Our first submission for First Impressions this month comes to us from Maria Ann Witt. GOODNIGHT SWEET PRINCE is a YA contemporary novel. It is a re-imagining of Hamlet.
Five hours into the ten hour flight from Copenhagen to Detroit most of the first class passengers were asleep. Harm tried. Seat reclined, headphones on, eyes closed, music playing, pushing ‘next’ repeatedly before accepting that next was never any better. He switched over to replay the voice mail message from three days ago.
Harm, they’re talking about a new contract. Whatever you do, don’t sign anything without talking to me first. And don’t let Mars sign anything either. Call me when you get a chance.
Listening to Dad’s voice, he could picture him—gray hair, thick-rimmed glasses, and kind, serious expression. He hadn’t called back. Between late night shows, and later night parties, and sleeping it off, there hadn’t been time.
Christmas. That was the last time he’d talked to Dad in person. Lied to him. How was everything going, was he getting enough sleep? Sure, Harm said.
“Touring is tough, I’m proud of you.”
Dad had toured a year before quitting his band and becoming a wildly successful songwriter. He clapped a firm hand on Harm’s shoulder. “Good grades, last report. That’s important. Gotta think long term.”
The tutor must have taken the tests. All Harm did was scribble his own handwriting on the papers and get a recap of what he’d learned. The formalities of being a minor in show business. Dad knew a lot about the business, but he didn’t seem to know that.
The last time he’d seen his dad and he’d lied. It hadn’t bothered him then, but now, it felt like someone was strangling him. He gasped and sat up, arms flailing defensively.
“You okay?” Mars asked. Next to him, his younger brother’s seat was upright, his skinny arms and shoulders tense under his tight black leather jacket, as he turned his phone over and over in his hands.
“Can’t sleep.” Harm said, shoving his headphones off. He thought about the Ativan in his pocket. He was trying not use them. Didn’t trust Mom and her doctors. So easy to get hooked on stuff.
Mars nodded, and turned toward the window, even though the plastic shade was closed. His phone vibrated with a loud hum, and he jumped and almost dropped it.
“The funeral’s ,” he said, checking the message.
“Huh,” Harm said. “Guess Paolo canceled Oslo for nothing.”
“We couldn’t have done anything. . . ”
“He didn’t know that!” Harm’s voice came out harsh in the steady hum of the plane, and he dropped it back to a half-whisper. “All he knows is the show must go on. Dad was in the hospital and we were out there shuffling. We should have been on this plane yesterday.”
I absolutely love this idea and at first read-through, I had trouble coming up with notes for it. As is, it's mostly picky things.
The main thing is, I feel like it's slightly out of order. I want to know his dad is gone sooner. Somewhere between "Listening to Dad's voice ..." and "Christmas."
"He hadn't called back." I had a bit of pronoun confusion there. Better to say his name.
When he said dad became a wildly successful songwriter, does he mean he's Harm's songwriter?
I love that he lied the last time he saw his dad. It's a great bit of character detail.
I was also confused by the last three paragraphs. Maybe reading further would have clarified, but here are my thoughts.
- Oslo was canceled. That sounds to me like they had time to get to see their dad. It seems like not canceling a show would elicit the comment, "We couldn't have done anything ..." Not the other way around.
- "He didn't know that." Who's he? Paolo or dad?
- I'm also not sure what "out there shuffling" means. Screwing around? Performing?
In short, great job! I want to read this, Maria!