Friday Fictioneers – In the Keukenhof Gardens

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 on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

This week, I’m afraid my link to the prompt is tenuous. The picture is of a place in Holland, I think, so I’ve written a story set there.

PHOTO PROMPT © BRENDA COX

In the Keukenhof Gardens

I walk, gravel scraping beneath my feet, and a gentle breeze stroking me like the tender fingertips of a lover. Scarlet and golden blooms murmur beside the dark lake, their scent glowing.

Faint music hangs like wood-smoke in the air, luring me onward.

The music swells, raucous dance-music on a mechanical organ rasping in a harmonious dissonance, while people laugh and applaud.

All the world’s emotion shrills through those organ pipes.

I sing.

I dance.

My tears flow warm and comforting as I see my part in the dance of life and rejoice that it holds so much of love.

Inlinkz – click here to join the fun!

The End of an Era

A few weeks ago I wrote a Friday Fictioneers story with the title “The end of an era?” It felt like a story with potential and I said I would post a longer version. Here it is!

The end of an era

Giorgios sat with his youngest grandson, Yiannis, looking across the Gulf of Argos, over a  sea that was motionless, a lacquered blue-grey. He drank occasionally from a glass of ouzo, rolling the liquid around his mouth, appreciating the flavour of aniseed and herbs. His posture suggested contentment, but his eyes were troubled.

“There’ll be a storm tonight,” suggested Yiannis.

Giorgios frowned. “Perhaps.”

Memories. So many memories burdened a man, he thought. Once he had been decisive, quick to sum up options, quick to plan necessary actions. Where was that ability now, when he needed it most of all? He missed Eirene at his side; how lonely he had been since she left him a widower.

“What do think of your cousin Katerina?” he asked Yiannis.

Yiannis sipped his ouzo as he considered the question.

“She’s bright. She can be too hasty sometimes.”

Giorgios turned back to the sea. The sun’s reflection in the water was dimpled like beaten bronze.  

Hasty.

How different life was nowadays from when he was growing up. He remembered his teenage years, the years of German occupation, the years of resistance. You had to be quick, or you were dead. You had to be ready to save yourself, and not be too fussy about your neighbour.

And you made mistakes. You shot, and maybe the person you hit wasn’t German.

Giorgios closed his eyes. It had been a long time since he’d thought of Gennadios, Some things were best forgotten.

He heard Yiannis. “You’re tired, Grandfather. Would you like me to take you home?”

Giorgios opened his eyes and scowled.

“I want another ouzo,” he said.

Yiannis knew better than to argue. He ordered two more ouzos.

“Your Uncle Spiros thinks he should be my successor,” said Giorgios. He looked intently at Yiannis, who smiled.

“He is your eldest son. Why should he not inherit the business?”

Giorgios grunted. Clouds were building in the west, great mounds of cumulus racing heavenwards.

“You’re right. We shall have a storm. I’m glad Katerina invested in awnings with a guttering system. Our guests will stay dry. Take me back home now.”

Yiannis pushed Giorgios’ wheelchair back to the café, positioning him just inside the doors where he could watch the customers – and the staff. Georgios looked at the mighty plane tree sheltering one end of his café. He remembered Eirene planting it when they had just started the business. He remembered the thoughtful expression on her face as she firmed the soil around the sapling. “What are you thinking about?” he had asked, but she hadn’t answered. It had been an inspiration of hers, though, the mature tree drawing customers into its shade throughout the day.

Spiros bustled over, frowning at Yiannis. “Go and help Ajax in the kitchen,” he snapped. “We’re very busy tonight.” He scanned the tables. “Father, I wish you’d have a word with Demetrios.” Giorgios followed his gaze.

“Send him over to me,” he said. “He knows better than to sit down with our customers.”

As Demetrios minced towards him, Giorgios saw him compose his face, hiding resentment with a smile.

“You’re going to tick me off, I know, but that young man is so handsome I couldn’t help myself!”

“Don’t use your perversion as an excuse for unprofessional behaviour. I don’t want to see you sitting at a table again.” He waved Demetrios away.

He must make a decision. Who should inherit the café, the family business he started so many years ago? He sensed his time was running short.

Katerina joined him.

“You should eat something, Grandfather. Would you like Ajax to make you an omelette?”

“With mushrooms?”

“Yes, with mushrooms.”

As she served him the omelette, Katerina said, “Ajax is an excellent chef, a real asset. I heard other tavernas had approached him, so I’ve given him a pay rise – I hope that’s okay?”

Giorgios grunted. “What did your Uncle Spiros have to say about that?”

“Nothing. I asked him who he had in mind to replace Ajax when he left.” She smiled.

“How is Yiannis getting on? He’s been working with you, hasn’t he?”

“He’s good. Methodical, thorough, and with some flair. I let him negotiate our contract for ice-cream, and he did a good job.”

Giorgios pushed away the half-eaten omelette. “It’s good,” he said, “but I’m not hungry. Bring me a coffee.”

“You know what the doctor said about coffee.”

Giorgios glowered at her.

“I suppose one won’t hurt,” she said.

“Send Yiannis to me with the coffee.”

When Yiannis came, Giorgios glanced around. Was anybody listening?

“How would you feel if I left you the café?”

“There are others who have a greater claim than I.”

“But could you run it?”

Yiannis looked troubled. “Well, yes, I think I could if they let me. But don’t you think the family would oppose me?”

“Could you not talk them round? To run a business you need cunning and determination. Have you got those qualities?”

Giorgios watched Yiannis intently. Perhaps it would be unfair to burden him with the challenge of running the family business. Maybe the time had come to let control pass from the family.

“Don’t look so glum. It may never happen. A storm is the worst we’re likely to see tonight! Now, take me to my bedroom. And make sure the bell is on my bedside table.”

Although his wife, Eirene, had been dead four years, Giorgios still slept solely on the left hand side of the bed. But tonight, sleep eluded him. He thought of Eirene, beautiful, tranquil to the end of her life. As a young man he had loved her passionately; in middle age he loved her as the mother of his children, cherishing her; in old age desire had still burned, albeit with a cooler fire.

For some reason, the distant rumbles of thunder reminded him of Nazi artillery. Why had he thought that?

He dozed.

The hammering of torrential rain woke him. He clambered out of bed, and gazed out of the window at the plane tree. The raindrops slammed into the leaves like machine-gun fire, making them rattle, and beating them to the ground.

His chest hurt. He was used to that. Too much ouzo and coffee. “I don’t care if they do kill me,” he muttered, as though answering someone. The café was closed, the guests all gone.

“I must decide,” he thought. “I must decide.”

Giorgios stood panting. The room felt stuffy. His cheeks felt cold and clammy, and yet he was sweating.

Eirene had always loved Katerina more than the others. And now that he thought of it, Eirene had urged him to give her responsibility in the business. Eirene would want Katerina to inherit the business. He would leave it to her.

But the pain in his chest was too great. The air he breathed felt heavy as water. Giorgios stumbled to his desk and turned on the light. His hand found the notebook and pen without looking – he always kept them handy to jot down good ideas, day or night.

“Katerina is to have the café outright,” he wrote, “The remainder of my estate is to be split equally between my children.”

He added his signature, stumbled back to his bedside table, and rang the bell as loudly as he could. The pain was overwhelming. ‘Is this what Gennadios felt as my bullet ripped through his flesh, and his life gushed away?’ thought Giorgios.

He saw Eirene’s face, her teenage face, filled with desperate grief for Gennadios, and now he could see the shadow of that grief in every memory throughout her life. “She knew,” he marvelled. “How could she love me knowing that?”

Why had he never noticed?

Even as his bedroom door burst open there was a brilliant flash and an immediate shattering explosion of thunder.

“The tree!” exclaimed Yiannis.

“Katerina is to have the café,” gasped Giorgios, scarcely able to articulate the words. Eirene’s grief-laden stare, the terrified pallor of the dying Gennadios, accused him.

“Murder. I murdered him.”

Nobody could hear him. The rain hammered. Sirens shrieked. Even as Yiannis ran to his bedside, Giorgios died.

Friday Fictioneers – Solar Storm

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 on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © DALE ROGERSON

Solar Storm

Demetrios could have wept at the sight of Miseon, shaking with fatigue after her second six-hour spacewalk in twenty-four hours. Sixty was too old for such brutal labour, but everyone on Space Station L1 was working double shifts. Extra protection against radiation was essential.

All pregnant women had been flown to the Lunar Base; the rest of the colonists would have to endure the biggest solar storm ever.

Demetrios held Miseon gently.

“We’ve done all we can,” he murmured.

Miseon pushed him. “Go in the command area. It’s safer. It’s your duty!”

“No. My place is with you,” he said.

InLinkz – click here to join the fun!

Friday Fictioneers – Spreading her wings

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 on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © MILES ROST

Spreading her wings

“Will you be writing to Mark?” asked Angela’s mother, Maureen, as they waited together for the Cambridge train.

Angela smiled. “No, probably not”, she said.

“He’s such a nice young man.”

“You sound as though you fancy him, Ma!”

“Good looking, well off, what’s not to like?”

“Uni’s a new beginning; I’m going to spread my wings, see how far I can go.”

Maureen raised her eyebrows.

“I expect he’ll get over it, Ma,” said Angela.

The train was pulling into the station. Maureen hugged Angela tightly. Her eyes were moist.

“Go and do brilliantly, lovely daughter,” she whispered, fiercely.

InLinkz – click here to join the fun!

Normal People – a review

Normal People – a review

Author – Sally Rooney

Genre – Literary fiction

Rating – 9/10

This is an outstanding novel that explores the redemptive power of human love.

Marianne and Connell live in a provincial town in Ireland, and have known each other since childhood. Connell is popular; captain of the school football team, and with good social skills. Marianne is unpopular, derided for her looks, her dress sense and her refusal to conform to the social norms of her peers. Connell is poor; Marianne is well off. Both are extremely intelligent.

In their last year at school, they feel a powerful sexual attraction to each other, and make love. The experience reaches a level of intimacy that startles them both – but they conceal this. As far as the world knows they are casual friends.

Although by the time they go to university they have ‘split up’, the attraction is as strong as it ever was. They struggle against it, forming sexual relationships with other partners, but there is always that spark when they meet.  

Gradually we are led to understand how each of them is damaged. Can their relationship survive this? Can it, indeed, save them? For salvation is what they need; the stakes couldn’t be higher. If they get this wrong, they can never fulfil their potential; they will shrivel and die as individuals.

I found the novel gripping. Having read it once, I admired it so much that I read it again intending to learn from it. Lo and behold, I was about three pages in and the story took control again, and I just read it for pleasure. It really is that good!

Friday Fictioneers – At first sight

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 on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

At first sight

Standing at the grave-side with my children, I remember a shop on Down Island.

The window held an intriguing mixture of objects; stained glass fairies; crystals; natural remedies; and some brightly patterned kaftans.

Inside, the place smelled euphoric. The man behind the counter was smiling and humming.

“I like those kaftans. Could I try one, please?”

He glanced at his watch.

“Heavens! It’s quarter past one. Sorry, we’re closed. Open again tomorrow morning. It’s Beltane, you see.”

My face fell.

“Come with me,” he suddenly said. “There’ll be some great vegetarian food!”

Forty years we were together.

Goodbye, my love.

https://fresh.inlinkz.com/party/2767a29a0c1640709ba002042b5f4381

Friday Fictioneers – Sunset, Nafplio

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 on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - palettes 200722

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Sunset, Nafplio

I sit at peace, gazing over the sea to the mountains opposite, an ouzo on the table and my beloved beside me. Second by second the colours change, as the sun descends in golden fire behind the peaks. The valleys recede into grey, the foreground tinged with violet and sage.

The small boats moored near us cast shadows, darkening the water slapping against the quay. A waiter places an oil lamp on the table and my red sunhat glows in its warm light.

The palette of my life’s colours is nearly spent.

I sit at peace, my beloved beside me.

Inlinkz – click here to join the fun

Friday Fictioneers – Taboo

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 on your page. Link your story URL. Then the fun starts as you read other peoples’ stories and comment on them!

FF - Taboo - 200527

PHOTO PROMPT © DAVID STEWART

Taboo

Stephanie sat outside the cafe, enjoying the evening and yet grieving for what had been lost during lockdown – spontaneous embraces, laughter for no reason other than joie de vivre.

She saw Michel, and waved. It was such a shame that lockdown came just as they were getting to know each other. He smiled, walked across, and sat down.

“Aren’t we supposed…?”

“You don’t mind…?”

They spoke simultaneously, and smiled.

“Sorry…”

“I beg your…”

This time they laughed.

“Would you have dinner with me?” asked Michel, taking Stephanie’s hand.

Her smile said yes. Her breath came fast at his forbidden touch.

Inlinkz – Click here to join in the fun!

What Pegman Saw – An unexpected treat

“What Pegman saw” is a weekly challenge based on Google Streetview. Using the 360 degree view of 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

WPS - An unexpected treat 200502

An unexpected treat

“Don’t worry – I’ll pay,” said Ricardo, firmly.

“But the Gingerbread Restaurant’s expensive!” Roseline opened her eyes very wide, and Ricardo kissed her.

“No problem.”

Roseline giggled when the starter came; the dish looked like a painting. Ricardo smiled, and stroked his fingers along the cornrows of her hair. “Would you like some wine?” he suggested.

The food was – interesting, Roseline decided.

As they ate dessert, Ricardo cleared his throat.

“I had my exam results last Thursday.”

“You never told me! Were they good?”

“I was top.”

“Oh, well done, Ricardo!”

“I have an internship at Clinica Union Medica del Norte.”

“But – that’s in the Dominican Republic…”

“I’ll phone. And text. If you want to, you can join me there when you’ve finished your studies.”

Roseline’s heart sank.

“Do you love me, Ricardo?”

“Yes. Yes, of course”.

“Then let’s get married.”

Ricardo stared at her, then grinned.

“Why not?” he said.