harriet: chapter one

I decided to try my hand at fiction writing. It’s really fun and freeing in a lot of ways. Here is what I’ve written so far. Enjoy.

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Chapter One

I’ve always disliked the beginning of a story. The opening sentence can sound quite trite or you can be dropped into a scenario, left with so many questions. It gives me anxiety. Let’s say, this isn’t the beginning of a story.

I suppose we can talk about our protagonist in the meantime. I will call her Harriet. Harriet isn’t very pretty, but she isn’t very ugly. She’s neither incredibly smart nor incredibly dull. In fact there’s not much to note about her. But she’s normal, and Normals deserve to be written about, too. 

Harriet lives in a small house in a small town in a place that’s not real. She doesn’t have any particular habits, but she loves to go on long walks in the countryside and loves not being bothered.

It was a terribly windy day in the place that wasn’t real, and Harriet thought she’d walk up to the large house on the hill. The house on the hill was where her father and brother lived. She didn’t feel any strong connection with them, but nevertheless enjoyed the walk and enjoyed that she didn’t need to pretend to be nice around them. After all, what is family for if not to offer you unconditional “love” while you are being your unequivocal horrible self.

So, out the back of her house she went with her black and white dog, Captain. 

“Don’t run too far ahead, Captain.”

“Don’t worry; I won’t,” he said.

Through some meadows and picturesque fields they walked. You know the types. Something like the English countryside with wild flowers and creeks. Although don’t forget today was a very windy day and so the landscape was briskly moving back and forth in an ominous way. The sky was turning gray as clouds pushed themselves overhead. She knew it would probably rain, but she had no emotion and neither welcomed nor feared it. 

Captain bounced above the grassy meadow hunting chipmunks and snakes. He ran too far ahead; after all he’s a dog and doesn’t understand human conversation.

Nearing the large house on the hill, Harriet could see a dark cloud brewing over the roof. She thought if she believed in bad omens, it would worry her, but she didn’t. 

The house was very old and the remains of a garden could be seen on the side. Dead vines climbed over some of the windows and a sign with the words “no solicitors” hung next to the door. In she went with Captain, into the cold, large entryway. The smell of leftover spaghetti and cigars hung in the air. Her father could always be found sitting in the room to her left, but she decided to head to the kitchen to see if there was anything besides spaghetti to eat.

Captain was already there, sitting at the feet of her brother, begging for stray noodles. 

“Is this all you eat, Adam? These worms?”

“Hello, Harriet. Are you here to spoil our day like usual?”

“I am. Where is your Evelyn?”

Evelyn was Adam’s small and bony wife who carried around an equally small and bony dog, a whippet named Persephone, which as Harriet thought, and you may, too, is an incredibly pretentious name for a dog. 

“She should be coming down soon.” Said Adam as her served up a hot plate of worms for himself and his bride. 

And soon was correct, for Evelyn lightly and quietly appeared in the room. She wore a pale green dress which did not at all suit her pallid skin. Her hair was short and thin, and she wore a constant scowl on her face, a fashion accessory which unfortunately could not be removed. Persephone was perched in her arms, shaking. It was a dreadfully fearful and insecure dog. Harriet often found herself pitying it because it was so obviously trapped by a terrible mother. 

“Hello Harriet, I need you to do a couple of things for me today.” Evelyn said in her shrill and obnoxious voice. “There are some problems with my computer, and I need you to help me take a picture of me and Pers for my new profile.”

“I can’t today; I’m only stopping by for a few minutes. Adam can help.” And she left the room to find her father after receiving two very perturbed looks for different reasons. 

Her father was sitting in his room in his chair facing the window at the front of the house. Paper in hands, his head was buried quite far into it as he scoured for bad news to share: his favorite hobby. Multiple glasses of partially drunk water were assembled on the table next him. The fire was smoldering and an old cigar butt was smoking on the bricks in front of it. He had clearly intended to toss it into the flames and missed. 

“Harriet! We haven’t seen you in a while. There’s been more attacks on the country; I blame the lefties and there’s a child missing in the next town over. Mrs. Higgins just found out her brother has cancer, and Mr. Temple just had a stroke last week. I think it’s because he meditates too much. It’s bad to slow the brain down and leave it unprotected.” 

“Father, why do you read all this stuff? It’s only making you crazy with anxiety.”

“We need to know what’s going on in the world, Harriet.”

“Maybe, but I don’t think we need to fill our minds with a constant stream of awfulness.”

“Oh Harriet, will you bring me a glass of water?”

“No sorry, I have to run. Just wanted to check in for a minute.” 

And with that, she turned, whistled for Captain, and rushed out the door. A few steps out, she took a deep breath. There was heaviness inside the house that choked her. It felt so good to be out in the balmy air again. The wind continued to blow and the clouds followed her down the hill as she ran.

Running down a hill is always a gamble. When does the hill stop so you can stop running? The momentum builds until you think, “I better keep running or something painful will happen to me.” Well what if you suddenly tripped on a large unexpected object? Your logic of running along with the momentum didn’t account for that, did it?

Harriet tripped on a heavy object and flew forward accompanied by her yells and the yell of another person. Annoyed and recumbent, she turned to see what had caused the fall. At the same time a young man was getting up out of the tall meadow grass clutching his ribs. 

“Ouch. Are you all right?” He asked Harriet. 

“I’m fine, but why on earth were you lying hidden in the weeds? You’re lucky I didn’t stomp on your head!”

“This is my favorite kind of weather. I was watching the clouds pass overhead.” Said the stranger.

This isn’t a love story, but I have to describe him so you can see what I’m seeing. He was tall with a medium build and longish blonde hair. He had a pleasant and open air about him, the kind of person who risks attracting all kinds of outcasted people because of his natural disposition to listen to anyone. He was covered in grass and had a half empty beer near his nature bed. Beside it was a book called, “The Personas of Clouds.”

“Oh, well, I’m really sorry I tripped on you. Maybe next time put up a flag, so people know where you’re laying. Goodbye!” And Harriet turned and cautiously hurried down the hill in case she might encounter another stumbling block.