Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the thirty-first piece of flash fiction in this series. This week’s is a 614-worder by children’s author and illustrator Carrie King.
Minnie stumbled nervously, fumbling in her cloth purse, desperately trying to locate it.
“It’s here…I know it is,” she apologized, delving deeper and peering into the darkness of the tapestry bag.
The man behind the desk grunted impatiently, looking past Minnie and down the long line of people queuing restlessly behind her.
She hadn’t wanted to emigrate; it was all James’ idea.
“Canada is the place to be, Min,” he had enthused “I can’t believe I’ve landed such a topping position. Head of English in Vancouver’s most prestigious school? What more could we want?”
‘To stay in England,’ Minnie had thought to herself, ‘to be near Mama. Every girl needs her mother at this time.’
Filled with optimism, James had sailed to Canada ahead of Minnie and keenly awaited her arrival.
The man behind the desk tapped his thin fingers thunderously against the polished wood and cleared his throat, ready to speak, when another official looking man marched up to Minnie.
“Would you step this way please, Madam?” he asked, guiding Minnie’s arm and escorting her into his office. Minnie stood shaking, bemused and anxious.
“I… I… do… have… a… ticket,” she stammered, trying yet again, to extricate it.
“I’m quite sure you do, otherwise you most certainly wouldn’t have stood, waiting for hours to board, in that infernal queue!”
“Er… there’s a problem… with your condition,” said the man, casting his eye, very briefly, down Minnie’s rounded front.
Minnie had hardly dared tell James. It’s not that they hadn’t wanted children but a baby within ten months of being married was not something they had planned. However, James embraced this new circumstance with all the gusto and excitement that Minnie had come to expect of him.
“We just don’t have the facilities onboard, it’s as simple as that,” said the man. “If something went wrong, there would be nowhere to take you and no-one to take care of you. We are refusing your right of passage.”
Minnie stood silently. What was there to say? She would not be joining James in Canada: as the man said, it was a simple as that. Amidst the mixture of emotions, however: the relief of not having to cross the massive Ocean alone and the joy of returning back to Mama, Minnie detected a disappointment lurking. Did the thought of a new, exciting life, beckon? No matter: her pregnant state had forced the issue and so, after the man had directed Minnie to the Telegraph Office, she had hastily sent James a brief message and then found herself in a Hackney Carriage, searching for some cheap lodgings in Southampton, to wait.
James couldn’t believe it when he opened his newspaper! How could this be? Suddenly, all of his hopes and dreams, his plans for his beloved Minnie and their child, his delight in this newfound life in Canada, went surging from him. He wept and groaned piteously.
The next day the dreaded telegram arrived. James put it on the mantelpiece, unopened.
A colleague arrived to visit. Poor, hapless James had not eaten, shaved nor changed his clothes for three days.
“James, why haven’t you opened your telegram?”
“Why… to read of my wife’s and baby’s cruel demise?”
His friend opened the telegram and chortled, thrusting the small piece of white paper under James’ nose.
“You Priceless Twerp!”
James read the words, ‘Refused passage on Titanic STOP Waiting in Southampton STOP Hurry little money STOP Minnie STOP’
James returned to England and taught in a little country school. Josephine Rachel, their daughter, my mother, was born in August 1912…
… and the Ticket?
It is still a treasured item in my family, to this very day.
Copyright © 2012 Carrie King All rights reserved.
I asked Carrie what prompted this piece and she said…
It will be 100 years since the sinking of RMS Titanic this April 2012. Sadly, since I was a late baby, I never knew any of my four grandparents, including Minnie. My Mother, Minnie’s baby, always used to say to me that if Minnie had boarded The Titanic, then she undoubtedly would have died and so would my, then unborn, mother, as Minnie’s ticket was in Steerage and most of these passengers were trapped behind locked gates on that fateful night and went down with the ship. Obviously this is something that is very, very significant in my family, as none of us would have been born had Minnie been allowed to board. Thank you, White Star Officials!
What a lovely story. Thank you, Carrie.
Carrie King was born in the tiny Hamlet of Sharpenhoe in Bedfordshire, England, which sits beneath a small hill, smothered in trees, known as The Clappers, nestled on the edge of the Chilterns. To any Reader of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, that might sound a tad familiar!
She was the seventh of eight children, placed between her youngest brother, David and her youngest but older sister, Sylvia. When she was eight, her family moved to another tiny Hamlet in Bedfordshire called Bidwell. She so missed the woods and the hills.
Carrie was educated in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and loved school. English, Art and French were her favourite subjects but she decided to become a doctor! However, this didn’t happen, as she fell in love and was married at nineteen. Being a wife and the mother of three daughters, became her full-time career.
She began to write for television, encouraged by Christopher Walker, Head of Drama for Central Television and Pam Francis, Journalist for the Independent.
The Writing of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip for her Great Niece, Joni Philipa, began in November 1997 while staying in a villa at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Joni Philipa was three years old at the time and she was called Joni-Pip, by her parents Philip and Sarah.
Carrie started to draw her illustrations for The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, whilst staying at Center Parcs. She stayed there many times with her family, and each villa she stayed in provided her with yet another picturesque woodland scene.
Sadly in April 2000, writing was interrupted for a few years by the tragic death of Carrie’s husband in an accident.
The novel began as a story for little children but books take a long time to be written, printed and bound and Joni-Pip grew much quicker than the story. What began as a simple Child’s Tale evolved into an adventure for much older children, which adults have enjoyed too.
The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip was finally finished in December 2007, over ten years after it was started!
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with comic fantasy (“and a little horror”) author Will Macmillan-Jones – the three hundred and forty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are now on Amazon, with more to follow, and I also have a quirky second-person viewpoint story in charity anthology Telling Tales.
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