We have for our consideration the first page of a tale entitled “The Acolyte,” and if this opening is any indication the rest of the book is going to be a good one. I like being tugged --- take that any way you want --- and the opening sentences of “The Acolyte" tugged me in:
“No TV,” the stone-faced boy blocking the oak double doors said. “No cameras.” To Moran he looked seventeen or eighteen, nearly a man. The boy glared down the granite steps of the church at the television news crews on the old brick sidewalk. Three cameramen, three on-air reporters.
“It’s going to rain soon,” one of the cameramen said.
“Hey, tough s**t,” the boy said. (edited by blogger)
Slender, about five-nine, he was wearing a stiff white shirt with a polka-dot tie and a navy blue suit, the pants a little too short, Moran thought. The television people knew who he was. He flicked his hands at them and they stepped farther back, out of the path of a few approaching mourners.
Moran, maybe an inch or two shorter than the boy, in his late thirties, followed the mourners around a gray mound of lingering April snow and up the granite steps. “I don’t have a camera,” he said. “Just a notebook. I’m from the Portland Pilot. I’ll just sit in the back where I won’t disturb anyone. All right?”
The boy stared at him. “What’s your name?”
“Jake Moran,” the reporter told him, starting quickly around him through the open doors. “Thanks.”
Moran shivered, feeling the cold dampness inside the stone church, remembering to genuflect before edging into a worn mahogany pew. He had never covered a funeral mass before. He watched the rows of pews in front of him becoming full, writing a rough head count on a fresh page of his reporter’s notebook as the organist played a muted hymn, close to eighty people now. Soon he heard the priest’s voice, a cool monotone echoing off the granite walls. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.”
The reporter watched him lift his bowed head and open his eyes. Gradually, showing a little dramatic flair. Looking young for a priest, probably younger than forty, with reddish hair and a boyish freckled face.
The author begins dropping breadcrumbs from the first sentence, leading the reader right down the path of the story. There’s tension from the getgo. Why are no TV or cameras allowed? Who is the bossy little punk guarding the doors to the church? In the immortal words of Loretta Castorini, “Who died?!” Why do people care? The author makes me what to know the answers. Additionally, I want to follow the trail of breadcrumbs into the church. Once I’m in there, I can practically smell the incense and the burning candles, hear the faint echo of the priest’s voice a millisecond or so behind what he’s saying. The author reveals just enough to give the reader a picture, but lets the reader fill in some blanks and thus become involved in the story process. Even the (technically incorrect) use of sentence fragments works, and works well.
At some point, I’d like to see more of “The Acolyte.” I have a feeling that at some point down the road, sooner rather than later, I will. Nice work.