"I don't like you, Lucy Campeon," Mrs Handine said to me, her wrinkled hands gripping her walking cane. It wouldn't surprise me if she chose to whack me over the head with it. She'd certainly whacked me enough with harsh words during the interview to make me want to crawl out the door. Over the past half-hour I stopped feeling guilty about deceiving the old woman; everything from the catnip on my fingers to the letter of recommendations my friend Alexandar Andrew, Veterinarian. I needed this job and Alexandar owed me a huge favor.
"But it's not up to me," her voice softened, "is it, Beaker?"
I dropped my gaze to the cat in my lap. Beaker rolled her face around and over my tainted fingers and I obliged her with a good scritching. The long chocolate fur, which had already shed itself all over my interview suit, would drive me nuts, but I would accept it if it meant money in my pocket.
And money Mrs Handine had. The old lady lounged on a beautifully carved couch, upholstered in striped silk. I sat on a hard little matching chair. And were those fresh flowers on the hardwood coffee table between us? Billowy curtains draped the windows and spilled out along the floor. Beaker must love those, I mused.
"But I will be having very little to do with you," Mrs Handine inhaled sharply through her nose, "as I will have my own concerns." Her hands tightened on the cane as pain flickered through her gaze. I turned my attention to the cat until the paroxysm passed. Alexandar told me she hadn't long to live. "Your job will be to keep Beaker happy, and that you seem to do."
It's amazing what kitty pot would do for a cat. Beaker's purrs made the ends of her long fur quiver. She'd hooked her paws around my wrist and rubbed her face vigorously against my fingers.
Mrs handine let out a little grunt. "I will be honest with you. You were bottom of my list, despite Doctor Andrew's recommendation, but you are the only person that Beaker has liked and for that reason alone, I will hire you."
Yes! The job was mine. I confess I dreaded the thought of having to take a McJob just to stay in graduate school, but this was perfect: time to study, a place to live and a paycheck to boot. "Thank you," I replied, as genteely as I could while giving Beaker a good snuggle. Beaker gave me a mouthful of fur and continued to rub against my hand.
Mrs Handine rang a bell. "Charles will take you to fill out the paperwork."
As Charles, her butler, appeared at the door, I rose and put Beaker on the chair.
"No, no!" Mrs Handine spat, waving her arthritic hand at me. "Take Beaker with you. If I'm going to hire you, you might as well start today."
I retrieved Beaker, surprised at the suddenness of my employment. "Oh," I uttered. As the old lady raised an eyebrow, I amended my comment so it didn't sound like I was contrary. "Okay." Beaker kept her head buried in my hand as we left the room.
Charles, dressed in the suit I expected a butler to wear, closed the door softly behind us. Aside from the clothing, he was not what I expected a butler to be. He was youngish, possibly early thirties, in possession of all his mousy hair and rather bland of features. His voice was a light tenor. "Come on. I'll take you to the office."
I fell in step behind him, but he waited for me to catch up so I walked next to him. "Since you're going to be working here," he began, "I hope you don't mind me being blunt, Lucy."
"Hmm?" I looked up at the sound of my name. Beaker was trying to chew my knuckle off. How long did this catnip last?
"Why you?" Charles asked. "Why did Doctor Andrew recommend you?"
That was blunt! I stopped and gave myself the once-over. "Why? What's wrong with me?" I'd dressed neat and clean, and while I felt uncomfortable in my rarely-worn interview suit, it fitted nicely. My hair was brushed and I even wore makeup.
Charles didn't stop until he reached the top of the stairs. He laid a hand on the rail then turned to me. "You're single, for one, and you are well-to-do."
Well-to-do. Maybe once. Not now.
I liked this hook you'll recall for the premise of the novel, not the actual hook. One thing I notice here is a LOT of description and a lot of set up. I really prefer to get right to the point or get started in a much more energetic fashion. Contrast this with #8 below. They both start in the voice of the main character. There's actually a lot LESS information in #8 than there is here, but the effect (at least to me) was much more electric. We didn't get a lot of description, but what there was said something about what was being described AND about the describer (shell shiny hair).
Here we have generic description. We have generic responses. What's missing is what made me want to read the book...