Friday, April 25, 2008

Robin's story

This is the first part of Robin's Procrastination Buster Speed Story. If there are any rules, they go roughly like this... A section a day. Can be a new story or a significant rewrite. Must be complete within three/four days. Readers to make helpful comments. Simple. Enjoy. And quake. I may turn tagger on this one.

This is...Hoof Man (a chapter from Robin's novel)


I’d been driven north to Cincinnati when I was young. There was a zoo up there, and an opera house, and sometimes the people from the opera house went over to the zoo and sang in an outdoor amphitheater to bring opera to the people, is how my father said it to me, and we drove up there on a weekend afternoon to get some cheap culture and listen to the zoo animals baying and moaning with the opera singers in their evening performance, and, even though that animal part wasn’t supposed to be part of the show, it was the best part. We knew we’d better not laugh, or we’d get it, but I was laughing inside. That was almost just as good.

The second time I drove up to Cincinnati I drove up alone in my blue MGB that was the color blue that matched my eyes, people said. I had an appointment with the manager of the Playboy Club on my twenty-first birthday. I was really nervous, so I kept saying to myself OK, panic bone, calm down, just calm down, and it didn’t matter anyway if I got a job or not there, but I said I’d try so I was trying, I was trying. Then the manager, this older guy with stringy brown hair that looked longer than most men wore when they had on dress suits like the one this guy had on, he had me change into a blue bunny suit to try me out, he said, and I walked into his office and he looked me up and down and didn’t talk much but he adjusted his glasses and looked some more and then he said I would do and when could I start, so I said Monday. I ended with a name change and propped-up pantyhose boobs. And I did all that driving and changing to make Randall T. Macon, the Hoof-Lamp Man, happy.

*

Here is how it started. I was antsy, and I knew I was going to be staying that way unless something different came along, and then one day, just like it happens in stories, something different just fell in my lap like a gift from a stranger, when this girl Charisse invited me home from the office with her. There was a man she knew, she said, and he wanted to meet me. She said he’d seen me downstairs in the lobby one day, delivering some papers, and he knew Charisse from before, and he asked her to introduce us.

So she asked me what did I think, and I didn’t know what I thought, I only knew I was antsy, so I said all right, sure, because it was a hot summer afternoon and I was always only about an inch away from being flat dead broke, so there was nothing much else for me to do but go back home and sit in the living room with Jeff and Tony, maybe cook out on the little grill on the back stoop, and wait to see who came walking through our living room door to sit down with us and pass away the rest of the day.

And that’s how I ended up over at her little box of a white-walled apartment at this apartment complex called The Something Something Pines, way out in the county. And that’s how I ended up enduring a weird little interview that felt more like a one-woman lineup, with me just about standing back against the wall right inside Charisse’s front door that looked like wood but was really thick plastic. This guy with one pale hazel eye and one other eye not quite looking at me and not quite the same color as the other, stood across from me, grinning big and looking me over. Because when I drove out to her apartment after work, she’d beaten me there, and so was the man who said he wanted to meet me.

“Renae, this is Randy. Randy, Renae.”

I nodded over at Randall T., standing beside where Charisse was seated on her sofa, and he nodded over at me, and kept grinning, as Charisse spoke her pleasantries. And she looked like she was enjoying herself. I thought maybe that was because she’d worked to make her voice sound this certain way, like a permanent customer service voice, all low and pleasant, and just a little husky, so she liked hearing it, and feeling proud, sitting there like a Buddha lady draped in billows of fabric on her small white sofa. At work, she hardly ever moved from a spot once she’d planted herself there, and it looked like she lived that way at home, too.

Charisse, I thought, thought Charisse was quite a lady. For one thing, she had her manners. For another, she had her face mole. Charisse loved her little face mole. You could tell because she fingered it a lot, and called it her beauty mark, sitting there on one of her big smooth cheeks, alongside her nose. Charisse just seemed made up, like she grew up with her butt planted on that sofa, like she came fully formed like that, all grown up and hefty. It made her seem not real, right on down to her name that sounded made up to me.

The three of us stood there for a longer minute than I thought possible with only the one sentence lingering between us. Then I thought that was because I was supposed to say something, maybe it was my turn, but I didn’t know what to say. I was going to say nice to meet you, but I’d better be going, when Randall T. finally talked.

6 comments:

McKoala said...

OK, got some quiet minutes.

This is very cool. Great atmosphere and tone - do I say the same thing all the time to you? I love the use of detail. Randall T. Macon the hoof-lamp man is a great hook on its own! Love the 'one woman' line up, the succinct characterisation of Charisse and the plastic door. Been in that apartment!

I know you love your long sentences, and so do I, but I think maybe the second sentence of that first para errs on the slightly too long side. I also wonder if you could reposition the 'people said' at the end of the car sentence.

Looking forward to reading more. I'll post part 2 now!

sylvia said...

Oh, I'm glad I fell behind because I can read part 2 immediately. Hooked.

blogless troll said...

All right. I'll be back later to read when I have more time.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Wonderful voice. You are a master of the run on – in a good way.

As with most of your writing, it takes a bit to get the rhythm of the patter going in my head. Then I fall into it and it slides me along nicely. Since this is a chapter and not the beginning, I’m assuming I’d be in the rhythm already. There are things here that trip me up in reading, things that interfere with the flow and natural rhythm you’ve created. Most of the he said, she said stuff can be taken out, if you ask me. She’s telling this story and it’s obvious from context that it’s she said and he said. There are a few places where tighter might be better, a few places where the repetition is breaking the flow.

Things that pull me out of the story (and my suggestions):
is how my father said it to me (lose this – or change the tense)
almost just (lose one word)
blue MGB that was the color blue (lose one blue)
, people said (lose this)
, he said, (lose this)
, she said, (lose this)
So she asked me what did I think, and (lose this)
pass away (the meaning of death and killing time don’t mix well for me, perhaps a different expression)
Charisse, I thought, thought Charisse (awkward though if you lose the I thought, your POV switches.)

Totally losing me on the transition. Not sure what starting point we’re talking about here since there’s so much packed in the preceding. Maybe something about “I met Randall” or something along those lines so I know what it is that’s getting started. Otherwise her age varies quite a lot in the first part and I don’t know how old she is going into the transition.

Loved part 1, Robin! Looks like I need to read this in parts anyway, so I’ll get back to you on the rest another time.

Let me know if this is too detailed for what you're looking for.

Robin S. said...

Hey Sarah-

Thanks so much- yep- this is exactly what I need to know!

And if there are parts that you find uninteresting- that you don't care about reading, ya know?

ChrisEldin said...

Really liked this! I love your voice, but you know that already.
My favorite sentence:
At work, she hardly ever moved from a spot once she’d planted herself there, and it looked like she lived that way at home, too.

I just really like it. It's a great observation, and I know that kind of person.

Love the ending too.

Off to the next part...
:-)