Writing a Future – Speakeasy #167

To milk or not to milk... that is the question...
To milk or not to milk… that is the question…

Dorothy skipped into the barn. “Lookie, here!  A looooove note from Samuel Stivens,” she taunted in a sing-song voice. She made kissing noises and then clasped the letter to her chest.

Caroline dusted off her skirt and ran toward her little sister. “Give it to me!” Her left boot knocked over the milk pail.

Both girls gasped.

Caroline stooped to right the bucket. “Mom’s going to be mad. Sophie’s dry and we won’t have milk for dinner.”

Dorothy scrunched her eight-year-old face. “Maybe it’s ‘cause yer tryin’ to milk a bull. Can’t you see the horns?” She giggled. “Or the…” she pointed to the underside of the animal. “Yer lucky you didn’t get knocked silly!”

Blushing, she ripped the letter from Dorothy’s hand. She plopped onto a bale of hay and took a deep breath before slipping her finger under the envelope flap. Sam left for the city two-and-a-half months ago to find work because after three seasons of drought, the ground supported death more than life. Caroline prayed this would be the letter where he sent for her.

Dearest Caroline,

I found a job at the docks. For twelve hours a day, I stack grain. The meager pay barely covers my expenses. It’s not nearly enough to support a family, so I have to withdraw my proposal until such time as I am able to afford to properly care for you.

I hope you will wait for me, but I understand if you cannot do so.

Sincerely,

Samuel

Caroline felt the blood drain from her face. At age nineteen and seven months, her parents pressured her to marry. Mostly because they couldn’t afford another mouth to feed, but she knew the gossip about her marriageability bothered them as well.

“Whatsa matter?” Dorothy patted her shoulder. “You look like you seen a ghost.”

“You wouldn’t understand, Dot.” Caroline sighed. “Sometimes when you’re grown up you have to do things you don’t want to do.”

Dorothy wrinkled her nose. “Then I don’t wanna grow up.”

Caroline smiled. “Neither do I, kid. Neither do I.”

* * *                * * *               * * *                * * *

Dressed in her nightshirt and sleeping cap, Caroline sat at her wooden desk, inked quill poised over paper. Just as she imagined, her father insisted she marry Bart Folsom. His family owned the town mercantile, which her father found stable and honorable. He turned a blind eye to the rumors of Bart’s carousing and dalliances with prostitutes in the shadowed alleys beyond Main Street.

Her protests ignored, Caroline had to accept that she would be wed the next month. At the mere thought of him touching her, acid backed up into her throat. She forced it down.

Dearest Samuel,

I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling and that you are unable to keep your promise. I had hoped that you would find faith to believe love would see us through you would find prosperity.

She crumpled the paper and shoved it off the desk. She felt trapped by the limitations of her words. A part of her wanted so much to condemn him; as if his guilty emotional imprisonment would grant her freedom from her own atrocious future. However, in her heart, she didn’t want the responsibility of forcing him to bear the burden of her circumstances, so she decided to project the illusion of happiness instead.

Dearest Samuel,

I’m saddened that your work is unfulfilling, but I believe, in time, innumerous blessings will be bestowed upon you. The good Lord gives us tribulations so that we may appreciate our times of peace.

You should know that I am to wed Bartholomew Folsom at the end of next month. Although I gave my heart to you, I will dedicate what remains to my new husband.

I wish you the best.

Sincerely,

Caroline

She folded the paper in thirds and slipped it into an envelope. After extinguishing the lamp, she crawled into bed and pulled the covers to her chin. In the morning, she would take it to the post office. She hoped her letter would free him to pursue a new future.

Loneliness and dread gnawed at her insides.  Caroline knew she had no choice but to accept a life without her Samuel.  She figured in time, she might be blessed with some shade of happiness.  She prayed the same for Sam.

But Sam was never the same again.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly writing prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 734) and (1) use “But Sam was never the same again.” as the last sentence; and (2) make some sort of reference to the video prompt, a short film, entitled Writer’s Block, by Tom Gran and Martin Woolley.

The letter with the strike-through lines and the paragraph following it are my references to the video prompt.

Note:  I amended the last few sentences after original posting (but before linking to Speakeasy grid.)  I think it flows better now.  Also, for fun, I wrote a continuation, from Samuel’s POV.  It’s not part of the challenge, but if you’re interested in reading it, click here!

The challenge is open to everyone, so click the badge below if you’re curious to find out more!

P.S.  I have been away from the computer for the last few days, so I’m a bit behind on reading and commenting.  If you’ve visited here lately and I’ve not responded, please bear with me as I catch up 🙂

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73 thoughts on “Writing a Future – Speakeasy #167

  1. Imelda June 23, 2014 / 6:59 AM

    Another excellent writing from you, Janna. I feel so sorry for the Samuel and Caroline. I hope that they tried their difficult life together than separately.

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 7:37 AM

      Thanks for reading, Imelda. It would be nice if love always trumped practicality 🙂

  2. Eric Alagan June 23, 2014 / 7:21 AM

    “Caroline would have no way of knowing, but Sam was never the same again.”

    Oh dear – that’s a tragedy.
    ________________________

    In a more cheeky vain – I wonder how she milked the bull 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 7:38 AM

      That was the sentence prompt, Eric… it had a sad feel to me.

      In response to your wondering: not very well… hence the empty pail 😛 You could say she was distracted! (Love has a way of messing with a girl’s head, I guess.)

  3. Sean June 23, 2014 / 7:31 AM

    I liked this. Good visual dictation of the surroundings that allowed the reader to see what was happening and the setting which it was in. I did get a chuckle out of the bull. When I read the letter, it brought to memory of the movie The Waterboy. Maybe I just watch too many movies. Yes, my ramblings are all over the place… Squirrel… It’s always a pleasure to read what you write. thanks

    Sean

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 7:40 AM

      I’m glad you stopped by to read it and enjoyed the story, Sean. The whole reason I got the idea to add the bull is because I have a great photo of one I took a couple weeks ago… however, I forgot to get it off the camera and add to the post. Oops! I probably need to watch more movies… I’ve not seen Waterboy. Your ramblings are welcome here anytime 🙂

  4. nrhatch June 23, 2014 / 8:10 AM

    Good write. And that’s no bull . . . 😎

  5. suzicate June 23, 2014 / 9:14 AM

    I can see this one as a start to a novel!

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 2:36 PM

      Thanks for reading, Suzicate! (I can’t even get my other ideas finished 🙂 )

    • thewizardsword June 24, 2014 / 3:29 PM

      Yes, a novel! I don’t care much for love stories, but I’d read this one.

      • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 7:16 PM

        Thanks for the encouragement, Susan! I’m not much for love stories, either (so I have no idea why my short pieces end up going that route 🙂 )

  6. Debbie June 23, 2014 / 10:23 AM

    Cases like this one are just too sad! I know people ultimately do what they have to, but the romantic in me wishes for a happy ending (and I’m not sure there’s going to be one, for Caroline, Samuel, or even Bart). Well written, Janna!

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 2:38 PM

      You can’t tell by reading some of my stories, but I do wish for love to prevail over practicality 🙂 Somehow I think Caroline will make happiness no matter what situation she’s forced into.

  7. Carol Ann Hoel June 23, 2014 / 11:15 AM

    This short story is very touching. You evoke a lot of emotion in a few lines. Blessings…

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 2:39 PM

      I’m glad the emotions came through, Carol Ann. This was actually the third story I tried to write for this prompt. That last sentence was difficult for me to incorporate, and I kept getting too tied down to the idea conveyed in the video 🙂

  8. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) June 23, 2014 / 12:06 PM

    I love the way you have crept under the skin of Caroline.. and how you capture that painful writing of the letter to Samuel.. you are a very skilled writer.. I still hope that something will happens in a positive way for a couple meant to be.

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 3:34 PM

      Thanks for reading and for your kind comment, Bjorn. I did write a continuation of this, so they aren’t completely doomed 🙂

  9. mbarkersimpson June 23, 2014 / 2:29 PM

    I love that your style changes depending on where the prompts take you. I can see why the sadness of this sentence spoke to you, but I enjoyed where you went with it. The raw emotion and harsh reality of the piece is compelling. You created a whole lifetime from just one sentence – powerful stuff 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 3:01 PM

      Thanks, Mel! I purposely try to stretch on the prompts and incorporate some element that I see as a weakness (in this case, the historical aspect – I had to do some research when writing this one.) It feels like a safe place to experiment… the worst that can happen is it gets shredded in the comments…. best case, I find something else I might want to explore further 🙂

      • mbarkersimpson June 23, 2014 / 4:00 PM

        I highly doubt your work could be shredded, but I understand the feeling of safety within the community. We can’t grow unless we experiment. If that makes me a guinea pig – I’m in!

        • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 9:02 AM

          Aw, thanks, Mel! Willing readers are always a good thing 🙂 (Haven’t figured out how to force people to read yet, haha!)

  10. diannegray June 23, 2014 / 3:03 PM

    Very nicely done, Janna. I was going to say ‘that’s no bull’ but Nancy beat me to it! 😀

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 3:11 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, Dianne! (Or, maybe it IS a load of bull? 🙂 )

  11. Emilio Pasquale June 23, 2014 / 3:09 PM

    OK, Janna, you’ve done it again. That opening is captivating and really gives us a glimpse of Dorothy’s personality. And that line “… the ground supported death more than life.” The only disappointment for me was the ending, the prompt sentence seemed weak. But it sounds like I’m the only one who felt that way. Maybe because I needed, wanted, more.

    • jannatwrites June 23, 2014 / 3:21 PM

      I’m glad you liked the opening, Emilio. (Being an annoying little sister myself, I drew from experience 🙂 )

      I can see what you’re saying. If the prompt didn’t require that sentence to be the last one, it wouldn’t be. Honestly, I had a difficult time writing for that sentence, but out of the several stories I started, I liked this story the most. Perhaps if I had written it from Sam’s point of view, the sentence would’ve led to a more satisfying ending. Hmmm…maybe I will write a second part and do that, just to see what happens.

  12. thepaperbutterfly June 23, 2014 / 3:33 PM

    This was depressing 😦 But that’s how life is sometimes. . . I actually enjoy reading angst despite the fact that I avoid it in movies and TV shows. You did a great job with creating likable characters in less than 700 words. I struggle with brevity myself (as you can see from my review XD), so I appreciate an author who can create a vivid story with so few words and characters I can relate to. To be honest, it’s very difficult to play a video game or read a story if I don’t like the characters and/or I can’t relate to them in some way. I think characterization is always of utmost importance, and you’ve definitely mastered it. This is a bit off topic, but I played Final Fantasy X, and I didn’t like any of the characters, so I hated the game. It’s considered to be one of the best in the Final Fantasy series. The ending was supposed to be sad, and I cry fairly easily, but I didn’t cry XD Watching the final scene of the game made me feel like I should be sad, but I wasn’t, and that’s when I realized I didn’t connect with the characters at all. I’m reading a story by John Gardner, October Light. His writing is really great, but I don’t like any of the characters, so I’m having a hard time connecting to the story. I don’t think Gardner meant for them to be likable characters, but what’s the point of that? I don’t know XD I was a bit ambivalent about the last line because I felt it was stating the obvious, “Caroline would have no way of knowing, but Sam was never the same again.” But then I read it was part of the challenge, and it made sense. I think the last line also felt a bit rushed? Something just doesn’t feel right about it, and I’m not a good enough writer know how to fix it. But that is just my opinion :$ Everything else was great.

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 9:01 AM

      I enjoyed your in-depth comment, Paperbutterfly! After thinking on it (okay obsessing about it all night and possibly dreaming about this story) I made a few changes to the ending that I think makes it flow better. (I agree that the last line did come off a little abrupt…. there are more lines leading up to it now.) So, perhaps maybe I can sleep tonight, haha!

      I know exactly what you mean about characters that we don’t have a connection with. I don’t have to like the character, but they do have to have some quality that I can identify with. On the surface, you wouldn’t think a despicable character would be liked, but if this character rescues kittens, they now have a redeeming quality.

      • thepaperbutterfly June 24, 2014 / 9:39 AM

        The ending flows much better now 😀 Awwwww, I feel bad, I didn’t mean to make you worry that much :$ It was a minor thing. It sounds great now 🙂

        Actually, in the fandom I’m in (Final Fantasy VII) they make you empathize with the antagonist, Sephiroth. There are several games in the series, but in one of the games you see him when he’s fighting for the good side. But then he tries to destroy the world XD To be honest, I’m more into the archetypal hero, but I like villains that you can empathize with.

        • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 9:51 AM

          Oh – it wasn’t your comment… I tend to obsess over words (and if it’s not that, I’m focused on something else, usually just as trivial!) I do try to keep it in my head so I don’t drive those around me nuts 🙂

          I’m not familiar with Final Fantasy, but I can relate to the identification with characters. I usually root for the hero, but there have been a few villains I kind of rooted for. I always wonder if I switched to the dark side when that happens!

  13. DragonSpark June 24, 2014 / 2:36 AM

    Ouch! that was rough… Poor people. Your writting really has the ability to move people Janna. Great take on the prompt.

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 9:07 AM

      Thanks for reading, DragonSpark! I did tweak the ending a bit before linking on the Speakeasy grid, but it has the same effect.

  14. clarbojahn June 24, 2014 / 11:17 AM

    This is wonderful, too, Janna. I Just arrived from the story after this one, “A New Future.” I was enticed to visit. As in the comment above I agree you have a talent for creating empathetic characters in just the hook. Great job.

    I Still think the last sentence is a little awkward but I don’t know how to fix it. I think going for the next story is fulfilling and satisfying.

    Thanks for a fun read. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 7:12 PM

      Thanks for reading and sharing your reaction, Clar! I’m happy that at least the two stories work well together 🙂

  15. thewizardsword June 24, 2014 / 3:31 PM

    You are so, so good at writing about relationships and the “L” word. Truly gifted you are, Janna!

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 7:20 PM

      Oh, thank you so much for the kind comment, Susan! I appreciate you reading it.

  16. Deborah June 24, 2014 / 5:03 PM

    This is great! I came to it from the sequel. I was a little confused there, so as per your “instructions,” I came here to see what led to it. I’m sure glad I did. Now I can go back and more fully understand the other piece. Did I mention that I love your writing? 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 7:25 PM

      I’m glad you read both and liked the complete story, Deborah! (I’d hoped the second one would stand on its own but I may have pegged that wrong.) I really appreciate you reading, and for the encouraging comment 🙂

      • Deborah June 25, 2014 / 1:14 AM

        I certainly think it could stand on its own. Either I was a little off today–and trust me, that’s entirely possible, or, with a few little adjustments, it would be just fine. If you’d like, I can look at it again and tell you where I got off track. 🙂

        • jannatwrites June 25, 2014 / 11:57 PM

          You are too kind to offer, Deborah, but I think at this point I’ll just let it go! (My mind has already moved on to new ideas, I guess, haha!)

        • Deborah June 26, 2014 / 2:28 AM

          OK, that’s fine. I did enjoy it though. 🙂

  17. Creative Brevity June 24, 2014 / 11:17 PM

    ” “Maybe it’s ‘cause yer tryin’ to milk a bull. Can’t you see the horns?” She giggled. “Or the…” she pointed to the underside of the animal. ” 🙂 That made me grin.

    Nice one Janna. Stops abruptly though. Poor Sam, wonder what happened to him. Wish they could be together instead of marrying that other guy….Off to read Part Two…

    • jannatwrites June 24, 2014 / 11:55 PM

      Thanks so much for reading, CB and sharing your reaction. I hope the second part provides a little more satisfaction 🙂

  18. Mike June 25, 2014 / 8:11 AM

    A wonderful piece of writing Janna. I liked the way it left so many questions still to be answered, like how was her life with Bart? What did her news do to Sam? As someone else said, an ideal start for something longer, maybe.

    • jannatwrites June 25, 2014 / 11:59 PM

      I appreciate you reading and sharing your reaction, Mike! (I actually did write and post a sequel to this from Sam’s POV 🙂 )

  19. imab00kworm June 25, 2014 / 1:19 PM

    Hmmmm… I failed to see a twist here 😉
    Very well written and I noticed in the comments you were wondering what would happen if you went to “the dark side” *dramatic music* and I would like to see you write something from the perspective of the bad guy once 🙂
    I tried it for a trifecta a while ago, I can find the link if you want. (I’m pretty sure it was called Of Monsters and Men). Anyway, have a great week 😀

    • jannatwrites June 26, 2014 / 12:04 AM

      Ah, I’m keeping you on your toes, Imab00kworm 🙂 Not so much a twist in this one (but I did write a second part from Sam’s POV that may count as a tiny twist.) Writing from the bad guy POV… good idea. I’ll think about that!

      • imab00kworm June 26, 2014 / 2:03 AM

        Yay! I’ll be looking forward to it 😀

  20. Jen June 25, 2014 / 5:20 PM

    How sad for them! You did such a lovely, believable job with this piece. I love the scene and time period you created, too.

    • jannatwrites June 26, 2014 / 12:08 AM

      Thanks for reading my story, Jen! I normally don’t do historical, so it was fun to give it a try.

  21. Silverleaf June 25, 2014 / 6:02 PM

    This is an exquisite piece, Janna. I love the historical aspect and the way you set it up to end with the prompt line. I didn’t read it before you edited it, but this is fantastic!

    • jannatwrites June 26, 2014 / 12:11 AM

      Oh wow, thanks, Silverleaf! The comments have been mixed about the ending. For some reason, that sentence was difficult for me to work with. I think it’s the ‘but’ at the beginning that made it challenging.

  22. chlost June 25, 2014 / 7:38 PM

    I came over to read this post because of the photo! You are one of the few people to use a photo of a cow for a post…..other than me! And a beef cow as well! This one wouldn’t give much milk. (This is what happens to a person when they have been around cows too much-we critique cow facts.)
    Anyway, I loved the story. It flowed very well, and the character was well developed in a short time. The scene was very clearly described so it was easy to picture it. I saw that quill pen marking over the sentences!
    Good work!

    • jannatwrites June 26, 2014 / 12:13 AM

      I’m glad the cow caught your interest, Chlost! I don’t see cows often, but when I see them close up, I try to take a photo. I appreciate you reading the story – I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for the cow education… I’m not knowledgeable about cows at all!

  23. Blake June 26, 2014 / 3:37 AM

    I just read the follow-up story. I particularly liked the dry humour of this visualisation: “Neither the booze nor the thick air could give proper cover to her exposed cleavage.” :).

    • jannatwrites June 27, 2014 / 7:29 AM

      Thanks for taking time to read both parts, Blake!

  24. Bastet June 26, 2014 / 7:04 AM

    Another fantastic write … I do think you should be publishing if you aren’t all ready doing so. Your writing is so convincing and moving. Now I’m off to read the follow up story! 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 27, 2014 / 7:30 AM

      Wow, thanks, Bastet! I have submitted a few things here and there but the rejection gets tiring so I honestly haven’t put too much effort into it. At some point I will so I can prove to myself I’m not just goofing around here 🙂

      • Bastet June 27, 2014 / 11:30 AM

        Can understand your waiting to get the your muscles stronger. Rejections are more than trying … hope you finally get published as you should.

        • Bastet July 1, 2014 / 2:49 AM

          🙂

  25. Kir Piccini June 26, 2014 / 7:49 AM

    Hopeless romantics (like me) always believe there will be a happily ever after, but sometimes that is simply not in the cards.

    written with a voice that is believable and rational it was a great read.

    • jannatwrites June 27, 2014 / 7:32 AM

      Thanks for reading, Kir! They might find some sort of happiness, but the happily every after… now that’s a difficult illusion to fulfill 🙂

  26. innatejames June 26, 2014 / 11:10 AM

    Oh good, your ending just begged for a follow-up from Sam, I’m glad to see your wrote one. And I get to re-enter the world you created here, Janna. Loved the sisterly repartee. And your research on the cows paid off.

    • jannatwrites June 27, 2014 / 7:33 AM

      Thanks for reading (both parts) Innatejames! I’m glad you enjoyed some aspects of this story 🙂

  27. Suzanne June 26, 2014 / 11:12 AM

    Such a sad tale. I’m grateful I didn’t grow up in a world like that. I love her first drafts of her letter to Sam. And I love the way you bring the reader right into the scene. 🙂

    • jannatwrites June 27, 2014 / 7:33 AM

      Thanks, Suzanne! I’m glad you were drawn into the scene 🙂

  28. Meg June 26, 2014 / 2:19 PM

    Nicely done, Janna. Seeing her rewrite her letter to Sam is such great insight into the character.

    • jannatwrites June 27, 2014 / 7:34 AM

      Thanks, Meg! I wanted it to come through that her letter projecting happiness was not her first inclination and that she wrote it with difficulty.

  29. philosophermouseofthehedge June 27, 2014 / 6:21 PM

    I must have caught the rewrite?
    I liked these: “after three seasons of drought, the ground supported death more than life. “(wondered if this would be a bit of foreshadowing as she was left behind?) and “Loneliness and dread gnawed at her insides” (really makes you feel what she was feeling)
    Last line works. Short. Finished.
    Enjoyed it! Well done

    • jannatwrites June 30, 2014 / 10:44 PM

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Phil! You probably did read the amended version if you read it here rather than email 🙂

  30. Sarah Ann June 30, 2014 / 11:56 AM

    You get so many emotions in here – the humour of milking the bull, Caroline’s pain and disappointment as well as her resolve. I wanted to carry on reading and learn more about all these characters.

    • jannatwrites June 30, 2014 / 10:45 PM

      I’m so glad you found it interesting enough to want to read more, Sarah Ann 🙂

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