i said i can’t do it

A child several houses away, shouting, “I said I can’t do it! I said I can’t do it! I said I can’t do it!” over & over again. At first it was part of a game with another child, with a pause for laughter between each iteration. Then the other child dropped out & it took on values & momentum of its own, on & on, real meaning, real confusion & rage. After two or three minutes I realised it wasn’t even her own rage, any more than the sentence itself. It was the rage of some significant adult, overheard in god knows what circumstances.

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14 Comments

Filed under the horror

14 responses to “i said i can’t do it

  1. Perspicacious, that children don’t always own their own rage.

  2. Ina Grix

    As if we do.
    (Own our own rage.)

    Wonderful scene, uzwi!!! I will end up running it over people’s conversations all day, watch how it changes everything.

  3. uzwi

    Hi Ina Grix. I am still chilled by it & the depth-of-field implied. There’s a short story in it, incredibly simple of structure, that I simply don’t want to write.

  4. Simon

    Uh oh. What do my children repeat? The notion that they just dont mimic but somehow enact . . .

    That the rehearsal of words enables or perhaps even creates a feeling.

  5. Simon

    Our emotions as the cuckoo, making our children something else.

  6. Brendan

    Best kind of story, Mike.

  7. uzwi

    Simon: what startled me was the idea of depth-of-field–that the reiteration of the loaded phrase was really only the key to all the layers underneath. The content of the phrase wasn’t important as a direct connection to whatever adult incident might be being fragmentarily replayed, but as an indirect objective correlative for the entire suite of relationships from which the phrase emerged.

    Brendan: true. But makes me no less glum.

  8. Leonora Piper

    I still don’t know if I can’t or can. I don’t even know if I haven’t.

  9. Ina Grix

    “Depth-of-field”, yes, that’s the most striking part. You wouldn’t expect a child to have access to what is being expressed there. But holographic fields or what not, the whole suit of luggage is tied to the rubber duck the child is dragging on that string.

    I hope you write it some day!
    Then go to a chiropractor and get re-cracked or something.

  10. ‘Simon: what startled me was the idea of depth-of-field–that the reiteration of the loaded phrase was really only the key to all the layers underneath.’

    This is always true – how words mean – and key to good writing. The problem is how to effect layering without telling the reader you’re doing so.

  11. Terrifying mimicry and echo –and I keep wondering about the desperation of the scene that so imprinted itself on the child. Is that echo all that will remain?

    This reminded me too of Elizabeth Bishop’s poem In the Waiting Room where the child hears Aunt Consuelo’s scream in the dentist’s surgery and internalises it so mysteriously.

    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15211and

  12. uzwi

    Hi louisey. That page seems to be broken. But it’s here– http://tinyurl.com/borzgac

  13. uzwi

    @ Leonora Piper: I think a lot here feel that way. Or we did it once but we don’t do it now. Anyway, keep us in the loop.

  14. Fourteen Friends

    Made me think of Carver.