Ride Like the Wind

by

thirsty

She sat on the kitchen floor, playing with her plastic horses. She saddled up a mustang and rode across the squares of green tile, through the Indian badlands, around train robbers, and cattle rustlers. She rode fast, bent low, stopping to rest in the forest of chair legs under the kitchen table.

“Most men wouldn’t be caught dead washing dishes,” her mother teased the man at the sink. He was tall, a dishtowel over his shoulder, a cigarette in his mouth.

He laughed. “Most men wouldn’t do a lot of things I do.”

Her mother giggled, kissing him. The man’s hands came out of the water and landed on her mother’s bottom.

“Now look what you’ve done,” her mother said, smiling.

He crushed the cigarette. “Let’s get you out of these wet clothes,” he said.

“Shhh,” her mother said, pointing.

The little girl jumped on her horse, dug in her heels, closed her eyes, and rode like the wind.

************************************

The Original Version:

Ride Like the Wind

She sat on the kitchen floor. A triangle of sunshine from the window spread across the linoleum making a paddock for her plastic horses. She lined them up side by side to feast on grain and hay. Her favorite was a brown mustang with a white mane and tale. She’d take him from the herd and ride across the squares of green tile, through the Indian badlands and around gangs of train robbers and cattle rustlers. She was brave and free, riding fast, bent low over her horse’s neck, the wind blowing her hair back from her face. They’d stop to rest only after reaching the forest of chair legs under the kitchen table. It was safe there. She had cover.

“I like watching you wash dishes,” her mother said to the man at the sink. The little girl peeked out from under the man’s shirt hanging on the back of the chair. He was tall, wearing his green work pants and a white undershirt. He had a dishtowel thrown over his shoulder, and a cigarette in his mouth. He was up to his elbows in soap bubbles. “Most men wouldn’t be caught dead washing dishes,” her mother teased.

The man laughed and talked around his cigarette. “Most men wouldn’t do a lot of things I do.”

Her mother giggled, stood on tip toe and kissed the man’s cheek. His hands came out of the water and landed on her bottom.

“Now look what you’ve done,” she fussed, twisting around to look behind her at the wet spots on her jeans. She wasn’t mad though, she was smiling.

The man pulled the cigarette from his mouth and crushed it out in the ashtray. “I think we need to get you out of those wet clothes,” he whispered.

Her mother shushed him and pointed at the child.

The little girl ducked behind the cover of the man’s shirt.

Her horse whinnied, ready to ride again. She jumped on his back, dug her heels into his flanks, closed her eyes, and rode like the wind.

Friday Fictioneers’ (http://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/) is hosted every week by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. It’s a pretty awesome idea that goes like this: A weekly photograph is posted and the writer is challenged to create a 100-word story or poem inspired by the photo. Post your work on your blog and link it to the Friday Fictioneers’ post where comments and feedback are shared. Give it a shot! This week’s photograph is by Douglas McIlroy.

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98 Responses to “Ride Like the Wind”

  1. buffalostarmedicine Says:

    Great read… sexy, yet completely innocent.

  2. Penny L Howe Says:

    This is good. I was right there, I could have been either the little girl or her mom (female perspective of course). I could visualize him as well. The sense of each of the three characters coming through loud and clear. Yes definitely very good! 🙂

  3. sustainabilitea Says:

    I was ready to identify with the girl playing with the horses but thankfully you lost me on the last part. 🙂 Very good.

    janet

    • train-whistle Says:

      My intent was to have the reader identify with the child, so I’m thinking there may have been some loss in the deletion of words. Would you read the original and let me know? I’ve posted it under the shortened version. Thanks so much Janet.

      • sustainabilitea Says:

        I’m sorry. I didn’t write that clearly enough. I understood the story. I meant that although I played with horses and identified with that part of the story, I didn’t have the last part happen in my life. You don’t need to put the original in. Your story was perfectly clear and well-written. Apologies for the confusion

        janet

      • train-whistle Says:

        No problem, thank you so much for reading and commenting Janet. I really appreciate your thoughts and input. –Margaret-Dawn

  4. elmowrites Says:

    I really liked this, t-w, the perfect mix of innuendo and innocence through the child’s fantasy. I wonder who the man is though – obviously not Daddy, she doesn’t even seem to know his name.

  5. Sandra Says:

    Reading both versions really underscores the fact that you can reduce a story down to the bare bones and still get the meaning across. For me the abbreviated version lost nothing, the atmosphere and tensions came across beautifully. The only thing I would say that three sentences beginning with the word ‘she’ in the first paragraph was slightly distracting. I stopped reading for a moment to consider whether you’d done that for effect, even before I read the second version, in which it’s not so noticeable. Thanks for exercising my brain over breakfast! 🙂

  6. Sandra Says:

    Wow! I love this. I will say that I like the abbreviated version better because it is more urgent, more evocative and after I read the original version I realised that it lost absolutely nothing. In fact, from the longer version, I would remove the part where she hides behind the man’s shirt. She needs safety, and the girl doesn’t know the man. Hiding behind the chairs that are a forest in her head would make the piece more realistic and poignant. But Bravo for both versions. I really like!

  7. nightlake Says:

    the girl’s shyness, need for security and also absorption in her game..this was a good tale..

  8. julespaige Says:

    I am that little girl…lost with pen and paper. I liked both versions.

    Thanks for your visit. My muse throws in those hidden gems. Just rounds ’em up and ropes ’em. 🙂

  9. David Stewart Says:

    Just referring him as “the man” really conveys the sense of strangeness in the situation for the little girl. It’s very touching and realistic how she immersed herself in her fantasy to avoid an uncomfortable reality.

  10. devoucoux Says:

    I love your style. Good read.

  11. silentlyheardoncemysammy1 Says:

    Your reduced story lost nothing from the vision of your story. Nice writing.

  12. vbholmes Says:

    I, too, prefer the shortened version–more tension. Good story.

  13. claireful Says:

    This is beautiful. I prefer the short version – there is so much between the lines for the reader to discover. It just shows how more is often said by less.

  14. waitingforaname Says:

    I like the short version, too. Very nice.

  15. jwdwrites Says:

    Very nice Margaret-Dawn. You did a great job of distilling the longer version while keeping all the flavours. Nice writing. 🙂

  16. TheImaginator Says:

    Feel sorry for the girl. I get the impression that this new step-dad doesn’t measure up.

  17. indytony Says:

    Nice character development.

  18. kindredspirit23 Says:

    I am certain that, as kids, we missed a lot of “mentions” from adults to each other. We lived in our own world; what didn’t fit, we didn’t mess with.
    Scott
    Mine: http://kindredspirit23.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/friday-fictioneers-march-22-2013-genre-humorous/

  19. billgncs Says:

    it felt earthy and real. I thought this was a strong post.

  20. Rochelle Wisoff-Fields Says:

    Dear Train Whistle
    You painted a vivid picture with just a few words. Masterful job of setting the scene through the child’s eyes. The ending was perfect. Not to mention you did a lovely job of editing it. Bravo!
    Shalom,
    Rochelle

    • train-whistle Says:

      thank you Rochelle. I’m working really hard on these short vignettes seen through a child’s eyes. It’s very helpful to have others look at my process along the way. I appreciate your feedback. –tw

  21. Joe Owens Says:

    Too many times the child is not as clueless as we want to believe. Even the younger children are always listening and watching everything we adults do and say.

  22. denmother Says:

    Very well done. It sounds like there’s enough inappropriate hanky panky going on in that house to warrant the need for an imaginary world of escape. Poor kid.
    Denmother

  23. anelephantcant Says:

    Clever tale, well told.

  24. elappleby Says:

    HI Train Whistle – like the others, I think the short version is better – though I wonder what would happen if you reduced it down further to 100 words – I think you’d probably lose something there – which is of course the eternal quandry we all face each week. Great writing, gritty, realistic and sensitive. Fabulous 🙂

    • train-whistle Says:

      Many thanks. I too felt like the 100 words wouldn’t give me enough. I may try to reduce it some more, or put a call out to Rich, who I see will take on the challenge sometimes. I’m pretty happy with it the way it is though. I don’t want to lose the punch. I appreciate you reading all of the extra words too. 🙂

  25. Paula J Says:

    Both versions are good. The abbreviated one is superb. The picture is clear. I identified with the little girl, but all three characters are defined exquisitely through your narrative.

  26. JackieP Says:

    Really nice writing. I enjoyed it. Good job!

  27. Beth Carter Says:

    What a sweet, sexy story. Loved it.

  28. Anne Orchard Says:

    Sounds to me like she needs her fantasy world as a protection against her life. You protrayed that well, and I liked the way you slipped between what was actually happening, and her vision of riding the horse herself.

  29. rgayer55 Says:

    The say the best thing a father can do for his children is love their mother. That’s what I got out of this story. Sure, it seems gross when you’re the kid, but at least you know they love each other.

  30. kz Says:

    oh wow, great writing. really enjoyed reading both versions.. it was very vivid.. like a really saw the scenes play out in my head.. great story

  31. erinleary Says:

    Very real and powerful – those childhood moments when you just want to disappear. It came through with eloquence.

  32. Tom Poet Says:

    Maybe I am a little simple but I didn’t find anything distracting about this story. That little kid could have been a boy or a girl and anyone could have identified with her. Coming from a household just like this expect my dad doesn’t smoke but he is the time of man who could do just about anything and never lose his masculinity in the eyes of a woman and most certainly my mom, I get it. I think you put the smoke in there to make him seem a little rough around the edges. The whole thing worked perfectly. My parents have been together over fifty years and a few weeks ago I overheard them having a conversation that just made me smile. This reminded me of them. Great job. That’s love the way it should be. LOVED IT!

    Tom

  33. Tom Poet Says:

    Accept not expect….little word association going on in my head

  34. Douglas MacIlroy Says:

    Dear TrainWhistle,

    Ride Like the Wind was a couple of things: 1. Drop dead perfect. 2. Way outside of the box most people were thrashing around in. 3. Subtle, layered and nuanced. 4. Very well written. 4. Why I read flash fiction (for the gems). 5. Your best story to date. 6. Better in the version we first read (see Sandra Crook’s comments) 7. Fantastic.

    The end.

    Aloha,

    Doug

  35. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) Says:

    Wonderful story telling. The story didn’t loose one bit by being cut down. The longer version had a certain love of language and poetic flow that must have been hard to cut away. I am glad you shared both.

    • train-whistle Says:

      thank you Bjorn. It helped me tremendously to post both stories this week so I could see that even when I cut, the story stays intact. A shout out to Janet, who unwittingly spurred me to post both versions.

  36. rich Says:

    of course it’s not perfectly the same, but it’s 100 words. also, i changed a few things like “mother” and “I” for the girl in order to help trim words. i know you didn’t originally write it first person, but it helps to cut down words.
    ______________________

    Kitchen floor, saddling a toy mustang, I rode fast across green tile, Indian badlands, chasing trainrobbers, and cattlerustlers before resting in the chairleg forest under the kitchen table.

    “Most men don’t washing dishes.” Mother teased the tall man, dishtowel over his shoulder, cigarette in his mouth.

    He laughed. “There’s lots most men don’t do.”
    Mother giggled, kissed. His hands left the water for Mother’s bottom.

    “Look what you’ve done,” Mother smiled.

    Crushing the cigarette. “Let’s get you out of these wet clothes.”

    “Shhh,” Mother pointed.

    I jumped back on my horse, dug heels, closed eyes, and rode like the wind.

  37. bridgesareforburning Says:

    Really liked the imaginary world created by the little girl playing with her horses but the other world, the real one going on in front of her, was also skillfully written. Well done.
    ron

  38. lingeringvisions Says:

    Sexy!

  39. tedstrutz Says:

    I enjoyed reading both, and seeing how you edited and ended up. I really got a Depression Era vibe… nice. talked around his cigarette… I liked that line, but not necessary… in the final version when you said he had a cig in his mouth, I could picture ashes in the soap… then crushing it out, because he had found a more urgent need. Really felt inside the little girl’s head.

    • train-whistle Says:

      many thanks Ted. It’s been very helpful to have both versions up to see how the process of cutting words affects the reader. I appreciate your time in reading both and leaving such a detailed comment. I’m glad the words resonated with you.

  40. Sunshine Says:

    excellent and i too enjoyed reading both versions. i like the mother’s concern yet not quite sure how the little girl is taking all of it in. “closed her eyes, and rode like the wind…” is she happy, disturbed, unconcerned…leaves the reader to wonder. fantastic.

    • train-whistle Says:

      thank you sunshine. great response. I like leaving a reader to make the determination on these shorts. I think in a longer version or in the grand scheme of all these vignettes linked, the reader would know for sure the child’s feelings. That’s my goal in the future anyway. Thank you for reading both and taking the time to share your thoughts.

  41. curly Says:

    Holy Cow Train! You sure have a lot of fans! Nice to see your work getting the attention it deserves. I really like this beautifully affecting & compressed story. Stands alone, or would make a great hook for a longer piece.

    • train-whistle Says:

      thank you curly. Societyred steered me in the direction of the Friday Fictioneers’ who write a 100 word story each week after a photo prompt is posted. Great group of writers who share their efforts through Rochelle Wisoff-Fields’ website/blog. Give it a look, and thank you for always coming by and reading the words I put down. hugs to you.

  42. Catherine Louise Gurganus Says:

    I really enjoyed this.

  43. Lindaura Glamoura Says:

    Well written depiction of childhood imagination! You could have cut it down even further for the exercise of honing your story to 100 words. Even when you keep your first version – it is amazing what happens when you slice and dice it down to its centre – hard as it is, it’s a good lesson.

  44. petronmb Says:

    Intriguing. I am taken right there, especially with the little girl’s attention.

  45. Perry Block (@PerryBlock) Says:

    Near picture perfect remembrance of childhoods past and/or present. Would that everyone’s life and memories be like this! Super job with this one!

  46. annisik51 Says:

    I liked your final version the best. You conveyed with insight how a child might deal with trauma and in this conveyed that it IS a trauma to the child. The mother isn’t seeing what her daughter is suffering. I interpret from this that the child has seen quite a few of these men in her short life. Very skilfully crafted story. A good read.I hope the little girl isn’t called Marnie! 🙂

  47. Lora Mitchell Says:

    Enjoyed both, but prefers the 1st one. The child may be quiet, but she listens and understands without really understanding… that something is not right. I’m sure, in her heart, she is already planning for the right time to flee, not on a horse, but on her two feet.

    • train-whistle Says:

      Thank you Lora. I appreciate your reading and your feedback. I’m glad the intent was clear to you even with the extra words deleted. I appreciate your feedback. –tw

  48. SocietyRed Says:

    TW,
    This is just so damn good! I really love the way you paint with your words.
    I have a lot of catching up to do!
    Red

    • train-whistle Says:

      Thanks Red. I’ve been so busy lately, haven’t posted for a couple weeks. When things slow down here a bit, I’ll get back in the saddle. Thanks for dropping by and reading.

      ps: loved the last post on your blog.

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