Friday Fictioneers – Reflecting on the past

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 - Reflecting on the past 180829

PHOTO PROMPT © Nathan Sowers grandson of our own Dawn M. Miller

Reflecting on the past

The eyes gaze back at me. There are crow’s feet at their corners, lashes missing from their perimeter. The forehead is creased, the nose is large, and the lips smile happily. It is the face of a woman who is elderly, if not old.

What changes you have seen!

A decade ago you peeped out tentatively, hardly believing the miracle. Twenty years ago you glared at me with frustrated, ice-blue rage. Thirty years, and that face was darkly bearded. Five decades, an adolescent boy, you stared longingly into a future that it seemed could never be.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

You’re healed!

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What Pegman Saw – The Mountie

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Resolute, Canada, which is located in the High Arctic.

“What Pegman Saw” is a terrific challenge because the modest amount of research you need to do will broaden your understanding of how people react under all sorts of circumstances. And that, of course, is the life blood of any writer! If you haven’t tried it, do give it a go!

WPS - The Mountie 180825

Resolute, NU, Canada | © Google Maps

The Mountie

The school building stood in a grey, gritty landscape by a grey, gritty road. The July sun did little to dispel the cold.

Ross Gibson, formerly of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and now Resolute’s schoolteacher, glanced up at his class working studiously at their desks. Immediately a pupil raised his hand.

“Sir, may I go to the lavatory?”

Craig. It would be. It always was.

Ross gestured and Craig left the classroom, a smirk on his face. Ross followed him silently. Cigarette smoke crept pungent under the toilet door. As Craig emerged, Ross held out his hand. Craig scowled and handed over a packet of cigarettes.

“You ever been seal hunting?” asked Ross.

“No, Sir.”

“Come with me this Saturday.”

Craig looked startled, then nodded. He stopped slouching and stood taller.

Ross grinned to himself. The Mountie always got his man – but it took the teacher to reform him!

Friday Fictioneers – One family

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!

An Apology!

I may not have commented on your Friday Fictioneers post last week. I have had trouble with my internet which has made it difficult to read stories, and next to impossible to comment on them.

If I have failed to read and comment on your post, I am sorry and I will try to do better this week! Many thanks to all those of you who read my story despite my lack of reciprocity.

FF - One family 180822

PHOTO PROMPT © Carla Bicomong

One family

I scoured market stalls selling lanterns decorated with images of dragons, of cash, of storks, until I found one bearing the image of a dove.

Under the trees at the lakeside, with a thousand other people, I waited until the last bird had finished her evening song and then I lit the candle in my lantern. I launched it and it drifted into the indigo twilight.

At first I could identify it, but after five minutes I was no longer sure, and after ten minutes mine was just one gleam of light among many.

I sighed, content and at peace.

What Pegman saw – Top predator

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Pripyat, Ukraine.

WPS - Back to nature 180818

Pripyat, Ukraine | Nickolay Omelchenko, Google Maps

Top predator

The babushka held out her glass and I filled it with vodka.

“I knew it was bad,” she said, “when I heard the sirens, and I feared the worst when I saw the soldiers herding people onto buses.”

She was dressed all in shabby black and smelled stale.

“I don’t like soldiers. And I’m old. If my time has come, so be it. You won’t catch me on any buses. I walked away and kept walking.”

She chuckled. “I soon learned the places to avoid.”

“How?” I interrupted.

She shrugged. “Where there were no birds, I got sick.”

“What did you eat?” I asked.

She looked at me in astonishment.

“I was in a forest! The forest is full of things to eat. Berries, roots, birds, even wolf.”

She tapped her glass. I shrugged and handed her the bottle. She poured and slurred, “It’s a pity people are coming back.”

Friday Fictioneers – Singin’ the blues

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 - Singin' the blues 180815

PHOTO PROMPT © Yvette Prior

Singin’ the Blues

The cigarette smoke stings my memory.

I remember evenings with Robin. We would play the ‘Moody Blues’ on his hi-fi as we sat on his single bed, our limbs tangled under a blanket, sharing a packet of ‘Disque Bleu’ cigarettes, swigging Heineken and nibbling peanuts.

In our first year at university he asked me to marry him, and I said, “Let’s finish our studies first”.

He asked me again when we graduated, but I said, “I want to complete my PhD first”.

He moved. We wrote. We phoned. We visited.

The smoke teases me. I wonder where Robin is now?

The dove on the pergola – progress 180813

The Dove on the Pergola – progress 180813

This is a blog post about the progress of my novel “The Dove on the Pergola”. The novel is about a young Indian woman, Makshirani, who has lived until she was sixteen years old in a village in Bengal, and who then moves to the big city of Kolkata.

To help me develop the characters and set them in a believable background, I am writing short stories; none, some or all of these stories may appear in the final novel. This story, “Flowers” comes from early in the novel when Makshirani has been living in Kolkata for a couple of months. 

Mallick_Ghat_Flower_Market,_Kolkata_03

© Bernard Gagnon

Flowers

The city air felt cool to Makshirani as she, Tarangi, and Neerudhi left the factory, where the operation of hundreds of machines kept the rooms hot and stuffy. Makshirani wished she had a jacket like Tarangi, or didn’t feel the cold like Neerudhi. She coughed as she breathed in the exhaust fumes that loitered in the still air.

“I hate the cold. Let’s go out and have some fun tomorrow,” exclaimed Tarangi.

“Oh, yes!” Neerudhi clapped her hands. “My horoscope says it is an auspicious day for romance. Perhaps I shall meet someone I like and my parents will approve of him.”

“You must come too, Makshirani. I won’t let you stay at home again. You’ll get dull!”

“I want to send as much money home as I can,” began Makshirani.

“We’ll go to the Millennium Park. It’s only ten rupees to go in, and the bus fare’s only eight rupees each way. Twenty-six rupees, that’s all. You can afford that I’m sure.”

Makshirani was tempted. She’d sent a thousand rupees home in her first month, and two thousand in her second. The thought of doing something different for a day was appealing.

“What’s it like,” she asked.

“It’s beautiful. It lies right next to Mother Ganga. There are trees and birds…”

“And men,” giggled Neerudhi, “and fairground rides. I’m going to go on the swing boats…”

“I didn’t know Mother Ganga was near Kolkata?” said Makshirani.

“Oh, yes, it’s one of the mouths of the delta, but the river’s called the Hooghly River here.”

Makshirani thought back to the week before she’d fled to Kolkata. Her mother, Joti, had taken her to the river, poured water on her head and prayed.

“This water with my blessing will flow down to Mother Ganga, and then down to the sea. It will bring you good fortune if you work hard to deserve it.”

‘Maybe some of my mami’s blessing will be flowing past while I’m visiting,’ thought Makshirani, as she walked with her friends in Kolkata. The idea warmed her.

“It sounds delightful,” she said, “and I’d love to go.”

Next morning, Sunday, at a quarter past six, Makshirani was deeply asleep. Her mouth twitched and her fingers fidgeted; her eyelids shivered with the movement of the eyes beneath. The room where the three girls lived was bright with early sunshine.

Suddenly Makshirani’s hands jerked forward and her eyes opened abruptly.

“Oh!” she exclaimed.

Tarangi, already dressed, turned to her.

“Namaste.”

“Namaste,” answered Makshirani, still half-asleep. “Will there be somewhere I can buy flowers on the way to the park?” She sat up, suddenly awake. “Flowers. Yes, I was dreaming about flowers. I was standing on the river bank and I wanted to give something to Mother Ganga, but I didn’t have anything. I was sad, and then my mami came smiling to me with her arms full of flowers. She gave me some, and together we cast them on the waters, on Mother Ganga.” Makshirani looked both happy and wistful.

Tarangi smiled at her.

“We’ll buy some on the way,” she said.

At Tarangi’s urging they were out of the house and on the bus by seven o’clock.

“We’re going to get off at the Howrah Bridge stop,” Tarangi said.

“Why?” demanded Neerudhi. “We’ll have to walk miles!”

“Don’t exaggerate, it’s not even one mile…”

“We’ll be exhausted!”

“It’s not even one mile, and we’re going to the Mullick Ghat flower market.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to buy flowers to offer to Mother Ganga.”

Makshirani looked gratefully at Tarangi. If Neerudhi had thought they were making the detour for Makshirani’s sake, she would have been grumbling about it all day.

It didn’t take long to reach their destination. The small footbridge in front of the pumping station was already thronging with people as they walked across it. And then they were in the market.

The scent of the flowers mingled with the smell of sap from the carpet of bruised leaves on the path. Vendors shouted, prospective buyers frowned and made gestures of negation as they haggled. Young men barged past, with great armfuls of blooms that they were carrying to purchasers’ vehicles. A trolley overflowing with marigold garlands came flying round a corner, forcing the girls to jump out of the way.

“I’ve never seen so many flowers,” gasped Makshirani, “It’s like a festival!”. There were anemones, camellias, and carnations, daffodils, tulips, and poppies, sweet peas, ranunculus and wax flowers.

Tarangi strode confidently in front. Makshirani stayed close to her; she would have loved to loiter and allow herself to be dazzled by the displays, but she was frightened of getting lost. Then Tarangi dived around a corner into a small alley and stopped at a stall.

“Namaste, Maheem,” she trilled.

The young man behind the stall looked round and beamed.

“Namaste, Tarangi! Welcome, cousin! How can I help?”

“I know you only sell in bulk, Maheem, but have you a few nice blooms that I and my friend can buy? We want to make offering to Mother Ganga.”

“Tarangi! You know my customers will lynch me if I steal their retail trade! But look here. I have some off-cuts that you could have for five rupees each.” He pulled out a couple of magnificent garlands.

“Shall we, Makshirani?”

Makshirani’s eyes opened wide. Such a beautiful offering for only five rupees! She fumbled in her purse for the coins.

“Thank you,” she breathed, as she took the garland of orange-yellow marigolds. “Oh, the scent reminds me of home and festivals!” Her eyes were lustrous with unshed tears. Maheem’s sharp, lively features softened.

“You are new to the city?”

“Yes. Yes, I am.”

“Then be welcome. Namaste!”

“Maheem, thank you. Your mami would be very proud of your generosity and piety!” Tarangi was never at a loss for the right thing to say.

Maheem grinned. He was seldom accused of piety.

“I must attend to my other customers now, ladies, or I will have a stall full of wilting flowers and an empty cash till!”

As the girls rounded the corner back onto the main path through the market, Tarangi murmured to Makshirani, “These would be at least five hundred rupees each from a shop”.

Makshirani gasped. “How can Maheem sell them to us so cheaply?”

“I expect they’re yesterday’s blooms – still nice, but you can’t sell them here if you want to build a reputation.”

Makshirani looked thoughtful. Tarangi stopped walking.

“If I tell you something, will you promise not to tell anybody else?”

“Not even Neerudhi?”

Especially not Neerudhi.”

The two girls looked down the path. Neerudhi was fifty metres away, ogling some lilies – or possibly the handsome young man selling them.

“Maheem is a sort of cousin. His mother and Aunt Abhilasha are – talking together.”

“Talking together? Oh. Oh! Congratulations! Maheem is very handsome!”

“It’s early days, that’s why I don’t want Neerudhi to find out.” She sighed. “I do hope it works out well; Maheem is such a kind man, and a really good businessman. Aunt Abhilasha is so good to speak for me; I’d stand no chance otherwise.”

Neerudhi spotted them, and waved.

“Come on!” she called, “I want chai and kochuri!”

“And you shall have them!” Tarangi steered them to a stall on the market’s edge. “And there is the Millenium Park. Not so far, you see, Neerudhi!”

 

 

What Pegman Saw – Disappeared

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the location provided, you must write a piece of flash fiction of no more than 150 words. You can read the rules here. You can find today’s location on this page,  from where you can also get the Inlinkz code. This week’s prompt is Montevideo, Uruguay.

WPS - Disappeared 180811

Aeropuerto de Carrasco – Montevideo Uruguay | Google Maps

Genre: Historical fiction

Word count: 149

Disappeared

The car hummed south from Montevideo.

“They pulled another body out of the river this morning, a woman,” said Mateo.

“I heard the plane,” replied Jorge. “Heartless bastards those Argentinians. We should pray for her.”

I had been on that plane.

With forty others I had sat on the plane’s hard metal floor for perhaps an hour. I wasn’t afraid; after months of being beaten, or burned with electricity I saved terror for the torture cell.

A man in a white coat moved down the plane injecting each of us.

A door opened to the sky. Soldiers picked me up.

“Madre de Dios! This one’s awake!”

“Who cares? Toss her out!”

I plunged, until the thunder of air was replaced by the explosion of water and the shattering of my bones.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Author’s Notes

This story is essentially true.

From 1974 – 1983 the Argentinian government conducted a campaign of terror, the ‘Dirty War’, against those of its citizens who held contrary political views. Thousands of people were kidnapped, tortured and their bodies disposed of; they became known as ‘los desaparecidos’, or ‘the disappeared’. Sedating them and throwing them (alive) from aircraft was one of the ways they were ‘disappeared’. Many were dropped into the River Plate and some washed up in Uruguay, near Montevideo.

Wikipedia, as always, has a good deal of information.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War

The novel ‘The Memory Stones’ by Caroline Brothers tells the story of how the dirty war affected one Argentinian family. It’s very powerful, in fact it’s painful to read, but it’s extremely well written. Her website can be found at http://www.carolinebrothers.com/index.php/books/the-memory-stones/80-the-memory-stones