I was the only teenager at Writers in Paradise with Dennis Lehane, Sterling Watson and other well-known authors back in 2006.
I remember being so hyped up about it. It was a week-long workshop at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. At that time I believe it was in it's second or third year.
Anyhow, It was something I just had to be at.
I was probably the only person under thirty. And probably not the only woman who was hot for Dennis Lehane.
(I'm embarrassed by how my brain used to function. If there was an attractive man in the room, I was only thinking about sex, and not about whatever we were supposed to be doing. It doesn't just happen to men...)
Needless to say, I was so happy to be in author Thisbe Nissen's group.
She's cute, beyond intelligent, and female. It was a good setup.
Anyhow, at the time I was working on my first novel (which I may pick back up, now twelve years later), but, at the time, it was too raw to share.
The story I submitted to the group was a two-thousand word short story about a boy who loved his mother.
He was a little slow, but his love was deep and rather obsessive.
Normally the boy's stay-at-home-mom would pick him up after school. But that day his mom had an appointment or something (it's been a while).
Anyhow, I had just turned nineteen and wrote this story from the viewpoint of an eleven-ish year old boy with severe attachment issues to his mother.
The boy liked his dad plenty, but the relationship dynamic was different.
His father was the provider—the stereotypical "man of the family"—and his mother was the nurturer. She's the one who mended all his boo-boos and kissed all his tears away.
That day, the boy's father was supposed to pick him up from school, but he was busy. One of his two secretaries picked him up instead.
She was a kind, tender woman. She seemed much like someone the boy could befriend, even.
She drove the boy back to his father's office where she asked him to wait in the waiting area. She was clearly not as comfortable in the office as she was in the car.
Fidgeting, she offered the boy water, but he was adamant about Sprite.
She peeked down the dark hall leading back to the closed office doors. Hesitating, she told the boy she'd put on some music for him and that she'd only be gone a moment or so.
The vending machines were four floors down in the lobby entrance of the office building. It'd take the second secretary some time to go get him that Sprite.
Moments after she left, the boy heard something break against the door at the end of the hall. Then a subtle hint of laughter.
He couldn't hear any more because of the music, but he also hadn't seen his dad yet, so he turned on the hall light and started walking down toward his dad's office door.
Nervous (he and the dark weren't the best of friends), he pressed his ear up to the thin, hollow door.
There was a noise box, as the boy called it (a white noise machine) making swooshing sounds from behind the door, but other than that, he couldn't hear anything else.
He turned away to go back to the sofa before the assistant returned like he'd been told to do, but then there was a woman's voice—soft and sweet. Like his mother's.
Excited, he burst into his dad's office to find his father in the throws with a dark-haired woman. It was his first assistant.
He was no dummy. He'd seen enough TV to know that what his father was doing was bad.
He'd stepped on the broken glass sculpture his mom bought his father for his last birthday. And in a rage of pubescence and confusion, he ran up to the woman and pushed her off his father.
Her head hit the edge of the coffee table hard and she fell, still on the floor. His father scrambled from the office chair, covering himself. The boy was growling and grunting—unsure how to express his emotions.
Ears ringing, he watched his father's angry face as he said something, but the boy couldn't hear him. He just watched his father drop to his knees beside the still, naked woman.
He couldn't believe his father. He went to her—that woman and not his own flesh and blood.
The boy got angrier.
The boy looked back at the door, then to the floor. Before it the broken glass sculpture.
* * *
I wrote three different endings to the story.
One where the boy returned home to his mother, covered in small cuts and red.
The mother hurriedly took her son inside and tended to him.
There's an awkward nervousness about the scene and the boy monologues to his mom about his father—letting on that the mother knew about the father's affair.
Then the story simply ended with something like, "I love you, Mommy," or some kind of eerie one-liner.
In the second, I left the story with the boy picking up the rounded, in-tact end of the glass sculpture, and rising slowly with it. He locked eyes with his father before the story ends. Maybe something like, "I want Mom" or whatever wrapping that one.
In the third ending, the second secretary was screaming. The boy could hear her getting louder as he's coming to on the floor with a police officer holding his shoulders.
That third ending wraps up much like the first, but instead of monologuing to the mother, he does it while being questioned briefly on-scene.
The thing is, I thought it was a good story.
At the time, I was so afraid to get feedback on my work. Especially the pieces where I dumped so much raw emotion into them.
But this story was completely made up. Probably one of the only stories I didn't tie my own life or someone else I knew into it in some way.
With that, I also knew the best ending was the second—leaving the audience on a cliffhanger.
"There's no way a little boy could kill his own father with a piece of glass."
"How could a little boy take on a grown man?"
Within two minutes of my critique, I wish I had this fantastic shut down trick I can do when I'm uncomfortable. Now, I can close out the world.
Back then it was like verbal torture with regular shots of adrenaline to the heart to make sure I didn't pass out.
The man who's story was critiqued before mine simply had a narcissistic female character told through the mind of a fat, slobbish old man with an obsession with young supermodel-type women.
No one held back on him, either.
But my critique was one of the few moments in my life that made me doubt my entire future as a writer.
I had a room with a published author who kept quiet during my critique. Then there was a hand full of other published and self-published participants and a whole heck of a lot of wannabes. Myself included.
And in that unbridled mutilation of my "that's entirely impossible" story, I didn't want to fight back.
It was one of those 'American Idol' show moments where someone thinks they're oh-so talented but she sounds like a cat being chased by a twisted kid with a push lawnmower.
That's how I felt. Like I'd been lied to my whole life. Like everyone who ever read my work either read it through rose-colored glasses, or straight-up lied to me.
I remember standing outside the session door and lighting up a Virginia Slims cigarette. Feeling it's smooth bite caress my throat and soothe my rapid heartbeat.
I remember the pregnant woman—a pretty woman with deep brown hair and kind, downward turned eyes. The only one of us who had a story which received pure Rah-rah, you're a fantastic writer -feedback.
She came up to me and said something. It was something sweet, I think. But for the life of me, I can't remember what the hell she said.
All I know is, I went back home and I wrote.
I wrote like it was the last short story I was ever going to write. Because at that moment, it was.
...to be continued...
He didn't sign up for this, but he's still here.
A Pill For A Pill Leaves The Whole World Drugged
I've got nothing of value today. Only anger.
What could it be?
I didn’t prepare for it.
I think I like not knowing.
What do I want to do with this?
Hmm… Good question.
It had just started to rain and the dog was whining at the back sliding glass door.
I don't want to get my hopes too high, but it's something to look forward to.
"What do you want it to be?"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you act like I haven't done anything over the last three years. Three years..."
So much stuff. What's the goddamned point?
Time seems to slip away faster now.
If only I could take them with me.
'How's your business going?'
'Fine.' I hate it.
If only he knew her, then he'd understand.
'I wouldn't do it again, if that's what you mean,' I said, pulling my MacBook Pro closer to me atop the long work table in the mall.
What was she thinking?
My fingers are crossed, but I'm not sure if that's enough anymore.
They always end up letting you down.
It always happens in droves.
She caught me with the knife when I was sixteen, maybe seventeen.
I like being flawed. It gives me something to write about.
I let my kids examine my naked body yesterday.
There's no winning with blame.
Every time I think I'm getting better at this whole life thing, I do something wrong and set it back.
It was cold that day. Odd for Florida.
I gave twenty dollars to a woman on the side of the road today.
I like getting older.
There's something about with age and experience comes wisdom that's exhilarating.
The bad thing about family is you can never escape the past.
They remember everything.
I'll see this one through, I tell myself. I'll finish it.
After this, I'll put it to bed. After this, I'll move forward.