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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)

TITLE: "I Hain't Got Long To Stay Here"
By Kimberly Russell


An exasperated sigh earned Savannah a stern look from Mr. Buckley. She averted her eyes in an effort to avoid a scolding (as well as the ruler that was never far from his grasp). Feigning interest in the textbook, her mind soon wandered as the intoxicating smell of magnolia drifted through the open window.

She longed to be out in the dazzling sunshine instead of cooped up studying. Screams of laughter from the pickaninnies mingled with the sweet songs of their mammies' serenading...

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home, I hain't got long to stay here.

Oh, to be free of the dreadful bondage of school lessons!

"Miss Delong!"

Her head snapped up, hand sizzling in expectation of the dreaded ruler.

"What on earth is wrong with you today? I asked you to name the year that King George III was crowned."

Savannah shot him a long-suffering grimace. "I guess it was probably at least a hundred years ago. What does it matter?"

His shocked expression let her know that the answer was unacceptable. "What does it matter? Really, Miss, don't you understand how important history is? It's how we know where we came from. And what worked for our forefathers-and what didn't. It's imperative that we learn all we can from the past so we don't repeat the same mistakes." His passion for the subject was not lost on the young woman.

She hung her head in shame yet could not set aside the dread in her heart. "I'm sorry, Mr. Buckley. I know I should care more but with everything that's going on now, some king from long ago seems quite unimportant. I'm more interested in the secret meetings Papa has being going to. Will Georgia really secede from the union? If a war is coming, will my brother have to fight?" Tears sparkled in her eyes as the words came out in short gasps that had nothing to do with the vice-like grip of her corset.

Mr. Buckley stared in shock, mouth agape. "Why would you ask about such things? Talks of war and fighting are not appropriate topics for a young lady. Have you been listening outside the door of the library again?"

"Why shouldn't I ask questions?" said Savannah, curls whipping as she tossed her head. "I yearn so for answers, my thoughts race like a colt in the paddock. Just because I'm a female doesn't mean I don't think! Or that I'm not afraid..."

Her teacher's face softened as the fervent words of the sixteen-year-old trailed off. "Of course you must think, my dear, but genteel women don't talk of manly subjects. Your efforts should be toward learning the finer points of being a gracious lady. Surely you want to be the mistress of your own plantation one day. You should concentrate on painting or playing the pianoforte. You do want to marry well, don't you?"

"Would you have me fawn over the neighborhood boys like that silly Scarlett O'Hara?" she challenged. Savannah sprang to her feet and began to pace the parlor, hoop skirt swishing. "How can I concentrate on the mundane when we may soon be at war, Sir?"

"My dear Miss DeLong, don't be a goose. There will be no war, especially if fine people like your Papa have anything to do with it. The Southern states are strong in their own right and will whip the Yankees into shape long before it comes to that so don't worry your pretty little head a minute more."

"How can you possibly say that?" she demanded. "Don't you see what's happening? Even I know that the South can't possibly hold up against an onslaught from the North. And what about slavery? It's barbaric and should be outlawed-even Papa says so. Why, some plantation owners treat livestock better than their slaves. It must be stopped!"

Savannah stopped pacing, arms akimbo. "Surely, Mr. Buckley, a hundred years from now, will the South be in your precious history books? Maybe our decisions will be held up as an example of mistakes that should not be repeated. Will great political minds analyze our actions? I just pray they won't be shaking their heads at the destruction we caused by our own foolishness."

Steal away, steal away, steal away to Jesus!
Steal away, steal away home, I hain't got long to stay here.

"Steal Away"
Composed by Wallace Willis

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Member Comments
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Jody Day 02/24/11
Nice. I love how you made her a contemporary of Scarlett O'Hara. The weaving of the song is effective. Good job.
Henry Clemmons02/24/11
Your MC was an enjoyable character. I didn't really catch the southern flavor of the piece until about midway. BUT, you write very well. You made your point with a memorable character who spoke some profound lines. Overall very well done. I liked it and would read more about this character if it were a longer story. I loved the song bit. It was like the history about to happen was singing. We all know what happens in Georgia so it makes those lines very powerful. 100 years knows much more than a day. Now that I've mulled it over, excellent job.
Allison Egley 02/24/11
Oh, wow! I love historical fiction, and this story did not disappoint. I'd love to see a longer version of this. I'm sure that MC of yours has some more things up her sleeves... or hoop skirt. ;)
Melanie Kerr 02/25/11
I enjoyed the dialogue between the two characters - and the name dropping. I think you showed the girl's fears about the future well.
Karen Pourbabaee 02/27/11
You've created a delightful character...and she deserves an encore:)
diana kay03/02/11
i liked it :-) I got confused by the reference to Scarlet O Hara thinking surely that book was written long after the era in which you were setting your piece but then i see one of your commentators is cleverer than me and realised your reasons.
Sara Harricharan 03/02/11
Western-flavored. Kind of. :) This was an interesting read. I liked the strength of the FMC and especially her fearless way of speaking up to the teacher/tutor. A nice, quick read.
Bonnie Bowden 03/03/11
I loved how the song was echoed throughout the story.

Congratulations on your well deserved EC award.
Beth LaBuff 03/06/11
What a wonderful story. You put me there in their moment. Congratulations on your editor's choice award!