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Run for your life - (part of) chapter 1

by Francis 

Posted: 09 July 2003
Word Count: 853
Summary: I wanted to write a comedy thriller and this is my initial attempt at introducing the main character.

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The next door neighbours car engine turned over wheezing like a heavy smoker having a morning soot fall. Jim woke on this dark November Monday morning with the portable television in the bedroom flickering. An Open University lecturer dressed in seventies style, with wide lapels and a huge knot in his tie described the process of osmosis on The Learning Zone.
“Whaa...who?” He asked his dream as he became semi-conscious. He carefully creaked out of the bed trying not to wake his wife, as he walked to the en-suite bathroom to relieve himself. It was a slightly chill morning. He scratched his head yawned and looked in the large dark framed wall mounted mirror. By peering closely he could just make out his dark hair, ruffled and spiked which he combed with his fingers. As he looked he saw his fathers’ eyes, squinting back, each day becoming more recognisable as such.
“Are you making any tea?” A lazy voice called from the bedroom.
“Yes...In a minute.” He flushed the toilet and returned to the bedroom to find his spectacles.
“Have you seen my specs?”
“When did you last have them?”
“Last night before I went to sleep.”
“Well they’ll still be there then.” And sure enough the dark shape on the bedside cabinet were the aforementioned spectacles, which he fumbled into place. Hazy shapes became crisp images.
“Did you sleep well?” He asked his wife.
“Yes apart from your snoring.” She replied. “I switched the T.V. on to drown out the noise and dozed off about 4.”
“Oh sorry about that.” He replied only marginally concerned.
Not that Jim was uncaring but Sal and Jim had been married for 24 years and he felt she should be used to his snoring by now. Anyway she could do her fair share of snoring especially after a glass or two of wine.
It was in fact their 25th wedding anniversary on Saturday and Jim had prepared a surprise party for the night with friends and relatives from near and far arriving through the week. They had a loving relationship though no marriage was a bed of roses, but the positive aspects of their relationship far outweighed the negative, Jim thought.
Jim ambled out of the bedroom to the spare room where the tea tray sat on a red plastic child’s play table. He was careful not to turn on the lights in case he woke the other members of the family. He stepped into a basked of knickers and socks and hopped out thumping the floor and clattering in to the ironing board as he did.
“Dad-stop-banging-about!-What-time-is-it?-Can-I-have-a-cup-of-tea?” Claire, Jim’s teenage daughter shouted from the room next door.
“Sorry.-I-wish-you’d-sort-this-damned-washing-out!-Yes.” Jim retorted slightly annoyed.
“I’ve been telling her to get it sorted for weeks now. Any sign of life from the other one?” Sal asked from their bed. “It’s seven o’clock.”
Jim switched the kettle on and proceeded to the bedroom at the end of the landing.
“Elizabeth it’s time to get up.”
The bundle under the quilt grunted but never moved. A large salivating stuffed dog stared at Jim. Jim tried another tack in the hope of getting a more positive response by stimulating the child’s mind.
“Are you taking sugar in your tea this morning?”
“Yeh! Last time.” Came the rapid response as the tousled head surfaced from the quilt, though no eyes opened.
Satisfied with the response Jim returned to the spare room as the kettle clicked signaling it had boiled. He poured the boiling water into the tea pot, then sugared one of the cups, already prepared with milk. He looked out of the window in the dark but brightening sky. There was an amber glow in the east as the sun began to rise, though the moon was still in the west. Lights from other houses glowed. A bedroom curtain opened across the way as a young lady greeted the day. Jim immediately ducked behind the bedroom wall. He did not want to be branded a “peeping Tom”. He crawled, so that he did not appear in the window and poured the tea.
A television was switched on in Elizabeth’s room broadcasting an inane American cartoon, reinforced with canned laughter. A thumping droning beat emitted from Claire’s bedroom, the morning peace was broken. Jim brought the tea to the girls asking them to turn their respective noise down, which was greeted with the usual reluctant acceptance.
He returned to his bed and sipped his hot tea, watching BBC 1’s Breakfast Show. Claire burst in the room.
“Dad can I lend your tape?”
“Not lend BORROW.” Jim automatically replied tiredly, correcting her grammar for what seemed like a thousand times.
“Sorry Dad. Will you borrow me your tape?”
“OK.” Jim sighed and rolled his eyes to the ceiling, in abject defeat. “but I want it back this week!”
His daughter disappeared back to her bedroom.
“What have you got on this week?”, Sal asked as she snuggled down further under the quilt.
“Oh it should be fairly quiet this week.” Jim replied hiding the fact that he was arranging the party on Saturday.

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Comments by other Members

Anna Reynolds at 18:30 on 23 August 2003  Report this post
Frankie, this is a nice start- recognisable characters and you've set up the party as a way to pull us through the story in the this part of the chapter. Or maybe this is a red herring and there's a totally different story going to emerge? I think you could do some gentle editing in certain places where there's quite a bit of repetition- and maybe sometimes you don't need to describe every detail of everyday routines quite so much, but overall it's a gentle, charming picture of family life and rings very true.

old friend at 14:16 on 08 October 2003  Report this post
Hello Frankie,

I would not have guessed that this was to be a comedy, a thriller or a combination of both. It is a pleasant little account of 'normality'. As an introduction to a character it would appear that Jim is as 'normal' and dull as the average person.

Perhaps it is early days yet but to write comedy and/or a thriller demands an unusual or finely-honed sense of timing. I would suggest that this ought to be evident right from the start.

I wonder what the hyphenated sentences were? To me they acted as visual barriers, points at which my eyes stopped. May I suggest that you edit this very strongly
and reduce the 'details' or allude to them in other ways.

What comes through for me is that you have a good eye for detail and a gentle pen.



willycan at 22:42 on 10 October 2003  Report this post
I felt do I really need to know all this domestic detail? I wanted something interesting to happen and there is little indication what this is going to be.

I felt the description of dawn breaking could have been edited as you say the sky was brightening and then go on to the sun was rising in the east? which is no unusual.

I liked the way you described family life and felt kindly disposed towards the characters.



scottwil at 07:03 on 02 November 2004  Report this post
Hi Frank, I found this amusing and charming. There are no obvious gags, but that's what I like about it. It's the very familiarity of it that works for me and makes me smile.
I enjoyed the spectacles conversation and the MC crawling past his own kitchen window - it's slow burn, character-dependant comedy, like the Royal Family.
I look forward to seeing more.


Claudette at 16:21 on 07 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Frankie,

I enjoyed this and found it very well observed and believable. I actually laughed out loud at the borrow/lend conversation - touche! There's a similar Glaswegian learn/teach thing going on!

New to this, so are we supposed to point out spelling mistakes. There was a mis-spelling of basket. If thats not the point of this then aplogies!

Alos wanted to say, that it was nice that there wasnt an obvious bit dropped in there about what is going to happen, as that would have jarred so early on.

Looking forward to reading more.



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