A mathematician once said that “together forever” lasts a fortnight and after a passionate two week fling Tess had to agree. Visions of bridal gowns and corsages danced across her mind. She could get a job here and give up her boring office existence for sun, sand and sangria. Life could be a beach….couldn’t it?
“Ladies and gentlemen we have completed our pre-flight checks…” intoned the nasal air steward. Tess rubbed the sand between her toes and smiled ruefully. Her “forever” had finished.
I wrote this for a writing challenge as follows….Choose a scenario (or invent your own) and write a poem, a short story, a vignette, a scene, or flash fiction based on Nighthawks by Edward Hopper.
The Nighthawks by Edward Hopper 1942: Public Domain
“You! Whaddaya want?” the bartender barked. “Can’t ya see I’m busy here.”
Real busy, she thought, looking at the other two customers in the place. The two men were sitting at either end of the bar wearing identical dark blue suits, ties and grey fedoras with a black band around the rim. The each nursed a mug of dark coffee. They looked like a couple of gangsters. They studiously ignored each other. Neither one had looked up when she entered the bar. She could use a drink right now, but it looked like the most exciting option here was going to be black coffee.
She slinked past them in her brand new, red silk dress. It swished becomingly around her calves and brushed against her sheer seamed stockings. Cute black heels and a patent black belt broke up the red. Her hair clashed gloriously with the dress; blue eye shadow and thick kohl eyeliner completed the look. The whole ensemble had cost her her savings. Not even a flicker from either of them. “Coffee, doll. Make it strong.” She perched next to the second suit and reapplied her fire-engine red lipstick using the back of a spoon as a compact. The curved surface allowed her to get a better peak at the man sitting on her right. She had a good view of his friend across the bar.
Her thick ceramic mug was plunked down gracelessly in front of her. “You spilled a bit doll.” The bartender glared at her until she put her coins down on the counter top. She scrambled in her purse and found some bits and pieces and slid them into the pool of coffee. The bartender wiped the spill and the coins off the bar with his rag. She carelessly lit a cigarette. “Gotta light hon?” She asked the suit.
He reached into his suit pocket and slid the metal lighter wordlessly across the bar, still not even looking in her direction. She was looking though – she now knew that he wasn’t carrying a piece. Not a gangster then, or a dick. She regarded his twin through the cigarette smoke and sipped at the strong coffee. She leaned both elbows onto the bar in a deliberately provocative gesture and exhaled slowly – the smoke curling around her lips and creating a grey halo around her red hair.
Sammy had told her to watch, take mental notes. People opened up to women. Men opened up to women dressed like her, or at least took them to a seedy motel where she would be able to go through his wallet. She didn’t like dressing like this but she liked to eat. She had been instructed to dress “nice ya know, look the part kid”. She was to sit and wait for one of them to approach her and make conversation. What happened after that was unclear, but she understood the implications.
This gig would pay her rent for the month and for some of the dress! So far she couldn’t see anything particularly note-worthy. They were just two guys having coffee late one night in “Phillies”. Neither of them seemed remotely interested in her, so there was nothing to report back on. Actually scratch that – she started making a mental list. Suit number 1: smoker, no gun, nicely manicured nails. Drank his coffee black. Slim build – the suit wore his suit well. Not the same for suit number 2: suit buttons straining a little, but hadn’t bought or been able to afford a new suit. There was a sugar bowl and milk jug next to his mug so obviously had a sweet tooth. Supported by the fact that there was a flash of gold in his mouth from having teeth filled in. She couldn’t see any point in being here. As long as she still got paid that was the main thing!
Another story from my Venice days was created on a night out with my friend Tara who is the most talented artist. We went to the wine shop in the square to fill up our plastic bottle with some very reasonably priced (1 or 2 euro) white wine, and sat on the water’s edge being silly and coming up with all sorts of short story ideas (as you do!). Tara was sketching the back of my house, which later turned into a beautiful painting now on my living room wall. And I wrote a short story about a fairy with exceptionally large feet called Mildred. She had red hair as an homage to Tara who has lovely red hair, and of course to Anne of Green Gables as well! She also has a bit of a temper (of course – after Anne not Tara).
I spent a year living in Venice in my twenties and had an awesome time living right in the city centre. I had an apartment looking out over a canal. The ever lovely Campo Santa Margherita was just round the corner from our house and there were so many canals to sit on and watch the world go by.
My best friend and her husband came to visit me with their small baby – Joseph. After they left I sat by the water’s edge near a statue of a mermaid, on a sunny evening and wrote a very short story about a boy name Joe. Writing something for him was the inspiration for my first book. I didn’t know it at the time but this story has so many things that can be developed into a story – great ideas for characters, great location. We’ll have to see how that goes…
The canal was flashing with a thousand sparkles underneath the water. I called them “angel lights”. In the spirit of having balance in a story it seemed fitting that a beautiful thing should also have a dark side. Surrounded by all the mythology of a sea-faring city I added the “sea monsters”.
I want this short story to become the inspiration to my first novel which is going to be about a little girl who witnesses a horrible crime, gets washed up on a beach and befriended by a little boy called Joe and a salty old sea captain. In this case the “sea monsters” are very much human though! Stay tuned for excerpts coming up.
Written as a response to the Daily Post one-word prompt – Wrinkle.
An attempt at conversation…after 40 years of marriage
Crow’s feet fanned silver eyes which registered disapproval and disappointment. Her mouth was ringed with lines which if they were spread into a smile would make her seem twenty years younger. She lifted a delicately polished finger nail up to her crow’s feet as if to wipe away a tear. The lace thinness on the back of her hands showed veins and arthritic joints keeping the diamond ring and golden wedding band which still shone after 40 years of wearing them.
Her hand trembled slightly and she self-consciously forced it back into her lap and clasped hands to stop them shaking. She stopped herself reaching out to pick up her cup and saucer. The trembling grating of bone china on bone china would wake him up. He needed his afternoon nap. She reached up to smooth her hair gently, barely even making contact. She knew it would be perfect. Her pearl necklace hung perfectly over her twinset which was in an inoffensive beige colour. Beige went with everything and it suited her to be non-descript – to blend in and be as unobtrusive as possible.
She sat upright in her armchair staring at her husband of 40 years. Her silver expression didn’t waiver. Her face was composed; her hand steadied and she grasped the porcelain saucer firmly. Not a tremor. She sipped on the weak infusion of tea with half a slice of lemon (pips removed). Her eyebrow raised into a perfect arch, as her husband snored in his armchair opposite.
He felt her gaze on him from under closed eyelids and could almost hear her eyebrow raise in that supercilious manner. He kept his eyes closed, shifted in his pretend sleep, attempted a snore, relaxed his neck so that his head lolled against the arm chair. He let his jaw fall slack. He just had to wait until she finished that damned ditch water that she called tea.
His cardigan was a focus of disappointment – always done up wrong, worn over the elbows and a day old handkerchief in the pocket. He preserved that look with care and recreated it every morning. He made sure that he blew his nose loudly into the hankie before putting in the pocket. His trousers bagged around his waist. He didn’t believe in belts. Perhaps he should invest in a nice pair of braces? Nice spotty ones. Her expression would be priceless. Socks and tartan slippers completed the image.
His silver hair was brushed back from his forehead with Brylcream – a style that he’d worn for 65 years. He couldn’t break that habit. But he did go unshaven now whenever possible – he couldn’t get his face to align with his razor. It seemed to sag in all sorts of places. His eyebrows straggled down to twist into his eyelashes and God knew what was going on with his nose and ear hair. The overall impression was of an unkempt, slightly dotty old man with a great head of hair.
He heard his wife silently put her cup and saucer down on the tray; equally silently stand up, pick up the tray and glide softly across the pile carpet. And still he faked sleep. She’d turned, as he’d known she would at the doorway, to check up on him. He froze: neck loose, jaw slack, a bit of drool making its’ way down his chin. He heard her eyebrow raise again as she carried the tray out.
One brown eye opened and checked the empty room. He didn’t move his body just in-case he needed to fake sleep again. Also it took him a moment to get everything in gear to move. He peered around his nose and tried to straighten his neck. He’d got a crick in it from “sleeping” for so long. She obviously had something to discuss with him and he wasn’t sure how long he could keep her at bay. 77 minutes was his record.
She carried the tray into the kitchen; snapped on rubber gloves and washed up her cup and saucer, the teapot, tea strainer, milk jug, sugar bowl and sugar tongs; threw the doily into the bin and stored the tray in the slot specially designed for trays between the cupboard and the dishwasher. She snapped her Marigolds off and hung them over the tap. She needed to talk to him. She could wait until he stirred himself. His naps were getting longer and longer.
He yawned and stretched. He could hear her washing up the tea tray. He had a couple of minutes to get to the French windows and down into the garden. If he timed it right he could be in the potting shed by the time she hung her gloves up. He moved smoothly to the door. His wellies were waiting outside. In less that 7 seconds slippers were off, feet into wellies and the door shut behind him with a soft click. He kept to the hedge away from the kitchen and circled around the back of the greenhouse and into the potting shed.