So, thanks to Brant’s comments, I decided to revise the last story, Balance of a Cat. I admit, at first I was reluctant. I like writing in a the first person POV, as I enjoy the sense of intimacy and the unique perspective it provides to a character/story. But, I thought it was important to revise it, for the story’s sake. That’s a writer’s job: knowing when to go against what you want to do in favor of what you have to do in order to write the best story you can. Also worth noting, I did the finishing touches after watching a webinar on dialogue by Kevin T. Johns. I love writing dialogue, anyway, but though it’s late and I’m tired, the inspiration stirred by the webinar didn’t make the revisions feel like work. Anyway, here’s the revised version.
The Balance of a Cat
He’d intended to surprise her, not make her cry. But Lee had always been a crybaby–a fact her cousin never let her forget–and the tears and snot glistening on her pinched, pink face were as expected as the annoyance he felt every time. Still, they were blood, the same age, and in a town as small as theirs, one’s choices in friends were slim.
“You always get me in trouble,” she moaned from behind. She swatted at the tree branches whipping her face, her crying intensifying by the second. “I have a math test second period.”
Max kept a steady pace on the trail, leading the way into the woods. The shrubs were thick, and the ground almost bouncy underfoot from the layers of dead pine needles and dirt. “Then why’d you come?”
“Because you told me to!”
Of course. Like some kind of living robot, docile Lee didn’t have it in her to say no, though Max guessed that’s why he’d dragged her along. Hearing her sniveling behind him, though, made him feel a little bad. Lee was smart. She was aiming for a scholarship and, with her brains, she could actually escape their pinprick of a town. Max handed her a balled up tissue from his pocket.
“You know I like school.” She blew her nose. “You’d better not mess this up for me. I twisted my ankle during last week’s trip to the quarry. I got to school late the next day because of it and barely talked myself out of detention.”
“I told you to be careful scaling those rocks.”
“It was night!”
“The moon was out.”
Max smiled when she choked off a retort. After so many years, she knew it was useless to argue. “Fine,” he said after a bit. “I’ll get you back before your test, OK? Anyway, we’re almost there. You’ll see, it’ll be worth it.” He pushed through the last of the trees and kept going until he reached the cliff’s edge. There, he stood on the cusp, took a deep breath, and spread his arms as if trying to catch the early morning rays. “Isn’t it amazing? You can see everything from here!”
Below, ‘Cow-Town’, or Dunsville as it was officially known, sprawled as far as the eye could see and was more farmland than anything else. But to Max, it was a green stain on the fringe of the unknown. “The world is waiting for me, cousin. I might not have your brains, but I’ll come up with my own way out of here.”
“Dad says you don’t have any talents, either. Aside from finding trouble.”
Max dropped his arms to his sides. “That’s what everyone thinks, isn’t it? That I’m just a dumb, screw up?”
Lee didn’t answer, but came up cautiously behind him to put a hand on his shoulder.
Max turned back to the cliff. “Well? How do our futures look from up here, Brainiac?”
She shrugged. “Kinda scary. Everything looks…so big, so spread out.”
“Makes you feel small, right? Maybe even insig…insignificant? But the potential–!”
“Maybe. I don’t know.” She tugged at his shirt. “Let’s go. You could fall, and I don’t want that.”
She tried to take him by the arm but he pulled out of her grasp. “I’m not going to fall. I’ve got the balance of a cat.”
“You don’t have a tail,” she insisted. “They use them as a counter-balance, or something like that. I learned it at school, which is where we should be right now.”
“Come on, not even one step?” Max waved towards the great beyond. “It’d be hard to find a better view than this—“
His foot slipped before he ever knew what had happened. It was Lee’s scream and the sudden rush of cold air on his face that stirred the latent sense of fear within him.
But the world fast approached; a growing green patch of grass, looming before Max’s eyes.
In truth, it was probably the only way a dumb, troublesome kid like him could earn salvation.
So, Max closed his eyes. And embraced it.
Copyright @2017 by Dyane Forde