A friend mentioned to me that I should post some of my fiction work. I’ve been resistant in doing that. I’m still working on pieces, and like any other artists, I like to keep my ‘brainchildren’ close. After some thought, I’ve decided to post an excerpt from a short story I am working now.
My grandmother calls me to pitch a story idea.
You know you’re a hard person to get in touch with, she says.
I lost my cellphone, I say.
Oh. I didn’t have your number.
It didn’t change.
Well, I was hoping you can help me with something, she continues. She sounds anxious and playful. I want to write a story based on my big brother. I want it to be a Rod Serling kind of story you know. I have a title for it already.
Wow, I say. Sounds like you’ve down most of the work already.
No, not at all, she says. But I do know that you’re better with words. You can make them do what I can’t. I write little stuff here and there. I wouldn’t be able to do it the way you do it.
I give in. So what’s the story? I brace myself.
There’s this man who causes people to get sick. And then they die. But he has to be really diabolical. He destroys everyone he loves.
Huh, I say. I don’t know what else to.
What do you think?
I’m thinking that this is a seriously dark and twisty turn for my grandmother. I wonder if she’s told her children about this idea of hers. In my head, I picture an episode of the Twilight Zone, in grainy black and white. The episode where the boy who was narcissistic and selfish wishes everyone away and ultimately ends up alone. I tell her that I think the story’s interesting. I tell her that I’ve had trouble writing about all that’s happened too. I ask her does the character have any moment of redemption at the end of the story. She says no. I ask her the title of her phantasmagoric tale.
Kill ‘em With Kindness. You get it?
It beats me over on the head.
I should explain.
My grandmother’s older brother is a well-known megalomaniac. I think everyone’s family has one. Maybe. My great uncle is a dick. The older I get, the more the old folks reveal how much of a dick he actually is. His crimes are numerous, however, he’s oblivious to all of them.
I’ll name a few:
- For their 50th wedding anniversary, he gave his wife a box of popsicles.
- They had separate phones with separate phone numbers that rested on the coffee table side by side. He got these phones because he felt his wife talked on the phone too much and drove up the phone bill.
- He had three children during the years of their marriage. My aunt is barren.
- When my aunt had a stroke a few years ago, he left her on the floor. My mother’s brother who lived downstairs eventually came to rescue her.
- My grandmother’s youngest brother had suffered a seizure and later died hours after he spoke to my uncle over the phone. My family still blames him.
I see why she wants to get this all down.
I’ve looked for ways in to writing this tale of marital violence. Here’s my stab at it:
The stuffed dog sat on the front porch under a spotlight of sunset. No telling when she put it there, but there it sat, life sized, adorable brown and white beagle dog with a cardboard dog collar that read “Fiona” in big black Sharpie block letters. The dog was intended to send a message, loud and spectacularly clear that there would be a new dog to kick around the house since she left him six months ago after a brief stay in local hospital after she had a stroke.
I’ve tried looking at it through the prism of poetry. When my uncle died, I tried to construct this narrative:
That night Jacob wrestled with the angel, it wasn’t gentle tumbling
Or firm embrace, but a violent thrashing. A blood vessel swollen to a boil
Then burst and a body shook to wake itself.
The rest is a blank page. There was always a little bit of Esau and Jacob, Cain and Abel dynamic between James and Louis. The younger brother found greater favor in the eyes of god and father. One who used might and brawn; the other used wit and humor. Always at odds with each other.
Comments are welcome. Please handle my ‘brainchild’ gingerly.