Margga’s Curse, revised: Chapter 1 [fiction]


I know, most of you would rather see my artwork and photography than read my writing. But for the handful of followers who enjoy my writing segments, here’s the continuation of my attempt to rewrite Night of the Hellhounds, or accurately, Margga’s Curse.

After I published Night of the Hellhounds with its new title and felt done with it, ready to work out the kinks in the second novel, a fan of my stories—and probably my only fan—admitted that he liked my short story better than the novel.

“What’s wrong with the novel?” I asked.

“I don’t like the parts with Vree being a wimp and running away from her problems. Or the Roualens—they don’t seem important to the story. You should get rid of them and the spaceship … Lenny too. His parts in the story were boring when it was about him at the dinner table and the restaurant. This is Vree’s story and her problems with magic and dealing with Margga who wants to take away her magic. You should have told it only from her perspective.”

Finally! Some honest criticism, albeit late in the game.

“Would you like to read an earlier draft of Margga’s Curse?” I asked, pulling an ace from my sleeve. I have a habit of writing in first person point of view when I write a first draft, then change everything to third person point of view by the final draft. I still had the draft with everything told from Vree’s point of view.

He said he did, so I gave him a copy. Weeks later, he said it was as good as the original short story and a lot better than the novel, though he still didn’t care about the Roualens.

But was it better? I had my doubts, but I read the first-person draft again. I liked it. Its pace was quicker than the draft I published. Other reasons I liked it are

  1. The introduction of Vree extends a friendly hand to the reader—a much warmer intro than when she was introduced in third person point of view.
  2. Because first person point of view is a limited scope to work with, Vree cannot tell the reader things that happen offstage. She and the reader are kept in the dark and must rely on revelations. Revealing actions create suspense or foreboding, and empathetic curiosity. A little mystery keeps everyone wanting to find out more.
  3. Vree’s voice makes her identifiable and adds to her personality from the start, which was something I had to build when I wrote her as a third-person-point-of-view character. And because she’s a constant active character, we have a stronger sense of her as a real person who has choices and can make decisions of her own free will. We see the experience from her immediate perspective.
  4. Vree can confide in the reader with secrets and intimate revelations, creating curiosity and making the reader invest in the story.
  5. Writing in first person point of view allows me, unfortunately, to use filter words. Filter words are I saw, I heard, I smelled, I thought, etc. I find it necessary to reread my first-person stories and eliminate filter words, to let the reader see the action through Vree’s eyes. “I saw the brown and shaggy dog,” makes the reader watch Vree see the dog. “The dog was brown and shaggy,” lets the reader see what Vree sees, and closes the distance between the reader and her. “I heard the music, tinny and spooky and weird,” vs. “The music was tinny and spooky and weird.” One is outside, watching Vree listen; the other is inside her head, hearing it with her. Filter words aren’t always bad. “I see the shelves, and I see the counter, but I don’t see the magic potion.” This is describing the act of seeing explicitly and conveys Vree’s frustration at not finding what she’s looking for.

So, for the sake of experiment, I’m publishing here the first-person story with changes. I hope you like it.

The Story

I yanked the steering wheel of Daddy’s John Deere riding mower and dodged mowing over my brother’s black leather baseball glove. Surface roots of the old oak tree in our backyard jostled me while I tried steering away from them. The lawnmower pitched left, right, left again, tossing me like yesterday’s roller coaster ride on Old Shaky, and then… BAM. The deck slammed down on a root. The blade stopped. The motor whined. I took my foot from the gas pedal and groaned. I had promised Daddy I would be careful mowing the lawn this time.

But this was not my fault. Chase promised that he had picked up his sports equipment before he, Trina and Mom left to shop at Ridgewood Village Mall an hour ago.

I pondered what to do about the mower. All I knew was how to check and fill the gas tank and oil, and how to start it and turn it off. Driving the thing over the hilly terrain without killing myself was a plus.

“Hello? Vree? Are you there?” Zoey’s voice brought me back.

“Let me call you back,” I said to the voice in my pink and black headphones over my ears. I shut off the mower’s engine.

“Are you okay?” Zoey asked. “It sounded like you were in an accident.”

“My stupid brother left his glove in the yard, which caused me to get the lawnmower stuck on some tree roots. My dad’s gonna kill me if I broke anything.”

“Do you need me to come over?” Zoey asked.

I sat forward, tugged my red KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON T-shirt from my sweaty back, then wiped my palms on the knees of my blue jeans. “I’m okay,” I answered. A wet breeze blew the ends of my long blonde hair across my face, covering my eyes for a moment. I pushed my hair away and shivered from another breeze. The sunny day had turned gray in an instant.

“You get ready for my birthday party,” I said. “I’ll push the mower into the shed and finish cleaning the kitchen and living room.”

“I’m so excited for you,” Zoey said before she squealed. “You’re a teenager now.”

I shrugged. I didn’t feel any different.

“See you at six, birthday girl,” Zoey said before she ended the call.

I removed the Bluetooth headphones and put them over the steering wheel. Then I jumped from the tractor, pulled my hair back, twirled it into a bun, and hurried to the rear of the lawnmower. I needed to finish my chores by four o’clock and shower before Mom got home from shopping.

I placed both hands on the back of the seat and rocked the mower, grunting and pushing it until it was away from the roots. The damaged root exposed a white, wet wound where the lawnmower blade had cut it. Daddy would be disappointed in me for damaging his grandfather’s oak tree—again. Luckily, there was a can of tree wound sealer in the shed left over from last year.

I leapt into my seat and tried starting the mower. The engine coughed but did not jump to life as it was supposed to do.

If the lawnmower was broken…. I groaned at the thought. This was different from staying out past curfew, or cutting my hair uneven with Mom’s good scrapbook scissors, or vomiting corndogs on Daddy at Alice Lake’s rollercoaster ride yesterday.

“Come on,” I begged as I tried the engine again. Things had to start going my way.

Thunder banged from a sky that had grown darker with bruised looking clouds. My phone’s weather app had said it would rain today. If only my phone had an app to let me know when I was about to screw up my life.

I could dodge life’s embarrassments and stay out of trouble.

More thunder banged, vibrating its way into me. The sky seemed to open and drop a flood of rain past the umbrella of leafy branches, drenching me. I scampered to the tree trunk and shivered from the chill beneath heavy branches. Thirty yards away, my parents’ spacious Colonial home beckoned me inside where it was dry and warm. My orange tabby cat sat at the living room’s middle bay window, watching from behind the rain-streaked glass, and meowing for his three o’clock meal.

I looked away. Rain fell hard on the lawnmower and my good pair of headphones, so I darted to the left side of the green and yellow mower and pushed, losing my footing twice on the wet grass after three steps. I hurried to the back of the mower and pushed.

After losing my footing again, I looked up. Daddy’s black Escalade pulled in the driveway. I groaned. It wasn’t five o’clock. He wasn’t supposed to be home yet.

Daddy hurried from his vehicle, leaving its headlights on, the engine running, and frantic wipers slapping rain from the windshield. He juggled his opened umbrella while he took to the right side of the mower and helped me push the tractor across the soggy ground, closer to the shed behind the garage.

A flash of bright white light and tremendous heat engulfed me. Something popped in my head. I smelled freshly mowed grass close to my nose before I realized I lay on my stomach in the wet grass. Rain fell on my back.

I tried to get up, but my body refused to cooperate. Even my head refused to turn.

That’s all I remember before


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