The Sing-Song Child, to be precise!
Mike Casper, one of our frequent fliers (Inside joke: Mike is a senior flight attendant with SouthWest Airlines! arrf!) has been on the tarmac too long. Have not seen him on our site until now. And with good reason. Mike’s literary efforts have been concentrated on completing his first novel, The Sing-Song Child.
What better venue to introduce your work than A Word with You Press?
Unlike the forty or so contests we have run in the past, there is no prompt or word limit; use your judgement on how long you can hold an audience. Submit a prologue to your novel-in-progress or even the novel that you have threatened to write but have not yet run out of excuses not to write.
And keep writing, as if you know you will make it to the semi-finals and finals, where you will submit chapters one and two. Why try to remove your writer’s block when just a little friction on the keys will melt it away? He is the link to the rules, and oh-by-the-way a list of $500 worth of prizes you could win. (the winner, at their option, can decline the $250 first prize in favor of a date with the editor-in-chief at he McDonald’s of his choice anywhere in Moscow, Idaho)
Here is Mike’s entry, for your consideration, the prologue to
The Sing-Song Child
by Mike Casper
THE YEAR 1574 ANNO DOMINI
IN THE SOVEREIGN COUNTRY OF TIERARY, NESTLED BETWEEN FRANCE AND THE NETHERLANDS.
Around a washed out bend in the road came a quickly moving formation of armed riders escorting a horse and carriage. The carriage hit a muddy rut in a particularly rough stretch and lurched to the side. The occupants, a boy and a middle aged woman, were tossed about; the boy bounced hard off the sidewall. The vehicle lurched again, prompting the driver to slow the carriage almost to a crawl and the driver to call back, “Sorry.”
A woman’s voice replied, “Andrew and I are fine, Penn, we’re used to the bumps.” As the passengers steadied themselves, movement out the window drew the boy’s attention to a peasant family collecting the remaining potatoes of the season. A girl his age looked toward the carriage and rubbed away a splotch of dirt from her nose. Barefoot, except for rags tied around her feet and desperately thin, she stood and waved to the boy. Their eyes locked, she felt a flutter in her heart. He smiled and waved back. Her stepfather’s sharp, “Sophie” broke her gaze and she turned away. She drew her threadbare shawl tighter around her shoulders and blew into her hands. In a reedy voice she said out loud to herself, “A carriage and smart looking lad my age, too. Good for him.”
She looked at the Heavens. Fog had coated the landscape much of the day but now, as evening fell, the sky overhead looked like the rough woolen blanket on her straw mattress. She could almost see bedbugs.
Her shoulders sagged a little and a tear trickled down her grimy face. She scratched an itch. “Yet, where’s the fairness, Lord? He gets a carriage and I get potatoes and bugs. Why?” As if in response to her plea, for one spectacular moment the entire bottom of the cloud layer burst forth in a blaze of pink, purple and orange, giving life and color to the land. She smiled to herself, murmured a quiet ‘thank you’ and started digging with her worn hand-me-down potato shovel.
It slid underneath a potato then hit something else, something hard and unyielding.
The blade of her shovel sheared off and its shaft snapped in two. Frustrated, she squatted and tugged hard at the defiant potato. To her surprise, the tuber shot out of the earth and the girl sat down hard. Red faced, she rubbed her bum and turned towards the boy in the carriage. To her immense relief she could somehow tell he was smiling with her misfortune, not at her. Sophie smiled back then dug in the hole to retrieve the rest of her shovel.
She partially unearthed what broke her tool: the tip of a large, smooth white rock. Alongside the stone was a palm sized shard of reddish pottery and a round disk of grey clay. There was an unusual black line painted on the pottery and, curious, she unearthed the fragments. A well placed gob of spit rubbed on the pottery exposed the image of a man with a prominent nose reclining on a couch.
She glanced over her shoulder at Stepfather, who by now had a tankard of ale in his hand and was sitting in the back of their battered wagon. She again peeked back at him then looked into the hole and moved more dirt. She could see more disks and a larger piece of pottery. She pocketed the shard and one of the disks then filled in the hole.
Just then her mother called, “Sophie, that’s enough for one day. Let’s go home.” Sighing, she rose and gathered her potatoes. She missed her daddy. Mother had re-married shortly after his death a year ago, for she had children to protect and feed. Unlike her real father, the new head of the house would become angry if she lingered in the field.
Nice to her at first, Stepfather had turned out to be a harsh man, especially when he had been drinking a lot of ale. She had learned to not anger him, and to dodge his efforts to catch her alone. That he might succeed one day made molten bile rise in her throat and revulsion shake her frame. She would have to stay quiet in the shadows till after he went to sleep tonight and then hide in her safe place behind Mother’s spinning wheel. And pray he did not wake up.
As Sophie was walking back to rejoin her family, on a whim she turned around and tossed the broken shaft of her now unusable shovel on the ground close to where she had found the fragments. From across the field a partridge’s raspy call made her smile and she tried to trick the bird to reply with her own call as Daddy had taught her. Success. Another glance at the retreating carriage confirmed the handsome lad was still looking at her. They smiled, her heart leaped again, and then they both turned away.
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(Put this video on to take you back to 1540 and the spoke n word)