Perfect Family


Photo Credit: Benjamin Kinsland via Google Images

A Perfect Family lived next door—perfect mother and father—three perfect children—two boys and a girl.
They went to church every Sunday as we slept in—Bible Study on Thursday evenings while we drank beer and watched football.
They didn’t yell or curse like we did—like the couple on the other side of us—Their lawn was perfectly manicured.
The oldest son went off to college and was an honor student—my son went to work after high school at an auto repair shop.
The middle daughter was the star of the soccer team—she played the violin and practiced for hours in the evening and on Saturday.
The mother didn’t work because she cared for the toddler—and began home schooling when he was five years old.
On summer evenings the father would come home from work and change into his Ralph Lauren polo shirt and barbecue steaks or ribs.
The aroma invaded the neighborhood as the rest of us sat on our porches eating hot dogs with potato salad and baked beans.
One such evening my son was smoking a Marlboro and drinking a Bud—my daughter was pregnant and I wasn’t sure where my husband had gone.
Fireflies danced in the dusk before the shots rang out – five of them.
My dogs skittered into the house through the dog door as I grabbed the phone to call 911.
They called it a murder-suicide—the weight of perfection—too heavy to bear I guess. Everybody said so.

Today, over at dVerse Poets’ Pub, I have the honor of hosting Meeting the Bar. I’m discussing an important aspect of fiction/non-fiction writing with an eye to how it can be applied to poetry–that is, characterization.

In this poem, written years ago, I’m including snapshots of two families with the hope that the brief descriptions paint a picture of the tenor of both. Please bear in mind that I have the mind of a fiction writer and much of my poetry is fiction, as this one is. Sometimes people in my past (or present), newspaper articles and other snippets of news serve as a source of inspiration, so that something factual may be borrowed and embroidered.

I hope you will join us at the pub to read some incredible poetry and, hopefully, to offer up something of your own.  The doors open in forty-five minutes (1500 EDT). I look forward to reading your work.

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48 thoughts on “Perfect Family

  1. dragonkatet says:

    Oh my gosh. My jaw dropped at the end. I feel so silly now, because unlike most of the other comments, I didn’t see it coming. Spectacularly written, and so realistic I was convinced that it was a real story of something you were remembering. Well. You should be very proud of this one, I think. I was totally sucked in and fooled! 🙂

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  2. Fantastic writing. Sadly, all too believable. Victoria, I cant find an email contact for you but feel most welcome to add a link to Bren’s interview in yours. And let me know when it posts okay, so I dont miss it? I look forward to reading it! You write so well!!!!!!

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  3. Lindy Lee says:

    Fact or fiction, nothing new under the sun. It’s simply human behavior.
    Nicely written vignette. What we see may not be what it seems…

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  4. Margaret says:

    heart throbbingly intense!

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  5. I knew this wouldn’t end well. Perfection is hell. You captured the torture of it so well. (I really didn’t mean for these sentences to end rhyming!)

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  6. janehewey says:

    a sad scenario, to be sure. your use of contrast brought it home … i have met these people in my world.

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  7. clawfish says:

    Constructed so well builds and develops to the climax which leaves sadness and an aftertaste wonderful thank you

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  8. shewritesherenow says:

    I saw the perfection coming undone, but never did I see the end ring out until it did. I believed it. Nicely done!

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  9. very powerful, and tragic and you set it so well to build to its tragic conclusion.

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  10. Ravenblack says:

    It’s always a shock when something like this happens in a family that seems so ideal to everyone outside of it.

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  11. marousia says:

    Fantastic story – it reminded me of the film “American Beauty”…..

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  12. Emily says:

    Chilling, this. And I love: “Everybody said so.” Great narrative.

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  13. Poet Laundry says:

    Never know what goes on behind closed doors–and what things look like on the outside don’t always match the inside. A cautionary tale indeed.

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  14. Mary says:

    I have often thought that what appears perfect on the outside sometimes is not that way on the inside. We really never know what goes on inside the doors of the most beautiful home, with people who appear to be leading a fairytale life. Your poem captured that so very well.

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  15. kaykuala says:

    A perfect little family on the outside. It’s sad when they appear cool but ended tragic! Nicely written Victoria!

    Hank

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  16. I had a feeling this one would not end well. Masterful writing. You kept me wondering right up to the end.

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  17. David King says:

    Wow, dramatic stuff, the ground for which you well prepared. What an enjoyable read!

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  18. Like Claudia, from the first line I thought a tragic end was going to come about ~ put me in mind of a family who experienced something similar ~ I guess we all know them …

    Wonderful writing Victoria.

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  19. hobgoblin2011 says:

    oh wow, awesome example of characterization building to such a tragic end.

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  20. kkkkaty says:

    Sadly, too frequent an occurrence….the sense of foreboding drawn out makes it more real..

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  21. sonny says:

    this is awesome….it flowed …unfolded so naturally …

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  22. danadampier says:

    A good reminder that perfection is never what it seems and most often unattainable.

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  23. ManicDdaily says:

    Yikes! Maybe you should have lent them some Buds! A lot of great details here! Look out for those silent types. k.

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  24. Bodhirose says:

    I remember this when you published it before, Victoria…had the same effect on me now as it did then…very well done…real life…

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  25. This is ‘Richard Cory’ taken to the extreme, and all those layers of compelling detail add to the underlying tragedy at the conclusion.

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  26. yoga-adan says:

    heavy picture of contrasts, and very sad, too much perfection just isn’t possible in a living form, very strong write victoria, thank you much

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  27. markwindham says:

    yes, perfect rarely is, and pretense can be way too hard to keep up

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  28. pmwanken says:

    A well-told story! You laid the foundation well for the tragic ending.

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  29. leahJlynn says:

    Very sad tale of suburbia

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  30. ayala says:

    I also had a feeling that this would end badly….there is no perfection in real life…nice write, Victoria.

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  31. Sometimes the “perfect family” is the one most fractured with impossible standards ~ Sad but it happens, when you least expect it ~

    Great prompt and post Victoria ~

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  32. Irene says:

    The ending was kind of expected..perfection ruins the soul of everyone.

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  33. souldipper says:

    Was this shared with and by your friends over email or on Face Book? What synchronicity to have read you before I even found your blog!

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  34. We read about these families every day. Some know them, and say they saw no signs..of impending murder/suicide. The other family just the same, the stuff of television and McMurtry’s novels. Their lives so real you can touch them, their spirits full of high jinx and depressions, their demons the same as everyone else’s. Wonderful capture Victoria…of an imperfect world.

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  35. hypercryptical says:

    Tragic tale of the burden of perfection and sadly (at times) the tragic outcome in your brilliant prose is a reality…

    Anna :o]

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  36. brian miller says:

    dang…i was waiting for it…call me jaded but there is just too much that goes on in those perfect little families…i like how you contrasted before you gave it away as well….even though i saw it coming i could not look away….

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  37. Wow – this is very powerful. The contrasts and the domestic details build a sense of expectation… of what, we don’t know until the end. Very sad.

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  38. Laurie Kolp says:

    I see this all too often… the stress of perfection and keeping up with the Jones leading to addictions, debt and even suicide. So sad.

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  39. vivinfrance says:

    I was starting to dislike perfection! What a tragic prose poem. But we never truly know what goes on in other people’s lives, we only know the surface.

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  40. When you make the standards so high, it’s sometimes so difficult to all live up to them. I myself don’t believe there is any such thing as ‘perfect’ So glad my house and life isn’t …lol
    Gripping read. Had a feeling their oh-so-perfect world wasn’t going to last and the other not so perfect ones were living in the true realities of the ups and downsides of real life.
    Great write Victoria 😉

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  41. Free prose, prose-itry, verse that spins a tale, characters appearing in the mist of memory and then launched into the ether. Like the line /fireflies danced in the dusk before the shots rang out/ like Claudia, I had a sense of dread from word one.

    Like

  42. hedgewitch says:

    I think perfection is a very ominous attainment–always threatening to slip off the careful pile and crush you….love the build up and the contrasts in this Victoria—as the old saying goes, maybe it’s better to be lucky than good.

    Like

  43. Susan says:

    Kind of the plot of “Richard Core” in a modern suburban setting, and I like a lot the details of the comparison. I always feel that I hear an actual clunk at the ends of Robinson poems, and I definitely hear it here. I love the choice of a first person narrator. (I don’t know if I can do this–unless I already have like in “Melodrama.”)

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  44. dfb says:

    Very sad and tragic story, well told, Victoria. 🙂

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  45. Victoria–this is incredible. The pathology of perfection. Chilling.

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  46. Claudia says:

    oh dang…i had the silent feeling from the start that this would take a tragical end…too much perfection is just too fragile to hold the weight of life…very well painted victoria…looking forward to a wonderful prompt

    Like

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