Monday, May 20, 2013

1st 5 Pages May Workshop - McTavish Rev 2

Dayna McTavish
YA Urban Fantasy

The second week of school it becomes obvious PE is going to be my downfall. Coach Marshall, evil fiend in tiny man shorts, is out to get me, for reasons that aren’t yet clear.
Marshall has all thirty of us lined up at the beginning of class, ready and waiting for our next stupid assignment.
“Alright kids.” Marshall blows sharply on his whistle, a volleyball cradled against his hip. For the last two days we’ve been practicing how to set, serve and bump. I’ve spent most of my time avoiding the ball as much as possible. “We’re scrimmaging today, everyone get on your courts.”
Coach starts directing people and I automatically head over to my usual PE group—my asthmatic friend Jane, Weird Cape Billy and the kid who wears a helmet. My people.
“Talis, you’re over there today.” Coach points to the last court, where all the BP (Beautiful People) are congregated.
“But I’m always over here.” There’s no way in hell I’m going over there.
“Not today.” He looks at me but I don’t move. “NOW!” Tiny flecks of spittle shot out his mouth so I know he’s serious.
I walk over slowly, finding a place to stand on the outer edge of the group. Everyone else is ignoring me, they’re talking or looking at their nails or throwing volleyballs at each other. Jake Buchanan runs around acting like he’s going to depants everyone. This isn’t so bad. I can handle this.
“Are you lost little girl?” Shawna Soto is staring at me, a sickly sweet smile on her face that no one would mistake for nice. Shawna, tyrant of the sophomore class, master of the well-timed slut bomb, purveyor of eating disorders, is talking to me.
“I. . .” Can’t talk. My tongue is frozen in my mouth.
“That’s a cute shirt.” She points to my t-shirt, which is plain and gray and nondescript, except for a little bunny on the lower corner of the shirt that I thought was cute. “Did you find that in the children’s section?”
Okay, here’s the thing. Puberty has not been kind to me. Still waiting for it to get in touch. I can’t help it if I look like an underfed sixth grader.
“Shawna, how bout you dial back the bitch a little?” Cole says. Shawna and I both turn to stare at him in shock. Cole and I have been neighbors since elementary school but we don’t exactly get together now to braid each other’s hair. Except for an occasional hi in the hall last year he’s pretty much ignored me since jr. high. Shawna laughs, like it was all just a joke. Cole’s kind of got that untouchable sex god thing going. Even Shawna wouldn’t mess with him. Cole smiles at me but I’m too stunned to be grateful.
“Okay, people.” Marshall blows his whistle and motions us onto our volleyball courts.
I somehow end up between Jake and Cole, which is good because Jake is more than happy to field all the balls that come into our area. Shawna’s up to serve and when she hits the ball into my territory, Jake steps back to take it. I get out of his way, veering sideways and accidentally knocking into Cole. He grabs my waist to steady me.
“Dude, watch out,” he says to Jake. “You’re forcing ladies to run me over.” He leans in, his breath tickling my ear. “Nice work, Skee Mee. Way to get in the mix there.” He pats me on the hip before letting me go.
I stumble away, unhappy to hear a nickname I hoped died in elementary school. I concentrate on staring ahead, like my life depends on paying attention to volleyball.
“Skee Mee,” Cole says. Ugh, there it is again, that nickname. Cole has been my neighbor since elementary school, when his dad gave me the nickname “Skinny Minny.” Cole adapted it, calling me a lot of things—Skinny, Skin Min, Skins, Skee, Skeezy Breezy, until finally settling on Skee Mee as the winner.
“Skee,” he singsongs. Even though I don’t look at him, I can hear it in his voice, like he thinks he’s doing me a favor by talking to me. Giving me something to write about in my diary when I go home tonight. “Oh, silly Skee.”
I can’t hear you.
“Come on, Skins.” He stretches his arm out, halfheartedly trying to reach my shoulder. “We’re about two feet from each other. I know you can hear me.”
I freeze in place, like if I don’t move he’ll go away. What’s up with him? All of a sudden he defends me from Shawna and we’re best friends or something?
“Talis.” He drops the teasing tone.
“What—” I turn to look at him and a volleyball smacks me in the side of the face.
Everyone on our court bursts out laughing. For a second, I’m not really sure what happened. I look down at the floor, where the offending volleyball is lying at my feet. Jake stops laughing long enough to scoop it up and send it back under the net to Shawna.
The first assault might have been an accident, but because it’s greeted with such enthusiasm Shawna serves it to me again. And again. And again.
The next time she serves, I deflect so it only hits me in the arm. And the third time I try to avoid it completely. It turns into a sadistic game. No matter where I move on the court to hide, she’s there to find me. It’s like she’s possessed with the demon of incredible aim. This is exactly why I stick to my court. It would be hard for the helmet kid to do this to me.
No way is anyone going to help me hit the ball back, considering all the humorous times we’re having watching me get pummeled. When Coach finally notices what’s happening, he becomes enraged. At me.
“Hit it, Brooks!” he screams. He’s acting like this is the final round of the volleyball Olympics and because of me the US is going to lose the gold to Russia. I miss the next serve completely, swinging at air. The crowd titters. This almost sends Coach over the edge.
“Again!” He waves at Shawna to serve.
I look around, and everyone is staring, most of them smirking.
“Just try to hit it back,” Cole says, which irritates me. What does he think I’ve been doing?
Shawna makes a big show of bouncing the ball on the floor, picking it up and palming it in her hand. A few people giggle nervously. When she’s ready, she throws it and gives it a good whack, sending it hurtling over the net.
Please, please, just let me hit it. I silently pray to the god of sports or socially humiliating moments. Really, I’ll take whoever’s listening.
I close my eyes and swing, and like one of those kids in a sports movie who comes through at the last minute, connect with the ball. My eyes pop open as I feel the ball hit my arms. For a second I can almost hear the inspirational music. Until the volleyball shoots off my arm and hits Coach in the face.


  1. I like how Cole is introduced in this one (but he's introduced as the neighbor twice, so you'll want to remove the second one)

    Really enjoyed reading more word count--ends funny.

    BUT now I think the beginning has lost humor and momentum. If there is some way to keep the original intro (first few sentences) which so wonderfully shows the character (I'm going to die. Of humiliation), I think you should.

  2. I love your voice -- the bit about still waiting for puberty to get in touch, I literally LOL'd. And sadly, sounds a lot like my volleyball adventures (I can still hear the chorus of "nice try" that followed my every attempt to connect).

    But I agree with Ann, some spots are slow. I think you need to have more trust in your writing super-powers. For example:
    “But I’m always over here.” There’s no way in hell I’m going over there.
    “Not today.” He looks at me but I don’t move. “NOW!” Tiny flecks of spittle shot out his mouth so I know he’s serious.

    You've shown us she doesn't want to move, no need to add 'there's no way in hell I'm going over there'. And if coach is foaming at the mouth, no need to add 'so I know he's serious.' As always, my humble opinion.

  3. Dayna, WOW. This is so much more immediate, and it retains all the character of your fantastic voice. There's a bit of tightening and editing still needed, lots of "ing" phrases, some tense confusion, some repeated information and over-explanation, but that stuff is minor. Go over it one last time and move on. You're capturing a great character in the midst of a problem that most teens will enjoy and believe,. Just make sure that you're really hinting at the story problem. Hopefully you are, but I'm just checking. There's something about the neighbor that doesn't quite ring true for me yet. Why is he suddenly behaving different? What's changed? The reader doesn't need to know that yet, but make sure that you do.

    I love the energy in this piece. Best of luck with it!