When I decided to write a post for Write Edit Publish August flash fiction challenge titled Chocolat, I didn't realize what a real challenge this was going to be for me. I forgot to write it over the weekend, so I've been at this for the last three days on the road. With my Samsung Galaxy tablet. No mouse, no keyboard, no works program. I wrote it on my work computer, glanced at the word count, somehow copied and emailed it to myself, and figured out how to copy it here. No small feat for someone still attached to a mouse. Not sure I can post the required links to the host blog here, so refer to my sidebar links to WEP Challenges.
When I started writing this I had a different direction for the story of prejudice to take. Prejudice is my interpretation of the movie prompt. Then I fell down a rabbit hole of research that led me to Romania (I was looking for gypsies) and discovered the Iron Guard instead. As I read this for a final proofing before I hit publish, I'm nearly shocked at the potentially offensive content. It's the first time I've read the story in its entirety. Well, too late to back out now.
I hope you're not too offended, and I really hope it meets the basic concept of the prompt.
Title: Guarding The Chocolate
Word count: less than 1000
Full critique acceptable
In 1952, Anita Fontain was 22. Her journey to the US, to Iowa in particular, began at her father's knee as she grew into adolescence in Fascist controlled Romania.
As he relayed to his daughter throughout her childhood, Anri Fontain had migrated to France to become a member of the French Foreign Legionnaires. As an orphaned 15 year old with little education and less ambition for the labor intensive Railroad or River boat industries of Davenport, Iowa he’d become infatuated with newspaper tales of adventure, romance and of course, riches to be had fighting for the French interests in the Sahara Desert. His parents, and grandparents, were proud of their French military lineage dating back to the French occupation of Saint – Domingue, and Anri had visions of military glory.
Adventure and romance he’d had, but the riches from war campaigns in Africa and Madagascar never fell into his lap. He’d learned French from his father while growing up, and had become fluent in several languages, including Algerian and German, and was happy enough to be transferred to Romania in 1926 to infiltrate a group of disgruntled Legionaires calling themselves the Leigon of the Archangel Michael. Over the next couple years, Anri immersed himself in the paramilitaryy group’s Orthoodox Christian mysticism, unpopular anti-semetiic, anti-communist views, and abandoned the modern thinking Legionnaires. By 1930 when the Legion had changed its name to the Iron Guard, Anri had become a prominent member of the organization, had married well, and fathered his requisite two children – a boy named Cordrea, named after Anri’s mentor, and Anita, a family name in her mother’s heritage.
Of less importance to the Iron Guard’s cause than her older brother, Anita was allowed the indulgence of education, though her father often remonstrated on the folly of the Intellegencia. Anita learned the art of chocolate making from her mother during the family’s exile in Germany, and later earned a culinary degree in the fine art of pastry making. Although Fascism had fallen out of favor with the end of the second world war, Anita’s father and brother maintained military and political ties to the Party. Their Nazi benefactors kept them informed, armed, and financially sufficient. When the Party secretly issued the recall of the displaced Iron Guard to return to Romania in 1947, Anri and Cordrea were well equipped to return to their prior life.
Anita and her mother had remained in Germany until her college graduation. Without the constant barrage of propaganda and limited social connections allowed by her father during the Iron Guards ascendency to power in Romania, Anita found herself increasingly open to the rising tide of remorse within the German population. The more she learned about the “atrocities” committed by her family’s political associations, the less sure of herself, and her place in the larger world, she became.
In Romania, even as young as 13, she was a gregarious creature, always the center of attention. Parents thrust their children into her life for companions, and many a time she overheard conversations involving marriage between either mother and her society ladies, or her father’s smoking gentlemen. At the time it had pleased her to be so well liked and desired. Her mother had instilled in Anita a sense of pride for their family position, and the obligations that carried, even to the appropriate marriage for both Anita and Cordrea. Cordrea only had aspirations for war and violence; but Anita had her favorites among her potential suiters. She practiced writing her name and title, dreaming of her future children and hosting her own society ladies parties.
She was destined to be a socialite, and until her time in Germany, she was blissfully unaware of the darkness surrounding her sheltered life. And she wondered: did her mother know of the nefarious activities of her husband? Did she approve?
So Anita immersed herself in the world of chocolate, avoiding the growing tensions in her family, in world politics, and the increasing amount of bullying she’d started receiving since her father’s return to Romania. Even her mother had become more secluded, eschewing the company of her new German acquaintances in favor of the familiar refugee wives who had journeyed with them to this divided country. Gone were the animated conversations of marriage alliances, of gay spring parties and summer vacations to Switzerland. They spoke in whispers now especially in public, often reverting to French or English to avoid the scrutiny of authorities that their native Romanian language attracted.
The news of her father’s murder and brother’s disappearance during a political coupe just weeks prior to her graduation was devastating, but not surprising. And came as almost a relief to Anita. She couldn’t imagine returning to Romania now, but also didn’t fancy remaining in Germany. Her father’s friends had discouraged them from returning for the clandestine funeral, and now her mother had begun wearing a green shirt in her mourning. The apparel was drawing too much attention from their German benefactors, whose continued financial support had begun to wan in the last couple years.
Grasping the reins of an uncertain future, Anita decided to take her culinary talents to America. It took a year to secure immigration to Iowa, the birthplace of her father. Davenport reminded her Bucharest with its heavy French heritage and Catholic Orthodoxy. She was comfortable in their anonymity almost from their first day. Her mother’s strange habit of wearing bags of earth around her neck and the green shirts did not cause the stir it had in Germany. She felt no hatred here, only curiosity.
“Chocolate,” she asked brightly to a group of young passerby’s at her booth.
She was determined to make her fortune in this new world, one bite at a time, as she perfected her own divine recipe that would dislodge the dominant Fudge fanatasicm in this city once and for all. Her father would disapprove of her capitalist dreams; but, hadn’t the life he’d made for his family been rich with oppressive hipocracy?