Tuesday, November 3, 2015

First Impressions - The Old Days


 Welcome to our last First Impressions post for this month, this one from Mary Livingston who has submitted the first page to her adult short story, THE OLD DAYS. As always, Dianne Salerni and Krystalyn Drown will also be critiquing this first page so do go see what they had to say if you have a chance.



THE OLD DAYS
Some people claim they have a vivid recollection of themselves in their mother’s womb and claim they can tell you, in detail, the usually elusive experience of birth.  They see themselves a little ball of flesh, floating in darkness.  The volcano erupts, the walls heave violently and close tightly around them.  One solid shove and they are forced into the world of things to come.  I must confess that I have no such recollection, but I can remember my parents before they were my parents.
He used to steer her down the streets of the past when she was just a baby.  And who would have thought that he would be steering her baby one day.  Certainly not him, for he was busy.  Busy maintaining his freedom to be wild, strutting like a male peacock, knowing the attraction of his brilliant color.  Busy trying to spread two dollars on as many girls, as many drinks and as many laughs as he could.  Seven years his junior, she was busy then writing in her diary, while he had already read that chapter in the book.  Today, he says, “I was waiting for your mother to grow up.”  And everyone smiles and slyly glances at everyone else, knowing that those laughing blue eyes in that devilish Irish face were looking anywhere but into a baby carriage.
I remember about a year before the “big war” was over.  His number came up.  His family said, “Thank God that no good son of a …is leaving.”  They cackled and chuckled to cover the dull ache in their guts.  For people feel sad when a while animal is on the verge of becoming domesticated.  The battle in the streets was common to them.  But this new battle was foreign to them.  And although they had slackened the line attaching him to them years ago, they now held tightly onto their end.  They gave him a party, as people will do, on the night before he was to go.  But, true to his leprechaun nature, he didn’t go anywhere, except to sleep with a smile on his face.  And if they all hadn’t been so hung-over, they would have killed him.  When he was out of sight, they would commiserate in humor about the boldness of his nature.  In his presence, they would mumble their disapproval, look everywhere but at him, and stifle an urge to grin.  Today, he winks while opening a beer and says, “I had a lot of parties when I went into the army”.  She moves her eyes without moving her head to look at him, and when he looks away, she smiles and he knows she is smiling. 
In those days, she was totally and wholeheartedly obsessed with the smile of the boy in the grocery store.  And the boy on the corner.  And the boy…Mind and eyes mesmerized by the silver screen, she would lick the last bit of her sundae as she and Astaire finished their dance.  He was her older brother’s friend and another piece of furniture in the mishmash that was her home.  And though they were so close, she could lean slightly to the right and touch him; in those days, she was looking past him into her own reality. 
***

My thoughts:  "Some people claim they have a vivid recollection of themselves in their mother’s womb and claim they can tell you, in detail, the usually elusive experience of birth." I'd consider replacing one of these and make this a stronger first sentence. Also, one space between sentences, not two.
This first paragraph leads me to believe that the narrator somehow knew his/her parents before birth.
"He used to steer her down the streets of the past when she was just a baby." Why not come right out and say 'his father'?
"Seven years his junior, she was busy then writing in her diary, while he had already read that chapter in the book." Now we're talking about the narrator's mother, but I don't get that last bit. What book? The diary?
"I remember about a year before the “big war” was over." Who is I? The narrator? Someone else? I'm a little confused. 
"But, true to his leprechaun nature, he didn’t go anywhere..." So...he didn't go off to war?
Aside from the above, this is an interesting concept, assuming I'm reading it right. This narrator/person was somehow able to observe his/her parents long before he/she was born. Why? To observe? To what purpose? Or was it to choose? Was the narrator in spirit form then or did he/she have another form at that time? And what's so important about their past that it's being repeated here now? I'm definitely curious! My only concern is that if this is a short story, I think things need to be clearer sooner, starting with who our narrator is. Unlike a novel, one only has a fraction of the words to tell the story so all the words have to carry even more weight.

Mary, I hope this helps, if not, feel free to ignore! Readers, I'd love to hear your thoughts about this first page, and if anyone is interested in submitting to First Impressions, please check out my sidebar - right - for all the info.
 

15 comments:

  1. While I don't fully grasp everything, I'm really intrigued! Such a unique start.

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  2. Intrigued and confused sums me up too. Sometimes I am not certain whether it is our narrator, or his/her parents talking.

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  3. It is definitely an interesting voice and I am also intrigued and a bit confused...

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  4. Ditto for me too. :) and :( Some of the sentences are overly complex too which adds to the confusion. For example "... wholeheartedly obsessed with the smile of the boy in the grocery store." Right now it chugs because of the prepositional phrases.

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  5. I got distracted by some of the modifiers and adverbs. Chopping those would tighten and strengthen the prose.

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  6. This was poetic and sentimental, and I liked the voice. But it was very confusing with all the pronouns. Could use just a bit more clarity. The voice is what makes this story charming and interesting.

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  7. The first paragraph catches the attention, it's a good one. I didn't notice any unnecessary adverbs and modifiers myself

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  8. I think Marcy did a great job pointing out things that might make this first page flow a bit better. I honestly can't comment as I'm out of my depth with this style of story. I only read genre. Good luck!

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  9. I must confess to being confused. The last sentence of the first paragraph, in which the narrator claims to have known his/her parents prior to birth is certainly intriguing, but the use of pronouns kept me a little befuddled. Good voice, though!

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  10. Thanks for submitting your work, Mary! I enjoyed it.

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  11. The womb thing, is this common?

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  12. Definitely an intriguing piece, and I think Marcy is spot on. She pretty much hit upon all my thoughts and questions as I read. I have to say I love the voice, but adding a little clarity will make this really great. Best of luck with your story! :)

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  13. I am also intrigued by the concept. Great critique.

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