Friday, January 04, 2008

Consecutive Complications

The Loggers Hut,
Walter Launt Palmer,
watercolor and gauache on paper, 1900.

In the lobby of an old courthouse, where Lillie has just completed a difficult exorcism in the cells beneath, Lillie and crew are waiting out a violent protest staged by an anti-exorcism group.

Rough draft:

"Someone's Toyota is going to need body work," Ted observed. "And there goes the display window at the antique store across the street." His hands twitched his baton. I had the feeling he'd like to be out there, roaring and laying about.

Two things happened at once. Just as Ted reported a fire truck nosing through the crowd from one end of the street and shields of the riot squad pushing in from the other, the bailiff came yelling down the main corridor behind us, belly jiggling under his white shirt as he ran.

"Bomb threat," he shouted. Everybody out! Evacuate the building. Back exits!"

He smashed glass and pulled the fire alarm. Dingdingding blasted overhead.

Johnnie charged past me and grabbed him by the shoulder. Questions I couldn't hear above the competing cacophonies, inside and out.

The bailiff jabbered up at him and pulled away. People scurried from doorways like ants. I hadn't realized so many people worked here. Maybe it just seemed like a lot, with the jostling and shrieking.

A couple appeared on the stairs. The bailiff bellowed at them to go back and use the fire escape.

Checking each office as he retreated, the bailiff pumped his arm over his head, yelling, "Back exits. Move it. Go! Go!"

"Phone calls," Johnnie reported as we huddled to hear. "To the station and the media. About fifteen minutes ago. Could be a hoax."

"Shit! That's one way to get us to show our noses," said Ted. "Pity your're so striking, lady, or you could slip out right now with the rest of the rabble."

He squared his shoulders. "Your call, Big Guy. Do we go?"

Johnnie scooped up the folding chair, tucked it under one arm, clamped my shoulders and tucked me under the other.
"We go."

The left windows shattered. A smoking cylinder thumped, bounced, and rolled against the wall. For a second, I wondered. Tear gas canister shot wild?

"Pipe bomb," said Johnnie. "We certainly go."

We ran.

Stocking, Stuffed: Santa left me a feather pen, its plume the colour of lapis lazuli, and a glass paperweight enclosing a botantical of Iris Spuria.


BernardL said...

A very exciting rough draft, Bernita, and the only line jumping out at me in a negative way is: 'His hands twitched his baton'.

Bernita said...

You're right, Bernard. Bad line.Awkward and confusing. Thank you.

Jaye Wells said...

Nice job. Only thing that gave me pause was this:
"Two things happened at once ... "

I count three:
1. Fire truck
2. Riot squad
3. Bomb threat

That whole paragraph could be tightened a bit, as well.

When are you going to submit this so we can read the whole thing?!?

December/Stacia said...

I liked the "We definitely go" bit; the reiteration made me smile. (I liked the whole thing, but that I particularly enjoyed.)

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jaye. Yanno, I first wrote "three things", and changed it for some unknown reason.Thinking outside/inside, I guess.
That paragraph does need work.
Obviously,it's not ready to roll yet, and I have to finish it first.

Thank you, December.I really wasn't sure that worked.

Julie said...

Really feel the movement in this.
The only two words that slammed me to a halt were competing cacophanies.

The idea works well for me, but the assonance doesn't?

Julie said...

ooops, typo!!?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Julie. Noted.
Seeing as how I first spelled "canister" with two n's this morning, I don't even blink at typos/spelling errors.

Charles Gramlich said...

I like it. The only thing that jumped out at me negatively was:

"Johnnie scooped up the folding chair, tucked it under one arm, clamped my shoulders and tucked me under the other."

I'm not sure I'm getting the image you want me to get.

Dave F. said...

Things for thought:
- - Why in the middle of a bomb scare would anyone think of a tear gas canister? I first thought that some retreating office workers were stoning the building. Is there a mob outside the building that might be part of the previous narrative?
- - And if someone wants them out of the building to show them off to the world (that's neatly sinister) would they be standing that close to a window where someone can throw a pipe bomb? That's like a display window for the public to see them standing inside.
- - Why does he pick up a folding chair?
- - Is "Your choice, Big Boy" Lillie's line? I read it and wondered if it was two policemen.

Don't get me wrong, I like this. It's chock full of dark events. And it's nicely compact and its action, fun, excitement.

Dave F. said...

oh putz... IT'S action, with an apostrophe!

raine said...

I loved the action and movement in this.
And the idea of an anti-exorcism group just tickles me to death, lol.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Charles.The image I want you to get is that he tucks her under his other arm with the same efficiency as he tucks the chair.

She thinks of it, Dave, because police have arrived to clear away the mob.
I mentioned in the preamble that the mob was composed of anti-exorcism activists (Save Our Spooks).
They are not standing close to the window at that point.In fact they have been very careful about looking out.
The chair is explained later.
That's Ted's line.Do you think it necessary to say "Ted asked"?
Ted is the by-law control officer. He's ex-military.

Bernita said...

Hee, Raine! There's also a competing group that demands total exorcism of anything and everything paranormal.
Lillie is in the bad books of both.

Lana Gramlich said...

That pen sounds lovely. May you write many fortuitous works with it! (Or at least may it inspire you to do so.)

Bernita said...

Lana, it's almost too pretty to be used for anything other than letters of a highly personal nature!

Chumplet said...

What an exciting ride! I feel the tension.

My sister was once working alone in a building in Queen's Park, readying a room for a theme party. Some protesters were outside and they apparently broke into the supposedly empty building.

All my sister could convey was the sound of the crowd getting closer and closer and her backed against a locked glass door looking for something to break it with. Rising panic and urgency come to mind.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sandra.
Not a pleasant situation for your sister.

Dave F. said...

Should you put in "Ted said." because Ted says to Johnny. I see that.

Maybe until it gets past the draft stages. It's three people talking at that point and it requires a close read to figure out who's talking. This might be thanks to BLOGGER's goofy margins and fonts. It comes across as a separate line on my computer and maybe that's what puzzled me.

I'd say go with your first instinct and leave it out.

Lisa said...

I really like the scene. After reading Stone Child, I am looking forward to reading a lot more about Lillie. I have such a strong sense of who she is and I like her.

Gabriele C. said...

That's fast paced action. And that jiggling belly is a fun image.

I liked the competing cacophonies, but then, I love alliterations.

Church Lady said...

I really liked this.

But I didn't get the chair part either. However, you said it's explained later. (I'm thinking it should be hinted at earlier though, since the pace of this should be fast, and the reader shouldn't be slowed down by such a question.) Overall, very nice!
Go Lillie!

Angie said...

Well, I definitely want to read more of that. :) Which is the whole point, right? There's plenty of time to apply the sandpaper.


Bernita said...

Ah. Thank you, Dave.
That explains it. The action ( squared his shoulders) and the question (Your call) are actually on the same MS line.

Lisa, I am so fervently grateful for that - that you like Lillie.

Thank you, Gabriele.
I do wonder if it's not so much the alliteration but the word choice.Sometimes, a polysylab in an otherwise plain narrative will irritate like a raspberry barb.

Chris, the chair has been in use earlier and will be later. Just why he chooses to bring it along puzzles Lillie too. Perhaps I should mention that. On the other hand, maybe I should omit it altogether. Thank you.

Glad you like it, Angie. Thank you.

Jeff said...

I like the action in this, Bernita. What I would have suggested has already been mentioned. I'm looking forward to more of the story.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Jeff.
People's comments have really helped.

Carla said...

"Chris, the chair has been in use earlier and will be later. Just why he chooses to bring it along puzzles Lillie too. Perhaps I should mention that. On the other hand, maybe I should omit it altogether. "
If it's needed later, I'd say don't omit it, mention that it puzzles Lillie. It puzzled me too, so it would be nice to see that it's supposed to.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Carla. I've amended my file draft to make mention of her puzzlement.

Anonymous said...

I like it a lot. It reminds me of real-life fire evacuations I have attended - semi-organized chaos, always with a cool quiet core of minds off to one side considering the eternal question: do I Mob or do I not?


writtenwyrdd said...

Oh, nice crazy scene. Pretty awesome for a rough draft, too. I have to agree that the hands twitching a baton didn't quite work for me either. I also wondered about calling Lily striking, but I certainly wouldn't say change it. It's an unusual choice, though.

Bernita said...

Nice to know that I've captured a sense of authenticity, Asa. Thank you.

Have rid the text of the baton, Written. I also am not sure of "striking," ie. that she is easily recognizable - more because I'm not sure the word fits with Ted's likely vocabulary. Thank you.

Sam said...

Oh how fun!!
I'm putting on my editor's hat and wondering if the 'we certainly go' would look better as 'We go! or 'Let's go!' or 'Get outta here!''
(I just don't like the word certainly, although it certainly has its good points. In this case it seems awkward for someone to say it in a rush.)

Bernita said...

Sam, he's a deliberate kind of guy.

Jon M said...

Exciting read! Did you write it with your new quill?

Jon M said...

PS: For what it's worth, I like 'certainly' It kind of underlines the urgency.

Bernita said...

Jon, that pen should only be used for writing boudoir scenes.

Thank you. It was a judgement call to go or not until this point.

Chumplet said...

Bernita, "Weirdly" is at number eight in anthologies on the Preditors and Editors annual poll.

Bernita said...


Vesper said...

Very good rhythm. I like it.
I liked "Johnnie scooped up the folding chair, tucked it under one arm, clamped my shoulders and tucked me under the other." :-)