Tuesday, February 5, 2008

FFC - Cowardice

A friend of mine recently told me about Flash Fiction Carnival. This month's topic is "cowardice" and below is my flash piece. I really didn't like the topic, and had a hard time coming up with something. I figured that in these cases it would be best to try to work on a particular skill. So, I tried to focus on characterization and voice in this piece.

A Tough Decision

"I am not being a coward." Susanna thought that if she just kept telling herself that, maybe eventually she would come to believe it.

She had known that sleeping with Bobby would be a mistake. But, she loved him and he had told her he loved her too. It was easy to look into those deep brown eyes of his and believe him. It probably didn't hurt that she had wanted to believe him. Had wanted him to love her. And once his hands had started to creep under her skirt, she hadn't wanted him to stop either.

But, once again, her mama was right. Good girls don't go parking with boys, just like good girls don't wear short skirts. But she had gone parking with Bobby, wearing a skirt that was too short. She had proven she was not a good girl. And now, she was paying the price.

Susanna spent the first month in denial, certain that there was some other explanation for her missed period. But, after the second month she knew she had to find out for sure.

She borrowed the car and drove 45 minutes away to go to a Wal-Mart where nobody would recognize her. She bought the test and then snuck into the store's bathroom. She wanted to leave all evidence behind where it could not be traced back to her.

This plan had made complete sense to her until she looked down at her fate in the form of an x on a stick. Then she didn't want to be sitting on the toilet in the Wal-Mart. And she didn't want to be alone. She wanted to be held by her mama or even Bobby. She wanted somebody to tell her it was all going to be okay. But, nobody had done that.

She told Bobby, although now she wished she hadn't. He got mad and angry. He didn't want to believe she was pregnant at first, then didn't want to believe it was his. She finally begged him just not to tell anybody. She didn't want anything from him but for him to not tell anyone.

She thought about telling her parents. But she knew mama would never forgive her and she couldn't stand to think of what daddy's face would look like when he found out she really wasn't his 'perfect little angel'.

So, she was taking the only other option she saw available to her. She was leaving. Susanna looked down at the small duffel bag between her feet. It held everything that mattered to her. Everything that she thought she couldn't live without. It wasn't much. Some clothes, her diary, a few family pictures. She had some money saved up from working last summer at the supermarket.

She had a one way ticket on a Greyhound bus going to Birmingham. She wasn't sure what she'd do when she got there. But, she'd figure out something. She was smart, capable.

She just had to get out of town before she started showing and everybody learned what had happened. Better to disappear than to stick around and face the shame.


Virginia Lee said...

Welcome to the FFC 2008, Kathleen! We're more than happy to have you join us.

You touched my heart with this young woman. Nicely done.

Gwen Mitchell said...

You nailed the characterization and voice. There was some telling rather than showing, but it really isn't obvious, and I can't see a better way to do it, given the word limit.

I know you didn't like the prompt, but I think you did a great job. The writing is clean, and free of craft errors, you've got your voice, your character is very real. It feels like anyone you know could be her.

I also really liked how what you picked is both brave and cowardly at the same time. Great job & glad you're in on this now!

Anonymous said...

Yours is the first story I've read from this month's FFC, and I'm glad. You rose to the challenge of an assignment that didn't excite you, and gave your readers a sympathetic main character and an internal conflict that every former high school student can recognize. I think this story would make a good introduction to a longer work.

I also appreciated that your piece was free of obvious errors, but as a reader I feel as though that's what I should expect.

A. Catherine Noon said...

Thanks, Kathleen! I like how you create a real character in such a short excerpt. I really think you've got the beginnings of something longer, if you choose to pursue it.

I look forward to reading more of your material!

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Yep, what everyone else has said. You did a nice job with this one.

Tess said...

I could really hear your character's voice in this story. Having been a teenaged girl once it rang true to me.
My favorite part was her reaction to her boyfriend denying it was his baby, she just wanted him not to tell anyone. That was more important to her than insisting he take some responsibility. It's amazing how much others opinions matter, especially at that age.

Eaton Bennett said...

Very sensitive portrayal of how a
young girl in trouble might think
and react to her situation.
Your BlogSpot is looking fantastic
by the way.

Eaton Bennett.

Genevieve said...

Hi Kathleen,

I think that you reached your goal of focusing on characterization and voice in this piece; little things like using "mama" and "daddy" reveal what a girl-child she is, and it's a poignant image to see her alone in a stall at Wal-Mart. And I'm already interested in reading more about her, so nice work on the character development.

Arachne Jericho said...

Yup, you got voice and characterization down. And this definitely feels like it could become a story... or even an entire novel. It's a solid beginning in that way.

AlannahJoy said...

I love your ability to create a character I care about within a very short space. I understand her feelings of isolation, especially after the boyfriend's typical reaction. And I wished she had a motherly friend to turn to who would reassure her that Daddy might be disappointed, but to give him a chance to prove that he loves his little girl whether she's an angel or not.

Excellent, solid work. I'm looking forward to reading more by you!