Monday, October 5, 2015

Eeek! Put Some Pages Up For Critique!

Yikes! My turn to put some pages up for critique! I'm not usually shy about critiques, because other people instantly see things I can't, but the below cartoon made me smile.

Here are a few pages of a YA work in progress I'm dying to dive back into. It's a big departure for me, so be merciless!

Jimmy Jay is f-ing crazy.
Jimmy runs her red-painted fingernail over the “c”, written in green crayon on the dull grey door. The wax flakes off, covering her middle finger like Christmas confetti.
“Gemmaline, you about finished in there?” Momma pounds on the metal door. She’s the only person on the planet who calls Jimmy Gemmaline. It’s a pretty name, but it sure doesn’t sound pretty coming from Momma’s mouth when she’s annoyed. “I swear to God, I’m gonna’ get the extra key from Sal if you don’t open this damn door. You know I gotta’ be to work.”
“I’m coming,” Jimmy says, her voice dull, still distracted by the writing on the wall. It looks like it was written by someone in elementary school. Third grade, if she had to guess, when girls are still too timid to say the F-word out loud, but not afraid to be mean. She wishes she could scrape it off before Momma sees. Before she uses it against her.
“I mean it, Gemmaline. I’m about two seconds away from…”
Jimmy shoves the metal lock across with a thwack and swings open the door, letting it bang against the dingy tile wall. Momma’s standing there, eyes blazing, hands on hips. “I’m done, alright? Keep your pants on.”
Momma laughs. The sound is deep and comes out more like a bark than a laugh. “That’s rich.”
Coming from you. That’s what Momma means, even if she doesn’t say it.
Jimmy rolls her eyes, but doesn’t say anything as Momma hoists her duffel over her shoulder and slams the bathroom door behind her. The “L” in “Ladies” is mostly faded away. Jimmy’s pretty sure it was that way when Momma moved them into Birch Meadow, and that has to be ten years ago now. Jimmy sometimes wishes she had a better memory for when she was little so at least she could remember her father a little bit, but it’s probably a blessing she doesn’t. It’d be damn depressing to know how long exactly they’d been living in the tiny one-bedroom “guest house” on the Pepperdine estate that was only ever meant to be a place for stopping off until Momma got her shit together.
Jimmy knows exactly how long they’ve been without hot water, though. Seventeen days. Seventeen days they’ve been hauling their stuff to Sal’s Truck Stop to wash their identical dishwater-blonde hair. Sal’s only got one ladies’ shower. There aren’t that many lady truckers when it comes down to it, Sal says, and Jimmy figures he’s right, since the only people she’s ever seen in the showers are her and Momma. Still, it’d sure be nice to take a shower without Momma banging down the door.
Not that she can’t come on her own, but there’s something skeevy about showering in a truck stop, no matter how you look at it and Momma on the other side of that door is better than the alternative. Whatever that might be. Jimmy doesn’t let herself think about that much.
Sometimes she skips out. Boils water on the little two-burner stovetop and fills up the bath, but that takes forever and she can’t condition her hair because it just ends up looking stringy. Last week she seriously thought about knocking on the door of the big house and seeing if she could use a shower. Momma says they’ve got seven bathrooms. What would be the harm?
But then if Regina Pepperdine told Momma, there’d be hell to pay. Cause even though they “go way back” it’s clear their history is mostly that. History. Otherwise, Momma would insist someone fix the hot water instead of giving that fake laugh and the “oh, whenever you get around to it” she gave to Mr. Pepperdine when he knocked on their door seventeen days ago and told her they’d be out of hot water for a spell because a main had burst. Or something.
Jimmy doesn’t know the exact problem. She just knows it’s been seventeen days.
Jimmy fixes the straps on her backpack over her shoulders and pulls her wet hair from underneath, letting it fan across the top of the pack. There’s a breeze tonight. It’ll be dry before she meets Rex, so she’ll be able to pull it up. He likes it off her neck, says she has a neck like a gazelle. She’s pretty sure he means giraffe, but maybe not. Rex has some weird ideas, but she’s learned not to ask because God forbid, he’ll try to explain and Rex is definitely at his best when he’s not talking.

It’s her turn to bring snacks, so she veers across the parking lot towards the shop. She’s got five dollars she pinched from Momma’s dresser, which is enough for some Slim Jim’s – Rex’s favourite – and a bag of Frito’s to share. If she takes the Slim Jim’s without paying, she’ll have enough for two Mountain Dews too, but she feels bad lifting stuff from Sal when they’re using his shower. Sometimes when she takes stuff, she tells herself she’ll pay Sal back when she gets some money of her own. Come in and drop a load of cash on the counter on her way out of town, kind of silent thank you and so long. Assuming she makes it out of town before she ends up dead or pregnant. She’s taking precautions against both, but things happen.


Kimberly G. Giarratano said...

This voice! The narrative voice is amazing. Don't change it. I don't have criticism -- I just want to see where this is going.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Oh, thank you! It's still very much a work in progress, but I have a real soft spot for Jimmy.

Carrie Beckort said...

Love it, Brenda! I'm with Kimberly - I want to know more.

The only thing for me is that I found it a bit difficult to picture the setting. Is she in a bathroom or the shower stall? Is it a joint system (both shower and toilet together)? If it's an official 'truck stop' rather than gas station, then even if there aren't many lady truckers usually that the showers are separate from the bathrooms. It's the trucker's way to get some peace and not have to share the shower with those just coming in to use the toilet. I know some of this after 17 years in the diesel engine business... Not saying it's not possible - especially if Sal's place is small. And if it is just the shower and not the bathroom too, then I'm not sure a 3rd grader would have a chance to write something on the wall in crayon. Because (1) I'm not sure Sal would let a 3rd grader have the key to the showers - the bathroom, yes. So if it's a joint system no issue, or I suppose the 3rd grader could have gone in with her mother. But then (2) How many locals would actually be using the shower at the truck stop? Also at first I thought she stepped out into a hall (ie the entrance to the showers was inside the truck stop), but then a few paragraphs later Jimmy mentions the breeze so I realized the door lead to the outside. These aren't big things and it certainly didn't detract my enjoyment, just wanted to mention it.

Brenda St John Brown said...

Wow! Thank you for that. I can totally see how that's confusing, but I would have never seen it before you pointed it out. I was thinking of the all-in-one type of bathroom/shower room with toilets on one side and showers on the other, but then that poses the dilemma about the door leading to the outside. I'll need to rework that a bit and/or think about the physical set-up. In my head, it's a smaller truck stop, so not one of those huge ones you sometimes see by the side of the road with actual "facilities"...more just a shop and a lot where truckers can park for overnight.

Also, the diesel engine business? Someday we have to talk about the transition from that to writing. :)

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