Recently, I was with a group of women fiction writers, and someone mentioned International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018. The authors at this meeting realized we all write about strong women. So to celebrate the occasion this year, each of us agreed to post an excerpt from our writing featuring one of our strong female characters. And we want to share all our characters with you.
I’m sharing the start of “Lost Dog,” a prequel story to my historical mysteries that introduces the series protagonist, Minty Wilcox, along with several other continuing characters in the stories and books. So here she comes to the rescue of . . . Well, read on and you’ll find out.
An Old Kansas City Story
Tuesday, July 5, 1898, shortly after noon
Kansas City, Missouri
As Minty Wilcox hurried home, she mentally reviewed the symbols from Mr. Gregg’s shorthand system she’d studied that morning at the Kansas City Business College. A pretty woman of nineteen years, she wore a white dress with navy blue trim around the square neck that gave the dress a nautical air. A jaunty seersucker sailor hat with a blue and white band sat on top of her light brown hair and she carried a black school bag over her shoulder.
She’d just crossed Tenth Street when shouts up ahead on the avenue pulled her out of her reverie.
On the steps of a big white Victorian house near the other end of the block, a woman in black held up a broom as if it were a baseball bat. It looked like she meant to take a swing with it at two children standing on the sidewalk below.
“My gosh!” Minty said when she recognized the children as her youngest siblings and the woman as their neighbor as Agnes Shackleton. Minty promptly lifted her skirts to mid-calf and ran the rest of the way down Penn.
Just after Minty reached Eddie, a slim, brown-haired boy in a white shirt and knee pants, and Peach, a little blonde who wore a plaid dress of mixed browns and tans, Miss Shackleton said, “Get off my property.” She swung the broom at Peach.
Minty caught the bristle end of the broom only an inch away from her youngest sister’s head, wrenched the broom out of the woman’s hands, and threw it in the street.
Off balance, Miss Shackleton stumbled down the steps onto the walk. “What do you think you’re doing?” she said.
“How dare you take a broom to my sister?” Minty said.
“But, but . . . ,” the woman sputtered. Then, perhaps recognizing Minty’s anger, she turned, retreated to the middle of the stairs and turned to face Minty again. Tall and gloomy in a black dress with huge leg o’ mutton sleeves several years out of date, Agnes Shackleton had gray hair split by a center part. As usual, her long, bony face wore a sour look. “She was on my property,” she said. “The boy, too.”
“My brother and sister are on the sidewalk now,” Minty said. “And it’s public property.”
“They were on my steps before and they were attacking me.”
Minty might have laughed at that if she hadn’t been boiling mad. “I doubt that very much,” she said.
Miss Shackleton gave Minty a long hard stare before she said, “Well, that girl is most impertinent.”
Minty could see how some might find Peach impertinent because she often spoke before she thought. But Minty wouldn’t concede anything to Miss Shackleton who said, “I suggest, Miss Wilcox, that you control these gutter snipes that your mother allows to run wild on the streets making noise at all hours of the day and night.”
Her back decidedly up, Minty said, “My brother and sister aren’t gutter snipes, Miss Shackleton. And I will thank you to quit calling them names.”
“Minty, what’s a gutter snipe?” asked Peach, so dubbed at birth by their father because she was such a peach of a girl.
“Somebody who’s not very nice,” Eddie said. An earnest boy of thirteen, the youngest of Minty’s four brothers limped up to Minty. He wore special shoes for the clubfoot he was born with that later was repaired, at least in part, by several surgeries.
“How come they’re not nice?” Peach said.
“We’ll talk about it later, Peach,” Minty said, her breathing and heartbeat finally slowing. She turned back toward Miss Shackleton. “If you’re talking about last night, lots of people were out and about to see the fireworks. So what if they set off a few firecrackers? Lots of people did.” Including me, Minty added to herself. It was so much fun, but then Miss Shackleton seemed to have lost the ability to have fun—if she’d ever had it, that is.
Miss Shackleton sniffed. “I shouldn’t be surprised at their behavior. Your mother runs a disreputable establishment with people in and out all hours of the day and night.”
“She does not,” Minty said. “Our boarders are very respectable. And Mama has a rule that everyone must be home by ten, even the grown-ups, except for special occasions like Independence Day.”
“Well, they were shouting at me,” Miss Shackleton said.
“Probably for good reason, Miss Shackleton,” Minty said. She turned her head a little before she said, “Eddie, what’s going on?”
Before Eddie could answer, Peach said, “She was trying to kill the doggy. Maybe she did already.”
“What dog?” Minty asked.
To read the rest of “Lost Dog ,” click on the following link. (It’s only 99 cents to buy and always free on Kindle Unlimited) www.amazon.com/dp/B0752SWBG1
For the posts from the other women authors in our group about their strong women characters, please follow the links below:
Joyce Brown, author of cozy mysteries http://www.joyceannbrown.com/blog/international-womens-day-strong-women-in-fiction
If you like the excerpts these authors have posted, then let them know in a comment on their blogs. Writers always enjoy hearing from readers
Happy International Women’s Day!