I have had the worst time writing this week. Honestly. Worship team practice on Thursday, another funeral on Saturday, church and travel on Sunday, more travel on Monday. Every time I end up with a schedule of any kind beyond my regular routine, I end up throwing the regular routine out the window– and I live on a second-story apartment, so you can imagine how my routine has fared. My current project has suffered more than anything. Poor thing. That’s why, for this week’s “Slowly I Turned,” I’m going to motivate myself by sharing the first chapter of that poor project with you lot. Keep in mind that this is still an early draft. Things might change a little here and there before everything is ready. Certainly the awkward angles shall be smoothed in subsequent drafts. (Beginnings are always tricky.) But this will give you a rough idea. Title: The Genesis of Max Variel. Genre: comic fantasy. Ready… set… go.
The Genesis of Max Variel
Unique on Hollytree Lane, a large shabby-grand Queen Anne house stood tall and ornate amid plain salt-box homes. The Queen Anne’s screen door sighed in the shade of the wraparound porch. A young woman, dressed in long sleeves despite the springtime warmth, pulled on a pair of gloves that suited both her dress and the house she exited. She opened her mouth but was cut short before she could speak a word.
“The fateful expedition departed number 7, Hollytree Lane on a lovely spring afternoon, little knowing what was soon to befall.” This declaration came from the girl seated on a wooden chair not far from the front door. Not quite a teenager, she was in the midst of offering her long brown hair to be braided by an older girl.
“What do you mean, Junie?” said the eldest, she of the gloves. “What do you know?”
The short middle girl answered instead. “It just means that she’s been watching too many documentaries on public television. She’s just trying to mess with your head, Prin. Don’t take her so seriously all the time. She doesn’t know everything.”
Junie merely adopted an angelic smile. “Where are you going, Prin?”
“Shopping. Wan needs a new coat, and Nana wants chops for dinner. Grandpa is in the basement, so you’re in charge until I get back, Kate.” Prin hitched her canvas shopping bag more securely on her shoulder and set off.
“Have a lovely time,” Junie called toward her eldest sister’s departing back.
Prin walked the four blocks to the pet store first. There the elderly woman behind the counter merely nodded at her entrance. Prin took her time looking through the selection of doggie coats and costumes. Even when she took her purchase back to the counter, the proprietor didn’t speak. Neither did Prin. The two kept their mutual silence through the whole transaction. On her way out, however, Prin smiled at the woman, who fluttered a hand at her in a friendly way.
The supermarket stood only a block up and two blocks over from the pet shop, but Prin followed such a circuitous route that she spent twice the time getting to the former than she had spent getting to the latter. She approached from the rear, entering through a gap in the chain-link fence and dodging around parked delivery trucks as she worked her way around to the front. There she spent several minutes surveying the parking lot. Like a neo-Victorian ghost, she slipped through the doors of the supermarket so quickly that the automatic sensor barely had time to register her presence.
Prin had come at a peak hour, so no one acknowledged her in the busy aisles. She hastened to the meat section at the back of the store. The chops her Nana wanted were on sale. Prin stood back until the assortment of women with small children in their carts dispersed from in front of the display. Only then did she approach, select two packages, and carry away her chops to the self-checkout.
Outside the exit door, she froze for three whole seconds. She took off at a walk that fell just short of a jog. From out in the parking lot, a young man came loping at an angle to intercept her. The chase only lasted until Prin turned the wrong way into the trash collection row behind the supermarket. Barred by dumpsters on one side and a tall chain-link fence before her, Prin wheeled around to face her pursuer.
“Why’d you always run away from me?” He looked like a twenty-something, but his speech and movements suggested he wasn’t long out of high school. He put on a wounded look. “I’m not out to hurt you. I just wanna talk to you.”
Prin edged sideways, away from the dumpsters.
“Aw, come on,” he coaxed. “I haven’t seen you in forever. It’s not fair—I told you my name, but you still won’t tell me who you are.”
Eyes averted, Prin only said, “You ought to go back to work.”
The young man made a dismissive noise. “They won’t miss me. I’m almost done anyway. Just ten more minutes. So, what’s your name, steampunk girl?”
“Steampunk?” Prin edged a little farther. “I don’t even know what that is.”
“Your clothes. That’s what one of the girls at the checkout called them. She says you must make them yourself, ‘cause she’s never seen anywhere that sells stuff like that. You make your own clothes?” Her admirer took a step nearer. “You do a good job. You look real good in them.”
Prin scurried aside. “You shouldn’t be talking to me.”
“Why not?” When Prin persisted in avoiding eye contact, the young man ducked down to peer into her face. “Come on… just tell me your name. I’m Max, just in case you forgot. Now it’s your turn.”
“Prin,” she blurted.
“Prin?” repeated her admirer dubiously. “P-R-I-N?”
She nodded, sidestepping farther along the fence. “I really need to go home now.”
“Let me carry your bag for you,” he offered.
When he reached out to follow through on the offer, however, Prin’s eyes went round and her face went ashen. “No!” she exclaimed. Her hands shot out, palms outward in a defensive gesture to fend him off.
There was a pop and then a great cloud of dust. Prin gasped and started coughing on the dust. Fanning the dust away, she cried, “And I wore gloves and everything!” She dropped to her knees. As the dust began to settle, a Great Dane of brindle pattern emerged from the haze, lying on the ground as if dead. Prin set a hand on the dog. “I’m sorry,” she whispered through her tears. “I’m sorry! It’ll be all right, I promise. I’m very sorry. Just try to stay calm. Can you stand up?”
The dog shook its head drunkenly, but in response to her words it tried to gather its feet under it in a prelude to standing. Every time it tried, though, the dog tipped over. Its sixth attempt proved successful, if shaky. Prin kept glancing around at the deserted loading area. Once the dog had taken a few experimental steps, Prin said, “Follow me.”