Character Emotions — Part Seven (Encore)

In the past few posts, I’ve discussed a number of emotions. This time I’d like to focus on an emotional state which isn’t as easy to sum up as fear, anger, jealousy, or passion. I’m talking about shock. Like most emotions, it manifests in a wide range, from mental and physical paralysis to babbling incoherence. Shock may be induced by an equally wide range of triggers including the surprise return of a loved one or an abrupt and unexpected death. Unlike other emotions, real shock is an extreme emotion. One might claim to be shocked that Ben And Jerry don’t make a certain flavor of ice cream, but recovering from that discovery would normally be trivial.

This post is longer than most, so be forewarned. It’s not that I’ve grown wordier, it’s because of the writing sample included. It’s the work of a talented writer and friend who has experienced more than her share of emotional upheaval. Time has granted her some much-needed perspective, but it hasn’t dimmed the power of her words or her ability to paint vivid, sometimes haunting, word pictures.

Because of the excerpt’s length, I won’t be adding any commentary until my next post, so please stay tuned. The following is the opening scene from a work in progress by Nancy James:


The body lay before me on the floor. No, that is not true. When the knees buckled after the shot, I found myself across the room. I listened to his throat gurgling with blood. Saw the dark halo spread around his head onto the gold carpet. The needlepoint pillow I held when seated had flown from my arms and landed in the scarlet stream. Days later I would see where it had been carefully placed on the washer in the kitchen. A stitched sampler I had painstakingly created as a teaching piece now tarnished like all of life. Its rust and golds now darkened. His clothes would be returned to me later. The leisure suit carefully folded but stained also. Funny how people seek to preserve unnecessary tokens after a life is gone.

But that was later. In that instant, I knew what needed to be done. Late night rehearsals prepared me for this moment. Call for an ambulance. Call Bill for help and advice. But the phone rang as I touched it. The young woman who had rung the doorbell asked if everything was okay. “No,” I answered and replaced the receiver. A March of Dimes volunteer, she did not know she had prompted that now or never moment. She could not know the look in his eyes before the final decision, the finger on the trigger. She did not know the fear I felt when I realized the door was unlocked, and she might enter into uninvited danger. She did not know.

Neither did most of the world know our secrets. Don’t tell Daddy ran across my thoughts; he has a heart condition. That final attempt to keep our secrets from the gossips’ mouths and off The Meridian Star’s front page would fail. I made my calls.

I returned to the living room and knelt by the body. Still breathing, but gone. A runner’s heart that could last forever. I thought I should tell him l loved him. I could not.

Bill arrived with the ambulance. The body was carted away. A neighbor, Cathy, came. Sought to comfort. Marian came. I remained calm.

Somewhere in there, two police officers arrived. One pinned me down in our wingback chair. Tastefully covered and decorated. A nice cozy arrangement around the fireplace. A farce of comfort. His hands were on the chair arms, and he was screaming in my face. I wondered vaguely why he was so angry. Why he was yelling. Later I learned he thought I had killed Coach Cameron. No, in the doorway he had committed the crime himself.

I sit now in the blue channel-backed chair inherited from his parents. A gallery of ancestors stare at me from their matched frames on the wall. Such a formal, organized, beautiful room. Everything carefully coordinated. Proper. Tasteful. Now filled with chaos and confusion. Soon I will leave to have my hands dusted at the police station, to be interrogated, to spend the night elsewhere. Secrets exposed. Shame exposed. Now everyone will know.

{End of excerpt}

We’ll discuss this in more depth next time around. See you then!


[Secrets excerpt: Copyright 2018 Nancy James]

About joshlangston

Grateful and well-loved husband, happy grandparent, novelist, editor, and teacher. My life plate is full, and I couldn't be happier. Anything else I might add would be anticlimactic. Cheers!
This entry was posted in Memoir, novel writing, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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