Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing: A Writing Prompt from Anna Beguins

Trigger Warning: violence, sexual abuse

Embed from Getty Images

In my dream, Bette and I had stolen down to Honey Swamp Island to smoke some weed and escape the nightmare that had been our childhood. I’d never been to the island, but in my mind I knew exactly what it looked like. Tall cypress creating a canopy for the canary grass and wild flowers beneath it. I’d also never smoked weed, but I enjoyed the notion of being cool enough to hold the joint between my thumb and forefinger—like the girls in my Latin class. They often snuck away from Sister Bernard Marie and lit up in the bathroom while I was stuck doing verb declension, and promising not to tattle.

When Bette wasn’t in my dream, it was Joe. In my reverie, Joe and I always did more than share a toke, and I often went to bed beckoning the images of him to come visit while I slept.

I was just lighting up when the odor of the swamp and sewer rested upon my lips. As the aroma continue to fill my nose, I started to dream that my chest was being crushed by a feral pig, and I couldn’t breathe. The pig’s tusks lunged at my eyes and the swamp in my nose smelled of Sazerac laced with a heavy cigar. A thick wetness spread across my lips like the ooze of the slime mold that snaked at the bottom of the trees outside my window. I jerked my brain awake and leaped out of the deepest corridors of sleep with my fists raised.

“Hey now, Jax, you don’t wanna wake nobody up.”

The dirty bastard reeked of money; Garden District, invitation-only, Hurricane party-money. But I knew better. Even at seventeen, I could see the grime and smell the residue of a wicked man barely hidden beneath the three-piece suit stretched to the limits at its buttons.

Mama said she felt sorry for him after his wife died, but the town knew she let him stay because he was our one source of income, and a ticket into a decent parish school. She wasn’t about to walk away from an extra dime or two, and he wasn’t going to turn down a female offering sex for a little spending money.

The rank man leered at me from a kneeling vantage-point on my bed. The single tuft of red hair on his head was messy and even in the dark, I could see the slick of fried chicken grease in his pork chop sideburns. My fingernails dug into my palms as I looked around for my youngest sister who usually shared my bed.

“Where’s Mason?”

He backed off the bed, and pulled a chair over from the desk. He flipped the back so that he could straddle the chair and face me. In the moonlight, I could see that his pants were undone, though he could have busted out of them, I wasn’t sure.

“She’s at the house with Millie and Gigi.”

Sleeping in the shack off the main house was always a risk, so at least I knew Mason was in a safer place than myself. Mama and Aunt Millie were two formidable woman, so it was no surprise that he chose the younger, more vulnerable Seydoux females to harass. He said he’d kill all three of us if we ever said anything.

“And you, Miss Jackson, I’d make you watch first. All of it.”

I’d attempted to tell Aunt Millie before, but she wasn’t a very good listener. Millie had her personal skeletons, and my half-confessions stirred painful old bones buried in the locked chest at the foot of her bed.

I’d inherited Millie’s willowy frame and pale blue eyes, and unfortunately, not a lick of her temper. “She could start an argument in an empty house,” goes one Southern expression, and that about described Aunt Millie to a tee. She even taught me to curse in Cajun, hoping she could get a rise out of me.  “Little warbler,” she often called me, because I could set off a string of four letters and make it sound like I was singing Amazing Grace to the Sunday congregation.

The first time it had happened, I was just trying to be polite to Mama’s new boyfriend. I thought he was confused and making a mistake. I didn’t want to make him mad, so I endured and cried myself to sleep after saying three Rosaries.

Over the years, I’d learned to fight back, because the sin of teenage pregnancy outweighed my fear of this old couillon (coo-yaw), “Leave me the fuck alone,” I said between my teeth as I gathered the dirty sheets around my body. The word felt good on my tongue, and I made a mental note to use it again as needed.

Mama wasn’t much for housekeeping in those days, so I could feel my stomach churn with disgust as I continued to smell the swamp and liquor in his pores mixed with the dried blood and sweat on the sheets.

“Your other sister, she keeps a room to herself. If you don’t want to cooperate, I’ll just head over there.” His lips pulled back to reveal yellow teeth, blackened roots thick with chunks of tobacco and half-eaten food.

I screamed and lunged at him. I was a whopping one hundred ten pounds, but the years of fury his abuse had built was enough to knock him onto the corner of the desk. His head made a horrible knock and I could feel the weight of the blow in my teeth. His body went limp, and I watched the blood pour from the back of his skull and pool into the cracks of the peeling linoleum floor. I could taste blood and adrenalin in my mouth as the realization of what I did invaded my body.

“Damn, the head sure bleeds a lot.” The matter-of-fact voice came from the doorway and I lifted my eyes to meet Bette’s –my younger, beautiful, dark-eyed sister with curves that belonged to a woman more than a thirteen-year-old.

“He was getting ready to take his turn with me or go see you. I couldn’t let him do it again. I just couldn’t, Bette.”

She crouched beside me, two teenagers with a highly regarded community member laying highly dead between us. Without words we grabbed arms and legs and dragged him onto the back porch. The grey wood smelled of must and moth balls. My stomach couldn’t take it any more, so I puked all over the ground.

“You never could hold your supper,” Bette said.

I wiped my mouth and looked at the pool of blood mixed with my vomit—almost giddy at the irony of it. The notion that this man, born into linen and freshly pressed privilege would meet his end after crossing an angry swamp rat one too many times.

“What are we gonna do with him, Jax?”

“Gonna bury him. Fetch my car keys, and don’t tell Mama or Millie. I know just the place.”

Huge shout-out to Christy for prompting us over at her site. Go check out this month’s prompts if you want to join the fun! Too short of notice? She’ll share a whole new set for December, too.

I know this is a strange and dirty take on the prompt, but there’s a reason. I’m participating in NaNoWriMo this month, and wanted to be efficient with my time. At first, I didn’t think the prompt would work, but as you can see…I may have just created the ‘inciting event‘ as a result. Jax and Bette have been playing hopscotch in my brain for several years – it’s only fitting that I introduce them to you in private first.

Only 5K more words to make the 50K goal and complete a partial first draft. The novel I have sketched in my head and in hundreds of notes on my desk, is closer to 80K – murder, mystery, sex, lies, and deep-seeded family ties and secrets. People will wonder about my sanity if it ever comes to print. That’s okay…that’ll mean I did my job 🙂

1

PS: This piece is highly unedited (wrote in less than 2 hours), and rough on purpose–I don’t do a lot of editing during NaNoWriMo.  Open to suggestions, ideas, and “what ifs.” The idea to murder the rank man came when I read Christy’s prompt. Don’t you love it when that happens?

8 thoughts on “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing: A Writing Prompt from Anna Beguins

  1. Ooh I literally got chills.
    Loved the creative approach to using the prompt line in the middle, rather than the beginning. It worked really well in that context, and if Aunt Millie ends up being a character in your novel well that would just be cool. Ever watch True Blood? Remember Sookie’s grandmother? Kinda reminded me of Aunt Mille for some reason.

    Some really fine writing here, Michelle. Descriptive and engaging and I was hooked from start to finish.
    Even without knowing the before and after chapters, I felt like I understood what was going on. A few sentences could provide a little more context, but I’m sure they’ll pan out with edits.

    I hope Jax and Bette remember to lift his wallet (a wallet can hold all sorts of interesting information…pictures, phone numbers, cash, fake IDs, etc…) And I hope no one sees the girls moving the body, otherwise they may get blackmailed or threatened. And I hope that bloodstain comes out. And the swamp is such an intriguing place to hide a body…all sorts of critters to eat the body…just hope the water levels stay deep and hope an airboat tour or a local fisherman don’t find him. (You want ideas? I got plenty ideas, LOL, you’re welcome to any/all.)

    Love the songs! Another song loosely fitting, Goodbye Earl. One of my favorite lines: “Turns out Earl was a missing person who nobody missed at all.” Oooh, maybe that will be a future prompt.

    Well done, chica!!!

    Like

    • I got chills reading your suggestions! oooo! The wallet…of COURSE! I didn’t think of that loose end.
      And the blood and not getting caught – two things I’ve been toying with and had actually avoided in the NaNo draft because I didn’t know how (or who) to kill. Mama Gigi rarely cleans, but when she does it’s with bleach….Maybe Millie can help. I do remember Sookie’s grandma…I miss that series.
      In the NaNo story, I had intended for Bette to kill him with a shovel, but this worked out more organically and the way the characters would have wanted it–your prompt led me to the right spot. In the VERY first draft, it was Jax’ husband who was killed…killing the rank man works better.
      My main problem? How to smoothly transistion from past to present. Most of the story is told 17 years AFTER the murder and opens when two boys on a swamp monster adventure find the body. Trying to figure out: swamp animals, and alligators, etc…how does a body survive 17 years?).
      You are SO good at the “what if” – send me any time you think of something. Obviously, there are a lot of twists not revealed here…but, there’s always room for more!
      Thank you thank you for reading this and for your sweet words – I’ve been looking at the story for 26 straight days and this is what it needed for a new life.
      EARL! How could I have forgotten about the Dixie Chicks?? In fact, I may have to name him Earl, too.
      WOW- my comments are all over the place – LOL! I’m hopping over to read Jennie ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • What’s funny is that Kristen had an Earl in her story.

        I’m not sure how a body would last 17 years without being mummified or frozen. What if it were enclosed in an old refrigerator? But…they discover bodies way after the fact, and can usually identify through the bones and remains. Maybe the girls steal his cash but put his wallet back. Maybe that’s how he is identified?

        Funny we both thought of swamp adventures and airboats. 🙂

        For such a climactic event, you may want to draw out her killing him. Raise the tension. Maybe he runs his fingers along her legs. Maybe she was going to give in to him but he whispers something in her ear. Get inside her head more. How does she feel when he’s touching her. If that’s your big scene (or one of them), you’ll really need to make it pop in the edits.

        I love where you’re going with it!
        xoxox

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes! Yes! Yes! I totally need to be in her head more. I was so focused on the “smell” of the scene, I forgot the head part. That totally works. This scene definitely needs more tension, and Jax almost giving in certainly fits her younger self character. The whisper, his breath, ugh…HIM. SQUEEE! I get so excited when stuff starts to come together.
        Given your field of study, I am totally going to lean on you for some psych stuff. These two women spent their childhood abused, neglected, and forgotten. I gotta believe that would shape the type of men they eventually marry. And oh, did I mention…the reader won’t know these girls are sisters until toward the end – they were separated after the murder.
        Bones and remains are what I was thinking of for the rank man – it fits with the theme and the title, too. Restless bones (and DNA) don’t lie!
        BTW: I have already asked Scott if we can take a field trip to New Orleans. I get totally inspired by places. I found Honey Swamp Island by accident – turns out there was a legendary swamp monster sighting in the 1960s (?) and a washed out bridge that is 2.5 miles walking distance from the main path. SQUEEE!!! So much mayhem to make 🙂
        Keep the ideas coming, babe…I’m writing them down as we go.

        I knew I’d love Kristen’s – her brain must spin with stories!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. WOW Michelle! This is beyond compare, so whatever you’re channeling, keep going! I love how the pleasant dream morphed into a boar and all the visuals and descriptors of his rot and evil. I second what you and Christy discussed about stretching out murder, slowing it down so we can hear her thoughts just before she snapped and during, seeing what he registered, maybe describing the fall in more detail. This is amazing storytelling and right up my alley, so you know I’ll be patiently awaiting your novel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kristen! “Rot and evil” was what I was going for. In my next iteration(s), I want to see if I can tint the story with dark and beautiful, too – it still needs so many more layers. The fiction seems to flow so easy from you…at times it feels like I’m trying too hard – those are the parts I’ll be editing out 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Writing fiction feels hard and I struggle so much with the layers (great description btw) and anything with action. I don’t know how people write whole books but guess they do it one word at a time. You doing nanowrimo and working this prompt into something you were already working on is smart and awesome, just like you 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: December ’16 Prompts and Links to November Stories « Anna Beguins

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s