Well I Did It

Here is the brand new opening to The Face of A Lion (if I decide to keep it this way. Still not happy about cutting out the bazaar entirely. This version was created for Nathan Bransford's Suprisingly Essential First Page contest):

Austin met the cat on his first afternoon in Turkey.

Bored with helping his parents clean their villa, he set out to explore the neighbourhood. Every couple of minutes he climbed onto the stone wall edging the road, as a car or bus full of tourists whizzed past, a stench of diesel fuel wafting behind. Once the roar of each vehicle faded, the seaside sounds rushed back into his ears: children’s shouts, the drone of motorboats slicing the water, cicadas buzzing in the distant tops of fir trees. And below everything, the rhythmic crash of waves breaking one after another on the sand, carrying through all other sounds, like a low note in an extended piece of music.

He waited on the wall as another car zoomed by, then peered through the exhaust and added up the houses he had passed. His Mum had said there were only fifty houses in her childhood, but at the fig tree he had reached forty, plus fourteen for two blocks he had forgotten to count, that made –

An unearthly howl filled the air, drowning out the disappearing rumble of the car. It came again, close at hand, and Austin ran to the crossroads. The wall here fell away in a sharp drop to the weed-filled garden of a boarded-up villa. On a patch of paving stones, two boys crouched over a thin grey cat; one gripped its front paws as the other tied something to its tail. The cat wrenched and jerked on its back legs.

“Hey, what are you doing?"

Austin’s yell was swallowed by the roar of two buses passing in quick succession and a watermelon seller's truck lumbering up the street. He looked down, prepared to risk a jump, and saw a garden shed directly below. He leaped, and as the boys looked up, hands still on the squirming cat, he vaulted off the shed’s roof to stand beside them.

"What do you think you’re doing?"

"Abi, yabancı bu."

"Bizden büyük. Ya birini çağrırsa?"

"Hadi gidelim."

He felt he had understood their speech, though that was obviously impossible. They seemed to decide that he was older and bigger, as well as a foreigner. As one, they let go of the cat and ran off.

He bent and untied the twine binding two tin cans to a tail puffed out and crackling with electricity. The cat crouched low on all four paws, eyes wide and ears back, but did not move as Austin broke away the last of the metal and tossed it aside. He stroked the cat between the ears.

"Thank you, Augustine."

He tipped over, and gripped the cat's tail to steady himself. The cat flinched, but stayed still, yellow eyes staring. "Thank you."

Austin heard a chirping sound, similar to the ones his parents' old cat used to make. Not meowing or purring, just chirping, like a new species of bird. But below that note, he could have sworn the cat had spoken in English.

[The rest, which I had to cut, goes like this:]

He sat and stared back for a few moments into the unblinking eyes, then said the first thing that came into his mind.

"My name's not Augustine, it's Austin. After my great-grandfather."

Away in the background he could hear the ordinary cries of beachgoers, the drone of cicadas, and the crash of surf. Then the chirping English came again. "In Latin, your name is Augustine, or Augustus. In Greek it would be Σεβαστός." Sebastos. Austin heard the chirp, the soft Greek letters, and yet understood the name as if it was in English.

"But no one speaks those languages anymore!"

"Perhaps not here, Augustine. However, in return for your kind gesture today, rescuing me from those young hooligans," the cat rested a paw on his knee, "I may be able to do something for you. Not a favour, exactly, but I fancy you're a little bored here?"

"How did you know?"

"You were not walking with a friend and you had time to notice an animal in distress." The cat sat up, so that they were nearly face to face. "I can lead you to an adventure."

"An adventure? Where would we go?"

"Not where but when."

Comments

AYDIN ÖRSTAN said…
>çağrırsa?

There is an undotted i between the g & the r. The verb is çagirmak.

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