Great Opening Lines – and Why! (July 2022’s Great Opening Lines)

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

My last entry in this category was May 2022’s Great Opening Lines – and Why! (May 2022’s Great Opening Lines) which covered James Tiptree, Jr.’s The Milk of Paradise in the Harlan Ellison edited “Again, Dangerous Visions”. This entry in the Great Opening Lines – And Why! posts is Bina Shah‘s Before She Sleeps.

Before getting to the great opening line itself, some notes on the book as a whole.

I started this book before the US Supreme Court demonstrated that great legal minds can also be idiots. That demonstration occurred half way through my read.

Before, I thought the book brilliant and profound. After, even more so.

Before She Sleeps is rich with some of the most beautiful language I’ve ever encountered. Often reading beautiful phrasing can throw one out of a book because the phrase stops the reader so they can savor the author’s eloquence.

Not so here. The language is universally rich, so much so that the over-the-top brilliant passages merely hurried me along to read more.

I will offer the book ended too abruptly for me. I can accept the ending as written, everything is tied up, no loose ends, and I would have preferred it to linger a bit longer so I could bid the characters a better farewell for the joy they gave me.

Now to that great opening line.
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (July 2022’s Great Opening Lines)”

Toing and Froing Again, Part 2

This is the second post regarding teaching myself to recognize Toing and Froing when I commit it (a most heinous act done by inept writers on hopeless prose, poetry (it’d be tough but I’m sure it can be done), scriptwriting, playwriting, (possibly) non-fiction, creative non-fiction, …).

And remember, folks, I’m including myself in the above. I’m writing this Toing and Froing arc to teach myself better writing techniques because I Toed and Froed like a marathon runner who’d lost their bearings while writing The Alibi chapter 3 (of my current work in progress which I’ll start posting in August 2022).

Toing and Froing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

Toing and Froing Again, Part 1 ended with “My writing speed slows down,” meaning I’ve lost my rhythm, and I pick up from there…
Continue reading “Toing and Froing Again, Part 2”

The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)

Chapter 8 – That Which Makes Us Happy, That Which Makes Us Sad

You can read the backstory on The Book of the Wounded Healers in The Book of The Wounded Healers/(a study in perception)/Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication, and it may help understanding the story’s universe a bit.

Read previous chapters:

Let me know what you think.


The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)
Chapter 8 – That Which Makes Us Happy, That Which Makes Us Sad

1-800-MD-TUSCH

Jenreel points at the sign as we enter the #9 train at South Ferry. Cetaf and Beriah are at street level. They are fascinated by the stories of Ellis and Liberty Islands.

I feel the train lurch and worry that Cetaf and Beriah might be left behind.

The doors pulse shut and I’m reminded of a sphincter constricting.

“The sign is for a doctor, a type of healer, who specializes in problems of the rectum and anus.”

“Isn’t that how you people relieve yourselves of waste?”

I nod.

“You people have trouble relieving yourselves of waste?”

A bag lady bumps into me and knocks me back. Her hand clutches the pole in front of me and she stands between Jenreel and me. “Children don’t. Kiddies go whenever and wherever they need. That’s why they’s always smiling.”

She smiles wide and proud and releases her bowels. The smell is obvious, although she is so wrapped in rags nothing escapes.

A buzzer sounds and the doors clamp again but open quickly, stopped from sealing by some of Notre Dame du Bags’ baggage. She waddles out and Cetaf and Beriah come in. People make room for Cetaf as he squeezes through the door.

“She has no problems of the rectum and anus,” Jenreel observes.

“I think that’s why she’s so happy.”

***

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The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)

Chapter 7 – Locals Versus Tourists

You can read the backstory on The Book of the Wounded Healers in The Book of The Wounded Healers/(a study in perception)/Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication, and it may help understanding the story’s universe a bit.

Read previous chapters:

Let me know what you think.


The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)
Chapter 7 – Locals Versus Tourists

A year before I dated her, I literally picked Robin Cashen up in a curl. I wasn’t particularly strong. She was particularly tiny.

I told the girl I was dating that I’d be dating Robin in less than a year’s time. Sarah, the girl I was dating, and I weren’t having problems. I just knew I’d date Robin in a year’s time.

Robin was tiny with a moon-pie face and a nice but slightly stocky body, long blond hair and a burden of great confusion which I didn’t understand at first.

After a dinner with her parents, I understood. Her father was a strong man who had no confidence in anything but his hands. As a result, during the day he worked at a job he hated and at night he drank and flexed Budweiser-enhanced muscles. Her mother, a sweet lady who looked like Robin with a mustache, did much the same.

Funny how we could find each other, huh?

Late one Christmas Eve, dressed in a choir robe because I was singing at the eight o’clock and again at the midnight service, I came by Robin’s house to wish her family Merry Christmas.

It had been a long day and I was tired. Too tired to remember all the lessons I’d learned in my own family’s house. We all sat in the living room, Mr. and Mrs. Cashen on a couch by the wall, me in a recliner fully reclined and with my shoes off, and Robin on the floor by my side. Mr. Cashen looked at the too expensive gifts he placed under the too-expensive tree, emptied his bottle then got another, emptied his bottle then got another. When he sat, a declawed Siamese cat kept loosing a battle with his hand. Mrs. Cashen sipped a wine which she bought by the drum for $1.99, giggled and leaned over towards me, her bathrobe slightly ajar.

Robin got nervous and I was too tired to understand why. “I think you should go, Ben, don’t you? Isn’t it time to get back to church?” She practically shouted the word “church” at her mother although she was talking to me.

“Yeah, I suppose. Everybody’s tired here and I probably should go.”

Mr. Cashen handed me a beer. “No, don’t go, Ben. Party’s starting.”

I laughed. “Come on. Mrs. Cashen’s drunk and you’re on your way. I’m too tired and can’t even find my shoes. No thanks. I’ve got to take off.”

I felt more than saw Robin tense and felt more than saw Mrs. Cashen suddenly sober as wine-induced color quickly left her face.

I put on my shoes and my jacket over my robe. Mr. Cashen put on his jacket, laughed, opened the door, and followed me outside.

Like a fool, I held the door for him so he could follow me outside.

He grabbed my arm and spun me around. His eyes couldn’t even focus on me when he spoke but his grip made me wince. “Listen, Ben, I like you a lot, but don’t ever say those things about me and my family again. Do you hear me, Ben? Do you hear what I’m saying to you?”

Yes, I heard. But I didn’t understand. I hadn’t meant to insult. In my exhaustion, in the late late night of that long ago Christmas Eve, I had committed the Spirit Blaspheming sin of speaking the truth. Pure truth, without morality or ethical content.

And Robin’s father threatened to beat me up because I spoke the truth, once, in her house.

When we take away all that is not, all we are left with is what that is.

***

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The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)

Chapter 6 – Places You’ve Never Been

You can read the backstory on The Book of the Wounded Healers in The Book of The Wounded Healers/(a study in perception)/Frame and Chapter 1 – The First Communication, and it may help understanding the story’s universe a bit.

Read previous chapters:

Let me know what you think.


The Book of The Wounded Healers
(a study in perception)
Chapter 6 – Places You’ve Never Been

During my time in the hospital, I met a man who had never been to The ‘Nam but whose life had been so traumatic that the only way he could rationalize his experiences was to believe he had been there. He manifested all the patterns of acute Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; persistent re-experiencing of the trauma, persistent avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma or numbing of general responsiveness, increased arousal.

This wasn’t surprising. Talking with him, I came to realize that emotionally and spiritually he had more in common with Vets – loss, pain, remorse, fear, psychological failure – than any others group he could associate with. After a few days, when he knew more about me, I, too, became his enemy. My knowledge and experiences were a threat to those he fabricated and eventually he had to leave. I don’t remember his name but I’ll call him Jack. Whenever Jack walked under a doorjamb he would kick the top of the jamb to show everyone how high he could kick.

There was another man, Bill I think his name was, who was of the right age to have been to Woodstock but had no memories of the best known feature of it – “Hey, man! They shut down the highway!”

Bill was average height and build, with the coloring and coarseness of someone whose life involved little intelligence and lots of labor. His voice bore the mark of thirty years of chain smoking although he hadn’t developed a hack, something I attributed to his several years on the sea. Balding and cropping what little hair he had, Bill always smiled a terse little smile and watched everyone around him to see if they were watching him.

Bill was the kind of guy who would talk to himself if no one was there. He would announce his entry into a room and his exit. He would announce the onslaught of his bodily functions and describe the strains, groans, farts, and moans associated with them. Instead of simply getting a cup of coffee he would engage himself in monologue, “I guess I’ll just get a cup of coffee here. Now where’s the cups. No, don’t tell me, I know. Yep, here they are. A little cream? No, today I think I’ll have milk. Sugar. Now where’s the sugar,” and on it would go through the cup of coffee and onto the next. If everyone in the ward were watching retro TV mysteries and Columbo was about to nudge the felon into submission or Jessica was ready to reveal the culprit, Bill would enter, his voice the same volume as the TV, and begin his monologue of which chair? which lamp? was there a paper to read? what’s on? and who did it? “Oh yeah? I don’t know. I think it’s somebody else. Maybe that guy there,” and he would point at the announcer on the commercial for underwear.

It had to be planned. Either planned or practiced for so many years it passed into habit.

Bill, by the way, wasn’t one of the orderlies. That was the other guy, Jack. Bill was one of the counselors. That was how he introduced himself to me.

I found out later he was a habitual patient.

***

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