Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February Secret Agent #29

GENRE: MG historical science fiction

Mama said it was plum foolishness to keep my cousin’s dog tags like that, with his blood still stuck between the ridges of his name. “Don’t know why Mildred won’t wash ’em,” Mama muttered one day while scrubbing dishes. “It’s like she thinks that blood will keep Robby alive somehow, like it’ll keep him with her. And we both know that’s plum foolishness.” She shook a soapy finger in my face. “That’s foolishness, Ella Mae, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Especially Auntie Mildred.”
But that was exactly what Mildred told me. “It’s not foolishness, Ella Mae,” she said one day while sweeping floors. “It’s science.” She gave the broom a flick. “And one of these days, those eggheads who invented the atomic bomb are going to figure out how to create life instead of just destroy it.”
I never told Auntie Mildred what Mama had said, and I never told Mama what Auntie Mildred had said, either. Those two already had enough to fight about, seeing as how they were sisters and all. In fact, when Mama answered the telephone that Saturday afternoon, I figured it was Auntie Mildred calling to resume their ongoing argument about Ajax.

But I was only half right.

“Settle down, Mildred,” Mama said, since she wasn’t the sort to stand for anyone’s shenanigans (least of all Auntie Mildred’s). “Now what’s this about Robby?”

I stopped chomping on my asparagus. Something told me I’d want to hear every word of this particular conversation.


  1. Ohhh my. I am so in love with this voice. It reminds me of Meg Murry, actually - just something about it that's spot-on for a twelve-year-old. Maybe it's the singular train of thought using that word - "foolishness" - over and over.

    It sounds so right, and I can tell that the idea of what exactly "foolishness" is will be an important theme of the story. (Tell me I'm right!!!)

    <3 GOOD LUCK!!!! <3

  2. I would definitely read further to see where this is going. Sounds a little "Monkey's Paw"-ish. Not a fan of the title, though.

  3. I want to hear every word, too!

    I also really like the voice here, and the premise you've set up in the first couple of paragraphs is very intriguing.

    I loved the phrase "plum foolishness" in the first sentence, but I thought that when it was repeated in the dialogue that took away some of the freshness. I don't mind having the mother say that it's foolishness and the aunt immediately say that it's not, but I don't think that the mother needs to repeat the word twice or say "plum foolishness" in the dialogue. If she doesn't use that exact phrase, then we can wonder after the first sentence whether it's her phrase or the narrator's...and since it's so voicey, I think I'd rather it be the narrator's, if that makes sense.

    Anyway, I'd love to read on and wish you the best of luck with this!

  4. I have to agree with Tara on the repeated use of plum foolish. And while I really like the exchange (especially what the aunt says)and all the details it gives us about these characrters. I'm not sure I see what it has to do with Robby because he's not the cousin, or is he? (I thought Ajax was the cousin.)

  5. I agree with the repetition of plum foolishness being a bit much, maybe try foolishness in the 1st sentence and add plum in the dialogue. Good work!!

  6. Ok, I noticed plum foolishness being used twice, so there is either something to the complaints that it weakens the phrase - or else we're all just too wired to look for stuff like that when critiquing! ;-)

    On the other hand, I actually liked the way it was done. It worked with the voice of the MC and at that age, kids are going to mimic their parents and try to use their language. So, for me, it worked.

    I really like the voice and would love to read on to find where this is going!

  7. I definitely get the voice of historical from this. Yay go you!! You might want to watch the repetition of words though.

  8. I just adore this. VOICE VOICE VOICE. Sounds like a great story - good luck!!

  9. I like the way you give us a sense of place/time with the language. The description of the two women firmly places images in our minds. Can you tighten up the description a little? Maybe start with the phone ringing to make us wondering who is calling? (the wonderful 'what if?')

    Nice job- tell me more.

  10. Okay, great voice. I’m skeptical that it will work with science fiction though. But, I could be wrong.

    There is a bit of confusion for me over who has the dog tags, Ella Mae or Aunt Mildred. The first sentence makes it sound like the narrator has them but the second sentence points to Aunt Mildred.

    Despite a couple bumps. Great beginning.