Wednesday, February 15, 2023

WEP: Gone With The Wind


Write...Edit...Publish (also known as WEP), has given us their first writing challenge for 2023: To write a story inspired by that classic novel by Margaret Mitchell, Gone With The Wind, which is set in the tumultuous times of the Civil War. My story takes a slightly different point of view.

Gone With The Wind

An Old Man remembers his life in the south.

The old man leaned back in his rocking chair. Lightning bugs flickered in the early dusk, little pinpoints of yellow light winking on and off. “Don’t know why you want to talk to me. Don’t like to remember the old days.” He folded his hands, work-grimed and gnarled with age. His lips twisted. “Don’t like to remember them days at all.”

The young reporter sat on the stoop of the small cabin. “They told me at the high school you are the only one left. I was hoping you’d tell me about those days for my paper.”

“You mean back before, when I was a slave?” He grunted. “Weren’t so bad most of the time.” He leaned over and coughed, a deep, hacking that came up from his bones. “They put us in the fields. Dawn to dark, we worked. I don’t know much about them coming over on the ships. That was way before my time. But I was told how it were. Dark and closed up in the holds. Not enough to eat. Then, they was put up on the market. Nobody knew what they was going to do. I didn’t come along until much later, but they told me not much has changed. We was slaves.” He fingered the Bible in his lap.

The girl waited, for any recollection he would share.

“I remember my wife like yesterday. She were so nice. They brought her in from another plantation. She were pregnant, but I didn’t care. We jumped over the broomstick, and the baby, he was mine.”

The old man was quiet for a bit. The rocking chair creaked as it swayed back and forth.

“They say we got beat. That happened. We all have scars of one kind or another. I never got to work in the big house. Cotton was my master. That and the overseer.” He held out his hands. Even in the failing light of dusk, she could see the marks on his hands.

“During harvest, we began at dawn and worked half the night, filling our bags and then toting them to be weighed. If we didn’t pick enough, we got whipped. If we picked too much, they wanted the same the next day.”

He cleared his throat. “Still, wasn’t the hardest. The hardest was when they took her away. Her and the boy, sold off somewheres. Don’t know why. For a while, I didn’t give a damn. Some of the boys, we run. Some got caught and hung up in a tree, but I made it. Found work here. Got this place after a while.” He shrugged. “The rest don’t matter. It’s all gone with the wind, but I still miss my Cherie. And my boy.”

455 words.

Full critique acceptable. 

AFTERWORD: I barely remember seeing the movie, Gone With the Wind, sometime in the early 1960’s, but I remember devouring the book back then and being enthralled by the love story of Rhett and Scarlett as well as appalled by the horrors of the Civil War and slavery. 

I prepped for writing this short story by finding a copy of GWTW. A prologue written by well-loved author Pat Conroy, reminded me that the love story was only part of Margaret Mitchell’s intention. Immediately controversial, GWTW was a barely concealed love story about the Old South itself, the way things were, and the way of life many white people in the South wanted back. Anger about the Civil War and the changes it brought resonates even today. 

I'm not quite ready to reread GWTW, but I hope my story  honors those who survived. Maybe there’s a different way to read Rhett Butler saying, “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn.”

“No day dawns for the slave, nor is it looked for. It is all night — night forever.” Slavery in the American South. Constitutional Rights Foundation.

Write...Edit...Publish encourages writers to post in response to a prompt and to read what others have written. Sharing our writing and commenting helps us all grow as writers. To visit other WEP writers, here are your links:

Email Denise or another team member if you have more questions:
1. Denise Covey  6. J Lenni Dorner  11. Roland R Clarke  
2. Yolanda Renee  7. dolorah@booklover  12. Pat Garcia  
3. Nilanjana Bose  8. N. R. Williams  13. Damyanti Biswas  
4. Olga Godim  9. Jemi Fraser  14. Beth Camp  
5. Sonia Dogra  10. Roland Yeomans  


  1. Hello Beth! Lovely to see you at our first prompt for 2023. Love what you've done with the prompt. The topic is so sad, but all too common during that time. And the helplessness coming through at being treated as nothing more than a chattel. Still resonates today, sadly.

    1. Thank you for reading, Denise. I really struggled with the prompt, especially after I tried to reread GWTW. The world view Mitchell wrote of, even with her rich and complex characters, seemed so far from what many think today. I'm enjoying reading what others have written!

  2. Slavery is a horrible institution. I'm so glad it doesn't exist anymore, at least not in most parts of the world.

    1. Sadly Olga, slavery is alive and well. Trafficking in human beings is a scourge on modern society as well as in the past.

  3. "It is all night -- night forever." Powerful words. Sometimes I despair at the deeds of humankind, but I hope that we're getting better - although we have a long way to go.

  4. Hi Beth! Poignant recollection by someone who has survived the horror of it all. How an experience like that shapes the rest of life as well as our perception of it. Thank you for this piece.

  5. Slavery was and is a cruel method of making people work and under valuing anyone. If I were your old man, I wouldn't want to talk about it either. Well written.

  6. Thank you for posting for WEP. Really liked this take on the prompt. You nailed the former slave's voice perfectly - helpless, resigned, poignant. Slavery has been outlawed but it continues in all kinds of forms in many societies still. Horrific! and beyond shameful.

  7. Beth: the book, and movie, really is "gone with the wind." An era or America that, in my view, has been deminished by all the book bans that depict the culture of the times. So many hero's were born of the conflicts. I too believe the theme is more than a romance, more than tje civil war that inspired the book. A haunting story, once you read the underlying issues.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  8. Hi Beth - good to see you here with us at WEP - as your teller mentions we all forget the difficulties and horrors - if we can of our lives ... definitely some can't be put to the back of our minds. Great story here you've told us - and I hope the reporter went on to find his Cherie and 'son' ... cheers Hilary

  9. Slavery is a shameful chapter of human history, and one that hasn't been sent to oblivion yet. Thank you for this voice, and the poignant story.

  10. I love the way you approached this. A truth too many have as memory. Well done!

  11. I like the way he was so matter of fact about his life and not until the end did we realise how much he missed his wife and son.

  12. Congratulations Beth on your Runner Up award this month - your was certainly a thought provoking tale ... which could let you tell us more - cheers Hilary

  13. Congratulations, Beth. I enjoyed your short and poignant piece.

  14. Well written on a hard topic.

    I sent you a few emails. Thank you for filling out the form to join my launch party.