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Literary Criticism

First Page: Breaker

First Page: Breaker

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 audience buzzes with energy and it carries back to where we’ve begun our final countdown to show time. The palpable electricity teases the hair on my skin.

Before every performance some of the Glam Club members get so nervous they sweat faster than their deodorant can keep up with. Others just throw up. That’s why backstage smells like Lysol laced onions. Me? I’ve always been able to channel the excitement and tense energy into my performance.

This, our last show of the school year, is set to begin and in about five minutes the stage lights will come up, the audience lights will go down and Glam Club’s star — Rio Montgomery — will take her spot on stage in front of the packed house.

There’s only one small problem.

“Where the hell is Rio?” Mr. Rockwell, our music director, zigs and zags nervously amongst us. Everyone scatters to keep out of his way. “Has anyone seen Rio?”

“Only every guy at Salem West High School, I hear,” Abi whispers beside me with a grin. A snort slips from between my lips and Mr. Rockwell gives us a quick, but no-less-caustic, glower.

“I’m glad you find this so funny Hatfield!” Thankfully his wrath is diverted by the buzzing of his cell phone.
Abi Gayle Conway is my female best friend.

My eyes roam around the room for my other best friend, Preston Monroe. Our eyes meet with smoldering, unbridled passion. No, wait. Wrong movie. I mean, yeah, our eyes meet. But nothing more than a flicker — more like a pathetic fizzle — passes between us. I think I even catch an eye roll before he looks away. Preston’s mad at me. Well not exactly mad-mad. But I know he’s disappointed in me. That’s why he’s on the other side of the room and not with Abi and me right now.

“Right?” Abi brings me back to my senses. (She’s good that way.)

“I’m sorry, what?” I mumble.

She follows my eyes and shakes her head when she catches me watching Preston pathetically. “Jesus Mol. I wish you two would just do it and get it over with.”

“What? What? Preston and I are so not going to do it. It’s not like that. We’re just friends,” I hiss.

“Oh get over yourself Molly Hatfield. You’re the only one who doesn’t see it,” she lectures with her hands on her hips, all full of Abi-tude. “You could do worse than Preston Monroe you know.”

“Ladies,” Boston Remke — fellow Glam Club member — tips his imaginary hat in our direction in a lame attempt to be studly.

“Like I was saying,” she whispers to me. To Boston: “Oh hi Boston.” And just like that, the conversation we’ve had too many times to count is over as she takes his arm and they walk away.

I’d never go for Boston Remke. Not in a million years. Bedsides, even though she denies it, Abi’s had it bad for Boston since she moved up here in second grade.

It’s obvious to me by the way she tucks her short blacker-than-black hair behind one ear. Or maybe it’s the way she bats her contact lens enhanced big purple eyes not-so-coyly up at him.

I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

“Okay, listen up people!” Mr. Rockwell claps his hands together to get our attention. “Change of plans. There’s been an accident. Rio had a minor fender bender. She’s on her way, but won’t make opening.

Dear Author

First Page: Coming to Terms

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.

June 17, 2017
Gereskh District Hospital,
Gereshk, Afghanistan

“Fuck, fuck, fuck….” Dr. Kai Corey chanted it like a prayer as he worked upon the young girl lying on the operating table. He just hoped that the two women who’d brought this girl to him, mute witnesses to the struggle to keep her alive, could not understand his words.

Sweat dripped from his forehead as the fierce heat of an Afghan summer day beat into the tiled operating room. None of the rooms in the small hospital were air-conditioned, since their tiny generators had to be saved for more important things, such as the ventilator that was currently pushing air in and out of this girl’s lungs. He grunted as Alice, his nurse, wiped the sweat away from his glasses before they smeared and he’d have to stop operating long enough to clean them. The heat was a bitch, but it was at least natural.

Not like the animals who’d done this to an innocent child – and why? The story Kai had pieced together from the interpreter’s quick sentences was that she’d given directions to a stranger who’d stopped her while she was getting water from the village well. Since he wasn’t her father, brother, uncle, cousin, or husband, the village elders decided that she must be some kind of slut. So they’d punished her: first by a gang-rape, then by slicing off her ears, her nose, blinding her…if that hadn’t been enough, someone had laid a curse on her – Kai could feel it, simmering under her skin, keeping her alive despite her injuries. She’d lain in the dust of the village square until two slightly elder cousins had gotten up the courage to pull her into a donkey cart and drive the forty kilometers to the district hospital at Gereshk, where the MSF held an aid mission. While he wasn’t strictly a gynecologist, Kai was the closest they had, so he had been given the task of putting the shattered bits back together.

He’d had to give up on saving her uterus but he did have hopes of keeping one of her kidneys intact. That thought, drifting into his awareness, only fuelled his rage against the animals who’d harmed her.

He continued swearing as more sweat trickled down the back of his scrub shirt, matting it to his body. He wouldn’t be able to do anything about the facial injuries, save to suture them and hope for the best. The meager facilities here weren’t equipped for any major surgeries. At last, when he’d done everything he could think of, Kai stepped back from the operating table. A uniformed orderly/security guard wheeled it away from the room, towards the small niche that held their intensive care patients. The women there would watch over her. They weren’t trained nurses, like Alice, but they were conscientious, and careful, and Kai would be on call until late tonight.

One of the women who’d come in with the girl came forward. She was older, with a severe limp and a withered arm. Kai wondered if they were due to some beating, or if she had endured an accident of some kind – but, really, did it matter? Not here. She spoke quickly, in the local dialect of Persian. Alice listened, then turned to Kai.

“She asks if Maryam will live.”

Kai’s hand went to the crucifix he wore under his scrubs. He gripped the metal so fiercely that it cut into his fingers even through the latex of his gloves and the material of his shirt. “She will,” Kai said, “if God wills it so. I have done what I could to aid Him.”