Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The Quiet Woman

I've entered this piece into the Mob Flash Writing Competition. It goes live on the 21st June here:

This is not a travel piece in the conventional sense. It is a journey through life.

The Quiet Woman
She rarely spoke to me.
A quiet woman.
Yet her body told a thousand stories.
Her hair
snowy-owl white, feathery, falling in wisps about her face. She’d no time for herself, always tending others: a husband, twelve children and any other strays who came her way - the homeless, the abandoned, the neglected and the orphaned; the endless stream of farmhands passing through, stopping by her kitchen table. She thought nothing of cooking up breakfast for twenty.
Her skin
weathered brown and rough like an old chamois. Lined and cracked, I’d trace each story line with my mind - a lifetime of lines, a lifetime of stories.
 Her hands
 gnarled and twisted. Hands that cradled babies, buried month old twins, wiped away tears, smacked bottoms, shook a child in anger, held a child in love. Those hands had tugged knots from hair, twisted strands into braids or tied them down in rags.
Hands that manhandled pigs, wrung the necks of turkeys, squeezed the teats of milking cows and laid orphaned lambs into the Aga to thaw.
Hands that chopped wood, baked countless cakes, kneaded dough upon dough, pulled the sour fruit from garden shrubs and trees; sliced and diced, stirred and beat, pressed and shaped and supplied endless mouths.
Hands that scythed hay, dug earthy potatoes, mucked out, hauled meal bags, wiped away sweat, wiped away tears, wiped away fear and longing and all the other emotions never expressed.
Her body
 savaged by childbirth, farm labour and domesticity. Stooped, twisted, worn down, worn out, well used, not loved enough.
Her eyes now closed, her words ran out, her heart given up. No words at all: the quiet woman.
Looking back, I wish I’d asked her about the stories; wish I’d held her more - for she was my grandmother.


  1. This is a really intense piece. A woman's whole life in a few lines. It feels like a memoir piece...if it is, it's a fine tribute.

  2. Thank you, Chris.
    It is - I suppose it is creative non-fiction flash rather than flash fiction. And the woman is indeed my Grandmother - and the descriptions more or less accurate - as far as the memory is accurate!

  3. Then she was an awesome woman! As many grandmothers are. And I do think we need to make the creative non-fiction flash category more popular.

  4. Thanks, Chris.
    She was a woman of her time in a rural environment and when I think back on her, I'm amazed at what she achieved.
    I began to wonder if my piece didn't qualify for the comp but it's flash writing rather than flash fiction,so I guess it's ok. I expect some of the fiction is quite close to creative non-fiction anyway!

  5. Really wonderful piece. It moves so smoothly from part to part, from one observation/remembrance to the next. Nicely done! And yes, creative non-fiction is all part of the flash world -- in my book, anyway!

  6. Thank you, Michelle.
    Good to know creative non-fictiion belongs!

  7. First, ignore this link- I still post about food as a chef, but my passion is back to writing.

    I love this piece and hope you win!


  8. I didn't! But the competition was choc-a-block with really talented writers - and I'm quite new to flash fiction. Pleased to have had a lovely remark from one of the judges above (Michelle Elvy) so that was good enough for me!
    Thanks for your Feedback, Elizabeth.

  9. Hi Helen, I'm really glad you wrote this as your entry for the flash mob; I'd love to see flash nonfic as a category! And you aced it. As you said, some fiction is quite close to nonfic, and I think the reverse is true as well, which brings about all kinds of arguments about what nonfiction really is.