Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday and the one hundred and third piece in this series. This week’s is a 452-worder by Jen Squire. This story will be podcasted in episode 33 (with two other stories and some 6-worders) on Sunday 3rd November.
Tourists would visit the town on Wednesdays for the market, a cobbled square stalled with vegetables from the local farmers, men and women trying to sell clothes they can afford to live without, the lamps and pictures they have cleared out of the homes of their deceased.
Michéle’s husband works in the boucherie. He wears a white coat and white rubber boots. He comes home bloodied from hosing down the back room, and wiping his hands on the over-sized pockets after slicing the remnants from the bones for the mincer.
When their youngest daughter, Monique, told them she was engaged to be married, they congratulated her and then privately shared their relief. Soon they could start trying to save for themselves.
Michéle wanted the wedding present to be something special. The newlyweds had arranged to live in a small house in the middle of a dull street on the outskirts of the town. An area where tired young husbands and fathers dragged home heavy in the dark of late evenings.
On the day of the wedding Michéle carefully handed a large, neatly-wrapped present to her daughter.
The next day Monique took down the faded curtains from the front window and a few hours later, when her husband was home to help, a pair of white lace curtains with a pattern of shells appeared. Beautiful fan-shaped shells, with detail of the ridge paths and rippled edges, arranged in uneven groups as though washed up on shore on a beach.
Quickly the curtains became a talking point in the town. Women queuing for their vegetables asked if their friends had seen them, and over the next weeks footsteps could be heard slowing down as they passed the house to look at this fancy new display.
And then it wasn’t long before the curtains in other windows were replaced. The Tabac owner’s wife hung a lace display of butterflies in her window, pleased with the neat rows of delicate wings.
The lace maker, an old woman who had learned the craft from her mother and thought that her retirement was as good as secured, was suddenly popular amongst the younger townsfolk. They invited her to coffee, offered pastries, and invariably ended up discussing designs and dates.
She made curtains of birds on twigs reaching for berries, an ocean of leaping dolphins, an ocean scene where large yachts and smaller, distant ships sailed above a band of fish and the floor of shells and coral.
The lights of sitting rooms all around the town cast shadow shapes across the footpaths.
Tourists came to walk the course of the designs that the town had become renowned for. None of them passed the simple window of Monique’s house.
I asked Jen what prompted this piece and she said…
After an indulgent and writing-free holiday, I desperately needed some direction to get me back into writer-mode. I keep an eye on Morgen’s daily exercises but hadn’t done one before, and the key word ‘curtain’ was what grabbed me. I know nothing about them and have never really given them much thought, certainly not in my writing.
I went to my local cafe, gave it 20 mins, and this was the result.
Ok maybe 25 minutes, plus a little time to tidy up.
When I came back to my desk I was straight back into developing other work, so big thanks to Morgen for the prompt.
You’re very welcome. I loved it. Thank you, Jen.
Mostly she writes about ‘ordinary people’—a conversation she’s overheard or something she’s seen walking along a street — and tries to shape these observations into short stories.
She’s also working on a longer manuscript at the moment, but doesn’t like to use the ‘n’ word.
If you’d like to submit your 6-word or 500-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here, or up to 2,000 words for critique on my Online Short Story Writing Group (links below).
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Morgen’s Online Short Story Writing Group
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