If you are participating in the 12 Short Stories Challenge, today is the day to submit your eighth short story for 2019, using the prompt: Workbench.
Last month was a short, short story, this month we’re writing much longer stories. 1800 words feels like a huge endeavour after the shorts, but that is what this challenge is all about.
I will accept and approve posts for Workbench (Word count: 1800 words) from 14 August 2019, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00), until 15 August 2019, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00) on 12shortstories.com. Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world.
Please submit your story on www.12shortstories.com.
- Log in.
- Submit (Top right).
- Complete the form.
- Select the correct category: Prompt 8: Workbench
- Do not select any other category.
- Your story must be 1800 words. I won’t approve stories under 1750 or over 1850 words.
- Submit for approval.
- Read and comment on four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
- This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
- Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
- Our next prompt is at the end of this post.
A few more points:
- I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
- NO hate speech. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
- Be careful of profanity.
- I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.
Can I still join?
You can join the 12 Short Story Challenge in any month. So, if you start in June, that will be month one for you and then May 2019 will be month 12. Sign up on www.12shortstories.com and join the group on Facebook.
Here is my short story:
The Business of Hope by Mia Botha Prompt: Workbench | Word count: 1800 words | Genre: Drama Warning: profanity and abuse My grandma was not good with people, but she sure was good with plants. Anything half dead and wilted soon turned green and thrived under her thumb. That was me when I arrived on her doorstep, half dead and wilted, in the middle of the night. When social services couldn’t find my daddy and all the foster homes had kicked me out they finally found Grandma. That night on her doorstep she looked at me, a wilted dirty pink thing with a shitty attitude and I looked at her, a wrinkly thing with no tolerance for any kind of attitude and she said, “Well, you’s girl, are about as expected as a sparrow in winter.” She opened the door and that was that. I had a home. Grandma had a workbench; well workbench was a generous word. It was a few old planks balanced on a rickety trestle, propped against a dilapidated shed, but it suited us just fine. If we were fancy and English we’d call it a potting table, just like the country magazines Grandma liked to read but we weren’t neither fancy nor English. We were trash, but folks didn’t bother with us and we didn’t bother with them. It suited us just fine. When I asked about the people in town, Grandma always said, “We’s were people poor, but dirt rich,” and stuck her spade deeper into the bed unearthing our gold as she slipped the seedling out of her palm into its moist nest, patting the soil around its roots. “Dirt rich, kiddo.” We lived off the land. We sold our flowers and grew our vegetables and traded for what we needed. “Take care of the land and it takes care of you. Don’t never forget that,” and then she’d pat the soil again. She didn’t ask what happened. She didn’t pry. I told her eventually and she listened. We watered the garden with our tears. The regular schools wouldn’t take me. I was a danger to others and besides I was far behind with my letters so I had all my schooling on that workbench. Grandma fixed me. She taught me the ABCs and the one, two, threes. She taught me about sweet peas and foxgloves and when to prune the roses. She taught me to make a kind of peace with life. “Life’s gonna prune you back, Kiddo, but it’s just to make you stronger,” she threw these words around while fighting with the giant shears and a climber that had wondered too far up under the roof tiles. I dodged the thorny shoots she pulled out and sent crashing to the ground. “It just makes you stronger,” and she’d cut the next one and I would dodge it again, making a game of it. Life at Grandmas suited me just fine. She taught me more about her garden, I watched her gnarled fingers coax the seeds to life. Brown and hard and wrinkled things that unfurled into gentle green life with soft green leaves, that burst into orange trumpets. We made vines grow, we trailed them over the walls, we braided them around the corners. The scent of the sweet peas clung to the air and seeped into my soul. We held life in our hands and that was all we needed. Life and each other. “Flowers are hope, child,” she’d say, “If we got flowers, we got hope.” The brim of her garden hat bounced when she spoke. She took it seriously, this business of hope. The seasons changed; the trees grew taller. The seeds took root and the garden thrived. I thrived. My heart bloomed and found its flowers. It made orange trumpets of its own. When I got older she told me about my granddad. “When God was weeding he missed that one and I mistook it for a flower, biggest mistake I ever made, bad seed that one,” and then she’d go back to stabbing the dirt. “Plain bad,” she’d say. “Your daddy, he came out like that, another bad seed, but your granddaddy sure made sure that that seed grew.” Daddy came around eventually. It was a couple of years later. He was looking for me and someone had told him about them finding Grandma, but Grandma gave him money, that’s all he wanted anyways, and he left again. I didn’t see him. Summer was winding down and we were getting ourselves ready for the fall. I wilted again when he left, he made me remember again and my heart turned brown again for a while, but Grandma brought me back and promised to keep me safe and that year she taught me about the compost. About taking care of the soil. “We got hope, Child,” she’d say. I was turning the compost when the police came around. It was an especially fine batch that year, very ripe. Grandma told them Daddy had come back, but that she’d sent him away and that he hadn’t been here again, that it had been months ago. The policeman didn’t linger. “Still looking for him,” she said a few weeks later when they called again. We were gearing up for a fine spring. The bulbs were ready, all eyes and little roots. Grandma was planning on making a big splash. We’d never planted so many before. “Add more of that fine looking shite. We’re making gold, pure garden gold, you hear me, Kiddo? Make sure you add enough; we’ll get more from ol’ Bill if we need to.” When spring finally came, the newspaper people did too. Everyone took photos of Grandma’s garden and asked about her compost, but she just smiled and said, “It’s all about the shite.” Grandma was so happy. “They say the earth be laughing, when there be flowers,” she said. After she died I kept up with the planting and the compost and the weeding. I made a little business of it for the neighbours. I learnt people don’t mind dealing with the white trash as long as the white trash got something they wanted and I had the prettiest flower beds in the whole county. The best flowers, strongest seeds, healthiest compost. I made mighty fine gardens. I pitched up on time and I finished early. Smart, moneyed-folks liked that. When the police came around again I was turning the compost again and I wasn’t worried. I was a grown woman as the sheriff reminded me when he took stock of me. Asshole. “Neighbour’s dog dug up a bone.” The sheriff said. “Yeah?” I paused, wasn’t quite expecting that, so I dug deep instead and turned the compost. The sheriff didn’t appreciate the pure farm freshness. “Seems to have been on your property.“ “Plenty bones round here. Granddaddy used to shoot anything that moved as Grandma tells it, but I think you knew all about my granddaddy.” “Yeah, he was a piece of work. But this here, is a human bone. A femur. That’s the thigh bone.” “I know what a femur is. Whose is it then?” “That’s what we’re trying to find out.” He waved at the flies. “Got a warrant to let the dogs loose.” “What are the dogs gonna be sniffing for?” I rested my foot on the top of the fork. “They be cadaver dogs; they sniff out cadavers.” I turned the next section of the pile. “Fancy, but can Cadaver dogs sniff past bone meal?” “What do ya mean?” he squinted at me. “Bone meal is everywhere. We use it in the beds. Drives the dogs crazy. That‘s why the garden is fenced. You can try the woods though, nothing there that’s ain’t meant to be there.” I pointed to the corner of the property. He nodded at me and then to officers holding back the dogs. The dogs bounded past my fences and into the woods stringing the men along behind them on their leashes. “They’ll start there then. Say, your Daddy been ‘round lately?” I shook my head. “No sir, and I thank God for that.” “Thing is, your granddaddy been gone a while, ‘round thirty years or so. Took off a couple years before your daddy.” He put his foot up on the wall that goes around the bed and leaned on his knee. He was grateful that I’d left the compost alone. “Bad seeds, Grandma always said.” I pulled a bag of bone meal from the workbench. I ripped the corner and started sprinkling it in the beds. “Damage was already done by time he left, Grandma said.” “Yeah well, those bones they found are around thirty years old. Is that a coincidence?” I shook the bag; a cloud of dust blew his way. He coughed, straightened up and took his filthy foot off my wall. “I couldn’t say. I wasn’t even born then.” I reached for the next bag. “And then your daddy came ‘round few years ago, right? Well no one saw him leave and no one’s seen him since.” “What are you asking, Sir?” My patience was done. “My granddad did bad things to my daddy. He beat him. He did a whole a lot more too. He was a shite. He hurt my grandma who was the kindest most loving woman ever. He was the biggest shite everyone knew and my daddy was no better. He did terrible things to me. He did things a daddy should never do to his little girl. He let his friends do it too.” I gave the bag another shake, but he was too far away for the dust to reach. “And now you’re asking me if I care to know where in the world those evil men are? Well, I can tell you Sir, I do not and not knowing where they are suits me just fine.” He’d turned grey about halfway through my little speech. “Just doing my job, ma’am. Have to investigate.” “Investigate all you want. Investigate all damn day, but first tell me: why didn’t investigate when everyone told you what my granddaddy was doing? Why did no police investigate what my daddy was doing to me? I think you should take your investigating elsewhere.” I grabbed another bag of bone meal. “In them woods is most likely just a hunter. A stupid redneck who got himself drunk and shot out there in the woods. Bet the critters did a good job on him if it’s been thirty years.” “Yeah, stupid redneck.” The sheriff put his hat back on and walked towards his team in the woods. I opened the bag and started on the next bed. Couldn’t be too sure what those dogs could smell, but nobody was finding nothing this time around. Grandma always said she made mistakes, but she never made the same one twice and that suited me just fine.
Here is the ninth prompt for the 2019 challenge:
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by Mia Botha
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