Characterization exercise: Mother of a murderer

Carol sits at her dining room table, her right forearm resting on the table, hand wrapped around a tumbler half full of merlot. She’s leaning forward, elbows supporting her, almost oblivious to the cigarette in her left hand. Her expression is fixed, and she moves only to take another sip of wine, or a breath of her cigarette, or to tap ashes into the crystal bowl that other people might use for candy. Her ex-mother-in-law probably intended it for candy, but Carol gets more use from it as a pretty ashtray.

The other times were Joshua’s fault. Stupid things; B&E, selling drugs, things he might eventually outgrow, but this time, this time it was just bad luck, and bad judgment. He should have just come clean right away when the cops arrived. She sighs. Just like me. Thinking that the less information you give them, the less trouble you can get in. He should have just told them. After all, the guy was known for his temper problems. He beat his girlfriend. He carried a knife. It’s obvious that it wasn’t Joshua’s fault; the guy was a walking menace. It’s just Joshua’s bad luck to run into him.

“God, I wish I could be there,” she says aloud to the empty room and sinks back in her chair. “At least I wouldn’t be sitting and waiting.” But there’s no way I could, she thinks. Not with all the media there, not when my own sentencing is less than two months away. There’s no way I could hide if I were there. She takes off her glasses and places them on the table so she can rub her eyes, one by one. No, this is my own punishment for being a mother; I have to sit here and wait.

She glances at her cell phone lying on the table, and it shocks her by ringing. She sits up, grabs the phone, checks the number; it’s David, Joshua’s lawyer.

She puts the phone to her ear. “Hello, David?”, and then she listens, and listens. There is a pause and then the voice asks “Carol? Are you there? Did you get that?” That’s the cue for her veneer to break, for her emotions to erupt, and for her world to shatter.

“No! No, not again. That’s bullshit. Why is the world out to get us, David, why?”, she wails. David’s voice says some more things but Carol doesn’t hear. The phone is still talking on the table beside her elbow but her eyes are buried in her forearm as she sobs. “How can they do this?” She pounds the table with her the fist of her other hand, tipping over the tumbler and sending a splatter of red across the table. “Why are they all out to get us? Why can’t they all just,” she raises her head and shouts, “LEAVE US ALONE!” She puts her face back into her arm and continues to cry.

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