Phoenix Chapter One: The Accident

Phoenix Chapter One: The Accident

A Chapter by SweetNutmeg

The Accident


Chapter One: The Accident

John Rogan is walking to Jewel Music to buy that lovely Fender, the guitar he’s yearned for so long. He stands on the corner of Walnut Street and Astley, in downtown Shermer, waiting for the light to turn green. His long dark hair is pulled back, and he is sporting his usual black jeans, motorcycle boots and leather motorcycle jacket 

When the light turns green and he steps off the curb to cross the street, he sees her on the other side of the street. Black bushy hair, pale skin and dark eyes. It's Allison Reynolds. Then it happens, in slow motion. He raises his hand to wave. She steps into the street. A car bears down on her. It clips her and she's airborne, flying in an arc. Then she smashes to the ground. The car comes to a halt and time speeds up again. In three bounds, Rogan is at her side. Allison is lying on her side, trying to sit up. Rogan kneels next to her.

"Don't get up. Just lie still."

She looks up at him, into his hazel eyes. Her plain black clothes are rumpled, her hair messy as usual. Rogan winces when he looks at her forehead, marred by scraped skin, dirt and blood. 

“Hey, no, you stay down," he says as she tries to rise. He's aware of the crowd collecting. "Just lie still, until the ambulance comes." 

"I don't need an ambulance. I'm fine."  She sounds sleepy, like someone woken from an unintentional nap. 

"C'mon, do me the favor, OK? Just stay still until the medics come." Folding his jacket, he slips it under her head as she subsides. 

"Thank you, Rogan." She touches his lean, well-muscled arm. “I'm not feeling so good.”

“The medics are on the way... Listen, hear the sirens? Just hang on.” He lets her curl her fingers around his strong wrist.

And then the medics are there, replacing him at her side. When they lift her onto the gurney and begin wheeling her, he follows quickly. Someone has handed him his jacket and the medic is asking her, “Can you say your name?” 

There is a bustle as her gurney is loaded into the ambulance. One medic climbs in beside her and the other turns to him. “You know her?”

Rogan nods.

“Sit up front, with me.”

The siren sounds funny from inside the vehicle and they drive very fast. The hospital is only five blocks away and sooner than seems possible, they arrive. The driver beckons him and points him to the ER entrance. The medic jogs along after Allison's gurney, which is disappearing inside. 

Following the big signs indicating the emergency room, he enters through large automatic doors and approaches the desk labeled “Check in.” There are three people ahead of him, but finally it is his turn.

“Allison Reynolds, they just brought her in. Can I see her?” 

The woman at the desk looks at her computer monitor and says, “John Rogan? Miss Reynolds has asked for you, but she is in an examining room and can't have visitors. You can sit in the waiting room. I'll have the security guard bring you back when you can join her.”

Rogan turns toward the waiting room. Rows of flimsy plastic chairs line the walls of the windowless room. He takes a seat near the door. He scans the room for any comfort and finds none. There is nothing to distract him, not even tables with stale magazines, just this bare, depressing room. Everyone seems sunk in their own pain or worry. One couple murmurs quietly, the woman wearing a surgical mask and coughing harshly, looking like hell in her pajamas. A man in paint-spattered work clothes holds his wrist in his lap, his face down, preoccupied with his own pain. Others seem to be waiting, as Rogan is, for word about a loved one. The large white clock on the wall seems to tick more slowly than seems right.    

It was almost exactly a year ago when Rogan last saw Allison. They were all together for the last time before Claire went off to school on the east coast. They had a great day on Lake Michigan, Allison, her boyfriend Andy and Rogan's girlfriend Claire. He has a picture of them all standing on a pier at sunset. Claire had left two days later. Allison and Andy were a year younger. They must still be in school, senior year. That day seems like a long time ago.   

His jacket has flecks of blood and dirt on it and he is brushing at them an hour later when the security guard calls his name. 

“You can sit with her now. She's back this way.” He leads Rogan through another automatic door, stout and wooden, labeled “Authorized Persons Only.” They navigate a maze of examination rooms until the guard shows him into room 706.

Allison looks small, propped up in the white bed, with a bandage on her left temple. 

“How you feeling, Allison?”

“Tired. And my head hurts. He said I have to wait, I can't go home yet. They need to do a C-T scan to see if there is any bleeding in my brain.”

Rogan pulls a chair up next to her bed.

“You want them to call your parents?” he asks. “You live with them?”

Allison gives a little laugh that turns into a cough.

“They're in Canada, camping. They wouldn't care anyway.”

“A boyfriend? You still with Andy?”

 “He's out of town, too, for a wrestling meet. You're the closest thing I have to family right now.” She reaches for his hand. “Can you stay with me?”

“I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. So, what brought you downtown, Al?"  

"I wanted some water colors. From the Artist's Guild. Two blocks down." 

"What are you going to paint?"

"Sunset on Lake Michigan. I have a photo to work from.”

“Oh yeah? When did you take it?”

Allison puts her hand to her head and doesn't answer immediately.

“Just lie still. You don't have to talk.” 

 He returns her slight squeeze and watches as she closes her eyes.


It takes almost three hours to complete the C-T scan. A young woman, a volunteer, enters pushing a wheel chair.

“I don't need that,” Allison protests.

“I know, honey, but it's regulations.” The woman wheels Allison out of the exam room. Rogan trails behind, feeling superfluous. They end up at a small booth where a tired looking man has reams of papers for Allison to sign. Finally the volunteer pushes Allison up to the front entrance of the hospital. A security guard calls them a cab on the house phone.

“They say I need someone to stay with me tonight. Wake me up a couple of times, make sure I don't get worse. Can you do that?” she asks.

“Sure, Allison. No problem.” 


He waits in the living room while she changes into pajamas. He wanders over to the mantle and looks at the framed pictures. They show Allison's parents at different locations, formal pictures and informal snap shots, at the beach, in ski gear, beside a tent in the woods. There is not a single picture of Allison. 

Allison gestures him into her bedroom, looking tired and drawn with pain. Some detached part of him notices the curves her snug t-shirt reveals and he feels like a complete a*****e. Doubly so, as she is still dating Andy. Focus, he tells himself. She's hurt and needs to get in bed. He's relieved when she pulls the covers up to her chin. Settling into the arm chair by the window, he prepares for a long night. 

As instructed, he wakes her at midnight and again at four. Both times she is coherent. At eight, he wakes to find cold morning light creeping in around the edges of the curtains. 

“Allison,” he says, touching her shoulder. “Allison, wake up for a second.” 

She dreamily opens her eyes and looks into his. “Thank you, Rogan. I'm not dead yet.” She gives him a sleepy smile and he has an insane desire to touch her face, kiss her neck, hear her sigh. He can't believe he's having sexy thoughts about a sick woman. He pulls up the covers that have slipped down. 

“You can go back to sleep.” Her eyes close and he leaves her side before he can act on his crazy impulses to kiss and stroke her warm skin. She's Andy's girl, off limits; he can't be having these thoughts about her. 

Rogan settles back in the arm chair and deliberately pushes his mind in another direction, thinking about Claire. Claire... that had been good while it lasted. She's on the east coast now, going to school at some fancy place her mother went to. Brown? Anyway, she is gone, their idyllic summer over. Because that was all they had: one summer. They both graduated and they'd always known she'd be leaving in August. 

And he'd been good, no other girls, just Claire. And now, now he has to keep his hands to himself. Not only does he not want to be trapped in one of Andy's wrestling holds, he respects him. Since Allison and Claire were such good friends, the four of them had spent a lot of time together over the summer. He found Andy a likable guy, not averse to a little doobage and talk about cars. That was about all they had in common, but that was okay. 

At noon, he is startled by Allison's touch on his arm. He's hunched and stiff from sleeping in the chair.

“Rogan, do you want to get in bed? You look uncomfortable.” 

“What? No, I'm awake. You feel better?”

“Yes. I've had some juice and toast, and my headache is better. You can go now, if you want. I'm ok,” she tells him.

“They said twenty four hours. I'd better stay.”

“Andy's on his way over. I'll be fine, unless you want to crash here for a while. You look tired.”

The idea of being surrounded by her scent in her bed is too much. He gets up. 

“No, I'll head on out, if Andy is here to take care of you.” 

She hugs him goodbye. He leaves before he has any fresh ideas about touching what isn't his.

© 2020 SweetNutmeg

Author's Note

Thank you for reading. I return all reviews, except poetry. All comments are welcome, large or small, critical or positive.

My Review

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Featured Review

Wow. This sounds like so many situations many of us have been in. Crushing on a friends guy or girl and not being able to do anything aound out out of loyalty and respect to said friend.
I have been in the exact same situation and now 11 years later found out that said friend had been crushing on me too! But wouldnt make a move out of loyalty to his then girlfriend!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thanks for reading and reviewing. Yeah, life is so tangled sometimes. We make the best choices we kn.. read more


I don't know if you can sustain this sort of detail in novel length but the writing seems very direct and focused. Keep up the good work. Cheers.

Posted 9 Months Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


9 Months Ago

Thanks for the review! I've tried to find the balance between enough detail to evoke strong images i.. read more
Fabian G. Franklin

9 Months Ago

You know who bores the reader with minute details? F. Scott Fitzgerald, that's who. If you've ever r.. read more
You do the thing I never do, which is get to the point right away.

Halfway through the first chapter and I think you've already set the stage. By the end of it I feel like I have a working sense of your world, the relationships and dynamics between the most important characters.

Probably good for me to read the work of people who are great at what I'm terrible at.

What stood out to me most, being a scene I can relate to and vouch for, is the first moment Rogan catches himself having inappropriate thoughts toward Allison. When someone you care for is frail, when it's your job to look after them, there's a tremendous intimacy in that. It comes across here as tender and genuine.

The only part of this chapter that feels off for me, and only slightly off, is when Rogan sits down and thinks about Claire. She's sophisticated, he's a metalhead, he taught her this and she taught him that. It's just a little too on the nose, I think, and reads like a character biography rather than Rogan's thoughts in that moment.

I'm certainly inclined to keep going with this. Eventually I need to stop finding new books to start reading on here, but not today.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago


1 Year Ago

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I made a note in my manuscript of your comment about Rogan sitt.. read more
I love the storyline. It's very much common in our daily lives. A lot of people can learn a lot from this story.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I tend to write about the daily lives of ordinary people. I'm g.. read more
I think this chapter is much improved over the previous version. It's quite good, really. One suggestion--I would leave off the very first word, "finally".

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thank you for coming back and rereading. I erased Finally as you suggested. It wasn't needed. I appr.. read more
The biggest problem I see is that for far too much of the time what we're reading is a transcription of you talking about visual details on the viewscreen in your mind, or background information that contributes nothing.

The first reason that approach gets in the way is that because you already know the story in detail, as you tell it you insert information that you "notice" but which the reader doesn't care about. As an example:

• It's Saturday afternoon, on a humid August day.

Why start with a weather report? The worst opening ever written was Bulwar-Lytton's "It was a dark and stormy night." Would the story change in the slightest if it was dry? No.If it was a Sunday? Again no. Would it change were it September? Nope. So why does a reader care, or need to know such detail? That matters, because the only purpose this line serves is to delay the beginning of the actual story.

• John Rogan is standing on the corner of Walnut Street and Astley, in downtown Shermer. Head and shoulders above most of the shoppers, he can see the guitars in the window of Jewel Music across the street.

As a minor point, you're trying to Jazz up the telling by placing it in present tense. It doesn't, because the "person" and tense you tell it in is an authorial choice as to the voice the NARRATOR will use. But the narrator is an intrusion, and interrupts the action. So no matter the tense, it needs to be kept to a minimum. As Sol Stein put it: “In sum, if you want to improve your chances of publication, keep your story visible on stage and yourself mum.”

For the one living the story as in life, it's always first person present tense. So, for a reader there is no difference between. "John Rogan is standing on the corner of Walnut Street and Astley," and "John Rogan was standing on the corner of Walnut Street and Astley," Both are the words of someone not in the story or on the scene, who's interrupting the action to explain things the reader has not asked to have explain. Moreover, in this case, the narrator jumps in to talk about visual detail that the reader can't see and doesn't need to. Most of what you mention are things the viewer would notice peripherally to the action, and in parallel with it. So such detail would take nothing from their enjoyment of that action, and slow that action not at all. But ours is a serial medium. When you stop the action to talk about things, serially you bring the action to a crawl.

That aside, in this line he can see musical instruments he never buys, in a specific intersection, in a mythical town. Why do I care how much he wants the guitar? It's not relevant to the plot. You have the wind push his hair so you can make the reader know it's long and the color. Does it matter to the action at this point? No. Does he ever look at his hair and say, "Damn, I have amber hair." ? No. So who's noticing this? You're not in the story. If it matters to the story that his hair is long, and amber, have the one it matters to tell him she likes it.

If we don't tell the reader what the protagonist looks like, for each reader, the protagonist looks like THEM. That works for you, not against you.

In other words: Start your story with story, not a lecture on things irrelevant to the plot, character, or to setting the scene meaningfully. Make-it-march. Keep your reader busy, and interested—involved—or they bail.

You're not in this story, or on the scene. So what matters to you and what you focus on is irrelevant. He knows the girl who will be hit by the car. That's relevant because it will make him react, emotionally, and by extension, the reader, too. How long it's been since he has seen her is irrelevant to-this-scene. It may matter when he has time to think about her, or talk to her. But right now she's about to be hit by a car. Who cares how long they've been apart, or why? She's about to be hit by a car!

As a storyteller, plot detail and backstory matters. But it doesn't matter to him in the moment called now, and HE'S both our avatar, and your protagonist. It's HIS story, and you're about to make life really difficult. So instead of talking ABOUT him, the weather, and how pretty his hair is, let him live his life. Give the reader excitement not detail and history. Give them something to worry about. Make them CARE! Fail that and they won't turn the page and learn how good your story is.

In general, you have three pages or less to change the reader's mild curiosity to active interest. So the closer to the top of page one you can do that, the better.

The second problem you face, and it's a killer, is that no one but you can hear emotion in the voice of the narrator. Your reader has no access to your intent for how they should perform as they read. All they have is what the words and punctuation suggests to THEM, based on THEIR background. And since you can't know that reader's background, you can't slant the words to make them meaningful to them, and they cannot know HOW you would read it, what have they got? Have your computer read this to you aloud, to hear how different what the reader gets is from how you would perform it.

There are lots of ways to get around that problem, but not one of them was given us in our school days, because professions are learned after we leave our schooldays. All those reports and essays you were assigned? They made you really good at writing essays and reports—nonfiction.

The solution is simplicity itself. Add the tricks of the trade to your current skills. Lots and lots of books on the subject. One I now recommend is here:

What you need to do it change from telling the story to making the reader live it.

- - - - Addendum:
Whoops. I just looked and saw that I've looked at your other book, and so want to add that this is dramatically better. You've picked up a lot of viewpoint tricks, but still, you need to get out of your head and into the protagonist. Ask yourself if it matters to that character in their moment of now. If not, that's not the place to place it.

Hang in there, and keep on writing.

Jay Greenstein

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thanks for your review. I really appreciate the time and effort you put into it.
I saw that you edited the chapter and came back to read it. It's a bit different than how I remembered it, more details, more backstories, which is great!

However, I'd like to point out two things.

1. In “A boy friend? You still with Andy?” did you mean "boyfriend" or "boy friend?"

2. "...the last summer he had with Claire" suggests they spent more than one summer together, while "...that was all they had: one summer" suggests the opposite.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

After my thousandth reread, I'm amazed this slipped everyone's eyes:

Black bushy hai.. read more

1 Year Ago

I was taught to not use Oxford commas, as the AP Stylebook does not. The Chicago Manual of Style doe.. read more

1 Year Ago

Noted! I'll turn that radar off for you.

I was taught so viciously to never EVER forg.. read more
The story flow is flawless so far and hooked me in right from the start. I personally love how you described Rogan. You mentioned the essentials, leaving enough for the imagination. There's just one small thing that I feel I need to point out. Rogan is tall and has long, dark amber hair, but ends there. Is he muscular? Skinny? Got a flabby beer belly? I'm curious. I haven't read all the chapters posted yet, but saving it for later when I get a chance to sit down and read thoroughly. When I'm done, I'll leave a proper review. I usually read to critique or review, but it's a bonus when I get to enjoy the story. Looking forward to reading the rest. :)

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I agree, I think his body type is pretty interesting in this ty.. read more
It wasn't until the volunteer brings Allison her wheelchair before I noticed that the chapter was written in present tense! I remember when someone told me to just stick to the past tense, but I think there are so many things the present tense offers that the past tense does not.

It's unfortunate that I, unlike other reviewers, cannot fully relate to how Regan feels because I'm an anarchical polyamorist and we don't have that "off limits" mindset. That doesn't mean you should change your writing in any way though.

I originally wrote this as a review return, but I don't think my writing skills are at that level where I can criticize such a beautiful and mesmerizing piece of writing.

I'll tell you what I thought about your description of Rogan's physical appearance though. Apart from the fact that he is tall and has long hair, I don't think there's anything else that tells me about his appearance. If this is all you wanted to reveal in this chapter, you're doing it right and not clumsily at all.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thank you for reading and reviewing. I'm glad you didn't get put off by the whole monogamy more

1 Year Ago

A writer I admire, Franklin Veuax, once said in a Quora answer that the first chapter should not be .. read more
I love a good romantic tale, and this one is shaping up nicely. Describing Rogan's appearance--My advice is to decide what features are most important, then release a bit at a time... brushing back his dark hair, Rogan said,... or Allison notices his dimples and smiles inside...
In my opinion, Allison is a bit too lucid immediately after getting hit by the vehicle. Perhaps she just gets bumped hard enough to throw her to the ground? If you want to stay with her getting air born, you might save the lucid conversation until later, after the birds quit flitting around her head. These are just my thoughts, offered for your consideration.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thank you for reading my story. I revised, keeping your comments in mind. I squeezed in the physical.. read more
Samuel Dickens

1 Year Ago

I'm most pleased to have helped.

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12 Reviews
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Added on June 23, 2019
Last Updated on February 17, 2020



***I am on hiatus and not returning reviews.*** I'm here to improve my writing. I love critiques that give me critical feedback, as well as praise. (Although, I do like praise. Gotta be honest.) A.. more..

Phoenix Phoenix

A Book by SweetNutmeg

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