To Speak Again

This post was written in response to a prompt from the red dress club: “This week’s prompt is all about character development. We’d like you to write about what your character wants most.”  Posting my fiction online is not easy for me!

Daddy Sheriff told me I had to hold my tongue; told me that he’d kill me if I ever breathed a word about that night to anyone.  He told me he was just trying to help me to get ahead; to get me the hell out of Medford before the town rolled over and died.  Said he didn’t mean to kill Duke Ellis anyhow, just wanted to roughen him up a bit, and shouldn’t that count for something?
Daddy Sherriff told me to hold my tongue.  I guess I been holding it ever since.
They say a woman likes to fill herself up with gossip; to arm herself with tidbits of information that can be exchanged or even banked for some future trade.  Well, a man just don’t act like that, leastways, not this man.  A man don’t want all these pieces of other people’s lives jangling around inside his head. 
They said the shock of losing my best friend was just too much for me to handle.  They said I needed time.  And they gave me time, time they deemed sufficient.  But after three months of my silence, they stopped talking to me; told their children to stay away.  Told them Howard Heacock had turned strange.  My friends and neighbors, yes, even Daddy Sheriff with his fancy new wife, said I was touched in the head.  Maybe that night had affected me more than they figured on, and wasn’t it time to take Howard to a specialist, Daddy Sheriff?
Eighteen years on and I haven’t said a word.  People still think I’m touched.  But they’re no longer afraid.  They come into Bitsy’s Diner and plop themselves down next to me on an antique stool.  While they fill their bodies with runny eggs and buttered toast they fill my head with their problems.  I know Flossie Wren is cheating on her husband.  Andee Miller won’t meet her mortgage payment next month.  Ransom O’Neill is overdrawn on his bank account.  Two weeks ago, his son stole a brand new Buick off a lot in Wheeling.  For eighteen years, people have stuffed me with their secrets; all except my Bits.  Bitsy Barnes has stuffed herself, growing fat on her own cooking because she has no one left to hear her.
Have you ever looked at the stars?  I mean, really, really looked up at the heavens?  Stars have personality, the way people do.  There’s them that are so shiny and bright they nearly blind you.  Those are the Bitsy stars.  There’s the ones that, despite their shine, are long past dead.  I call those stars the Daddy Sheriffs.  Then there’re those shooting stars, the ones that streak across the sky so fast you wonder if it’s time for another trip to the Pearle Vision down at the mall.  Those stars are the Ellies.  All those stars…the Bitsys and the Eillies, even the Daddy Sheriffs…play their roles in silence without our notice.  But I been playing the wrong role far too long.  After eighteen years, I’m so full of secrets, I can’t hold no more.  I want to tell Jonathan Ellis to stop waiting at the mailbox for a letter that ain’t never coming.  I want to tell Ellie Jackson that her father is alive.  I want to tell Daddy Sheriff to go to hell. 
I want to hold Bitsy Barnes in my arms again, before I roll over and die, just the way Medford did, eighteen years ago when this whole mess started.
I don’t want to hide anymore.  I don’t want to listen.
For once, I want to speak.
I want to speak again.

21 thoughts on “To Speak Again

  1. What was the name of the book? “The Courage to Write”? Put it out there Kel… you really don’t have anything to lose and everything to gain.

  2. This is a riveting story. It left me wanting to know more, both before and after more. You inhabit the character’s voice so seamlessly. I loved this line: “Daddy Sherriff told met to hold my tongue. I guess I been holding it ever since.”

  3. Good to see you are still working. Your writing is always strong and much more literary than mine. I love the stories you’ve shown me about Medford. You have so many you need to figure out which one to tell first. Bitsy, ellie, jonathan, annie?

  4. Howard’s? I’m getting there. I’m finding Ellie’s story isn’t so important except as a means of showing the other stories.

  5. This was so very touching, sad, and powerful! What an interesting cast of characters that I must know more about! Also? Killer hook for your story line!

  6. Wow! I want to read the rest of the story! Love this character you’ve created and made real. You are a gifted writer, Kelly.

  7. Thanks, Susan! I’m so struggling with this character, because he’s just supposed to be on the periphery. But now with this prompt, here he comes, bursting in, ruining my plans.

  8. Thanks, Galit! This prompt has definitely gotten me back on track with this story. I’m on its 4th rewrite.

  9. Thanks so much for reading! I have trouble with my characters taking over my stories. Plot-driven vs. character-driven. That’s the problem.

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