“Character – 47 year old man, quiet and unassuming, was sexually abused as a child.
Setting – present time, anyplace USA.
Conflict – he is attracted to young children sexually. He hates these urges, but he is having a difficult time overcoming temptation. Thus far, he has only fanatsized about it, and he always feels guilty about his fantasies afterward, but he wonders…”
Jim sat in his car. He couldn’t believe the memories were flooding him in the middle of the day. Usually, they only came at night. While he slept. Waking him as he sobbed and retched and died a small bit more.
The dreams were horrid. Flashes of remembrance. A closed door. The ceiling fan spinning. Him, trying to go somewhere else in his mind. Anywhere. Even some place bad. Because it couldn’t be worse than where he was right at that moment. Then the voice.
“Don’t tell…Our secret…I’ll hurt you…It’s your fault…I love you.”
He didn’t tell. Kept their secret. Because he’d been afraid of being hurt. And he wanted to be loved.
But on that day, in his mid-life, he shivered in the driver’s seat. He was still silent and terrified and in pain. But not loved. Not even by one person.
“Get it together,” he said. He pounded his fists against the steering wheel. “Don’t be the victim! It’s done. He can’t hurt me anymore.”
After several minutes and many deep breaths, Jim calmed. He was able to drive back to work. Walk into the office. Sit at his desk. Act normal.
At least normal for him.
“Long lunch, Jim?” his boss asked.
“I’ll stay late,” Jim answered.
“What were you doing that made you 35 minutes late?”
“I just got lost in my thoughts.”
“You went to that movie theater on Center Street, didn’t you?”
The movie theater that showed the bad films. The ones that made Jim feel both fulfilled and filthy at the same time. It was where Jim went when the urges got to be too strong. It kept him from being with someone else. From hurting someone like he’d been hurt as a boy.
“I’ve seen you there, Jim. Remember? I said ‘hi’.”
“Yes. I remember. But I wasn’t there today.”
Jim wanted to smack the man. His boss. A man who had everything. A wife. Children. A wonderful home. Friends. And still, he turned to the screen, the artificial, the lustful. Disgusting. But no better or worse than Jim himself.
“Right. Listen, Jim. I need that accounting report by the end of the day.”
He worked, not looking away from the computer screen, for hours. When he’d finished the report, he checked his email.
His sister invited him to a cook out. But he would not go. He never went to be with family. It was too much. Too hard to be around his mother. She had turned her head, believing that nothing bad was happening to him. He couldn’t be around the kids. Nieces and nephews. Too much temptation. Too many thoughts that could swarm his brain.
The family didn’t understand why he stayed away. He did it to protect them. So that the kids wouldn’t have memories of closing doors and circling fans. And his voice telling them to keep it their secret.
He refused to do that. Fought it. Lived his life killing urges.
Because the fantasies were there. The thoughts, the pictures in his head. He would scratch his arms and legs with sand paper to take his mind off the desires. His body was covered with bruises from his own fists.
“I will NOT let him win. I will NOT let him win…” was written on pages of paper. Over and over and over again.
Jim understood that touching a child would only allow that man, his abuser, to control him. Every time Jim said “no” he defeated that evil man.
He would win.
He won by throwing his home computer into the trash. By cancelling his cable. He won when he said “no” to leading a boys and girl’s club.
But still the urges came. Day after day. For all his victories, he kept coming under attack. The neighbor kids liked to play in his front yard. The receptionist at work showed him pictures of her baby in the bathtub. The minister at his church asked him to work in the elementary class. Alone.
Whenever he turned from one temptation, another was right there, waiting to splatter in his face.
Jim left work. Early. He didn’t stay later like he promise. He couldn’t. He felt crushed, compressed by the temptation. By the nagging doubt that he would ever be able to defeat the evil that tried to consume him.
He drove. For miles and miles. Avoiding public parks, school zones. Willing himself to only look at what was ahead of him on the road. Demanding that he make it to the station.
Jim parked his car. Waiting a minute, he prayed for strength. The prayer that got him through urges before must now get him the help he needed.
The air outside was full of water. It would rain soon. He opened his door, stepped out, walked to the station. He went in.
Cold, dry air smacked him in the face when the doors opened. Chills and goose bumps covered his arms. Still sweaty and so very cold.
A police officer walked by. He nodded a greeting to Jim.
“Sir,” Jim said. “I need to turn myself in.”
The officer stopped. “Excuse me?”
“I’m turning myself in.”
“For what crime?”
“No crime. Not yet, at least.”
“Then you can’t turn yourself in. Not until you’ve done something wrong.” The officer started to walk away.
“Wait. Something’s wrong with me. I need you to lock me up so I don’t end up hurting anyone.”
“Who are you going to hurt?”
“That’s the point. I don’t want to hurt anyone.”
“What would you do?” The officer readied himself, just in case Jim became violent.
“I don’t know. I don’t want to find out. But I don’t know how long I can fight it anymore.”
“Just stand still.” The officer’s voice grew firmer. He put a hand on his gun.
“Here, let me show you something. I have it in my pocket.” Jim reached into his suit jacket. Inside was a journal. Of all the times he defeated the temptation. He wanted to show the officer how many times he felt the urge.
“No! Put your hands up!” The officer was nearly screaming.
“It will help you understand what I’m afraid of doing to someone.” Jim pulled the journal.
Within a moment the officer had pulled and shot his firearm. Jim was on the floor. Shiny, clean linoleum. Now stained with blood. The life poured out of Jim.
He smiled. His struggle was over.
Wow! That was powerful and oh so sad.
Thank you, Nancy. It took everything out of me to write it.
Susie, that was awesome. You needn’t fear for your place in CBA. You’ll have publishers clamoring after you if you keep up like this. Incredibly moving and beautiful writing. You’d be more than welcome at WhiteFire publishing once you have a novel ready. That’s for sure!
Wow, Dina! Thank you for that encouragement! I actually have a novel that is being “tightened” a bit. I’ll send it right along to WhiteFire Publishing once it’s ready. (I checked out the website and saw your beautiful cover on there!)
Awesome. I confess I’ve been following your career because I had a feeling you’d be a good fit for WhiteFire. Just make sure you realize we’re very small. We always encourage people to try for bigger houses first, unless they’re sure their novels won’t be marketable there.
Well, I’m flattered. And humbled! I do realize that WhiteFire is small. That’s not an issue for me. I actually feel that a smaller house would be bigger on collaboration and relationship (two very important things for me). I did notice that on the site. 🙂
WOOOO HOOOO!!!!! Got the Acquisitions Editor after you!! Yay Susie!!!! YAY DINA!!!!!!
Okay, just got a bit excited there.
Oh heck, once again…YAAAAAYYYYYY!!!!!!! I love these days.
I have to say, I’m a pretty harsh critic of fiction. I don’t read a lot of modern fiction – I just find a lot it to be too contrived and forced, and most of all, UN-original. However, here you have brought us a story presented in an unexpected way, dealing with something very real and raw and relevant. It is moving and challenging, forcing the reader to sympathize with a deviant man. THAT is what I want from the fiction I read!
I really love what you are doing with this challenge. It would have been easy for you to just spit out a bunch of fluffy short stories, but you are taking on each character seriously and really stretching yourself. Great work, Susie!
Wow, Beki. Your comment made me tear up a bit (in a good way). I appreciate your encouragement.
I have to confess…last night, after finishing this story, I was beat. I wasn’t sure I had anything left inside my heart. I’m glad that you sympathized with Jim. That was my goal.
Susie, you did a great job with that. I had a tough time with the ending because it was so dark; but because you mentioned he went to church, I believe that he had the hope of Christ in spite of his urges. I know not everyone who goes to church is saved, but I’m choosing to believe for this poor soul. If you want to make that clearer about this character, you might strengthen that a bit. I think you could take this from “flash fiction” to “short story” easily! Thanks for your thoughtful handling of this damaged character. Adore your guts, girl! And you need to hook me up with WhiteFire. What’s the website address? 🙂
Thank you, Amy. I’ll tell ya, this idea gave me chills, nausea, panic, etc. This was a toughy. I was so terrified to write this one. And I MEAN terrified.
I’ll link up the WhiteFire site to your facebook page. 🙂
Well, that could’ve gone either way, but I think the cop overreacted a bit. Must’ve been a rookie. But it could’ve gone either way. Jim could’ve forced the issue by taking a different kind of action, like so many of the domestic hostage stories we hear about on the news – “suicide by cop”. Or he could’ve had something more deadly in his pocket than a journal. But his talk was detached enough from reality to worry the officer, so there is valid reason for him to be on edge, even though most officers get a lot of training on handling these kinds of things (mostly of the domestic dispute variety, the ones which lead to domestic hostage situations, since that’s where most cops end up on the receiving end of a bullet).
From a purely writing standpoint, speaking strictly as a devourer of detective stories, it would’ve been interesting had you not tipped off the reader that the article in his jacket is a journal. The ‘twist’ would then come when the cop, having shot Jim, opens his hand and finds out it wasn’t the expected gun, but only a rolled-up journal. But that may be too much of a cliché.
Good points, Rob. But I was really hoping that the reader would be on Jim’s side, saying “no! Jim, don’t put your hand in the pocket…” It was important to me that the reader already know that he was innocent.
You asked for sympathy for Jim. I appreciate that. Those who haven’t gone through this kind of trauma have a hard time understanding the mind of someone who has. You showed the self-distain, guilt, humiliation, awkwardness, and anger very well.
Jesus, please heal the minds of those who silently (and not so silently) suffer thus. Somehow let forgiveness become their peace. Take the memories and the contorted views and shape them back into place so that they can live free and find fulfillment in pure ways. Jesus.
Thank you, Annette. I think that often the Christian community marginalizes people who are tempted in this way. Yes, we need to protect our children. But we also need to find a way to minister to people who are struggling. It was very (VERY) important to me to make Jim fight the temptations. One thing about mercy, we don’t get to pick and choose to whom we give that mercy. But we can always try to see below the surface and try to understand why people do the things they do.
I struggled over this one. Big time. Jeff and I were talking about it as I fought nausea over the writing (not kidding…physically sick). He said, “People like that character need Jesus just as much as everyone else. Maybe even more.”
I think what struck me as the saddest part of the story was that Jim obviously didn’t have anyone in his life that he could talk to about this.
It is so sad. I’m sure it’s common, though. I can’t imagine having to tell someone those kinds of temptations. There would be so many risks in doing so. It would be amazing to see a Christian counseling alternative for people struggling with these issues.
Now this is my kind of realism. It’s sooooo…realistic. Having worked with men who have molested children, for those who have a conscience it does torture them to feel those things and they do want it to stop. For some, well, they just see the world and children in a warped fashion. Those guys are hard, if not impossible, to help because they don’t think they need it.
Thanks for reading this, Michelle. And for sharing your experience. I wanted the reader to feel compassion for Jim. This certainly cannot be an easy battle.