At Writers’ Group a while ago, we did an exercise that consisted of a series of prompts –
Characters: A Kitchen Maid and a Retired Judge
Traits: Corrupt, Congenial
Location: Dog Show
Object: Piece of Flint
Below is the piece of flash fiction I wrote. Credit goes to David for the title. The reference should become clear at the end, where I will give a bit of extra context.
Helena was a kitchen maid for a big house on the other side of town. Usually a congenial soul, on this day she had to drag out her inner badass and go to war.
As she said goodbye to her sickly kids, hoping their condition wouldn’t deteriorate while she was gone, she mentally prepared herself for the confrontation, using the sight of them sat there, listless and suffering as motivation for her task.
Crossing over to the rich side of town, she passed her employers house and kept walking until she reached the dog track. There was a ‘Best of Breed’ show on for all the pedigree pooches of the neighbourhood, and she’d been told the judge would be there.
Sure enough, she found him in the front row, mercifully unattended.
Helena approached and he smiled at her, so she gave him the speech – a four-minute pre-prepared rant, that didn’t stop for pauses or interruptions, about the state of living conditions on the poorer side of town.
When Helena was done, she handed the judge a lunch box, which he opened and then immediately closed again, throwing it away as he swore at her.
Although he’d managed to throw the box quite a distance, they could both still smell the item strongly. All pleasantries had gone from the judge’s demeanour as he demanded an explanation.
Helena said it was a sample of her front yard, which had become flooded and, subsequently, contaminated with the local water. Which just proved her point: the water in the poor side of Flint, Michigan, was undrinkable. Unfit for the ground, and most certainly toxic to people.
The judge frowned before hesitantly agreeing to look into the matter, hinting that things would be sped along if Helena made a donation to his office.
It took her a month of working extra shifts, but she made the money and sent it off to the address he had written out for her.
It was only after that she found out that the judge was retired and had no influence in local matters anymore.
Not the happiest story in the world but, sadder still, it is based on a real-life situation. If you haven’t heard about the Flint water crises, you can (and should) read about it here. Education is power, after all.