Shepherd’s Derelict: A Novel
A friend of mine convinced me to join in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge last week. For those who’ve never heard of this, participants are given a random prompt, with 48 hours to turn in a story of under 1000 words. Living my life by the guiding star of Why Not, I entered, and almost immediately regretted it, as the prompts did NOT inspire at first. However, like most things, if you let them marinate, something good will come. Below is my story Bury the Trash, marinated for 40 hours and written sporadically throughout the final eight. My prompts were:
- Historical fiction
- A military recruitment center
- A shovel
Let me know your thoughts!
Bury the Trash
Writing out and checking off her list for the day, Cecily Plowright made herself comfortable in the makeshift recruitment tent that the Chevaliers du Bayou Affame had set up in Guidry’s field. She knew it made little sense to add a new item just so she could check it off, but she liked the sense of order and accomplishment she felt, watching those tidy little lines get marked with an X, one after another.
- Runt calf, liniment back left leg – X
- Chicken (speckled,) pluck – X
- Will, brown pants, patch – X
She hoped the newly minted Captain Lance P. Tibideaux—as recently as Monday the favored son and heir to the Tibideaux dry goods store on Main Street but now a captain of the Glorious Cause—wouldn’t mind her using his desk while she waited, but she didn’t suppose he would, conditions being what they were.
Come to think of it, conditions being what they were, she might as well take her time.
She liked the way his fresh-cut quill pen felt in her hand, the way the ink from the captain’s desk didn’t splotch or run thin the way her own home-cut pens always seemed to, obliged as she was to make her lists on the back of old meat-wrapping paper or a quarter piece of foolscap, rough surfaced, no matter the precious pennies spent to buy it. Yessir, Captain Tibideaux’s pen flowed smooth as warm butter across his parchment, and a body could get used to that kind of ease.
The list items lengthened with the easy flow of the pen across his fine paper.
- Put out the washing, no clouds today – X
- Send Will to town (corn grits, lard, lye soap) – X
- Tell him not to cut through Guidry’s field – X
- Tell him again – X
Will—she still couldn’t make sense of him in that gray uniform—rocked back and forth on the captain’s camp stool, small animal sounds escaping his thick lips, sounds that made no sense coming from a man his size.
“Hush now, Willie Boy. We’ll be home for supper in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. I got some of them crawfish in town, and I’m gonna cook ‘em up battered and fried, just the way you like.”
Motherhood had come late to Cecily—unlooked for and unwelcome—but from the first moment she gazed at Will’s too-small but trusting eyes, his tongue somehow too large for an infant mouth, Cecily had taken to the task with a heart as hot and fierce as any mother bear. It was hard with Will’s father alive, and was harder after he died, but Cecily had somehow managed the milking and plowing and the slaughtering of hogs year after year until Will got big enough to help. Now, a man full-grown, Will could do most of the heavy work on his own, so long as she reminded him and kept a close eye, but his mind would always be a child’s, fond of all he met, no thought for the adders in the grass.
Still a bit longer to wait, the sounds of the men finishing up their parade practice at the far end of the field.
- Fix Millie’s saddle – X
- Watch out on the town road – X
- Ask Will what happened to the corn grits, lard, and soap – X
- Tell him to take that fool uniform off – X
- Ask him where it hurts – X
- Clean the blood with a warm rag – X
- Help him dress in fresh underclothes – X
- Let him keep the cursed gray jacket, but take the pants for washing – X
- Hush Will – X
- Hush Will – X
- Hush Will – X
Will knew better—he did—than to trust the Tibideaux boy. A lifetime of beatings and petty meanness had seen to that. But when they’d come with their uniforms and trumpets and drums, riding through town like God’s own calvary, Will had gotten excited, and the Chevaliers du Bayou Affame thought it was funny to dress him up, make him feel like one of the men, maybe kick him around a little bit for sport, the way some men’ll kick a puppy if it suits ‘em. But when he’d come home this afternoon, beat all to hell, no shopping money and no grits, the blood pooling in his britches mixed with shit, well that was more than enough.
More than enough for Cecily, anyway.
- Call on Captain Lance P. Tibideaux – X
The flaps of the captain’s tent were drawn shut, tied from the inside, and the setting of the sun obliged Cecily to turn up a small oil lamp set on the desk. Only a little longer, and she could get about her business in privacy. Even now the shouts of the men receded as they rode off into town for a night of liquor and mayhem. All except the captain, of course. Cecily shifted in her seat, uncomfortable with the soft feel of his back under her heels, the way it gave, just there, like stepping on a jellyfish unexpected. But hiding him under the desk had been the only way. When Captain Tibideaux had refused to see the situation from her point of view, he had seen the point of her kitchen knife.
“Just a little longer, Willie Boy, and we’ll have you safe and sound at home. Say, look at that latrine shovel just there. You wanna grab that for your old ma?”
Cecily dipped the pen one last time into the pot for the final item on her chore list. The miss-matched ink would be a shame, but she’d have to check the last item later, when she got home.
- Bury the trash –
I’d love to share a few free copies with readers.
If this sounds like your kind of book, let me know by filling out the form below. I’ll be giving away five advanced reader copies to the first folks who respond!
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About the Author
A.G. Bennett lives with her wife and family of elderly four-footeds in the woods of Wisconsin. She has worked on a crab tender off the Pribilof Islands, as a Hardee’s line cook, a dishwasher, a waitress, a roofer, and as a glorified toilet cleaner in a ranger’s uniform. She has published several children’s picture books under another name.