Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My Current WIP: Chapter One

This is my current Work In Progress, which I haven't found a title for yet.  This wasn't one of my favorite stories my husband wrote.  I thought it had a great story idea, but the writing was bad.  So I went back and did some rearranging and now I like it.  Please read and let me know what you think.  

Sunday, December 16, 1991

Road-weary, seventeen-year-old, runaway Don Giroux steered his 76’ Dodge Dart up a steep incline of a side road then applied the brakes with an ear grating screech.  They were fifteen miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and still had several hundred miles to travel before they reached their destination, Anaheim, California. 
Noticing a clump of five-foot tall dense brush, he drove off the rutted road, bouncing in his seat as he parked between them, facing south.  Switching off the headlights, he glanced nervously at the instrument panel.  Would his beloved clunker be able to last the remaining miles? 
When he was sixteen, using money he earned tutoring fellow students on computer programming, he finally bought his long-awaited car.  Even though it had more rust than green, had ugly green fur on the dashboard and an odometer that read years instead of miles, he loved his car.  The Dart gave him the freedom to break away from the constraints of a small-town life, and a place for him and his high school sweetheart to be alone, parking along the wheat fields of Manhattan, Kansas. 
With a sign of relief, he said, “The engine seems to be holding up so far.  We should be okay here for the night.”
Hearing a rustling of paper, he looked over to see his girlfriend, sixteen-year-old Janet Bartinski, with a flashlight, studying a New Mexico roadmap. 
“With all the red lines you drew on those maps, I’m surprised you can read them,” he teasingly said.  “Are we still on track?”
Sticking out her tongue at him, she retorted, “You know I’m a planner.  I needed to make sure we took the shortest route from Manhattan, Kansas to California.”  Being second in a family of seven siblings, she learned how to manage and organize at a young age.  Studying the map again, with furrowed brow, she said, “Donny?  This road isn’t on the map.  See?”
His eyes followed her cotton-candy fingertip.  “That blacktop road we pulled off must be this one,” he explained, pointing to another line on the map.  “We turned off onto an entrance to a farm field, which wouldn’t be shown on the map.  Don’t worry, honey.  We’ll be fine.” Reaching for his door handle he said, “I really need to take a leak.  I’ll eat my yummy bologna sandwich when I get back.”
 “I’m sorry Donny, but with the check you got, that’s all we could afford.”  Even with her frugal spending, they only had thirty-seven dollars left in cash.  “I got to go too.  I’ll be in the bushes on my side.”
Leaving the car idling for the warmth, Don climbed out of the car, Janet clambering out on her side.  With a flashlight and roll of toilet paper, she scampered around to the other side of the bushes, disappearing as she squatted. 
He stretched and yawned, trying to get the kinks out of his back; it felt as though his back was molded into the shape of the car seat.  Feeling the pressure in his bladder, he hurried off several feet to relieve himself.  Watching the steam rise in the chilly air, he heard the slam of the car door as Janet returned to the car.  After he was done, hands tucked into the front pockets of his worn, old jeans, he wandered up the frozen, rutted road, looking over a landscape unfamiliar to his flat-land eyes.
Finally, he was away from the wheat fields of Kansas.
Strolling slowly, gazing up at the sky in wonderment, he was amazed at the enormity of the sky, the brightness of the stars and the small, full Moon.  He had read the mountains made the sky seem enormous, and they were right. 
Taking a deep invigorating breath of the crisp, pine air, he stopped in midstride, realizing he was right at the edge of a sheer drop-off.
“Oh shit.”  Arms pin-wheeling, he threw himself backwards.    Heart pounding he looked around.  He’d been so entranced with the night sky, he hadn’t been paying any attention to where he was stepping.  He had almost killed himself with his own stupidity.   Then he thought about Janet.  What would’ve happened to her?  Would she know what to do if something did happen to him?
Taking a few deep, steadying breaths, he turned back toward the car.  Oh my God, he thought, look how close I was at driving off the cliff.  He berated himself for endangering Janet and him.  How could he be so careless and stupid?  She depended on him to protect her.  True, he’d never been in the mountains, and he was unfamiliar with the lay of the land, but that would’ve been small conciliation as they were plunging to their deaths. He’d have to be more aware of the environment around him on the remaining drive to California.
Arriving back at the car, Don climbed in, grateful for the heat and the safety. 
Janet was sitting in the passenger seat, munching on a bologna and cheese sandwich.  She held out a sandwich to him.   “I was starting to get worried.  I thought you got lost or fell off a cliff.”
Don stared at her in amazement.  She always did that to him, as if she could read his mind.  “Uh, no, I was doing some sightseeing,” he stammered, deciding not to tell her about his near death from falling off the cliff.  Taking the offered sandwich, he then fished out two lukewarm sodas from the small cooler in the front seat, handing one to Janet. 
They sat there, eating their supper of bologna and cheese sandwiches, which Don was starting to detest.  He hated the way the bologna and cheese always stuck to the roof of his mouth.  As they ate, Don said, “You know Jan, once we get settled and I start making some real money, I don’t ever want to eat bologna again.  Ever.”
Giving a dreamy smile, she said, “Then we’ll save bologna for just special occasions, dinners with candles and music.  Bologna will always remind me of this time, when we left to start our lives together.”  With a soft sigh and a faraway look in her eyes, she was already planning their romantic dinners.
Looking at his sandwich with distaste, Don wondered, how can you get romantic over a bologna and cheese dinner?  He had a different idea about romantic dinners.  Now steak and lobster, with some wine, that would be romantic. Hmm, he might have to teach her some new ideas about romance.  And not like the first time, on a wave of cheap wine and too many warm beers, they’d lost their virginity to each other at the Best Western Inn on US 177 and Bluemont Ave. 
While they were finishing their mushy supper, they continued discussing their plans for when they reached Anaheim. 
The only hobby Don enjoyed was computers, and he was a natural at it.  His programming skills were better than his teacher, so usually he taught his teacher with the rest of his computer class.  His forte was computer games, and several weeks back he’d mailed one of his gamer discs to a big software company located in Anaheim, California. 
Three days ago, Don received a letter from the same software company, with a check for airfare.  They wanted to meet with him and discuss employment opportunities, after he graduated in five months.  Don figured once they saw the rest of his computer games, they would forgo his high school diploma and hire him on the spot.  So he decided to spend the airfare money on a road trip instead.  This was his dream, to move to Anaheim, California and do computer programming, preferably games.
But he didn’t want to leave without Janet, whom he loved and adored.  One day, while they were parked at their favorite make-out spot, he told Janet his plans, and crossed his fingers, hoping she would agree to leave with him.
After he popped the question, Janet sat unblinking, staring at her precious Donny.  The only dream she ever had was to be a wife and mother, especially Donny’s wife, with their children.  She was so excited he wanted to include her in his plans, but that also meant leaving her parents, which would be a difficult choice to make.  She loved her parents and her home.  But after looking into Donny’s pleading, gentle, brown eyes, she knew her answer.  With tears gleaming in her cornflower blue eyes, she nodded yes, throwing her arms around Donny’s neck. 
With a big smile of relief and love, Don hugged her back, promising her they would be married when they were settled in California.  Cuddling together, they made detailed plans about food, fuel and what they would need to start their new life together.
In the trunk of their car, were three suitcases, two personal computers and a brand-new laptop Don’s mother had given him as a pre-Christmas gift.  In the back seat were pillows and blankets with a bag containing Don’s computer games and his notes and on the floor, Janet’s overnight bag.
Sipping her soda, Janet pointed toward some lights visible through the windshield.  “What town is that?”
“That’s Albuquerque,” Don answered, stifling a yawn.  “We’ll be there tomorrow morning.”
  Looking at her arm in the moonlight, he noticed her normally soft, tanned skin was now silvery and luminescent.  In wonder, he turned to look at her.  Her short hair, the color of the wheat fields she grew up in, was now silvery-white with a halo radiating around her head.  She was glowing with a beauty he’d never seen  and she was irresistible.
A uunfamiliar, intense need to possess her and make her his overwhelmed him. Reaching out and pulling her to him, he began kissing her deeply and passionatelyAlways a more than willing partner, Janet kissed him back just as fervently, and before long they were in the back seat, naked, fogging up the windows, the car rocking as though it were in a tornado. 
By midnight, Don was drifting off to sleep; tenderly holding the girl he loved, dreaming of the wonderful new life they’d share, once they arrived in Anaheim, California. 
Janet shook him awake.  “Donny?  Wake up, please?  You fell asleep on top of me.  My back and neck are killing me, honey.  Can you move over?”
Half-asleep and naked, Don climbed into the cold, front seat. 
Handing him a pillow and blanket, Janet asked with chattering teeth, “Can we leave the car running for the heater?  It’s freezing back here.”
Don looked at the gauge, saying, “Yeah, we have a full tank of gas.  I’ll turn the up heat and it won’t take long for the car to warm up.  Go back to sleep, babe.”
Soon, both kids fell asleep in the warming car. 
Several hours later, Janet loudly protested from the rear seat, “Donny, are you awake?  I’m baking back here now.  Can you turn off the heater?”
Groaning, the boy rolled over, reaching his sweat-covered arm toward the ignition switch, turning it off.  Shifting around to find a more comfortable position to sleep in, he said, “Jeez, it sure got hot in here.  Wake me if you get cold again.”
From the back, Janet inquired, “Donny, isn’t dawn usually around seven-thirty or eight this time of year?”
He mumbled back, “Yeah, about.  Why?”
“Well, I was just wondering.  My watch shows it should only be ten after four in the morning, but I could swear its getting light outside already.  And Donny?”
The boy rolled onto his elbow, shaking the car.  “What, Jan?”
“Didn’t we see a full Moon last night, while we were making love?”  Her voice sounded soft and dreamy. 
He lay back down, still trying to find a comfortable way to sleep, but not finding any.  “Yeah, we did.  We almost watched the Moon go down.  So?”
“Well, because I can see a Moon out the window on your side, but it doesn’t look right.  Can you see it?”
He rolled a bit, craning his neck up to look out the driver’s door window.  “Yeah, I see it.  But I don’t think that’s the Moon, Jan.  It’s too small, plus its red.  Maybe it’s Mars, or Venus.  Probably planets we don’t normally see in Kansas.”
As he lay down, he felt her moving around in the back, before she asked, “But Donny?  I see another Moon on the other side of the car.”
Sitting, he leaned to peer out the passenger side.  “That’s weird.  This planet is blue, one planet red, and the other blue.  They are kinda of neat to look at, though.”  Turning toward Janet, he pleaded, “Now please go back to sleep, Jan.  We have lots of miles to travel later today.  And since when did you care about astronomy?”
Her voice came again, sounding a little fearful.  “But Donny, what about the other Moon, that’s sitting way up high and toward the front of the car?”
Leaning forward, he craned his neck upwards to see under the rearview mirror mounted on the windshield.  “Yeah, I see a blue/green planet.”  He sifted his gaze up farther in the sky.  “Jan, can you see the really big one?  It’s almost right over the car and it’s a pale-yellow color.  I don’t remember seeing so many different planets before.”

From the rear came shuffling, as she said, “No, not from here I can’t.  Wait and I’ll look out the back window and see if I–IEEYAAH.”


  1. Okay. Here goes:

    The basic premise is good, I think. I'm not sure if this is a prologue starter. I hd an issue with suspension of disbelief on that Dodge Dart. Most 70s cars were gas guzzlers. Though gas was around $1 a gallon in 1991, I'm not sure $37 would get them across the CA border. (As an aside, a fill-up was "Putting $10 (or $20) of gas in the car" back then--as an approximate 1:1 fuel-to-cost ratio)
    I see a lot of potential in this with polishing the story flow. In general, your copy is good. I'm not criticizing your story at all; I think it will be worth the effort to edit. Rough drafts are supposed to be rough, so you're doing great. I'm also interested in the "monster" introduced right at the end and wish more suspenseful action/setting was introduced earlier.

    Keep going with it, okay? I want to read more, which is a good sign that the story has legs.

    1. Thanks for your feedback. About the $37, I'm sure whether I put that in the story or if I got that from Bob's outline. I'll have to do some checking. I've added a lot of content to his original outline and I forget what is his and what is mine.

      As for the beginning, I've changed it around a lot to try to eliminate the boring get-to-know-the-character part of the story. Bob had it all lumped together and I'e tried to break it out and eliminated some of it already. Will have to ponder on it. :)