Tuesday, March 05, 2013

New Beginning 991

On the morning of the day before the first day of her life, she yawned and stretched. If it was raining, it didn’t matter. She stretched her long legs and found her robe on the floor. Not good. These things happen. “Hurry, you’ll be late!” The voice was firm, not from a harmless woman, but an understanding one. Unless, of course, she was late.

“How much?”

“Two kilos … and a loaf. Now, run!”

The young woman grabbed a light sweater, a canvas bag and bolted for the door. Yes, she would run. Another twenty minutes might be too late. No time for chatter today.

“Acknowledge me!” the acrid voice snapped, plowing through the misty morning.

The girl stopped and curtsied. “Sorry, sir. I was in a hurry. It won’t happen again.”

“I’ll speak to your mistress about your insolence.”

“Yes sir. May I be forgiven?”

He waved her along.

Down the broken sidewalk, around the corner and into the market, the girl stopped, out of breath. “Two kilos of sausage, sir. And a loaf.”

The storekeeper peered down over his glasses. “Cheese today, 75?”

She caught her breath. Cheese? The mistress did not say anything about cheese.

“I … I wasn’t told. Yes, no … oh, darn.” If she didn’t bring cheese and was supposed to bring cheese, that would be bad. If she brought cheese and wasn’t supposed to, that might be worse.

“Cheese? Yes, no … what do you think?” Her frustration showed. She looked at the sausages that hung from the hooks. Not many left. Not much cheese, either.

The storekeeper sliced the sausage. “You always take cheese, 75.”

“I … I know." She puckered up her face and tried to think. She stomped her foot. “I suppose so. Maybe not. I won’t be here tomorrow. Maybe she didn’t want me to bring it.”

The girl took the load from the storekeeper. She left with her faith renewed. It was the first time, when offering his sausage, a man had actually warned her about the cheese.

Opening: John C. Updike.....Continuation: Anon.


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

"Listen 75, I've got a line. Decide. Cheese, or no cheese?"

The small boy beside her stifled a giggle.

"What is so funny?" she demanded, overwrought by such monstrous lack of manners.

"Tell him the cut the cheese," the rapscallion tittered, enamored by his wit.

Watching the youth devolve into a fit of laughter, she rolled her eyes. Perhaps, in her new life, there would be no fart jokes.

--Veronica Rundell

Evil Editor said...

This conversation with the merchant goes on way too long. Especially when we're waiting to find out what you meant by it's the day before the first day of her life. I start out thinking she's still in the womb (which would be an intriguing place to begin) and end up in a scene whose main conflict involves a cheese transaction.

Anonymous said...

I had to read the first line over again and still wasn't sure whether there was a silly typo and you meant it was the penultimate day of her life, or whether a new life was approaching.

Then ypu portrayed the banality of her life beautifully, but, sadly, made my eyes glaze.

Both continuations were brilliant.

What EE said!

Dave Fragments said...

An interesting set of circumstances to start a story.

Here's a place to trim:
"she yawned and stretched"
and "She stretched her long legs" ...
The opening would move faster without stretching twice.

If the rain didn't matter, why not move it to later in the narrative.

I am actually imagining this as talking smoke.
"Acknowledge me!” the acrid voice snapped, plowing through the misty morning"
If she would have nearly run into someone it might make sense but if you look at the opening the reader only knows she's "bolted FOR the door"
Make her run out the door and into the street nearly knocking over someone.

Unknown said...

From a practical standpoint, how does one slice the sausage? In my grocery they are links that get snapped or cut loose from the bundle. I was imagining a butchershop of old with strings of sausages hanging about...
Also, one would write the name 75 as "Seventy-five", yes?
I struggled with the weather references--it might have been raining, but didn't matter-then it was so misty she couldn't see the acrid commentor. This all in a few sentences. Perhaps decide which and let us know. Also, some textural cues would be good. The young woman might be dampened or chilled from the mist, etc.
It's morning so I don't understand how a.) the girl would be late (to the store?--it likely just opened)and b.) the deli would be nearly out of both sausage and cheese (most deli's are re-stocked prior to opening)
Seems like mundane stuff for the day before one is born. Maybe this is why newborns sleep so much--too many pre-natal errands.

John C. Updike said...

The story is an alternate history. 75750 is the girl's name. She's a breeder and will be sent off to propagate for the Reichland. Officially, she's property and she's looking forward to performing her duties. The title reflects what happens to her after something goes wrong at the breeder center. She decides she wants her own name. Laura.

Unknown said...

That sounds quite interesting. I wish it had been more present in the opening.