No Smoking in the Workshop

Friday Fictioneers, January 31, 2014

A second story, 98 words

Historical fiction

New York’s garment district where Mary worked contained plenty of things that contributed to her cough. Her native American* shift lead insisted smoking tobacco would heal her cough. She doubted it, couldn’t afford it either.

Mary wished she and Shamus had never left Ireland. Their son, Patrick, wanted to head west. He had almost convinced Shamus by the time Mary got sick.

One month after the handkerchief first turned crimson from Mary’s cough, she collapsed during her shift. Two days later, Shamus gently closed her eyes and turned away. He wouldn’t stop walking until he and Patrick reached the West.

*Historical Note: In New York in the 1860s, New Yorkers who had been born in the United States referred to themselves as “native Americans” to differentiate between themselves and European immigrants.

24 thoughts on “No Smoking in the Workshop

  1. storydivamg says:

    I didn’t link this on Friday Fictioneers, mostly because I’m not completely certain about a few of the historical points in the piece. Actually, this was the first flash fiction I wrote for the prompt, but the cable guys were working replacing my modem at the time. As a result, I couldn’t do the research necessary to get the story even to this level of accuracy. I also realized that I probably need to do a lot more research on the Irish immigration of the 1860s to make the entire thing believable and tight enough. Feel free to leave your thoughts for improvement.

  2. It is a beautiful and evocative piece. You should link it.

    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I wasn’t sure if it was okay to link two in one day either. 🙂 My wife assures me that details about both smoking and traveling west are indeed accurate. What a relief!

  3. All too realistic.


  4. Nan Falkner says:

    Good story! Thanks, Nan

  5. A good story but sad. I had two great grandparents from Ireland. It’s a beautiful place and I’m sure they became very homesick. In those days, once the ordinary person made that long trip by ship to the U.S. they had to stay there and never saw family left behind again.

    • storydivamg says:

      I have no idea when my maternal ancestors came over or how they ended up in Kansas, but the Irish heritage is most certain. My spouse, a musicologist, says there are two types of Irish songs–songs about wanting to leave Ireland and songs about wanting to go back.

  6. Dear Marie Gail,

    I didn’t know the term “native American” once meant something else. Always pleased to learn a new bit of history. Nice piece. If I had to choose between your two pieces this would be my favorite. Glad you linked it.



    • storydivamg says:

      Thanks so much, Rochelle, I had a lot of qualms about the historical accuracies of this one. Nothing like breaking that cardinal rule “Write what you know.” on a first week of a new venture. LOL I guess it turned out okay.

      • If I don’t know about something I research it to death. My passion, second only to writing itself. 😉

        • storydivamg says:

          That’s exactly why this one didn’t get posted first. My cable company was here upgrading the internet and I couldn’t spend the research time I needed on it that afternoon. That evening I was able to learn the bare minimum to satisfy myself concerning the details.

  7. A sad tale, well told. I liked the history lesson, too.

  8. The truth should never get in the way of a good story 🙂

  9. vb holmes says:

    Realistic story–I doubt anyone would get hung up on the details (other than, perhaps, the “native American” which I’ve never heard of for those of European extraction but “native-born Americans” is quite common).

  10. The immigrants’ tale! Always exploited by the host country, wherever. A really sad tale.

  11. This made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up-in a good way.

  12. atrm61 says:

    This is excellent!The human element of grief and pathos-the precarious position of immigrants-the readiness to make changes for the sake of children-everything is highlighted so well in this piece that the “historical” part did not seem important at all-at least to me:-)Look forward to reading more from you.

  13. Hi again – thanks to the collective feedback…I’ve updated my entry and am pleased with the results:

  14. Sad, though it is, I liked this very much.

Comments, compliments and constructive criticism are always welcome.

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