This post is based upon the latest prompt for the Red Dress Club.

Imagine you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to tell them about yourself.
Instead of reciting a laundry list of what you do or where you’re from, please give us a scene from your life that best illustrates your true self.

This is an exercise in showing, not telling. You need to show us why this particular moment defines you, or why you want someone to know this truth about you. Be descriptive without bogging us down in extraneous details.


Word limit is 600. This is to help you self-edit and to make it easier for us to read you.


Link up is Tuesday, March 8th.

August in Los Angeles is hot. Not as hot as September but maybe that is perception. The weather on this particular day is somewhat nondescript, endless blue skies that should be on a post card.

The heat of the day is not yet upon those who have chosen to spend their time outside. However when you are wearing a black suit and using a shovel the distinction between 100 and 85 is minimal.

You tend not to notice the sweat that is pouring down your cheeks nor does anyone else. And even if they did they would assume that the salt streaks are from tears and not from sweat. But they don’t notice those things because a hundred broken hearts don’t pay attention to such things.

Mothers of lost children are too busy wandering through their own private hell. Grown men sob on the shoulders of their mothers as they once did decades before, but the moms don’t have a bandage that will fix this wound.

Under other circumstances these men would tower over their mothers but not today. They are like the lost boys of Peter Pan.

Those who shovel do so without rest. Sometimes mothers, wives, friends and girlfriends come over and encourage them to rest but they shake their heads and or wave them off.

They are saying goodbye to someone they cared for deeply and in the process trying to ease the pain of parents who are experiencing the sort of unnatural loss no one should.

A short time before the digging they were all assembled in a room. Several of them stood before the crowd and shared thoughts and stories. Promises were made and prayers uttered.

One man stood apart from the crowd. At times he joined them but often he wandered to the side and stood in silence. You didn’t have to see his face to know that he was lost in thought. Had you made eye contact with him you would have seen that he was seeing everything that happened around him, but choosing not to be a part of it.

It doesn’t matter whether you are in good shape or not, shoveling is hard work. There is a reason why prisoners on chain gangs are given such work as a task. Under the blazing sun it drains more than just fluid from you. But when you add in the emotional content of the day it does more.

Eventually they would be told it was enough and they would be asked to lay down their shovels. One of them would throw one last shovelful of dirt upon the grave. He would look defiantly at the person who asked them to stop and then he would drop his tool and walk away.

He would turn in a circle and look around, feeling like time stood still. In his head he would hear music:

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden slumbers fill your eyes
Smiles awake you when you rise
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Once there was a way to get back homeward
Once there was a way to get back home
Sleep pretty darling do not cry
And I will sing a lullaby

Golden Slumbers- The Beatles

One more silent goodbye and a promise to suck the life out of life would be made and then he would head home to take a long shower and sort through all that had happened. As he walked he wondered how long it would take before he would find the way to get back home.

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  1. Kris March 26, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Well, then.

    You know how to write memoir just fine.

    This is lovely.

  2. Tracy March 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm

    This left me speechless…but I didn’t want to not comment. So there you have it!

  3. Renee March 9, 2011 at 6:58 am

    “promise to suck the life out of life ”
    I like that. A final defiant stand against the inevitable.

  4. 30ish Mama March 8, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    This may sound horrible, but it is a compliment: after reading this piece I feel like there is an oppressive weight on my chest.

  5. Cheryl March 8, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Jack, there was some really lovely and powerful imagery in here.

    My concrit would be: the perspective changes, and I’m bad with the technical names, but you use “you” and then you switch to strictly observant. It’s tough to connect with anyone because I can’t figure out which character is you – and so it’s tough to feel. If that makes sense. Especially for memoir. We need to know who the narrator is and this wasn’t consistent throughout. Just my 2 cents! 😉

  6. Leighann March 8, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    I stared at the screen forever after reading this.
    Your writing is phenomenal.
    And heartbreaking.
    And transforming.

  7. Mad Woman behind the Blog March 8, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    Just going to ramble here: at first look I felt robbed, I didn’t know anything more about the observant man than I did at the beginning and then it hit me. Oh, he’s had the life sucked out of him by the death, and numbed…
    Damn, you’re good. You’re real good.

    • Jack March 8, 2011 at 11:52 pm

      Rambling works for me, I do quite a bit of it. After ‘D’ died I had trouble finishing books. It is kind of silly, but I just couldn’t finish a few. It wasn’t lack of interest either.

  8. Denelle March 8, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Very poignant and well written.. the defiant strength of those in pain is something we can all relate to.

  9. Deus Ex Machina March 8, 2011 at 9:29 am

    So surreal, painting this picture with words, a picture that punches you in the gut, reminds you that humanity is an experience, not just a circumstance. I’m sweating with you.

  10. Annie March 8, 2011 at 7:48 am

    What talent you have with words. Such a gut wrenching experience, you made it so real for me, my heart is sad 🙁

  11. Crayon Wrangler March 8, 2011 at 7:09 am

    Holy cow. Now THIS is writing. Perfection.

    • Jack March 8, 2011 at 11:48 pm

      When something touches you deeply it pushes you to come up with words to express what you feel. This did that, a little.

      • Frelle March 9, 2011 at 3:02 pm

        wow. well done. i could come up with the same words others did about heartwrenching… but I really appreciate hearing your inner reflections, what your eyes saw, what your heart saw. How it affected you.

        Thanks for your comments on my blog. I’m learning a lot about writing by reading you.

  12. Jessica March 8, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Oh so perfectly written. Beautiful, made my heart ache.

  13. Tonya March 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Hard hitting and heart breaking.

    Beautiful lyrics to include.

  14. Galit Breen March 7, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Beautiful and heart-wrenching; perfectly written.

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