Friday Fictioneers – Workhouse


This photo hangs in the town museum as a reminder of past enterprise in our town.

What it doesn’t show is the hellhole the place was.

We worked as slaves, heads down; no toilet breaks save for lunch and set tea breaks.

Our bosses were tyrants; they exacted their pound of flesh with no compunction. We had unreasonable quotas to meet, which often left us working late for no extra pay. Fall behind and it was often public humiliation in front of the workforce.

Step closer and you’ll see the smears from every past workers spit, so happily deposited.

Written for:

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86 Responses to Friday Fictioneers – Workhouse

  1. Dear Michael,

    You’ve told an impacting story in few words. Vivid and full of emotion.



  2. Gabriella says:

    You were quick with your story! Very clever tale. I like that the photo hangs in a museum and the story behind the shiny shot.

  3. I agree with Rochelle. Your voice in this story is strong and the venom is felt. I’ve been staring at this picture and nothing. Maybe some sleep might help.

    • We have been having an inquiry into sexual abuse by the clergy in this country and I was feeling a little angry about today’s revelations though I was careful not to go down that particular path. Thanks so much for your comment and you are up late Kim. Go get some sleep.

  4. You have written with venom I so loved the last line. Lots of emotion.

  5. Pingback: Friday Fictioneers – Before the Storm | The Blurred Line

  6. Sandra says:

    Enjoyed this; the attitude comes through very strongly. Funny we both mentioned ‘spitting’ in some way. 🙂

  7. Lyn says:

    It’s an interesting picture. The workhouse is open to the fresh air (and the heat) but it also leaves no place to hide; no place of refuge. Good story, Michael, the venom is warranted.

  8. Glad you could get your venom out in this well-written story rather than elsewhere. 🙂 The catharsis of writing. I had a similar thought about what the picture brought to mind but came at it in a very different way.


  9. znjavid says:

    I like the way you used the prompt. Clever.

  10. Love your vitriol being poured out like the Michael. This was one of my thoughts as well to the photo.

  11. helenmidgley says:

    Bleak but all too familiar, great job 🙂

  12. I can feel your anger in your words.

  13. Great stuff. You awoke my inner Trotskyist for a minute there, but I’ve put him to sleep with a glass of warm milk.

  14. Michael, this is a truly complete story! So much emotion and history, added to the image of a museum with this photo. Wonderful job!

  15. Michael,
    I guess time doesn’t always leave behind a veneer of nostalgia over events. I like how you used the spots on the picture. I could see that as a ritual, spitting on the picture as you pass. This is the first story I’ve read this week and it’s a great start.

  16. draliman says:

    Great story. There’s often a darker side to many stories of achievement. It sounds like the former workers have neither forgiven nor forgotten, though!

  17. Congratulations on painting such a bleak picture of the workplace, Michael. The last line comes as a welcome contrast and made me feel like cheering.

  18. RoSy says:

    Oh my – quite an eerie & sad feel to it.
    It is true though – when you see some place that has had people who were mistreated, suffered, or killed – you do feel it. And – you did give me that feel with this write up for the prompt.

  19. liz young says:

    Excellent story – especially the spit.

  20. Your strong voice painted a very graphic picture for us all.

  21. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    The bosses celebrate the fruits of “their” labour, won on the backs of the oppressed. Excellent commentary on a far-too-common situation.
    I’m not writing this week, but I’d love it if you’d drop by my blog for a second anyway, I posted a big announcement today.

  22. Linda Vernon says:

    Oh I just love it. What a unique way to look at the picture. That’s exactly what all those blotches look like!

  23. JackieP says:

    I’m glad I don’t read these stories before I post mine. Your strong, full of emotion story this week Michael, might have influenced my story. Really good one this week for you.

    • Thanks Jackie, glad you thought it was a good one foe me…lol…..must go read yours now.

      • JackieP says:

        Hmm I’m thinking saying ‘a good one for you’ did not come out as I wanted it to! LOL. I hope you know what I meant Michael, as I always enjoy what you write. I really must re-read what I say before I hit that comment button. I will go sit in the corner of shame now.

      • Hahah…you made me laugh……..thanks I know what you meant, couldn’t resist making that comment, I would never say anything untoward, you know that…..but I Do like to smile and laugh….

      • JackieP says:

        Whew! Had me going for just a minute. Naughty. I know you would not say anything untoward, but I might! haha! Glad you got a laugh out of it though.

  24. camgal says:

    That was beautiful…the tone very endearing. Glad I stopped by 🙂

  25. I like your word picture…and I love museums. My favorite exhibits are black and white photos of people and landscapes like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange I can stare at them for hours. It’s the same for me when walking through a cemetery. I wonder about the people….. 🙂

    • Thanks Courtney, great comment I shall look up those artists. Old cemeteries are fascinating places. There is an old disused one just near me and someone I their wisdom not long ago recorded the names of the people in there as a lot of the headstones are made of sandstone and are very weathered now.

  26. atrm61 says:

    Wow Michael,this one is really powerful!It also brings home the fact that what we “see” is not necessarily the truth always-sigh!Excellent writing and that too the first entry-kudos my friend:-)

  27. Bastet says:

    Now that is a piece that can rile…and it should..there are STILL places like you’ve described and so many men, women and children still be humliated, if not worse, for the power, wealth and enterprise of someone else, who will barely have enough to get by on and darn will feel almost lucky because at least they have that! Good write.

  28. AnnIsikArts says:

    The bitterness is expressed well in your vocabulary, Michael. I love your punchy ‘compunction’ which reads as ‘compunchton’! Great stuff. I worked in a couple of places you describe. One was a clothing factory. I used to call it the ‘dark, satanic mill with striplights!’ There are terrible things going on in the UK regarding child abuse at present. TV celebrities are on trial. I’ve been upset at what seems an increase on horrific crimes on children by their mothers too. Is it getting worse, or is it that it’s less easy to hide such behaviour these days? I hope it’s the latter. Have a joyous weekend.

  29. Well done! Very vivid, very emotional in so few words. Good stuff!

  30. The Good News says:

    I like the way you interpreted the prompt with such a sad story. Nice rebellion at the end.

  31. Revenge, even so mild, is always sweet. Too much whit-washing of history in this world!

  32. Wow this is so full of strong emotion. I could practically feel the resentment and the hatred that must have welled up for all those years in all those poor workers… good job!

  33. vbholmes says:

    Hard to believe those conditions actually existed, and in some areas, still do exist, and are/were accepted. Strong story.

  34. Sun says:

    this was a great short story, Michael. i love the spitting part but really, seriously, i love the subject you chose. it really fits the photograph.

  35. Love the last line – it just goes to show that oppression is never without consequence.

  36. Nice story Michael! Glad to see the underdogs get their own back, even if it is just a daily spitting ritual. You and Karen Whitelaw have inspired me to give this a go on Friday… looking forward to seeing what the photograph is!

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