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A Consequential Gift: Historical Flash Fiction (With a Twist) by cam

Updated on June 18, 2015
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

Violet Jessop

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Violet

Violet stood on the upper deck of the ship as it entered the harbor. Just a few days before, she had been hurrying from room to room in her small, rented cottage, grabbing the clothes and belongings she wanted to take on her new adventure. She had picked up a particular leather case, examined it with curiosity and placed it in her bag. Now, thousands of nautical miles later, her life as a cruise ship stewardess was underway. Many others from her hometown had signed up to form the crew of the liner, and she counted her blessings to have been chosen to be among their number.

Violet had joined the other crew members on the dock as they queued up to board the vessel. Her responsibilities were to be varied, cleaning cabins of the passengers, tending to children as parents enjoyed the amenities of the ship and seeing to the general comfort of everyone on board.

Day after day, Violet had labored to make the trip enjoyable for those in her care. Each night she would collapse into her bed, exhausted, yet overjoyed to have found such an exciting way to earn a living.

On the fourth evening, Violet had decided to take a walk on the deck. She secretly hoped she might catch the eye of a handsome lookout named Frederick, whose job was to scan the sea for any signs of danger. As she strolled the deck, she spotted two men in the crows nest, high up on the ship’s mast. One of the men was Frederick.

Crows Nest

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Frederick

Frederick and Violet had met the prior evening as the crew ate dinner. He told her of the responsibilities of being a lookout, but he also complained that they had not been given binoculars for doing this vital task even though they were stored aboard the ship. It seemed that the man who had the key for the storage cabinet was not along on this trip.

Violet watched Frederick take leave of his fellow lookout and enter the mast from the crows nest. According to his description, there was a ladder inside the mast which gave the lookouts access to their vantage point. He was descending to the deck as Violet’s excitement rose. She opened her handbag and checked to see that the gift was where she had placed it earlier.

“Hello, Violet. I hope you aren’t too cold out here tonight.”

“I’m fine, Frederick. I thought a brisk walk might help me sleep better.”

“I enjoyed visiting with you at dinner last night.”

“As did I. I was hoping that I might run into you this evening. I have something I want to give you.’

“A gift? I’m so embarrassed. I have nothing to give you in return.”

“Not to worry, Frederick. It’s a small gift and not even new.”

“What is it? I’m nearly overcome with curiosity.”

“It is something I’ll never have an occasion to use, so I want you to have it.” Violet reached into her bag and withdrew a leather case containing a pair of binoculars. “These belonged to my father. I have no idea what they were for or where he got them, but maybe they could help you do your job up in the crows nest.

“This is a marvelous gift, Violet. Listen, I must get back to my post. I’ll take the binoculars with me and see how well they work.” The two said goodnight and Frederick climbed back up the mast with a pair of binoculars swinging from his neck.

Lookout Scanning the Sea With Binoculars

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Trouble at Sea, Averted

Later that night, Violet was awakened by three rings of a bell, the signal from the crows nest that danger had been sighted. She heard the vessel’s engines screaming and felt the ship slowly change direction. She quickly dressed and returned to the deck.

Violet scanned the surrounding sea for any sign of the danger they were in, but only saw an iceberg, like many they had already encountered, and this one was a safe distance to the starboard side.

Hazards of the Sea

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Violet looked up at the crows nest and was thrilled to see Frederick waving and holding up the binoculars she had given him.

“They worked,” he shouted. “That might have been a close call otherwise.”

Violet brought her mind back to the present as the great cruise ship entered New York Harbor. The 1,317 passengers and 885 crew members could now celebrate the successful maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic.

RMS Titanic

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The Truth of the Matter

  • The iceberg in the photo above, was the actual one that sunk the Titanic. The photo was taken by the chief steward of the liner Prinz Adalbert
  • There was a stewardess on board the Titanic by the name of Violet Jessop. She survived the terrible night aboard a lifeboat. She continued her occupation as a cruise ship stewardess and was aboard the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, when it went down in 1916. She survived that ordeal as well and went on to serve nearly fifty years as a stewardess aboard ocean liners.
  • Frederick Fleet was the lookout who spotted the iceberg from the Titanic’s crows nest and rang the bell three times as a warning of danger ahead.
  • Binoculars were supposed to have been issued to the lookouts, but due to a mixup of sorts, the binoculars were not available. The night of the disaster was dark, with only the stars and the ship’s lights to illuminate the surrounding seas. It has been reasoned that in such conditions, binoculars would not have helped. But Frederick did see the iceberg with his naked eyes. Might he have seen it even a few precious seconds earlier with binoculars? Might he have seen it precious minutes earlier? Might the disaster have been lessened or even averted, had he been issued binoculars? Of course, we will never know.

Frederick Fleet

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    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      William, I appreciate your thoughts on the story. Some of them work, some of them don't and some of them are just waiting to be rewritten. My favorite one isn't here at the moment, but I will probably bring it back at some point.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 20 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Cam, this is brilliant alternative, historical flash fiction. This story works on at least two levels that I can think of: 1) It is actually a sweet, romantic story; and I found myself wishing all the best for Violet and Frederick, hoping they would get together. The binoculars were a cute, sweet, thoughtful gift. 2) When you revealed, in true Twilight Zone fashion, that binoculars averted the sinking of the RMS Titanic... well...

      What I'm saying is that you gave yourself room to go in either direction you wanted, and I would have gladly accepted it.

      Voted up, awesome, and interesting!

      See you later! :D

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 21 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is a great piece. The Cunard Lines, owner of The Titanic and other ships of that time, contributed in other ways to the treacherous of sea travel. Did you know that there were not enough rivets used in construction?

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 21 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thank you to everyone who has taken time to read my historical fiction story with a twist. John, Bill, Larry, Shauna, Catherine, Ann, Eric, Blossom, Christine and Janu, I have been getting established in my new location in Oregon. Now that I am settled, I will be getting back to normal here on Hub Pages as well. Thanks again for your support through reading.

    • Janu Jeevan profile image

      Janu Jeevan 21 months ago

      Thank you.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 21 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Janu Jeevan, I'm glad you found the story to be interesting. Welcome to Hub Pages. I look forward to seeing you around in the hubs.

    • Janu Jeevan profile image

      Janu Jeevan 21 months ago

      Very interesting!

    • profile image

      christinemariezzz 21 months ago

      Chris,

      Lovely foretoken from the start:

      "...leather case*...curiosity...in the bag..."

      You, the storywriter had this thing* from beginning to end. All comments again support your passion and good grip on history.

      Christine

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 21 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      What an interesting story and based on so much that actually occurred, too. Loved it!

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 21 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Oops, my mind went immediately to the scenario that Frederick coming off the nest to see Violet caused the tragedy. I like your version much better. Well as you can see you really drew me in. And to me that is the mark of an excellent writer. Thanks

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 21 months ago from SW England

      That's one film I haven't seen and have no particular wish to see. I'm not keen on either actor and I always feel a film which is so hyped up is inevitably a let-down! I'm probably the only person who hasn't seen it!

    • cat on a soapbox profile image

      Catherine Tally 21 months ago from Los Angeles

      Hi Chris. Historical fiction and twist of fate stories are among my favorites, and I especially enjoyed reading this one! The relationship between Frederick & Violet is very natural and believable. I also found it interesting that Violet continued to serve on ships after surviving two disasters in her lifetime, and that binoculars were not available to the Titanic crew.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 21 months ago from Central Florida

      I love this ending, Chris. I'm surprised that Violet continued her career as a cruise ship stew after being in two disastrous situations. She was very brave.

      I can't fathom the lookouts not being supplied binoculars. I wonder who was responsible for not ensuring they were handed out? I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be in his shoes!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      I love historical fiction. Great execution.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 21 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm a big fan of historical fiction. Well done, Chris. Nice twist for sure.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 21 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Ann, It is great to have you bee the first to comment on my story. I appreciate all the very nice words. Yes, a love story was included. Leo and Kate set the bar pretty high for romance though.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 21 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Great story Chris, blend of fact and fiction. Great that you added actual photos and the fact that violet continued to serve as a hostess for 50 years despite the two sinkings. It would have frightened many off ships completely.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 21 months ago from SW England

      I love the way you use true details in your 'change of history' flash fiction, Chris. You cleverly weave them into your story and add that one little detail that makes all the difference.

      It adds authenticity of course, especially with the photo of Frederick.

      It's amazing that Violet survived two sinkings and even more amazing that she continued in the same job!

      You even have a love story in this one! Brilliant!

      Ann

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