Flora’s Diary Short Story #3

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Flora’s Diary is a new historical fiction short story I’m working on, set in the countryside outside Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1948. Any historical tidbits mentioned in the story are true facts, except for Mr. Franklin who is a fictional addition. The conversations that take place and Flora’s thoughts and actions are all fictional creations from this author’s brain as she tries to honor Flora and keep her memories alive. Dear Flora, please excuse me if I’ve erred in any way in this historical re-creation.

I’m proud to be part of a group of authors that write for Tuesday Tales. Every week we write story snippets to a word prompt. Once a month we have a picture prompt. This week we write to a picture prompt, our choice of several possibilities. Reading will be quick this week, picture prompts are limited to 300 words.

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Al held the diary and gave a cursory look and nod before handing it back to Flora.

“Isn’t it grand?”

He snorted and shook his head. “Suppose so. Don’t reckon I see what’s all fired important about you writing down in a book every night before bed.”

Flora allowed a rise of indignation to surface in her voice. “Al Luper. I’ve written in my diary every day since before we were married. I thought you understood how much I enjoyed this practice.”

“Now dear, don’t get all riled up. Didn’t say I didn’t know how much it meant to you. I simply don’t understand why women feel the need to write down all these details about life.”

“Men…” Flora muttered softly.

“Women…” Al retorted but softened his response with a chuckle.

With the potential disagreement averted, Flora dished up a slice of apple pie for each of them. After dessert Al turned to his Bible to read a passage before bed. Flora penned a few lines in her current diary while Al banked the fire and they turned in for the evening.

The next morning, Flora shivered as she entered the kitchen to start their breakfast. As Al stoked the fire, she drew the kitchen curtains back and gasped. “Good thing I made a trip to town yesterday.” She surveyed the winter wonderland out back. Pristine snow covered the meadow and the pine boughs in the woods aligning the meadow dripped with the crusty weight of a heavy snowfall.

Al joined her at the sink to survey the brilliant whiteness covering every inch of their property. “It’s going to be fun getting up the hill by the college.”

“Do you have to go in? Doesn’t seem safe to drive in this.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ll take it slow. Long as there’s no ice hidden under the snow.

 

For more great story snippets, return to TUESDAY TALES here.

Return to TRISHA FAYE’S WEBSITE here.

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Flora’s Diary #2 (heat)

Flora’s Diary is a new historical fiction short story I’m working on, set in the countryside outside Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1948. Any historical tidbits mentioned in the story are true facts, except for Mr. Franklin who is a fictional addition. The conversations that take place and Flora’s thoughts and actions are all fictional creations from this author’s brain as she tries to honor Flora and keep her memories alive. Dear Flora, please excuse me if I’ve erred in any way in this historical re-creation.

I’m proud to be part of a group of authors that write for Tuesday Tales. Every week we write story snippets to a word prompt. Once a month we have a picture prompt. This week we write to the prompt ‘heat.’

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“I’m sorry. I sure don’t. The hens are hardly laying now that it’s turned cold. Leo Ball bought my last dozen eggs yesterday.”

“That’s too bad. I’m short here. My usual suppliers are having the same problem. Mind if I ask what you get for a dozen?”

“Forty cents.”

Mr. Franklin nodded his head in approval. “Fair price. I’m asking forty five cents in the store. Pay my egg ladies thirty five cents. You’ve got a better deal with Leo. You ever have any extra – or extra milk, cream, or butter, come see me.”

“I surely will. Especially with work at the canneries being so sporadic. Every little bit extra helps. And once it heats back up, I’ll have eggs coming out of my ears.”

Mr. Franklin burst into laughter, his sides jiggling so bad Flora thought he’d give himself a heart attack. “Out of your ears…oh my…just the image…” The man could hardly speak for laughing so hard.

Fortunately, the other woman approached the counter with her few selections in hand, giving Flora the opportunity to ease out of the door.

 

The next morning, the first thing Flora did, after setting the percolator on the range, was to crack the kitchen door and take a peek in the yard. She turned to her husband, Al, who sat at the kitchen table putting his heavy barn boots on. “No ice. Clear as a bell. Think I’ll take the bus on into Fayetteville later this morning and pick up a few items.”

Al lifted a socked foot boasting a huge hole on the heel. “Mind picking me up a new pair of socks while you’re in town?”

“Not at all. I’ll get you a pair.” Flora didn’t add that she’d already thought about stopping by the department store to look for a new work shirt for him. If they had a nice one – at a good price – she planned on setting it aside and saving it for Christmas. Maybe she’d pick up several pairs of socks, give him the one pair, and save the others for his yuletide gift too.

Later that evening, after finishing a full plate of roasted chicken and boiled potatoes, Al leaned back in his chair and patted his extended belly. “Mighty tasty, dear. That hit the spot.”

“Why thank you.” Flora took a brown paper sack off the counter, reached inside and tossed a pair of thick, white socks in his lap. “These might hit the spot too.”

He picked up the socks and stroked the plushness between his thumb and forefinger. “Ahhhh! Nice and thick. Perfect. They keep my toes nice and toasty tomorrow. Find anything else while you were in town?”

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The Ozark Theater, Fayetteville, Arkansas

“Bus passed by The Ozark. They’re showing Miracle on 34th Street. Thought maybe you’d want to go one night next week.”

“Sure would. Johnny at work said he and the wife had gone to see it the other night. He thought it was all right, but the Mrs. really liked it.”

Flora pulled a brown, rectangular object from the bag. “Found this too. The diary I’ve been looking for.” She stroked the leather cover lovingly before handing it to her husband to examine.

 

 

Miracle on 34th street

For more great story snippets, return to TUESDAY TALES here.

Return to TRISHA FAYE’S WEBSITE here.

Using Paper to Determine Oven Temperature When Baking Cakes — A Hundred Years Ago

A hundred years ago most people had wood or coal stoves – and ovens didn’t have thermostats. Here’s advice in an old home economics textbook about how to determine whether the oven was at the correct temperature for successfully baking cakes: Baking Sponge Cakes [Cakes without Fat]: A practical test for the temperature of the […]

via Using Paper to Determine Oven Temperature When Baking Cakes — A Hundred Years Ago

Flora’s Diary #1 (frost)

Flora’s Diary is a new historical fiction short story I’m working on, set in the countryside outside Fayetteville, Arkansas in 1948. Any historical tidbits mentioned in the story are true facts, except for Mr. Franklin – he’s a fictional addition to the story. The conversations that take place and Flora’s thoughts and actions are all fictional creations from this author’s brain as she tries to honor Flora and keep her memories alive. Dear Flora, please excuse me if I’ve erred in any way in this historical re-creation.

I’m proud to be part of a group of authors that write for Tuesday Tales. Every week we write story snippets to a word prompt. Once a month we have a picture prompt. This week we write to the prompt ‘frost.’

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Flora’s Diary

December 1947

“Anything I can help you with, Flora?” The proprietor watched Flora carefully searching through the dry goods stacked on the shelves that filled the wall adjoining the counter.

Flora shifted her pocketbook to her other arm as she continued looking through the paper supplies all jumbled together. “Do you have any diaries, Mr. Franklin?”

“A diary?” He tipped his head and stroked his chin between his thumb and forefinger, deep in thought.

VD_flora2“Yes. You know, those little ones that cover five years, with lines for each day?”

A bemused expression lit his eyes up with golden sparkles. “I know what a diary is, my friend. I was merely trying to recollect if I had any in stock. I don’t recall ordering any for some time. If I had any, they’d be on the shelf with the envelopes and stationery where you’re looking.”

“I’m not seeing any. Maybe I’ll take the bus into Fayetteville tomorrow. I’m needing a new one for January.”

Mr. Franklin straightened the cardboard boxes on the counter that held an array of Clove and Blackjack gums. “Might want to rethink that idea. Heard we might have ice tomorrow.”

Flora shuddered. “You may be right. Way that driver takes the turns into town, there’s no way I want to be on that bus on icy roads. Don’t mind a bit of frost, but I sure don’t want to be a passenger if he hits a patch of black ice.”

“After the storm passes,” the proprietor soothed. “You’ve still got a few weeks. Old year’s not over yet.”

Flora laid her few selections down on the counter next to the register. “True. But we’re getting mighty close to Christmas then. And my women’s group is thick in the middle of plans for a Christmas Eve dinner at the church.”

Mr. Franklin rang up Flora’s purchases and put them in a brown paper sack. “That’ll be two dollars fifteen cents, Flora. Your children coming in for Christmas?”

“Most of them. Dot’s in college, but may get a friend to drive her home for a day or two. Thord, Melba, and their children will drive in from Fort Smith. Wade and Gaila won’t drive out. Not with her being so close to birthing their first little one.” Flora coughed slightly and felt her face heat up at the audacity of mentioning Gaila’s delicate condition, even though the shop owner was far from a stranger. She burst out in continued conversation to try to mask her embarrassment. “But the best news of all…Margie and little Stug are coming in from Florida. They’re staying with us a few weeks.”

“Bet the tyke is growing up.” Mr. Franklin didn’t seem at all affected by Flora’s indirect mention of Gaila’s pregnancy. He’d heard far more intimate details during his tenure as proprietor in a small town.

“He surely is. Why, he just turned two last week. He’ll be going to school before I can blink.”

“Bring him in for a candy while he’s here.” Mr. Franklin patted the top of the glass decanter that held an assortment of penny candy.

“I will. I’m sure Margie will be wanting to say hello too. Oh…and Papa…almost forgot. He’ll be with us on Christmas too.”

“Naturally. I’d figured that your father would be there for the meal.”

“Been saving one of the larger roasts from the black calf for Christmas dinner. I surely do love having my family all around on special days.” The door opened and a gust of cold air blew in around the two as another customer entered the store. Flora clutched her bag tighter and turned towards to go. “I’ll be sure to bring Margie and Stug in for a visit after they arrive.”

“I’d appreciate that. I enjoy seeing the young ones as they grow up and start their own families. Oh…Flora…meant to ask you and kept forgetting…you have any extra eggs you could part with?”

 

For more great story snippets, return to TUESDAY TALES here.

Return to TRISHA FAYE’S WEBSITE here.

Baking Up a Storm #11

In honor of Clara Ayers and her four prize winning recipes of 1935, join us as we step back in time, to a time when the citrus groves in the valley south of the San Bernardino Mountains reigned (and the foothills were clear of smog.)

This week we write to a picture prompt. Reading will be quick, picture prompt posts are limited to 300 words. There were a variety of picture prompts to choose from. This is the one I picked. Go check out the others to see what snippets they wrote to other pictures.

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“Where on earth did she find nice strawberries this time of year? I know they’re still around, but my harvest waned out weeks ago.”

Clara shook her head in amazement. “Who knows? Mine are gone too. I’ve got a few watermelons left. That’s about all. She must be one of those Orange County women. Maybe their growing season is different from ours.”

“I just thank the Lord I’m not up against her in any category. That was sure a fancified dish she’s waltzing around with.”

With all the chit-chat, the time passed as it usually does when old friends get together and talk, even though this was the most conversation that Clara and Bessie had ever had. Before they knew it they were at the front of the line, filling out slips to turn their delicacies in for judging. Ted patiently followed every step of the way, not uttering a peep. With the dishes in the hands of the fair people, he and Clara headed to the truck for the bumpy ride home.

Clara felt at odds over the next few days. After months of the baking contest consuming most waking moments, either in planning, debating, or actually baking various recipes, now it was sit and wait. She felt like a mother hen without a clutch to care for.

The day finally arrived when they’d find out who won the ribbons – and the prize money. Clara sat on the stoop waiting for Ted and Hazel to come pick her up, her pocketbook perched on her lap. As a bead of sweat dripped down the side of her face, she dabbed at it with her handkerchief.

The truck finally appeared coming down the drive, filling the air behind it with a dusty plume. Ted slowed as he approached the house and eased to a stop not far from her. “You’re not anxious are you, Mother?” Hazel called out the open window as she scooted to the middle of the bench seat.

Clara grinned as she settled herself in the truck, tucking her blue cotton skirt around her legs. “Not much. Well…maybe just a tad.” Pulling the door shut, she wiped at the perspiration again. “Gonna be a scorcher today. These Indian Summers are gonna be the death of me. Days like this I wish I were back in Illinois.”

On the drive to the fairgrounds, Hazel chattered away about their plans for the dairy and how they wanted to upgrade some of the milking machinery. She stopped mid-sentence. “…Mother? Have you heard a word I said?”

Clara jerked as she realized her daughter had caught her. “Sorry, dear. Guess I’m woolgathering. What were you saying?”

“Never mind. It was nothing important.” The firmness in Hazel’s jaw said otherwise.

Fortunately Ted pulled up to the fairgrounds parking lot, breaking the tense moment between mother and daughter. Throngs of people strolled through the lot and milled about the main entrance. He had to wait for strolling guests to walk by before he could turn into an open spot. “Guess the bleak economy hasn’t hurt the fair attendance none.”

At the gate Ted paid the entrance fees for all three and they scurried towards the Home Economics buildings where the baked good would be displayed with the entrant’s name. Some would boast ribbons and many would not.

TT_fanThey entered the quansant hut building and a stifling heat enveloped them. Electric fans were perched on counters throughout the building, but they did little than simply move the hot waves of air in tepid brief spurts. Clara and Hazel fanned themselves with the programs they’d gotten when they entered.

“What are we looking for?” Hazel asked.

“Cookies, rolls, and dessert breads.”

“May as well start at the far wall and walk every aisle.”

The search was on. Aisle by aisle, counter by counter, they searched every baked good, looking for a card with Clara’s name on it.

They scanned the cakes, not looking too intently, since Clara hadn’t entered a cake this year. Clara stopped suddenly, causing Hazel to run into her. “Mother! What on earth?”

Clara pointed to some of the cakes sitting on the middle shelf. “Look. There’s Bessie’s. She’s got three ribbons right there.”

Hazel read out loud. “Date Loaf Cake, first place. Angel Food Cake, second. Dark Fruitcake, second. Not too bad. You’ll top her though, Mother.”

Dessert breads were in the next counter. Clara spied her first. Knowing which dishes she’d used helped her spot her own creations out of the mix. “Second Place!”

“For which one?” Hazel looked confused.

blue ribbon“That one. The gingerbread.” Clara stepped closer to the counter. “Should have known. Katherine Bower got first. She’s from Pomona too. Just like Bessie.”

The trio rounded the corner and headed down the next aisle. “Cookies. Here we go. I’ve got two cookie entries.”

Again, Clara spied her dishes first and hurried to get closer and see the results. “They both have a ribbon!”

Hazel leaned in close to her mother’s shoulder to get a better view. “Very nice, Mother. A first and a second.

Clara looked at the plates sitting next to hers and started laughing. “Will you look at that? Martha and I flip-flopped.”

Hazel squinted her eyes and looked at her mother with a confused look. “Huh? Who’s Martha? What are you talking about?”

“Martha. Mrs. Sam Teeter. She lives in La Verne. Her husband works at one of the citrus groves. On Chocolate Drop Cookies she took first and I took second. And look…” She pointed to another plate of cookies. “…and on Molasses Drop Cookies I took first and she took second.”

Hazel snickered and shook her head. “I declare. You women and your competition with each other.”

When Clara discovered she’d taken a second place for her Light Rolls, she felt a tension leave her shoulders. She didn’t realize she’d been so wrought up about how she’d do. Of course, she had to keep a mental count of Bessie’s wins also.

When they were done examining every dish in the building, Ted turned to the two ladies. “Want to go get a popcorn or a cold lemon-aide? My treat.”

Hazel tucked her arm into her husbands. “That sounds delightful. A cold lemon-aide would hit the spot right now.”

“May as well see a few of the exhibits while we’re here.” Ted placed his hat back on his head and pulled the brim down.

Hazel gave him a gentle nudge. “You just want to see the dairy exhibits and see what’s new.”

“Perhaps.”

Hazel laughed and teased him back. “All right, my sweet diary man husband. You get your treat too. You’ve been so patient with my mother and me.”

Clara took Ted’s other elbow and off the three went, to wander the fair and search for a vendor with snacks and cold refreshments. Clara stopped and gave a wave to the building as they exited. “Four ribbons. I’m happy with that. I’ve done better. I’ve done worse. Bessie got five. But that’s okay…watch out next year Mrs. Sinkey. We’ll see who wins the most in 1936!”

For more great story snippets, return to TUESDAY TALES here.

Return to TRISHA FAYE’S WEBSITE here.

Baking Up a Storm #10

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In honor of Clara Ayers and her four prize winning recipes of 1935, join us as we step back in time, to a time when the citrus groves in the valley south of the San Bernardino Mountains reigned (and the foothills were clear of smog.)

This week we write to a picture prompt. Reading will be quick – picture prompt posts are limited to 300 words. There were a variety of picture prompts to choose from. This is the one I picked. Go check out the others to see what snippets they wrote to other pictures.TT_111417.jpg

The women eased into the rear of the line, standing next to each other and conversing comfortably as if they’d been friends or neighbors for years. Ted stood behind the two, shifting his weight from side to side as he held the second box for Clara, quiet and patient as if there weren’t any place else he’d rather be.

Bessie leaned in closer to Clara and whispered. “Sweet boy you’ve got there. Your son?”

Clara felt a mix of amusement and pride rush through her. “No. Son-in-law. I only had girls. Three of them. All three married wonderful men. I love all of them.” She lowered her voice to match Bessie’s quiet decibels. “Don’t tell him, but I’m fairly partial to this one. Ted’s a sweetheart and he treats me just as good as he treats his own mama.”

“That’s rare these days.” Bessie nodded her head in agreement.

“Must be from being raised in a house with girls. He was a twin, but his twin sister died at birth. He has two older twin sisters too. Makes for a kind, loving man. Thinks the sun rises and sets on my daughter. She’s a lucky gal.”

They inched forward in line, moving up, but at a snail’s pace. Clara’s head twisted to watch a young woman stride past them towards what was now the end of the line. “Did you see that?”

Bessie turned to look. “What?”

“That young woman. The one in the slim, gray skirt. You see the concoction she was carrying?”

“No. I missed it.” Bessie stepped out and turned, trying to get a better view.

“She only has one item. On a nice glass platter to boot. I declare, it had lush, plump strawberries covering the top and it looked like chocolate dripping down the sides.”

For more great story snippets, return to TUESDAY TALES here.

Return to TRISHA FAYE’S WEBSITE here.

Baking Up a Storm #9

In honor of Clara Ayers and her four prize winning recipes of 1935, join us as we step back in time, to a time when the citrus groves in the valley south of the San Bernardino Mountains reigned (and the foothills were clear of smog.)

This week we write to the prompt ‘prepare.’

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Two weeks later Clara stood in the middle of the kitchen, wiping sweat from her brow as she surveyed the baked goods lining the counter and threatening to spill over onto the floor. After all the months looking forward to this annual event, the day was finally here. After months of trying different recipes, through Southern California’s heat of the summer, the clock was out of time.

A pang of nervousness settled in Clara’s stomach as she carefully picked out the best looking goods out of the lot. She carefully laid the precious delicacies into empty cardboard boxes for transport to the fairgrounds. As she laid the last platter wrapped in wax paper down in the remaining empty corner of a box, Ted’s truck rattled to a stop outside the kitchen door, as if on cue.

“Ready, Mom?” Ted shuffled into the kitchen and stood examining the two boxes laid next to each other inside the doorway, ready to move to his vehicle.

“As ready as I’m ever going to be. The time to prepare is gone. It’s now or never.”

“And may the best woman win.” Ted chuckled as he bent down to pick up the first box.

Clara was too tired to catch his subtle attempt at humor. “Wait. Let me lay a towel in the box. It will help keep everything safe.” She turned towards a stack of folded towels laying on a kitchen chair and carefully tucked one inside, around the wrapped dishes.

In a matter of minutes, they were ready to go. Other than the rattles and bangs of the ancient vehicle traveling over bumpy roads, the ride was a quiet one, each lost in their own thoughts. A hot dry wind blew through the open windows and Clara kept reaching up to tuck loose tendrils of gray hair back into her usual tidy bun.

Reaching their destination, Ted slowed the truck to a crawl as he entered the gated portion of the back lot where the entrants parked to deliver the baked goods. The black sedan in front drove slowly and Ted inched up closer as if trying to urge it to speed up. It finally pulled into an open spot on the gravel lot and Ted pulled in beside it.

Clara hopped out of the passenger side almost before the engine had died. She reached for one of the boxes in the back and looked up in time to see the sedan’s driver easing out of the driver’s side. “Why, Bessie! What good timing.” With a pang, she realized that she was glad to see her friend, but also felt anxious as they headed into this mostly-friendly competition.

Bessie pulled her own box out of the front seat and the two women began the walk across the gravelly lot to the fair gate. Ted lagged behind, carrying the second box, as if in a small procession.

bbd_bessie-recipeCuriosity got the best of Clara and she couldn’t wait any longer before asking. “What kind of tempting dishes are you entering this year?”

“Mostly cakes this year,” Bessie replied with a tight, smug look on her face. “Fruit cake, angel food cake, and a date loaf cake. Oh, and a new fruit cookies recipe…and of course, my all-time favorite…gingersnaps.”

A wave of relief settled in around Clara and she tried make her face look disappointed and not relieved. “Oh dear. It looks like we won’t be in the same categories this year. I’ve got molasses drop cookies and chocolate drop cookies. And gingerbread and light rolls.”

“You’re a brave woman going with breads this year. Last year I lost so soundly to Gertrude, I wasn’t going to attempt it again. Especially when I ran into her in the market and she said she was submitting her white rolls again.”

“Gertrude?”

“Yes. Gertrude Beauchamp. She doesn’t live far from me. Over on 8th, so we occasionally run into each other around town.”

“I don’t think I’ve met her. My nemesis is Mrs. Gregg, from Ontario. And of course, you.” Clara laughed as if trying to show that the competition was light-hearted and not as serious as all the women secretly thought it was. “There’s always a lot of winners from Pomona, but you seem to take in your fair share of ribbons, Bessie.”

A wide smile lit up Bessie’s face. “Why thank you. That’s fair praise coming from another contestant. It sure is tougher now – now that they’ve joined the Orange County fair with ours. Why some of the winners now come clear from San Diego.”

“They must be awfully confident if they make the drive all the way up from San Diego. Seems like spending all that money on fuel wouldn’t make winning the contest worth it. I mean, the prize money is nice…but doesn’t seem like it would even out, not with gasoline being so dear.”

“Ah, but it’s not all about the prize money, my friend. It’s the prestige and the accolades. Those red and blue ribbons do wonders at being a balm for our own confidence.”

“True…true. It does add a spark to our lives and makes us feel important, doesn’t it?” Clara wondered at how they were able to confide these thoughts to each other. Being fellow competitors against each other for so many years must have brought a level of familiarity with it. Even though they didn’t socialize with each other outside of the bake-off, there was still a small measure of friendship between the two ladies.

Their chatter kept them occupied and before they knew it, they were at the building where they needed to drop off their treasured baked goods.

Clara looked up with a start. “Goodness. Will you look at that line?”

 

For more great story snippets, return to TUESDAY TALES here.

Return to TRISHA FAYE’S WEBSITE here.