Wednesday, March 7, 2018

March Secret Agent Contest #24

TITLE: Ferry to Brenton
GENRE: Adult Upmarket contemporary

James wasn’t actually reading the newspaper—he was hiding behind it. Hiding from the blinding reflection of May sun on a glassy harbor. Hiding from the rock-hard bagel on the round table in front of him. Hiding most of all from that empty ferry dock.

If only the flimsy paper could block out sound as well. His stranded commuters perched at three tables against the Brenton Bean’s outside railing, and their worries hammered against his hangover like a seagull feeding frenzy.

“Think the ferry'll get here like the mayor said?”

“Boss is gonna kill me.” 

"I've gotta get off this island, or I'll…”

James should've delivered them to Newport just over two hours ago. Right now he should be steaming back to Brenton Island again, sunlit spray flying and diesels rumbling, already tasting his daily bagel-and-coffee reward. But yesterday he'd been fired. So instead of clutching a wooden wheel, he was crushing limp newsprint.

Every time he checked the empty dock, someone would try to catch his eye. The regulars over at the big table knew to leave him alone; even Mayor Frank hadn’t tried to strike up a conversation this morning. The others, who’d all deserted their Wednesday morning routines to drift down here in search of news, speculated about him in voices pitched to carry. What had really happened to James yesterday afternoon? Could the ferry even run without Captain James? Each time he heard his name, the scar on his left temple throbbed.

Though that could be last night’s beers.


  1. This is intriguing. I want to know why James is hanging around the dock when he's been fired and being there seems to make him miserable. Don't they have a substitute who could run the ferry in his place? And of course, why did he get fired? Hopefully those questions will be answered within the next few pages. So far it seems like you're keeping the scene moving without getting bogged down too much in exposition. And "hammered against his hangover" is some nice alliteration. Good luck!

  2. I like this beginning. Great story questions that need to be answered, coupled with strong writing. I almost skipped this one, though, because of the unprepossessing title... and I live part time on an island accessible only by ferry! Other than that, I want to learn more, keep reading.

  3. I, too, have the exact same questions as the other commenters. The biggest one being why James is hanging around the docks after being fired. I'm intrigued. And he's hungover as well, which makes it all the more difficult for James to be down there, waiting like the rest of them. And for what exactly?

    Yes, I'd read more!

  4. My interest is piqued with this opening. Sets up a bit of intrigue that demands answers and solutions. James, at once, sounds guilty of something but also perhaps a victim of some circumstance. I would read more, as well.

  5. Strong opening. I like the contrast with the locals who know to leave him alone and the oblivious who are waiting for the boat. And I'm interested to learn why he got fired, and if that was before or after his drinking started.
    I do wonder about the motivation for James, in the wake of a hangover, to show up. Perhaps he's curious. Perhaps he thinks he's irreplaceable and he wants to give someone (the mayor?) a chance to apologize? Perhaps that's clear on the next page. Good luck.

  6. Really strong opening and lots of cool questions for the reader to keep turning pages. I found myself wondering why James would still be hanging around - was it a one-man protest of sorts? If I had just been fired, I wouldn’t want to stand back and take any ire from disappointed customers if a larger company was to blame. Plus, knowing this might give us a another intriguing tad-bit about James.

  7. Thanks all for the great feedback. James can't stay away, because he would hate hearing second hand about the ferry coming in even more than being there... and he doesn't believe it really can run without him. We find out he's wrong about that on the third page!