Photo and book by Anne Hart.
On another note, you may wish to see my paperback book, Ethno-Playography: How to Create Salable Ethnographic Plays, Monologues, & Skits from Life Stories, Social Issues and Current Events - For all Ages with Samples for Performance, by Anne Hart. Published July 27, 2007.
Short story #6: (This is fiction. No actual locations or names of real people have been used). This work of fiction is an exercise in writing dialogue within the short story or novel format. Short story writing can be like bellows or wind tunnels, drawing people in as doors open and blowing them out as doors or flaps close, using dialogue to develop characters in depth or to use writing as a form of 'free' therapy.
Sometimes writing fiction with dialogue in various formats by women is akin to creating wombs in men--caverns of deep, physical thinking. Or you could be seeking the universals in you that connects to everything else that exists or has existed. And therapy through writing might become a voice of confidence and resilience that breathes those universal values of simplicity and commitment to a purpose, goal, or inspiration.
Short story dialogue writing as free therapy
The golden years couple in "They're looking at us"
"They're looking at us," Eric smiled with his head turned at a right angle away from me as he gave me a weak hug. He patted me nervously on the back with the tips of his bony fingers. This was the only body contact I ever got from him.
"Nobody's looking at us." I repeated as I had for a dozen years of the marriage.
"You're going to make it, kid," he said over again, using the same phrases every time we spoke with each other.
"And making it no longer depends on somebody else buying it." I kissed the air, since Eric had never kissed me on the mouth. "Making it means doing it."
"And doing it is free therapy," Eric laughed
"Sure, why not, if it makes me stronger?"
"Free, is the word I'm looking for," Eric added.
"How do you expect to eat?" Eric folded his arms and legs and leaned against the living room wall.
"From the same worn crockpot where you get your own stew," I exploded. "You thirty-thousand dollar-a-year repairman!"
"Where do you think your next pair of shoes is coming from?" Eric grumbled. "Don't look at me, you parasite--just like your daughter. You're not a cripple. I don't want any cripple for a wife. If you want money, go out and earn it like everybody else. If you can't pull your own weight around me, the door's open."
"But Eric," I squeaked. "I've ended up in the hospital eight times when I tried to please that director of public relations. He said the client didn't like the way I wrote those press releases. I spent weeks re-writing. They wouldn't even pay me the lousy fifty dollars per press release. A man would have charged them a lot more."
"Work, like everybody else." Eric flushed.
"My body collapses when I try to work for anybody. It's the criticism that's the killer. I can't please anybody enough to get paid for my labor. And I really roll that boulder uphill each time. But it always comes rolling down on me."
"Jerk! You can spend ten hours a day on my computer writing screenplays or novels, you stupid stump, and feel fine afterward."
"I've joined Jerks Anonymous. Does that please you, Eric? Maybe you'd like a membership card also?" I'm tired of revising my work for others for a pittance, giving away all the rights, and doing my thing while the buyers of my creativity become rich producing and telling me what to revise over and over for peanuts, for nothing. I want to publish my own stuff and write it the way it ought to be. When I revise my own stuff, the joy will come to me through my audience, not through some animator who needs a slave writer quick and cheap."
Eric hid his anger behind high-pitched laughter. "Did you ever meet a guy as immature as I am?"
"Did you ever meet a woman as adolescent as I am? I can't leave my college campus as long as there are free lectures.
"Once I tried to teach at a two-year college, Eric. But I felt I belonged in the student's seat. One student fell asleep while I was ranting how great it was to write ad copy. There was nothing left to say to the class."
Eric arched his back. "It cost me eighty dollars to pay for your community college instructors credential. Who paid for your master's in English?"
"I have no desire to chat with a class about writers because all I do is write. Can you picture a teacher who's afraid to speak in front of people? All my life I was the student. My mind is open to learning what's important to me from others. But a minute later, I've forgotten ninety percent of what I've heard or read. There was nothing inside me left to tell the students."
"Except your false fears," Eric said.
"Do you want me to be proud of you as my husband? Then support your wife like a man. Both of us are products of the forties and fifties. We're imprinted. A lady marries a good provider and he takes care of her bills. A woman isn't as lucky. She works for a living until she's terminated when she gets old or slows down. That why women are like computers."
"I should live so long. That's an inclination isn't it? Is that what they call it, an inclination?" Eric began to unbuckle his belt, a sign that a beating was coming if I didn't cool it.
I took the hint and left. Eric followed me. "What about my needs?"
"You never told me you had any. I mean you never kissed me on the back of my neck." Eric piled boxes in the family room, old papers and brooms. I longed to decorate it to look pretty. Now I stared at that room that hid the green view of the backyard outside.
"Well I have a bomb to lay on you," Eric shoved me against the bathroom sink. "I'm getting a facelift tomorrow. If I don't look young enough, I'll get shoved off my job. Then who'd pay the bills that allow you to look as white-haired and wrinkled as you let yourself be?"
I smiled. "If it makes you feel good about yourself, go for it. As a recluse, I don't need an image to express myself."
"Don't give me that new age Aquarian crap." He turned on the faucet and dipped his fingers in it. Then he flung drops of cold water in my face.
"Turn on your computer, Eric. I want to see that new computer program of yours."
Eric looked at the leaking stains or the bathroom ceiling. "Oh, no, Fixing that roof will cost me a fortune."
He lost his trail of thought and turned off the water. I leaned over the tub and belched in relief.
"Turn on the computer in your room." In a minute Eric booted up his desktop IBM clone.
"See how good I am to you? I bought you a two-thousand dollar computer so you could write your books and make me rich."
He slipped a software disc into the machine, impatient for. the whirring computer to accept his commands, to be under his control. He tried to hurry it up. But the screen swirled into a spotty spin of confusion.
"Techno-stress. That's what we're suffering from, Eric. You expect me to respond to your orders like a computer. And when I don't, you lose your patience. Do you know why you're so insensitive to my feelings? Women are as interchangeable to you as computer peripherals."
He slammed the door, drowning but my shrill voice.
"Give me the right to tell you my feelings, Eric. I promise I won't accuse you anymore. Just accept the fact that I have feelings different from yours."
I stopped begging. "I can't ever get through to your passive-aggressive, withdrawing personality," I muttered. "It drives me wild!"
A moment later, now calm as if nothing happened, Eric called to my. "Come see my new modem."
"Why don't I go in my room and put on my computer?" I knew he was into his usual denial now. "Then your computer can talk to my computer the rest of the evening. Sounds like fun, eh?"
"Oh, it's going to run up the electricity bill," Eric complained.
"Come on. Just a few minutes. Then we'll play the Ouija board. You like that, don't you?"
Eric hesitated. "Just five minutes. Then I have to work out my software program. I promised someone at work I'd volunteer take a bug out of the damn thing."
"Well, you're not getting paid for it."
I scampered like a child to my room and booted up Eric's other computer. I slipped aside a page from the new screenplay I'd been writing on it. "They don't make 'em like you, anymore, or like me," I said to my old, manual typewriter beside my desk.
The modem flashed red lights. Eric keyboarded on his computer, "I'm moving back to Maryland. I want a bigger house."
His message came up on my computer screen. As soon as he paused for my reply, I typed back, "What will become of me when I'm an old lady that everybody spits at?"
He paused and keyboarded, "We can get a house with a big yard real cheap back East, and I can walk in the woods to experience the change of seasons. I'm a cold-weather guy."
Then I typed back, "What if I slip and fall on the ice and break a hip in those snowy winters when I'm old with hollow bones? I'm a tropical fiesta person who loves the swaying palms and the long walks on the beaches at sunset. I demand Romance."
Eric read my message and entered in capital letters, "TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. You don't slip and fall to break a hip. The hip gives way first from bone loss if you don't take your natural progesterone, and then you fall. I read all this in my holistic health books and magazines. If I'm good for something, it's guarding the money and nutrition of this household."
I smiled with predictability at Eric's ways. He seemed to grow on my after all those years of marriage. I needed to escape to my world, and so clicked on my television set. The bed was warm and soft. I rested against a mountain of pillows and shifted my remote control device until Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous came on the screen. At last I was at peace.
Eric was in my room within five minutes to say goodnight as he had every evening since 1974. He opened the door without knocking and stood with slumped shoulders by my bedside.
"Stand up, if you want your good-night hug. I'm too tired to bend my aching back."
I jumped up not to miss my only chance to get five seconds of body contact. He gave my a brief, finger-tapping hug. Eric's head towered over mine by a foot. He was watching the television set, hypnotized by the flashing patterns.
"Don't you ever look at me when you hug me? Can't you rub my back smoothly instead of that nervous finger patting?"
"I can't be perfect. You're not my ideal, either."
"I'm sorry, Eric. That radio psychologist made me promise not to criticize you for not being a perfect prince."
"I promise next Saturday night I'll give you a hug. I've run out of gas."
"Next Saturday night will be another excuse, just like it always has been. I need my twelve hugs a day." I squirmed in his grip. As soon as he recognized my neediness, Eric danced away. I called him the take-away-man. Whatever he gave, he quickly took away something more valuable.
He peered on my desk and saw a file marked "Science Fiction."
"Ever notice how fat and ugly the women are who read and write science fiction and how slender and glamorous the Romance writers are?"
Eric insisted. "Why don't you write Romance?"
"I have skin hunger," I whined in a New York accent. "And I want the whole world to know the last time I had sex in my early thirties was in 1976 after only less than a year of marriage. Nobody really cares, either."
"Neither do I."
Eric closed my bedroom door and hurried into his own room, sliding the deadbolt lock on his bedroom door. I climbed back under the covers and watched the rest of the television show.
Love had reeled down the most revolutionary road. At last I had taught myself to set limits. I wrote with the passion of a woman who faced my broken-ness, who had finally broadcasted in a loud voice: I want. I need.
No longer was I concealed from myself or the world. By five the next morning I was back at the computer writing my new "Woman in Space" series that would never see daylight outside my shelf, rejected too many times to count by those who count.
The blank page glared before my as I typed my opening lines: Right Brain-Left Brain Couples. Due to different ways of solving problems, he had a career in hard science. My career was in poetry therapy. Title: Psyche Squad: Poetry Therapist in Space. Then I moved to monologues and then focused on memoirs. Time capsules. Life stories that had impact and held universal appeal.
I loved to work on many imaginative levels at one time. Poetry put my into a trance where I suspended my normal way of thinking. With poetry as therapy, I changed my usual habits. I never thought of having an affair. I’d just write a romance novel when I needed affection. When I tried to give it, rejection was plain. So I wrote it and set the romance in ancient Neapolis, near Rome during the Republic in 150 BCE.
Each time I read or wrote a poem, I protected myself. I could never resolve emotional problems by steely logic. I had to use poetry. Every dream I had, every fear was a product of a conflict and my attempt to resolve it. So I tried a different solution, rose from my own ashes, and soared in moving between ethnic music of all over the world, visual art, and poetry as personal broadcast networks, monologues, plays, and memoirs.
These were ideas for a new play/novel package. I wrote until lunch time when the house was sunny and quiet. I felt good inside and decided to try my luck at imagining what it would be like to study to be a Poetry Therapist for awhile until I understood how one might function in space married to a left-brained man.
I knew my book and screenplay had to wipe away rigidity and finality in the human condition before I could put my healing sounds of world music along with poetry as my personal meditation, my own therapy in space, or it could succeed in visual form.
The evening of my forty-seventh birthday, after baring my soul on paper, I knew I had leaped from the treadmill of submission, rage and guilt. By fifty-six, I began to be able to write what I wanted about the subject I desired and revise under my own direction, answering to no one other than my intended audience.
Threats were meaningless. I had control over poverty, but I earned not one thin dime. Joy existed in writing what held importance. My ability to react, then to act, was renewed as my novel, my plays, and my book of memoirs began to raise and rebuild my own inner laughing wall.
It wasn't necessary to bolt. I had gained insight into myself and no longer thought with the logic of the psychically impaled. I would never again retreat from knowledge to a knotted life.
The act of writing my plays, novels, stories, poetry, memoirs or the sequels to the novels and the how-to books gave me eyes, mind, and will. No more would I trap myself between my family's love and their ridicule.
I had become the character I hated most and loved most. And when I saw what I had done, I contested the origins, re-inventions, and recycling of my own identity. In the mystic, truth became concrete. In the abstract, intuition evolved into resource.
Yet--if I were to create wombs in men, caverns of deep, physical thinking, then I would risk life for one moment of absolute power. You see me in a pink mist, my face blurred by your anger and my fear of your anger. You gaze with those unfocused eyes that forever stare at a point above my shoulders. You taunt me with your wicked mouth and swing your brittle legs like fascists in pantyhose. I only seek to find all the universals in me that make sense to you. The search for identity is only one part of the whole universal shebang.
Men are what they are, I say. Women, by where their husbands itch, are judged at work by wives who marry rich. "And what does your father do?," say young men before they dance. Will he set me up in business? Will he pay to take a chance?
The dusty years rolled by. These memoirs give me strength now that I can work for my next meal, twist through sieves, or tap a time capsule for nourishment. Growing up means always having to revise. And with blessed retirement, came the opportunity as creative director to revise only under my own direction. I, at last, remain, boss of my own creativity.
College boys today still ask girls under 25 what does your father do for a living instead of A What do you do--or plan to do?. And women at parties still ask, and what does your husband do? How can I say my husband's a blue collar repairman when I worked through six years of college at night and full-time typing all day, working so hard for so long to make it as an author and content developer/producer--working my way through college to a master's degree?
The problem is solved. He’s retired. My daughter reached fifty-plus and I’ve reached my mid-seventies and counting. My son, the doctor is fine with his wife and children, all devout Muslims. As a human being of the world, I want to celebrate life for all peoples in all universes.
Suddenly I've rushed way past seventy-something, and no one wants to visit or hire me. So I just do the work without worrying whether I’m hired or not. I’ve hired myself. If the dream is big enough, the facts don't matter. If you know you have choices, the values in the choices outweigh the facts.
Something is greater out there than core identity. Whatever it is, it can include meditation and the chants of Tibetan monks. So I paint Mandalas of deep archetypes as I write about serenity, harmony, and developing creativity while enhancing intuition in all areas of life, work, and play. Whether you write about relationships, finance, or machines, keep writing with great joy.
Life is about personal broadcasting networks. Numerology assigns my birth date the number ‘8.’ That means security. Link all people to the one universal whole. That’s where true happiness can be found. You don’t have to inspire everyone to become world leaders. It’s okay to be a listener and an observer. It’s called journalism.
How can I bring joy of life to the world now in my golden years? How can I bring joy of life to one person at a time? To other species—including my two doggies and two kitties? To quality circles? To students online learning how to write better books, reports, stories, and articles? That’s all I want to do now…bring joy of life and sunshine to whomever I meet. That’s how I can inspire others to change the world if they want to. I start with DNA-driven genealogy. I give recognition and encouragement. My goal is to inspire creativity. Forget the word “me.” Now it’s all about you. Bringers of joy, unite, share the sunshine, and enjoy.