Our third submission for First Impressions in 2014 is a YA Contemporary from Tammy Theriault, titled LIVING RUNAWAY:
“Mom?” I called out, tossing a stack of envelopes towards the kitchen island, spreading them like wings in midair. “I got the mail!”
Walking to my room, ready to dump another bad year of school, I heard a distant smack to the fake tile echoing against rose colored walls.
“Crap.” I turned, finding half the mail spread out on the linoleum. “Seriously? Could this stupid day get any worse?”
I gathered up the pile, placing it back on the counter just as a manila envelope peeked out from the clutter.
“Mom?” I called out again. “I’m home! Half day, remember?”
“I’m in the bathroom!” She yelled from down the hall.
I quickly pulled the large envelope out and turned it over. My name was typed on a white label, but with no return address. I flipped it over a few times more to find the sender, but all I could see was a round bulge sliding up and down inside.
And it was for me.
“Yes!” I said,dropping my backpack on the floor. “Finally.”
I stared at the envelope held in my now eager hands, anticipating what was inside, knowing Mom had told me to stop going through the mail. But this was different. This was the one I was waiting for.
I smiled, ready to tear into the gift and see what Dad used as his I-didn’t-forget birthday present.
I tore open the flap, trying to think where Mom said he went for his business trip this time. Where ever this was from, I was more stoked that he remembered my eighteenth birthday was coming up. Through all his recent late night drunken stupors, drowning in bourbon, late night TV and what he called the stresses of a new management job in sales—he remembered.
Reaching half way inside, I pulled out a pink sparkly card announcing my birthday had arrived. I opened it to find nothing more than a typed note.
“Happy Birthday, Emily. I’m sure Daddy would’ve loved to see his little princess.”
I read the line again, unsure of why “see” was capitalized, but dismissed it, throwing the card on the counter. Shaking the envelope upside down, readying my hand beneath it for my present, a cold Saran Wrap wad fell into my palm, trickling bits of red juices from its open creases.
I squinted hard to see inside of it without opening the plastic wrapping, trying not to get more of the liquid on me. But all I could make out was something round…with a pink limp stem…and a dark…blue…iris.
Gasp … HOW HORRIBLE! At first I saw iris and I thought flower. I thought he sent her a flower. Then I realized …
This is bad. Was he kidnapped? Is it even his eyeball? This is clearly a threat to Emily as well as to her father – who I’m betting is not really a sales executive.
Backing up to critique the page, I think there are a number of things that need to be made clearer. A small, unimportant one – but it is the first thing that happens – is throwing the mail on the counter. What I think happened is she threw the mail at the counter, the envelopes hit and fanned out, and slid right onto the floor. This could be stated more directly. There’s no reason to get into fake tiles or the color of the walls. Additionally, having the mail fall on the floor doesn’t seem a reason for Emily to exclaim, Could this stupid day get any worse? It’s a minor annoyance, but if she’s had a bad day, then elaborate here – or drop it altogether.
Next, her mother had told her to stop going through the mail. Why? The horrifying delivery she just received is an excellent reason for her mother not to want Emily opening the mail, but is there another, perfectly mundane reason? Is it that Emily is looking for validation and attention from her absentee father, and the mother hates seeing her disappointed? In that case, rather than Emily thinking: This is different. This was the one I was waiting for. – she ought to be thinking: Ha, Mom! I was right. He didn’t forget.
Finally, on a more practical note – if this really is an eyeball, could it survive going through the mail in an envelope? I honestly have no idea how hard or squishy it might be, nor do I want to know! A box might be better, although I realize that wouldn’t blend in with the mail and would have caught Emily’s attention earlier. How about a padded envelope at least?