Wednesday, November 2, 2011

...This is it. This is Goodbye.

I had debated within myself over whether I ought to post the death scene of The Character. I thought not, and then I decided I would. I decided I wouldn't, and then I made up my mind over again to go ahead with it. So girls, you are now the privileged readers of a piece of writing very new to me. It spun itself out of my head only two nights ago, so it is fresh and young to the ways of the world--deal gently with it, but please tell me what you think of this pivotal scene. Oh, and I realize that it begins in a strange spot--it was difficult to know what to give you to lead up to the real piece. :P Please tell me your reaction to it initially, and whether it is too melodramatic. Actually, let me just describe Frank for you real quickly so you can get acquainted with the victim. :P

Frank Williams--28 years old, wife to Maggie, and father to Tucker and Dot. Ever since Cora came to live with his family, Frank has been father, brother, and friend to her. He's cheered her when she's down, given her courage when she's afraid, teased her just a little, loved her a lot, and generally has been the glue that's kept Cora together. Ever impulsive, Frank moves his family to Puddleby Lane so he can work on the railroad, but Cora only loves him the more for his boyish enthusiasm. He's charming and roguish, loving and tender. And when he's gone, it hurts. Deeply.

(Scene begins inside coffee-shop in Leastone) 
          Their voices faded as Cora’s attention focused on the mass of townspeople milling around a group of begrimed, wild-eyed—and bloody—men. “Ann Company!” Cora knocked the table behind her over in her haste. Ann Company, Nat, white cloth napkins and pocket-book sequins blurred in one massive obstacle between her and that group of people. She tore herself from Nat’s gentle touch and dashed out of the coffee-shop. Cold air struck her full in the face like a slap from an unseen hand. Cora stumbled over a frozen rut in the muddy road as fear swept her forward toward the crowd. She could see into the mob now, and what she saw sent fingers of terror winging across her skin.
Those men—those in the center of the group—wore the same denim cover-alls Frank wore when he worked on the rail-way bridge crew. He was there today, Cora knew. Whatever fate had befallen those workers, Frank must be a part of. Her body did not feel like her own as she neared the mob.
“What happened?” She heard a woman say—the voice was icy, immobilized, and fearing. Then Cora realized it was herself that had spoken. She repeated the question, hardly recognizing the sound of her voice, yet feeling her lips move. The crowd parted briefly and she caught sight of the crude stretcher, borne by four of the grimy, muddied men. Instinct told her to turn back, to shelter herself from the truth, but Cora could not take her eyes off the stretcher and the man’s form crumpled upon it. The mob swallowed the vignette as hastily as it had flashed it, and Cora was left on the edge of the crowd again.
Fainter than her own heart-beat, Cora heard Ann Company’s call for her to come away, and Nat’s deep voice seconding the command, but it was no use. Fear spurred Cora to action.
“Let me through!” she yelled, and stamped her foot with hysteric impatience as the teeming mass before her paid no heed. “I will look! I will!” she cried, and as she reached up to brush her hair out of her face, she felt her tears, warm and wet against her chilled hands. It was the cry of a stubborn child, thwarted in his purpose, but Cora had to know.  By some miracle she passed through the spheres of the crowd—first the interested, chaotic hum of the outer ring, then the pinched, sorrowful faces of the middle ring, and finally to the stunned core. Some hands strived to hold her back, others pushed her forward, but through it all Cora was of a single purpose:
To find Frank, to know he was well and whole, was her whole world. She stumbled into the center, directly in front of the stretcher-bearing men, and she searched each face hungrily, longing for a familiar feature in any of them.
A man with a red-stained bandana tied around his head and a deep gash on his cheek seemed to be the leader of the group. His eyes stared dully ahead as he bore his sad burden.
“Please, sir, where’s Frank Williams?” The voice that spoke now was hoarse as a raven’s and twice as foreboding. Frightened, Cora put a hand to her throat and tried again. “Tell me he’s okay. Just tell me!”
The man shook his head, jaw clenched. The gash deepened.
“He’s fine. I know he is. He’s gotta be okay.” Cora was reaching hysteria. The red on the man’s bandana flowed a vibrant, ghastly crimson against the white of the cloth. Cora’s stomach knotted and twisted till she thought she’d be sick. “Just tell me he’s okay,” she whimpered. A heavy, heavy hand descended on her shoulder, and a voice echoed dully the agonizing cry in her own heart:
“Dead. Wouldn’t leave th’bridge till th’last man was out of th’way…I’m sorry, Miss.”
 Dead. Dead. Dead. Cora pushed past the well-meaning but clumsy man and approached the crumpled figure on the stretcher. Knotted around his head was the handkerchief she herself had marked. How they had laughed over the little daisy she’d stitched in the corner. It had been so white—every petal dainty and pure—and now stained with the crimson tide that would not stop. Trembling in every fiber of her being, Cora touched Frank’s dark hair, caked with mud, and traced the noble lines of his forehead. The noise of the crowd—the weeping, the questions, the chaos—faded in the face of this great sorrow to a distant hum, no more threatening than the far-away traffic at that old stop-sign on Beaumont Street.
A pair of hands tried to remove her from the scene.
“Leave me be!” she screamed, tears coursing down her cheeks and dropping on Frank’s clay-streaked face. The stretcher-bearers stood in respectful silence, and the crowd ceased talking. Silence, like the heaviest of sentences descended on the scene. Cora laid herself over Frank’s poor body and buried her face in the homespun cotton of his shirt. His denim coveralls scratched her cheek, and the brass buttons pressed, cold against her hot tears. Her soul keened with murdered joy as a longing for one of Frank’s bear-hugs overwhelmed her senses. The faint scent of Bay Rum after-shave still clung to his neck, and Cora breathed it in. This was it then. This was goodbye.
“Goodbye, Frank…I love you,” she whispered, stroking his cheek with a trembling hand.
Heart screaming for the familiar reply, the jaunty, “Back at ya’ Corie,” Cora kissed him with quivering lips and spread the coffee-shop napkin over his still face.
 She dropped, then, into Nat Dartmore’s waiting arms and wept as she had never wept before.


Miss Dashwood said...

Wow. Rachel, I have tears in my eyes now, so I can definitely say this was touching. It was so real--I could feel what Cora was feeling, especially the part where she was begging that Frank would be okay. Despite being horrified at the fact that you would kill off Frank (I liked him so much!) this was a great scene.
Just two things: is it Cora who shouts Ann Company's name at the beginning? At first I thought it was someone in the crowd who was calling for her. That part wasn't quite clear.
Also, when she dropped into Nat's arms at the end--that sounded just a bit cliched. (I'm being honest--please don't think I'm being rude). You know, the heroine fainting into the arms of the hero. To me, it seems it would be more realistic for Ann Company to be there for her, since they're so close. Ann wasn't mentioned much at all here. Was that on purpose?
Anyway, those are my random thoughts. This was so good!

Rachel Heffington said...

It's less confusing if I give you the whole former scene, I think. :)
Aha! Yes, you know, I think I might change Nat to Ann Company then. :) Nat is not technically the "hero" though, since he's Ann Company's guy. ;) He's more of the strong person in the scene. However, it would be a great moment to show Ann's strength. :) I purposely didn't put many familiar characters in that scene to sort of deepen Cora's "alone" feeling. She's the type that withdraws when something tragic occurs. Thanks so much for your input! :)

ashley tahg said...

Oh, so sad! It was beautiful!!

Ok, so, I am a slight oddball, I sing when I kill off my character, and laugh {buries head}, Oh, I am such a beast to my poorlings!
But, that being said, I didn't cry, but, I would've normally, and, Oh, Frank seemed so wonderful, pity he has to die. But {shrugs} Every person dies.

Again, beeautimus!

Abigail Hartman said...

Aw! That was good - too good; now I want to go cry and it's only just 9:00 in the morning. Tears can't come this early!

All the same, this scene is excellent. The last three paragraphs, I think, are my favorite - there's so much emotion in them. I am glad you decided to post after all. One thing I did wonder about was the use of "okay." I can't remember the origins of that word, and I thought perhaps "alright" would sound better. Your prerogative, though!

Unknown said...

Well done Rachel. There was a lot of emotion in this scene and it was very real. I felt the same emotions Cora did. Keep up the good work! And thank you for sharing it with us.

Horse Lover said...

Very touching. I knew how sad I was going to be when I read the description of Frank. It was a good idea to post that first, so we had an idea of what he was like. Otherwise, you don't feel it as deeply if the character means nothing, or you don't know who they are. It was very well done, Rachel.

Alexandra said...

Wow, that was amazing!!! I happened across your blog and found this. I love writing and I hate/love killing off characters with beautifully tragic heart-rending scenes. (Wow, hope that doesn't sound too scary. :-)) This was such a gorgeous, tragic, well-done scene. I was crying. And that's a very good thing (I rate how good a story or film is by how much I cry. :-)) I'd love to read more!!! Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Oh dear no the keyboard is all wet. I could never kill off a character and i admire you courage in doing so. I really liked Frank and I'm sorry to see him go.But oh I love a scene that makes me cry. Which this did.