Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Secret Agent #7

Title: Half a World Away

Genre: Psychological Thriller
February 13, 1991

And just like that, the bus started to pull away.

Maggie Reyes was motionless among the assorted family and girlfriends, all waving and cheering and crying and calling out encouraging words. She kept her eyes locked on the back of the bus, ignoring the billowing cloud of Syracuse’s endless exhaust blowing her way. A few people tried to start a “U-S-A!” chant, which made her stomach flip. She wanted to turn on them and shout, Seriously? The f*** do you think this is? A pep rally? But she wouldn’t, unable to look away from the bus or unlock her jaw. Mercifully, the chant gave way to a messy chorus of goodbyes aimed at the rapidly shrinking bus, as if it was a turn-of-the-century ocean liner and not an Army Reserve unit being sent off for mop-up duty in the Gulf War.

The recurring thought came back to Maggie: They say the fighting is over, but they’re leaving just the same. The day before Valentine’s Day, for Christ’s sake.

She stood dumbly among the crowd of boisterous well-wishers, her eyes off the back of the bus as it grew smaller and smaller. As the bus slipped into downtown traffic, the only words just barely making it to Maggie’s lips were, “Don’t go, Nick. Don’t go.” But there was no stopping the inevitable. A light turned green, the bus made a careful turn towards the highway, and it was gone.


  1. I like the opening and feel for the mc. I wonder if dumbly is the right word. Perhaps speechless would work better? Small nitpick. The last line is perfect for the opening. I would turn the page. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Personally, I'd have preferred to know sooner that it was an Army Reserve Unit; that way I could understand and empathise more quickly with the MC's emotions. My initial assumption was that the MC was in the bus, so that got me confused for a little while, too.

    I also had to figure out: But she wouldn’t, unable to look away from the bus or unlock her jaw.
    I'm not sure if this should be wouldn't - she wouldn't ever say such a thing - or couldn't - because her jaw wouldn't open.

    It might be better set up with the reader knowing that Nick is leaving and understanding the MC's emotions?

    It's a poignant beginning and I'm intrigued to know more.

  3. I agree with Fiona and that if we knew upfront about this being an AR unit I would be right there standing with Maggie, feeling her loss once your brought out the line about Nick. That part tore at my heart but I had to wait too long to understand what your MC was experiencing.

    I would also like to get a glimpse of why this is a psychological thriller. But maybe this comes on the next page or soon there after.

    Your MC's characterization comes through very well.

  4. The comments section shows how every reader see's things different. Which is great and gives the author choices to think about.

    I liked where you put his being in the Army Reserve. To me it gives it added punch. I knew from her description of the crowd that something was hurting her.

    Another small nitpick - where you write - Maggie Reyes was motionless among the assorted family - consider - Maggie Reyes stood motionless among the assorted family. And again, the last line is perfect. Good work!

  5. Okay, I’ve got a sympathetic twinge in my chest from reading this, so you definitely pulled me in. The tension and the stakes are here in spades, but repetitive images and phrasing undercut that tension somewhat. The crowd cheering and receding bus images are echoed throughout, and there are a couple redundancies in Maggie's descriptions too: she’s standing “motionless,” “dumbly,” the “recurring thought” “coming back.” Less is nearly always more in my book so I’d say this scene could be tighter and sparer. I’d have liked to get a glimpse of Nick somewhere in Maggie's mind too. But I’d read on!

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