Yet again, I’m skipping ahead to introduce the prologue to my planned seventh novel, When the Rains Came… Unusual, at least for me, in that it’s the first book or story to be told in first person, something I’m not a huge fan of. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading books with first person narration. It’s just that in the crafting of one, I can’t help but think: who is this person talking to?!
We all have inner monologues in our head. Thoughts, opinions… But how many of us would dare share these “not ready for public airing” musings? Sure, there are those who write memoirs or biographies and even publish them. I doubt, though, that they always share their inner most thoughts.
Take the example below. Our narrator is on the verge of turning fourteen. Yes, fourteen! Precocious for his age, he begins to tell us a story of murder. Is he the killer? Or merely an observer? And who is he talking to?!
Part of the reason I chose first person narration was to tell a murder mystery from the sidelines, so to speak. All the clues, means to solving the crime, are presented in conversations that are not part of the active investigation. Our narrator isn’t the detective. Though he converses with all the principal characters and is present at pivotal events, he does not solve the case. Think of him as a Watson (to Sherlock Holmes) or a Hastings (to Hercule Poirot) who unravels the story, but not side by side with the detective.
Without further ado, the prologue of When the Rains Came…
…It poured. This was the third straight day of rain. Well, technically the fourth, but Monday had been mostly “intermittent drizzle,” as the weatherman would say. It’s not that I really cared. I’m not much of an outdoor person, but even I’d had enough. It was summer. I should be able to get outside some. School was little more than a month away; I’d be cooped up enough then.
Sure, there’s that coziness of being able to spend time in front of a blazing fire, cuddled up in an armchair with a cup of hot chocolate and a mystery novel to while away the time. There are plenty of books in my grandfather’s library; some are even considered rare or, at the very least, obscure. But even I can’t read all the time. And besides, that whole idea is best left for the winter!
So I looked out the window. There was nothing to see but rain. Heavy drops coming down so hard that I could barely see Rick’s car parked in the driveway. No doubt my cousin would be busy with his photography downstairs. He’s been staying with grandfather and me since he graduated from college back in May. Since then, he’d set up a place in the basement to develop his photographs. His real passion, he’d say. It’s been fun having him around, like having the big brother I never had. Not to mention, Rick knew how to get under grandfather’s skin, and it was such a guilty pleasure to see grandfather lose it.
It’s not that my grandfather’s that conservative or…stodgy. He does have a stubborn streak, though. He must be close on seventy, but he’s never admitted to me just exactly how old he is. No matter how often I’ve asked. Yes, I can be stubborn, too. There’s just…times when I worry…
Late at night…sometimes, when I can’t fall asleep…I worry what will happen to me. Grandfather’s the only family I really have. Well, at least here in Syracuse. But this is my home. I can’t imagine living elsewhere. I’ve stayed with my aunt in Salem, Massachusetts, some summers, but I didn’t like the last time. I felt…adrift. And then when I came home, they were gone…my parents. No one, not the neighbors, not friends of the family, not even grandfather knew where they’d gone. They’d just vanished.
There was no question that I’d live with grandfather. That was decided. But there were questions. A flurry of inquiries and murmurings by friends and neighbors. “Where could they have gone? Why did they leave the child behind? Did something happen to them?”
Such questions, with no answers, asked behind my back. Suggestions, hints that something horrible had happened to them, but never spoken of in front of me. No! Protect the child. Poor thing. Save him from knowing…
Just about everyone who knew my parents or grandfather had come out of the woodwork to cheer me up. That’s what they wanted. Make the child feel better.
I suppose I did cry for a few nights, but I…
I never considered that I had been abandoned because of something I’d done. I had always gotten enough love and attention. But then I was an only child. It was only natural that I be indulged and spoiled. In fact, I had often reveled in it. Still do. Grandfather, he means well, but he treats me like a china doll. Something he’s afraid will break. I think he’s worried about lasting effects my parents’ disappearance will have on me. Mostly, now a year has passed, I just wonder where they could have gone. Sometimes I wonder why they didn’t take me. Late at night, I often wonder…
But then why waste time trying to answer unsolvable questions? For me, it’s out of sight, out of mind. I think it’s just my defense mechanism. I suppose some might think me cold-hearted, perhaps even self-centered…perhaps they would be right.
That a fourteen year-old should think like this might perhaps seem frightening. That’s why I don’t often express such inner thoughts. Smart, huh? Grandfather would say I was gifted. I wouldn’t know about that. But I’ve always felt older. Not physically, of course. But, even at eight years old—I think that’s about the time it started—I just suddenly felt like I was trapped in a child’s body. I suppose I felt fourteen then. Now, at fourteen, I feel eighteen. That must sound strange, but really I don’t know how else to describe it.
I think…it’s like not being able to get outside because of the rain. The adult world just doesn’t recognize you as a peer, someone who can relate to them. And it’s so frustrating! I always see parents encouraging their kids to grow up faster and be mature, be responsible. But then society turns around and slaps us in the face. They tell us we aren’t of age to make decisions for ourselves. Maybe that’s true for some kids. But I’ve always felt the exception to the rule. To just about every rule really.
Maybe, it’s madness. A child’s fantasies that have overpowered reality. But I don’t think so. Most of my life has been spent on the sidelines watching other people. At times, I’ve felt left out. Mostly, I feel like a supporting player in other people’s dramas. I’ve spent much of my life interacting with adults. My classmates…they’ve never accepted me. I’ve been picked on. Joked about. Derided. It’s just been more comfortable socializing with adults, with teachers. I prefer people who have lost the cruelty possessed by children, who don’t understand the implications of their jokes or their name calling.
Perhaps I’ve alienated myself from my peers as a result. Or perhaps they’re jealous because adults tend not to treat me like a juvenile. But who knows what other people really think? I try not to be self-conscious. But I can’t help it. I’ve always second-guessed myself even though I probably shouldn’t.
Well, no use sitting here sulking. Rain never hurt anyone. It’s almost three o’clock, and the Wilcoxes have invited us over for a dinner party…
Back in November, I posted about NaNoWriMo. (See here.) Not having been able to take advantage of it, I’ve select March as my surrogate month for writing and this novel, When the Rains Came…, for hopeful completion. The title was inspired by the Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power film, The Rains Came, which also features in the story.
Stay tuned for more about When the Rains Came… and The Mysteries of Syracuse series.
This prologue excerpt is copyrighted material. Please do not reproduce or use without prior permission from the author.