U is for UPBEAT

Welcome to Day 21 of the Third Annual A to Z Challenge!

My theme my 26 fiction posts will revolve around something musical – it could be anything, as long as it's musically-related… maybe a song title, an artist/band, musical terminology, musical instruments, words relating to sound/rhythm/movement/dance etc.

MUSICAL ASSOCIATION/CONNECTION. UPBEAT – an unaccented beat/beats that occur before the first beat of the following measure; it is an impulse in a measured rhythm that immediately precedes, and hence anticipates, the downbeat; the last beat in a bar where that bar precedes a new bar of music; the upward stroke made by a conductor to indicate the beat that leads into a new measure.


The familiar words bounced around in the vacuum of her mind.

It formed part of a daily ritual… almost like a mantra: Barring serious accidents, if you are not preoccupied with worry and you work hard, you can look forward to a reasonably lengthy existence — it's not the hard work that kills, it's the worrying that kills.

He was one smart guy, that Thomas Edison.

It's the worrying that kills.

And Mildred Lawson had put the words to good use. She had not a care in the world. Well, that is what she told herself. Over and over. Everyday. And she knew about hard work too. Inherited that streak from her mother who, it was widely acknowledged, had worked herself into the grave at the ripe old age of 77 years. Add the bonus of possessing a meticulous and cautious work ethic… and you have a win-win-win working situation, courtesy of Mr Edison.

Work… work… work.

That's what life consisted of.

No more, no less.

Her very existence had been reduced to it. It was the sum total of her life. She represented the 'poster-child' for workaholism.

Work was her ally.

Work was her solace.

Work was her sanity.

Always had been, always would be.

She thrived on good, old-fashioned work. Of the physical kind. Not your fancy, sit-behind-a-polished-desk-in-an-office-kind-of-a-way. Not for her, thank you.

She never had been that kind of a person… the thoughts swirled around in her mind… as she lay in quiet contemplation… one of those random moments when conscious thought surfaced, with a stark clarity, before mental fatigue took over…

                                            *          *          *          *          *

He entered the tiny room.

The make-shift sleeping quarters housed the dozen or so women.

The familiar sneer was in place. He barked his orders at the dispirited inhabitants. The monster had reared his ugly head… time to work… on cue.

Some of the faces wore the mask of rebellious resignation while others were totally defeated.

But not Mildred.

She looked forward to the routine, welcomed the sheer mind-numbing, back-breaking hard labour imposed on them…

If he thought that work was a form of punishment, or a way to pry information out of her, or a method to break her spirits, then he was sorely mistaken.

They had no idea who they were dealing with.

She was a different type of woman.

They didn't know that.

And she had no intention of letting them learn too much..

                              *         *          *          *          *          *          *          *



  1. Leslie Rose on April 24, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    I'm learning so much from your music posts. I never knew that vertical swish of the conductor's baton actually had a name.

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:13 pm

      That's part of the A to Z experience… we learn something new every day!

  2. J.L. Campbell on April 24, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    MIldred in my kinda girl.
    Didn't know upbeat had a different meaning. Didn't know about downbeat either.
    I learn something new everyday.

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      Mildred is not your average kinda girl… she's feisty and strong-willed… not one to be trampled on without putting up a fight, no matter what the circumstances…

  3. Cheryl on April 24, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    The story really echoed your description of the upbeat leading into the downbeat.  Great job!!
    I knew a Mildred of that generation and she worked like crazy too!  I think of her when my house gets too messy… 🙂

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      I tried to structure it accordingly… glad it seemed to work out… 🙂

  4. The Golden Eagle on April 24, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I love the dual perspective of this piece!

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm

      Thanks Golden Eagle!

  5. Anjali on April 25, 2012 at 5:54 am

    *waves back* I love your theme as well. Great idea to combing fiction with music.
    Very subtly expressed, "Upbeat" was a good read! I will get back to your blog soon 🙂
    Good luck!

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:18 pm

      Welcome Anjali! Thanks for popping in… I look forward to your next visit 🙂

  6. Damyanti on April 25, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    It is indeed the worrying that kills.

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm

      It made me think of the saying: "Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy."

  7. Nicole/MadlabPost on April 25, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    The "upbeat" story was surprisingly suspensful. Nice interpretation of musical elements.
    Blog: The Madlab Post
    @MadlabPost on Twitter

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Thank you Nicole. I'm glad you found it suspenseful…

  8. Laura Marcella on April 25, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    Hello, Michelle! I love music but I'm hopeless when it comes to anything musical. Other than listening and enjoying it!!
    Have a lovely week and happy A to Z!!

    • Leigh Caron on April 25, 2012 at 9:48 pm

      Hi, thanks for your comment on my blog today. Yes, worry does kill and before it kills it leaves you sick…and oh so tired.  I'm now following you. Thanks for the heads up on Alex's blog…I hadn't seen it.

      • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm

        Thanks for popping in, Leigh! 🙂

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:24 pm

      Thanks for the visit Marcella. Happy listening…

  9. Rekha on April 25, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    Another upbeat version of a story. Lady, just let your passion lend you direction and get that book of atleast flash fiction ready.

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      Thanks for the encouragement… I'll be honest with you… I'm scared!! There – I admitted it…  🙂

  10. Sherry Ellis on April 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Mildred is definitely a good example of "upbeat!"  I enjoyed reading this!

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Yes… full of spirit, that's Mildred for you… even under extreme circumstances!

  11. mary aalgaard on April 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Where is this tiny room? I'm picturing a prison, or even a concentration camp. Eerie and stark. Yet, I feel the strength of Millie.

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      I'm glad her strength shone through… that was my intention for this piece.

  12. Robyn Campbell on April 26, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent!!! I enjoyed Upbeat!!! Mildred is definitely upbeat. What a piece. Thank you for sharing. Now I want to read more.
    Your theme is aweosme! *waving*

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      Thanks for your upbeat attitude to my "Upbeat" piece! *waving back* 🙂

  13. Stephanie on April 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    You are now officially the queen of the intriguing twist ending.

    • michelle on April 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks for the honorary title – I am humbled by your comment… 🙂

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