This is part of a scene from an old version of a chapter of my novel. I like the conflict between James and Zaddock, but after this semester’s experiments with my tone, style, voice, and structure, the writing feels so stiff to me. I might grab a few descriptions to reuse, but for the most part, this scene will likely remain deleted.
Two days later, the bell rang from the lookout again. I was in the stables when I heard the chimes fill the air. The horses here were majestic creatures. Abner’s own reminded me of Katherine for they were both Thoroughbreds, but Abner’s horse—called Barnaby—was different from the mild-mannered mare of my childhood. He was younger, and far more spirited. But he had the same white star pattern between his eyes that Katherine had. My father had said it reminded him of a jewel, so that’s why he named her after the queen of one hundred years ago.
Barnaby nuzzled my palm and I pat that star before leaving the stables. The lookout was on the armory, which made sense as the two long guns were perched on the lookout deck. I wasn’t technically supposed to be in the armory without permission, but my curiosity got the better of me; I wanted to see what the bell was for. I slipped inside, spotting a trio of soldiers in the midst of the room. At the moment, all of their backs were turned so I took the stairs two at a time, and almost ran into Gibbons at the top.
“Oh, pardon me.”
“Mr. Stanworth,” he greeted with a tilt of his head. “Weren’t you supposed to stay out of the armory?” He was smiling. I was certain he recalled giving me a brief overview of the fort and it’d been he who issued that decree.
“Was I? My apologies if that’s so. You can search me if you must.”
Gibbons cocked his head to the side, and it looked like he was chewing on his cheek. “No,” he decided finally. “I trust you. I imagine you’re looking for the Lieutenant?”
I nodded. Gibbons pointed toward the door across the landing. “He’s out on the lookout with the Captain.”
I thanked him and walked past him but then stopped. “Mr. Gibbons?” When he turned from the top step, I asked, “What do you think of the Captain?”
His smile fell from his face. “Doesn’t really matter, does it? What I think? He outranks me, so I do as told, Mr. Stanworth, sir.”
“I see. Thank you.”
Gibbons nodded and went on his way. I pulled open the door to the lookout and stepped outside. Up here, the wind curled up from the river and smacked my face. The cold made my nose tingle for a moment until it started to feel stiff and numb, even when I tried to wiggle it. I watched the tip, but what I saw didn’t connect to what I felt.
“What’re you doing up here?” Zadock demanded.
Not my captain. “I heard the bells.”
“You are not a military man. You shouldn’t be up here.”
Abner shook his head. “It’s alright, James. See that?” He pointed toward the river.
“Damn Dutch,” Zadock grumbled.
“Is there no one you don’t hate?” I asked the Captain, who turned and thrust his stubby fingers into my chest.
“I don’t hate the English. Our own kind.”
“All evidence to the contrary,” I answered, pushing his hand away.