Tuesday, December 29, 2054

Chapter Two

A few hours later, Rachel Harkness walked into Paul’s hospital room, a bedraggled bouquet of flowers in her left hand and a small duffel in her right. Paul was sitting on the edge of the bed looking slightly ridiculous in a hospital gown that barely covered his crotch. At 6’5”, he was lucky the gown covered more than a tee shirt. Paul wore his dark brown hair close-cropped and on close inspection, there were the beginnings of crow’s feet forming at the edges of his almost black eyes. His face lit up at the sight of his sister.

In contrast to her brother, Rachel stood only 5’4”, with long auburn hair and a slight build. Ever since the age of 12, when Paul hit his first growth spurt, he had towered over his parents and sister. His mother told him that her father’s side of the family had been mostly tall, but Paul was the only one who seemed to have dipped into that part of the gene pool. As children, Rachel had often teased her younger brother that he had really been switched at birth and was actually the offspring of a thoroughly inbred Appalachian clan.

She approached Paul and gave him a peck on the
cheek. Then she punched him in the arm with all the strength she could muster. “Are you out of your mind?”, she cried. “I’m having a cup of coffee and watching The View, and they break in live with that footage from the helicopter. Then they zoom in on the face of the guy lying in the middle of the road and its you! Next thing I know you’re running and diving into the river. What on earth were you thinking?” The pain was visible in her eyes.

Paul, doing his best to look sheepish responded, “I wasn’t thinking at all.”

“Well, that’s typical for you, I suppose.”

“I’m fine”, he said, “They just wanted to keep me for observation for a little while.” Motioning toward the duffel, he said, “Thanks for the dry clothes”. Suddenly, in an attempt to move the conversation to safer ground, Paul said, “You won’t believe this one. On the way here, the paramedics asked me what kind of car I drove so they could have a state trooper pick it up for me. I left it in the middle of the highway with the keys in the ignition and it turns out someone stole it. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.”

Rachel laughed. Even though she had grown up with it, she was still always surprised at her brother’s ability to laugh off practically anything. Nothing seemed to ruffle him. “Get dressed, hero. I’ll give you a ride home”, she said.

A short time later, Rachel and Paul were exiting the hospital and ran straight into a phalanx of reporters, cameras and microphones. Every news outlet was represented, the networks, the cable news stations, local radio and T.V., newspapers, magazines, even a few who were obviously foreign press. As they all shouted the same questions at the same time, Paul stopped and held up his hands, signaling for quiet. “I’ll say one thing and then I’d appreciate it if you’d back off. I’m more than a little shocked at what a big deal you’re all making out of this. I really didn’t do anything so special. If I hadn’t jumped in, someone else would have. Now, if it’s O.K. with you, I’d like to go home, put my feet up and have a couple of stiff drinks. Thanks”.

Having said that, he tried to lead Rachel away, but the reporters had no intention of giving up so easily. One of them pushed a microphone toward Rachel and shouted, “Are you proud of your husband”?

Rachel laughed and said, “First of all, this schmuck’s my little brother, and second, it took a while to get my heart rate slowed down, but yeah….I’m real proud of him”. She took his arm and led him toward the parking lot, the Press seeming to be temporarily satisfied.


Arachne Jericho said...

On re-ordering posts, change the dates so that your first chapter has a later date than your second, etc. Blogger does show posts from the future and doesn't hide them.

It's very strange, but the feature for ordering blog posts oldest first (without dinking around with dates) is still a feature request.

Nathan said...

Thanks for that. I actually just got a PM from someone else telling me the same thing and had a "Duh" moment. Hope you enjoy the story.

Arachne Jericho said...

I'm in the same boat, since I have a story I'm telling in 500-word snippets, and uh it's a mystery so it will be BAD when the last part comes up and first-time readers stumble across it. :)

At the same time, I am loathe to tinker with the natural order of things, unless it's the theme. If people re-visit, I want them to find the last bit of the story easily.

I'll probably do something inbetween, like hack in peekaboo posts. But that's just me, who tries too hard sometimes.

Okay, I'll pretend to be a writer again. Here's the proverbial bag of salt.

My comments:

- YAY! This rolls along way better than the first chapter. If you had the action bits of the first chapter (excising most of the back story) and this I would be happy as a reader. I identify with your main character (Paul? If he is your main character) much more here than previously, when he was more sort of an anthropomorphic essay on the American condition.

Just my opinion.

Nathan said...

Arachne Jericho,

Thanks for your comments on the first two chapters. I don't want to get very specific in any response,yet, as I'd love to get some more opinions unpolluted by my own, but I will say that I set things up the way I did for a very specific reason. Whether or not its successful remains to be seen. Hopefully, as a few more chapters go up, my madness will reveal its method...or something like that.

OTOH, you got this far without going, "Bah! What is this crap?" See how I've sneakily sucked you in?

Anyway, thanks for reading. Thanks for commenting. Hope you'll be with us for the long haul.

Arachne Jericho said...

Well, I got this far because I wanted to see if I could help out a fellow writer.

If I were a normal reader, I would not have continued onwards.

Apologies, because this IS good stuff, but I am fickle in bookstores and online. I think there must be a fair amount of readers like me. Fiction is not like non-fiction in many ways.

However: that's just my opinion.

I learned--through Share Your Work on AbsoluteWrite, which is full of quite clueful people, including professional writers--that people are impatient. They don't care particularly much if you're setting up for later. So set up, but make it... I don't know right word... catchy.

There are definitely ways to settle in without, say, doing something hokey like a gunfight first thing, but ... beginnings are difficult. Start with change and the character moving--whether he's walking or doing needlepoint or about to go into a weird audition that he doesn't quite get. Get him into the unknown quick. No gunfights necessarily needed.

Not sure if that was as helpful this time around.

Arachne Jericho said...

By the way, though I was not technically sucked in, what you wrote wasn't crap.

But not crap is not the same as drawing in... but you know that. :) Freelance writers have the same problem as fiction writers do. But the audience expectations are probably different.

But you know, I may not know....

Jeri said...

The pacing on this one is excellent -- and your dialogue flows very naturally.

On the structural thing - I would guess that it's either the fact that it's a dialogue-oriented chapter following a description-oriented chapter -- OR -- that it weaves in some of Rachel's POV. Although - it's a tad unclear - whose POV you're using since it seems to be both. If you are shifting POV the rule of thumb is usually that it's done for a whole scene, or chapter, of a book, rather than shifting within a scene.

And - same disclaimer as Ariadne as well - I've read a ton of how-to-write books, I've written a grand total of one novel and three short stories, and I'm wholly unpublished. I'm sure no expert and the bottom line is, you tell YOUR story. :)