Flash Narrative: Sleeping with the Storm

Welcome to the first weekly installment of flash narratives! Each flash narrative is no longer than 500 words and is based on real diary entries written by my great-aunt in the first half of the twentieth century. For more background information on the project upon which these flash narratives are based, see What is the book that only you can write?, News Flash! and Hattie’s Blog: Ordinary Work.

Eve of January 16, 1918: Sleeping with the Storm

The floors are scrubbed, and the walls are white with Kalsomine. Guests are tucked away in spare beds, horses fed and sheltered. Hattie lies awake most of the night, absorbing the melody of the escalating blizzard. A trumpet wind wends its way around the house’s wooden frame. Snare snowdrums brush against the windows. The world proclaims that tomorrow she will be not Miss Harriet Elizabeth Whiting, eldest daughter of Edward Lemoyne Whiting, Sr. and Mary Herman Whiting, but Mrs. William John Whitcher. Mrs. Will Whitcher. Mrs. W. J. Whitcher. The thought pleases her to no end.

In the time Will worked on her fatherโ€™s ranch, he watched Hattie care for the men, the two-story farm house, the animals, the garden, and, when she was needed as an extra hand in the field, the crops. Hattie in turn watched Will watching her. She soon noticed her laugh being a little fuller when he was in the room, her energy level higher, her senses keener. But even she was not prepared for his proposal only two weeks earlier. He came with a draft card rather than a hat in his hand, saying that he wanted her to be here for him when he returned. “We need each other, Hattie,โ€ he had said.

She has been a dressmaker, a traveler, a school teacher, and now a housekeeper for her younger brothers on the ranch their father built. At age thirty-six, she is used to a life that she can call her own, more so than most other women she knows, but she is easily bored. W. J., ten years her junior, is a similarly restless soul, tired of working for others, ready for a place of his own.

Hattie has already told him all. He knows theirs will be a childless marriage. He says he isnโ€™t looking for someone to be the mother of his children. He wants someone with whom he can live and work. Together they will create a new life in a new place.

She turns on her side, seeking a more comfortable position, moving slowly so as not to waken Phoebe, her gentle and frail sister-in-law and matron of honor, who sleeps beside her. She wonders what it will be like to sleep next to somebody every night. Not just anyone. Her husband. Phoebeโ€™s breathing is so light it is drowned by the sounds of the storm. Hattie imagines that sleeping next to a man will be like sleeping next to the storm itself so that together they will be noisy and willful and always interesting.

Photo of Whitcher Ranch, 1929
Whitcher Ranch, 1929

15 thoughts on “Flash Narrative: Sleeping with the Storm

  1. Wow, Lisa. Your passion for aunt Hattie’s life story shines through. I found myself completely absorbed reading your post. You write very well.
    ~Zol H~

    • Zol H, thank you! I feel such an obligation to Hattie for some reason. She would love to know that what she wrote is enjoyed by readers outside of our family. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you so much, Patricia! I hope to use these short pieces as a way to see what works (and what doesn’t), so I really appreciate the feedback.

  2. Wow, Lisa! I felt like I was there, lying awake in the storm myself! I’m sure Aunt Hattie is smiling proudly, pleased that her life has inspired yours. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Kelsey, I do think Hattie would be thrilled to know that her writing lives on, and a feel that somehow I’m meant to make that happen. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • Thank you! I’ll post these short pieces each Tuesday (committing to writing the flash narratives is helping me set up a schedule for the rest of the writing on the project, too). ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. These flash pieces are a great idea! It must feel less daunting than writing an entire novel. All of these vignettes will be wonderful to look at in their entirety to see if you can fit them back together into a whole. I envy your project! You’re so very lucky.

  4. I really appreciate your supportive words, Christi and Elle Marie. I do feel lucky to have Hattie in my life (although I wonder if my husband is thinking that he didn’t bargain for an elderly great-aunt as a houseguest, lol).

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