A Story Written in a FLASH!

Inspired by Flash Fiction Friday prompt words.

Lug Nuts & Lace

Not everyone had a car in 1915. My family was one of the didn’t haves, so we walked to church even on a Sunday when rain ran in rivulets down the ruts of the country road.

Our trek alongside the muddy lane that followed Bear Cave Creek from the old farmhouse to Glen Hollow was just over a mile. The twins clung to my hands and Roger, my older brother, carried the baby. Ma had gone to meet Jesus, giving birth to our little sister. Our father did his best to protect us. He turned back pelting rain with a big black umbrella and wielded it like a shield whenever a mud-slinging automobile swooshed by.

Half way to town, one of those mud slingers jerked to the side of the road. Pa stopped, handed the umbrella to Roger and locked eyes with me. “Virginia, you kids stay right here. Huddle together and don’t get too close to that creek bank.”

Father knelt in the mud alongside a flat tire on Miss Lorraine Beckett’s Model T, his Sunday slacks soaking up mire from the side of the road. Mama always said he had a knack for soiling fresh washed clothes. She also said he was the kindest gentleman in the county.

I hoped Miss Beckett appreciated his kindness, but I doubted it. With his back to the rain, Pa pumped the jack handle. The car jostled and the bank owner’s daughter clung to the steering wheel, feathers adorning her fashionable hat flounced with each jolt.

I shivered and grimaced a smile when Miss Beckett waved a gloved hand from the inside of her leather-roofed automobile. Her blond hair reminded me of Mama’s wavy curls, and I closed my eyes to shake off the memory. She’s nothing like Mama.

My four-year-old brothers tugged on my hands. One blurted, “That hurts Ginny. You’re squeezing me.” I loosened my grip and apologized.

Roger hollered at Pa. “Do you need help? If Miss Beckett holds Anna, I could—”

Pa cut him off. “You just hang on to her. Don’t be bothering Lorraine.” He flitted a glance at the woman and continued adjusting the spare. He stowed the lug wrench and jack after he finished, then stepped up to the driver’s door.

I bit my lower lip when Pa removed his dripping fedora to speak with Miss Beckett. “You’re good to go, ma’am.” He backed away. “I’ll turn the crank.”

The black Model T rumbled to a start and Pa dashed out of the way. A short blast of the horn and a gully-washer of mud announced her thanks as Miss Beckett sped off down the road. I gritted my teeth and helped Pa wipe muck from his face and felt hat.


We hung our wet, muddy coats in the foyer and shuffled into the back row of the Baptist church just as the minister concluded his welcome.

As the congregation stood to sing a hymn of praise, I squinted at Miss Beckett, who stood by her father in the front row. Her pristine white hat complemented the lace trim and collar of her pale blue tea dress. The coarse linen of my grey middy dress crumpled in my hand as I sang.

I glanced at Pa. His chin was lowered to the hymnal, but his eyes were focused on the banker’s daughter. My breath caught, and I struggled to fill my lungs, the words of praise forgotten.

The sermon, a discourse based on Ephesians 4:32, be ye kind one to another, gouged at my memory of Miss Beckett’s unkind departure. I slipped out of the auditorium and paused outside the door, eying Miss Lorraine. She turned her head just long enough to lock eyes with my father. Air seethed between my teeth as I donned my coat and headed to the parking lot.


The brightness of the sun peeking between dark clouds after the service, refreshed my soul more than the minister’s words. But my outlook soured when Miss Beckett sashayed past Pa and flashed a smile at his tipped hat. She drove off in her Model T and my lips curled into an unrestrained smile. I fondled the objects in my pocket. May justice be served.


Knock! Knock! Knock! A sharp pounding on our front door interrupted dinner.

Pa’s chair screeched on the wooden floor. “Who’s trying to break down our door?” He hurried across the room, yanked on the door handle and stepped back as Sheriff Dickens barged in.

“Mr. Carter, you are under arrest for the attempted murder of one Lorraine Beckett.” Handcuffs jangled, then clicked on Pa’s wrists.

I jumped up and tugged on the sheriff’s arm. “What happened to Miss Beckett? Why are you arresting Pa?”

The sheriff’s words clenched my lungs. “The front wheel fell off of her Model T. The one your father supposedly repaired.” He flicked my hand from his arm. “She was ejected when the car rolled and is in the hospital with a concussion and a broken arm.”

The sheriff glared at his prisoner. “Mister, you are lucky she didn’t die.”

“No! No! He didn’t do it.” I skipped and hopped alongside the sheriff as he dragged my father out of the house. “It was me. I stole the—”

Pa turned toward me, his eyes searching mine. “No, Ginny. Go inside. This isn’t your fault.” The set of his jaw and a pleading tone in his voice silenced me.

Our Aunt Laurel came to stay with us. At fourteen they wouldn’t let me in to the jailhouse to visit Pa. I couldn’t eat and I cried myself to sleep every night. My heart hurt. My chest ached. I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done. I barely talked at all.


Three weeks after they took Pa away, I walked two miles across town to the banker’s house. I stared at the brass lion’s evil eyes, afraid to knock. A maid discovered me curled up in the porch swing. “You come inside, Miss. I’ll get you some lemonade.”

Lorraine Beckett found me in the parlor, perched on the edge of a wing-backed chair. “Are you the Carter girl?” She sat in a matching chair, her left arm supported by a gauzy sling.

“I’m sorry about your arm, Miss. Does it hurt much?” I kept my head down, staring at fidgeting thumbs.

“It’s not bad.” She lifted the arm, winced, and pulled it back to her side. “You don’t have to apologize for something your father did.”

I sat up straight and leaned toward her. “But he didn’t do it! I did.” My eyes stung and my vision blurred.

Miss Beckett cocked her head. “I don’t understand. What did you do?”

“It was me. I wrenched the lug nuts off of your front wheel. Ma is gone, and I didn’t want Pa to…, to love you.” I swiped tears from my cheeks. “But I didn’t mean to hurt you. You were just supposed to get muddy like we did when you drove away.”

Lorraine sat back in her chair. “Oh, my.” Her laugh was stifled at first, but then she leaned forward, laughing hard. “You thought he was going to fall in love with me?” She hiccupped. “Over a muddy tire.” Her chest rose and fell as she inhaled a deep breath, puffed it out, and stood up.

She stepped in front of me with her right hand extended. “Come on, let’s go get your father out of jail.”

On our way to the police station, Miss Beckett told me a story. “I was close to your age when my father had a lady friend stay the night. While they were frolicking in my dead mother’s bed, I sneaked into the room and stole that trollop’s lace trimmed pantalettes.” Lorraine’s face glowed with a pleased smirk. “I never intended for anyone to get hurt, but I suppose it smarted when Papa’s guest slapped him hard across the face and called him a pervert. That so-called lady marched out the back door with nothing but cold air under her skirt.”

I pressed a hand to my mouth to suppress a giggle. “Did you get in trouble?”

“When Papa asked me about it, I feigned innocence. He scowled and pretended to believe me, but Mama’s bed has remained sacred ever since.”

The day after Lorraine visited the sheriff, all charges were dropped, and they released Pa. The banker and his daughter dropped him off at our front door. Lorraine and I shared a secret smile. I hugged my father and whispered, “I’m sorry, Pa. It’s okay if you fall in love with Miss Beckett.”