Wednesday, February 17, 2010

New Beginning 729

Six weeks earlier, a doctor had given me less than two months to live. It wasn’t a formal diagnosis, as such -- more of a threat. His wife was beside me at the time, and neither of us had expected him home so early.

I'm the type to sleep right through the alarm, dead to the world, but there's something about the cool, dry click of a hammer being pulled back that cuts right through the sweetest of dreams and it had me instantly awake. It was still dark. I could smell cigar smoke and whisky -- a good brand. I could hear breathing, shallow, much faster than it should be -- that was me.

“I don’t usually make house calls,” he said. “But for you, a special exception. Why don’t you turn on the light?”

I did as I was told. I did it slowly. I’m no fool.

“I pride myself on an accurate prognosis,” the doctor told me, while I watched the maw of his revolver.

“No chance of a second opinion, I suppose?”

He shook his head. The gun didn’t waver. He must have been an excellent surgeon: he had a very steady hand.

“However,” he continued, “I believe your condition may not be completely incurable. I have a proposal for you.”

The good doctor reached down and pulled a bag from the floor. Never taking his eyes off me -- good decision -- he emptied the contents onto my belly, temporarily winding me. It was several hundred pages of closely typed text. "This is the proposal," he said.

I leaned forward and looked at the first page: Short Title: America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009.

"Shit." I said as my heart sank. "Okay, okay. Just shoot me now."

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Iago


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

“Oh for heavens sake, you are such a drama queen!” My lover, his wife got up from the bed, strode across the room and grabbed the gun in one severe motion. She hammered him once on the head with it.

“I told you not to interfere with my research,” she pushed him against the wall and used the barrel of the gun to push her hair off her face. “Do you think it’s fun sleeping with this clown?”

“Clown? I thought we were, uh, involved.” I sat up confused.

“Grow up. I told you my research was on menopausal men. You’re research. Period. Now do you two get it? George. Wait in the car. I’ll be right there. And you can go back to sleep.”


Evil Editor said...

Nice hook, I definitely want to hear the proposal.

You can do without both "right"s in p.2.

You can do without "special" in p.3.

You can do without "I believe" in p.8.

P.2 sounds more like an opening. I'd start with it, and then go something like:

“I don’t usually make house calls, but for you, an exception."

So, it was the doctor. Not my doctor; the doctor who, six weeks earlier, had given me less than two months to live. It wasn’t a formal diagnosis, as such -- more of a threat. His wife was beside me at the time, and neither of us had expected him home so early.

"Why don’t you turn on the light?” he said.

Bernita said...

I liked this very, very much.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous. GREAT hook. Love the voice. I would absolutely read on.

Nice job!

fairyhedgehog said...

This is wonderful and as usual EE's suggestions make it even more so.

angela robbins said...

I loved it. Definitely an excellent hook. Not what someone is expecting. Great humor. Great voice. I want to read this book!

angela robbins said...

Oh, and btw. The ending was exceptionally clever, too! I was lol at work and had to share this with my cube buddy.

Marissa Doyle said...

This was so well done I couldn't find a chink to wedge it open with a sarcastic continuation. :) But both the chosen and unchosen ones were excellent.

I think you've got something here, author, though I think it has the feel of the opening of a short story or novella.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Great job. Love EE's edits even more. And that contin is fantastic.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

Ha ha ha! Awesome.

Ellie said...

I started offering some suggestions, and then realized that I'm actually confused about what's happening. My initial read of the opening was something like:

"Six weeks earlier, a doctor gave me less than two months to live. Here's how it happened. I woke up in the dark. His wife was beside me, and neither of us had expected him home so early. He gave me a proposal: something I had to do for him within two months, or he'd kill me."

But I see it could also be:

"A doctor had given me less than two months to live, after he caught me in bed with his wife. Now, six weeks later, he woke me up in my bed and offered a proposal."

Maybe I'm the only one who's confused (extremely likely!) but, can someone tell me which interpretation is correct?

(In any case, one nit I'd like to pick: the last two sentences of the second paragraph have the same structure, starting with "I could (sense)" and breaking in the middle with an em-dash. You may be going for rhythm, but for me personally it sounds repetitious.)

Overall this is really quite well-written, with lots of flavor, especially "He must have been an excellent surgeon: he had a very steady hand." Great line!

Evil Editor said...

Only your second version is possible. Six weeks earlier the narrator was in the doctor's house. When the doctor has the gun he's in the narrator's house, as it's a house call.

Anonymous said...

Ooh nice hook! I love the opening paragraph, it's perfect!

Ellie said...

Thanks, EE; on a reread I see that's true.

In that case, I think EE's version is an improvement. Opening with the threat makes me too confused and curious about what's been happening the past six weeks; it's hard for me to switch my attention to the gun-in-the-bedroom scene in the very next paragraph.

But obviously it's working for others, so that's just me.

Robin B. said...

I like this a lot - both the opening and the continuation.

Stick and Move said...

I like this alot. I thought after the first sentence that there would be some drag to it, but not so. I would, however, suggest a minor change to the first sentence. I like, "Six weeks ago, a doctor gave me less than two months to live." Just my opinion but I think it brings more urgency to the opening line. Aside from that nit, awesome job. Good luck.

_*rachel*_ said...

This sort of character usually makes me despise the book (read: The Grapes of Wrath), but the voice here is so good I'd almost definitely keep reading.

You need to simplify the first paragraph to make it clearer; Ellie's not the only one who needed to reread it once or twice. Try:

Six weeks ago, the doctor gave me less than two months to live. It wasn't a formal diagnosis--more of a threat. Neither his wife nor I had expected him home so early.

wv: ingest

Phoenix Sullivan said...

I'm with the others on great voice and hook. And with Rachel and Ellie on having to read that first 'graph twice, though. And with EE on his perfect edits. No original thoughts here, simply validation. Hoping the rest of the book lives up to the promise so we can see a "success" blurb for this puppy!

Anonymous said...

Wow, thanks for the feedback everyone. Funny how things are obvious once someone's pointed them out: I think EE and others hit the nail on the head with their observations, so here's to making it better.

Thanks muchly for your help!

Brenda said...

I really love this. When it sells, let us know please.