Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Talking Heads #7

TITLE: Treasures of Thomas Cove
GENRE: Middle Grade contemporary fiction

Shayne has a rare moment with the cantankerous lobster boat captain she secretly calls "Cranky."

Cranky and I lean against the lobster tank he keeps on-deck, already halfway full with caught crustaceans.

“Have you been a lobsterman your whole life?” I ask.

He scratches the black and gray stubble on his chin. “Pretty much. I tried landscaping for a little while, and one summer I drove a cement truck. But my father was a fisherman, and his father before that. So eventually, I settled in to the family trade.” He cocks an ear to listen to the marine radio, full of chatter. “Coast Guard’s busy today.”

“Why? What’s happening?” Sea breezes fill my nostrils with a fresh, clean smell.

“Sounds like someone ran his boat aground into a sandbar.”

I snort. “What an amateur.”

He doesn’t laugh along with me. “Boating’s not easy out here, that’s for sure. You’ve got to navigate around hundreds of buoys; you have to remember to check the tides, and then there’s the weather. Fog can appear and disappear quicker than a magic act.”

Just hearing the word fog makes my insides churn.

“If you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s easy to get into trouble,” he says.

“My grandpa had an accident in the fog,” I say softly. “A fatal one.”

Cranky looks at me sideways.

“I don’t know all the details,” I continue, “but I do know another boat collided with his, and it knocked him over the stern. He fell into the water and hit his head on a rock. It was just a freak accident. Could have happened to anybody. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.”

“I know about accidents, believe me.” He grips the handrail and gazes out to the horizon.

“The fire?” I ask in a small voice.

Cranky turns to me and frowns, “Is that your business?”

“No, sir,” I say, bowing my head.

My Way rises and dips over gentle swells. I widen my stance to keep my balance.

“The investigators ruled it as accidental, said the fire started from faulty wiring on a porch light,” he says without warning. “I was out at the time it started, and when I came home the whole thing was up in flames. When I ran in to see what I could salvage – ”

With wide eyes I ask, “You ran into a burning house?”

He shrugs. “Maybe not my smartest move, but there was this thing I had to try to save. Something that belonged to my late wife that she cherished.”


  1. There is something about this dialogue that keeps me hooked - it has a good rhythm and the sea adds to that. The boat captain looks like a character that can hold a lot of weight within this story: it is a character with experience and balance. A good character for any short story.
    The dialogue is fluent and has a good flow to it.
    It is perhaps too long - but this depends on the actual length of the original text where it was extracted from.
    My remark: I would replace "A fatal one" with something else. Perhaps "He is gone now" or something similar. The word "fatal" somehow breaks the harmony of the phrase.

  2. This interchange made me want to read the story. I connected with both of them in this conversation. They revealed some backstory without a long exposition.

    I would recommend replacing caught crustacean with something else crustacean, "wriggling, writhing?" I'm not sure but caught crustacean read awkwardly to me.
    You might also want to delay the investigators part of the conversation about the fire to a later time. It almost makes him sound guilty. I don't know, just my two cents. Overall though, interesting. Good job

  3. I enjoyed this. I thought it was a tender scene, and I like both characters. The dialog is mostly just enough. A couple of nits:

    The alliteration of caught crustaceans jarred me.

    I'm iffy about "someone ran his boat aground into a sandbar." To me--a person with absolutely no nautical knowledge--it feels like it should be either "ran is boat aground," or "ran his boat into a sandbar." If I an wrong, then ignore me.

    I feel like maybe both of their explanations of their respective accidents are a tad wordy, like they're explaining to the audience. His especially. Maybe he really is thinking this, but I find it odd that he'd explain what the investigators found instead of just saying it was a short in the porch light. But maybe he feels guilty, or he's trying to emphasize his innocence.

  4. A nice moment for the two characters to get to know each other better and to reveal some information to the reader.

    Since she calls him “Cranky,” I would love to get a better handle on what Shayne is thinking here. He doesn’t seem that cantankerous in this short bit. Do Cranky’s comments fit with what Shayne already thinks of him or are they unexpected?

    I wonder if there’s some way to make Cranky’s dialogue more unique. He’s a ship’s captain and maybe the way he talks could reflect that in some way. I feel like it could be a little more colorful or, you know, salty.

    Good luck!