Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A True Story in Fiction

NOTE: The following is a chapter from the first draft of my novel DYSPHORIA.

The kitchen was quiet and wrapped in warm brown colors. The scent of butter and fried meats was everywhere. And it was quiet, except for Paul's fork sliding across the porcelain surface of his dinner plate.

It was a sound he barely noticed, concentrating on each bite.

Paul's grandmother was at the head of the table and his father sat across from him. His father was busy with his own plate of food. Paul watched him absently poke his fork into a mound of mashed potatoes. Paul didn't look up from his plate and so he didn't notice how his father stared at him.



Two tired blue eyes gazing and lost behind an oily and matted clump of raven black hair. Below, a fork worked mechanically, going through familiar motions. His mouth was pulled into a long and permanent frown so the corners of his horse-hair mustache rubbed close to the middle of a military chin. It was one hard part of a face, stripped of emotion and pock-marked from severe acne.

Paul's grandmother was quiet in her chair. Her eyes were tight inside trembling sockets. Waiting. Worried. Somehow expectant.

Paul saw none of this. He kept his head down and moved his fork across his plate in brief screeches and pulls.

Then the room exploded and everything was bright blue electricity.

Paul's father jumped out of his chair. His grandmother leaned back, surprised, and flung her arms out to either protect herself or stop her son. Blue fierce eyes and tangled hair quivered and shook across the room, leading his father closer, hurled from the force of a phantom tornado. A fast moving mouth and violent, incoherent yelling became Paul's sensory world. His stomach walls beat against his ribs. His fork fell to the floor. The sound of it clattering to the floor was lost in a gale of screams.

Few other things mattered at all now. He rushed past his father, who grabbed the sides of the table and gained ground across the kitchen. Paul struggled around a corner and into the hallway, but fell roughly on the trampled carpet and burned raw streaks across both his knees. The pink burns immediately ached through to his kneecaps, but behind him was the sound of heaving breathing and so he pin-balled his way through the hallway. The breathing coming from behind him was interrupted with shouted questions about what he thought he was doing. Was he starved to death? Wasn't there enough food? Was he so hungry he had to scrape the plate over and over and over?

The entire thing was brief and years later Paul would shorten his memory of it even more, edit most of it and leave only the last, when his father cornered him in the bathroom. He would remember his father bending low into his face where he stuck himself between the bathtub and the clothes hamper, screaming at him in a blur of anger and sickness, maniac and out of control, without regret until too late, when it no longer mattered.


  1. Very, very strong start, Shel, I loved this. Scary stuff told in a sure voice. There's a scene at the start of "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel that this reminded me of—not a bad comparison: she won the Booker Prize with it. Cheerio, and good luck with this novel.

  2. Thanks, Marcus. That's some high praise, indeed! This chapter comes far into the book, which I also thank you for the well wishes on finishing a second (third, fourth, fifth?) draft.

  3. Dang bro! I dropped into your Fictionaut page to read some more of your stuff. Where are your stories? You're one of my favorite writers on there. I was initially bummed, but looks like there's good stuff to dig into here! I also subscribed and am looking forward to digging in!

  4. Thanks kindly, Michael. Much obliged, and glad you enjoyed.


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