Friday, September 24, 2010

New Beginning 786

The crew sat on Harlan Wither’s porch rocking in faded white chairs, the season of a long hot day, damp in the pits of their shirts, dotted in beads on their foreheads. Cyrus McIntyre, one of Harlan’s two best friends, sunburned and plump like a Christmas pig suited in light blue seer sucker, tipped back his glass of lemonade—a libation freshly squeezed by Harlan’s new woman, not the old ball and chain who, god forgive Uncle Harlan, finally upped and died, but the cute little kitten, Jolene Johnson, thirty years Harlan’s junior. The whole bunch sat and rocked and passed the time drinking sweet cold lemonade, but Cyrus’ glass packed a particular punch that evening, having a “dribble or two” of corn squeezin’s from his flask.

“I must say,” Cyrus drew out all of his words, long and slow, as if his mouth were a pen and his audience the paper. “That sweet, little filly of yours sure knows how to make a fine lemonade.”

Harlan, arms crossed against his chest, tipped his head in a languid manner, one long low drop to acknowledge that he agreed tonight’s lemonade was particularly tasty, cool, and refreshing. Uncle Harlan was more a man of ears, than words. Usually for him there wasn’t much to say, so there wasn’t much point in sayin’ it.

Ol' Ben, Harlan's other best friend, happened to have turned ninety-nine last Sunday, an occasion he celebrated by learnin' a new word (a tradition he started when he was twelve years old and the only word he knew was sugar tittie, 'cus his Momma was still, well you know). Ol' Ben said, "Yep, not too tart," then paused ten minutes to catch his breath and added, "not too sweet."

Harlan's pupils dilated a millimeter, confirming that he agreed with Ol' Ben's assessment.

On the other side of the county, an army of space aliens were disembarking from their ship with ray guns. But the crew didn't know nothin' 'bout that, and if they did, they wouldnta cared. Cyrus said, slow like a tree growin', "Nope, not too sweet."

Opening: Angela Robbins.....Continuation: anon./EE


Evil Editor said...

P.1: Not sure what "the season of a long hot day" means. Perhaps:

...the long hot day damp in the pits of their shirts and dotted in beads on their foreheads. (commas gone)

Or eliminate the phrase entirely, in which case add "sweat" before dotted, and keep the commas.

It sounds like the Christmas pig is dressed in seersucker (one word).

"God (cap.) forgive Uncle Harlan" makes it sound like he killed her, but finally upped and died sound like he didn't.

P.2: No comma after "sweet." "knows how to" would be understood if you just said "makes."

P.3: I don't think we need "cool." The temperature of cold lemonade doesn't have such a wide range that one batch would be described as "particularly cool."

A man of ears sounds weird, and comparing it to a man of words isn't quite right, as words come out of mouths and go into ears. Or do neither if they're going onto paper. I'd say he was more a listener than a talker.

John said...

"Up and died" is truer to the dialect than "upped and died," at least in the part of the South I grew up in, but it may be a (sub)regional thing.

Khazar-khum said...

Southern dialect doesn't have to be as thick as honey on grits to be effective.

Dave Fragments said...

I didn't read this as stylistically southern but as overly dense and hard to read. This opening paints interesting images but at the price of moving slowly forward.

150 said...

I'm bored already. Is there a point to this conversation other than to establish that everyone's stereotypically Old Southern? Can you start the story later, when the plot happens?

Anonymous said...

My eyes were glazing over until I read about the space aliens and then I was happy to read on because I was pretty sure their deadly bid to take over the world would begin on page 3 and these sexist old fools would be vaporized by page 5, after which the actual protagonist would make her heroic entry and put her brilliant but dangerous plan to save the planet into action.

_*rachel*_ said...

This has an interesting voice, but nothing's happening. And if the "sweet little thing" doesn't shoot someone in the next paragraph, I'm outta here.

Tone down the voice a bit, up the action. And I know we're all saying we're bored, but it doesn't scare me like some of the writing I've seen this week. (By the way, can anybody explain to me what a "warthog derby syphilis can" is?)

Anonymous said...

(By the way, can anybody explain to me what a "warthog derby syphilis can" is?)

It's the new flavor from Progresso. Find it in the soup aisle.

Wilkins MacQueen said...

In order to enter the warthog derby syph, each wart hog must register. Whichever warthog has the highest rate of infect. No, that can't be right.
With EE's comments.
I was told I was writing purple prose, and I thank the person who enlightened me. I didn't know what it meant. I studied it. I try not to do that anymore.
People and coal mines have pits in my experience. I don't know anyone who has or had Christmas pig(s). "Squeezin's" annoyed me.
BUT I see some good things in the writing. Needs to go somewhere faster in MHO.

angela robbins said...

EE, minions, AUTHOR HERE:

Thanks for the comments. I'll give you a brief explanation of the story here...A bunch of good ol' boys (Harlan, Cyrus, and Lysle)take Harlan's nephew, Skeet, for a little night fishin': a lurid experience that will test Skeet's morals, challenge his faith, and make him doubt his who he truly is.

I have found it difficult to move into the action immediately, because I wanted to create a laid back mood up front and slowly build to the revelation (night fishing isn't what it's first thought to be).

I find that rather difficult to do within the first page. Any suggestions?

batgirl said...

Angela, very much not my genre, but here's a few thoughts, for what they're worth.
The story is about Skeet's experience, basically a coming-of-age with a dark flavour, yes? So I'd suggest bringing Skeet onstage right off. Give us his feelings and what he wants - to be one of the men? Then you have something at stake, that he's hoping to be part of the crew, that he has to prove himself, the uncertainty that he'll screw up and be mocked, or that he'll be the butt of some prank, perhaps. Then from Skeet we can see that the scene is laid-back, but with his uncertainty and hope there's a little tension added.
If that makes sense?

angela robbins said...

thanks batgirl for the comments.
maybe i can throw a grab line in there somehow...

well... this really isn't a comming of age story. skeet's 22 and he's at harlan's because his mama and daddy just died. harlan's the only one left he knows--or thought he knew.
the night fishing is nothing fun or fanciful, it's outright horrific.
skeet battles with right and wrong, and the pressure of his elders to fit in.
it's whether he'll do the right thing, and he's questioning his faith in god, life, and himself along the way.

(it's a wip novella and if any cares to check it out, they can find my blog by clicking on my profile.)

thanks minions for your continued--er--support