The Summertime Blues
I decided to do something a little different this time and post a short story instead of an article. It’s a flash fiction story I wrote for Mary Rosenblum’s writing prompt, I found in the Long Ridge Writer’s Group e-News and Forum letter. It’s title is “AFFY” and I added a few words to the required 500, making it about 1,000 words.
This is what the prompt required: Are you ready for the ‘Summertime Blues’? What are they, anyway, other than a song lyric? Blue has a thousand shades and we can come up with a thousand answers to that question, right? So I asked you to write a flash fiction story, up to 500 words to represent the summertime blues.
This is my version of “Summertime Blues”. I have written several prompts of Mary’s, and I will be using more of them here. I do hope you enjoy reading this one.
AFFY By Donna Jean McDunn
Affy carried the burlap bag over her shoulder as she plucked the soft, fluffy white cotton out of the bolls. She ignored the ache in her back and the sharp prongs, even when they sometimes cut her fingers and wrists. She dreamed instead of a new land. One that Ned had promised would be filled with love and freedom.
She had heard of the Underground Railroad, but didn’t believe it could exist – whites and free blacks working together – helping slaves escape. But Ned assured her it did exist.
He planned to run away, but promised he’d come back for her. She convinced him they should make the journey together. She didn’t tell him about the new life she carried inside. She must wait until they were free.
They planned to meet after dark, at the river where the road bends. The woods and the darkness would provide protection from the probing eyes of the overseer and his whip. Ned would be waiting for her and together they would make their run for freedom. But first, she must wait for the signal. Only then would it be safe to escape.
For days she waited and prayed to hear the song with the hidden message. Her heart filled with joy when the slaves began to sing the words she longed to hear.
Swing low, sweet chariot,
Comin’ for to carry me home!
I looked over Jordan and what did I see,
Comin’ for to carry me home!
A band of angels comin’ after me,
Comin’ for to carry me home!
Affy joined in the song and imagined the Underground Railroad as a golden chariot. The endless rows of cotton disappeared and the golden chariot filled with angels, swept down from heaven to carry the three of them to freedom. Her heart ached with love for Ned, for their unborn child and for those strangers willing to risk their own lives so they could be free.
Finally, the sun began to set and the days work ended. Her and the other slaves trudged down the dirt road. The darkness beckoned to her, offering her what she longed for, a chance of escape. A chance to be free.
Affy swallowed the fear that threatened to choke her. Her heart thumped against her ribs. Would the darkness hide her from the eyes of the overseer long enough for her to slip away into the woods? Many had tried and failed.
As the slaves neared the wooded area – she allowed her steps to slow. The others passed her by, filling in the space between her and the overseer, shielding her from his view. Tears of gratitude stung her eyes, her vision blurred, and she quickly brushed the tears away. The tears would have to wait.
Goose bumps prickled the back of her neck in spite of the heat. Any minute she expected the sting of the whip as she made her way toward the trees. The river was just on the other side of the woods and beyond the river … freedom and Ned.
Entering the trees, her heartbeat quickened again as she thought of being in Ned’s arms. The thorny, thick brush grabbed and tore at her tattered clothing, as she forced her way through. Then suddenly she found herself standing on the riverbank.
“Ned, where are you?” At the sound of her voice the startled croaking frogs and chirping insects quieted, but there was no reply from Ned. Affy waited, as joy died and the fear and doubt crept through her.
Why hadn’t Ned come? Did he leave without her after all? Did he get caught? Her heart twisted in pain.
She couldn’t leave without him, only he knew the way, she had no choice but to go back. She must return before they missed her and set the dogs out. Still she waited as long as she dared.
Affy made her way back through the woods and to the dirt road leading to the slaves’ shacks and the one she shared with Ester, the old woman. She had taken her in when Affy’s mamma died of fever. It wasn’t so bad. The shack kept out most of the cold in the winter and the old woman was kind to her. She opened the door of the shack and crept in.
“Where ya been child. I been waitin’ for you,” The old woman said from the darkness. “I got bad news. That young Ned you so fond of got his self sold today.”
Affy stopped listening. The tiny room began to spin as one word vibrated throughout her mind and body…sold.
She crawled into her ragged cot. Her Ned was gone. Sold. Nothing mattered now except the new life growing inside her.
She placed her hands on the tiny mound. Ned had started more than just their baby growing inside of her. He’d ignited a burning desire for freedom for herself and their child.
“You will be born in freedom. I promise you. I will find those who know about the Underground Railroad and with their help we will be free.”
In response, Affy felt the first flutters of life. Her heart longed to tell Ned of his child. Tears rolled out of the corners of her eyes, dripping onto the dirty cot. Ned was out of her reach, but their child was not. Somehow she must survive this pain.
She closed her eyes and saw Ned’s smiling face. “Don’t be sad, little one. “Your papa is strong. He will find us.”
As always, I truly do love comments and appreciate your opinions or questions. If you leave your blog or website address or where you can be found on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter I will like, follow you, or Tweet in return.
It’s been said that writing is a lonely business and that’s true, but if we writers and readers continue to support one another, then we are no longer alone.
I was recently chosen as one of nine winners in The Young Adult Mystery Times Nine 2012 Short Story Competition. The list of the nine winning authors and their story titles can be viewed at: (13) Buddhapuss Ink LLC Click on “see more” to view the entire list. The winning stories will be published together sometime in September or October. I will update you then.
My first adult short story, “Saving Katie” has been published at: www.thepinkchameleon.com a free magazine. Once on the site, scroll down the page until you see Short Stories. Click on that and the list of short stories will appear. Find “Saving Katie”.
Some of my work can be found online: My children’s story “Pack Leader” can be found at: www.knowonder.com also a free magazine. Once on the site type in the title of the story in the Search Engine at the top of the page and it will take you to the story.
I also have a children’s story, “The Golden Stallion” online at: www.storiesthatlift.com. This too is a free magazine. Once on the site click on the Story Library and then Children’s Stories. There is a Search Engine on this site also.
In May 2012, my children’s story, “Gus’ Big Adventure” was published at: Bumples Magazine. http://www.bumples.com/ A subscription is required to read these stories, but if you have children between the ages of 4-10, it might be worth it.