Monday, September 12, 2011

8 1st 5 Pages Workshop - September Entry #4 Rev 1

Chapter 1

My idiot brother knocked my breakfast off the counter. I grabbed for the bowl, but it slipped through my fingers and shattered on the cement floor. His laugh echoed off the vaulted ceiling. Great. Nothing to eat and an early start to the madness. At least my cereal was sans milk.

“You’re running out of time, Sasha. Only six months left.” He snaked his cane back across the kitchen island and jabbed the salt shaker towards me. “Start now.”

So not playing this curse game. I stuck out my tongue. “Careful or I’ll break your other leg.”

“Ah, but it’s your leg in danger. You need to work on the cure. Trust me. It’s easy.”

“Yeah? It’s easy?” I waved at his cane – evidence of his failure to cure this supposed curse.

“You must learn from my bad example.”

The salt shaker was halfway across the island.

“Marcus Willbee, you are deranged.”

“Don’t call me that.” His lower lip pushed out beyond the three hairs he called a moustache. The salt shaker wobbled. He whimpered. The cane clattered on the counter.

Shattering his leg had seriously mushed his brain. Dropping out of school sure didn’t help. I grabbed the broom and dustpan to sweep up the mess before Mom could come down and add her bit to the insanity.

“You were clumsy,” I said. “The curse doesn’t exist.” It better not exist. I was so not ending up like him. Not even for a complete absence of homework. No breaking mirrors. No popping umbrellas in the house. Stepping on a crack? Got me there. Maybe I’d go for breaking Mom’s back. Just a little fracture.

The bowl pieces screeched across the cement. Shivers slid down my back.

“You’ll rue the day you turn thirteen,” he said.

“No, I won’t.”

“Yes, you will.”



Finally. A hint of the older brother I knew and loved to argue with. Was there hope for us? The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the trash can.

“What’s that!” Mom shrieked.

Too late. I dropped the broom and scampered out of range.

She flipped the lid on the trash. “Milk? Spilt milk!” She whipped around. “Did you cry? Cry!” She caught her breath. “Wait. Is it don’t cry?” Mom’s head jerked from Marcus, to the trash, and then to me. “Which is it? Cry? Don’t cry? Tell me!”


Silence fell in the wake of the hard wooden cane bashing against the hollow island. Marcus knew how to command attention. “It is salt.”

Mom yanked her long brown ponytail. “Salt? Who ever heard of crying over spilt salt?”

He lowered his head and looked at us through his bushy eyebrows. “She must spill salt. Neither milk nor crying are involved.”

“Salt. Not milk. No crying.” She held the salt shaker out to me. “Please?”

I backed up a step. There was no curse. There was no cure, especially not one steeped in bad luck.

Mom snatched out a chair and plopped down. “My fault. All my fault.” She started rocking, then dropped her head into her hands. Her shoulders shook. The wailing would start soon.

“Morning. What’s for breakf… Whoa.” Dad stopped short in the doorway. His ice blue eyes bulged under his hairless eyebrows.  His gaze darted around the room and finally landed on the wall with the bird song clock. “Is that the time? Golf with a client. See you tonight.”

“Dad!” My hand reached out for him, but it was too late. He was the fastest escape artist I knew.

The clock’s minute hand reached twelve. The little bird popped out and spoke my family’s language. Cuckoo, indeed. Time to make my escape.

I took the stairs two at a time and locked my door. The only curse in this family was a distinct lack of sanity. I shoved myself under the bed and yanked on the box up against the wall. The velcro gave off a nice ripping sound. Nothing but a direct assault would dislodge that box.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and let it out slowly as I opened my box of treasures. The photo of me at one-day-old went beside similar photos of Marcus, Mom and Dad. Next I pulled out the copy of my birth certificate with the suspiciously crooked words. And last came the magnifying glass. There must be a chance I was adopted.


  1. There was no cure, especially not one steeped in bad luck. --> I'm questioning the phrasing of this.

    Your descriptions and focus/clarity have improved, but after that great run, that last paragraph seems like a wall. I would consider rephrasing it somehow.

  2. I have to say I was a little lost and had to read this more than once. It seems like when the people in this family turn 13, they are cursed - unless they find a cure?
    If that is the main point, it is very interesting concept, it just wasn't clear.

    Also, the paragraph where the mom comes in seems a little strange. The mom seems very bizarre. If that is the case, maybe a little more background would help.
    She flipped the lid on the trash. “Milk? Spilt milk!” She whipped around. “Did you cry? Cry!” She caught her breath. “Wait. Is it don’t cry?” Mom’s head jerked from Marcus, to the trash, and then to me. “Which is it? Cry? Don’t cry? Tell me!”

    I did like the part about her looking at her birth certificate with a magnifying glass so see if she was adopted. Seems like there could be a clue with that.

  3. I need to know more about the curse. I read this over a few times to make sure I understood the plot and the characters. Any way of adding information on the curse? I loved the cuckoo clock and the comparison to her crazy family. Cute!
    It seems very mean at this point in the story to want to break her mother's back. Why did the bowl pieces screech across the floor? And I wanted to know more about the hint, 'of her beloved brother.' I didn't see any change.
    You have a fun story idea going. I think with just a little more clarity it will come together.

  4. Sarah - this is awesome! So much clearer this time around. Good job taking your time with it. You still have that amazing voice and situation going. Still just a couple of spots you could smooth over, but soo much better. And I'm definitely feeling more for your MC. Especially that last nugget with the birth certificate. :D I guess my only question is regarding this supposed cure. I get that you can't reveal the info yet, that's cool. BUT as KS pointed out above, the wording was awkward (though I think it reads exactly as intended). I'm guessing the cure has to do with some kind of action that's supposed to result in bad luck? If I'm wrong, you need to clarify. If I'm right you still need to clarify! He he. I need to understand the info you are giving me clearly, so I need to see whether the curse IS the bad luck, or the bad luck is the cure for the curse. Does that make sense?
    Also, the beginning makes it sound as if the problem with her brother is purely physical, when obviously it is not (whether caused by a curse or not). Just wanted to point that out. AND would it make more sense if it were a crutch not a cane? Just a thought, but IDK.
    In any case, I'm loving it.

  5. I'm seeing things a more clearly now in the interactions with Marcus, although I'm not sure why she will rue the day she turns 13 - because it's an unlucky number? I am still a little unclear on what precisely the mom is talking about, but it's all coming together. I really enjoy the character's voice.

  6. I think I'm going to have to kill my darlings and start in chapter 3. *sigh*

  7. Sarah, I thought this was a fabulous revision!

    The beginning was much more clear and engaging. Still funny and great voice! I also love the mom's entry dialogue - I think it's okay that we don't know exactly what she's talking about.

    There were a couple of things I found confusing though:

    -When Marcus says "don't call me that" does he mean his name or "deranged"?

    -MC's internal dialogue after saying "the curse doesn't exist." Not sure what she meant by all of that.

    -I was also unclear whether the spilling the salt was a sign of curse or the way to break the curse. If it's the latter, it doesn't seem that the mom would be so hysterical.

    Overall, this is a very enjoyable read and I'm drawn in!

  8. Mary D
    zenrei57 (at) hot mail dot com

    Okay, having gone back and re-read all, I think THIS is my favorite version. The author has quickly pulled me in, nothing's too detailed or overwritten, yet we are teased with delightful tidbits of weirdness that beg for expansion down the road.

    While others may disagree; personally I DON'T want everything immediately spelled out for me too early on in a story. It's more fun for the reader to comfortably insert themself as the story unfolds.

    Truly. I LOVE THIS ONE!


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