Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Snippets 16

I won a short story contest online with this one a year or so ago. But I really see it as the prologue to a novel. One that belongs in the Fruit of the Spirit story world.

A Tale of a Wail
by Joy Renee

Her mother would tell the tale for decades of how Abigail Ames sucked in her first breath and released it in a vibrato wail, with no impetus but surprise and how it took her seven years to break her daughter of the embarrassing habit of howling in the face of the tiniest disappointment. And her mother had broken her well. So well that she didn’t cry when at age eight, she watched her brother’s dog Griswald break the neck of her kitten Calypso while her brother, Darcy, stood by laughing. So well that she didn’t cry out at age ten when Darcy and his buddy Curtis strung a rope over a high tree branch and put a noose around her neck and slowly tightened it until crying out would have been impossible anyway as simply drawing breath burned like fire. When they lifted her into the tangle of leaves and branches and then let go of the rope so that she fell, breaking her right arm and spraining her left ankle, still she was silent.

Her self-enforced silence began the night of her seventh birthday when her mortified mother removed her from the dinner party after she let loose an endless open-mouthed howl when eleven year old Darcy blew out her candles for her and told her that meant he had just stolen her wish. Her wish had been to someday sing the part of Annie in the Broadway musical. It didn’t strike her that the transference of such a wish to her brother was a ludicrous concept. All she had registered was the irrevocable loss of hope. She was inconsolable. So her mother took her to her room and lectured her on the protocols of social engagements and the expediency of stiff upper lips for young ladies. Especially for a daughter of the Apostle of the Airwaves, Amos Ames, author of Daring To Profess.

"If you simply must cry, then go somewhere no one can hear you. And if that is impossible, then at least get off alone and put your hand over your mouth like this." She placed Abigail’s own hand over her mouth and pressed. "There, see? You can cry as hard as you want and no one can hear. Pretty soon you will learn to do it without even using your hand. Once you learn to do it without screwing up your face into that unsightly mess, you can scream and cry and carry on in a crowd without even disturbing your make-up."

Abigail took the lecture to heart. She never again cried out loud. But nor did she ever again sing out loud. Not, at least, until she was nearly out of her teens and too old to play Annie. Darcy had stolen her wish after all. The first of many precious things he stole from her. And now he was about to take from her the last precious thing because he refused to take her years of silence in lieu of an oath of eternal silence.

"Swear on what, Darcy?" she asked. "On my purity? On my honor? You took those from me long ago. And what point is there to swearing an oath to a man without honor? It would be nothing but babble in his ears. Easy enough to disregard on a whim."

Nor would an oath suffice. Darcy had not gone to the trouble of tracing her after ten years just to hear her mouth a ritual phrase. She doubted he, on his own, had the means to track her to this remote mountain cabin in Southern Oregon. But he had managed to get a message to her through the one childhood friend whom she hadn’t the heart to cut loose of. Nor would Darcy have gone to that trouble on his own. It had to be on behalf of, and with the resources of, Curtis Christopher, currently campaigning for United Sates Senator in Idaho. Darcy had been Curtis’ campaign manager for every election he ran in since his run for Class President his senior year of college. Abigail had been privy to the inner-circle of that one, though still in high-school herself. She knew that Curtis kept himself willfully ignorant of the tactics Darcy used to make things go his way. She knew that their ambitions had been, from the beginning, to go all the way to the White House. With stakes that high, there was only one guarantee of silence that would satisfy Darcy.

Darcy’s mistake was in thinking that she had spent the last decade cowering in this redoubt, nurturing terror and shame, with nothing more than a salacious tale to tell that could be spun as sibling rivalry, if she ever dared to voice it, an embarrassment that could be averted by a single stroke. He could not suspect that the timid, biddable Abigail had been preparing to sing on a stage dwarfing any stage her seven-year-old imagination could have conjured, for if he had he would not have attempted to back her into the corner that abutted that stage on one side and the abyss on the other.

For, far from nurturing terror or shame, she had been cultivating a network and a name recognized for integrity and intrepid truth scrounging. Trudy Ann Daring, Investigative Journalist and founder of, had created the stage on which she would sing. And her tale was far more than an uncorroborated he said/she said family scandal. She had proof--documented facts and the living, breathing truth, that last precious thing--Truth Ann Daring, not yet ten, sleeping that peaceful sleep of innocence--just this little bit longer--in the loft over Abigail’s head.

5 tell me a story:

Julia Phillips Smith 10/26/2007 9:25 AM  

Wow - that's really amazing. Very punchy! It has such strong images that almost slap the reader. In a good way! No wonder it won a contest. Definitely work it into your larger piece.

Gabriele Campbell 10/26/2007 9:49 AM  

There's a longer story hiding behind that opening, for sure.

Anonymous,  10/26/2007 10:33 AM  

Yes, you definitely could make this into a longer story. Good flow--you drew me from the beginning to the end without stopping, despite the incredible noise in this public library I'm in.

Ann 10/26/2007 4:46 PM  

Yep, what they all said. This could make a longer story easily. And a very good one, too.

IanT 10/27/2007 1:00 PM  

There's somethng a bit Garrison Keillor about this, for some reason...

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