Grand Opening

Where do I start?

With an opening line.

And what is an opening line?

It is the first line of a piece.

What are you calling a piece?

A piece. A piece is a piece of writing.

And?

An essay, an article, or a story.

So the opening line tells you what you are about to read?

Not necessarily. A good one grabs your attention.

How?

By making you interested in what comes after.

How?

By telling you or by not telling you what you are about to read.

Then it could be anything.

Yes but not just any thing. It has to be interesting.

So it has to be interesting to make you interested. How do you do that?

You can tell them what it is about to let the reader see it is interesting.

Or?

You can not tell them to make them interested in finding out what it is about.

Either you hope it is something that interests them or you trick them into wanting to find out what it is about?

Or it can be clever, or unusual, or thought-provoking.

As long as it is interesting?

Yes.

So I need to start with any thing that grabs the reader’s attention.

Yes, but it’s too late. We’re at the end now.

Confessions

Only a news site born of the print world would have a confessions section. Jake clicks on the link.

The latest confession is a women trying to understand why she has dreamed of an old crush which she had thought forgotten.

The next entry is a disappointed reader of the section. The schadenfreude junkie has read four entries and vents his frustration at the lack of acts confessed by belittling them.

Jake reads on. Vegan irony, bitter satire and an anti-left rant. The schadenfreude junkie is right: Where are the confessions?

Jake skims through a long unloading by someone who is in difficult times, borderline depression. He struggles to sympathize. The speedy reading is his way to avoid judging the writer. He knows a lack of reaction to tough times is not a measure of toughness.

He scrolls. More of the same. Rants, opinions and laments. He stops, stares at the screen. He sees that it is a place for the anonymously personal; a mind dump ground with no user name necessary and moderation to keep out the smelliest garbage.

Jake stares at his screen hoping that the scrutiny will lead to a profound insight of human behaviour. Lesson number one: he has again gone too fast and missed an important detail: The posts can be voted up or down and can also be commented upon. He now understands why there are opinion posts.

He scrolls backwards; The opinions are losing the popularity contest.

He is back at the top of the page. It is telling him to confess. “I am in the mood for thievery but I can’t find anything here worth stealing.” He is pleased with his entry. It is scandalous, unbelievable and technically true.

And it would make him check the reactions. He cancels the submission. He does not want to come back to this page. The only reason he opened the page was in the hope of finding ideas to steal.

Not Just Another Face in the Crowd

Their eyes meet. A quick pause to acknowledge the gaze crossing, to make it friendly.

She blinks, furrows her brow. He slows down, there’s a question coming. He’s the answer to a still unknown mystery.

“Neil?”

“Owen. And you’re, um …”

“Pauline.”

“Pauline, right, Pauline,” There’s a flash of anger in her eyes. An expectation that the name was supposed to trigger a memory. Acquaintances don’t get angry about things like that. “oh my, yes, Pauline, from, he he, well yes, wow, it’s been 15 years since … ; Well, uh, how are you?”

“Good. Great! Yourself?”

“Great, also great. You were majoring in political science, right? Did you continue?”

“Oh no, I gave up trying to change the world when I figured out the world didn’t want to change. Now I try to add a little beauty to it. I paint. I have small studio where I also display my work.” She’s warming up a little, happy that he remembered her ambitions even though they had talked very little during their few weeks together. “And what are you up to these days?”

“I started a computer company. We’re doing well. The wife and kids do not have to worry about shelter or food.”

“How many? Kids?”

“One of each. And you?”

“Same. Married with one or two kids.”

“One or two???” Is she disappointed he’s married?

“Two, well, one together. Nuclear family.” Or compartmentalizing, avoiding the personal?

The conversation is heading for a dead end. “Hey, I’ve got to go.” he caresses her upper arm. “It’s been great seeing you again, we should meet up for a coffee.”

“Yeah, maybe, sometime.” She walks away.

Found

“Wedding ring found. See reception.”

Leo wonders how many marriages have been saved, for better or worse, by acts like this. The sign is tastefully placed below the floor numbers in the elevator. Hard to miss.

Showered, a dash of aftershave, he checks himself in the mirror. “Looking good, even if I do say so myself.” He is ready for a night out.

He had thought about using hotel a little further away from downtown but its location is convenient.

Through the large bay windows he can see the neon of the dive bar. It is Tuesday; Jimmy John’s Jam night with all you can eat wings. Classic blues, long guitar solos. Perfect for his mood.

Walking across the lobby, Leo glances at the front desk. She must have seen him when he was checking in. He was in the elevator, slipping his arm around Maureen’s waist, when he saw her. She was looking him straight in the eyes.

They are in a bubble. No one notices the scene playing out between them; not even Maureen. He watches as she takes off the ring. He watches it drop. He sees it hit the carpet. The doors snap shut.

An Allegorical Tale

The sun shines, last night’s rain is evaporating.

Liz has followed Barry out to the back porch. He is smoking a cigarette contemplating the yard. His voice is a little absent as-if he is speaking from another realm “You took care of the drainage problem. Was that your brother-in-law?”

“You could say so. Donny and his quote unquote swamp draining expertise. Ha! He pierced the septic tank. We had to find a crew to clean up the mess. It cost us a fortune. And the smell hasn’t gone away.”

Promised: An Experience

It was the negative comments that made him want to try it. The users were complaining that the Nuf had worked though they weren’t using those words.

Nuf: Known as the 21st century LSD. It was created in a laboratory in Arizona and mass produced somewhere in Southern China.

The warnings were clear:

Not for the mentally fragile; inexperienced users should start with small doses; to be taken when comfortably installed, for example, on a couch. It is strongly recommended that the user empty their bladder before starting the experience.

The effects create the sensation of an out-of-body experience while actual movement is almost impossible during the 12 to 24 hours of the trip.

The negative comments came from the users who ignored the warnings: taking large doses for their first experience or trying to use it as a party drug.

Reading the user comments he realized that the description was misleading. The so called out-of-body experience was really more like lucid dreaming. You thought you were moving around, doing things in a surreal world when in fact you were frozen in place. He also read that it explained the empty-bladder suggestion. Only the physically getting up part of going to the bathroom was a hallucination.

When People Wore Hats

There are rules about when you are supposed to take your hat off. Jake puts his hat on the desk, places the coffee in the other, far, corner and slaps his notebook down.

October 10
Outline — Neo-noir story.

The flat surface will misshape the brim and it is in his way. He moves the hat to the door’s knob.

Chandler is the model. He is known for believing the story is incidental. It’s the telling that counts. Yet his twisted plots typify the genre.

The Detective: Post-war L.A.. A man of character, weary, feeling the scars from years of month-to-month living in the margins of society. Cynical about the people he deals with without being a full-time cynic. He cares about justice more than laws and its corrupt representatives.

Name? Kris, a different type of dagger. Kris Kindly. An homage that will probably go unnoticed. Nevertheless it is amusing to leave clues in a detective story.

Marlowe rolls his own cigarettes and, like Chandler and Holmes, smokes a pipe. In the movies he pops tailor-mades to the side of his mouth and if he ever smoked a pipe it is demonstrably forgettable because it is not part of the trope.

The Dame, because it has to be a “Dame.”

How much period appropriate language to use? Minimize by avoiding adjectives. Making Kerouac race-blind always makes his prose more acceptable and takes nothing away from it’s quality.

The Dame: To borrow Chandler’s words,“less than beautiful and more than pretty.” An original way to say it? Made-up she turned heads and she had her makeup on.

The job is the start of the story and not the plot of the story. A missing object or person. A person. It is easier, less mythology to create. His hiring is part of the antagonist’s diabolical plan. The Dame is an unwilling agent for the antagonist. Blackmailed through family. A weak younger brother is classic.

A mob boss in the background. Originally a suspect and a health concern for Kris Kindly. It resolves in a mano-a-mano talk where they make an honour-code deal based on the recognition of a shared objective with different motives.

The true antagonist turns out to be an ambitious lieutenant in the boss’ crew. The ambition taking the form of a heroin start-up and the boss has a rule against dealing in smack.

The kid brother is a World War 2 veteran who’s wounding in the Pacific led to a morphine habit that morphed into an opium habit before becoming a state-side heroin habit. The habit needs a sob story. A lost shipment when acting as a runner to pay for a dose. A dose he couldn’t wait to consume, the goods stolen when nodding. Now he is indentured labour. And supposedly missing.

“Tea” has to come up. The odour showing up when Kris Kindly goes to opium dens, to dive hotels, shooting galleries. A smoker forced to give him leads to places where the kid could be.

The cops corrupt. In some of the municipalities of the renamed metro L.A. area, like the boss, they were okay, for a price, with girls and gambling. In others they had a price for everything. The boss’ contribution to the deal with Kris Kindly is a warning that the suburb he is going to has a menu with so many options that, if they printed it, would look like the newspaper’s stock market listings.

The detective will need a car. Ten years old, cheaper pre-war model. A Packard or a Studebaker would be cool if they were making the right type of car in the thirties.

The lieutenant had a deal gone bad in the wrong jurisdiction. To hide it from the boss, he is trying to pin it on Kris. Planted opium hinting at a hidden habit as the motive.

Kris will end up getting sapped at least once. He will need to find a few dead bodies along the way, only some of which he’ll report to the less corrupt cops.

The brother will end up overdosing in his hideaway near the end of the story. Part of the denouement and the reason why the Dame will go back to her Midwestern home where no one will ever know how beautiful she is when dolled-up.

A few twists and turns to make the plot hold together, plenty of banter and it’s a Chandler style story.

Jake reads his notes. Where’s the neo in the noir?

Add gore, scatological details when describing squalor and graphic sex. Sex. In a couple of his stories, Chandler really took it as far he could for his day. He didn’t skip straight to breakfast. He waited before turning out the lights.

Jake leans back satisfied. He has his story.