Friday, February 27, 2009

New Beginning 610

Maurice Wyatt felt great, had a wet towel round his neck keeping him cool. ‘I’m in fine form!’ he boomed; dust shifted: ‘Ninety seven today, hooray.’

He should have died in his twenties; counted three occasions. ‘My very own demise!’ he says; but nothing; no death, no harm to anyone, nothing. Silly man checked the figures, for a time believed his life was a mistake.

Misty recollections of jails and maelstroms and straining every nerve to overcome, bark in his ear as if from an unknown yard, inside his head. These barks, like auditory scars, are souvenirs of times and places, events he can’t fully recall. Now, being so old, he supposes they’re a recent thing; further evidence of something he has thus far managed to hide; the onset of dementia. But these mental explosions have in fact been occurring for decades, in various types of lines- lunch bar lines, movie lines, stadium lines, shopping market lines, and always in the open street.

Unseen lights flashing behind his eyes, Maurice shuffled forward in the queue and slammed into the man in front of himself.

"Dammit, granpa," the man cursed and glared. "Why don't you watch what you're doin'?"

"I'm real sorry, son," the old-timer mumbled as he stepped out of the ice-cream line and shuffled away.

Maurice flicked through the guy's wallet. Sixty bucks. Not bad. He dropped it in his Walmart bag with the others. "Ninety eight today!" he boomed. "I still got it!"

Maurice "Fingers" Wyatt scanned the street for another line.

Opening: Morgan Barrie.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:

Last time it happened; he took out three sophomores at his local Walmart. Hardly anyone noticed. That was the great thing about mental explosions; they were so easy to clean up after. A Kleenex to wipe the grey goo off the walls and bang; he was at the front of the line.


It was a pisser that what finally did him in was a chorus line. Should of stayed doing the books at that vet's office, he thought. Would of, if it wasn't for the constant barking and all that damn cat hair floating everywhere. The gig at that dingy mortuary wasn't any better. Smelling death floating under the door from the embalming room all day; made you wonder if you were next.

The first day he stepped into the offices of Jake Silverman, Broadway show producer and saw the line of gals with gams encased in black fishnet he knew -- he was a goner. Sharleen was first and she eyed him like a hungry pussy cat would a tasty kibble treat. That night in her bed she made noises that were hard to remember. They put the vet office to shame, that was for sure.

"Sharleen, I'm In fine form today!," he boomed as he clutched a sack of Friskies Fish flavor to his chest while standing in the back of the line at Chan's Mini Mart. The elderly lady before him turned and smiled. "Sharleen's a right pretty name for a cat mister but you better keep it down, you're getting Mr Chan all riled up."


But I know better. And once I've finally kicked your pathetic mind and soul from this body, Wyatt, you're going to pay for leaving me chained in the yard. Bones, balls and the occasional cat aren't enough for a dog. And now you're going to be my bitch.


"There he goes again," said the doctor. "Nurse, adjust his speaker volume and bring in the next re-animated head, please." He turned to the spectators and picked up his notes. "The next great advance in cryogenics arrived in 2010..."


"Woof!" Maurice's beloved dog Fido barked into his ear. But Maurice heard nothing as the maelstrom whirled inside his head once more.
Fido, whose name ironically meant 'Faithful', shrugged as dogs shrug, and began eating Maurice's bare feet. Not only did his master feel great, he tasted excellent.


But the line for the new limited edition GrrlPowerDollz, with hard-eyed hausfraus crowding him front and back, and the temperature creeping relentlessly from 97 up to 100, dust blowing into sweaty faces, that line was not the place for Wyatt's jocularities.
One more quip and he would be strangled with his own towel.


Dementia, whether simply a slight case of forgetfulness, or the beginning of the dreaded "old-timer's disease" as Maurice's long deceased last wife, Ellen, would have called it was, for mere mortals, more than a little disconcerting. For Maurice, however, although it was inconvenient, in the larger scheme of things it was really no big deal. It was a problem easily solved.

He just needed more energy. And the best way to regain one's youthful vigor and vitality was to steal it from the young. His daddy always said that and so did his grandpappy and now Maurice was learning the truth of the matter first hand. The kids don't know what they're missing anyway, he reasoned.

Maurice's job as a janitor at the local high school gave him ample opportunity to suck the life energy out of unsuspecting youngsters on a daily basis. A little nip here and there of the good stuff was more than enough to keep the spring in one old man's step and the unsuspecting teens usually had more than enough energy to spare. Yeah, they'd feel weak, or dizzy, or a bit sick, but they'd recover in a few hours, or a few days. Most did, anyway. And how did that mild inconvenience compare to a lifetime of oldness? Maurice could not even conceive living life in an old used up body.

Since his wife's passing, the old man had tried desperately to honor her memory by avoiding taking energy unless he had absolutely no choice-Ellen had been so against that. Probably because she was mortal herself. She was mortal but Maurice had loved her with all his ancient heart, anyway.

But now the dementia gave him no choice. Ellen would just have to understand that, and he felt that she would. If he did not lap at the pool of energy all around him he could eventually become so weak...perhaps could even become so forgetful as to forget how to take the energy needed to save himself and thus end up a babbling old fool wandering the streets talking to no one in particular...talking to Ellen, perhaps, getting no response...

You see people like that on the streets every day, particularly if you live in New York and Maurice was not about to join the ranks of those babbling zombies. Not in this lifetime. And his was a very long lifetime.


Evil Editor said...

If we're in the POV of Maurice, there are bits that don't belong because he wouldn't be thinking or observing them. "Like auditory scars," for instance.

If we're in the narrator's POV I'd get rid of "and straining every nerve to overcome," and the comma later in that sentence. It reads more clearly.

I also don't find "dust shifted" to be useful, as I'm not sure what dust is shifting, or why.

Cut back on the use of semicolons. Some of yours should be commas, the one after "hide" should be a colon.

writtenwyrdd said...

Unfocused, wordy and with multiple povs. I had a difficult time getting through this without skimming.

If we're in Maurice's pov, we need more about why he's thinking what he's thinking in teh first paragraph, and paragraph two needs to be edited to reflect his pov and not some omniscient narrator's pov.

I basically like the first sentence if you omit "keeping him cool" but I want to know what the point of this is. One reads this opener and thinks "and what happens next?" And nothing happens. Splat.

Third paragraph? From out of left field. This has nothing I can see to do with the first two.

paragraphs are not like beads on a string that can be lined up side by side with the mere connection of the page. They are more like puzzle pieces that interlock; one must imply the next, and the following paragraphs have to flow logically from what has preceded them. I know it's more difficult to do this with fiction than a nonfiction paper, but you do have to do it.

Good luck with revisions!

Sarah Laurenson said...

OK. I'm lost. There are hints here of a very interesting style and voice. I'd like to see this tightened up and a little less confusing.

I'd read on because of the snatches of brilliance, but I'd need it to smooth out fairly soon.


Ninety-seven-&-a-half that day and still an integral part of the American economic system.

Anonymous said...

This is so unclear that to me it just read like nonsense. Clearing up the punctuation as EE suggested should help: some of those semicolons should be colons, some should be commas, some should be full stops. And don't be afraid to include all the important words in a sentence.

To be fair, James Joyce's Ulysses read like nonsense to me too. But I didn't read further in it either.

Robin Wendell said...

The piece has an interesting lurchiness - kind of like an old geezer bumping along a street. Needs some moments of clarity to keep reading.

Batgirl Woof-contin = lol good one!

Anonymous said...

A comma is not a conjunction. Omitting one works sometimes if you telegraph that you know what you're doing. Unfortunately all of your other punctuation mistakes suggest that you do not, and I was wincing as I read. It's hard to pay attention to the story when the punctuation makes you wince.

batgirl said...

I got muddled in the first paragraph, about whether Maurice was 97 years old, or the temperature (wet towel, dust) was hitting 97.
Also was confused by misty recollections barking. Are the recollections misty dogs, or are misty dogs remembering barking? If the word salad was Maurice's, it would fit, but it seems to be the narrator's. Some excellent touches in this, and a distinctive voice, but while I'm okay with an unreliable narrator, I'm dubious about one with dementia.

Anon's continuation is ace. I'd read that story.

Anonymous said...

Is this supposed to be evoking Maurice's dementia, what with the bumpy grammar, odd word choices, and random skips through time and subject matter? If so, why isn't it in first person?

I'd like some hint where this is going or why we should care about Maurice.

McKoala said...

I liked the tone; thought I was in the hands of something great, but I can tell you when things slid a little - at 'no harm' nothing. It was enough that he didn't die - I didn't need the rest. Then 'Silly man' kicked me right out of the POV I thought you were establishing, and I couldn't really follow most of the first couple of lines of para 2.

But, it's great to see something with a distinctive tone like this. I think with some thought and editing you could be brilliant!

ps I'm assuming dust shifted because he's so loud?

Chelsea Pitcher said...

The tense shifts from past to present:

"I'm in fine form!" he boomed

"My very own demise!" he says

I do want to know why he should have died several times (and why it is "should" rather than "could") but I got a bit lost in paragraph three.

Anonymous said...

The weird punctuation was a turnoff for me, too. But I thought the bit about "the lines" was kinda neat because I HATE standing in line for anything. Not enough here to decide whether to read on or not.


writtenwyrdd said...

I didn't make it clear that I also found something appealing in this despite the many problems. It's the quirky voice.

I do hope you don't get discouraged by these comments. It gets better.

And I apologize if my words were a bit harsh. On reread they were rather in your face.

Chris Eldin said...

I won't jump on the POV bandwagon, but this is one of the better ones I've seen in a long time. It has voice, which can't be taught. The craft, well, that comes with practice. I'd definitely read on.

Anonymous said...

Rereading my earlier comment, it did come across considerably harsher than I meant it. That's what I get for posting in haste.

What I was trying to say is that I felt like this is missing an entry point or a hook. This almost seems like an excerpt from the middle rather than the beginning.

But please, please don't be discouraged. This is very original and risky in a good way.