Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another piece of the story

                                                So as promised or perhaps threatened,
                                here is another little bit from my book.
                                  Your comments are most welcome.

She rolled over in her crib seeking out the puddle of warmth her body had just made made . Hoping to lie in it a bit longer despite hearing the brisk click clack click of the nurses shoe heels coming down the linoleum hallway, faster and faster. This meant Sister Bertrand would be getting Clare up this morning, Sister Bertrand with her tight face and  long bony fingers and very fast trot. She was the head nurse, the boss lady , the charge nurse, her title changing depending on which student nurse was doing the boot licking.The Sister nurses never called each other any other name than the ones they came to Suffering Heart with or at least none that baby Clare had ever heard.

Sister Bertrand was not mean, she was just quick and abrupt. Sometimes she would rush too much and pinch the child's hand in the cold metal crib rail or pull their hair when combing through the rat tangles the nights tossing and turning had left . She didn't intend these hurts. She would always apologize, her apologies as quick as her step. "Sorry !" and again "sorry" as she pulled a child's gown over her head roughly enough to make ears feel like they might be ripping loose. She was horrible at shoes, jamming the toes into the stiff white leather before she would loosen the cotton ties. Baby Clare had learned at a very young age to curl up her toes tightly against one another thus lessening the likely hood that one would get caught on the side of the shoe, pulling it backwards.

But this morning Sister Bertrand was different. She was just as quick, just as abrupt but when she took baby Clare from her crib dropping the rails with the usual loud CLANK of metal on metal she did not immediately yank off Clare's dressing gown exposing her to the frigid barely morning air. Instead, she pulled the tiny girl close and laid her cheek on Clare's head. So brief that Clare was unsure what was happening but just long enough to smell the familiar Breck Shampoo in the wisps of brown bangs that had escaped from under the Sisters rigid head piece. She knew it was Breck because her sister Diedres' head smelled the same whenever she came to visit. Clean and flowery and soft. That was the way Deirdre would describe it to her much younger sister.  "Isn't my hair clean and flowery and soft Clare ? My friend Michele gave me this Breck stuff, so much better than the castile soap junk mom always buys."

Clare wondered where did Sister Bertrand get her shampoo ? She had heard them through the vent in the wall above her crib always complaining  about the harshness of the soaps and shampoos at Suffering Heart but she had not heard anyone talk about the Breck. She had heard them complain about all sorts of things like the food and the lack of shoes for the other children and the bread that was always delivered after breakfast instead of before as they so clearly had told Mr Denunzio who obviously did not listen. Clare enjoyed listening to the voices through the thin wall that separated her ward from the Sisters lounge.

Just as Clare felt herself leaning into Sister Bertrand, her tiny body full of ache for the warmth of human touch that lasted longer than it took to put on a pair of shoes, Sister Bertrand pushed Clare upright and away from her. She finished Clare's hair, pulling over an uneven section of fine blond hair with a bobby pin she'd been holding in her mouth, and put her  diminutive charge down in a folding chair next to the child's crib. "Don't move !", she instructed. She yanked the soiled sheet off the bed with enough force to cause the plastic coated mattress to lift off the springs underneath. She replaced it with a clean sheet, smelling harshly of bleach and  institutional detergent, snapping it into straightness, mitering the corners, and then placed Clare back into the crib . And then surprising Clare for the second time that morning, Sister Bertrand placed her hand on Clare's cheek and reminded her "Stay clean for five minutes will you ? " Removing her hand , she pulled up the metal crib rails until the loud click of the locking mechanism was heard, reassuring the Sister  that this child would be going nowhere.


  1. As our writing group asks. What are you wanting from the critique? What area do you feel this needs help in? I'd love to give you some insight but worry that it would sour a friendship if you are not ready with a thick skin. Don't take that as this isn't good just that most writers have a huge emotional attachment to what they wrote and fine change difficult. To be free and open for critique means you have to be willing to push that emotion aside to the point of being willing to throw out your favorte parts for the good of the piece or write from a different point of view. Why did she roll over in the first place was my first question? I'd then skip that part since it isn't important to the begining and the point is seems you are making is she wants left in her comfort zone. Why not say something like - She snuggled down deeper under the covers she heard the click clack of nurse's shoes on the linoleum, hoping to lie in the comfort of her bed just a bit longer. Your focus of attention goes quickly to questions of intrique. Where is she, a hosiptal? What lies ahead of her, tests, therapy? Then go briefly into that she recognizes the footsteps, a brief description of this nurse given through her walk, through a description of sound, the pace, heavines eluding to size and personality. Think outdoorsman, (athletic or softspoken-sweet) versus a military (all business and brisk) - even weight can be determined to a degree by the walk. Build suspence through senses. If you want more e-mail me and I'd be glad to send a full write up.

  2. Absolutely what I am looking for Holly ! Thank you thank you

  3. As a writer, I would like to encourage you, also as a writer, to beware of critiques. Each person who reads whatever you write always (in their honesty) feels it should be changed, usually feels they could write it better, and sometimes has a hidden desire to be a copy editor. My mentor always told me to put on my "alligator hide" and take care of my "cast iron stomach," because (like Holly said) you have to know what you want from a critique. Holly gave you some good things to think about. Just remember, listen to critiques with your alligator hide and cast iron stomach, but don't let those critiques keep you from writing. You have the right to write! In this day and age, there is no wrong way! Just keep writing! And if you decide to publish, believe me, there will be plenty of critiquing at that time also. You've got a good beginning to a good story. I'd be interested to see where it goes. Write more!