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Clean Slate: A work in progress

I was digging through some of my old pieces and came across an idea that I’d shelved for a while. I spent some time today cleaning up the old piece and wrote up a sample chapter based on the idea I had, a book loosely titled ‘Clean Slate’. I’m sharing it here, would appreciate feedback.

Do you think I can turn this into a decent book?

Clean Slate: Chapter One

It was half past eight on a cold January morning, also incidentally the very first morning of the New Year. The days were beginning to grow, only slightly, so it was still dark out. Most inhabitants of the city of Franklin were still sleeping, what with the chill air and the exhaustion that followed their previous night’s revelry, coupled with the overuse of bottled spirits. But not the boys at The Hallford, they’d been up at the crack of dawn, getting their act together, ready to serve their first waking customers.

The Hallford was less of a hotel and more of a riverside inn, a property well-kept and fairly luxurious for someone on a medium-sized budget looking for a place to stay. Originally an old mansion owned by a wealthy loner with no living heirs, The Hallford had quite the sprawling lawns and cobblestone driveways, some of which were now freshly black-capped and painted to offer for parking space. The recently painted ochre exterior gave the house a golden glow every time the evening lights came on. The property boasted a riverside deck that afforded its patrons a great view of the Red river and ample opportunities for fishing and sunbathing. And the excellent connectivity via the newly extended interstate highway, the spine that connected the lazy suburbs to the bustling business district, which ran along the east side of the estate, made it the premiere destination for fishing enthusiasts, visiting families, or for putting up uninvited guests.

The desk manager was an old geezer named Harold Fox, affectionately known as ‘Dirty Harry’, not because of any relevance to the classic film but for the ungodly odor he emanated. He sat at the front desk, dressed in an ancient black coat and wearing inside a dull white shirt on black corduroy pants, slowly sipping on his morning cup of black coffee, adjusting his possibly antique spectacles while trying to read the Dispatch. One could only guess he’d dressed that way every single day of his life since he started there. His full head of white hair was neatly oiled and parted to one side, giving his wrinkly weathered face a spiffy look. The mornings were usually peaceful, but not today.

The gaggle of attendants now gathered at the northeast window disturbed his concentration.

‘What’s going on, boys?’ He asked, shouting from across the desk.

‘Take a look for yourself, Pops’, replied one of the lanky ones.

He wondered what it was that could possibly keep their tiny adolescent attention spans busy. He remembered the hubbub in the corridors from a few years back when one of their pretty guests had decided to go skinny dipping in the river. God bless her freedom of expression.

Fox stood up, adjusting the crease of his pants so that everything lined up and held perfectly, and then walked towards the group as fast as his age permitted. He had his glasses on, and he kept them on, for he’d liked to get a better look at the nice-looking nudist, if it were one, for old time’s sake. The walk towards the window seemed like an eternity, what with all his bones grinding and feet flopping, and he felt like a rusty old clock going about its daily struggle to strike twelve and losing. Though if he’d have known beforehand what he was about to see, he’d have asked for more time.

The cobblestone path leading towards the main riverside deck was in view from the window, and a previously clean walkway was strewn with debris that now occupied about twenty square feet of real estate.

Fox squinted closely at the center of the rubbish for a better look, and identified that he was looking at the charred remains of something. He was standing at a distance of fifty feet from the water’s edge, and he could only discern a large black lump, dead center, surrounded by long scraps of burnt wood that he reckoned were previously painted blue. The water touching this object was slowly turning black and frothy, as if the lump were an oil barrel slowly losing its contents. The surface of this object was shiny black, like a black garbage bag was sheathing it, but at that distance and given his eyesight, it could have been the oil. The object itself was about five and a half feet long and a foot and a half wide.

In the unending mass of black, Fox detected a startling hit of gold, close to halfway down. He strained his eyes to see, trying to narrow in on the outlier, and inspected it carefully for a few minutes, until he was certain of what it was. To a very old man, the revelation was overwhelming.

He gasped for breath, held his chest tightly and desperately tried to sit down. The boys who were standing right behind him scrambled to hold him, make him comfortable and brought him a glass of water. He drank profusely, taking in a number of deep, calming breaths, and then whispered, choosing his next words carefully.

‘Call the fuzz. We’ve got a floater.’

The gold wristwatch that adorned the grotesque, charred corpse had fought the scorching flames and won; valor at the cost of beauty that would never be admired again.

© Mihir Kamat, 2014. All rights reserved.