Dear Flora – firecracker

I’m taking a break from Ten O’clock Scholar to work on a historical short story for an upcoming anthology. Dear Arlie is a fictional tale about five friends in their early 20’s, set in 1911. While fictional in nature, snippets about these real women have been taken from actual postcard correspondences between Pauline Washburn and Arlie Shinkle.

In Tuesday Tales, we write to a weekly word prompt. Once a month we write to a picture prompt. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘firecracker.’

Return to TUESDAY TALES here, to read other fun tidbits of upcoming works.

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Dear Arlie

June 1911

“Alla, dear, hand me another stack, please.” Arlie Shinkle held a hand outstretched across the table and looked at her friend expectedly.

“Certainly.” Alla Richardson finished the crease she was making on the leaflet she was working on and laid it down in front of her. Taking half of the papers from the stack sitting beside her, she handed them over to Arlie. “After these, we’ll be finished.” She looked back down at the table and resumed her task in an aura of silence.

Arlie tipped her head towards the third girl sitting primly at the end of the table. “We made good time, getting these done. It would have gone faster if Pauline were here to help us.”

Millie nodded in agreement. “I wish Pauline hadn’t moved all the way to Los Angeles. I miss her being a part of our fun. Have you heard from her lately?”

“I got a postcard last month. It was a train going through the orange groves in Southern California. A wintertime picture – and not a spec of snow. I’m jealous. She said she’d gotten my letter. The one where I wrote and told her about Mrs. Kitch dying. Poor Florence. Losing her mother this young. And now she has to take care of her little sister, Ida Mae.” A look of sadness settled in around her briefly, then she shook it off and returned to the moment. “Millie, are these the last of the flyers? Did your mother have any more that she wanted folded?”

“No. This is the last of them. She’ll be excited that they’re ready to go. She and her suffragette friends will be passing them out at the parade on the Fourth.” Millie thrust her shoulders back and sat up ramrod straight. “She’ll be expecting me to help too.”

“But I thought we were all going to attend the parade together,” Arlie exclaimed. “It wouldn’t be the same watching the parade without you.”

“I know. I know. But Mother’s whole group is working with a vengeance now. Grace Trout has made such progress as president of the Equal Suffrage Association. And Mother was giddy with excitement when two women were elected to the school board in Springfield a few months ago. She’s confident that we’ll have the right to vote soon.”

Alla broke her silence and spoke up softly. “And your father…how’s he taking your mother’s crusade?”

Millie groaned in reply. “Not well. He alternates between a frowning, icy glare and bellowing like a mad bull. Especially the nights when he returns home from the bank and Mother’s been too busy to have dinner waiting for him like he prefers.”

“That must make for some awkward evenings.” Arlie leaned back in the carved wooden chair and tucked some loose curls back into her twisted bun. “When I get married, I won’t tolerate that kind of behavior from my husband. He’ll treat me kindly and with respect.”

“Ha! What husband? You keep up that kind of attitude and you’ll never get one.” Millie chucked and slapped at Arlie’s arm to show she was teasing. “You still have your eye on George?”

Arlie flushed a deep scarlet and hesitated before replying. “…maybe…He is going to propose one day. I just know it.”

“You sound awfully confident about it. I don’t know though…he and William have been hanging around without making any moves.”

“William’s mine!” The words burst out of Alla’s mouth. Her hand flew up to cover her lips and a wide eyed look of surprise stared back at her two friends.

A smirk peeked from Arlie’s face before she managed to hide it. “You can have William. I’m not interested in him. I want George. He’s the one I’m going to marry.”

“You think. I would have thought he’d make his intentions known by now.” Millie spoke firmly and forcefully. “He may not be the man for you if he’s not man enough to be bold.”

An arrogant tilt of Arlie’s chin paired up with a gleam in her eyes. “He’s man enough that he asked me if we were going to Christina Park on the Fourth. He wants to watch the fireworks with me.”

“Knowing him, he’s going to have a string of firecrackers in his pocket. Not an engagement ring.” Millie grinned as she gathered the piles of folded flyers together.

Alla sighed and a wistful look settled on her countenance. “I wish William would ask me. You’re a lucky girl. Your birthday on the third and fireworks with her fellow on the Fourth.” She turned towards Millie. “What about you? Who do you have your sights set on?”

“Me?” Millie laughed in response. “I doubt I’ll ever marry. Not if all men act like my father. I think being a strong, independent woman is more important. Until we have the right to vote, and are equal to men, then there’s too much work to be done. I’ll be marching in parades and passing out flyers and making phone calls and protesting with all my might. I won’t have time to be home cleaning a house, pressing and starching shirts and slaving over a stove so that my husband can be the big man boss of the household.”

Arlie and Allie looked at their friend in astonishment. Although they’d be helping Millie and her mother and the local suffragette group with their activities over the past year or two, they had no idea that their friend felt so intensely about the cause.

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