Chapter One: Hale

Chapter One: Hale

A Chapter by Joshua Donahue

Forbidden. Evan (16) is forced to move from big city San Francisco, CA to small town Hale, SC after the recent death of his father which he is still trying desperately to cope with.




BY: J O S H U A  D O N A H U E

Chapter One



“Look, sweetie, I’ve told you this a million times before, we just have to move okay? That town�"San Francisco�"is just too dangerous, too expensive, and too darn big. It…It’s just not for us, okay? Is that good enough?” my mother said to me out of obvious frustration.

I turned my head away in response.

My mother, Elana Woods, wanted nothing but the best for me, and I knew that. It was just the fact that I hated to leave San Francisco. It was so big and so amazing; it appeared to be stuck in its own magnificent world of adventure. With cool weather, famous landmarks, and nearly a thousand shops all around (not including those of Chinatown), I couldn’t help but to smile at the City of Wonder. But so far, all my eyes had spotted while on the road were depressing features like steamy, mediocre sand, fragile-looking tumbleweeds, lonesome cacti, odd-shaped cliffs, and everything else that blended with a scorching desert scene.

My mom had decided to drive all the way to the East Coast in hopes of saving money instead of flying and having our car transported. I couldn’t have cared less, seeing as how I was going to sleep anyways, trying to escape my life.

Obviously, this was my first move.

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. It was my hometown�"my true hometown. I knew why we had to move of course, but picking fights with my mom�"was wrong, although it helped me overcompensate with the ruins that my life seemed had become.

My mother had been having a hard time keeping up with the bills starting six months ago. Things just seemed to get worse, harder, and rougher for us both since then. Six months ago was when tragedy attacked us out of nowhere: my dad died.

Things were easy when he was around; there were no worries at all. He always had a smile on his face no matter what was going on, and he seemed to turn the bad into good. In fact, he was the only person able to do that for my mom and me. Sometimes he would play videogames with me as we both tried desperately to block out the nagging of my mom informing us that staring at the television would ruin our eyesight. Other times, he and I would throw the football back and forth through the house as my mother laughed at the sight of us whenever we would plop down on the sofa in the middle of a catch. He basically did the cool stuff awesome dads typically do. But above all, he knew what it was like being a man. We connected on at least that and more.

Then his death occurred, shadowing everything. Because of the tragedy, my mom grieved interminably, making everything all the more pitiful. It seemed that his death just sucked the life out of her, draining her of all happiness that had once been inside. It was as if she was a robot powered by cheap, knockoff batteries. I wanted to breakdown and succumb to it just as my mother had, but I refused. I was determined to be stronger.

Since my father was a construction worker, he carried an insurance policy, but because he actually worked with his employers instead of just running the business like a dictator, the insurance settlement was revoked. Thus, we were left in a tight financial spot. I even resorted to shoplifting several times in order to get what I wanted, but my mother didn’t need to know about that, especially with the move and all. We were headed to some place in South Carolina. Hale, I think was the name of the small town. Or was it Hell? I couldn’t be sure which, but I knew my new path was destined to crumble regardless.

As my mother drove, I paid little attention to the outside world which flashed right by our vehicle. My too-overly optimistic mother tried so hard to get me to photograph famous landmarks like it was some celebrated road trip. Maybe she just didn’t get that this was hard for me and that all I wanted to do right now was crawl into a dark cave and live there for the rest of my life. Maybe she did get it and that was why she was trying so hard to get me to open up. Either way, I was planning to resent her for a while.

So here I am: riding in the passenger’s side of my mother’s white jeep in the beginning of April. The top was off and stuffed away somewhere under the few bags we had, and the wind was rustling through my black hair. My eyes, with their chocolate-amber tint, were feeling the full effects of the intense sun above, and my skin was attracting more of a tan than I already had, covering my Caucasian skin.

Since November of last year, I had become a sixteen-year-old guy who was�"unfortunately�"stuck in the lame tenth grade of high school. Only now, I was heading to the tenth grade of an unfamiliar high school.

Great. Just Great.

*      *      *

We drove a little bit longer. I had already listened to every song on my iPod at least three times and sent an uncountable amount of text messages from my cell phone. During the drive, more photos were taken, and in fact, I got out for one just to make my mother leave me alone. I did not smile, however. I produced a simple frown, waited for the flash, and then went back into the jeep. She tried jokes as well to lighten me up, but she was such a poor joke teller that it just made the entire thing worse. Were parents supposed to act like this?

Not long afterwards, I saw it: the sign that indicated the small town that my mother was dragging me all the way across the United States to�"Hale, South Carolina. 

This place deserved the title “village” rather than “town” actually. It merely contained a post office, a small gas station, a tiny fish camp, a bank, a movie rental store, a small mini mart, and a church. Oh, and not to mention only two stoplights! Instantly, I could tell that it was one of those places where everybody knew everybody, and if anything big happened, then the whole town would know about it in an hour. It was just so little!

Nothing. Like. San Francisco. At. All.

My mother looked at me and forced a smile upon her face.

I just looked away disgustingly.

We passed through Hale so fast that it took only about eighteen seconds. Afterwards, we turned onto a back street by the gas station and passed several other streets with pleasant-looking houses. They all seemed to be inspired by a scene from Mary Poppins, with children playing gleefully in front yards. Then we turned onto MCGREGOR STREET. The street had houses lined on each side�"most of them white, but all with various shades of window shutters.

It just seemed too happy and peaceful. Where was the drama or the excitement? Did these people just live off of birds, grass, and the sunshine? It was like watching one of those wretched PBS Kids shows where they tell you what a wonderful place the world can be.

I could already tell that the name of this town was indeed wrong. It was not Hale like the sign had indicated, but Hell below my feet. Only, instead of under me, it was now around me.

My mother turned into the driveway that had number 592 imprinted on the mailbox. It was the only home with the biggest front yard. But other than that, it looked just like any other house around: happy and joyful. It did have a small, waist-high fence that outlined the perimeter�"again, another Mary Poppins setting. The structure itself was two stories with black shutters encasing the windows. The only other noticeable thing about it was that there were two moving trucks in the front yard, depositing all of our belongings at the front door.

My mom had told me the house was a family heirloom she had inherited. But still, I loved our townhouse from before coming to Hale. I would welcome it back into my surroundings today if I could.

Upon parking in the garage, my frantic mother rushed over to the movers to make sure that none of her stuff was being mishandled, leaving me to sulk�"thankfully. Contrary to her actions, I took no rush to get out of the jeep. In fact, I took my time, gathering all of my electronic paraphernalia and piling it into my traveling bag designated for useless moments that related to uprooting my life and destroying it by moving across the country.

Procrastinating no longer, I climbed out. When my sneakers touched the concrete below me, I could instantly sense the outlandishness of the place now surrounding me. (The boringness was everywhere, I knew). I didn’t need to glance around any longer because I already knew what I wouldn’t see: San Francisco. I let out a small groan of frustration, and walked through the doors of my new life.

I found myself in the kitchen. It had hard wooden floors with an island counter in the middle and cabinets everywhere. I roamed around until I found the stairs�"I passed a dining room, a living room, a closet, and a bathroom along the way. Most of them were being furnished by the movers, so I continued on upstairs so not to be an obstacle for them.

After I climbed the stairs, I glanced into every room. All of the rooms were already furnished the way my mother had instructed the movers before we left, so it was easy to find mine.

It was painted a pearly white, with a black, fluffy carpet to boot�"the curtains were checkered to match the color scheme. All of my CDs were on a shelf with my small stereo under it, and my laptop was on the desk by the window. My gaming systems were already hooked up to my television, waiting to be played. My bed was in the corner of the room, covered with black sheets; the other junk that belonged to me was either on the shelves, in a dresser, or in the closet. Everything was fit to my taste, I concluded.

I wanted to kick off my shoes, crawl onto the bed with my laptop, and check my email. And I did just that.

I had about thirty new email messages from my friends, and then another hundred or so that were ads or pop-ups wanting me to buy some product. It took me about an hour to read the important ones and reply to them. Most of them were asking me how my new home was and what it was like in Hell, or Hale rather. Irregardless, I was a slow typer. I pecked at the keyboard at a slow pace (which was indicative of my F in typing class). After I was done, I went to Google and typed in Hale, South Carolina. I wanted to get some information on the place. Was there some secret hangout I had not seen on my way in? Was there secretly a Stepford wife thing going on here? I could only hope. According to the web, there was only one unique thing that helped explain Hale better: at the local video store, if you rent two movies, you get the third free on Mondays, according to their advertisement. Wow, how exhilarating that bit of information was!

Irritated with my research, I logged out and put the laptop to sleep. I laid it down on the bed’s soft sheets and went to the window, opening the blinds. The sun was going down, and I could see everyone on McGregor Street: men mowing the front lawn, children playing Hop-Scotch on the sidewalk, people going for a jog and walking their dogs, and old couples resting on their front porches in rocking chairs, watching the youth of the town roam freely.

The warmth that the sunset provided was as if it was seeping into the Earth’s surface. This was unusual to me. Back in San Francisco, it was just warm enough to get by, if not cold or cool. The weather would be yet another change for me to have to adjust to. The colors, however, were remarkable. They streaked across the sky, surrounding the sun, as if a small child had been messing with paints mixed with bright, vivid colors together to produce the scene before me. I had to admit: it was magnificent. But then I remembered where I was and the current predicament I was in. I looked away in repulsion.

Glancing back through the view, my eyes detected that the movers had apparently left. I also noticed a single tree in our front yard that reached a little above my window, providing shade. I liked that, because I loved the dark. Darkness was my home, a shield and protection for me.

Interrupting my train of thoughts, came the loud laughter of my mother. Happiness spurred inside of me because my brain couldn’t remember hearing my mom laugh since…since before things changed. Then confusion burst through my mind because I didn’t have the faintest clue as to why she was even laughing. I closed the blinds of my window and crept down to check it out.

She was talking to a man and a woman who looked like they were in their middle thirties, I observed. The woman was wearing a dark-colored skirt and a pink top; the man was wearing a pair of khaki pants and a blue sweater. Great, I’m officially surrounded by a pile of yuppies, I said to myself. I also noticed that my mother was holding something that was either a casserole or a cake. But just as I was observing the scene from the stairway, my mother saw me and said, “Evan! Come meet Mr. and Mrs. Woods! They are your aunt and uncle. Your dad’s brother and his wife.”

I came out of hiding, walked on over casually like I hadn’t been snooping, and I shook their hands with reluctance, but hiding my emotions well.

“Hello, young man. I am Daryl Woods. And this is my wife, Sarah Woods,” the man said as neighborly as possible.

Honestly, I had never thought of having an aunt or an uncle or any other kind of relative. It just didn’t seem important in my San Francisco life. My mother had never talked about my relatives, so I never asked. Standing here, facing this man who was supposedly my uncle, was awkward, to say the least.

“Hello, I am Evan. Evan Woods.” I tried to put on a grin for them, but it was a little too forced, so I pushed it away.

“Yes. I have heard all about you. My brother’s son, and my nephew no doubt,” Daryl said. “So what grade are you in, son?” 

“Ten�"Tenth grade,” I stammered. I only hesitated because a pungent and unpleasant odor came from the stranger. It was stifling, to put it mildly. It was as if he had taken a bath in three bottles of cologne.

“Yes, you are a Woods indeed,” he chuckled, examining me thoroughly. He zoomed in on me so disturbingly that I almost thought he was going to devour me like a piece of meat.

“So the move is going well, then?” Sarah asked with such a soft and gentle-like voice towards my mom.

“Oh yes. Very much. Evan has been in his room since we arrived. I think he really likes it.”

I didn’t feel like arguing with her, so I just ignored her comment by letting out an annoyed sigh.

Daryl glanced down at his watch. “Well, I hate to cut this introduction short, but Sarah and I have to go pick up Derek and Michael who are at a friend’s house expecting a ride home. So you’ll come then, right?” He looked as if he would miss looking at me, like I was a prize possession he wanted.

He looked at my mother expecting a response to his question.

“Umm, yes. Saturday, right? At one ‘o clock?” she answered and questioned simultaneously.

“Yes. We’ll see you then, Elana. It was very nice to meet you for the first time, Evan. But we’ll get to know more about each other on Saturday. I’ll see you two there. And if there is anything you need at all, just give us a call!”

“And I hope you really enjoy the cake! It was nice seeing you, Elana, and nice meeting you, Evan. Bye,” Sarah said while following her husband out the door.

Daryl and his wife Sarah were out of the house.

However, I looked out the window just to make sure before I asked: “Saturday? What’s Saturday?”

She stalked off to the kitchen with the gift from Sarah in her hands, ignoring my question.

Of course, I was very persistent, so I was determined to get that answer out of her. I wanted to know what useless event my mother had just pushed us into. I followed behind her.

“What’s Saturday?” I questioned again, anger beginning to rise in me.

She was placing the pan�"which had the cake in it�"into the fridge. Then she turned and looked at me like she was still deciding on how to answer me.

Well?” I said with a bit of accusation in my voice.

“Oh alright, Evan. Seeing as how you can’t leave anything alone. Saturday we are attending a family cookout over at the Woods’ place. Both my family and your father’s will be there. There. Satisfied?”

“No, I’m not satisfied, and I’m not damn going.”

“Watch your mouth! And yes. You. Will. Evan Woods. That is the whole reason we came to this town: for you to meet and get to know some of mine and your father’s relatives.”

“Don’t say ‘we’ as if we both decided to move here to this hell hole! You and I both know that you made this decision, not me. Besides, like I care about  meeting people that are supposedly kin to me.  I’ve never even heard of them in my entire life! And I’m sure I can continue my life without them!”

“Evan Woods, we moved here for a good reason. And these people are not supposedly kin to you, either. They are kin to you, and you will go whether you like it or not.”

I scowled at her. I gave a grumbling murmur, and I stormed out of the kitchen to my room.

I plowed onto my bed when I got there and dug my head deep into the pillows, letting out a groan to help relieve the stress. How could she? Who did she think she was?

Oh, right, my mother. Duh, I thought.

Of course I loved her, but sometimes she just made me so…so…ill!

I let out another roar into my pillow. And another. And then three more after that. I was starting to feel a little better now, although my throat was not.

So many changes…

So many new things…

So many head spins…

It was all just too much of “so many” going on right now.

Then, releasing my head from my pillow, I thought: what’s today?

I searched my brain for a moment and realized that it was Thursday. I had two more days to convince my mother that I was not going to that cookout!

Two more days to prepare for the worst.

And two more days to cope with the fact that I was indeed going to have to go Saturday, no matter how much I wanted to resist and ignore the fact.

How bad could it be? I pondered to myself.

Then, weirdly enough, I fell asleep on my unfamiliar bed, not being able to answer my own question that was nagging me consistently.


© 2011 Joshua Donahue

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Author's Note

Joshua Donahue
FINAL VERSION 04.16.11: A much improved version has been added thanks to an English master of mine who is reviewing this for me. (Only grammar/vocabulary edits have been made. Plot changes may be made at a later date). Thanks.

v4.0 UPDATE: Some corrections were made regarding grammar and confusing words. Thanks reader!

v3.0 UPDATE: In v1 and v2 Evan use to live in an apartment. But to accommodate for a scene in a later chapter, it was changed to a townhouse. They are very common in San Francisco. :)

This is my first chapter of my novel. I hope you enjoyed it and continue reading on. Also, please inform me of ANY mistake, typo, or error that I have made. Thanks.

p.s. please leave any kind of feedback (good and bad). If you review my stuff (good or bad) I WILL review yours. If I haven't reviewed it within a couple of days after your review, please message me.

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Featured Review

Suggestion one... change the font size. It's a little hard ta read.

As far as information goes.. sometimes, more often than not, it's easier and much more efficient ta break the expostition up amongst the first COUPLE'a chapters, instead of puttin so much right in the first one.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.


Hmm, I think this would be a stressful situation for anyone, but for a teen I think it would be major. And meeting relatives you never even knew you had....? Yikes for most people!!!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Pretty interesting. Moving from San Francisco to some small tiny town would be like moving to an alien planet I would think and having to go meet relatives you didn't even know existed, ugh, awful I think! Nicely done first chapter.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

2 of 2 people found this review constructive.

This is a great novel so far. You've done really well starting to make round characters and giving them a backstory. You write with real maturity. I'm not very nit-picky about grammar at this stage unless it's horrible. Yours is fine, but remember it in the polishing stage, of course.

There are a few things I'd like you to think about as you edit, though. One, I don't know where this is going yet but I see from the tags that this is going to be a werewolf story, about a teenager going from a large metropolis to a small town. That sounds like TWILIGHT to me. Be careful to write this in your own voice or it becomes fan fiction.

Two, you are taking the reader, me, on a journey. I'd like to explore Evan's world with you. When I'm on a journey, I understand that I'm not going to know each character at the outset, what they look like, where they come from, etc. Wait to give me bits of information as they come naturally to the story. For example, you don't need to tell me Evans' mother's name if later in the chapter you say it again more naturally.

Three, the Golden Rule: Omit needless words. This is more a polishing thing but I find it helps to go through each draft with this in mind. It's not necessary to say that Evan said something to himself mentally. Find concise, clear ways of saying things.

Four, read Kafka on visual description. I use Kafka as an example because I love Kafka. Use who you want. But, instead of giving me a laundry list of what Evan looks like - which is largely unimportant unless it becomes a major issue later - find more literary ways of describing him if you must. The same goes for the house and the bedroom. You do a beautiful job of describing San Franscisco's palette, do the same for everything you describe, or ask yourself do you NEED to describe this? An example is the way JK Rowling describes Harry Potter in her series. She describes Harry's hair, eye color, weight and glasses but not much else because these four aspects give you a clear enough description of him and are also important later in the story (ie he has his mother's eyes, his father's hair, his glasses constantly break which gives Hermione some business, and being skinny and small shows that he needs to rely on smarts not brawn).

Five, work on dialogue. You do fairly well with this but remember to read dialogue OUT LOUD. Your ear will hear what your mind does not.

Don't think this is a bad review from the amount of advice. In fact, this is a very good review. I think this is one of the most promising chapters I've seen in a while and I'm excited to read the rest.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Love the first person narration. You capture the adolescent emotional roller coaster well. Good detail on the back story, more would be good, less would damage the attraction of the piece that you created with this first chapter. You brought Evan to life here... that's a draw for a reader. well done.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

The start is good. You probably will want to do a little more rewriting and copy editing before submitting this for publication. I noticed the following when I read through this chapter.

I was born and raised in San Francisco, California. It was my hometown---my true hometown. I knew why we had to move of course, but picking fights with my mom---was wrong, yes---but it helped me overcompensate with the ruins that my life seemed so miserably left in. (You might want to read this aloud. You have but back to back in it. It would probably work, but it stood out when I read it)

I just looked away disgustingly. (disgusted might be a better choice)

They all seemed to be inspired by a scene from Marry(Mary) Poppins, with children playing out in the yards.

My mother turned into the driveway that had the number 592 imprinted on the mailbox. It was the only home that had the biggest front yard.(Maybe reword the last sentence. Biggest implies other big yards do you mean It was the home with the biggest front yard?)

San Francisco; so I let out a groan of small horror and frustration, and then I rushed up into the house.( maybe "I let out a small groan of horror and frustration" might work a little better)

I passed a dining room, a living room, a closet, and a bathroom along the way, I recalled. (I don't think you need recalled at the end, if you put it at the beginning it would work, but it just seems to be hanging out when you put it at the end.)

She was placing the pan---which had the now-realized cake on it---, into the fridge. Then she turned and looked at me like she was depending(trying to decide or deciding?) on how to answer me

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

Hi, at first I have to say it did seem a bit boring but after reading it longer, you get more and more interested in the story. I find Evan a very funny and cool character, you use a lot of good description on the surroundings which is great because you can almost see Evan's journey to Hale. Great read. I can't wait to read the next chapter.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Okay, in terms of character development this chapter is a homerun. Evan is a really interesting character. I feel that most readers can connect, even with his negative emotions given his age. The perception of the characters around him is good also. I'll keep reading. Great start!

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I esspecially enjoy Evan's reactions to the move. I can relate to it a bit. Just a bit, because I moved from a small town, to a big city. But I can see where he's coming from.

I love the word play you put on 'Hale' and 'Hell'. I have done wordplays multiple times in stories.

My favorite line: Who did she think she was? Oh right, my mother. Duh. A very amusing line. A question asked by many teenagers, and answered quite simply.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Hey mate loving this chapter im 17 an can relate well with the characters doing a good job keep it all up. Im new to the site but i got a fair amount of work on i prefer stories and books to poetry but still love the odd poem. i also read a few poems you did, good work keep it up dude.

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

that was a good start. it's very descriptive & near the end of the chapter talking about the event on saturday keeps readers hooked on what's going to happen next. ~~

This review was written for a previous version of this writing

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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Joshua Donahue
Joshua Donahue

Jefferson, SC

UPDATE! 06.27.13 Hello, WritersCafe! I realize that I have abandoned my account since the summer of 2013. Since then I have started college, and I have experienced... a lot. However, this does no.. more..


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