Friday, 5 April 2013

Writers' Circle Post - March 2013

Untitled

The needle was in my hand; it felt as though it had always been there.

The curtains were closed when I woke, but the sunlight filtered through the sheer material, throwing out floral shadows which mirrored the gaudy print and littered the carpet like badly-drawn stars. The arm of the settee pressed painfully into my lower back, and I realised I had once again slipped into unconsciousness without any regard for my lumbago. Sleep came easily to me now; the dull ache of my advancing years were abetted by an addiction which had claimed my time like a jealous lover, and caused my family a great deal of unexpressed shame.

My compulsion began innocently enough: a recreational habit, recommended by a woman I met at church. She had used it to alleviate her haemorrhoids, and though I was by no means similarly afflicted, I sought to improve the cognitive functions that seemed to be slipping from my grasp with the passage of time. A poor excuse, perhaps. But despite my initial anxiety – and whether as a result of placebo or genuine benefit – I soon felt the fog of confusion lift and my mind seemed sharper than I had ever known it. For the first time since Frank's death, I was enjoying myself.

The sense of belonging which I derived from this pastime was cold comfort to my children, who roundly condemned my new hobby. They thought I was neglecting my previous enjoyments in favour of something they regarded as sinister and unwholesome. I must admit, I did forget to arrange the church flowers several times, and I was unable to attend the early morning shifts at the charity shop after heavy periods of indulgence; nights were spent in a haze and I would often wake on the floor in the kitchen, or in the bath tub with no memory of my having decided to take a dip in the first place. I lost all interest in the garden.

I was upset by their lack of empathy. They didn't understand the loneliness I faced, rattling around the flat without Frank. I was at my lowest ebb - I realise that now - but at the time, I was so quick to anger. I lashed out (an action quite out of character) and informed them that if they couldn't accept my lifestyle, then they should consider themselves unwelcome at the retirement apartments. Soon, they stopped coming.

Left to my own devices, I graduated from the occasional extravagance to an almost constant state of immoderation. I was gilded by a sense of entitlement that came from my lifetime of sacrifice. My argument for excess was the unfulfilled martyrdom of the frustrated housewife.

The pain in my back was unbearable now, and I stirred, my legs swinging wildly into the coffee table and disturbing the detritus of last night's binge. Smiling wryly to myself, I tidied away the evidence, and wiped the surface with a wet cloth. I pulled back the curtains and wrenched open a window, hoping to dispel the mist that lay thickly about the small room.

I decided I would shower, then pop into town on the bus, to meet a friend who had promised me a quantity of something beautiful with which to pass a pleasant evening.

I stooped to pick a stray thread of wool from the carpet when I noticed a pink object moving slowly just beyond my field of vision. Hallucinations were uncommon, but my brain was still reeling from the night before, and in the short time in which the addiction had taken its hold, I had learnt that all things were possible. I plucked an ornamental ashtray from the sideboard and swung around as agilely as one can with two plastic hips.

Mr Tinkles meowed plaintively, his tired eyes looking up at me as he sank into a melancholy crouch. He stayed hunched low to the ground for a moment, before he decided that I posed no threat to his physical well being. Meowing again in that same sad manner, he began kicking ferociously as the pale pink knitted jumper that cling to his furry body. I knew what I had to do.

'Hello? Is that Knitter's Anonymous? Yes, it's Aida Crenshaw again. Yes. Yes, a jumper for my cat this time. No, I'll come straight over. Thank you.'

4 comments:

  1. The only thing that threw me was the word 'lumbago' which I have now added to my vocabulary. ^_^

    This.. is very.. very good :D I love the end, it took me off guard I was expecting a twist but I was thinking it might be religious and was expecting some kind of tie between 'needle' and church.. I'm wondering now if that was a deliberate misque or if I was just expecting a twist because I know your work? :)

    It seems pretty well thought out, I wish I could suggest some way of embellishing it, i think you have got the balance of imagery right. Eluding that there might be a twist earlier would just lessen the impact of the end I think.

    As for my favourite line ...I like the imagery of the floral pattern shadows : "the sunlight filtered through the sheer material, throwing out floral shadows which mirrored the gaudy print and littered the carpet like badly-drawn stars".

    If I am pushed to suggest a change I would change the phrase 'my new hobby' to something like 'my newely aquired interest' .as hobby suggests hobby were as aquired and interest suggest something more perminent ...like a physical addiction. ^_^
    But then again the read back and detection of the word 'hobby' is funny in its self (*imagines self slapping self on head whilst saying "duh"). ^_^

    ....add a catchy title and its Purrrr-fect ;)

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  2. Hi Leon,
    Thanks very much for the comment. I'm glad that the 'twist' or lack thereof wasn't immediately obvious. I wanted to make it totally ambiguous as to whether it was knitting or something more sinister - do you think this succeeds?

    Also, do you have any suggestions for a title?


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  3. Hi Leanne,

    long time no speak! I hope that you enjoyed Latitude! It's now been a whole year since you invited me to The Circle. Thank you for that. I think i have come a long way!

    I very much enjoyed this story. Knitting and crochet seem a very popular and indie cool past time now-a-days. Good angle for a cautionary tale!

    I've always thought if a title doesn't instantly spring to mind, the way to find it is to pick your favorite line/words/phrase from the story.
    "Constant Immoderation"
    "My Lowest Ebb"
    are both quite leading titles.

    I'm not 100% on how knitting helps with piles unless the woman knitted a doughnut cushion ... but I am not all that sure I want to know for certain!

    The reaction of Aida's family seems a little overblown once you reach the end. You comment that they feel it has stopped her living her life. I feel because we don't meet her family or hear their voices/personalities that I need a little stronger motivation for their opinions/anger/hurt.

    The vocab here is great and really helps to give Aida some soul. It really adds to the comedy in the readers mind of a posh old bird doing heroin.

    If you were going to expand the story I think it would be fab if Aida takes us through her feelings/symptoms of withdrawal.

    x

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  4. Y'know, I thought we were getting a story about an old woman on smack. I really really did. Then boom, you finish the tale with a simple little joke - that makes sense!

    I think it's entirely believable and might I suggest: have her late Frank be someone who she used to do puzzles with? It would mirror her need to busy herself with something should he go. Maybe suggest that they did the garden together? You could even shock the reader by saying how he would approve of her new habit.

    Yes, I do think that the more you go over this piece with ideas on how to shock people, the better it will be. Not to say that you have in any way failed in telling a good yarn. Not at all.

    You might even have the narrator offer a friend of hers to try it out for themselves. Obviously, have that friends reaction muted so that it complies with your artifice. For example, they could say that it's just not their thing, and that they didn't think it would be hers.

    What do you think?

    I can't see anyone suggesting that the characters voice needs more distinction. It sounds like an old lady and maybe with a bit more info/history between her and her late husband might make the character more distinct for you? Although, considering the tale is a joke in disguise, such detailing might weigh it down somewhat. How precious is the character to you? If you want us to feel for them even more before the reveal then yes, you could have her language spruced up with words that distinguish class and education. In my opinion she is a trope that serves your story well enough.

    Lastly, if you could, insert a loving grandchild into the mix. You could have this boy/girl being a surrogate companion that she neglects in favour of the needle. It would also give the family a firm reason to respond negatively to her new past time. Hey, he could be quite sensitive to the fact that his grandmother isn't keen to sit and do puzzles with her anymore! Her son or daughter could point that out. Obviously, we would begin to question what parents would expose their son/daughter to such a habit but then, there will be a bigger pay off at the end of this fun and well written tale!

    I've pasted my fav bit here as upon my third reading, I decided that she really is a sympathetic character slipping into a dementia rather than just the butt of your well penned hilarity!

    'I must admit, I did forget to arrange the church flowers several times, and I was unable to attend the early morning shifts at the charity shop after heavy periods of indulgence; nights were spent in a haze and I would often wake on the floor in the kitchen, or in the bath tub with no memory of my having decided to take a dip in the first place. I lost all interest in the garden.'

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