Lately, I’ve been working on the synopsis/story outline for the new YA novella. Unusual for me, at this point, is to be working with my editor at tweaking the story before I’ve even written word one on the story proper. Yet, even this early, there are things I really like about the story about which my editor is saying, “We might want to rethink this a bit.”
Which just goes to show, the darlings, they can be killed at any point in the process and as an author, you have to be prepared to deal. Unless, of course, you’re one of those speshul snowflakes who exists in a vacuum and has reached a point where people are afraid/don’t bother to edit you any longer. In which case, I feel sorry for you because everyone can stand editing.
But that’s a post for another day. Today it’s about killing darlings and while I’m not prepared to share from the new story just yet (mostly because it’s really such a little thing and not much of a darling to kill anyway), I am willing to share one of my absolute favorite darlings from Dorian.
Oh, how I love this scene. Like BURNING, I love it. I knew when I first wrote it that it was a hell of a scene. When my first readers started telling me that good as it was, it maybe wasn’t going to work, I rebelled. It was such a good scene, dammit. How could it not work? I moved it around in the narrative—I even tried making it the opening scene—but eventually, I had to acknowledge defeat and the fact that my readers, with the distance they had from the story, were right.
Great scene. Just not working for the story as a whole. Out it goes. But I still love it and pull it out from time to time to remind myself what I’m capable of producing.
The French Quarter, New Orleans
Gabriel clenched one end of the tourniquet between his teeth and pulled tight, rapidly opening and closing his left fist and slapping the fingers of his right hand along the crook of his elbow, pausing only to feel for the telltale rise of the vein. Praying for it to come up faster, sooner…
He unclenched his jaw, the filled syringe he’d been holding between his teeth dropping into his palm. Quickly, he adjusted his grip and plunged the needle into the vein, his head dropping back against the weathered brick wall of the alley as the juice burned through his bloodstream and the familiar euphoria washed over him, ebbing and flowing in time with the rowdy strains of “Iko Iko” that drifted from some nearby club.
Look at my king all dressed in red
Iko iko an nay
“I bet you five dollars he’ll kill you dead,” he sang along in his head—he thought—until he heard the cheer and answering chant of “Jockomo feena nay!” from the group weaving through the lights glowing at the far end of the alley, pointing the way toward the noise and rowdiness of Bourbon. A little more subdued, maybe, but signs of life were evident, the parties of the Quarter staging a return. Celebrating survival. Shooting a big, civic finger at that fucking storm. That mean-assed bitch had blown into town, done her damage, then left them scrabbling in her left-behind shit like the goddamned Lord of the Flies. But she could just go fuck herself—she’d been banished and they were still here. Still here and not going anywhere. Not anytime soon, no sir.
Sweat trailed along his scalp and around his ear, cold and sinuous as a snake. No… no… He fucking hated snakes. Blinking rapidly, he tried to dispel the image, rubbing his back against the rough bricks to get rid of the feeling of something dark slithering down his neck and along his arm, leaving a dank, clammy trail in its wake, like it’d just come sliding up from the bayou.
The syringe dropped from suddenly nerveless fingers to join the rest of the crap littering the narrow alley—this sliver between two ancient buildings just wide enough to trap the shadows. Perfect for a quickie, whether it was with someone—or something—you wouldn’t normally be caught dead with out there, even in the hedonistic surroundings of the Quarter. Their remains lay underfoot: the mélange of cigarette butts and crushed go-cups, used syringes and condoms that had a way of tripping up tourists stupid enough to try to use the alley as a shortcut.
Why was he thinking of all this shit? He was trying to forget the bad. Forget the sting of cold water against his face—cold that was alien to New Orleans in August. Forget fighting against the wind and rain, trying to convince folks to leave, that he’d drive them to the Dome, to the Convention Center, to anywhere that wasn’t where the storm was trying to beat her way into their house… the House of the Rising Sun, the Crescent City, the Big Easy…
So easy… It had once been so easy. It needed to be easy again.
He never used to trust easy. Easy was for suckers and the lazy. Live long enough in New Orleans, though, and a body eventually succumbed. Easy was their way of life after all. Even when working hard, there was a welcome, sugar-drenched easiness about everything that made it home.
A screaming trumpet line wailed through the heavy, humid air bathing him in the soothing warmth of home. So warm, even late, late at night, with the shadows and ghosts as his only company. Just like he liked it.
The familiar lethargy began claiming him, sweet and relaxing, from his fingertips through his muscles and all the way down to his bones, making him feel as if he was sinking right into the weathered bricks, merging with the building. So perfect. He could be a sentry, standing guard, watching everyone go about their business… doing the things they did, good and bad, that gave the city a richness like sweet cream, that kept folks coming back, even now. She was like a lady past her prime, ragged round the edges but still damned fine enough to attract all the boys and knowing it.
He smiled, rubbing his palms over the rough surface beneath them, caressing life back into the old girl, letting her know he thought she was still hot. He’d never leave her for any of those sleeker, bigger cities with their promise of shiny and new. Hell, why would he leave? All that sleek shininess, it was bullshit—a smokescreen hiding all the same sorts of darkness. At least New Orleans, she was honest and true.
Rolling his head to the side, he peered down the tunnel-like expanse of the alley, the dark length lithe and supple, his beautiful girl reaching out to embrace him. Slowly, he began making his way toward the movement—so fucking beautiful, bodies moving together, then apart then together again, a long, graceful arm reaching out to him, imploring, beseeching—
He blinked again, smiled at her request, tried to move a few steps closer, stumbling as muscle and bone rebelled, wanting to stay, the weathered bricks tightening their embrace as if wanting him to sink into every pore and crack.
“Help me, please—”
It was the darkest part of the alley and he was still too far away. Too far and getting further, as the long arm reached out once more then fell away, the once-graceful fingers grasping at thin air, desperate for purchase. Adrenaline surged through his system, fighting through the junk holding his body hostage.
He blinked furiously trying to separate reality and the fantasy—what if it was all a fantasy? What if it was all real?
What the hell was real?
He groped at the small of his back for his piece with one hand—reached into his pocket with the other. Braced his legs. Lifted the gun in what should’ve been a practiced grip.
Sweated as it trembled.
“Police—” He flashed his badge. “Step away and show me your hands. Now!”
Except there was nothing there. Nothing more than the stink of piss and illicit sex and the distant wail of a trumpet that sounded like laughter on the night air.
From A Tempestuous Noise
© 2012 Barbara Caridad Ferrer