Monday, September 26, 2011

6 1st 5 Pages Workshop - September Entry #4 - Rev 3

Name: Sarah Laurenson
Genre: Middle Grade
Thirteen Black Cats Under A Ladder

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. Less than seven months left." He snaked his cane back across the kitchen island and jabbed the salt shaker towards me. "Spill it. Work on the cure."

So not playing this curse game. "Careful or I'll break your other leg." I stuck out my tongue.

"Ah, but it's your leg in danger," Marcus said. "Trust me. Spill the salt.
It's easy."

"Yeah?" I waved at his cane - evidence of his failure to cure this supposed curse.

"I did not complete the tasks. Learn from my bad example."

The salt shaker was halfway across the island.

"You're deranged."

"That is not nice." 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 Golden Puffs before Mom could come down and add her bit to the insanity.

"You were clumsy. The curse doesn't exist." I was so not freaking out about mumbo jumbo from some punk's mother. And getting the cure from a psychic?
Hah! Not for me. No breaking mirrors. No popping umbrellas open in the house. Not even stepping on a crack and breaking Mom's back.

"You'll rue the day you turn thirteen," he said.

"Yeah right." I understood the broken leg part - eye for an eye stuff.
Wrapping it around a thirteenth birthday? That made no sense. Only my crazy family would buy this. With real money, too. Shaking my head, I tapped the pedal on the trash. The bowl shards and corn puffs tumbled into the can.

"What's that!" Mom shrieked.

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

She yanked her long brown ponytail as 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."

"Salt?" Mom asked. "Who ever heard of crying over spilt salt?"

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

"Salt. Not milk. No crying." She snatched up the salt shaker and held it out to me. "Please?"

I backed up a step. There was no curse, so there was no cure. The salt could stay in the shaker.

Mom plopped down on a stool. Her attention turned from me to Marcus. "My poor baby boy. My fault. I should've been there. 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. Time to make my escape.

With half an hour to kill before school, I took the stairs two at a time and locked my door. The only curse in this family was a 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. Mary D
    zenrei57 (at) hotmail dot com

    Okay, I truly enjoyed the humor and witty banter in this one!!! And it was properly *chopped*, [having spent several years working at a newspaper you learn how to write as concisely as possible lol]- all in all I LOVED this one :D

  2. Nice rewrite! The mother's actions make more sense to me now and the dialogue between brother and sister is still fantastic!

  3. I think it's awesome! Great job and you kept the amazing voice intact. Hurry up and get it published so I can read the rest. ;D

  4. It took me a moment or two to get what was going on but it was an amusing scene and I love the last line.

  5. Sarah, it's still awesome. Great voice, great scenario. I still would like you to be a little clearer with the action at the beginning -- without giving it all away. What does the salt have to do with it? How can the mom be so afraid of a curse but not have looked up what is supposed to counter spilled milk? Why would the brother--who was evidently already effected by the curse--suppose that salt is a generic cure? Wouldn't they have already gotten intimately familiar with every conceivable superstition? (If there isn't a plausible reason to prevent that, then you could still have the same scenario if the brother knocks the cereal bowl into the salt shaker and they both spill, and then it becomes a question of precedence--spill the salt or cry/don't cry, which comes first? Spill more milk? And would they think the curse is in effect for her now if it doesn't kick in until her 13th birthday? Did her brother break his leg *on* his birthday? Who was the old woman? We don't need to know everything, but I do think a TINY bit more grounding would let us settle in for a delightful ride more quickly. And yes, I still ADORE the last line--and you've done a great job getting the voice pitch perfect. I didn't notice any potential problem words at all this time around. Great job and good luck!


  6. "I was so not freaking out about mumbo jumbo from some punk's mother. And getting the cure from a psychic?" -> I'm still getting hung up on this. A bit vague and a bit confusing. Gonna' need more detail on that, or it becomes a "What the?" throwaway.

    Really interested in your story. I only wish I got to read the rest of it. Sincerely, KS


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