#222 Cut

by Darrelyn Saloom

At her day job as housekeeper, Jacqueline scoured stains from a porcelain sink as she watched a cardinal hop and flutter on a camellia bush outside the kitchen window. She only noticed the female bird because of its motion and wondered why male birds were prettier and more visible than female birds. Not so in her family. Her teenaged daughter had full, pink lips and light chocolate-brown eyes and skin that drew worrisome attention. Jackie glanced at the oven’s clock. Why had her daughter not called to confirm she had arrived home from school? She scrubbed and waited for her cell phone to ring as the cardinal flew to a nearby water oak, not across town where a school bus squealed and hissed to a stop. And her daughter rose from her seat, her head tilted down in hopes no one would notice as she counted the memorized number of steps to home. Twenty-six more to go as she eased over extended legs meant to trip her. She ignored taunts of whore and cunt and bitch. Eleven, twelve, thirteen, she met the street, the curb. She heard no birdsong, only a chorus of traffic, a car stereo’s booming bass. Fumes of fear and diesel filled her nostrils when she reached the front door and felt a thud, an explosion of pain to the back of her head. She hit cold concrete, rolled over to face her attacker, and was blinded by a bright flash of sunlight on steel blade.



Although in the late 1980s boxing is socially frowned upon and illegal for women in Ireland, a young women named Deirdre Gogarty has one dream: to be the first world champion. Unable to fit in at school and in the midst of her parents' unraveling marriage, she plans her suicide. Death hovers in the back of her mind, but boxing beckons as Gogarty defies the odds and finds a gym and coach who is willing to train her. Her fierce determination leads to underground bouts in Ireland and Britain. But how can a shy, young misfit become a professional boxer in a country that bans women from the sport? Gogarty follows her calling to compete and journeys from the Irish Sea to the Gulf of Mexico, from outcast to center ring, from the depths of depression to the championship fight of her life.

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10 comments:

Jenny F said...

You captured a mother's worst nightmare. I felt my stomach twist and knot as I read. Excellent piece of flash fiction, Darrelyn.

Dave said...

Masterful use of suspense. "Fumes of fear and diesel," great line! And what an ending...

Porter Anderson said...

Agree with Dave on the "fumes of fear and diesel" line, and I also really liked: "she eased over extended legs meant to trip her."

A lot of questions are raised by the piece, of course, so maybe you have to write it full-out now? :)

Good stuff, Darrelyn,
-p.

darrelynsaloom.com said...

Thanks for your kind words Jenny, Dave, and Porter.

There's a great piece in the Guardian by David Gaffney about writing flash fiction, Porter. He advises that ending "should not complete the story but rather take us into a new place; a place where we can continue to think about the ideas in the story and wonder what it all meant."

Part of the challenge with this piece was to do that, so I'm glad to know it raised lots of questions and, hopefully, made you wonder.

Shirley Hershey Showalter said...

Wow, Darrelyn. You got me.

The verbs sizzle and pop.

You lay down clues to an intriguing backstory. Why "day job"? What other aspirations does Jackie have? What kind of taboo has her daughter violated?

The ending chilled me -- gave me "metal mouth."

Darrelyn Saloom said...

Thank you, Shirley, for stopping by while busy with final edits (no such thing, right?) on your forthcoming memoir.

Love "metal mouth." Never heard that one before. Daughter's only taboo is being too pretty, visible like male birds. Day job is to spark your imagination and leave you pondering the story.

Deborah Cutler said...

Agree with the above comments, Darrelyn. Love the way you're able to pack so much into so few words. Also enjoyed the way you transitioned from mother to daughter. Great job!

Darrelyn Saloom said...

Thank you, Deborah. Glad to hear you liked the transition. I agonized over that one because I wanted the story flow without paragraph breaks. Really appreciate your observation.

Jodi Paloni said...

I agree with the other comments about your skill in mounting tension with few words . You had me with the mother/ daughter relationship. And the details: the mother's view of the birds, the red, and the suggestion of blood with the knife.

Darrelyn Saloom said...

Thank you, Jodi. You have a keen eye for detail. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the piece since your 365 series is responsible for inspiring me to write flash fiction.