Note from Coach Cobb: The following is a raw unedited first draft by one of the very talented people participating in my Writing Life Stories class at Shipley Center.
I’ve made it a point to tell the class that here and now is NOT the time to edit their writing or each other’s. It is a time to share, a time to learn what people would like to hear more about, a time to discover places in our writing that readers might find confusing, and a time for readers to tell us what they liked best.
Lydia, I thank you once more for allowing me this opportunity to share your story with others.
My comments and questions dealing with Lydia’s story follow it, so please continue to scroll down the page after you’ve finished reading.
Readers: Do not hand out any editing advice on this. Please, however, comment on parts you like, were confused about, and what you would like to hear more about. Those things will help the writer on her subsequent drafts. Thank you so much.
I have added paragraph numbers for easy reference for comments. I hope no one finds those too distracting. My personal favorite sentences, for,one reason or another, are underlined.
Cat and Mouse
1. Coming home from the hospital after having my tonsils out.
2. The next day my mom went to work, my younger brother (age 6) took off to go to his friend’s house. That left my sister and me at home alone. I tried to eat but couldn’t because my throat hurt. I wanted a popsicle. That’s when it got bad. My sister started hitting me and punching me, hitting me with a pan from the kitchen, throwing things at me. She was out of control, I ran and hid. I had a lot of good hiding places. One of my favorite, the steps going up to the attic. The attic steps were very big steps, tall, deep and wide. That is where things that never quite make it up to the attic would be. It was also warm there, with old clothes, blankets to lay on, and toys to play with. It was dark but it was comfortable.
3. That just gave my sister time to find something else to hit me with, like my dad’s belt. She knew all of my hiding place so I was easy to find.
4. She wanted to make me cry and scream, making me fight and struggle. She knew my throat hurt yet she continued.
5. The basement was another good hiding place, she didn’t like to go there. The basement was lighter and I could do more things. Half of the basement was finished with tile on the floor, knotty pine wood for the walls, dividing off a small bathroom and laundry area. The laundry area had big stationary laundry tubs that had hot and cold running water. I could drink water or play in it. Sometimes I would sort the laundry just for something to do. Even get a load or two done, in our old wringer washer.
6. But not this day.
7. I made it down to the basement. I sat there for a while, then I heard her doing something in the kitchen. I quietly crept back up the basement steps. There were 10 steps, and a small landing at the top, with door going outside (an inside wooden door in an outside screen door and both were locked) and a door to the kitchen. There was five steps across the kitchen from where my sister stood to the landing. I made it outside of the house and started running toward the backyard, through the backyard, down the other side of the house, she caught up with me in the middle of the front yard where I stopped to vomit.
8. She was hitting me with a plastic whiffle ball bat. When I was vomiting it came up with lots of blood in it from all that screaming and crying. The blood was going down my throat and into my stomach the movement of running is what made me vomit. The woman across the street called my uncle Majoris Ambulance Service. There were two ambulances with lights and sirens on in the front yard. I was gotten out of there. My aunt showed up and took me to her house, then she went back to help in get my sister.
9. At my aunt’s house, I was there with my three cousins they were one year younger than me and my siblings. We all went to the lower level of their split-level house. We all had c ue sticks in our hands watching the Windows.
10. Later my aunt and uncle came home and said they got my sister. We will all be safe tonight. I was given Asper gum and that helped with the pain in my throat and I slept okay.
11. I was awakened by the first sound of movement. My cousin and I watched TV later and played a few games. My aunt came into their room and announced that we would have lunch and then we go to the store and buy a few party supplies. And then we go to my house.
12. The party was for my sister. It was a going away party, we miss you, we love you, and after the party my sister was taken to Tiffin, a state run mental institution.
13. It was a strange place to visit first off. I was only 11 so I couldn’t go inside I had to be 16 years old. (My sister was 14 at the time) I would go along for the ride through the country. I was moral support for my mom. I also helped with the directions to get there and to light her cigarettes because she couldn’t drive and light a cigarette at the same time.
14. I would sit on the bench outside the place where of the mental institution. One day someone handed me some pages of writing. He told me that it was from a man and he pointed to the man’s side of the building that my sister was locked up in.
15. I tried reading them but I couldn’t read much at all so I never wrote back. But he would write letters every time he saw me sitting there. He got them out through the locked doors and past the attendance.
16. I stopped going to visit my sister after I turned 18. Seven years is all I can take. I see enough crazy people. Most of the time they were tied to the chair and they watch the TV. Most of them slumped over asleep from the drugs.
17. There was one woman that would pace the halls up one side and down the other as she passed the drinking fountain she would hit it, with her finger, making a loud bang on the mental edge. It would ring through the entire floor. While she was pacing she would say: big birdy, little birdy, Green birdy, party birdy, skinny birdy, tall birdy, short birdy, yellow birdy, black birdy, evil birdy, round birdy, you get the picture.
Comments from Coach Cobb:
In para. 2: I recommend you state the age of yourself and your sister here, instead of way down in para. 13. I like the line: “That is where things that never quite make it up to the attic would be.”
Para. 8: The last part of that last sentence: “…then she went back to help in get my sister,” I know what you mean but this might be confusing to readers.
Para. 8: Majoris Ambulance Service—did your uncle own the ambulance service? Was your uncle named Majoris? Please clarify.
Para. 9: This cannot be right, “At my aunt’s house, I was there with my three cousins they were one year younger than me and my siblings.” Unless, those cousins were triplets and so were you and your siblings. (?) Clarification is recommended.
Para. 9: You wrote, “We all had cue sticks in our hands watching the Windows.” Please bring us in here. Show us more about the who and why.
Para. 11: You showed us instead of told us how scared you were. Good for you.
Para. 13: I really like how you showed us how nervous your mom was instead of telling us. Great Job!
Para. 17: Another great job of showing and not telling.
Great job, Lydia! This was so hard to write, to relive, but you did it! Refining such stories is never easy. I look forward to more writing from you.