Saturday, July 7, 2012

THE POWER CLUB Chapter 1: "A Special Club" (Revised)

Last year, I published excerpts of my novel-in-progress, The Power Club™  on this website.  I've spent a hectic last three months revising the entire novel for the second time (i.e., my third complete draft).  Here's how the first chapter turned out.  Let me know what you think.

            A brown-and-white police car pulled up to Damon’s house.  Damon sat in the back on a dull leather seat that reeked of sweat and vomit.  Tears burned his cheeks as he held his breath, trying not to wretch.  He couldn’t believe someone had called the cops.  He couldn’t believe they had arrested him instead of the kids who stole his bike.
            “Arrested” wasn’t the right word.  The cops didn’t put handcuffs on him.  Still, the two officers had their null-guns and shock batons ready.  Damon felt like a dangerous criminal.
            The officers let Damon out in front of his house for all the neighbors to see.  He wanted to create a darkspace so he could hide from prying eyes—but he knew that would just get him in more trouble.  As if to hammer this point home, the police warned his mother that Damon must never use his power in public again.
            “Don’t worry about the bike.” Damon’s mother cleaned his lip where the winged boy had split it before the cops showed up.  “Your father and I will buy you a new one next spring.”
            “Mom!” he said, exasperated.  “I don’t want a new bike.  Call the police chief.  Maybe he’ll send some officers to get my bike back.”
            “Honey, that’s not how things work in the district.”
            Ow!  Damon’s lip stung as his mom dabbed it with a damp cloth.  She held his arm tight as he tried to squirm away.
            “What were you doing in that neighborhood?” she said.  “You know you’re not supposed to go there.”
            Damon blubbered, “I dunno.”  His mother wouldn’t understand.  He had lived in the district almost as long as he could remember, but there were parts of it he hadn’t seen and wanted to explore.  He couldn’t go outside the district without permission from the government and wasn’t even allowed to use his power except at home or school.  This rule, he’d just found out, applied even to self defense.
            A slight change of subject was in order.  “What did those kids mean, that they get to use their powers if they belong to a special club?”
            His mother folded the damp cloth and put it aside.  She sat on the ottoman—Damon lounged  in the recliner—and looked at the floor of the living room.  “Well, I guess you had to learn about them sooner or later.  The district allows older kids to use their powers in public if they belong to certain kinds of clubs.   The clubs have to be registered with the district, and they have to follow certain rules.”
            “Rules like being allowed to steal other kids’ bikes?”
            “Oh, hush, honey.  There are a lot of things in the district that aren’t fair.  Remember when we first moved here and your dad’s car got stolen?”
            Damon nodded.
            “Well, it wasn’t really stolen.  Some kid who can bend metal destroyed it.  The district gave your dad a new car, but we had to promise not to tell anyone outside the family what really happened.”
            Damon remembered.  The new car was smaller and didn’t have electric windows.
            “But why does the district let kids form special clubs?”
            “No one really knows,” his mother answered.  She leaned closer, as if she were expecting someone to listen in. “They say kids learn to use their powers better by working together.  But some people think it’s so they can see what you kids can really do.”
            “But why would they want to know?”
            His mother seemed uncomfortable with the question.  “Honey, it’s been a long time since we moved to the district.  Have you forgotten that ordinary people like your dad, Eldon, and me—”
            “Honey, I told you, that’s not a nice term.”
            “Sorry,” he said, biting his lip.
            “Anyway, ordinary people are sometimes afraid of kids with powers.”
            Damon recalled the incident which led to him and his family moving to the district.  Just after his sixth birthday, he learned that when he thought dark and exhaled, a huge, black cloud would appear, blocking both light and sound.  His mother told him to keep his ability a secret, but Damon couldn’t.  He shared it with the neighbor kids.
            They loved it!  They would run into the “darkspace,” as they called it, scream with delight, and run back out.   They weren’t afraid.
            Things were great until Ryan, a snotty kid who lived up the street, joined in. He stood at the edge of Damon’s back yard and demanded a darkspace be created around him.  Damon did what Ryan wanted, but as soon as the darkness appeared, Ryan panicked and ran into the alley.  Damon inhaled to make the darkspace go away, but a car screeched to a halt inches in front of Ryan.  It was almost too late.
            It was Ryan’s parents who ratted to the city council that Damon had a power.  He still recalled how he felt when his parents told him they would have to move to the district.  It wasn’t far, but to Damon, it might as well have been the North Pole.
            The memory stung like a open wound “People’re afraid of me?  That’s stupid.”
            “It is stupid, honey,” his mother said.  “But we live in a stupid world.  No one knows why some kids develop powers and others don’t.  Your brother, for example—”
            Damon tuned her out.  He was tired of his mother reminding him that Eldon had demonstrated no special abilities.  He hated it when she pointed out how “ordinary” his kid brother was, as if being ordinary were an achievement.  Damon felt as if he were being punished for having a power.
            He waited patiently for her finish before he put it out there.  “Mom, I want to join a club.”        
            Her eyes flashed.  “There aren’t any special clubs in this neighborhood.”
            “Then I’ll start one.”
            “You’re too young.  I think you have to be at least twelve and a half.”
            Damon banged the arm of the recliner.  His twelfth birthday was still four months away.  “Why twelve and a half?  Why not twelve?” he demanded to know.
            “Honey, a lot of the things the district does don’t make sense.  Why let kids form special clubs in the first place?  Why make kids and their families live here, like we’re in some kind of top secret city—only out in the open?  It’s  better to just accept things as they are and forget about special clubs.”
            But Damon didn’t want to forget about them.  A lot of powered kids lived in his neighborhood, some just a year or two older than he was.  Sooner or later, they would form a special club, and, when they did, he wanted to be the first to join.

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