Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #34

TITLE: Hiding in the Spotlight
GENRE: Adult fiction/mainstream

I found it during one of our moves. My job was in photo albums, to unpack them, and while I was at it, view them too. I opened my baby album with its familiar pink cover, and instead of a sepia-toned eight-by-ten cherub baby, I saw a yellowed newspaper clipping. I laughed at the headline, which caught my brother Eddie's attention. He dropped the box labeled "fragile" by me and peered over my shoulder.

"That's you, stupid."

"Is not."

"Is too. Read it. It's all about the Great Gargantua Hatchling of 1964."

I snatched up one of the broken plates from his box and pointed it at him. "You're the monster."

He smiled. "Not in that story I'm not." Then he dashed before I could cut him. I considered throwing the plate at him but knew I would miss and hit a wall instead. We had rules, you know: respect the landlord, respect the house. We had a tendency to relax those rules after about a week. I had to wait.

I slumped down on the floor. I knew before I finished the article that it would be true. My vision tried to protect me by blurring in and out of focus. My ears started ringing. Both failed to shield me from the truth: That I was like this from the get-go. That the term "Some people are just born with it" can go the
other way and mean something negative, like when describing the otherwise unexplainable.

10 comments:

clhill said...

I'm hooked! The voice here is distinct and the dialogue natural and believable. I want to know what this character was born with, what the article says and what about the headline made the narrator laugh. The hint of violence ("he dashed before I could cut him"..would she really have cut her own brother?) makes me wonder how stable the character is and if I'd grow to like her or not, but makes me curious all the same. An interesting setup.

S. Kyle Davis said...

This is definitely interesting. :)

It caught my attention, but at the end, I wanted a little more. Or a little less, maybe. There's a fine line between trailing us along with details and being purposely obtuse, and I worry that you crossed it here. Other than that (and it's actually a pretty easy fix), I think you've done a good job!

Jessica May Lin said...

I love the play-fights between the two siblings. The voice has a sincere, clean feel to it.

I'd read on for sure!

Tori Schindler said...

I liked it. I really liked fighting between the MC and her brother, very believable. When the dialogue began, it wasn’t clear who was talking at first. The voice is good, I’d like to know more.

Dayspring said...

I wasn't sure what to make of this - the switch between sibling teasing and an emotional, potentially life-changing discovery seemed too abrupt to me, and the 'you're the monster' comment confused me further - it seems that one of these kids has an abnormality but now I'm not sure which one. However, I'm intrigued enough to find out what the narrator was 'born with' that I'd probably read on.

Woods said...

#34,

It flowed smoothly, but I was confused at the end. My comments are in the text.

Good luck.

TITLE: Hiding in the Spotlight
GENRE: Adult fiction/mainstream

I found it during one of our moves. [You have my attention but I was confused at first of what “move” meant. I don’t know why (perhaps it’s just me) but I thought of a martial art move. But then I realized you were talking about a house move. Could you make this more clear?] My job was in photo albums, to unpack them, and while I was at it, view them too. I opened my baby album with its familiar pink cover, and instead of a sepia-toned eight-by-ten cherub baby, I saw a yellowed newspaper clipping. I laughed at the headline, which caught my brother Eddie's attention. He dropped the box labeled "fragile" by me and peered over my shoulder. [I do like how this story is moving. It’s not beating around the bush.]

"That's you, stupid."

"Is not."

"Is too. Read it. It's all about the Great Gargantua Hatchling of 1964." [I’m wondering if these siblings are young and this story is set a few decades back, or if these siblings are in their late forties.]

I snatched up one of the broken plates from his box and pointed it at him. "You're the monster."

He smiled. "Not in that story I'm not." Then he dashed before I could cut him. [Did she playfully lurch forward with the broken plate?] I considered throwing the plate at him but knew I would miss and hit a wall instead. We had rules, you know: respect the landlord, respect the house. We had a tendency to relax those rules after about a week. I had to wait. [I’m learning more about the MC’s situation. Good.]

I slumped down on the floor. I knew before I finished the article that it would be true.[Huh?] My vision tried to protect me by blurring in and out of focus. My ears started ringing. Both failed to shield me from the truth: That I was like this from the get-go. That the term "Some people are just born with it" can go the
other way and mean something negative, like when describing the otherwise unexplainable. [You’re introducing something new here, but I’ve been thrown into it and I don’t know what’s going on. I went back and reread it a few times, and now I see she was looking at herself in the picture, and the “some people are just born with it” let me know she has a condition of some sort?]

Dee said...

Left wanting to know more, darn it two hundred and fifty word limit!! But perhaps someday we will see you all in print- fingers crossed!

My only suggestions would be, the cutting with the plate? Maybe lighten it? Unless this is integral to the character and the piece about following the landlord's rules, perhaps either lengthen the sentence about having to wait a week or incorporate it a little better, it felt too abbreviated. Overall great!

Barbara said...

I was confused and frustrated. Her job was to look in the photo albums. Why? What is she looking for? You don't say.

Then we have - You're the monster.
Not in that story I'm not. - which implies to me that he just might be a monster. But this is contemporary mainstream, not horror or paranormal, so I'm thinking - No, that probably doesn't mean that. But what, then, does it mean? You don't say.

Then she wants to cut him. _ Hmm. Maybe they are monsters? I can't tell. You don't say.

And they're comfortable with throwing dishes at each other. More srange stuff. What's with these people? You don't say.

And then she was like this from the get go. Like this, how? What's wrong with her? You don't say.

For me, there are just too many unanswered questions. And they're not questions I want to read on to find the answers to. This just seems intentionally vague as a device.

I don't want to read on to find out what she has. But if you tell me what she has, I would read on to see how she deals with it and how it affects her life.

This just didn't work for me.

Secret Agent said...

Hmmmm. I'm getting mixed signals here. Am I supposed to be amused or gravely concerned for the protag? Also, I'm confused by the opening paragraph. It indicates that the narrator moves a lot and that her job is always to deal with the albums, which means she's seen this clipping many times before (if she's done her job). But I get the sense that this is supposed to be the first time she sees the clipping. Something gotta get fixed to make this make sense. Also, I found myself distracted by the combination of everyday detail ("respect the landlord") and exceptional detail ("'Gargantua Hatchling'"); again mixed messages giving me misgivings about the author's control of this story. That said, I am intrigued by the narrator's unique, er, configuration.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you cut to make the 250 word guideline. Author here, and the uncut version shows the mc is clearly goofing off and not really helping with the unpacking. The "My job was in photo albums" was the narrator's sarcasm to that effect.

The first line of dialogue should have been on the same line as Eddie dropping the box. The reader would know who is speaking from that point.

The Gargantua Hatchling comment was Eddie interpreting the article.

I should have had a beta reader for my submission to see if it worked with the cuts. Alas, I did not, and it did not.

Thank you everyone who took the time to read and comment. Keep em coming.