Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New Beginning 766

“Can I help you, mother?” I asked the old woman coming out of the department store.

“Thank you, dear girl,” she warbled from behind the stack of purchases. She was bent forward with age and backward with the weight of her cargo, turning her into a wobbly Z-shape in a shawl. I snatched off the top few packages and slung them under one arm. This revealed me in her field of vision, and she glowered, clearly thinking she’d been tricked into accepting my help. Which she had.

Rojo didn’t have anything for us today, and Cardo and I wanted to eat, so we were trying to go Smooth for the afternoon. We’d both bathed and I’d put on the cleaner of my two dresses, and Cardo had found a half-glove to hide the T branded on the back of his right hand, not that the glove was fooling anybody.

I smiled my sweetest smile and scooped a few more packages under my other arm, hoping that her old-fashioned etiquette would triumph and she’d give me a tip no matter who I was.

We wandered down the block, finally turning down a narrow alley. The woman pulled her key from a pocket and let us into a dark room. As I set down her packages and waited for my tip I heard a ferocious growling behind me. I turned to see a huge werewolf, its fangs dripping saliva.

"Here's a tip," said the old woman. "Don't follow strangers home. Don't you know how expensive pet food is these days?"

Opening: Ellie.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

I made sure I grabbed her grocery bags. We would eat today, one way or the other. Hunger is a force of nature. I held the bags tight. It was her call. If she opened her purse the tip was coming and she'd get the bags. If she extended her arms for the bags, I'd beat it before she could open her mouth. I was an expert in staving off this force of nature.


The woman teetered to her old Buick and her hands, cloaked in old fashioned white gloves, trembled as she fumbled with the lock at the trunk.

"This darn ol' thing," she grumbled. "There we go, dear." The trunk lid flung open. "Just put them back here."

As I leaned over to place the grocery bags into the trunk, my head felt as though a Mack truck ran over it. Hot liquid poured down the side of my forehead. When I touched my fingers to it, I realized it was my own blood. I tried to run, but the old lady shoved me on top of the eggs and milk and day old bread. I tore at her with my hands. I fought like a puma, arms flailing, scratching, clawing, but all that produced was a raggedy shall tangled in my fingers and a .45 pointed at my nose.

"Scream and I'll put a slug in you," the man roared at me before the lid slammed down and trapped me.

I suppose the Adam's apple should have been a dead giveaway.


Then again, she might be one of those miserly old hags, and reward me with a gap-toothed grin instead of cash.

"Sorry, mother," I said.

She blinked her wrinkled old eyes, confused. "For what, dear girl?"

"I can't wait 'til afternoon. I mean, my stomach is practically eating itself. But I usually don't do this, you know."


I dumped her packages, snatched her purse, and ran.


The woman fixed me with a steely glare. "Don't go thinking I'm a soft touch, girl." she said. "Get these to my car without breaking anything and you'll have food in your belly today, but I'm not paying to support your addiction. I've seen too many good people lost to Twitter."


She grunted and the next thing I knew I was buried under all of her bags.

"Follow me," she said.

I'm still following her.


Evil Editor said...

I find this to be well written. I'm not sure at this point whether it needs to be clarified why the woman who accepted the narrator's assistance suddenly feels she was tricked. Obviously it's something about the narrator's appearance, but as the woman had so many packages she couldn't see, and thus needed help, and the narrator has taken pains to clean up her appearance, maybe when the woman finally sees her, the narrator can say, her eyes went immediately to the "M" branded on my forehead and she glowered...

150 said...

I snatched off the top few packages and slung them under one arm. This revealed me in her field of vision, and she glowered, clearly thinking she’d been tricked into accepting my help. Which she had.

She's glowering because she's just been robbed.

Dave Fragments said...

I like the opening. I think it's friendly and engaging and all the things it should be. But I also think you can improve it and give us a little more insight into both characters, a bit more color too.

I read this in the middle of the 4 hour extravaganza of the bicycle race this morning. That's lots of distraction with the non-stop commercials and the never-ending speculation of the announcers and several "hills" that would gag my car to a stall. Unfortunately, the opening didn't hold me.

What is that paragraph beginning with " Rojo didn’t have anything..." doing in this opening? It's a frug in the midst of a waltz. That paragraph is in the wrong place. Whatever it wants to say is confusing.

I like beginning with dialog. I like the way it sets up a scene. It works here.

However, you say "I asked the old woman..." and that implies that the "I" (because right now we don’t know sex, age, looks or anything else about the narrator. It could be Justin Bieber, or some other person with a high pitched voice.) Whoever it is, knows the old woman. We should know that up front and not discover it in the third paragraph.

I don't get the "Z" shape. I understand women walking around department stores overloaded with boxes and bags and they usually hunch forward. The only "Z" shape my depraved brain thinks about is R. Crumb's "keep on truckin'" or Johhny B. Good. Let me suggest that you open with the thought that whoever is speaking knows the old lady.
"Mother MaCree wobbled out of the store with armful of packages blocking her view."
Or possibly,
"I caught my estranged mother, overloaded with packages, making her way out of Bloomingdales. Nothing like a shopping trip to Bloomies to make a woman happy and Mom looked like a pirate hauling away the crown jewels. God, she's materialistic bitch. (or maybe say "older, frailer but still as angry.)"

"Snatched" is a word of thievery. That's what I first thought was happening -- a theft.

"This revealed me in her field of vision." I've written more passionate sentences in research papers on the pore size distribution in bimodal catalysts or that other one about the Mossbauer Spectra of iron sulfides (fools gold). Sorry, that sounds so mean and I don't want it to be.

You have an important twist in the ending paragraph and that's "...tip no matter who I was." Obviously, the narrator is not going to steal from a woman she hopes to get a tip from unless the tip is extortion, i.e. "give me a tip or I will take your boxes with me."

The other reaction I might expect would be a "you ran away ten years ago..." or "you chose a life of crime" or "You still living with that pile of crap Rojo? He's no good for you" or "you, ou Jezebel, you stole my son into a life of crime. I hope the fleas of a thousand camels (etc...)" or some other recriminatory response. Breath life into these characters.

Anonymous said...

I wrote unchosen whatever. Doesn't matter - great continuations all. Why are were creatures so hot? I'm confused. To me they are cliches. Unless the were creature is special. I just see jokes about them. Am I missing something very obvious? Thanks, Bibi

none said...

Para 3 feels a little disconnected from the rest. Apart from that, I find it a bit explainy.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I liked this. I assume that the real Rojo will be making an appearance soon?

Joanna Hoyt said...

livingasifI liked it and wish I had a chance to see more. The first, second and fourth paragraphs would make a fairly straightforward and sympathetic picture; the third adds a twist and makes me wonder what the narrator and Cardo do in the Rough part of their lives. (Apart from stealing.) The Z-shape works for me. And unlike Dave F I had assumed that the narrator and the old woman didn't know each other-that when the woman sees the girl she'd reacting to a type, not a particular person.
I particularly like "Which she had."

_*rachel*_ said...

I'd have her take the packages as she speaks, not giving the woman a chance to say yes or no.

I like the bit about the half-glove. That part alone interests me enough to read on. I also like that the MC's clever enough to trick her way into money, but nice enough to do it politely and ethically.

Knee-jerk reaction: I'm fine with Rojo being Red and Cardo being Thistle, but Rojo is an obvious enough translation that I noticed it immediately (and I don't speak Spanish). I'd either switch name-translation to Estonian (Punane and Ohakas), or change Rojo to something less obvious, like Fuego.

Overall, I like it and I'd keep reading.

vkw said...

I'll weigh in. I did find it well written. I would read more.

Some suggestions: I didn't like "this revealed me in her field of vision"

How about "she saw me then and glowered, probably thinking she was tricked into accepting my help She was right."

Your character would not be able to clearly think what another character is thinking.

That's my only concern. This didn't grab me like I have to know what is going to happen now but I am very curious and WANT to read more.

none said...

oh pish. people decide what other people are thinking all the time. and it's first person.

Ellie said...

Thanks so much for all the great comments! You've given me a lot to think about.

Fantastic continuations all around. Andrew's was my favorite.