We dig in the dirt to find buried stories. Some are at the surface, barely covered with dust, and others are fragmented deep in the ground waiting to be discovered or understood.
Writers are like archaeologists puzzling the past.
This compilation of 99-word stories have made the journey from dirt to words. Read what these writers have discovered in old places, aging faces and fading mythologies.
June 25, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far.
Avalon by Tally Pendragon
Something about those two trees was familiar to him. They came into view as he rounded the arc of Tor Anda’s perimeter. A memory stirred yet did not spark recollection. He shook his wizened old head and gathered his cloak about him, shutting out the nip in the November air, and began to climb the Tor. Images flashed through his mind, but faded before …
There was frustration in his eyes, but Merlin knew better than to let it show anywhere else. He reached a terrace, and there it was, the spring. He knelt, cupped hands, drank deeply, and remembered.
Ghost Town by Amber Prince
She walked alone down the dirt road, once inundated with horses and maybe carriages even, trying to feel some connection to her past. Had any of her family skipped stones in the stream nearby, or stopped for a drink after a hard day of mining?
Her fingers itched to run themselves over the weathered wood of buildings. She passed an old saloon that had once been the livelihood of this town. Eyes closed, she inhaled the clean, mountain air and tried to imagine the old ghost town come to life.
What had scared an entire town enough to run?
Rope Swings by Sarah Brentyn
I am Bridget.
They think I am dead.
In a way, I suppose I am. Yet I watch my town dissolve into fits worse than the girls claiming to be afflicted. Salem has become a carnival of fear, hysteria, and retaliation. Panic and pettiness result in neighbors and friends swinging by the neck. I was the first to hang. Still, I watch. I see townsfolk accuse and kill.
The irony tickles me. I am, indeed, a witch.
The devil they believe in does not exist. Evil does. It resides not in witchcraft but in the actions of ordinary people.
Grave Concerns by Larry LaForge
“Here Frisky. C’mon girl. Gotta go.”
The tiny silky terrier, behaving like anything but her name, lingered by the riverbank. With tearful eyes she seemed to hug – not dig – the ground, whimpering with reverence and sorrow.
Jason’s parents helped get Frisky into their upscale SUV as they tidied up the picturesque spot along the Ashley River. Their family hikes near the historic southern plantation grounds always ended with a picnic.
Jason thinks back to that day as he reads the announcement: “Plantation Development Cancels Condo Project.” Forensic tests from newly discovered unmarked graves revealed what Frisky already knew.
The 100-word version of the above story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.
Depreciation Over Time by Charli Mills
Evening fireflies flickered as Sarah padded the worn path to her dugout. Ever since Cobb sold the east ranch to the Pony Express, the station manager and his sour-breath wife lived in the cabin that was hers. She worked as kitchen hand behind the yellow calico curtains she had sewn and hung.
From accountant to cook slave. From cabin to hole in the prairie sod. From mistress to forgotten woman.
At the dugout, Sarah lit a dish of tallow. She sat down on the bed quilt, and pulled out the old poem, reading “Oh mother dear, restrain thy tear…”
Washing Day by Norah Colvin
Her freckled, calloused hands were red and chaffed as they gripped the wooden stick and stirred Monday’s sheets in the large copper pot heating over burning blocks of wood.
The children played in the dirt nearby, scratching like chickens, hopeful of an interesting find.
The dirt embedded under her torn and splitting fingernails began to ease away in the warm sudsy water as she heaved the sodden sheets and plopped them onto the wooden mangles.
The children fought to turn the handle, smearing dirty handprints on the sheets.
She sighed, and hung them over the line. One chore done.
True Calling by Sherri Matthews
Madeline Dorothy was stubborn and she knew what she wanted to do with her life. Looking after her mother wasn’t it.
Brought up as a Baptist Minister’s daughter, the middle child with two brothers during the tail end of Edwardian Britain, there was every expectation that she would forgo a career and stay at home.
The Roaring Twenties charged in and when Madeline announced that she wanted to pursue a nursing career in London, it did not go down well. She ran away and fulfilled her ambition of nursing sick children.
It was years before Madeline’s mother forgave her.
The Refuge by Lisa Reiter
She should try harder; then it might not have been necessary. There must be something wrong with her. Was she so inadequate, she didn’t know how to keep her man happy? Ugo Cerletti was responsible for the latest insult to treat her ‘marriage problems’.
Now her man was out, the decision already made and no going back. She gathered the children and ran – afraid he would catch her first.
She borrowed money from neighbours for the bus and finally she was at Belmont Terrace being enveloped by Erin in hope and hugs.
“Come in Jenny. You’re safe with us.”
Garden Rhododendrons by Anne Goodwin
My sister dived into the shrubbery. “She’ll never look for us here.”
I bit my lip. “But it’s cheating.”
Across the park, Mum was calling: “Coming, ready or not!”
She wasn’t like the other mothers, too busy to chat or play. Mum bubbled with stories of her carefree childhood at the big house, of games of Hide and Seek with handsome stable boys.
“Come on!” My sister grabbed my hand from between the leaves, a purple flower crowning her head like a giant bow. Sick rose to my throat. Mum hated rhododendrons the way I hated geometry and spinach.
My Ancestor, Peter Stille by Paula Moyer
Peter had been a Huguenot (French Protestant) all his life. His parents had converted before he was born. All had been well. Now Louis XIV decreed that Huguenots had three choices: become Catholic, leave, or be killed.
He hadn’t saved enough money for his fare for the ship to England, but time was running out. He had just enough to bribe a crew member. The night before embarking, he slid into the cargo hold as a stowaway.
Next morning, choppy waters. He threw up in a corner. Finally, the ship docked. He waited for darkness. Slid out into freedom.
Inherent by Pete
I’m usually outside when it comes. I’ll be cutting grass or tinkering with the car, getting grit in my nails and sweating when I think, Papa would have laughed at that.
I use his old tools that I keep in my basement. He had a place for everything, pipe cleaners, nuts and bolts, wrenches, the screw drivers with the worn wooden handles that still work so well.
He was a great man, my grandfather, and those brief flashes of the past give me a shiver of pride. Because if just for a second, he’s right there by my side.
You Can’t Take it With You by Geoff Le Pard
Mary opened the desk drawer. What a mess. She needed help with Dad’s estate.
Underneath some bills she found a postcard: Brighton, postmarked 1984. ‘Darling Peter, we have to stop.’ Signed ‘Angela.’
Mary remembered the strange woman at the funeral, calling herself Angie. ‘We need to talk.’ Handing her a phone number.
Memories flooded back.
Mum crying. ‘Why with Angela?’
Seeing a list of Dad’s standing orders. ‘£100 to Ms A Simmonds each month.’
A trip to town. Bumping into a woman and red haired boy. Dad embarrassed. Boy’s hair like Dad’s in those old photos.
What a mess.
Amelia by Irene A. Waters
Amelia left the two women who stared after her.
“Amelia’s in the family way again.”
“Every time that ne’er-do-well husband comes home she has another bairn.”
“Lucky his ship don’t come in too oft. Threes enough on yer own..”
One hundred and ten years later Amelia’s great-grandchildren scoured through Ancestry.com. Little was known of their great-grandfather apart from his birth date in Boston, Massachusetts. The last time the family saw him was 1904.
“I’ve found something.” We poured over the 1910 marriage certificate – to another woman. Not only new aunts, uncles and cousins but a skeleton in the closet. Great-Grand Dad was a bigamist.
Great compilation, Charli. Thanks for encouraging us to dig through the dirt.
There’s always something just below the surface!
Wonderful selection here Charli, amazing what your history prompt brought out for us all and what voices speak the loudest from our past. Looking forward to next week’s prompt 🙂
Thanks for adding your voice!
Love these. In fact it’s made me realise all of a sudden how I love historical fiction more and more – for the education in how different some lives have been – but that’s a theme beginning to run through me on so many levels! Thanks Charli x
I feel that way, too–I learn either new facts or insights and it sparks something in my brain as well as in my soul. It makes me think, but also serves to make me feel connected.
PS Sarah Brentyn – that one could go in a competition methinks – it’s brilliant!
I second that notion! Put the story in the Pony Express mail-bags and get it to…see next prompt! 🙂
A great flash by Irene A. Waters just added! I missed it in my email account–so sorry! Be sure to read her full account of Amelia–fascinating story which supports my theory that we never have to dig too far or too deep!
[…] responded last week found many connections to the past. When you read the compilation of stories, From Dirt to Words, you’ll see that the writers found […]
Great compilation Charli. I want to know more of Amber’s town and Sarah’s last line hits with a punch. Love the history in them all.