Show Us Fury

I like to tell students that they should avoid naming feelings when writing and instead show what the character is doing.  How are they gesturing?  What is their face doing?  How about their hands?  Any props?  What do they say?

Let’s see how well we can do this.  Bertha (yes, she’s my other alter-ego; I gave Martha the night off) is FURIOUS.  Why?  You choose the reason.  If you need extra characters, that’s fine.

I want you to contain her in one room and avoid any mention of her feelings.  The rest is up to you.  How do you effectively show an angry woman?

52 responses to “Show Us Fury

  1. Bertha

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014
    10:27 PM

    As the walls close in on Bertha her foot starts to move. You can hear the leather sole hit the floor, echoing through the small room. Nothing seem to help. Her head shakes as if throwing water off after a swim. You can tell she is trying to get a handle on something but not succeeding.

    Her stare could curl the wall paper off the plaster but does not. As if just thinking would get the object here for her to see. But it is no were in sight. As she grits her teeth, she is finally think this will get me no where. How could she have let the key slid under the door out of reach. She could hear Phil on the other side of the door but could not let him know she is there. Her eyebrows are raised as if that would help. She is stuck in the smallest room in the house and hated it. In her pocket she only has a package of gun. She chews it and uses the wrapper to retrieve the key but it is just out of reach. As she puts her hand to her hair she remember the gum to late it is stuck in her hair. What now?

    Hearing a noise behind she turns, Flossy is just sitting there watching her. Not having seen her before she think maybe Flossy will help. She and Flossy are not on the best of terms. But just as Bertha put out a hand of friendship Flossy shows her back and walks away. As she crawls through a small hole in the door turning to grin as much as a cat can grim.

    Bertha wonders is she can reach her fingers out trying to get the key. But it is just out of reach. Bringing her fingers back under the door she curls them and they get stuck. Flexing them she get a splinter in her pinky only adding injury to dismay. Shaking her hand left and right.
    Now her fingers are drumming as if the ants are on the table. But to no avail. The key is still on the other side just out of reach.
    Phil is shuffling his feet almost hitting the key time after time his shoe comes so close to the key Bertha exhales and waits hoping he will hit the key sending it in her direction. Finally his shoe comes close and the breeze moves the key closer. Running her fingers through her hair while looking to heaven as if the key will be brought to her by a higher power. She wonders what can happen next.

    Flossy swats the key under the door, turns tail and hides. Bertha raises her face to heaven and thanks the powers to be

  2. I goofed I mentioned she hated the room My Bad. sorry Ann.

  3. The Masterson’s Ninth Wedding Anniversary Celebration

    It was a nearly imperceptible streak of pink, hot pink, on her husband’s shirt collar, a souvenir of his earlier romp with his secretary, unnoticed by Forest Masterson as he tried to walk into his house without stumbling, five hours late for dinner. Maybe she’s already in bed he thought. Hoped. For God’s sake, asleep. He cracked the bedroom door open. No such luck. Ellie Masterson sat upright and rigid in her rocker, dressed in a red teddy and thong, pumping away with both feet flat on the carpet, back and forth, chair joints squeaking a Hitchcock melody, the rocker leaving a trail, moving across the floor perhaps a foot or more from her manic movement to and fro.

    Forest slipped one breath mint, then a second, between his lips to cover the aroma of more vodkas than he had intended to drink. The almond scented candles that Ellie had lit hours ago sagged limp and runny, their extended wicks burning black like Ellie’s gut. Forest attempted a smile while slurring a simple, “Hi-ya Ellie, sorry I’m late.”

    Ellie’s eyes stared ahead at the picture on her dresser: her and Forest on their wedding day, both dressed in hope, her gown brilliant white; his tux right out of an Astaire movie. Her lips pursed razor wire tight as Forest continued his feeble excuse.

    Ellie’s nose squinched toward her eyes, her eyes pulling downward. Forest started to laugh as her face looked like a bowling ball with three closely-set thumb and finger holes, but he thought better of it. He dropped his head to avert her stare, but he knew he had screwed up. Big. Of all nights to pull a stupid Forest trick, their anniversary night.

    Ellie curled a finger in his direction. He approached, head cowed like a whipped dog, eyes down, wanting to whine. Her finger curled again and he lowered his head to hers trying at first for a lighthearted kiss. Ellie’s hand shot to Forest’s throat in a move that would have impressed a martial arts master, grabbed his tie, and jerked Forest to his knees.

    Ellie’s eyes caught sight of the telltale streak of lipstick which loomed before her as vulgar as the crotch of her husband’s slut secretary. Ellie ran an impeccably sculptured fingernail down the streak and lifted her finger it to her nostrils. Its pigment gave the white tip of her index finger, crisp from a morning French nail manicure, a cotton candy tone.

    “Well. That’s a new one,” her words spit. Smells like bubblegum.”

    Forest’s lips moved but no words could be heard.

    “Did she kiss you on the neck like this Forest?” Ellie’s mouth took a route from Forest’s stained collar to the nape of his neck. Forest pushed closer enjoying the stimulation.

    “Did she nuzzle you like this, Forest?” Her lips parted and nibbled toward his ear lobe. Forest shivered with erotic anticipation, his misdeed perhaps forgiven. His right hand held steady the arm of the rocker; his left hand reached for a breast, its pear shape beneath its translucent covering, inviting. Intoxicating.

    “Did she kiss you on the ear like this, Forest?” Her lips first pulled playful at his lobe; then her teeth found their target and clamped on his lower ear.

    As she spit her screaming husband’s severed earlobe to the floor, she answered her own question.

    “Hmph. Guess not.”

    Copyright 2014, Jeff Switt

  4. As Bertha sat down in her chair, she glanced briefly around the restaurant, taking in the casual decor and the animated hum of all the customers eating on a busy Friday night. Then she focused her green eyes on her husband, John, already seated across from her.

    His face was lit by the glow of his phone as his thumb scrolled down the screen, his brow furrowed in concentration. She sighed and drummed her fingers on the wooden table as she waited for the waiter to return and take their order. They’d eaten here together many times over the years so there was no need to study the menu.

    John pulled his eyes away from his screen as the waiter asked for his order but he never put it down and went right back to it once he had made his request for a club soda with lime and the pan-seared salmon.

    “Must be some exciting emails you have there,” commented Bertha. After receiving nothing more than a grunt in return, she leaned forward and put her hand on his wrist.

    “Can you please put that away for a few minutes so we can talk?”

    Grimacing, John set the phone down and looked Bertha in the eyes. “What do you want to talk about?”

    “I don’t know, nothing in particular, I guess. I’d just like to talk, that’s all.”

    “Fine, talk,” said John. “I’m listening.”

    “Well, you don’t have to be like that! Just…tell me about your day. How was work?”

    “Work was work. There really isn’t much to say.”

    “OK, well, why don’t we talk about our summer vacation. Where would you like to go?” Bertha asked. “My friend was telling me about an amazing lake she went to in Montana that sounded really fun. What about that?”

    “I guess we’d have to find a cabin rental. I wonder how pricey that would be.” John picked up his phone again and opened a browser to start searching for cabin rentals in Montana.

    Bertha stared, open-mouthed, at her husband. Was he seriously looking at his phone again? He’d only left it on the table for five minutes! As she watched him, absorbed by google, she pursed her lips and twisted the napkin on her lap in her hands. She looked around at all the other couples happily engaged in their conversations and her heart started to beat faster and tears pricked at her eyes.

    Finally, she stood up quickly and whipped the napkin onto her plate. “Enjoy your date with Google, I’m done here John,” she whispered harshly and she pushed her way out of the restaurant, her face hanging forward so her hair would hide her red cheeks and wet eyes and so she wouldn’t have to face the looks of pity from the nearby tables.

  5. “Bertha, you look as if you’ve been through a war, “ said Albert.

    “Albert, New York is full of neighborhoods, some posh, some rundown, but most somewhere in between. A friend is doing a thesis on the changes taking place in one of these neighborhoods, and it raises many questions,” said Bertha.

    “This small community is very old, and has many poverty level residents who have lived there for generations. The changes taking place are very difficult for these families, usually forcing them to relocate and completely change their lifestyle. Likely, many will be forced to move in with family members in other similar communities, thus perpetuating a life of dependence.

    Have the governing bodies of this great city been acting as enablers, allowing this poverty to continue from one generation to the next? Should they have taken a stronger position when buildings were obviously crumbling and becoming unsafe? Would encouraging higher education of the children in this area have resulted in a better standard of living?
    Have they followed the displaced families to see what has become of them? Has this action had a positive effect, forcing a reexamination of priorities and resulting in a better life for those involved?

    If a profound loss of quality of life has taken place, have they stepped in to offer assistance and guidance? However, is this just another way of enabling a weakness in our society?

    Certainly there are many benefits of these changes, not the least of which is a healthier community, which will attract the more affluent. These positive effects follow the pattern of redevelopment in other cities, and are easily defined.

    Certainly our society cares about it’s own, but we are also guilty of looking the other way, hoping the seedier side of life will simply go away.
    It will not. Do we care?”

    © Meegiemom

    • Meggie, I think your are in a mission to improve society. Good for you.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      It surely does seem our tax money should be used more effectively. We’re living in a world of complicated messes.

      Your compassion is obvious in your words. Without words such as yours, nothing will ever change.

      • Thanks, Cheryl. I seem to have reached that stage of life where “the good old days” seemed so much better. I know there was poverty, and war, but they weren’t in our faces quite so much. Without the constant reminders it was easier to pretend these things didn’t exist.

        I doubt we will ever get back to those peaceful times. Sad.

        Jeri, aka Meegiemom

  6. Question for our esteemed mentor. If the whole piece is dialogue from one person, without any break, do I need quotes at the beginning and end of each paragraph, or is putting them just at the beginning and end of the whole rant correct?
    Thanks Ann

  7. A rather untidy presentation. Sorry about the spacing, folks.
    MM

  8. While you guys are here expressing untold fury, I will be thinking about you while I’m riding an elephant in Botswana, zip lining across the Victoria Falls gorge, and photographing wild animals in the African savannah. Okay, now try that fury expression again! Ha ha ha. Be back Feb. 19. Then I’m off the house sit in Halibut Cove for a month. If you want to see where I’ll be, Google Stillpoint at Halibut Cove. And weep.

    • What?! are you riding an elephant in Botswana? Couldn’t you be satisfied by just riding a horse in Montana? Anyway, what you are doing sounds excited and wonderful. Have a good time.

      • Nope. Mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and a horse across the volcanic crater of Haleakala in Maui. Camel in the Outback of Australia and now to an elephant in Botswana!

    • “Mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and a horse across the volcanic crater of Haleakala in Maui. Camel in the Outback of Australia and now to an elephant in Botswana!” That’s nothing, Gullie. My wife has been riding my ass for 44 years! LOL

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      Don’t think about us while you’re doing all those things; pay attention to what you’re doing!!!

      • funny, you guys. i am trying to figure out how to take photos while i am zip lining across the gorge. they like you to hold on with both hands while wearing leather gloves. no problem with the elephant.

    • Weeping here.

  9. Bertha sat in the chair, rocking rhythmically, both feet flat on the floor. She hugged her waist with her arms as she rocked. Her head bent toward her knees, tightly clenched eyes dripping tears and nose dripping snot. The unkempt nails of each hand bent upward biting into the dry skin above each elbow.
    Suddenly she threw her head back, her auburn hair cascading over the back of the chair. Her wild, wet eyes opened fully, staring upward, and a bellow of primal pain screamed up from her gut and through her lips.
    Her head rocked madly from side to side, denying what her brain knew was true.
    “No, no, no, no, no!”
    She arose from the chair but then buckled to her knees, fists pounding the floor on both sides of her mass of tangled hair.
    “No, no, no, no, no!”
    When she was finally spent, she rolled to her side and ventured a glance through gluey, cloudy lashes. It seemed like hours that she’d suffered, but the chair’s rockers were still gently pitching back and forth.

  10. The Silent Fury January 2014
    (excuse the mistakes, forgive the sinner)

    The most common demonstration of fury in a person, and specifically in a woman, is the one expressed with harsh words, yelling and screaming vulgarities, irrational behavior, obscene gestures and/or extremes actions.

    The other kind is the silent fury, which doesn’t come in as a spontaneous outburst of energy. It comes slowly as a well controlled strategy, smooth on the surface but with a dangerous undertow.

    Those at the receiving end of a silent fury treatment, could confirm that it’s morally devastating; that it’s a body torture without inflicting physical pain; that it’s the burning of your soul without a flame; that it takes one and one’s ego down to the size of an ant.

    Bertha is an expert applying the silent fury when appropriate, specially when her husband commits some indiscretion which she considers out of line.
    When that happens, lets say in a party, where her hubby gets dangerously cozy and comfortable talking with another woman, she a applies the silent fury with a refined and exquisite technique.

    The treatment starts immediately after she and her husband are in the auto on their way home.
    She sits straight, composed, calm, legs together, hands on her lap, looking forward, her face relaxed. She is centered. She looks regal.
    However, the husband knows that under that face of serenity there is a perfect storm in the making.
    He asks her trivial questions trying to take her off balance. She responds in mono-syllables: “yes”, “no”. She refuses to engage in a silly conversation.
    She becomes impenetrable, monolith

    An intense coolness radiates from her body transforming the inside of the auto into a refrigerator despite the fact that the heater was on.

    Once at home, she goes into the kitchen and prepares herself a cup of tea which she plans to take upstairs to their bedroom. She offers nothing to her husband who stood behind her. She ignores him completely; he doesn’t exist.

    Mentally he is begging for a word from her; a request for an explanation; a recrimination. Anything coming from her that will alleviate his internal tension. He needs to release the pressure that the lack of verbal exchange had built up in his head.
    Carrying her cup of tea, she walks upstairs with dignity and self-assurance. He follows her with his head down, humiliated by her indifference.

    He is aware that now comes the worst part of the evening and that is, going to bed where she will be in a supine position on her side, aloof and away from him. Tonight he will not feel her arms around his chest nor will he feel the warm of her body.

    Meanwhile, she knew, exactly, what he was going through, and she let him contorting in the air like a fish caught in a hook. She is not giving him any slack; any opportunity to release his stress.
    The silent fury, brutal, heavy and unmitigated had reached its peak.
    Finally, defeated by the weight of silence, he said: “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…”
    “I appreciate your saying sorry, but it is late. Let’s have a conversation tomorrow. Okay?”
    “Fine with me,” he responded turning away from her.

    An incipient smile played in her lips for a few seconds and then she turned away from him.

    (PS: the only way to get away from the Silent Fury is to take a trip for a few days, preferably, an international trip.
    By the way, my wife’s name is Bertha and I took quite a number of international trips on my younger days)

    • Hmm, Lando, this one sounds too believable, are you sure this is fiction!? Jeff

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      You’ve made me laugh and it’s pretty early for that, Lando. Part of my laughing is because you described me to a T when I’m upset. I wish I could learn to manage my anger better. I do catch myself being exactly as you have described here and have eased up much sooner than I used to. Life’s too short.

      The other reason for laughing is because of your confession to taking trips to escape from your wife, Bertha’s, fury. I’d leave the country if I was the brunt of my own fury!!!

      Nice job, Lando.

  11. That was so good, Lando. Sounds like your Bertha has it down to a science. Better behave yourself!
    Meegiemom

  12. Krystyna Fedosejevs

    Bertha gone Crackers

    Bertha von Finkelstein was furious. She paced in our Kauai hotel room. Grumbled profanities. Her bare footsteps quickened with such velocity that I thought the fan twirled full speed yet it wasn’t switched on. While glancing at a box on top of a mini fridge, she collided with a bedpost. Screamed. Crumbled into a massive heap of discontent onto the carpet.

    “Look at her gloating in the sunlight, “Bertha yelled, wrinkling her nose. Her high-boned cheeks flared scarlet. Forehead folded like an accordion. A wisp of smoke possibly exited the top of her matted brunette head.

    “It was your fault,” I said. “I was the witness.”

    “Is that so? You wanted her to have it all. Admit it!”

    “All? Oh no, that part was definitely your fault.”

    Bertha flung her arms and legs out, grasping for balance. Looked like a decommissioned bagpipe but I wasn’t going to tell her that. Eventually, she pulled herself up.

    “She’s at the door again,” I chuckled. “With her family. They would like more.”

    Bertha peered inside the cracker box, crumpled the waxed bag inside. Swiped the box off the fridge with the back of a hand.

    “And they were my favourite,” she squealed as it landed in a wastebasket. “Nothing left.”

    A row of hens, chicks and roosters stood outside our patio door on the lush lawn.

    “Guess we’ll have to get more,” I said, being the considerate spouse that I was. “Only this time, one box for them, one for us.”

    And it’s a good thing the walls of her confinement could not say what else she said or did.

    • Cheryl aka Shaddy

      I love your sense of humor. “Looked like a decommissioned bagpipe…” made me chuckle. I also appreciate the phrases Jeff mentioned in his reply.

      (My husband and I were in Kauia many years ago. The other Hawaiian islands are mentioned frequently, but not Kauia. I liked that you did).

      • Krystyna Fedosejevs

        Thanks Cheryl for the comment. I love passing on humour.
        First time in Kauai and loving it; including the eventful storm surge two days ago. Here about the 40 to 50′ waves? It’s much calmer now. Mother hen with four chicks at our door among the usual Rooster family.

        Krystyna

  13. Hi Krys: fun twist at the end! And some impressive lines therein – “Her high-boned cheeks flared scarlet’ and “Crumbled into a massive heap of discontent onto the carpet.”

    But you committed a violation of the instructions (I want you to contain her in one room and avoid any mention of her feelings.) with this one, “Bertha von Finkelstein was furious.”

    (You’ve got chickens outside your room in Hawaii?)

  14. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    The clock barked 8:30 when Bertha checked it for the umpteenth time since she got home from work at 5:15. Today was her 65th birthday. Today was a milestone she’d dreaded since her last birthday. She heard the garage door roll up and Arnie’s Jeep pull in. The door burst open and her husband entered the house with his normal attempt at enthusiasm after a long day’s work. “Hi Babe.”

    Bertha was perched at their pub table with her laptop open. She stretched her neck by dropping her chin down to her chest. She shrugged her shoulders deliberately and then rolled them forward and backward. After taking a very slow, deep breath, she finally looked up at him. She didn’t smile. She stared with an intensity that crystalized the moment..

    “I’m not having a good day.” As she spoke, Bertha brought her attention back to her laptop. Arnie noticed her body wasn’t loose and relaxed as it usually was this late in the evening; tension hummed from her frozen posture. Arnie frowned as his mind groped for an answer, for something solid to focus on.

    “And I’m not helping by coming in late, am I,” Arnie said. He wanted to pull up a chair but the invisible wall pulsing around his wife kept him back. “What happened today?” he ventured.

    Bertha slowly closed her laptop, pushed back from the table and stood up. She walked stiffly across the kitchen and kept going. “What happened is that I had a birthday.”

  15. Reginald Butterworth pushed his chair back from the table and pronounced, “This is the worst swill I’ve ever eaten, It makes Filboid Studge taste like peaches. In fact, I wouldn’t eat this garbage with Hitler’s mouth!”

    “Well, I never!” said Mrs. Butterworth, pausing in mid-dollop while preparing yet another flapjack.

    As her eyelids began to twitch, Mr. Butterworth became acutely aware of his wife’s glassy stare which seemed to cut right through him like so many tiny shards of anti-skid and broken pottery fired from a musketoon at point blank range.

    “You old scumbag!” she roared. “You’ll get drunk and visit the neighbors sheep pen during the night, he’s made a higher fence you know, but my griddle cakes aren’t good enough for you? Well, let tell you something!”

    And with that, Mrs. Butterworth let loose a torrent of information that, had it not been for several comic reversals, for instance flushing Mr. Butterworth’s prize Yorkie down the toilet while selling his Gouramis to a lab for cosmetics testing, might have been particularly disturbing.

    As Mr. Butterworth slowly began to come to grips with why the drains had been running slow, Mrs. Butterworth revealed the secret ingredient in the “chocolate chip” pancakes he had enjoyed so much, and how she had replaced his cholesterol medication with bacon bits.

    However, it wasn’t until she jammed the handle of her spatula into the safety switch on the microwave and set it to “high” for 10 minutes, adversely affecting the operation of his pacemaker, did Mr. Butterworth fully realize the extent to which his wife was really, really, m

  16. Cheryl aka Shaddy

    OMG!!! You blow me away with your wild and crazy scenarios. I’d love to have a tiny shard of your mind imbedded in my own.

    P.S. Thanks for the ideas. 🙂

  17. Please excuse the intrusion. My name is Paul and my teacher, Ann Lindquist, suggested that I stop here. I enjoyed her Beginning Writers Workshop and I was sad to see it end. I hope that I will not be a drag on the efforts here. This is my vision of my angry woman.

    Float Like a Butterfly

    She never says anything. She wages war in silence. I’m supposed to ask what I’ve done wrong but I won’t play. I just sit and watch. Huffing around here in the kitchen, she’s pretending to ignore me, making quick moves with lots of noise, clomping around heavy footed, heaving hefty sighs. Now she’s yanking plates from the dishwasher, and banging them down on the counter so hard they rattle. She grabs the pile, clomps over to the cabinets, slams the stack down, rips open a cabinet door so hard it bounces. She grabs the pile, shoves it into the cabinet, bangs the cabinet door shut and walks out. She never looked at me or said a word. Too bad. Usually at the end of this kind of scene she makes some dumb comment that makes me laugh which sends her to Mars.
    Maybe next time

  18. Great imagery, but you lost your present tense. Should have been “She never looks at me or says a word. Too bad.” Very good use of body language and actions to express anger. Good work!

  19. Glad to see you here, Paul!

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