Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Mutinous Crew: Chapter 10

So yes, a terrible thing, to take a long passage and leave things unsaid. A terrible, wonderful thing. I like this exercise a lot because I have a whole chapter that leaves a whole lot unsaid in The Stone That Sings. Mostly because Juliette wants to blot out a terrible memory, but I need there to be enough so the reader can at least guess what is going on.

So it was great to take exercise seven, which I thought was horribly wordy anyway, and chop it down to its tense, immediate aspects, and allow the reader to fill in the blanks. I think I actually got to less than half.

I will have another post to talk more on my reflections around Steering the Craft. But for now, here is the exercise:

Exercise Ten

The waters had continued to rise long after the rain had ceased. At seven-thirty, the levy gave out in a stream of mud and sandbags. But it was the radio, not the sirens, that pulled Amber’s attention from mulling over yet another pointless fight with Chet, back to her customers.

Across the counter was Charles Everette, still mummified in rain slicker and hat, his face hidden behind a bristled mustache. He and his wife, Clare, were on their way to Samsukeegee for the Salmon Festival -- a rainy time of year to be sure, but never like this. Clare’s face was wan, bound head and chin by a kerchief; clenched tight in her white jacket, she could have been Jacob Marley’s sister.

Amber tried to focus beyond the sight of their stunned, waxy faces and back on the words coming from the radio, but all that would register was FLOOD and HIGH GROUND. Her hands trembled as she looked into the Everette’s partially filled bag. Hot pockets, diet Coke. She added a handful of lighters from the stand, and as Charles started to protest in a small voice, threw another bag at him and told him to grab toilet paper. Charles continued to stare numbly until Amber repeated the building was eight stories high. At least Clare found life in Amber’s words. Eight stories up was HIGH GROUND.

The rooftop gurgled as it disgorged the last of the rain in pipes and gutters. The sight of the ragged bundle of plastic holding a human form startled the Everetts, but Amber was actually hoping to see old Rufus hiding up here. At least the old coot was safe and in a way, she was just as homeless as he was. They all were.

In the Law Offices of Kirby, Wasserman and Turner, Sarah was relieved that could finally get Arthur off the phone. Arthur Wasserman finally noticed the rising waters himself and his voice faded before he hung up, unsure what else to do after that.

The power decided for him as the lights flickered, then went out, casting the office in a moments-before-twilight gray. The roof Sarah said, blurting it out as he paused in the dim. Arthur registered the words and nodded, and together they pushed through the gloomy hallways toward the stairwell.

For Chris on the fifth floor, every website he’d been trading this morning covered the basics of emergency preparedness, and he’d absorbed every word, yet done none of them. At least he had a spare inhaler, that he tucked into his pocket, and galloped up the stairs and shoved at the door, ignoring the sign: AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY.

As she watched him struggle for his inhaler, Amber wished she’d grabbed the medical kit from the office. Arthur paused at the sound of the wheezing, then focused back to his appointments. Chris found his inhaler and sent a jet of salbutamol into his lungs, and his breathing eased.

While the others huddled apart on the roof, Ralph waded his way downward through the first-floor stairwell, shoving himself against the cold, dark flow of water. If the triple say of baggies would keep the shipment dry, he’d be lucky if the stories of Kepler taking fingers with a rusty set of tin snips were made up.

In the parking lot the flood nearly tore him away, but he gripped the door and flailed, then pulled himself slowly onto the stair. A Fiat at the end of the curb, its top cresting the flood, shifted and slid slowly downstream. Ralph cursed as he struggled back into the maw of the stairwell, feeling each step with his foot, pushing upward, stumbling on the landing and searching out the next set of steps. Each step up the stairwell brought a new, increasingly improbable fantasy of fate which brought the cocaine back to Kepler until he burst through the door to the roof. He scrambled to the edge and leaned against the wall, searching for a glimpse of his car. He didn’t even acknowledge Amber putting a shirt over his back.

Together on the roof, they watched the water continue to rise. In Marmont, seventy miles to the north, the rains continued, pounding down on the streets of Hammonford and the surrounding suburbs, making a concrete funnel which gushed down to the river.

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