November 07, 2006

The Opening Scene - Marcia Laycock

This is the opening scene to my novel, One Smooth Stone. It's about the fourth or fifth time I've changed it, but I'm quite happy with it at this point, and so is my editor. Any and all comments are most welcome. :) Marcia

Alex Donnelly was alone. That’s how he wanted it. He told himself that’s how he liked it. That was a lie.

He twisted the throttle on the boat motor to the off position, leaned back, pulled his floppy-brimmed river hat off his head and turned his face toward the sun. The silted water hissed against the bottom and sides of the boat. A breeze tussled his thick black hair. He heard a hawk whistle from a high cliff and squinted to watch it plummet from its perch.

Closing his eyes, he slumped low. He would let the current take him home. He had all day and there wasn’t anyone waiting for him, except his dogs. They’d howl their welcome in anticipation of food but Alex knew there was no love lost between them.

The hawk whistled again and Alex opened his eyes, letting them fill with the sweeping green hills and wide brown Yukon River. As the boat caught and circled in a whirlpool he dipped his hand into the cold flow. Two minutes, he’d been told. If he fell in – or jumped – it would take two minutes for this river to kill him. He knew it was true because it had almost happened. He’d been looking for the cabin where he now lived, had beached at the mouth of the wrong creek and decided to wade to the other side to search for a trail. Half way across he realized he was in trouble. It was deeper than he’d thought and his legs were giving out. Then the bottom dropped off completely and he’d had to swim. He barely made it to the shore in time; he couldn’t stand when he got there. His legs were useless for several minutes, even though the sun was high and hot that day. He remembered he’d shivered for two days.

His eyes caught the gray shifting of mist in the rift of a small valley far ahead as thick clouds spilled their burden of moisture down toward the river. He could smell it as the wind brought the fragrance of poplar toward him. The trees on the banks seemed to turn their leaves toward it. He pulled his hat back on and shrugged into an old slicker. As the rain came toward him he started the motor and steered the boat closer to shore. He knew a wind could come up strong enough to keep him at a stand-still. He snorted as he thought about that. It was the story of his life right now. Standing still. But at least he wasn’t running anymore. He wondered how long it would last.

Just before the rain hit him a sudden shifting of light curved over the hills in a faint rainbow. God’s promise. Funny how he always thought that when he saw a rainbow. Someone somewhere must have said it to him. He pulled his hat down and cut the motor again, to listen, as the first softness of rain touched him. Everything around him seemed to whisper. He breathed deeply and almost smiled. Out here a person could almost want to believe in God and promises. Almost.


  1. Marica - I like it! Makes me want to read the rest of the book. I'm already curious about what Alex is running from - or why he's standing still and "almost" ready to believe. I also love your descriptions; its easy to picture where he is.

  2. Marcia--I really like your writing style. You paint a wonderful word picture. I've been to Alaska and could see it in your words (even though it was the Yukon:) Let us know when the book is out.

  3. Strong sense of place, Marcia. I'm shivering -- and curious.

  4. Beautiful prose, Marcia, and a strong hook to draw us into the novel: who is Alex, why is he so alone, what was he running from? Hmmm, suspense is hovering like the rainstorm. H's stopped running and is standing still. What's going to catch up?


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