Upstairs, Downstairs

I found this new (to me) prompt by Emma’s Writing Things, and this week, she challenged us to write about “A Small Caged Bird”. The prompt sparked my brain to come up with the flash below. It’s about 550-odd words, 4 minutes.

It also prompted me to use the image below, which I found on DeviantArt a long while ago. I always hoped I could use it in a flash one day, always knew what flash it would be, roughly, just never really felt strong enough to get my head around writing on this subject. I love her defiance, her beauty, her insolence, if you like. The pain she is feeling.

“And don’t forget, Miss Betty Lou wants you this afternoon for Master Jack’s party. Two o’clock sharp, you understand?” James pulled smart grey trousers over his buttocks, and tucked a fresh, white silk shirt inside.

“Massa, I was hopin’ to miss the lil’ massa’s party”, suggested Cara, quietly, adding as if to convince, “Mamma Cilla got a whole heap o’ work in the laundry fo’ me”.

But if Cara thought the last twenty minutes had sweetened Massa William’s acid demeanour, she was wrong. He was firm.

“I want you there, dressed up all purdy, on the dot. Don’t want nuthin’ to spoil ma boy’s birthday. Clear?” William’s brown eyes narrowed as he sneered at Cara like she was vermin, unrecognisable from the creature he had loved just a few minutes earlier.

“Ah said, CLEAR?” It wasn’t good when the master raised his voice.

“Yassuh.” But the disappointed girl was too sullen for William’s liking. In an instant, the temperature rose, and, one-handed, he tore his smart, black belt from his waist. With the other hand he grabbed the girl’s ankle, still naked under the makeshift sheet. Instinctively, Cara attempted escape, but William’s grip was iron. A sadistic smile came over his face as he brushed greasy, dark hair from his eyes.

“Ah can see you need a lesson on punctu’lity, you good-fuh-nuthin’ niggah.”

“N…n… no, massa. I’ll be there in good time, massa, for the lil’ massa. Promise. Hope to die.” But the repentant Cara was too late.

“On your belly. Git yo’ ass in the air.”

Whimpering now, the girl complied.

“Quit your hollerin’”, commanded William, as he pulled back the sheet to reveal Cara’s perfect body. He assessed the stiff leather between his hands.

“We’ll soon teach yuh dumb monkey-brain ‘bout punctu’lity.”


William having administered some controlled cruelty, Cara’s lesson was done. Not wishing to upset possibly-sensitive party guests, he had been careful not to inflict any marks which may be visible, although the fresh welts now stinging the sobbing girl’s cheeks should serve as reminder enough. He grasped her tiny wrist and pulled her up to him.

“Now, git goin’! And don’t you be late, or ah might need to teach you ‘nothah lesson tonight.” And he flung the tearful girl away. Naked, she raced out of the summerhouse toward the stables, although where exactly, William neither noticed nor cared.

Instead, he busied himself, readying the temporary bed for his next “guest”, whenever that may be. With Betty Lou, his wife of eight years, there was an uneasy truce. He did not bring them up to the house, at least; he raped them in the adjoining buildings. While for her part, she pretended it did not happen. A man has his primal urges, after all.


By two thirty, a dozen grown-ups were sitting in the picture-perfect drawing room. Eight panting children, fresh from a game which Master Jack had won, sat impatiently at their feet.

“And now”, began Betty Lou, “some of the servants wished to express their love for our darling son, John, and begged to be able to sing for us today.” Totally audible in the passageway, Cara was incredulous. Did this prissy woman realise the nonsense she was uttering? “To begin their performance, we have chosen the spiritual, ‘Go Down Moses’. On the piano, I introduce our wonderful house-boy, Cletus…”, A white-haired old man, three times the woman’s age, jerked painfully past Cara – his rheumatiz was playing him up today. “And to sing, one of our adorable kitchen girls, Cara”.


  1. “Never really felt strong enough to get my head around writing on this subject” he said. Well, Mr. Bump, I’d say you wrapped your head around this one just fine!
    Fantastic writing! With a nasty Southern drawl seeping from the slave owner’s lips like slick oil, you painted quite the vivid picture of life on the plantations for the neglected and abused young women whose only “mistake” was being born black. Kudos to you for tackling this vile and ugly subject so beautifully. Holding on to that image of the proud and defiant young woman was an excellent move on your part; she was beaten but her spirit will never be broken. If I didn’t know better I’d think I was reading a passage by Harriet Beecher Stowe. A brilliant write! 🌟

    Liked by 3 people

    • The best think I think about writing is I can write someone, and can make people either love them or, as in this case, hate them. No way could I evoke that feeling if I just wrote about “me”, it’s so powerful.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a very weird attitude, isn’t it? That someone can think of another human being as a possession. Rather like they might think of a pet, as owning it (even though we know that’s nonsense). But it has happened throughout history and is still happening.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written, although I disagree with a few things, especially the stated perfect body of the beaten slave which would surely be scarred and mutilated from her life as a slave. Think no soap for weeks, cattle-like living.

    Liked by 1 person

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