Then as Now #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction

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It is quite rare that I write in second person, but after writing this one in first and then third and still feeling it was missing something I switched to second and it seemed that’s what [the story] wanted all along. As always, I appreciate thoughtful, constructive critique. I hope you enjoy Then as Now, rated PG-13, according to my standards.

Then as Now, by Deanna Schrayer

He grabs hold of your shoulders and pushes you aside. You stumble over your own feet to step out of his way so he won’t have to use any more force than he has already. You had just put down the spatula and rushed over from the sausages sizzling in hot oil, (in preparation for his favorite meal), to welcome him home from work with a kiss. You feel the sting on your lips where his dry ones had quickly peeled themselves away from yours.

He tosses the mail on the counter, unopened, an act so unlike him it causes you to stop and stare, looking for your name alone on an envelope. He moves to the stove and you remember the sausages and rush over to flip them.

But it’s too late.

He yells to wherever in the house your sons are, “Boys! Do y’all wanna go to McDonald’s?”

“McDonald’s?” you say, flipping the over-browned meat anyway, “I’m making sausage subs.”

He sneers at you, “They’re burnt.”

Your sons come flying downstairs from their bedrooms, jumping from the fourth step to the kitchen floor. “Yea, let’s go!” they say and suddenly your family is gone, leaving you to decide whether to feed the sausages to the dog or save them for supper tomorrow, whether anyone will bother eating them at all.

Hours later you find yourself pulling all the clothes you’ve not worn in the last two years from your closet, remembering that day ages ago when you finally threw out the maternity clothes. And that day more than twenty years ago when the ER doctor told you the twins five months inside your womb had not one heartbeat between them.

You reach for your wedding gown at the back of the closet and you recall how your future husband, the father of your living children, had gotten you through the heartache of losing your first babies, how his love made you want to live again.

And now, as the slamming of the kitchen door jolts you back to today, you wonder why you aren’t dead yet. 

**************************

This song, one of Bruce’s best, Something in the Night, came to me after writing the story and got stuck in my head for a while. The heartache of it does seem (to me) to reflect the heartache of Then as Now. And this particular performance is quite powerful, give it a listen.

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17 thoughts on “Then as Now #fridayflash #amwriting #fiction”

  1. This is very very strong, the 2nd person does make it. The last line is sad, chilling even though I wasn’t totally convinced I’d read it right. Did you mean that this new alienation and loneliness is too much for her to bear? It is heartbreaking and feels real, stumbling over her own feet to get out of his way. This is the same man who got her through the heartbreak, so much we (and she) is left wondering. How did it get to this? It works wonderfully as a short piece in part because these questions are unanswered and leave us all reeling.

    1. Thank you so much for the kind words, and the tweet, Alison. Your interpretation is exactly how I intended to portray her feelings – she is so overwhelmed with the heartbreak of his alienation (perfect choice of word) she’s teetering on the same sort of depression she felt when losing the babies, when she wondered what the point of living was.
      Thank you again for the generous comment!

  2. The last line is sad, and ends with a powerful punch leaving open ended the road that led here.

    I’ve always found second person to be challenging, and seems as you mentioned, fitting for certain stories. As a reader, I’m sometimes put off by second person, I guess because I don’t like being told what I’m doing. 🙂 I think it works here. You tried other perspectives, and I trust your decision, and in the end enjoyed this story.

    1. I’m right there with you David, reading in second person often makes me want to say “who are you to tell me what I’m doing”? But yes, I believe it was the best choice for this piece.
      Thanks so much for your kind words!

  3. If they’re all meeting at McDonald’s that frequently, it’s a wonder any of them are alive. We all feel our works are unappreciated like this routinely. It’s a bummer, especially when you can’t view a larger context.

    1. Ha! You’re right John, hope they don’t eat McD’s too much. And yes, when we’re the ones “in” the story, it’s nearly impossible to see the larger context.
      Thanks for reading!

  4. I think second person makes the story much more powerful. Great job. Nice use of unanswered questions.

    Coincidentally, I used second person this week too, something I do sparingly as well. (Great minds, eh? 😉

  5. This story really spoke to me and second person works well. The line “looking for your name alone on an envelope” hit hard, almost as thought it was a premonition.

    Very powerful writing, and I can relate to your character a lot. Wish I could give her a hug!

  6. I felt for her and particularly liked how you didn’t portray him as all bad, but rather just in a closed off, selfish sort of phase. Clearly she can’t catch a break right now around the house when by going to greet him, she burns the sausages (nice detail).

  7. Thank you all so much for your kind words, especially for the validation, if you will, of using second person being the right choice here. As writers, we all know how intimidating it can be to put such work out there in the world, leaving ourselves wide open to the possibility of negative criticism. I greatly appreciate the positive response!

    Rebecca, I ‘forwarded’ the hug and she thanks you. 😉

    Icy and Katherine, I think you’re right – though she was originally led to her closet to sort of rid herself of the painful past, I like to believe that, once she does get rid of that pain, she finds the strength to start over.

    And thanks so much everyone for mentioning the detail that makes this piece. It means a lot to me that you “saw” the meaning in those details just as I did when transcribing.
    Appreciate you all very much!

  8. I agree with everyone else, this is a powerful piece Deanna. At the start I wasn’t sure I liked reading in the second person. It took me a bit of getting used to, but once I got going it flowed. I wanted to strangle the guy right from the get-go, and even more so at the end. Which means your story drew me in completely. Well done.
    🙂

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