Something I Would Never Do

“It is odd to think that what we don’t know, rather than what we know, can be the very core of story. That the characters within us about whom we know the very least may ultimately provide us with the most energy and liveliness. That often the denied parts of ourselves, our suppressed and disdained stories, are the richest and most rewarding…To be energetic and authentic, a national literature includes dialogues with the despised…Equally, our own writing wants to be infused with the dark light from our underworlds….the moments when the writer crosses into forbidden territory.”

–Deena Metzger, Writing for Your Life

For the next twenty minutes, make a list of things you would never do (rob a bank, shoot someone, lie to a grand jury, take a life, etc). Create a fictional circumstance in which are driven to do one of the things on your list that you swear you would never do. Use this opportunity to step into the forbidden, the taboo, the reprehensible. Your story should be vivid, and should show us, from the inside, what would drive someone to do the thing you would never otherwise do. You can write this story in the first or third person.


  1. Sonia Morrison says

    Something I would never do. Oh my God, I have done it. I am stunned. I have abandoned a friend to her pancreatic cancer diagnosis and now she is dead. Truly dead. I went to wish her a Happy Birthday and she has been dead for six weeks. I met Sonya at a conference and we really clicked. Her husband had sent her because he liked the leaders and the content being presented in such a dynamic active participant way. She and I both went for the whole package and signed up for a series of workshops that would last over a three year period. I was so happy to meet another Sonia so close to my age and able to think so well about other people. I live in California and she lived in Oregon and we would be connected at monthly workshops. Processing and putting into action all that we learned while staying in touch on the phone.
    The very next month, before the very first workshop occurred, things changed. Not for the better. Her husband died. This left her to deal with the plumbing business and everything else. She was able to withdraw from the commitment of the program.
    I stayed in touch for the first few years, sharing the excitement of the workshops and listening to her challenges and good thinking about her employees. I really admired her and valued our friendship still. She thought hard about how to support a single pregnant employee and include other employees thinking about the situation. She continued to think well of this baby, as she became the daughter of the company.
    Sonya continued to problem solve as child rearing began to interrupt the flow of the business. I don’t know whatever happened because when I last talked to Sonia she told me about her pancreatic cancer diagnosis. I think I went into shock knowing it was, a pretty sure, three months prognosis.
    I had forgotten all about that conversation, in May of this year. I still can’t remember much of what was said.
    As a true friend, I would have called to offer support and listening. I miss her. I wonder what happened to the single mom employee and her daughter. I know Sonya cared deeply about them. I guess the other employees did as well. I know Sonia missed her husband deeply and I am sure their spirits are happy together, Someone saw some hawks together that reflected their spirits together; Sonya and Bob. Makes me sad, my throat feels choked and my eyes water. Goodbye, Sonya. I miss you. I miss your clear thinking and companionship…

    • Laura Davis says

      Sonia, ultimately you will have to forgive yourself for having failed your friend. We are only human and it’s easy to get so caught up in our own lives that we don’t tend to those we care about. I’m so sorry you lost your friend. Maybe there is something you can do in her name–or a way to continue her work–that will ease your guilt at not having been there. And then there will be other opportunities doesn the line–life continually produces illness and tragedies and people in need–next time, maybe you can give what you could not this time.

  2. Tempered Ashes says

    I would never kill myself. I would never slash open my wrists, watch the blood pour out and wait until I died. Or would I..

    One day, sitting on a cold porch, the morning sun bursting through the grey clouds, I looked down at my wrists–and the razor blade in my left hand. I started hacking away–first taking stabs at the veins and then angrily moving the blade deeper and deeper, left to right, right to left. The veins burst open, the blood spurted out, I yelped out in fear and pain. I just kept going and going though, not wanting to stop. My veins got bigger and bigger until they burst wide open. The blood came out quickly and I couldn’t stop myself. This is what I’ve wanted for a long time I thought–to end the pain inside–that way I don’t really have to deal with it.

    As I kept the razor blades firmly on my skin, going from left to right and right to left, in deep emotional and physical pain, I thought of why I was really here. What is the point of me–I mean really..
    I suppose I could sit here and tell you of my attributes–but I feel I’ve done that enough (and, quite frankly, that’s all I really felt like I did have–at leas for the first 20 some years of my life anyways..)
    So I guess I’m not really sure of what else to say–except to describe some more how I would slit open my wrists.. but I don’t think I want to do that lets change direction:

    One day, I thought that I would kill myself–and this time I would really do it–not just play with the idea–but I mean Really do it. So I looked at the shelf of razor blades–paper thin and razor sharp, literally, and thought about what it would fell like to take one or two of them and start hacking away at the veins on my wrist. I don’t like physical pain much, but from what I’ve heard, if you do it right, this is a pretty quick and easy way to get the job done.

    so I thought about what it would be like for everyone else.. Would my parents and my family finally realize that the deep pain I was in was for real?? Would the neighbors, friends and colleagues lament that they could have done something more?? Would my own character be tested as being “less than” because I actually went so far as to take my own life??
    well, I suppose I could hold off another day–it’s not going to kill me! (hah!)

    Tuesday, January 18, 1847:
    I thought about killing myself yesterday but didn’t. I feel a bit better today–guess I’ll wait yet another day..

    My brother molested me again today. This time he put his fingers in me. It kept feeling like I had to pee so I kept getting up and running to the bathroom but couldn’t pee and then when I was back in the closet and he did it again, he kept laughing when I kept jumping up to go try and pee.

    I’m not sure why I’m here, but everyone else seems to be enjoying me a hell of a lot more than I am..

    I think I’ll finally do it–then I don’t have to deal with these people anymore..

    Monday, January 27, 1952:
    I found a journal in the closet of a new house that we purchased. My husband and I are so happy here. He doesn’t even know of my past being molested by my own brother. I didn’t want to tell him because I didn’t think he would love me anymore. I don’t want to tell anyone because I think noone really cares.

    I can’t believe what I’m reading in this old journal I found in the closet–it may as well be my story–except that in the journal it seems as though the little girl may have taken her own life. I thought about doing that in my 30s when I was trying to recover from my own sexual abuse–but then decided not to. I’m glad I didn’t but I feel so bad for the little girl who is the author of this journal. I wonder if she survived?

    My husband and I made love last night. It was beautiful–as it always is. I can’t believe how lucky I am.

    I found another journal from the same little girl. She describes in more detail what was done to her. What a sick monster she had to live with

    I wonder if my marriage is real

  3. Tempered Ashes says

    I would never hurt myself because then I wouldn’t be able to write anymore. So I’ll tell you about a girl who did take her own life–regretfully..

    She stood there waiting to be heard but never was. She thought she was an object–like a table or a chair or something. Just something to be used and then displayed and then perhaps thrown away later. That’s how I’ve felt about myself–the only difference being that I lived and she died.
    She ended up killing herself because she felt like her only real use to the world had to do with her place in her family..
    you see, she came from one of “those” families where individuality and self-identity were highly frowned upon and so the main source of her identification had to do with whatever her role was in her family. And, boy what a role it was:
    She got straight “A’s-” like the rest of the kids so I guess that wasn’t unusual; she was cute and funny and smart–kind of like the “court jester” for the family; her parents and even her brothers seem to kind of adore her–but more like you adore a cute knicknack as opposed to a real breathing human being. She had friends but she wasn’t really allowed to get too close to them since her family was such a closed unit and with her being the only girl, her mother certainly would not have allowed for any more female competition. The boys–on the other hand–they were always allowed and even highly encouraged to have their friends over, they were even like a part of the family.
    Where was the little girl in all of this??
    I’ll tell you where: she was nowhere, she was in a home full of a bunch of selfish pigs who couldn’t see past their own two hind legs. Maybe if she were really smart she would’ve slaughtered them and then ate them for Christmas supper!
    So the girl grew up very very confused. She was berated yet adored by her family. She was complimented yet disparaged and condescended to by them to such an extreme that she didn’t know which way to go.
    Perhaps they felt that way too. Perhaps they were such selfish, self-centered repugnant pigs that they weren’t sure what to do with the girl in the family who perhaps actually came with an ounce of character–something that was quite foreign to this backwoods clan.
    So, they just abused her to bring her down to their level–after all, isn’t that what people do when they feel massively insecure??
    So, perhaps this little girl taking her own life fit in well with the “order of things.” After all, she was borne of a family that was from another time, really, even a whole other evolution–perhaps closer to the apes than anyone could’ve imagined.
    All’s well that ends well, as they say..
    Now me, on the other hand, although I was borne into a similar family..I decided to take a different route. Although it hurts me to see my backwards family continuing to struggle with their insecurities and lamentations, I got myself out. I continue to feel hurt quite often–incredibly hurt sometimes–even now (for example, when my brother just got married and the entire family including the other brother who molested me was there and I was not). But, my life is just beginning–and I’ll have many “firsts” that they probably will never even get to experience.
    I am more than my family.

  4. Jean West says

    “Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the jury. I am informed by the bailiff that you have reached a verdict or verdicts in this case.”

    The foreman replied, “Yes.”

    The judge nodded fractionally and then continued, “Would you hand the verdicts to the bailiff, please, and, Bailiff McCallister, will you hand them to the clerk? I direct the clerk to read the verdicts.”

    The uniformed officer briskly walked the papers over to the somberly attired clerk. She glanced at them to confirm they’d been signed and then, in voice void of all emotion, announced, “State of Florida, versus Martin J. Defoe as to case number 2008 CF 15693-O. As to the charge of first degree murder, verdict as to count one, we the jury find the defendant guilty. So say we all. Dated at Orlando, Orange County, Florida, on this 5th day of October, 2011. Signed, foreperson.”

    As to the charge of providing false information to a law enforcement officer, verdict as to count two, we the jury find the defendant guilty of providing false information to a law enforcement officer as charged in the indictment. So say we all. Dated Orlando, Orange County, Florida, this 5th day of October, 2011. Signed, foreperson.

    The judge exhaled. “Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Let me express my appreciation to you for your service in this case and the great responsibility you assumed. Please accept on behalf of everybody concerned our deep and appreciative thanks. You are excused now.”

    I hit the remote. Martin Defoe would be sentenced to death for the murder and, when the appeals had run their course, he would feel the prick of the needle and the cold spread of death through his veins. He wasn’t the murderer, of course. I was. I don’t mean of the unfortunate woman of whose death he’d been convicted. I had just murdered Martin Defoe.

    The Internet truly is a web. It allows you to research all kinds of information. It allows you to stay in touch with old friends. It allows you to monitor old enemies. It even allows you to learn about people so wicked that they cannot be allowed to live, people like Martin Defoe. I had friended on Facebook the wife of a co-player on one of my social games. Although I didn’t know her at all and didn’t bother to read her news feeds, my attention was caught one evening when I saw an invite from her for a prayer vigil that featured a beautiful little baby with a pink ribbon headband. I clicked and read that there had been a wreck on the interstate which had left the father a double amputee, the mother bedridden with internal injuries, and the baby dead. Martin Defoe had walked away with barely a scratch. His blood alcohol level was over double the legal limit.

    The tale stuck in my head and I mentioned it to a friend while on Skype. Lowell’s a former bail bondsman and he went into the legal database. “Wow,” he whistled. “That guy has got a DUI record a mile long.”

    “And he still has his license?”

    “He moves around a lot. Seems to bug out of a state and get a new license before they can revoke it.”

    “Wouldn’t I just love to get my hands on him,” I said. “Put me on a jury and just see what I do.”

    “Lucky for him he’s in Minnesota and you are in Florida,” Lowell had laughed.

    “I hope they nail him.”

    “Five will get you ten that he’ll beat the rap and then get out of Dodge.”

    “You don’t think he’ll possibly get off this time?”

    “I’m a bit more cynical about our criminal justice system than you, m’dear.”

    Lowell was right. I followed the proceedings via Google News and the Minnesota news channels’ website video clips. I made little Mari’s picture my screensaver. I took a time off from work once the jury began its deliberations. They found him guilty, but there was no justice. Due to prison overcrowding, Defoe got off with court-ordered counseling and time served.
    I couldn’t eat after hearing that nor could I sleep. I stared through the night at that angelic little face glowing from my computer screen. He was going to bolt from Minnesota, I was sure of it. And so, I made it my mission to begin every day by checking on Defoe’s location. Cyberstalking really isn’t very difficult, you know.

    Eighty-two days later, he disappeared from Minnesota. I devoted my evenings and weekends to tracking him electronically. After eight months, I hit the jackpot, courtesy of the Freedom of Information Act and the Florida Division of Motor Vehicles. Florida, I smiled. How convenient. “Welcome to my parlor, said the spider to the fly.” He’d screw up. When he did, I would have everything ready to frame him.

    As I glanced at the Orlando Sentinel a year and a half later, I read that the Orange County police had reported finding the skeletal remains of a woman. The Crime Stoppers number was already posted on my freezer, sharing the same magnet as a laminated photograph of Mari and her parents in happier times.

    I dialed the number and reported, “The driver of a blue Toyota Camry, Florida license G5E-M24K, killed that woman you found on Orange Blossom Trail.”

    I was the star witness. I held up my hand and swore to tell the truth, and then perjured myself to the hilt. I testified that I was driving late that evening and saw him dump something from the car. I had thought he was simply too lazy to take trash to the landfill, so didn’t bother to report it. His defense attorney didn’t shake me a bit. The twelve jurors, five men and seven women, were utterly convinced.

    Suicide by cop? I’ll meet you that and raise you murder by jury.

      • Jean West says

        Thanks. Murder was the first thing on my list but as I continued writing, I thought about the Salem witch trials, the girls who had given false witness and sent people to their deaths. By the end of the 20 minutes I had quite a list but I knew murder by jury was what I’d be doing.

        • Laura Davis says

          what I really love, jean, about this story is not just the good writing–great writing actually, but the courage you showed in just putting it out there. most people are afraid to do this exercise–afraid to get inside the head of someone who would commit murder–afraid to think about the circumstances in which they could. the first time I did this exercise, I chose murder too!

  5. Tempered Ashes says

    I took out my gun and shot him. I watched the blood ripple out of his heart–hah, and I didn’t even think he had one..

    What would it be like to kill my brother??
    hmmm, lets see:

    One day, on a cold, dark wintry morning, I finally did it. I went to the cabinet with the loaded shotgun, pulled it out, cocked it to the hilt and then went in search of my brother. I knew that he was a gangly fellow that nobody liked–not really. What I didn’t know is that I would actually go through with it:

    his face ricocheted off the carpet as he fell to the floor.

    the sound of the shotgun reverberated throughout the house…

    (oops!) I would tell my mother and father–I know you told us never to play with the rifles..but I was just curious.. I would burst out into tears..when, in fact, my terror was actually over.. I never had to be molested by that creep again!

    hoo-ra!! what a victory for guns!!

    ps thanks for the courage Jean..

  6. Tempered Ashes says

    I gave him a long, wet kiss. He was my brother and I had given in to the disgusting yet somewhat appealing sexual act–how do I detach myself from these strange feelings, I wondered..

    10 years of therapy (check)
    cut off him and my entire family (check)
    cut off myself from me (check)
    cut off myself from the world (check)
    well, none of these worked so lets try something else..

    One day, I confronted my cold, dark feelings of shame..
    I knew I had to face it someday, but that some day is now

    You have NOTHING to be ashamed of–you were the victim, NOT the perpetrator!! (check)
    but how do you actually internalize that reality??
    here’s how: accept that what was done to you sexualized you in a very dirty, nonconsensual, forbidden way which ultimately played havoc on your life
    now: know that it was so wrong but that you do not have to live with it for the rest of your life–but he does!!
    good luck to you, my darling–you’re going to be all-right,
    yo’ mama

  7. Bobbie Anne says

    Guess What? I did something I would never do. Obviously, I did it today, but I’m not that kind of girl. I am a nice girl. I always have been one since I can remember. I’m what you call a “goody two shoes”. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t swear. It can be pretty boring at times. Yet today it was different. I went to my chiroprator, and I had to hand her my MRI test results and CD’s of them. As I looked through my papers, I heard a soft voice say “Hi” and my name. I looked up into the smiling blue eyes of John, one of the fellow patients. I said Hi. I asked where his dog Hannah was. She is the cutest chcolate lab you ever did see. He brought her in to get adjusted two or three times. When she came in, I played with her and did some hands on stress technique that I thought she might need. I explained to John I had done it before on her. He said “yeah, you told me”. I replied “I love animals like you do. If you think she could use this, I’ll give you my e-mail. Just for Hannah. He laughed and said “that’s cute”. I thought, hmm, does he mean only the dog is cute? So, I got my stuff together. I got up to hand it in. He got ready to leave. I opened my purse, got out some paper, and wrote out my e-mail so he could get in touch with me if he wanted me to do the stress technique on his cute little puppy. He said Well, you’ll be around” I said to him “Don’t forget your stuff on the chair”. He said “You know, I would have left it there.” He left with a smile. I took a deep breath. I never would have given out my e-mail unless there was a good reason. And of course there was. I love animals and the dog was so cute. Besides, what other reason could there be?

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