I don't usually do this, but my first scene is giving me fits. I interested in hearing if what I have is at all "hooking" or if I'm way off-track here. This is my fifth first chapter and, while they're getting better, I still don't know if I'm there yet. The section pasted behind the cut equals about four double-spaced pages in Word.
(P.S. "Dairy Freeze" and "DealMart" are just placeholders.)
It was one of those warm summer nights where anything could happen. But after waiting an hour with still no sign of Meth Chick, it was starting to look like a whole bunch of nothing was all that would be going on for Daniel and me.
Daniel was pacing the Dairy Freeze parking lot. “You heard me tell her tonight’s the night, right?” he asked.
“I heard you,” I said.
“And I said to be here at eight, didn’t I?”
“Something like that,” I said, taking a seat on the hood of someone’s Honda hatchback. “What time is it now?”
“Hell if I know.” He pulled out a pack of snapper bombs and threw a handful at the pavement. It was sort of a nervous habit. Other people bite their nails or tap their feet; Daniel made loud noises and blew shit up.
I nodded toward DealMart, the huge store across the street that sold everything from mouthwash to televisions. It also happened to be the place that banned Daniel and me for ninety-nine years after we were arrested for shoplifting at age fourteen. We still had ninety-seven years left before we could step foot on the property without risking jail time. “You don’t think she’s waiting over there, do you?” I asked.
“No, I made extra-sure she was clear on the what, the where, and the how-much,” he said. “There’s no excuse this time. Unless maybe she got caught.”
I didn’t bother reminding him that the fact that she’s a tweaker is reason enough for her to be on the less than dependable side.
The Dairy Freeze manager on duty – a stocky old guy with a mustache that covered his mouth – pulled the glass door open and came out to the sidewalk to yell at us for the third time that night. “If you kids don’t leave, I’m calling the police.”
My stomach tightened; he didn’t sound like he was screwing around anymore.
Daniel just smirked. “Dude, didn’t anyone ever tell you that running off customers is bad for business?” he asked.
“Customers and loiterers are not the same thing,” Manager Guy answered. “You’re probably running everyone off.”
Considering that cars and people had been coming and going like normal the whole time we’d been out there, his theory needed some work.
“Don’t worry,” Daniel said. “We’ll be in there, buying up your milkshakes and curly fries in a minute. I swear.”
Manager Guy went back in, shaking his head.
“You really think he’ll call the cops on us?” I asked.
“Nah. He’d have done it by now if he was going to.” Daniel lifted a bottle wrapped in a paper bag to his lips and jerked his head back for a swallow. The liquid inside made a hollow splashing sound. “We’ll wait a few more minutes,” he said, passing the bottle to me. “Drink up. You still look half sober.”
I was just past halfway trashed, actually, but my brain could still use a little more numbing. I took a hard swig of stale-tasting whiskey. Then, I had one more; promising myself it would be my last for the night. I couldn’t seem to stay sober for more than two days straight, but I was at least trying to stay in better control.
“I forgot to tell you,” Daniel said, sitting on the car next to me. “I saw Kendall dragging suitcases out to that piece of shit she calls a car today.”
The girl next door was the last person I wanted to talk about. “Oh, yeah?” I said, hoping I sounded bored enough that he’d drop it.
“Yeah,” he said. “I used sign language to let her know that she’s number one in my book.” He raised his fist and extended his middle finger to demonstrate. “Classy chick that she is, she signed back to let me know she feels the same. Then she drove past your place, saying, ‘I’ll always love you, Seth McCoy!”
I knew he was just messing with me. If Kendall had said anything on her way out of town, it wouldn’t have been anything about loving me; that was for sure. “Whatever, dude,” I said, giving him a shove.
Daniel burst out laughing. “Guess you’ll be missing her for the rest of the summer,” he said.
“Guess I won’t,” I said.
I took another gulp from the bottle in the bag. My last one for real this time. I handed it back to Daniel to keep from slipping again.
“Seriously though,” he said, staggering to his feet. “Kendall’s hot. If she didn’t hate me so much, I’d do her.”
Just then, the drawn-out screech of a loose fan belt cut into the quiet night and I was glad for the interruption. The noise got louder and closer as its source – a pick-up truck with dents on every panel and a front fender held together by what looked like an entire roll of duct tape – pulled up and parked crookedly across two spots.
“Here’s our fine lady,” Daniel said. He tilted back to finish the whiskey, then set it behind the Honda’s front tire. “About damn time.”
Meth Chick didn’t cut the engine, but in idle mode the loose belt wasn’t so grating; now instead of sounding like an abused cat it was more like a nest of chirping birds. Daniel headed over, slouching in his lazy way that made him look only as tall as me instead of his true height of around six feet. The way he was walking, along with his dark, squinting eyes and square jaw, would have given anyone watching the idea he was being forced to do something he hated. I knew better.
I followed, but not too closely. Meth Chick was always trying to dig imaginary bugs out of her skin and she smelled like cat piss; I liked to hang back from that as much as possible. As we came up near the truck, she threw the door open. The interior light shone down on her scabbed up face, broken teeth, and ratty bleached hair. She’d told Daniel she once went fourteen days straight without eating or sleeping, and I believed it.
“Hey, sexy, where’d you steal this sweet ride from?” Daniel asked, putting his hands in the front pockets of his camo cutoffs.
He was messing with her, like usual, but she didn’t seem to notice or care.
She jumped from the cab with the handles of two bulging DealMart bags hanging over her bony wrists. “You got my money?”
“What do you think?” he asked.
She stepped closer, looking around all paranoid. I could never figure out how she got away with breaking so many laws how obvious she was.
“Alright then. Hand it over,” she said.
Daniel shook his head. “I’m not falling for that trick again,” he said. “You let me check that you didn’t forget anything. Then you get paid.”
She shrugged, and one of the straps of her loose top slid off her shoulder. “Fine,” she said, pushing the bags at him.
He poked around inside. From where I stood, I could see a video game and a shoebox sticking out of one bag. So far, so good.
Then, when Daniel was satisfied that she wasn’t stiffing us, he pulled out a thick wad of one- and five-dollar bills. “Pleasure doing crooked business with you,” he said, handing her the cash.