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Thursday, May 17, 2007

A character describes the author

I fidgeted around the funeral parlor, trying to ignore the looks of disgust as the guests sized up my destitute appearance. I took off the brown muddied hat that Cathy the Bag lady had leant me for this specific occasion, and held it to my chest, covering the hole in my moth-eaten tie. A mourner bumped into me, causing a cloud of dust to billow from the lining of my coat.

I was cursing my choice to be sober for the event, when someone tapped my shoulder. “May I help you Sir?” The funeral Director asked with forced kindness. Forced or not, I’d take what I could get.

“I’m here for the Barnoski funeral.” I replied with eyes cast downward.

“Did you know the deceased Sir?”

“No, but I have a… err… special relationship with her sister Nina.”

The Director shook his head sadly. “Such a shame for the family,” he said, pulling me aside. “Never in my career have I held a funeral for a matricide. I could have gone the rest of my life without having to do so, I might add.” He covered one side of his mouth with his hand and whispered to me, “I hear the boy was only fourteen years old, shot her eight times in the head and neck. He was arrested right off of the school bus they say!” His eyes were practically popping out of his head as he looked to me for confirmation.

I nodded to validate his statement. My eyes glazed over as I spoke, “Nina loves her nephew, but that love is dim compared to the bond she had with her sister. Though I know she misses both of them dearly, it’s my belief she misses herself more. The sweet girl she once was, is now lost in this nightmare.” I said, lost in my despair. It took a moment for me to notice the skeptical look on the director’s face. By then it was too late, I had already said too much.

“How exactly did you say you knew the victim’s sister?” he asked suspiciously.

I considered lying, but that’s not how I was made. “I’m a part of her, you see. More than once, she’s come close to giving it all up; the urge to stop the effort of healing, of living in this world, or fighting for her sanity. Promises of numbing the pain with drugs, alcohol and a complete disconnection to her life have swirled before her mind’s eye in a tempting dance.”

A sad smile crept lazily across my face. “You see Sir, I’m a forgotten soul. The reminder of what she would become if she loses her strength and the evil of this tragedy wins over the goodness in her heart.” With a final nod, I tipped my hat to the director. As I headed toward my cardboard slat in the alley and my bottle of whiskey, I hoped that Nina’s creativity was the closest she would ever come to being me.

A paragraph of senses

I, along with hundreds of others in the rat race, was shuffling along trying to get to work on time. The crowd slowed its pace as a sound from the distance became increasingly louder. Someone bumped into me from the rear as I came to a dead stop and dropped my morning coffee to cover my ears from the blaring assault. Confusion overtook me as the earth shook beneath my feet. I lost my balance and fell to the ground smashing my face against the sidewalk. The mob of people ignored me as I attempted to raise my head to spit out the metallic ooze invading my mouth. Shoes trampled over my back and legs sending hot pain through every fiber of my being. A flurry of pant hems rushed before me as I grasped for air. One moment I was facedown in a pool of my own blood, the next I was being flipped over and found myself staring at dark a fast-moving cloud in the sky. A large man with a dirty and heavy-bearded face was holding me in his arms and pushing his way past the crowd. With every step, my body protested in agony. We finally stopped in an alley, one I recognized from my daily walks to work. I rolled my head away from the stench of my rescuer and looked up at the skyline to see flames and smoke shooting out from the tower that housed my office. My body went limp in his arms; the last thing I heard was the sound that triggered the anarchy rapidly approaching again.

Out of the frying pan...

I stood staring at the brown syrup in front of me, wondering how on earth I could screw up cranberry sauce. I’d watched my mother make Thanksgiving dinner a hundred times without breaking a sweat; how I wished she was coming tonight instead of my snooty in-laws. I squared my shoulders with resolve and tossed the whole dish, bowl and all, in the garbage. I proceeded to chop carrots for the garnish around the turkey. I could picture the masterpiece of the presentation in my mind, and it was perfect.

I must have lost my focus in my reverie. The knife slipped. I let out one shriek, both in horror and in pain as I stared at the little piece of my finger carefully sliced along with the carrots. I wrapped the tip of my bleeding finger with paper towel and threw out the blood-coated carrots. I carefully put the severed bit in the freezer, as I’d seen them do on some television shows.

Panic tried to set in. I shooed it away with a few deep breaths, straightened my apron and checked my hair again before approaching the steaming potatoes on the stove. They were ready and they were perfect. I drained them from the water, careful not to let the steam frizz up my hair or cause my makeup to leak. I returned them to the pot, adding the precise amount of butter and milk and began mashing. The mundane task allowed me to fantasize about how my mother-in-law would gush over this perfect meal. Perhaps now she would find me to be a suitable match for her son.

My face contorted into a mask of terror as I looked in the pot to see the mashed potatoes were distinctively pink. I blinked twice, hoping that I was seeing things, but there it was; pink mashed potatoes. It was moments before I realized that my own bloody finger was the culprit. I had bled right through the paper towel which was now dangling precariously from the stubby end of my severed finger.

I swallowed back bile and forced myself to walk, not run, to the bathroom to do a better job of bandaging. I couldn’t very well serve a beautiful meal with my body fluids pouring into the dishes.

With the new bandage in place, I began heading back into the kitchen. I glanced at my reflection in the mirror on the way through hall. I fixed a strand of hair that had strayed from my perfect coif before noticing I’d become rather pale. I was attempting to convince myself it was poor lighting when the fire alarm caused me to practically jump out of my skin. I ran to the kitchen to see flames licking the wall behind the stove through a cloud of gray smoke. It was at that moment, that I heard my mother-in-law’s voice holler “We’re heeeeere!”

Two paragraphs, same scene from different POV

He wouldn’t get away with this, not tonight. I chased him to his pick up truck in our driveway, screaming every obscenity I could think of to the back of his head. The bastard wouldn’t even turn around to acknowledge me. Who the hell did he think he was? He thinks he can just up and leave me with 3 kids, take my car, my house! I was sure he must have been seeing some tramp that had possessed his mind, and other parts, to leave his family. To leave his WIFE! I reached him as he scurried like a rat to get behind the sanctuary of the wheel and wedged myself between the open door and the truck frame. I clenched my fist, pulled back and hit him in the temple with all I had, sending his glasses flying. That first release snapped something primitive inside of me and I began clawing his face in a flurry of manicured nails and shrill shrieks. He barred off my attack by burying his head in his arms, so I started kicking his shins with my steel-toed boots. I slipped on the icy driveway falling hard on my hip. As I scrambled to get up and back to my attack, he closed the door, yelling something about my mental stability, and flew out of the driveway. I stood up, dusted myself off, and headed back into the house, vowing that when he came back to me, and I knew he would, I would make him pay.

He’d had enough, and he had told her just that. The years of verbal assaults and physical violence had taken their toll and it was long past time for him to walk away. He grabbed his work-bag and with a deep sigh, left their home. As he walked towards his truck, something plucked at his heartstrings like a mournful harp: the children. He fought the tears that sprung up at the image of their angelic faces and marched forward through the snow. He tried to ignore her screaming and name-calling as she chased him through the night. He focused on his goal,to get to the safety of the truck, nothing else mattered. Relief settled in as he slid across the upholstered seat, but when he reached to shut the door against the tyranny of her rage, a sharp blow hit the side of his head. In a flurry of manicured nails and obscenities his glasses were torn from his face. He took cover, silently cursing his parents for raising him with the good sense not to hit a woman, and protected himself as best he could. The attack halted as quickly as it had begun. He took a moment to assure himself she was not injured from her fall before slamming the door. He drove off vowing that he would fight to free his children of this mayhem, but that he would never return to his wife’s abusive embrace.

Heather Knight-Owens pt 2

“Good evening Mrs. Owens. My name is Larry Linchster, I’m the lawyer your husband has had on retainer for years. Though these are unconventional circumstances, that makes me your lawyer now. Right, okay then. Do you understand?”

“You are my lawyer. I understand. But I would appreciate it if you would call me by my maiden name, Heather Knight. I’m no longer anyone’s missus.”

“Umm... y-y-yes, yes of course Miss Knight. Right, okay then. Shall I ask the guards to bring you a beverage? Do you need to use the facilities? Is there anything I can get you or do for you to make this process more comfortable?”

“No, thank you.”

“Right, okay then. Let us begin. If at any point you need anything, a break, or a drink, anything. Right, okay then. Just ask me.”

“I appreciate that Mr. Linchster.”

“Oh call me Larry, please. Mr. Linchster was my father, heh. Right, okay then. So Miss Knight, do you understand why you are under arrest?”

“Yes Larry, I shot my husband 4 times in the chest.”

“Right, okay then.”

“Larry? You look a little pale…”

“I’ll tell you Miss Knight, this doesn’t look very good for you. When you placed the call to 911, you confessed to shooting your husband. I’m not sure how we will be able to swing having that tape removed from court evidence.”

“That won’t be necessary Larry. I am pleading guilty as soon as you can get me before a judge. Though I would like you to manage a bail hearing for me as soon as possible Larry, so that I may get my affairs in order before my sentencing date.”

“Right, okay then. Missus Ow… uh Miss Knight, I feel the need to advise you that you are being charged with first degree murder that carries a life sentence without parole eligibility for twenty-five years.”

“I understand fully Larry.”

“Right okay, okay then, right. There are other options. We could try for temporary insanity, our firm has some reputable psychiatrist available…”

“No thank you.”
“Right, okay then. How about self-defense? Was Mr. Owens cheating on you? Mistreating you in some way? How did you get that cast on your arm? Maybe we could work with that? I have some hospital reports somewhere in here.”

“STOP! I will not be painted a victim. Some poor little housewife who was beaten and didn’t know better than to get out. Some idiot who was too blinded by love to see that she’d married an abusive man. No Larry, I will not let him make a victim of me. Not ever again.”

“Right, okay then…”

Heather Knight-Owens pt 1

I sat hunched on the hard metal bench of my cell, trying to shrink myself into invisibility. This process wasn’t unusual for me; I had been quite successful at it numerous times as a child. If I concentrated real hard, and thought myself very small, I would go unnoticed. I could tuck myself into the corner of a room and watch my parents scream and hit each other, using words I wasn’t allowed to hear, and neither of them would so much as glance my way. Not even the police saw me hunched beside our faded green couch the night my mom shot my father. I was convinced my super powers kept me undetected in those days. Now I wished I could call upon them again. I wrung my hands together, three times clockwise, three times counter-clockwise, over and over trying to remember the perfect combination for the spell.

The three other women in the cell had street trash written all over them. Their talk was tough, their attitudes tougher. I studied my shoes desperately as the biggest one of them walked over to me. “Whatchyou do to wind up here? You don’t be lookin like no hoe.” She cackled as she taunted me, her friends joining in on her fun.

It was a good question, and a good point. My Armani suit gave away my lack of street sense, that one was easy. But her question ran a little deeper as I thought about what had brought me here. Where did it begin? Was it the murderous rage in my mother’s eyes that night so many years ago? It was possible. I despised her for the better part of my early life. She had torn my world apart in a single act that I hadn’t truly understood. But I understood now. I understood all too well. Allowing pain and fear to ferment was the perfect recipe for one thing: hatred. Unadulterated, poisonous hatred.

We had been married nearly four months the first time he’d hit me. I had gone for a brisk walk around the block, which had become a habit for me since Eddie had been away on business. As I turned the corner back onto our street I could see his black Porsche shining in the driveway. His flight must have come in early and I was brimming with excitement to have him home. I ran my finger lovingly along the smooth lines of the car before bouncing up the steps to our front door. I locked up behind me in preparation for a very satisfying welcome-home celebration. With a sly smile on my face I sauntered into the kitchen to greet him. I was greeted with a fist to the face instead. I went flying across the room and fell hard on the cold marble flooring. My first instinct was to call out to Eddie, it took a moment before I realized he was the one who had hit me. I was sure it was some sort of mistake; perhaps he thought I was an intruder. After a lengthy beating and three days in the hospital, I realized it was I who had made the mistake.

It took seventeen days for me to recuperate. Eddie watched over me, changed my dressings and brought me fresh flowers everyday. He started off with apologies and grand gestures. When I didn’t react, he began blaming me for his outburst. What else was he supposed to think when he came back from a business trip to find his wife not at home? Of course he assumed I was out whoring around with some other man. When the blame game didn’t work either, he tried tears. The words may have been different, but it was the same old song, my father’s song. Seventeen days is a long time to think, and I took advantage of every second I had to ponder how I’d gotten here. With every day, every kiss, every sweet word from my husbands mouth, I forgave my mother more and more.

I lifted my gaze slowly from my shoes to meet the hooker's glare. I can’t say what it was in my eyes, or face, that caused her to back away from me like a predator turned prey. I scoffed at the scorpion tattoo crawling up her leg as she retreated. Her friends fell silent as well and they all stared at me. The air was thick with tension, I could feel it. But I no longer worried about my powers of invisibility; I was discovering a new power. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I liked it.

A guard interrupted our little showdown, “Missus Owens, your lawyer is here to see you.”

I stood up slowly and flattened out my suit with the palm of my hands. In a voice that was foreign to even myself, I answered the tart’s question. “Murder." I said. "It runs in the family.”