Friday Snippet: Recovery, Relapse, Relationship

Last week, I said I’d post the final version of the draft-0 snippet I had posted 2 weeks ago. And you know what? I just plum forgot to do it. Sheesh!

What reminded me was when my computer alarm went off this morning, reminding me to post a friday snippet today. So with my sincere apologies, here’s the final-draft version of that draft-0 snippet.

This is the result a new writing method I’m trying, similar to Lazette Gifford’s Phase System or Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. It’s part of an Agile Storytelling methodology, specifically a method probably best called “Iterative Story Design.” The idea is that you go through the entire story design cycle multiple times, designing the story in layers, as it were, each layer providing more detailed story aspects than the previous one.

The “draft 0” from two weeks ago was actually a second revision of the Spike Story, that is, a story that includes all the elements of the final version, but from a distance. The Spike Story tells, rather than shows, and writing one allows you to work out the entire flow of the story, including character and plot points, without investing too much time with details. This means you’ll have to do less rewriting afterward. It also means than you can go faster when you do write those details, and get stuck less often.

What I found is that I did get stuck less often on concept, but I still did get stuck sometimes on implementation. That is, I knew what I wanted to show (because I had already told it), but I needed to figure out how to show it. I also noticed that indeed by the time I was creating the final draft, the story itself required almost no revision. That revision consisted totally of line editing, and changes to the story (as it were) consisted of minor additions, taking advantage of opportunities that I had missed in the first draft. There was absolutely no rearranging or rethinking of the story line, because it had already been proven.

So here’s what I came up with (only the part of the final draft that corresponds to the snippet from two weeks ago).


WARNING: This snippet is for adults only. And even if you are an adult, some of the descriptions may make you want to throw up.

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The Rape of Lucretia
by Titian
Prints available from

As I first gazed upon her, the blood rushed from my face, my fingers trembled, my lungs refused to breath, my heart refused to pump. Pity overwhelmed me, then disgust, then anger, then sadness. I could have sworn I smelled vinegar, although I don’t know where the smell would have come from. I closed my eyes, to give them a respite, but that only burned the image on the inside of my eyelids.

I had been familiar with cases of violent rape. Hell, they were why I volunteered as a victim’s advocate, because I needed to feel I was doing something to help. I saw women come into the hospital with bloody mouths, black eyes, missing teeth, fist-sized bruises, concussions, broken bones… I’d seen it all, or at least I thought I had. The worst case I had ever seen was a girl of 14 they had carried in on a stretcher. A clump of her hair had been torn out; two of her fingers had been broken; and her right hip had been forcibly dislocated. And I won’t even try to describe the sexual violence she had suffered, or the injury to her psyche. I had nightmares for a week. But somehow I got through it, stronger for the experience. After that, I thought I could handle anything. So when they asked me to talk to a Clydene Jackson, after her condition had stabilized, I had not sufficiently prepared myself for the shock.

They called me during breakfast, the day after Valentine’s Day, 2006, and asked if I could come down to the hospital for a special case. Once there, I met with the doctor and a police detective. We stood around the nurse’s station. Dr. Ilic, an athletic woman with medium-length, black hair and a sharply defined chin, reminded me a little of my mother. I missed my mother. But the doctor spoke in an exotic accent I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The police detective was a brusque, grizzled, old codger, who wore a suit and tie. It seemed like there were other things he’d rather be doing than talking to me, but such was his job. They filled me in on the situation.

When Clydene had come in late the previous night, she was in pretty bad shape. She had malignant hyperthermia from the anesthesia her attacker had used to knock her out. A friend of mine once almost died from MH, on the operating table, and she would have died if her anesthetist hadn’t known what he was doing. Clydene would have died, too, if they hadn’t gotten to her in time and if Dr. Ilic had not recognized the symptoms and known what to do.

The “perp” in this case, the detective explained, had gotten a hold of a stash of hospital anesthetic—they were still tracing the source. The guy claimed that he used it because it was safer than the street alternatives, and he didn’t want his victims to get hurt. I shook my head in wonder, not that I hadn’t heard similar stories in the past. The criminal mind will probably always puzzle me.

Anyways, this guy had done this before—no surprise, because they usually have. Apparently, his attacks had gotten gradually more brutal and more daring—also no surprise, because that also fits the profile of a serial rapist. He was also a bit narcissistic, as if he wanted to get caught. Until they finally did catch him, red-handed at the scene with a belt in one hand and his victim in the other. When they found her, she was in no condition to fight back, even if she had not been tied to that chair.

I swallowed, hard.

“Can you handle this?” the doctor asked.

I nodded casually at her. “Yeah,” I said. “No problem.” I lied, not because I needed her to believe me, but because I myself needed to believe I could handle it.

“So, we still need a rape kit and her statement,” the detective said.

“Okay.” I breathed. “Is there anything else I should know.”

“Just that her husband is in there with her now,” Dr. Ilic said. “His name’s Ted. And I don’t think he’s taking it very well. He’s been sitting in there all night.”

“Yeah,” agreed the detective, nodding. “He may be having regrets. Just get him to see that he didn’t do anything wrong.”

I had run across similar situations before, both as a victim’s advocate and in my practice as a mental health counselor. Loved ones can blame themselves for what happened, even if it was completely out of their control. After they get over the shock of the event itself, they go on an emotional roller coaster ride that can take them through nostalgia, regret, self-blame, and depression. The danger is that they’ll never get off the roller coaster. And while they’re on the roller coaster, they tend to make poor choices. That could really complicate the situation here, I knew, where Ted was going to have to do things for Clydene that he might not want to do. I also knew he might think me the bad guy, because my primary job was to stick up for Clydene. I hated to be the bad guy.

I quietly pushed open the door to her room and peered inside. The first thing I noticed about Clydene was her face. It was almost recognizably human. Her face was striped with welts and cuts. Her tight, red curls were matted and splotched with blood. Her left eye was covered with a large bruise, which stretched from her cheek across the bridge of her nose. She wore a hospital gown, and welts sketched an irregular pattern from her cheeks down her neck and past where I could see. A similar pattern of welts and cuts traced her arms, from her hands into the tunnels of her sleeves.

Ted had pulled a chair to the far side of her bed, next to the window, and there he sat, longing after her with love and tenderness. That was the first impression I had of him, and first impressions count. And I’m sure of that impression. Love was clearly what it was. Otherwise, why would he have been there, sitting patiently next to her side? Whatever else he was feeling, he clearly loved her, wretchedly, desperately loved her, lost-without-her loved her. You could see it in his eyes, if you had been there.

He reached out and caressed her hand, not where it was sore and bruised, but along the back of her thumb, slowly, gently. Still asleep, she yanked her hand away. Ted seemed taken aback.

“She may not want you to touch her for awhile,” I said, as matter-of-factly as I could.

He regarded me suspiciously.

I added, “But she still needs you.” He had been through a traumatic experience of his own, and he needed to know she was not rejecting him.

“And who are you?” He glared at me, annoyed.

“I’m from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center,” I answered.

“You have an answer to this crisis?” Ted stood as he said it. He towered over me, still glaring, now with anger.

I instantly sized him up, saw it in his face. He felt guilt, maybe even shame. He blamed himself for some part of what happened, and he would probably blame himself for whatever happened from here on out. Even more, he seemed to be the type who needed to maintain the illusion of being in charge. He was top dog, and he wasn’t about to give up that spot voluntarily. The situation was already out of his control, which must have enraged him. And I might need to take what little control he had left away from him, because part of my job was to make sure no one, not the police, not the doctors, nor even he, bullied Clyde into a doing something she didn’t want.

His question was more anger than query. Do I have an answer to this crisis? All I could do was to tell the truth and to level with him as best I could. But I also needed to stand up to him, to retain my own authority.

“No, I don’t,” I replied, again as matter-of-factly as I could.

I had been in situations like this before, but they always made me ill. I did my best to hide that I felt anything but confidence. I absolutely hate being the bad guy.

“So why are you here?” A challenge.

I explained it to him, again as matter-of-factly as I could, without returning his anger, but also without ceding ground. I could see that he loved his wife dearly. That’s where his sympathies lay. And that’s what I focused on, what she will probably feel, what she will need.

“Because when she wakes up,” I said, “she’s going to think this was her fault, and she’s going to be as angry at herself as you are at yourself.”

He stared at me, not in anger now, but in bewilderment. He probably had never considered that Clydene would blame herself. Why would she? He probably couldn’t fathom it, even now. He probably thought she would blame him, just as he did. We all tend to project onto others the feelings we feel about ourselves.

“You wouldn’t think it,” I said, now more tenderly. “But believe it or not, that’s the most likely outcome, that Clydene will think it’s her fault.”

He shook his head. “It’s not her fault.” He sat back down.

“Who’s fault is it?” I heard myself ask. I’m not sure why I asked the question. We both already knew the correct answer. It was the fault of the rapist. But I also knew the answer Ted—I was sure—believed, deep in his heart, that it was his fault. At least I knew, if I were in his situation, I would be searching for reasons to blame myself. I had even been there, having suffered loss in my life, knowing all the reasons why it was my fault. But I didn’t want to think about that just then.

He finally answered me. “I don’t know you well enough to answer that question, Miss—“

“Miss Jayson.” I introduced myself. “But please call me Mira.” I stepped up and offered my hand for him to shake.

He didn’t take my hand, but he looked like he wanted to say something. Before he could, Clydene groaned. She began to roll onto her side, but then she stopped and whimpered, “No.” Her eyes were still closed, and I thought that she must have been dreaming.