Celebrating Freedom #WOW555

This week’s #WOW555 prompt was  write from the perspective of a character who is not free while others are celebrating their independence and, at the same time, they somehow become reunited with someone unexpected. Especially given the recent discussion on the Confederate Flag issue, my thoughts were drawn to the Confederacy. Let’s be honest: I grew up in the north. While not seeking to absolve the north of racism, because we had plenty of it, when I moved to the south and saw Confederate flags (before the internet mind you) they were usually on bumper stickers that said, “The South’s gonna do it again!” or some other such language. All I could think of was, “What? The South is gonna fight a losing war for a horrible idea again?” (To those who would argue the concept of “state’s rights” for this issue, let me refer you to this link.) The setting of the story is some southern plantation in March 1861 after the Constitution of the Confederacy was adopted.

That being said, I had a very difficult time with this story for many reasons; not the least of which was my use of language that I abhor. It was used because of an attempt to be as authentic as possible for the setting of the story.

“Oh Clyde, more wine. My guests’ glasses are almost empty and I’d like to make a special toast,” my master said.

I nodded demurely and quickly refilled the glasses. Years of self-preservation had taught me to avoid revealing my emotions, so the anger didn’t show. “Yes Marse Johnson,” I said.

He looked at me and sniffed contemptuously. “Gentlemen! This day will live in history. Today with the adoption of the Constitution, you will be able to tell your grandchildren that you were here at the birth of the Confederacy. To freedom!” He raised his glass and drank deeply. They all applauded.

I kept my feelings in check. Anything else could have brought me a severe whipping – or worse. James, who had held my job previously, got whipped because he didn’t look happy enough when he was serving Marse Johnson dinner one night. The next night, I had the job. I made sure that Marse Johnson thought I was happy.

I had missed some of what Marse Johnson had been saying. “…now take Clyde here…” he said.

“Yassir?” I asked.

Marse Johnson looked me, disgusted at first and then he laughed. “See what I mean? These niggers can’t understand how to get along in day to day living. If we freed them like the Yankees want they’d be in a sorry state without us. Ain’t that right, boy?” He stared at me, waiting for an answer.

“Yassir,” I said, glad that my skin hid the shame I was feeling. “Thank you for taking such good care of me, sir,” I added. I hoped they wouldn’t note my sarcasm.

Marse Johnson didn’t think I was capable of sarcasm. He smiled smugly. “That’s a good boy. I’ll take care of you, boy.” He looked at the others. “The cheapest way to get more niggers is to let them breed among themselves.” He turned back to me. “Clyde, I’ve bought you a wife.” He motioned towards the door as a frightened black girl less than half my age was shoved through.

I recognized her. I fought my emotions. Marse Johnson went over to her and pulled her head up roughly so that she had to look at me. “I’m gonna call you Tonya. Look at your new husband, Tonya. I want you to have lots of babies for me.” He laughed.

Her eyes widened as she recognized me. My look warned her to be quiet. She was so young that she hadn’t developed any defenses yet.

“Well, Clyde, what do you say? Shall we show your new bride off to my friends?”

I knew what he had in mind. “Sir, she’s new. I would hate for her to embarrass you. Please allow me to train,” I almost slipped, “uh… her so that you may present her properly.”

Marse Johnson smiled. “Good sense for a nigger, Clyde. Go ahead. My friends and I will talk so we don’t need you right now. Take your bride to your room and start the training.”

“Yassir,” I said, trying to avoid trembling. I walked away holding Tonya by the elbow. As soon as we were out of earshot I whispered to her, “Never tell anyone that I’m your father. I’ll figure something out!”

Of course, I don’t know of anything like this actually happening. That being said, the horrendous way families were broken up in the slave trade, I can imagine this being possible. I can even imagine that something like this could have happened without anyone recognizing it.

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Finished! – #WOW555

The prompt for this week’s #WOW555 challenge is that we have to use the phrase “I’m outta here.” As I thought about that, and the end of the school year – today’s the last day with students for me – I couldn’t think of anything more fitting than a teacher finishing the year. Then I thought, what if she finished her career. (And yes, I used a female teacher instead of me as a male teacher.) What would it be like getting ready to retire. I’ve thought about it and decided to write about that dream.

Mary Alice Everett had given her life to teaching. She looked at the clock and noted that she just had 15 minutes left. Today she was retiring. After thirty three years of caring for elementary students, studying in the summer, dealing with principals, and working with parents, today she could go home, kick her shoes off and plan for the trips she had always dreamed of. She smiled to herself as she thought about her upcoming cruise. When she looked at her second graders who were getting excited about summer break she had to grin more widely. Their mouths showed remnants of the frosting from the cupcakes they had been eating at the going away party. They didn’t realize what “retirement” meant, but they were enjoying the party.

As time got closer for the final bell to ring, a few parents came by to pick students up early. But they stayed. These parents had once been her students, and they had come by not only to pick up their students, but also to say good bye to a teacher they had loved. Ms. Everett, as they still called her, got up to greet them and there were a few tears as they hugged.

The bell rang and the kids, knowing something special was happening, lined up to hug Ms. Everett with sticky hands. She laughed a bit, knowing that it was the last time. More parents came by to say good bye and linger in her presence. Lydia Perez came by to bid her farewell on her way to check in at the office. Lydia had done her student teaching under Mary Alice. The strong recommendation Mary Alice had given Lydia allowed her to get the job that was open on the second grade team that year. The two of them had taught together for the last five years.

Soon, the classroom was empty as students and parents made their way home to begin their summer break. Mary Alice took one last look at the room as she turned out the lights and locked the door. She’d have to come back tomorrow to clean up, but she couldn’t help smiling as she said, “I’m outta here.”

Lydia was heading back from the school office when she saw Mary Alice. Lydia gasped and then ran to her as she lay on the floor outside her door. Lydia knelt down and felt for a pulse, but found none. She screamed for help as she pulled out her phone to dial 9-1-1. EMS got there quickly, but not quickly enough. They said it was a heart attack. Lydia knew differently though. She knew that Mary Alice Everett had given her life to teaching.

Yep…I did go that way. That is, in a sense, a fear that I have that when I do retire, I won’t have that time I want to write, to photograph, or most importantly, to be with my wife. Someone noted that I tend to kill my characters a lot. I guess that’s just the way I roll.

High Class Move #WOW555

One thing most of my friends know me for is my involvement in the chess world. I really haven’t written many stories involving chess, when this week’s #WOW555 prompt was announced, I thought that this would be a good chance to write a chess story. Your prompt for this week is to dive within. And so, we see the story of a man who could really dive within a position, and another who could dive more deeply. The final little twist is an homage to my author and chess playing friend, Mark Marshall, who told us the story of his draw with a young man many years ago who just made his third GM norm and beat another GM in his early chess career. So, make sure you read all the stories that are about to come out at Wendy’s place, and then, start voting on Saturday!

I remember that day. I moved my head slowly to look at him. His steely blue eyes pierced my soul. He must have seen the despair in my eyes. It was over. I had blundered. A win and I had clear first place. A draw and I tied for first place with him. But I had found a way to blunder.

I shook my head, imperceptibly, I thought. There was no way out. I checked and double checked the board looking for a combination or a strategy that would help me. Nothing. My whole game had pointed to this position. I thought the combinations had been sound, but I just realized that the fifth move in the process left my queen hanging. I rubbed my hand over my lips. They were dry from the nervousness. I ran my fingers through my hair and blinked away tears. I had fought for so long to get this far and now I had messed it up with that sacrifice three moves ago.

Recognizing the inevitable, I took a deep breath and began to utter those words that I never enjoyed saying. I stuck my hand out and said, “I….”

Quickly my opponent broke into my pity party with a voice too loud for the occasion and stuck out his hand. “Would you like a draw?”

I stopped. I looked at him with amazement. I moved my hand over to shake his and blurted out “Yes!”

I took my hand back and breathed a sigh of relief. Then I asked him in a hoarse whisper, “Why? I was just about to resign?”

“I know,” he replied. His voice didn’t carry across the playing hall now. “I could see it in your eyes. I would have loved first prize all by myself, but your game deserved better than to lose by a misguided resignation.”

I looked at him and my eyes narrowed. Silently, I went through the moves I originally planned. Then, I showed him that he could take the queen stopping my checkmate plans. I shrugged and whispered, “It didn’t work.”

He shook his head and smiled. “You didn’t dive deeply enough into the position,” he whispered. Then he played the moves he had seen. After taking my queen, my bishop took his rook. When he took back he then played a knight check for me and showed me the forced checkmate that followed. “The only way for me to avoid the checkmate is to take your knight with my queen. When you take back with the bishop, you end up being ahead by a full piece and two pawns.”

I shook his hand and thanked him. I watched as he left after we put the board and pieces away. I remembered that day as I read that he would be challenging for the world championship. Not only could he “dive deeply” into the position, in his words, he was the high class kind of person the chess world needed.

Spring Walkers – #WOW555

ACH!!! Forgot to post this in the morning so I could enter this week’s #WOW555 contest over at Wendy’s place. The theme is spring. Everything grows in the spring, right? Here’s a bit of a different look at Spring growth….

The old man scratched his grizzled beard and then threw back the hood on his parka. He wouldn’t need that parka much longer. The snow was melting, and then…. He looked at the boat arriving at the dock. It came every week with supplies, just like clockwork. He laughed a bit as he watched the boat come to the dock. In years past, Wyvernfield, was a tourist paradise in the spring. Now, the visitors waited until the cleanup; rather the “all clear” he sounded after the cleanup.

He walked towards the dock being careful to stay on the path. The flowers of Wyvernfield were well known and he didn’t want to harm one of them. They used to laugh when they said that Wyvernfield was so fertile it could grow anything. Now they said it with an ominous air to their voices. As he got close to the dock, his ears perked up. He heard laughter. Old Jake had forgotten how to laugh ever since… well ever since that day. He didn’t like laughter and yet there it was on his boat.

Gerald finally spied the source of the laughter. Two young men and a woman talking and laughing on the deck. He shook his head. “What in tarnation is Jake thinking,” he said out loud mostly to himself. His boots thumped on the dock as he grabbed the rope Jake threw.

“Afternoon, Gerald,” the skipper said. Jake hadn’t smiled since that day either. “Got some visitors for ye.”

Gerald tied the boat to the dock and Jake put out the gang plank. “So I see,” Gerald said. “What brings you folks to Wyvernfield?” he asked.

“Huntin’” the blond headed boy said, suppressing a giggle. “We heard you got an interestin’ huntin’ season startin’ soon.”

Gerald closed his eyes and shook his head. He didn’t really want to say something he’d regret later. “Jake,” he finally said, “tourist season doesn’t start for another couple of weeks. What’s up?”

Jake shrugged and pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket. He looked at the visitors who were crossing the gangplank onto the dock and tapped his forehead. Then he shrugged again.

The girl came up to Gerald and held out her hand, “I’m Arliene Fennelly. Pleased to meet you. I hope you’ll lead us in the hunt. You’ve got quite a reputation.”

Gerald sniffed as he looked at the outstretched hand. He finally shook it. “Missy,” he said looking her in the eyes, “I don’t know what you heard, but I ain’t giving you any promises; not even that you’ll get out of this alive.”

“We understand,” Arliene said. “Henry and Egbert really wanted to come and try the challenge. They said it was the most dangerous game.”

“Tourists,” Gerald spat. “It’s all fun and games to shoot the walkers – until you run out of ammo or they come at you in a group from behind. You’d better pay me in advance – and know that next year, you may be one of the targets.” Gerald shook his head at the whole situation. Wyvernfield could grow anything in the spring; even zombies.

Voting begins soon!

“Why Would People Call Me a Villain?”

As we get ready for NaNoWriMo, Wendy Strain over at Write on Wendy challenged us to flesh out our villain in her new #WOW555 challenge. The idea would be for us to focus on his/her motivation. This year, the finish to my trilogy involves a villain who doesn’t really see himself as a villain. Perhaps those kind are the worst. Now the story.

He rolled down the window and carefully looked through his binoculars. It was the third day in a row that he had seen this child playing in the park, carefree, alone and unprotected. None of the nannies bringing kids to the park after school even acknowledged her. He decided to follow her today, just to make sure he’d have enough time to get away before her loss was noticed.

He watched as she slowly picked her way through the park, apparently headed for home. He thought about getting out and walking as he followed her, but decided against it. If anyone caught him, he wanted to be able to fly out of there. He didn’t think a 7 year old girl would notice that he was following her. He also didn’t think anyone else would even notice that she was being followed so he decided to chance it and keep using the skimmer.

He shook his head sadly to himself as he thought about that. A cute young girl that no one cared about. “It’s almost like I’m doing her a favor,” he whispered under his breath.. She’ll have someone to take care of her once I pick her up.” He didn’t think about what he would be putting her through, of course. He just knew that the boss needed a girl like her for a special customer. If he did his job well, he’d be rewarded. And now he justified his actions with this fantasy that she’d be taken care of.

He followed her carefully, never getting closer than a half a block to her. She looked at at every flower bed along the way and stopped to pet every dog and every cat she saw. She was just craving attention. She needed someone to give her that attention; she needed someone to love on her. This one would get lots of attention where he would take her; she would have plenty of men to love on her.

He smiled to himself as he thought about it. As he thought more about it, he began to feel slightly heroic as he thought about how he would be rescuing this poor deprived child. As he grew more and more self-assured that he was actually doing the little kid a favor, he got closer and closer without realizing it. Suddenly he realized that the skimmer was right next to the girl. She recognized his presence and he decided to take her now.

“Hey honey? Can you help me? I’m looking for my dog.” He described one she had played with a couple of blocks ago. “Have you seen him?”

She smiled as she nodded without saying anything. “Where is he then?” he asked.

She pointed back the way she had come. He breathed deeply before his next question. “Can you get in and help me find him?” He opened the door and she came in without saying a word. He closed the door behind her and smiled. He was glad she was so young and trusting. She would be safe with him now.

Check out the other entries this week at the Write on Wendy Challenge site!