Updated: Aug 25, 2020
This week I edited my flash piece, HOMECOMING, based on EDITOR feedback. These editor edits showed how awful I am at my commas, and where I needed to fill out a little more information for the reader to connect with my MC.
Below, I've shared Jeni's comments on my 3rd draft and beneath that you can read my 4th and final draft of my flash piece which came in at just over 1100 words after edits. Next week I'll do up a brief wrap-up on my thoughts and the overall experience so make sure to check back for that.
Homecoming Draft Four (Editor critique)
The radio crackles, speakers buzzing to life for the first time in eighty-six days. I sit bolt upright, my breath catching in my throat, and I reach for the dial to hone in on the interference.
We’d given up hope. But not me. He’s still out there—he has to be. He knows we won’t survive the winter without a decent scavenge, and he promised he’d make it home no matter what. Even if most of us had given up when the resupply mission didn’t return, I didn’t. A month and a half late doesn’t mean they’re all dead.
The radio static fades, and I fiddle with the dial a moment longer, unwilling to believe the sudden activity is nothing more than interference. It can’t be a coincidence.
After the base was overrun last month, the Leaders declared the away-team lost to the wreckage of our old society. They presumed our best eighteen people—if they made it back north alive—wouldn’t be able to find the message left at the overrun base, let alone track us to our new location twenty-four kilometers away.
But I refused to accept their deaths, even after the funerals. Of course, I mourned those lost at base the morning we were forced to flee the incursion, but I will not believe Dale isn’t coming home.
The radio crackles and dies before I can even try to catch the signal.
My heart races. There’s no such thing as coincidence. Not out here. Not anymore.
It has to mean someone, somehow survived the trip south, made the perilous journey back to our old camp in the Yukon wilderness, found the note in our still-overrun base, and made it into transmission range of our new camp in Whitehorse. It was the longest of shots, but it wasn't impossible. Not for my stubborn-as-hell Dale.
The radio crackles again, this time four letters make it through the airwaves.
The radio buzzes, and despite my desperate tuning, I am unable to get the voice back. But it’s them. To use the letter designation for the military detachment they’d come from had to mean it was them. Right?
I press the button on the mic and use the code word for the team. “Grey Squirrel, is that you? Over.”
I release the button and wait for a response.
The radio crackles, and a few broken syllables make it through. “CF…bas…doned …veru…”
Static fills the air, then silence.
After a long moment, I depress the button again. “Grey Squirrel, you’re breaking up. Say again, over.”
I release the button and listen in anticipation.
When the radio crackles again, the male voice is mostly clear. “We are in a helicopter.” Static. “…low on fuel…” More static. “Grey Squirrel coming home if we can fin...” A final burst of static. “Just on the outskirts of Whitehorse. Over.”
My heart leaps. I recognize the voice. “Dale? Is that you? Over.”
“Yes… no time…need location… fumes. Over.”
“I have to go to the roof.” I shout into the mic. “Look for a flare. I’ll be waiting, on the roof of the white building near the river.”
The mic falls over in my rush to push back my chair; the rubber stoppers squeal on the linoleum floor. My fingers fumble in the flare box on the highest shelf, closing around a slender stick, and I’m grateful we aren’t out of these too.
I dash toward the door.
Another burst of static. “Less than five min… Over.”
Skidding to a stop, I turn back to relay a quick final message “I’m on my way to the roof. No one manning radio. Look for visual confirmation of location in two. Over and out.”
The mic wobbles when I set it down, but I’m out of the room before it settles. Unable to contain my excitement, I sprint down the corridor. I want to shout for everyone to wake up, that they’ve come home, but I think twice before waking people. I don’t know who exactly is all with them.
The team didn’t leave with a helicopter. Returning in one is a surprise, but Dale knows how to fly from his time in the Canadian Airforce. Where did they find a working helicopter in the brutal, scavenged world down south? How did they find fuel to get them home? It didn’t matter now. All that matters is they are close.
Once through the living quarters of our warehouse and into the open expanse, I break into a full-out run. The high windows of the warehouse reveal the first rays of sunlight just lightening the sky beyond. My feet pound on the concrete, and I make quick work of running up the three flights of stairs. These stairs have become my daily exercise routine, and they can’t slow me down.
Not when Dale is this close.
I burst through the door to the roof and scan the horizon to the south, then to the east. While I can’t see much in the early morning light, the sun just cresting the horizon, in the distance, the faint thwomp thwomp thwomp of helicopter fills the still, early-morning air. My thundering pulse nearly drowns it out. Dale is almost here. After all this time, he’s finally home. The engine stutters then settles back into rhythm. They must be lower on fuel than I feared. But they’ll make it. They’re so close. And we desperately need whatever supplies they are carrying if we’re to make it through the harsh upcoming winter.
Striking the flare, I hold it high over my head, but I don’t feel visible enough. The buildings around me aren’t very tall, but I don’t want them to miss me. What if the flare isn’t bright enough? It might be difficult to see with the rising sun. They have to see me. How can I get higher?
I turn and scan the area for anything to give me more height, then I spot some stray pallets stacked against the side of the stairwell I’d just come up from. The roof of it would work well. It’s higher than anything surrounding the warehouse. Struggling with the flare and the unstable slats of the pallets, I manage to climb up and stand on the highest point of the building, and holding onto a rusted pole, I lean out and wave the flare wildly.
Soon, the thwomping reverberations draw near. Dale is almost with me, he’s almost home, hopefully with the supplies to get us through the winter. Even if the supplies aren’t what we hope for, at least we’ll be together again. Once we’re together, we can get through anything.
As the helicopter comes into view, I wave my arm in a wild hello, the bright flare a beacon welcoming them home.
Week 4 Triumphs
Seeing my edits come back from the editor with minimal, straightforward to fix, notes.
Week 4 Challenges
Getting it done! With the medical issues I experienced this week, I had a difficult time getting things ready on time.
Commas. I HATE commas. I'm terrible with them, so I either put too many in or leave too may out for fear of putting too many in. I'm never sure which is worse. Thankfully, Jeni was patient with my errant commas and corrected them where I missed (or had too many)
<<Week Three: Peer Critique Week Five: Wrap-up (Coming Soon)>>
About C.M. Fick
C.M. Fick is a writer from British Colombia, Canada. She's recently finished her 6th ms titled #GreenDeath, launched QueryConnection (a forum for querying writers to workshop their query letters), and is also a co-host and admin for the Twitter event #Write4Life.
When she's not writing, managing forum business, or networking with other writers, she's running around after a 5 year old who rules her life.
This is her first Writer-In-Motion.