Storyville: Dissection

I wanted to do something a little different with this column. I wanted to let you inside my warped little mind as I break down one of my stories. I want to talk about the various aspects of what went into the story, why I did what I did, and show you the end result, and my thoughts on how it all turned out. I hope that by dissecting this story it may provide some insight into what I go through in the process of writing, editing, and finalizing a short story.

THE STORY

I wanted to focus on what I consider one of my more successful stories, so I’m going to talk about “Twenty Reasons to Stay and One to Leave,” which was not only accepted at Metazen, a really cool online site, but was also nominated for a Pushcart Prize. As of now, I don’t know if I got in, if I am a winner, but already this story has beaten some odds to get to where it is. It’s what I consider a “list story,” because it is not in a conventional format, and I’ll get into more of that later. There are twenty reasons to stay, listed in order, and one reason to leave. Each sentence begins with the word “because.” Here is the story in its entirety. I’m going to put it in italics later so that you can differentiate between what I wrote and what my thoughts on it are.

“TWENTY REASONS TO STAY AND ONE TO LEAVE”


(Originally published at Metazen on August 5th, 2011).

Because in the beginning it was the right thing to do, staying with her, comforting and holding her, while inside I was cold and numb, everything on the surface an act, just for her.

Because I couldn’t go outside, trapped in the empty expanse of rooms that made me twitch, echoes of his voice under the eaves, and in the rafters.

Because she still hid razorblades all over the house.

Because I wasn’t ready to bare myself to the world, willing to pour more salt into the wounds.

Because of the dolls and the way she held them to her bare breasts, the way she laughed and carried on, two dull orbs filling her sockets, lipstick on her face, hair done up, but the rest of her like marble, to go with her porcelain children that watched from his bed, defiling it, making a joke of it all.

Because at one point in our past she saved me from myself, the simple act of showing up. Lasagna filled my apartment with garlic and promise when all I could do was fall into a bottle.

Because I kept hoping he would walk in the door, backpack flung over his shoulder, eager to show me his homework, the worlds he had created with a handful of crayons.

Because it was my fault, the accident, and we both knew it.

Because if she was going to die a death of a thousand cuts, one of them wouldn’t be mine.

Because tripping over a Matchbox car, I found myself hours later curled up in a ball, muttering and listening for his response.

Because she asked me to, and I hadn’t learned to say no to her yet.

Because she wanted to live in any time but this time, jumping from one era to another, bonnets and hoop skirts, wigs and parasols, and I allowed it.

Because when I held her in the black void that was our bedroom, pressing my body up against hers, part of me believed I was a sponge, soaking up her pain. It was a fake voodoo, but it was all that I had.

Because I had no love left for anyone in the world.

Because I didn’t want to go.

Because it was still my home, and not simply a house yet.

Because I wasn’t done talking to my son, asking him for forgiveness.

Because I didn’t believe that we were done, that our love had withered, collapsed and fallen into his casket, wrapping around his broken bones, covering his empty eyes.

Because I didn’t hate her enough to leave.

Because I didn’t love her enough to leave.

Because every time she looked at me, she saw him, our son, that generous boy, and it was another gut punch bending her over, another parting of her flesh, and I was one of the thousand, and my gift to her now was my echo.

THE PLACEMENT

Metazen has a pretty high acceptance rate (30% according to Duotrope.com) but that’s still saying that only one in three stories gets in. And since they publish a story a day there, that’s a lot of stories to accept. It took 33 days for them to accept this story, and since the format was a little different, I was pretty thrilled about the placement. They’ve published some great authors there over the years, xTx, Meg Tuite, Kirsty Logan, J.A. Tyler, Sara Lipppmann, etc. These aren’t huge names, but they are authors that I’m familiar with and that I consider good company. That’s always something to think about when submitting stories: is there any pay (none), what kind of exposure will I get (the story of the day, great focus) and the company of your fellow authors (talented people that I know). The Pushcart nomination was a real honor, especially when you consider that they picked my story as one of six stories selected out of the 260 they publish each year.

THE TITLE

For the most part, I like to use one-word titles. I’m not sure what prompted me to go on this kick, but there’s something appealing about it. Both of my novels, Transubstantiate and Disintegration, follow this approach, as well as many stories, such as “Victimized,” “Released,” “Transmogrify,” and “Interview.” With those titles there is usually a layer of meaning, the first hint about what is going to happen. For example, in “Released” it’s about not only freedom, but also an actual release from a mental facility.

With the story we’re talking about today, I wanted to do several things with my title. First, I wanted to alert the reader to the fact that there will be twenty-one items in this list, in this story. This way, they know how long the story will be, or how much to expect. It’s not 100, it’s not 1,000—it’s a number that can be counted, something manageable. It also gives the reader the first hint of the subject matter—somebody is talking about staying, the many reasons for staying, and there will be a shift, from staying, to leaving. We have our conflict, and a possible resolution right up front. It also helps me, as the author, to stay on track, to keep my focus. I figured twenty was a list, a series of scenes, observations, and emotions that I could handle.

THE FORMAT

We discussed a little bit about the fact that this is a list story. They’re fun to write, a way to really get deep into something, to list out all of the many emotions that are building up inside your protagonist. You have room to experiment, to try out different answers. One thing that I definitely wanted to do, but I did consider a risk, was to start out each paragraph with the word “Because…” in order to create a pattern, a rhythm to follow. I wanted that echo of because, because, because to fill the readers head. In my own mind, the protagonist is answering the questions that people are asking him. They are asking him “Why do you put up with her insanity?” and “Why do you stay with her?” and “How can you still love her?” Those are the questions I heard in my head.

THE IDEA

Before I forget, I wanted to tell you about where the idea for this story came from. I originally entered this story in a contest at Moon Milk Review. I obviously didn’t win it, or even place, but here is the image that got me started.

It’s such a weird picture, right?

DISSECTION

So what I’m going to do here is break down each of the twenty-one paragraphs, and let you know what I was thinking, what I was hoping to accomplish. I’ll list the original story in italics so you know which is the story and which are my comments.

Here we go!

Because in the beginning it was the right thing to do, staying with her, comforting and holding her, while inside I was cold and numb, everything on the surface an act, just for her.

I’m showing that this guy is a “good guy” since he is doing the “right thing” here. He is showing us the reasons he stayed. By saying “in the beginning” I’m telling the reader that something happened here, so there will be a beginning, a middle and an end. He’s comforting her, we’re again showing that he’s the kind of guy that stays, not leaves, even though he is “cold and numb.” He’s putting on an “act, just for her,” and we’re getting a sense about what kind of guy he is. That’s important, up front. This is my hook, the tip of the iceberg. I think it’s a decent hook, because it hints at much more to come. But it doesn’t spell it all out for you yet, so maybe I could have told you more. Does it pull you in?

Because I couldn’t go outside, trapped in the empty expanse of rooms that made me twitch, echoes of his voice under the eaves, and in the rafters.

Okay, we’re showing that he’s hiding out, unable to face the world, and also, that there is an emptiness in the house and an echo of “his” voice. These are early hints. Who is “he” and why is there this feeling in the house? We’ll get to that. But hopefully a sense of unease and dread is slowly starting to build. We get a little bit of on the body physical description in the “twitch” which allows us to picture him. Echoes are sound, another sense to pull in. Do you know what’s happening yet?

Because she still hid razorblades all over the house.

I like what I’m implying here, that she’s suicidal, but the cliché of razorblades bugs me now. I wanted something obvious, since the first two paragraphs are a little vague, but if I had to change one section out of the twenty-one, it would probably be this one. I also varied the length of the paragraphs here, this one is much shorter—it speeds it up a bit. That she hides them is a great way to show there is tension and pain in the house, but I wonder if I couldn’t have said it better? A straight razor, a chef’s knife, maybe I could have done something a little more unique. What do you think?

Because I wasn’t ready to bare myself to the world, willing to pour more salt into the wounds.

This is an echo of the second entry, but it adds a bit more depth, showing that he can’t handle more pain, that he is unwilling to do that. He’s hiding out. I like to use repetition sometimes, to find a second (or third) way to say something. Will this develop into a chorus? Already we have the chorus of “Because…” running throughout this.

Because of the dolls and the way she held them to her bare breasts, the way she laughed and carried on, two dull orbs filling her sockets, lipstick on her face, hair done up, but the rest of her like marble, to go with her porcelain children that watched from his bed, defiling it, making a joke of it all.

Okay, here we get to the meat of the story. It’s only the fifth entry, so we haven’t waited too long, hopefully, and it also addresses the woman. We are finally getting more of her story, where for the most part, it has been about him. This is also the scene I wrote that was a direct response to the photo, the prompt for the contest. The dolls and the bare breasts, it’s just weird, right? I wanted to show that she was mentally unstable at this point. Laughter, the “dull orbs,” they imply a distance and an unhinged quality. And at the end of the paragraph we get the real truth that is buried in here “defiling it, making a joke of it all.” What is he talking about here? We don’t quite know yet (do you?) but there has been a sense of loss throughout the whole story, if I’ve done my job, that is.

Because at one point in our past she saved me from myself, the simple act of showing up. Lasagna filled my apartment with garlic and promise when all I could do was fall into a bottle.

And then immediately after showing his wife as a bit of a freak, as somebody who is not doing well, we immediately flip it to the past, and something positive, something she did for him, something generous and kind and thoughtful. We get the sensory items, the garlic, paired with hope, with promise, a time when “all I could do was fall into a bottle.” That shows his past, a time when he was falling apart, a drunk, and she was helping him. It’s important to create these shades of gray—to show that they are both complicated people.

Because I kept hoping he would walk in the door, backpack flung over his shoulder, eager to show me his homework, the worlds he had created with a handful of crayons.

Okay, here we go. A this point, the story should be realized, or at least, partially realized. It’s still not totally clear what happened, but if you add everything up, we can see that the protagonist, the father and husband, is hoping his son will show up. This is tugging at your heartstrings, hopefully. The use of crayons is there to pull the reader in deeper, I mean—we’ve all used crayons, right? These are childhood memories. What is he saying here? Is he saying his son is no longer here? Then what happened? The reader has to keep reading to get all of that information—I’m trying to pull them down that path.

Because it was my fault, the accident, and we both knew it.

A-ha! There was an accident. And it was his fault. Guilt is implied, and blame. And I’m also varying the length—this is short. The next couple of paragraphs will be short, a machine gun rhythm of bam, bam, bam with the story being revealed.

Because if she was going to die a death of a thousand cuts, one of them wouldn’t be mine.

He’s showing compassion, but also that she’s being hurt, over and over again. This was also a form of execution in China in roughly AD 900, a slow death—brutal stuff.

Because tripping over a Matchbox car, I found myself hours later curled up in a ball, muttering and listening for his response.

Back to the boy, and a moment where we see the father break down. If you’ve ever lost a loved one, that’s all it takes, some tiny, random reference to totally unhinge you.

Because she asked me to, and I hadn’t learned to say no to her yet.

“Why don’t you leave?” is what I hear as the question here. “Why do you stay?” is the second part. He’s still unable to do anything but listen to her, to comfort her, even if it’s not necessarily the best thing for her, his presence.

Because she wanted to live in any time but this time, jumping from one era to another, bonnets and hoop skirts, wigs and parasols, and I allowed it.

I imagined her in denial here, dressing up in costumes, playing with the dolls. I’m not sure if this is an easy scene to picture for the reader. He’s letting her stay lost, because it’s better than the alternative, to embrace the death of their son. You’ve got that by now, right? The son is dead?

Because when I held her in the black void that was our bedroom, pressing my body up against hers, part of me believed I was a sponge, soaking up her pain. It was a fake voodoo, but it was all that I had.

Okay, back to a longer scene, which will be followed by several short paragraphs, sentences, really, and then the final scene, which is longer, the ending being particularly important. This shows the vulnerability of their bedroom, “the black void,” a place where there used to be peaceful sleep, and sex—all of that. I hope it’s also a softer moment, one that shows that he was trying to help her, to take her pain. I also love the “fake voodoo” because it implies a bit of dark magic and because it’s true, right? In times of need we get very superstitious in our actions, our prayers, everything.

Because I had no love left for anyone in the world.

Back to this echo, the one about avoiding the world. When we lose somebody, either a breakup or a death, isn’t this how we react? “Fuck the world, screw all of you—I want nothing to do with any of you, I just don’t care.” Right?

Because I didn’t want to go.

Because it was still my home, and not simply a house yet.

More of this echo, rippling out, his voice, and his solitude—“I don’t love you, I don’t want to go.” And then this is followed up with a change—this is a shift here, or implying that the shift is coming, anyway, from a home, to just a house. I’m setting you up for the ending. I’m telling you what is coming.

Because I wasn’t done talking to my son, asking him for forgiveness.

We’re almost done now—can you feel the ending coming? He’s trying to move on, but he can’t forgive himself, not yet. What a painful place to exist.

Because I didn’t believe that we were done, that our love had withered, collapsed and fallen into his casket, wrapping around his broken bones, covering his empty eyes.

Finally, the full confirmation of what happened. When you mention a casket, his broken bones, there’s no more denying his death. And it also shows us that this is the death of their relationship, that they cannot survive this transgression. He’s not quite there yet, he is still clinging, but not for long.

Because I didn’t hate her enough to leave.

Because I didn’t love her enough to leave.

I love this flip here—these sentences are so close to each other. In the beginning, leaving would have been cruel. As a reader, I hope that this slows you down, that there is a moment when you pause to say, “What exactly did he say here?” Because it would be easy to miss this, as only one word changes—hate into love. The second line sets you up for the final paragraph, the last scene, and the first (and only) reason to leave.

Because every time she looked at me, she saw him, our son, that generous boy, and it was another gut punch bending her over, another parting of her flesh, and I was one of the thousand, and my gift to her now was my echo.

This it the final change, the final transformation, we have now gone through the journey, the twenty reasons to stay, and now, we are at the one reason to leave. If I’ve done everything right, this should be a powerful ending. My goal here was to make people cry. I know of a few people that did, and as masochistic as that sounds, it made me happy. It means I told the story right.

What he’s saying is that he reminds her of the boy, in the way he lives, the way he loves, his face, and he admits that he is in fact “one of the thousand” cuts that are slowly killing her. The only thing he can do is to leave.  I’ve set this up from the beginning, and told you he would do this. It is his “gift to her,” his leaving, “his echo.”

CONCLUSION

I hope this has been a helpful exercise, and that by walking you through what I did here, I can help you to be conscious of what you are doing in your own work. I know the editing process can be painful, but if you go back through and cut the fat, if you look over your sentences, your paragraphs, your entire arc—you can see the big picture in all of the tiny steps, and get a sense for what you need to do with YOUR story. If you have any questions, please, don’t hesitate to ask.


More Reading:

How about some other list stories? One of my inspirations for this story was Blake Butler. He has a project called 2500, which is a series of 50 lists of 50 items. They are widely published at places like PANK, Juked, Hobart, Copper Nickel, Keyhole, Black Warrior Review, etc. This is a work-in-progress, with new stories from this list coming out all of the time. They are definitely worth checking out.


TO SEND a question to Richard, drop him a line at Richard@litreactor.com. Who knows, it could be his next column.

Image of There Is No Year: A Novel
Author: Blake Butler
Price:
Publisher: Harper Perennial (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 416 pages
Image of Scorch Atlas
Author: Blake Butler
Price:
Publisher: Featherproof Books (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 188 pages
Richard Thomas

Column by Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is the author of three books—Transubstantiate, Herniated Roots and Staring Into the Abyss. His over 75 publications include Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) with Stephen King and Peter Straub, PANK, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Arcadia, and Pear Noir. He is also the editor of two anthologies, both out in 2014: The Lineup (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. In his spare time he writes for The Nervous Breakdown, LitReactor, and is Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press. For more information visit www.whatdoesnotkillme.com or contact Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.

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Comments

Meredith_103's picture
Meredith_103 May 2, 2012 - 3:17pm

Great story, Richard. It's emotionally powerful and I like seeing your thought progression explained here. For me, the most impressive part is the order in which you chose to reveal the information to the reader. While all twenty reasons are compelling, they truly feel like they belong exactly in the order you've written them. The order really draws out the emotional tension, engaging the reader early on and then confirming our worst suspicions. It helps me to see it broken down and explained in so much detail too. Thanks.

jennydecki's picture
jennydecki from Chicagoland is reading The Foreigners May 2, 2012 - 5:27pm

I have a strong affinity for any good sentence that begins with the word because. This story is great and I love the breakdown, love to see what you're thinking behind the words. Thank you!

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies May 2, 2012 - 7:22pm

thanks, meredith and jenny. i appreciate the kind words, and hope it helps. pace and choosing what to reveal, and when to do it, it's tricky. i like that build up of tension. guessing when the audience will understand what is going on, trying to estimate when they'll realize what is happening, that tipping point, it's always a delicate matter, imo. 

Zackery Olson's picture
Zackery Olson from Rockford, IL is reading pretty much anything I can get my hands on May 2, 2012 - 11:09pm

Another excellent column. The story is also very good. I do agree with you about the razor blades though. Actually, knowing a bit more than the average reader about psychology and mental illness--which I find to be a recurring theme in my own stories--the razor blades don't necessarily suggest a suicidal state of mind, but a person who engages in self-injury. Self-injury is not always linked to suicidal idiation. Unfortunately, I do not have any less cliche ideas. I would suggest that she hides bullets around the house, but suicide by gunshot is a much more common thing in men than women. It could be pills, but that really only suggests addiction or a self-destructive form of coping. Although, since the suicidal character is female, the pills are actually more accurate. Out of all women who attempt suicide, a very large percentage do so with pills. And yes, I am aware that it's a bit weird that I know these things.

Banz's picture
Banz from Brisbane is reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman May 3, 2012 - 12:15am

Thanks for dissecting the story Richard.

I was very much drawn in by the title and found the pace of the revelations to be spot on.  I don't mind being kept in the dark (either in literature or films) as long as the author makes good on the implied contract that all* will be revealed.  I think it shows that the audience is respected as not needing everything spelled out.

You mention in conclusion that an amount of painful editing was required; can you give us an idea how much?  E.g. how close was the first draft to the final work?

*If not all then enough

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies May 3, 2012 - 9:34am

^thanks, zackary. yeah, seems like it's impossible to give an image that is immediately connected to suicide without it seeming cliche or overused. if i had more time and it was a different story obviously there are millions of ways to kill yourself. unfortunately, all i had was a sentence or two, and i wanted that bit of violence, so, not sure what could have been an improvement. and yeah, it could just be about "cutting" not killing, but either way, the imagery i wanted was that of random danger scattered throughout the house. thanks for the feedback though, i'll keep that information stored for another storyd.

^thanks, banz. as far as the editing, mostly it was fine tuning the list. i ended up cutting a few that didn't feel right, reordering the list, and then due to a word count limitation, making sure that i cut it down to fit the length. a lot of times i like to sit and chew on an idea for hours, days, weeks, until i can picture the "scenes" unfolding. this was for a contest, and they had a deadline and a word count, so i had some limitations. once i had the idea, i had a few false starts, then the list pored out. i put it aside, after the first round of edits, came back a few days later, trimmed and cut some more, tweaked, etc. put it aside. came back a few days later and nitpicked it to death. i'll read my stories out loud and if i stumble, if the pacing doesn't work, i'll edit a word or sentence to get the right "beats". i'm not a poet, but i try to hear each sentence as if it were a poem, it has to read smooth. then, with the deadline looming, i read it one last time, and sent it off. was probably two weeks start to finish. it's actually a pretty short story, had to be under 500 words for the competition. it feels much longer than that to me. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. May 3, 2012 - 10:35pm

Fantastic story and a great look into how it was written.  This has been one of the most helpful Storyville articles for me.  I've been thinking about the 'razor blade' line (which I doubt I'd change at all) and I keep coming back to two things - 

If it's about injuring herself, then the second most common form of self-harm that leaves scars would be burns.  So, along with razorblades, there could be some thing else she uses... cigarettes (but she doesn't smoke) or something like that.

The other thought is also burning - but this time it's burnt tongue from Chuck Palahniuk's Essay #9 "Saying it Wrong".  But the example that comes to mind is another essay Chuck wrote about Hempel "She Breaks Your Heart" when he says, "In The Harvest, Hempel writes, "I moved through the days like a severed head that finishes a sentence.""

I don't know what I would do with the story to create a sense of burnt tongue with razorblades, but hiding things around the house reminds me of alcoholics who hide booze everywhere and forget where their stashes are and come upon them by accident and feel a sudden sense of relief that they have more emergency alcohol than they even knew.  So, if she found a razor and felt good about it, it might create a confusion of senses in the reader (the razor means harm (possibly death), but she finds a razor and feels good (she likes the pain and the idea of escaping through death).  I'd want an 'on the body' detail to show her happiness at finding the razorblades.  

So, something like, "Because she'd rediscover the emergency razorblades kept hidden around the house.  She'd hold them in a clenched fist to her breast, take a deep breath, and spin."

 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies May 4, 2012 - 8:05am

i like that twist on it, howie. taking a previously overused and cliche example of the razorblade and turning into something that utilizes and reveals emotion and state of mind. brilliant. that would certainly have made it better, i think, and given us another example to show her fractured and conflicted mind and  heart. great idea. 

and i'm glad it was a good read for you, that it helped a little bit. 

bryanhowie's picture
bryanhowie from FW, ID is reading East of Eden. Steinbeck is FUCKING AMAZING. May 4, 2012 - 10:18am

But, waking up this morning, I still thought the simpler the better - your sentence says it all: "Because she still hid razorblades all over the house"

voodoo_em's picture
voodoo_em from England is reading The Fever by Megan Abbott May 5, 2012 - 9:32am

Thanks for sharing ~ discovering how other writer's minds work during the writing and editing process is fascinating to me.

I didn't read the words razor blades and think cliche, rather I took it to mean the extent of her depression had lead to self-harm and suicidal ideation, particularly with the references to the thousand cuts. Razor blades are small, easy to hide and easy to obtain, however I guess other options could be broken glass, shards of mirror, or kitchen knives?

The matchbox car line, I can relate to, only with me it was my Dad's clothes hanging on the clothes horse after my mum had decided to wash them. The emotional shock is sudden and brutal and it floors you.

I like the title being long, and my favorite lines were probably the simplest:

"Because I didn't hate her enough to leave.

Because I didn't love her enough to leave."

... because they say so much.

And yes, weird picture.

 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies May 5, 2012 - 5:53pm

lol..well, maybe it's okay then, howie. but thanks. see, it's tough!

good call, voodoo the razor blades and thousand cuts. that makes me feel better about it. 

underpurplemoon's picture
underpurplemoon from PDX May 7, 2012 - 2:06am

This was an amazing read. Great idea! I must confess that I wanted this to make me cry, but it didn't. I'm still working on a piece that would make me cry over and over again.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies May 7, 2012 - 7:30pm

Thanks, VL. Sorry I couldn't make you cry, I'll have to keep trying. 

Pablo Ortiz M. O''s picture
Pablo Ortiz M. O' from México is reading Stephen King, Dark Tower series July 4, 2013 - 4:27pm

As I write this I´ve not finish reading the column, just the story. My comment is a little outdated, so what. As i finished i was commpeled to write this wow! If you did´t win they made a mistake. 

Thank you. 

And now ill finish reading the column.

Pablo Ortiz M. O''s picture
Pablo Ortiz M. O' from México is reading Stephen King, Dark Tower series July 4, 2013 - 4:53pm

Ok now im done.

Great column thanx for the dissection. About the razors I agree with Zackery when he talks about the ways women kill themselves and as i was reading i did picture her cutting herself even more when you talk about the thousend cuts even if you aren´t refering to the actual cutting with the razor, it made me picture the cutting again. Though i don´t think it needs change its powerfull enough pocturing her cuting herself until the poit of suicide. 

Again though i know it was long ago, thank you for the column. 

P.S. Good to know they published it.

qausers's picture
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crankrufus's picture
crankrufus January 3, 2014 - 5:32am

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Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault November 20, 2014 - 9:57am

Good stuff Richard.

While I've never come close to either having or losing a child, there was a lot here that hit home. Staying in a relationship past the point you should. Shutting out the world. And while you may have thought the razorblades bit was cliched, it's also true. My sister cuts herself, less now than before, but still, and she uses razorblades. She took apart a box cutter, took apart a pencil sharpener, etc. and was always hiding these little razorblades. Sometimes she wouldn't even hide them, and I'd go into a room and find this stained, metal trapezoid on the counter with bloody tissues. So I'd start hiding all of the razors in the house, sticking them in the very backs of drawers I thought she'd never go in, behind the piano. And every now and then, I'll be cleaning up whatever and find either a clean blade I hid so she wouldn't find it, or a dirty, old blade that she hid so we wouldn't find it.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies November 20, 2014 - 1:49pm

thanks for chiming in, redd. glad it resonated with you.

Redd Tramp's picture
Redd Tramp from Los Angeles, CA is reading Mongrels by SGJ; Sacred and Immoral: On the Writings of Chuck Palahniuk; The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault November 20, 2014 - 1:57pm

Of course, thanks for your columns Richard. They help more than I think you know. Or maybe you do, I don't know.