Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the thirty-ninth piece of flash fiction in this series. This week’s is a 418-worder by comic fantasy (“and a little horror”) author and interviewee Will Macmillan-Jones.
The Picture hung in the window of an art gallery in the arcade. Every day, on my way to and from the office, I walked through the arcade with its myriad of tiny exotic shops on my way to and back from the station. As the arcade was narrow, and roofed with curved glass for natural light, the images of the passers by merged with the reflections of the goods on sale in the various windows. Sometimes I had fun with the curved glass, making silly faces that bounced backwards and forwards across the street, from shop window to shop window. Other shoppers would snigger at me, but I sometimes caught them doing the same.
But whenever I reached the art gallery, I would stop, and peer at the portrait of a young girl. She was pictured in the first flush of her beauty, a sweet smile on her lips, her head lowered slightly so that she seemed almost to peer upwards through her auburn hair. Her dress swelled and flowed, and when the light twisted, to me, she seemed almost to move.
The label below the frame said, simply, ‘Portrait of a girl’, with no artist listed. I did go into the shop to enquire, but the price – well let’s just say it would take me a long time to earn that much, let alone spend it on a painting by an unknown artist, however captivating. For it was captivating, at least to me. I found after a week or so that I couldn’t walk back to the station without passing the gallery. If I tried, I felt uneasy, insecure, and when I got home I had no appetite and slept indifferently, and with disturbing dreams.
At last, I decided that I must break this spell, and stayed away from the arcade for a week. A whole week, it felt like a lifetime. Then, following a very long day in the office, I was hurrying to catch the last train home. A violent storm raged the heavens, rain and wind battered the glass of the arcade, as I followed the damp footsteps of the last hurrying commuter. Rounding the corner, I glimpsed a figure that moved against the glass of the arcade, and seemed to shimmer. Panting, I followed the foot prints that led towards the glass – and stopped. The footprints led through the glass, and I shook to see the girl gaze adoringly into the eyes of a lover. ‘Portrait of a couple’ read the label.
I asked Will what prompted this piece and he said…
In the summer of 2011 I was lucky enough to join a weekly flash fiction competition on the Authonomy authors’ website. The judging panel was the other writers who entered the competition, and the only prize the experience of writing a completely new short story every week for three months. But what a prize that was… this was one of them. Some of the other writers liked it. I hope that you do.
He presently lives in South Wales, and has just fulfilled a lifetime ambition by extending his bookcases to fill one entire wall of his home office.
Working as a professional tax consultant, he writes to escape the stultifying boredom of his job.
If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with publisher Ilaria Meliconi – the four hundred and second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.