Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Story-Time Tuesday - Writing Fiction

Jenny Matlock
If you missed where this story started just click here to read it or simply click on the Story-Time Tuesday link at the top of my blog to take you to previous chapters.

Writing Fiction - Chapter 10

I walked several blocks and finally encountered a familiar street name.

Why is it when you’re walking you never realize how far you’ve gone until you have to start the journey back home again?

I walked.

I ignored the voice of my husband inside my head telling me, “Go get that dog. It needs help.”

I walked some more.

I switched off the nagging voice of my daughter inside my head telling me, “Go get that dog. It needs help.”

I remember arguing inside my head with them both, “I have enough problems, I don’t need another one so shut up and leave me alone!” Perhaps I wasn’t actually arguing with them inside my head, though, because the two people I passed on the sidewalk on my long walk back gave me a funny look and totally avoided eye contact.

Finally, both my husband’s and daughter’s voices quieted, though, and I reached home, mentally and physically exhausted.

I stepped inside; the house felt too warm after the brisk night air. My jacket fell from the hook when I tried to hang it up, but I was too done in to even bother picking it up.

Trudging up the stairs, I realized I hated two-story houses. Everything was always on the other floor. If I was upstairs and needed a cup of tea, I had to go downstairs. If I was downstairs and needed a sweater, I had to go upstairs. I remember thinking it might be time to sell the house. Sure those books about grief said not to make any major changes in your life right after your … ummm…. loved one’s …. ummm… ‘demise’ … but so far those books had been no help. What did they know about grief? And how did they get someone to publish those worthless piles of paper anyway?

As I prepared for bed, I started thinking about that little dog. Gosh, it was an ugly little thing. Why would anybody even want that dog? Why was that dog outside, loose, making weird noises to strangers on park benches anyway? Why was I even thinking about the ratty, little thing?

I washed my face.

And I thought about that mangy, scroungy, dirty, ugly, smelly little dog.

My ‘absent’ husbands voice reverberated inside my head, “It’s gonna get cold tonight, Pearl. That little fella is gonna be cold.” “Shut up!” I told him, “If you cared so much about stupid dogs being out in the stupid cold, you should have stuck around to rescue them yourself!”

He was silent.

And there it was. That see-sawing between grief and the odd desire to laugh like an insane woman; the contrast between the anger I felt because he’d left me and the sorrow I felt because he was gone. Sometimes swinging between those emotions quite literally made me dizzy. In one of the grief support group meetings I’d attended, a woman had told the group she’d purchased a punching bag to help her deal with her raw emotions. Several attendees at that particular meeting had spoken up and asked her how she managed to find the energy to even hit it.

I patted on my moisturizer, listening carefully for my husbands voice again, but, of course, since I was trying to hear him now, he was silent.

That man was always difficult. If I said, “Let’s go,” he’d say, “Let’s stay!” If I said, “I don’t want to cook tonight,” he’d say, “Gee, we haven’t had meatloaf in a long time.” Okay, that’s just not true. The thing I just wrote about? It was a lie. My husband had always been really easy going. I think it was me that had always been ‘testing’ him to see if he actually loved me enough to say, “You don’t want to cook tonight? Let’s go out to dinner,” and the weird thing is, that’s what would almost always happen.

I took a seat on the toilet to mull this revelation over and realized I was a horrible person. No wonder he wanted to ‘take a forever dirt nap. I was a horrible, terrible person. I started to cry. It was handy, crying on the toilet like that. The tp was right at hand to blow my nose with and the sink was close by to splash cold water on my face. If you’re going to have a ‘tear fest’ I highly recommend you try that particular venue.

And when I was all done crying, I realized I wasn’t a horrible person; I was just me. And he had loved me, warts and all. I just couldn’t fathom why this grief, this aloneness, was so hard, though. I was an intelligent woman. I had friends, could articulate my pain and knew how to get help. Why did I end up feeling rotten every single day, no matter how determined I was not to? How could my good intentions to get my act together each morning disintegrate before the sun was even up over the horizon?

It was hard to summon hope and promise and possibility when I felt about as low as that mangy, scroungy, dirty, ugly, smelly little dog.

I wondered briefly if dogs felt sorrow. Wasn’t there a movie about a dog that died of a broken heart? Old Yeller, or something like that?

Maybe that mangy, scroungy, dirty, ugly, smelly little dog’s owner had … ummm… ‘bought a pine condo’ and left the little dog felt hopeless and lost like me.

“Pearl, get a grip,” I had told myself, “It’s a dog. Dogs don’t feel thing like humans.” And then I had a little argument with myself over that. “How do you know, Pearl? What about that movie, Old Yeller? Maybe that’s all true.” During the argument I thought I heard my husband’s voice in the background, talking softly, so I shut up for a minute and here’s what he told me, “Pearl, go get that dog. Do the right thing.”

After I heaved a deep sigh or two, I grabbed a few old towels from the bathroom closet and a cardboard box out of the spare bedroom. I threw my jacket back on and snatched up the car keys.

It took me a little while to find the bench on the street, beside the park I’d never heard of before, and when I finally found it, the dog wasn’t there.

I got out of the car and went over to the bench to see if maybe he was just afraid and hiding. Sitting in the shivery night air, I waited a long time. Finally, I’d figured he wasn’t going to show. I turned to go back to the car, realizing I’d need to make a donation to a Humane Society to offset my guilt, when I saw what looked to be some old rags lying on the ground beside the overgrown bushes. I took a step closer. It was him. The mangiest, scroungiest, dirtiest, ugliest, smelly little dog I had ever seen was lying there, perfectly still.

“Uh oh, Pearl,” I had told myself, “It’s gonna take more than a donation to help with this guilt.”

To be continued, Tuesday, November 16th.

(c) 2010 Jennifer R. Matlock
This publication is the exclusive property of Jennifer R. Matlock and is protected
under the US Copyright Act of 1976 and all other applicable international, federal, state and local laws. The contents of this post/story may not be reproduced as a whole or in part, by any means whatsoever, without consent of the author, Jennifer R. Matlock. All rights reserved.

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Jocelyn said...

Perfect....I love the analogies used and the inner turmoil!!!!

You are such a Fabulous Writer...I was hoping the Pup would be found!!!

Can't wait for next week!!!

Have a great one sweet friend!!!

Jeanie said...

I am so hoping he is just asleep and hasn't "bought a ticket on the doggy bus to heaven". Those two need each other.

Willoughby said...

I'm so glad that Pearl went back to get the dog! I think he is going to be just what she needs to start living again.

I keep thinking that I wish she had gotten him during the daytime so she could take him to a dog groomer instead of having to give him a bath at home. Filthy dogs don't smell very nice when you get them wet (even clean, wet dogs don't smell great, I suppose). Wow, is my OCD showing or what?!

Susan Anderson said...

Ohhhhhh. The puppy plot thickens!


PS. I am having fun with this story!!

Amy said...

I am too emotionally invested in this story, that is for certain. NOOOOO!!!!!!!! The doggy can't be dead! She can't handle that sort of thing. Pearl needs him, and well, obviously, he needs her And her guilt! But having someone to take care of, and having someone happy to see her when she gets home, and just having another living thing in that huge empty house...

P.S. Where did that lady get the energy to hit a punching bag? Grief just seems to suck the life out of you.

Mrs. M said...

I love reading about Pearl coming into her own, through this fog of grief. I am SURE the dog is okay. SURE of it. :)

Terra said...

Really, he has to be sleeping right? the dog that is....if not well, I am not sure Pearl can handle that. However it does sometimes feel like we get kicked when we are down - so maybe...well - I got to read to weeks in a row this week because life hadn't allowed focus time last week. I have to say that was a real treat. It really does read like a novel when you get to "turn the page" and start a new chapter. YAHOO!

Holly Lefevre said...


I love the way you write, the way you tell a story. I need to buy what you are selling. How do I know if I really like something...I stop and reread it 2-3 times and I did that.And then I remember the humor as well...the toilet is a perfect place to have a tearfest!

Tina said...

The more I read about Pearl, the more I love her. You're doing a fab job on this, Jenny. Now PLEASE, don't leave us hanging anymore and have her go get that dog!

H said...

You ratbag! A cliffhanger!! And we've got to wait a whole week to find out if the dog is alive or dead! Awwww :'(

The Words Crafter said...

If you killed off that dirty smelly mangy dog, I'm gonna come find you and I'm gonna, I'm gonna....well, dang it! He just better not be dead! Please?

The Words Crafter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Words Crafter said...

I promise that wasn't a nasty threat I removed. Stupid blogger either won't post anything, or it posts it too many times, grrrr!

See, I'm emotional right now; the dog can't be dead. *sniff* It just can't.

Lourie said...

I was right...I missed this chapter. Glad I went back and checked. I love her arguing with her husband...I would totally do that too!