Flipping awesome, both of them!!
This should go in the Hall of Fame.

Anonymous said...

I suggest pruning shears.

Phil burped. Lunch, breakfast, snack bars, pop and yesterday's late night king prawn curry swilled together in a palate-shredding throatquake. He retrieved his mobile from the dashboard, littered with empty pizza boxes and polystyrene cups, and pressed his squat thumb to a random button. Still dead.

Squeezing a fart from his numb backside, he rocked onto the steering wheel and dug for the hole in his bomber jacket pocket. Lost in the limbo of, fluff, coins, dobbers , combs, biros and matches, a foreign pack of cigarettes. They had been marooned inside for a while, the pack gradually whittled (you describe the state of his lungs here, how about you show us?) away when he ran out of his regular brand. He dragged the final scuffed filter tip of D’Artagnan Lite kicking and screaming into the van's oil-stained interior.

Thoughts: Great description, but needs balance. Both the action and the description are good but the action doesn’t amount to anything in particular and the adjectives overwhelm the scene. Prune and your good writing will be great.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oh My!


Stop! You're killing me!

This is too freaking good. You guys should pair up and write something together.

And Sarah's is really good, too. You're right, EE (as usual).

Am I supposed to have some sort of real critique here? Hahahahahahahaha

Dave Fragments said...

I have pages of funny stories about the "Pig and Gruel Pub" and its curmudgeonly proprietor Mungo McNevin that I wrote about in last weeks writing exercise. AND THAT's the problem with Mungo. He's too easy to write about doing nasty things to customers, fretting over letting male strippers in his back room on Ladies Night, serving disguised Spam and all sorts of other misdeeds.

I think you are doing the same thing as I did with Mungo -- enjoying writing good stuff that isn't helping the story. But it's fun.

The opening is vivid and lots of fun. But IMO, I think it is overshadowing the plot. Phil is headed somewhere and I think you need to hint at where and why. Maybe just split that second paragraph right before "A foreign pack of ciggies..." Perhaps a line like:
"She's going to kill me when I get there," Phil thought. OR even one word: "Mother-in-laws!"

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Whirl and Mickey K, you two are SO made for each other :o)

Like Sarah L, this whole NB pairing left me critiqueless. But that's OK because Anon's crit is pretty good, and with the real work out of the way, the rest of us can just sit back and enjoy a good guffaw.

Wes said...

Great continuation, given the opening. But the opening leaves important questions unanswered. What's the conflict? What's at stake? Both answers seem to deal with finding some Beano........quickly.

Anonymous said...


I wouldn't read another word of this story, but boy, Whirl, did you pack in the imagery. Nice job.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the kind words, EE, but the better entry won. Papilionanthe orchids can't compete with peach-like butt cheeks and nymphomaniacs with chastity belts.

Whirl, this is indeed hilarious. I'm going to respectfully disagree with Anon and Dave: based on this snippet I don't think it needs any improvement or changes. Sure it's over the top, but in a witty, engaging way. And as long as something happens fairly soon, I think there's nothing wrong with opening on a little character portrait, especially one that's gotten such a positive reaction from all the folks here. Sometimes it's fun just to ride along and let the story surprise you.

batgirl said...

Not at all my kind of thing, but well done. So easy to get lost in those eddying sentences, among the floating bits of detritus.
As long as something does happen, and it's not just the author enjoying laying in all the detail of the scene without another aim, this could be quite entertaining.

none said...

Interesting, Dave, that you believe the story needs an evil female figure. And a cliched one, to boot.

Why is that, do you think?

Robin B. said...

First, before I forget, McK, that was one helluva good continuation.
My personal favorite part:
the car shuddered like a nymphomaniac just freed from a chastity belt on her wedding night. HA!!!!

(And Sarah from H., yours was wonderful as well.)

Anyway, Whirl, your prose is wonderfilled and distinctive, and I love it. Used to be when I read your stuff, I loved how you said things, but I couldn't find the narrative trail. Now I do see it, and I really like what I see.

I understand what anon means - but I think you're mostly there, babycakes. And even anon said your prose is already good, but could eaily be great. I concur.

The editing you're doing - it's really paying off.

McKoala said...

EE, so you're saying I'm unsubtle? Hmm?

fairyhedgehog said...

This is amazing! I liked both continuations, and Whirl was very funny as always. I got a bit lost in the second paragraph but it's late at night and I'm tired so that's not surprising.

Stacy said...

The intro is great, and both Sarah's and McK's continuations were hilarious.

I too think the editing Whirl is doing is really paying off. Good work!

Sylvia said...

Hysterical - I found myself paying extra attention to the metaphors after last week's exercise and they really do shine.

Beth said...

The burp was bad enough, but you lost me at the fart, I'm afraid. This is way, way overwritten.

Anonymous said...

I'm late to the love-fest but I have to add my enjoyment of this to the list of those who also took to the whirlwind-like tour of Phil's car and the imagery and rhythm of this. . . and add that I almost did a continuation for this, (So you know I was on the wavelength) but McK's was tip-top and so well-matched!


Xiexie said...

Nicely descriptive, but I think it needs trimming.

Whirlochre said...

Thanks to everyone for commenting.

I realise I'm too purple for some people's taste, but although I'm adjusting the brightness and contrast as I go along, I'm not about to render myself a cuddly fluffy pink for the sake of universal appeal. It's OTT and fun, yes — but this is more or less the zone I inhabit.

This isn't to say that this extract won't be edited for the final manuscript and adjectives cast aside. Far from it. I don't agree with most of Anon's suggested edits, but I'm grateful to him/her/it for nudging me to reinvestigate the throatquake and consider upping the cough count in later paragraphs. If it helps, there's a lot of foreshadowing tucked away in this opening and Phil's fate is sealed by the emptiness of his jacket and the fullness of his guts. As for what happens in the next paragraph, he gets out of the van — so it's action all the way. In many respects I prefer McKoala's continuation to my own, and I'm with Robin about the nymphomaniac line. Surely, that has to go in a novel somewhere. Maybe we should contact the Tolstoy estate and beg for its inclusion in future editions of War & Peace. Or have Grisham base the whole of his next novel on it, like Jack Nicholson did with 'all work and no play make Jack a dull boy' in The Omen.

The farts, as EE points out, are simply my obsession of the moment (a useful excuse, I find, for explaining away an irritating lifetime interest) and have been cut from, and reinserted into, the scene so many times, my PC has started wheezing like a pair of bellows. My instinct is to cut them.

Robin B. said...

Hey Whirl,

In my opinion, the very best thing you can do is to stay in your zone, precisely because you don't 'sound' like anyone else, and that's refreshing.

And as I said earlier, I can see the edits you're making taking effect, which makes the (absolute) fact that no one can turn a phrase or incite a strong visual the way you can, an even stronger plus on your side.

I know I refer to Betsy Lerner's book so much that it sounds like she wrote my personal Bible (and as a matter of fact, she did), but anyway, Ms. Lerner quotes Cocteau in one of her chapters, and I think in this instance, the quote fits:

"Listen carefully to first criticisms of your work. Note just what it is about your work (first) critics don't like, and cultivate it. That's the only part of your work that's individual..."

While I agree you have to keep the narrative flow intact underneath, which you've now done, you've got an individual voice and descriptive manner that's wonderful.

writtenwyrdd said...

You choose some insane details for characterization, Whirl, but it manages to work. I felt it a bit too dense on details for an opener, but it's not off putting. However, I do want to know where we are pretty quick and have something happen.

writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, and I second Dave's thoughts on the writing. Good observation, and he nails what I was having trouble defining about my own reaction. A tad more plot needed, but the details are good that you have. Just perhaps a tiny bit too much of a good thing for the opening.

Steve Stubbs said...

Very well written IMO but I would not want to spend 300 pages with someone who is constantly farting, throatquaking, buttquaking, barfing, burping, and digging around for holes in his bomber jacket.

Frankly I am glad the guy ends up dead. I wish I were the writer so I could have killed him myself.

You need a more likable character. I know that sounds like a lot of silly nitpicking, but that's what you need. How about someone who uses his favorite toothpick to dig at his ass, but otherwise has no objectionable traits?

I do believe you have talent, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a big fart fan, preferring metaphorical beginnings to ends, but I say well done. I note a glow of rosy magic on a cheek, or two.

Tom Robbins said this so many wonderful ways, This is my favorite:

"Hold on to your divine blush, your innate rosy magic, or end up brown. Once you're brown, you'll find out you're blue. As blue as indigo. And you know what that means. Indigo. Indigoing. Indigone."

I agree and say edit with care and then whirlo-on.

Anonymous said...

Steve! The second section in blue is a continuation by a different minion. And since you have no idea how long the story is or what the intent of the author might be, you can't say what s/he might "need" that character to be.