Sunday, May 15, 2005

Fiction Excerpt

The working title is Indestructable Beauty. This is the beginning of Chapter Two.

Mom had smoked for sixty-five years. Sixty-five years of dreaming as she looked out windows with a cigarette, white smoke snaking around her beautiful face. Mom’s beauty was tenacious, like her smoking, a contrast to the formlessness of her desires. She said that nothing mattered, and depending on whether the thing she meant was trivial to you or something you cared about—like you, yourself—she could seem world-weary in a romantic, Bogart-movie way or clinically depressed. She watched her organs sputter and leak, a kid strapped to a scary ride. Still, whatever happened, she didn’t want to be cut open. The one time she had been, I was born.

She did not like things pouring in or out of her, not even a bead of blood from a paper cut. Even a small incision reminded her the flood gates could open. That’s why people faint at the sight of their blood. They know where it must lead, and yet they can’t believe it. They can’t believe it, because they know.

I tried on her ring. It fit the fourth finger of my left hand. A sense of peace came over me combined with the feeling of being nibbled by ants. It was as if I was marrying Mom. I read somewhere that people are most reliably who they are when they’re alone and don’t have to pretend for anyone else. With her ring, my fingers looked alien, as if they had more claim on things.

I thought wearing it would attract bad karma, whatever that was. I didn’t believe in karma the same way I couldn’t grasp the big picture, and yet actions had consequences. You didn’t need belief to see that. Who gave Mom the ring? I didn’t ask her, and she didn’t say. She disclosed information about her past with the enthusiasm of a spy in enemy hands. I didn’t even know much about her life with Dad before Becca and I were born, and Mom had no interest in probing herself. She would have been suspicious of her motives. I returned the ring to its plastic bag and secured it with tape, the way, as a kid, I’d masked tampering with the chocolate and chips Mom hid around the house. Somehow, they didn’t make her fat.


At 1:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I admire your ability to face your mother's life head on. I think we live out (or act out) the unfinished psyches of our parents, their unfinished lives. I share your dilemma in dealing with my own mother's unlived life and the terrible presence of her unconscious.

I had consciously avoided her for years and then I made a conscious effort to confront her life in therapy. I still struggle with those feelings. Now that she is an invalid and dependent on me and my brother for her life, I realize that I have a lot of work to do. I don't think you get over your parents. I think that it is possible to make them less monstrous, more human.

I think it helps me now to realize how sad my mother's life was, and that I had no part in that sadness. The neurotic child wants to repair the relationship the sick parent has with the world. This is the sticking point. This is what gets passed down.

I know that I will be healthier when I am able to "love" the loved object, and not turn away in fear and disgust. When I am able to love the loved object without the fear of being hurt then that will be a victory for me, for my life, and for my psyche. It will signal that she has no more power over me.

I will then be able to place her photographs on the table next to my father's. As of yet, I keep them out of sight in a bottom drawer.

You are very brave to place your mother's ring on your finger. It symbolizes that you have maybe reached that place where you can safely acknowledge your love and acceptance of your mother.


At 6:22 PM, Blogger Laurie Stone said...

Dear Mark, this is a fiction story, not a memoir . . . see the healine. This is from the novel I have begin here. Yes, my mother is ill, but this is not my mother or her story . . . we just snatch things from our lives and transform them. I know it can be confusing, especially since I do often write about my life as nonfiction. I appreciate your thoughts, nonetheless.--Laurie

At 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I know and yet we only have one source.

The fictional lives we create are part of that same psyche.

I just wrote a poem about a very strange moment that I was able to capture--it's called "Living Next Door to Yourself"--what a terrifying idea!


At 6:18 PM, Blogger Laurie Stone said...

Yes, one psyche, but different actions. My fictional characters do and say things I don't and may have different reactions than mine. Is this you, Mark Hillringhouse? I'm a little confused. If it's someone else, could you identify yourself? --Laurie

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous windrider said...

This draws a very interesting portrait of the mother, and the narrator's view of herself in context to her mother. I can't wait to see how this plays out in the story.

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