Thursday March 10th, 2011

The exercise:

I think it's time to make use of the random book prompt again.

So grab a book from your collection and use its first line as your own (giving credit, obviously). Then take that one line and go wherever it leads your imagination.

I've been working my way through the booklist at the back of Stephen King's On Writing and so far it's been one very good book, one book I couldn't really get into (though there were some very good parts), and I've got two more due in at the library this week.

I'm taking my first line from the very good book.


From: The Gold Coast - Nelson DeMille

I first met Frank Bellarosa on a sunny Saturday in April at Hick's Nursery, an establishment that has catered to the local gentry for over a hundred years. My mother was dragging me from one side of the place to the other, reeling off the Latin names of every plant she laid her eyes on. When her cart bumped into Frank's mother's cart as she rounded a blind corner, it sounded like she was in the middle of doing the same to him.

While my mother apologized - without ever saying she was sorry, of course - Frank and I eyed each other silently. I noticed he wasn't holding his mother's hand and immediately let go of mine. Thankfully my mother was too busy with her business to notice or she would have scolded me up one side and down the other.

From the snippets of the conversation I caught, I gathered they were new in town. His mother sounded pretty pleased to have found another woman with a young boy and my mother was in a kind enough mood to humor her. She must have been still pleased to have found those calla lilies at the back of the store.

They parted after exchanging cards, promising to get together later that week, and I have to admit that I was excited by the thought of making a new friend. I looked back as we went our separate ways, hoping to give Frank a secret wave.

But Frank beat me to it. Only, his wave was more of a one-fingered salute.


Greg said...

I don't think I've read Stephen King's On writing, I guess I should keep an eye open for it. It sounds like it's a good book, and a recommended reading list is intriguing. What was the book you couldn't get into?
I like your Frank, he seems like the kind of kid who'll change his name to Henri when he grows up... whereas your narrator is a far nicer child. I liked the hand-holding detail a lot, that really felt like it fit for children of that age.

From One hundred years of solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. Unfortunately José Amadío was the rememberance priest on duty that day and he was blind drunk in a cell, oblivious to the prisoner drinking blood from his veins. Thus it was that Colonel Buendía was stood against the wall, squinting into the low afternoon sun, unable to remember anything of importance that had happened in his life. The captain of the firing squad was disgusted.
"You have wasted your life!" He spat for emphasis, yellow sputum standing out on the dry grey soil. "You remember nothing of what you have done, you unworthy dog." He turned to the squad behind him, and gestured violently at the Lieutenant. "Fetch the priest, we will have this man remember something!"
The lieutenant was a couple of minutes too late however; the priest had bled out just before he arrived and the prisoner was three-quarters of the way through taking the priest's arm off. With a sinking heart, the lieutenant collected the priest's case of chemicals and returned to the captain.
This time the captain spat directly into the lieutenant's face and threw the priest's bag on to the ground, where bottles, needles, and a surprising amount of cash spilled across the soil.
"How can this man remember something of worth when we have no priest to administer the drugs?" He turned and pointed at Buendía, who had inconveniently disappeared, leaving behind only a quaking shadow that faded quickly from the wall.
The captain swore so hard that he burst a blood vessel in his neck and had to be taken to the hospital two towns over where they had doctors who had actually operated on men, and Aureliano Buendía walked in the opposite direction staying off the main roads until he came to another town altogether where he forgot his name and old profession and started over.

summerfield said...

marc, is the "one-fingered salute" what i think it is (something bad) or is it something else?

greg, is Colonel Buendia the future Henri?

i'm rather distracted these days, but i try to do my self-promise of writing at least a thousand words a day, even if it's insignificant writing.

Time Traveler by Dr. Ronald Mallett with Bruce Henderson

Time stopped for me in the middle of the night on May 22, 1955. Mama had given birth to Jackson and even as the umbilical cord was being severed, Papa celebrated with my uncles with Cuban cigars and Cianti wine that he had been hoarding during the last few months. Auntie Elizabeth and Auntie Rebecca, Mama’s older sisters, were ecstatic, running back and forth invariably holding a basin of hot water or a large stack of thick towels.

"It's a boy! It's a boy! At last it's a boy!"

I heard the faint sound of a baby’s cry, which sounded like a hungry kitten’s, and I briefly saw Jackson’s head, his face all red and gooey. Mrs. Hammill, our neighbour the midwife, saw me and promptly shoved me outside of Mama’s room before closing the door shut. I stood just outside the door and waited for one of my aunts to take me to Mama. I can hear Papa and my uncles talking and laughing loudly, the smell of tobacco smoke permeating the air inside the house.

After a long time, the door to Mama’s room opened and Auntie Rebecca poked her head out and called my Papa.

"Daniel! You can come in now."

I tugged at Auntie Rebecca’s skirt but without even looking at me, she unclasped my fingers from the fabric of her skirt and went back inside Mama’s room. In haste, Papa bumped and stepped on my foot but barely looked at me despite the loud shriek I made. When the door closed, I was left again outside, alone, cold and confused.

"Jackson was the most beautiful baby. Mama had the easiest birth," Mrs. Hammill said so. Jackson was a quiet baby. Jackson has a big head which means he will be a smart boy when he grows up. Jackson this and Jackson that. It seemed that I had died and my spirit was left floating. Nobody seemed to notice me, nobody seemed to care about me anymore. Suddenly I became invisible. Suddenly nobody seemed to love me.

Marc said...

Greg - I highly recommend On Writing. The other book was The Ghost Road by Pat Barker.

And the books on the list are just the ones he'd read and enjoyed while he was writing the book, but was offered up as a response to the oft asked question 'what do you read?'

I like that he'd 'inconveniently disappeared' :)

Summer - it's what you think it is :)

A thousand words a day is an ambitious goal. My congrats for every day you reach it, and my total understanding for those days you don't.

I love what you did with that first line. You really brought me into that scene. Very powerful writing.