Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Burden of Proof, Episode 1

The blood rushing to Jody's head made the fight in the living room sound tinny, and appropriately distant.

The simmering resentment that had characterized her parents' marriage since her brother Josh had been a toddler had boiled over during dinner, right on schedule. The current excuse for the fight – a few years earlier, Jody had come to the conclusion that her parents didn't fight about anything, they had fights and justified them as they went along – was church, which was continuing its recent meteoric climb up the "things that made Gregory and Betsy Kohler scream at each other" rankings.

Her father's voice rose sharply in intensity, soon followed by a flapping noise. Jody, by now a connoisseur of the sounds of parental combat, guessed he'd thrown a magazine to the ground, since nothing more dramatic had been ready to hand. Jody grinned in spite of herself. Her parents hadn't paid attention when she'd "redecorated" two of the rooms that saw much of the combat – the living room and the dining room – and replaced the few surviving glass and china knick-knacks with lightweight woven baskets, needlepoint samplers, and "Oprah" magazines.

As Jody lay across her bed, head and shoulders crooked over the edge so she could peer underneath, a stray beam of light scattered amidst the dust motes orbiting the preserved family treasures. A china statuette of a serene woman stroking an even more serene sheep was barely short enough to fit standing up under Jody's bed, and so she'd put it there last. The statuette, then, blocked her view of the brightly colored glass flowers on wire stems that sprouted from a Kool-Aid red glass globe, which she'd loved ever since she was a little girl. To either side of the flowers, the statuette was flanked by a handful of lesser artifacts – the black clay pottery vase with incised patterns, the small Japanese lacquer-work tray, her grandmama Elaine's third-favorite Hummel figurine, and the rest.

A crackling sound from the living room told Jody that her mother had responded, probably with the small pink Easter basket filled with green plastic grass. If only I'd been able to disarm the kitchen too, she thought.


X said...

I like it, but I was confused in the first 2 paragraphs between Jody and Josh. I'm admittedly slow at these things, but I read as far as Josh's name, then thought "Oh, I thought the kid's name was Jody." I had to re-read a few times to figure out that they must be siblings.

I remember seeing writing advice from Orson Scott Card that all major characters in a story should have substantially different sounding names (i.e., not both short and starting with the same letter) to avoid reader confusion. Admittedly this is now Orson "insane" Card, but that bit of advice is still pretty good :)

cminus said...

Well, I'd intended to characterize the Kohlers as exactly the sort of people who would give all of their kids very similar names -- my original concept was they had four children, Josh, Judy, Jody and Jenny -- but that bit can certainly go by the wayside for clarity's sake.

X said...

Well another of his rules (his best one actually) was that you can break any of the rules you like, you just have to be willing to pay the price. So, maybe you could give them all similar names, but you'll have to either put up with people being a bit confused, or work a tetch harder to keep them straight for people ("her brother Josh").

cminus said...

I'll probably just leave the names the same, then. Josh is really just background; I don't even expect he'll even show up in person during the story.

Although I would like to edit the post so that it reads "her brother Josh" instead, if that's possible.

X said...

Hm. I should make us all admin so we can edit ourselves. I hadn't thought of that before!