Write of Passage

Willett's Baltimore Transitions / Expressions

Willett .

Willett .
Baltimore, Maryland,
June 15
Write of Passage, Inc.
Willett Thomas is the President of Write of Passage, Inc., a 501(C)(3) communications, training, and publishing organization formed in 2010 to assist underserved artists and writers. She is also a freelance writer, writing in and about Baltimore. She recently relocated to the neighborhood of Greenmount, where the exterior shots of the HBO series, The Wire were filmed. She's pleased to report any rumored resemblances to the television series are greatly exaggerated. *** Like us at Facebook ;-) http://www.facebook.com/WriteofPassage

MAY 25, 2012 10:37AM

OS Weekend Fiction Club--Charm Offensive (Chap4)

Rate: 4 Flag

This serialized novel follows 17 year-old Mayella Winton, who has recently been expelled from the tony Freemont Academy for Negro Girls, and comes to live with her Mother, Delores, who is the live-in housekeeper for Herbert Halethorpe, a rich, Baltimore industrialist.

This excerpt: Herbert Halethorpe's first day with both Delores' two children at the mansion. Thanks for reading.

The Charm Offensive -- Chapter Four 

Herbert Halethorpe went into his study. He had not planned on lingering long, but stopped short at seeing one of his diplomas askew, blatantly wrong, among the array on his desk. The smell of lemons and vinegar hung in the air, getting caught in his nostrils and throat. He picked up the diploma, an honorary degree in Agricultural Studies from a little known college in Kentucky. This one conferred as acknowledgment for a paper he wrote examining how crossbreeding thoroughbred horses leads to inferior specimens with aberrant behaviors. Taking a seat at his desk, he studied it carefully, noting, with a grimace, a single smudged fingerprint.

Delores was headed his way. Her light, but determined gait echoed throughout the mansion like strains of a song long past its relevance, but still impossible to forget. There was also that distinct scent of hers—like apple blossoms left too long to steep—which, no matter the season, was always in the air.

She walked in hurried and in a huff.

“Before you say anything, Delores, what happened this morning at breakfast, is never to happen again.” He did not bother to turn around to face her, but continued to stare out the window at his garden, dismal and in desperate need of personal care.

“Do you understand?”

“I know things got out of hand, Mr. Herbert. But…”

This time there was no look to quickly past between the two, only the back of his closely shaved head for her to focus on.

“I don’t care what your reasons are for striking that child. It will not happen again, ever.” She opened her mouth, but his hand was up, signaling that what needed to be said had been said. It was over.

She turned to leave, but instead put her slim hand onto his shoulder, squeezing lightly, over and over again. Not thinking, he reached back, patting her hand, letting it rest there a moment before pushing it, along with its heaviness to the side, dismissing her.

“And, Delores?”

“Yes, Herbert—Mr. Herbert?”

“I like things shipshape—are we clear?” he said, placing the diploma face down onto the desk to be attended to by others later.

“I know you do, Sir,” she said, her voice sounding smaller as she began walking away.

Herbert Halethorpe rubbed his temples. Already things were getting out of hand. In less than twenty-four hours, two little Negro children had taken over his home, and now it reeked to high heaven, smelling for all the world like a gigantic tossed salad. He took out his handkerchief and blew into it.

He’d fought in the war…killing both “men and beasts,” he described to those gathered at the Greater Baltimore Leadership Assembly. He had been fired upon and nearly lost half his leg at Pearl Harbor, when the battleship he captained was torpedoed. Laughing, he told them, “I have no one to blame but myself, I should have ducked.”

He outright stole, commandeering two major business concerns, running both into the ground only to bring them, along with three other flagship businesses started by his grandfather, back from the depths of bankruptcy. Today these enterprises, in addition to his overseas holdings, comprised a formidable empire. He was, by his own definition, a man who had successfully executed every dream he had dared to conjure. But this day, with vinegar infused water barely set to dry on the windowsills and a forgotten and still damp sponge squished beneath his foot, he was a man clearly out of his depth.

Well he thought, while good deeds are often welcomed by their recipient, these same favors are rarely worth the trouble they cause the benefactor.

Herbert Halethorpe, angry, kicked at the sponge. He was just about to lean far back into the chair—settle into the quiet that had finally fallen over the house–when he heard the voice, sounding strained and weaker than it had been earlier that morning.

“Herbert…darling, is that you? Are you there?”


This is a continuation of the serial novel: The Charm Offensive. Click here to read previous chapters:


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Not liking this Halethorpe guy too much. Interested in learning more about his relationship with Delores, who seems fond of him. R
Gerald -- He has his good points, like most folks. But you're right, Delores definately has a bit of hero worship going on for Mr. Herbert. Stay cool!
Lovely bit of writing that shows realistic complexity in the characters. I look forward to reading more.
Thanks so much Lucy.
The tempo is perfect. It is paced to keep the reader interested, without racing on at the cost of the story. There seems to be enough possibilities to keep us guessing... at least for now.
Knock, knock who is calling at the door?
OOAL--I'm so glad to read your comment on pacing. I just read a post on HuffingtonPost.com about Esqure doing a men's fiction issue for June. It notes that fiction for men is heavy on plot turns and things happening at a fast clip in order keep them engaged.

I on the other hand don't want to rush, but I do want to keep everyone reading. Hopefully I've got enough going on with character development and plot that readers will want to stay tuned. I appreciate your comments. Thanks for reading.
Pace-y, dipping just long enough into characterization to make us want to find out more, and plenty that could foreshadow one way or another. All good things for an engaging read.