Short literary fiction is one of my areas of writing interests, so I dabble in composing short stories and flash fiction from time to time.
The Graveyard Whistler's Introduction
Hello, my name is Belmonte Segwic, (aka "The Graveyard Whistler," a handle I used in grad school), and I just recently earned my master of arts in creative writing from the Iowa Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. After achieving that momentous event, I decided I would go for a PhD in the history of letters. Thus, I had to go searching for a topic about which to attach my literarily waning interest.
With a ton of doubt on my mind, I started rummaging through the Internet searching for my focus of interest. Unfortunately, I am still searching for that focus, but I am happy to report that I found an interesting piece that caught my eye because its title contains the term "irony," and irony is my very, extremely very, favorite literary device.
I want to offer this disclaimer: I contacted the writer who composed this piece and asked permission to use it. I told him I'd need to reproduce it pretty much verbatim. He gave permission but asked that I change the names to protect the guilty. I do not bother to give the original author's name, and he did not ask me to reveal it, but I did change the names of his characters, and he then gave final permission for its use.
No doubt when I do finally locate my permanent area of interest, I will work some of the concepts in this piece into my dissertation, but for now I give you the piece for your perusal. It gave me a chill or two! Maybe it will do the same for you.
Chester and the Irony of Nature
Chester is sitting near the river, contemplating slashing his wrists so he would be found a pool of blood. "That will show them," he thinks. He sits for a long time brandishing a sharp stick, slashing through the muddy bank leaving long trails of troughs. He continues to wait, he knows not what for, perhaps the courage to take out his knife and finish the job.
Contemplation - Sitting by the River
Suddenly, Chester bolts upright, after having dozed off for how long he could not tell. He throws down the sharp stick and starts walking up the riverbank, thinking a new location might inspire him. A tree root reaches out and wraps itself around his ankle. He cannot move. Then a tree branch grabs him around the neck, squeezing tighter and tighter. He thinks he may pass out, so he takes out his knife, cuts the tree branch from his neck and then cuts the root from his ankle, and walks on up the riverbank, cursing "Goddam tree!"
Suddenly, the bank is covered in weeds and grass so thick he can hardly walk through them. The grass is slick, and he nearly falls as he continues on, again cursing, "Goddam weeds!" Finally, he sees a place to sit near a large rock. He feels that the rock may give him courage, and he can take out his knife slash both wrists with deep wide slashes so the blood will gush out, and he will be found in the pool of blood that he continues to envision.
Yes, they will find me in a pool of blood, and they will be sorry for wrecking my life, leaving me helpless, leaving me without any hope, leaving me without any dignity with which I could conduct my life. They will find me, and they will see what they have done.
While Chester is playing out his drama down by the river, Flora is taking out the last of her money from the checking account she and Chester had shared. Flora is on her way to a new life without Chester's constant whining and accusations and sudden temper tantrums that always end with beatings and promises of death and utter destruction for Flora and her parents.
Chester's brother is helping their parents clean up the mess Chester had left after breaking into their home, stealing money from their wall safe, breaking every mirror in the house, and emptying the food from the refrigerator onto the kitchen floor, where he had apparently stomped the lettuce, yogurt cartons, cheese, and other items until they were flattened, disgusting globs.
Chester's friend Arthur is listening to his voicemail from Chester, who is ranting uncontrollably about all the times Arthur had tried to pull something over on him. Chester keeps repeating, "you're going to pay, Artie." Chester continues: "You and everyone else is going to be sorry for all the shit you have slung at me over the years. Just wait and see. Kiss my ass, you motherfucker. Kiss my goddam ass. Piss off, fake friend. Friend! Ha! Go to hell!"
Arthur is stunned by this rant. He had seen Chester suffer from dark moods but had never heard Chester talk like that. He runs to his car and speeds over to Chester's apartment but finds no Chester.
Sitting by the big rock, Chester again takes up a sharp stick and begins craving long trough-like trails through the moist riverbank soil. He carves and carves until he falls asleep. As Chester sleeps, it begins to rain. It rains the rest of the day into the night as Chester continues to sleep. The river overflows its banks.
By the evening of the next day, the flood waters begin to recede. By this time Chester's family and Arthur have alerted the police that Chester is missing. A search is put in place, but no one had any idea where Chester might have gone. After four weeks, the captain of a riverboat sees something bobbing in the water. The riverboat crew haul in the object and realize it is a human body, badly decomposed and unrecognizable.
Chester's family hears on the news about the riverboat crew finding a body, and they haul themselves down the police headquarters to check on their missing loved one. Yes, the authorities are aware of the body, and the lab had started DNA tests but with nothing to which they can compare it, they had put the testing on hold. Chester's brother gives a sample of his DNA for comparison to the corpse. And his mother turns over a hair brush with Chester's hair. The test comes back positively identifying the corpse as Chester.
Three days later, the forensic examiners offer their completed report. The victim had died by drowning. It appeared that the victim had fallen asleep sitting quietly by the riverbank. So simple! So different from the drama that Chester had hoped to leave. No pool of blood! No remorseful gnashing of teeth by the family and friends who feel no compunction about taking any blame for Chester's accidental drowning.
Whistling Past the Graveyard
The Graveyard Whistler's Final Comment
I am kicking around the notion of focusing my dissertation on letters of famous literary figures who have confused their audiences with "irony." I think that might work. I'll keep you posted as I continue to research this issue.
Thanks for taking this literary journey with me!
Belmonte Segwic, (aka "The Graveyard Whistler")
Some good whistlin' goin' on!! Enjoy!
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes