I’m back after taking a short breather from writing. I was sad to miss two flash fiction challenges, but was happy to return for the last one in ’Nathan Burgoine’s 2018 monthly Flash Fiction Draw.
And thank goodness, the genre was Comedy. The setting is a poppy field and the mandatory object was a broom.
Here’s my entry, called Broom Chicka-Wow-Wow.
As head gardener of Poppyfield Manor, Shelley Rutherford’s headspace was often cluttered with several brands of manure. When offered a frugal sum for her thoughts, she often replied with, “Oh, nothing more than shit.”
This invariably confused whomever asked the question, for it seemed Ms. Rutherford had indeed been focusing on something of great significance. However, a follow-up query was rarely asked.
Shelley felt more in charge of the county than the earl himself. Lord Hartley might have been competent in his own right, but she knew the land under her care had brought him further glory. And the pride of all her flora was the expanse that had given the manor its name.
While the scarlet flowers often reseeded well on their own, Shelley had made it a habit to harvest enough seeds to keep the field lush for the blooming season. Presently, the soil needed loosening. Several apprentice gardeners gathered ’round to help her till the area.
She liked the new team, mostly. She’d inherited one of them from a very distant cousin of the earl. Mortimer Figbottom, a third son with little prospects, flashed her a vacuous smile as he proudly held up the tool he brought for the day’s work.
Count to ten slowly, Shelley. One…two… three…
“Well, Ms. Ruthy? Isn’t she a vintage dream? Belonged to my grandmama. I’d wager there’s not another about in such condition,” said Mortimer, beaming.
The head gardener replied with teeth gritted in an unsuccessful attempt at returning the smile. “It’s Rutherford, Mr. Figbot—”
“Oh no-no, that won’t do at all. Call me Morty. Everyone does!”
She blinked. “Very well, erm, Morty. Now then, while I’m sure this was a fascinating piece for its time, it simply won’t do for the task at hand.”
Mortimer gasped and inspected his tool. No, not that; the thingie in his hand. Wait, he didn’t have his thingie in his hand—erm—let’s try this again. Mortimer held up the wooden handle.
“But you cahn’t be serious, Ms. Ruthy! Why, Grandmama always used this to loosen the soil.”
Shelley slid her fingers from the top of her forehead until they rested upon her lips. Her voice was a bit muffled as she muttered, “Your Granny used an old curling broom as a gardening tool.”
“Why, indeed! Just the sort of thing to do the trick.”
“And not only is this implement far superior to a hoe or tiller,” he added, “it also makes the earth feel, well, sexy.”
The other gardeners sniggered. Shelley willed her eyes to stay in their neutral positions.
“I’m going to regret asking this, Morty, but, what the actual—”
“I understand your scepticism, Ms. Ruthy—”
“But Grandmama said her rather virile ginger Scottish beau at the time… or was he Irish? I can never tell those people apart.” Morty scratched his head. “No, I think he definitely said he liked tatties and neeps. So, Scottish. Or perhaps he said titties and nips. You know, I really can’t recall with absolute certainty.”
“Anyway, he told Grandmama he could broom her field until it felt ‘ded sexeh.’ I do remember overhearing that phrase for sure!”
Shelly closed her eyes and resumed counting to ten. Nepotism could really be the worst at times. But it wouldn’t do to blow her stack at this ridiculous human. No matter how hard he was trying to help.
“Morty, I hate to break this to you, but I think that expression has more to do with, erm, well, particular…acts…ah, between partners, than any sort of horticultural pursuits.”
He stared at her with the innocence of a child. “Whatever do you mean?”
Might as well rip the plaster off before the morning gets away from us. “Sex, Morty. The man wanted to ‘plow’ your granny, not her field.”
The man with the curling broom burst into a hearty guffaw. “Oh, that! Well, of course. That was the process, you see? Broom the soil, then drop right down and have it away. The ‘magik’ of the broom encouraged amorous activities. Worked every year, too. You should have seen the blossoms!”
Shelley gave up. There was no convincing this man otherwise. “Fine. Use the broom. Don’t wreck my poppies.” She turned to the woman on her left. “Freda, supervise Morty.”
The earl had called her in after receiving a complaint from his steward about having to constantly chase away couples—who’d heard about Morty’s broom—from the poppy field. The steward had never seen the like in all his years.
Shelley shrugged her shoulders when asked if she had any insight into why these copulations were occurring in this specific location.
The earl studied her face, but eventually decided to assign staff to patrol the area. There would be no way he would allow Poppyfield Manor’s famous field to be defiled and even worse, devoid of blooms.
Shelley nodded and took her leave.
June arrived. How many times had she come to this exact spot to stare and stare until she finally assured herself she wasn’t hallucinating?
But there it was, like a lush scarlet carpet, thick with perfect red blossoms covering the expanse. Shelley shook her head in disbelief for maybe the hundredth time.
“Ah, another triumph!” exclaimed a voice teeming with pride.
She looked over her shoulder. “Morty.”
He stood akimbo, surveying his handiwork. “See? The wonders of Celtic mysticism!”
“I… just can’t believe it.”
“In your profession you’ve never heard of making the ground fertile?”
“Not through osmosis, Morty!!!”
“You must have a little faith, my dear woman.”
He smiled at her. “Of course, the spurts of liquid fertilizer I intermittently pumped through the hollow broom handle might have aided matters somewhat.”
Shelley’s jaw dropped.
Morty laughed. “Angus MacKenzie’s formula.”
“But look how we’ve made the field more popular than ever with the locals!”
Shelley snickered. “You bloody trickster.”
They spent the next hour admiring the view in a comfortable silence.
Broom Chicka-Wow-Wow © 2018 Cait Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information, contact Cait Gordon.
Cait Gordon is the author of Life in the ’Cosm (Renaissance) and The Stealth Lovers (Renaissance 2019). When she’s not writing, Cait’s editing manuscripts and running The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors manage disabilities and/or chronic conditions. She’s also teamed up with co-editor Talia C. Johnson on the Nothing Without Us anthology (call for submissions are ongoing until Dec 31, 2018.)