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The Eclectic Pen - Beginnings Chapter 2

By: Katheryn B. (OneYeshua888)   + 2 more  
Date Submitted: 1/3/2010
Genre: Science Fiction & Fantasy
Words: 1,700

  Chapter 2.

Thankfully, the smelly guy next to me got called after the first half-hour. I actually smiled at his back and called a “Good luck.”

My Nan hacked a few coughs, most of the time spitting up clear phlegm. I got her paper towels from the bathroom and tried not to look.

I have a real problem looking at things people spit up. I could be called something of a neat-freak and perfectionist.

Our incredibly tiny apartment is always clean—although, I do leave the dishes to my Nan. Taking one look at the murky dishwater makes me afraid to stick my hand in there. You never know when a piranha may swim up the drain and bite your fingers off. Hey, it could happen. And before you think I'm a terrible person, I make my Nan wear rubber gloves before washing dishes.

My room is terribly tiny, just like everything else in our apartment. If you walk into it, and reach out with either arm, your hands will touch the two walls on either side of the room.

Yeah. Not much room for personal things besides my bed, a small TV, and a laptop I was lucky enough to win a couple years ago at a writing competition, and a stack of paperback novels in a corner. I had a library card to take care of my reading needs.

I write stories. Never written a novel, only short stories. Some of them have been published in small-time magazines, and I've even made a little money off of those. Mostly we rely on our income from the government. We have to take the Well Fare money because I can't leave my grandmother alone with herself. I once woke up at three AM to banging on our apartment door. I groggily walked to the door and was astonished to find two cops gripping each of my grandmother's arms and asking me if she lived here. Apparently she'd broke into some person's house and exclaimed that she lived there.

And it wasn't the first time that happened, either.

I couldn't even consider hiring a nurse or something to take care of her.

My Aunt Lindsey had died about two years ago in a car accident. They tell me she died instantly.

She'd had a life-insurance policy. Me and my Nan had gotten ten-thousand dollars.

We used most of that to pay of debts and the rest went to savings.

I missed Lindsey terribly sometimes. Besides my Nan, she was the only relative that had lived long enough to see my through high-school. College was out of the question, too.

My parents had both died in a house fire when I was an infant. One of them had managed to throw me out a window. That's where the firemen found me—choking on smoke with tears streaming down my eyes while I lay in the grass next to the smoldering house.

Lindsey was the only sister my mom had, my dad was an only child. His mom had died years ago, and his dad was in a rehabilitation facility.

So the only people I could go to were my aunt and only living grandmother. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong. I love my Nan and loved my aunt with all my heart.

But I can't help it if I'm a bit bitter if I've been surrounded by death my whole life. Relatives aren't the only people who've died in my lifetime...

I have friends, friends from high school. Most of them are in college now, and they try to see me whenever they could—but I knew I was being left behind. They were making new friends at their fantastic new college that they couldn't stop talking about. It did make me irritated sometimes, me not being able to join them in college and I cursed our financial situation, too.

I tried not to get too friendly with the other high school friends who were not in college. Most of them were addicted to drugs or getting there. The rest were just too lazy.

I know I'm a smart kid. I know I could make it in college. I've always wanted to be a detective.

But like I said, I can't leave my grandmother alone with herself.

Most days consisted of her wandering around the apartment—no small feat when all the apartment consisted of were two suffocatingly small bedrooms, a not much-bigger-than-an-efficiency kitchen, and our tiny living room—and watching TV in the recliner. I usually wrote, read, or watched the TV with her.

Boring? Extremely. But hey—it's life. It's not supposed to be fair to you...much to my chagrin.

After three hours of waiting, Nan's name was finally called. “Agatha Walsh?”

She didn't respond at all, just looked down at her hands. I stood up and gently took my Nan's hands into me own.

“Nan,” I said to her, “they called your name. It's your turn to see the doctor.”

She blinked and nodded submissively. “Okay, Tony, whatever you say, dear.”

That caught me off-guard. I squeezed her hand once and let the nurse take her away, a smile plastered on the brunette's face.

I glanced around awkwardly and took my seat again.

I blew out my breath as I realized I was left alone with no one to talk to, and no reading material to shorten the wait.

I looked around for the magazine my grandmother had been idly flipping through. I felt a twinge of disappointment as I realized she had taken it with her.

I sat back in my chair and folded my hands across my chest. My stomach growled. I glared at it.

I hadn't had anything to eat since that morning—it was now eight-thirty in the evening. I stood up and walked over to the receptionist table.

“Hi,” I greeted. “Is there anywhere I could get a snack from?”

The blond looked up at me and glanced to her right. “There's some vending machines down the hall, sweetie,” she said gesturing. Her eyes traveled back to the laptop on her desk.

I muttered my thanks and walked back to my seat. Nan had left her purse under her seat. I got it out and began shuffling through it for some loose change.

I happened to glance up at the same second the woman on the other side of my grandmother's seat. She was giving me a suspicious sort of look, contempt in her eyes. “This is my grandma's purse,” I tried to reassure her. “I'm just getting some money..”

Her eyes widened a bit and she looked back down at her hands. I rolled my eyes. Why did I care what she thought anyway? I don't know, but I did.

Having found two dollars, I faced with a very important question: Leave her bag here, or take it with my so it won't get stolen?

I looked around the emergency room. Looked like a lot of poor people here. Probably desperate. Although I'd be extremely embarrassed about it, I opted to take the purse.

I didn't carry it by the straps, I held it where the purse opened and closed; I held it as far away from me as possible while trying not to look obvious about it.

I turned a corner and came to the vending machines.

I ended up getting a Coke with some Cheetos. I quickly walked back to my seat and saw that it had been taken. I gave the guy a barely concealed glare. He probably came in while I was at the vending machine—he probably didn't even know I had been sitting there. I relaxed.

I skirted the seats, looking for one were I wouldn't have to sit next to someone with blood spurting from them from one area or another.

I walked into an adjoining room and took a seat close to a TV. This room was just as crowded as the other, but at least it was quiet. I felt self-conscious as I opened the bag of Cheetos—it was that quiet.

I glanced up at the TV. The six o'clock news was on. “Anyone mind if I turn this up?” I asked.

I didn't receive an answer. I slowly stood, waiting to see if someone would object. No one did. I strode over to the TV and clicked the volume button repeatedly. I went back to my seat and Cheetos; the TV could be heard without straining myself now.

“The Grinning Man killer has struck again, this time taking his fourth victim: Lisa Lambert. Ms. Lambert was found earlier this morning in her house by her roommate, Diana Hollands. Ms. Hollands was just returning home when she found the body of Ms. Lambert on the living room floor. The police have not released photos of the victim, just as they have done with the previous victims. We now go to Johan Tilling, live and on location at the scene of the crime.”

The screen switched to an Asian looking man holding a microphone. “Thank you, Tanya. Yes, Ms. Hollands came into her house around nine o'clock this morning after spending the night at her boyfriend's house. She immediately called the police upon discovering the body of her roommate. The police department is keeping a very tight lid on this investigation. The only way we know this is another serial killing by the Grinning Man is because the police told us so.” The man said all this very enthusiastically, with lots of bobs of his head.

At that moment, three black SUVs pulled into the driveway. Official looking men wearing black suits and brightly polished shoes got out of the SUVs.. Johan Tilling spun around and rushed towards them, calling out questions, trying to be louder than the other dozens news reporters around him.

One of them official looking men stopped and turned. “The is a crime scene and active investigation, people. Do us all a favor and stop defiling the place with your disgusting habit for sticky your nose where it doesn't belong. Show a little respect, for God's sake.”

Outraged, one of the reporters shouted, “The public has a right to know!”

The man sneered. “The public can kiss my all-American ass.” Before he turned to leave, he grabbed one of the cameramen by the shirt collar and shoved him backwards. The cameraman fell into the growing news mob and many of them fell or cried out in shock..

Then the man promptly flipped the bird on live television and disappeared inside the house.

The Eclectic Pen » All Stories by Katheryn B. (OneYeshua888)

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Barbara E. (barbarae) - 1/9/2010 1:17 PM ET
Hi - nice story. I have some thoughts that struck me while reading. It’s hard to comment on only part of a book as you don’t have background info, but here goes. I’ve been reading books on writing and while I’m not an editor…..a couple things stick in my mind 1) believability 2) a protagonist with guts, a character we all wish we were because mirroring ourselves is boring 3) Nothing jarring to take my attention away from the flow of the story. I hope I won’t overwhelm you. I found I had more to say than I first thought. But I hope you appreciate that I really thought about what you wrote. If like me you put your stuff out here for comments, you should be able to take or leave what I think just like I would try to so if someone else commented on my stuff. OK Here’ goes: As I was reading I was visualizing this scene taking place in a doctor’s office first and was surprised to find them in an emergency room. See #3. If you need to have the TV to report the murder, it IS more likely to find one in an emergency room than a doc’s office. I suggest slipping in an urgency suggesting an ER visit earlier in the chapter before the “3 hour wait”. The size of her bedroom. Even in my house or former apt, the bedrooms were no smaller than 9x10. With being able to touch either wall, it sounds more like a converted walk in closet unless this character is part orangutan.. See #1. FWIW a bedroom, by building code, can be defined as a room with a closet. That could be used to emphasize the apartment’s dinky nature. Meaning they had to convert a storage closet in a one bedroom apt to give the grandson a room and privacy. “I had a library card…” saying “I have a library card” makes more sense. If this person HAD one, past tense, what happened to it? Does this mean he/she can’t read for pleasure any more? See #3. Can the cops hold the ailing, frail demented grandma ‘gently’ by the arms instead of ‘gripping’ her? Sounds too rough in this case. Unless nasty cops are integral to the story line farther on in the story. See #1. It might even sound more believable if your protagonist was called down to the station due to the fact that she committed B&E. If you still want g-ma brought to the house/apt by the cops have grandma ATTEMPT to enter someone’s house as opposed to actually commit a crime. Maybe even have your protagonist up and dressed having already called in that she’s missing. That way if the cops find her they will be more likely to bring her home. I had no idea of the sex of the protagonist until Nan called him Tony. Consider telling us that earlier in some way, unless we should know that from chapter 1. You did set Tony up as having moral values, meaning staying away from the druggie crowd. See #2. Great. I like that. With that I wanted to see Tony have a little more chutzpah as compared to being willing to take welfare and earn only smattering of money from fiction writing. He’s making sacrifices to take care of his Nan, it doesn’t mean he has to let it run his life. He can have distain for welfare. Have him reading the NY Times BS list with just books from the library. Have him trying to get an angle on what’s current in fiction so he can write a novel the publishers will want. Sounds like he needs to be into crime novels if you ask me, from the tone of your story. Unless you need your protagonist to be laid back as he is. But there’s only one “Columbo”. Have him put g-ma in a free senior daycare so he can go audit writing courses at the local college during the day. He might not have much money, but he can still better himself. If he’s the one that going to solve the murders and catch the Grinning Man, he needs to be smarter and better than the rest of us. I glanced I blew I looked I sat I hadn't I looked I didn't I turned I ended I skirted I walked I glanced I didn't. Glancing over…Blowing…. Looking over… Sitting there…. Skirting the…. Glancing over…. Ending up…. You get the idea. The scene playing out on TV. Ms Holland’s might be considered a suspect regardless of the Killer probably being the Grinning Man because she had access to the apt where the killing took place. I wouldn’t expect that info about where she spent the night and who she spent it with to be reported on TV. Especially if the cops are keeping a “tight lid” on the investigation. You might have the reporter show her on TV saying that instead. The cops can be limited in what they can share, but they can’t make her keep her mouth shut. Is that official looking man eventually a major player in the story, or the reporter? If not, their actions are not what I might expect from a typical reporter or someone associated with the police. Well, unless the reporter is supposed to be a Geraldo Rivera type….. If the intent of that part of the chapter was only to convey that the killer struck again, and the people on TV are not eventually tied into the killing or integral to the story based on their personality, then make them more typical than atypical. B
Katheryn B. (OneYeshua888) - 1/10/2010 12:32 AM ET
Hey, Barbara, thank you very much for your extremely helpful tips! But actually, this is the second chapter in a book I am writing, so some of the stuff you were confused about happens in the first chapter. But thanks fr the helpful information, I will make an effort to revise some of these mistakes. I *do* post these on here to see what people have to say about it, and your comment was exactly what I was looking for! So thank you, and I hope to see your comments on future chapters. :] --Kathy.
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