Friday Fictioneers – Setting the Date

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!

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PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

Setting the date

Here by the lake the air smelled fresher. Swallows shrilled their night-song. Half-seen moths brushed against skin.

“So I guess, if it’s okay by you Mom, we’ll have the wedding in the fall.”

Eva smiled at her son, John, and his fiancée, Elise.

“Can we manage that, do you think, Pa?”

Cornelius blinked through thick spectacles. He thought of his life with Eva. Such memories! The delight of being a couple; Eva’s support when he was jobless; the joy of bringing up a family together.

“I guess,” he said.

Eva slipped her hand into his.

“That’s settled then,” she said.

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What Pegman Saw – Family Matters

“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 the Faroe Islands. When Hitler overran Denmark, Britain occupied the Faroe Islands to deny him a strategic base in the North Atlantic.

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Nordragota, Faroe Islands, Kingdom of Denmark | Google Maps

Family Matters

November was a rotten month for starting my new job as civilian secretary of the British Consul to the Faroe Islands. There were six hours of gloomy daylight, shortening every day. Even without air-raids the drabness made the war feel real.

But the family I lived with were lovely. Johanna, the matriarch, let me help about the house; and twice a week she let me join in the chain dance, holding her youngest son Olavur’s hand and chanting words I didn’t understand.

“You are my daughter,” said Johanna. “Four boys I bore, but no girls. Now I have you, Catherine.”

Winter ebbed, and the men went to sea. Then, on March 28th 1942, the trawler SELRES_c719b40c-1c76-420d-9708-56d850683a78SELRES_63ac3c94-ea10-460b-b575-f9f3ef4fb83bSELRES_8ee89319-eac9-4ce0-9f0a-60a2d7dc82c8Nyggjaberg SELRES_8ee89319-eac9-4ce0-9f0a-60a2d7dc82c8SELRES_63ac3c94-ea10-460b-b575-f9f3ef4fb83bSELRES_c719b40c-1c76-420d-9708-56d850683a78was sunk by the Germans and Johanna lost three of her sons.

She didn’t smile for two years – not until she first cuddled my newly born son, while Olavur, proud dad, looked on joyfully.

What Pegman Saw – A letter from India

“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 the Kangra Valley, India.

WPS kangra-valley-india 180602

A letter from India

Kangra

18th May 1847

My beloved Margaret,

I write to say you needn’t worry – the serious fighting is over and we have peace. We must now bring prosperity to the people. Major Barclay believes tea could be cultivated here, and he is something of an expert.

How I long for you! I imagine you walking in the green pasture by the clear river, your hair ruffled by herb-scented breezes from the great snow-capped mountains.

I pray you are safe after the birth of our first child. In my mind’s eye I see you holding the dear creature close your heart. How strange it feels not to know whether my child is a son or daughter!

Dearest, it seems so long before you can join me here and make me whole. Until then, I shall serve with honour so you and our child may be proud.

May God bless you,

Leonard

Friday Fictioneers – The First Time

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 - The First Time 180425

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

The First Time

Gerald marvelled at how strong Peter’s legs were, how supple, how beautiful, as he followed him up the steep path.

At the top, he gazed over the plain and exclaimed, “Great view!”

“Even better wi’ a beer. Get t’ bottles out, lad.”

Gerald smiled at him. Trust Peter to be thinking of beer!

They sat down, side by side, almost touching, and opened the bottles. Yeasty bubbles tickled Gerald’s nose as he drank. The warm sun caressed his skin.

His hand crept onto Peter’s. Peter looked earnestly at him. Suddenly, their hearts sang.

For the first time, they kissed.

In the Keukenhof Gardens

This story is a fictionalised account of an actual experience I had in the Keukenhof Gardens. These gardens are in Holland, close to Amsterdam. They are absolutely magnificent, and are open to the public for eight weeks every year, a ‘must see’ if you’re visiting Amsterdam.  You can read and see more about the gardens here: https://keukenhof.nl/en/discover-the-park/open-2018/

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In the Keukenhof Gardens

Orange, scarlet and golden blooms sing softly beside the dark lake. Silver light reflects peacefully from ripples in the lake’s waters. The scent of thousands of flowers glows in the air.

I walk, slowly, along curved paths. Gravel scrapes under my feet. April sunshine lies warm and weightless across my shoulders. A gentle breeze strokes me, like feathers, like silk, like the tender fingertips of a lover.

Faint and distant music hangs like wood-smoke in the air, tickling, teasing, and I follow. The tuneless tune allures, rousing me, and I follow. The tone becomes harsher. There are others on the path. Still I follow.

The path broadens, the music loud now, raucous dance-music on a mechanical organ rasping out the joys and sorrows of the world. People talk, laugh, shout, and the dance sweeps up their voices into harmonious dissonance. It booms in my head like brass and tinkles like crystalline snowflakes.

All the emotion in all the world shrills through those organ pipes, crashes with those cymbals, the drum beats driving the dance before me and after me. I sing beside the deep waters; I dance beside the orange and scarlet blooms. Silver tears ripple silently down my cheeks as I see my part in the dance – and rejoice that it holds so much of the gold of love.

What Pegman Saw – Behind the Scenes

“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 Treasure Cay, Abaco, Bahamas. I struggled with this…

WPS - Behind the Scenes 180310

Behind the scenes

Clive wake me ‘bout 5 o’clock wi’ coffee, before he go to work. He a good husband.

I get ever’ting ready in the main room, den I wake Momma, take care a her needs and wheel her through.

“You be good, Momma,” I say.

I c’llect my cleanin’ kit from the office, an’ ask Queenie whether I can miss this Sat’day for a frien’s weddin’.

“You cleanin’ Miz Mitchell’s place two o’clock Sat’day. Ask her.”

I hurry through cleanin’ the em’ty condos so’s I get to Miz Mitchell’s before she go out.

“Let me see. That’s the Rawson gal getting married, yeah?”

I nod.

“I’m afraid I need you here. We’re having a dinner party, and the place must be spotless.”

Nothin’ I can say; I can’t go.

Midday. Momma need care, and dinner.

The house is quiet. Momma’s still.

“Momma?”

I touch her. She col’.

“Oh, Momma, no!”

The Greater Good – long version

The Greater Good – long version

Sometimes I find that a flash fiction prompt leads me to a story that needs to be expanded. This is one of those occasions. Including the notes, this story weighs in at about 1000 words.

Notes

In 1968, the communist regime in Czechoslovakia was steadily liberalising. The leaders of the Soviet Union saw this as a serious threat and on 21 August 1968 200,000 troops, mostly Russian, invaded Czechoslovakia.

There was considerable non-violent resistance. On 16 January 1969 Jan Palach went to Wenceslas Square and burned himself alive in protest at the Soviet occupation. On 25 February 1969 Jan Zajic did likewise. It is believed that there were others whose deaths were concealed by the Soviet authorities.

It is likely that Jan Palach’s sacrifice was a catalyst contributing to the eventual fall of communism in Czechoslovakia in 1989.

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Photo is of the Jan Palach memorial in Wenceslas Square, Prague, courtesy of Pixabay

The Greater Good – long version

April 1969, Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

The audience arrived in ones and twos at the Restaurace u Tomáše, as though they were merely passing a casual Friday evening. They bought coffee or beer and slipped discreetly into the back room, a room whose wooden panels were stained with nicotine.

You never knew who was watching, who was taking notes.

Andrej knew everyone in the smoke-filled room and shook hands with each as he led his lover Irena to the last vacant seat.

The speaker for the evening mounted an improvised rostrum. He spoke of Russian aggression, the dismissal of academics and the imprisonment of those who protested. He spoke of torture. His audience started to murmur. Then the speaker pulled out a pistol. He held it high.

“This is what the Russians will listen to! When we, the Czech people, take up arms, we will never be defeated! The free peoples of the world will march to stand with us.”

There was a growl of approval. The speaker placed his forefinger on his lips. “Ssshh! Who knows who is listening?” He allowed indignation to flood his face. “Should we Czechs have to creep and hide in terror for being patriots? I say – NEVER! Who is with me?”

Irena held tightly on to Andrej’s hand as a dozen young men scrambled forward to pledge themselves to the armed struggle.

“No, Andrej, no! He’s wrong! Fighting them won’t work.” She grasped him roughly by his jacket, and stared earnestly into his face. “Jan Palach knew killing Russians was no good. That’s why he burned himself in Wenceslas Square. I beg you, don’t dishonour the beacon of hope he gave us.”

“Irena, dearest. I must join the struggle.”

“Andrej! No! You mustn’t kill!”

“How can I do otherwise? I‘m not a coward.”

They stared at each other. Andrej made a move to shake off Irena’s grasp, but she held firm.

“If you take up arms, I shall follow Jan Palach.”

Andrej froze.

“No!” His horror rapidly changed to anger. “That’s emotional blackmail!”

“I am not a coward either, Andrej.”

Slowly she unwound her fingers from his jacket. He stood still, looking intently at her. For fully thirty heartbeats they were motionless, then Andrej turned and walked to the rostrum.

Irena crossed herself. “Mary, Mother of God, guide me,” she murmured.

A match flared as the man in front of her lit a cigarette, and Irena’s face went ashen.

*       *       *

The next week was busy for both of them. They both had preparations to make.

They saw each other, of course; they were, after all, lovers. They fought over the choices they’d made at the meeting. Bitter words were spoken. Eventually they talked no longer of what was to come, only of their shared past, hugging the twilight of memory since the dawn of the future was denied them.

Irena spent many hours with her mother.

“You seem sad, kočička.”

“I’m alright, mami.” Irena tried to smile, but only succeeded in looking sadder. Her mother raised an eyebrow. Irena sighed.

“I missed a period; well, two actually.”

Irena’s mother laid a sympathetic hand on her daughter’s shoulder. She’d heard Irena retching in the morning for several days now.

“Things have been difficult with Andrej, haven’t they?”

Irena nodded, and a tear trickled down her left cheek.

“I’m so afraid for him, mami.”

Her mother was silent for a few seconds; she had guessed something of Andrej’s purpose. Then she said, “Sometimes men have to fight, Irena. Your dad fought the Germans before you were born. And I’m glad he did; he was a hero.”

“But this is different, mami.”

Irena’s mother resumed her work in the kitchen.

“We’ll take you to the doctor this afternoon and make sure everything’s going well. In the meantime, you could peel some potatoes rather than moping.”

*       *       *

The doorbell rang while Andrej was squashing the last of his kit into a rucksack. He wanted everything as ready as possible for his departure next day.

“Andrej! Irena’s here!” His mother’s voice held a sharp note of concern. Andrej ran down the stairs.

Irena stood pasty-faced and swaying in the dimly lit hall. Andrej moved to embrace her but she edged away.

A great fear swept through Andrej.

“No! You mustn’t do it!”

Irena shook her head.

“No, it’s not that. I’ve just come from the doctor.”

She swallowed hard.

“I’m carrying your child.”

Andrej reeled.

“What?”

“I’m pregnant. The baby’s yours.”

Andrej crossed himself. He sat down abruptly on the stairs.

“I’m sorry, Andrej. Now I know about the baby, I can’t – do what I said I would. Can you forgive me for being weak?”

“Forgive you? There’s nothing to forgive. Of course you must put our child first.”

“Andrej? If you think it’s right, you must fight.”

“Do you think I should put the baby first?”

“I know you’re not a coward, Andrej.” She slipped her hand into his.

“Oh, God, I love you so much, Irena. I hated the idea of leaving you. I won’t leave my child without a father.”

“We’ll still protest, Andrej?”

“Yes, but without violence.”

They kissed gently. The first smile for days blossomed on Irena’s face.

“Shall we go and tell my mother?” asked Andrej, beaming.