A Whispered Agitation (flash fiction)

photo in public domain*

Last fall I entered the NYC Midnight Microflash Fiction contest. In January, I made it through the first round, and last night I learned that I’ve made it through to the next round! Here’s the story that moved me to the finals. At the end is some of the judge’s feedback.

Assigned genre: Historical Fiction
Action that had to be included: bricklaying
Word that had to be included: step
Time to write the 250 word story: 24 hours

A WHISPERED AGITATION
by Joanne Brokaw

Martin filled his trowel with cement, slopped the mortar onto the growing barrier, and topped it with a brick. “You’ll not see that neighbor again, Emily.” More slop. “She’s an agitator.” Another brick.

Emily knew enough to remain silent when her husband was mid-tirade. His word was law, by God, and she best not forget it. But while her lips were quiet, her spirit was not.

Days earlier, that neighbor, Clara, had returned from visiting cousins in Auburn and whispered to Emily rumors of a coming women’s rights movement.

“Can you imagine?” Clara marveled. “To have the vote?”

“That’s preposterous. Surely you’re mistaken. ”

“No, Emily, there’s to be a convention next week. We will be heard.”

For days, dreams of equality girded Emily with confidence. She sewed a new dress; Martin accused her of putting on airs. Her request to see the household ledger was met with icy silence. But it was her utterance of the word “suffrage” that prompted Martin to build the wall.

“You think we don’t know what our wives are up to behind our backs?”

Slop. Brick.

Emily spied Clara on her porch, her black eye and swollen lip visible even at a distance. Clara quickly turned away.

Slop. Brick.

Emily decided. With Martin distracted, she slipped away, donning her bonnet as she walked determinedly to the train station. She stepped up to the ticket counter and pushed a few pilfered coins towards the agent. “One fare to Seneca Falls, please.”

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

The judges had some nice thing to say about the piece and gave specific, really helpful suggestions. Here’s what they had to say: Continue reading “A Whispered Agitation (flash fiction)”

Musings on political (un)affiliation

October 11 was National Coming Out Day, and while I didn’t have anything to share on that day other than support for friends and family in the LGBTQ community, I do have something to confess today, something that does, in a manner of speaking, redefine my identity.

I’m coming out of the political closet.

When I first registered to vote, way back in high school, I chose a political party based on….well, I can’t really give you any other reason than I’m fairly certain my father recommended I register with that party and I said okay. And, for the most part, I was quite content with that decision for many years. My political affiliation was a reflection of who I was and what I believed.

But then time passed, and the party changed, and I changed, and I went out searching for more. I stepped across party lines to get to know the other side and found that they weren’t the evil fiends they’d been made out to be.

It was eye opening, and educational, and I grew as a person as I explored these people and views that had been touted as “wrong”. But over time, I was dismayed to find that the other side held the same “us or them” mentality as the party I’d grown up with. Their views really weren’t really that different and the way they shared them wasn’t either.

Both sides exhibited generosity, compassion, and service to their fellow man.

Both sides exhibited bigotry, hatred, and hypocrisy.

Both sides were unwilling to budge, always insisting that they were right and the other side wrong, even when both sides were a little bit right and a little bit wrong, and everyone might be better served if they just met in the middle.

And so I’ve spent several years sitting on a fence, watching from the sidelines. Continue reading “Musings on political (un)affiliation”

50 thoughts on turning 50: #25 Women, freedom and “Dating Naked”

VH1's new show "Dating Naked" premiered in July.
VH1’s new show “Dating Naked” premiered in July. (Source: VH1 pressroom)

Last year, I went to visit the Susan B. Anthony house and mused afterwards about what Susan B. Anthony might have said about the reality show, “The Bachelor”, in which women basically throw themselves at a man in the hopes he’ll pick them to be his wife. I likened it to emotional prostitution and pondered the idea that maybe women have forgotten the battle their foremothers fought for equality and respect.

Yes, women in America now have the right to educate themselves, prosper, and express themselves in ways women 100 years ago could only dream about. But have we taken those rights to such an extreme that we’ve enslaved ourselves to a celebrity driven/sexuality saturated culture?

I bring this up again because I saw a story in today’s entertainment headlines that makes me think yet again that we women have misused our freedom and set women’s rights back a few steps.

This summer, VH1 premiered a series called “Dating Naked”. The premise, according to a press release:  “Do you find love easier when you truly have nothing to hide?”

This season a rotating group of frustrated singles answered the show’s challenge to “bare it all” in the quest for love. After embarking on a series of blind dates, twelve people currently consider themselves “in a relationship” with someone they met on the show … Filmed in a remote exotic locale, each close-ended episode follows a man and a woman both going on three naked dates, including two with other suitors and one with each other.

It is an interesting premise, to consider what would happen if two people were left to woo each other without the material trappings of technology and social conventions. But when you take away the clothing? There are going to be problems.

Today, People.com reports that “Dating Naked” cast member Jessie Nizewitz is suing Viacom, the parent company of VH1 and the channel that airs the show, for $10 million in damages after the producers allegedly failed to blur out a shot of Nizewitz’s crotch.

In other words, the naked contestant on a televised naked dating show is upset because she was shown … well, naked. Continue reading “50 thoughts on turning 50: #25 Women, freedom and “Dating Naked””

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