Matthew Hoemke

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First Words
by Matthew Hoemke

He lay with his back against the wall, all feeling lost at the sight of the Valkyrie before him.  Angela, the woman of his rich desire and greatest inspiration, knelt beside him on the sidewalk allowing him to gaze into her profoundly green eyes.  As all other feeling seemed to ebb away, Corbin felt deep love and incredible happiness as she brushed his hair back and planted a gentle kiss on his lips; a kiss that would last forever….


     “Lame,” he said in frustration. He hit the backspace key until everything he’d written had cleared away. He stared at the blank computer screen. The little vertical line blinked at him, impatiently waiting for the letters to flow from his fingertips. He knew the story he wanted to tell. He knew it was a gritty crime drama. He knew that it would cater to many audiences as it was rich in emotional depth, had plenty of blazing guns, and a powerful, yet tragic, romance that flowed through the story as an undercurrent. He just didn’t know how to start it.


     The day Corbin Banks died was just the last in a string of progressively worsening days, so much so that when it happened he felt infinite relief.


     “And backspace,” he said, slamming his finger down on the key with force.


     My name in Corbin Banks and today is the day I died. How’d my life come to an end so prematurely? Well, it all started when--


     “Nope!” he exclaimed, throwing his head back. He began to look around the room for inspiration. He saw a burning candle on the shelf next to the television. He starred into it and as he did it emitted the tiniest of sparks from the wood wick. He smiled.


     The first bullet tore into the end of his life, and brought him to his knees. The second cemented his death, but not before he could wonder how his life had brought him to that point. Well, it all started with a girl—


     “Of course it did,” he said dissatisfied. He began to wonder about the gender dynamics in his proposed story. Did he really want to portray his leading lady as a temptress that lead the main character on the path to tragedy? First off, it’s been done. A lot. It’s a cliché that poor writers use because they don’t know how to write women in any other way.


     No, his female lead wasn’t just going to be Eve plucking an apple. Maybe he could switch roles? Have his main character be the female. Yeah, switching roles might work. Not many gritty crime novels follow a female lead and nothing in the story directly called for the lead to be male anyway. He could easily do a gender swap.


     The first bullet tore into the end of her life, and brought her to her knees.


     He wasn’t sure he liked the symbolism of a woman on her knees. Might give some readers the wrong impression.


     The first bullet tore into her life, sending her to the ground. As bullets riddled her body she began to retrace her life and how it had been brought to that point. Well, it all started with a—


     There is no way for that sentence to not end weird. What was he gonna write?


     Well, it all started with a guy, man, dude, slap happy fella


     “Yeah,” he said under his breath. “Not happening.”


     He got up from his desk with a sigh and headed for the kitchen. He distracted himself by making a bowl of cereal, all the while he was thinking of the perfect way for his story to start. He nursed the cereal with a glazed over look. All he needed to do was find the first words. The rest would come later. He wondered why it was so hard to start something. Why it was so important to get those first words ever so right. He grudgingly walked back to his computer.


     “Dialogue,” he said. “Maybe I should start with some dialogue.” He began feverishly typing.


     “What do you mean he’s coming for us?”

     “He found out what Casey saw, and killed her for it Corban! Did you really think he wouldn’t find out we were there, too?! Are you really that dense?”

     “Well, how much time have we got?”

     “Not long.”

     “How ‘not long’?”

     “Would you just calm down?”

     “Fuck you! Calm down? You’re the reason we’re in this mess.”

     “Baby, you know I love you and all, but if you don’t shut the hell up and start working with me here, you won’t have to wait for Ajax to kill you. I’ll do it myself.”

     “Alright, I’m calm. I’m calm. So where do we go from here?”


     “Yes,” he said. “Where do they go from there?”


     He reread the dialogue intro and was relatively pleased, but wasn’t sure if it felt right. He still felt he could do better. He could hear his dog whining at the door which meant she wanted to go outside and use nature’s facilities. Glad for the excuse to step away, he saved the Word document and grabbed the leash.


     His dog excitedly hopped like a bunny trying to stretch the leash as far as it would go. He watched her and began to wonder if he was making the wrong choice by having the story start in the middle or end of the action. He thought for a second about having the cheery opening and have it slowly dissolve into the tragedy that was forthcoming. That was an idea.


     He rushed his poor puppy on the rest of her walk so that he could get back to his work, promising his dog for a proper walk later.


     Angela Sinclair was perfectly happy with the way her life was going.


     He already disposed it. What crime novel started with happiness? None! Why? Because happy people don’t get themselves involved in situations like that. And, as he sat there, thinking about it further, he began to doubt the cheerful beginnings approach. That, too, had been a trope that had been beaten to death. Watch any modern movie preview and they always start happy than dissolve into darkness. Why had he even considered it?


     He now wished he hadn’t cleared away his dialogue intro. It may not have been great, but it worked on some level. He began to wonder if he could write the thing entirely with dialogue. He’d never seen that. He was really taken by the idea, until he realized there was no going into the persons head. There was no interaction or mind-melding with his creations, and that was his favorite part about writing. He loved the idea of getting lost in someone else’s thoughts. A dialogue driven story just wouldn’t do.


     He watched as the blinking vertical line continued to mock him. He threw all of his loathing into glaring at that stupid blinking line. Frustrated, he got up and began to pace his living room floor. He recited in his head what he wanted his story to accomplish hoping that he would get that burst of inspiration on how to open his story…and it happened. Out of nowhere. Just like that.


     It’s strange how it happens, when you so desperately grasp for the perfect words and they just hit you in so unexpected a way. It was as if something clicked into place. He knew exactly how his story should open. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it earlier. His fingers began to bleed words and every one of them landed gracefully where they ought to on the page. His fingers were typing with furious conviction and when it was over he reread what he had written and he was pleased. What he had worked and worked well. It was an attention grabbing open, and had the power to make you want to read more. He read it once more.


     Darkness falls for all of us and it’s up to us to see that glimmer of light in the black. Let it shine like a beacon of hope within you. I neglected it and my light burnt out. Now I’m alone and knocking at death’s door. My fate is set, but yours needn’t be. We all choose the path we walk. Whether we blaze a heroes’ trail or stride the devil’s stride, it is our choices that lead us to where we go. We choose to accept the world the way it is, or fight it till it’s the way it ought to be. The question I have for you is: did I make the wrong choice?


     “Alright,” he said. “What’s next?”