Friday Fictioneers – Times Change

Every week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields (thank you, Rochelle!) hosts a flash fiction challenge, to write a complete story, based on a photoprompt, with a beginning, middle and end, in 100 words or less. Post it on your blog, and include the Photoprompt and Inlinkz (the blue frog) on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Times change 180328

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria

Times change

Gladys Carpenter, proprietor of “The Copper Kettle”, reserved the table under the tree for her best customers.

For twenty summers, every Friday afternoon from 3 o’clock, the vicar’s wife, the librarian, the doctor’s wife, the dentist’s mistress, and Chloe Butt occupied the table and sipped tea, nibbled cake.

Until one Friday at 2:30 two limousines pulled up, and six elegant passengers disembarked.

“We’ll have that table,” declared Lady Antonia, pointing at the tree.

Chloe Butt was furious. She never came back.

Shortly afterwards, Gladys sold the café.

Nowadays coach parties scoff burgers there, and gleeful children shriek under the tree.

84 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers – Times Change

    • Dear Anita
      Thank you for reading and commenting.
      Time eventually sweeps away everything, even afternoon tea in ‘The Copper Kettle’. I expect Gladys has retired to the South of France on the proceeds of the sale!
      With best wishes
      Penny

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  1. If they had an official agreement, or promise, she never should have done that. You didn’t make it clear though. It may have been a sense of entitlement. The sale of the cafe, and its c urren circumstances remind me of all of life’s Pandora’s Box moments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aw, why do things have to change? Your story was a perfect representation of the sadness of such a change. I was enjoying the elegance of the scene, before you artfully turned it into a frenetic scene we see too often these days. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like the name ‘Copper Kettle’. One can imagine stories behind each character that you have mentioned here- i am fascinated that even the proprietor is a lady. I feel sad that the ladies were ousted from their serene, relaxing meeting spot. Its sad how modernizing has replaced bonds like friendship, with instant and transient episodes of joy. And, its so universal.
    Great writing, Penny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Moon
      Thank you for reading, and for your lovely comments. You mention that you’re fascinated that ‘even the proprietor is a lady’. True, but observe that three of the women are defined in terms of their husband’s role (the Vicar’s wife, the doctor’s wife and the dentist’s mistress), rather than by their own names.
      You’re right – it was sad that the women were ousted. That’s always going to happen, though. My thoughts at the end of the story are with the children, who are the future. (Perhaps this story is part of my way of growing old, and letting go of the past…perhaps!)
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Penny, it’s interesting how people do have that sense of entitlement in all sorts of places from cafes, to churches and even the school bus. I was overhearing some teens talk abut the school bus and how a year 7 had sat in her seat and refused to move..and the gall of the girl. Very interesting.
    I think the time when you need to sit in the same time at the same time every week or the same chair, is a sign that you need to shake your routine up a bit.
    There should be a tension between the comfortable and familiar and the novelty of trying something new with its sense of excitement, but also the awkwardness of unfamiliarity.
    I had a lovely trip into Surry Hills in Sydney today for my daughter to attend an audition. We arrived a few hours early and I had my camera dangling round my neck and there was so much to photograph…bits of street art, architecture, dogs and a rather striking gent with a shirt and pants made out of the American flag. We live in a beachside community and it was so different to home and more in keeping with my artistic literary side and I really felt myself get fed and watered. So important not to go stale.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Dear Rowena
    Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, we need balance in our lives, old and new, familiar and novel, yin and yang. I’m glad you had an interesting trip today, that stimulated your artistic side. As you say, it’s very important not to go stale.
    With best wishes
    Penny

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  6. And so an era passes. But you’ve given us a hopeful ending really, all those gleeful children. I want to know more about the respectable ladies and the mistress and I love the way the others have labels with only Chloe given a name. That little quirk works well in the prose. Lovely story Penny.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Lynn
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you want to know more about the respectable ladies who take tea together. As a plot device it is intended to summon up the readers’ images of English village life as depicted by so many different writers (in my own case Agatha Christie’s settings formed my mental image). The fact that you want to know more means it worked, I think. Yayy! Thank you for that, Lynn. And yes, the ending is definitely hopeful. No matter my own distaste for burgers and coach parties, the human race goes on with its loves and hates, and its joys and sorrows, and thank goodness for that!
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

      • I haven’t read Christie for years, though I’ve recently thought I should because my WIP’s main character is a huge fan. I like that harking back to tea and the buttoned country we’ve left behind. Always interesting to revisit. I just really liked that intriguing mix of women, wanted to know how they came together in the first place. You made me want to read on, which is the first test of good writing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I sense a lesson in how to properly run a business there. The rather entitled customers in the limo may be wealthy and powerful but they’ve not positioned themselves well enough to displace regular customers. Loyalty should be to the regulars, I say. Lovely story. It is sad how the good times eventually fade away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear EagleAye
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree that business sense suggests favouring the regulars. However, I don’t think I would have the courage to face down Lady Antonia and make her move! She’s a formidable woman!
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an artful description of those original patrons of the wonderful Copper Kettle. The dentist’s mistress teases with an enigmatic clue to what bound the little party together. I thoroughly enjoyed your story and would like to have sipped tea and nibbled a home-made scone with the ladies when the CK was in its prime.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Jilly
      Thank you for reading, and for your lovely comment. I’m glad you thoroughly enjoyed my story. I wonder what tales of village life we would have heard from the ladies of the CK if we had sipped tea and nibbled home-made scones with them!
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Like

    • Dear Linda
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I agree it’s a shame that the elegance has been lost. But, at the same time, I’m fascinated by the way society’s values change with time. And, whatever our values, somewhere kids will be shrieking gleefully!
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Alicia
      Thank you for reading, and for your lovely warm comment. I’m so glad you liked my collection of women. I chose to include the dentist’s mistress as a way of summarising the ‘static’ nature of genteel village life as it used to be. She’s been part of their little coterie for twenty years, and they still think of her with the slightly disparaging label of ‘mistress’.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

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  9. Having owned a cafe in a small town this story resonates with me. Having the support of the village can be far more important than one off custom but I think there was more to this story than that. It was interesting the group of people who the table was reserved for and interesting that of that group only Chloe Butt did not return. Was that because she was the only individual amongst the group – all the others being wives or mistresses and possibly used to being the underdog? What wasn’t clear to me was whether the cafe was sold because of this incident or whether it was unrelated in which case is it necessary to the story. What is important is that now it is not the sole place of the ladies but rather the children and the shop has seen a large increase in custom.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Irene
      Thank you for reading, and for your detailed and thoughtful comments. Yes, Chloe Butt was the driving force behind the little group, and you’re right – in naming her I’m signalling that. I’m also making the point that in that village culture there was a (deplorable) tendency to define women in terms of what their husbands did.
      I take your point about the relevance of the sale of the café; it’s not clear, and that is a weakness of the story.
      The thoughts in my mind as I was plotting were that the tea-drinking group, led by Chloe, had been meeting for twenty years; they were due a change. Gladys had been running the café for well over twenty years; she was ready to retire. The visit by the ‘nobs’ and the ensuing quarrel precipitated the change – but the change would have happened eventually anyway.
      Once again, thank you for the time you spent on your comment!
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Athling2001
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Yes, it was sad when their weekly tradition was broken. Chloe Butt was not a very tolerant woman, I’m afraid.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Like

    • Dear Bjorn
      Thank you for reading and commenting. As you say, things have to end, but the presence of the children – and the thriving business catering to coach parties – suggest that the village at least will last for years to come.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Like

    • Dear Anurag
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Customs and traditions often need to go for progress to happen. The amount of progress we need, and the speed at which it happens, are not matters that are discussed, unfortunately.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear James
      Thank you for a new word – stammtisch, or regulars’ table. I had to look in Wikipedia, and found the connotations that accompany the word – fascinating! Thank you, too, for reading and commenting. I’m afraid Lady Antonia paid the regular price, and it was all ” Yes, milady,” and “At once, milady”! But that was rural England in the fifties and early sixties.
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Lady Antonia needs to wake up and change with the time. Sadly there are still some people who behave just like her today. I once wished to run a cafe – but I think that I would have throttled a customer or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Michael
      Thank you for reading and commenting. The privileged – like the poor – will always be with us – oh, hang on a moment, those two things couldn’t be linked could they? I don’t expect you’d really have throttled a customer – just served them rock cakes with real rocks, and Camp coffee to wash it down!
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I like your list of regulars. They all sounded quite respectable for village life, then we get the dentist’s mistress! And Chloe Butt of course, the only named regular who seems to be the core of the group. A shame it changed, but that’s life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Ali
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m glad you appreciated the dentist’s mistress! You’re right about Chloe – she was the core of that little group. Life is all about change, isn’t it?
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Gladys gave in to the pressure of the powerful. For twenty summers, she had faithful regular customers (who all sound interesting) that she disregarded to her peril. So sad but hopefully she received a good price for the restaurant. Nicely written! =)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Brenda
      Thank you for reading and commenting. It’s always difficult to stand up against the powerful, and not usually worth it – they can hit back so much harder. I think Gladys received a very good price for the café – enough to retire to the South of France, anyway!
      With best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dear Dahlia
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m especially pleased that you felt it was an enjoyable tale of changing times. Times change whether we want them to or not – we might as well try to enjoy them!
      There really was a “Copper Kettle” cafe in Cambridge. I used to ask my parents to take me there for afternoon tea when I was a student. It’s closed now – I think it’s been replaced by a wine bar, but it’s many years since I last visited Cambridge.
      With very best wishes
      Penny

      Liked by 2 people

      • I completely agree with you Penny. Each era has a charm of its own and we should be mindful of these and enjoy them rather than keep hankering for what is gone. Have a super week.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. What an interesting group of six, with only Chloe Butt being named. 🙂
    Gladys was loyal to her best customers for twenty summers…that’s longer than many marriages! 😉 She had her price, and was probably eager to retire. I don’t blame her.
    I especially like the last line. I could hear the children’s shrieks and picture a large group of adults in shorts and T-shirts stuffing their faces with burgers.

    Liked by 1 person

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