Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Secret Agent #30

TITLE: If You Squint Really Hard
GENRE: MG Contemporary

We sat in the front pew, Mr. Bailey’s casket so close, I could almost hear him breathing. If he were alive, that is. The dress Mama had made me wear was itching the heck out of my armpits and cutting off all blood flow to my upper body. Apparently wearing a dress on Sunday wasn’t enough, I had to wear one to the funeral too. It was “out of respect,” Mama said. But what about the respect for my arms? That’s what I wanted to know. And not only a dress, but lace? It was like she didn’t know me at all.

“Mama,” I leaned over, “are my arms turning blue?” I said, wriggling and tugging at my sleeves.

She narrowed her eyes and put her finger up to her lips. “Shhh!”

I shuffled in my seat, and peeled my sweaty legs away from the shiny, wooden bench with a slurping noise. Slurp. Slurp. Slurp. Penny glared and Mama shushed me again.

“The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away,” the Pastor said from the pulpit. The church filled with sniffles, and someone blew their nose so hard, for a second I thought a trumpet was playing a rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In. Why was everyone so sad? John Bailey was the oldest man I’d ever laid eyes on. Sure, he was nice and all. He was that guy who gave out root beer barrels to the kids around town. But he was old. Really, really old.


  1. Great voice here!!! Your main character and her reactions to the funeral definitely strike me as true to how a kid would think and act in these circumstances - squirming around, hating her fancy dress, etc. I like your use of sounds like "slurp" and the person blowing their nose. My only question is, given that you're starting with this scene, how will the death of John Bailey affect the main character? I don't think that necessarily needs to be answered on page one, but I expect that I will get a sense of this by the end of the first chapter, even if your MC doesn't.

  2. Wow! Love the voice. Age appropriate feelings and reactions. I did want to know her name right away. Perhaps Mama could say her name when she shushes her? I want a tiny little hint of the conflict to come, but other than that, this was fantastic. Good luck!

  3. What if you rewrote the open to: We sat in the front pew, so close to Mr. Bailey that I could almost hear him breathing. Except that he was dead in a casket. That gives us a little surprise right away.

    Also, re: "Apparently wearing a dress on Sunday wasn’t enough, I had to wear one to the funeral too." Why did she have to wear a dress on Sunday? Was that for church or something else? You've made me wonder about something that I assume is irrelevant. How about "I just wore a dress to church on Sunday. It didn't seem fair that I had to wear one again on Tuesday."

    I like the voice and I'm curious about where this might go.

  4. I'm a sucker for great MG, and I love your voice in this. Her misery is so well conveyed that I can almost feel her legs peeling off that sticky pew!

    I agree that the beginning sentence could use some work. Perhaps even something as simple as "even though anyone could tell just by looking at him that he was dead, dead, dead."

    Also, I certainly hope this unfortunate old man has a significant part in the upcoming story. Otherwise you've teased me with something of interest with no meat behind it.

    I would definitely keep reading this.

  5. I don`t know how old your MC is, but she seems very cold hearted and self absorbed. I mean, maybe she is supposed to be and is about to learn some lessons about compassion. But right now I am hoping Penny and Mama teach her some empathy lol.

  6. I really like this! You are missing a HAD in this line: "'out of respect,' Mama HAD said".

    I also don't understand how she's in the front pew if she barely knows the man.

    Otherwise, I think it's great!

    Good luck!

  7. This is a promising start. I am curious how this scene will tie to the rest of the story with the main character not knowing John Bailey that well, but I can assume right now that it is integral. One small thing--I appreciated that the comparison of someone blowing their nose to sounding like a trumpet playing a rendition of When the Saints go Marching In is meant to be funny, but it also seems unlikely that anyone would mistake the two and it threw me out of the scene. I enjoyed the voice though and see promise here.

  8. Love the voice here! She sounds and acts just like a kid. The only things I'd question are why she's at the front when she doesn't seem to know the deceased that well (maybe he's a relative of her mother's or something?) and the description of the nose blowing. I get what you're going for there, but it seems a little over the top. Even for a kid.