.Some time ago
I suggested that I might be writing a short story on the ole blog here, going through the drafts in public. The story I had planned to do this with, however, did not get started until this last week. And, inconveniently, those early words were written out longhand.
Still, the concept of the experiment remained interesting: How will my writing process differ if I know that someone may, at all time, potentially, be reading (maybe). A lot? A little?
The whole thing is ridiculous though. What makes me think anyone would want to read all the crappy early words? Who do I think I am? Neil Gaiman?
Anyway, I started typing those first few thousand words, but then I was distracted and started typing new words. Most of which are also pretty terrible, but after plenty misstarts, I think I've finally found the story's beginning.
Before I share it with you, I want to say a couple things (and by "a couple," I mean "several."):
1. This whole process means that there is no magician-and-audience here. The beautiful polished works that I usually produce (other than on Thmusings, of course: repository for whatever the crap happens to fall from my fingers) this is not. This is rough-draft stuff. Even if these 700 words are the first that have a fighting chance at making the final draft, they're still far from polished.
2. The story I'm writing bears only a fleeting resemblance to the proposed story linked to above. Levi and Ammon, for instance, are gone. Replaced by brothers Hemn and Djed who don't hardly even appear in this excerpt.
3. Much of my efforts so far have been in finding the story's beginning. But in all these false beginnings, I have learned much about the paths the story should follow. In fact, most of the story's all outlined in my head. Just most of the stuff actually written down isn't that great. Yet.
4. But I do like this beginning. Taking the opening back a few hours was, if you don't mind my saying so, brilliant. Much better to see this scene than to have two people talking about it. Duh.
5. Here we go (enjoy):
cracked through the dusty doorway as the couple knelt with their children to say a prayer on behalf of their beleaguered prophet. The father’s dirt-caked toes dug into the floor of their home as he listened to his oldest pray. “And Lord please help us love our neighbors, even when—”Even when.
This was the hard part. Her father cracked his eyes to peek through his lashes at his faithful girl. She seemed to have love enough for the even-whens. How were children so able to love. She was thirteen—almost old enough to wed—but still so much a child in her smiles and hope and faith.
Beside him, his wife leaned in a little more and he bent his head to rest it on hers.
The girl finished her prayer and helped her little brother stand. She took him into their homes second room for bed. As he watched them leave, he was torn between love for them and the oppressive loss that there were only two. These were not good days for keeping children alive.
The orange bled into purple. There was not oil to spare for a light. The father was about to suggest sleep to his wife when he heard voices outside, in that strained tone of the naturally noisily struggling to be quiet. A glare of torchlight flashed through their tattered door then a fist ripped down the rotted cloth. In a moment, soldiers flooded the room—six, ten—more people than had even been in their tiny home before, that much was certain. The soldiers were yelling but the father couldn’t understand any of the words. He was shouting at his daughter to stay in the other room as he pushed his wife behind him. Soldiers yanked her from him and she was passed arm to arm and out the door. He yelled, inarticulate, and rushed forward. A huge fist caught him in the throat and he fell to his hands and knees, his breath sounding like mice. He was kicked under the chin and fell to the ground. One soldier next to him gestured at him, his spear scraping the ceiling, brown chunks raining down on the prostrate man. He struggled to wipe the dust from his eyes, to sit. A foot to the ear and he gave up, and just lay prone, waiting. He could hear the shortened breath of his daughter, the muffled tears of his son. He could hear his wife not at all.
The soldiers parted and a man in temple robes entered. He looked at the fallen man as if he were a weeks-old fish. “Mm,” he said. “You are David? A follower of the traitor Jeremiah?”
David coughed and struggled to speak.
“Stand him up.”
Two soldiers grabbed him and jerked him upright. David swayed unsteadily for a moment, then shook his head. He looked up from under his mussed hair and looked at the priest.
“I am David. And a follower of the God of Israel.”
“Yes, yes. And you lick the toes of Jeremiah. I can tell by your response. You will come with us. Secure him.”
A thin rope pulled around his wrists, cutting into his skin. A second rope around his waist held his arms to his side. Then a rope just above his knees.
The priest turned and left and, after a sharp poke between his shoulder blades, David followed him. As he left his home he looked about wildly for any sign of his wife, but nothing. “Miriam!” he cried.
“Shut up.” Someone smacked his head with a spear.
Curfew had fallen with the sun, but the soldiers’ footfalls attracted the beginnings of a crowd anyway. One pair of eyes stood out from the crowd. The face was too black to be visible, but David would know his friend and brother Hemn anywhere. “Find Miriam!” he cried again, straining the remnants of his voice.
The priest stopped. Without turning around he said, “Split his tongue. Perhaps it will quiet him. And if not, he can obviously use a nice quenching draught of blood.”
David’s face was grabbed and his jaw forced open. A knife thrust between his teeth. Pain and the sense of drowning. A forced march and blackness.