Not being heard is no reason for silence. —Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
My daily calendar is filled with scribbled words – not so much appointments as inspirations. I copy out what matters before I tear up my calendars as the new year begins. This scrap surfaced recently. Not being heard is no reason for silence.
I’ve never had a greater sense of not being heard – as an individual, as a writer, as a sister of all of us who are watching the steady dismantling of what has passed for democracy. I see us walking in lock-step, hunched over our digital masters. The most common response I’ve heard since Trump was elected and began his burn, pillage, plunder and rape march through the world, is: “I don’t know what to do.” Nor do I.
You have a chance to be heard here. Please write us with a few paragraphs about how you want to use your writing to be heard. Or, how you are writing whether you will be heard or not. What are you writing about? Who do you write to? Alas, texts don’t count. I hope to have the longest Breakthrough Writing post I’ve every had. We will read. We welcome you.
Here is Therese Souers with her response to a recent writing prompt (I send out prompts twice a week. If you want to be on the list, write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add you to the list.) The prompt was a photo of black cats painted on a wall.
The air in the Las Vegas hotel room was stifling and smelled as if something had crawled under the bed and died. His dream of not being able to breathe ended abruptly when he woke to discover that his tongue was stuck to the roof of his mouth. “Water, I need water, ” he thought as he forced the barnacles on his tongue to release their suction. To make matters worse, a freight train was running through his head. “Someone please – use a guillotine,” he murmured. Unfortunately, the effort of those few spoken words encouraged the percussion band in his brain to pick up their tempo.
Trying not to move much he stretched one arm out to pat down the nightstand with hope of locating something, anything liquid. No luck but he did manage to knock his cell phone down to the floor. He reminded himself that he would have to try and remember to look for it before he checked out. He closed his eyes again and tried to recall some of the calming techniques he had learned in a meditation class he took a few weeks ago. He only attended the class to try and impress the redhead at the gym. She wasn’t impressed. At that moment, he wasn’t impressed with himself either.
With great effort he forced himself to get out of bed. With fingers pressed deeply into his temples, he stumbled into the bathroom, put his lips under the faucet and turned on the water. After a few gulping draws, he proceeded to find the Excedrin in his half-thrown together bag of toiletries. His trembling fingers fumbled with the child-protective cap while his brain’s percussion section of tympanies was having a grand old time. He finally prevailed in opening the cap, shook out three tablets and spilled more on the floor. Swallowing the tablets and more water, he lumbered back to bed.
The harsh light that blasted through the window to the right of the bed added pain to his already pathetic misery. As he threw himself back on the bed, he thought “What the hell? Whose idea was it to hit one more club? The Kit Kat Klub? Was that the name of that joint? Jeesus!” He vaguely recalled the pink-themed room, the cutsie music and the waitresses sidling up to him purring, “Meow big boy – what’s your pleasure?” He groaned thinking how he had called out “Here kitty kitty!” when he wanted yet another drink. And what the hell was he thinking when he shelled out the bucks for those private dances. One for each of the boys. The dancers wore cat ears, jeweled collars and long furry tails as they purred “Pussy needs a stroke.” or “What’s the matter handsome, cat got your tongue?” With disgust he admitted to himself that they had played him like a mouse sitting on a chunk of swiss cheese.
Through squinted lids he tried to make out the movement he half sensed, half saw beyond the window. Lying on his stomach and shielding as much light as possible, he squinted through one foggy eye. He felt his surroundings begin to sway as the horizontal lines along the adjacent building wall appeared to dip to the left. Then he saw them. Black cats. Black cats marching. Black cats marching and singing “The cats go marching one by one. Hurrah, hurrah.” He felt the hot churning build deep within his stomach. He tried to sit up as the acid taste acid rose toward his mouth. Overwhelming dizziness knocked him flat on his back. He struggled to hold back the gags as he rolled to his side and leaned his head over to the floor. He closed his eyes and succumbed to the punishment his body doled out. “The cats go marching one by one. Hurrah, hurrah.”