Writing about writing

Posts tagged ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’

My serial-killing teacher story

Before I say anything, I want to say that I have not given up on my serial-killing teacher story.  I have not worked on it for a long time, though.

Anyway….a week or so ago, a couple of friends and I were chatting about blog entries and my serial-killing teacher story came up.  As we were talking, I found myself laughing my gut out as I talked about some of the killings in the story and just how funny the story is, in general.  They asked me why I haven’t finished it if I enjoyed writing it so much–and because they said they would actually read it.

I had no real answer for them beyond the simple fact that I just haven’t gone back to it since I wrote the original draft.  It needs a lot of cleaning up; I did a lot of things in the story just because I needed the word count for NaNoWriMo and because some friends wanted me to include them in my story.  But it shouldn’t be too terribly complex to revise it because the essence of the story is there and it’s actually pretty good, if I do say so myself.  Of the handful of people of have read at least parts of it, they have also agreed that it’s good.

I know that it’s at least funny even if it isn’t any good!

Even if I never publish the story, i do think that it is important for me to finish the story.  I honestly and truly did have a lot of fun writing it and I continue to have a lot of fun talking about it.  Serial killing is NOT a funny topic, but if ARSENIC AND OLD LACE can make it comedic, I don’t see why I can’t give it a shot!

So my point here is that I am going to go back and work on it this summer and see what happens with it.  I think it’s important for all of us to finish something we start–that we enjoy working on!!

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Some thoughts….not part of the story

While this probably isn’t important to you, I still feel a need to share.  First of all, you are more than welcome to come to my office and check under my desk for bodies.  I promise you that there aren’t any!  My floor is concrete with carpet covering it.  I couldn’t dig a hole under there without ripping up more than it’s worth.

Secondly, I am NOT nor have I ever been a pychopath or sociopath.  I know you’re already thinking that only a true psycho/sociopath would say such a thing, but it’s true.  I could never hurt someone as is described in this story…..and live with the consequences.  Besides, anyone who knows me knows that I can’t keep even a little secret which means that I would end up telling people what I was doing.  So no, the teacher in the story is NOT me, but yes, the teacher in the story is based on me and some of the details outside of the killing are actually based on real life.  Almost all of the victims are based on real students who have been in my classes.  Many of them know that they are victims in my story and have laughed with me over their sections.  (Maybe they laughed out of fear; I don’t know…..)

I wrote this story for many reasons, the first of which is that I simply thought it would be funny.  I’d been dealing with a lot of depression in my life at the time I sat down to write it and I needed to laugh.  I realize that much of the story is totally unrealistic and could never possibly happen, but that is the point.  It is not meant to be realistic.  It is not like Dexter where everything in that story really and truly COULD happen and Dexter really and truly COULD get away with serial killing for years at a time.   Besides, that show is not in the slightest funny.  There are a few comical moments, but only because the humor is so twisted.  I wrote Murder Well Out with the full intention of writing it just to be funny and to have fun with it.

One of my very favorite movies is Arsenic and Old Lace.  Yes, that is exactly where I got the idea for the poison in my story from.  I love that there are these two very sweet older ladies who are killing men because the men are all alone in the world–and Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha feel that they are doing these men a service by killing them!  It’s so incredibly crazy, but it works.  I see the teacher in my story as an “Aunt Abby/Aunt Martha” type who is someone NO ONE would believe could ever be a serial killer because she’s just so well liked (loved) by her students and co-workers.

So, yes.  Any connection that you recognize back to Arsenic and Old Lace is very much intended by me, and that includes the title.  Although, I have to admit to a bit of a faux pas there.  I’ve watched AOL more times than I can count (I’ve shown it for a good five or six years, every semester in my literature classes) and every single time we watched it, when Mortimer is asking Aunt Abby where his notes are, he tells her about a murder mystery he saw at the theater called Murder Well Out–well, that’s what I THOUGHT he said.  Then I took the time to read the play and realized that I had misheard Mortimer all these years; he actually says Murder Will Out!  But I like my misunderstanding title, so that’s why my title is what it is!

I am also a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe.  I will read anything that has his name attached to it.  I am fascinated by his style of writing.  Anything you read in my story that makes you think of Poe is very intentional on my part.  I am not trying to steal from Poe in any way.  Anyone who has read Poe’s works knows them well enough to know the references to his stories that I use in mine.  I hope that my story honors Poe, but at the same time, demonstrates my own writing style.

Finally, I wrote this story back in November 2012 for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where the writer is challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days–no revisions, just writing for a month to get a good draft written.  As I am posting the chapters to this blog, I am doing A VERY LITTLE bit of revision within each individual chapter.  I know that there are inconsistencies and major changes that need to be made, but at this time, I am simply having fun sharing the original story as it was written (for the most part) with you.  When/if I am ever able to publish my story, the inconsistencies, etc. will be corrected, so I hope you’ll stay with me through to publication!!!

Feel free to share thoughts.  Just remember to couch your negative comments in a positive way!!!!  🙂

And so it begins

“Bill!” Mrs. Walsky actually jumps up out of her chair and rushes over to me! And, unbelievably, she attempts to hug me even with her handcuffs on!
I stand immobile as she manages an awkward, yet effective hug.
“It’s so great to see you! I remember when you were in my class,” she gushes as she sits back down in her chair, scooting it as close to the table as she can get, then folding her handcuffed hands on the table in front of her.
As I sit in my chair across from her, even with the table between us, I notice that her feet don’t touch the floor. She’s propped them on the legs of the table.
“You sat on the front row with another police-buddy. You two would wear your uniforms to class and distract me from my teaching! I never could concentrate when you two were in the room, but it was especially awful for me when you came in your police uniforms!”
Her smile is actually genuine. I find myself smiling back at her. I can’t help it.
“And I was pregnant with my son Jared that semester. Do you remember?” Her smile is sweet and wistful.
“I do, Mrs. Walsky,” I can’t help smiling back as I respond to her. I find myself leaning towards her across the table. “And how is your son doing? He must be, what? Eleven? Twelve, by now?”
“Yes, he’s eleven. He’s in sixth grade and doing well. I’m so proud of him. He’s an avid reader, not as much as his Momma, of course, but at least he loves to read. He’s so smart. He is even thinking about attending the school’s early college high school program in a few years. He wants to be a counselor when he grows up.”
“I’ll bet he’ll be a great one,” I reply.
“What about you? If I remember correctly, you’re married with at least one young one, too?”
“Yes, ma’am. My wife and I are still going strong and doing quite well. We’ve added two more to our family, so now I have three. The oldest is in eighth grade; he plays football. My middle child is in fifth grade; she’s a reader, too. And my youngest is just in kindergarten this year; he is struggling. My wife thinks it’s because he’s worried about me. We let him watch one of those cop dramas on tv and a policeman died during the episode we watched. If I had known beforehand, I never would have let him watch it.”
“So now your son thinks that Daddy is going to die on the job. Oh, the poor, sweet boy. You must try to spend a lot of extra time with him to reassure him?”
“I do. But it only makes him more clingy to me rather than helping the situation. He grabs my leg each morning and won’t let go. My wife and I have to pry him off me so I can leave. Lately, we’ve gotten so I leave before the kids are even up in the morning just so we don’t have to deal with it.”
She reached her hand across the table to put it on top of both of mine. Her eyes spoke more than any words she could have said. We sat and looked at each other for a few moments, neither one of us saying anything.
I cleared my throat and leaned back in my chair, letting the legs come up off the floor. “Mrs. Walsky, it’s time to get down to business.” The sound of the chair hitting the floor resonates through the room, sounding louder than normal. “I’m going to turn on the recorder so that everything from here on will be recorded. OK?”
“Ok,” she smiles at me.
Really?!
I click on the recorder while she gets a little more comfortable in her seat. She’s still smiling at me.
I wait.
She doesn’t say anything.
I turn off the recorder.
“Is everything ok, Mrs. Walsky?”
“Of course. Why wouldn’t it be?”
Her smile continues to be genuine. She makes me wonder why we’re in an interrogation room. I have to close my eyes and think about the bodies we had been pulling out from the tunnel under her desk in her office. I have to think about the vast number already taken out and the fact that they are still there recovering only God knows how many bodies all total.
“Are you ready then?”
“I was ready before.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“You didn’t ask me anything.”
“Oh.” My response falls flat in the hollow room. I guess I should have known I’d need to start the ball rolling. I just didn’t know how to begin. How does one go about asking his favorite teacher why and how she killed an unknown number of former students? I take a deep breath and try again. “Ok. I’m going to start the recorder again and this time I’ll ask a question and you can begin from there. Does that work for you?”
“Whatever floats your boat,” she spreads her hands as far apart as they’ll go across the table and then rests them cupped together under her chin.
Her smile never wavers.
I am unnerved, but I hit the recorder and begin anyway.
“Will you state your name and occupation, please?”
“Mrs. Hannah Walsky, English Instructor, Mountaintop Community College in western North Carolina.”
“How long have you been teaching there?”
“Twelve years. I started the fall of 2000.”
“Have you been a full time instructor all twelve years?”
“No. I became a full time instructor October 2004.”
“When did you move in to the office you currently occupy?”
“I moved in to that office, I think, between the summer and fall semesters of 2005. I’m not exactly sure, though. It might have been 2006, but it was some time during those two years.”
“What exactly do you teach as an English instructor?”
“If it has as its abbreviation ENG, I can teach it. I prefer the literature classes and avoid the business-style writing classes as well as argument-based classes if at all possible. For the most part, I have taught mostly both freshman English classes and upper level British Literature.”
“Do you like your job?”
Amazingly, her smile became even larger.
“I love my job. Every day I not only get to teach, I get to teach my two favorite subjects: reading and writing! What’s not to love? I get to write, I get to read, and I get to talk about both!”
I can’t help smiling back at her.
“Have you always wanted to be an English teacher?”
“Always. Even before I started school. As a little girl I played school in the bathroom at home. The toilet was the teacher’s desk. The bathtub was the principal’s office. And the empty space in the room was where my students had their desks. I had names for all twenty-five students—or however many I happened to have at that time. And don’t forget that the toilet paper acted as the paper for their assignments! I’d pass out sheets of it, take it back up, and grade it! Before I’d use it for real, of course!”
I honestly can’t stop myself laughing along with her. Even as I find myself wondering what in the world I was doing laughing with her, I can’t help noticing that her laughter comes from deep within; it’s genuine.
“So what brought you to MTCC?”
“My husband and I moved to the mountains about fifteen years ago so he could teach at the local high school. I had tried teaching at the high school level and, while I liked it well enough, I felt that I was better suited to teach at the college level. So as soon as we were settled and he was off to work, I started putting in applications at all the local community colleges. We live in an area where I can be at the four different local community colleges within thirty minutes no matter which direction. I knew from the beginning I wanted to be at MTCC, though.”
“Why?”
“It had the best reputation, first of all. Secondly, it’s the only one even close to a large book store!”
Again, her infectious laugh comes from deep within.
Before I can ask her anything else, she throws a question at me. “What are you reading now, Bill?”
“I, uh, um, well, Mrs. Walsky, actually, I’m reading The Hunger Games.”
“Really? What made you decide to read that?”
“My oldest wanted to read it. A couple of the guys have been talking about it, so I wasn’t so sure I wanted him to be reading a book like that. But rather than tell him he couldn’t read it, I decided to read it with him.”
“That’s wonderful!” she gushed.
“We’re both enjoying it. More than enjoying the book, though, I think we’re both enjoying the reading time together.”
“So you are actually reading the book together,” she encouraged.
“Yeah. We sit on our front porch swing each night after supper and read. Sometimes we read aloud to each other, but mostly he reads his book, I read mine, and as we finish a chapter, we’ll talk about what we read.”
“What does your son think of the story?”
“He’s pretty shocked by what’s happening in the story, but he seems to like it.”
“And you?”
“To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe someone would even think up a story like this, let alone write it. But I am enjoying the time with my son and we have had some great conversations, so whether I like the book or not, we’re going to keep reading.”
“I’m so glad!”
Wow. Didn’t we call her “Pollyanna” behind her back at school? I wondered if that was still her nickname across campus.
I cleared my throat and made a sweeping gesture across the table, again. “Mrs. Walsky, we need to get back to why we’re here.”
“Oh, yes,” her smile faded slightly but not completely. “What would you like to know next?”
“I guess we’d better go back to the beginning.”
“When I started at MTCC, you mean?”
“Is that when the killings first began?”
At the word “killings,” she jerked back as if I’d slapped her and her smile finally faded and turned to a full scowl.
“No.”
“Then by “beginning,” I mean we need to go back to the first victim. I need you to tell me how it all began. Can you do that?”
She took a deep breath, looked down, and slowly nodded her head.
I waited.

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