Flash Narrative Tuesday is a way to share my current work in progress, a book based on the Great Plains diaries of my great-aunt Hattie, which she kept from 1920-1957. Each flash narrative is no longer than 500 words. For more background information on the project, go here.
This week’s flash narrative is from a trip that Hattie and Will made in 1929 to Mitchell, South Dakota for an American Legion convention.
August 5, 1929: Anticipation
The house is dark. Will raises his hand. Hattie touches his arm.
“We will wake them up,” she says.
He shrugs. “John said we could.” He knocks twice with a firm hand. Hattie’s heart races in anticipation.
The man who answers seems not at all surprised that someone is knocking on his door near midnight on a weekday. While Will talks with the man, who introduces himself as Mr. Nelson, about rates and rules, Hattie notices his nightshirt, exactly like the one she saw in the most recent Sears and Roebuck catalog.
Mr. Nelson leads them up a narrow staircase to their room. The gas lantern he is carrying shows her the polished railing and smooth steps. The upper floor is carpeted in dark patterns that she can’t quite make out, and the walls are lined with framed photographs. Tomorrow she will be sure to look at them more closely.
Their small room is clean and attractive. A bed with a purchased chenille bedspread. A dresser, slightly ajar to show them where to hang their clothes. A chair and a table, where Mr. Nelson places the lantern.
“Breakfast is at 7 a.m.,” he says. Then he closes the door behind him.
Will is already taking off his boots, unbuttoning his suspenders, getting ready for bed. Hattie stands in the middle of the floor.
“What a lovely room!” she says.
She walks to the window and pulls apart the curtain. Even at this late hour, folks are walking on the street below. If she looks straight ahead, she can see into the house across the street. They are that close. She sticks her head out the window for a better view of their position.
“W.J., look! We can see the Corn Palace from here, just between those buildings!”
“Tomorrow, Hattie. I’m tired.” Will is already in bed in his undershirt, his nightshirt sewn by her hands still packed.
He is right. They have a long day tomorrow. She closes the curtains and steps from the window. Sitting on the side of the bed, she unhooks and removes her boots, which she lines up next to the chair. She wiggles her toes, giving them a moment to feel the air and freedom. She unbuttons her dress down the front, pulls it down, and steps over it, then shakes it out and hangs it in the dresser. She pulls her nightgown over her shoulders and torso, arranges her nighttime crocheted head gear, removes her glasses and puts them on the table, turns out the lantern, and kneels to pray.
She slides under the bedspread next to Will, whose breath is rhythmic. The bed is higher than their bed at home, the pillow ruffled and plumped and delightful. Through the open window she hears the occasional clip clop of a horse and buggy and snippets of conversation and laughter and someone singing, far away. Her thoughts chase each other like puppies for another hour before she joins Will in sleep.