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Beaugey
January 29th, 2011, 06:02 AM
Hello people!

I have written a novel about a young teacher from England who moves with his Canadian girlfriend to Quebec and ends up working with troubled youths on native reserve. There is one student in particular, Leonard, who becomes the bane of his life while he is there, and the story focuses heavily on their relationship. I have two written two chapters which are both potential openers, but I can't decide which would grab people more, so I was wondering if you guys could have a look and let me know what you think.

Thanks in advance,

Lance


Prologue



If you treat a man as he is, he will stay that way, but if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become that bigger and better man.
- Goethe

Gonna do some dope tonight, fuck some chicks
- Leonard



Evander pulled the fire extinguisher back and rammed it into the window. A slight crack appeared in the glass. He smashed the extinguisher against it again and the arms of the crack spread themselves out further across the pane. On the third attempt, the glass shattered completely. Thats what I thought the first one was gonna to be like, he said. He then carefully reached through the newly formed space with his hand and felt around for the lock. He found it, turned it, did the same with the handle and the door opened. He stepped into the house, followed by Leonard. Having taken a few cautious steps, they both froze while they waited to see if an alarm was going to go off. They gave it a good thirty seconds before Evander declared that it was safe for them to proceed.
Most of the fuckers dont know how to set the fucking things properly, he said with a combination of disdain and amusement.
The house was much bigger than the other two, which meant there was more cupboard space to rummage around in. Their search, accompanied by a quick scan of the inside of the refrigerator failed to turn up any bounty, however.
Lets try down in the basement, Evander said.
They spent a few minutes poking around in the downstairs rooms, but only managed to find a washing machine and dryer, an iron and ironing board, and lots of empty boxes, some of which, frustratingly, had the Coors Light logo emblazoned across them, but were now empty. Eventually, Evander conceded defeat and suggested they go and explore the rest of the house instead.
Why? Leonard asked.
For fun, Evander replied. To see what we can find.

* * *

I feel nervous, Michelle said.
I know. Although, and dont take this the wrong way, I mean, Im not trying to pour scorn on your feelings, but I dont understand how can you feel nervous about something thats already happened?
I dont know I guess I feel like its going to happen again.
If its any consolation, the fact that its happened to us once already means that the chances of it happening again are very slim.
I know, but its just how I feel. Maybe Im not nervous because I think its going to happen again, maybe Im just nervous about going back into the house. Maybe Im nervous Ill get flashbacks and start feeling like I did when it happened. Maybe thats what Im worried about.
Maybe.
I dont think Ill be able to sleep. Maybe I shouldnt have come.
Its too late now, were practically there. We had to come back anyway, otherwise how else are we going to get all that stuff out of the house?
I know, youre right.
Try and think about something else.
I cant. A conversation would take my mind of it, but you dont want to have one.
I do, I do, its just that I cant think of anything to talk about. Give me a minute to think of something. There were a few minutes of silence before Edward spoke again. The bright lights of Mistissini, he said as they rounded a corner and saw the sleeping town illuminated ahead of them.
You always say that, Michelle muttered, the irritation in her voice clear. And always in this exact same spot, as we come around this exact same corner. And then you always go on sarcastically about how its a sprawling, cosmopolitan metropolis, or whatever. Always. Every time.
Listen, Edward, replied. I know youre in a bad mood, but please dont take it out on me. Its not my fault.
Im not saying its your fault, Im just nervous and and I dont understand why you arent as well.
I am feeling a bit funny, as it happens. Lest we forget, it was actually me who came closest to death, but I know nothings going to happen. Well sleep tonight, pack everything up tomorrow, wait for the truck and then we can leave and never come back. That will be it. Im actually sort of looking forward to ending this whole sorry chapter in my life. It will be closure.
Michelle looked at him but said nothing. She then turned her head and proceeded to stare out of the window, just as she had done for much of the journey.

* * *

Leonard followed Evander into one of the two bedrooms that were situated just around the corner from the kitchen. One was empty, but for a bed and a desk with some piles of paper sitting on it, none of which proved to be of any interest to either of the two boys. The other room, however, was more of a treasure trove. It too had a bed in it, but this one was made, and there was a dresser with some unlit candles, various creams and lotions and some framed photos sitting on it. There was one photo in particular which, if Leonard had seen, would have caused him to promptly leave the house with great haste as it revealed the identity of the tenants, one of whom was known to him. He did not see it, though, and it was therefore in a state of blissful ignorance that he cast an eye over the clothes which were hanging in the closet that stood opposite the bed while Evander rifled through the dresser drawers. In the closet were some shirts, T-shirts and a couple of jackets, but Leonards eyes fell on a black suit which hung neatly on a wooden hanger. Wondering what it would be like to wear such a chic garment, he took the jacket off the hanger and put it on. The arms were slightly too long and it was slightly too tight around his ample waist, but he liked how it looked on him when he saw himself in the mirror and he liked the feel of the silk lining against the skin of his arms. He had never worn anything like it before.

* * *

The car turned the corner onto Wabushush Street and crawled along the road before eventually turning again and rolling into the driveway of number 83. The intruders inside the house did not hear the tyres crunching on the gravel.
Hey, check this out, Evander said excitedly as he pulled something out of one of the drawers. It was a G-string, which he proceeded to sniff and rub gleefully in his face.
Thats disgusting, Leonard retorted, clearly not impressed by Evanders perverted posturing. Before he could say anything further though, he heard voices coming from the porch, then the sound of the front door opening, then the feet stepping on the tiny shards of glass that lay on the floor in the hallway. For the briefest of moments, he and Evander froze.
What ..? The bemused voice from out in the hallway trailed off.
Straight away Leonard recognised it. There was, after all, only one person in Mistissini with an accent like that.
Get the fuck out of the way, Evander said as he pushed Leonard aside on his way to the window. He slid it open and clambered out and Leonard heard a dull thud as his companion landed on the grass outside the house. He went over to the window and looked out to see Evander clumsily running away from the house as quickly as he could.
Someones in the bedroom, a female voice said.
Before Leonard could begin making his escape, Edward appeared in the doorway. He stared in horror at what he saw before him.
You! he exclaimed.
I Im sorry, was all Leonard could utter by way of reply.
Who is it? Michelle asked from outside the room.
Dont come in, Edward told her. Ill deal with this. He didnt know exactly how he was going to deal with it though. What he wanted to do was charge at Leonard, wrestle him to the ground and beat him into a pulp until his face was a bloody mess, but his better judgement told him that the teenager, who was built like a rhinoceros, would probably easily overpower him, so instead he simply stood and looked at him, trying to gauge what his next move would be.
Leonard was also unsure of what to do. His instinct, of course, was to beat a hasty retreat, just as Evander had done, but he was worried Edward might try and apprehend him if he turned his back on him. So instead, he opted, like Edward, to stand and stare, and the result was that the two of them found themselves locked in a stalemate which momentarily resembled a scene from a western. The whole standoff lasted only a second or two, but it was long enough for Leonard to realise that Edward was not going take any action.
Im sorry, he said again. I didnt know this was your house. He then turned and, still wearing Edwards jacket, climbed out through the window and jumped down. Edward went over and looked out at Leonard as the latter stood up and dusted himself down.
Ill have to call the police, he said.
I know, Leonard replied. Thats okay.
There was a pause.
Can I at least have my jacket back?
Leonard paused to consider the request. Okay, he eventually said. He took the jacket off and threw it up to Edward, then disappeared into the night.
That was the last time they ever saw each other.


Prologue




Leonard gingerly placed the dirty plates and dishes in the sink. Instead of moving them in manageable instalments, he opted to transfer them all in one teetering pile so as to save time. It proved successful, but only just. Once he had completed the task, he took a grubby dish cloth that he found draped over the sink tap and used it wipe away some of the grime on the countertop. It was one of the few times in his life he had ever cleaned anything.
Music pumped out of the stereo in the living room. It was loud enough to cause the whole house to vibrate.
Okay, Leonard said in Cree, once he had cleared an area of about ten square inches.
Evander produced a small packet of white powder from his pocket and held it triumphantly aloft for the others to see.
Samson was not impressed. Is that it? he asked, the disdain evident in his voice.
Dont worry, Evander reassured him, my brother says its strong shit. We wont need much of it to get fucked up.
Okay, Samson replied as Evander emptied the contents of the packet onto the countertop.
Leonard then retrieved a credit card from his pocket. He had found it in his parents bedroom. He used it to clumsily separate the powder into three smaller piles. Given that he was not the most dexterous of people, the task was difficult enough for him, but it was made all the more challenging by the fact that the only source of light in the kitchen was a single bulb, which dangled down from an electrical cord on the other side of the room.
Youre doing it wrong! Evander exclaimed. Give it here, he then said, grabbing the card from Leonard. You have to make the lines thinner, like this. He carefully divided the pile of white powder into three narrow strips.
I thought you said youd never done this before, Samson said.
I saw it in a movie, Evander replied. Its not that difficult.
I wanna have a go, Leonard protested.
No way, Evander said, youve already fucked it up once!
Fuck man! Samson said, for no reason other than to articulate his frustration at how long the process was taking.
Leonards parents were out, probably gambling in Chibougamau, he guessed. They would almost certainly not be back until sometime the next day. He had explained this to the other two when they asked him if the kitchen of his mother and fathers house was really the best place to be doing lines of coke.
Even if they do come home, he told them, they wont care. They do the stuff all the time anyway.
He was right. For as long as he could remember, Leonard had been a spectator as his mother and father destroyed themselves with drugs and alcohol, ruined the family financially with gambling debts and subjected each other to torrents of verbal and physical abuse whenever an issue, usually drug, alcohol or money related, arose. Occasionally he would be required to intervene, sometimes to hold his mothers head back as she vomited uncontrollably, sometimes to run an errand which might involve collecting a small packet of something illegal from someone of less-than-desirable repute. This was how Leonard knew that his parents would almost certainly not have a problem with him indulging. Even if they did, he reasoned, they would not be justified in their indignation, since he was only doing what they themselves did several times a week.
Just let me have a go, he begged Evander. I was doing it right before.
Ive done it now, Evander proclaimed. On the counter top in front of him were three neat, straight white lines, ready to be snorted.
The music continued to pump out of the stereo in the living room. It was loud enough to be heard halfway down the street.
Do you have scissors? Evander enquired. Ive got the straw.
Hold on, Leonard replied. He opened a nearby draw and began rummaging around among the miscellaneous utensils. Eventually he managed to extract a pair of scissors. He handed them to Evander, who proceeded to use them to chop the straw he had brought with him into three equally sizeed pieces.
I think you need to make them smaller, Samson said.
What the fuck do you know? Evander asked.
Like you: I saw it in a film. They gotta be short. And I think they have to be thinner too.
I think this is too wide. Samson took one of the pieces of straw from Evander, held it up in front of his face and looked through it with one eye, as if it were a telescope.
Still the music pumped out of the stereo in the living room. Because of it, they did not hear the knock at the front door. Nor did they hear the door open, nor did they hear the policemen making their way through the hallway, towards the kitchen. It was only when Samson happened to catch a glimpse of them approaching that any of the youths were alerted to their presence.
Shit! he exclaimed.
Oh fuck, said Evander, when he saw them.
We had a complaint about the noise, one of the officers said. He did not see the white powder on the countertop.
Leonard then did something which he was never quite able to explain afterwards: he bolted in the direction of the front door, shoving both officers aside in the process. If he had stopped to think about what he was doing, he would have realised that even if he had managed to escape their clutches that night, they would have apprehended him eventually. Even if there was somewhere for him to go and hide out for a while, Mistissini was the kind of place where everyone knew everyone elses business. If he really wanted to evade capture, he would have had to skip town completely, and that was not an option. Not a sensible one, anyway, given that he had no money, no car and no friends who had any money or a car. All of this was irrelevant, however, because when he ran, he had the more immediate, and ultimately decisive disadvantage of not having any shoes on his feet.
But Leonard did not stop and think about any of this. He simply panicked and made a beeline for the front door. Before either of the two policemen could extend a hand to grab him, he had exited the house and made his way out into the darkness of the Mistissini night.
You stay here, one of the officers said to the other. Ill go after him.
The officer ran down the hallway and out onto the street, whereupon he could make out the shape of Leonard lumbering along in a desperate attempt to escape. Were he but a little trimmer himself, he would have had no trouble catching up to the renegade teen, who was hampered not just by his lack of shoes, but also by his own bulky frame. But as it was, the officer had a fair bit of sweating to do before he could capture his prey. He had piled on the pounds since joining the force and as he ran at what for him felt like breakneck speed, he promised himself he would start going to gym the very next day.
Leonard, meanwhile, rounded a corner, made his way a few feet up the street he had turned onto and darted (or at least gave his best interpretation of darting) between two houses, neither of which was fenced. He looked back to see the officer in pursuit, then looked ahead again so that he could focus on running as fast as he could across the patch of litter-covered grass that was stretched out in front of him. He would have to try and avoid as much of the debris as he could, given that he had only his socks to protect his feet. He managed to get most of the way before he felt a sudden bullet of pain shoot up through the sole of his right foot as something sharp, probably a piece of glass, pierced it. He screamed and fell, but quickly picked himself up and carried on running, his adrenalin and desperate desire to outrun his adversary somehow managing override the pain. He ran between two more houses to emerge onto another street, turned left and ran downhill towards a six foot high, barbed wire fence that stood at the end. As he clambered over it, he cursed himself for not turning right, which, although would have meant an uphill run, would not have presented him with such an obstacle. As he jumped from the top, his T-shirt, which had become snagged on the barbed wire, ripped. When his foot, which was now losing blood at an alarming rate, hit the ground, he howled in agony. He lost his balance and fell sideways onto the ground and the pain emanating from his foot was joined by a new pain in the side of his torso as the skin, which had been exposed by the rip in his T-shirt, scraped against the tarmac. Realising he did not have time to sit and lick his wounds, Leonard picked himself up, dusted himself down, and began running across the parking lot in which he had found himself. As he stumbled along, the pain became so intense that he had to slow down to a brisk walk, although even this was a struggle. Without knowing exactly how he got there, he eventually found himself slumped between two dumpsters which were parked against the rear wall of a building which, Leonard discovered on closer inspection, was the Meechum grocery store. Within a few seconds of him placing himself on the ground, he realised from the smell emanating from beneath him and the slimy sensation on his backside that he had sat right on top of a turd that had been deposited there by one of Mistissinis many stray dogs. He spluttered a few times as the insufferable stench wafted up into his nostrils and he considered hoisting himself up into one of the dumpsters to escape at least some of it. He quickly decided, however, that it would not make enough difference to warrant the expenditure of energy; he would just have to deal with the odour. Once he had regained some of his composure, he looked around and took the fact that he could not see the officer to mean that he was safe, temporarily, at least. What he could see, however, dimly illuminated by the street lights, was a trail of blood, which ran from the fence, across the parking lot, and right up to where he sat. Of more urgent concern though was the fact that his head was beginning to feel light and the scenery around him was beginning to fade. He barely had time to register the blurry outline of his pursuer looming above him before his eyes closed, his head fell sideways against one of the dumpsters and the life that he had known up until that point came to an end.

KelvinMurray
February 22nd, 2011, 09:27 AM
Although I enjoyed reading both, I think the first opening is the best out of the two.

Simply because it makes you ask more questions after reading it whereas the other is kind of self contained.

Beaugey
February 28th, 2011, 10:06 AM
I was beginning to wonder if anyone was every going to make a comment!

Lance