Good Creative Writing On What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
As she sat in the courtroom staring at the back of his head she felt the pulling of a memory fill her heart. She closed her eyes and tried to mute out the lull of testimony that may or may not change the entire trajectory of the life she and her husband had spent the last four years building. The heat of the courtroom was oppressive, she felt as though she were a soufflé in a convection oven and if someone didn’t take her out soon she was going to explode. It wasn’t just the heat, it was the pressure that had been building in her chest over the last year and a half, ever since her husband woke her up at 2:30am to let her know the FBI was there with a warrant to search their home. The pressure which had turned into a solid, painful mass just below her sternum as she sat next to her husband on their couch and watched government officials tore through her most private of possessions. The pressure which had infested her sense of self to the point that she didn’t know who she was without it any longer. But it wasn’t the memory of the search of their house that snuck its way into her thoughts as she roasted in the courtroom, the memory that distracted her from the perspiration dripping down her sides was the look on her soon-to-be-husband’s face when he said six simple words to her all those years ago: “What’s the worst that could happen?”
They met on a lark. Neither of them had been looking for anything serious, she had just broken off an ill-fated engagement and he was gearing up for a year-long combat deployment to Afghanistan. Both of them had signed up for the dating website for the fun of it, more of a science experiment than anything else. Which is why they were both taken off guard when within an hour of meeting for coffee he reached across the table and stroked her arm and a jolt of electricity ran from him into her. He walked her to her car and wrapped himself around her, his arms strong from the preparation for combat. Before releasing her he whispered quietly into her ear “I don’t want to let you go!” Less than a month later, the same exuberance he felt holding her the first night they met spurred him to the action of proposing. She wasn’t as confident as he, only a few months earlier she had suffered the pain and disappointment of stopping a wedding only weeks before it was to take place. The judgement from her friends and family had been excruciating to bare and she knew more criticism would come from the announcement of marrying a man she had just met. When she raised these objections he calmed her fears by simplifying the situation with a question, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Less than three months after their first date they signed the legal documents tying them together in marriage.
Over the next few years they discovered that the worst that could happen was pretty darn bad. She was ill-prepared for the challenges of a deployment, as dark thoughts filled her head she nestled into the safe cocoon of her bed for days at a time. She realized her thoughts were a symptom of depression but the realization did little to ease the pain. On a walk through an early summer evening ripe with the scent of freshly mowed lawns and bathed in the gentle glow of the moon she harassed herself for wanting to die, unable to enjoy the beauty of the world around her. She couldn’t mask the pain in her voice when he called her each night and his helplessness tormented him. He nearly broke his fist punching the wall after reading the email from her mother about her attempted suicide. When he finally made it back to her she was a shell of the person he remembered, she had lost thirty pounds and the eyes that usually twinkled with life were dull and flat. Over the next few months he brought her back to life; he bathed her and fed her and made her go for long walks regardless of her inability to enjoy any of it. On a cold morning in February he woke to her voice singing and the smell of bacon and eggs sizzling in the kitchen. The smile on her face told him she had broken through to the other side; she had made it. The next six months flew by in a daze of excitement, she walked down the aisle to him wearing a silver wedding dress and soaked in the massive bathtub in the brand new home he bought her. As the leaves turned gold and yellow they thought the worst was behind them. Until he was disturbed from a deep sleep by heavy knocking one late September night.
Neither of them had any idea what the warrant was for. Over the next few days the pieces of the story fell into place, a soldier he knew had been caught stealing military property. In a panic, the soldier threw every other guy he could think of under the bus. The military and FBI agents believed there was stolen property in their home. Twenty-two hours later the government left with truckloads of property but no arrest. He had been collecting military equipment from legitimate sources for years and the agents thought some of it might be stolen, they took it as part of the investigation. Though there was no proof that any of the evidence taken from the home was stolen, the local police arrested him eleven months later. And now she was melting into a puddle of sweat and fear and hope and desperation in a courtroom watching his trial.
The sound of the judge’s gavel echoed through the room snapping her out of her reverie. She approached the barrier separating her from the court proceedings and waited for her husband. After a moment of conferring with his lawyer he turned to her, grasped her outstretched hand and smiled. Her heart swelled with an ache so strong it was almost sweet and her eyes filled with tears. In that moment she knew that the worst thing that could happen was not the combat deployment, debilitating depression, suicide attempt, FBI raid on their house, arrest, or arduous trial proceedings. Even a conviction would not be the worst thing that could happen. The worst thing that could happen would have been her missing this moment, the moment of holding his hand and the knowledge they both shared of love. Of being in one another’s corner no matter what. All of the horrible, scary, painful stuff was worth it because she now fully understood what it meant to love and be loved. He loved her through her darkest hours and now she was doing the same for him. It wasn’t about the emotions of infatuation, it was about the commitment of action. The choice to be there for another person no matter what and allowing them to be there for you. She squeezed his hand, squared her shoulders and prepared herself for whatever was to come.
The theory used in this story is most in alignment with the First-Order Thinking referenced by Bizzel (1986) and Elbow (1986). The story used this theory by reading careless and fast as well as being intuitive and creative. There is also use of the writing types developed by Britton and Emig, described by Flower (2003), as it is expressive/reflective and also conveys information. I was inspired by the work of Emily Dickinson, I tried to convey a similar tone as her poem “Nature” (Dickinson, 1924) when describing the female’s walk in nature during her depression. I was also inspired by Dylan Thomas’s “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” (Thomas), I wanted to convey a similar sense of urgency at the end of the story as he infused in the poem. The powerful emotions I feel, especially pain, inspire me to write because it helps me give meaning to my hurt. I have seen loved ones suffer tremendously from mental illness and that influenced my writing. The conventions of short story writing include a gripping beginning, showing rather than telling and a satisfying ending – the characters experience challenges and learn from them. Analyzing short fiction and poetry improves my skills by giving me better insight into how to paint a picture with words and how to use powerful metaphors. Overall, I think this story is mediocre. It relies a bit too much on telling instead of showing and while the characters do learn a lesson, it isn’t illustrated as powerfully as I would like. I think the beginning works much better than the end, the beginning is gripping and the end feels rushed.
Bizzel, Patricia. The Teaching of Writing: Composing Process. University of Chicago Press. 1986.
Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1924; Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/113/. [April 8, 2015].
Elbow, Peter. Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Teaching and Learning. Oxford University Press. 1986.
Flower, Linda and Hayes, John. A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing. Cross-Talk in Comp Theory. National Council of Teachers of English. Urbana, Illinois. 2003.
Thomas, Dylan. “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night”. Botteghe Oscure. 1951.
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