Wednesday, November 4, 2009

9 Secret Agent


Sorrow crouches quietly
at the heart's door,
awaiting the perfect moment to spring.

~Lawful Atwood III, in the first year of the captivity

The lantern, dangling from Repentance Atwater's upstretched hand, cast a pool of yellow light around the village midwife, as she stooped beside Joy Springside's sleeping mat. The rest of the cave lay in darkness.

"Push, now, Joy!" the midwife commanded.

Joy, her face scrunched with the effort, pushed.

The baby came, finally giving up the fight and sliding out, all purple-skinned and slick with blood, and screaming his protest at the world.

Screaming his protest.

A boy.

Lantern light splashed up and down the walls as Repentance's hand shook. A boy! It wasn't fair.

Repentance grimaced, as the babe's squalling bounced off hard stone walls and bruised her raw nerves. Why had she agreed to help the midwife? Beneficence Woodhouse usually held the lantern, but she had taken ill. Now half the village would whisper that Repentance had cursed the birthing and the other half would nod their fog-filled heads in agreement.

She risked a glance at the exhausted new mother.

Joy lay on her sweat-soaked mat, her eyes big and questioning, anxious to know what the hours of her long labor had produced.

Sorrow and regret. That's what.

"Bring the lantern over this way, child," the midwife said. "This one's as slippery as a catfish and twice as heavy."

Repentance obeyed, grateful to have a reason to turn away before Joy read the truth in her face.


  1. Hooked.

    Liked the names, liked the situation, liked the scene. Liked the little detail of the quote from Lawful Atwood and the fact that this must be Repentance’s father.
    Would have liked to see the afterbirth come out. Just being picky.

  2. Nice opening quote and great names. I was a little grossed out by the birthing descriptions. Could just be me though.

    Why is "screaming his protest" repeated?

    I think you do a good job of setting up the situation and the tension.

    Good luck!


  3. The cadence is very well done. It flows well. The set up is complete, as you provide description of the lighting, the cast of characters & their roles (incl. a hint at their personalities), a general idea of the time in which the story takes place. You've provided just enough information to give off a certain level of suspense. I know italicizing can sometimes be frowned on, but I'd italicize "his" in the independent sentence "Screaming his protest". This is a nod to the fact that he won't be the only one screaming a protest to his birth. Good action words and description "her face scrunched with the effort"... I enjoyed this a lot.

  4. You had me at "A boy! It wasn't fair." Hooked by the idea of a society that thinks having a male baby = sorrow and regret.

    Like your pacing of the scene and am intrigued by the MC.

    I also question the repeated line "Screaming his protest." so I hope you explain that soon.

    Would read on.

  5. Hooked! I've never seen a title for this, but when I saw The Button Girl, I immediately thought of Repentance.

    The only thing I'd suggest is to just add a line between 'Joy pushed' and 'the baby gave up the fight' pargs, only because we saw no fight. A phrase or sentence that implies that would add an extra needed beat I think.

    Great voice, excellent mood and scene setting. You set it up really well!

  6. Hooked! I want to know more about this society in which a boy baby is not just non-optimal but, it appears, borderline tragic. With a birthing cave (?) and lanterns and more-Puritan-than-the-Puritans names.

    I like the writing style, and Repentance, and the doling out of information bit by bit -- very well done. The description is nicely vivid (though I'm not sure I buy that, given the choice, anyone would try to get through the pushing stage lying on her back -- but maybe she doesn't lie down until after? I can't tell -- and I second the request for the afterbirth).

  7. Love it. Consider me hooked.

  8. Hooked! Nice opening!

    Happy Writing,
    A. McElfresh

  9. I liked this a lot. I love that quote! And I liked the repetition of "screaming his protest" though I'm not sure why. My favorite line: "Now half the village would whisper that Repentance had cursed the birthing and the other half would nod their fog-filled heads in agreement."

    The one thing that stuck out at me is the line where she says, "Why had she agreed to help the midwife" - the sentence after that almost seems to answer that question.

    Good luck. I'm hooked.

  10. Hooked! <-- And the exclamation point means really, really hooked:) Love the idea of a male child being bad luck...or cursed somehow. If I were an agent, I would be really curious to see where this one is going.

  11. Doesn't strike me quite as YA, but I would read on. I love the idea of a boy NOT being what every mother should wish for. At this point I kind of hope that we get to see more of him, or some other boy, but I'm guessing that Repentance will be the MC. Still I'm curious, and that's a good thing.

  12. I liked this - the poem to open, the sorrow of having a boy, the hints you give about Repentence and her world. I would definitely read on.

    Well done.

  13. I'm intrigued. I want to know why her having a boy is a bad thing. I'd keep reading.

  14. I don't really know why, but I love the title.

    Also like the quote at the beginning.

    For me, you are right on the verge of having too many characters and names put out there in such a short space. I kept up, but if I had give any more thought to it, I probably would have given up.

    Only one other thing pulled me out of the story a little, and maybe it's just me, but the image of light splashing up and down the walls didn't match with the verb shook. To me the shaking of her hand would produce a different effect than splashing. Maybe 'light trembled' or something like that. Tiny thing, I know.

    Overall I liked this and would keep reading at least a while longer.

  15. Thanks for all the comments!

    The "his" in the repeated line "Screaming his protest," was supposed to be italicized. The format must have gotten lost in the transmission.

    I'm posting anonymously because I'm not sure if we are supposed to reveal our identities or not.

  16. Loved it! I want to know more about this society! I also really liked the characters' name.