(Killer books, huh?) Literati! We all know Julie Mark Cohen as the creator of that loveable assssssymetrical alien Seyfert. But here she is writing outside the box and inside the cell: a prologue for our contest Once Upon a Time, which requires that you begin the novel that, once upon a time, you …
(Killer books, huh?)
We all know Julie Mark Cohen as the creator of that loveable assssssymetrical alien Seyfert. But here she is writing outside the box and inside the cell: a prologue for our contest Once Upon a Time, which requires that you begin the novel that, once upon a time, you had threatened to write.
Imagining yourself writing 100,000 words can be a bit intimidating. But imagine writing only a page or two? That’s how it begins. A premise, a prologue, and a purpose. Give it a try yourself. Here is how:
You could end up discovering that page one begets page two; page two begets page 3; page two hundred ninety seven begets you beloved by an anonymous readership and that person of your favorite gender.
Here is the prologue to
by Julie Mark Cohen
Thomas William Hobart, a Ph.D. who had attained great heights in his career and had been recognized with a MacArthur “genius award”, paced in his top tier San Quentin prison cell, pondering his fate.
He checked his wristwatch and approached the bed, clutching his worn, leather-bound diary. With his free hand, he tugged air where his ponytail had been, then smoothed the blanket and placed the diary on its spine, allowing it to open on its own. He leaned over and studied what he had written nearly one year ago.
Thomas had selected a seat in the middle of the room at the annual San Francisco Science Society’s dinner event and taken the initiative to introduce his table mates to each other. He may have seemed hospitable with no ulterior motives, but he was basically selfish, always on the look-out for research collaborators.
He openly smiled when he recognized the speaker, Dr. Ludwig Otto Friedrich Gärtner, a spry octogenarian. Fondly remembering “Fred” as an adviser on his doctoral thesis committee, he wondered if he would be granted the longevity of his beloved mentor.
“Grüß Gott, Ladies and Gentleman. Guten Abend,” Fred said. “As you know, the National Academy of Botanical Sciences strives to induct seven new members each year. However, this year is an exception.”
The audience of 250 erupted into a mix of delighted tones and outright disgust, none of which pleased Thomas who had no patience for editorialization,
After the audience quieted on its own, Fred continued, “One nominee quickly rose to the top. As a result, we have only one inductee. He’s an extraordinary human being, a gentleman and scholar, botanist extraordinaire-”
The tweed-jacketed middle-aged man to Thomas’ left adjusted his ribbon-bearing, gold-trimmed name tag that displayed “Edsel Arthur Wolfe, III, Ph.D., Sc.D.” and pushed down on his arms to elevate his tush a few inches above the chair seat.
“-and preparer of this evening’s surprisingly delicious vegetarian menu-”
“Huh? What the-?” said Wolfe, frozen in a near-standing position.
“Shhhh.” The audience nearest to Edsel reacted in unison.
“-a founding member of San Francisco’s International Pacifist Society, and a board member of the Humane Society of the County of San Francisco. He’s our preeminent Thomas William Hobart.”
As Thomas rose from his seat, Wolfe finishing standing and rolled onto his toes. A long-time amateur boxer, he instinctively clenched his fists, positioned his legs, and shouted into Thomas’ face. “You bastard. That was supposed to be me. You’ll pay for this.”
Without hesitation, a number of attendees shook their heads as if saying “not again.” Locking arms, they quickly surrounded Edsel and escorted him through a side door.
Visibly unnerved, Thomas proceeded with what had become a tortured trek to the podium, squeezing between chairs, receiving pats on the back peppered by words of disdain.
Thomas flipped the pages of his diary until he found an empty one and took a pen from the wall at the head of his bed.
A startled Thomas turned to face the impertinent voice. “What the hell do you want now?”
“Your fancy vegetarian dinner with a vegetable-fruit smoothie is served, your highness,” the San Quentin guard said, smirking and bowing, as he shoved a food-laden tray with Thomas’ prescription pills under the bars. “A few more of these… and that’s it for you.”
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Copyright 2014 by Julie Mark Cohen