Our First Impressions post today comes from Claudette Young. This is the first page of Claudette’s women’s cozy mystery, DREAMIE’S BOX
“I have to leave early this morning. I have a breakfast meeting in Westley and won’t be able to drop you at the library. I guess you’ll be able to get extra cleaning done today, won’t you?”
Dreamie listened as Martin’s voice washed over her, managing her day’s hours. This line of instruction had followed much the same morning routine for nearly twenty years. She often contemplated arguing but declined the invitation for confrontation. Too messy. Instead, she nodded to signify that she’d heard him. If he took that as agreement, he had only himself to blame.
She kept her face neutral as he patted her on the shoulder like the neighbor’s dog before heading out the backdoor. Dreamie could go about her day now unimpeded and unrestricted. A house quiet with solitude soothed its mistress. Dreamie Simple stared out the kitchen window as she finished the breakfast dishes.
Martin was gone.
With that knowledge her anticipation broke free. A smile broadened her mouth, bringing with it a glimpse of the understated beauty of her youth. There would come a time when Martin’s dictates would have no meaning for her, except as a training ground for patience and endurance.
Dreamie emptied the sink without moving her eyes from the cardinals that devoured seed scattered below the bird feeder. Her sad smile quirked her lips as she recalled the silent argument she’d had with Martin regarding that feeder.
“You’re not going to hang that contraption out there on that maple, Dreamie. I won’t have you putting up things like that to hit me in the head when I’m mowing.”
Dreamie had continued assembling the simple feeder purchased at the local Dollar Store without looking up at her husband. He knew that she’d heard him. He knew that she wouldn’t sass back.
As soon as she’d readied the feeder, she filled it with store-bought birdfeed. She went outside immediately and hung it from one of the lower branches of the big maple. She’d stood, admiring it.
Her marital war with Martin had begun in earnest that day. Martin had removed it and tossed it into the trash. She’d retrieved the feeder and replaced it. He removed. Dreamie replaced. In the end, each time Dreamie heard the mower fire up in the storage barn, she would go to the feeder, remove it from its hanger, and take it to safety on the back porch. As soon as the mowing was done, Dreamie returned it to its place on the tree limb.
Ten years had passed since the argument began. Ten years filled with complacency on Martin’s part and active waiting on hers. Some things took time, she knew.
Martin exacted a high price for the completion of his marriage obligation. Her own mother could never have understood Dreamie’s disillusionment and aching loneliness throughout the years.
First of all, I have to comment on the main character’s name, Dreamie Simple. It seems to fit her perfectly – dreamy and rather simple-minded – but it becomes apparent by the end of this page that she’s not passive. She’s passive aggressive, and not simple at all. I wonder if Martin’s complacency, his belief that he dominates this marriage, is going to end in a rather messy and spectacular way? (He seems like a jerk, so is it okay for me to wish that it does?)
There are several lines I had to read more than once. They were imprecise, or maybe just not needed. For example: This line of instruction had followed much the same morning routine for nearly twenty years. The sentence could be rewritten as: His instructions had been part of their morning routine for nearly twenty years.But I wonder if the middle lines of the paragraph are needed at all. It doesn’t seem like Dreamie is really contemplating arguing, so why say that she is? Why not streamline the paragraph and let us draw our own conclusions:
Dreamie listened as Martin’s voice washed over her, managing her day’s hours. She nodded to signify that she’d heard him, just as she had every morning for the last twenty years. If he took that as agreement, he had only himself to blame.
This was another sentence that bothered me: There would come a time when Martin’s dictates would have no meaning for her, except as a training ground for patience and endurance.
What time was coming? Why would his dictates have no more meaning for her – especially when it seems they have little meaning for her now? She ignores them. I get the feeling the author is planting the suggestion that Dreamie anticipates a change coming, a plan for her life which will make all the years she has endured this marriage worthwhile. But I’m not sure this sentence is the right one for conveying that.
Claudette, thanks for sharing your first page with us! I, for one, will shed no tears if Dreamie bashes Martin over the head with the bird feeder tomorrow at breakfast. I do think you could take out some of the global, general statements and let the situation unfold before us. Readers, any suggestions or comments?