Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Short Story, by the husband

Hello all,

My name is Peter and I am Rebecca's husband, she suggested I post this here.

This is a story I wrote a while back and recently received the rejection email - I have a collection of them. I like submitting to this particular magazine because it gets passed around judges/critics, especially if one judge likes some of it but not all of it. This means you tend to get back a lot of suggestions and comments even if you don't make it in, which is helpful.

My favorite comment from the judges about the following story was this one:

"While I enjoy the abstract nature of the story, it's too abstract to leave the reader feeling satisfyingly confused."

Anyway it's not perfect as all the comments I got back from the reviewers pointed out, but something I found interesting is the amount of trouble they had identifying who (or what!) had died, a few cottoned on to the fact that it was a child and thought it may have been a still birth, only one of them thought it was - at least for me, the author - about a baby, not a toddler, a child or a miscarriage.

I don't know if the confusion is because of the way I wrote it - obscure, partly because it was difficult to write and I had a hard time making myself be direct - or because of some blind spot people may have for SIDs.

I know a lot of people who read Rebecca's blog have suffered a SIDs loss and I guess you guys might be better judges.  I hope it at least helps to let someone know they are not the only one to feel the strange mix of emotions that comes along with hearing platitudes, something I know Rebecca has written about before as well.

I guess the idea behind it is, what it would mean to try and "get better" on the basis of platitudes...

Anyway, here is a story about SIDs - slightly edited because of a typo and some syntax/meaning issues the judges had.

By Peter Howard
Word count: 356 including title

“I don’t know how you are coping...” She tries to cry harder before and after every nightmare.

 “At least he didn’t suffer.” She washes the blood off the mattress cover.

 “He’s in a better place.” She stands in his room, thinking of each small thing, and screams.

“You’re still young….” The bus driver watches her in his mirror on her way home from the support group and she smiles, it seems to disturb him. She tries the smile out in the reflection in the window. A middle aged woman with deep set rings around her too wide eyes stares back.

 “He’s an angel now.”  She kneels in front of the altar and talks in an old gray building, whispering alone in the dark.

 “Time heals all wounds.” Her legs give out from under her as she shuts the front door. Her head hits something hard and everything goes away for a while.

“It was for the best.” The counselor looks at her oddly when she explains how relieved she is and she feels shame.

 “You’ll get past this.” She burns his pictures, his clothes. The fire spreads into the dry garden and firemen put it out. When they find her she is practicing her smile in the bathroom mirror.

 “You need to move on with your life.” She talks of progress in group. When she goes dancing people won’t stand close to her.

 “God has a plan.” When she loses her job she reminds herself not to worry about the future and when they ask her to volunteer she readily goes to the institution and lets them close the door, for observation they say.

“You can always have another.” In the dark the bus driver grunts and squirms. She bites into her hand to keep the memory of his only laugh away from this moment.

 “I know how you feel, my dog….” The vet talks but she keeps trying to hand the funeral flowers out in the waiting room. She tries to explain as they put her in the cell.

 “He is waiting for you.”  When the light goes out, she claws at her wrist.


Rebecca said...

Well, I loved it!

"Things people say" always ends up being one of our favorite topics. A recent blog entry by another bereaved mother touched on this ( and I think I have written about it over and over again...

I love my writer husband! :-)

Rebecca said...

By the way, in reference to the link that I posted in my above comment, I noticed that on a particular status today the author of that entry got several kisses and hugs. I wanted to reply but could think of nothing that wouldn't come out snarky. It did give me a giggle, though. (The responses, not the status.)

I find it interesting that even the critics of Pete's story didn't quite "get it." I think finding our grief "obscure" is pretty fitting.

Susan said...

I like it too. I sometimes wonder if people say these sort of mantras to protect themselves from death and the bereaved - because they just need to contain it, because it is so scary.

I thought it was interesting how the story juxtaposed the calm, contained dispassionate advice, with the huge insanity of the bereaved parent - and how people sought to physically contain that (institutionalise it) whilst in the end, it is mother (I assume is suicidal) is desperate to escape the pain and the confines of her own body? Maybe I am over-reading - I do that sometimes...

I wrote this a long while ago - soon after my daughter died. It is about the lines between madness, badness and insanity. Maybe you will find it interesting x

I hope your wee boy is fine, and all the alarm is misplaced. Much love to you both xx

Jayden's Mommy said...

I can identify with so many of the feelings that are portrait. I also can identify with practicing a fake smile because of the high expectation. That we are young, and can have other kids, and time will heal and all the stuff people believe. Jared and I agree that at the end of the day we just say "okay" blocking half if not all of people's reasoning.

Katie (LukeGrantsMom) said...

This is so well written (great job Pete!), I really liked it and related to it. Coming from the same place of losing an infant, my mind of course goes there. But looking at the comments Pete writes about, I am suprised more "civilians" didn't think of an infant dying as well. Thank you for sharing it.

Solo en Costa Rica - Single, Travelling, Musing said...

I don't know what "she claws at her wrist" means. But, I might know, in my own way. Because I have coped similarly.