Again, please bear with me here. I’m struggling with this. Everything I’ve read about writing/publishing says not to start a book with the protagonist introducing themselves because the reader, at the beginning, has no reason to care about the protagonist. I’m asking for feedback here. How many of you would keep reading after this opening? How many would put it down? Do I need to rewrite this opening? This is not the whole chapter.
The Peace River Chronicle
Chapter 1 Book III
by Aleta Kay
I live along the Peace River in Arcadia, Florida. Television and real estate ads make river front property sound like paradise. Let me tell you about Paradise.
The dark caramel colored water is infested with gators, catfish, and floating debris from dead plant life and rubbish that morons throw into the water. The banks are dotted with campgrounds and canoe rentals. And get this: my folks named our place “A Peace of Paradise.” Get it? Yeah, right!
My name is Kayla. I’m fourteen and the oldest of three kids. My two brothers, Kyle and Kevin (my mom likes names that start with K) are ten and seven respectively. My brothers are okay as far as little boys go, but Kevin can be a brat. Mom and Sabello think he’s adorable–when they aren’t drinking and fighting. Then all kids are brats.
Like most people on the river, we have canoes, two to be exact. Our property is posted. One sign bears the name of the property; the second says it’s posted; the last one says we have a big mean dog named Grinder and warns trespassers to be careful. Grinder is actually a runt-of-the-litter Jack Russell who hates us more than any stranger he ever saw. On my part the feeling is mutual.
One of these days I’m going to get in one of those canoes and never look back.
It was a balmy summer day. The gnats and mosquitoes were biting more than the fish. The bug repellent my mom gave us wasn’t doing anything. Dad and I had been lazily moving along the river, looking for places where the fish were biting. We were sitting in our rented canoe in the fourth or fifth place we stopped. This was a good spot. The fish were definitely hungry.
I had just reeled in my fish when I heard yelling on the opposite bank. To my surprise, when I looked over there, a young girl about my age was sitting on a wooden glider swing in a yard about ten feet above the water level. There was no sign of the dog mentioned on the sign, or of the people who were apparently near to murdering each other. But there were two canoes moored beneath the bank where the girl sat.
My attention was riveted on the girl. She wasn’t especially beautiful, just an average pretty, but her facial expression was that of a frightened, wounded puppy. She sat on the glider with her face cupped in her hands, elbows propped on her knees. I guessed it was the brawling of her parents I heard in the background.
She glanced up at me, then quickly looked away. The pain in her eyes stunned me. I knew kids at school who were always in trouble. They always looked angry and defiant, even the girls. Never before had I seen such stark wretchedness. I silently began to pray for her.
My dad pulled in another fish and declared we had enough for supper. That last catch gave us a dozen cat which Mom would cook to perfection along with home fries and a required vegetable salad (yuck).
I tried to forget about that girl but I couldn’t get that lost look out of my mind. As we were sitting around the campfire later Dad must have said something to me I didn’t hear. My sixteen-year-old brother, Marty, started laughing at me.
“Okay, Jimmy, give,” he said. “How’d you manage to meet a girl while you were fishing?”
“Whatever you say, bro.”
Dad cut in, ‘Don’t go chasing any local girls, son. We won’t be here that long.”
How did parents just seem to know what was going on in a guy’s head? I went to bed but I still kept seeing her face. Sleep didn’t come easy that night.