Friday Fictioneers on a Monday: A Mother’s Mettle


Photo ©ceayr

A Mother’s Mettle

Genre: Realistic fiction

100 words

Mary Strongheart pushed the stroller up the dusty street, her baby tangled in blankets, silent.

She wanted the senator to see, everybody to see, such that they could no longer turn away.

Hana had given her the gate code, but she’d keep the ruse. A knot of fear fisted in her stomach and seared her throat. She’d never been close to the magnificent home. Will my camera work? Will he listen?

Offering silent prayer to the sky, Mary signaled Hana at the back gate.

Soon, the squealing of plastic wheels dovetailed with shouts and the crackle of the guard’s taser.


I don’t get to do too many Friday Fictioneers challenges, but this one kind of sprang from my mind fully formed like Athena. And it dovetailed with this article that a friend had recently pointed out to me (thanks, Brenda).

Most of us, unfortunately, have heard of the horrific water crisis in Flint, Michigan. But you might not have not heard about the contamination of water (and more) in areas of the Southwestern and Western United States (not even to mention the coal mining and shale fracking going on all over the world). Nor is Flint, Michigan, alone, either in the States or the world, with regard to environmental contamination. I did a little further research, discovering that some 15,000 abandoned uranium mines exist in the U.S., and there’s no apparatus set up to get these dangerous sites cleaned. One group, Clean up the Mines, calls this “America’s secret Fukushima.” One activist also notes that the Native American nations of North America are the proverbial ‘canaries in the mine’ for the rest of the United States on this critical environmental issue.

As such, then, I conceived of Mary Strongheart as an indigenous person whose child had been affected in some detrimental fashion by the contamination of their water.

Read and/or link up your own Friday Fictioneers post at this linky, and while you’re there, thank Rochelle for administrating these challenges (and adding her own fiction!) like elegant clockwork every week.







17 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers on a Monday: A Mother’s Mettle

  1. Brilliantly written, Leigh.
    The whole treatment of Native Americans makes me so angry that my words pile up and get stuck like water at a beaver dam. I have so much to say that I’m rendered mute D:

    • Thank you, Sarah. Yes, very unfortunately, much of North America (not alone in that, sadly) is built upon a shameful foundation of slavery and genocide against people of color.

    • Thanks, Dr. Ali. Like your take on the sandcastle house, I couldn’t quite get a light story out of the photo (which was a good one), although yours ends much better for the main character!

  2. A very powerful 100 words Leigh. The crisis in Flint has certainly brought attention to the horrific conditions many are exposed to. Your words add to that strong voice.

  3. I don’t know what to say. Injustice is difficult to swallow. Thank you for this, Leigh. Sometimes we need more than words to understand the plight of others. Sometimes we need the images in our mind.

  4. It’s good, but y’know what? I want you to write the bigger story, the one that weaves in the wider context. You’ve already proved you can bring a troubled history to life, so how about one brave woman’s personal travails and an ethnic group’s history of suffering…

    More, dammit, I want more.

    • Thanks, Ali. I can agree with that. But, you know what?, by nature I’m not a huge risk-taker. What I mean by that is I hold a belief about writing that one has to take risks. I don’t know if I could/would risk writing the longer version. I’d appreciate your insights on this; for instance (the short form), as I have never lived in a Native American community, I don’t want to get it wrong or misappropriate their culture, as I could not write a real in-depth story from the Muslim perspective or, I suppose, a man’s perspective or a transgender person’s perspective (et al). [Of course, logically, I realize I can’t write from a vampire’s perspective, an alien’s perspective, etc. But those are more freeing, because I would never be mistaken as a ‘speaker’ for that culture or nationality or whatnot, because they are imaginary (as far as we know!). However, I like adding diversity (and believe it ‘should’ be done insofar as possible in art) in the shorter condensed form, so I have experimented in these ways with my short(er) fiction. I know one should never conflate the author with the text, but, for me, I’d want it to resonate for people and be authentic in the writing. (In short) I don’t know if I could do justice to a fuller version of Mary’s story. I appreciate your comments, though, and I’m sure I’ll think, re-think, and overthink the hell out of this issue before I’m done with it.

      • Oh Leigh, sweetheart, you’re already over thinking it! Of course there are cultural specifics that you can research and incorporate, and may never be “authentic ” but what makes the story is its universality. We all want love, respect, safety, freedom, to see our children thrive and so on. So just write. The cultural detail can come in small moments of emphasis, flourishes of the pen to show what you have learned.

        Cards on the table: I hate this concept of cultural misappropriation. It is a reverse racist defence. We should immerse ourselves in each others lives to learn that we are all fundamentally the same. I will sing Country, you dance Bollywood, we’ll both mispronounce Baudelaire and damn the closed, petty minds that would keep us from learning each others lives and heritage.

        I didn’t mean to rant when I started my reply. If the story is in you Wordsmith then just write it.

      • No worries. Some people, like you, are more easygoing about such things. Others, not so much. Vis-a-vis the “trigger warning”/politically correct discussions that I know are taking part here in the U.S. as well as elsewhere. I’m still watching from the fence on those, but tending toward taking the risk, damning the torpedoes, and being ‘politically incorrect or insensitive’ (but First Amendment-y)

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