Author Trisha Faye runs “Pages of the Past: Celebrating Historical Fiction,” an excellent website, newsletter, and facebook group for historical fiction readers and writers.
She also hosted her first historical flash fiction contest this December, which I entered, and won!
For those of you not familiar with the term, flash fiction is characterized by its brevity. The shortest flash fiction I’ve ever attempted was for the (no longer running) Six Word Story Challenge.
The “Pages of the Past” contest (thankfully) allowed for a few more words. Contestants chose one out of three historical photo prompts. Based on the photo we chose, we composed a 400-600 word story. My story came in at 600 words exactly. (Whew!)
Of the three photos, the one below caught my eye. It started me thinking about the millions of American women who entered the workforce during World War II, about how working outside the home changed their lives, and how their lives changed again as hostilities ended…
Milly’s face ached, the smile plastered across it wearing thin. This has got to be the last photo, hasn’t it?
“Just one more, girls! You,” the newspaper photographer pointed to Lorna, who was whispering to Nanette, “could we get a smile on this one? Please? Remember, you’re the happy, hardworking women of the Homefront!”
Milly suppressed a sigh. C’mon Lor, just play along so we can get back to work.
Lorna rolled her eyes. “Okay, okay.” She flashed him a wide grin. “Better?”
Snap. “Perfect!” he said, then muttered, “Finally.”
Flexing her stiff jaw, Milly asked, “We’re done, then?”
Without waiting for an answer, Nanette slid down from her perch above the locomotive’s “cow catcher,” allowing the hammer she’d posed with to settle into the dust. Lorna hopped down too, continuing her stream of talk. “When Steve gets home, we figure we’ll get married right away, especially if he can get back his job at the foundry…”
The photographer didn’t notice Milly’s question, or Lorna’s interruption. He pulled out a silk handkerchief to wipe down his nice Graflex camera, grimacing at the dust and dirt of the train yard.
Milly climbed down from her perch and sidled past Nanette and Lorna, who was outlining her future life in rapid detail. It seemed like the whole town had couldn’t stop talking about the future since this morning’s headline: “Allies Liberate First German City.”
Aachen had been taken just yesterday. American forces were in control of a city on German soil. Finally, after all these years, it seemed like the end of the war might be in sight.
And soon, Milly thought, everything will change.
Pursing her lips, she took a deep breath and willed the tears away. Better get back to work. It doesn’t bear worrying about. But first, she wanted to make sure this task was done. Stepping closer to the photographer, she asked again, “Excuse me—are we done?”
He glanced up at her, wrapping his camera flash as carefully as a new mother swaddling her baby, and blinked. “What? Oh, sure. Yep. All done.”
Nodding, she turned to go, but he continued talking. “Bet you girls are looking forward to getting out of all this.” His nod took in the whole train yard—the smells of oil and coal dust, the haze of steam, the echoing cacophony of metal on metal and voices of workers hollering to and at each other. “Back to normal life. Back home.”
Milly opened her mouth, then closed it. He watched her, waiting for an answer as she wracked her brain for an honest, acceptable response.
Mercifully, Lorna stepped in. “You bet we are!” She snapped her gum loudly as she grinned. “I mean, it hasn’t been so bad. But once the boys all come home, I’ll sure be glad to leave these aching muscles and this dusty hair behind!”
Nanette laughed and agreed, and Milly took the chance to slip into the background, to gather up the hammers and search out something to keep her hands busy.
Gravel crunched underfoot as she tried to outdistance thought. Of course, I’m glad the war’s looking to be over soon…but…
Things would be different if Matt hadn’t…if it hadn’t been for that sniper in Sicily.
One of the fellas working up in the locomotive called to her. She waved and glued on a smile. After Matt, this job had given her purpose. She’d made friends here.
Glancing back at Lorna and Nan laughing, rejoicing over the bright future they could see ahead, she bit her lips and faced forward, squinting into a hazy, smoke-obscured horizon.
If you’re interested in checking out more of my writing, my novel, Whom Shall I Fear? is available on Amazon.com in paperback and for Kindle. It is available to read for FREE for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.