Tuesday, August 4, 2009


If you are a man, write a short scen from the POV of a woman totally dominated by a boyfriend or husband who has a long history of controlling this woman. If you are a woman, write a short scene from the POV of this same man. In either case, avoid an eruption of physical violence and build a logical, reasonable set of explanations for the character's awful or humiliated behavior, no matter what you yourself feel about this character's behavior.
(from prompt #43 in The 3AM Epiphany)

Read my response:

Amber Fireworks

"Amber Fireworks" by wanathan101

A rat scurried under the fire pit and found itself trapped between the heat overhead and the surrounding threat of the people standing and talking around the fire. I watched the rat pace under the metal pit before darting for the garden wall, bravely going between the high heeled feet of our neighbor and nearly brushing her foot without her noticing. From where I stood I could see the pattern of the party, people gathered in groups and moving predictably. I watched Susie laughing, looking to me from time to time, nursing a glass of Chardonnay while she listened to her best college friend tell a nauseating story about her children. Susie and Gina had been far too attached to each other in school, calling each other sisters and developing their own language of codes; entire discussions could take place in my presence without me knowing, back in the day. It tested my patience for years, explaining to Susie how toxic Gina is; eventually Gina revealed herself to Susie, revealed how obsessed with Susie she’d been. Now that Gina had moved back to town and had her kids to obsess over instead, I’d allowed Susie to talk to her occasionally, but within reason. Given the option, Susie and Gina would never leave each other’s side, they’d fill each others ears with the nonsense of their mutual language, and where would that leave me? Out in the cold is where, with examples of their collected stupidity pouring out of my mouth but never quite making it in their ears.

Susie had always gathered people around her, I found myself drawn to her during a party just like this years ago. She was animated, her hands flickering around her while she imitated a professor. She was radiant, even in the night, and I felt warmer standing by her. But just as nice as it was near her, it was awful away from her, awful being crowded out by her gaggle of girlfriends and shoved aside by the healthy dose of male “friends” hanging on her, too. Just my luck, the one girl that’s actually decent, actually worth spending time with, and then just as I was knotting the noose of self-pity around my neck she came and loosened it, loosened it all up. She poked fun at me, poked me in the ribs and told me to relax—my wife, standing there with perfect posture and with her hair pulled back like Grace Kelly. Just like I like it, just like she knows I like it. She’s my wife, not a girl at a college bonfire, and all the same, there she is, keeping warm while I have to navigate through a sea of worthless work associates just to talk to my own damn wife. Let me stand out on the fringe of my own party, in my own backyard, watching rats scurry, and if I didn’t know better I’d think she was enjoying herself, enjoying the attention. Yes, she enjoys seeing me pace and sweat, swinging her Chardonnay around and laughing so much that she throws back her head. Careless drunk, like a little girl away from her parents, seeing what she can get away with, and I’m right here.

“How much have you had to drink?” I ask her. Not that it matters, it was too much. Gina rolls her eyes and murmurs something, and Susie snuggles up to her like it’s a conspiracy.

“She’s an adult, at her own home, does it matter?” Gina tells me. Did I ask Gina a question? I did not. Do I want Gina to shut her mouth? I do. Do I think a hearty slap across that mouth would help shut it? I know it would, but Gina is not my wife, nor my problem.

“Susie, honey, party’s over. Time for bed, the mess can wait.” Susie looks over at Gina and all I can see is the back of her head, Susie’s blonde curls resting on her neck after falling out of place from the crown of her head where the rest of the strands have been twisted into place. I’d helped pin them, in the places she couldn’t see.

The party is hushed now, looking sideways at our triangle to see the domestic squabble, and I can feel my place now. Pretty blonde and her strong best friend and then me, this mean man they don’t understand. Leave her alone, they think. I pace, threatened by the crushing opinion of the crowd and by the threat that if I leave her alone, I’ll be alone, I’ll lose her warmth and she won’t even notice if I don’t make some noise.

A scream from across the yard saves me, and everyone turns to see the rat’s tail whipping a woman’s ankle before darting under cover again.

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