Well, it’s official. I finished the rough draft of the first chapter of The New Story a little over an hour ago.
It took me five hours of brainstorming, writing, reading, and reviewing the words on my screen, with only a few breaks to rest my eyes and typing fingers. And even though tomorrow I might re-read today’s output – 2,069 words, or roughly seven pages’ worth of story – and decide, “Nah, this is crap. Let’s do it over, ” I think that I wrote more good words, more good character beats, and more good lines of dialogue than I did bad ones.
2,069 words. Originally, it was 2,070 words, but I couldn’t resist tweaking a passage one last time, so I carefully looked over one of the last big chunks of text I’d written, found a sentence that didn’t quite look or sound right, then edited it. When I was done, the word count was almost identical to what it was before the edit – minus one word.
I promise I won’t be sharing too many “text reveal” posts, but I can’t resist sharing this non-spoiler bit. You folks already know that one of the settings is the Moonglow club, and those of you who participated in the Name the Character poll in March already are familiar with the name “Maddie.” So, because I think these are good words – which may not necessarily reflect the final draft of The New Story, here’s a brief excerpt, with as little context regarding the overall story as humanly possible.
I glance at Maddie and see that she is slightly affected by the Sidecar she was drinking. She has a flush on her cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes. She looks at me and smiles. Then she says, “Do you want to dance?”
“To Little Brown Jug?” I raise a skeptical eyebrow. “All you’ll get is your toes being stepped on – constantly. The rhythm is a bit too fast for me, I think.”
Maddie’s smile fades, as if a passing cloud eclipses the moon over Manhattan. The spark in her hazel eyes dims a bit as well. “Party pooper.”
“No, no. I’m just trying to save your toes from going home tonight all sore. They used to call me ‘Two Left Feet Fred’ in school,” I say.
For some reason, Maddie finds that nickname amusing, and her smile, that bright, self-confident smile, returns – but not quite reaching her eyes. A trick of the lighting in the Moonglow, perhaps, or maybe it’s the two Heinekens I’ve consumed talking. But for a second there, I sense that odd feeling that characters in Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett’s stories get when they get a visit from mysterious dames at their offices late at night.
“You? Danced in school?”
I shrug. “Yep.
She laughed, half amused, half skeptical. “College? Or high school?”
“College. I was too much of a –“
“Nerd?” she finishes for me, and I’m not sure if she’s being cute or if she was the type of girl in high school that looked down on boys like me – the grades-before-all-else, shy, and awkward guys usually depicted in the movies as uncool, comic relief characters who play second fiddle to the jocks and bad boys on campus.
I gaze at her, looking for any sign of disdain in her expression. There’s none.
“Yeah, you could say that. No, I took dance classes in college. Mom insisted. She said it would be good for me. You know, to socialize. And be a bit physically active.”
“I see,” she says, her distinctive patrician accent that is somehow fitting in this WWII-era themed nightclub a tad more pronounced thanks to that Sidecar she’s been drinking. Her eyelids droop a bit, like shades being dropped to conceal – something. “Mothers know best, after all.” She pauses a second, then her expression morphs back to inquisitiveness. “Where did you go to college?”
I look away from Maddie. I like her, I really do. But just like I didn’t want her to know what I do for a living – not that I’m ashamed about what I do, careerwise; I want her to like me for who I am as a man, not because I’m a B-list celebrity in my field.
Not wanting to antagonize her, I decide to make light of it.
“Ask me on our second date. After all, we’ve just met.”
She raises an eyebrow and gives me a mock-offended look.
“Who says this is a date? I just needed to rest my feet and quench my thirst,” she replies, her tone full of false indignation. “And who says there will be a second date? You haven’t even asked me to dance yet.”
The band plays Little Brown Jug with gusto, and the dancers join in with enthusiasm. Maddie and I watch from our table, tapping our feet and clapping our hands. She looks at me with a playful smile and says, “You know, this song is not so bad. It’s catchy and fun. And it’s not too fast for you, is it?”
I shake my head and say, “No, it’s not too fast for me. But it’s still not my favorite. I prefer something more slow and romantic.”
She raises an eyebrow and says, “Oh, really? Like what?”
I shrug and say, “Like Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. That’s a beautiful song. It’s smooth and soothing. And it’s perfect for dancing close.”
She leans in and says, “Is that a hint?”
I lean in and say, “Maybe.”
She laughs and says, “Well, maybe you’ll get your chance. The emcee said they’re going to play it next.”
I smile and say, “Maybe they will.”
The song ends with a flourish, and the crowd erupts in applause. The emcee returns to the microphone and says, “Wow! What a wonderful performance by the Swinging Millers! Let’s give them another round of applause!” He leads the audience in cheering for the band. “And they’re not done yet, folks. They have one more song for you tonight, one more gem from the swing era that will make you fall in love all over again. It’s a romantic ballad that will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. So grab your partner and get ready for some more swingin’ fun with the Swinging Millers!”
He steps back as the band starts playing Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, a slow and tender song that fills the air with emotion. The dancers pair up and move to the rhythm, holding each other close on the dance floor. The emcee watches from the side, smiling and nodding his head. He says to the crowd, “Look at all these lovely couples dancing so sweetly. Don’t they look happy? Don’t you want to join them? Come on, folks. Don’t be shy. This is your chance to show your sweetheart how much you care. Or maybe to find a new sweetheart. You never know what can happen on a night like this at the Moonglow Club.”
Let me know your thoughts in the “Comments” section below. And if you enjoy it, please consider buying a copy of Reunion: A Story, available in e-book format via Amazon Kindle or paperback on Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s online store.
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