Fourth Fiction: Round Six

This Rounds Challenge: Incorporate a White Russian and the words “over the line” into your next passage, which should be no more than 500 words.

Four Hours Earlier

Sylvie slammed the phone down this time. Every other year she’d allowed Doug to vent at her, rather than with her. It was as though what had happened hadn’t decimated her too.

She’d stood her ground and put up an uncharacteristic defence against her brother tonight. She understood Doug needed to blame someone but it wasn’t her fault. As the youngest of Johaanson’s children, she was a babe in arms when their mother fled. Like her siblings she’d only ever known and hated Johaanson as the media dubbed White Russia – the Belarusian obstetrician with a misogynistic maternity platform they’d all fought against.

Her eyes stung. While the hurt ran deep in her, it festered in Doug. All the boyish exuberance had turned inwards manifesting as a self harm not even Trina would’ve been able to inflict on herself.

She picked up the family photo from her bedside table. Mike had his arm around Mama. Her long grey streaked hair was pulled back, green eyes reflecting Mike’s love from an unlined face. Trina stood awkwardly, her hair falling over her eyes to protect her from the prying eye of the world. Doug was goofing off. Mike’s free hand was on Doug’s shoulder in a vain attempt to contain him. Sylvie’s face tilted up to bask in the glory of her parents love. She was eight. It was the only family she had ever known. There was still ten years to live without the shame of her paternity.

The truth surfaced when Johaanson died and they were named.

Trina ran away once she knew whose blood ran deep in her veins. When all leads turned to dead ends they were left with the eternal void of the unknown. Sylvie knew no one bothered identifying dead junkies. In her nightmares Trina’s drug-riddled body, swollen with death, swept down the river searching for a safe harbour.

Mike declared it was time to abandon the legal fight against the new laws forcing every woman to have their babes surgically removed from the womb. And the arguing began. Mama begged him to stop punishing himself over Trina. Putting himself in harms’ way wouldn’t bring her back. Mama needed Mike with her. But Mike crossed over the line.

The authorities talked up Mike’s capture and execution. They called him the ring leader of the Underground Birthing Movement, even though he was only ever a guide, ferrying and protecting midwives from one birth to another. They classified him Enemy #1 because Mama never divorced Johaanson making Mike both a criminal and moral reprobate. As his last act of love, he took the secret of Mama’s location to the grave with him, despite the torture. You can only die once.

Six months later Mama slipped away. The death certificate stated breast cancer but Sylvie knew she’d died of a broken heart.

Johaansen’s legacy drove instead of consuming her. She set the photo back where the dust hadn’t fallen as her PDA beeped.

8 thoughts on “Fourth Fiction: Round Six

  1. Jodi, this is an excellent example of backstory advancing the plot versus being an info dump. I was concerned that the flashback was too long until I went back and read last week’s installment. I think you made a good decision placing it after all that great dialogue. The format of forthfiction is challenging.

    I only noticed one little nit-picky issue with “Johaansen’s legacy drove instead of consuming her.” Should it read “consumed”? I did say it was a nit-pick. 🙂

    You have a really interesting story going on here, one that I think will have some legs after the contest is concluded.


  2. “White Russia – the Belarusian obstetrician with a misogynistic maternity platform” Great language and great incorporation of the White Russian. So good in fact that you could have just axed the words”White Russia” and left it at “Belarusian.”


  3. Chris: have to admit it was a bit of a gamble to wind the clock back four hours given we know some of what has already happened to get both the MC’s to that point in the story. Remains to be seen if it is the death knell of it or whether the first 2000 words were teasers enough to allow the whole story to be flesh out.

    I admit I missed the dialogue. I could I guess have used the conversation with her brother to have conveyed all this – but it wasn’t the way it came out. And I promise all of this will come into play further on in the story – the investment in my indulgent backstory will be worth it. The format of FF is challenging but I am finding it has been the probably the best professional development for my writing this year.

    And yes – you’re spot on with the driving/comsuming. I guess what I was trying to get at was unlike doug she was allowing the legacy to move her fowards rather than staying in one stop and being devoured. Doug will come into play a little further down the track depending on what the next few prompts are. I will make a note to go back and fix it up.

    My intention for after the competition is to have this as part of a portfolio of work to submit to an Australian publishing endeavour called “Long Short Stories” publishing six collections of shorts, novellas etc from individual authors. Thanks for sticking by me and reading through. It is nice to have two “fans” who come by, read and comment 🙂

    Constantine: you picked up my spelling mistake – it was meant to read White Russian and accolades go to my partner who pointed out to me that certain areas of Russia were known at “White Russia”. As such an obscure reference I thought I should spell it out (as if I was reading it someone else’s work would have missed the reference!) It wasn’t the easiest of challenges to incorporate – given I didn’t want to have a drink reference. Please let us all have an easier one next round 🙂

    And in defence of Dr J .. he has his own backstory for why he had such an awful set of views! Having said that – his maternity platform looks tame compared to what he’s also had his grotty fingers in.


  4. I think the hardest thing for me was deciding to go with the backstory to accomodate the prompts.

    Don’t suppose this one might have anything to do with children? Given I know who your video guest is … and well I think all our stories to date have figured children in somewhere?


  5. Your backstory sits nicely after the dialogue and action of previous installments. The themes your are covering are interesting to me, particularly as they focus on issues far removed from my everyday. That’s one of the best things about fiction, it can give insight into the concerns and experiences of others.


  6. Thanks for the comments Dan – I always love it when you stop by.

    I find it incredible in some ways that the three constant commenters on this story are all guys.

    I have been part of the birth reform movement here in Australia for almost six years now – since I was pregnant with my son. This is the first true foray into a world where I can vent about where we’re heading as a society with our birthing philosophies and our over-reliance on doctors and under reliance on our own innate abilities as women. I guess this is why I have been very vocal with Rhae’s story because you can put your point across without it being an info dump – in a way which captures, engages and educates your reader while they’re being entertained.

    The fact this story isn’t coming off sounding like a feminisit rant is encouraging. I think the strict word count is keeping it real for me! Now off to read your installment. I’ve been slack.


  7. Word counts are interesting. Although it might sound silly, I think the limitations placed by Twitter are excellent in the way in which they force you into be more intimate with your entries. I too am very impressed with the impact of turning back the clock as a way of filling the voids created in earlier rounds, I think it works well and not complicating the earlier content allowed it to have greater immediate impact with the questions unanswered maintaining a high level of interest.


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