©2022 Michael Raven
I’ve been writing the same scene over and over again, and deciding it probably will never be quite right. Prelude, except we don’t like the word “Prelude” anymore, so it is not a prelude, but the opening scene in a story that is most imagined in my head, and will probably never see the light of day, mostly because of perfectionist thinking and subpar output.
It twists and turns with each attempt to capture what I am trying to capture, like a snake that refuses to be grasped, wending and winding around my brain to choke until it can slip away. It lingers and, just as I think I have something workable, I wonder if it is appropriate for me, of all people to write about things in the past that have had zero impact on me as the basis for part of the story — although the rot goes deeper than the event as written. As I imagine the tale, the incident at the beginning of the story is but a symptom, not a cause. And that the events preceding the event I am writing about in my not-prelude is another symptom. No one knows what the real problem is, no one alive does anyway. Everything is outfall of a deeper tale that may or may not ever be written — or need to be.
Imagine… for this is where this story begins. As Robert Jordan said, it isn’t the beginning, but a beginning:
An old boarding school circa Native American reeducation period late 1800s, run one of the nun groups doing nun things. Maybe I’ll change it over to the black-robed Jesuits… One of those church-based boarding schools with a history of beating God into you whether or not you cooperate. Everyone know the type, especially with recent news items coming out of Canada (and if you think the US didn’t have the same, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn).
Three boys get tired of the headmistress/master’s shit and plan to give them a taste of their own medicine before skipping out, especially since some corporal punishment went too far and ended up killing one of the lads who “never hurt no-one” and was always compliant except… this one time when he stood up for someone else.
Well, that boy was punished and buried and these three boys have had enough. Except… as these things often seem to — shit got out of hand, although no one can tell just quite how it all went down. Ask three people, get eight responses. That kind of shit.
Well, the guilty party was certainly punished, but so were all of the kids and other adults in the boarding school, cos’ they was sleeping and locked in to prevent any kind of escapes like the three boys pulled off. Fire consumes all of the school and the dorms. The three boys are the only survivors. Mostly. Make that two because one of them dies within hours of the fire due to injuries and on account of this being in the middle of no place with ol’ Doc Swanson nipping at the bottle of booze or laudanum (or both) most of the time. Besides… well, I won’t echo Doc’s racist BS here. You know the type that lived on the interface between the tribes and the white man — not very generous.
The primary character of the scene (and not more than a tertiary character overall) has something that bugs him. While his co-survivor thought it was the school’s head that had gone and kicked a burning oil lamp to the floor during the struggle to give some payback, the main character could have sworn he saw it slide and topple off the table all on its lonesome. That’s a fact that bothers him. But he goes and figures it was just his imagination. Excitement of the moment. Still… it nags.
So, anyway… I’ve written this section about four times on paper or pixel and am still not quite feeling it is captured right. And this is why I probably will never complete another novel, as I am far too particular about the results.