Under the Microscope extra: Housekeeping

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25 February 2021
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Microscope_icon-71204.jpg Under the Microscope extra
A reader's novel opening goes under the editorial microscope

Read our suggested rewrite of a reader's first 300 words and for the full critique, see the April issue of Writing Magazine.

 

Housekeeping, by Liam Tullberg - original version

Mother was right, Agata thinks, kneeling on the floor and restocking the mini-bar in room 334. English people really do drink a lot. Agata positions the tiny bottles carefully, making sure all the labels face out neatly like she’s seen their full-size counterparts in the supermarkets. It’s unnecessary, perhaps, but she takes pride in making up the rooms as she’d like to find them. Not that she could afford to stay somewhere like The Manor Hotel, of course, which has bedrooms bigger than the entire tiny flat she shares with four other girls on the outskirts of Hammersmith.

With the bedroom just how it should be, she heads into the en-suite and pulls on her rubber gloves to make the sink sparkle and the shower gleam; as she scoops a tangle of long blonde hair out of the plughole, she recalls that yesterday the hair she retrieved was equally long, but a chestnut brown. Maybe the woman staying here has dyed her hair, Agata thinks. Out of curiosity, she checks her job sheet and sees that the room is a five night booking for a single male occupant. A girlfriend, she thinks. Or a one night stand. Maybe both. She smiles to herself. Two months into the job and she’s discovering more about the human condition than she’s learnt anywhere else in her 19 years. 

She’s polishing the mirror above the sink - avoiding sight of her sweaty reflection - and listening to one of the ‘Learn English’ tapes that Mira leant her when she becomes aware of a presence in the doorway beside her. She turns and is startled by the sight of a man she assumes to be the guest of this room. He is tall - at least a foot above Agata - and dressed smartly in a suit. There is a grave look on his movie-star face. 

 

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Housekeeping, by Liam Tullberg - McCredited version

 

English people really do drink a lot, thinks Agata, kneeling on the floor and restocking the mini-bar in room 334. She positions the tiny bottles carefully, making sure all the labels face out neatly as she’s seen their full-size counterparts in the supermarkets. It’s unnecessary but she takes pride in making up the rooms as she’d like to find them. Not that she could afford to stay somewhere like The Manor Hotel, which has bedrooms bigger than the entire flat she shares with four other girls on the outskirts of Hammersmith.

 

With the bedroom just how it should be, she heads into the en-suite and pulls on her rubber gloves to make the sink sparkle and the shower gleam. She scoops a tangle of long blonde hair out of the plughole and recalls that yesterday the hair was equally long but a chestnut brown. Maybe the woman staying here has dyed her hair?

She checks her job sheet and sees that the room is a five-night booking for a single male occupant. A girlfriend, then. Or a one night stand. Maybe both. She smiles. Two months into the job and she’s discovering more about the human condition than she’s learnt in her 19 years.

She’s polishing the mirror above the sink – avoiding her sweaty reflection – and listening to one of the ‘Learn English’ tapes that Mira leant her when she becomes aware of a presence in the room doorway behind her. She turns to see a man she assumes is the guest. He is tall – at least a foot above Agata – and dressed smartly in a suit. There is a grave look on his movie-star face.

For the full critique, see the April issue of Writing Magazine