Sweet Readers and Writers,
Joining in for the fun of Grammy Dee’s sixth short story prompt link party. One of the reasons I began blogging and continue to blog, is to prompt me to write. And originally, I thought I would share library lesson plans and books I’ve read, too. The lesson plan idea went by way of the dodo. Well, actually, it went by way of a Teachers Pay Teachers store for which my sister and I are shopkeepers. Visit us here, at Library Lovin’ Sisters.
The book reviews, I have done a little better about. In fact, just shared one yesterday, here. And link-ups like this one and Laura’s 3 Things posts are encouraging me to do more creative writing. Laura will be taking a break over the summer but will pick up her 3 Things series in the fall.
I was so honored to have my story Hail and Farewell featured on Dee’s Short Story Link Party #5. Didn’t get a story written for the 5th prompt. Well, didn’t get my story finished, anyway. Maybe someday. However, the prompt for Short Story Link Party #6 really spoke to me. I knew immediately what I wanted to write. And here it is.
Sixth Short Story Prompt
A little about this exercise in creating writing from Dee.
This is a creative writing exercise for fun and without a lot of editing. Just start typing and see what you come up with!
Remember, no story is too short!
Depending on the authority, I’ve seen word counts classified as:
• micro (up to 100)
• flash (50 – 1,000)
• short-short and short (500 – 7,500, 3,500 – 7,500, and 500 – 17,000)
And to party with us, all you have to do is:
• Start with the partial sentence below
• Create a story or as many as you like using the prompt
• Add your story post to the linkup below
• Let others know in your post where they can linkup
• Check out stories from others, see how they compare to yours
Ready? Here’s the prompt:
The old house, with its overgrown garden, was secretive and…
and here’s my story.
The old house, with its overgrown garden, was secretive and… off the beaten trail. It was just as the Conductor had described. Once whitewashed but now a weathered gray clapboard, with a couple of dormer windows on the second floor overlooking the yard. A narrow porch across the front with just enough room for a rickety rocking chair or two.
I can see the old woman sitting to the right of the door as I face the house from my hiding place in the brush. She looks to be snapping beans. Every once in awhile her rocker makes a creaking sound as it hits a loose board on the porch. She’s whistling. A hymn. If I’m not mistaken it’s the tune to “A Prayer for the Captive”, a hymn I had whistled myself as I worked master’s cotton fields. Worked those fields, picking that cotton til my fingers bled. Sun up to sun down. And we’d have gone long into the night if master could have found a way to string those fields with lights.
My Old Plantation Home
I rub the calluses on the finger tips of one hand with the fingers tips of the other. Then swat a mosquito gnawing on my neck. The old woman stops her whistling and looks up, not in my direction, not at me but as if she’s just surveying the property in general. And warning me to be more quiet. She knows I am there. I wait, crouching lower under the dense foliage of an untended hydrangea bush. The woman returns to her whistling and snapping.
My legs are cramping, I am thirsty and hungry. Been 2 days since I’ve had a bite to eat. My hardtack ran out earlier in the week and wild blackberries don’t satisfy a body much. I wait.
The sun has dipped behind the house. It won’t be long now. Just be patient a little while longer. I try to make myself small and even more invisible. I close my eyes as if that will do the trick. In the back of my mind, I see my mama on the porch of our shanty house, watching me slip off into the darkness with a tear on her cheek and a silent sob. She doesn’t dare even lift a hand to wave in my direction. Someone might see. And yet that might be the last time she ever sees her baby girl, me.
Back to Life
The creaking stops. My eyes fly open, and my memory dissolves into the dusky dark. I am back under the hydrangea, being eaten alive by chiggers and mosquitoes. The old woman is gathering up her empty bean bag and her bowl of the snapped ones. She disappears into the house.
Is it safe? Dare I approach. I listen. No dogs barking in the distance. No patrollers’ heavy footsteps coming up the path or trudging through the brush. Overhead just a little sliver of moon rising. A crescent shaped smile casting very little light. Perfect moon for passengers traveling the railroad tonight. Somewhere in the distance a hoot-owl begins to call.
Her cheesecloth ‘screen’ door on its wooden frame bangs shut and the woman is back on the porch. She drapes a patchwork quilt over the rail and begins hitting it with the broom. I watch and wait. Will she leave the quilt hanging over the rail or take it back inside with her. One signal will mean it’s safe, the other will mean it isn’t and I will have to hunker down for another night in the brush.
She’s whistling again. Wants to be sure I am watching. As if my eyes would be anywhere else. She surveys the property one last time and returns into the house.
The quilt is left on the rail and I am going to sleep indoors tonight. Might get a bath. Have a proper meal. Maybe even a change of clothes. And tomorrow, Lord willing, I will cross over to that promised land of freedom.
I have never been to a safe house but my sister-in-law Greta has mentioned that there are some in the Tipp City/Troy area of northern Ohio. If we can ever stay for a visit long enough, I would love to see one. As a 4th grader in Boston, I remember learning about the Civil War, and then pretending I was a run away slave (boy) on the Underground Railroad. One of my favorite lessons in the library was teaching about Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Sadako Sasaki and Anne Frank. Valerie and I are in the process of adding new lessons to our store, so maybe I need to dust off my old library lesson, breathe some fresh air into it and add it to Library Lovin’ Sisters.
What images did this prompt bring to your mind? Where you able to follow where my story was going? Would love to hear from you in a comment below.
I looked up Civil War songs and came across “A Prayer for the Captive” from 1862, on the American Music Preservation site. The captive in these lyrics may be a soldier but I thought it could also have been a slave being held ‘captive’ on a plantation.
Off to open the essential oils goody box I received from Simply Earth. Post coming soon. Looking forward to playing and creating with the oils and recipes included in the box.
Hugs and kisses,