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Writing mad

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When I was young, I was always amazed that out of such profound rage, one could end by writing quite calmly. One reacts rather strongly, but as a writer, one distills that down. If those responses were not strong, probably one would not be a writer.
-V.S. Naipaul

This evening the kid had me seeing red. “I’m going out for a walk,” was just a pretense, as her boyfriend must’ve picked her up in the driveway where she dropped her ugly, old winter coat. I’d suggested she wear it so as not to freeze on her way around the neighborhood. I should’ve clued in when she pleasantly agreed. Parental brains only kicked in about 5 minutes later when we realized that she never would’ve denied the dog a walk, and he was still on the floor next to me. I got mad then.

Eventually, our texts/phone calls were answered. “I’ll be home soon. I needed a break. You wouldn’t have let me.” Most likely not, given her current grades and other issues.

At least we didn’t have to worry. Instead, I plotted my next move.

Calmly, I headed up the stairs to my closet where we’d decided to keep her prom dress. It wouldn’t stand a chance in her sty of a room, and I’d paid good money for it just last weekend. Slipping off the plastic protector, I ran my winter-rough fingers down the elegant, orchid satin. “Oh, a little snag!” Too bad, I thought. “Hopefully, she won’t notice,” I told myself. It was only a minor blemish. I held the dress up to myself. “I look like a princess!” Silvery shoes and a choker, pearl or stones, would match the beads in the bodice perfectly.

Back downstairs, I found my scissors, the special ones I hide for myself in order to cut fabric for my rugs. They’re nice and sharp. I grabbed a glass, the bottle of pinot grigio and settled in by the front door with the dress and the scissors, just waiting for her return…

Strong emotion can’t always be acted on. Prudence may make you choke back a protest. But the emotion itself shouldn’t be squandered. It is available to you as energy to pour into your writing.
– Susan Shaughnessy

Have you “harnessed” the power of anger and other emotions and been able to plow it back into your writing? Please share a paragraph or two.


Author: Laura S

Laura Salamy is a published author. Her essays and short stories have appeared in print and online. As the owner of The Polished Paragraph, she edits and proofreads other writers of all kinds. She is currently an assistant editor for the lit journal Fifth Wednesday, and she blogs on the fourth of every month for get born magazine. In her past life, Laura spent many years in the environmental, health and safety industry. She also worked for a non-profit completing grant applications and doing other "stuff." In her spare time, Laura creates colorful and less-than-traditional hooked rugs and mats. Many are "up-cycled" from old clothes, funky fabrics, and notions. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband, a teenager (oh no!), and a very silly dogs.


  1. Hi Laura,

    That was a great piece. Nice descriptions, and a deliciously vengeful ending! :)

    I looked over my own material and found an early flash fiction story I wrote when I was feeling at the mercy of higher powers. The title is “Their Day in Court”, and I hope you like it (it is longer than a paragraph or two, but not that long).

    “All rise for the Right Honorable Jebediah Postwistle!”

    The judge entered the courtroom. His bulk was made more impressive by his voluminous black robes. His bespectacled eyes scanned the packed room as he sat as his bench. He knew he was in for a long day. He nodded to the bailiff to continue.

    “On this day of our Lord 16 September 1933,” the bailiff’s voice boomed through the courtroom as the stenographer’s fingers flew on the stenotype machine. “We will hear the closing arguments from the suit brought against the Department of Defense by the Hobo Federation.”

    Judge Jebediah glanced at the jury box. Eight men and four women represented the jury. Each looked decidedly uncomfortable. Jebediah could sympathize. This hadn’t been easy on anybody.

    Jebediah nodded toward the plaintiff’s table. “Counsel.”

    The counsel for the prosecution wore a suit jacket that had seen more than one boxcar ride. His tie was stained with tobacco juice, and the knees of his pants were worn almost to holes. The soles of his shoes were held in place with strips of cloth. He rose from his seat and approached the jury box.

    “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” he began in a surprisingly articulate voice. “You see me and you see an outcast, a bum, a dreg of society. You see the same thing in my brethren. Yet we are people, just like you. We feel joy and pain, just like you. Yet there are those who believe that we are nothing more than stray dogs, to be done with as they please. Nobody embodies that callousness more than the government. Please, allow me to show you once again what they have done. Your Honor?”

    Judge Postwistle reluctantly nodded his permission.

    Twenty men and women, forced into transiency by the Depression, were brought in by a deputy of the court. They were led to the front of the jury box.
    The prosecution counsel went down the line. The faces of the twenty were covered with flattened pustules. Dried pus and blood fell off in flakes.

    “The Defense Department believes that war will soon be upon us, so they have taken the initiative to develop new weapons,” the counsel said. “Biological weapons. Weapons that spread disease instead of shrapnel. Weapons that do this to human beings.”

    The jury could not look away.

    “They developed a strain, quite deadly, of smallpox. The Department of Defense felt the need to test it. But animals just wouldn’t do. It had to be humans. They wanted to test it under natural conditions, so prison populations were ruled out. Where did they decide to set this horror free? In hobo camps around the country. After the camps were infected they were contained to keep the disease from spreading. How were they contained? The poor souls that survived were killed, and all bodies were burned.”

    Tears sprang from the eyes of many jurors.

    “These twenty survivors escaped,” the counsel went on. “They are no longer contagious. But they will live with scarred faces the rest of their lives. These could just as easily have been your fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers.”

    The counsel paused to let this sink in, and then continued. “So it is in your hands, ladies and gentlemen of the jury. The Defense Department has already been acquitted of criminal charges. All these poor people have left is this civil suit. Please find it in your hearts to do the right thing and give them at least this much justice.”

    The counsel sat back down. The twenty unfortunates were led out. Several jurors wept.

    Judge Jebediah Postwistle looked at the defense table. “Do you wish to make a rebuttal, counsel?”

    The defense counsel and his clients, representatives of the Department of Defense, put their heads together and had a quiet discussion. It went on for several minutes. Finally they broke off and the defense counsel stood.

    “Side bar, Your Honor?”

    Postwistle nodded. The plaintiff and defense counsels approached the bench.
    “Your Honor, I believe that there is nothing more we can do in this court,” the defense counsel said. “If the plaintiff counsel is willing, we would like to discuss a settlement with him.”

    The judge looked at the plaintiff counsel.

    “Your Honor,” he said. “I need to take this back to the Hobo Federation. Since we are now a legal entity in the wake of all this, they need to discuss and decide on any offer.”

    “Do you request a temporary suspension of court proceedings while you do that?” Postwistle asked him.

    “Yes, Your Honor.”

    Postwistle nodded. “Done.”

    He sat back up on the bench and addressed the jury. “The counsels of both sides have agreed on an abeyance to pursue a settlement. I want to thank you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, for your service, and I sincerely hope we will no longer have any need of you.”

    The judge slammed his gavel on the sound block to close the day. As he went back into his chamber he sighed with relief. He knew that justice belonged to the strong. Nobody was stronger than the government. But if they were willing to settle, then maybe, just maybe, there was a flicker of hope for the world.

    • I see what you mean, Paul, about feeling at the mercy of something bigger than yourself. I like the story very much. The dialogue is well used to move the story. Did you try to publish it anywhere?

      Mostly, thanks for sharing. It’d be great if more would do that. :)

  2. Well I need to know! Was that fiction or fact??? Did you cut the dress or not? I’m never good with TV or books with suspenseful ending unless I know a sequel is coming….

  3. I didn’t do it, Deb. It was just my fantasy that evening. And I still haven’t paid the credit card bill… :) Anyone want a teenager?