Friday, January 28, 2011

Red Writing Hood: Fighting Through

 "Take a deep breath, Lyd," Walter said. "It's probably one of those Braxton-Bricks contractions."

She winced, "Hicks, Walter." She twisted her fingers into the armrest and moaned. "They don't feel like this. Trust me."

He squeezed her hand, "Let me get you a glass of water."

The snow hissed outside the kitchen window. Storm of the century, they said. Stay indoors.  Each powdery flake enclosed them with callous indifference. "It's too soon," he whispered. He rubbed his eyes, “We're supposed to have another three weeks.”

"Walter!" Lydia called out, "I need you in here NOW! I think my water broke!" The glass dropped from his trembling hand.

He ran into the living room.  I don't know how to do this, he thought. When the water breaks, there's no turning back.  He rubbed his sweaty palms against his pants. "Do you think I should I get the steam cleaner?"

Lydia blinked, "Are you fucking kidding me? For God's sake Walter---" Another spasm racked her body. She clenched her jaw, her muscles taut with concentration.

The wave of pain receded. She leaned back. Walter sat next to her and waited for direction. "This sucks." She rested on her forearms, "I want an epidural. I want to be in a hospital." She let out a sudden gasp, and reached for his hand.

The contraction crept up from her back towards her stomach. It crested in a solitary moment, and time froze. Walter watched his wife, her eyes closed with concentration, and let her squeeze it all into him.

When he was seven years old, he had broken his arm on the playground merry-go-round. It needed to be set. His mother held his good hand, while the orthopedist placed his fingers into the Chinese handcuffs. Angela leaned in, whispered, "Walter, I'm not going to lie.This is going to hurt. But you won't do it alone. I will hurt with you."  

He gazed at his wife. She rested, curled like a withered leaf. "Hey," he said, clutching her limp palm. "I promise to not do the wrong thing until this baby is born, if you promise to believe in me for a couple of hours." He smiled, added, "Then, we can go back to normal." 

She laughed softly, "All right, Walter." Her eyes pooled, "I need you. Don't leave me, please--" Another contraction hit,  and she turned inside herself.

As the wind howled outside, Lydia and Walter labored up a mountain of pain. Each summit grew more desolate and stark. She didn't speak. All that existed was sensation, and the brief, precious moments of reprieve before the next step forward. 

Walter sat in a chair next to her through each ascent and descent. Every so often, he touched her, but Lydia felt only shadows. There was no before, no after, just that moment. Lydia, Walter, and Zoe. Fighting through.

They didn’t talk. He wished he could climb inside her body for a few hours, and let her rest. There was so little that he could do.

She knew it. He loved her exactly the way he could.. 

This is my take on this week's Red Writing Hood Friday challenge: 

"You are trapped (alone or with others) in a single location during the fury and/or aftermath of a blizzard of historic proportions."

This was a gift, since my story takes place in Colorado.

Critiques are welcome. I am fearful that I started telling instead of showing towards the end. Also, I decided to not describe the actual birth because I wanted the story to be about the relationship, not the actual birth. Did that come through? Could I weave in the flashback more gracefully? I appreciate your advice, as always.


Ratz said...

I'd say this is cute. Although, there is pain and labor and all that, it is cute. I am just wondering what will happen... you know, like she needs medical attention... I hope things go fine.

varunner said...

I like Walter's flashback. I really like the story. I felt like the beginning was rich and descriptive and I wanted more of that towards the end. Like maybe more descriptions of some actual contractions - breathing, sweating, moaning, fear or conscious relaxation? More on Walter's feelings of inadequacy? Even with a focus on their strong relationship those feelings seem to come through some. Just tossing out ideas - I think you did a really great job with this :-)

Formerly known as Frau said...

Great job I enjoyed and could visualize !

mama-face said...

I love when Walter remembers the moment with his mother; how he relates those feelings she had then to his. I often wish I could take on the pain of my loved ones. At least as much as possible.


Victoria KP said...

This is gorgeous Nancy. I particularly liked, "He wished he could climb inside her body for a few hours, and let her rest. There was so little that he could do."

You wanted to illustrate the relationship and you really did. I've often thought that watching one's wife in that kind of pain and distress must make a husband feel so helpless.

clearness said...

"should I get the steam cleaner"

This sounds like my husband. He would totally say that.

I just wish she would have used the pain of a contraction to kick him in the sausage for that comment.

From Tracie said...

I have to say that I loved the steam cleaner moment, that was snort-worthy.

The flashback is really good and fitting, but I feel like you need a better transition from the flashback back into the story.

I love the way you name the child without making a big deal out of it. That was some wonderful weaving in.

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

Great description, but it sounds more painful that what I remember.

I thought the flashback was perfect as is the focus on the relationship.

Theresa said...

Nicely done, Nancy! You never disappoint!

Paul said...

Second attempt to post this comment. Grrrr.

Pet names - do Walter & Lydia have them? Why or why not? Are they appropriate here? Why or why not? At the very least, is it necessary for them to address each other by name so often? It's only the two of them!

Walter appears to be an idiot. Is he? Lydia is demanding and condescending. Is she? Childbirth isn't *that* painful - the least she could be is civil ;-p

Flashback - definitely could use some finessing. Consider transitional statements at beginning/end to ease Walter and the reader in and out.

What reminds Walter of his childhood situation? Why does he refer to her as "mother" and then "Angela"? This seems incongruous in a flashback regardless of his current relationship to her. How does his mother suffer with him? You don't state she holds his hand, but you imply that this is the link between the present and the memory. Is it?

Laboring up a mountain of pain - kind of a cheesy pun. But more nagging than the pun is the telling and not showing. The only thing you show is Walter slouched in a chair. How is he laboring with her?

Is this a moment when Walter shines? How? Is he obsessive compulsive? Does he remember to sterilize the scissors to cut the umbilical cord? Does he come up with a masterful way of disposing of soiled sheets and afterbirth without staining the carpet? Does he rig up a way of taking Zoe's weight and measurements when Lydia is too weary to even remember? Does he bring Lydia tea or water or juice afterwards? Does she come out of a brief nap to find a flower and the juice next to her bed?

If this is a moment where Walter shines so that "He loved her exactly the way he could" I think you *really* need to show it clearly, because so far Walter is basically a clueless doofus and Lydia is an overbearing self-centered unhappy woman. If you want this to soften either of those personas, this is the *perfect* place to do it.

Hope this helps! Keep up the good work!

Cheryl said...

Can we hire Paul?

Other than me wanting to slap him about childbirth not being "that" painful...

What concerns me is you haven't advanced Walter and Lydia as people. They are still one-dimensional. Walter's flashback and how he related it to the situation was really nice, I liked it a lot.


Then he doesn't do anything. He could have. You say they're laboring together but you don't show that. Sitting in a chair is not helping.

This would be a good opp to show his strength - if he has any. Childbirth can make any mother mean so Lydia didn't bother me as much.

The last line stopped me a bit. "He loved her exactly the way he could." He wasn't DOING anything, tho - so does that mean she expects nothing from him?

Your writing is lovely as alway. Your dialogue is excellent. I really want to see how you develop these characters - I'm excited about it.

Brandon Duncan said...

The steam cleaner part cracked me up - too funny!

Your dialog is fine, as is most of your descriptions. You already made the comment about showing and telling, so there is no reason to comment on that. Unfortunately, that is the hardest part of it. Try this: put yourself in the situation and just write what you 'see, hear, and feel' don't worry about the story. Use what you know, then go back and edit the actual writing. The story will come out much better.

Good job!

whispatory said...

I agree with a Paul and Cheryl in regards to Walter not actually doing anything. However if the point is that he is helpless, incapable of knowing what could be interesting if we saw him maybe trying a few things, like boiling water even if he doesn't really know why he's doing it.

I do think that you were successful in making the piece about the relationship and not the birth. However, that relationship is foggy to me. It does seem that Lydia dominates the relationship so much so, that at least here with the exception of the flashback Walter comes across as merely an extension of her. Almost as if he is a figment of her imagination.
Yet, you have quite successfully created an atmosphere a relationship of 'togetherness' even if that togetherness isn't equal.

Keep writing, they are interesting characters!

Mandyland said...

First...I loved the steam cleaner comment and her response. I could almost see her looking at him in disbelief.

Also? Loved when he made his promise to his wife. That felt very reassuring.

You're totally right about the ending. I did feel it was about their relationship and I really wanted to see Walter step up. I would suggest some action on his part and maybe showing us why he's stepping out of his comfort zone.

I couldn't tell if he was being funny when he said that they'd go back to the way things were. Does he have issues? Is there a reason she may not trust him to deliver their baby? Or a reason why he may think that?

Overall, though, great job. I loved the bit of humor in a tense situation.

Rachel said...

I enjoyed the wittiness despite that difficult situation. Nicely done, enjoyable read!

Ashley said...

That was great! You captured the situation perfectly and I loved how Walter reflected on a memory that helped with his present situation. Great job!

Andrea (ace1028) said...

I really liked this.

I think what was commented re: Walter's flashback is interesting, but I immediately saw the connection between the two moments. I will admit I thouhgt he was going to say the same thing to her, though, that his mother said to him. Some sort of a tribute to his mom - as I feel like she's no longer living. Don't know why ... maybe the way he flashed back.

I was actually fine with him sitting beside her. That's what labor is all about. What else can he do except wait for the baby, Zoe, to truly make her appearance? It's not like he can force labor and the pain on more quickly, more easily, anything like that. He sat and supported her. I did think he should have been holding her hand, still, though. Instead of not touching her. To show the continued connection. I hope they're all okay.

Erin said...

I loved Walter's flashback and that bit at the end about his wanting to climb into her and let her rest for a bit---gorgeous description.

You know I love your writing....but I am left wanting to know/understand more about Walter.

As for Paul's commentary on childbirth--whatever. And remember that these are just OUR opinions. They don't mean much---or they can mean everything. Don't let it tear you up. You are a talented writer and nothing anyone says here will change that.

Denise said...

I was absolutely intrigued by this story. I felt the storm, I imagined the pain, I sensed an undercurrent of history between Walter ad Lydia.

I agree that the flashback needs a bit more introduction.

Really enjoyed this!

noisycolorfullively said...

Nothing like showing up 7 posts late to the party, but I love this! I finally felt empathy for Lydia. And Walter.

I thought the flashback was nicely done. It flowed easily. And I loved the sweet exchange between them following. Then again, I'm a sucker for sweetness.

Finally, I have something for you. Can you email me your address?