Sunday, October 11, 2009

Discovery Showcase - The Second Hand Kid

The Second Hand Kid
By Tom U Bean
Middle Grade Fantasy
This novel is unpublished.

This is a story of a boy called Jack Dent who is fascinated by an ancient antique and curiosity shop. He yearns to explore the rooms for his birthday present. Jack is the only child of Bill and Elsie Dent. A family with plenty of love, but little money. Several boys in his class spot Jack, and his mum entering a charity shop in search of bargains. That was the only cue the boys needed to ridicule Jack, and make his life a misery.

The keeper of the shop, Alfred Hopkins introduces Jack to a world of wonder. Jack’s virtuous and caring nature prompts Alfred to bestow talent and enlightenment upon him. Over the school year an everlasting relationship develops between Jack, and Fiona. They share an honesty, innocence and spirit that sets them apart from the humdrum of human existence.

Alfred requests a meeting with Fiona, and Jack, and draws their attention to the deterioration in the quality of life throughout the world. Life as we know it is in danger of falling into anarchy. He asks them to undergo a journey saturated with danger into the Underworld to correct the Urn of Malevolence, and the Urn of Benevolence to their rightful positions.


The bus juddered to a stop at the junction. Cars, bikes, and taxis jostled for position. Pedestrians flowed cautiously across the road. Jack took little notice of the rush hour mayhem, his attention was focused on a towering sandstone building that wrapped itself around the wide corner. For several weeks He had been fascinated by the soaring edifice, now he was intrigued. Slightly crooked window frames guarded a multitude of secrets. Above the entrance a faded sign swayed in the wind. Ancient words on the board barely visible. The once pristine lettering worn, and nearly featureless. Jack squeezed his face to the misty bus window and was just able to decipher the words.

Alfred Hopkins keeper
Importer of antiques and curiosities

He continued his gaze when the bus eased itself away from the crossroad. Silhouettes of figures moved in the dim light behind the grimy windows, slowly shuffling too and fro, and occasionally crouching as though inspecting some interesting oddity. “If only I could persuade Dad to let me have a full day exploring, if only.”

Chapter One Alfred Hopkins

Jack was deep in thought when he entered the school playground. He wasn’t in any mood for listening. His mind was brimming over with inquisitiveness, and with double maths first, his chance of giving full concentration looked doubtful. He knew the penalty for day dreaming in Miss Carter’s Class. She would launch one of her scathing verbal attacks, and with open night and his birthday so close together he had better be on his best behaviour.

The metallic sound of the steel tips of Miss Carter’s heels clanking on the tiled corridor clattered through the hum of low conversation. Early morning chatter was converted into silent reading, and by the time she rounded the corner into the classroom silence greeted her. Jack reached into his desk for his reading book. A shabby piece of torn paper was stuck to the front cover. The scruffy writing exploded in his face. A SECOND HANDKID BUYS SECOND HAND CLOTHES ! A quick glance over his shoulder confirmed his feelings. Bentley, Hughes and Dodds were looking down, and smirking.

Miss Carter glared at Jack. “Your book should be on the desk. Silence is so important for the first few minutes, it places everyone in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.”

Bentley saw his chance to intimidate Jack even further. “Miss, I saw him messing about in the cloakroom, moving trainers around. He smells Miss, I think it’s his clothes.”

The rest of the class couldn’t resist a collective grin. Jack was deeply hurt, but he didn’t allow Bentley the satisfaction of seeing the pain. Isolated, unwanted an outcast. He back pedalled into the comfort of his own mind insulating his feelings from further intimidation. He decided to feign illness when he arrived home. A few well timed coughs, and splutters should be enough to guarantee a day off school. No child, no open night, no bad report. He still might make it to the old shop to buy his birthday present.

Rest, and loneliness allowed Jack time to think about recent events. Bentley, Hughes and Dodds had never bothered with Jack until they spotted him, and his Mum hunting for bargains in a charity shop. They were rich, he was poor. Then the teasing started. He couldn’t understand why they were trying to make him so unpopular in class. He always felt uncomfortable when he was near them. He had an instinct like an animal. He could feel their falseness, it seemed to ooze out. Other children in the class seemed to be unaware of their deceit. Whatever they emitted was like a poison. He gave them a wide berth so as to stay pure, and not be sucked into their world of dishonesty, and greed.

On Friday evening he made his way down to the kitchen for a bite to eat. He downed a small bowl of soup, and a few fingers of bread.

“You seem to be on the mend Jack. A couple of hours watching a DVD might do you the world of good.,” said Dad pulling out a surprise packet from beneath his jumper.

The family snuggled into the lounge. One table lamp lit up the corner, the curtains were drawn and a couple of extra logs were placed on the burner. It was bliss. Happiness comes in the shape of a family. Jack relished the film then headed towards his bedroom looking forward to a peaceful sleep.

Remnants of an autumn storm were blowing away when Jack, climbed out of bed. He studied his reflection in the wardrobe mirror. His blonde hair was badly in need of a haircut. Hours of labouring in the summer with dad had toned up his muscles. Lean and muscular. Standing at five foot six he was taller than most boys of his age. He wondered if he would be as tall as Dad. His soft brown eyes stared back and smiled at the words he whispered, “happy birthday Jack Dent.” He wanted to leap out of his room, and launch himself in the direction of the old shop, but he waited.
The delicious smell of fried bacon drifted through the house.
“Happy birthday Jack,” shouted mum from the kitchen. “Do you feel up to breakfast? It’s your favourite.”
“I do feel a bit peckish Mum. To tell you the truth I’m famished.”

“I thought as much. There’s more than enough to go round; enough I’d say for second helpings, but you’d better be quick, you know what Dad’s like.”

Jack licked his lips. “Down in a minute mum, don’t let it go cold!”

The family settled down to a good tuck in. There was no conversation, eating food took priority over speaking words.

“A bit nippy outside Jack. Coat, hat and gloves weather,” said Dad warming his hands by the stove.
“Why can’t we go in the car ? ”

“Its old son, a bit like me A good service, and a few new parts should see it right; it will be too expensive this month though. Look on the bright side, a good walk will do us he world of good.”

Elsie eyed her husband suspiciously. “You did have the money. What have you done with it Bill? You’ve been gambling again. How many times must I tell you to stop. I know it’s only a few pounds, but we can’t afford it. From next Friday I want your wage in my hand the moment you walk in that door.”

Bill fumbled around for any excuse. He stared at Elsie, then nodded.

It was a brisk twenty minutes walk into town, there was a sneaky wind, and the sun didn’t have the strength to break through the thin veil of cloud. Jack, and Dad were well wrapped up with scarf, hat, gloves and coats. Their stroll was interrupted by the throbbing of a powerful engine poised at the traffic lights. Jack, saw Charles Bentley pressing his face against the window of his dad’s new sporty car. Bentley, managed to push his hand next to the window, then slyly fired a couple of fingers at Jack. When Dad turned, Bentley’s hand had transformed itself into a wave.

“Who’s that Jack?”
Jack gave a sigh, and mumbled out his name. “Charles Bentley, one of the boys in my class.”
“He seems a pleasant young m… .”

“What,! Pleasant. You don’t know him. He’s the pits. Always poking fun, and trying to make others look stupid.”

There was an uneasy silence between father and son.

“Nearly there Jack, just round the corner.”

Jack widened his stride and scrambled away.

“Just a minute, you don’t have any money.”

“No problem. Meet you in the shop.”

Jack pushed the door open and entered into a dusty entrance hall. Water coloured sunlight flowed through the stained glass windows reminding Jack of kaleidoscope patterns.

“Good morning young man, are you looking for something?”

In a corner sitting on a huge velvet chair, behind an even larger desk an old man slowly raised his head. A mane of long silver hair fell onto the keeper’s shoulders. The sparkling brightness of his blue eyes contrasted sharply with an ebony coloured complexion. His face thoughtful all knowing, and sharp; but there was a kindness, a gentle kindness that flowed outwards from the keeper. Calmness, purity and wisdom blended into an almost tangible force radiating over Jack. He could almost touch the aura. Jack vaguely remembered a similar experience when he’d entered an empty church. Clearing his mind of distant memories he stared into Alfred’s face. After a few heartbeats of silence he was ready to speak. “Sir, I’ve come to buy a present.”

“Step a bit closer. Let’s take a good look at you. It isn’t often I have the pleasure of someone so young visiting my old shop.”

“I see you’ve noticed my war accident. Unfortunately, I lost both my legs, though as they say, life goes on.”

Jack was still chatting to Alfred, when he noticed Dad leaving the betting office. Dad sauntered into the shop, and was flabbergasted by the size.

“I don’t think I’ve had the pleasure Mr …”

“Oh, I’m Mr Dent, Jack’s Dad, I’ve brought my son to have a good look round, and if anything catches his eye he can have it.”

“I see,” said Alfred, as he fumbled into his pockets to find some keys. “Well I hope you can find something of interest. Would you like a map? It is a vast building. It saves unnecessary leg work. And if you would like, your dad could stay here. There is plenty to read., and I have a wide range of refreshments free to my best customers. There is just one last thing Jack, the top floor is out of bounds unless…”
“Unless what sir?”

“All in good time,” replied Alfred.

Jack edged his way towards the solid oak door. He clicked open the latch and entered into a world of musty silence. The thick carpet muffled his footsteps along the corridor, the thick stone walls deadened the hum of traffic rattling past on the bypass overhead, the dim windows prevented any bright sunlight disturbing the mellow atmosphere in the ancient building. He was in a cocoon where time stood still. To his right was the entrance to a large oval shaped room. It was crammed with framed paintings. Some that small, you could tuck a few into your pocket, and still have room for a bag of sweets. Some that big, it would take two burly men to cart them off. They were beautifully painted. Colours vibrant, and full of life. Jack was attracted to one painting of a long green valley surrounded by steep hills. Perched on the highest hill was a castle. It guarded the entrance to a steep sided valley. Tall ramparts guarded by noble looking soldiers were assembled in battle formation. Their sharp features focused in a gaze peering northwards. On the tallest towers a mound of jagged rocks all but covered the catapults that would deliver them. Alert, and waiting the formidable force was in readiness for some hostile enemy, or something else. Jack continued his search checking every room on the second floor.

It was then that he spotted a leather pouch hiding under a grubby table. A gold ring held the contents of the pouch in place. Jack removed the ring, and tipped out several pounds, and a couple of fivers; he put the money back into the purse, then placed it firmly into his pocket. “Finders keepers, that will do nicely,” said Jack, before he continued his search. One final room remained on the second floor, a rectangular shaped room with a smoked glass door. He clicked open the door to reveal a multitude of boxes of various sizes. Jack rummaged through the first line of containers carefully opening them, and examining the contents. If nothing took his fancy he positioned the items neatly back into the box. He threw off a dusty sheet from a damaged wooden crate. A medieval castle poked its way through a loose covering of straw. The price £30. He checked the map and found a short cut to the reception.

Discovery Showcase Information

Here are the upcoming Discovery Showcases, in the order in which they may appear:
  • Rise of the Ancients - Annuna
  • Armageddon - The Battle of Darkening Skies
  • Interregnum
If you want to have the first chapter of your unpublished or self-published novel featured at Fantasy Debut as a Discovery Showcase, please read how to do so here.

My apologizes for the lengthy hiatus that this feature has been on.  I tried to get in touch with two authors, but neither replied, so I have skipped those titles. I decided to move the Discovery Showcase to Sunday afternoon because I have better web traffic during this timeframe.

My thoughts:
Ordinarily, I would put my impressions here, but the author sent me this excerpt before I changed this feature to include my impressions, and I forgot to tell him that I now do this.

However, nothing prevents you from posting your  thoughts, as the author has given his permission. Please leave constructive feedback only.


Unknown said...

Middle grade fiction isn't my area of expertise, but here are my thoughts:

It sounds like a neat story idea. You've got a sympathetic character and a situation with plenty of potential for story conflict. The biggest problem I see here is one of mechanics. There seem to be quite a few punctuation errors and confusing sentence fragments. Cleaning those up is something I would definitely recommend. Strunk and White is a great resource for that kind of thing--plus, it's a short little book.

I wondered why you chose to use a prologue. To me, it would work better to just make that prologue into the first scene in chapter 1. I like the idea of opening with him there at the store. What I think might work even better would be to skip all that stuff of him at school, eating with his family, etc., and just have him there at the store with his dad on his birthday, and continue on with that scene. After that, you can go back and explore their family dynamic a little, and show what he goes through at school. But for now, showing that other boy "waving" at him in front of the store is enough, I think, to hint at the fact that the other kids at school are mean to him. Doing it this way would, in my opinion, get the story rolling much faster and be a more effective hook for the reader.

I also think you're getting a bit too...creative in some of your word choices, to the point that some of them don't quite make sense to me. For example, "The scruffy writing exploded in his face." The writing really exploded? That's not what you meant. You could maybe reword it to say that the cruelty implied in the writing was like an explosion in his face, but the writing did not actually explode.

I hope this is helpful to you!

Unknown said...

...and why isn't this linking back to my brand-new Google Profile? Grr. Oh, well. At least I can now comment on Blogger again.

Tia Nevitt said...

Thanks for your comments, Katie!