Friday, October 29, 2010

Fixing Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour, Because Why The Hell Not?

A few weeks ago my Creative Writing class was assigned to read three short stories. One of the stories was The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin which was written in 1894. The story covers about a page and a half. We meet Louise Mallard, a housewife who has just received news that her husband has been killed in an accident. After her initial shock she begins to contemplate her new life without her husband. She becomes excited at the prospect “[F]ree! Body and soul free!” she kept whispering. Louise is suddenly very happy at the news that she is a widow, and as she sits in her room “ drinking in the very elixir of life” her sister, Josephine, is on the other side of the door flipping out because she’s worried about Louise’s faint heart. Finally Louise opens the door and the story ends like this:

There was a feverish fire in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly
like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister’s waist, and together they
Descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.
Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard
Who entered, a little travel stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella.
He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know
There had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine’s piercing cry;
at Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.
But it was too late.
When the doctors came they said that she had died from heart disease –
Of a joy that kills.

Half the class didn’t like the ending. They didn’t like that Louise had her new freedom taken away from her along with her life. The people who didn’t like the ending were actually pissed off about it all. I liked it. It is good writing, and it is a good exercise in time-frame writing (like “24” takes place in 24 hours). It was fun to listen to the class exchange opinions about the story and how upsetting the ending was to them. That got me thinking; why not just fix the ending?

So for you, my loyal readers, I give you alternative endings in the styles of my favorite writers. The story will pick up where Mr. Mallard comes through the door and Josephine screams…

The Edgar Allen Poe ending:

…Richards’ quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife. But it was too late. Aghast, Brently shouted at Josephine “ run and bring Doctor Howard, and be quick about it woman!” As Josephine’s sobs and footfalls faded in the distance Richards looked at Brently and said “She’s gone. My condolences.” Then Richards and Brently shared a smile as Richards dropped Louise’s lifeless hand to the floor and stood. “Will Dr. Howard be paying you directly for his fresh cadaver?” Richards asked. “Yes, $1500, and your cut will be $300 as agreed” said Brently. Richards thought to himself for a moment and then offered “Do you think that Dr. Howard would pay the full $1500 for a second body?” Brently was no in front of the Brandy reaching for two glasses, “Are you thinking of Josephine?” “Why not? I wouldn’t need the $300 share.” Brently nodded at Richards and handed him a glass. “You are a crafty one, good Sir” he said as he handed Richards the glass. “Cheers” said Richards as he gulped back his Brandy. Brently knew that Josephine would not be returning from Dr. Howard’s, and then he wondered how long the poison in Richards’ drink would take.

Jacqueline Susann ending:

Josephine screamed but Louise was strangely still. Brently stood at the bottom of the stairs with quizzically looking at Richards, then Josephine, and then his wife. Louise looked at Brently like he was a slice of bologna. Then she turned to Josephine and said in a calm voice “Fuck it, Jo, I’m going to go to bed” Then she turned and retreated into her room locking the door behind her. After she’d put on her night gown she sat at the vanity looking at her reflection. Then she reached for a medicine bottle and poor a single Quaalude into the palm of her hand. For a brief second she considered taking the entire bottle and ending it all, but as Scarlett O’Hara said “tomorrow is another day.” She stood up and turned towards her bed, but then turned and for the bottom right drawer of her vanity. Her hand found the vibrator and pulled it out. Louise clicked it on to check the batteries, and then climbed into bed and turned out the light.

Quentin Tarantino ending:

Louise looked at her husband and then at Richards. “What the fuck? When I pay for a dead husband I fucking expect a dead husband!” “Jesus Christ, Louise” Richards said “He was supposed to be on the goddamned train. I’m not a fucking psychic.” “Yeah, if you were a fucking psychic you’d see this coming” she said as she pulled the nickel-plated .357 from her thigh holster. BAM! Brently’s face was instantly covered with Richards’ brain matter as his body dropped to the floor like a sack of shit. “If you want something done right…” Bam! Brently took a shot to the balls, and then Louise walks down the stairs to place the muzzle in the base of his skull. Bam! “Whoa! That’s some serious fucking shit, Lou.” Josephine said from behind her. Louise turned to Josephine and hissed “What the fuck are you doing standing there like a fucking statue? Get your ass back upstairs and grab our bags. We’re switching to plan B.” Josephine paused for a second; her face looked like a goldfish, and then she spun and ran back to the bedroom. Louise looked out the front window to see if the gunshots had attracted attention, but everything was normal, and that was good because they would need to put thirty miles between here and the next town where the train still ran. Louise then went into the parlor and poured kerosene from one lamp onto the floor. She then grabbed the second oil lamp and emptied the contents over the two bodies. Just then Josephine came running down the stairs. She made her way around the bodies and went outside and tossed the bags into the back of Richards’ carriage. Louise stepped outside the front door, struck a match, and tossed it on her husband’s back. Flames erupted across the floor as she closed and locked the door. Louise climbed into the driver’s side of the carriage and whipped the horses into motion. “Why can’t I get a fucking break?” Louise asked to no one.

The Stephen King ending:

Louise put her hand over her mouth to stifle a gasp. Whatever was standing at the bottom of the stairs may have looked like Brently, but she knew that it wasn’t the same man who’d walked out of the house. In fact she knew that it wasn’t even human. A dim scent of sulphur entered her nostrils. When Louise Mallard had promised to sell her soul to take away her husband the last thing that she’d thought was that the devil would come to collect in person. The thing that was now Brently locked eyes with her and grinned.

The Frank Miller ending:

Richards looked at Louise, then frantically at Josephine, and then back at Brently. Louise looked at her healthy, living husband and let out a sigh. She turned around and walked back to her room. She walked to her vanity and pulled the .38 from the top-left drawer, and then stuck it in her mouth. “I’m fwee” she said as she pulled the trigger, showering the duvet with blood, brain, and skull fragments.

So there you go. I’ve fixed it. There should be an ending here that will make one feel better about Ms. Chopin’s little story.