Saturday, April 14, 2007

New Beginning 259


Sandra flirted through the alley. She stayed close to the long, two-story building, its flat roof casting deep shadows as it blocked the setting sun. The impending nightfall did nothing for the temperature. Sweating from the heat and her meandering path, she avoided human and inanimate obstacles as she approached her destination.

Five restaurants occupied the strip building and shared the alley. Their dumpsters were emptied every morning, so every night the alley was crowded with people searching for discarded food.

She was late. Several kids had commandeered a bus stop bench near the alley entrance, and they loved to throw rocks at anyone they spotted. Sandra would endure almost anything for a meal, but the last time she’d taken the direct route, a stone cracked her skull. When she woke, her meager possessions were gone. Rather than risk another rock, or worse, she had taken the long way around.

The chimes of a reversing truck scattered the kids. A big panel van entered the alley and eased to a stop beside the dumpsters. Two guys dressed in white coveralls climbed out and started rummaging through the dumpsters, pulling out garbage and scraps--and leaving nothing for Sandra. Who are these guys? she wondered as they put their findings into plastic sacks and threw them into the back of their vehicle.

Its cargo loaded, the truck screeched out of the alley. Hunkered back into the shadows, Sandra managed to read the lettering on its side. That . . . doesn’t make any sense, she thought. There isn’t a Taco Bell within twenty miles.


Opening: Loose Screw.....Continuation: Anonymous

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Errg. "flirted" is all wrong for sentence #1. Did you mean "flitted" or "fluttered"? Still not very apt. Try "skulked" or "slunk" or "snuck" or "wafted" or "walked" or "tip-toed" or "ran".

"She stayed close to the long, two-story building, its flat roof casting deep shadows as it blocked the setting sun." Deep as in two stories deep, eh? That's pretty shallow to those of us who live in cities with skyscrapers. Did you mean "dark"? If she's in an alley, of course she's close to the building, how far could she get? If you cut this sentence no one will ever miss it.

"The impending nightfall did nothing for the temperature." My first thought is -- if it did nothing, why mention it? My second thought is -- are you trying to tell us it was a hot day or cold or what? My third thought is that the word "for" is wrong here because it personifies nightfall as temperature's servant or agent or something. "to" would be better.

"Sweating from the heat" is fine but then you add "and her meandering path" which is again, off. "Sweating from her meandering path" doesn't quite make sense. Like what, she always sweats when she meanders but not if she walks in a straight line? In a fantasy world, perhaps, but that would be a very odd physiologic reaction for normal people.

"she avoided human and inanimate obstacles as she approached her destination" Again, I wonder why tell us this? Avoiding obstacles can be assumed. It only needs to be mentioned if she normally bumps into people and dumpsters etc. and as far as we know, she doesn't.

At this point, I'm done reading. Good luck with the rest.

Dave said...

I first thought that Sandra was a fairy. Then I thought she was a jogger. But into the third paragraph I realized she was a bag lady or someone who scrounges meals.
That's too confusing for 150 or so words.
I gotta run off to family function, have a good weekend.

sylvia said...

Flirted really threw me as well -- I had to readjust my vision of Sandra quite dramatically as the information came in.

Would restaurants throw food away in the morning? I would think they would throw it away at night, before closing down, as a part of the clean-up. If they did throw it away in the morning, then wouldn't the hungry clear the dumpsters in the morning, rather than leaving it all day to go off in the heat?

Evil Editor said...

Actually, the sun is setting and it's nightfall. The dumpsters are emptied in the morning.

sylvia said...

*blush*

I completely misread that as the restaurants emptying food into the dumpsters in the morning and at night the hungry taking it back out. It makes more sense now, except I'm not quite clear why she's "late" -- the sun is setting so the restaurants can't be shut yet? I'd expect more food to be thown out as the evening progresses.

Robin S. said...

I'm one of the last-minute morons doing taxes this weekend - I hate to see our final painful number, so every year, I play the waiting game. Oh, well. Brilliant.

Anyway -- Hi Author,

I think this would read just fine with some changes in the first paragraph.

So - if you took --

"Sandra flirted through the alley. She stayed close to the long, two-story building, its flat roof casting deep shadows as it blocked the setting sun. The impending nightfall did nothing for the temperature. Sweating from the heat and her meandering path, she avoided human and inanimate obstacles as she approached her destination." -

changed "flirted" - maybe to "eased down" or "flitted" depending upon the picture you want to paint. Then maybe take out
"The impending nightfall did nothing for the temperature. Sweating from the heat and her meandering path," --

I think I see that you want people reading to see that day/night temperature change is going to matter more to Sandra than it does to those of us who have a safe place inside to go home to - is that right?

What about, after "deep shadows as it blocked the setting sun", a shorter sentence along the lines of "The night would be much cooler.." and including a word or two about the heat in the previous sentence, to show the temperature disparity that matters to the homeless among us.

I think the second and and third paragraphs are fine - though it might be good to read them aloud to see how they sound to you, for tweaking purposes.

pacatrue said...

I thought Sandra was a cat for the longest time.

Anonymous said...

Are you writing this from imagination or knowledge? The health department and the solid waste management in this town don't let restaraunts toss huge heaps of food in the dumpsters. If the food is still wholesome it goes to the food bank, some other social service agency, or hot meal providers. Leftovers get recycled as compost or pig chow. If they threw it all in the dumpster, they'd get busted.

I don't know if you're writing about an especially messy town or if you're just assuming everything goes in the dumpster, but actually, it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

Shadows are longer when the angle of the sun is low, so a little ol' two story building can cast a deep shadow. However, 'deep' applied to shadows generally means 'dark'.

Other than that, what anon 10:31 said goes for me, too.

pulp

phoenix said...

Author: The description here is a bit distancing as it's written. The reader needs to care about why Sandra is going through the alley. We need a sense of Sandra's anxiety or fear or whatever emotion she's feeling and not just be told she going through an alley at sunset and avoiding stuff along the way.

Also, the second paragraph stalls what action you set up in the first 'graph.

Not sure if you use third-person omniscient POV throughout, but this might be a bit more reader-engaging if you use third-person limited and give us the description more from Sandra's POV and use her thoughts here, especially if she's the main character.

Something along the lines of (but in your style and voice, of course):

She glanced at the lengthening shadows. Damn. I'm late, she thought. But she had to take the long way around or risk getting rocks chunked at her again by those wise-ass kids hanging around the alley entrance. Her head still hurt from their last attack when a stone had knocked her cold and they'd stolen her meager possessions...

Loose Screw said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read what turned out to be a patty of gooey poo between the toes...
Methinks I should probably scrap this...