The Lumberjack

“Honestly, I would rather repair it myself than wait for the landlord to hire someone,
but since I am not an electrician, I don’t have a lot of options.” I wanted my new coworker to understand that I had the ability, that cleverness and handiness characterized my talents and skills and that I belonged in my new environment.

“Did he say when he’d be able to get someone to your place?” Bonnie made polite
conversation, but she still hadn’t embraced my presence in her quiet, moderately reclusive corner of the world. Don’t get me wrong, Bonnie appeared to be a lovely person, just introverted and less forthcoming than the boisterous gang I left in Texas. The United States Forest Service local office lacked the chaos and exhaustion of a high school teacher’s lounge, for which I was grateful, and to which I continued to adjust.

“Well, his voice mail didn’t offer me a lot of details, but I’m sure he’ll be in touch anytime in the next week or three.” Subtly wasn’t my strength, one of many, and sadly the landlord’s voicemail received the brunt of my frustration. I know this is one of those areas where I have room for growth and the opportunity to improve as a human being, as my performance reviews in my younger years may have identified, but for now, I just wanted dry clothes.

After two weeks in my apartment, I avoided giving in and visiting the laundromat,
already putting me at odds with the owner, plus I hated to go to a bank and beg for rolls of quarters. I’ve never been particularly prone to confrontation, having lost way more conflicts than I’ve won and seeing the advantages of slinking away. I don’t avoid them for the sake of eliminating all hassles, willingly tackling just the ones that involve business associates. Or at least the business associates that I’m not dating, and my very-nice-otherwise, twice-my-age landlord definitely did not fit that category.

If I plugged the dryer into the wall, it ought to run, and the concept of such seems worth debating with the landlord to my advantageous resolution. Were the dryer not less than six months old, the question could arise as to the fault of the device, or the apartment, or perhaps even user error. But in this particular case, I safely narrowed it down to magic not happening inside the wall. The sooner the landlord sent someone to restore the electrical brilliance of my apartment, the sooner I wouldn’t have to leave my clothes draped around the apartment on the partially unloaded boxes still awaiting their opportunity to be unpacked completely.

I wanted Bonnie, and truthfully all of the Forest Service staff I just began to get to know, even those who wandered in and out of the office during the course of the day who I barely recognized but hoped to be better acquainted, to realize that even though my short-term quick hire status, they could not have picked a more eager, effective employee. Of course, I needed to learn everyone’s names, barely able to identify the face of my immediate leaders and team, much less the fire crew based in our office and the staff from other offices who happened to be stopping in for the day from other bases of operation. I tried not to rely too heavily on Bonnie, but as the only other employee staffing the office during business hours, I needed to glean her
knowledge and I tempered my inquiries about who was who until absolutely necessary.

“And you think this will work?” Bonnie’s inquiry came after several minutes of silence as if she were starting an entirely new topic. I’d heard her do this several times, which made conversations difficult to follow, but this time I happened to be catching on to her idiosyncratic style.

“It always works.”

“How many times have you tried this technique?”

“Well, just the once but the results were outstanding.” My enthusiasm betrayed my
stats.

Bonnie’s visual reaction confirmed the pessimism of her voice.

“It will work,” I confirmed, “assuming, of course, I can get him in the same room. I think that’s a far greater challenge at the moment.”

Bonnie’s attention to her computer screen implied she returned to her responsibilities, although she could have been pseudo-ignoring me, so I let her work in silence. When she glanced my way nearly twenty minutes later, she returned to the topic as if only moments passed.

“So if you go to his store, why are you so certain this will work? What happened last
time?”

“Well, I tried it on our head of IT. I wanted to learn how to activate the LAN connections wired in our building, and since he was based at the district office and not our school, I thought if I ever given the chance, I would ask him.

“When I attended in-service training one day, I sought him out and when he went to
introduce himself, I feigned more enthusiasm than you’d traditionally express to an IT guy, and extended my hand. Once he shook back, he fell into my clutches. Ten minutes later when I let go of his hand, he was leading me into the LAN room and providing me with a personal tutorial.” I could still visualize his face as he tried to figure out how to extricate himself from my grip. “I’m telling you, it works.”

“It’s not that I doubt its initial success, but how do you know it will work on the
landlord?”

“I’d wager it would work on anyone. No one wants to shake hands longer than a couple of seconds. It’s bizarrely awkward and uncomfortable, and they will do whatever it takes to get me to let go. Trust me, I am a master of awkward.” This was so true. “It’s also humorous to watch, unless of course, you are my target.”

12 thoughts on “The Lumberjack

  1. littleparka says:

    Hi there!
    I did not make it past the first little paragraph as the way it is written does not make sense to me. The arrangement of words seems to be off, it does not read smoothly. I would revise this.
    Good luck!

  2. Rona says:

    This is weird, in that I feel like I just read the same piece. I recall a poster putting one up and then editing it, so uploading a second, and I wonder if this is that piece, but I’m unsure.

    My favorite line in this snippet is at the end, when the MC says “trust me, I am the master of awkward.” I laughed out loud at that, and if the entire book were written in that vein, I’d pick it up in the heartbeat.

    Unfortunately, I had a hard time with the rest of the segment. I didn’t get a good feel for the character. Bonnie seems annoyed with him, and he seems like he can’t take a hint. He sounds like an overeager new puppy, but I don’t know if that’s what you’re going for. Some of the sentences are really long, too long to keep the reader engaged without having to stop and re-read. For instance, you have a paragraph that begins with “I wanted Bonnie, …” that is three sentences long. Those sentences are 64, 49 and 39 words long. I think that’s too long, especially for romance where the reader is suspending some level of disbelief and doesn’t want to be pulled from the story.

    I’m not clear on what specifically you’re trying to accomplish in this scene, but I would start with that and go from there, and make sure everything is related to that. Best of luck going forward!

  3. Sofie says:

    It’s not entirely clear where this scene takes place. Is it at his job? At his apartment? Or somewhere else?

    Also, the opening lines are confusing to me. He says that he has the skills to fix it, but then he says he doesn’t? Or am I misunderstanding this?

    I would re-write it so that things become much clearer.

    Good luck!

  4. calgal says:

    I’m confused about who your main character is. The other reviews seem to think the MC is a man, but there’s zero information to confirm that. Is the MC male? Female? What’s their name? Description? Why are they wearing wet clothes? It seems so specific – it feels like it would crop up immediately, not be buried at the end of the 3rd paragraph. Doesn’t the MC’s coworker notice? I’m confused!

  5. AB says:

    I also thought the main character was a man until looking in the comment section. I read several paragraphs but stopped because I got bored. There was a lot of time devoted to the dryer and laundry. Sorry, that just didn’t interest me. I am sure you are trying to get something across with this scene but I think it could be better accomplished in a different way or by rewriting this scene.

  6. Jim says:

    Sorry, I had a hard time trying to follow it, so gave up. Like others before me, I couldn’t figure out who the MC truly is. Perhaps a name would help some–but of course that doesn’t always clear it up either. I’ve not attempted first-person writing, so don’t have any suggestions for how to proceed.

  7. cosiogirls says:

    I’m a believer in reading through the whole piece instead of giving up beforehand. I also go into reading pieces knowing that the first 1000 words will not make everything about the larger story clear but will set the stage for more. That said, I still found it hard to sort out what was going on here – perhaps because it’s so dialogue heavy and I’m looking for the context some narration would provide?

  8. Loretta Holkmann-Reid says:

    The opening did not capture my attention. I read a little further and I had to think too hard and try to figure out what the writer is attempting to accomplish. I stopped reading.

  9. mediumlaura says:

    I do feel there needs to be a different start here. Something that really makes us want to love your MC. I had a hard time getting through it and first paragraphs need to grab the attention. Hope tat helps. Good luck!

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