Chapter 1: Let's Get it Started

The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

I met a beautiful woman today. Twice. I’m still trying to figure that out.

I was standing in line at the local café, Coffee of Doom. Most of the other customers were emo kids, Goth types, and your average coffee house inhabitant wearing plaid and jeans. I was the only one wearing a suit. Well, that wasn’t by choice. I’d much rather slack my way through the day like the kids hanging out here, but I had a rich family and graduated from law school.

Be that as it may, I came here every day before work. I got my cup, and headed for the door. It opened and in walked this girl. She had sandy hair cropped short, and bright grey eyes that dazzled me. She was pleasantly curved, instead of looking half starved like most of the denizens of the coffee house. I barely had time to register her jeans and low cut sweater before she spoke.

“Have we met yet?” She asked me immediately, not even looking around the shop. It was like she was there for me, and not coffee.

“No, I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure…” I tried to be suave, but it might have come out “No, uh, wha?” I’m not totally sure.

She gripped the front of my suit jacket. I dropped my coat and my briefcase from my left hand. I barely held onto the coffee in my right. She looked into my face. Her eyes went wide.

“Stay away from me, if you want to live. Whatever you do, stay away!”

I tried to take a step back, wondering if I should call for help, but her grip was strong and the suit was Armani. And, instead of being afraid, I was kind of lost in her eyes.

“Hey, I don’t want any trouble,” I said, “It’s okay!”

Her eyes wavered and she moved to turn away. Then, she looked me in the eyes again and pulled on the jacket, bringing me in close. Her lips pressed to mine, soft and warm, and time held still. I heard her whisper: “I love you, Frank.” Then, she was gone. I opened my eyes and she was out the door.

It only took me half a second to realize that the prettiest woman I’d ever seen was about to disappear. I ran out after her, and saw her go around the corner. I jostled my way through the crowded street, trying to get past pedestrians on their way to work. Lucky me, the bus had just dumped a crowd between me and Helen of Troy or whoever it was that I was chasing.

I got around the corner, and looked down the street. I couldn’t see her amidst the human mass before me.

“Crap,” I said, eloquently. My name isn’t even Frank, and she was probably crazy, but it had sounded like she meant it when she said she loved me. I kicked the nearest garbage can very maturely. Then I walked back to the shop.

Where the same woman was sitting at a table, reading a newspaper. I did a double take and then walked closer.

“Excuse me, can I ask what that was about?” I said, trying to control the hammering in my chest. I wondered if it was actually audible to other people. I mean, my heart was pounding.

She looked up at me and I noticed her hair was a little longer. She had also found time to change clothes in the past two minutes, as she had a white blouse and more formal black pants. Her coat was hanging over the chair.

“Pardon?” She asked, putting down the newspaper. I blinked.

“When I was here, before. What was that about?”

“I imagine you purchased the coffee that you’re holding.” She smiled ironically and held up her own cup. “I bought one too.”

I blinked again, and looked around the shop. No one else was paying any attention.

“Let me start over. I’m a little frazzled this morning. Have you seen my coat or my briefcase? I dropped them before.”

She wrinkled her brow and then nodded towards an adjacent table. “The owner put them over there, said something about a regular having dropped them. She seemed certain you’d be back shortly.”

I nodded. “Thanks. I kind of need those. I wouldn’t get much done at work without my files.” I grabbed my stuff.

I looked at her over my shoulder. She had gone back to her paper with a shake of her head, as if to say “He needs his meds today.” Funnily enough, I had started the conversation thinking that about her. And now, I felt like the one who was crazy.

“Sorry about that,” I said. She barely looked up. I stepped over towards her table again. “This might sound silly, but you don’t have a sister, do you?”

“Your pick-up lines suck,” she said with a grin.

I felt flustered. “Excuse me?”

“It’s okay. I’m flattered. Not very interested, but flattered. You’ve been trying to get my attention since you got in here. You’re wasting your time, but I won’t hold it against you.”

I bristled a little. I guess I’m the type of person who loves a challenge. “Why is it a waste of time?”

“I’m not interested in dating, I am too busy with my studies. However, I do appreciate the compliment.”

I tried to be charming. She might have been acting like she didn’t remember that kiss (which made me wonder if I had hallucinated it) but it was worth seeing if it would happen again.

“You’re not really saying ‘go away,’ you know.” I smiled. “You could let me try again. I’m sure I can come up with a better pick-up line.”

She almost laughed. “I don’t go for lines. And I don’t date. But I wouldn’t mind knowing your name.”

“Diggory Franklin.” I shook hands with her.

“Calla Wiley. Very nice to meet you, Mr. Franklin. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get to class.”

“You’re a student?”

“Graduate student, in physics, yes.” She stood and gathered her things. “Have a nice day, Mr. Franklin.”

I thought quickly. “Let me give you my card. You know, in case you change your mind on the ‘no dating’ policy. Or, if you ever need a lawyer.”

“I doubt it,” she said, trying to stifle a smile. But she still took the card before she left.

I whistled all the way to work.

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She's from the future ! And a

She's from the future ! And a physics student... She could have invented some kind of a time machine :)

Very nice first chapter, I'm going to read the next ones.

Thanks!

Thanks for the comment, Saudadina, hope you enjoy the story!

Nice

Very nice start. I particularly like Coffee of Doom, I'm a big fan of Questionable Content. Now I'm going to read.

The flux capacitor is fueled by lawyers

I'm going to be hooked on this. I can tell already.

Awesome!

You've all pretty much made my day! Thank you.

Heehee! Definitely more than

Heehee! Definitely more than interesting enough to catch my attention on its own, but Coffee of Doom made it even more awesome. I take it you're a QC fan? I used to go to school in the next town over from there, essentially.

LOVE for Martin and Faye

Yes, I'm a huge QC fan, and included the reference as an homage to the talented J. Jacques, who I read every day. Hannelore's my fav, next to Faye.

Nice!

Nice first chapter. I don't usually read novels online, but I took a shot and I liked what I initially read. Hope to read the next ones soon.

Welcome Craw!

Thanks for dropping in, Craw! There's lots to check out, so I hope you enjoy your time here.

Your writing is like an old

Your writing is like an old man gumming corn, it has no teeth. I'm not sure what's missing really, it just lacks an identity. It just sounds like an account, and I dunno, I find that boring to read. The plot sounds like it's shaping up to be cool though, time travel is a tricky thing so if you've done it well then kudos! (I'm judging you on a single chapter here).

Thanks for the comment

When I started "The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin" in the summer of 2008 it was as an experiment to write a good hook. I put it in with a bunch of other first chapters and let readers vote on which one should be my next story project -- and they picked Diggory. So, some people like the plot elements that are introduced here, and it only gets better.

Unfortunately at the time, I only had the one chapter. There was the idea of a plot in that chapter, but little else. Diggory's identity and narrative voice had to develop over time, so I can kind of see what you're saying there. The first few chapters of Book One are a little rough in my opinion because they feature his daily routines. I wanted the book to start in Diggory's everyday life, which was very routine and uneventful. I also had to get to know the character. Calla Wiley came in to disrupt Diggory's life with time travel chaos, and that had to play out against the backdrop of his normal life.

But there's still plenty of plot development, and midway through Book One the story certainly starts to have "teeth." Just wait until you meet Zebediah. ;)

However, the general statement "your writing is like an old man gumming corn" seems a little premature when you're "judging on a single chapter." The writing in this particular chapter might be lacking teeth, in your opinion. But that's a specific chapter. I'd wait longer than a chapter before making a general statement about a writer. If I'd judged Charles Dickens on "A Tale of Two Cities," that first chapter is pedantic. But then I'd have missed out on all his masterpieces based on that one chapter.

(Not that I'm Dickens, but he sprung to mind and we share a birthday)

I appreciate the observations about this chapter -- it's very plain. The only real spice in it is the hint of the plot to come. That was intentional as a writer, and a risk as well. I wanted to root the story in Diggory's character, and show over time how events change him. He started out as quite a dull, ordinary guy. Calla's appearance is kind of the yeast that made him grow -- and the story had to start somewhere.

Who is the owner of Coffee of

Who is the owner of Coffee of Doom? Could be a handful of people . . .

Went back for a re-read recently and the line "The owner put them over there, said something about a regular having dropped them. She seemed certain you’d be back shortly." caught my eye.

Awesome story, thanks!!!!

Shout out

The "Coffee of Doom" reference is just a shout-out to the excellent web comic "Questionable Content," and the characters thereof are copyright and property of their creator, the talented Jeph Jacques. I also liked the "doom" reference because Diggory's death is predicted.

But the "owner" of this New York branch of the coffee house is an "offscreen" character, I never really pictured them as important to the plot... as much as I usually weave in EVERY little detail, that seemed superfluous.

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