Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Beginning 604


Jack swung himself out onto the girders and balanced on the bridge, staring down at the reflected streetlights spangling the water.


Shut the fuck up, he told the nagging voice. The river ran silent, chuckling quietly only where it stroked the shore. A breeze flapped his trenchcoat, slapping it against the ironwork, and brought with it the bite of salt. Salt on mud on fish sliding through the water, tasting its brininess, changes in temperature like a watery map laid out to their senses--


'Shut up!' His words echoed off the waterfront, mocking him. The water invited, dark and cool.

I'll shut you up. He jumped, caught a crossbrace, and swung. River, bridge. River, bridge. The voice seemed to be holding its breath.

Madness doesn't breathe.

Still he swung, to and fro, flexing his hands, feeling the will in them not to let go. Cold iron. And still on him, the scent of the woman he'd paid for that evening. Her distant touch, as if falconer's gloves bound her hands. The insipid conversation.

Was it only that she wasn't--

His phone trilled Rachel's ring. Letting out a puff of breath, an almost-laugh, he dropped back onto the bridge concrete.

Be cool, like she is. Be strong. 'Yes?'

"Jack, I need you back at the lab right now." The urgency of Rachel's words sliced through him like razor blades fashioned from the ice of an ancient Canadian glacier that—



"Did you get a hooker tonight, Jack?"



"Did you tell her about the lab, Jack?"


"Possibly. Why?"

"Why? Because her pimp's here right now, Jack. Holding a gun to my head, Jack. And he says, and I'm quoting here Jack, no manic depressive super intelligent trenchcoat wearing talking monkey is gonna pay his bitches with fucking bananas, er, yippee yo."

Jaaaaaaaaaaack, you MONKEY

"I told him you were a chimp, Jack."

Liar. "The bridge downtown. I'll be waiting for both of you."

It won't be his body they find in the river. Nobody calls him a monkey.


"Shut up!"

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: Blogless_Troll


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

That song on your iPod. Jumpin Jack Flash. I can't get it out of my head.

"Just wait until tomorrow." His words trailed over the bridge, along with his sanity. "I'll let you listen to Afternoon Delight."


Shut the fuck up, he told the nagging voice. It's not even morning yet.

--Chris Eldin

Rachel's voice rustled like starched cotton, clean and smooth, yet bristling with static irritation. Fluorescent lights and computers hummed in the background and bored into his head. He didn't pay her to bristle.

"Okay," Jack said, "okay. I'll be there in five."


Damn Mrs. Wimple and her toffees and her root canal.

Jack. You shouldn't print your own diplomas, Jack...


"Carlos, sweety, don't forget to pick up the champ--" Rachel's smoky seductive voice trailed off.

"Wait, who is this?"



The voice chuckled, bubbled invitingly.


The sound lapped against his ears, sliding down the canal into his brain, soaking in--

Jaaack. This is the river calling. Your river. Don't be such a tease, baby. Come on down.

He stepped back from the girders, sanity chilling him like ice-melt.

"No," he said aloud. "Sorry. I don't date metaphors."


"Oh. Sorry. I forgot you were still on my speed-dial."


Jack said that voice in his head again. It drowned out whatever Rachel was trying to say.

"Hang on, Rache." He thumbed off the phone.


"What! What do you want?"

Jack Philbin? Is that you?

"No. Jack Hanson."

Oh, sorry. Wrong brain.


"Fuck you," she replied. "You said you'd catch me!"

He looked over the bridge at the murky black water. He could just make out the glow of her cellphone as it sank below the surface. Poor Rachel: she didn't know Jack.


none said...

LOL at the continuations. Thanks everyone!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hah, BT! You are amazing, man.

Hey Buffy - I'll pop in later for a longer look and a decent comment.

Unknown said...

Engaging opening, priceless continuation.

Wes said...

Buffy!!!! You wrote "fuck"! That's madness.

Actually, this is a good portrayal. It is disturbing, as it should be.

jaz said...

I liked the opening, was intrigued, would read on.

I particularly liked what you did with this line:

"Salt on mud on fish sliding through the water, tasting its brininess," and how when it got to too florid, the voice saying "Jack" interrupted--so I know it was purposeful, and I imputed the over the top description to the character and not the author.

The continuation was brilliant. Read it again just for fun.

Robin Wendell said...

Wonderful pacing and magic making imagery, Yep, It put me smack dab in the scene.

My favorite:
I'll shut you up. He jumped, caught a crossbrace, and swung. River, bridge. River, bridge. The voice seemed to be holding its breath.

Madness doesn't breathe.

There was only one personally discordant moment for me and it was the line:

Her distant touch, as if falconer's gloves bound her hands.

Having used falconers gloves many times in my work life I immediately got a visual of a naked babe wearing oversized, re-enforced, up to the elbow oven mitts,( with tassels). It didn't stop me from loving the sentence anyway.....there just was a momentary pause. Just my own POV probably.

Spellbinding opening -- seamless continuation. A treat to read.

Anonymous said...

I read this and almost wrote a cont. and that usually means I like it. On the re-re-read here tonight I thought it quite captivating and really loved the chosen continuation, too.
Also must add that (have to Bfsqrl)even as I tasted every word of that last "sentence" in P4, I still want it to be a more complete thought; I assume it is a metaphorical description of the breeze that flapped his trench coat. Perhaps you could add a dash after the second "salt" and add another "breeze" after that well-positioned dash at the end. And I really liked Madness doesn't breathe!!

So is this a SS or a chapter or did I miss something?


none said...

Thanks to everyone who commented :).

I've rewritten this novel twice and it's coming up for a third try. Somehow it just won't let me go!

Anonymous said...

I gather the writer intended to overwrite it for the purpose of characterization. The problem is, the overwriting has led to redundancy and structural errors, that make the actual sentences hard to read. Sentence 1: you’ve got “out onto”. Delete himself, or out. I vote for out because that’s how I read it first go around. You’ve also got, “Staring down at the reflected streetlights spangling the water.” This part of the sentence was cumbersome to read. Since bridges are generally “up” I think you can safely allow your readers to take an intuitive leap that the water is down. Reflected is also unnecessary. “Jack swung himself onto the girders and balanced on the bridge, staring at the streetlights spangling the water.”
Para two: Delete, only in sentences two. Sentence three has pronoun problems. It should refer to the antecedent, and while I know you mean the coat on the first use and the wind on the second, this isn’t grammatically clear. The sentence should read: A breezed carried the bite of salt and slapped his trench coat against the ironwork. The last sentence makes no logical sense. I’m sure when you refer to the “brininess” if your referring what the character tastes, or what the fish taste, or what the character is imagining the water will taste like when he jumps? The sentence several fragmented sentences combined into one and it’s just plain confusing.
Para three: Words don’t echo off water. Words can be loud in silence, and words can echo off a cliff, but for the sentence you have echo is the wrong word. Sentence two: You either need to say “The water was inviting or the water invited him”, otherwise you have no subject. Yeah I know it’s artistic license but there is such a thing as too much license.
Para four: It’s fairly tight. Your incomplete sentences work here, but watch the word seemed. It’s usually used in a phrase and it always reads passive. You’ll create an active voice with “The voice held it’s breath.”
Para five: Delete still for the same reason above. Instead of the cumbersome “ flexing his hands, feeling the will not to let go”, the sentence should be “ flexing his fingers, his hands not willing to let go.” Same with “and still on him, the scent of a woman he’d paid for it that evening” “He could scent of the woman he’d paid for that evening (an hour prior?). I don’t know what this means, “As if a falconer’s glove bound her hands?” Do you mean the gloved hand of a falconer bound her hands because it reads as if the glove bound her hands? If you do that doesn’t make any sense, and the comparison is so far outside my experience (and I’m going to assume people haven’t been bound by falconers gloves or even touched a glove) for me to be able to connect it with touch. While the words sound good you loose what you gain because its so far outside a readers experience they can’t connect it to anything they’ve experience.
“Was it only that she wasn’t…” This doesn’t make any sense to me. It has no antecedent and there is context preceding or following it’s interjection.
Para six: Firs sentence good, second sentence the structural errors reappear. I’m not sure when you say “puff of breath” if you mean to imply its cold or if you mean “he let out his breath, sighed.” You also like to start your sentences with clauses. It’s cool, everybody does it, but this seems to be your preferred structure. It breaks up the monotony done occasionally, but becomes cumbersome when its repeated.
Last sentence: Its unclear whether she refers to Rachel or the hooker.
Comments: Artistically this is great. Its interesting and I’d read on. Unfortunately the structural errors are cumbersome and interfere with story. Mistakes like this usually increase with frequency. I might even request fifty pages, because what’s wrong here is very fixable, but I’d be reading with an eagle for those phrasal and clausal sentences. I’d also be reluctant to take this on, because though the writing is good, it would need heavy structural editing, which is expensive. That said I've taken more time on this than most, because there's talent here.

Anonymous said...

Aw, Anon 6:28, you're so cute... But does your mommy know you're wearing her best shoes?

none said...

Ouch! Thanks for the in-depth critique, anon :).

Anonymous said...

I think I'd like a more immediate idea of who or what Jack is. Gymnast? Spider-Man? Chimpanzee? Super-strong sparkly vampire? ...anthropomorphic squirrel? Is the "cold iron" line meant to call him out as one of the Fair Folk? (I'd kind of expect a bridge to be mostly steel.) Probably a cover image or back-cover description would explain it, but it couldn't hurt to show your hand in the text either.

none said...

He's just a guy at this point :). Interesting point about the iron, but "cold steel" makes me think of weapons. *scrit*

Anonymous said...

Gotcha. :) He seems awfully limber for just a guy. Maybe if you replaced that first "swung" with "heaved" and then later made some indication that swinging from a crossbrace is, you know, hard on your fingers and arm muscles?

Wes said...

Buffy, iron is OK to use. Yeah, it's really steel, but the union in the States for the workers is called the ironworkers union. One of my summer jobs in college was as an ironworker. We alternately referred to the beams as iron and steel. It's a scary GD job, and I hated it.

Anonymous said...

This is flat-out excellent. I wouldn't change a thing.

The falconer's gloves gave me a moment's pause, as did "the insipid conversation" -- he hired her for conversation? But by that point in the narrative I trusted the author so completely that I would have pressed on eagerly, regardless.

Hey Wes, my husband used to have a summer job as an ironworker. But he looks back on it fondly...

Robin Wendell said...

Wow, Anon 6:28, That was a thorough critique. When I saw how long it was I thought, Yikes, a rant. I was pleased to see that it was not and even more pleased to read such a detailed and systematic review of all the changes that could make this already excellent piece even better.

Then I looked at the new beginning I was getting ready to submit and after several minutes of moaning, was grateful that I now had ways to make it better.

Do you like gourmet meals, a view of the mountains from your own deluxe private suite, frolicking in the surf, dancing girls or the entertainment of your choice every night? Consider a mentoring holiday on the beautiful West Coast of the USA.

I have a feeling that I would occasionally have an urge to smother you with a pillow at night but since I often feel this way about my husband and nothing of that sort has happened yet I am sure you would be safe -- 97 percent sure.

The only conditions would be to focus your eagle eye on my fledgling prose for an hour a day. That, and a promise to not share the dancing girls with my husband. :-)

PS Naturally, this offer is always open to you EE.

Jane Smith said...

Buffy, I really liked this piece a lot. And I do want to read more of it. I'm not surprised you keep coming back to this book!