As promised, here’s the rough version of the first part of the first chapter of my second book, Sibling Rivalry.
As with any rough draft, there’s probably some awful grammatical and/or spelling mistakes within the following paragraph. Doesn’t matter how many times you read a thing, major snafus alway…ALWAYS…remain. Those suckers really know how to bury themselves in there.
Hey, I hope you enjoy this. I tried to go for a very different tone than Strange Beasts… If you have any comments, feel free to drop them below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.
Again, please enjoy.
The first thing I noticed about the kid wasn’t nothing about the kid at all. It was that damn cat of his.
My mama would have slapped my cheek for being so rude, but I finally had to ask him about it.
“What’s wrong with your cat?”
The kid took time to finish blowing the steam from his spoonful of stew before answering me.
“He’s sick, sir,” he said, polite as you please, and he pushed the spoon’s large bowl all the way into his mouth. Because he was just a kid and didn’t have enough space to cram all of that food in his maw, a few peas failed to make it past the lips and plummeted to the floor. The cat quickly scurried towards them, its bony legs flailing all over the place. It took one sniff of a single pea and then hacked air.
If I was the type of man for lunacy, I would have sworn the creature had died long ago but just kept on going. As if nobody had informed the thing that its bucket had been repeatedly kicked. It looked like one of the sun-baked animal husks I’d sometimes find roasting in the fields. Between patches of coarse orange fur, I could see sallow, flaking skin. And beneath that, rows of bones. What little flesh remained around the animal’s sunken face seemed to be peeling back from the eyes and lips, exposing the backward curve of its eyeballs giving it this constant look of surprise, and a mouthful of yellow teeth jutting at odd angles from black gums. Mucus pooled in the corners of the cat’s eyes, and one ear seemed permanently at rest parallel to the ground. A sizable chunk of the cat’s nose also seemed to be missing. When the animal began cleaning its paw with its tongue, it made a sound like two pieces of worn sandpaper rubbing together.
The poor thing looked wretched. Since I never was one for civility, I just went ahead and told the kid as much.
“Poor thing looks wretched,” I told him.
As if the animal understood, it released a low howl packed full of equal amounts sorrow and dust, like the groan of an old door opening or the bending of and ancient book’s binding. For some reason, it brought to mind the long-buried pets I used to have.
I thought to ask the kid what was wrong with the cat’s eyes.
“What’s wrong with his eyes?” They were all milky white and wet looking, with thin lines of crust lining the base of each.
This time, the boy slurped the broth from the wooden spoon first, and then ate the vegetables that remained. He spoke as he chewed, something he later told me his mother always said not to do. But she wasn’t around no more to correct him.
“He’s going blind, sir. Or is blind. I’d ask, but he can’t tell me.”
The kid had a bit of sarcasm in him. Not that I minded. Mama popped me a few times in my youth for the same sort of thing.
“Does he just follow you around all the time? Like a dog?”
The boy took another slurp of stew, swallowed and said, “Yes, sir. He’s very loyal, all things considered. But, he’s always been kind of like that.”
We sat in silence for a spell, me just enjoying the warm crackle of the hearth fire and the sound the kid slurping his stew hungrily. It had been a long time since I’d had any company … I’d had no real visitors since coming back home … and even longer since I’d had any as intriguing as this young boy.
The boy — I correctly guessed eleven — didn’t look much better than the cat, by the way. Besides having a general bedraggled appearance about him — a tangled muss of hair, spindly too-thin limbs, nails blackened with grime, teeth stained from lack of brushing and the slightest wisp of a patchy mustache sprouting just beneath his nose — the child’s modest clothing was covered in road dust and filth. He’d obviously been traveling for some time. Holes were forming across the span of his shirt, which he kept tucked loosely into the fraying rim of his pants. These were held in place with a cracked leather belt secured in a self-made notch several inches away from the tightest of the official ones. The pants were a hint too long for his legs, the cuffs just rolling over the ball of his heel, and had obviously been trod upon time and time again because long strips of fabric now dangled at his feet. The kid’s walking boots, which looked to have been of fine build at some point long ago, had worn down to practically nothing.
He had arrived at what I suppose was my home, now, with a small travel sack on his back and a long, thick stick in hand, both of which were now leaning against the wall in one corner of the dining room. Tucked beneath his arm was a large book, which now rested on the table, inches away from his hand, where I guess he could get to it quickly if there was any emergency reading to be done. The tome was a huge thing — like a single-volume encyclopedia — bound with the kind of leather that looked so dry it would suck the moisture from your fingertips. There were no identifiable markings on the tome that I could see — title, author, publisher — but the pages appeared to be yellow with age and brittle like snake skin.
“What’s that,” I asked after a spell, nodding toward the book on the table. Rude again, but there was nothing for it.
Full spoon in mid-air between the bowl and his mouth, the boy stopped eating and dropped his eyes to the tome. They lingered there momentarily before returning to the spoonful of food, which he pushed into his mouth before continuing.
“It’s a book, sir,” he said, mumbling as he chewed. He didn’t meet my eye when he said it.
“I can see that, son. Is it important? You seem to keep it close.”
“No sir,” the boy answered. He scraped at the sides of the near-empty bowl with the spoon. “It was my mother’s, that’s all.”
…To be continued [Dun dun duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun]