practice what you preach
Updated: Apr 13
A month ago, I started writing short stories. I have written one a week and I now have four short stories to show for it. I have never written short stories before - well, maybe for school, but definitly not off my own bat. I was really scared. I had written a play (which scared me for a whole bunch of reasons - I could go in to that in a future blog post - let me know!) but I hadn't ever tried fiction. I am someone who really likes know the "how" of something. I've never studied fiction writing: I don't know about structure, I don't know about character development, I don't know how to write description. I felt like I should read 1000 books before I started putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). And then thought: Fuck It. I opened up a word document and went for it. No one has to know. Creating these worlds has brought me quite a bit of joy and one or two ideas that I quite like have also trickled out.
They aren't perfect. I am not even trying to make them good. I am just writing. So I thought I would share something in its first draft form because we see final drafts of everything all the time and it's hard when you are out there comparing your first draft to everyone's polished product. Eek - here we go.
Faith and Vivien
Faith walked up the hill back home. She’d gotten off the 95 bus as she did every Monday at 5:18pm. Give or take 10 minutes. Buses were never reliable to the minute, annoyingly. She was taking a Spanish class all the way across town. She wasn’t sure if it was worth the £38.50 but there you have it. She could say things like “the elephant likes to eat cookies”. Which might not come in very handy if she was every actually stuck in Spain. She had this debate with herself on the 95 bus there every week. She as always glad she’d gone though. She’d practice her new phrases on the 95 bus back. It was nice to feel like she’d achieved something on the first day of every week.
She was just passing the Smallwood’s house as she noticed the little fur paw sticking out from underneath their hedge. The angle struck her as odd. That’s often something one reads, isn’t it? That the angle of a limb seems odd. Like one should just know it was odd. That it shouldn’t be that way. And – right then – she thought to herself that it really was true. She knew right away that something was wrong. She wouldn’t be able to pinpoint exactly why though. But it was not right. She bent down and there the little cat was. She was sure it wasn’t breathing. It couldn’t be – not laid out like that. She supposed she would have to say something. She got up and straightened her coat which had bunched up around her middle. She must get a new one. She made her way to the front door. Or maybe she could ask for a new coat. Her birthday was coming up. The door in front of her was purple. Such an odd colour for a front door. Faith thought lots of things odd. Something things that other people seemed to think totally normal. Like toilets in a cinema. But a purple front door was definitely odd. Faith thought most people would agree. She pressed the door bell. She could hear it as it rung out in the house. A lonely sound. That doorbell in a house. Vivien Smallwood opened the door. She was quite a petite woman with wild black hair. Faith looked down at her. Vivien Smallwood’s eyes were wide. In shock, Faith supposed. Mrs. Smallwood was – after all – covered in blood.
“Faith – hello dear. You’ve actually come just at the right moment. Do you have a minute to come in?”
Faith thought about this question for a second. When she was eight years old, she’d crashed her scooter just outside Mrs. Smallwood’s house. The hill had been too much for her and the only way she’d been able to stop was to use the back of a parked car as a landing pad. The back of the car survived the collision, as did the scooter, but the same could not be said of Faith’s elbows, knees, and pride. She’d howled and howled and had to be coaxed inside with the promise of hot chocolate and some biscuits. She didn’t know if this was on offer now. She wasn’t sure she fancied biscuits covered in blood. Even if they were Mrs. Smallwood’s famous ginger chocolate cookies.
Vivien Smallwood had been married for 23 years. She’d met Mike at university and – wow – she had fallen head over heels. He’d been playing darts at the time. She’d had one too many pints. Now, Vivien wasn’t an idiot. She had been a nursing student for heaven’s sake. She had her head screwed on right. But he’d charmed her and wooed her. He had loved that she was clever and supported her career. A year of pure bliss. And then came the wedding. She’d kept working of course. She had loved it. Work and Marriage. And then came the children. Or rather that had been the plan. But they tried. And they tried again. And then he started drinking. Well the drinking had always been there but now there was “no future to look forward to” so what was the point? Vivien thought she was quite enough for Mike and their little family. They didn’t need children – they had each other. But this hadn’t been reciprocated. Drinking too much doesn’t improve anyone’s character and Mike was no exception. So he drank. And Vivien got a cat. Fiddle. Then she got another one. Jupiter. Mike had never liked the cats.
They had another row that morning. About what, she couldn’t even remember. Probably something idiotic like the bins. God, how had she gotten here? How cliché. Married to a drunk with two cats and here she was on a Monday arguing about the bins. Her one precious day off. She was still working thank the Lord. The bins! A bag had broken and rubbish had gone everywhere. Bottles and cans, too. He never would recycle. It was so easy, too. Lazy, pathetic excuse for human, Vivien suddenly thought as she looked at him. Disgusting too. Gone was the charming boy she’d met in the pub. Or her handsome husband brimming with life. She was staring at a broken middle aged man, so bitter he couldn’t see past the end of his beer bottle. She’d had enough. She was leaving. This had summoned more passion than she thought him capable of. He’d blocked the door. That’s when it happened. Jupiter had heard the commotion and wound himself round the living room door and headed towards the noise. Vivien had tried to reach past Mike to get out. It had all happened so quickly. Mike grabbed Jupiter (a threat, perhaps?) and he’d opened the front door and thrown the cat clear across the front garden. Heaven knows where Jupiter’s first eight lives had gone – he must’ve been a more adventurous cat than she’d realised. Because there he was. She could just make him out; he’d landed under the bush. No movement.
That was it, really. What was it people said? Ah yes. The Last Straw. She turned on her heels and headed back to the kitchen. She found the big knife next to the sink, not yet clean. Of course. The washing up had been next on her list.
Faith walked through the purple door and followed Vivien to the kitchen. It was immaculate, which came as rather a shock in contrast to Vivien’s own person. Faith could see why Vivien had cleaned so thoroughly. She’d clearly made a mess when she’d hacked her husband to death. Mike was lying mangled on the floor. The pool of blood created a halo around his body.
“Now, he’s rather heavy, dear. Would you mind at all just helping me lift him?”
This was definitely stranger than loos in cinemas. Faith knew that this was the point in time when she should call the police. Murder was a crime and when someone committed a crime the police got involved. Yet, she couldn’t move. She wasn’t scared. She was just – curious. She’d never really liked Mr. Smallwood. But the law applied to everyone, didn’t it? Otherwise there would just be mayhem. Or more mayhem than there was already. Faith struggled with these two truths. She could see why Mrs. Smallwood had done it. She didn’t know the details but she was good about things like that. The things people didn’t want seen. Again, it was funny to Faith what people considered Normal. She couldn’t always tell the more obvious things. But it was clear to her when people weren’t okay. Mrs. Smallwood hadn’t been okay in a long time.
“I realise this is quite a strange situation I’ve let you in on.”
“Mrs. Smallwood –“
Huh. Vivien. Faith tried it out.
“Why did you kill Mr. Smallwood?”
“An excellent question. He killed Jupiter. And I suppose I had simply had enough.”
Faith didn’t know why but this seemed like a good explanation. She nodded and Mrs. Smallwood – Vivien – passed her some rubber kitchen gloves. She walked over to the body and helped pick him up. The plan was to cut him into little bits. Make him more manageable. Faith didn’t know how long they worked for but they managed to get him into three buckets when they’d finished. It was dark outside now. Vivien took the buckets out into the back garden.
“The bleach is under the sink, dear.”
Faith found the bleach under the sink. She scrubbed the floor, surprised at how easily the blood disappeared. Vivien came back in and put the kettle on.
Over tea, Vivien explained that she would probably just put him in the medical waste at work. Bit by bit. She talked and talked. Faith listened to some of it. Vivien said she might sell the house. She talked about how she felt freer. Faith thought while she talked that she was very glad she’d had a big lunch that day. This was much later than her usual dinner time. She was actually hungry. She stood up quite abruptly.
“I think it’s time for me to go.”
Vivien looked up at the strange woman that strange little girl around the corner had become.
“Of course, dear. Thank you for what you’ve done here today.”
“Yes, dear.” “I think you should repaint your front door. Purple is a silly colour for a front door.”
“What would you suggest?”
Vivien knew that Faith had said this without the faintest shred of irony. She got up and leaned over to wipe a small speck of blood of the girl’s face.
“Maybe I will, dear, maybe I will.”
The next Monday, Faith walked a different way home from the 95 bus stop.