Crow Jane

A chalk circle around a dead animal’s corpse won’t stop the ants from coming to feed on it.  I first encountered this fallacy during the Prodigious Ant Battle or PAB as it is now known in our household.   It was the year which I raked off a good part of the flesh from my thighs in the brambles near Miss Hickey’s rhubarb patch. A sinister defence system had been set up by the old maid  to keep raccoons and sheep with a sour tooth out of her rhubarb patch and I can speak first hand to its effectiveness in keeping eight-year-old girls out as well.

During the midsummer, a regiment of Pharaoh ants decided to bunker down in our kitchen.   I remember mom tracking the ant’s paths.  She ordered me to run a chalk line across their battle areas; over a counter where they dined, up a wall where they marched defying gravity, and under the oak door where they breached our defences.  The chalk lines were in place to split the army.  “Divide and conquer Janie! Divide and conquer!” mom would say, “they won’t cross that line and we’ll have won this war!”  And after weeks of daily battles, win the PAB war she did.   She was a cagey leader and I took it to heart that those ants succumbed to the use of ingenious chalk lines.  I did not at the time know that my twin brother Landon ignited the queen while burning ant nests in the yard as per General Mom’s orders.  Of course, I was not privy to this tactical information for the General knew that I would not have allowed the deplorable inferno massacre of innocent ants.  They were just ants after all not trolls, wizards, wraiths or the like.  Those poor little ants.

I’ve come to find out this business of chalk lines and ants was not at all true.  The General had distracted me with this ordinance so Landon could fight the real battle. Ants will march right across that darn line without a care.  However, a chalk circle and some blood will bring a creature back to life if you are the right kind of freak.

I stumbled on this ability quite innocently enough two years after the PAB.  Our cat had decimated a poor mouse.  I tried to sew it back up with mom’s sewing needle and some thread which in hindsight was a cruel act of torture.

I can just imagine what was going through that mouse’s mind.  “Aaah a cat got me, tore me to bits, scratched and clawed me, bit me and ripped me open! That’s got to be the end of it.  Time to shuffle off this mortal coil…oh, wait some crazy kid is trying to sew me back together!  Ouch! That bloody well hurts.  Please stop!  AAAAHH!”

Poor damn mouse.  Needless to say, my nine-year-old veterinary skills could not save the little critter.  I’d used a large flat stone in back of our garden as the mending table and didn’t want the ants to consume my patient so I drew a chalk line around the cadaver having heard from my mom that ants wouldn’t cross a chalk line.  That, as we discussed earlier is pure and utter horse hooey.

The interesting part comes as a result of having pricked myself with the sewing needle.  A single drop of blood fell into that chalk circle where the ants were feeding on the mouse. When the blood hit there was a fizzle and a pop and the smell of burning mouse fur.  I felt a tingle race through my entire body as if some jokester had shaken my hand with one of those toy buzzers you get at carnivals.  A feeling of dread came over me as the air around me rippled.  The branches on the trees dipped and rose as they do before an immense storm and the rattling leaves sounded like the hiss of a hot rumour going through a crowd.  A force of air shoved me and dragged me until I could stand no more at which time it slammed me to the garden floor.  Then in an instant it all stopped and all was restful.  From the ground, I could see the mouse body only inches from my face.   He looked a complete nightmare after having been ripped apart by a scruffy barn cat and sewn back together by nine-year-old me, but he bounced up and rushed off regardless.  So shocking was this event that I hadn’t even noticed the cracked arm I incurred during my tumble.

That was the first time I found I could raise the dead.

18 thoughts on “Crow Jane

  1. rachmeister says:

    I like the premise, and Jane has a strong voice so far. I’m starting to connect with Jane and be pulled into the story. However, I think too much attention is given to the backstory. We don’t need to know about Miss Hickey’s rhubarb, which seems irrelevant in this passage. I don’t understand why Jane would remember it as the year she scraped her leg on brambles rather than the year of the PAB, which obviously stands out more in her memory. And I don’t think we need as much detail on the war against the ants. You could trim that down to half its length and it would still do the job, and it would let us get to the juicy part (raising the dead mouse) sooner. The dead mouse should be the star of the show here. I felt a little misdirected when so much time was devoted to the PAB. But I would keep reading! You have a strong, proactive protagonist and a good hook.

  2. tukkerintensity says:

    Rachmeister my wife gave me some similar advice so you’re in good company as far as I’m concerned 😀 thank you so much and I agree with your points.

  3. dlodes1 says:

    Let me begin by saying, all my comments are my opinion only, so take them as that. If you disagree toss them to the wind.
    Yes the ant part might be a little long. It seems in the beginning the story will be about ants. I personally don’t mind back story, others might. I’ve read you should never start with back story.
    While it is well written, the question you have to ask, is how much is needed and does it push the story ahead.
    I do like the voice. Very believable.
    However, a chalk circle and some blood will bring a creature back to life if you are the right kind of freak. This is good.

    Poor damn mouse. She is clearly a person who abhors killing anything. Would she use a more sympathetic statement here?
    You go back and forth on the timeline and at times it gets a bit confusing. You might want to make this clearer. You have the ants at the beginning, then the mouse. She is nine at one point, not sure of the time between these incidents or how old she is now.
    She is sewing up the mouse, but the ants are feeding on it. Did she lay it down for awhile? How long has it been dead? I think if she was sewing it up she would have kept the ants off.

    That was the first time I found I could raise the dead. Love this line!!!
    I think it would be better closer to the beginning though. The last big paragraph here could be moved to the top and you could filter in the back story.
    I think I would start with the mouse first.

    I would keep reading. Nothing pulled me out of the story.

    Best wishes,
    Dave

    • tukkerintensity says:

      thank you Dave I am definitely working on tightening this up and your points are all very valid and reinforce my need to do so. I appreciate your comments very much =)

  4. Eliza Worner says:

    Oh I loved your beginning before, when you shared the first 250 words. I know you don’t want to hear it after you changed it, but it worked better before.

    I still shudder a bit with the voice of the rat, I find it unnecessary.

    I love the imagery of a 9yo “freak” trying to sew a dead rat back up, it’s quite creepy. I’d like to dig a bit more deeply into that scene, see the stitches pushing through its tough skin, blood congealing in its fur, its limp legs bent awkwardly in her hands. Maybe she even snaps a few ribs trying to get the needle past a bone. Clumsy and gross and hopeless…

    … but then the blood drops. I found that paragraph quite long. See if you can break it up.

    I’d also like to know what went through her head immediately after she watched the ragdoll rat run off. Possibly trailing bits of thread and maybe even the needle behind it. Was she afraid? Fascinated? Excited?

    Looking forward to reading more.

    • tukkerintensity says:

      Thanks Eliza 🙂 Yeah I think I swung the pendulum a bit too far in the wrong direction here trying to address some issues with the initial opening and I’m going to try undo some of my wrong doing lol

      I appreciate that you like the 9yo freak aspect but it isn’t a horror or even a disturbing story (other than being able to raise the dead) so I think I won’t go in the direction of detailed gore etc. but thank you. (although that might really contrast well with what the story is about which is really this idea of a necromancer (typically a dark magic / evil type of thing) that is really good and innocent and caring)…..maybe I’ll play with the idea a bit 😉

      • Eliza Worner says:

        Ah I wasn’t really thinking in terms of horror but realism. Pushing a needle through flesh is harder than it looks. Try sewing up a chicken’s butt to stop the stuffing falling out. It always disgusts me a little how tough it is.

        I was thinking for a 9yo who has this lovely intention of fixing the rat that she inadvertently brings it back to life half sewed and how horrible that would be, and would make her think twice before she does it again. IYKWIM.

        • English Tim says:

          “Pushing a needle through flesh is harder than it looks. Try sewing up a chicken’s butt to stop the stuffing falling out. It always disgusts me a little how tough it is.”

          What an opening, right there. No pun intended.

  5. Jennifer F. Santucci says:

    One minor detail that you should address is the narrator’s age. In the first paragraph, she states she’s eight when the PAB happens and then in the fourth paragraph, she mentions two years after the PAB she discovered her ability to raise the dead. I’m not good at math, but that should bring the narrator up to age ten, not nine, correct?

    I enjoyed this when we had the 250 word workshop. I can see the improvements you made. The voice was already strong, but the MC is coming out more clearer now. I enjoyed the part about the PAB, but since this is YA, tightening it would be a smart move. The flashback was supposed to show that the MC doesn’t like killing or death, but I think this quality can still be conveyed in a shortened flashback and still have the same impact.

    I have to agree with Eliza about the rat’s perspective. It seems out of place. I get that you’re trying to show the MC’s personality and how she tries to empathize with the dead, but that characteristic is already shown when she tries to sew up the rat. The rat’s POV seems to be in there for comedic effect, but that hasn’t been the tone conveyed in the story so far.

    I also liked the part about what happened to the rat when it was in the chalk circle, but Dave brought up good points about it. The story goes from sewing it up to having it in a chalk circle. It’s a bit jarring and the reader will need a transition. (Perhaps instead of having the rat POV to show empathy, instead show the MC being worried about the ants coming for it and have her draw the circle and place it in?) I liked the description of the magic that brought the rat back to life. I think magic would feel like electricity and knock the air out of you too. I hesitate to cut it down because this scene is (I’m guessing) the turning point for the character. I think if you tighten up the scene with the ants and the rat, the emphasis will shift to the magic.

    • tukkerintensity says:

      Thank you Jennifer and you are correct on the age poor math thing (I noticed this after I submitted but was in a rush as I was leaving town for the weekend).

      After much reluctance, I have removed the Janie acting out the mouse POV (not sure why everyone calls it a rat lol) Kill your darlings I guess 😀 I really liked that part. It reminded me of teen girls (and boys) who are very eccentric – you know the ones that are in drama class and often act out things dramatically that don’t need to be acted out just because they are so full of energy and life. I saw it as personality, but clearly I did it poorly as everyone else just saw it as annoying lol no biggie 🙂

      Thank you for your feedback and encouragement and your suggestions are good ones 😀

  6. maggiehasbrouck says:

    I like this a lot and would definitely keep reading.
    Keeping your YA readers in mind, I agree with others that the ant war can be condensed. However, I enjoyed every bit of your descriptive writing. I think you’ll be walking a fine line keeping the story moving and letting us slip into to your writing just for the sheer pleasure of being in the moment you describe.
    I’m glad you let go of the talking mouse and I strongly agree with Eliza; I want to really feel what your narrator feels when she’s trying to sew up the mouse. Right now it seems as if she coming at that with a little too much distance.
    All in all, great stuff!

    • tukkerintensity says:

      thank you Maggie you’ve reinforced some of the things I know I need to work on and you’ve made me feel good about some of the things that are working 🙂

  7. chickinwhite says:

    Oh my! I loved your beginning two weeks ago, and still do!
    The picture of a (8? 9?or 10? *gg* )yo little “freak” sounds so very promising, I would definitely buy the book! And, am I really the only one? who like the beginning exactly as you wrote it here? Somehow I feel like zooming in on that first time when she raises dead, so, the ant´s story seems quite right to me. Though, yes, the narrator skips her own feelings a little too easily. Show it!
    And I really love the strong voice! It is pulling th ereader into your story.
    Good job! Wish it were a longer text, so…
    😀

    • tukkerintensity says:

      thank you so much. =) I’m going to show some more of how Janie felt during that resurrection as it is a terrible oversight on my part and a fantastic suggestion from Eliza and reinforced by others. thank you again.

  8. Melissa says:

    Hi,
    I liked the story and it drew me in, but I thing the ant part is a bit to long unless it has relevance to the story later on. I thought the part that she describes what the mouse might be thinking is good in a comedy kind of way.
    Jane is clearly compasionate towards animals and feels bad when they die, bad enough that she wants to save them. So I would rephrase the part where she says: Poor damn mouse to something a bit more compasionate.
    Overall I enjoyed it and would like to read more.
    Good luck
    Melissa

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