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Author Topic: UPDATED, REPLY 4: TRILLA!  (Read 2913 times)
Kim_S
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« on: June 12, 2017, 02:46:03 PM »

Hi, gang.  I need to to a total hack and slash on this and I am getting burnt out.  As it stands, the issues take up almost all of chapter 1, and my title character doesn't show until the end of the chapter, which amounts to page 10.  I'd like her to hit on page 5 if possible, but there's so much ground to cover.  The story is an old-fashioned fantasy-adventure for advanced readers. .

Quote
What a practical kid like Red Wilson needs is a miracle. What he gets instead is a mouthy, infuriating, little honest-to-goodness-fairy-princess who claims him for her own.

~KS[/color]
=======================



! -- Opening Quote
Quote
“… she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


CHAPTER ONE
The Broken Man and the Haunted Fishing Pole





     Now the fish wouldn’t bite, and Dad was broken, and everything was just awful and wrong! Oh, why did adults make things so darned complicated?


     With a huff of disgust, Red threw his cap on the creek bank and howled in frustration. The sky echoed with his cry, startling a brace of dozing Mallard ducks in the cattails. The birds took to unsteady wing, quacking until they were well out of view. Red Wilson (or “Robert Travers Wilson, Jr.,” when he was in trouble) dropped down beside his cap as with an exhausted sigh. Tears would help - and Lord, how they threatened - but he was all wrung out. Not that he would ever cry in front of Mom. She'd had ‘nough to worry about. He pondered the fishing hole and considered the uncooperative fish smirking within it. Then as if his torrential thoughts were like the swarm of no-see-ums buzzing by his lashes, he shook his head.  For the moment, he could only do battle in his head.


     Setting his jaw, he stuck the butt of the bamboo pole in the clay bank. Then, he selected a patch of grass nearby, dusted off his cap, and tilted it over his eyes. It was just as well. Red needed to think more than he needed a couple more bluegill, even if thinkin’ and botherin’ didn’t do a lick of good.


     Everything had started goin’ all wrong because Dad had what the doc had called a “breakdown”. Poor Dad did look like he was all "broken" now, too. And smashed and crumpled to boot. He wasn't strong anymore -- just pale, and weak, and tired. And sad – always so very sad. He didn’t care to do anything, not even the little things like brushing his hair or tuckin' in his shirt. If Mom didn’t make a point of getting food into him, he would have faded away like a shadow.


   As for Mom, her eyes held a strained, haunted look now. She tried not to let Dad see the effect he was havin’ on her. (Though in his current state, he likely wouldn’t have noticed if a train dropped from the sky and landed in his lap.). But she couldn’t try hard enough to keep Red from seeing all she was going through. And Red…because he was healthy and sound and didn’t need as much worryin’ over, sort of fell into the background. Her goal now was to cheer Dad, to keep going, and sometimes, for brief moments, she succeeded. Like at first, when Mom brought them all away out here to here, to Uncle Ike’s farm.


     They’d had to rent out their pretty home back in town to come out here, but Mom had said it was important, necessary. If they'd come under different circumstances, Ike's place would have been lovely. Everything was country here. The gentle hills were soft, with patchwork farms, and the easy buzz of the bobbing bumblebees. For a time, Dad had gotten a little better, and Mom had been so pleased that the brightness returned to her eye. But it was not to last. Dad lost his job and began to get weaker and weaker, and soon everything was just as bad as ever.


     No, Red amended. Now things were even worse. For this morning,  Mom was talking of selling their home in town. The doc had said that Dad might get well if she moved them way out to California. Red couldn't imagine life without that little red bungalow or the rest of their stuff.  They'd already spent a whole lot they didn't have to get Dad well again. Nothing they'd tried so far was working.

 
     His parents fought, but it was lop-sided. Dad’s strange apathy wouldn’t give him the gumption to make a compelling argument. Once he got that way, Mom couldn’t quite keep the anger she needed to batter down those unexpected walls. His sadness and give-up-ed-ness weighed her down and made her feel all sad and give-up-y too. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet and deflated, and not nearly as convincing as she wanted it to be. (It didn’t even convince Red, who had been listening beside the door and holding his breath.)  They were running out of options. The big thing, she had said, was that Dad had to get better. And if Dad getting better meant a new start for all of them, then she would find a way to get it done, no matter what it cost.  Even so, Red feared Dad would keep worrying so much about losing all he had worked for. It might hurt him so much that maybe he’d never have a reason to get strong again. (And Red couldn’t help thinking sadly that he and Mom were as fine a pair of reasons to get better as ever there was, but still!)


     The doctor had said Dad had just ‘worked himself out’. He had done so much for his firm, Biddle & Company, and the firm reaped the benefits.  Like a giant tick, it sucked in the effort and the life that Dad had given it. Now it was big and strong and rich, with fancy writing written in fancy stone. Fat, grumpy men smoking smelly ol’ cigars, like Ol’Biddle, were takin’ all the credit and throwin’ Dad away like so much trash.


     Ol’ Biddle, or James T. Biddle,  wasn’t  awful old; in fact, he wasn’t that much older than Dad. He may have been the big boss of the firm, and owned most of it, but it was Dad that had earned all that cash that Biddle so prized. Now,  Biddle wouldn’t even so much as nod in Dad’s direction. Since Dad’s clever brain got locked behind those great big sadness walls, he wasn’t up to making ol’ Biddle any more money.

   
     In Red’s mind, ol’ Biddle wasn’t half so good a man as Uncle Ike. Actually, Uncle Ike was really “Great-Grand-Uncle Ike”.  There never was a harder workin’, more ornery and joyful fellow. Red was learnin’ a lot from him. Uncle Ike had two ol’ horses that just couldn’t work anymore. But  Prince and Big Time had worked themselves out faithfully takin’ care of Uncle Ike every day. It was Uncle Ike's chance to return the favor. He kept ‘em as comfortable as possible so that they could live long, happy, horsey-lives.  Uncle Ike didn’t have much in the way of money. Technically, he was almost poor, too – all he really had in the world was his little, bitty farm.  Still, he hobbled around with those fat ol' horses, petting and talking to them, and letting them know they were still important to him. He did that even when his rheumatiz’ was hurtin’ him somethin’ fierce and his knees wouldn't bend right.


     A long time ago, Red had actually seen James T. Biddle in his natural habitat, at close range. The cranky businessman had come into Dad’s office and Red had been there on an errand. Ol’ Biddle’s eyes were hard and cold, like shooter marbles. He talked all choppy, like he didn’t have time to talk normally and he was always in a rush to a meeting. He bit off every word he spoke just like he bit off the like the ends of his stinky ol’ cigars.
Red didn’t like the other man’s hardness. It was almost as though the big man’s bulk had swallowed up his humanity. Ol' Biddle reminded Red more of a a cow guard on the front of a train, than a man. He was forever pushing everyone out of the way, or running right over anything else that wouldn’t take the hint.


     “Humph, your kid, Wilson?” asked Ol’ Biddle.


     “Yes,” answered Dad quietly, ruffling Red’s hair.


      “Hmph. About same age as my girl, Lillian. Hmph.”


      “No, Daddy! I’m two weeks older! Don’t even try to compare me to him!” Red hadn’t seen the smaller moon of Lillian Biddle. She had been trailing behind, caught in the gravitational pull of her father’s orbit. Red knew Lillian only too well from school. She had dull, muddy-yellow hair that hung in a stringy mess over strings over her dull, grey eyes. If she only looked like a  near-sighted pig hiding under a broom, that wouldn’t be a big deal.  Unfortunately, she was also stuck up, shallow, and mean. Bein’ around her was like eatin’ rancid cabbage and chocolate marshmallows all day long. His stomach hurt just thinkin’ about it. The only thing Lillian Biddle had going for her was that her dad had gobs of money, and she made certain everyone else knew it.


     Not that Red cared much for girls, especially the Lillian Biddle-type. But, he s’posed, you really couldn’t expect a charging, smoke-puffing beast like Ol’ Biddle to have any better kind of kid than Lillian. Sometimes Red wondered if Lillian got pushed out of the way like everyone else in her father’s life. It wasn’t a line of thought he pursued often. Besides, he’d think to himself, what troubles could rich folk really have anyway?


     A fish jumped somewhere near the cattails. The triangular head of a painted turtle popped up by his cork, as it came up for air and quick look at the world. Red shifted his cap, draped his elbows off his knees, and stared at the bobber without seein’ it. Lillian was a mess alright. If only she were the only mess he had to deal with right now.

     Red had convinced himself that there would be a grand reunion with when they moved back home. Instead, when they did go back home, they were going to give strangers the keys and drive away forever. Out there, he wouldn’t know anybody. Would anyone out there be impressed that he could jump the ditch at Bell's Curve without a running start? He’d miss the guys somethin’ fierce. They’d never know how much. He'd be gone, and some strange kid would take over his pitching mound. He'd be erased from their memories just because he was outta’ of sight and outta’ of mind. Angry tears pricked at his eyes, and he wiped them quick with the back of his hands. No, things were hitting too fast. He didn't have time to cry.


     He found himself staring at the tip of his fishing pole, trying to catch his breath and settle himself.


     Then, the long bamboo-fishing pole jerked, bending with sudden determination. The butt of it tore up the clay where it had been stuck. His reaction was automatic, the muscles moving from memory. Red jumped up and caught the pole as it fell and slid across the black clay bank. He pulled back and back. Then he shifted forward. Then he pulled back one final time and caught at the end of the line. There was nothing there but the line and worm-baited hook. He looked at the hook and the dripping remains of the untouched worm, puzzled.

 
     He shrugged, and jabbed the pole butt into the clay again. Instead of settling back down in the shade, he remained standing sentinel beside it. However, nothing happened. After a while, he tired of watching the cork.

 
     His eyes wandered off to the soft smoky blue of the Appalachian Mountains, the gentle always -guardians of his whole life. Mom hoped that sometime before they left for California, she was going to take them up there. They would drive over the crest and they’d have a picnic, if Dad was up to it. If Dad was up to it. Red sighed. If Dad was up to it…



     Red’s eyes had found their way back to the tip of the fishing pole, and for a moment, he didn’t know why.  As he put his hands on the pole again, the bamboo began to bend. Slowly at first, then in bouncing, rapid jerks that bucked the stick up and down. While the tip of the pole bobbed frantically, the cork remained placid and calm on the top of the water. The line was dangling loose and easy in the air, for there wasn’t a lick of tension on it. Nothing in the water pulling on that pole, but that didn’t keep the tip of the thing from bending right in his very hands. The pole tip pulled down as if yanked by a pound-weight. Yet, Red could see nothing but sunlight shining on the glistening bamboo.


     Entranced by these strange antics, Red wasn’t expecting the pole to snap straight back. It almost hit him in the nose.  He dropped it right there and took a step back. He rubbed his eyes. He looked all around, but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. He pinched himself, and it hurt, so he knew he was wide-awake.


     And then, the line began to pull itself up the bank of its own accord! Just pulling itself up and lying down in little circles on the clay! First, in came the line, then the sinker, then the cork, and then the hook with its soggy worm in a neat, concentric pile.


     The willow branches danced gently in the breeze. Somewhere, there was the soft gurrup and splash of a frog behind the reeds.   The black clay squished up, cold and hungry, between his toes as it did every other day. He looked around again, and everything was just as normal as it could be, warm and sunny, soft and easy.  Everything was as it should be, except that his fishing pole was haunted.   


     Red held so still that a curious robin fluttered down with an eye for the angleworm on Red’s hook. Maybe the silly bird thought that Red only a colorful tree stump, but it sure knew a worm when he saw it. After a couple of self-important hops, it cocked its head and pounced!
And that should have been then end of it, except –


     Something began to happen to that robin!


     The bird started rolling over and over, like something was tussling it to the ground.  All its feathers were getting all mussed up and its raucous cries echoed along the creek bank. Finally, the whatever-it-was let go of the bird.  Carried by momentum, the bird tumbled into the creek. The terrified bird finally got its wings working.  It sputtered out of the water and flew away screeching insults in the language of birds.  The “head” end of the worm lifted up from the hook and began to nod.  The drowned worm was having a good laugh at the bird’s expense.


     Red ran his fingers through his hair.  Maybe he was comin' down with sunstroke?


     At this moment, that darned line began to move again! It straightened out and the hook began to creep slowly up the bank. Then it hooked itself right into his cap, which had fallen onto the bank. For a moment, the line and pole held still, as if waiting to see what Red would do. Then, the pole began to move and the line began to tug at the cap. As he watched, the pole began to back down into the water, taking his cap right along with it.


     Well, no lousy, ghost-ed-up fishing-pole was going to cheat Red out of something as special as Uncle Ike’s cap!  Uncle Ike had given him that cap right off of his own head, and it smelled of Uncle Ike’s shampoo and aftershave.  With a shift to his jaw, Red prepared to do battle with the Thing Unseen. Red stepped down into the water’s edge and forced himself to pick up his cap. He concentrated on wringing the water out of it (and not on the jittery feeling in his knees.  He held the cap to his nose and breathed in. The scent of Uncle Ike’s aftershave still lingered, muffled a bit by the scent of creek-water and black clay.  Red set the cap on his head with a deliberateness he did not feel.  Then, he reached down and picked up his fishing pole and began to walk away.


     The contrary line wrapped and tied itself around a low willow limb. Red held his nerve and pulled hard. He meant to break the line himself, instead of lettin' the what-ever-it-was…to keep messin’  with him.


     “Knock it off, you big ox! I have plans for that!”  The voice came out of nowhere.  If lilies of the valley could ring out they would sound like this voice - like the tinkling of silvery bells. It thrilled through Red’s very bones. Startled, Red yanked back hard on the pole, breaking the string with a wicked snap. He stumbled on the bank, but had to drop the wayward pole after all.  His hands went to his ears to protect himself from the angriest scream he had ever heard!   
[/size][/color]
« Last Edit: June 22, 2017, 02:10:56 PM by Kim_S » Logged
samcantcook
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Karma: 41
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2017, 09:03:14 AM »

I found the opening a bit overwritten. I tried imagining someone fishing and actually howling at the water and it seemed quite comical, and then, on top of that, the sky echoes? It's hard to take this character literally. Also phrases like "huff of disgust" and "howled in frustration" and "exhausted sigh" are examples of overwriting that slow the writing down in my opinion. These are they types of things I think you could slash out to get to your title character faster.

Hi, gang.  I need to to a total hack and slash on this and I am getting burnt out.  As it stands, the issues take up almost all of chapter 1, and my title character doesn't show until the end of the chapter, which amounts to page 10.  I'd like her to hit on page 5 if possible, but there's so much ground to cover.  The story is an old-fashioned fantasy-adventure for advanced readers. .

Quote
What a practical kid like Red Wilson needs is a miracle. What he gets instead is a mouthy, infuriating, little honest-to-goodness-fairy-princess who claims him for her own.

~KS[/color]
=======================



! -- Opening Quote
Quote
“… she was all bad just now, but, on the other hand, sometimes she was all good. Fairies have to be one thing or the other, because being so small they unfortunately have room for one feeling only at a time. They are, however, allowed to change, only it must be a complete change.”
― J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan


CHAPTER ONE
The Broken Man and the Haunted Fishing Pole





     Now the fish wouldn’t bite, and Dad was broken, and everything was just awful and wrong! Oh, why did adults make things so darned complicated?


    With a huff of disgust, Red threw his cap on the creek bank and howled in frustration. The sky echoed with his cry, startling a brace of dozing Mallard ducks in the cattails. The birds took to unsteady wing, quacking until they were well out of view. Red Wilson (or “Robert Travers Wilson, Jr.,” when he was in trouble) dropped down beside his cap as with an exhausted sigh. Tears would help - and Lord, how they threatened - but he was all wrung out. Not that he would ever cry in front of Mom. She'd had ‘nough to worry about. He pondered the fishing hole and considered the uncooperative fish smirking within it. Then as if his torrential thoughts were like the swarm of no-see-ums buzzing by his lashes, he shook his head.  For the moment, he could only do battle in his head. In your opening you say it takes 10 pages to get to your title character, and I think I can see why. You are overwriting. The first paragraph should hook and engage. Show us the conflict. This is a description of someone getting frustrated with fishing and it doesn't contribute to the reader experience in my opinion.


     Setting his jaw, he stuck the butt of the bamboo pole in the clay bank. Then, he selected a patch of grass nearby, dusted off his cap, and tilted it over his eyes. It was just as well. Red needed to think more than he needed a couple more bluegill, even if thinkin’ and botherin’ didn’t do a lick of good.


     Everything had started goin’ all wrong because Dad had what the doc had called a “breakdown”. Poor Dad did look like he was all "broken" now, too. And smashed and crumpled to boot. He wasn't strong anymore -- just pale, and weak, and tired. And sad – always so very sad. He didn’t care to do anything, not even the little things like brushing his hair or tuckin' in his shirt. If Mom didn’t make a point of getting food into him, he would have faded away like a shadow.


   As for Mom, her eyes held a strained, haunted look now. She tried not to let Dad see the effect he was havin’ on her. (Though in his current state, he likely wouldn’t have noticed if a train dropped from the sky and landed in his lap.). But she couldn’t try hard enough to keep Red from seeing all she was going through. And Red…because he was healthy and sound and didn’t need as much worryin’ over, sort of fell into the background. Her goal now was to cheer Dad, to keep going, and sometimes, for brief moments, she succeeded. Like at first, when Mom brought them all away out here to here, to Uncle Ike’s farm. This is literally all backstory. Begin the story where the story starts, not with backstory that we have no context for.


     They’d had to rent out their pretty home back in town to come out here, but Mom had said it was important, necessary. If they'd come under different circumstances, Ike's place would have been lovely. Everything was country here. The gentle hills were soft, with patchwork farms, and the easy buzz of the bobbing bumblebees. For a time, Dad had gotten a little better, and Mom had been so pleased that the brightness returned to her eye. But it was not to last. Dad lost his job and began to get weaker and weaker, and soon everything was just as bad as ever.


     No, Red amended. Now things were even worse. For this morning,  Mom was talking of selling their home in town. The doc had said that Dad might get well if she moved them way out to California. Red couldn't imagine life without that little red bungalow or the rest of their stuff.  They'd already spent a whole lot they didn't have to get Dad well again. Nothing they'd tried so far was working.

 
     His parents fought, but it was lop-sided. Dad’s strange apathy wouldn’t give him the gumption to make a compelling argument. Once he got that way, Mom couldn’t quite keep the anger she needed to batter down those unexpected walls. His sadness and give-up-ed-ness weighed her down and made her feel all sad and give-up-y too. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet and deflated, and not nearly as convincing as she wanted it to be. (It didn’t even convince Red, who had been listening beside the door and holding his breath.)  They were running out of options. The big thing, she had said, was that Dad had to get better. And if Dad getting better meant a new start for all of them, then she would find a way to get it done, no matter what it cost.  Even so, Red feared Dad would keep worrying so much about losing all he had worked for. It might hurt him so much that maybe he’d never have a reason to get strong again. (And Red couldn’t help thinking sadly that he and Mom were as fine a pair of reasons to get better as ever there was, but still!)


     The doctor had said Dad had just ‘worked himself out’. He had done so much for his firm, Biddle & Company, and the firm reaped the benefits.  Like a giant tick, it sucked in the effort and the life that Dad had given it. Now it was big and strong and rich, with fancy writing written in fancy stone. Fat, grumpy men smoking smelly ol’ cigars, like Ol’Biddle, were takin’ all the credit and throwin’ Dad away like so much trash.


     Ol’ Biddle, or James T. Biddle,  wasn’t  awful old; in fact, he wasn’t that much older than Dad. He may have been the big boss of the firm, and owned most of it, but it was Dad that had earned all that cash that Biddle so prized. Now,  Biddle wouldn’t even so much as nod in Dad’s direction. Since Dad’s clever brain got locked behind those great big sadness walls, he wasn’t up to making ol’ Biddle any more money.

   
     In Red’s mind, ol’ Biddle wasn’t half so good a man as Uncle Ike. Actually, Uncle Ike was really “Great-Grand-Uncle Ike”.  There never was a harder workin’, more ornery and joyful fellow. Red was learnin’ a lot from him. Uncle Ike had two ol’ horses that just couldn’t work anymore. But  Prince and Big Time had worked themselves out faithfully takin’ care of Uncle Ike every day. It was Uncle Ike's chance to return the favor. He kept ‘em as comfortable as possible so that they could live long, happy, horsey-lives.  Uncle Ike didn’t have much in the way of money. Technically, he was almost poor, too – all he really had in the world was his little, bitty farm.  Still, he hobbled around with those fat ol' horses, petting and talking to them, and letting them know they were still important to him. He did that even when his rheumatiz’ was hurtin’ him somethin’ fierce and his knees wouldn't bend right.


     A long time ago, Red had actually seen James T. Biddle in his natural habitat, at close range. The cranky businessman had come into Dad’s office and Red had been there on an errand. Ol’ Biddle’s eyes were hard and cold, like shooter marbles. He talked all choppy, like he didn’t have time to talk normally and he was always in a rush to a meeting. He bit off every word he spoke just like he bit off the like the ends of his stinky ol’ cigars.
Red didn’t like the other man’s hardness. It was almost as though the big man’s bulk had swallowed up his humanity. Ol' Biddle reminded Red more of a a cow guard on the front of a train, than a man. He was forever pushing everyone out of the way, or running right over anything else that wouldn’t take the hint.


     “Humph, your kid, Wilson?” asked Ol’ Biddle.


     “Yes,” answered Dad quietly, ruffling Red’s hair.


      “Hmph. About same age as my girl, Lillian. Hmph.”


      “No, Daddy! I’m two weeks older! Don’t even try to compare me to him!” Red hadn’t seen the smaller moon of Lillian Biddle. She had been trailing behind, caught in the gravitational pull of her father’s orbit. Red knew Lillian only too well from school. She had dull, muddy-yellow hair that hung in a stringy mess over strings over her dull, grey eyes. If she only looked like a  near-sighted pig hiding under a broom, that wouldn’t be a big deal.  Unfortunately, she was also stuck up, shallow, and mean. Bein’ around her was like eatin’ rancid cabbage and chocolate marshmallows all day long. His stomach hurt just thinkin’ about it. The only thing Lillian Biddle had going for her was that her dad had gobs of money, and she made certain everyone else knew it.


     Not that Red cared much for girls, especially the Lillian Biddle-type. But, he s’posed, you really couldn’t expect a charging, smoke-puffing beast like Ol’ Biddle to have any better kind of kid than Lillian. Sometimes Red wondered if Lillian got pushed out of the way like everyone else in her father’s life. It wasn’t a line of thought he pursued often. Besides, he’d think to himself, what troubles could rich folk really have anyway?


     A fish jumped somewhere near the cattails. So we're finally back at the fishing hole, and you've lost us. Paragraphs of backstory shouldn't serve as your hook. You can always circle back around and explain this to us later. But right now, this feels like a false start. The triangular head of a painted turtle popped up by his cork, as it came up for air and quick look at the world. Red shifted his cap, draped his elbows off his knees, and stared at the bobber without seein’ it. Lillian was a mess alright. If only she were the only mess he had to deal with right now.

     Red had convinced himself that there would be a grand reunion with when they moved back home. Instead, when they did go back home, they were going to give strangers the keys and drive away forever. Out there, he wouldn’t know anybody. Would anyone out there be impressed that he could jump the ditch at Bell's Curve without a running start? He’d miss the guys somethin’ fierce. They’d never know how much. He'd be gone, and some strange kid would take over his pitching mound. He'd be erased from their memories just because he was outta’ of sight and outta’ of mind. Angry tears pricked at his eyes, and he wiped them quick with the back of his hands. No, things were hitting too fast. He didn't have time to cry.


     He found himself staring at the tip of his fishing pole, trying to catch his breath and settle himself.


     Then, the long bamboo-fishing pole jerked, bending with sudden determination. The butt of it tore up the clay where it had been stuck. His reaction was automatic, the muscles moving from memory. Red jumped up and caught the pole as it fell and slid across the black clay bank. He pulled back and back. Then he shifted forward. Then he pulled back one final time and caught at the end of the line. There was nothing there but the line and worm-baited hook. He looked at the hook and the dripping remains of the untouched worm, puzzled.

 
     He shrugged, and jabbed the pole butt into the clay again. Instead of settling back down in the shade, he remained standing sentinel beside it. However, nothing happened. After a while, he tired of watching the cork.

 
     His eyes wandered off to the soft smoky blue of the Appalachian Mountains, the gentle always -guardians of his whole life. Mom hoped that sometime before they left for California, she was going to take them up there. They would drive over the crest and they’d have a picnic, if Dad was up to it. If Dad was up to it. Red sighed. If Dad was up to it…



     Red’s eyes had found their way back to the tip of the fishing pole, and for a moment, he didn’t know why.  As he put his hands on the pole again, the bamboo began to bend. Slowly at first, then in bouncing, rapid jerks that bucked the stick up and down. While the tip of the pole bobbed frantically, the cork remained placid and calm on the top of the water. The line was dangling loose and easy in the air, for there wasn’t a lick of tension on it. Nothing in the water pulling on that pole, but that didn’t keep the tip of the thing from bending right in his very hands. The pole tip pulled down as if yanked by a pound-weight. Yet, Red could see nothing but sunlight shining on the glistening bamboo.


     Entranced by these strange antics, Red wasn’t expecting the pole to snap straight back. It almost hit him in the nose.  He dropped it right there and took a step back. He rubbed his eyes. He looked all around, but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. He pinched himself, and it hurt, so he knew he was wide-awake.


     And then, the line began to pull itself up the bank of its own accord! Just pulling itself up and lying down in little circles on the clay! First, in came the line, then the sinker, then the cork, and then the hook with its soggy worm in a neat, concentric pile.


     The willow branches danced gently in the breeze. Somewhere, there was the soft gurrup and splash of a frog behind the reeds.   The black clay squished up, cold and hungry, between his toes as it did every other day. He looked around again, and everything was just as normal as it could be, warm and sunny, soft and easy.  Everything was as it should be, except that his fishing pole was haunted.   


     Red held so still that a curious robin fluttered down with an eye for the angleworm on Red’s hook. Maybe the silly bird thought that Red only a colorful tree stump, but it sure knew a worm when he saw it. After a couple of self-important hops, it cocked its head and pounced!
And that should have been then end of it, except –


     Something began to happen to that robin!


     The bird started rolling over and over, like something was tussling it to the ground.  All its feathers were getting all mussed up and its raucous cries echoed along the creek bank. Finally, the whatever-it-was let go of the bird.  Carried by momentum, the bird tumbled into the creek. The terrified bird finally got its wings working.  It sputtered out of the water and flew away screeching insults in the language of birds.  The “head” end of the worm lifted up from the hook and began to nod.  The drowned worm was having a good laugh at the bird’s expense.


     Red ran his fingers through his hair.  Maybe he was comin' down with sunstroke?


     At this moment, that darned line began to move again! It straightened out and the hook began to creep slowly up the bank. Then it hooked itself right into his cap, which had fallen onto the bank. For a moment, the line and pole held still, as if waiting to see what Red would do. Then, the pole began to move and the line began to tug at the cap. As he watched, the pole began to back down into the water, taking his cap right along with it.


     Well, no lousy, ghost-ed-up fishing-pole was going to cheat Red out of something as special as Uncle Ike’s cap!  Uncle Ike had given him that cap right off of his own head, and it smelled of Uncle Ike’s shampoo and aftershave.  With a shift to his jaw, Red prepared to do battle with the Thing Unseen. Red stepped down into the water’s edge and forced himself to pick up his cap. He concentrated on wringing the water out of it (and not on the jittery feeling in his knees.  He held the cap to his nose and breathed in. The scent of Uncle Ike’s aftershave still lingered, muffled a bit by the scent of creek-water and black clay.  Red set the cap on his head with a deliberateness he did not feel.  Then, he reached down and picked up his fishing pole and began to walk away.


     The contrary line wrapped and tied itself around a low willow limb. Red held his nerve and pulled hard. He meant to break the line himself, instead of lettin' the what-ever-it-was…to keep messin’  with him.


     “Knock it off, you big ox! I have plans for that!”  The voice came out of nowhere.  If lilies of the valley could ring out they would sound like this voice - like the tinkling of silvery bells. It thrilled through Red’s very bones. Startled, Red yanked back hard on the pole, breaking the string with a wicked snap. He stumbled on the bank, but had to drop the wayward pole after all.  His hands went to his ears to protect himself from the angriest scream he had ever heard!   
[/size][/color]
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Kim_S
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« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2017, 08:53:22 AM »

Thank you.  I agree.  I think if I can just figure out a better starting point, I can hit it from there.
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Kim_S
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« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 06:22:50 AM »

Is there a thread you think I can pull on to rewrite this and gel it better?  Is there a better starting point somewhere?
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Kim_S
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« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2017, 02:09:41 PM »

CHAPTER ONE
The Broken Man and the Haunted Fishing Pole
[/b]

   Red Wilson (or “Robert Travers Wilson, Jr.,” when he was in trouble) considered the uncooperative fish smirking within the fishing hole. His thoughts were pesky and numerous, like the swarm of no-see-ums buzzing by his lashes. To clear both, he shook his head. Early summer fireflies, enjoying the warmth of the late afternoon sun, flashed in lazy preparation for their twilight dances. All of Red’s worries bubbled back to the surface with each tiny green glint of light.


   <Flash!>
     Everything had started goin’ all wrong because Dad had what the doc had called a “breakdown.” Poor Dad did look like he was all "broken" now, too. And smashed and crumpled to boot. And sad – always so very sad. He’d worked himself to a nub at his firm Biddle & Company. He’d made Ol’ James Biddle great gobs of cash in the process. For his trouble, Biddle fired him when Dad was too sick to work anymore.


   <Twinkle! Flash!>
 Mom, her eyes held a strained, haunted look now. She tried not to let Dad see the effect he was havin’ on her. But she couldn’t try hard enough to keep Red from seeing all she was going through. And Red sort of fell into the background.


   <Flash!>
   Their home, rented out for now. But just this morning, Red had overheard Mom telling Dad they’d have to sell it to cover the mounting medical bills. Worse, she planned to move them across the country to California in a month. The doc had said there were specialists there, and that maybe a change of environment would get Dad well. The next time he saw his own doorstep, they would hand the keys to strangers. Then, they’d leave the state.


       If they'd come under different circumstances, Uncle Ike's farm would have been lovely. Everything was country here. The gentle hills were soft, with patchwork farms, and the easy buzz of the bobbing bumblebees. For a time, Dad had gotten a little better, and Mom had been so pleased that the brightness returned to her eye. But it was not to last. Dad lost his job and began to get weaker and weaker, and soon everything was just as bad as ever.


<Flash! Twinkle! Flash !>
     Ol’ Biddle…Dad’s former boss. He bit off every word he spoke just like he bit off the like the ends of his stinky ol’ cigars. Ol' Biddle reminded Red more of a cow guard on the front of a train, than a man. He was forever pushing everyone out of the way, or running right over anything else that wouldn’t take the hint. His eyes never left the white and green lines of the accounting books the day he fired Red’s dad. Red had gone in that afternoon to give Dad a message from Mom. When he came into Dad’s office, he found Biddle sitting on the corner of the desk. Dad, frail and shaky, stood before him, with his eyes on the floor.


<Flash!>
     It was bad enough that Biddle fired his Dad right in front of him. Biddle didn’t even know Red was there. It was worse that it happened in front of the smaller moon of Biddle’s daughter, Lillian. She had been trailing behind, caught in the gravitational pull of her father’s orbit. Red knew her from school, and she went out of her way to make everyone miserable. Bein’ around her was like eatin’ rancid cabbage and chocolate marshmallows all day long. His stomach hurt just thinkin’ about it. With her dirty blonde hair and her puffy face, Lillian looked like a pig hiding behind a broom. The only thing going for her was that her dad had gobs of money, and she made certain everyone else knew it. In his more charitable moments, Red wondered if Lillian got pushed out of the way like everyone else in her father’s life. All thoughts of charity went right out the moment she opened her mouth.


     “Gosh, Red. Sure must be tough to have such a loser for a father.”


     Biddle glanced at his daughter, annoyed. Dad said nothing, just sighed. He and  placed his hand on Red’s stiffened shoulders, gently nudging
the boy towards the door.


     Red stopped and turned back to face Lillian.


     “Someday, Lillian,” he said. “You’re gonna’ be sick or hurt, too. I sure hope someone does a better Job lookin’ out for you than your family is doin’ lookin’ out for us!”


     Lillian’s mouth gaped wide, and Ol’ Biddle’s face turned a darker shade of ruddy.  Red felt his father’s hand firmly on his shoulder, guiding him back to the doorway in silence. Red shook it off and ran to the car. He couldn’t look at Dad. He hated for hating his dad at that moment.  He wanted to fight…he wanted them both to fight…but fight what?


<Flash! Twinkle! Twinkle>
     He'd be gone, and some strange kid would take over his pitching mound. He'd be erased from his friend’s memories just because he was outta’ of sight and outta’ of mind. Angry tears pricked at his eyes, and he wiped them quick with the back of his hands. No, things were hittin’ too fast. He didn't have time to cry.


     He found himself staring at the tip of his fishing pole, trying to catch his breath and settle himself. A fish jumped somewhere near the cattails. The triangular head of a painted turtle popped up by his cork, as it came up for air and quick look at the world. Red shifted his cap, draped his elbows off his knees, and stared at the bobber without seein’ it.

     Then, the long bamboo fishing pole jerked, bending with sudden determination. The butt of it tore up the clay where it had been stuck. His reaction was automatic, the muscles moving from memory. Red jumped up and caught the pole as it fell and slid across the black clay bank. He pulled back and back. Then he shifted forward. Then he pulled back one final time and caught at the end of the line. There was nothing there but the line and worm-baited hook. He looked at the hook and the dripping remains of the untouched worm, puzzled.


     He shrugged and jabbed the pole butt into the clay again. Instead of settling back down in the shade, he remained standing sentinel beside it. However, nothing happened. After a while, he tired of watching the cork.


     His eyes wandered off to the soft smoky blue of the Appalachian Mountains, the gentle always -guardians of his whole life. Mom hoped that sometime, before they left for California, she was going to take them up there. They would drive over the crest and they’d have a picnic, if Dad was up to it. If Dad was up to it. Red sighed. If Dad was up to it…


     Red’s eyes had found their way back to the tip of the fishing pole, and for a moment, he didn’t know why. As he put his hands on the pole again, the bamboo began to bend. Slowly at first, then in bouncing, rapid jerks that bucked the stick up and down. While the tip of the pole bobbed frantically, the cork remained placid and calm on the top of the water. The line was dangling loose and easy in the air, for there wasn’t a lick of tension on it. Nothing in the water pulling on that pole, but the tip of the pole pulled down as if yanked by a pound-weight. Still, Red could see nothing on the glistening bamboo than sunlight.


     Entranced by these strange antics, Red wasn’t expecting the pole to snap straight back. It almost hit him in the nose. He dropped it and took a step back. He rubbed his eyes. He looked all around, but he saw nothing out of the ordinary. He pinched himself, and it hurt. He knew wasn’t dreaming.


     Then, the line began to pull itself up the bank by itself! Just pulling itself up and lying down in little circles on the clay! First, in came the line, then the sinker, then the cork, and then the hook with its soggy worm in a neat, concentric pile.


     The willow branches danced gently in the breeze. Somewhere, there was the soft gurrup and splash of a frog behind the reeds. The black clay squished up, cold and hungry, between his toes as it did every other day. He looked around again, and everything was just as normal as it could be, warm and sunny, soft and easy. Everything was as it should be, except that his fishing pole was haunted.

   
     Red held so still that a curious robin fluttered down with an eye for the angleworm on Red’s hook. Maybe the silly bird thought that Red only a colorful tree stump, but it sure knew a worm when he saw it. After a couple of self-important hops, it cocked its head and pounced!
And that should have been then end of it, except –


     Something began to happen to that robin!


     The bird started rolling over and over, likeas if something was tusslin'g it to the ground. All its feathers were gettin' g all mussed up and its raucous cries echoed along the creek bank. Finally, the whatever-it-was let go of the bird.  . Carried by momentum, the bird tumbled into the creek. The terrified bird finally got its wings working.  . It sputtered out of the water and flew away screeching insults in the language of birds.
The “head” end of the worm lifted up from the hook and began to nod. The drowned worm was having a good laugh at the bird’s expense.
Red ran his fingers through his hair. Maybe he was comin' down with sunstroke.


     At this moment, that darned line began to move again! It straightened out and the hook began to creep slowly up the bank. Then it hooked itself right into his cap, which had fallen onto the bank. For a moment, the line and pole held still, as if waiting to see what Red would do. Then, the pole began to move and the line began to tug at the cap. Then pole began to back down into the water, taking his cap right along with it.
Well, no lousy, ghost-ed-up fishing-pole was going to cheat Red out of something as special as Uncle Ike’s cap! Uncle Ike had given him that cap right off of his own head, and it smelled of Uncle Ike’s shampoo and aftershave. With a shift to his jaw, Red prepared to do battle with the Thing Unseen.


     Red stepped down into the water’s edge and forced himself to pick up his cap. He concentrated on wringing the water out of it (and not on the jittery feeling in his knees. He held the cap to his nose, and breathed in. The scent of Uncle Ike’s aftershave still lingered, muffled a bit by the scent of creek water and black clay. Red set the cap on his head with a deliberateness he did not feel. He reached down, picked up his fishing pole, and began to walk away.


     The contrary line wrapped and tied itself around a low willow limb. Red held his nerve and pulled hard. He meant to break the line himself, instead of lettin' the what-ever-it-was…to keep messin’ with him.


     “Knock it off, you big ox! I have plans for that!” The voice came out of nowhere. If lilies of the valley could ring out, they would sound like this voice - like the tinkling of silvery bells. It thrilled through Red’s very bones. Startled, Red yanked back hard on the pole, breaking the string with a wicked snap. He stumbled on the bank, but had to drop the wayward pole after all. His hands went to his ears to protect them from the loudest, angriest scream he had ever heard!   
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