Thursday, October 15, 2009

New Beginning 694

His entrance at nine-thirty sharp—half an hour before closing—dashed my hopes of cutting short the miserable day.

There was only one other customer at Gustav’s Diner, a grandfatherly type on the last spoonfuls of his apple crisp. Another five minutes and he would have paid and left, the kitchen would be pronounced closed, and I would be free to go—escape— curl up in bed and pass the remaining hours in the oblivion of sleep.

But now the new arrival had ruined it all. I watched as he shook the rain off his umbrella and walked towards the corner table, dripping a trail of water in his wake that I would later have to mop up.

Suppressing a sigh, I trudged over and dropped a menu on his table, muttering a barely audible Welcome to Gustav’s underneath my breath. Even as I walked away I knew that my attitude was all wrong, that Gustav would surely be disappointed if he saw me. Gustav, who hadn’t fired me even though I broke three plates my first week on the job. Gustav, who apologized to customers and told them he was at fault whenever I messed up the bill. Gustav, whose generosity was nothing short of legendary. Gustav, who had saved countless souls from the concentration camps. Gustav, who used only olive oil in his deep fryer.

It took a full ten minutes, while I impatiently clattered pots and wiped down counters, for the newcomer to study the menu.

"What'll it be?" I asked him in a hurry-up voice.

"Coffee," he said. "A bowl of chowder. Two hamburgers. Pastrami on rye, sauerkraut on the side. BLT, no mayo. Two ball park dogs with Chili and one with relish. A meatball sub, extra cheese, easy on the sauce. A small green salad. And a slice of that apple crisp."

The old-timer in the corner cleared his throat. "Say... I know you... You're that Evil Editor, right?"

I recognized the name and couldn't hold back a grin. "Gustav! That guy you sent your novel to is here!"

A crash in the kitchen was accompanied by some Baltic swearing; we were going to close up early after all.

Opening: JP.....Continuation: anon.


Evil Editor said...

P2: Not sure what is meant by "the remaining hours." You might end the paragraph: and I would be free to go home, curl up in bed and escape to the oblivion of sleep.

p3: 1st sentence isn't needed. You already said his entrance dashed your hopes.

"in his wake" isn't needed, as it's implied by "dripping a trail."

p4: I think two Gustav, who sentences is plenty. Keep the two specific ones and drop the legendary generosity one.

Mame said...

Definitely get rid of "suppressing a sigh". Trust us to know your person isn't happy, we get it.

I'm pretty sure you understand this from the continuation, but there are way too many Gustavs in paragraph four.

I'd keep reading. It feels like the start to a mystery type thing (of course, I have no idea), good for a rainy day...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it could benefit from more focus or possibly starting a little earlier. The big event seems to be the entry of Nameless Character, but before we can find out why he matters you feel compelled to tell us backstory about a 3rd party: the seemingly absent Gustav. Maybe it would be more effective to start with Gustav, since we apparently can't understand the significance of Nameless Character's arrival without knowing about him.

_*rachel*_ said...

Nice continuation!

Just kill the guy already! That is what the MC is going to do, right? S/he's certainly snarky. Bring out the pruning shears, trim that prose, and stab someone.

Dave Fragments said...

This works for me as an opening but you do use "Gustav" too many times. Even if Gustav is the hero of the novel, it's too many times.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I thought this was decently written, but your protagonist is hard to love. Lots of people have long days and hard jobs, yet they manage to be polite. She can be incompetent, she can be cranky, she can be ungrateful, but she can't be all three in the first four paragraphs without introducing some redeeming characteristic to balance that out.

JP said...

Thanks for your feedback everyone. Point taken on too much Gustav--he's not actually an important character. I more wanted to establish that the MC recognizes and appreciates his kindness, so I'll definitely be doing some cuts there.

@Sarah - the next paragraph establishes the reason for the MC's poor mood, which should hopefully paint her more sympathetically.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

@JP: Fair enough!

Rereading, I realize my earlier statement may have come off a bit harsh. It is always a difficult balance when you introduce a flawed character on a bad day. But I did enjoy this and the character will probably correct on its own once you make the trims others have suggested. It's just that fourth paragraph about how awful she is in comparison to Gustav that pushed me over the edge.

Best of luck rewriting!

Adam Heine said...

I liked this. I'd read on.

Maybe combine P1 and P2, and cut the first sentence of P3 for the reason EE said.

For some reason, every time you said Gustav, I thought of the Ratatouille movie. I don't know why.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

Really, he was such a nice guy, I sometimes wondered what he'd done to Bertrecht. That's Bertrecht, of Bertrect's Bar and Grill, who was paying me nearly as much as Gustav to "work" for Gustav. Bertrecht was also Gustav's younger brother.

I lit another napkin dispenser on fire, and took the guy's order.

--Mother (Re)produces