Thank you, Roger Shipp, for again anchoring (you’ve probably heard that pun too many times) Flash Fiction for the Purposeful Practitioner. I had to edit MANY times to get within 200 words (see my comment below). This is such a poignant picture with so true a tale to tell.
Lilly found her moments of bliss in those minutes before the whistle blew to start shift. She could look out the window an see snatches of sky, sometimes the arc of dawn, below a few spindly trees, and tufts of green grass. And up here, it was quiet. At home, there were always raised voices, thuds of fists, screams of pain, the newest baby crying. Here, silence like she imaged you heard in one of those beautiful big churches what the fancy folks went to.
“I know it’s only been 3 weeks”, she thought, since the foreman had transferred her upstairs. “Youse tall ‘nough now, and nimble, so up ya go.” The work was harder and more dangerous, but she’s get paid 2 more pennies a month – information she’d not yet told her father. Two pennies for her, not for the barkeep up Darbin Road, or that woman on Flower Street.
“Only 3 weeks, the foreman sputtered. “Musnt’ve learnted how to do it right.”
“Only 3 weeks, her father cursed and spat. “I ain’t even getttin’ her full month’s pay.”
“Only 3 weeks,” the smaller children on the bottom factory floor whispered, sizing each other up, and keeping their heads down.
I refrained from a history lesson on child labour – I’m known to get historically hysterical. I actually just finished a work of fiction this evening in which child labour in silk and cloth mills played a role, before looking at Roger’s picture for this week. So, the Lillies of the world (then and now) were on my mind.