Here is a prompt I wrote while practicing scenes with multiple speakers. This represents a first draft that took approximately forty-five minutes to complete. I hope you enjoy!
“Is this all of it?” Megan said. She made like she was going to count all the barrels and sacks that moment, while the rest of the ladies sat by. They held priority sheets, legal forms, civil justice requests, and a whole lot of other mess that these ladies, Penelope thought, had no business handling.
“It’s all that I could pull together,” Mary said. She was a kind faced woman with soft features and wide eyes.
The women gathered in the plantation sitting room in a circle of chairs, sofas, and short desks. Anything the group could drag over that would hold one hundred and forty pounds of Confederate woman. Penelope took her own mental inventory of the supplies. The room was pale, and against every wall were stacks of sacks of flour and corn, crates of bandages, medical supplies, and other provisions the people of Richmond needed.
Penelope sat on the old oak sofa with the young widow Lucy, who smiled often, and was always ready to offer unconditional support. Old Gran sat in one of the mismatched wooden chairs near Lucy and Mary was taking inventory of the supplies again, her petite hand guiding her eye as she counted.
“At least we have something,” Penelope said. She wished she could believe it.
“Well this something isn’t going to feed and clothe Richmond, or heal the hundreds of wounded in our homes. Unlike misses Megan, who still maintains a relatively normal home.”
Megan dropped her jaw and huffed. “Don’t blame me for that,” she said. “We all voted that this would be where we held these town meetings. Since this war started, we’ve been meeting here for sewing every evening and I have done my best to keep it normal for you ladies here.” Megan sat up straight and patted her skirt flat. She wore a high collar lace neck with a meticulously clean, blood and dirt free clothes.
Penelope looked down to her own clothes and found familiar disappointment in the shoddy patches sewn into her dress. “You’ve been doing a wonderful job,” Penelope said. “You all have. You have all given up so damn much, I know it. But we have some supplies on hand. We have enough for the people who need it most.”
“And who are they Penelope?” Gran said in her raspy drawl. She coughed. “Your family maybe?” She had another fit of coughing and waved Megan off when she tried to attend to her. “I don’t need your help,” she said.
“The children,” Penelope said. “We need to protect our children.” Penelope plowed her mind for the reason that this woman, having had children of her own could disagree.
“The children aren’t fighting for their country,” Gran said. “Our soldiers are. My two baby boys were sacrificed for this war. I know the pain of losing your children. My last hope for the war is that it fixes the way we think about life. But we cannot solely give supplies to the youth. I’ve gone two weeks now without proper medicine. We cannot all die to save every child. After this war is over, it will be us women cleaning up the mess. Not the children and not our husbands.”
Everyone in the room was silent for a moment and then Penelope lifted her head.
“I have to go,” she said. “My son is very ill, and I have family that might be able to help me track down my husband.”
“Oh for goodness sake Penelope,” Gran said heaving her large body out of the only sturdy chair in the room. “We all know where your husband is. I think you do too. We need all the hands we can get, and you are well known to the people of Richmond. You can’t risk the boy’s health on a trip like that. You both should remain here at home. He should be comfortable during these times.”
“Unbelievable,” Penelope said. “You all know where your husbands are,” she indicated all the women in the room with a shaking hand. “But mine is lost, and I don’t have the comfort of knowing his fate. Besides, I didn’t plan on taking Telemachus,” she said. She looked to the ground again and spoke faster, “I was hoping that you fine gentlewomen would be kind enough to watch my son while I am away. I can travel faster alone, and you are right Gran, I don’t think he can handle the journey.”
The women looked stunned. Lucy just placed her hand on Penelope’s and patted her back gently. “You do what you think is right,” she said.
Gran’s face was tight and red, but she took a breath and nodded. “At least it’s two less mouths to feed.” She stood up from her green pillowed chair and straightened her plain black dress. She looked at the ladies, pausing on Penelope’s face, then clomped away towards the door to leave.
“We’ll watch your boy,” Megan said. As she spoke she nodded to the remaining women, who all nodded in response. “But bring back supplies if you can. You can take my wagon. If I remember correctly, you don’t have one anymore.”
“Thank you Megan,” Penelope said. “Thank you Lucy, and all of you ladies.”