Monday, December 16, 2013

1st 5 Pages December Workshop - Pollinger Rnd 2

Name: Henry Pollinger
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Title: The Adventures of Jake and Willy

Out of all the rules at Harry S. Truman Middle School, five rules are
strictly enforced.

1. Don't be late. Arrive to school and class on time.
2. No chewing gum in class or in the hallways.
3. No use of cell phone or any electronic device during school
hours. All cell phones and electronic devices must be turned off and
stored in your locker. It is best to leave them at home.
4. When absent, you are responsible for any missed work.
5. Three unexcused absences equal an after school detention.

There he was. On a bright Monday morning, sitting in the middle
stall of the boys bathroom. Leaning forward, Jake was chewing gum (rule
#2) playing Angry Birds on his iPhone (rule #3), and waiting for the
second bell to ring. The middle stall was the only one with a door and a
lock. Jack did not pay attention to the disembodied voices grumbling
about girls, farts, skateboarding, and what to do this weekend, already.

He just kept playing, with the sound turned low. It didn't
matter if he was late to his first period class (rule #1). He had Mr.
Peters. In fact, he had Mr. Peter's all day, for every subject. He
didn't have the luxury of changes classes like everyone else. He was
special ed. Although, he didn't feel so special.

People came in and out and he kept playing, moving from one
level to the next. Then it happened.

He heard a sound. He looked up. He saw the tile moving. The roof
tile slid completely across, two feet dangled from above. Jake looked
up, his mouth open. Slowly someone lowered themselves down onto the back
of the toilet.

“Thank you for not actually going to the bathroom,” said an
unrecognizable voice from behind.

“You welcome...I guess,” Jake said awkwardly. Who the hell is

“Get up.”


“Get up and turn around.”

Jake got up off the toilet, turned around and saw him. Someone
around his age, but smaller. He was about five feet tall, his knees were
bent and he was balanced on the back of the toilet. He was wearing a
baseball cap, a swath of bright red hair peeking through the front, a
sweatshirt, jeans, and a huge smile.

“Now you see me.”

“I do. Who are you?”
“I obviously go to the same school as you.”

“Yes, but I have never seen you before.”

“Right, I hardly every really come to school, not my thing.”


“Willy,” he said as he offered Jake his outstretched hand.


“So, Jake...Do you make it a habit of hanging out in the

“Every morning.”

“I see. Are you looking for adventure?”

“Of course.”

“Get your stuff, let's go!”

Jake got up, put his phone in his front pocket. Willy jumped
down from the back of the toilet. They both left the stall. Standing by
the door they stood face to face. It was clear that Jake was the taller
one. Willy barely made it to his shoulders. After a short pause, they
both left the bathroom and walked into the quiet, vacant hallway.

“What's the plan?” Jake whispered.

“Follow me,” Willy responded.

Jake followed Willy. They walked casually down the hallway. They
walked past Mr. Stone's technology room. Luckily, Mr. Stone had his back
to the door and in his customary way, was talking to students about what
Jake thought was student safety for the hundredth time. Then, it
happened. They were outside. It was first period and Jake and Willy were
outside, preparing to escape.

“Follow me,” Willy said.

Willy quickly walked over to the shed behind Mr. Stone's
classroom. Behind the shed were two bikes. Willy motioned to Jake to
take one and Willy hoped onto the other. They began riding down the
parking lot and out of school, heading towards the Rail Trail. The Rail
Trail was a paved walkway over the old railroad lines that use to run
clear up to Albany from their small, rural town. Willy and Jake began
pedaling and reached the Rail Trail in what appeared to Jake to be
record time. They finally slowed down.

“Where are we going?” Jake asked. He was breathing a little
heavily because they were bicycling so quickly he was unable to catch
his breath.

“To the train station,” Willy replied.

“The train station? Why?”

“Because, buddy...We are going to New York City!” Willy stated

“New York City? Why?”

“To find my father.”

“But...what about school? Jake had a tinge of concern in his

Willy stopped his bike. “Give me your phone.”

Jake handed Willy the phone. Willy dialed a number and put it on

“Good morning J. Edgar Hoover Middle School. Cindy speaking, how
may I help you?”

Willy had called the Principal's office.

“Good morning.” Jake thought, Willy sure does sound like my

“This is Mr. Martin. I wanted to call to let you know that my
son, Jake will not be in school today. I think he may have the stomach
bug. He has been pooping, pu...”

“OK, Mr. Martin.” Cindy, the Principal's secretary cut him off
right there. “I will mark Jake Martin down as absent. Should I get his
work for him?”

“Of course.” Willy looked at Jake and made a face with his
upturned lip.

“Thank you, Mr. Martin.”

Willy hung up. “There, down. You are excused from school for

Jake thought to himself, it was that easy. All I had to do was
have someone call and tell them that he was sick in order to get out of
school. Why didn't he think of that?

Jake and Willy continued to peddle, in silence, towards the
train station. When they arrived, they parked their bikes in front of
the platform. While climbing the platform, Jake said “I don't have any
money for tickets.”

“No worries. I have them right here.” Willy patted his pocket.
“We just have to wait for the 7:55 train.”

Jake and Willy sat on the bench. They were both looking forward,
in silence.

Commuters dressed in long coats and carrying briefcases were
pacing back and forth, heads down reading the paper. Jake thought, one
day, I hope that is me. A fancy job in NYC. Reading the newspaper,
wearing one of those coats. People probably listen to them. They seemed
important. Jake didn't feel important. In fact, he felt alone. He heard
words like stupid and retard on a daily basis. It didn't make it any
better that he spent his whole day in Mr. Peter's Special Education
class with other kids were called the same names. Even PE, where he was
allowed to be with “normal” kids was a nightmare. Despite being a decent
athlete, no one picked Jake for fear that his stupidness would rub off
on him. But, Jake wasn't stupid. He had a hard time reading. Other than
that, he was good at Math and just ask him any questions about
Presidents. He could name them, starting with George Washington and tell
you their birth dates, the years in office, and when they died. Harry S.
Truman born May 8, 1884; died December 26, 1972. He was the 33rd
president and he served from 1945-1953.

The train finally roared into the platform. They both stood up.
Willy reached into his pocket and pulled out two tickets. He handed one
to Jake.

“If they ask, we are going to New York on a field trip. We were
separated from the group. Our teacher is in the front car.” Willy
explained to Jake.

The train stopped, they walked on. Walking past a few empty
seats, they finally stopped at one. Willy jumped in next to the window.

“I hope you don't mind. I need the window seat. I like to see
whats going past.”

“No problem.” Jake swung his book bag onto the rack above the
seats. He sat down.

“Why me?” Jake asked as Willy stared out the window.

Still staring out the window, Willy replied. “I have been
watching you. Not in the creepy sense, but in a way to see if you were
able to handle this important mission with me.”

“What important mission?”

“We are going to New York to find...” Willy stopped. He
continued to stare out the window. The train began to pull away from the

“We are going to New York to find what?” Jake asked.

“We are going to New York to find my father.” Willy responded.

After Willy said this, they both sat in silence. Jake knew Willy
from school. They were both in Mr. Peter's class together. He was the
kid who rarely made it to school on time. He always had a note from Mrs.
Kerry, the school social worker. He never did homework, yet he always
knew what was going on. He was quiet and smart. He stood up for
everyone. When people picked on anyone from Mr. Perry's class he was the
first to defend them.

“I need to find my father.” Willy finally said. “I have the
address where he works.”

Willy pulled out a piece of paper. It said 80 Spring Street.

“I know that he is a sous chef. He works in some restaurant in
New York. The address is right here.”
Jake had never been to New York. He had never even been on a
train. To say he was nervous was an understatement.

“I saved over five hundred dollars for this trip.” Willy said.
“I just want to go to New York. Find him, say hello and come back. We
will be back before school ends.”

Jake relaxed. If that was the case, there was really nothing to
worry about.

“So, just sit back and enjoy.” Willy winked at Jake.


  1. Hi Henry! I really like your beginning. You also did a great job of making me intrigued to find out more. I have a few questions though.

    Why was Jake skipping class? While you don't need to explain everything--actually, it's better not to--readers need some sense of Jake's motives. What does he want? What motivates him? Is he skipping because he doesn't feel he needs to be in special ed.? Was there something in class he was avoiding? Kids in the halls? Something else?

    OK, he's sitting in a bathroom stall and suddenly a kid shimmies his way from the ceiling practically on top of him! That definitely got my attention. I would think it would get Jake's too. Yet, he didn't notice anything about him until Willy told him to turn around. I would think he would be mesmerized and confused. Clearly, that's not something that happens regularly.

    I'm also surprised about how fast they became friends and how fast Jake just followed him to NYC. I would think Jake would have more worries than simply getting in trouble for school. The beginning shows him breaking nearly all the major rules. Shouldn't it take some convincing for him to just take off cross-country (or state) without a word to anyone? It sounds like whatever his mental impairments are, they are quite mild. He should have some more red flags about leaving school, taking off on a bike, and getting on a train with someone he doesn't know. Especially since Willy seemed to have the whole thing planned. Jake seemed too eager to go.

    Unless there is a reason he needed/wanted to get out of there, at any cost. But I don't see that. If there is a reason, show that more.

    Is it J. Edgar Hoover School or Harry S. Truman? Both are mentioned.

    Willy posing as Jake's dad went off a bit too easily too. Elementary-aged kids typically have higher voices. The secretary didn't even seem a bit skeptical. You could amp up the tension if this is tougher to do.

    Did Jake know Willy before this or not? When Willy first appears, Jake says he'd never seen him before, but later he says that Willy was in his class and stood up for him when people called him and other classmates names. This was confusing.

    Out of curiosity, is Willy real or a figment of Jake's imagination? If he is real, then I would definitely reiterate my questions about Jake going too willingly and without question. If he's not real, then you might want to weave in more clues so that the reader gets a sense of this, even if Jake hasn't figured it out yet.

    Did anyone see them leave school? It's an elementary school. Isn't it hard for kids to simply walk out the door, especially now with heightened security? Everything seems to go pretty smoothly. Nobody questions them, including Jake.

    Jake definitely needs more motivation. Why is he so willing to go? Why doesn't he want to be in class? One could easily propel the other. Just connect a couple more dots and add a dimension of emotion. That emotion/desire line is great fuel for motivation and tension.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Even though I have some questions, I definitely feel (as a reader) that the story is being told by a capable writer. Keep after it. I can't wait to see where it goes!


  2. Hi Henry,
    I like the premise of your plot. Two buddies going off to NYC to find the one's father. It feels to me to be a grade school book, because of so many things that aren't realistic. i.e. dropping out of the ceiling, excused absence so easily, excuse for on the train. As an adult, my reasoning kicks in that this wouldn't happen like that. So maybe younger kids will just buy into it.

    I think it would make a good middle grade book if you concentrate on the two boys' relationship. That's what will draw them in, plus the adventure. I'm unsure of your purpose in opening or even using the rule breaking part. Though you're characterizing, I think you already show his character by being in the bathroom stall and not in class.

    If the boys meet in the bathroom, I want it to be more realistic. And know they already have a connection to traipse off together. They share more than being in the same class.

    I think you have a good idea to work with. Good luck.

  3. Hi Henry,

    I like the opening a lot, and there's an endearing quality to the voice that I think is perfect for an MG. Like Kelly though, I wondered if this was a real circumstance or something that Jake was imagining.

    While I love the idea of the list and, as a reader, dive into it enthusiastically, I felt as if it goes on a bit too long and gets a little too involved.

    After that, I feel like maybe things aren't quite involved enough. I don't feel as deep in the moment with the action and dialogue as I could, but I suspect that this will be easily fixed if you put yourself deeper into Jake's shoes and consider what he is doing, why he is doing it, what he sees, and hears, and experiences, and give us a little bit more of that. Let us connect with him by letting us understand him a little bit better.

    Willi has the makings of a fascinating character. That's fantastic. But the circumstances of Jake meeting Wili and going off with him are pretty unusual, and Jake doesn't seem to process that they are unusual, and because he isn't thinking it through as it happens, I have a hard time suspending disbelief. IF WIll isn't a figment of Jake's imagination, then you'll need to sell this a bit more by letting us process the circumstances along with Jake. And if Willi isn't real, then I would suggest letting us in on why Jake is in the bathroom (a good idea to do anyway to help establish his character for the reader) and giving us a hint (showing not telling) of why he might need this hallucination just now. I suspect those would be linked together.

    Also, this is quite heavy in rapid-fire dialogue. Take a bit of time to mix that up with some action tags and description so that we can follow along more easily. That and the additional narrative I suggested above will also help us live the story along with Jake. :)

    This has the makings of a very engaging, imaginative story, and I'm intrigued by it. Best of luck with it, Henry!