Thursday, March 11, 2010

New Beginning 735

Since we moved to the East Coast, I'm even more of an in-your-face driver. I catch myself drumming my fingers on the steering wheel when I’m stuck behind a meandering, slow driver. And I say something like…For God's sake, make it occur, or pull over and park. Make a choice. Now. And I might add a few more words at the end; since I don't know the slow slob's name, I make a really good one up.

The penance for my impatience will be standing in faded fatigues at the end of the bridge I cross over when driving into the semi-eternally gridlocked city where I work.

I watched him for several months before I rolled my window down the first time. Most weeks I hand him a five or a ten as I pass by in the frustrating trudge of morning traffic. Usually, it's on a Friday.

I've wondered what his name is, but I never asked for it.

Semper Fi, he always says.

And we exchange a glance, and dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, I reply, because I know what he's been through.

Faber est quisque fortunae suae, he says as he scrumples the bill into his camoflaged pocket, and I believe it, and all I can say, with a tear in my eye, is, diligentia maximum etiam mediocris ingeni subsidium, which he takes exception to.

Fucking Latinos.

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


Ellie said...

Hahahaha, that is a great continuation!

Evil Editor said...

I think the narrator would think Step on the gas rather than Make it occur.

Paragraph 2 makes it sound like as penance for her impatience she will have to stand in faded fatigues at the end of the bridge...

Possibly you intend this and clear it up for us in the next paragraph. Or not. You could make it clear in P.2 with something like:

The penance for my impatience? He'll be standing in faded fatigues at the end of the bridge I cross over when driving into the semi-eternally gridlocked city where I work.

Anonymous said...

Is semi-eternal about the same as half of infinity?

John said...

Maybe "eternally semi-gridlocked" would be better.

Terrific continuation, although I'm not sure how fair it is when the same person writes both the opening and the continuation.

Matt said...

I'm curious as to where this is going. A murder mystery?

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

The last time I passed him a fiver I caught his "Semper Fi" like I was hearing it for the first time what he really was saying wasn't "Semper Fi" it was "Sam Perfi" he was telling me his name... Now, Sam Perfi was the Alzheimer's patient that kept getting loose from the nursing home. When he got out he always headed to the same spot. He'd lost his wife in an accident on that same place years ago. Some corner of his brain took him back to the place they had been creamed by the local donut delivery truck. She didn't die in the accident. He lost her because it was the only opportunity she had in her life run away. No one recognized her in the mass of donut dough, icing sugar and crullers as she slunk off being chased by feral cats addicted to the sugar shock from eating out of the Donut Hole's garbage bin.


Or Semper Fi-- and I guess I'd know what he meant by that, if only I had the patience to let him finish.


vkw said...

I found p. 2 to be confusing and read it to mean -

The penance for my impatience will be to stand in faded fatigues on a bridge in eternally begging . . .

that paragraph needs to be changed maybe to something like

I'm Catholic and I know there needs to be a penance for everything, including my road rage/impatience. I make it by giving a money to the man standing faded fatigues on the bridge I get stuck on everyday.

I would begin the 3 paragraph

I passed him by for months before I rolled down the window and gave him the first dollar. Now, almost every Friday I pass him a five or ten.

and so forth and so on

You are cursed with the same infliction that I have - "statement of the obvious"

Of course it is your window, whose window would it be. So

the window instead of my window

I drum the steering wheel when I am stuck behind a slow driver. And, most of the time I yell something like . . .

My penance is (no need to name the sin we heard it) the man standing in faded fatigues at the end of the bridge I get stuck on everyday going home from work.

I would tighten your opening. you have a nice voice and I don't want to muck it up too much but your sacrificing meaning for prose. Doesn't work for lazy readers like myself.

Anonymous said...

I bet the book is a feel good, literary book where we learn the story of an unlisted man discharged from the military, victim of PTSD who is haunted by murder/mayhem/blood/bombs who finds redemption in . . . love/his long lost child/becomes a millionaire/becomes a hero/find himslef and/or helps the narrator finds herself.

Or maybe he becomes a priest and returns to Iraq and helps others PTSD victims and the reader discovers redemption and you know the big picture that war is bad and love is good.

just a few ideas but you know a good murder mystery would be cool too.

Dave Fragments said...

I think this can be a nice opening if the author tightens it up a bit. It reveals the speaker to the reader and if the man standing on the side of the road actually appears later on in the story, that's a bonus.

_*rachel*_ said...

At first I thought the penance was the narrator. I also thought "Semper Fi" was his name, partly because of its placement and partly because "Fi" is capitalized.

Once I look at it and get that squared away, I think you've got a really interesting idea here--just a few problems with execution.

The fact that he says "Semper Fi" implies (to me, anyway) that he's going to be a character. Why else would he say something so intriguing?

WV: enerver. It's actually French for "to upset."

Chelsea Pitcher said...

The first paragraph is hilarious. I love what the narrator thinks passes for in-your-face driving. Great set-up.

I'm having some tense issues though. The tense changes a lot in such a short space: present, future, past, back to present. None of it's incorrect, it just jerked me around a little. I think you might be able to simplify: "The penance for my impatience stands in faded fatigues at the end of the bridge I cross to get to work." (I don't think you need both "semi-eternally gridlocked city" and "frustrating trudge of morning traffic".)

I like the ideas in this a lot and, like I said, love the first paragraph. I just think the next few could be simplified a bit. I would read on.

Dave Fragments said...

There is an old movie titled "Semi-Tough." It's a comedy with burt Reynolds and his crazy friends. The premise is that we all know football is "tough" but to the QB Reynolds, it's only "semi-tough." So I didn't have trouble with semi-eternally.

Anonymous said...

Author here. Thanks for your notes, everyone.

This is a scene I have written for a novel I am working on, and I am trying to decide if this is the opening. I had another version of this written - as a scene in a chapter. Over time, the narrator feels drawn to finding out more about this long-time homeless man, but it doesn't quite work out.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Not to glob on, but just to say I also had the same issues around the penance paragraph, tense, and character "name" on first read. But I've always said you've got a nice voice, Anon.

Hehe at the contin!