MONSTERS IN BOXERS REBORN: PART 1 COMPARING FIRST CHAPTERS
Posted on January 4, 2015
I just finished the rough draft of the the first chapter in the Monsters in Boxers rewrite. The first book was written over thirteeen years ago, and it doesn't hold up. Below is the brand-new first chapter followed by the old one. See if you can spot the growth in my writing.
New Chapter 1:
Jason Williams hated that his sister walked him home every day. He was in fifth grade and could scurry home the two blocks on his own, despite what their mother thought. His sister didn't seem to mind. She sometimes grumbled about having to wait around for his elementary school to let out – she was in seventh grade and her day ended at 2:50 – but she was always there waiting for him at 3:40 under the apple tree by the bus loop.
He exited Mr. Lamont's science class and fairly sprinted to stay ahead of the pack. Behind him, a swarm of his fellow classmates dashed to the walker exit and to carpool pick-up in the gym, ignoring the pleas of the safety patrols to walk single file and at a speed that wasn't breakneck.
It was Thursday, and he and Amy had a meeting of the Crazy Quartet. There were two things he was looking forward to with this particular get together. The first was he had a major gift for Troy, who was a big comic book nerd. Jason had successfully traded his elite series of Uggichak cards for a copy of Nightmare Tower #1, Troy's Holy Grail of comic books. It was the only one he was missing and would complete his fifty-five issue run of the series. The second thing he was excited about was the chance to show up their other member. Jason was determined to beat the club's resident early bird, Reggie Shen, for once in his life. And today felt like the day.
He took the front steps two at a time then jogged across the bus loop to meet up with Amy.
His sister leaned against the apple tree, immersed in her phone, something she had been awarded at the same time their mother had assigned her to be Jason's guide through the rough and tumble streets of Lilyville. He didn't know why his mother was so protective. They lived in a small town, the smallest to hear his sister complain about it, and crime was nonexistent.
Amy looked up from her phone and smiled. "We gotta make this meeting fast. Mr. Thompson loaded me down with a ton of math homework."
His sister was pretty. With her thick, brown hair in a perpetual ponytail and little to no makeup; she didn't overdo her appearance like other girls her age. She was athletic, a great softball and volleyball player, without being an obnoxious tomboy about sports. He knew of several friends whose older sisters were just plain nightmares, condescending and self-involved to a fault. Not Amy, whose easygoing demeanor made her a hit with all of his friends. She had a knack for relating to eleven-year-old boys more than the 'goofballs' that were her own age. While others teased him about having a sister so involved in his life, he liked it. Outside of his mother, she was the only family he had.
She landed a friendly punch to his shoulder and made a beeline for the shortcut to their neighborhood. "I'm betting we beat him. Today's the day that his long bus ride becomes even longer." She waved her phone at Jason. "There's an accident on Merriweather. I bet he's caught up in that."
Reggie went to a magnet school in Weaverton, a larger town that had its own mall.
Jason gripped his bookbag tighter and pumped his legs to catch up. Their shortcut took them through enemy territory. He hoped their nemesis hadn't left school yet, but he feared the worst. He doubted he could talk his sister into taking the long way home.
They loped up the gravel road leading to the recess area behind the school and slipped onto the sidewalk that would take them right past the doorstep of Garrett Richards, public enemy #1.
And of course it was too much to ask that they duck past Garrett's house without incurring his wrath. The bully sat on the back porch with his trusty second-in-command, Lincoln Reynolds.
As soon as he saw Reggie and Amy pounding down the sidewalk, he sprang to his feet discarding the sandwich he had been devouring onto Lincoln's lap. He crossed the front yard, intercepting them by his mailbox. Planting himself in their path, he crossed his arms and puffed out his chest.
Ignoring Jason for the moment, he swept back his thick red bangs and grinned at Jason's sister. "Always a pleasure to see you out and about, Amy." He winked.
She tried to shoulder past him, but he slipped to the left to stop her. To his right was a large mud puddle. Bet I know who winds up in there, Jason thought.
He and Garrett had history. While the bully hadn't been around for his first three years of elementary school, he had made from third grade on a nightmare. But their acquaintance went further back than that. When Garrett had arrived mid-year in Mrs. Tillery's third grade class, he and Jason had met before – in the hospital of all places.
Jason had been six and in the hospital to have his tonsils out. When he had been wheeled into his room after surgery, Garrett was in the other bed. They had been friendly that first day.
The next morning, Garrett had gone for whatever his surgery was, and Jason had dozed off rather than watch television or play on his tablet. He was due to check out that afternoon and was ready for the boredom of being hospitalized to be over.
When Garrett returned from his surgery, he balked at getting back in his bed. Pepper and salt had been poured all over his sheets. He accused Jason, but Jason had no idea what he was talking about. Garrett's parents would have no more of their son being trapped in a room with such a 'common thug' as Jason. They requested another room and got it. Garrett grimaced at him as he was wheeled out, his nurse telling him about the private room he was being awarded and the gaming system he could play to keep his mind off his painful recovery.
Fast forward to March seventh, almost two years ago – Garrett's first day in Mrs. Tillery's class. He introduced himself and joked around a little. Jason's mother would call him a real charmer. As he headed to his seat, he stared at Jason, recognition plastered all over his face. His eyes narrowed, but he didn't say anything then. Later that day, he approached Jason and made it known he still remembered what had taken place in the hospital. He made it clear he was going to torment Jason for this and made good on his promise.
Through third grade and most of fourth, Jason had numerous encounters with Garrett. He kept reiterating to Garrett that he hadn't seasoned his hospital bed. Jason was convinced the salt-and-peppering had been self-inflicted in order to earn a better room, and the bully couldn't admit his ploy either out of pride or fear of setting off his parents at being duped.
Eventually, Jason stopped denying his involvement. Let Garrett think what he thought. He and Amy knew the truth and that was all that mattered.
Jason endured numerous assaults, weekly at first then later it settled into an incident only about once a month. Shoving matches started by the bully, name-calling, knocking lunch trays out of hands, ramming Jason's face down hard into the water fountain and so on. All ended poorly. The bully was careful to always have an out, and, because he could charm most adults into seeing him as the victim, he never got in trouble. After a while, Jason stopped tattling.
"Wake up, Jason!" Amy snapped at him.
He shook himself out of his daze and glared at Garrett. "We're not looking for trouble."
Why the bully hadn't shoved Jason into the puddle already was a mystery. Maybe he'd seen Jason retreat inward and held off handing out any grief until he had his victim's full attention.
That sounded like Garrett. No sense heaping punishment on Jason if he wasn't present to fully experience it. Maybe he should go blank around Garrett more often.
Garrett held up his hands, faking helplessness. "Me neither. I'm just looking to chat with your sister." He grinned widely at Amy and tilted his head, attempting to look endearing. Sadly, his beady eyes and wide-set nose prevented any cuteness from materializing. He always looked older, like a little man, his big head having reached adulthood while his body lagged behind but not by much. He was still the broadest boy in their class and knew how to throw his weight around, mostly at Jason and Troy.
"Sorry. Not today, Garrett. Tons of homework." She slipped around him.
Garrett snatched her phone from her hands with surprising speed.
Amy spun around and reached for it. "Hey, give that back!"
Garrett hugged it to his chest and grinned. "Settle down. Just wanted to add my number to your contact list so you can call me later." He thumbed open her contacts and started typing.
"Not happening. Give it to me!" Amy grabbed for it again.
Garrett backpedaled toward the puddle, playfully bobbing the phone between his hands as if he were about to drop it in the mud. His eyes darted down to the soggy patch as he arched an eyebrow. He extended one hand to hold Amy back, while he held the phone over the puddle with his other. "Careful! We wouldn'twant this to become tragic."
Jason fumed. What was the bully trying to accomplish? Clearly not getting in any good graces with my sister.
"I'm warning you, anything happens to my phone you're going home with a black eye, Richards." She dropped her bookbag and drew back her right hand, balling it into a fist.
Garrett faked shock at her ruthlessness. He batted his eyes and dropped his mouth open, falsely aghast. Just as quickly, his stunned expression soured. His eyes narrowed and a scowl played across his face. He puffed out his chest. "Go ahead! A shiner like that'll give my dad a reason to storm over to your house and have at it with your parents."
Amy hesitated. She balanced on the balls of her feet, caught between springing at the bully and dropping back in defeat.
Jason decided to save his sister from deciding. Reaching into his bookbag, he pulled out the bagged copy of Nightmare Tower #1 and shoved it between the embattled pair. "A trade! Give Amy her phone back and you can have this."
Garrett gave the comic book a puzzled look. "What do I want with a crummy comic?"
"It's not just any comic. It's a rare one. Has a variant cover. They only made 150 of them."
Jason held it gingerly, not wanting to damage the collectible. "And it's autographed by the penciller, Major Golden."
Garrett snatched it from Jason and examined the cover.
Jason said, "The signature's on the lower right hand corner. One of his old-style graphic Gs."
Garrett looked intrigued. "What's it going for online?"
"Sixty buck. Who knows what you could get with the signature, too."
Amy pressed forward and yanked her phone out of Garrett's hand. He didn't try to stop her.
"This is yours?" Garrett asked.
He doesn't need to know it was destined for Troy, Jason thought. "Yeah, but it's yours now. Do whatever you want with it. I don't care."
Garrett grimaced, unhappy with Jason's remarks. He opened the bag and pulled out the comic. "So it's like a collector's item?"
"That's what I said." Jason just wanted to leave, but part of him wanted to find out what Garrett was going to do with the comic. "Are you going to sell it?"
Garrett scowled and took a step back. "Nah, too much work. I'd much rather hold onto it."
"Oh," Jason responded.
"But, honestly, it's in much too good a shape for me. I like my stuff to look lived in, vintage." He tossed the bag to the ground and held the comic over the puddle.
Before Jason could stop him, Garrett dunked the comic in the mudwater. When he brought it back out, the once-pristine comic was thoroughly wrinkled and covered in mud. "There, now that's what I'm talking about."
Jason did his best to hold back his outrage. That's what he wants, to see me lose it.
Garrett picked up the clear storage bag and slid the soggy comic into it. He made it look like he was lovingly sealing it back into its protective home and then waltzed back to his porch. "I'll keep this as a memento of all the good times I've had with you two." He mounted the steps and turned to look at Amy. "Offer still stands to chat, Amy. I really don't have a beef with you, just your twerp of a brother."
Amy snatched up her bookbag and tucked her phone into her back pocket before turning away from the bully and leaving in a huff.
Jason did the same, but with much less enthusiasm. He felt defeated once again. When would Garrett stop all this nonsense? His mother had said bullies tended to outgrow their childish pranks, but Jason seriously doubted that. If only their dad was around to lend him a hand. He'd know what to do.
Behind them, Garrett belted out an exaggerated laugh. Jason sped up, eager to reach the protective walls of their hideout, the Garage of Doom.
Original Chapter 1:
There's always a puddle lying around minding its own business when bullies like Garrett Richards come calling.
Jason Williams had landed in the previously mentioned puddle face first. His bookbag, now in the hands of one of Garrett's dim-witted pals, was being emptied into the puddle.
Jason desperately tried to save his mint copy of TROUBLE TOWER #1 from its muddy fate but only managed to perform a mid-air snatch of his assignment pad. Wouldn't Ms. Appleton be proud? The comic hit the surface of the puddle and began to get up close and personal with the dirt molecules in the water.
Jason's next course of action would've been to quickly toss the comic out of harm's way, but he found himself otherwise occupied with the dire situation happening down at his right sneaker. Garrett was busy wrestling with the laces of Jason's hightop in preparation of some dastardly footwear torture.
Not wanting to extend his stay with the puddle and the band of bullies, Jason reacted in a manner most courageous.
His right leg produced a swift kick to Garrett's mid-section. As the bully doubled over, Jason grabbed his bookbag from the slack-jawed boy, snatched up his soggy and now nowhere near mint copy of TROUBLE TOWER #1, and raced down the sidewalk. If he could make it to the One-Stop Shop at the corner of Elm and Raleigh Avenues, he could hide behind the imposing figure of Mr. Thomas, the store's owner.
Shouting and angry sputtering came from behind him. Jason refused to look back, thinking that if he actually saw his attackers, they would surely catch up to him.
Jason's head, topped with short-cropped brown hair, ducked down to avoid the drooping branches of the Emersons' willow tree. He allowed himself a smile at his sleek avoidance of the branches. Unfortunately, he should've been less concerned with the perils from above and more attentive to the possible dangers from below.
His right foot slammed down on the loosened shoelace trailing from his left sneaker. Jason went flying. He let out a yelp loaded with squeaky clumsiness. His flight was rather brief.
He hit the ground, not on the rough surface of the sidewalk (a lucky feat, relatively), but in a crash zone slightly softer – another mud puddle!
Jason, dazed by his unyielding bad luck, slumped further into the puddle. His last thought before he was again descended upon by the squad of bullies most definitely put the "D" back in downtrodden. Two puddles? That certainly fills my quota for today. I just hate Mondays...