HH Com Rd 2 -#38 (325)

A Tajistan Love Story, humorous novel (hook here)

Jason pulled into the parking lot a few minutes past eight and swore when he saw the rusty station wagon -- Tumba’s station wagon. Tumba would be waiting in the lobby, and if Tumba or any of his ever-accompanying brothers and cousins saw him, the day would be ruined. Luckily there was a backdoor.

He walked around to the back of the large office building and saw the morning group of smokers. He nodded hello and punched in the door code--a code supposedly known by only the landlord and the security guards, but common knowledge among anyone who smoked or parked in the back lot.

Jason climbed the stairs to the fifth floor, the back door to the International Community Center. Aliya and Borris were standing on the landing, drinking black coffee from clear glasses. When they saw it was Jason and not the landlord, they pulled out their lit cigarettes hiding behind their backs.

“Dobro yutro.”

“Zdravo,” replied Jason.

“How was the wedding?” asked Borris.

“It was good,” said Jason opening up the back door. “I wish I was still there.”

“Of course you do,” said Aliya in a heavy Bosnian accent. “There are a group of Meshketian Turks in the conference room waiting for you. They have been camped out here for the last few days.”

“Abdul couldn’t help them.”

“Don’t be foolish,” said Aliya. “Abdul can’t even keep track of his own people. They are mad about something. You also have someone waiting for you in your office.”

Jason forced a grin and stepped into the back hall, avoiding the lobby and the conference room.

Walking into the small office he shared with Abdul, he saw a man wearing a dark suit with a briefcase. The man had brown skin and Asian features. He looked like someone from Central Asia, the region where Jason had lived as a Peace Corps volunteer less than a year ago.

“Jason Landers. I am from the Tajistan Embassy. There is an important matter we need to discuss.”

Jason’s thoughts swirled in multiple directions. What was someone from the embassy doing here in Boise? Had someone died that he knew? Did they find out about the hundreds of pirated CDs and movies he snuck out of the country?

“What do you need to talk to me about?”

The man opened his briefcase and handed Jason a letter bearing multiple official stamps and signatures.

“I am here regarding the unpaid taxes you owe the country of Tajistan.”

“I thought we didn’t need to pay taxes while living in your country.”

“You were wrong. Any income made while living in Tajistan is taxable. I have brought the regulations if you would like to check.”

“This is ludicrous,” thought Jason. “I got paid $150 a month as a volunteer and now they want me to pay taxes on it.”

It was also bad timing. He only had $17 left in his checking account after spending all his money on the trip last week. His mom could probably loan him the hundred bucks or so he owed and he could pay her back.

“So how much do I owe you?”

“Fifteen million seven hundred thousand Tenge, which is roughly equivalent to five hundred thousand U.S. dollars.”

Daniel stared at the man in disbelief and then a smile came across his face.

“I get it now. I send Alex a letter from the D.C. Health Department saying his name came up in a syphilis contact investigation, and now he is sending me one of his friends claiming I owe half a million dollars in back taxes. He told me at the wedding he was going to get back at me. Are you even from Central Asia?”

“Mr. Landers, this is no prank. The government of Tajistan never jokes about taxes or the esteemed president Tajimbav.”

The admiration and hint of fear in his voice for President Tajimbav immediately told Jason the man was in fact from Tajistan. Tajimbav was considered a god in Tajistan and a comical lunatic by everyone else outside of the country.

This is really over written. You spell out everything (he walked, he opened, his thoughts swirled).

The essence of comedy is the unexpected twist. There's nothing unexpected here cause you've spelled everything out like it's a road map or a daily briefing.

You had a great line in the hook that indicated you know how to write unexpected things. Find your inner pratfall. This ain't it.


Anonymous said...

If you don't think of it as a comedy and write it as a straight story it might work. I say that because you definitely don't understand comedy, but I think you do understand story telling. By writing it as straight story telling you would play on your strengths. Besides, I wrote a satire a few years ago, then found out there is very little market for satire. An editor told me the problem is partly the risk that satirists will end up alienating their readers and not entertaining them. That might not be the best choice of genres.

Anonymous said...

I stopped reading at "Jason climbed the stairs to the fifth floor,". At that point I started skimming ahead to find the beginning of the story.

The last thing I read was "Walking into the small office he shared with Abdul,". At that point I figured we were going to see more of the same pleasantries as I'd read in the first three paragraphs, got bored, and stopped entirely.

You need to start with something important. By the time you actually get to something important (upon reread this appears to be the meeting with the man from Tajistan which started right after the point I stopped), you've already lost me.

McKoala said...

It seemed to take a long time for him to get anywhere. I'm not sure that you're starting in the right place - maybe straight into the conversation?

Rhease said...

I read this through and agree with the previous commenter. If you started this with the meeting with the tax man, you'll be getting right to it without all the step by step description of him going into the building. Was any of it relevant?
But I liked your voice and would have read on to see where the story went. The opening could have used a prune, is all :)
Congrats on getting to stage 2, author :)

BernardL said...

I liked your start, but I read a lot of Tom Clancy novels. This is a very rough show for someone trying to preview a novel length story with 750 words. I guess you're required to make a hook out of your first few pages if you make it into the second stage. The secret being to start your novel like the first Jaws book, with a 'jump the shark' approach. :)

Georgiana said...

Quotation marks are your friends. Don't neglect them.

Anonymous said...

He didn't neglect the quotes, they got mangled by software issues.

The dialogue seemed stilted. Your foreign characters can get away with speaking like a grammar textbook, but Jason can't.

Get out the pruning shears and best of luck.