Smashing Pumpkins – Opening Scene

(Being hard at work on getting my book finished I haven’t written a short story this week.  I feel moderately bad, but under the circumstances sacrifices must be made.  My life will be different next week.  Until then help yourself to bit of my main character.)

 

“This will go so much smoother if you will all just get in a line.”  Tammy’s voice rose higher with each word, a useless attempt to verbally control the throng of adults groping over her desk like zombies in search of a meal.  

Samson tried not to chuckle as he thumbed through the stack of papers marked for him.  Tammy’s desk was placed fully across the main path to Principal Brandt’s office, the door being in a direct line with her chair.  Anyone needing to speak with the Principal had to deal with Tammy first.  Like it or not though, the only order in force this morning was that of alpha versus everything that wasn’t alpha, excluding the scavengers drifting around the outer edges looking for their shot, and secretaries who lacked enough self-assurance to enforce order in an excited situation.

As if to prove his point, a narrow, pale arm covered in a three quarter length black knit and surrounded by four wide, silver bangles, snaked its way between himself and the other third grade teacher, Mrs. Chang, and snatched one of the thinner stacks off the top of Tammy’s faux wooden desk.  From the edge of his vision, he could see the platinum blond head of Alison Kanger, one of two seventh grade math teachers, retreat to the south wall with her prize.  Ghost white skin and large, round eyes with irises the color of drying earth clay, Alison was a startling apparition in the fluorescent illumination of the school’s main office.  More than once in his first three weeks here it had amused him to think she would be a heart stopping shock on a dark, county road in the dead of night.  High beams or low wouldn’t make a difference.  If Alison Kanger jumped in front of his car he would scream like a school girl and jerk the wheel.  

Using her middle finger to push her glasses further up the bridge of her nose, Tammy scowled at the group, her round, flushed cheeks bulging outward like a chipmunk.

“Is anyone even listening to me?”  

Noting the way the small muscles around her eyes were tightening Samson looked directly at her and smiled, showing just the bottoms of his upper teeth.  Tammy’s pupils expanded instantly and she smiled back, her teeth fully exposed.  Quickly he looked back down at the papers in his hands. 

“Not really,” Alison stated, head bowed over her papers.  The fluffy, overly large bump she teased into the front of her hair translated into the pillar of a crown in the shadow she cast on the pastel yellow wall behind her.  Her angle in the light coupled with her head down posture gave her shadow a grotesque hump on its back.

“Animals, all of you.”  Straining to cross her arms over her chest Tammy huffed deeply and used her feet to push off from her desk, propelling her office chair backwards, away from them all.  A slight turn at the end gave everyone a side view of the long, brown tresses she refused to trim, the split ends appearing gray and unhealthy as they floated through the air a mere two inches from the floor.

Seeing all his pages were in order Samson went through them a second time, not really looking now as he watched Alison from the corner of his eyes.  The way she was licking her finger before turning every third page was maddening, like listening to someone scrape their nails over an old, slate chalkboard.  The small gap between her top and bottom teeth, clearly the result of a mild overbite, was filled with the tip of her tongue waiting for its next opportunity to wet the middle finger of her right hand.  Near the bottom of the stack she froze for a second, her eyes widening and a calculated smile spread over her entire face.  It vanished so quickly that had he not been watching he would have missed it completely.

Straightening up he began to make his way out of the office.  At six feet on the nose, he was taller than most of them and used that difference to his advantage. Careful to not step on Mrs. Chang’s foot, he dropped one shoulder and slid between her and Mr. McDonald, the Middle School Phys Ed teacher.  McDonald grunted as Samson’s pristine blue button down brushed his arm.

“Mmpf.  Football players.”

A guilty smile flashed across his face.  He had never been a football player or into any sports at all.  His muscular build was from the hours spent at home doing floor exercises while studying his suspects on the plasma.  He never went to a gym.  

“Goodbye Samson!”  Tammy’s voice sing songed over the heads of the teachers.

Raising a hand in acknowledgment he headed into the hall toward the Elementary wing. He had twenty minutes to get himself together before the kids started pouring through the doors.

“Dream on, sister.”  

Irritated by the snarky tone, Samson paused and thought about going back to confront Alison about her assuming attitude.  It would be a great start to his day, but it would undoubtedly give Tammy the wrong idea.  She was nice and all, but she was also a toad. Every time he looked at the squat secretary with her four feet of dead hair, his mind drew a picture of a jelly-filled amphibian with giant glasses riding on a shaggy lily pad.  Naw, let Tammy deal with Alison on her own.

The school housed kindergarten through high school, each part joined to the next by a single set of heavy, metal, double doors.   Pushing his way out of the middle school, Samson let the big doors bang shut hard behind him and walked to his classroom near the end of the hall. Cardboard cutouts of pumpkins, scarecrows and jack-o-lanterns were taped to the walls above the coat racks and JOC banners were tacked over every classroom door.  Closer to the floors, cats, ghosts, spiders and colorful fall leaves had been pasted.  The overall impression was an entire hallway of Halloween.  Welcome to October.

 

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Snippet #20

Fading sunlight lit the windows with a soft, reddish glow, the edges fading first to orange, then to gold.  All along the street people lowered their heads, tugged the brims of their hats farther down or shielded their eyes with hand despite the sunglasses guarding their delicate peepers.  The brightness, magnified times six, tall, sky scraping buildings clothed in sheets of perfect glass, created a world bathed in its own fashion dilemma; a look to rival Godiva’s famous ride where only a fool could see the truth.  For sixteen minutes, there was no fool, only the dimming of the lights.

Monologue #21

I wrote this piece while I was at work last night.  Evidently my sleep deprived brain thought that was close enough.  When I got home, I ate, watched an episode of Criminal Minds and went to sleep without scheduling the post.

My goal of getting my chapters in order by the end of June did not get met.  From the look of things, I may not be finished until the end of July, maybe the middle of August.  I’m not real torn up about it.  I’ve made huge progress and learned a lot about how to do this.  My largest lesson has been about organization.

When I started this last November during NaNoWriMo I was really in the dark about how to go about things.  I had index cards scattered across my coffee table and multiple files on my computer about all my characters.  My brain refused to cooperate with the idea of structure so I was just typing out every possible scene for each character as fast as I could.  Now that I’m about halfway through piecing my chapters together in a form that makes sense, I can see that I needed to structure myself a lot sooner.

Last week I bought a little program called NewNovelist that cost me about $30.  I was eyeing Scrivener too, which was only $10 more and seems to be the favorite of authors everywhere.  This late in the game I was really interested in getting myself more organized than giving myself a learning headache, so I went with NewNovelist.  It’s not perfect, but I’m happy with it.  Once I got my notes, characters, places and chapters ported over from Google Docs, I was pretty pleased with myself.  Everything is now right at my fingertips.  Some of the information the program gives me is nothing but gibberish to my eyes but the ability to have all my resources just a mouse click away without having to open multiple browser windows is really nice.  I may have another look at Scrivener for the next book though.  It offers some customization that I currently don’t have.

The other big lesson I learned this month is about timelines.  Flying by the seat of my pants with that has not been effective.  As it turns out, my lead character is moving along much slower than everyone else.  I need to go back and bring him up to speed in order to get all my events flowing smoothly and in the correct order.  Had I bothered with an outline (something I hate) I probably would have spotted that problem right away and corrected it.  This doesn’t mean I’ll be outlining in the future but I will definitely be paying closer attention to the timeline.

Happy, productive writing everyone.  I wish you all the best!

Monologue #19

I like to think I’m closing in on the end of my first novel.  There are still changes happening which has me a little concerned about time, but I’m still making progress so I’m just letting it happen.  The actual finish line isn’t as close as I would like it to be though.  My personal goal was to have this wrapped up by the end of June.  It’s looking like I’ll be pushing into July now.

I’m still looking mostly at Kindle for publishing.  The overall amount of information available through a simple Google search is mind-numbing.  I’m probably jumping the gun a bit, but I find myself researching when my brain has rejected the notion of writing anymore for the day.  It seems like I’m going strong for a few days, then BAM!  I’m staring at the computer screen without a single idea about how to connect my thoughts.  That’s when I shrug it off and spend a couple hours looking at publishing options.

Is anyone else partially writing their book on their phone?  Lol.  I spend a lot of my breaks at work tapping out words with my thumbs on my Note 5.  I can’t help myself.  Ideas ramble into my brain and I need to get them written down before I lose them.  Back in November, when I started this project in NaNoWriMo I think I wrote a full quarter of my word count on my phone.  It’s a tough way to go, but it works.

Happy Father’s Day!

Monologue #18

Another week has flown by.  The temperature here is close to 90 degrees and my antique AC unit is struggling.  This means I am not sleeping well.  Hopefully the maintenance guy will come tomorrow and fix it.  I have done as much as I am able with my trusty can of compressed air.  Now it’s their turn.  I have taken evasive action and strategically positioned my fans to produce a wind-tunnel effect in my small apartment.  The internal temperature is still in the low eighties but at least I have a breeze.

Smashing Pumpkins is pretty much on schedule.  The rough sleep has slowed down my concentration right now so I’m not moving as quickly as I was last week, but I’m still thinking I can be finished by the end of the month.  I’ve been trying to establish a workable format so I won’t have a ton of things to do when I’m ready to turn all the files into book form.  The mighty Oracle of Google has shown me a number of ways to accomplish this.  I even have cover art now!  My wife was kind enough to bust out her mad skillz and produce some options for me.

Also, I want to give a shout out to any LGBT followers.  It is June and that means… HAPPY PRIDE!  The festival here in Milwaukee was in full swing this past weekend.  While I did not participate this year due to my devotion to getting my book finished, my wife spent all of Sunday having a blast at the festival grounds and riding  with friends in the parade.  Our community here is strong and beautiful!  Stay Proud Milwaukee!

Monologue #17

June is my month to get Smashing Pumpkins wrapped up and cleaned up.  I’m planning to publish at the end of September.  I won’t have an actual launch date for a little while yet, but as soon as I do I’ll post it here along with information on where to get it.  

I’ve had to come to grips with my genre for this which was a bit of a surprise to me.  Smashing Pumpkins is definitely Urban Fantasy, but not the kind with magic or demons.  The fact that I have added a non-existent element to our current reality takes the book right out of the realm of plain old fiction.  In addition to that, it also stands as a Mystery Thriller.  I’m sort of scratching my head over this.  I hadn’t planned to write something that landed in more than one genre.  I suppose it was inevitable considering how much I dislike something so common as reality.  I love to change things, to alter a single item of what I see and imagine how it would affect life around me.

So far, I’m pretty happy with my progress on this first book.  Having never written one before I’ve been nervous about the amount of time I have been spending on things, but I’m not really beating myself up over it.  Things take as long as they take.  

Happy writing everyone!

Smashing Pumpkins – Samson

Watching Sara Chimner trudge listlessly into the room, head down, brown hair hanging loose in her eyes, Samson tried to imagine what it would feel like to work at McDonalds on the grill.  Sure, people suffered everywhere but, at least as a fast food line cook he wouldn’t have to deal directly with eight year olds.  From the looks of her, Sara would be an unwilling participant today.

“Good morning, Sara.”

At the sound of her name, Sara sighed and slid into her seat, putting her head down directly upon the desk top, arms hanging down by her sides like a rag doll.  Eyebrow arching upward in fascination, he wondered if he was too young to get a vasectomy?

“Is something wrong, Sara?”  Rising from his desk he swallowed his own sigh and walked toward the child’s seat where he knelt down beside her.  “Did something happen?”

Like a marionette, her right arm rose into the air, nearly whacking him in the face, and her hand opened to expose a single, opaque tooth, the bottom edges slightly darkened.  He stared obediently at it.

“We all lose our baby teeth, Sara.  It’s nothing to be upset over.  Your adult teeth will grow in and fill the gap.”  He thought his rational explanation was a good start.  He watched her close her hand again around the tooth and rest it on the desk beside her head.  His jaw tightened.  “Did you lose it on the way to school, this morning?”

A muffled no came from the still form.

“When did you lose it?”

“Yesterday.”

Thinking she sounded rather bitter, he tried a different tactic.

“Do you know about the Tooth Fairy?”  Every child knew about the Tooth Fairy, right?  This particular mythos was still alive and well, being preached to every child on American soil.  He fully expected Sara to acknowledge the question with a positive response.  He was more than a little startled when she raised her head and fixed him with eyes lacking any spirit of life and told him just how much she knew about it.

“I put it under my pillow last night.  It was still there this morning.”  The brown eyes were puffy and red, having shed silent tears of grief all the way to school.  Her lips, normally full, seemed thin, drained of their usual vibrance.

Looking at her now, he could see she had taken a serious blow to her ego.  That a child this young could have her mental legs knocked out from under her by being overlooked by a made up entity that bought children’s teeth for a living seemed absurd.  Part of him wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her, to rattle some sense into her.  The Tooth Fairy is a lie!  It’s all a big lie!  Get over it and get on with growing up.

None of that was possible though.  Samson’s sense of reason struggled to get a grip on his anger.  He was expected to tell these children that the world was round, the sun rose in the east, and that two plus two equals four.  If he told Sara the Tooth Fairy was a lie, he would, effectively face a firing squad.

“Did you tell your mother?”

“No.”  Sara dropped her head back onto her desk, this time using her arm, the one still holding the tooth, as a cushion.  “It fell out after I went to bed.”

So she had just stuffed it under her pillow.  Samson could see it as clearly as if he had been there.  It had never crossed her mind to get up and show her parents the tooth.  Sara had absolute faith that her parents told her the truth in all things.  To have her tooth still with her when she awoke had been far more tragic than just the loss of a quarter.  That tooth meant that her parents were not the all-knowing gods she had thought them to be.  They had been wrong.  Those red eyes weren’t about the tooth, they were about the loss of innocence.

“You need to tell your mother.  Mom’s have a secret way of communicating with the Tooth Fairy.  If you don’t tell her then she can’t send the message and the Tooth Fairy doesn’t know to come.”  He almost patted her on the head but caught himself.  Never touch the children.  Straightening he went to his desk and pulled a couple pieces of tissue from the box and walked them back to her.

“Here, let’s wrap the tooth up nice and safe and put in the front pocket of your bag.  As soon as you get home today, give the tooth to your mom.  Can you do that for me?”

Sara turned her head on her arm to look at him again, this time with a small flicker of hope in her eyes.

“Uh huh.”  She sniffed and sat up enough to drop her tooth on the tissue.

“There, all safe and sound.  Let’s go put it in your bag, okay?”  He stepped back to give her room to get out of her seat and lead the way into the hall.  

Sara’s bag was pink and purple with flowers all over it, a miniature back-pack, complete with straps to go over her shoulders.  Samson handed her the wrapped tooth and watched as she zipped it securely into the small front pocket.  He gave her an encouraging smile that felt unnatural for him.

“Let’s get back to our seat now, and start our day, okay?”