18 March 2010

"Wire-in-the-Mire" #Fridayflash


Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

The room languished in deep shadows cast from the cheap brass lamp with the paper shade as Peter wrote his letter. Note. It was on a pretty piece of stationery; he'd found it in the drawer, right next to Mindy's wedding ring.

The wedding cake was expensive; he knew that it wouldn't be so big of a deal, but she'd insisted, and so it was ordered: a heaving, tiered, chaliced and laced monstrosity of a thing, with a gag bride-and-groom statuette set on top, and the groom was sinking into the icing.

Wire-in-the-mire, his mind flashed at him, like a temporary neon vacancy sign, just before dawn arrives and the illumination is no longer needed or appreciated. He swallowed his gumption to call the whole thing off, and so they were wed.

Anthony came first: a robust, rosy-cheeked baby that grew to a boy that grew into a teen who learned to hate his own father. Renee was next: the total opposite of her big brother, a slender, sickly little thing that adapted to the shadier side of things and learned the biggest virtues in a good coat of SPF 75 in the summertime. And then there was Linda: a sweet infant that walked three months early, neither cried or threw any tantrums, but died mysteriously just before she turned a year old.

Her little death threw Peter and Mindy into chaotic torment, and nights of insomnia and drinking, until one day, Anthony stole the family car, Renee picked up her bags and followed her mom out to the taxi and Peter found himself alone in that big house.

The fridge tided him over for a solid three weeks before he was forced to go out into the cruel sunshine, pretending that his life wasn't utterly disgusting and worthless, and find sustenance to feed his withering frame. He wasn't good at cooking, and twice he set the burner afire, but soon he grasped the elementary mechanics of heating food to eat and was able to get by just a little easier.

Which of course, added to his guilt, and there was one gloomy afternoon that he ducked into a Goldrush Pawn Shoppe with two p's, one e on the end, like olde England.

Towards the back of the store was a glass case that ran the length of the wall, containing weapons of all shapes and sizes and among them, guns.

37 comments:

Laura Eno said...

The whole of his life, in a few tidy paragraphs. I loved the image of the groom sinking into the wedding cake...such foreshadowing of life to come. Fantastic writing, Carrie!

Anton Gully said...

Wonderful. For such a sorry decline it flowed beautifully.

Cascade Lily said...

I liked the couple of funny bits you popped in there amidst such sadness - the sinking groom (!) and setting the burner aflame (!!!). Well done Carrie :)

Jeremy said...

Well done. Dig it. Especially the ending. I like the kind of endings that you pretty much know are coming but still surprise you.

G.P. Ching said...

I agree with Jeremy. I was waiting for the tragedy but it was like a two fisted punch. The infant death hits you and then the guns. It does surprise. Nicely written.

stina8753 said...

Painful and emotionally-charged without ever getting emotional. Spectacular writing, as always. :)

Jim_Wisneski said...

Well done Carrie. So much told in so little. . . you are a master of storytelling. . . without even using dialogue!

Jim

Marisa Birns said...

His life, his eventual death, all told with pathos and humor.

Your description of the children marvelously gave us all we needed to know and understand how they added to his despair and guilt.

Your writing is sharp, strong, wonderful.

Bukowski's Basement said...

ooooh. Chilling, sad and gorgeously told. I really really liked this one...

dan powell said...

Loved the little details here. Letter becomes Note. The sinking groom. A whole tragic life flagged up with such tiny images.

The line about 'old Europe' you might want to change to 'olde England' as England would have used Shoppe like that from the old and middle English I think, but not so sure about the rest of Europe - it's a Chaucer thing. :)

Jen Brubacher said...

There's so much more going on here, beneath the surface, and that's wonderful. Most of a life, in a few paragraphs, and as someone here already said, no dialogue. Skillfully done. I wish he had a better ending!

Diandra said...

Perfect summary of a life gone wrong. At the beginning I was confused because I did not exactly know what happened before or after what, but by the end of the 2nd paragraph, confusion had been conquered and locked away. (^v^)

Chance said...

Good stuff, I like the reference to the antique name and a very tidy tale

Al Bruno III said...

Very well done and a real punch in the gut.

What is that old saying that most men lead lives of quiet desperation?

windspiritgirl said...

Very well done. I think even the beginning sentence foreshadows. "The room languished in deep shadows cast from the cheap brass lamp with the paper shade as Peter wrote his letter..." DEEP shadows from something not as deep no meaningful. Then the pretty paper beside the left wedding ring...(paper shade also possibly linking to the stationery, his writing of the sad note...) So sad, written so matter-of-fact-ly. Very effective.

Eric J. Krause said...

Very well written. Covers so much in such a short amount of words. Good story!

ERIN COLE said...

Great characterization...this just says it all, "was forced to go out into the cruel sunshine, pretending that his life wasn't utterly disgusting and worthless, and find sustenance" - I know people like this and can't say I've never been there, though under different circumstances:)

PS - Your Howl story, Not Me is excellent - amazing prose and vision in that piece that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Linda said...

You set the tone with the first sentence. Nothing goes right for this poor man... just hope he had a steady aim.

"...letter. Note." Pretty much sums it up.

But why'd you name the baby Linda? Peace, Linda

jodicleghorn said...

Far out Carrie - how do you pack so much into so few words. I am in awe.

I'm with Laura and the others - the sinking groom in the cake... and you encapsulate modern life and families all too well.

Anne Tyler Lord said...

Really great writing! I loved the paragraph about the kids - each of their lives in one sentence - very cool!

And, the sinking groom - Oh if he only would have listened!

Good open ending- foreshadowing his doom? or maybe not.

Jodi MacArthur said...

This is seriously depressing. I think I need a gun.

Way to twist a whole life's story and motive in a couple words. You are so good at flashing (you know what I mean).

~Tim said...

"Note" was a perfect detail. What a sad life.

PJ said...

As Diandra said, I was confused at the beginning as to where and when we were, exactly, but eventually it all came together. Very compact and sadly precise. I wish there had been a speck or a germ of hope for him. Well done, Carrie

Draco Torre said...

Solid flash. The mood set in the beginning follows to the hard hitting end. So much life told in a few paragraphs. Great stuff.

Icy Sedgwick said...

Nice story - can't help wondering if Anthony was somehow to blame for poor little Linda!

Deanna said...

I suppose I could just echo what everyone else has already said - superb job of showing us an entire life in so few words. And the image of the sinking groom says it all.
You are an astoundingly talented writer Carrie!

Sam said...

Masterful piece - to capture a whole life so thoroughly in so few words is a fantastic achievement, I've learned a lot from reading this story.

ganymeder said...

Great flow. A lot of depth with few words.

Carrie said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by. Wire in the Mire is a piece of an abandoned WIP where so much more happens after he purchases the gun. But I'll leave the ending up to you. ;)

Laurita said...

A whole life, miserable from "I do" wrapped in a tidy package. I like how you left him looking at the guns and didn't take that extra step to him going home with one. It was a good place to stop.

jimdempsey said...

Great details and pacing. Any chance we'll see another flash of this abandoned WIP?

Cathy Olliffe said...

Eloquent. Tragedy told with a great economy of well-chosen words.
The cake sounded tasty, though.

Carrie said...

Jim - It's possible. I've been sitting on it for a few months and it's actually a derivative of some half-baked first short story I wrote years ago.

Somethings just aren't meant to be, but it's now living a nice short life as a Friday flash. ;)

Tony Noland said...

The entire life history of his first-born son, written in a single sentence... that was a gem.

mazzz_in_Leeds said...

"He swallowed his gumption to call the whole thing off, and so they were wed." And there is the indication that he is surely doomed, right there!
Some fine misery here, quiet depseration as a commenter said.
"Her little death" - very interesting choice here

pegjet said...

I liked the detail of how he felt guilty because he learned how to get on on his own.

Well done, Carrie.

Skycycler said...

Poetic degeneration. Loved the rhythms in this. And I, too, wondered at 'little death'. Marvellous stuff.
Simon.