exercise number one

This is one in which we copy the structure of a story. We copied an acclaimed story prined in the New Yorker called What you Pawn I will Redeem by Sherman Alexie.

Good story, good structure, great author's name. I love everybody's name but my own, but that's besides the point. "Sex" would certainly sell books.

I chose to play with one of my series' characters, Lucy, who I feel is underdeveloped and too plain-spoken. I learned that she sounds plain-spoken because she is, and that her history is not well known because she doesn't share herself readily. I'd still like to get to know her better, but this is a start. I can put this up here because it likely won't appear in any form in any of the books, though the scene happens from another person's POV.

I also wrote this in twelve minutes, so keep your corrections to yourself, Krypto.


For years you are who you are, and then you learn you’re not, but that’s not really what this story is about, so I’ll keep that bit to myself. Secrets are rampant in my line of work, and I intend to keep mine close to the vest.

I was raised with four brothers who didn’t exactly dote, but were never unkind, on a farm with loving, adoptive parents. They called me Lucy, which I never particularly liked or hated. We worked hard for our keep. Our parents kept the bad things at bay. Life was common, calm...

Ordered. Yeah, ordered.

Do you ever just search for the right word and think about it for two days and then you’re messing around at target practice and wham! the word hits you between the eyes like a ricocheted bullet? Happens to me all the time, but then, I don’t deal in words much. Mostly bullets.

I've never had the sense that I was missing anything, or that life should be more, or anything other than what it is, prior to the big changes in my life. Not enough imagination, I guess. I was good at taking instructions and following through on them, still was, up to about a year ago. I was content with that status quo. What I did for decades under my beloved, sworn Pax doesn’t seem so familiar or expected when compared to my childhood on the surface. But silent stealth, recon and recognizance in an urban battlefield is more like gathering eggs from under hens than you might expect. Quiet is good. Calm is good. You’ll probably get scratched or bitten or worse, so expecting the worst is good. And, no matter what happens, you’d better come back with the target, or with some intel, or with the eggs, or there’ll be hell to pay.

The story doesn’t start with the assignment, which from what I knew of Julian, was probably unsanctioned. Pax would do anything for that guy, I never learned quite why, and Pax died without telling me. Julian wouldn’t tell, so I won’t ever bother asking. And the story doesn’t start with the extraction mission itself, which was well-thought-out and flawlessly executed, as usual. They didn’t call us Phantom for nothing.

The story begins when I first set eyes on a grimy, underfed twenty-year-old kid with an M60 under his arm and cold terror in his heart. I knew that was the face I’d been waiting on, one who I’d heard about --we’d all heard about-- for years, and I knew that my life had been entirely incomplete up to that moment. Half a century of unfinished business. I knew, I knew, I was going to spend a lot of time with this face in the future. Damn.

But I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it. First of all, he nearly shot my arm off; the M60 going off in a rabid three-shot burst that made even Little flinch.

“Damn, kid, hey! We’re the good guys here.”

His face was tight, stretched. His whole skin looked that way; the bruises, old and new, highlighting the few soft places left. Ribs underscored each day gone without food. He hadn’t eaten for a long, long time.

And there was that rifle under his arm, which stopped everyone up short.

Little had cringed when he’d fired, but I didn’t. I stepped forward because I had recognised that face.

“Look, kid,” Little started again.

“Keep away from me,” he answered. His hair hung in long ropy tangles, all the gleam gone from it, but he was still the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.

I kept my voice soft, like when you talk to a frightened, damaged animal, which of course is what he was. Little was watching me now, instead of the kid, his own hands gone loose around his rifle. I have no idea what I was saying.

But it wasn’t because of me. His mom came in on my heels and pulled off her mask and said one word that stopped all of us colder than that rifle had. There was hatred in that word, though of course there was no way to know that then. Still, it made me shiver, and the kid, too.


He dropped the nose of the M60.

“It’s about time,” he said.

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