Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Beginning 1011

The concrete octopus of Chicago’s interstate system is a gloriously proud homicidal maniac. Every five miles of tentacle bears a brilliant scoreboard advertizing the mounting tally. Despite the “Don’t Text and Drive” PSA campaign, regular commuters grind the Kennedy Expressway’s lethal curves with digital distraction; its outbound Montrose Avenue split is a frequent kill zone. As my mobile coffin cruises into the heart of downtown, the marquee lights flash “739 Traffic Deaths This Year.” Nine more lives devoured over the Labor Day weekend.

I park in Northwestern’s high-rise garage, blot my cheeks with a wadded napkin and drop my sunglasses in my cup holder. My reflection, a bloodshot corpse I hardly recognize, makes me snatch them up again.

My cell phone flares to life on the six-block walk to the office. “What?”

“You left early,” Sean says.

“Couldn’t sleep.”


I continue walking. He continues breathing. We burn time saying nothing. Finally, he says, “I think, maybe, we should try counseling.”

Is that cheaper than divorce? I wonder. “We’ll talk about this later.”


Never. “When I come home.”

“What about the kids?”

Oh, are you considering our family now? “After they go to bed.”

“You’ll still be conscious?”

I sincerely hope not. “I’ll do my best.”

“You always do.”

Shove it with the sarcasm, asshole. "See you tonight."

"Oh, could you pick up a couple six-packs and some smokes on your way home?" he says.

Fuck you, you lazy, cheating shit-drinking bastard. "I'll try to remember."

"Thanks. Love ya babe."

Yeah, right, we'll see how much you love me when I poison your beer and ram an ice pick up your left nostril tonight, mothercockeatingwankcheesesuckwad. "Love you too."

Opening: Veronica Rundell.....Continuation: EE


Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuation:

I click off. No more 'I love yous' or 'stop kicking your brothers' or making hot dogs for dinner. Forget the sullen vacation drives and the non-amusement parks, the pointless conversations with his friends. I'm free.

Yes, getting killed in that car wreck was the best thing I ever did for my life.


Evil Editor said...

I'd drop the first paragraph. It's not clear what it has to do with anything. You can throw it in when she's driving home later if it's relevant to the story

sarahhawthorne said...

I like this, but I do feel like you're trying just a teensy, weensy bit too hard in the first paragraph, especially when you compare the freeway to both an octopus and a homicidal maniac in the same sentence. I'd drop the octopus and the texting bit, and just go with:

"Chicago’s interstate system is a gloriously proud homicidal maniac. Every five miles bears a scoreboard advertising the mounting tally. As I cruise into the heart of downtown, the marquee lights flash “739 Traffic Deaths This Year.” Nine more lives devoured over the Labor Day weekend."

(Also, advertising has an 's', not a 'z'.)

Dave Fragments said...

I got hung up on the zombie reference but that's because I was reading before caffeine and sugar...

In my defense, if the transit system is such a killer then why wouldn't a zombie driving a car be reasonable? Day of the Cubicle Zombies caught in killer traffic on the morning commute. Every death is a victory for Zombie Nation.

I've been told that I'm not a morning person. Gee, I wonder why?

I agree with EE and the others that the opening paragraph can be reused later in the story.

Unknown said...

Oh! I've read the continuation three times and I'm still snorting with laughter...

The paragraph is relevant, the protag here decides to off herself via a car wreck, but Sarah's streamlined take is sufficient to the purpose.

Dave: As much as the world needs a Mommy Zombie story, I think I'll pass on that idea. I'm no good with paranormal--too pragmatic, I'm afraid.

Tk said...

Hahaha Khazar-khum!

Veronica, I actually did think this was a vampire story before I got to that continuation.

Contrary, but I like the first paragraph, it sets some scene and tone. The conversation would be bare and out of nowhere without it. But shorter - sarahhawthorne's take is great. The original was a lot of names for me to swallow, not to mention the dense wordingand rhythm (it's pretty difficult to read aloud).

One other thought, the protag isn't someone I want to root for yet. I might have felt sorry for them but then they get callous in the dialogue.

Evil Editor said...

To me the blotting of the cheeks and the bloodshot eyes suggests she's been crying, and we find out why when they have the phone call. If any of the first paragraph is used to start the story, I'm thinking she's crying because of traffic death(s). Otherwise, why did she bring them up?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The trouble with the first paragraph is that it sends the reader's mind into too many different directions. The Octopus, by Frank Norris (1901)... hence, the muckrakers: the Chicago of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Does Chicago actually have those signs, and are the death statistics actually that high? Aren't the interstate systems federal? So why's Chicago laying claim to them? Chicago's not even a state. Is she really driving a coffin? Etc.

If the point of that paragraph is to show us that the character is planning to off herself via traffic... I didn't get that at all. And that's not really where you want to open, anyway.

So, yeah, another vote against the first paragraph. Cut to the argument. Skip the corpse ref unless she's actually a zombie. I'm assuming she's not.

Unknown said...

Yes, they do have giant billboards that dot the highways in Chicago. And yes, the death rate is that high. Yesterday's count was 583, I believe. The warnings flash between estimated travel times, the death count and the warnings to not text and drive.

I get what you are saying about the highway system, though a few minor tweaks to the language would clarify.

As the novel is contemporary romance, chick-lit, I can't really imagine the audience is expecting to see zombies...the protag is having an immediate crisis. Her husband's a cheater, and today she loses her job--the only means of support for her family. She's depressed and sure her insurance will be a better provider than herself...
Of course, she survives the attempt and a new life arises from the wreckage...HEA and all.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Okay, now I know, but it wasn't so much a question as an example of all the different directions in which that paragraph sent my thoughts. It's too diffuse in its imagery.

Mister Furkles said...


These are suggestions for trimming and moving focus a little from ME to STORY. They are suggestions to think over. I don’t see any real problems.

P1: If you need the first paragraph, drop the first three sentences and add ‘Chicago’ after ‘downtown’.

P2: Drop ‘high-rise’ and ‘wadded’; change ‘my cup holder’ to ‘the cup holder’. In the second sentence change the focus from ‘ME’ to what the MC character sees and does; try to reduce the number of self pronouns by about half.

P3: Rather than ‘flares to life’ consider ‘plays Whistle While You Work’ or some other ridiculously inappropriate tune. WWYW goes so well after being fired.

P7: Change “We burn time saying nothing.” to “We say nothing.”

P8: Drop “I wonder.” You’re so deep into the MC’s head that it is obviously her thought.

P12: Shorten ‘Oh, … now?’ to something shorter and sharper like, “On, now he thinks family.”

P14: Change ‘I sincerely hope not.’ to ‘Hope not.’