I was going to miss my call. I just knew it. I was going to miss my call and it would be all my mom’s fault. I hadn’t wanted to go out for my birthday. I’d just wanted to sit in my room where I knew I had good cell reception and wait for Jamie to call. Was that so much to ask? My mom though, she wanted to take me out for ice cream and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
So I sat there in the ice cream parlor taking little bites of my vanilla soft serve with candy pieces and glaring at my mom and brother. My mom had ordered the ice cream for me because it was the kind I’d liked three years ago. I didn’t like it anymore though. I hadn’t liked it in a long time.
Some kids were whining a couple booths over. Their mom kept yelling at them in a whisper. And I could hear an older couple talking loudly about something involving Someone’s brother’s funeral.
It was only mid-May but they already had the AC running. I could feel goose bumps on my exposed lower arms. It wasn’t good ice cream even. Before Jamie had left we’d driven an hour to go to Neilson’s. That was the best ice cream shop in the universe. Stupid Babana Splits couldn’t compare to Neilson’s and my mom and brother couldn’t compare to Jamie.
Plus, we drove three hours to get to this place, out in the middle of nowhere, with freaking cows roaming through the parking lot. Crap knows how we got here. I sure hope mom knows the way back. I'm going to ask her as soon as she gets back from the bathroom. Stupid kid brother ought be able to go on his own by now. He's eight, for Christ's sake. I'm gonna tell mom Jamie would've laughed at this place. As soon as she gets back. It's been forty-five minutes already. Surely the queue can't be that long?
Opening: Lauren K......Continuation: anon.
Stupid mom. Stupid brother. I wondered what Jamie was doing right then. Probably calling me and wondering why I didn't pick up the phone. I hoped his new dentures fit right. My stupid old ones kept making annoying clicking noises. As if anything could make this day any worse.
My ninetieth birthday was shaping up to be the worst birthday EVER.
My phone rang. A miracle. "Oh my Gawd, the phone's ringing!"
"Why wouldn't it?" said Mom. "We're in an ice cream shop, not the subway tunnels."
Her words passed through my ears about as quickly as I answered the phone. "Jamie? Yeah I'm at the ice cream shop on 3rd and 22nd street. Babana Splits ice cream shop on 3rd and 22nd street just passed Mike's Bagels -- you'll have to pick me up after I'm done here..."
After I finished talking to Jamie, I noticed my bratty brother had stolen my ice cream. And finished it. "Todd! What the hell?"
"I had to. It almost melted away. Maybe if you didn't say the same thing over and over while going off on useless tangents you could have eaten it while it was still cold."
Suddenly, the whiny kids went silent. I glanced over at them, and they had these weird, stricken looks on their faces. Then they keeled over, their bodies thumping on the floor.
"Thanks very much, Bob." The mother smiled and nodded at the guy behind the counter who was wearing the stupid banana split shaped hat. She tossed a fifty on the table and walked lightly out of the shop, leaving the kids for Bob to drag into the back room.
"What the hell...?" I turned to my mom, who had finally quit pestering me about what I wanted as a birthday gift.
"Are you enjoying your icecream, sweetie?" I heard her say, as my throat constricted and my eyes went dim.
"I know you like Neilson's, but Bob does the best Strychnine Sundaes for unsympathetic protagonsists..."
It's a lot of writing, and yet I still can't be sure whether the narrator is an 8-year-old boy waiting for a call from his cousin who recently shipped out to Afghanistan or a 15-year-old girl waiting for a call from her boyfriend whose family moved to another state. Or a 15-year-old boy waiting for a call from his girlfriend whose family moved to another state.
We're in the MC's POV, and the MC knows who Jamie is, and everyone else in the scene knows too, so why don't we know? Maybe it would be better if Jamie weren't even mentioned. Instead of "wait for Jamie to call," say "wait for my call." And cut paragraph 4 at "Neilson's." We still have the hook of the mysterious call that's so important, but the added mystery of Who's Jamie can be saved for when the call comes (or doesn't come).
TOOOOOOO much scene setting. Nothing going on and your very annoying narrator is telling the whole thing as backstory. Not a gripping structure. Get more action.
It isn't often when all the continuations agree on where the story ought to go. I'm afraid they all echoed my feeling, too. So I'm obviously not the target audience since this kid is the same bratty, whiny type of child with an entitlement complex who I glare at in public. And I still know more about the ice cream than I do the MC.
I'm sure you wrote this beginning as a way to establish character and set up voice. If you were going for bratty, you nailed it, so kudos! If, however, you were trying for fun snark or bitch, it doesn't go far enough. If you were trying for sympathetic, well the fact that the MC had the continuers all contemplating child abandonment at the best and murder at the worst, tells you to take a breath and step back from the work a bit.
The narrator may be unreliable, and that's perfectly acceptable, but we need a bit more in the narrative to keep us interested enough to be led astray.
I liked this a lot. I'm definitely ready for something to start happening, but the ambiguities EE mentioned don't bother me and I didn't feel it was overwritten, thanks to the speed with which it reads. I thought you conveyed the voice and the mood very well.
Hi, this is the author. Thanks for all the feedback. I really appreciate it. I intended for the main character to come off as a bit bratty but obviously I overdid it. lol. I'll tone that down a bit and put in some dialog earlier to help explain why she's so upset. Thanks again. Happy Holidays!
This author is obviously talented. I would get rid of all the "had not" constructions and take a look at the trajectory. When the story gets to "Someone's Brother's Funeral" I think we are building up to something - possibly a murder but surely something dramatic and interesting. My eyes go dry and my nose waters. Then the story seems to drift off to the banal. At the mention of Someone's Brother's Funeral keep hooking us. We want to know who died. We want to know how that translates to extreme physical danger to the character who is speaking. We want to know when this damn book is going to come out so we can find out what happens next. We want to know it is coming out soon so we don't go out of our minds and get arrested for running down the street naked and ranting.
We don't want to read about how bored the character is. No, no, no.
And keep writing. I rarely say this, but I think you have it. Talent, that is. That is a word I rarely use in the same sentence with "new writer." You got it, kid. Sock us with it.
It'd be good to get to some action earlier, but I really like the voice and tone here; it's good writing. I'd read on for sure.
I'm the mother of a tween and the voice feels like a tween. Doesn't even have to be a bratty tween; a lot of kids at this age feel as if everything's a crisis. If this is the market the author is writing for, they've nailed the voice.
I do agree I'd like to know who Jamie is and why the call is important, but I like the tension that's built up here and I wouldn't rush it. If the author doesn't get to it in the next couple of paragraphs or so, then it might be an issue, but as it stands, not hitting us over the head with the information up front isn't a problem for me.
The voice really worked for me. The "hadn't"s didn't though. Something about them feels a bit formal. I don't think you should tone down the brattiness, but we do need to get on with who Jamie is and why his call is so important.
These intro paragraphs don't turn me off at all cos I can sense that what's really going to happen is coming.
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