Monday, August 25, 2008

New Beginning 544

"Someone made a mistake. That's not Dewey."

That's what Louisa wanted to say. She wanted to run to the nurses' station and cry, "That's not my Uncle, where is he?" This man's face was a fleshy puddle; gravity had stolen the smile, loosed the jowls, flattened the nose. She'd never seen him asleep before, that was all, had never even caught him in a catnap. That was why he looked so (dead? no not dead) . . . unfamiliar.

"Uncle Dewey, it's me. Can you hear me?" No response.

She put a hand lightly on his arm, saw his eyes rove behind wrinkled, bluish skin, and then his lids cracked, and he was staring at her. The gray of his irises looked muddy, his pupils glazed, as if he'd suddenly developed cataracts. "Uncle Dewey? Are you all right?"

He closed his eyes, turned away. Her hand found the call button, but when he opened his eyes again they were a clear, sharp gray.

"Little One, you're here."

"Of course. Can you tell me what happened?"

He paused, then said, "Last night, I left my body."

She said the only thing that came to mind. "Uh huh, okay."

"But that wasn't the bad part. The bad part came later."

"Oh?"

He leaned forward. "I had to find another one . . . and it's going to be YOU!"

The girls screamed, right on cue.

Dewey smiled. He loved telling ghost stories at Louisa's slumber parties.


Opening: A.M. Ronning.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

12 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen Continuations:


She turned and locked the door before the nurse arrived. He knew what she had to do. Reaching into her purse, she pulled out the heavy gauge needle, uncapped it.

"I know what came later, Uncle Dewey. You know the consequences of body snatching and abusing the puppet."

He swallowed, eyes widening as the needle approached. "I...I didn't know it was an Olson Twin when I borrowed her! Honest!"

"You were going to tell me about the bad part, Uncle. Was it getting caught making an anorexic go on an eating binge or the part where she played strip poker on the bar at Sloan's?"

He started laughing. "No. Actually it was getting mistaken for Lindsay Lohan." --writtenwyrdd



Louisa sat on the edge of the bed. "What was the bad part, Uncle Dewey?"

Dewey took a deep breath and coughed, sending further waves of concern through Louisa's thin body.

"When I stopped breathing, last night," Dewey began, "I left my body. I floated above myself and watched the nurses and doctors rush in and surround me and try to coax me back. Eventually they brought me home. 'What's wrong with me, nurse?' I asked.

"The nurse smiled at me and said, 'We're not sure; we still don't know. The doctor got hold of a copy of Manson's Tropical Diseases, the best reference there is; he's been studying it all night.'

"'So you can help me?' I asked her.

"'No, probably not. You're going to die. You could help us though...'

"'How?' I asked her.

"'Well, Mr. Dewey, we're not sure if we should file Manson's under 614 - Incidence & Prevention of Disease or 616 - Diseases.'"

Dewey coughed again, wracking his whole body.

"And the worst thing was, my dear," he went on, "after all these years, I couldn't decide."

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

I would delete "Are you all right?"
Obviously he isn't. Besides, it's boring enough listening to a healthy person talk about his ailments. This guy could go on for hours.

I'd change: "Can you tell me what happened?" to "What happened to you?" Or just "What happened?"

And "Uh huh, okay." sounds sarcastic, patronizing. Which may be her feeling, but I suspect she would say, "You what? Or "You did?" If a sarcastic comment is the first thing out of her mouth, the first thing that came to mind was probably Man, it's worse than I thought; he's lost it.

Those all being minor points, of course. It reads well.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Nice one. Just a few minor tweaks as EE already pointed out. I'd read on.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'd have read on from this interesting beginning, that's certain. But the opening is a bit confusing for me when he opens his eyes, because I thought he was already dead! The thinking about Dewey being asleep implied to me that she was trying to convince herself he was sleeping, not dead.

I'd prefer a little more access to the pov character's emotions, too. For some reason I think the 'she wanteds' and the extensive past perfect tense gave a distance that you don't need here.

Overall, though, the opening does its job well.

Ali said...

Overall, this worked for me, except for the confusion because of thinking he was dead in the beginning ("the man's face was a fleshy puddle" gave me a pretty graphic image, as if he'd fallen off a 10-story building, and the bluish skin made me think of a corpse). What if you had her talking to him first (though he doesn't respond, the fact that she's saying "Uncle Dewey, it's me. Can you hear me?" would cue the reader in to the fact that he's alive) and didn't bring the word dead into the description of him?

Scott from Oregon said...

This read well, but I am a little concerned the rythm will continue sharply cut up like this and I will start to get irritated by it. I like this kind of sharpness if every now and then the language sort of unrolls and eases out.

Good details in the descriptions too.

I like the flattened face, the unclear, then cleared eyes.

AS EE pointed out, the dialogue seemed a little unimaginative and not up to the standard set by the prose.

"Can you hear me? Are you alright? Can you tell me what happened?"

None of these are interesting in the least. Given the prose, I know you can do better than these.

Robin S. said...

Hi author,

This is very good - I'd definitely read on. Loved especially...
She'd never seen him asleep before, that was all, had never even caught him in a catnap. That was why he looked so (dead? no not dead) . . . unfamiliar.

Kiersten said...

Nothing to add that EE didn't say better.

But my question is: what has happened to the ads, EE? I miss them. How am I supposed to know I should visit evileditor.blogspot.com every single day?

Anonymous said...

It reads pretty well, with EE's suggestions. This is minor, but consider avoiding repetition of "bad" here:

"But that wasn't the bad part. The bad part came later."

"But that wasn't the worst of it. The bad part came later."

Bill H.

amronning said...

Author here

Hi Everyone. Thanks so much, all of you, for your comments. They are invaluable and insightful and I'm taking them to heart. I've been writing in a vacuum for so long it's wonderful to get some encouragement.

This is my first comment. I've been reading a while, starting back with the archives and I've got to say it can be really disconcerting when people hear you laughing out loud at your computer. And trying to explain about vigilante sorcerers loses something in the translation.

I love all the continuations. Louisa is 34 and not 'little', but Dewey has called her Little One since she was a child.

She is sarcastic, I love sarcasm, that's why I like Mr. Editor. (I can't think of him as evil, what he does here is too good.) But I hope it's in a witty, gentle way and not nasty. She does think Dewey has lost it.

Like many of you, I cut some of my opening to meet the requirements. Here's the original with a few changes per your suggestions.

"Someone made a mistake. That's not Dewey."

That's what Louisa wanted to say. She wanted to run to the nurses' station and cry, "That's not Mr. Beechcraft, you gave me the wrong room number, where is he?"

She leaned closer to the bed. In sleep, this man's face was a fleshy puddle. Gravity had stolen the smile, loosed the jowls, flattened the nose, even left the earlobes dangling.

"Uncle Dewey, it's me. Can you wake up now?"

Nothing. No response.

She'd never seen him asleep before, that was all, had never even caught him in a catnap. That was why he looked so (dead?, no not dead, don't even think it)...
unfamiliar. Without the animating spark of his personality, he was a stranger.

She put a hand lightly on his forearm, saw his eyes rove behind wrinkled, bluish skin, and then his lids cracked and he was staring at her. The gray of his irises looked muddy, his pupils glazed, as if he'd suddenly developed cataracts.

"Uncle Dewey?"

He closed his eyes. Her hand found the call button, but when he opened his eyes again they were a clear, sharp gray.

"Little One, you're here."

"Of course I am."

When he smiled, his face pulled into its proper shape and he became himself again.

"How are you?" she asked. "How do you feel?"

"Better...now you're here."

She felt herself relax a little and inched the chair closer to the bed. "Do you remember what happened?"

He nodded, then said, "Last night, I left my body."

She said the only thing that came to mind. "Uh huh, okay."

"That was the good part. The bad part came later."

"It was an electrolyte imbalance, Uncle Dewey. They gave you an IV and evened things out, but the condition can cause confusion."

"It was supposed to be just an hour. An hour and no more, that's what I told myself, but for some reason I lost control. Maybe due to aging, and the vulnerability that comes with it. I don't know but, anyway, I was gone for nearly six hours, and by then, well...by then the light of my soul would've been a beacon, bright as a signal fire on a desert island."

Thanks again, you are the critique group I always needed. Good luck to you all and keep writing cause I will always keep reading.

Andrea

Evil Editor said...

She said the only thing that came to mind. "Uh huh, okay."

A minor quibble. Based on the author's comment . . .

What came to mind: He's totally lost it.

What she said: Uh huh, okay.

Sarcastic or not, she didn't say the only thing that came to mind.

amronning said...

How about, "She didn't know what to say."?

She's sarcastic, often restrained by politeness.

This is great. I chuckle to myself while directing the news.