Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Drop the Needle #5

TITLE: Windswept
GENRE: Adult Commercial Historical Fiction

Hari, a sweeper at a pesticide factory in India, spots an unusual leak in the giant tank room. Worried, he looks for a supervisor, finally finding one on tea break in a nearby building. The supervisor dismisses Haris complaint as trivial, and Hari returns to the factory floor, taking his fears to his favorite god.

Hari pulled a garland of marigolds from his sack, placing it on the altar alongside other workers' offerings to Ganesh: a package of biscuits, a box of Indian sweets, three oranges, and a rubber condom in its familiar Drake Chemical plastic wrapper.

"You think flowers will help?" a man said in Urdu-accented Hindi, his voice as cutting as an industrial knife. "Because you give a gift, you think this god of yours will keep you from getting fired?"

Hari jumped up and looked at the man. He wore white coveralls, company-issued work boots, and an embroidered skullcap. Nobody wore helmets any longer. First the Sikhs with their large orange turbans were granted relief, now all workers could do as they pleased. When the American bosses left the factory six months ago, the rules went with them. Even Hari had grown lax; not only had he given up his helmet, but he wore sandals on this feet.

"This place has gone to shit," the Muslim said as he lit his bidi and flicked the match on the floor. Without giving Hari a chance to respond, the man stomped away, the sound of his heavy boots disrupting the quiet that had returned after the boom ten minutes ago. The man was right; everything had changed since the factory stopped manufacturing the white powder. Medicine for plants; medicine that did nothing if the rain refused to fall.


  1. Oh, this is so well written. With a few words, you have given us a good sense of the plot and the tension. You call this historical fiction, but it doesn't seem to have been set in the too distant past. What year is this?

  2. Thanks, Lanette. This is Adult Commercial. Adult Commercial Historical Fiction came up automatically in the genre box and after 3 unsuccessful attempts to edit, I gave up. The year is 1984.

  3. I agree that this is very well done. It creates a vivid sense of the place and the situation, and it feels very authentic. And I like the poetic feel of the phrase in the last line, "if the rain refused to fall."

    The variety of terms used for genres sometimes seems a bit overwhelming to me anyway, but at least with a book like this I imagine you can query any agent who says they accept 'commercial', 'mainstream', or 'general fiction.' (:

  4. Oops! That last comment was mine; I must have hit the wrong thing because it posted before I'd entered my name, but it looks like there isn't any way to edit our comments here...

  5. Nice work. Hari and the details of his offering draw me in immediately. This is beautifully done: his voice as cutting as an industrial knife. You've also done a good job of pointing out the cultural differences in India. My only problem was the last line, which I had to read twice to get it. Perhaps it's because of the semicolon.

  6. This is interesting and well-written. I thought the inclusion of the setting and culture was done enough to give a sense of where this story takes places but not enough to overwhelm it.

    The only thing I would question would be, would the narrator really think of them as Indian sweets. Indian is the only word that sticks out, as maybe out of place. Wouldn't the narrator know what kind of sweets they are, rather than a general Indian sweets.