The Importance of Words

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One thing you’ve always taught me, Grandfather, and that is that words are important. An educated person should be well versed in the English language and employ her words with careful precision.

Sitting here with you, I can’t help but agree. I was thinking of how the word wound has different definitions and pronunciations.

If someone is upset, one might say they are wound up.

Isn’t that right, Grandfather?

I see you’re in one of your contentious moods, staring at the ceiling, refusing to answer. Your hands cradle the New York Times – open, as always, to the daily crossword puzzle.

Ah, well… it doesn’t matter whether you answer or not.

We’ve spent many an evening this way, haven’t we? You propped up against your bed cushions, me nearby.

Forever at your service.

How many nights has sleep evaded you, forcing your restless brain to spend itself in the unraveling of word clues, always attempting to fill empty squares on a page.

Better you should fill your empty heart.

But it is our evening ritual, is it not?

So, too, is your cruelty. “Barbara! Don’t be obtuse, girl! What’s a seven-letter word for DULLARD?”

Then the accompanying cackle followed by the too familiar, stale joke: “B-A-R-B-A-R-A. Yes, precisely. Definition – dense, uncomprehending.”

My comprehension is greater than you might think.

Still, I smile. Nothing to get riled up about… wound up over…

An English professor, you’ve always been comfortable with words. The heart? That’s foreign territory for you, and not willingly visited – unless to prick or wound.

That brings us back to the word wound. Primary definition – to inflict injury.

How many times did you make Mother’s heart bleed? Your words – so precise! Icy projectiles rendered unerringly, always hitting their target. Irretrievably damaging a sensitive soul.

The coroner ruled it an accident.

We know better, don’t we, Grandfather? She didn’t fall down those stairs! She threw herself down them in order to escape your wounding words.

What’s a seven-letter word for ESCAPE, Grandfather? Come, sir, don’t be slow!

S-U-I-C-I-D-E

**********

What’s that you said, Grandfather? Speak up. Your voice sounds odd… gurgling…

What? You don’t wish to complete the puzzle this evening? You’re tired, you say? You wish to retire early?

How strange…

In the ten years since Mother’s death, I’ve watched your instincts slow. You’re like a clock – a grandfather clock! – slowly winding down…

You’ve wound down, Grandfather.

So much so, I no longer fear you or your wounding words.

Old age is its own wound, is it not? The slow bleed-out of all we once were…

Here, let me take the puzzle. I don’t think you’ll be finishing it tonight.

What’s this?

Blood?

Grandfather! I can’t hear you… that gurgling, it’s making your words indistinct! Be precise! Speak up, old man!

Nothing? You’ve nothing to say?

How strange…

I’ve something to say.

What’s a seven-letter word meaning FINIS…

Quickly now, Grandfather!  Have you lost your gift for words?

Let me help you.

S-T-A-B-B-E-D

__________________
Word Count: 500
Author’s Note: This story is written in response to ThainInVain’s weekly flash fiction challenge. This week she asked that we open a book to page 45, close our eyes, point to a word and write about it. My finger ended up on the word ‘wound’ on page 45 of James Patterson’s book, ‘Alex Cross, Run.’ ThainInVain’s challenge can be found here.

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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32 Responses to The Importance of Words

  1. Great stuff, Kate! ❤

    I love the sense of pent-up anger within the protagonist and how you've so clearly shown that emotional and psychological wounds so often run so much deeper than physical wounds. Just because there is no scar, it doesn't mean that those wounds haven't caused deep and long-lasting wounds in a person.

    The protagonist bided her time when it cane to inflicting her revenge, waiting until her victim was a as vulnerable s his own 'victims' seemed to be.

    Even though murder is unacceptable, I can't help but think that the old man got what was coming to him.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Heather! What’s that old saying? You reap what you sow… the old man apparently sowed a lot of unhappiness. In that sense, I guess we bear some responsibility for the things that sometimes occur to us. As you say, murder is unacceptable (unless in self-defense) – but if you brutalize others long enough, who is to say what may happen? I think hatred unhinged the narrator. Instead of walking away, she did away with the old man.

      Thanks for reading! ❤

      • Remind me to never get on your bad side…. 🙂

        I think that this probably happens all too often in families where abuse is rife, sooner or later, the victim will either break away from the pattern of abuse or turn into an abuser themselves and in this case, the narrator has followed in the footsteps of their grandfather by meting out some justice of their own.

        Another saying comes to mind: two wrongs don’t make a right. Though some may say the narrator was justified in their actions, unless it was self-defence, there is no justification for killing someone in that way.

        I’m not sure if it was your intention, but this piece is quite thought-provoking in regard to abuse, especially in a domestic setting.

        Great stuff, Kate! ❤

  2. You continue to amaze me. How you can take a word or phrase and build a story is nothing short of miraculous in my book. Loved this one.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Linda – it is always a treat to see your name pop up when I write a story. I’m so glad you enjoyed this one. It was rather fun to write. Why is writing about murder so much fun? It worries me that I enjoy it so much! 😀 😀

  3. Helen Espinosa says:

    Wow. Brilliant! The build-up and the way you set this one up in such a unique way… I was hanging on every word!

  4. willow1945 says:

    Powerful, Kate! And once again, I didn’t see the end coming. Your use of the word “wound” was excellent, intriguing. Another great story!

  5. I am in awe of what you can create from a single word! Wonderful, horrifying story of what words can do, all from only one.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thanks, Noelle! It’s a fun challenge to take a word and see what you can come up with.

      Before I began responding to challenges, I worried that I lacked the imagination to come up with even short little pieces. The challenges are wonderful. They’ve taught me a lot – and they’ve boosted my confidence a bit. 🙂

  6. Naomi Harvey says:

    Fabulous, as always. I love how the feel of the story slowly changes. It starts out feeling like a nostalia and family duty piece, then the bitterness builds and builds to a murderous climax.

  7. Pingback: Flash Fiction Challenge – Week 45 Submissions | Thain in Vain

  8. maspring37 says:

    Great story. Lived the way you included the crossword. I know how she felt . My father was an expert on grinding you down . My mother was mouselike, down trodden until she plucked up enough courage to leave him once my sister left school.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed the story.

      Some people thrive on the unhappiness of others. It’s a terrible pity – especially when that person is someone close to us.

  9. I loved this!! The word play, the crossword puzzle filling in the storyline, the revenge, the murder!! Very Poe-esque! Very clever, Kate!

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Oh, goody! I was trying for something Poe-like! Actually, I had in mind several of the old Vincent Price movies where Mr. Price has finally gone over the edge and begins talking to the person he murders. No one could do crazy like Vincent Price. I love his movie ‘The Tell-Tale Heart.’ He is delightfully crazy by the end of that movie in a chilling, creepy way!

      Thanks, TiV. I’m glad you enjoyed.

  10. Blimey! Another brilliant piece 🙂

  11. Welcome back, Kate! I can see that your cruise has, if anything, sharpened your creativity and, as always, the winners are your readers.

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Keith – and thank you for the welcome back. I came back to cold weather and a brief illness (not cruise related). BUT I am feeling great again and trying to get back into the swing of things.

      Thanks for the praise – you made my day!

  12. W. K. Tucker says:

    I envy your ability to take a word and make a story of it. And not just a ho-hum story, but one that grabs your arm and pulls you in with the first sentence. The old bastard got what he deserved. Loved this! 😀

  13. So much pent-up hostility blossoms and explodes. Parr for the course, Cliché? Okay. Going to happen. Satisfying conclusion? YES! 😀 😀

    I don’t like to ‘pick’ but today, this is your best so far. Who would turn like this?
    ❤ ❤

    • Kate Loveton says:

      Hi Tess – this is your favorite, huh? I’m glad you like it so well!

      You know, this one came together very quickly. My husband and I were sitting in a restaurant and I was telling him about my idea and all of a sudden I had the whole story in mind. So I wrote the highlights on a cocktail napkin because I was afraid I’d forget before I made it home! 😀

      • The way you used ‘wound’ and the emotions evoked had me in awe.
        Heck, Kate, all of your writing is the best so far, because I just read ‘it’ and it’s fresh in my mind.
        Anyway, I’m a fan and like your style. ❤ ❤ ❤

  14. markbialczak says:

    It’s a true gift to make murder seem so right, Kate. Love it.

  15. What i like, Kate, as much as the setting is the interplay, the voices, the tangents and then the returning to focus – this is dynamic writing, full of real-life energy.
    Well done!

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