Friday, June 4, 2010

Major Lulz from the Sheltered - Chapter 4

In today's exciting chapter in Life of a Teenage Slut, God steals an ipod! (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3)

Wednesday morning dawned bright and cheery. Leona made her way down to the kitchen where
she heard her parents already eating breakfast.

Which leads me to the belief that Leona's parents eat with their mouths open, making what she heard a lot of slurping and gulping. Ew.

“Hello, dear!” Mrs. Jackson looked up from her bowl of cereal and grapefruit. “Sleep well?”
“Hi, Mom,” Leona answered. “Yeah, I did...hi, Dad,” she added, seeing her dad sitting across the small breakfast table from her mother.

This is a style criticism: the story is told from Leona's point of view in what's called Third Person Limited Viewpoint. We see everything through Leona's eyes and through the bias of her perspective. Why would Leona think of her mother as "Mrs. Jackson"? Also, she heard her "parents" eating, why does she just now notice dad, especially considering that he's probably at most two feet away from mom.

“Good-morning, Leona.” He looked up from his newspaper. “Where did you go yesterday? We hardly saw anything of you.”

That is really archaic language, probably caused by the fact that good fundys don't read any fiction written after Jane Austen's works. (What exactly they think Jane Austen wrote about is whole 'nother post.) The problem with using archaic words or structure in a modern story is that it jars the reader right out of the story. You want your reader to be absorbed, not stopping to say things aloud to see if they sound any more normal when spoken aloud.

Leona halted in making her English muffin. Since when had her parents been interested in her activities?

WAH! Sorry, her parents still sound like really nice people to me. I think Miss Raquel is trying to paint them as neglectful secularists, but they just seem . . . nice. Leona, on the other hand, is a whingey, spoiled brat.

“Oh, I had a few places to go,” she said, as nonchalantly as possible. She willed her muffin to hurry
its toasting.
“What was that book you brought home?” her mother asked.
Leona’s back went rigid. How did they know about the Bible that Peter had given her yesterday? She turned to face them. “How did you know about that?”

So, that's weird. That's weird on a lot of levels. Bibles are very distinctive books, and I cannot believe that Leona's parents wouldn't be able to identify one easily, unless they just arrived on this planet yesterday. Secondly, why is Leona so upset that her parents know about her Bible? She's acting like her parents found her stash of porn, and it's extreme furry BDSM at that.

“I saw it on your night stand, dear,” her mother explained. “After you came home last afternoon, you just fell into bed to rest. I went up to check on you and saw that you had been reading it. I was just curious.”

These people talk like aliens. It's like the book is set in 1850.

She rushed out of the kitchen and headed up to her room. She closed the door behind herself and reached for her purse. She needed some music to calm her before she started crying again. She sifted through her purse in search of her iPod, but couldn’t find it.

okay, so set in the modern day.

Where did it go? She wondered, then thought of a possibility. When she had gotten her wallet out at the Pregnancy Center, she had set her iPod on the counter, and couldn’t remember if she had put it back in her purse or not.
Great! She thought to herself. I wasn’t planning on going back to that place any time soon. I guess this calls for an unscheduled appointment.

Or a phone call. Is this some alternate reality 1850 in which people have ipods but not phones?

She went downstairs and quietly headed out the front door. She didn’t want her parents nosing into her business again and ask her where she was going.

Yes, those horrible people that don't care about her at all. But always ask her where she's going. Exactly like people who care.

Ten minutes later, she pulled up at the Center. She saw Sarah at the receptionist’s desk through the glass door.
“Hi, Leona!” Sarah called out, as Leona entered the building.
Leona was a bit surprised that Sarah remembered her name. “Hi,” she called back.
“In for another chat?” Sarah asked with a smile.
“Um, no,” Leona answered. “I think I left my iPod here yesterday by accident.”
"Oh, was that yours?” Sarah asked, coming around the desk. She walked to a drawer cabinet by the side exit door and reached into one of its drawers. “Here it is!” she pulled out Leona’s green iPod and handed it to her.
“Thanks,” Leona said, with a small smile. She stuck the iPod back in its rightful place.
“Don’t mention it,” Sarah responded. “We’re glad to have it back to its rightful owner. We were wondering whose it was.”

So, yeah. More confirmation that everyone in this story will speak in exactly the same voice, all the way through. Look, I know it's hard to give characters distinct styles of speech separate from each other and from your own, but at least try. Here, let me show you how it's done (altered text in purple):

Ten minutes later, she pulled up at the Center. She saw Sarah at the receptionist’s desk through the glass door.
“Hoy, Leona!” Sarah called out, as Leona entered the building.
Leona was a bit surprised that Sarah remembered her name. “Hi,” she called back.
In for anodder chat?” Sarah asked with a smile.
“Um, no,” Leona answered. “I think I left my iPod here yesterday by accident.”
"Oh, vas dat yous?” Sarah asked, coming around the desk. She walked to a drawer cabinet by the side exit door and reached into one of its drawers. “Here it is!” she pulled out Leona’s green iPod and handed it to her.
“Thanks,” Leona said, with a small smile. She stuck the iPod back in its rightful place.
Dun mention it,” Sarah responded. “Ve’re glad to hef it back to its rightful owner. Ve vere vonderink hooz it vas

See, you can tell Sarah from Leona now. And, quite frankly, I think this story is vastly improved by transforming Sarah into a Jaegermonster. (And now I'm considering rewriting A Tale of Two Cities so that every major character is a Jaegermonster. It might even be readable when I'm done, which is more than I can say for the original.)

Just then, the bell over the front door tingled as someone entered the Center.

That's obviously a typo. I'm sure she meant to say that the door "tinkled". However, the idea of the door tingling is pretty amusing.

“Sarah!” a male voice called out cheerily.

*headdesk* This is a pet peeve of mine, along with "his eyes rested on the floor". (His "gaze" rested on the floor. If his eyes rested on the floor, something terrible occurred that I don't really want to know about.) A male voice did not and cannot call out, cheerily or otherwise. Someone can call out in a male voice, but let's just say "a man called out, 'Sarah!' ".

“Peter!” she answered. “What are you doing here?”
The two hugged each other and then Sarah remembered that Leona was still present.

Ouch! Perspective switch whiplash!

“Oh, Leona,” Sarah turned to her. “Meet Peter Gunn.”
Peter and Leona were both very surprised to see each other again.

And again! "Peter looked as surprised to see Leona as she felt at seeing him again."

“Oh!” Leona exclaimed.
“Why, Leona Jackson!” Peter grinned widely. “I’m sorry; I didn’t see you. How extraordinary that we meet again!”

Peter is apparently a refugee from Sense and Sensibility.

Peter quickly explained how he had met Leona yesterday evening. Leona felt herself flush with embarrassment to know that Peter now knew why she had been crying when he had first met her. Why else would she be at the Pregnancy Center?

This rings true. I can definitely see an 18-year-old girl feeling very embarrassed by this.

Leona wanted to change the subject desperately and said the first thing that came to mind. “So, you two are married?”

That's the first thing that comes to mind? Remember, Leona isn't from Miss Raquel's world, in which people marry young and members of the opposite sex don't touch unless they are married or blood relatives. Leona is from our world, in which it is in no way odd for a man and a woman to greet each other with a hug. "So you guys are friends?" would be a believable question from Leona, but "Are you married?" is bizarre.

Sarah and Peter both laughed.
“Goodness no!” Sarah said with a smile. “Peter’s my brother.”
“Oh,” Leona said again. Why did she feel relieved?

Dude. You are 2 or 3 months pregnant by a guy who dumped you yesterday. Maybe another man isn't what you need right now.

“I’m not married,” Sarah said simply.

Why? Why does she say this?

“Uncle Petey!” Leona saw Luke exit from the back toy room and rush up to Peter. Peter lifted him up in the air and Luke giggled with glee.

So, yesterday Leona is enraged to see a woman threatening her daughter's life with a possibly cold cup of coffee, but today a toddler in a room by himself is no big deal. Okay then.

“Come see car I make,” Luke said, in his progressing English.
“Okay,” Peter said and followed Luke’s direction to the back room that he had just exited.

How many back rooms are there?

"Uncle?” Leona asked, puzzled.
“Yes,” Sarah said. “Luke is my son.”
“But...” Leona was confused. “You said - ” Then she stopped. What right had she to be asking Sarah why she had a son if she wasn’t married, when she herself was pregnant out of wedlock? Leona’s face turned red and she ducked her head to hide her embarrassment.

Nearly 4 in 10 babies are born to unmarried parents in the US, but Leona just can't even wrap her brain around the idea that Sarah is a single mom? Nobody out here in the real world is the slightest bit surprised to meet someone who had a child out of wedlock. We just aren't.

“That’s how I qualify,” Sarah stated simply.
“I beg your pardon?” Leona asked.
“That’s how I’m able to counsel. Because I know what the young woman is going through.” Sarah said this with a kind look. “I was once like you, Leona, except a bit younger. I got pregnant when I was 14.”
Leona was shocked. Not necessarily at how old Sarah had been, but...she would never have guessed that this happy, beautiful girl could ever have gone through the same circumstances that Leona herself felt and was experiencing.

See, now we would be surprised at the age. Being pregnant at 14 will make the rest of us moralize about babies having babies and such. Also, now you know exactly what qualifications the "counselors" at pregnancy centers have.

“I didn’t want to tell my parents. I was afraid that they would kick me out of the house...disown me. My boyfriend was...well, let’s just say, ‘not involved’. I was so scared! Scared for myself, scared for the baby. Even as young as I was, I knew that what I carried in me was a life. I couldn’t bring myself to go to the abortion clinic. I had to try to find a way to keep the baby and myself alive.

Yes, Sarah, the children's agencies in the state you live in would have done nothing to protect you had you contacted them. There are no foster homes, no schools for pregnant teens, no adoption services, nothing. You were totally on your own.

I didn’t have the nerve to tell my parents, but I did tell Peter.” Sarah paused and smiled. “As you might’ve already guess, we’re very close to each other, even though he’s four years older than me. I told him that I was pregnant and he say the least, shocked. But, he didn’t yell, he didn’t tell our parents - because I asked him not to, and he knew that he needed to help me. He was a Christian already - before me, and he knew about this pregnancy center and brought me here. That’s when I first met Miranda - Mrs. Black, as she’s known around here. She ‘took me under her wing’, if you want to say.”

"Mrs. Black, as she’s known around here."? Is "Mrs. Black" an alias? Is she known as Professor White somewhere else?

Let's confront something important to this story because it keeps coming up. In this story, it's the nonchristian parents who kick out their pregnant daughters, but the Christians do nothing but support their wayward children. Bullshit. I know lots of people who got pregnant in high school. Their parents weren't happy about it, but they did support them. The two girls from fundamentalist Christian families weren't nearly so lucky, which is how I know about state services for pregnant girls kicked out by their parents.

Sarah moved from her chair and sat in one next to Leona. She put her arm around Leona’s shoulders and said, “I’m guessing that my story is a lot like yours.” It was more a statement than a question.
Leona could only nod. “I don’t know what to do, Sarah,” she finally managed to gasp. “If my parents find out, they’ll....they’ll kill me. I wouldn’t know what to do or where to go. It would be impossible to have a job to support myself and the baby. My boyfriend ditched me - doesn’t want to have anything to do with me. I wouldn’t have anywhere to go. I don’t have a sweet, older brother like you do, and I’m sure Mrs. Black doesn’t want another daughter. Oh, it’s just impossible, Sarah! I can’t do this!”

I'll say it again. We have seen no evidence that Leona's parents would kick her out for being pregnant. None. They are presented as perfectly nice people who love their child. Yet I'm supposed to believe they are horrible people who will leave their only child to freeze in the snow.

“You can, Leona,” Sarah said, firmly but gently, with a squeeze on Leona’s shoulders for extra measure. “With God’s help, you can.”
Leona stiffened and shrugged off Sarah’s arm. “I don’t have God like you do. I don’t believe that He would let something so bad happen to me - an innocent bystander. It’s not fair! People say that He loves everyone and wants to help them. Well, why would He let something this bad happen to me? No, Sarah, don’t start telling me about God. He can’t help me. Anymore...anymore than you can!” With that, Leona, now flushed with anger and frustration, stood up from her seat and walked to the door.
“Leona,” Sarah called.
Leona stopped and waited before turning and looking at Sarah.
“God gave you that little life for a reason. It’s a precious gift. Don’t do something you’ll regret.”
Leona glared at her for a second, before walking out the door. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Peter leaning against the doorframe of the play room, watching her leave.

$5 says Peter and Leona get married by the end of this story.


  1. Sarah was pregnant at 14? ...And her son says things like, "Come see car I make?" Wow. Either little Lukey has some pretty serious language delays, or Sarah is about 16.

    Mmm. Love those 16 year old counselors. I'm sure they give the best advice.

    Also, given her age, shouldn't Sarah be at school getting her diploma, instead of camped out behind the reception desk at the local crisis pregnancy center?

    HOLY SHIT. I figured it out! Mrs. Black didn't take Sarah in out of the goodness of her heart - she's blackmailing her! If Sarah doesn't work long hours at the center for free, Mrs. Black is going to cut her off. In fact, Mrs. Black, or "the Mother" as she's better known to her cronies, actually does want "another daughter" - another hard-up girl to enlist in her illicit "business" ventures, for which the pregnancy center is just an ill-conceived front. The many backrooms are actually a labyrinth of illegal sweatshops and filthy dormitories, filled with desperate teenage mothers, working their fingers to the bone under the imminent threat of homelessness and destitution.

    Sarah, through constant manipulation and toadying has somehow managed to earn Mrs. Black's favor, which is why she's allowed to work the front desk in relative luxury instead of operating the dangerous, outdated machinery in the "back rooms" with the other enslaved girls. As payment for her elevated position, though, she has to be constantly scouting out potential labor for the "business," and she knows Leona is a prime candidate. Peter, Mrs. Black's much younger, slightly compromised associate, is just there as a little extra bait to lure Leona in.

    It remains to be seen whether Peter's original loyalties will be able to survive the test presented by Leona's beauty and innocence, as he finds himself unwillingly falling for her, despite orders from "the Mother."

    God, it all makes so much sense now.

  2. Could you please finish writing that story? Because that one sounds fantastic!

  3. Dang. A small part of me feels a little bad at you taking a story and tearing it apart like that for every little nitpick … but the remaining 95% of me is laughing its balls off. Keep it up! I wanna see the end of this.

    Kinda makes me wish I had a proof-reader of my own, though. My chapters sound all nice to me, yet I fear the amount of red ink that might appear if someone like you were to go through it. xD Oh, the price if not having gone to English school …

    (Seriously, I learned more about how to write English from Harry Potter than anything else. Scary.)

    And, $5 that she and Peter end up married at the end? Bah. I’ll raise you $50 and add that she and her precious baby will move in with him and live happily ever after as Good Christians(TM).

  4. I'll see that $50 and raise you $100!

    Kelley R. Now that is the story this should have been. Any chance of a parallel saga?

  5. Any of you offering odds? I may consider 1:1000 that they don't.

  6. I love Kelley R's alternative!

    I wonder if they'll let Leona wear white when she gets married to Peter?

  7. @Kelley R: Dude. Yes. Keep writing, pretty please?

    @Boganette: My guess is that they will...because Jesus has washed away her sins and made her feel all shiny and new. I doubt Miss Raquel would miss an opportunity to hit us all upside the head with that giant 2x4 marked "Symbolism!".

  8. "Bibles are very distinctive books, and I cannot believe that Leona's parents wouldn't be able to identify one easily, unless they just arrived on this planet yesterday. Secondly, why is Leona so upset that her parents know about her Bible?"

    That's easy. In the world of fundies, Bible's have special power like a WoW potion. They give off a special glow that repels demons and atheists (which are the same thing). In their world, anyone who is not a fundie must have, ipso facto, never come across the magical book before. If they had, how could they not be fundies themselves?!!

  9. - Chapter 4 -

    Leona's eyes snapped open.

    Morning sunlight was coming in through the window, brightening the room. Shading her eyes with a hand and using the other hand to push the covers off, she groaned and tried to sit up. Painful aches wracked her body. Why did she feel like absolute crap this morning?

    The memories of yesterday, which had been hiding in her subconscious waiting for an appropriate moment for a recon, came back.

    Oh yeah. Massive gunfight and diving through a heavy glass window.

    While pregnant.


    * * *

    Half an hour later, washed and dressed casually, she walked down the stairs. She could hear the clinking of cutlery on cutlery, indicating her parents were eating breakfast in a non-slurpy way.

    "Hey guys," she said with a yawn as she came around the corner.

    "Think fast!" shouted her father, flinging a pepper shaker at her face. She reacted on instinct, plucking the shaker out of the air, but its sudden stop sent a cloud of pepper into her face. Staggering back with a sneeze, she felt a finger touch her on the forehead.

    "I said think fast," said her father smugly, the index finger she’d failed to block pressed to her forehead as Leona sneezed again. "You should have dodged, not grabbed. Always remember to identify the nature of a threat when you defend yourself."

    Eyes stinging from the pepper, she glared at him. "Geez Dad, I only just woke up."

    "Exactly!" shouted her father triumphantly, lowing his hand. "This is precisely when you should be at your most vigilant, because any truly worthy opponent would use your moment of weakness to their advantage."

    "Yeah okay, you got me you crazy paranoid old bastard," said Leona, rolling her eyes with a smile on her face. "Hi Mum," she added, waving at the other figure seated at the table as she reached for a bowl and cereal.

    Leona's mother stood up and walked around the table, a concerned look in her eyes. Leona noticed her mother was still dressed for work.* She had probably only just got home.

    "Are you okay honey? You look a bit cut up."

    "I'm fine mum," Leona said, waving her hands away. "Got pulled into something on the way home, that's all."

    Leona's mother sighed in a weary sort of way. "You're your father daughter right enough. He never had much patience for stealth either. Always preferred the direct approach."

    Leona sat down and poured a bowl of cereal. "It wasn't a job this time, mum, I swear. I got in a bit of trouble when-" she snapped her fingers as memory threw up another card. "That's right! I meant to tell you guys. They're using mind control to bring in new subjects."

    "Mind control? Are you sure?" said her father, crossing his arms. "That beggars even my willing suspension of disbelief."

    "I'm sure," said Leona. "It's sound-based. Don't channel-surf on the radio, okay? That's how I got caught."

    Her parents nodded, and her mother smiled. "Oh by the way dear, there's a man hiding in the bushes out front. Take him out as you leave, okay?"

    "Okay mum."

    * * *

  10. As she was leaving, after hitting the bush-dwelling Peter Gunn over the head with a lamp-post and dumping his unconscious body in the recycling bin, she checked her bag for her iPod. It wasn't an ordinary iPod: it was also her mission-link to headquarters. In theory she should have used it to send a report to HQ immediately after yesterdays events, but she'd neglected the chore in favour of getting a coffee and an early night.

    She frowned as she dug deeper into her bag, searching for the iPod.

    It wasn't there.

    This was a problem: if the enemy had it then they would receive information meant for her eyes only. Worse, if they had any introverted teenagers on staff then they could easily hack into the encrypted network, the hacking abilities of nerdy adolescents being well-established as far superior to that of any team of experienced tech experts.

    She mentally retraced her steps: and realised her mistake immediately. Of course they'd have been going through her bag while she was mind-controlled. She should have checked her bag immediately.

    Great! She thought to herself. I wasn’t planning on going back to that place any time soon. I guess this calls for an unscheduled appointment...

    * * *

    Sarah waited at the reception desk, tapping her fingers nervously on the desk. Miranda Black had left yesterday before retrieving the electronic device Sarah had found in the assassins bag, and the assassin would likely be back looking for it. Taking command of the remaining guards, Sarah had put the whole centre into lockdown.

    Twirling the green iPod between her fingers, she examined their defences. The lobby right in front of her was a kill-zone with no fewer than six guards covering it, as was the parking lot. She wished she knew the combination for the safe: it would have been better to put the McGuffin in there, but as it was she had decided to keep it on her person. At least that meant she knew exactly where it was at all times.

    There was a screech outside, and a small, beat-up car slid sideways into the parking lot, smoke pouring off the tires. Sarah recognised it immediately: it was the same car the assassin had arrived in. There was the sound of gunfire from outside as the guards tried to shoot the driver, but the car accelerated across the lot at an alarming rate.

    The car hit the tire-stoppers and launched into the air, the room darkening as it drifted towards the clear windows, cutting out the diffuse light from outside. There was a muffled silence as everyone dived to the ground, broken only by the dopplering sound of the cars engine as it approached-

    Sound and time came back in full force as the front wall imploded in a shower of dust, glass, and serious men in suits.

    Sarah pulled her hands off her face and stood up, panting heavily. Two of her men were down: the car had landed on them. Those remaining were pointing their weapons into the car interior. Ears ringing, she blinked as one of the men turned to her.

    "There's no one in the car, miss!"

    "What?" Sarah was shaken, but she frantically tried to think. "Then it's a distraction. She must be coming in the back!"

    The men hesitated, but Sarah pointed them to the rear doors. "The guards outside will be in here in a second! Go!" They rushed out.

    She sat down, wringing her hands. Hopefully they'd catch the girl at the safe. She looked up as a figure appeared in the shattered window.

    "About time one of you got here-" she began, and froze as the figure strode closer.

    "Hi there," said Leona, pointing a silenced pistol at Sarah. "I think you've got something of mine."

  11. "But..." stuttered Sarah, backing away and tripping into a chair. "But the guards outside-"

    "Took them out before I crashed the car," Leona said with a smile. A thought occurred to her and she added, half-to-herself, "You know, mum's right: I do prefer the direct approach."

    "But I heard gun-fire...." Sarah stuttered. Leona grinned at her and tapped the beat-up old car. "Yeah, it felt weird to shoot up my own car, but the old horse has been through worse. Takes way more than a few bullets to stop one of these things."

    Sarah opened her mouth to shout for the other guards, but Leona stopped grinning and waved the gun at her. "I really wouldn't do that if I were you."

    Sarah sagged, and held out the iPod. "You win. Take it."

    "Yoink!" said Leona happily, snatching up the device. She stepped away from the other woman and opened the door of the car.

    "Sarah? Leona? Good Lord in Heaven, what happened here?" asked Peter in horror, stepping through the shattered window with a recyclable milk-bottle still stuck to his head. Leona hit him with a cricket-bat and backed over him with the car on the way out.

    As she turned towards the road, Leona leaned out the window and gave the shocked Sarah a friendly wave. "By the way, give "Mrs Black" my regards!" The tires squealed as she drove off the lot, and the guards came running in from the back room, vainly opening fire on the car as it went around the corner.

    "I think I need a drink..." Sarah muttered as she sagged even further into the chair and performed a textbook facepalm.

    -End of Chapter 4-

    * FYI: Leona’s mum is a ninja. “Dressed for work” means full-body black ninja clothes (although she does take the mask off when she's at home).

    PS: Whoa. 3 comments. I may have to cut back a bit on the levels of verbosity here...

    PPS: Did I call it or did I call it? Peter Gunn is totally a Mk 1 love interest. It's a major part of the reason I'm picking on him in my version. The other part is "Gunn." Seriously, that's almost as bad as "Steele" or "Buck" or "Mr ManlyMan McLargepenis"


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