One Thousand Words of Pastor Sebastian and Lenny, Take Two

So this is actually re-write of one thousand words, not one thousand original words. But I’m going to count them anyway.

I read this piece of my MPBAN (Might Possibly Become A Novel) last week at the writer’s workshop and got lots of suggestions. I wanted to put them into practice before I forgot or lost momentum.

The suggestions / comments included:

  • I drifted away from Sebastian’s point of view during the scene.
  • Trim the dialogue, especially the longer sections.
  • Sebastian’s movement at the end drags the action down.
  • The counter help needs to be used early and more in order to be effective. Do that or cut her.
  • The end is “flabbier.” (I blame this on my one thousand words requirement.)
  • Don’t use so many introductory clauses.

They also asked if Pastor Sebastian was the protagonist of the story. I didn’t know how to answer. Originally it was Daniel, but I’ve grown to like Pastor Sebastian so maybe he is.

I don’t mean to suggest that my fellow writers had only negative things to say about my writing. I’m just focus on suggestions for improvement like these rather than the compliments so I can grow as a writer, or at least move this writing project forward.

You can read the original scene here and then read the re-write below. What do you think? Is it cleaner? Did I make all the changes suggested?

===

Pastor Sebastian sat at his usual booth by the window at Quizno’s. The table was littered with two Bibles (King James and New International Version), his laptop, a large Mountain Dew and two chocolate cookies

Quizno’s served as the Pastor’s office until he raised enough money to build a church and frankly, the smell of “Mmm…Toasty” was starting to get on his nerves.

The teenage girl working the after school shift listlessly sprayed the next booth with a spray bottle and swiped it with a dirty looking rag.

He waited until the girl had returned to the counter before starting Sunday’s sermon on forgiveness. He’d only typed the first few lines when someone slid into the booth across from him.

He kept his eyes on his screen. “This booth is taken,” he muttered as he continued to hunt and peck.

“Mr. Weinbaum?”

He looked over the top of the computer at the man sitting across from him. “Lenny?”

The man smiled, showing yellowed teeth. “How are you, Mr. Weinbaum?” He held out his hand.

The Pastor shoved his computer to the side, almost knocking over his soda, and grasped Lenny’s hand in both of his for a handshake.

“I’m great. What are you doing in California, Lenny? My God, I don’t think we’ve spoken since God appeared to me in that casino bathroom. Hey, are you on Facebook? We should friend each other.”

“Uh, no. I’m not on Facebook.” Lenny clasped his hands together on the table. “I was visiting my daughter in Rancho Cucamonga and saw your ad in the newspaper. You’ve really quit poker and started a church?”

“That’s right, Lenny. I’m Pastor Sebastian now, leader and head honcho of The Fiery Embrace of Christ’s Love Ministry.” Sebastian offered him a cookie. Lenny declined with a shake of his head.

“So did you come to join my church?” Sebastian asked through a mouthful of chocolate chunks, pleased that the ad worked. He’d been worried people would think it was an advertisement for a horror movie instead of a church.

Lenny sighed. “No, I’m not here to join. Are you familiar with AA, Sebastian? The twelve steps.”

Sebastian nodded wisely. “One for each of Christ’s twelve disciples.”

“I suppose so. I had never thought about it like that.”

“That’s because you’re not in touch with the Heavenly Father like I am, Lenny. I have extraordinary insight.” Pastor Sebastian draped his arm across the back of the booth and glanced around the restaurant. The girl behind the counter had pulled out her cell phone and was texting furiously. He wondered if the girl was texting her boyfriend. She looked too young to be dating.

“Yeah, about that…”

Sebastian turned back to Lenny and took another bite of his cookie. “About what?” If he wasn’t here to join the Church, he wished Lenny would just spit out whatever it was he wanted to say and leave him to his sermon.

“Well, Sebastian, it’s like this.” Lenny took a deep breath.“I’m on the ninth step. That’s the one where we are supposed to make amends to those we harmed. Like you.”

The Pastor laughed. “You don’t have to make amends with me. You changed my life.”

“You’re not listening to me!” Lenny hit the table with his fist.

Sebastian shot another look at girl behind the counter. He was glad she was there even though she didn’t even look up from her phone. She could be a witness in case Lenny got violent.

“God didn’t speak to you in that bathroom, Sebastian. He wasn’t there. It was me.

Sebastian blinked.

“You went into that stall and kept repeating, ‘Please God. Please God.’ I was drunk and thought it would be funny if God spoke back to you.”

Sebastian blinked again, trying to comprehend what Lenny was telling him.

“It wasn’t real, Sebastian.”

Sebastian looked at Lenny’s face. Lines fanned from the corners of his eyes and mouth. He looked tired.

Sebastian pursed his lips. “You are just another test.” With that decided, he stood and took his trash to the garbage bin.

“Excuse me?” Lenny called after him.

Sebastian returned to the table and smiled sadly at Lenny. “You’re a test of my faith. But don’t worry. I still believe.”

The pastor returned his Bibles to his messenger bag and threw his laptop in after them while Lenny stared at the table top, his hands in his lap.

The Pastor got up from the booth and slung his bag over his shoulder. “Are you going to be all right, Lenny?

Lenny looked up and stared at Sebastian. “Are you?”

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