1890 Wilbur- A flash fiction short story

                                                          by Pam Backlund

Audio of story here.

pdf of story

Danny was something of an ‘odd duck’.  He’d never had a friend.  He was a fourteen year old who could talk to his parents for hours about rocks and minerals.

The little family lived near Water Valley, Texas.  And the secluded nature of the countryside made Danny’s geology books his entire social life. 

So far in his life, excursions from home had been only to San Angelo and Fort Concho.  Outings might be the highlight of most kids’ lives; but not for Danny. The only reason for going to town was to get more geology books.  Danny was a bit narrow-minded. 

Near his home the second cotton gin of the county was erected on the North Concho River in 1890.  His parents had an idea. It was time for Danny to grow up, they thought.

They talked to Mr. Dweedle about Danny working at the brand new gin.  He was hired.  There’d be little reading for Danny for several months.

When Danny came home from his first day of work, Mama and Papa asked him how the time had transpired.

“Well, I really am too tired to talk about it, but Wilbur really got on Mr. Dweedle’s nerves,” said Danny.

“What did Wilbur do?” asked Papa…thankful that Danny hadn’t gotten on anyone’s nerves.

“Well he made fun of Mr. Dweedle’s very shiny head and the way he whistles to himself,” replied Danny.

“I’m sure Wilbur just had first day jitters.  But more importantly, did you do your job correctly?” asked Mama.

“I unloaded cotton the whole day.  You would have been proud of me, as I only spoke about geology a dozen times to the other fellas,” boasted Danny. 

Mama and Papa looked at each other for they had warned Danny that morning to stay quiet about his extraordinary hobby.  They were about to say something when they saw that his nose was in his books once again.

“Son, you know that we told you about talking so mu…” started Papa.  But Danny interrupted.

“Roses are red and violets are blue, the smell of the outhouse reminds me of you,” Danny shouted at his papa.

Mama was aghast.  Danny didn’t know this kind of vulgarity.  What had he learned at his simple job?  Suddenly Danny’s possible rock and mineral lecture was the last thing on his parents’ minds.

“Where did that come from?” Mama asked.

“Wilbur,” was Danny’s response.

“Well maybe Wilbur should get fired for insulting you like that!” she believed.

“Oh.  He didn’t say it to me.  He said that to Mr. Dweedle at the river’s water wheel,” Danny interjected.

Before the next day of work, Mama told Danny to avoid Wilbur. 

But upon arriving home that evening, he rudely barged into the house and then went straight to his books.

“Don’t you want some supper, son?” Papa asked.

“Roses are red, violets are blue.  God made me handsome, what happened to you?” Danny shouted at Papa.

“Now listen here son, you can’t insult me like that,” he said as he started taking off his belt.

Mama intervened. “Was that Wilbur’s poem?” she questioned.

Papa didn’t care the origin.  He just wanted to teach Danny a lesson about consequences.

“Wilbur said a bad word today,” exclaimed Danny as he darted around the cabin.  A moving target is hard to hit.

Papa and Mama yelled together, “Don’t say it out loud!!!”

“We were cleaning the sticks and rocks out of fifty pounds of cotton today.  Wilbur kept calling his mother a ‘word’ all day long.”

Danny whispered the ‘word’ to Papa, whose eyes turned as big as eggs.

“You are never to say that in this house again,” retorted Papa.

“Can I state the poem he made up about his mother?”  Without waiting, Danny recited the rhyme.

“Roses are wilted, violets are dead.  Sugar bowl’s empty…same as your head.”

Mama cried, “What kind of family is raising Wilbur?  We must put an end to Wilbur’s job.”

Wednesday, Papa followed Danny to work to speak with Mr. Dweedle about Wilbur’s influence on the young employees.

But he chickened out at the last minute.  He thought about Danny becoming a man and how a papa interfering would ruin things.

When Danny came home from the gin, Wednesday, his parents expected the worse.  But, there was no mention of Wilbur.  Danny just secluded himself with his books as he’d done his whole life. 

Later, Mama hesitantly asked how the day had gone. 

“I learned how to bale cotton,” Danny replied. “And we sacked a lot of cotton seed, today.”

Then from nowhere, he added, “Roses are red, here’s something new.  Violets are purple, not so much blue.”

Surprised, Mama asked if that was one of Wilbur’s poems.  Danny said, “No. It’s mine.”

As Mama and Papa were drifting off to sleep that night, Papa said, “If all goes well with this brief cotton gin job, Danny can start to work full time at the livery stable away from Wilbur.”

This was said in the tiniest of cabins near the river.  Little did they know that Danny could always hear his parents’ whisperings?

Danny wasn’t too sure about working the rest of his life. 

So on Thursday and Friday Danny quoted horrible Wilbur several times, much to the dismay of his parents.

But Mama had a plan.

There was to be a picnic at the church on Sunday to celebrate the opening of the new gin. 

Confused by their son’s behavior that week, Mama planned to talk to Wilbur or Mr. Dweedle or both of them.  Papa wanted her to stay out of it.  But, Mama just couldn’t stand having Wilbur ruining her Danny.

At the Sunday picnic Mama looked for a stranger in the community who would most certainly be ‘Wilbur’.  But she knew everyone there. 

Finally, Mama went to Mr. Dweedle.

“I see that obnoxious Wilbur was unable to attend, today.” Mama said to him.

Mr. Dweedle said, “Everyone from the gin is here today.  Who’s Wilbur?”

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