Sunday, December 18, 2011

Free Tickets

I’m almost finished with the first draft of my first YA novel, and that’s got me thinking about free tickets. See, a last-minute complementary concert seat is how this novel started. The music was loud and thick and textured—and to tell the truth—entirely over my musically illiterate head. So there was my brain, happily overwhelmed and free to wander. It made up a short story, which I wrote out the next day and submitted to my crit group. They said yes, and I grew the little daydream into a completely different novel. But looking back, I can still see hints of the original characters. Here is that short story for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.


If this is a romance—which it totally isn’t—I’ll be introduced at the post-game party as an A-1 loser goof. You know, camera pans a living room full of rowdy juniors and seniors, zooms in on the Zit Kid sporting miss-matched threads. As if stripes aren’t just half a plaid, and plaid isn’t just extra stripes. Think about it.

But not for too long, because the camera’s still moving, frames the door—music swells—and this totally hot chick like the new girl who just walked in, walks in. Pow, I fall for her, but she thinks she’s too good for me and I believe her. Not that I do.

Flash forward to Act II. Her snooty friends pull a prank on us and we end up on a road trip through Death Valley, where our perfectly good car dies of measles. It happened to Freddy Thompson’s mom’s car. Swear.

We bake in the sun, hot chick and me, ’til she snaps, says something honest but mean and I snap back, say something honest but worse. I can be like that. Stone cold. I just need a little time to think up a comeback.

You know, now that I think about it, Mrs. Thompson’s car might not have had measles. It could have had bad injectors, because I’d bet Freddy that a diesel could run on alcohol, but the only stash we could find was my brother’s pot and I figured one high was pretty much the same as the next and we spiked the tank with weed.

Anyway, chickie has insulted me and I’m all, “Snap, insult you back!” She cries and runs into the frickin’ desert and I have to chase after her. Then I save her from a rattlesnake—no a brown recluse, I don’t like snakes. She says she’s sorry, I say I’m sorry, and buckets of rain fall where it hasn’t rained in like, forever. Figure that out Mr. Weatherman.

We roll in the mud because we were so happy to be alive, then night falls and we steal new clothes from a broken-down Halloween costume van. All she can find is a Wanda the Wench dress, and I’m sharper than sharp in a Dracula tux. She sees my total dapperness in the moonlight—even though the moon doesn’t always come out at night, sometimes it comes out in the day, because that’s how orbits work—and ten seconds later we’re doing it in the back seat of her dad’s Lexus, ’cause I don’t even own a car.

Plus, and this is how I know this story’s not a romance, I’d have spent the whole introduction doing a babbly voice-over.


There’d better be a ninjas in the next scene, or I’m ditching this story.


If this is an action adventure—and let’s be clear on the subject, verb, and object, it is not—then… Sorry, backup. By “it” I meant the story. Implied subject. Mrs. Jackson, my old English teacher, would totally rap my knuckles with a ninjato for that, and for using a “to be” verb in a topic sentence. But cut a girl some slack, it’s her first night in town.

Back to the scene. If this story is a macho fist-fest, the Big Muscle Dudes will be too busy grunting to notice that my eyes are puffy from crying. Instead, Big Muscle Dude Number One hits on me. When all I want is chocolate. Then Big Muscle Dude Number Two hits on me. Seriously, how about a little conversation to take the edge off a foreign town? And maybe an ibuprofen. But BMDs don’t do talking, so they hit on each other, instead. The other kind of hit on, I mean. Unless they’re cute and will let me watch.

But no, by Act II we’re in a car chase. I’m strapped into the passenger seat next to Dude One, who shaves with a machete and thinks it’s spelled with a Y. We race across the desert, scaring the crap out of me and some lonely kid looting a broken down Halloween costume van, while Dude Two blasts us with heat-seeking, laser-guided missiles that somehow miss us—but blow open the door to his secret desert lair.

Yeah, Dude Two is a super villain with a catch phrase like, “Mr. Evil, because it’s all about M. E.” Bullets fly, and just when you think it—the story I mean—can’t possibly get any more testosterone stupid, they fight it out in CGI animated super suits. Seriously.

Plus, and this is the real action-adventure giveaway, I’d be holding back more than lonely tears right now. I’d be holding back the truth about being a secret government agent on a last-chance mission to find the Chosen One—the boy who can save our country from the forces of darkness. And I’d have throwing stars appliquéd to my underwear.


If I don’t get chocolate and a little hand-holding in the next scene, somebody’s getting stainless steel perforations. I nominate the plaid fashion disaster who’s about to trip over the wrestling team’s beer keg.


Katie McGarry said...

Kurt...I absolutely love your voice! This is one of the damn funniest things I have ever read. Honestly. You'll be snatched up and published soon.

Colette Ballard said...

Funniest. Short story. Ever!!! Kurt, i am soooo happy to see this story again! It's so cool to look back and see where it all began.... Your voice has always kicked ass!
I agree with Katie--any day now, you'll be snatched up!!!

Alice said...

Great voice. Publishers and agents will love it.

Kurt Hampe said...

Thanks for the kinds words, especially those of you who had to read five different version of Chapter 1, while I figured out who the hero was.

Lisa Tapp said...

So Kurt, are you surprised to see how the full novel has drifted from the original idea? I'm curious to see where you took this idea. Your YA voice feels natural.

Kurt Hampe said...

Lisa, thanks for the question and kind word about my YA voice. I probably have a middle-grade brain in an adult body, so that averages out to YA, right?

I'm not surprised by the change in direction, thanks for asking, but that's only because I didn't have a novel-length story in mind when I write the short story.

Jack Wallen said...

Kurt, that is a wonderful short story. You should seriously be considering publishing this on Amazon and B&N. You can still shop it out, while it's making you money!

Kristen Simmons said...

Ha! HAHAHA! You're hilarious!