Surviving The Shadow

It’s time for another Friday writing session with my dear friend Texasblu.

Tex suggested the prompt this week. It is  a soft answer.

Bit of a tricky one, actually, but I finally got there. Before I start, I just have to say –

I got my laptop back and everything is A- OK.

Thank you laptop gods!!

Here’s my story –


{Image by Party Hat at DeviantART}

Everyone’s Mama is always supposed to be right, but I’ve come to the conclusion my Mama was wrong. About men, mostly.

She was a fool for every man she ever liked. Right from the start. She let them in to her heart, her soul, just like that without really knowing what they were about.

I know why she did it, she wanted them to heal her, to paint over the remnants of what my Daddy did. But they never did. How could they? They were just like him.

My mother could never resist looking into the darkness. It was a form of amorality she found titillating. I saw it, the delight she took in it, when they treated her badly. She complained about it, but she liked it too.

She liked having something to cry about on a beautiful day. She liked coating every room in the house with shadow. It was safe for her. It was more dangerous to let the light in.

It made me nervous for a lot of years. The shouting. The hard responses to my mother’s questions like nails being driven down a wall, gouging, splintering brick. I thought that men couldn’t respond to direct questions like: Would you like green beans with your meat? without flying off the handle.

I don’t like shouting. It doesn’t do anything but feed anger more and more until it becomes a beast hiding behind coats at the back of the cupboard, waiting to spring out when the door is opened.

But there is so much of it. When  I sit on my balcony at night I take in the chorus of conflict on every floor. A stranger to this world would be forgiven for thinking that no one in this city can agree, that the only way we get what we want is to shout about it. My Mama, at 56 years old, is still letting the men she loves show their disparagement at regular intervals.

I met Chili in the book store. He was looking at The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Verse. He was reading The Song Of A Man Who Has Come Through by D.H. Lawrence. I felt it was a moment of prophesy –

A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time

If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me

If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh delicate, a winged gift

If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself…

Chili smiled at me. He asked me if I would like to join him for coffee. He had a tattoo of the sun on his hand and freshly polished Blundstone boots. I could smell the polish rising up through the morning like beeswax.

Chili and I got on. He worked in his father’s shop repairing old clocks. He liked clocks with pendulums the best. I told him I liked clocks with chimes, it was like hearing the bells on Christmas Day every single hour.

Chili and I went out. Over and over. Before we knew it we had been seeing one another for three months. He asked me to move in with him. I was elated and afraid. My Mama had a cut on her lip  from another man who was supposed to be different from the others.

I thought Chili was different but I didn’t trust my judgement. I was sure I had inherited my ability to assess someone’s character from my Mama. Chili could be a devil in disguise.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the day we had met. The poem about yielding to the wind. Surely I couldn’t be wrong about the measure of such a man.

I packed up my things. My poetry books. My clock with the chimes. My earplugs to drown out the shouting. I moved in with Chili.

Mama cried. She thought I was a moth drawn to the flame of destruction. You’re going to be just like me, she said. She had a slight smile at the corners of her mouth. Like mother, like daughter. She wasn’t unhappy at what she expected my fate to be. There is constancy in shadow.

After one month I grew tired of waiting. Chili’s flat was so quiet at night all I could hear was him turning the pages of his books and the stolid sweep of his pendulum clocks.

So I asked the question I was afraid to ask, clutching my ear plugs like life jackets : Would you like green beans with your meat?

The answer was the way rain sounds at the end of a drought. Soft, welcoming.

Whatever suits you, sweetheart, he said.

* Don’t forget to go and read Tex’s story. I know she would appreciate it.

16 thoughts on “Surviving The Shadow

  1. Yay you got your computer back and I see you have put it to good use with another tale to wrap our heads around.

    Can you imagine growing up in a house where you are always waiting for the next explosive argument, raised voices and even worse? I’m glad your female character managed to pick herself a gentle soul and broke the cycle. Well done Sel.


  2. Great story and great ending too! I’m a sucker for the happy endings…if only there were more of them in ‘real life’ eh?

    Happy Weekend, G 🙂


  3. So poignant. I felt like I was on eggshells the whole time, his soft answer sweeping over me like the breeze. Just beautiful – we don’t always have to repeat the idiocy of our parents.

    YAY for the laptop – was glad to hear your hard drive stayed intact. 😀


  4. Another wonderful story Selma. I got so caught up in the tale I forgot what the prompt was and expected the worst,: that she had indeed inherited her mother’s choice in men. I will stop by Tex’s and maybe write an addition to her prompt.


  5. KAYDEE:
    It would not be fun to live in such an environment. I couldn’t stand it. When people shout at me I just walk away. I always think that shouters are people who are not prepared to compromise or consider anyone else’s point of view. No fun at all. And yes, it is so good to have my baby back!!

    EMPLOYEE 3699:
    You are so lovely to say so. I am so glad you visit. It means a lot to me!

    I know, hon. It would be nice to experience a real happy ending, wouldn’t it? There’s still time. We mustn’t give up!

    I have seen some people who have repeated the lunacy of their parents and others who have just walked away from it. It can be done. What a lovely comment – you are far too kind to me.

    It was actually a faulty power cord. I have spoken to heaps of people this week who have experienced the same thing. Looks like Apple really need to up their safety standards.

    I know Tex would love that. I cannot tell you how happy I am to hear from you again. It has made my day!


  6. this was wonderfully put together selma.. and i love that the ending was a happy one.. if not for mama,, at least for the narrator…


  7. yr happy endings are good because they are hard fought and hard one, the only happy endings that feel real to me. great work, as always.


  8. Selma, your question on Tracy Hickman made me giggle. Yes, that was THE Tracy Hickman, along with his wife Laura. If you had been there, you would have gotten to sit in the “mingles” (you could have sat so close your knees would have bumped) – he hugged several people (I’m still far too self-conscious for that) and in the archetype class you could have been one of the 16 people he used on stage… AND he was the speaker at our banquet – wait until I share the story he told (it’s taking me forever to get all those notes typed up – aren’t they great?) it will rip your heart out and inspire you. You are welcome to faint. 🙂 I went to his mingle twice. Couldn’t help myself – I was a Dragon Lance goob too.

    Did you know they made a movie out of the first one with Keifer Sutherland’s voice? I downloaded it on netflix – the animation is crap but hey, it was Dragon Lance… reminded me of the crappy job they did with the Lord of The Rings and then came back and did that beautiful live version, so I feel there is hope… 😀

    Ok – swoon now…


  9. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” , Proverbs 15:1, The Bible.

    Hi Selma, I liked the whole story as awhole, but I was especially impressed by the characterization, i.e the way you drew the protagonist so fully ,mainly though dialogue.-through her speech rhythms and patterns. Excellent.

    Thanks DavidM


  10. PAISLEY:
    It is always nice if someone, somewhere can experience a happy ending. Funny how you change as a writer as you get older. I used to love the sad, tragic endings when I was younger; but now I’m happy all the way!

    I guess my happy endings mirror real life. I have never encountered a happy ending that wasn’t hard won. I do appreciate your feedback, Jason. I value your opinion.

    I was a Dragonlance freak. I would have fainted if I’d been there or embarrassed myself in some way. WOW.

    I didn’t know about the movie. I’ll try and track it down. I’d LOVE a proper version. I’d be beside myself!

    It was a great day, indeed. Like being reunited with a long lost friend !

    Thank you so much. Your critiques mean a lot because I know you really think about them. Thanks for taking the time!


  11. Thank God you got your computer back so you can keep telling us these amazing stories.

    “She was a fool for every man she ever liked. Right from the start. She let them in to her heart, her soul, just like that without really knowing what they were about.”

    Yep. I can relate to that one.

    And I’m very glad this had a happy ending!


  12. TOBEME:
    My pleasure. Thank YOU for reading 😀

    I think it might be wrong that I love that computer so much. And that I missed it so much. But who cares? I have been much happier since I got it back. YAY!


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