Chapter 44: 500 Words or Less (always more)

Writing Exercise – Fiction: 500 words or less

Offred tilts her bonnet to the sky. The shade is almost unbelievable. A blue that makes the earth seem alien. She speaks of patience. A patience she’s been forced to embrace via the rape of her rights. You relate. Not to the psychotic dystopian oppression, rather an acceptance of a patience that comes with age, or probably just aging. A long awaited sigh. Welcome defeat. Surrendering an era of constantly chasing reason and time. It’s refreshing. Things are simpler when you don’t give a shit. The air has less current, it’s more soft, sweet.

You have never been patient. Always rushing, always late. Frenzied, frazzled. Frustrated when others don’t keep up. You feel it lessening. Releasing you in minute droplets, ever so slowly. You feel it each afternoon with each passing year. The crone whispers. Not long ago you would have shunned it, but lately you welcome her offerings. If you had known the benefits of brushing everything off with age you would have stopped skulling collagen years ago. Longer pauses to blankly stare at trees. Abrupt outbursts of truth no one asks for, nor expects from your typically happy go-lucky-mouth. A newfound love of anything non-human – like fairy wrens dancing amongst the wattle, and the song of storm winds whistling within air vents. It shifts you from your phone more than most lined up here. The screens light up like the arrival of Christmas and their reflections can be seen through tinted windows, consuming every car on the school run. Park up, light up, pick up, repeat. Wire birds in a row, so close to one another without speaking, seeing, touching, acknowledging. Scrolling obliviously.

You used to fight it, but these blips of conformity are irrelevant now. Just the way it is. Just part of the wheel. Just accept it or you’ll go mad. Seekless and silent is more manageable in this climate of adulting.

Streaming services help.

Offred shakes. It leaks from her now. A mad oozing, a slow shadow trickling from her pores. She looks manic. Again.

Fuck Elizabeth Moss is good. Too good.

You skipped last season. It was too much. The line between fiction and reality – blurry. The two worlds running parallel with their undertones and histories so similar you struggled to watch without scowling at your husband every few minutes – the weight of a gender plonked unfairly on his shoulders.

Healing of the world starts in the home – they say. Reads optimistically enough. Reality is messier. Grit without a toothpick.

He shakes his head often at your gloomy tangents. No need for words. No point being drawn into your paranoid ravings. In the soft safety of the late night bedroom – it’s all just tired jabber. Topics far, far away from the quiet suburban existence. Happily. Normal. Secure.

You stopped watching the news. The show seemed to play out with every passing day and your Gilead predictions fell on deaf ears. These conversations make most people squirm. Always did. The sand is easier to wade through if you scroll to the good stuff.

Abortion bans. Handles flooded with coat hangers and red bloodtags. Surveillance shiny, bold and white. Billionairess’s throwing fangirl parties and women echoing your fears.

“…When all we need are a few more crazy people in power and that story on tv could very easily be our reality…This show, especially to anyone who is a mother, should scare the shit out of you.” @notjaedahyde

“…tasteless considering she would never be a handmaiden because of her wealth. It’s super cool and fun to glorify slavery that is becoming more and more of a real possibility every day…” @andersonala45

“It’s happening!” you cried. “This is the beginning!”

“You’re paranoid,” he muttered reaching for the remote.

“No. This is the problem with people who don’t give a shit about history. They miss the lessons. This doesn’t end well – especially not for us.”

“What are you talking about? If you think your face hasn’t been logged into a hundred data bases you’re naive. And what’s going on a million miles away won’t effect things here.”

“Not for you!”

“Not every issue is about women!”

“It is for women.”

“What’s up with you?”

“I used to… have a voice, but people thought I was mad. So I stopped. I silenced myself.”

“They may have had a point,” he joked, trying to make light of it.

He switched over to the lifestyle channel. You switched it back.

Offred’s got the crazy eye again. You loathe how familiar she feels. It’s intense.

Your phone flashes.

Get red flowers for Nan.

She’s joined the Red Hat Ladies. They run about town blinged up like they’re in their twenties, forcing society to notice them. You love it. You love her.

She tells you not to worry on the state of the world. She tells you not to get into such a fluff about things you can’t control. There’s more pressing issues, like her broken remote.

“Don’t fight things all the time love, there’s no point. Just get on with it and enjoy life. You’ll see how nicer things can be. Now, make sure you watch Today Tonight, they’ve got a thing on vaccination. I hope you got your flu shot.”

“No, Nan. I haven’t for years.”

“Ay? Well, why not? You got your babies vaccinated though, right?”

“Yep. All up to date.”

You want to scream. You never do.

Offred stares at the brilliant blue sky, shifting her eyes suspiciously to the handmaid approaching.

A random stranger kicks his dog near your passenger door. You go to yell but he beats you too it, hitting the windscreen and screaming threats. You lock the doors. He calls you a cunt and takes off, abusing any in his path. The dog pauses, staring at you for a moment before his chain is yanked. He is gone as is his warm gaze.

The siren blares and high pitched squeals and giggles trickle from every vein of the school. They chatter loudly oblivious to the violence now evaporated like it never was.

You look down at your phone. Offred lies in the dirt as the planeload of children soars high above her.

You feign a smile as your kids approach and switch off the phone.

Close down.

Shove it down.

Turn off.

Mask on.

In his damned eye indeed.

657 WORDS.

You just can’t do it, especially not on this topic.

Credit Reference: Margaret Atwood’s Hand Maid’s Tale; Bruce Miller

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