The first thing I wrote was a poem. I was four years old, and my mother jotted down the words I spoke. As a child I wrote stories, and as a teenager I created plays. I got a Master’s degree in English, and my thesis was a book of poetry. But I had always wanted to write books, so I put all the music I had learned in poetry (and in voice lessons) into my prose. Poetic prose, novels that can sound like poetry. Poetry, as the English poet Shelley once observed, can turn all things to loveliness. In this passage from Chapter Four of my new book “Fire and Ice,” I write about domestic violence in a poetic way. Tell me what you think:
One night, I sat at my polished mahogany desk in front of the moonlit window. On the other side of glass, wind blew evergreen boughs like dancers. The forest around the house lit up, trees casting shadows upon the pine-needled ground. Music filled the air, inside the room and out–the music of wind, my joyful heart, and the words in my mind like clear notes of an aria.
My long fingers swept across the white keys of my laptop like a pianist in a concert. With each touch of a fingertip, the melody rose toward crescendo, in words like windowsill and elbow. I was writing an epic story like an opera. I mastered arts of setting, character, and costume, each detail chosen from millions of possible words. They appeared one black letter at a time on a white screen against a glowing blue background. I loved that color of blue, the color of the distant sky and shallow water.
Selah, clothed in glittering armor, faced the dungeonwraith at last. Her right hand held a torch high against the darkness of deep stone and dim halls. Her left hand lifted a silver shield that blazed with reflective light. Her sword hung ready at her side.
“I am not afraid,” she spoke to the black, faceless form of her enemy. Its shadow shrunk before the light and stepped back toward the wall.
“I banish you in The Maker’s Name!”
Selah placed the torch in a metal bracket and unsheathed her sword. Its crystalline blade blazed brighter than fire, sunlight through ice, cutting through the frigid darkness. The dungeonwraith crouched like an animal before it.
I did not hear Edd walk through the open doorway behind me, so focused was I on my newest book.
“I told you not to go on the Internet,” he said. “I saw the red light on the phone upstairs.”
My fingers paused mid-stanza, and all the music waited in interlude. Selah still held her sword, turning her face toward me for directions.
I swung my chair around and saw Edd standing against the white wall. He was six feet tall and nearly 300 pounds, his reddish beard laced with gray like steel, his blue eyes glowering like a wolf’s. Without another sound he took three steps toward me, grabbed the computer from the desk, held it high in the air, and smashed it against the wall.
One. Two. Three times the plastic and metal container that held all my lovely words hit the white wall.
All the music stopped. Selah disappeared. I screamed and jumped up from the chair to try and stop him, knowing it was too late. I could only stand there and stare at the white computer on the floor, its metal twisted into an acute angle, its keyboard a thin rubber skin hanging loosely from metal components, its once-bright monitor black and cracked in jagged glass from edge to edge.
Jessica and Jonathan, awakened from childhood’s dreams, appeared in the doorway.
“Mom, are you alright?” Jonathan asked. “I thought you were being . . .” He saw the broken computer, stepped toward me, and gave me a child’s hug.
When he pulled away, he looked up, his dark blue irises around wide pupils, his elvish eyebrows and high cheeks beautiful beneath his curly golden hair. Jessica, three years older and quieter, stepped toward the telephone to call for help, but her father’s stare stopped her. Auburn locks fell on the shoulders of her rose-patterned nightgown, and her lighter blue eyes seemed feverishly vivid against her white skin, lips, and the pink birthmark on her left cheek, shaped like a baby’s hand. She put down the phone receiver, walked toward me, and stood silently there.
“I’m OK,” I said, my voice too calm.
“I told her not to go on the Internet so late,” Edd stated, as if smashing a computer was the usual punishment for such a violation.
“I just checked my email,” I replied, the words sounding hollow. “I didn’t even realize I was still connected, as I was writing Selah.” In reality, I thought Edd had fallen asleep on the upstairs sofa and would not see the light on the telephone.
“You JUST. You JUST do everything I tell you not to.”
Edd took a step toward me, and Jonathan bravely stood between us, small and thin in his plaid pajamas. He didn’t say a word, but Edd stopped.
“Go back to bed,” the man commanded. He was not an alcoholic. He became drunk only on rage. His eyes, beneath thick brows, swept over me like a final blow, and he turned and left the room. I held the children who ran into my arms. I would put them back to bed, talk to them, pray with them, try to assure them it was safe to sleep. But before I left my bedroom for theirs, I bent down to touch the three marks upon the wall.
I kneeled above the broken computer but did not touch it.
All those lost words, all those beautiful words . . .
“At least he did not throw you against the wall,” Jonathan whispered.
Oh, but he did, I almost said.
“It’s like when Jo’s angry sister burned all the pages of her story in the novel Little Women,” Jessica observed (a true homeschooler). “And the ashes blackened her hands.”
She picked up the laptop and handed it to me. The metal cut my finger, and one red drop lingered on the “S” key.
Read the rest of my story here: