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While I’ve admitted I can’t read most Stephen King stories because they give me nightmares, he inspires me. When I’m in need of motivation, I’ll watch videos on Youtube where he’s talking or lecturing about writing. And his book, On Writing, is one of the best on the craft – ever. Today’s post is because of an assignment in that book – one I almost didn’t do. But I’m glad I changed my mind because sometimes, it’s fun to stretch myself to see what I can do.
Mr. King gave a scenario – including the names for the two main characters. In a nutshell, a jealous, controlling husband/ex-husband abuses/stalks his wife/ex-wife. The writing challenge was to reverse the roles. It’s definitely a genre I’m not familiar with – reading or writing – but hey, it’s Stephen King. I couldn’t really expect something along the lines of the Coach’s Boys, could I?
So if you want to see a different side of me – one I don’t plan to revisit often – read on. It’s almost twenty-three hundred words so I’ll be breaking it up into four posts.
“You’re scaring the clients,” Nelson Smith said, his voice gruff.
I felt the now familiar tightness begin to squeeze my lungs, expecting to be let go on the spot. I hadn’t been with the company for a full year yet and I’d already had to take a little time off for the divorce, another day off to get the restraining order, and then a couple more when Nell caught that virus just after Christmas.
“I’m sorry,” I start to say, but Nelson holds up his hand to silence me.
“No one blames you, Dick. We know what happened. It’s not your fault, and I promise your job isn’t on the line, but we want you to take two weeks off. Just until you stop looking like your ex-wife used you for batting practice. We’ll call it a temporary layoff so you can get unemployment, but go home. Let that knee heal a little.”
I nod my head and manage to thank him for his consideration, then hobble back to my desk. I hate these crutches. After three days, my shoulders ache and my armpits – the only places Jane managed to miss – hurt like crazy.
It only takes a minute to shut everything down, grab my suit jacket from the back of my chair, and then I’m on my way out to my beat up Prius. Literally. Beat up. By Jane and the steel baseball bat she attacked me with after work on Tuesday.
It takes every ounce of control I can muster to not whip my head around like a scared little girl when I near the parking lot. Still, I manage a few discreet glances to make sure there’s no one hiding behind any of the vehicles in the lot.
Climbing in behind the wheel takes some careful maneuvering. Bending my knee much at all is a new adventure in pain so it takes a minute to get myself set up here. The doctor wanted me to have exploratory surgery to make sure everything is okay but since the x-rays showed nothing broken, I declined. If it’s not better in a few weeks, we’ll revisit the possibility.
Of their own accord, my fingers curl around the steering wheel. Hard. My knuckles are white and my breath is shallow. I start to feel a little lightheaded, but there’s nothing I can do to push the memory away. It starts playing in my head like an old projector. I can almost hear the rapid tick, tick, ticking as the film runs through the feed sprocket.
If she hadn’t been squatting down behind Sylvia Oldman’s gray minivan, my kneecap would have probably shattered with the first blow. Fortunately, Jane hadn’t been able to put all her strength behind the swing in that position. It had been enough to send me crashing to the pavement though.
I really don’t remember much about what came after, just that as soon as I hit the ground; she was on her feet, swinging the bat … over and over and over. I’m pretty sure she didn’t miss, not once, but I was so busy protecting my face and head I can’t say for sure.