Monday, October 17, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages October Workshop - Entry #3, Rev 2

Name: Steph Schmidt
Genre:Young Adult, Contemporary

Having bangs is one of the lesser known impossibilities in golf. Okay maybe not for everyone else. My bangs happened to single me out to Becca, the team bully. At Wednesday summer golf practice, she noticed the bangs before I could hide them under the faded blue hat in the clubhouse locker room. Becca’s smirk promised not just the rainy weather outside would make the next four hours painful.

The golf course we, the Point Lobos High School co-ed golf team, use for practice had been built on a drained marsh back in the 1920’s.
Meaning if a sunny day gets interrupted by light rain it makes walking across the grass course awful. Swampy water hangs in the air to the point you can taste it because the course is too old to have a better design. This must be what people on the east coast call humidity. I could feel the back of my shirt getting sweaty under my light rain jacket as I pulled my golf bag behind me. Because to remain an amateur, the equivalent of a junior professional golfer, I’m banned from riding in golf carts. The whole team is banned. This sport loves to take care of its amateurs!

We looked like retarded ducklings following a few feet back from Coach leading the way to the first hole in his precious golf cart. After he parked Coach unzipped the plastic rain shield—our signal for everyone to huddle around as best we could without poking a hole into someone else’s umbrella. “This is what conditions will be at our next tournament so expect the ball to not go as far and roll less. I don't need to remind everyone there is a ten thousand dollar scholarship on the line.”

Ten thousand dollars could go a long way toward college, if like me, there was no college fund at the end of your rainbow. As if that thought wasn’t happy enough Becca closed her umbrella and ducked under mine, forcing us share the limited space with both our golf carts.

“You think that's going all to one person, don't you?” She whispered as Coach blabbed on about the problems rain could cause. I resisted tightening my grip on the handle of my umbrella. Becca would stop taunting me if I didn’t let her see it getting to me. “Yeah, why else would they bother offering that much?" I said.

“The money is going to the school to help broke athletes pay their fees. Only morons forget prizes can't be over seven-hundred-fifty-dollars.” Coach yelled Becca’s name for her to tee off first. Becca paused her club in hand, “Then again only you, Ace, would get bangs that make your face look fat.”

I hate that nickname! Rain drops formed little pearls of water on Becca’s jacket, like little black scales. Becca would make a good
dragon: bad tempered and spouting off fiery darts of hate. Too bad Coach had zipped up the plastic rain shield in his golf cart. He wouldn’t be able to hear a thing any of us said. The last few practices before a tournament always mimicked an actual one. Coaches aren’t allowed to talk to players on the course until a tournament is over. Secretly I think Coach does this so he can mess around on his phone and not watch how bad the team sucks.

I know Coach purposely set Becca to tee first so I could get use to taunting by other players. Upsets like me, who have recently started playing well, piss off seasoned players, i.e. Becca who had been golfing since she was four. I hate it when Becca is right. Not about my face, the prize money. Of course this much money would go to the school.

Or maybe I didn’t have to go back to agonizing over academic scholarship applications. What would Becca know? She’s never had to write the retarded essays that go into fee-waiver applications. What more do those people want to hear, I’m poor please take pity on me? I wiggled my toes to stop the sudden urge to hold my breath. My fail proof trick to stop any nerves at big golf tournament, or stop the cycle of worrying. Hearing my parents fight about how to afford golf related fees makes having this talent suck. Especially when you’re not rich.

Why couldn’t Coach be like the other sports team’s coaches? Someone to talk me down from my nerves, make standing next to that stupid little white ball feel less isolating. Amateurs have to do everything alone, out of their own pocket for the “fun” of it. Golf is so not fun the second before teeing off under all this pressure!

The buzzing in my ears quieted down watching Becca’s ball land in the puddle at the bottom of a sand trap. I took out my club, forced a deep breath before I walked out from under my umbrella. I can make this shot in my sleep, I reminded myself pushing the neon green tee into the wet grass then added my ball on top. Water squished out from my golf shoes to form a little pool around the tee, like a coconut tree on a sandbar out in the middle of the ocean. It’d be nice to play somewhere tropical. I let that thought relax my hands and eased the club back to start my swing.

The ping that should have come from my driver making contact with the ball happened too early. Mid back swing something hit my driver, and sent the hilt into my hand. In this rain it should have been opposite.
My driver left my hand as it stopped working.

“Seriously? What did Coach say about towels-” I choked up. My right hand couldn't pick up the club off the ground. It wasn’t because the grip sat in a puddle of water. My hand would not close. Worse, I couldn’t feel my pinky finger anymore. At least not without making multi-color fireworks explode in my eyes. My driver slipped a second time splashing muddy water on the formerly pristine white golf ball.

I started to take really deep breathes. As I pulled off the glove I mentally chanted don’t panic, don’t panic. Why wasn’t the toe wiggling working anymore? I’d left my hand hovering in the air, shaking and swelling. Coach’s dry shoes appeared under my hand.

“Coach, I can’t grip.” Why did everyone else have to hear me? The trembling in my hand did not just jump into my voice. My nails dug themselves into my good hand’s palm hard enough to leave half-moon imprints. Anything to stave off what the warmness in my eyes promised.
I might be hurt but I would not cry in front of Becca. Or the team.

“What did you do?” He threw my glove at the plastic panel of the golf cart. Great, Coach had been doing something on his phone again instead of watching us. “Get-get in the cart! Christ almighty there’s the season!”

If anyone was allowed to be freaking out right now Coach, it really ought to have been me. I haven’t heard Coach cuss this much since...ever. Did my hand, being in incredible pain and weirdo swelling, mean that I could cuss too? This freak accident could mean I’d never play golf again. My chance at going to college gone. Best way to end the summer!

“Practice canceled,” Coach thundered. He fought with the umbrella on my bag so he could load it onto the backseat of the cart. “Dry off, get your forms in order, and meet for films during lunch tomorrow. I don’t care if it’s the first day of class!”

Think anyone told me get well? Nope. My so called teammates had turned back to the clubhouse in clusters under their over-sized umbrellas.
Laughing! I’m alone in the humid golf cart watching the water droplets race each other down the panels. This is why I hate playing on this team. It’s not really a team. No one likes anyone else.

There’s one other problem with this scenario, aside from the fact Coach should stop saying there’s the season under his breath every few minutes driving the cart back to the clubhouse. Becca can carry the team fine. The bigger problem other than my hand and the season, is both my parents are out of the country. Mom’s at some work thing for two weeks (she promised, three at the most) in Spain. Dad’s in Australia to bail out his PhD candidates on an archeology dig. I’m seventeen. I’ve no idea how ER works. I don’t know if my parents’
insurance can afford whatever is now wrong with my hand.

I’m kinda the one who ought to be freaking out! But I’m not freaking out. The toe wiggling is isn’t working. Maybe my hand is really messed up and I’m in shock. In this weird anti-feeling state all I can think is how Mom will get really nervous when she finds out how much this will cost. Dad will have to teach extra classes at the junior college so we can afford it. Instead of freaking out about my hand, I’m one word away from not resisting the tears.

After the world’s longest trip back to the clubhouse, unlike the others drying off, I stood next to Coach’s dated luxury car. He was busy chucking spare hand towels all over the slick black leather seat on the passenger side so that I wouldn’t ruin anything. I stared at the ducks enjoying the rain as they waddled across the green. Okay I wasn’t really paying attention to the ducks I was trying to ignore the extra water on my face that wasn’t from the rain. Failing at it too.

“We’ll skip getting ice from the club house so I can get you to the ER sooner.” Coach has the nerve to smile at me. He only smiles when he lies to parents about their kid’s talent. “Stuff like this usually means one shot then you’ll be back to golfing on Friday.” A lump of heavy guilt is turning in my stomach. I let this happen somehow. No way is whatever wrong going to be magically healed in three days. I ruined everything about my future. No college will touch an athlete with an injury.

I sorta wish there had been time to grab my bag from the truck. The clubs would be fine wet. I really needed some music to take my mind off the swelling around my palm slowly matching my black and purple nail polish hack job. The talk station on the radio looped traffic reports that I could barely hear over the pounding in my ears. Music would have kept me from worrying about how much the ER would cost and who would drive my car back to my house. Not anyone on the team, I had a nifty clutch. Oh and how about my good luck watch from the clubhouse locker? I needed it for the first day of school tomorrow. And my street shoes. These bangs are screwing up my entire year and making my face look fat.

Coach normally acted gruff yet I couldn’t believe how cold he acted on the trip to the ER. After that lie to my face he didn’t say much. The only noise from him at first was his hand as it tapped the wheel at red lights. “You’re not feeling light headed right?”
“No.”
“Good, let’s avoid fainting today if you can manage.” Coach smiled again.
“Yeah.”
“And nausea, speak up if you feel like upchucking from the pain.”

Nothing would have made me happier than to throw up in his precious car. I didn’t rather I couldn’t. Instead I let my anger block out the constant ache whenever I tried to grip out of reflex. Did Coach honestly think I’d decided this morning I wanted to be done with golf?
I half expected him to pull up to the ER doors and tell me to get out. What a great blessing Coach bestowed on me instead. He actually walked with me in to the ER lobby!

The cleats under my golf shoes clicked against the tile floor and left a muddy trail of circles behind us. I sat down in one of the chairs in the middle of the deserted lobby. Why couldn’t one of my parents stayed home for once? I would have given up all the trophies in the world for a hug right now instead of sniffling because I couldn’t stop crying.

“Ace, fill out the paperwork while I find your emergency contact stuff.” Coach jabbed the clipboard in my lap and stalked out. No cellphone policy in the lobby. He’s lucky I’m a lefty or I’d have dropped the cheap blue pen just like I did my iron.

I twisted to look over my shoulder and make sure he didn’t ditch me once he was back outside the electric doors under the overhang. He leaned over something in the trunk and pulled out the blue form we had to fill out at the beginning of the summer. I should have told him about Spain and Australia. Shoulda, coulda, woulda had Coach been less of a jerk. Instead I’d let him enjoy the international charges on his phone bill.

Right now I really really wish I had my noise canceling earbuds to drown out the baby shrieking at its Mom three seats down. The hard plastic chair sucked out any heat I had left in my wet clothes. I tucked my hat under my arm feeling self-conscious about having my head covered inside. A puddle under my feet reflected the fluorescent light that threatened to go out after each flicker.

I wasted time filling out the obvious boxes on the form for age, weight, symptoms and what I was doing when the injury happened. Then I stopped. Did I really had to put my full legal name on the lines First Name, Middle Initial, Last Name? Neither of my parents will fess up whose genius idea it was to name me Abigail. I, in retaliation, refuse to own up to my full name and always go by Abby.

“Miss, may I have the clipboard? You’re next.” My quest to unravel the mysteries of the academic universe staring at the clipboard found itself interrupted. The Doctor-Nurse-Dude (I had no idea if the guy was a doctor or a nurse) escorted me past the counter to a small examination room where, after making me sit on the table covered with paper, he began to look at my hand. My supposed emergency-emergency contact (because the regular emergency contact would have meant my
parents) walked in with Coach: Mrs. Perry, my eccentric neighbor of fourteen years.

“Ow!” I jerked my hand when Doctor-Nurse-Dude jabbed his thumb into the space between my thumb and index finger.

“I’m like to run some x-rays to get a better idea what your daughter has done to her wrist.” Doctor Nurse Dude looked awkwardly at Mrs.
Perry. For the record, there is no way based on looks Doctor-Nurse-Dude should have assumed we were related just because we’re both blonds. I have brown eyes she has these weird gray ones.
But I’d be uncomfortable too if I was being stared down with bored disdain from a lady in a houndstooth suit, three inch heels and katana earrings. This was as normal as you could get from Mrs. Perry.

“Please splint the wrist for now.” Mrs. Perry said moving her purse strap to her other arm. “Thank you, Coach Mansfield, for the phone call.” What was Mrs. Perry thinking? I needed way more than a splint if Doctor-Nurse-Dude wanted to run more tests! After I signed a bunch of forms stating I was leaving against medical advice my hope faded that Coach had given Mrs. Perry my stuff as we headed out of the ER to her overly expensive sports car.

“Uh, did you get my stuff from Coach?” I stared at the trunk thinking probably not. The trunk looked tiny.

“As if I’m going to have some third rate resident waste my time.” Mrs.
Perry’s earrings looked dangerously close to cutting her chin if she kept shaking her head. Except they’re probably not sharp. That’d be cool but stupid. Wait, that is exactly something Mrs. Perry would do.

“Mrs. Perry, my wrist still hurts. And did you happen to get my gear from Coach?”

“We’re going to a specialist. Do you know the rates that misdiagnosis and malpractice lawsuits from sleep deprived residents incur?”

6 comments:

  1. Hi Steph,

    It's interesting to see how you're changing this with each revision, but right now, I feel like I had a better image of what was happening from revision #2. Thoughts follow.

    • I think your first line is a good hook, but the bangs are having less and less to do with the story. At first, they were a real distraction to her. Now, they don't seem as important. Are you going to leave them in there?

    • There were places where the wording felt awkward. (Example "Becca’s smirk promised not just the rainy weather outside would make the next four hours painful.") I stumbled over these spots and had to go back and reread them. Maybe read it aloud to help find places like this.

    • Felt like there was a decrease of voice, possibly because there was an increase in backstory and narrative. I think the trick would be to keep more dialogue but make it move the story.(?)

    Anyway, hope it helps. : )

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  2. You need to do two things for sure. The good news is they are fairly straight forward. 1. fix the tense. Decide if you are going past or present and stay there. Your first paragraph for example is past. Your second is present. There are other places where you switch within the paragraph. It's distracting from your good writing. 2. Fix the grammar and structure issues. For example the last line in your first paragraph is awkwardly worded. There are a couple of those. Just read out loud to catch it.

    As to the story, I think you've added too much. I think it's weighing down the story and the forward progression. Get to the injury a little faster and make the trip to the ER shorter. I would also personally advise cutting the bangs (ouch, forgive the pun).

    Still great writing. Good balance of world and voice. So you've got the more difficult aspects!

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  3. Steph, again, I like your story and your MC. I'm feeling sorry for her the whole time with the bangs, being part of a sorry team, the unsympathetic coach, the parents out of town, etc. But like Lisa said, you have added too much to the story, and, to me, it's drowning out Ace's true voice (the one you started with in the 1st round).

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  4. I think reading aloud would help a lot. I know if did for me. It helps with things like missing commas. I felt a little breathless reading through this! I was also a little distracted by the number exclamation points (hypocrite, right?). Trust her voice to carry the drama, not the punctuation. The good news is that you have all the story there. No it's just a matter of refining. Good luck!

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  5. I agree with Beth that I liked the last revision better. It seemed more crisp. Perhaps it is the addition of all the back story. Some of the newer sentences are awkward, as others have pointed out. Reading aloud really does help. I'd save the new details for later in the story.

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  6. Hi Steph,

    Okay, there is a lot here that is great, and I get the sense that you are seeing the scene more clearly. Not everything you see needs to go onto the page though. As Lisa said, your voice and story are here, so it's time to pullall the different elements together, prioritize the camera lens and choose what to show to readers, with the understanding that you can only show them--especially in these critical first 5 pages--what is imperative to the story, to engaging the reader's sympathy, and to setting the mood, tone, theme, and opening image.

    My main problems still have not been resolved. I don't seen how the bangs connect to the accident, and I don't understand the accident that happens to her hand. What did she hit? Was it intentional on Becca's part? And is there a way that the bangs genuinely contributed to it? For me, those are the critical questions, and those are the very ones that I'm not getting answered. Often, when I get myself into that kind of a muddle, writing around a problem trying to patch it with words, it's because there's a disconnect between what CAN happen and what I WANT to have happen. Step back and examine this.

    Also, the scholarship information, the marsh, the humidity, all that feels very real and it is information YOU, the writer, needs to know. However, now it's time to internalize it and put in just the minimal telling details of all of those elements to ground the story without derailing it. For example, IF Becca is the antag, and the central question is somehow related to competition between them, and it's because Becca is feeling threatened by a player who should be no threat, and Ace is feeling resentful because Becca doesn't need the money, then:

    1) The bangs can be a good metaphor if Becca hides behind them -- which means they have to be long bangs. Long bangs can drip water into her face, they can lengthen as they get wet so that they get into her eyes -- but only if she isn't wearing a cap. Could Becca somehow take her cap?

    2) Is Becca somehow related to the physical object that Ace hits? Is she standing too close with the umbrella and it's the shaft of the umbrella that gets in the way? Did she step closer to whisper something intimidating or demeaning? Something about the bangs? Something about real golfers don't wear bangs, maybe? Something about confidence or earning your place or something ironic--anything at all, I'm just trying to get you to thing.

    3) The scholarship stuff rings true, but Ace would know EXACTLY what the money is earmarked for and how it is distributed if she is counting on it to get to college. Having her not know makes us think less of her. Also, the amount of page time spent on the scholarship is out of balance, so it comes across as whiny. If she needs money for college, and needs a golf win to get there, and the team scholarship is a problem because of actual regulations in high school golf, then can you invent some tournament at which only she and Becca will come be competing that is not a school-sponsored event? Something that Becca wins every
    year but Ace is planning to enter?

    Forgive me, I'm not trying to ram solutions down your throat. I'm simply pointing out that it feels like you are trying to cheat the reader because you are imposing a story over real world elements that don't quite fit. If you fix that, I believe everything else will fall in place, and you will also find yourself working less hard to make the writing work.

    And as far as the details and extra information that you've added go, they will still be there. Simply show them in the action. Make those the details that add authenticity and anchor us in Ace's world.

    We've all been here. First chapters can drive you nuts until something suddenly clicks, one piece of the puzzle falls into place, and reveals how everything else must fit together.

    You're almost there. Believe in yourself and your story. You can do it.

    Hugs,

    Martina

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