Kill Your Darlings: From the Scrap Pile
Updated: Dec 26, 2020
William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate from Oxford, Mississippi, said 'in writing, you must 'kill all your darlings.' As much as I love Faulkner, I went against this. Sure, I scrapped over twenty chapters alone in Down from the Tree. This is part of being a good writer. Instead, I keep my 'darlings' tucked away. I do not kill them entirely. So, I decided to share. The following is a chapter originally intended for DFTT. It is Jessie, Silas's wife. Writing in her voice was an emotional challenge for me. Even though this did not end up in the final manuscript, I'm glad that I gave her a voice. It was good for me. For those of you who have made it to Book Three, here is Jessie in all her glory. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Jessie Gilman Putnam June 29, 1878 Water Village, NH
“Do you realize that it’s past midnight? How could you just come in here with no concerns? Do you not take my well-being into account, my safety, or the fact that I might be worried—” “—not now. Not tonight.” My husband walked past me without so much as a nod. His eyes—red and sunken into his head—indicated no sign of life. Any remaining light was gone. Clearly, something awful had happened. In spite of the obvious, it was not my nature to give in. Perhaps, it was his guilt. Surely he was consumed with it. “Don’t think that I don’t know how you look at that harlot, that morally corrupt woman who prances around day and night trying to get your attention. If only she knew how horrid she looked, how dreadfully drab and pitiful.” “I said, not now,” he said. “What’s the matter? Did she choose another vile creature over you? Can you not accept that she finally took up with someone in her own station in life—some filthy man with no class? After all, you are a married man.” I couldn’t help but gloat at the thought of her with one of the gruesome men in residence at the County Farm. Miss Noyes told me that she thought that Abigail had taken up with at least one of the new men. She assured me that Abigail was, indeed, a whore, and not to worry my pretty head about it. Silas wandered into the parlor and grabbed a jug of whiskey. His hands shook when he popped the cork and, without bothering to use a glass, took a swig. Other than the time he finally opened that wretched cigar box, he never drank like that— the way his father and other despicable drunks did. I suppose I’d never know the content of the letters that he threw in the fire. I was probably better off not knowing since I could not do a thing to repair his broken past. “Why are you drinking like that? What is wrong with you?” I paced the room, trying to decide if I should snatch away the jug or just go on to bed. He took another drink. The whiskey dribbled down his chin as he gagged. He wasn’t accustomed to it. He was more of a mild man who didn’t partake in drinking at all. I wouldn’t consider him weak, but I wouldn’t consider him strong either. How pathetic he looked. “I do hope that you aren’t following in your father’s footsteps, God rest his soul,” I said. “What do you know about my father or anything for that matter?” Silas asked, finally looking at me. Of course, at the time, I could not sort out if his loathing was intended for me or the memory of his father. I convinced myself that it was regarding his father. I could not imagine anyone feeling anything but adoration for me. Although, I did love him, sometimes I worried that he married me for the stature and financial stability of my father. Whenever that thought occurred to me, I quickly dismissed it. It did, however, seem to plague me most at night. That was when I tended to worry about things. Perhaps, it was excessive worrying that prevented me from conceiving a child. “I know a great deal about your father. It was no secret that he was a drunk and that you and your mother did all that you could to look after him and keep him out of trouble,” I said. “Who do you think you are? Makin’ assumptions about my family. It ain’t your business. You know nothin’. The only thing that you know about is whether or not a green bonnet matches your dress or how no one lives up to your standards.” He took another swig and jumped to his feet. “How dare you speak to me that way. I am not some lowly pauper. I demand an apology!” I raised my voice louder than what was necessary or ladylike, but he tested me. He made me do it. “You wouldn’t know a thing about paupers. They have more than what you could ever possibly have.” He wiped his mouth on his shirtsleeve. “And what would that be?” I asked calmly in spite of the rage tearing through me. “They have hearts. They have souls. You’re empty. All you have is a pretty face and things. Things don’t have any meanin’ if you’re a cold, wretched bitch.” I found myself slappin’ him hard across the cheek. In fact, I slapped him so hard, the red imprint of my hand quickly emerged. But, he simply stood there looking at me with a dead stare. “I will not apologize. I’m sick to death of you,” he said and turned towards the window. I found myself dashing across the room and grabbing his shirt from behind. He stood firm. I was astonished at my own strength and anger as I tore his shirt right off of his back. He did not move. He did not respond to me in any way. The tears just fell from his eyes. Something horrible had happened, too horrible for him to speak of. I tried to place his shirt back on his shoulder. “Silas, what has happened to make you so distraught?” He continued to drink his whiskey and cry as if I was not in the same room. I wanted to shake the words from his mouth. How dare he leave me in suspense at such an awful hour? I needed to get my sleep or I would end up with dark circles under my eyes—unbecoming of a woman such as myself. I did have standards and looking ragged was not acceptable. “There it is. Should you decide to speak of what tragedy has befallen you, it will now have to wait until morning. I do not have time for such behavior at this hour,” I said and turned to go upstairs. I hesitated at the bottom step, half hoping that he would call after me, but his crying intensified and he began to scream in agony. I dreaded thinking that if he carried on so, I would never get to sleep. ~ An excerpt from the scrap pile.