Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Duel (15-minute-dash), by Faith E. Hough

(PROMPT: A boy or girl of 13 must be the moderator of a duel. 15-minute-dash.)

Sandy began to back away slowly, so her dress wouldn’t swish and give her away. Why did they have to fight over her so much? If only she were able to tell them the truth—that she wouldn’t give two beans for either of them (in a romantic way, that is)—they could all just go back to being friends again and everything would be fine. But her father had made her promise…and a lady must keep her promises.
“Where are you going, Sandy?” George called, and Sandy racked her brains for an answer but discovered none. Her hat was heavy and her hatpins were poking into her head until it was nearly impossible to think. She knew it was only polite to stay and watch when two admirers were risking their lives for you…but she rather wouldn’t and rather they didn’t.
George’s reason for desiring her presence, however, was a surprise: “If you go, who’s going to tell us how many paces?”
Apparently George and Eric had finally found something upon which to agree again. “You know,” Eric said, “Someone always has to count out the paces…decide if satisfaction has been made…”
“I think satisfaction has already been made,” Sandy argued, but George cut her off.
“Anyway, somebody has to stick around to run for the doc when Eric blows his own hand off because he’s too stupid to aim—”
“You’re one to talk, mister—”
“Don’t you start this again—”
“I didn’t start anything, I just—”
“STOP!” Sandy silenced them with a word. “If you want me to moderate, you have to listen to me.”
Both young men nodded and blushed—that may have been the one and only advantage of having them in love with her.
“First I must examine the weapons for any foul play,” she said, trying to conjure into her voice the authority that emanated from her father when he spoke to the new soldiers about to march off and fight the Yanks. He had an authority no one, herself included, dared resist, but she suspected that a little bit of it may have seeped into her own blood.
The men passed the weapons from their white-gloved hands to her own.
“I’ll examine them in private, if you don’t mind,” she said. She gave each boy a tender look that she hoped would keep them from strangling each other when her back was turned.
“Don’t discourage suitors,” he father had ordered. “Make yourself appealing,” he’d said, “Make sure and get yourself a fine man.”
Well, he hadn’t said anything about letting two fine men kill each other, so she wasn’t about to. Behind the screen of her wide skirt, she emptied the barrels of both guns, dropping the bullets into her silk hand bag.


  1. Love the ending! I wonder - did you know it was going to end that way when you started out? It's so perfectly developed and complete!

  2. Thanks! No...although when I'm writing anything serious I try to keep the ending in mind, on these dashes, I don't usually know quite where I'm going until about halfway through. In this case, I think our hourglass was about to drop its last grains of sand, so I just wrote something as quickly as I could!