Monday, November 19, 2012

1st 5 Pages November Workshop - Edwards Rev 2

Name: Dana Edwards
Genre: MG, contemporary
Title: The Summer I Started a Business, Solved a Bank Robbery, and Showed Up on Cajun
Pawn Stars

Chapter 1

I sat down in the Lobby and watched the Grim Reaper work the room. Mr. Whiskers approached each occupied chair demanding attention. Then he rubbed his back against the leg of the couch and meowed at me as if to ask, “What?” He sauntered off and curled up on the rug in front of the sliding glass door that led to the courtyard.

This was going to be the worse summer of my life—stuck for the third year in a row at Mom’s work. The highlight of the morning was watching the most popular resident of Southside Gardens Assisted Living and Nursing Home lick his paws. I saw Amy walk in the front door and followed her to the Beauty Parlor.

“Hey, Haley. How’s your summer going?” Amy asked as she balanced the box of beauty supplies on her hip while unlocking the parlor door.

“So far it stinks. Mom won’t trust me to stay home alone by myself so I have to come here every day—all summer long.” Amy almost fell in when the door gave way. “Is she afraid you’ll burn the house down?”

I followed her in and plopped down in the first pink chair with the hair dryer attached to it. “No. She’s afraid I’ll spend my whole summer in front of the TV watching Cajun Pawn Stars. I told her that wasn’t even possible seeing how Cajun Pawn Stars only comes on a couple of times a week, but as you can see, I’m here.” I pushed the buttons. ON. OFF. COOL. OFF.

Amy put on her smock and started mixing the hair dye in her little wooden bowl. “This place isn’t so bad. I mean, I’m here.”

The truth was Amy was stuck too. She was here because she couldn’t get hired anywhere else. After she graduated from cosmetology school, her mom’s friend gave her a job at an exclusive salon in Midtown where all the rich clients from Atlanta paid at least $100 for a cut and blow-dry and another $100 for color. Amy didn’t like to talk about it, but let’s just say the mayor’s wife didn’t look good in blue. Hair, that is. Anyway, Southside Gardens was the only place she could find a job.

I pulled the hood of the hair dryer over my head and sat there like an astronaut waiting for the big countdown when Amy said, “So, have your heard about the girl who’s here?”

“Is her name Haley Thayer and is she sitting right in front of you?” I asked.

“No, silly. Her name is Rachel and she’s 16. She was hit by a car. She’s been here for almost two months.”

I shot up and clanged my forehead on the hair dryer. “Ow. There’s another kid here? A girl? Where is she?” Summer is so looking up. I started thinking about all the things we could do—hang out, play cards, watch TV, knock out our required summer reading, …

“She’s upstairs. She’s in a coma.”

“What? That’s awful. What happened?” I asked.

Amy sat beside me and leaned in close. “Well, there’s all sorts of stories, but I know this for a fact…the car that hit her…” She paused for effect. Amy lived for drama.

I leaned in closer to her. “Yessss?”

“It was driven by…bank robbers,” she said.

“Bank robbers? Really?” Amy was probably just trying to make my summer more interesting. I appreciated her effort.

“Well, that what I’ve heard. You should check it out.” Amy stood up and turned on the curling iron and hot rollers.

Maybe. But I had more important business. “Mom said I might be able to find some odd jobs around here. I’m saving up for a cell phone.” I straightened the stack of magazines on the table beside me. “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. Is there anything I can do to help you? For money, that is?”

“Hum, let’s see. I guess I could use a shampoo girl. Are you interested in that?” Amy asked.

“Gross. No. I can’t stick my hands in other people’s hair.” Oops. “No offense. I was thinking something more like, sweeping or helping the old ladies out of their wheelchairs and walkers and into the chairs. Or…I could go through your magazines and toss out the old ones.” I lifted the Southern Living and looked at the date. “See, this one right here is four months old. The main article is about traveling to some tulip farm when the ladies should be reading about taking trips to the beach.”

“I don’t really think any of our residents are planning trips to the beach.” Amy separated the medium sized perm rollers from the small ones. “Housekeeping sweeps for me and the nursing assistants help the ladies in and out of their chairs. What about manicures? How do you feel about painting other people’s nails?”

“Is painting inside the lines required?” I asked, although I was pretty sure I knew the answer.

“Sort of. Why don’t you ask Chef Michael if he has a job for you?” Amy asked.
“The Dining Hall? Barf. I wouldn’t step foot in there if my life…” The door pushed open and Mr. Whiskers sashayed in.

“Well, hello there.” Amy bent down to pet him.

“I hate that cat,” I said. Mr. Whiskers rubbed against Amy’s legs. “He’s just like that cat I saw on the morning news show last year. You remember—the one in Rhode Island. I think his name was Owen. Or maybe it was Oscar. Anyway, they’re probably distant cousins.”

“Are you still on that?” Amy asked. She looked at her calendar for the day.

“Mom doesn’t believe me either, but it’s true. Whenever Mr. Whiskers spends the night on a resident’s bed, that resident ends up dead the next day. It’s a proven fact. It’s like he has a sixth sense or something.” Just then, he hopped up on my lap. I refused to pet him, but he stayed there anyway. “Great. I’m glad I’m not spending the night.”

“Last summer, I saw him sleeping on Mr. Fairbanks’ bed and the next morning, he was gone,” I continued.

“Where’d he go?” she asked.

“He was DEAD, Amy. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Either Mr. Whiskers can tell who’s going to die and he throws one last farewell slumber party or Mr. Whiskers is somehow murdering the residents.”

Amy laughed, then she snorted. I loved making Amy laugh just to hear it.

“I guess the fact that Mr. Fairbanks was 98 and in poor health had nothing to do with his death,” she said.

“Just you wait. My mission this summer is to get a cell phone and prove my theory.” I nudged Mr. Whiskers with my elbow until he hopped on the floor. “Who’s your next victim?” He stretched his front paws out and arched his back. I called out, “I’m gonna keep an eye on you, cat,” as he walked out the door.

Amy wrote the names of the ladies who were getting their hairdos done that morning on the dry erase board.

Essie Smith 9:30

Bonnie Williams 10:30

Lilia Hendrix 11:30

I wanted to be sure I was long gone before Miss Essie showed up for her appointment. Sometimes she mistook me for her daughter, Katherine. I could understand the confusion. Katherine was probably 65 by now; I was twelve. Katherine most likely was a grandmother herself and lived in Michigan where Miss Essie was from; I was in middle school and lived in a suburb of Atlanta. Yeah, it was like we were almost twins.


  1. This read cleaner for me and I liked opening with Mr. Whiskers.

    Just two minor things:
    The treatment of Mr. Whiskers is a little inconsistent currently. At first, Haley seems content to watch the cat (the highlight), but when he reappears later she says, "I hate that cat." Also I wonder if the two parts could be combined. (I'm assuming Mr Whiskers plays an important role in the plot).

    "The truth was..." paragraph: I still wonder how Haley knows Amy's backstory. Was Amy upfront about it herself? Are these whispers behind Amy's back? Is Haley plugged into the gossip at Southside Gardens?

    Happy writing. I'm enjoying it!

  2. Hi Dana,
    I really enjoyed reading your revisions. I especially enjoyed the revision of the dryer being like an astronaut helmet. Great simile! There were just two places that were a little muddled for me, but they are very minor.

    1. Love the new opening few sentences. Love that the cat is considered the Grim Reaper. I would love it to be explained a little more in the beginning as to why he is called this, then expanded later when he comes into the beauty parlor or add more here:
    "The highlight of the morning was watching the most popular resident of Southside Gardens Assisted Living and Nursing Home lick his paws. I saw Amy walk in the front door and followed her to the Beauty Parlor."

    2. Very minor grammar errors:
    “So far it stinks. Mom won’t trust me to stay home alone by myself so I have to come here every day—all summer long.” Amy almost fell in when the door gave way. “Is she afraid you’ll burn the house down?”----should be two paragraphs.
    “She’s upstairs. She’s in a coma.”----"She's upstairs in a coma."

    Good luck with the rest of your writing!

  3. Love this story and the voice. Although the opening is good, I'm concerned starting with the "Grim Reaper" line makes us think it's going to be paranormal or something. Also if she's watching the cat it's inconsistent to say he then comes in the room later. Maybe she's fine watching him until he jumps in her own lap? Just a thought. Otherwise, great stuff.

  4. I like that you removed the intro with talk about the food - it speeds things up and is less distracting (in my opinion). While I do think there are a few little things here and there you will clean up as you edit and re-edit, I really feel like this is a strong begin, mostly because I know I would keep reading so easily if there was more to read!


  5. Hi,

    Love Lisa's suggestion about being content to watch the cat until he threatens to jump into her lap. That would make perfect sense!

    This reads much cleaner and more logically for me. GREAT job. I feel like we now have everything we need to know to move forward. All your story questions are here and the voice is good.

    I still feel as if you could minimize Amy's backstory a little bit, and there's obviously some clean-up work, but you have the frame and the balance right now.

    One thing, keep an eye on name/pronoun usage. I don't know that you need to use Amy's proper name so often. If you have established who is speaking, the pronoun is sufficient and less distancing.

    Awesome job!