So today is Cinqo de Mayo, fifth of May, my second son's birthday and Monday. We had a birthday cheesecake covered in honeycomb after a delicious meal of chicken burritos. So we are all full and comfortable, relaxing in front of our various keyboards ready for a warm quiet evening in.
It has been a particularly wet day and somewhat chilly although I think the world is upside down. It is colder in the north of the country than here in the south. How odd. It is good to see steady rain.
Day 5 for Storyaday.org
Guest Prompt] Angela Ackerman – Shame
Angela Ackerman is a writing coach and co-author of the #1 bestselling resource, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression as well as the bestselling pair, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes and The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws. When she isn’t teaching or building innovate tools for writers, she writes Middle Grade and Young Adult mysteries represented by the Jill Corcoran Literary Agency. You can find her at Writers Helping Writers, a hub for all things description.
Shame is a powerful emotion, and one of the most wounding experiences a character can face.
Write a story where your character does something that they feel shame for (maybe a failure, making a mistake [through one's own carelessness or by accident] that hurts someone else, or letting someone down, poor treatment of someone, refusing to help, etc.) and how they redeem themselves in the aftermath.
My stomach hurt. I had tried to hide in the toilets but she had dragged us all out and stood us in a line in front of the old hall stage.
“Forgotten your uniform again have you?” The PE teacher sneered at us. The fat, thin, weak and pimply misfits who deliberately left PE gear shoved in some hidden darkness behind their wardrobes. None of us spoke. None of looked at her either.
“Look at me when I speak to you.” She barked at us. Every fictitious sergeant major was channelled through this dictator. She was the physical education tyrant and we were terrified. I could smell hot urine and noticed the puddle before she did. There was nothing I could do and I was just as terrified but luckier to have a stronger bladder.
“You filthy child. Strip off now. You.” She pointed right at me and I jumped, the wet kid was crying. “Go and fetch the mop immediately.” I took off at a run, so frightened I didn’t know where I was running. I opened every door in the hall with clumsy fingers, looking for a mop. Wrenching open a door with a slide bolt I had a dozen mops and brooms fall on me and I landed on the floor feeling like the bad stick in pick- up sticks. I managed to wrestle the brooms back into the cupboard and dragged the heavy mop back to where my fellow victims stood around the puddle on the floor. One was naked and shivering. Trying to hide their intimate parts and I tried to avoid looking at their glowing red face.
“Put these on.” The teacher threw dull brown material at us. The brown turned out to be large bloomers with puffy legs and matching brown smock tops. They looked ridiculous but we put them on. None of them fit properly. Too big or two small and we looked ludicrous but at least we had something on. One time she had made some kids run around the oval in their underwear. All the athletic suck ups in their pristine sport uniforms with perfectly level socks were jogging primly around the oval when we appeared from the side door. The oval and bleachers were packed with students today and we were the comedy act for a full house. “Run” she screeched from behind us and followed it with an ear piercing whistle blast. That drew the attention of every set of eyes and a ripple of laughter began doing the Mexican wave as we passed at a shambling trot.
“You” she screeched at me and pointed a sharp claw into my shoulder blade. I wondered if my bladder would actually hold.
“I saw you run for the mop so don’t try to kid me now move.” The last word was almost a roar and I sprinted away from her in fear she would claw me. Fear can do amazing things to a person and while I was running I didn’t have to see the others laughing at me. My face was burning with embarrassment and shame. I hated that woman. I managed to make it around the oval and stopped where she had gathered the good kids. I was wheezing and gasping and bent over to try and suck more air in my lungs.
“We will all do handstands today. Please demonstrate how to stand on your hands for the others Andrea.” The favoured one dropped lightly forward and lifted her perfect legs into the air, balancing neatly on her perfectly manicured fingers and soft work free palms. She held the pose for several steady breaths then languidly dropped back to her feet and stood up without so much as a hair out of place. I hated her too.
“Simple and elegant, Andrea. Thank you. Now the rest of you can try it.” She walked around all of the students and examined their attempts. She praised all her favoured ones, the neatly attired PE prims and berated the rest of us except me. I just watched her with my anger mounting. She leaned over me, hands on hips and her chin rumpled up in a pug dog fashion.
“Why aren’t you doing a hand stand?” I stared her steadily in the eyes and began to squat down. I slid my hands under my feet.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?”
“I’m standing on my hands Miss, just like you told us.” Her face became a purpilish shade and she spat as she screamed at me.
“Stand up at once you insolent monster. Everyone gather around. Come and see what this student can do when given instruction.” The others all shuffled over and shouldered into a circle around me. “Now show them what you just showed me.” I had not broken eye contact with her for one second and I ignored all the other kids as once again I dropped to a squat and slid my hands under my feet.
“I am standing on my hands Miss. Just as you instructed.” I was enjoying her imminent explosion and hoped it would make her skull burst open.
“Take yourself to the principal at once you stupid insolent…” her words became incoherent and the laughter that had started as quiet titters erupted to blend with her yelling. It all faded into the background of my triumph. I had bested the beast. They weren’t laughing at me. I walked away feeling the slaps on my back from the other kids and I felt good. I basked in the glory of the moment. The aftermath would come and I would deal with it when it did but right now all that counted was the way my shoulders were no longer hunched forward. My chin was up and I proudly strutted away in my brown bloomers in the cheers of the crowd. Chalk one up for the underdog. 986
I have just listened and watched a video of Jane Yolen talking about various aspects of writing from a recent 'boot camp' she held at her home for a small group of writers. It seems she regularly does live in writing retreats and shares the important things she has learned as a writer and assists the other writers to polish their craft. Now that is a master class I would particularly like to be part of. The first Jane Yolen book I ever encountered was Dove Isabeau
It is a beautiful fable that has haunted me since I first read it. Dove Isabeau, named so because she wears the white and grey colours of a dove, is bereft at her mother's death. Her father, Lord Darnton, marries a witch--with "eyes the green of May but a heart as bleak as February." Jealous of Isabeau's youth and beauty, the witch resolves to destroy her and turns her into a great Wyrm, a frightening, scaly red dragon. The dragon is condemned to prevent Isabeau's suitors from entering the castle by killing and eating them, until "No one was left to watch the red beast weep as it gnawed upon their bones." Only when the king sends abroad for his son, Kemp Owain, to return from his study of sorcery is Isabeau saved, and not without a bit of help from her mother's cat, who issues instructions in the sweet voice of the dead queen. There is a difficult twist yet before the young people can find happiness. Breaking one curse causes another.
The art of Denis Nolan exquisitely illustrates Jane Yolen's story. The somber, lucid watercolors, full of detail, show the interior of the castle, the witch's tower room, the transformation of gentle Isabeau into the fearsome, ugly dragon and so much more in breathtaking beauty.
I would highly recommend you treat yourself to a look at Jane Yolen's writing and Denis Nolan's artif you have not yet had the pleasure.
Now it is time for me to go and write. I have yet to do today's
poetry so I shall go and do that.