Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Beginning 693

Claire had not ventured onto the balcony since Tom died. Heights scared her, and fear could trigger a panic attack. What would happen if the panic struck when she was out there? When she was standing near the edge? Nothing, she told herself, absolutely nothing. You’ve taken a pill. You’ll be fine. She shut the door behind her and shuffled forward, taking comfort from the roughness of cement beneath her bare feet. Almost there, she reached out to grab the railing and paused.

The pause was a mistake. Her concentration wavered, and she saw herself standing on a narrow ledge stuck to the side of a building seventeen stories above the pavement. Her grip became rigid and white-knuckle tight.

Even more than falling, she feared its allure. Another step and she would be at the edge. Would she be impelled to keep going, to press her hips against the rail and lean further and further forward until her feet left the floor and she tumbled into oblivion? Don’t look down. Think about something else.

What a mess this was. Housework. Yes, mindless cleaning--that would take her mind off everything.

Claire turned and stepped back over Tom's bloodied, lifeless body and headed to the kitchen to get a mop.

Opening: Pat Dusenbury.....Continuation: ril


Evil Editor said...

I have no major complaints. I might get rid of: Nothing, she told herself, absolutely nothing. You’ve taken a pill. You’ll be fine.

Just to move things along.

I might change "taking comfort from the roughness of cement" to "taking comfort from solid cement," as I don't see why roughness would comfort her in this situation.

I'm not sure that railing isn't a bit lower than would be useful if a woman's hips are the same height. A tall guy could easily fall over it. My brief Internet research reveals that the building codes that were in force when a building went up are the ones that apply. I found a few condo balcony codes that require a 42-inch-high railing, and a building code for decks that requires 42 inches if the deck is 6 feet above ground. Even a 36-inch railing would be higher than most women's hips.

Also, I guess it depends on your definition of "hips" whether a woman facing forward can press her hips against a railing. I can see that bothering some people.

Dave Fragments said...

My comments follow EE's comments. You set up a situation with tension in the first paragraph -- fear of heights. I can appreciate that because I don't like to be near the edge of anything when someone else is around. But, you slow the paragraph down in the middle. That's what EE said about moving things along.

Nothing in the second and third paragraph rambles or takes a useful diversion. It's only the first paragraph that does that. We are dealing with Claire's emotional state, looking over the edge with her fears.

This tugs the reader in and serves well as an opening. the character is interesting and sympathetic.

BTW -- if you really want to experience the fall (and live) go sky diving or bungee jumping.

_*rachel*_ said...

My favorite line is the first one. The alluring of falling is neat, too.

Xiexie said...

I like this. I feel for Claire. My only nit is taking comfort from.... Shouldn't that be taking comfort in ...?

Oh and sky diving and bungee jumping are great. I think sky diving is something everyone should do at least once in their lives. The free fall is the best!

Mame said...

I'll be the odd man out, I guess. I fail to see how a fear of heights would become allure of falling. Makes absolutely no sense to me when said that way.

And--if she paused before grabbing the railing, what is she now white knuckling?

And--a balcony is a balcony, or is it a narrow ledge?

You lost me on this one, sorry.

Anonymous said...

I feel I ought to like it, and the writing is good, but I get confused.

We start out with a good crisp first sentence, but if you take that away what's left is interior monologue about Claire's various fears. I can guess, but I don't know for sure that they are in any way connected to Tom's death. Her panic disorder seems to be long-standing, since she knows the sorts of things that trigger it and she has been diagnosed and given pills, so it may well pre-date her bereavement. So all these fears may not have anything to do with the only plot point I have - that her husband died.

It reminds me of a white room beginning - or possibly a dream. I think it would work better for me if bits of information were interspersed with the fears, perhaps telling me what's motivating her actions - like, why on earth has she decided to go out on the balcony? Why is this important?

Matt said...

The allure part threw me. Does that mean she's afraid of being afraid? Towards the end it looks like she's thinking of commiting suicide.

I guess I need another paragraph or two to understand. I liked it anyway.

Evil Editor said...

I thought it was obvious that fearing the allure of falling meant fearing she would be tempted to jump.

And that her fear made the balcony feel like a ledge when she got close to the edge.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Think about the mountain goats instead, the ones she had seen on TV back when she and Tom used to watch the Discovery channel. So sure-footed and quick on the craggy mountainside, they trusted the ground beneath their feet. They approached cliffs far more dizzying than this with the utmost confidence.

Or think instead of the birds, who embraced such heights. Birds who, with a sweep of their wings, jumped and soared into the vast great blue, the air beneath them roaring and exhilarating.

Unfortunately, Claire was not a bird, and she realized this too late as she flapped her arms and plunged headlong towards the street.


She thought of Tom. Even dwelling on how much she missed him was better than staring at the railing. The balcony was just as he had left. The loaded revolver lay on the patio table, next to the box of poisoned chocolates. A noose hung from the balcony above, a chair placed conveniently beneath it. The Dance, Dance Revolution mat covered a gaping hole in the floor. This had always been Tom's favorite spot to relax. Having calmed herself, she turned to go back inside and unlatched the sliding glass door, setting off the bomb.