Writing inspired by the SWC creative writing prompt: Write a flash fiction story of no more than 250 words with the above title. What is announced and where? And what unfolds dramatically because of it?
By Connie Phlipot
ALL BEARDS MUST BE SHAVED BY MIDNIGHT.
The priest launched into the sonorous voice reserved for incantations as he read the bold sign on the village hall. He spat. God had determined that holy men must have their faces covered.
“What if a woman were told to shave her head?” he thundered to the baroness, who had stepped out of her carriage to read it.
Few villagers were literate, but by afternoon everyone knew about the decree.
“It’s not God’s will.”
“Whose idea is it? Not the Tsar. It’s the boyars’ doing.”
“We must go tell him what they are doing in his name.”
The men set off toward Moscow. Another group of men joined them at the next village, and then another and another. By the time the midsummer sun set, they had gathered a force of 1,000. They carried sticks, heavy stones and axes for defense.
The drinking and carousing boyars rushed into the palace at the sight of the crowd, shouting: “Insurrection!”
The Tsar yawned. The boyars cowered under the banquet tables.
The imperial guards, impressed by the flank of hatchet armed villagers, let the villagers’ emissary into the palace reception room.
An aid to the tsar whispered in the Secretary’s ear. “Keep your beards, dear men.You have shown us the might of the people. Only our boyars will be forced to shave.”
The villager kissed the Secretary’s hand.
What else could the might of the people accomplish? Lower their grain tax, end military service, demand clean water? The emissary stroked his beard and led the tired men home.
Sunday Writers' Club Member
Connie is a retired U.S. diplomat, who has recently completed a novel based on her grandparents emigration from what is now Belarus. She is now working on a novel or linked short stories focused on her fascination with Central and Eastern Europe.