Fail In Progress: Death Defying Love



This week has been amazing in so many ways, things are really starting to gear up for conference season. My schedule is slammedThis Short story exercise was designed to help me develop craft and my ability to produce on a schedule.  I wanted to find my limits.

Welp,  I found one.  This week I completely mismanaged my time, did not enforce my boundaries, and took terrible care of my health.

So today,  I present to you,  a big Ol' Failure.  The following story is incomplete. It is all that I managed to get done on this project. Other projects were more successful, but right here and now I have to admit that I failed.

::whew:: What a relief.  I actually have struggled with time management issues for as long as I can remember,  so in a way failing at it in such a public way frees me from any remnants of denial. While I have made a lot of progress in this area,  I clearly am not done growing up yet.

Without further preamble (Sorry it is incomplete!) here is the newest short. May it give you insight into my writing process if nothing else.


On Friday, August 23rd, 1912 in Phoenix Hill Kentucky, organ music piped through the wind above a crowd from the local town.  Every soul in Jefferson County slinked through the yellowed grass field toward the red and white striped tent. Bodies pressed together in a mass at the entrance, queuing to get inside and experience wonders they might never get a chance to see again.

A young woman in a blue dress followed the crowd of strangers.  She was more eager than most to glimpse the wonders inside the tent. In part because there was a young acrobat that had kept his promise to return to her when next the company came through. They had written letters for two years now. This would be the last summer that she waited for him to return. Next year she would be old enough to go with him. She had been practicing the dance routine that he taught her. She had even worked on her music to accompany the dance since she could not dance right now.
She also knew that she would be sent away soon to recover from her condition, and wonderous spectacles would not be allowed in the sanatorium. Her cheeks were not so full as they had been last summer.
She worried that he would still find her as lovely as he said last summer.  She had been looking forward to this day, counting the weeks since the circus packed up and left last September.  She coughed into a white handekerchief. She didn’t tell him about the consumption in her letters. She hoped he wouldn’t have to know it ever happened until she came back from the sanitorium with a clean bill of health.
He greeted her at the entrance, but immediately his face creased when he surveyed her.
He had saved a seat for her near the front of the stands. She knew most of the performers by now and counted many of them as friends. They all looked forward to the day she would join them. So when they each kept their distance she was hurt. What is going on?
He sat with her for a moment taking both of her hands in his, the handkerchief folded between her hand and his.

Imagery of death and life and transformation in the performance. Use the word TRICK to put life and death into familiar fun playful terms.

so my character doesn't understand that sanatoriums are basically a death sentence

she is hoping to go and get better and come back so she can run away with the love of her life
she hasn't told him that she's sick


She tells him she is fine. She takes Foley’s honey and tar, she knows sanitation and takes plenty of air and rest.

but he recognizes the symptoms the second he sees her (because he's travelled all over the place with the circus and consumption is not exactly difficult to spot) he’s read sherlock holmes. He wonders about these sanatoriums. People didn’t get better, they just went away.

CONFLICT
he helps her to a seat he's saved,and they disagree about her sickness and what they should do

she is relentlessly hopeful about her condition, but hurt that he is not listening to her and trusting her. she wants him to have hope. Whatever it is they will figure it out together. She is committed to a solution.
performance starts
circus goes on for a bit
it gets windy and cold and the tent doesn’t keep all the weather out.
her cough picks up

he's an acrobat
and he gets distracted
by her being escorted out of the tent
with a horrible cough

he falls

She hears a crack and the crowd rising to their feet, yelling. A woman screamed and the crowd shouted.
What was that sound? She asked, half turning back.

She is taken away. She was often left to herself, which gave her ample time to wonder about things. How had their beautiful day gone so wrong? Would he miss her while she was not in town? Why did he say those horrible things? Would she be able to write to him from the sanatorium? Did he still love her? What was that sound that made the crowd shout so very loud? What trick had he done that she missed?

She spent a week at home before people from the hospital came and took her to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium. She was brought to one bed in a row of many that were housed in a tent. The sanatorium was still being built, she would get to be one of the first residents. Maybe once she was there and stronger he could come visit her. Other people had visitors sometimes. Phoenix hill was only 10 miles away. That was not so very far these days.
The sanatorium was everything he had said.  She gave up writing after her sixth letter joined the stack of those waiting to travel to him. She languished there until winter, construction on the sanatorium still incomplete. There were few souls to speak with and only one question that kept her awake.
What was his trick that she missed?
By December she could no longer deny the permanence of her separation from him and the rest of the world. You don’t leave waverly. Even the staff here say goodbye to their loved ones before moving onto the hill. And now Her symptoms were such that the nurse would rarely come closer than the foot of her bed, and not even daily at this point. But she would not give up hope.
The nurse came that day and she asked for the nurse to tell her about the last time she went to the circus.
“This past summer,” she said in an offhand way while looking at some chart.
Mary could barely take breath enough to ask her to go on.
I was there for the first day, incredible show (she describes the show from the opening)
But she stopped before the moment that mattered most.
“The acrobat?” Mary said.
Then the nurse closed her eyes on impulse, as if it was a reflex to what she saw.
“I see people pass every day here. But seeing that fall was more than my heart could bear.”
The dullness and black inescapable pain of his loss took any air that she had left.
In an “advanced patient” tent on the lawn of Waverly Hills, she closed her eyes for the last time on Christmas day 1912.


Some people say spirits relive their death when they are caught here on earth.  I don't suspect that's the case.  Because I've never heard terribly coughing on the hilltop, but I have heard organ music lift with the wind above Phoenix Hill.

And in August,  and especially when there is a circus or fair around, people have seen a pale silhouette of a boy and a girl,  twirling and leaping near the horizon,  at last as one.





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