First entry, #NYCMidnightflashchallenge, a.k.a. “The Grand Derangement”

2 08 2015

It had to be historical fiction, in a secret bunker, and involve a bag of coins. So here goes:

Picard - 4The Grand Derangement

Synopsis: In 1758, the British expelled thousands of French Acadiens from their farmlands in Nova Scotia to places all over the eastern coastline, separating families and allowing many to die. Anastasie, her daughter Marie-Madeleine, and her cousin Marie-Josée are sent to freezing George’s Island with two hundred other women and children and must use their wits to survive.

Marie-Madeleine shivered and tugged her scarf more tightly around her thin shoulders. “Maman? Why won’t the soldiers let us inside? It’s freezing!”

Anastasie Bourq pulled her daughter in closer. “They say they don’t have space in the barracks, Marie-Madeleine. I only hope they will send your father back soon so he can speak to them in their English.”

It was November 30, 1760, and the Bourqs and two hundred other Acadien women and children shivered on the slopes of Île a la Raquette, what the English called George’s Island, after their king. The only man with them, the Abbé Francois le Guerre, had managed a warm berth in one of the warehouses – not comfortable for sure, but better than out here on the wind-swept ground.

Anastasie remembered well when the English soldiers had pulled them from their churches, how they had taken her husband, Joseph, and the men, and sent the women and children to this island. Already twenty were dead from exposure.

Anastasie’s cousin, Marie-Josée, spoke some English and went to the Barracks, seeking warmth. She had been gone for days when Anastasie heard her shouting at them across the field.

“I thought that was you.” Marie-Josée hugged her cousin. She looked demented, her clothing torn and dirty, her eyes and hair wild.“You know, you can get warm anytime you want, Anna, you just have to be nice to the right fellow.” She grinned, wobbled.

“ Marie-Josée – you’re married! What of your Jean? And the Abbé! What does he think?”

Marie-Josée waved her hand. “The Abbé is drunk – hasn’t been awake for more than an hour for days and awake he is worse about grabbing my ass than the soldiers. And didn’t you hear? Our men were already expelled, on some ship headed somewhere. We’ll never see them again.” She coughed, wiped her nose. She brightened. “But I can help you. I brought food – the men bring it to pay. It may hold you until they bring the ships for us. Unless you want to come in? There’s lots of work …”

Anastasie shuddered. “Non, merci. But the food would be welcome.”

Marie-Josée nodded and put down a bundle tied in a ragged cloth. “I can get more, cousine. This is all I could take with them watching. And, Anastasie, I hear the soldiers talking. There are bunkers all over the island. If you find one, maybe you will be warmer, heh? But lookout for pirates. They shelter there, too.” She turned away. “Bonne chance, Anastasie. See you when the boats come.”

Anastasie spoke to the other frozen women and children on the field. A few came to search with Anastasie and Marie-Madeleine.

“Let’s go, bébé. Perhaps we can find a warm place to hide from the wind.”

They walked around the front of the island, the side facing the ocean, away from Halifax harbour. The wind burned their faces, but there were no soldiers.

Marie-Madeleine called out. “Look, maman! There’s a hole in the hill!”

There was – a dark cave that pointed right out to sea. Anastasie poked her head in, to discover it was a long, curving bunker which seemed to run right around the island. Little holes dug through the wall allowed some light, and she could see several doors, but there were no other people inside. She called the others and they flooded in. As the wind lessened, families spread out along the bunker. Anastasie and Marie-Madeleine sat alone; their only kin were the men, gone now, and Marie-Josée, up with the soldiers. They found a dark corner and ate Marie-Josée’s cheese and bread and dried meat. Afterward, Marie-Madeleine fell asleep against the wall, wrapped in her scarf and finally warm. Anastasie explored the bunker, stepping carefully in the gloom. At the farthest end in the darkest place, as she ran her hands along the wall, she felt a spot of loose crumbly dirt. Curious, she dug at it. In the back of the hollowed out space she touched a cloth bag. When she pulled, out tipped out heavy circles. Coins.

Anastasie sat down against the wall with a thud. Saved!

She opened the seam of her dress hem here and there, pushing the coins in, working in the dark. She had to keep them secret. They had their families; she was alone. When she had them all hidden, she woke her daughter.

“Come, bébé. We must tell more about this place.”

They walked back to the encampment and called to the others, leading them to the bunker. Warmed, the families started to talk to each other about their expulsion and the loss of their land. They wept and raged, prayed and sang. They shared food and clothing as they had before. Once the Abbé visited, but not for long.

Anastasie kept her coins hidden. There was nothing to purchase, anyway, except with her body. Finally the soldiers came and shoved them back to the field.

“Look, Marie-Madeleine! The boats are here!”

“Will we see Papa?”

“Merci Dieu, I hope so.” Anastasie’s heart soared.

The women cheered at the sign of the boats, crossed themselves.

“At last we will be free from this frozen land. I hope we go south,” a woman said. Her fingers were so frostbitten her daughter had to dress her.

They loaded eagerly onto the boats, except for Marie-Josée, who begged to stay behind. Perhaps she’d overheard the soldiers. After two days of heaving waves and sickness, they landed further north instead, in snow-covered Cape Breton. The men were not there.

Anastasie’s coins let her rent a tiny room in Sydney, keeping she and Marie-Madeleine alive until the boats came again to take them to New Orleans. There they found that their men had been recaptured, to repair their dykes and farms. None of the English knew how, and they needed food.

Anastasie counted her coins. Perhaps she had enough for their passage back. Back to Acadie, and Joseph.

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Gentlemen and ladies, start your engines…

1 08 2015

zieglerwriterdeadlineOnce again, I’m trying my hand at the #NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Contest. It’s a bit insane, given that I have officially “given up writing” (see previous blog entry), but there’s something oddly compelling about a contest with a very short deadline, given parameters, and a small word count, even for we procrastinator types.

See, in the contest, you are sorted into heats, given a genre, a location, and an object to work into your story. This time they are allowing some freedom about the genre definition, but really really want the location to figure prominently in your story. There are hundreds of people competing in the contest, which has several rounds; people gradually get winnowed out and tossed to the four winds until the last round where you compete against maybe a hundred people from around the world for the last fast fast entry.

As for me, well, I’m procrastinating. What else would you expect? I was given the genre “Historical Fiction” and a location and object that I don’t find particularly inspiring to my creative mind (plus I am not a fan of historical fiction genres unless they are very well-done and I can guarantee 1000 words is not going to be enough to do a good job). So I’ve been researching, looking into ideas that I can pluck from my local area and inhabit with people.

Right now I’m thinking of George’s Island (sometimes without an apostrophe), a little drumlin in the harbour in Halifax that has been used for defence since the first inhabitants landed here. It’s nicely situated in the middle of the harbour, with commanding shooting lines to cover any entry to the landing spots themselves.

The island has been used as a fort, as a prison, as a party locale(recently), a provincial park, and also, alas, as a parking place for many of the Acadians expelled in the Grand Derangement. It’s a windy spot, always, and tales of the poor women and children left there in November of 1756 give me the chills. The Brits didn’t treat the Acadians well, to put it lightly, tossing around 10,000 of them out of the Maritimes and leaving them to freeze and die on boats and in the water and on George’s Island (until they needed them to repair the excellent farmland dykes the Acadians built that were broken down and so they allowed a few of the men back). True, it was wartime. True, the French and Mi’kmaq were winning battles and scalping people and some of the Acadians were right in there fighting the Brits, despite some of their neighbours swearing non-combat oaths. But so many died with the expulsions that the shame was great enough to alter the course of Canadian history.

Longfellow made up Evangeline, and the rest, as they say, is history. Never deny a poet can move a country. Even if he’s never been for a visit to the place.

But enough of politics. Now I have to whip together a story involving these elements, make it read human, channel my inner Wolf Hall-ishness (hahaha), and come up with a readable short short story to send in by midnight tomorrow. Yikes!

On the very good side, we get feedback from our entries, and I can post my entry in the forum for other participant’s comments. Should be interesting…and who knows, maybe this will get me started writing for real again.

Or maybe, my apartment will just get really really really clean…

MjAxMy01MjczYTFkMTAzNDA1NWNj





Flash Fiction: First Date

6 10 2011

http://redroom.com/member/dorothyanne-brown/writing/first-date

First Date

by Dorothyanne Brown

Mavis smiles at herself in the mirror, licks a smudge of lipstick on her tooth.

“Damn stuff,” she says, “Fifteen dollars and it’s supposed to stay put!” She notices then that it is staying put.  On her tooth. She brushes her teeth, leans in suddenly to the mirror, grasps her tweezers, attacks her chin hairs.

It’s her first date since George left her three years ago.  Since he left she’s enclosed herself, encapsulated herself.

Her friend Peg finally drags her to the computer and forces her to do one of those online personals for people over 40. “It’s the only way to meet anyone at our age,” she says. “I mean, you’re not going to hang out in bars are you?”

Mavis shudders.

“What do you like to do?” asks Peg, typing.

“Knit, crosstitch, and play cards…”

“Oh come on.  You sound 105.”

“I feel 105.”

“Bad attitude. Let’s put – yes, likes long walks in the country, dining out, holding hands by candlelight…”

“Oh no!” Mavis covers her eyes. “I hate the country – too many bugs! I can’t eat out because of my allergies, and if I was to hold someone’s hand by candlelight I’d have no idea who it was with my eyes.  What if they expect me to do some of these things?”

“There’ll be all sorts of time for explanations later.  Now, the kind of man you are looking for –other than George,” Peg says, then grins wickedly, “How about: “Wanted: warm funny man who picks up his own underwear, especially after I’ve torn them off him.”

“Peg! I can’t!” She is squirming, laughing. Peg clicks “ok” and “save”.

Something makes Mavis keep her profile as it is. She checks the site three times a day, four times. No one appears.

Until “Intellectual 204” smiles at her.  He likes what she “likes” – walks in the country, dining out, holding hands.

Something makes her smile back.  They write small notes to each other, tentative. From his picture, he looks tall, fit.  Mavis starts exercising, toning up her tummy. They write more, longer. They risk a phone call. He likes her voice.  She likes his – deep, but not smoker-deep.

By Friday, they decide to meet, just for coffee.  He offers to pick her up. She goes mad, shaving everything, buying new underwear, trying on too many outfits.

She is waiting now, stretched tight.  The doorbell finally rings and she leaps to her feet.  Barely able to breathe, holding her stomach in, she walks to the door.

Outside, a short balding older man waits, holding an absurdly large bouquet of flowers.

“Mavis?” His voice cracks.

“Ted?” He nods.

“I think we need to do this,” he says, and reaches forward and pulls her into a hug, awkwardly, but firmly.  She can feel him shaking, feel it gradually lessen. She realizes with shock he is more nervous than she.

She pulls him tight to her and they hug again.








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