Wednesday, April 07, 2010

New Beginning 743

I reached the phone a microsecond before the machine picked up. As if on cue, my toddler whined to be picked up, and my older son ceased scratching at his viola in the other room and ran for the Xbox.

I read the Caller ID. "Tracy. What's up?"

"Oh my God, Cathy, the Supermoms have to do something. A guy knocked on my door selling magazines, and I swear I didn't want any more magazines--"

"You bought some anyway," I guessed.

"Hunting and Fishing," she said.

"Why not Cosmo?"

"And Golf Digest," she gulped.

"How'd he talk you into that?"

"I don't know. I'm a vegetarian, and I don't even play golf. Then he went next door to Erika's house and sold her Christian Life."

"What? Erika is Buddhist."

"I know! You have to do something."

"Just a minute." I covered the mouthpiece and yelled, "Josh! Viola!"

"Why, mom?" he whined.

"You know what your teacher said. Twenty minutes a day!"

"But why now?"

"Because I said so!" After a moment, the scratching resumed. I turned back to the phone. "It sounds like this magazine seller has an unusual talent for persuasion. We'll look into it. Did you see which way he went?"

"Toward Lazell Street."

"Sit tight. I'll call Luanne; she'll know what to do."

Cathy hung up on Tracy and frantically started dialing another of the Supermoms. Luanne, a devout Southern Baptist, could put the fear of God into anyone, and had no truck with deceitful salesmen, sinners all of them.

"Luanne!" Cathy burst out as her friend answered, "I've got a job for you! This is bad! There's a--"

"Hold on there, honey," Luanne interrupted. "I'd love to chat and all, but not till I'm done readin' this month's Big Boobied Babes..."

Opening: Amy.....Continuation: anon.


none said...

This has a good feel to it, but I'm not keen on the repetition of 'picked up' at the close of two consecutive lines. Feels lazy.

Couldn't the protagonist be the one saying that Tracy is a vegetarian who doesn't play golf? To me that would read more naturally.

Looks like a fun ready, anyway.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

I took down the directions with a shaky hand and then slammed the phone back into it's cradle. We had to do something, and quick! Sweet Jesus, who says nothing ever happens in suburbia?


"I think East"

"East on which street?"

"Jefferson, I think - no, Hancock"

"But that's- "

The doorbell rang, and as soon as I answered the world fell away, lost in the mighty muttonchops on my doorstep.

"It's about your book. The query was so bad I had to deliver your rejection in person"

I nodded wordlessly, for the first time in years.

"In fact, I can think of only one body that would publish your so-called writing. You would, of course, need to learn the house style thoroughly."


Evil Editor said...

When you write:

"Erika is Buddhist!"

"I know." can be sure Tracy and Cathy are talking to the reader, not each other. Perhaps if the previous sentence were: Then he went next door to Vishnumaya's house and sold her Christian Life," you wouldn't need to explain the joke.

You could also avoid the explanations on the other magazines by choosing magazines even less likely to be be read by Tracy. For instance:

A guy knocked on my door selling magazines, and I swear I didn't want any more magazines--"

"You bought some anyway," I guessed.

"Guns and Ammo," she said. "And Australian Handiman."

"Why not Cosmo?"

"Then he went next door to ..."

I think I'd like this better if Cathy stuck with the phone call instead of having the viola discussion with Josh, which can easily take place a minute later after she hangs up:

...and sold her Christian Life. You have to do something."

"It sounds like this magazine seller has an unusual talent for persuasion. We'll look into it. Did you see which way he went?"

Stacy said...

I must be seeing things. I thought I saw the "suburbia" one published this morning. Man, I need stronger coffee.

Evil Editor said...

You're fine, I changed my mind.

vkw said...

Hmm I didn't like the Buddhist remark either but for a different reason . . there just not that many buddhist in the 'burbs. I think you could come up with another joke similar but better.

didn't like the vegetarian part or the play golf either . . . your friend would know that about you and you wouldn't have to explain why buying those magazines would be odd.

Actually - come to think of it, I didn't like any of the conversation because I am thinking to myself - I don't need magazines, I can't afford magazines but if an incrediable salesman came to my door and I was pressured/memorized/conned/seduced into buying magazines I would at least justify it by buying something that supports a hobby of mine or I justify it by buying a subscription for a gift for someone else. "Errrr. . . .I couldn't afford the hunting magazine but my dad hunts and I thought. . . well Okay I know am just making excuses, dad can barely walk anymore, come to think of it he can't see anymore either. . . you gotta help me."

I guess that's why I wasn't thrilled with this opening. . . it just seemed too contrived and I think it could be done a bit better and still stay true to the story and your voice.

I didn't like. "I read the Caller ID" part. . Nor the part where I yell at the kid to start playing the viola again.

I would be yelling "Hey, Can't you see I am on the phone?! Have some consideration here and stop playing already. I can't hear Tracy."

My children. . . if I wasn't on the phone I would be pleading for him to stop playing but, of course, the most important moment to practice is when I am trying to talk to my best friend forever. . . . "Hey check on your brother would ya. He's crying. Give him the bottle or where is that pacifier. Didn't you hear me, stop with the Viola already and check on your brother. If he's bleeding to death your going to feel real bad you didn't check on him. What if he is dying and you're too busy to check on him? What then? Thank you. . finally. Okay Tracy, I'm back. I swear that kid."

Oh that's my life . . not your characters. . .

Anonymous said...

Not that many Buddhists in the burbs??? WTF?

Leaving aside how trendy it has become, with the whole Richard Gere vibe, and the fact that, particularly in suburbs of major metropolitan areas, there are actually a lot of born Buddhists in the burbs (catchy, I know), who cares? All you need is ONE for the remark to make sense.

You can't even imagine ONE Buddhist in a suburb? Really?

Jeb said...

Good voice but I'm really tired of women acting against their own interest in books, as if blatant stupidity is supposed to make us all identify better - or feel superior - by comparing these with our own occaisional lapses from sanity. Either way, stupid behavior from supposedly intelligent women just makes me want to smack them, not read 300 pages about their self-inflicted troubles.

I guess I'm not the audience for this novel, huh?

_*rachel*_ said...

I see dead--wait, that didn't come out right. I see As You Know Bob.

I'd take out the stuff in brackets:

"I don't know. [I'm a vegetarian, and I don't even play golf.] Then he went next door to Erika's house and sold her Christian Life."

"What? [Erika is Buddhist.]"

This is interesting, but don't overdo it.

Actually, what I'd really like to see is:

"You bought some anyway," I guessed.

"Cosmo," she said.

"Why not Guns and Ammo?"

"And Seventeen," she gulped.

"How'd he talk you into that?"

Amy said...

Thanks for the suggestions, guys! This isn't the opening to a novel. It's the opening to a 1200-word suburban fantasy short story. I don't really like having to interrupt the magazine conversation with the Josh/viola bit, but it's a critical bit of incluing that I can't really move anywhere else since the story is so very short and it moves on almost immediately to the confrontation with the magazine seller. This excerpt is fully 1/6 of the story. I'll see if I can do a better job with the magazine names.

batgirl said...

For what it's worth, I assumed this was fantasy and that the magazine seller was putting the hoodoo on the housewives.
Also didn't see anything odd with someone named Erika being a Buddhist - at least this year. Last year Erika was probably into the Kabbalah.
Heck, you could work that into the conversation - "Wait, isn't Erika still Buddhist?"

Anyway, there's definitely a market for this sub-subgenre. I recently read the first book in a series about a soccer mom / demon hunter.

Amy said...

Heck, you could work that into the conversation - "Wait, isn't Erika still Buddhist?"

Oh, I love that idea! Thank you!