Monday, June 27, 2011

New Beginning 865

By the time I pulled into the farmyard, it was getting on toward ten in the morning so I expected to see people hustling around.

They weren’t.

To my right, the farmhouse creaked quietly in the heat. Across from the house, the dusty orange grove squatted, mute, whitewashed trunks resting in shade cast by thick branches.

In front of me, the barn doors stood wide open. The arc light desert sun behind the barn cast the interior in deep, black shadow—a shadow that spread sharp-edged across the gravel dooryard out front. That old mottled-green International Harvester pickup sat off to one side, split windshield and the last remaining strips of radiator chrome baking in the summer heat.

I didn’t like that. The boy had parked it in the barn when I’d been out the day before. He’d put it away carefully, like hanging up an expensive tool after use.

A cold reality clutched at the pit of my stomach as I looked around. There was no livestock; the crops were withered and brown; the tractor was old and rusted; and the boy, the only other soul I had met here, was gone. I had nothing. My investment was worthless.

I cursed myself. I never should have signed up for the
Myspace version of Farmville.


Opening: Dixon Hill.....Continuation: anon.

11 comments:

Evil Editor said...

I have no major problems with this. It sounds poetic.

I'll admit the first sentence doesn't sound like an opening. Is this chapter 2?

I wouldn't expect an orange grove in a desert, but perhaps the desert sun is over New Mexico and the grove is in California? I see no need to describe tree trunks as "mute."

Is the area in front of a barn door called a dooryard? Dictionary.com says a dooryard is a yard in front of the door of a house. A gravel area in front of a barn door sounds more like a driveway/parking area than a yard. If that is the correct term, you probably don't need "out front," as the dooryard would, by definition, be out front.

If the boy put the truck away while the narrator was away, how can the narrator give such a specific description of how it was put away as "like hanging up an expensive tool after use"? There's a limit to how artistically you can park a pickup in a barn.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I like this. I don't usually like openings with a whole lot of description, but the sense of foreboding woven throughout makes it work.

150 said...

A+, anonymous continuer.

Dave Fragments said...

"Dixon Hill" -- Nice ID! I like it.


The money line is "I expected to see people hustling around. They weren’t."

It is the lack of people that creates the tension. Build on that.

The Farmhouse sat empty, creaking in the morning heat...

The old, second-hand tractor, lovingly maintains sat outside the barn, exposed to the elements. I didn’t like that. The boy had parked it in the barn when I’d been out the day before. He’d put it away carefully, lubing the gears and power couplings, removing the debris of its labors. This morning, he was no where to be seen.


I think the orange grove paragraph lost the idea of the opening line in that you never mentioned there was no one working in it. The whitewashed trunks and thick branches were the wrong descriptives. You might have the character say he could see oranges just waiting for a hand to pluck them and no one was around.

vkw said...

I liked this okay. I do like the descriptions but about half-way through I wanted something to happen. I think some trimming may be helpful.

I'm not sure that farmhouse's creak.

I think the orange grove was empty not mute

The desert sun rising behind the barn cast the interior of the barn in deep .. ..

I would leave out the sentence about the boy parking it like it was an expensive tool (one I think its unnecessary and, two, well the harverster is a very expensive tool.)

So -

I didn't like that. Yesterday the boy had diligently parked it in the barn and closed the doors behind him.

Another continuation could be,

"I cursed myself. I should have never signed up for Stephen King's version of farmville."

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm not sure that farmhouse's creak.

The one I live in certainly does. In fact, it develops new sags and groans each day.

We're a lot alike, it and me.

BuffySquirrel said...

Buildings definitely have their own noises. It's just there's usually so much other noise that you don't hear them.

I confess I wouldn't expect the farmyard to be bustling at that time. Most of the work would be taking place somewhere else once any animals were fed, milked, whatever.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Certainly with the farms I knew in my long-ago youth, which were dairy farms, yeah. They bustled from 4 to 6 a.m.; 10 a.m. would be quiet.

But this is a citrus farm, so who knows. I saw the whitewashed trees and said "oh, the writer knows citrus farms and I don't" and plowed on.

Undoubtedly some readers would know citrus farms, though.

Emily said...

I don't like the sentence about the orange grove. Just that it "squatted" and was "mute". These personifications don't work for me and just confuse the image I'm trying to get in my mind.

I like the ideas dave fragments had for describing the vehicle.

If this is harvest time for the oranges then there would probably would be a lot of people working at that time like he expected right? maybe the description of the orange grove should show how the oranges are ripe. Or if people have been missing a long time there could be a lot of oranges that have fallen off the tree or are starting to get overripe/rotten from not being picked.

I like the tone of this. Even though the descriptions aren't completely abnormal we get the sense that something horrible happened based on his reaction as he describes.

Xenith said...

First time through, my reaction was "Get on with it---". Second time through, it's a good read. Unfortunately, it's the first read that usually matters. So I'll be picky.

They weren’t.

Not sure you need this. The previous line sets up an expectation that people might not be there. The following lines, builds on that.

To my right,

That jars. I know the rationale for including it, but in this context, it's not adding anything.

the farmhouse creaked quietly in the heat.

So far I have an impression of someone standing by or in their car looking around. That farmhouse is going to have to be creaking very loudly to be heard. Something else about the house that can make noise instead?

Across from the house, the dusty orange grove squatted, mute, whitewashed trunks resting in shade cast by thick branches.

Squatted?? Sat, waited, stood, lots of words that might work, but squatted? And resting suggests they're inclined. Would they be dusty?

In front of me, the barn doors stood wide open.

I like that line. It's straight forward, simple, easy to see, and says a lot.


The arc light desert sun behind the barn cast the interior in deep, black shadow—a shadow that spread sharp-edged across the gravel dooryard out front.

Too many words. On first read, I tried to make sense of the first few words then skipped the rest of the sentence. It starts with a bunch of words that could be nouns or verbs or adjectives so it takes time to sort through. Too many "extra" words and the ones that matter get lost. What matters here? That the shadow is sharp-edged? That the sun is very bright? That the interior is dark? That there's gravel out the front? Maybe something like: "The desert sun cast the interior in deep, black shadow--a shadow that spread across the gravel yard out front."

That old mottled-green International Harvester pickup sat off to one side, split windshield and the last remaining strips of radiator chrome baking in the summer heat.

First time I read that as it being a harvester rather than a truck (a problem with relying on "brand names" as descriptor). Are the split windshield & remaining chrome an incongruity (which is the impression I got) or just how they are normally and it's the location of the vehicle that concerns the narrator. Either way, again there too many words: which ones matter?

I didn’t like that.

Jars. If its to insert the narrator back into the scene, it feels contrived, and unnecessary.

The boy had parked it in the barn when I’d been out the day before. He’d put it away carefully, like hanging up an expensive tool after use.

Might be better to start with the time indicator first. "The day before the boy had parked it---" Second sentence maybe include an indication of his actions rather than the "expensive tool" bit.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen ciontinuations:


Uneasy, I made my way towards the barn. I wasn't sure what I'd find, but I knew it wouldn't be good.

I could hear them now, voices, soft, clacking, wheezing, grunting. Afraid of what I would soon see, I sidled into the shadows and looked around.

Three chickens. The cows. Two pigs. Even old Bill, the horse. All standing around a crude diagram scratched in the dirt. A simple image, really, of stick people, being cut into pieces by pigs.

"I'm really sorry you saw us, Jimmy," grunted one of the pigs. "But you know we can't have any witnesses."

--Khazar-khum


I climbed out of the truck, spit on the dusty ground, and stared looked around. The only sign of life was the bull, grazing in the paddock like nothing was wrong. But we both knew.

"Heya!" I shouted.

The bull looked up and stared at me. I stared at him. He stared at me. I stared at him. He stared at me and chewed.

"God damn it!" I shouted at the bull. "Okay, I'll put it away, this time. But that's the last time I leave you the fricking keys."

--anon.



I did however like the whitewashed trunks. I like the pachy's they were attached to even more.

Start up at circus Spring meant a lot of hard work and whitewash. I took the scrub brush and jumbo sized toothpaste tubes and went to my work.

I am an elephant dental hygienist.

--anon.