Show Not Tell

The Word: SHOW

Show don’t tell. That’s what they teach you in writing class.

But in therapy, they call that ‘acting out.’

For instance, when I kicked the door in, splintering the flimsy wood with a heavy boot.

Instead of saying, “I have had enough. Human beings can only take so much. You have pressed me to the limit.”

I kicked the door in.

Hearing it smash. Feeling the give.

That was showing.

Which gives us to understand the essential difference between life and fiction.

In life, you try not to show. You work for years to be able to tell, precisely and with conviction. Thousands of dollars of hardearned money. You try to ‘become conscious’, you try to find words, you control your fury, it’s historical, you know where it comes from. Healthy people don’t ‘act out.’

In fiction, you just kick in the goddamn door.

Which is to say, fiction is better than life.

It felt good to kick in that door. I had your attention, then.

Perhaps I’m becoming a fictional character.

Perhaps we’re learning to live again from our books.

We’ll show and show and show.

Part of a weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: GRAIN


5 Responses to “Show Not Tell”

  1. Mary Curran-Hackett Says:

    I need a pair of those boots…

  2. alisa wood Says:

    I caught a glimpse of the new girl. Her neck was as narrow as a guitar’s.
    She stood on the scale for morning weight check. Her fragile, thin frame practically floated away like the string of a lost helium balloon caught in a breeze with no purpose or direction.
    The nurse called out, “fifty – eight pounds.” Then she jotted the number down on her clipboard with perfect indifference. Earlier that morning, I overheard the nurses whispering about her, “She’s fifteen years old but she only looks 9 or ten.”
    “Her name is Roseanne.”
    The new girl stood and starred blankly waiting for the nurse’s next direction. Her limbs dangled superfluously at her sides and when she floated down from the scale, all I could think of was a Halloween ornament; that ridiculous, oversized hospital gown hanging from her skeleton of a body. Of course anything she wore would look equally awkward on a person in a condition such as hers, for Anorexia had ravaged every part of her body. Roseanne had short, worn out shrubs of hair growing on her head and it looked as though a careless gardener had tended to her rather than a hairdresser.
    Looking back on her now, I can see how she might have been attractive at some point. After all, her facial structure was quite pleasant; She had high, hallow cheekbones and her lips were full only more the color of ashes than a rosebud. Her skin had an odd hue that resembled non fat milk; it was translucent and would scarcely cover the blueness of her veins hidden cautiously beneath it. For one false move would split Roseanne open at the seams and the organs in her body would spill on the floor for everyone to see.
    Poor Roseanne, I wondered what would ever happen to her. I wondered if she would live or die. She had to wear a colostomy bag taped around her midsection and I could hear it bubble and smelled its stench when her body excreted.
    Earlier that morning, I wanted to tell the staff, that Roseanne was up all night exercising, doing jumping jacks between bed checks, only I was saddened by how pathetic she looked and in some unspoken way, I didn’t want to deprive her of her indulgences. It must have been some silent code among institution mates. I accidentally stumbled by her room late at night on my way to the girls bathroom. I peered in and secretly watched her floppy skeleton bob up and down like some surreal, circus, sideshow, she was compelled to move. The show must go on. The show would go on.
    Sometimes, there was a forced nasal, tube feeding following an unsuccessful meal time when Roseanne would politely refuse to drink her high calorie vitamin drink which she was obligated to consume 3 times each day.
    On one of these occasions, we were all sitting at the lunch table and I was watching Roseanne pretend to drink the can in front of her. Her mousy claws meagerly gripped the can and I could see she was trying not to gaff when the tepid liquid touched her lips. Suddenly, without warning, Staff whisked Roseanne away from the table whimpering; she could not even fight back, Starvation had left her without any power and though she tried to resist, her limbs were simply too weak to lift in protest as they carried her off into oblivion.
    I knew they were going to strap her down and shove the feeding tube up her nose again and like so many times before, I knew she’d be back in the meal area later and the cycle would repeat itself over and over again.
    My eyes met with another female patient’s, and we both looked onward with disgust at the absurd and dehumanizing situation we had just witnessed.
    I knew there would be plenty more action to come. After all; we had secured permanent residence in an insane asylum, the adolescent version of Coo Coo’s nest. For now this was home.

  3. Maureen Says:

    I very much like and feel this one. Wonderful.

  4. Marleeo Says:

    Brilliant! Reminded me of Brautigan. Made me laugh. Thanks!

  5. malte Says:

    seriously, this one was exceptionally good. I would have wished you would have _not_ told even more like showing a ninja by drawing the wall it stands against – the ninja will become so apparent, you might feel its kick in your side.

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