Marci Baun came up with our Round Robin topic for July, 2021: “Deleting scenes: Do you ever delete scenes? When and why do you delete them? And what do you do with them? Do you save them? Or just toss them?”
South China Sea
Lieutenant Keng Chin had his orders. It was murder, but in the People’s Republic, you do as you’re told. Doubtlessly, he was the instrument of deep policy. He stood behind the radar operator, who had identified the two blips as small trawlers. He ascended to the bridge, his crew respectfully stepping out of his way. When the boats came into sight, he confirmed that they were the usual Filipino fishing trawlers. With a few terse orders, he positioned his ship across their bows so their net wouldn’t foul his propellers, and activated the recording.
The voice bellowed out in Filipino, but Chin had read a translation: “You are in the territorial waters of the People’s Republic of China. You have been warned against such incursions many times. Turn around and head to your port, now.”
The bow waves of the two boats faded to nothing as they eased to a stop. An amplified voice came back. Chin had no idea of what it said, nor did it matter. He nodded to the starboard gun captain, who fired. The boat in the 2 o’clock position burst into instant flame.
He now needed to cause casualties on the other boat, without disabling it. His crew had been well instructed. He nodded to the port side gun captain.
On the return journey, after reporting over the radio and writing up his log, he got out his secret bottle of best Maotai baijiu and got thoroughly drunk, never mind orders about alcohol on duty. That was far better than the torturings of his conscience.
What is this?
I have a problem with my Doom Healer series. Everyone who has looked at them has let me know that volumes 3 and 4 are gripping and unputtable-down. Volume 2 is nearly as good. But Volume 1, the one that really matters, is basically preparation for the others, so is inherently less full of tension. So, over time I have tried many devices for making the narrative more exciting. One experiment was to insert self-contained scenes like this one.
Gary Clough is a faithful and merciless beta reader. His assessment: “Hey mate, what’s this got to do with the story?”
He was right. There is no such thing as a mistake, only learning experiences.
What do I do with things like this? They don’t eat much within my computer and on the backup disk, so they can sit there. Who knows, this could be the start of a novel about the good lieutenant.
Nicca stopped. She had to stop because of the stink. Joe and another man were unloading a cart, with the horse’s head in a feedbag. They were pouring brown liquid from big iron cans into a hole in the ground.
Atan stood by her left side, Uncle Cody on her right. “Joe!” Uncle Cody shouted, though he was obviously minimising his breathing.
Joe and the other man both turned. Joe said, “Oh no! Niccatalini, what are you doing here? Seeing me like this…”
“I wanted her and Atan to see how we’re forced to live,” Uncle Cody told him. He turned to the two visitors. “As long as we do all the worst jobs for the town, we’re left in peace, given good clothes, food, money, and work like this also earns rum.”
Joe approached, but stopped a good ten paces away. “We take turns at the shit carting. One week on, four weeks doing other things. But anyway, Niccatalini, I asked, what are you doing here?”
Using her full name meant serious business. Nicca answered, “Jodakonata, white men killed everyone in our hunting group except for Atan,” she waved toward her friend, “and four girls. I’m one of those.”
Joe grimaced in immediate understanding.
Atan said, “The white men of our town organised a war party and justice was served on them. I asked the Spirits, and lighting struck their leader. We killed all the others, except for a boy who took no part in the evil acts.”
The other shit-covered man said, “Does that mean, not all white men are monsters?”
“No,” Atan seriously answered. They vary just like the people do. Where–”
Joe cut him off. “Please go back home for now. We’ll finish here, then have a thorough wash in the river. We can talk tonight.”
Nicca was relieved to go, her heart full of pity for the two men. Until now, the infrequent times he and Joe had been able to meet, he was always wise, strong, dignified and kind. It was all the more terrible to see him doing a distasteful job like this. “Uncle Cody,” she asked Joe’s father — his mother’s elder brother — “why don’t the white people here shit in an outhouse like everywhere else?”
“Pumpkins,” Uncle Cody answered, bitterness in his voice. This town is famous for its big, beautiful, tasty pumpkins. They are taken even to Sydney. What the faraway white people don’t know is, we dig holes, and dump the shit in, and cover up with soil, then they plant the pumpkins on top. The plants love it. So, we live well compared to people elsewhere, as far as having white-man things goes. But we carry the shit to the holes, as you’ve seen.”
“You could refuse and go somewhere else,” Atan said.
“When this started, during my grandfather’s time, we did. They hunted us down, and did terrible things.”
“That was then. Now, they have a law. We are to be treated the same as anyone else.”
“The magistrate is the man who grows the most pumpkins.”
Nothing more needed to be said. They walked silently until they got back to the village, where the other three girls and their white-man hunting party were chatting with the locals.
It was dusk before Joe and the other man arrived, wearing clean clothes and their hair still wet. Nicca was relieved that he smelled fine.
They settled around a fire, the women passing around gourds of stew from freshly caught fish. Between mouthfuls, Joe demanded, “Tell me about decent white men. I’ve never met any.”
Atan answered him. In our town, the past was bad. The land was taken, people killed. But the current descendant of the original squatter is a man I’d be proud to have as a father, and he rules the town. Thanks to him, our people, their servants, everyone gets decent treatment. Thanks to his influence, any white man who has lived there for a while comes to accept his way of thinking. And I know another. When I was a boy, a white boy became my best friend, and we have initiated him as one of us. He has white skin, but he is Worimi.”
Nicca added, “In our town, if you do work, you get the same pay as a white person. Mr Gardiner says all men and women are children of the white-man God, who has told everyone that we must love all His children. But…” She couldn’t help it, but saw in her heart’s eye the killing of her family, felt the stink of that John’s rotten-tooth breath as he violated her body, wanted to die all over again.
Joe put his gourd down and pulled her close. “We’ll marry, tonight, now. Atan can act as your father.”
“Maybe I have a whitefella baby,” she managed to say.
Joe turned toward the oldest woman. “Aunty Dola?”
She looked confident. “I can fix it. Come with me, child, as soon as you’ve finished eating.”
Nicca couldn’t eat. She stood.
Aunty Dola led her to one of the little houses. Nicca instantly identified several of the scents of dry herbs hanging all around, but some were strange to her. She said, “At home, I was learning herbs from… from our oldest Elder.”
“You can continue with me. And I have enough for your friends also, should they need it.”
What is this?
It is the fictionalisation of a real, historical event. A town in 19th Century New South Wales lived well, thanks to exactly this abuse of its Aboriginal inhabitants. I wrote the scene for The Protector, which is the part-completed sequel to Maraglindi: Guardian spirit, due to be launched in September.
Why did I cut it? First, there have been too many terrible scenes early on, and I wanted to lighten up the story. Second, I wanted to hurry up the development of the main plot, so decided to focus on just one of the four girls. Nicca is simply dropped off at Joe’s group without comment. But third, part of the plot is a murder attempt against Gerald and Kirsten, the major characters. As Protector of Aborigines, Gerald will come to this town and demand the magistrate to stop the abuse. That would destroy the status quo, so…
Oh, you will note some words in italics. My people here are speaking Gathang, their own language, which lacks words common in English. I needed to distinguish those foreign words.
My other projects
However, my just-completed Lifting the Gloom is built around several short stories, cut from From Depression to Contentment. My publisher, Victor Volkman, told me that people won’t buy a self-help book that’s over about 50,000 words. “Cut!” he commanded.
You are lucky. Right now, I am seeking beta readers for Lifting the Gloom, so you can read those stories and their multifarious progeny.
I welcome your comments, so go down the screen a little, and tell me your reactions if any. If you don’t have any reactions, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?