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Anger is a hot topic these days, despite attempts to deny it. Is it better to bury anger or let it fly? Perhaps the answer resides in the choices we make. We can choose to let anger ignite action if we retain dignity and control, or we can choose to let our anger subside to accept a peaceful resolution.
The world seems to be spinning out of balance between denial and reaction in response to issues that anger us. It’s a tall order to ask writers to stick a pen into the inkwell of unresolved anger issues, but writers with quills took to the task.
The following are in response to July 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the emotion of anger.
Simmering Anger by Charli Mills (from Miracle of Ducks)
“Just use your apron, Babe.”
Danni turned on high heels and glared at Ike from across the kitchen. “Apron? Use my apron? This is a fifty-four dollar handcrafted pinafore—one of a kind. I’m not going to wipe gooey dough all over my apron.” Her heels clicked as she walked to the sink.
“Then why cook in it?”
“Here’s an idea. Since you have Iraq figured out—you cook!” She untied her apron, wanting to throw it, but held back. Instead, she kicked off each shoe, hoping one would nail Ike between the eyes. They skittered across the floor.
New Anger, Old Scars by Anne Goodwin
Soggy footprints trailed me upstairs. I considered grabbing a yellow hazard sign from the cleaners’ cupboard, except that the wet floor wasn’t the danger, but me. I needed a door to slam behind me, but this one had a top closer that eased it sedately into the frame. I needed hail pelting the window, but sun streamed through the glass. I needed to kick my bike over, but space was tight and it too heavy, earning myself an aching toe. I pushed my fingers under my sleeve to caress the old scars on my forearm.
Anger for Carrot Ranch by Sharmishtha Basu
“Anger issue? I have anger issue!!!!” she grumbled within, “Yeah sure I do, but from where did all that anger came? Where is that shy teenager who could not speak back when abused by her own siblings brazenly? I buried her deep inside ribcage. I could not become cunning, manipulative so I covered my softness with fake anger, then with time that became real… Sometimes I was so angry that I scared myself. Then I realized that if I don’t change myself I will destroy my life, I changed within but kept the façade, it keeps predators at bay!
Attacked by Dnagai
Connecting with the swinging bag in a satisfying thump, she remembered ire in his eyes as he approached her car. Repositioning herself, she threw another punch. Thump. He had grabbed her arm and pulled her out before she could lock the doors. Left. Right. Thump. Thump. “What ifs” haunted her. She swung around. Power traveled from her hips up through her gloved fist. Thump. If it weren’t for the heroes who tackled him? She missed a step, then recovered. Thump. Yes, he was arrested. Thump. Yet, she didn’t feel safe and she was angry. Thump. Thump. Thump.
Disintegration by Sarah Brentyn
The mortals’ reverence faded.
They grew distracted and self-absorbed, no longer worshiping The Goddess.
Her temple fell into ruin. Crumbled bits of once-sacred stone became debris scattered among tall grass. Moss and ivy clung to marble.
She watched this disintegration as it mirrored that of civilization.
Humanity split apart like a plank of weathered wood, discarding kindness and embracing hate.
She felt no pity or sorrow but, instead, disappointment and disgust. They were a plague.
Silent many years, The Goddess waited, fury rising, until she stood and filled the heavens with her rage, unleashing a storm to end them.
A Different Reflection (with an addition) by Jules Paige
(Choka/ Shadorma (plus)
Push, I’ll push you back
So do expect my attack
That is what I thought –
If to your thinking, I bought
What game do you play
Taking my sunshine away
so many years; tears
As I hid behind my fears
Your hand in a fist
Your attitude in a mist…
All those falsely tied ribbons
Of memory fade
The present is my best gift
Even without you
(We want to live without anger.
Yet anger is but one fuel for justice.
How can justice be portrayed as
a blind woman? I don’t know.)
Gone Fishing by Pete Fanning
Larry sent his anger up with the flag—a duty he would gladly relinquish upon retirement. In accordance to code, he raised it full—to the finial—where a flag belonged in a normal world. Larry took a breath, thinking how he was through with flag poles and ready for fishing poles.
He regarded the stars and stripes fluttering in the morning breeze. A quick prayer and he slid the flag down to half-staff, where it flew four days last week. Twelve out of the past thirty days. To where the new guy might end up leaving it altogether.
Opportunity by Larry LaForge
Ed felt his blood pressure rising. Edna watched, wondering if her husband would remember.
They worked on it daily. Edna’s constant reminders to pause and take a deep breath would now be put to the test.
Ed forced a smile that Edna knew wasn’t real. As he approached the scraggly kid with the blaring boombox, Ed repeated the words to himself. Opportunity. Opportunity. Every aggravation is an opportunity.
Edna held her breath. Ed faced the kid.
“Great day to be at the beach,” Ed said with calm affection.
“Yessir,” the kid replied while turning down the volume.
Emotion by Ann Edall-Robson
“Why don’t you yell at me? You know you want to.”
It had been the second time in a month that he had not come home before curfew. He worried about his son and what he was up to, but yelling wasn’t the answer. It only made them both anxious and sour.
He watched his boy from across the table. He didn’t have to yell if the boy thought he should. He already knew he was wrong.
Raising his voice did nothing for both of them. It was easier to keep his counsel. The affect had the same outcome.
Faux Pas by Geoff Le Pard
Mary jumped at the sound of broken china followed by incoherent rage. Moments later her husband appeared.
Mary sighed. ‘What’s happened?’ Her mother-in-law was staying and things hadn’t gone well.
‘She’s not used to spicy food, right? Well, it seems last night’s curry caused a bit of an upset stomach.’ Paul paused.
Mary waited, knowing there was more.
‘She had a slight accident and was worried that you might find out and think badly of her. I told her not to be so silly.’
‘What exactly did you say? I’m guessing you’re paraphrasing.’
‘I said ‘shit happens’.’
Lessons from Mom by C. Jai Ferry
Martha snatched the greasy garlic bread from the plate. “No chubby cheeks for you.” She spooned carrots onto the five-year-old’s plate.
Her granddaughter’s face burned with humiliation. Let her scream and cry. Martha wasn’t afraid of a scene. She was terrified the girl would end up fat and alone, like her grandmother.
Martha’s mother had been more concerned about clean plates. There are children starving in Africa. If she’d really cared, she wouldn’t have sentenced her daughter to life in a size 24 prison.
Martha opened her mouth and shoved the garlic bread in, hoping she’d choke on it.
Anger on the Prairie by Charli Mills (from Rock Creek)
Hickok glared hard as steel barrels, yet his pistols remained hung at each hip. He said nothing as Nancy Jane screamed a litany of obscenities not even a wagon teamster would recognize. Cobb bellowed as loudly, calling for justice to be served. The old man in ropes looked resigned to his punishment.
“Stop him,” Sarah pleaded.
“Not my place,” said Hickok.
“You know it’s wrong. Cobb’s angry at Nancy Jane. He’ll treat her father harshly.”
Hickok flexed his hands, then relaxed. Except for his eyes. He watched, knowing the old man thieved. He deserved the punishment; not the anger.
In America, mangoes taste like cucumbers. And I’m an angry American with my full frowny-face exposed for all the world to see. Many tell me to cover up my anger. “Don’t be angry,” or “You can’t let it anger you.” From where I’m sitting, I can see things are not just in my nation. Skin color, uniforms, politics, bathrooms, mass shootings — I can’t keep up with the toilet paper and bullets; the NPR commentary and social media trends. I’m even following Brexit and then a truck in France kills Bastille Day revelers.
Has the world gone mad?
Or do we have an unchecked anger issue among humanity? When I can’t understand what is happening or what is another person’s experience, I look for commonality. What have I experienced that makes it something I can relate to? I can easily speak to my own anger and I think it holds a clue. Anger is often denied, misdirected and disconnected. We don’t embrace our anger.
We live in a time of extremes. At any given moment, around the world, we can access media. Even homeless in the Inland Pacific Northwest, I wander with a cell phone. Digital screens are everywhere and news is 24/7. One news program I listened to (because I also have a radio in my car) explained how the world was “out there” but now we live it. Yet in this time of open communication, we seem to do less communicating.
One extreme is that of disparity. We might all have cell phones (in the US there is even a government program to give struggling low income Americans free cell phones), but not homes. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty estimates that 3.5 million Americans are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. It’s further estimated that up to 600,000 veterans a night go homeless. Rural homelessness is defined by living in a car or camper. Welcome to my summer of homelessness; a temporary condition, according to the experts. And the source of my anger.
I’m angry because I had a home and home-office. My rent ratio was high in accordance to my income as a writer, but I never missed my rent payment. Nor did I damage the property or conduct illegal activity. Instead, I blogged about my home, weeded and gardened, took care of the resident cat, and welcomed several writers to stay. I’m angry that it currently sits vacant because the owners think it will sell better that way. I’m angry because the property managers have not paid back our security deposit. I’m angry because of the disparity between what is affordable in a rural community and what is available. I’m angry that despite the number or organizations that accept government funding, there is a lack of practical help. I’m angry over how dehumanizing the experience is and the assumptions people make, the ignorant blame.
What surprises me is the number of people who attempt to diffuse my anger. Yeah, I get it — I don’t like listening to my bellyaching either, and I’d rather be writing about magnificent blue herons and cotton-candy sunsets, about history and interesting characters. But my circumstances call for outrage. What has happened to me has happened to others. In fact, rural homelessness is called a silent epidemic. Yet, according to a 2009 National Coalition for the Homeless, the US government has invested 1.5 billion dollars to reduce homelessness. These programs are known to poorly serve rural communities and overlook front-end and support services needs.
And that’s been my experience. We are now officially counted among the veteran homeless and our camper was deemed uninhabitable. But no one from the service organizations or veterans groups helped us. None advocated for us to our landlord. Imagine the impact of a letter from an official; it might have made the owners rethink giving us the boot. There is no consequence to landlords contributing to rural homelessness. There is no incentive for property managers to offer rents that match rural wages. There is no re-education for veterans unless they fit some unlikely profile. I’m an angry homeless American writer married to an under-served disabled homeless vet.
So what the blazes does my anger have to do with my nation? First of all, I understand the frustration of extremes and disparity. I don’t crave to be wealthy; I just want what most people do — a comfortable, stable and happy home and satisfying work. I went to college to be a writer, I enjoy writing, yet I’m angry that writers are under paid and under valued. Many in my nation have experienced these same disparities — jobs in urban areas that are predominately black do not pay the same as jobs elsewhere. A good friend of mine who is a woman of color and highly educated explained to me how black business professionals are often sought from other regions to fill corporate equality quotas while ignoring the minorities in their area to keep them from rising beyond their circumstances.
And for black America, these are circumstances that have been long-suffering. Consider authority. First, Africans were enslaved and under the authority of slave trade. Then under the authority of slave owners. Then under the authority of Jim Crow laws. And under the authority of laws and those who apply them. I’m not a person of color, but if my homeless experience is anything like the battle for civil rights among black Americans, I understand the anger. Unlike those experiencing homelessness, the black communities across America are coming together in their anger to protest what they have experienced.
Yet, I have many police officers in my circle of family and friends. The men and women I know are good citizens and uphold the laws, often under stressful circumstances. The police see a different side of society. They see what is broken, abused and drugged. If soldiers experience PTSD, why not police officers? I know what undiagnosed PTSD can look like and what if we are ignoring an entire profession and denying them help because we don’t want to admit that being a police officer is stressful? I worry for my family and friends who serve their communities. But I don’t feel angry over their situation as a whole.
There is a disparity between between cops and blacks. As to answers, I don’t have any, but I can understand the anger on one side and the duty on the other. And in the midst of this mess, toss in the arguments for or against who uses which bathroom and the question of how are we incubating mass shooters. In between are a myriad of other injustices big and small. Teachers chastise parents to suck it up and buy their kids all those school supplies and parents belittle the profession of teachers. Breast-feeding mothers feud with bottle-feeding mothers. Skinny women dis fat women, and no one understands the different disorders that others have. We deny anger yet we seem to be angry about petty issues.
Anger is polarizing us.
It is healthy to describe and attribute one’s anger. It’s not healthy to stay there, but it does need validation to move on. When we deny our own anger or that of another, we tend to misdirect the emotion. It doesn’t just go away. Snark is often anger coming out sideways to mask the real issue. If you can’t claim your anger, you can’t find a solution. Taking an us-versus-them stance is another way to mask anger. The problem with all this denied and misdirected anger is that it’s also superficial. We don’t go deep; we stay shallow.
You might be wondering why I’m angry that mangoes in America taste like cucumbers. I’m not. It was something I heard on NPR, and the person who said it wasn’t angry either. My point is disconnection. Americans seem to claim anger not really their own. Instead of looking within for reflection and understanding, Americans seems to be looking outside and expressing disconnected anger. I can understand my friend, the woman I mentioned earlier, expressing anger over what is happening in her black community. I don’t understand another friend who is expressing anger in regards to something she hasn’t experienced and yet she scolds me not be angry over my current circumstances.
And who knows what deep-seated anger or other emotions drive the actions of mass shooters or assassins or truck drivers who could stomach running over humans.
Writers, we need you more than ever! We need you to connect emotion to intellect, to express the experiences of one group to be understood by another. And literature has a unique way of doing so without polarization or sermonizing. Fiction has a place in making the world see where it has gone mad. One reader at a time until we all start thinking critically; allowing emotions to be acknowledged and processed; feeling empathy for the other; humanizing our human experiences.
My heart breaks for those experiencing the pain of lost loved ones to violence. May our anger or denial of it never escalate to such human tragedy.
July 13, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the emotion of anger. You can express it without naming it, or write a story about it. Challenge yourself to think about how we accept or deny anger. Is there a warning? Is there a resolution? You can write humorously, seriously or ironically about anger.
Respond by July 19, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
I’ll post my flash in the comments. We are headed back to Spokane tomorrow for a VA appointment and an interview at a local college. My greatest appreciation for those who have helped me and Todd in our season of homelessness. If you want to help us with repairs to our trailer and the installation of a desk and office chair you can donate, but please don’t feel you need to. Carrot Ranch is for you, the writers. We are managing and have been helped to make it this far. I might be angry, but I’m also grateful to those of you who show up to write, read and discuss here.