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17 May 2015

the General's pen

The sleek black enamel was long worn from the grip. Finger-burnished brass from underneath showed the hand's once-hidden habits. The high ungrasped end, where the enamel remained unscathed, reflected a heavy-jowled face in miniature. Squinting, the face could discern its own features. Grey squirreled eyebrows nearly hid the black eyes; That frown seemed deeper, more terminal than before.
A small bell rang in the hall. The office's double doors parted with a thin complaint.
Business, he thought, was ever at hand. He laid the pen down and stood to receive his guest.
The man who entered - the man who must be the renowned Colonel "Got'em" Archer, recently retired - was not what he had expected. This man was more slender than square, more bold than built. No matter. It'd all be sorted out soon enough.
"Colonel Abraham Archer, yes?" He felt the slightest tremble in his hand as he extended it, and prayed the Colonel wouldn't notice. The tension around the other man's eyes didn't lessen, but he grasped the proffered hand.
"I'm retired," the Colonel said, "as you are surely aware. Young Peter here must have heard that from someone. His invitation was from you, yes? It was most intriguing."
Peter sulked behind the Colonel, looking more the cur at being named.
Setting aside his irritation with his recalcitrant son, the man with the pen replied, "Of course, but you never lose your stripes." He waved Peter toward the liquor cabinet and hoped the boy wouldn't embarrass him further. He should have sent someone Raul to fetch their guest. "So, Colonel Archer, I am General - retired, if you will - Rodney DeWitt, Mayor of Asylum, and I would like to personally welcome you to our city."

The above passage is a rework of a piece I've never been happy with. It's from When Stones Sing, my currently-mostly-dormant novel. A lot has changed. I wrote this from a different perspective originally, not intending to ever give the Mayor his own voice in the story. Hell, I was barely aware of who the Mayor was when I first wrote this scene. (Which was, obviously, one of my issues with writing it that first time. I didn't know who I was dealing with.)

This began as a response to a prompt, in the writing class I'm taking. The instructor had laid a few dozen items out in the middle of our communal table and said: pick an item and write a story about it. I don't know what it was about the pen in front of me that made me think of this conversation between Archer and the Mayor. I didn't know that's where the pen was taking me until I heard the small bell ring, and I suddenly pictured the same ancient doors I'd seen Archer walk through when I first wrote this scene. This entire reworking of this scene was written without a single glance back at the original. I'm pretty amazed at the similarity, now that I've looked (literall, just now) back at the original.

Incidentally, that nickname - "Got'em" - is subject to change. In fact, just consider it a place holder for something much more awesome. 

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