Vocal Dissonance

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I’m a pilot.

After being married to Kurt for ten years, I’d learned to fly carefully. Every day was a journey into the unknown, flying by the seat of my pants, navigating unexpected turbulence. I’d become a master at keeping my mouth shut, at doing ‘the necessary.’

I met Kurt when I was seventeen. Papa had ruled our unhappy house with an iron fist. By the time Kurt noticed me, my brothers had all run away; I was the only one left at home with that mean old man.

Kurt was supposed to be my salvation. Like me, he was a church-goer. Almost forty, clean-shaven and neat, he seemed sweet, calling me ‘Miss Adele,’ holding doors open for me. Treated me like a princess, he did; that meant a lot. I wasn’t used to kind words and caresses. I took that man at face value. If I’d thought harder about things, I might have wondered why a man of almost forty wasn’t already married, especially a good looking one with a fine job – and why that man might be sniffing around a plain Jane like me.

After my experience with meanness, I should have known to fly above trouble, but hope can make a girl do stupid things.

Life was good at first. But one day, while Kurt was working, someone knocked at my door. Standing on the front porch was a thin woman with limp brown hair gathered loosely in a bun. She kept looking behind her. Her manner reminded me of one of them little rabbits Papa used to catch in his traps, desperate and wanting to bolt.

She got to the point. “He home?”

Her name was Sal; said she was Kurt’s ex.

Once I let her inside, the story came out. Told me she’d run off and left Kurt when she couldn’t take the beatings no more.

“You think he’s nice, don’t you? You won’t feel that way long. Soon as you do something he don’t like, he’s gonna use you as a whipping toy. Oh, he’ll apologize, tell you he loves you, act sad like you drove him to it. He’ll tell you he loves you while he’s beating the crap out of you. But them words don’t match his behavior. Actions speak louder than words.”

Guess she saw I didn’t believe her because she took a photo from her purse and shoved it at me. “Here, take a look at this. I dare you to look at that picture.”

I wanted her to leave. I didn’t want to hear her lies about Kurt.

She shook her head and frowned. “Are you afraid? Look, I don’t like being here, knowing he might come home any minute. I’m doing you a favor. I wish someone had warned me before I spent all them years as his punching bag. Go on, look! Uncertainty is worse!”

I looked then. My hands started shaking at the sight of a woman with a split lip and blackened eyes.

“That’s me after Kurt took exception to my not dusting behind one of the photographs sitting on our bureau. Nearly killed me that time. He likes things perfect.”

Maybe I didn’t want to believe her. I’d wanted out of Papa’s house so bad, I’d have probably gone off with anyone. I don’t know anymore; all I know is that I asked that good woman to leave. She’d come to do me a good turn, one I was too stupid to appreciate.

Sal looked sad. “You don’t get it, do you? You think it’ll be different for you. Well, it won’t. Men like Kurt never change. You and me, we oughta be sisters in arms. I’m sorry for you, but I guess you’ll just have to learn the hard way.”

She was right.

Three months into the marriage, Kurt started getting ugly with me. What Sal had said about his words being at odds with his behavior was the God’s truth. Always after me for little things: his shirts weren’t ironed the way he liked them; putting the canned goods away without alphabetizing them according to vegetable; towels hanging slightly crooked in the bathroom. Once I’d forgotten to make a little downward triangle of the toilet tissue hanging from the roll.

These were the kind of things that could down a pilot. So I learned to anticipate things, to look ahead for dangerous currents. I tried for perfection. Ten years, I tried to fly right.

But humans ain’t built for perfection; even the best fighter pilot sometimes gets shot down.

“I love you, baby. (slap) Why don’t you listen? (smack) Why do I have to discipline you? (punch) I work hard all day (shove) You know I love you, baby… why do you make me hurt you?” (punch)

Yes, he loved me more than life. If I was hurting, it was my own fault. I drove him to it.

He almost convinced me during those ten years – in spite of emergency room visits, or wearing sunglasses to hide bruised eyes, or long-sleeved shirts in summer to disguise arms covered with welts.

“I love you, baby.”

Words…

But punches spoke louder than words.

***

Kurt prized his collection of handguns. He was real particular about them, taking them out every couple of weeks, oiling them, unloading and reloading them.

He never once used them, just cleaned them all the time. I was thinking about that when the phone rang and Kurt got up to answer it.

Guess he never expected a quiet flyer like me to take it into her head to touch his guns.

This time, though, the pilot decided to change course. It was time to land the damn plane and finally put an end to those flights. After ten years, I’d run out of gas.

I couldn’t take it no more.

Kurt finished his call and came back into the room. There was a surprise waiting for him.

“I love you, baby,” I said.

BANG. BANG. BANG.

My flying days were over.

__________________

Word Count: 1,000 words

Author’s Note: This flash fiction was written in response to two challenges. First, Mark Baron’s Woegman’s World of Witty Wonder Thursday Trope (found here) and BeKindRewrite’s Inspiration Monday challenge (found here). Mark’s prompt was to write a trope on ‘Vocal Dissonance‘ (hope I succeeded!) and BeKindRewrite’s challenge was to write a story using the following words: uncertainty is worse; sisters in arms; dare you to look; and fly carefully.

About Kate Loveton

Aspiring novelist. Avid reader of fiction. Reviewer of books. By day, my undercover identity is that of meek, mild-mannered legal assistant, Kate Loveton, working in the confines of a stuffy corporate law office; by night, however, I'm a super hero: Kate Loveton, Aspiring Novelist and Spinner of Tales. My favorite words are 'Once upon a time... ' Won't you join me on my journey as I attempt to turn a hobby into something more?
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42 Responses to Vocal Dissonance

  1. Pingback: Guest Blogger: Kate Loveton (Vocal Dissonance) | Faith Simone

  2. A tough subject matter handled beautifully, Kate.

    There are many reasons why someone stays in an abusive relationship and even if people from outside that relationship can’t understand why, the sufferer feels compelled to stay. Sometimes the victim feels as if it is what they deserve, that they are being punished for a reason. A victim will come up with countless reasons why it’s not the abuser’s fault until one day, things become too much and one of them snaps.

    Leaving an abusive relationship isn’t as easy as packing your bags and never looking back. Human relationships are complicated and all too often, ugly. You covered all of this and more in your piece, Kate and it’s so good to see you back posting again ❀

  3. Pingback: Trope-Tastic Thursday #002 – β€œNever Was This Universe” – #WOEGTTT | Woegman's World of Witty Wonder

  4. markbialczak says:

    You caught the desperation at the top, the disbelief, the second bout of desperation, and the release, all so realistically. Well done. Welcome home, Kate.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Mr. B – thanks for the ‘welcome home’ πŸ˜€ I’m very happy you found the story realistically portrayed this young woman’s desperation; that means a lot to me.

  5. Topaz says:

    Sent shivers up my spine. What a tragic story. Human beings can be so incredibly twisted.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Topaz, thank you for dropping in to comment on the story. I appreciate that. πŸ™‚ You’re right – human beings can be very twisted at times. Unfortunately, all you have to do is turn on the TV news to find evidence of that.

  6. Great writing on a difficult topic, one from which we all too often turn away. Unlike your protagonist, there are so many women who choose to continue living under subhuman conditions. I loved the voice, wish it were heard more often.

  7. My word, what an incredible and powerful piece of flash fiction. This was really well written, and I liked the voice used throughout.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Mishka, thank you. It is wonderful to hear that you thought it was well written. Good luck with your new book, Prophecy of Stones (which can be found on Amazon, gentle readers!).

      It’s always great to hear from you!

  8. naomiharvey says:

    You came back to your blog in style didn’t you? I’m trying to think up a story for Mark’s prompt and i don’t think i will manage anything like as good as that. *Sigh*

  9. Nicely done, Kate. I love flash fiction – forces you to think and write with economy and really strengthens voice, you know?

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Victoria – and good luck with your book, The Bone Church (which can be found on Amazon, gentle readers!).

      I think I have learned more from the writing of flash fiction than I have from any other exercise. I’ve been forced to give up superfluous description and get to the point. It has certainly strengthened my writing of dialogue.

  10. Adan Ramie says:

    I think you took the prompts in a great, if tragic, direction. I really like the pilot metaphors. I’ve seen this happen so many times: a person trapped in an abusive relationship, emotionally chained to their abuser, but not willing to leave for love or loyalty. It’s heartbreaking when the abused must leave this way, because they usually trade one prison for another. You handled this story well, Kate.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      They stay for love, or loyalty – but often because of fear. They feel they have no other options (um… better the devil you know than the one you don’t, perhaps). Adele had been raised by an abusive father, and then married one. In the end, I think it was fear that kept her hostage… until she couldn’t take it any longer.

      I’m very happy you liked the pilot metaphors. As soon as I saw the prompts, I knew where I was going with the story. I handled them a little more gracefully in my first draft, but then needed to cut a few hundred words from the draft; I did worry that I might have handled the metaphors in a clunky manner. Hopefully not. πŸ™‚

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  11. BTW, to answer Lucy, not manslaughter. No man worthy of the name behaves like that. Perhaps there should be an offence of cowardslaughter.

  12. Wow, indeed. Superb treatment of a difficult subject and, what is probably your trademark, not the ending I was expecting. Well done, Kate.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Keith, did you think, perhaps, he’d kill her with those guns? Half the fun for men like Kurt, I’m guessing, is terrorizing… I’m glad you enjoyed the story! Also, I liked your term below – ‘cowardslaughter’ – very much.

  13. sporterhall says:

    Wow! I’d say…mission accomplished! Great job! πŸ™‚

  14. Lucy says:

    Very good. Well done. Excellent. You got the dissonance right on target and the prompts. I agree with Stephanie about the poetry of I love you ….bang bang bang. That was great. Poor thing. Manslaughter? Lucy

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Lucy, I wondered if the dissonance idea would work; I’m glad that it did. I’d like to think poor Adele got a light sentence… or perhaps got out of town before the police arrived. Lord knows that poor girl already served her sentence!

  15. “Hope can make a girl do stupid things.” Very poignant.

    Again, love the voice in this. And I loved the ending, even if she should’ve run instead of shooting the guy. The poetry of “I love you,…bang bang bang,” was just so fitting.

    I DO hope you’ll join us for Voice Week.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Stephanie. I love the words you put together for your prompts; they always get my mind going off in interesting directions. I’m glad you enjoyed the story.

      I’ll have to look at Voice Week and see what that is all about. πŸ™‚

  16. mandy says:

    Great writing, rang very true.

  17. Emotionally, this is hard going; the writing is excellent. Well done, Kate!

  18. Outstanding story. I think I stopped breathing by the middle. A wonderful read and I agree, rings true. ❀

  19. Your story rings true. A difficult subject covered very succinctly

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Gwendoline. I had to cut 350 words from the story to fulfill the 1,000 word requirement of the challenge. Being succinct isn’t easy for me. πŸ™‚

      • Me neither. I don’t think I could write flash fiction. But if it’s any consolation, I went to an author’s talk yesterday where she said she it took her seven years, umpteen drafts, and thinks she deleted more than a million words.

  20. Mark Baron says:

    Amazing story, if terrifying for the poor protagonist! I think you did a great job – I love that you used the idea of vocal dissonance to show how a person’s words can also be sharply contrasted by their actions. Excellent way of turning the expectations of this trope into something fresh and new! Bravo!

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