Sharecroppers

sugarcane

The amount of sugar I got was pitiful. “What’s this shit?” I asked the sharecropper who rented my land.

He looked to his feet, embarrassed. “Didn’t rain much, so nothin’ grew. This all we got to give ‘less we starve.”

“Then why aren’t you starving?” I ripped the sales report from his hands. “What did you do with this money you got?”

“Spent it on food for the winter.”

I shook the report at him. “That was my money. You’ll give double the percentage next year.”

“Ain’t gonna be no next year. We’re moving west, and you’ll get nothin’.”

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This was written for the February 13th Flash Fiction Challenge at the Carrot Ranch: sugar report. While the definition of sugar report is something entirely different from what I wrote about, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while this month.

February is Black History Month, and sharecropping is a part of black history that’s often been glanced over. Sharecropping is where tenants pay rent to work the land, wherein payment is usually in the form of a portion of the crops. Landlords (usually the people who used to own the plantations) would be harsh in their demands, and sharecroppers would often be trapped since they had to work harder to pay their rent. It doesn’t sound like slavery really ended after the Civil War, does it?

But we also forget that America’s history is shaped by the frontier (aaaand different atrocities associated with that, but that’s for another day). African American settlers helped define the west as part of a way to find new adventures and burst out of the sharecropping/oppression/abuse cycle. That’s why I chose to give that glimmer of hope at the end of the story: the west, the frontier, the ever-shifting upward momentum was a chance many grasped at. Black settlers are getting a well-deserved historical re-examination nowadays, and I’m excited to see what things historians find next.

Sharecropping was also a thing poor whites participated in; I had a white middle-school teacher who grew up as a sharecropper in Georgia, and man did she have it rough as a kid. When I think about her, about the continued wage-slavery imparted by sharecropping and other worker-abusive practices, I think about how people of all races and colors can be helped by the same policies, laws, regulations, and, most of all,

Kindness. 

Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

I Must Protest!

beans and sliced lemon near glass bottle

The man in the top hat knocked the soapbox with his gold-tipped cane. “I must protest this… this sin! How dare you peddle this Godless brew?”

The squirmy man with thin mustache bent down from atop his box. “Godless brew? No, it’s a true cure for everything from apoplexy to zinc deficiency, from premature birth to heart failure! Care to take a sip and put some pep in your step?”

The man with the top hat smashed the bottles at the foot of the soap box. “Even worse! If you cure mother, how else will I get her money?”

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This was written for the January 16th Carrot Ranch prompt, protest.

Photo by Lucie Liz on Pexels.com

The King

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Aunt Shoo put the final dollop of meringue atop the key lime pie. She placed it back in the oven to bake the meringue top.

I watched through the glass window – small back in those days – at the caramelizing sugar. “Aunt Shoo,” I asked, “What’s a key lime?”

“Well,” Aunt Shoo replied, bending closer to my tender height, “It’s the kind of lime Elvis liked, and it makes the kind of pie Elvis liked, so it has to be the best.”

“Who’s this ‘Elvis’?”

Her face blanched. “Come with me,” she said before leading me upstairs to her shrine.

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This was written for the December 5th Flash Fiction Challenge on the Carrot Ranch, key lime pie. This is based on my real-life introduction to key lime pie, wherein my Aunt (who I called “Shoo” at the time because I couldn’t pronounce her real name) claimed it was Elvis’s favorite and thus should be enjoyed. Was it really his favorite? I don’t know. But she was convinced of it, and therefore I will believe it until told otherwise.

Also I don’t actually know if she has a shrine, I just thought that was a nice touch.

The End

The priest beheld the visage of the old man. The ancient General seemed shrunken from age, but the priest did not believe the call for extreme unction was necessary at this time. In many respects, he hoped it wasn’t necessary, because the old man was filled with heroism and daring.

And, worst of all, he was certainly bound for the devils’ hell.

The old man, surrounded by many family members and servants, pointed his cane to a chair with horsehair-stuffed cushion. “Sit. We don’t even have an hour, Father, and it’d be a damn shame to waste these precious few minutes.”

The priest coughed at the cursing and took the seat. “I – sir, forgive me if I seem insolent to one so aged and venerable as you, but you appear to be in tolerable health. I brought the appropriate oils for anointing, but I won’t apply them if it’s unwarranted.”

The old man brushed off the statement. “I will die when the sun is at it’s peak. I’ve made my peace with it, and I gathered all who are important to me here in this room.”

“And how can you be so sure? Do you… you don’t plan on shooting yourself, do you?”

“By the eternal, no! Good God man, you think me mad?” The General laughed, which caused him to cough up some slime which he spat into a handkerchief.* “No. Almost 16 years ago, I sacrificed several months off the end of my life to get something far more important than lingering here on this soil. Now, all the signs and signals are fulfilled, and I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I will die within the hour.”

The priest shook his head. “There’s no way to know for certain. Our Lord Yarenth is not master of devilish signs or superstitions.”

“Yarenth also isn’t the master of the blood magic I was part of to excise the last few months off my life.” The old man’s eyes, clouded by cataracts and sitting behind glasses and flaps of wrinkles, still held a frightening, threatening power. “I am certain I will die. If you do not perform this action, Yarenth will hold your treachery against you.”

The priest nodded. “I think you at least believe what you say.”

“And how dare you not believe me in return?”

The priest opened his jar of alabaster oil, sprinkled a bit on his own hand, then rubbed it on the old General’s forehead. He muttered some words in a language he didn’t understand, in a language he almost certainly garbled, then closed the box back up.

All the family members swooped in upon the oil-laden general. His son, bedecked in his own uniform, sat on bended knee at his foot while nieces and nephews of diverse ages teared up and wept.

“What is the matter with my dear children?” The general asked. He rubbed his son’s head, patted the top of a little boy’s. “Have I alarmed you? Oh, do not cry. Be good children and we will all meet in Heaven.”

The sun rose imperceptibly, and the clock struck noon.

The General gave one breath, which passed easily from his lungs, and all was over.

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*The slime is from a lingering respiratory problem due to a bullet lodged in his chest. It’s not actually the thing killing him in this scene.

This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge #7, The End. In this, we’re supposed to write the end of a book that we’ll likely never make. I know she said to do the last paragraph, but I couldn’t do it. The last paragraph had to be a single line for this book.

The book I’m talking about here is part of an enormous series that I’m not sure I have enough time left in my life to finish. I wrote the first novella earlier this year and will work on the second when my hand feel a little better, but this one is like… the end of novella #60? Something ridiculous like that?

Anyway, this is the last part in my “novella crazy pants series” before the plotline goes completely off the rails.

Trip to the New World

ship-sailing

The old world had been good, but not perfect.

What would this new one hold? She’d never been told exactly what this place would be like, and all the souls held in the bow of this ship were similarly confused – if they even spoke the same language.

Which, much to the sailors’ consternation, most of them didn’t.

She couldn’t understand the sailors’ tongues, but she did understand their sticks, whips, and clubs. She understood angry glares, uncaring tones, and raised hackles. She understood the chains around her wrists and ankles.

And she could guess their destination wouldn’t be fun.

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This was written for the August 22 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, old world.

Image by ArtTower from Pixabay

Blind Faith – Flash Fiction Challenge

green pine trees covered with fogs under white sky during daytime

The Story So Far… 

Vessix accepted her parents’ plans to sacrifice her to the gods after her father lost the vein of gold in the family’s small mine, since a blind person couldn’t support herself in their society. They left her at the temple where all the ill and infirm waited for the gods to come eat them, and Vessix remained at the altar with an ancient, dying man. Late that night, when the door to the temple unlocked and jangled open, the local god entered and ate the man who lay dying, but spared Vessix on the grounds that blindness wasn’t a death sentence. It took her home, gave her breakfast, clothes, a place to sleep, and a psychic duck as a pet. Now the duck urges her to escape and proclaim the god as false to the people of the town – will Vessix listen to the duck’s heretical words, or will she search for real truth? Stay tuned to find out!

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This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Story So Far, which has to contain a duck!  My story so far is based off a story I started but quit. The reason I quit was because it relied too heavily on Wizards of the Coast (D&D) copyrighted property, and it was destructive enough that I could even get in trouble for it as a fanfic. So I quit because I literally couldn’t share it. Still, this summary doesn’t contain those elements, but it does contain a duck!

Photo by Lum3n.com on Pexels.com

The Lavender Witch

lavender flower field

I’ve farmed lavender for uncountable years; witches live a long time, after all.  The quality of my lavender eclipses ordinary varieties – even mortals love my cultivars.  I can make a powerful sleep potion from the oils of my blossoms.  I could teach you, but mortality is precious – don’t waste it on sleep magic.  Don’t waste it at all.

Like I said, witches live a long time, but not forever.  I love you, child of man, and I want to give you the lavender farm when I pass.  Bury me beneath the tree in my fields, and I will rest easy.

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This was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge #5magic. The prompt word is in bold.

Photo by CARLOS PÉREZ ADSUAR ANTÓN on Pexels.com

River Pirate – Part 2

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I followed the sail of the boat at the English Turn.  Upon approach, I threw my grapple, then climbed to the deck.  I slipped past the guard into the hold where civilians slept.  I took a dress from a female passenger, then moved into the cargo hold.

I found the gold chest and picked the lock with a hairpin. I stuffed as much of the gold as I could into hemp bags of gold, then tied them to a belt which I hid beneath the petticoats of the dress.

The next morning, I’d walk away rich with the other passengers.

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Part 1 was very short, written for Sammi Cox’s meander prompt.  This one, Part 2, was written for Joanne the Geek’s Flash Fiction Challenge #3sail.  Join in if you can!

As far as additional inspiration, the English Turn was a famous turn south of New Orleans.  While navigable, it was such a steep turn that a sailing ship had to anchor down and wait for the wind to change before it could finish the curve and make it to port.  It was important during the Battle of New Orleans, as it kept the British from being able to immediately shell the USS Louisiana and Carolina.  Thanks to the association of the battle with pirates like Jean LaFitte and others of Barataria Bay, I chose to write this story about the famous bend in the river.  🙂

Prom Photos

couple on railroad

“This is the perfect spot.”  Mary lifted her prom dress and stood on the cross ties.

A white-haired kid I didn’t recognize took out his phone.  “Stand in a line on the tracks – I’ll take the picture.”

Everyone obeyed, then a nearby train horn wailed.  “Mary,” I said, “I think this is a bad idea.”

The photographer waved.  “Scooch in!”

“Gawd, stop ruining everything.”  Mary grabbed my arm, pulled me close.

The train rounded the corner.  “A train’s coming!  What is wrong with you?!”

“This is going to get so many likes!” the fey photographer cried.  “Smile and say cheese!”

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This was written for Joanne the Geek’s second monthly flash fiction challengetrack.  There’s plenty of time to join the fun, so I definitely encourage you to join in!

The other part of my inspiration was something I heard on the radio.  In North Carolina, 18 people died on train tracks last year – and evidently at least some of them were high school students taking prom pictures.  So I added a fey villain to ensure the danger, then wrote this up.  But if you’re going to prom or have a kid going to prom, tell them that no amount of Pinterest love is worth dying for!