General Fiction posted February 7, 2021


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One man, one rule, his way!

The Beaten Path

by Begin Again

Flash fiction Contest Winner 









The 1950s brought some of the hottest summers on record. The ground was parched. The plant roots clung to the soil, searching for a drop of water. A dangerous heatwave warning was issued, suggesting people take precautions. The majority heeded the advisory, but not everyone, including my German father.

“Those weeds aren’t coming out of the ground by themselves."  An order spoke, not a suggestion.

Startled, I jerked and snapped another bunch of weeds off above the soil. Kneeling on the ground, the man towering over me looked like a giant, a big, surly beast. My eight-year-old mind frantically warned me to be quiet, not to say anything. Children were to be seen, not heard unless asked.

“I told you to pull them out, roots and all.”  My father was an authoritarian. His word was the only word that mattered.

I foolishly offered an excuse. “The ground's too hard. I can’t. ”

“Don’t tell me you can’t!”  

I'd said the unspeakable.

I sensed movement above me. My body tightened.

SNAP!  

I cringed, biting my lip. The leather belt wrapped across my exposed legs.

SNAP! SNAP! SNAP!

Soundless tears poured from my eyes. A whimper or a word would have meant more of the same. I could hear my mom yelling for him to stop.

“Get it done!” was his only response as he walked away.

My mom knelt beside me with a bucket of water. She poured it on the ground.

Her sad eyes said it all.



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My father grew up in the Depression and quit school at a very early age. He worked and farmed to help his family survive. He fought for everything he ever had. I tell myself that was why he was so strict and demanded so much from others, including a young girl. In the end, I learned to stand tall and never, ever give up. A lesson that has proven a lifesaver.
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