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Literary Criticism

First Page: The Red Dress

First Page: The Red Dress

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

Note: This first page submission was marked “romance” and is presented as the author requested.

She was a hot chick in a red dress. I could smell the faint odor of last night’s sex on her, a combination of smoke, booze, and semen.  I loved that smell, disgusting and sexy at the same time, all too familiar for guy like me. She looked a bit worried, but used to it. Makeup wasn’t quite perfect, but did she care? I certainly didn’t.


We had been sitting next to each other at the bar, awkwardly pretending not to notice one another. She seemed far away, distant, I tried not to stare. Me? I had just dropped two hundred dollars on a losing horse in the Kentucky Derby, leaving me with about twenty, my last twenty. Run for the Roses?  Fat chance for this asshole! Another bourbon and a shot at the tragic blonde in the aforementioned red dress was all I had left, except for the stained and poorly fitting suit I was wearing. Armani himself would punch me in my drunken face if he saw the condition of this once beautiful and well tailored garb.

“Fuck it.” I thought to myself, as I lit my 27th cigarette of the day. Or was it my 26th? “Jesus, I’m getting to old for this shit.” I mumbled, dropping my forehead gently into my calloused and slightly arthritic hand. I could hear the words of my Grandfather: “Never bet the track,” he would say, “they’ll burn you every time.” I took a deep breathe, looked over at the hot chick sitting next to me, she was looking back.

“Hi, how are you doing tonight?” Her voice was sexy, a bit rough yet feminine. It sounded like years of needing coffee to get excited and how the hell did my life come to this?

“Lose money too?” I asked. “On what?” she replied. “The Derby.” “Oh I don’t really get into that kind of stuff,” she answered. “You know, betting and races?” “Smart,” I replied.

“Smarter than I am,” I thought to myself. I had watched the race earlier at a joint down the street.  The betting patrons were gathered around the old TV at the end of the bar, screaming at their hopefuls, as if the horses could feel their urges and heed their demands.  I sat quietly at the back of the room, shaking my head slowly as the horse I bet on lost it on the backstretch. He was close, we both were. Not close enough.

“How much did you lose?” She asked, bringing me back to the moment. “Too much to make it a topic of conversation,” I responded, shaking my head and looking down at my drink.

“Well, what should we talk about?” She replied, turning toward me slightly. Her left leg was draped over the right. She rested her left arm on the back of her barstool, twirling a chewed pink straw between the fingers of her right hand. The black polish on her fingernails looked old, chipped. We talked for a while, about what I can’t remember. She was nice, relaxed. I liked her easy going style. She laughed at the right times and moved with graceful ease when she gestured. Things seemed to be going fine until: “Oh great!” She said, “Time to go.”

“Not on my account I hope?” I said, trying not to sound desperate for her to stay. “No not you, you’re actually the one asshole who hasn’t, well, acted like an asshole towards me tonight.” “Now that’s my kind of compliment!” I thought to myself amused. “I guess that means we’re leaving together, yes?” “Yes,” she said. “Yeah, let’s get out of here.”


First Page: Wizard in Hiding

First Page: Wizard in Hiding

Welcome to First Page Saturday. Individual authors anonymously send a first page read and critiqued by the Dear Author community of authors, readers and industry others. Anyone is welcome to comment. You may comment anonymously. You can submit your own First Page using this form.

The girl stood by the front windows of the shop, shivering, arms wrapped protectively about her. She was staring hard at something, her eyes jittery and desperate. It was summer, and the building was not air conditioned, so she couldn’t have been cold. I hadn’t seen her enter, but I knew her on sight. She was a regular—Lori or Tori—a good kid. She was maybe sixteen, and though she went to school and had a nice family and all, lately she’d gotten this wild, disheveled look to her: drugs or teenage rebellion…maybe both. She hadn’t seemed the type, though, and she looked far too healthy for it to be drugs.

She’d been coming in for about two years, her tastes changing from a mild X-Men fixation to a darker, apocalyptic vibe. Constantine was one of her favorites.

I had been doing my pre-closing clean up: counting the register, adding up the day’s receipts, making sure the special orders were correctly filled out on the store’s antiquated computer system. I’d just popped the deposit in the safe for the morning when I noticed her standing pensively by the Fantastic Four rack. Well, it’s not so much a rack as a lidless cardboard box crammed full of musty old comic books, sandwiched between even more lidless boxes full of the same, all stacked on old wooden and metal folding tables for as far as the eye can see.

The fact she was in front of that rack should have told me something was terribly wrong.
My name is Gabe Heller—at least it has been for a while now—and I’m a wizard. Well, time was. I was powerful, brave and cunning. I made some enemies, saved distressed damsels, slew a dragon and even helped save the world once. But that was another lifetime ago.

Suffice it to say I lost my powers, and after that I slipped out of my old life and under the radar of just about all my enemies…and my allies. I’ve been in hiding for fifty years. That might seem like a long time, but not when your life expectancy is three to four hundred years—more if you have the will and the power to keep it. Officially I’m eighty-seven years old, but I look somewhat younger. When I’m well rested I get carded when I buy cigarettes. No, they’re not for me, believe me. I quit the day they raised the prices to a buck. But when I don’t shave and fail to get enough sleep, I can pass for thirty.

How did I lose my powers? Remember I said I helped save the world once? Well, losing my powers was the price for that selfless act.

Technically I got between a big bad demon and the hurricane sized necro-spell he and a handful of other baddies were just about to unleash on mankind. I was sneaky and royally screwed up their spell, killing most of the spell slingers. But the demon was sneakier than me, and before I knew what was happening it psychically and physically mauled me, ripping huge chunks of my guts and soul—and thus my power—out of me with his teeth…and his claws, and this hooked tail thingy. God it was awful. I’d hoped I would just die, but I lived, mystically hobbled and left without a prayer of protecting myself.

The physical scars took a couple decades to fade—on occasion I can still feel them—and I’m pretty sure my soul healed, but my powers never returned.

So here I am, fifty years later, working at a comic book store in Pittsburgh. Three stories of graphic novels, classic and new comic books, action figures, Sci-Fi models, pseudo mystical materials, and a ten foot tall replica of the T-Rex from Jurassic Park—all nestled at the end of Penn Avenue.