Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August Secret Agent Contest #23

TITLE: We Happy Few
GENRE: Adult Fiction

It had been 243 days since the Di Lorenzano family arrived in New York. Though now they were the Dilore family. Giulietta acted as if the officials at Ellis Island had done them a favor. “Our old name was too difficult to pronounce in English. This way we'll fit right in.”

Filomena knew that wasn't possible. Even if they didn't say a word, they would be singled out as stranieri -- foreigners. It was more than just their ratty suitcases or kerchiefs that gave them away. The Americans seemed to have a bright, relaxed look about them borne from optimism and bravado. None of the people who'd traveled on the ship could even imitate it with any legitimacy, least of all Filomena's father, Giuseppe. His hooded eyes and down-turned mouth advertised him as a cynic, and therefore an outsider.

They slept on the floor in a Lower Manhattan tenement unit rented through Giuseppe's elaborate hand gestures and a peek at a sterling fork in his jacket pocket. When Filomena turned in her sleep, the floorboards protested loudly. On the nights she lay awake listening to roaches scurrying in and out of the gaps between the planks, she would open her suitcase ever so slightly and fill her lungs. She could still smell the salty-sweet air from Palmi embedded in the fibers of her dresses. She knew the scent wouldn't last much longer competing with rotting garbage from the alley just outside the window.


  1. I like this one. Even without telling us much about the three characters, we get a good idea of their attitudes toward life and the era you're evoking. I especially love the sentence about Filomena trying to smell home in her luggage.

  2. I liked the last sentence too. Very nice imagery. I don't know how old the main character is, but do get a sense of who the characters are and who they aren't. I'd read on.

  3. You have done a wonderful job setting up the scene, characters, and potential plot in such a short snippet. I have a very clear idea of what's going on in this page, and you did it through show and careful word choices.

  4. i like this story idea. i think you should categorize it as "historical fiction," however, not just adult fiction. nice imagery.

  5. Wow, I would totally read on. The sensory details are wonderful, and I love the "hand gestures" sentence. Good luck!

  6. Agree this is historical fiction, a hot ticket these days, so why not capitalize.

    Aren't all who pass through Ellis Island foreigners?

    hooded eyes is too much used; maybe choose another?

    Seems too much telling; would like more description of why they went to America, how they got the tenement, how they spoke to each other, e.g.

  7. I agree with the others that this is good scene setting, etc.

    I am confused about the sterling fork in his pocket.

    It starts with "It had been 243 days since ..." The story goes back 243 days in the second paragraph, but I'm not sure if the last para is still in backstory. If it is maybe start with "They had" or "At first they ..."

  8. Really nice writing and great descriptions, but it's all back story and I wanted to know what was happening now. Where is she now? How do they live now? How has 243 days in Manhattan changed them?

    It seems you're working your way up toward the beginning of the story instead of starting there. I'm sure you know where the story you want to tell really begins. Perhaps start there and get the backstory in later.

  9. Hmmm. I crave a scene over all this narrative summary. The writing is nice, but it's quite a chunky download of info, and that's hard to pull-off so early in a piece, before we know who's telling the story and care about his/her point of view. Also, a lot of characters listed right here, enough to make me reread a few times to make sure I knew who was who. Forcing that sort of review, so early, isn't the best. I do like the predicament, but desire to know how this immigration story will distinguish itself. I gotta find out pretty soon, perhaps in the next 250 words, or it's going to lose me.