Monday, February 01, 2010

New Beginning 725

The hard jerk from the tight luggage rack snapped the handle, dry wood cracking on a scalding January morning. Jana’s sandal upper chose that moment to part with the sole. Sliding her heel kept the sole on her foot. Hauling the suitcase by the broken strap, half skating, Jana detrained graceless and clumsy. Smiles bounced around her struggle down the platform. Jana snapped opened her suitcase, fished out runners and tossed the sandals in the Feed Me! bin. A room, a part time job in a dining hall and enough of a scholarship waited for her if she could snag the right bus. She needed all four.

Curdled and soured, the land of fat free lattes and golden honey gleaned from collapsing hives formed a harsh landscape. From Iowa, Jana was poor but had her shot at university. Serving and clearing tables twice daily came with a tiny salary and room. Free meals were the deal maker.

But Jana was never one to take the easy way out. Rather than getting a student loan and paying in-state tuition at Iowa State like all her friends, she'd flown halfway around the world to attend the University of Alice Springs. She felt as out-of-sync as the Southern Hemisphere seasons, especially when she realized the "University" was an ironically-named bar catering to anti-intellectual ranch hands. And all the lattes were made with heavy cream.


Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: John

9 comments:

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:


And such a deal! “You order from dis side manus,” warned Mr. Gluck, the owner of the diner-cum-dining hall. “Not’ing over five bucks.” No problem. Oatmeal cost less than five bucks; side of fries cost less. Oatmeal and fries came to $4.90. Burger and fries came to $5.05. Jana brought lunch with her.
The room was nice, too. A Murphy, a raggedy over-stuffed chair, a wooden chair and a table with one leg shorter than the others, a light socket crusted with spider webs dangling from the ceiling, and a nice bathroom that only four other tenants used, a mere twelve steps from her door.

--M. L. Gorsching


You did have to harvest the meals yourself, from the honey plains and latte hills, but at least you didn't have to pay for them.

Waiting for the bus, Jana briefly wished she'd applied to a different college, maybe one with a pad-thai-and-Naked-Juice geology. But poor girls from Iowa couldn't be picky. And those noodles would have been hell on her runners.

--Ellie


Jana: "And why did you snap my handle on this scalding January morning?"

Hard Jerk: "Because I'm Hard Jerk, and I've been stuffed in the tight luggage rack all morning."

--anon.

Evil Editor said...

I don't find the first paragraph clear. In sentence 1 we can't tell if the luggage rack is on a car, bus, train or plane, we can't tell if the handle is on a suitcase, umbrella, laptop, briefcase. Not certain what happened in sentence one, I'm not sure what's meant by "that moment" in sentence two. "Smiles bounced" is a bit odd as well.

I'd consider starting with paragraph 2. It seems like it comes first chronologically anyway, as she'd be more likely to see the harsh landscape from the train window than in the station, and it grounds us in the story. Then you can move to paragraph 1, where I like the broken sandal/almost skating, but don't think you need the broken handle/bouncing smiles.

_*Rachel*_ said...

This has some gems, like "the land of fat free lattes and golden honey," but it feels clumsy too often. You sound like you're trying too hard. Here's a revision attempt:


Jana’s sandal upper parted with its sole just as her suitcase handle broke. Hauling the suitcase by the broken strap, half skating, Jana detrained, ignoring the surrounding smiles. Jana snapped opened her suitcase, fished out runners(sneakers?) and tossed the sandals in the Feed Me! bin. If her footwear would last until she got to the bus stop, she'd be on her way to a room, a part-time job in a dining hall, and a halfway-decent scholarship.

Jana, from the land of fat free lattes and golden honey--Iowa--Jana had one shot at university. Serving and clearing tables twice daily came with a tiny salary and room. Free meals were the deal maker.


Question: is this current? If so, we need to have a talk about cafeterias, transportation, and tuition. Oh, and why she's wearing sandals in January--or why she's paying tuition for a school in another hemisphere.

Christina said...

I am still busy laughing at the cont. Funny!
I had to read the first paragraph several times to understand it, I think b/c of that first sentence. I didn't know what you were referring to at first. The "smiles bounced" felt awkward. How about start with para two (I like that first sentence), then three and then leave para one for last. Hope that helps.

Dave F. said...

A room, a part time job in a dining hall and enough of a scholarship waited for her if she could snag the right bus. She needed all four.

That sentence struck me as wrong. Is there only one bus per year? Is she late for a check-in time? Is she getting off one bus and transferring or is she waiting for a bus and standing in a station? These things are not equal.

There are too many questions about the setting of the first paragraph. I'm with EE. Drop the first paragraph.

One thing I notice about your style is that you set up an ending verb with lots of descriptive elements in the beginning and then you add a short sentence to drive the point home. Be careful with how many times you use that technique. It's a big demand on the reader. So use it judiciously.

Bernita said...

So this is a Country Mouse comes to Town story?
I found the opening confusing. Some good lines but way too tight - felt bombarded with disjointed images.

wendy said...

Nice continuation. It brought a solid grin across my face.

I agree with EE that the beginning paragraph is confusing. (Is the sandle strap broken and the luggage?) I also agree that your second paragraph is the place to begin.

Dave, I am facinated by your comment about the sentence structure:
"One thing I notice about your style is that you set up an ending verb with lots of descriptive elements in the beginning and then you add a short sentence to drive the point home."

You always seem to see the parts that add up to an unwieldy whole. I never thought about how challenging that style is to the reader. It might be very useful when you need to switch up your timing/pacing though...interesting
- something new to dance with a bit. Thanks.

Dave F. said...

Wendy,
It's a way to present arguments. A writer or speaker can build a case slowly, sentence by sentence and then close with a conclusion that follows. Symbolically, it's like:
If A, If B, If C, then D must follow. The writer can do that with chapters or paragraphs or single sentence, or clauses against one verb.

The hard part of doing that is keeping the reader involved in the logical structure so that when the writer delivers the goods at the end, the reader gets it. This is not deductive argumentation like Sherlock Holmes saying "It's Prof Mustard in the Library with a trained monkey and hypodermic!" This is inferential logic. The most effective was the shower scene in Hitchcock's PSYCHO. Nothing on the screen was real (no blood, just ink. The knife never touched flesh. She wasn't naked.) but our minds inferred all of that. That's really tough to pull off like Hitch did. Think of all the stories that don't work as horror and use explicit violence and blood to get their shock value.

The reason the first paragraph isn't working all that well is that the steps don't lead the reader.

It's an old suitcase so it breaks and the reader must infer Jana's poor. We must infer that Jana's not graceful like rich girls because breaks her sandal strap getting off a train. She has to pen her only suitcase. What does that infer? She only has a few items of clothing. And the last point, she needs a job to pay for school. No one pays for her. No one saved up for her. She's on scholarship. And this all making her late for the bus.

For me, that doesn't follow. The writer (hi there Bibi, don't take this personally), might be making the case that this journey was hard to start and thanks to the old suitcase and the sandal was still hard. I understand the intent. Her journey isn't easy. The challenge before her is great. There are obstacles big and small. The first paragraph doesn't convey that meaning in a clear manner.

And while all that is sloshing about the reader's mind, we get the image of the world Jana is going to. It's not utopia. It's kind of superficial and distasteful. The milk of human kindness has soured before it is whipped into the latte of utopia. (UGH! I can't believe I wrote that stinker)... The writer's version is better. The destination is is already flawed -- honey from collapsing hives, milk that's gone off, a cheap room and a low-paying job, and best of all -- free meals.

Now that, isn't a bargain. I played electric organ from the age of 8 and when I was 18 and working for a summer, the owner of a bar refused to pay me $5.00 a day for entertaining his lunch crowd for 2 hours. Instead he offered a free lunch. GADZOOKS, My music was worth more than a free lunch.

Jana's effort to get an education is worth two free meals, what drudgery. And she sets to see all her classmates across the steam table. How romantic.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...

I like the images you choose on their own, but somehow together it isn't working for me. I feel like you're being a little too mysterious with what's actually going on and where this is taking place. For example:

"The hard jerk from the tight luggage rack snapped the handle, dry wood cracking on a scalding January morning."
First of all, wouldn't it be Jana doing the jerking, not the luggage rack? Secondly, you haven't yet introduced what the handle is attached to (and you don't for two more sentences) which doesn't help me picture what's going on. By the time I get to a "scalding January morning" I'm just lost and have no clear mental image as to what's going on here.