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Kevin`s Point of View - Chapter 1

by Colonist 

Posted: 25 June 2004
Word Count: 1875
Summary: Next installment of the story. See Prologue for story description.

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Kevin's Point of View
By Del Shannon

Chapter 1

The boy’s dream ended slowly. The gold and silver chariot twisted and shrank into the corner of the room where it withered back into a battered bed. The gladiator, who a moment earlier was charging toward a quick death at the hands of his smaller but smarter foe, stepped back to the corner of the bed shedding his brightly polished armor as he retreated. The once mighty warrior was now nothing more than a worn bedpost, not worthy of the one, fierce swing that would cut him neatly in two. The crowd in the coliseum clamored toward the old wooden toy chest, aglow in the morning sun. The oval arena boxed in on itself, evolving into four perfect corners, wood floor, white ceiling, two doors and a double-paned window. Posters of racing cars and football players came into focus on the white walls.

Twelve-year-old Kevin Tobin squinted into the sunlight and frowned. He was the third shortest kid in his 6th grade class, a fact Betsy – his 15-year-old, ugly, redheaded sister – would never let him forget. But still he stuck out his chest and snarled as largely as he dared, “Next time there won’t be a stupid sunbeam to save you, Tonyous the Smellious.” Slowly he unclenched his hands from the pillow held above his head, ready to strike and pushed a tangle of shaggy brown hair up off his forehead. Seconds earlier the pillow had been a large and dangerously sharp sword, given as a gift for tricking the evil witch, Mrs. Schmitus, into entering the Swamp of No Return.

But the memory of Mapleonius quickly faded with the thump from Betsy’s room – the race for the bathroom had begun.
Kevin kicked his legs over the bed and felt around with his feet on the cold, wood floor for his red, blue and green plaid slippers. His mother thought the wood floors were romantic and Victorian. Kevin hated them because they froze his feet on cold mornings and he complained to his mother about his frostbitten toes for months. For his birthday he got slippers. Finding the slippers, he crammed his feet into them and lunged for his bathrobe hanging from the door. Throwing open the door and jabbing his arms into the sleeves he slid into the hallway and...

...was slammed into the wall by Ivan Rednisevich, the most feared defenseman for the Russian National Hockey Team. Kevin, skating with a red, white and blue USA on his chest, a red number eight on his back, four missing teeth, and a menacing skull and cross-bones tattoo on his left forearm, immediately spun around. He watched in horror as Ivan skated six yards ahead of him toward his empty goal with the puck seemingly glued to his stick and his skates gleaming in the light.

Quickly calculating his options, which were few and mostly hopeless, he reached back with his right skate, found the wall, and pushed with a force that could only be generated by his thick, muscular thigh, hurling his body at the hulking Ivan.

Ivan smirked confidently. He was sure he had smashed Kevin into the first row of seats. But in a desperate lunge, with only six inches separating Ivan from the open net, Kevin caught the ugly defenseman, reached around his huge body, and slapped the puck away.

“You little creep!” Betsy screamed, banging on the bathroom door. “That’s the third time this week you’ve pushed me out of the way to get to the bathroom. If you ever come out, and I hope you don’t, it’s going to take five people fourteen days to find all of the teeth I’m going to knock out of your stupid little mouth.”

The crowd roared its approval, except for Ivan who crashed his fists against the side of the rink, screaming and cursing in Russian.

Kevin undressed and jumped into the bathtub while Betsy rattled the door and continued to yell outside. Reaching down he turned on the water and watched it splash over his toes. He found the perfect temperature and turned on the shower just as Betsy kicked the door a final time and stomped to the kitchen to complain to their mother.

A massive depth charge exploded 300 yards above the U.S.S. Fathom, the largest and quietest nuclear powered submarine in the United States Navy. The explosion opened a crack in a small water pipe over Captain Tobin spraying water onto him and the bridge.

“Where did that come from? How did they find us?” demanded Tobin, his face shiny from the spray, his eyes darting frantically through the control room.

“I don’t know, sir,” the sonarman quickly shot back. “We’re running on ultra-quiet mode. A Peruvian fruit bat couldn’t have heard us five feet away.”

Sabotage, thought Tobin immediately. There must be a homing signal directing the attacking ships to their location, and now they were about to send his boat in pieces to the ocean floor. Tobin’s chiseled and unshaven jaw clenched as he tried to think of who the traitor might be. He had over 200 crewmembers to pick from.

Without warning, more depth charges began to explode, one every five seconds. The submarine pitched violently with each blast and reports of heavy damage began to flood the control room almost as fast as the water. There had been no time to load and arm the torpedoes and now the weapons room was damaged beyond use. Another explosion crippled their engines. Tobin was running out of options.

“Take us to communications depth,” barked Tobin. “We’re going to put out a distress call, then abandon ship and take our chances on the surface.” Surrender was not an option.

“Aye-aye, sir.”

The Fathom responded sluggishly at first to the command but then rose steadily. It leveled off just below the unfriendly surface, quickly sent a distress call on all emergency channels, then crashed through the foreign waves.

Tobin directed the removal of the entire crew, and only once all were safely in the lifeboats, did he begin his own escape. Just as he stepped onto the ladder leading out of the empty control room something caught his attention.

“Mom,” Betsy whined reaching the kitchen. “That dork brother of mine is doing that thing again. This time he thinks he’s a hockey player, or something.”

Ellen Tobin took in a long breath and sighed. She looked at the last bite of her English muffin on the kitchen table, folded her half-read newspaper, rose and grabbed the bathroom key from a drawer. “A hockey player?” she asked Betsy as she trudged down the hall to the bathroom.

“How am I supposed to know?” Betsy continued to whine as she followed. “He shoved me out of the way, again, and started jabbering like an idiot about hockey pucks, or something. I think we should have him checked out again.”

Ellen ignored Betsy’s diagnosis. Thump, thump, thump. “Kevin? Kevin, honey, why did you push your sister out of the way again to get the bathroom first?” Ellen asked evenly. “I thought we agreed during our talk yesterday that we were going to be courteous and share things in this house?”

Captain Tobin whirled around and spotted the ship’s counselor, barely visible, hiding around a corner and reaching for the large, coal-black gun sticking out of his belt. With no time to draw his own weapon, he jumped up the ladder, swinging himself out of the space that was suddenly filled with a spray of bullets.

“Kevin? Kevin, answer me,” Ellen pleaded, her voice rising slightly. She waited five more seconds, then pushed the key into the lock. She swung open the door just in time to see Kevin’s wet, naked body leap out of the bathroom window and into the backyard.

Captain Tobin thought furiously as he battled the large swells of the north Atlantic. How could it have been the counselor? He looked back at his rapidly sinking submarine and saw the outline of the counselor screaming at him from the deck. In the distance he spotted an enemy helicopter, no doubt sent to pluck their man from the Fathom. It would be headed in his direction next.

“We’ll meet again,” hissed Tobin under his breath. “But next time you’ll be the one swimming home.”

“Kevin Alexander Tobin, you get back into this house this instant,” Ellen boomed, hanging halfway out the bathroom window. Her face was sunburn red and her eyes bugged out like she’d been slugged in the stomach. She watched her naked son run from the big maple tree, to the rose bushes, to the garden, back to the rose bushes, and then to the edge of the deck.

Ellen snatched a towel from the rack, leaped over Betsy - who was laughing uncontrollably on the hallway floor - and ran to the back door. “Why am I being punished?” she muttered as she reached the door. She screamed again for her delusional son to get back in the house before the neighbors called the police, or human services, or the dogcatcher for all she knew.

Captain Tobin barely kept his chin above the waves. He only had a few minutes before either the icy water slid his body beneath the surface, or the rapidly closing helicopter captured him. He didn’t want to die in these waters, becoming tuna food, but he also dreaded becoming a prisoner of war, which meant unimaginable torture for months, possibly years. In desperation he decided to fake unconsciousness and let himself be captured. When taken aboard the helicopter he would ambush the crew and fly to the nearest friendly ship, which should be no more than 20 minutes away. It was a long shot but one he had to take. He leaned his head back and spread his arms out and for the first time in four months saw a vibrant blue sky. The April sun warmed his face.

“Gotcha,” Ellen shouted as she snuck up on Kevin. He was lying on his back staring into the morning sky. She threw the towel over his wet, naked body, picked him up around the waist, and wrestled him into the house.

“What in God’s name possessed you to jump out of the bathroom window without any clothes on?” she asked in her my-life-is-too-hard voice. “What will our neighbors think? I’ll tell you what they’ll think. They’ll think I let my children run around naked in the backyard before school because I’m two sandwiches short of a picnic. Then they’ll cart me off to the asylum, which might not be that bad, because then I may actually get some time to myself. I won’t have to run after you all day making sure you’re not performing surgery on Sprinkles the Cat, or seeing how long it takes oatmeal to dry on the wall. Sure, call the loony bin and take me away right now, I’m ready. Are you listening to me, Kevin?”

“I’ll neber talkph,” struggled Captain Tobin through the gag. “You’b bebber be a bebber torphurer than yoth are a counthelor ifff yoth wanph eben my therial nubber.”

Ellen sighed and staggered inside with Kevin in tow.

End Chapter 1

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Comments by other Members

Terry Edge at 11:40 on 27 June 2004  Report this post

A few quick comments. Again, this is very well-written and very funny in places. But, having read the Prologue too, I still think the main problem is that it's written for adults rather than children. It reminds me of William Kotzwinkle when he writes about childhood, but very much for adults. It's partly the sophistication of the language but mainly it's the point of view that makes it adult. Although this is mainly in Kevin's POV, you shift constantly into a more adult view - either the author's or Ellen's. For example, 'her delusional son' is a very adult view of what, to a child, just seems like a kid using his imagination.

This is just my view, but I think you need to do one of two things: either make this an adult book, looking through a child's eyes for the most part but maintaining an older POV; or simplify your writing to make it appeal to children. Kevin is 12, so this would (in the UK at least) fall into the 9-12s reading range. This means you need to stay in Kevin's POV all the time, and only hint at (through his reactions/assumptions) what the adults think of his behaviour. And you need to simplify both the dialogue and narrative - at present, you're dumping a lot of information in both which again makes the reading very adult. For example:

He was the third shortest kid in his 6th grade class, a fact Betsy – his 15-year-old, ugly, redheaded sister – would never let him forget.


“That’s the third time this week you’ve pushed me out of the way to get to the bathroom. If you ever come out, and I hope you don’t, it’s going to take five people fourteen days to find all of the teeth I’m going to knock out of your stupid little mouth.”

In the first example, it's just too much info about both Kevin and Besty to squeeze into one sentence. Also, 'ugly' is a big Tell rather than Show. Who thinks she's ugly - Kevin, the rest of the world, the author?

For the second example, I just don't think 15 year olds talk like this. It's very wordy - because you're trying to tell us too much. It's also contradictory - why would she say she hopes he doesn't come out, when that's what she wants? It also sets her up as a numbers freak, or someone into maths - 'third', 'five', 'fourteen' - is that intentional, or is it again the author cramming in too much info at the expense of his character building?

To summarise, this is very sophisticated writing, showing great imagination and with lots of subtle humour. But I do feel you need to decide who it's aimed at and simplify/make more subtle accordingly.

All the best,


Colonist at 21:05 on 27 June 2004  Report this post
Hey Terry,

Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my two Kevin's POV posts. I appreciate you taking the time to read and respond to these two submittals. And no need to apologize for you opinions (good or bad). This isn't group therapy, it's a critique group.

As I imagine you wanted, you've got me thinking again about my audience. It's something all writers should do. I'll go back and see if it is indeed appropriate for the age group I'm targeting.

But I will pass along that this story has been read by at least 75 children ranging in age from 8 to 13. Most recently it was read by a class of 3rd graders at our local elementary school (here in the US these would be 8- to 9-year-olds). At the end of the year Kevin's POV was voted the best book that year. Other books they read include "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "Ella Enchanted." I had an opportunity to talk to these kids after they read it and all were able to follow it, describe the scenes and characters they liked best, and their own theories on a sequel.

It's not as if I'm disagreeing with you, but my own experience has shown that children in the age group I'm targeting kept up quite well with the writing.

But, then again, I may be wrong. Maybe it won't hold up when read by a broader audience. Either way, I'll give it another look and see if the writing holds water with my age target.

Again, thanks a bunch for your critique. It's appreciated.

Cheers! Del

Terry Edge at 09:34 on 28 June 2004  Report this post

You raise an interesting point, about audiences. I've probably become somewhat brainwashed by what editors say they want, what kind of writing suits which age-range, etc (and let's face it, their age ranges are largely marketing devices anyway). If you have direct evidence that a number of kids who aren't relatives like your book then that should be useful proof that it's sellable. The problem then is convincing publishers. One of my books was read recently by the senior editor at a major UK children's publisher and her report on it was a) that it's great stuff, full of memorable characters but b) because it's about football, it won't sell (because there's too many kids' football books about at the moment). I've put a few chapters of it on this site (you were kind enough to comment on one of them) and I've been convinced by the response that this is in fact a good book. The question is what to do next. If publishers are convinced that a book is not suitable, it's next to impossible to convince them otherwise. In short, one of the difficulties of getting your stuff published is that you have be able to please what publishers believe children are reading, rather than what children may actually want to read.

Having said all that, some of my comments were more about your actual writing, regardless of who it's aimed at. And here, I'm happy to admit that this is purely my view (although I can usually back it up with reason). One of the problems I have with quite a lot of the children's manuscripts that I read/review/edit is that where I'm saying that the POV is not consistent, or there's too much Tell and not enough Show, the writer can simply point to the adventures of a certain boy wizard and blow me a huge raspberry. This is what children want and read so who cares if it's not 'good' writing? To which the only answer I can give is that the author should care because if she can write well, then she can write anything, rather than be confined to, say, rollicking adventures about two-dimensional characters who get out of trouble through dodgy plots and bad magic. A good example, for me, is Philip Pullman, who is such a good writer that he can produce convincing stories whether they're Victorian detective yarns or philosophical fantasies.

And I'm not saying by any means that I think your writing is bad. On the contrary, I think you have a very intelligent and subtle style. My suggestions were towards possibly making it a bit smoother and more accessible to that broader audience you mention. In this respect, I guess there is a possibly legitimate objection a publisher may raise to the fact that a class of kids liked your book, which is that there are local factors that could sway them, e.g. because it's your book and they know you and/or because it was a book they had to read, as opposed to picking it up themselves in a book shop and reading the first page to decide whether or not to buy it.


Colonist at 16:27 on 28 June 2004  Report this post
Hi again, Terry,

I go on a bit of rant about this topic in our Synopsis discussion. I suppose I need to apologize about this, but nothing has a greater ability to frustrate me than listening to editors make stuff up off the cuff and expect me to believe it as commandments Moses misplaced on his way down the mountain. That's the engineer in me raging against the illogical side of this business. But this subjective, illogical mess that drives me nuts is also the thing that attracts me to writing. So I'm attracted and repulsed at the same time by writing. It's not unlike a Cher concert. :)

And again, please don't worry about hurting my feelings by telling me what you think. Even though I may not always agree with it, I still respect it - the reason being you're a very good writer. Having this kind of discourse reminds me why I write. For this, I'm grateful.

Cheers from the US, mate! Del

ps - What happened with the Brits during the European Cup? A very good friend of mine grew up and still lives in Manchester and he hasn't responded to my emails. I suspect he's still too upset to talk about it.

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