writing

Another rejection

I recently entered a 250 word flash fiction contest using the below excerpt from my novel. I didn’t win. However, I thought it was a pretty good idea for a chapter vis a vis describing one of the characters in my book instead of saying “she had a mean disposition, etc.”. Read it, and see if you agree. Then, below that will be the actual chapter from where I pared it down. Let me know which one you like better. Enjoy!

My Life in Lies (248 words)

AliOkay, I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I never claim to be.  Ideas float in and out of my head, and whatever seems right at the time, that’s the direction I go. Impusive with a capital I. Another patient, a senior citizen named Beatrice, handed me three blue pills in a trade off for two yellow ones resembling Sweetarts. It’s lights out, and me running down the hall to the bathroom, pursued by a night nurse, who won’t give up without a fight, unclenching the pills from my hand, one finger at a time.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” I plead off and on during the night, locked inside my room. “I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” I tell my therapist in the morning. “Beatrice meant no harm.  I didn’t think things through. My bad.”

“I want to believe you,” he says, taking notes on lined paper.  “What’s really at issue here is your inability to reason. You’ve been here 90 days. When you return to general society, you’re going to be on your own. No husband, no inlaws, no one to bail you out.”

No matter how much attention they give me here, I’m not likely to learn from my mistakes.  My entire life has been spent picking up pieces from ideas gone awry.

“You’ll be on suicide watch for another three weeks, Ali.  I’m sorry, but those are the rules.  There are always consequences for your actions.”

I might as well have been conversing with Dot.  She’d often said the same thing to Matt or Bean when caught in an act of disobedience.  Only difference is that she’d finish with religious fervor.  “God is watching you. He knows all.” The final reference would give me the chills.  The knowledge that God was watching, and knew all?  How paralyzing.  How cruel to say that to children.  Bean and Matt listened.  To them, Dot was God’s helper.

Before I met her, my beliefs in Heaven and Hell and Jesus and God didn’t exist. In my house, God was always followed by damn, a slap, or angry fists. Dot didn’t go around crossing her chest, but she was director of The School of Conscience.  As though I were in constant attendance under her rigid Protestant upbringing, she became my conscience more than God.  SHE saw that, heard that, SHE sat on my shoulder, a constant bug up my rear..

In 17th century England, I was born a witch. I’m sure I was burned at the stake. 100 years later, I was born into a brothel, where I spread syphilis to innocent men in the guise of love.  In 19th century America, I was Typhoid Mary, poisoning the lips of every man who graced my own.  No matter what life I passed through, I died alone, sick, in shame or in Hell.

While I don’t fully believe in God, I do believe in luck. The bad kind. I’ve never had anything but.

“Please? I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” I begged, one last time.

The therapist, a ginger haired young man named Felix, cocked his head as if reconsidering. “Ali, I know for a fact that the outtake team has failed to connect with this family you keep mentioning. A Dr. and Mrs. Sen answer the door at the address you gave us.  As for your mother in law, Dot Brennan, she swears she never met you. Do you have any other family members or friends who will vouch for you?”

Staring above and behind Felix’s head, I fix my eyes on a squirrel climbing a tree, cheeks full of nuts.  He lives at the correct address, at least.  The nut farm.

“What it is then, Ali, is that you need to seriously use your time here to open up and let us in,” Felix continues as stands to leave.. “I’ll see what I can do about finding this John character for you.”

My whole life’s been one big lie following on the tale of another. From the minute John and I had sex, to when Will and I did too, I’ve been living a lie. Walking a tightrope in the space between. Neither man knows the truth about how my daughter came to be.  I never give anything away, unless I benefit.  Will, my husband, thinks he’s his own person, but really, he doesn’t know how tight his leash is cinched, and for a while, John was tied and tethered to my every whim. I don’t love Will, and only used John. I certainly never wanted kids, but I love my daughter more than life itself. When I finally tell the truth of everything, I’ll no longer be the pariah cast from the garden of Eden.  Which is okay with me, because my Eden was a lie, too.

My Life in Lies (longer version)

AliOkay, I’m not the smartest person in the world, but I never claim to be.  Ideas float in and out of my head, and whatever seems right at the time, that’s the direction I go. Impulsive with a capital I. Another patient, a senior citizen named Beatrice, handed me three blue pills in a trade off for two yellow ones resembling Sweetarts. It’s lights out, and me running down the hall to the bathroom, pursued by a night nurse, who won’t give up without a fight, unclenching the pills from my hand, one finger at a time.

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” I plead off and on during the night, locked inside my room. “Please?” I rush at my therapist in the morning. “Beatrice meant no harm.  I didn’t think things through. My bad.”

“I want to believe you,” he says.  “But what’s really at issue here is your inability to reason. You’ve been here 90 days. Your discharge was imminent, Ali. And now this? When you return to general society, you’re going to be on your own. No husband, no inlaws, no one to bail you out.”

No matter how much attention they give me here, I’m not likely to learn from my mistakes.  My entire life has been spent picking up pieces from ideas gone awry.

“You’ll be on suicide watch for another three weeks.  I’m sorry, but those are the rules.  There are always consequences for your actions.”

I might as well have been conversing with Dot.  She’d often said the same thing to Matt or Bean when caught in an act of disobedience.  Only difference is that she’d finish with religious fervor.  “God is watching you. He knows all.” The final reference would give me the chills.  The knowledge that God was watching, and knew all?  How paralyzing.  How cruel to say that to children.  Bean and Matt listened.  In their minds, Dot was God’s helper.

Before I met my mother in law, my beliefs in Heaven and Hell and Jesus and God didn’t exist. In my house, God was always followed by damn, a slap, or angry fists. Dot didn’t go around crossing her chest, but she was director of The School of Conscience.  In constant attendance under her disapproving eyes, she became my conscience and now Him.  SHE saw that, heard that, SHE sat on my shoulder, a constant bug up my rear.

In 17th century England, I was born a witch. I’m sure I was burned at the stake. 100 years later, I was born into a brothel, where I spread syphilis to innocent men in the guise of love.  In 19th century America, I was Typhoid Mary, poisoning the lips of every man who graced my own.  No matter what life I passed through, I died alone, sick, in shame or in Hell.

While I don’t fully believe in God, I do believe in luck. The bad kind. I’ve never had anything but.

“Please reconsider. I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” I begged, one last time.

The therapist, a ginger haired young man named Felix, cocked his head as if having second thoughts. “Ali, I know for a fact that the outtake team has failed to connect with this family you keep mentioning. A Dr. and Mrs. Sen answer the door at the address you gave us.  As for your mother in law, Dot Brennan, she swears she wished you’d never met. Do you have any other family members or friends who will vouch for you?”

Staring above and behind Felix’s head, I fix my eyes on a squirrel climbing a tree, cheeks full of nuts.  He lives at the correct address, at least.  The nut farm.

“What it is then, Ali, is that you need to seriously use your time here to open up and let us in,” Felix continues as stands to leave.”I’ll see what I can do about finding this John character.”

My whole life’s been one big lie following on the tale of another. From the minute John and I had sex, to when Will and I did too, I’ve been living a lie. Walking a tightrope in the space between. Neither man knows the truth about how Merry came to be. And even though there shouldn’t be a reason they need to find out, let it be known that I never give anything away, unless I benefit.  Will thinks he’s his own person, but really, he doesn’t know how tight his leash is cinched. For a while, John was tied and tethered to my every whim. I don’t love Will, and John was a play toy. I certainly never wanted kids, from Bean right down to Merry, but I love them all more than life itself. When I finally tell the truth of everything, I’ll no longer be the pariah cast from the garden of Eden.  Which is okay with me, because my Eden was a lie, too.

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