Here is my take to this week’s Flash Fiction prompt over at Carrot Ranch. Saddle on up and join in on the rodeo. It’ll improve your writing, pardner.
I ask your pardon for including the word “slut” in the title. I dislike the connotations and one sided power the word carries. I imagine the word as a broken woman, dragging her dirtied feet through this patriarchal world, a shamed prostitute surrounded by self-righteous rock throwers. A man I knew died recently and, as I learned, wasn’t married to whom I (and everyone else) assumed was his spouse. The news startled me, but I knew it wasn’t my business. I instead chose to help as I was able with the memorial arrangements. I overhead the following conversation happen the day of the funeral:
“And what was with “their companion” written in the obituary…? What, they weren’t married? …What a slut…”
Ecstatic giggling followed the speaker’s judgement. I couldn’t see the group listening, but could hear parts of the conversation. I imagined the speaker’s tongue like a snake’s, split and elegant, licking the air in glee as she laughed. The group murmured some type of consensual agreement I couldn’t quite decipher. The conversation moved onto other matters, sliding easily to other interests.
I sat in my chair, shocked, my brain numbly processing what I heard. I began wondering if I was honestly in the presence of a demon.
My spouse bought the tickets, got us free glasses of ice water and I scurried off to use the restroom. I sat down in the dark theatre, baffled by the motley collection of previews that ranged from the dramatic yet playful “Avengers” series to an odd, demonic horror movie of uncomfortable supernatural darkness. I was reminded how even though I write horror, most horror I’ve come across I dislike and avoid. More on this later.
I relaxed as the “The Quiet Place” finally began and flashed my husband a grin. I was geeked about this movie, particularly because I could learn more American Sign Language (ASL). As I mentioned previously, I’m attempting to become fluent in ASL and was curious how the language–and maybe even Deaf culture–was incorporated into the film.
“A Quiet Place” is the story of an American family cobbling a bizarre, post-apocalyptic existence while striving not to make the slightest noise. The parents are raising children, one who is a teenaged deaf girl and two younger boys who are hearing. Alien neighbors surround the town and farm where the family scratches out an existence. The aliens are blind, armored predators; they target and kill anything that makes the slightest noise (including unlucky raccoons). The family walks barefoot on sand paths, eats on lettuce plates and plays Monopoly with soft fabric playing pieces. They cannot cry loudly and struggle with expressing (and suppressing) their emotions. The parents whisper hoarsely to their kids and use ASL to communicate and teach their children how to survive.
I made it through about 40 minutes of the 90 minute film before leaving. Hats off to Mr. John Krasinski, the director, for the movie’s unique power. I walked out of the theatre, afraid to make any noise in case an alien was hiding around the corner ready to ambush me. I blared my Pandora station with courage at home and proceeded to clean my house–until 2 in the morning.
I’ve always been entranced by a line in Disney’s original Mary Poppins movie. Julie Andrews says this line very quietly to the children at their bedtime when asked how long she’ll stay.
“I’ll stay until the wind changes,” she announces delicately to the children. As a child, that means only one thing: she’s going away. Mary is not permanent.
This perplexed me as a child and still rattles me a little as an adult. How brave Disney was to keep this element of the story, of change and letting go. Waiting periods and change are two of the hardest things for kids to understand. I’m not sure adults win the blue ribbon, either.