Sunday, September 6, 2015

They Have A Story: Empty Rifles

Emily Putzke has recently put together a monthly writing challenge involving writing a short piece of historical fiction from a painting or photo that she posts. This is mine. I rather ran away with some of the things shown by the painting and ignored others. My scene comes from a much larger project that is spinning about my head and it has felt so good to have some of it written out; refreshing, freeing, inspiring and all that. 

Thank you Emily for doing this clever tag and I eagerly await the ones to come in future months!

I hope you all enjoy this snippet. :)

   “Miss—a party of Yankee cavalrymen have just crossed Bowers Creek.” As I said it my eyes shot to the flag, red and blue with white points of light rippling against the columns of the house.
   “Yes, Rose.” Miss Fiona's hands went rhythmically on, shaking out the rumpled shirt, lifting a pin from her apron pocket and attaching the shirt to the clothesline. The slow ebb and fall rubbed on my cool and I took courage.
   “Miss, oughtn’t we to do something? The rifles are ready, and so are the other women.”
   “How much shot did we send to my brother and how much did we use against that small band of raiders?” she said.
   It was the same cool voice that she used in the old days when gathering my little siblings about her to teach them their lessons.
   “Too much,” I muttered. Red dust spurted up from beneath my foot. Miss Fiona's hands went on in graceful dance.
   “In other words there is none,” she finished and it was true, but then Miss Fiona never told a lie.
   A shrill yap in the tangle of willows at the end of the lane and, as if it had been a shot, bedlam broke loose. More dogs ran howling to join the chorus and the rest of the women of the hamlet, some wearing bonnets, others just from their kitchens or sewing, rushed to gather behind Miss Fiona.
   “Rose, fetch the muskets for the other women.” Miss Fiona said, her voice so calm that it sent a chill shuddering down my back.
   All my courage fell to the ground. I stammered, “But miss—you said...”
   She turned from the line, and as she untied her apron the wide flounces of her skirt sprang outward and down in all the rippling glory that they had known in the mistress's days of being the lady of the house. In her hand I saw the shining stem of the old colonel's prize rifle, she had had it by her all the while.
   “Rose, you shall hold the flag.” A gush of pride went through me for was not my brother even so standing beside Miss Fiona's own brother holding his flag? We also shall fight beneath it I thought.
   The clip of horses hooves in the lane, a flash of blue through the trees, the dogs barking drew closer, I ran.
   But before I could reach her again they were there.
   The sliding sun glowing on the worn leather of stirrup, tilted cavalry hat, and boot leg. Battle weary soldiers in blue riding beneath a Yankee flag tattered by the fray. Not twenty paces off from the group of women, with a shifting of reins, they stopped.
   There were not above fifteen women all told, desperate pride in every ridge of their bonnets and tilted muskets, children pressing close against their skirts, but it was not because of them.
   Then I saw the commander. His horse's head rearing back slightly as he pulled on the reins with leather gauntlet clad hands that lay deceptively still on the front of his saddle even as the stallion's hooves danced in the dust eddying about the troop. There were streaks of grey under his hat, but the drooping mustache could not hide the quirk of his mouth.
   I knew him, and I knew she would know him, too.
   And then I saw him look at her. She stood hands supporting her father's heavy gun with ease, pink lace flounces kissing the dust, and another row bouncing around her elbows. It was the same dress that she had been wearing that day, and even now, work stained as it was, I could see that he remembered. And her curls were the same: sunlight caught in dusty gold, the front swept back above eyes steely grey and piercingly beautiful.
   Not a voice spoke, the men waited their leader's command and the women waited for theirs.
   A breeze sprang up the new leafing of the trees, snapping at the split ends of the Yankees flag, ours springing proudly erect in the warm burst.
   But I don't think either of them saw or felt it.
   Another moment and... “About face!” the leader cried. It was the same brisk voice I had heard before, but with a new crack of ready command. He lifted his hand, but whether it was in command or for another purpose I could not say for he still looked at Miss Fiona. And perhaps it was that the straight beams of light flashed bright in her eyes, but she too gave one proud little dip of her head.
   The troop divided and gathered and the tramp of hooves vanished once more, the only sign of their passing the clouds of golden dust.
   I put the flag back in its place and turned again to the road.
   A sigh passed over our group and with weary looks and quiet words, still in their silence of relief, the women scattered to their homes. Miss Fiona alone still stood in the road, looking into the blue sky fast fading into fiery gold.
   She handed the empty rifle to me.
   “Rose, go fetch the last basket of washing. The afternoon is almost gone.”
   She went back to the almost empty basket and shook out the next shirt, lifting another pin she began to attach it to the line, and I saw that her hands were shaking.


  1. Oh, Eowyn, this was SO beautiful! You have such a way with words. Isn't it fun writing snippets of a story based on pictures?

    1. Natalie,
      Thank you friend! :) Writing stories from pictures is definitely tops! We have an ENORMOUS collection of classic paintings on the computer and though I have yet to really write anything off of them it is still pure bliss to simply imagine them.

  2. I love this so much! I wish I'd seen their first meeting, but the way you told it I didn't have too :)
    And the title is simply perfect...

    1. Mary,
      I'm glad. And thinking about their first meeting makes me all tingly, too, so I'm very pleased you could "see" it as it is :)

  3. This is wonderful!! You're a talented writer! =) Thanks for linking up!

    1. Emily Ann,
      Thank you! I had a great deal of fun writing it. :)

  4. Wow, that was really good. You write well. :)

    1. Jessica,
      Thank you so much for your sweet comment!

  5. Excellent, excellent writing. You captured something that needed to be captured here, and wow, as Jessica said, that was really good.
    Esther (wisdomcreates)

    1. Esther,
      Your comment made my day. Thank you very much for writing it!

  6. Ooo, I like this. I liked the way you hinted at their past history, and their 'farewell.' And that bit of description with the breeze and the flags is lovely.

    1. Elisabeth,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comment! "Hinting" is so exciting to do, don't you think? Giving just enough so that the reader can imagine yet keeping a shadow of mystery too... so much fun to write!

  7. Fantastic. :) Really enjoyed reading this! I could really see the characters and Rose's POV rather than Fiona's or the commander's was very effective!

    1. Meghan,
      Thank you! I'm so glad. :) As I said, I've had this story in various forms, spinning around in my head for several years and yet there was never a Rose character until this scene came to mind and then suddenly she was there and I was seeing the scene entirely through her eyes!


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