Cicatrix

Where does it start? What is it about?

Cicatrix is a story originally written pre-1987. I dug it out because I’m thinking of including it in Tales V2. I’ve always liked the idea and concept, I’ve learned so much about writing that I realized I started the story 1) in the incorrect place and 2) with an incorrect conflict.

What follows are the first ~1,000 words from the previous version and the new version. Let me know which is better. If you can give me an idea why you prefer one over the other, excellent.

Original

The cool, early April evening air, heavy with the damp and salt of the craggy New Hampshire coast, wafted through the open windows of Paul’s rented house. His attention shifted from four hotdogs in a pot of boiling water on the stove to a pad of equations on the table. He sat between the two, against the wall and away from the door. He was within reach of both hotdogs and notepad, but he favored the notepad. One foot rested on the back of a large, black Newfoundland, Maschaak. Occasionally Paul would wiggle his foot and the dog would lick its chops and let out a satisfied growl.

A sudden hiss pulled him up from the equations to see a bobble of water dance on the heating element. Another bobble, somewhat greasier than the first, leapt over the edge of the pot and joined in the dance. “Tyndale effect.” He smiled and went back to the notepad. Both he and the dog looked up when a car door slammed outside. Paul’s gaze took in the rest of the first floor. The kitchen was separated from the living room/bed room by a transition from peeling, brittle, yellowed linoleum to frayed, puce purple rug. The house was clean but drab and spent the summer months as a beach cottage. During the school year it was rented to whatever student or students could afford the off-season price. The wallpaper looked and felt like a K-Mart Blue Light Special, heat came from a kerosene burner. Some earlier occupant had taped over the ON/off switch with DEAFENING/cold and Paul couldn’t argue. The place settings were a mix of yard sale Corelle, 1960’s gas station giveaways, and jelly jars, and no two pieces of flatware matched. There were no chairs, only couches with springs which long ago had sprang their last sprung. Each couch pulled out into a bed and Paul knew from experience they were equally uncomfortable. The woman who rented the house to him said, “This is just meant as a place to sleep after you’ve been on the beach all day.” Paul agreed after the first two weeks.

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Man and Boy; Tennessee, 1932

It’s better to be wise than rich

“Boy, what you straining with?”

“Don’t know, pa. It’s fighting me, though. It’s fighting me.”

“Look at that pole bend. Ease up a bit, boy. Give it some slack. See? Your pole’s not twitching. Whatever it is, it’s not fighting you, it’s dragging. Maybe something crawling on the bottom.”

“But it’s coming, pa.”

“Want me to take her for a spell?”

“I’d like that, pa.”

“Give it some slack before we switch poles. Something that heavy, you got to work slow, might have to get upstream of it to pull it in without snapping the line.”

“Look, pa. There it is. I see it.”

“Damn thing’s in the glare of the sun. What is it? Can you see? Feels like some bottom grass. Pity if we can’t loose the line.”

“It’s a man, pa. A black man.”

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Tag

A short story turns into a medieval mystery

The following started as a short story in 1994. It went through four major revisions as a short story and I none of them satisfied me.

A few weeks back I decided to redo the story based on everything I’m learning. Behold, a similar while completely different story emerged.

Far from complete, it seems to be taking on novella if not novel proportions. This rewrite is pretty much a rough outline, a scene by scene rendition waiting for more scenes to take place. I’ll create the connecting sections, et cetera, as I progress. I would like to know what you think, though, so please do comment.


The witch’s hand climbed the black oak’s trunk like a strangely shaped, five-legged insect, the fingers finding purchase in the bark’s crevasses. Cartilage, sinews, and ligaments trailed from the wrist where Eric’s axe severed it from the witch herself, her hold on Julia weakened by the sudden rain.

Now the hand turned to stone where raindrops struck it, freezing it forever to the oak’s trunk, forever separate from the witch hiding in the oak’s bole.

Julia stood at the top of the rise slapping at her sleeves as if walking into a spider’s web, as if beating out still burning embers, her face white and her breathe panting, staring into the hollow, to the witch imprisoned in the oak, imprisoned by gently falling rain.

Eric spun her to face him, the witch’s blood already blackening on his axe, on his sleeves, his hands. “Julia! We have to go. Now! Julia!”

She spit at the witch. “What can she do now?” She outstretched her hands and glared at him. “The rain!”

“I have cursed us both, you fool. She’ll not rest until that hand has killed us both and it will take more than my axe to finish her. Get back to the village with me before the sun clears the skies. This is for Father Baillott and the men to deal with, not us.”

He grabbed her rain soaked arm and pulled her after him.

***
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Owen and Jessica

Enjoy your meal, my darling

Owen’s gaze went from the morning sun outside the kitchen window to his laptop screen. He closed the lid so Jessica couldn’t read what he’d written.

Besides, it was time to make breakfast.

He went to the drawer with all the butcher knives in it. There was one he never used. It was Jessica’s and she kept it sharp. God knows why, she rarely cooked. It was a game with her; she’d come home, pull out her knife and hold it up towards him. “You used my knife today, didn’t you? It’s not as shiny as it was this morning.”

He checked the whet of the knife, forgetting his father’s warning: “Scrape, don’t slice.” Blood gathered in the whorls of his thumb. He stared at it and chuckled before licking it clean.

He would kill Jessica today.

The sunlight came through the window exactly how Owen told God it had to come through if God wanted Owen to kill Jessica, and it came through exactly how Owen told God to make it come through so that was it, there was no argument about it, God approved and gave Owen the sign he’d asked for so it was okay to do it and today was the day he would kill Jessica because God sent the sunlight through the window just as they’d agreed.

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WALK, DRIVE, RIDE, FLY OR SWIM, JUST BE THERE!

A man, a horse and discoveries on every page

Real live actors will be reading Gable Smiled, a work in progress, on a real live stage!

I’ll have a Q&A with audience members after the reading.

(this is so exciting)

 

NH Writers Project Hatbox Readings

New Hampshire Writers’ Project Readings at the Hatbox Theatre is a semi-regular theatrical and literary event series where actors read entertaining selections from ‘works in progress’ by three NHWP authors, and the audience offers feedback, critique, and reactions.

This event will not only allow the author to “hear” some of their novel, story, or book, but also receive immediate feedback. The audience will experience new works from NH authors live and contribute directly to an author’s creative process.

General admission.
NHWP or Hatbox Members: FREE
Adults: $10; Students/Seniors: $7.

Hatbox Theater, Concord, NH