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red writing hood link-up — core

April 27, 2012
Today, I’m linking up with Write on Edge and responding to the following prompt:
For this week, I’m giving you the word “Core.” You have 450 words to explore any meaning of the word in a work of creative non-fiction/memoir or fiction. Link up your responses on Friday’s post, and have fun!
Today, operating on the advice of a writer friend, I decided to delve into the annals of work I’ve previously written and dismissed.  “Time is your best editor,” he said.  Thus, I found a brief piece I wrote in a writing workshop in 1998 — a lifetime ago — and edited it a bit to meet the prompt’s word count guidelines.  I chose this piece because it is about love and death; “core” if ever I heard it.  Anyway, I welcome your feedback — it may be destined for the trash pile or it may take on another life… so to speak.  Either way, it’s fine.
*****

When Sheila first learned of Marco’s plans, she calmly picked up near-lying scissors (previously sharpened for some chicken breasts she’d planned to cut up for dinner) and slit her wrists the good way – no horizontal ineffectuality across white flesh, no scars she’d be telling stories about in group therapy at the state hospital, but long and gaping slashes from wrist to elbow.  Smiling at her work, she crawled into the bathtub, ran the water, and died with thoughts wiling through her head.

On the brink of death we have visions, the mystics say.  On the edge of a new reality we can see what’s to come or what has passed.  Life’s film reel is a notion that everyone, including Sheila, has accepted and envisioned.  Still, Sheila wondered why anyone would want to see a life, lived probably half-blind, lived in monochrome and fear, as a movie.  Boring, she’d thought.  Indeed, in the early days of their courtship, lying damp in their afternoon bed, she remembered one of those dreamy, love-drunk conversations she’d shared with Marco.  He’d said, “I’ll see the future, babe,” stroking heavily the small of her back, his graying hair dark at the temples.  Back then, she doubted his words.

Now, looking towards death in the peeling-painted bathroom of this studio never shared with Marco, Sheila saw the future.  It was clear-clawed, scratching her temples in unanticipated pain.  She saw the purpling dusk along Fourth Street, steam rising up from asphalt toward Marco’s new-shined shoes.  Steam bathed the cuffs of his trousers in iridescence and then, like a blow to the head, she saw Laura in his arms wearing a wide-brimmed hat.  They were dancing, Marco and his wife, just as Sheila had been told they would; dancing though she was dead, as if she’d never been there at all.  Sure, Sheila’s friends always told her, lips pursed, “Girl, he’s never going to leave that wife!”  But Marco’s cool face against her knee, his earnest eyes repeating, “I love you.  Laura and me… we’re over” was enough to keep her head on crooked.

She saw the future: their smiles and dancing shoulders, the hat, Fourth Street.  Maybe a band was playing, but Sheila couldn’t hear it.  Though twilight faded, the couple whirled unsteadily.  Sheila could clearly make out a shape – one red-heeled pump, wet-glossed and still, attached to a leg in nude-tan panty hose.  Sliding her eyes admiringly up the leg, a dress she’d once loved – red satin, evening, sleeveless to the pale-fleshed tree limb arms.  Shrouded by the steam, her corpse unmistakable: “I’m never coming back.”

*****

Sometimes the wind blows and, POOF, it’s 1998.  Other times, there’s no looking forward or back, so entrenched are you in the richness of the moment.  I don’t know where you are today, but I hope you are fully alive.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 27, 2012 10:20 pm

    Wow. A powerful piece. I think there is great potential here. I want to know more of the back story, that’s for sure.

    • April 28, 2012 8:46 pm

      Thank you so much for your feedback. I may have to spend some more time developing this piece and see if it leads anywhere. So appreciate your input!

  2. Kalamapele permalink
    April 28, 2012 3:33 pm

    Very interesting start, I like it. Hearing her thoughts after slitting her wrists was an intersting direction to go.

    • April 28, 2012 8:45 pm

      Thanks so much for your feedback. I’m not really sure whether I’ll find use for this piece in my current work, but it was interesting to look back and see what struck me. I appreciate your having stopped by!

  3. April 28, 2012 5:02 pm

    Your language is so dreamy and rich, such a poetic death for such a useless reason. The end confused me a little, I admit, but the image of the red shoe is very startling and immediate, especially after the almost languid death visions.

    • April 28, 2012 8:49 pm

      Thanks so much, Cameron. Yes, I agree — the ending doesn’t work here. It was originally a slightly longer piece (by about 100 words) and the final image featured the couple dancing on Sheila’s corpse. I wasn’t thrilled with that, so I pretty much chopped it at the end. I really appreciate your feedback, though. Perhaps this is a piece that will make it — in some form or fashion — into one of my current projects. Cheers!

  4. April 28, 2012 8:37 pm

    Disturbing, but . .. Wow! Please take my disturbed comment as a compliment.

    Yes, time is the best editor. Walking away from a piece gets you out of your head and gives you a fresh perspective.

    My only critique? I wish she hadn’t felt hte need to end her life, but not all stories have happy endings, right?

    • April 28, 2012 8:50 pm

      Thanks so much, Denise. I find it pretty disturbing, myself, so I am not insulted by your comment at all :). I think part of the reason I chose to edit and submit this piece was that I rarely write about violence and am not particularly comfortable doing so. Looking at this piece was a bit of a challenge for me. I so appreciate your feedback and am really grateful you came by to read it!

  5. April 30, 2012 8:36 am

    You catch us right at the beginning. I wondered what Marco’s plans were, and I never felt like we really got that answer–what he planned, that would send her over the edge with such a calm, almost happy attitude. But I’m not sure I needed to know.

    I’m not sure this is the ending you want; I’d brainstorm some more and see what surfaces. Other than that–very effective piece.

    • May 3, 2012 7:02 am

      Thanks so much for your feedback, Kathleen. I so appreciate it. I agree — the ending is confusing and abrupt, and is somewhat a function of needing to fit into the word limit. Still working on my editing skills! I’m happy to hear that there might be something redeeming in this passage, though, as I’d like to further explore this character. Many thanks for stopping by!

  6. May 1, 2012 3:08 am

    This is sinfully rich, if death can be called that. My only true concrit would be to remove or edit the “On the brink of death we have visions, the mystics say. On the edge of a new reality we can see what’s to come or what has passed. Life’s film reel is a notion that everyone, including Sheila, has accepted and envisioned.” It breaks the fourth wall and draws the focus from the strength of the rest of the paragraph.

    The danger with loving our characters as much as we do is that we really don’t want them to experience any form of violence. We want to protect them. I applaud the effort, difficult as I know it was, to wrap this character in suicide. When we write outside our comfort zone, we cast off the shackles of our limitations. And you succeeded with such vivid imagery, such poetic phrasing, i am left with nothing else to say except Bravissima!

    • May 3, 2012 7:04 am

      Thank you so much for your feedback, Shelton. I think removing the line you mention is an excellent idea, and I appreciate your having shared it. I’ve not written about the death of a character before, and your comment really resonates with me. I think I will take this one back to the drawing board and see if it might work in a project on which I am currently working. Many thanks for your feedback and comments!

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