Monday, July 02, 2007

"Westinghoused," Part 3

(In the late 1800’s, the battle between two competing electric technologies, AC and DC currents, turned brutal. For Thomas Edison, it was a life and death struggle. This is a fictionalized version of true events in history. Just joining us? Go back to Part 1.)

William Kemmler

Eight months later.
March 29, 1889

The hatchet hung with the blade tipped toward the ground. The nails holding it were twisted.

William Kemmler's shed stank of old dirt and mildew. The remains of vegetable tops withered in the corners. He didn't work there anymore. In his warehouse four blocks away, morning sunlight oozed through grimy windows. His men emptied buckets of trimmed radishes and onions into the sale bins. Soon the women would arrive to buy.

A door slammed in the house hard enough to rattle the hatchet's handle. Dust drifted down in silence.

A slurred voice screamed. "What did you say to him just now?"

"He's gone."

"I know that!"

Another door slammed. Feet pounded up to it and ripped it open again.

"What did you say to him?"

"You heard! I asked him to pick me up some sugar and salt."

The woman's voice couldn't bellow like the man's. Her words thinned.

"I heard the way you talked to him!"

"Oh? How is that?"

A stomp shook the walls. "And what's that?"

"My trunk?"

Another stomp. "There! Have you been packing your trunk?"

Silence for a few moments.

"I'm folding my things!"

"You're folding this? And this?"

"Put that down!"

"And what about this pretty thing? I've never seen this!"

"Put it down!"

"It's him, isn't it?"

"Get away from me!"

Something hit the wall.

"It's him!"

"Don't! Leave me alone!"

"Where were you running off to? Where did the two of you decide to go?"

"Get out."

Someone pacing. Pacing and thumping the wall in rhythm.

"It's him. Isn't it? All along."

"You're drunk. You're always stinking drunk."

"Tell me!"

Quick footfalls. Light and attacking.

"You want to hear it? You want me to say it? Is that what you want?"

Heavy footfalls receding.

"You want me to say it?"

From the bedroom to the hallway.

Her voice chased him.

"You want me to?"

"You whore."

"Whore? You call me a whore? I've put up with your pig ways for years. Life with you is hell! You hear me?"

"How long have you two been together?"

"I hate you."

"How long?"

"Go to the pub. Maybe someone there will have you."

"It's been him all along."

"Stop saying that!"

"You smile and talk soft to him."


"Ever since I hired him, I bet. You've wanted him."

Movement back toward the bedroom. Now the heavy steps were stalking.

"He comes here every day. Looking at you."

"Why don't you go drink yourself to death."

"Nothing but a whore."

"Stop calling me that!"


Her voice screeched. "Yes! Yes! It's him! Him! Are you happy now?"


"It's him, and we laugh at you! We laugh at what a stinking fool you are! Are you happy now?"

Slow steps.

Then harder. Harder.

"Where are you going?"

Through the kitchen to the back door.

"We laugh at you!"

And she showed him how.

The air whooshed as the shed ripped open. Tornadoes of dust whirled into the light.

A clawed hand with blackened fingernails yanked the hatchet from the wall. It swung with his strides. Blurring arcs marching forward.

In the kitchen, Kemmler raised the hatchet to his chest. A pot of chicken stock bubbled on the stove.

He kicked something in the hallway. It smacked into the bottom of the bedroom door. She was sobbing inside.

A kick splintered the wood. The doorknob dangled where the panel cracked.

A woman sat on the bed.

The hatchet flew up to the white ceiling.

The room raced, then the blade thunked deep.

She grunted, and the iron edge was bathed in the flowing dark.

On to Part 4.
Back to Part 2.


suzanabrams said...

A powerful American feel to this, Jason. I found the first paragraph gory with the thought of horror. Was that deliberate? :-)
As always your show of structure stays excellent.

Verilion said...

Ok I am well and truly hooked. My eyes lit up when I saw another installment today. I am very intrigued by these characters. The events are incredibly horrific, but but your build up is great. Looking forward to part 4.

The Quoibler said...


Dear. God.

You gave me chills!

You know what I really respect about your writing style? The fact that you do not add superfluous words or images. So much is implied - that's incredibly engaging!


Anonymous said...

Suzan, you know me and experimentation. ;) I wanted to have a different POV here. I finally decided on writing the story from the POV of the hatchet hanging on the wall. Having that image start the story probably gives it a creepy tone.

Verilion, having people looking forward to installments is a great motivator! Thanks for that. :) I'm having fun with this one. The historical events really lend themselves to storytelling. At this point, I'm thinking there will be 2 or 3 more parts.

Angelique, what a compliment! Thanks so much. :) I'm going to pay you a visit next. **I very much appreciate your observations/feedback. I do think that carefully shaping the scene for the reader to experience and make his or her own judgments is a powerful approach. Thanks for voicing your thoughts!

Remiman said...

Yes sir. That was good!
I expected blood...
and was given murder.

mermaid said...

I get the feeling that this is not just a historical glimpse of an innovative man, but a highly personal account of all that follows the death of a spirit who could not create his prized invention. This is what happens to the human spirit in the aftermath of failure. The Failure becomes a contagious disease that Kremmler wishes to spead to his lover and her other lover.

Stories are not just about cause and effect. There is an ellipse... between the two, and you let us imagine what has happened between parts 2&3. There is always a hidden part to our lives that others don't see, don't understand, so they cannot correlate the change in us by past events.

Can't wait to read part 4.

CJ said...

Don't normally read this type writing - used to - years ago but have discovered too much ugliness around the world and so search out the beauty where-ever I may find it. Having said that, these (part I,II and III) are incredibly compelling, beautifully written and have the effect of a punch to the abdomen. Where is the best seller? Top 10 of the NY Times list is surely somewhere in your future.

Anonymous said...

CJ, thank you for reading, and thank you even more for the wonderful encouragement! I try to create a wide range things here, and yes, sometimes I explore the ugly and dark sides. I think you'll find much more beauty and peace overall.

anne frasier said...

dark and haunting, jason.

your writing is very sensual. even the dark stuff. it'll be exciting to watch your career as a writer unfold.

Anonymous said...

Remimen, much appreciated. I wanted to capture the emotion here.

Mermaid, I'm not sure what demons Kemmler bore. I wanted you to get a sense of him, so you have a fuller picture when Harold Brown and Kemmler cross paths.

Anne, what a wonderful thing to say! I do feel like I've developed a distinctive writing voice. When folks confirm that it's there and interesting, it really helps my confidence.