One sentence story #3

Painting by Almeida-Junior


When he sailed away he promised to write, and he did, to say he was wed, so she never told him about the bairn, and how it died without a name.


Microfiction: Pasha


She watches as the big brown cat lopes along the guttering and drops out of sight. Pasha wouldn’t be long. He’s as old as she is, she reckons, in cat years.
He’s all she has now. Joe is dead these twenty years, but she still catches the occasional whiff of his cigarettes when she moves the cushions on his chair. Springtime is the hardest. Each time like the first spring after Joe died, when everything else was growing, opening, faces smiling.
The baby too, the only one, is just a vague white-robed memory, but the pain is always there, just beneath her ribs. Today it seems sharper than ever.
The sun sinks and Pasha has not come back. She replaces the cat biscuit in the pantry with trembling hands. Her own slice of ham and tiny pat of butter remain untouched. Rheumy eyes spill over. Sometimes the smallest things are the hardest to bear.
She sits and waits.
In the gutter, the dull eyes of a large brown cat gaze unseeing at the rising sun. The last dampness on a papery cheek catches the light. But she has gone, following Pasha’s stripy tail and the growing smell of cigarette smoke.

Microfiction: The golden dog


The dog lies, her golden head resting on her front paws, watching the passers-by. She is tired. For four days she has trotted back and forth along the route she knows best, between the two campsites, the park and the bridge, the bridge and the park. She and the man slept together in the same sleeping bag, sometimes under the bridge, sometimes under a tree. Now he has gone.
She waits and she watches, and she trots back and forth, back and forth. But she is hungry and tired. She plays with other dogs but won’t go near people. Her eyes search for a single man in the whole mass of humanity. Her fur is muddy and she is tired and hungry. But she waits and watches and trots back and forth.
I would catch her if I could, the golden dog, and bring her home. But she won’t be caught. I would take the place of the man who went away and didn’t come back. But she has more faith than I, more hope. She will watch and wait and trot back and forth, back and forth, forever.

Microfiction: Narciso

Painting by Giovanni Fattori


Narciso stomps into the pharmacy and thumps his walking stick on the floor.
We know Narciso. The Republican relic. The pharmacist puts on a smile that doesn’t touch her eyes and finds something to do in the reserve. Narciso takes up position in the chair facing the street to watch the girls go by. We try not to listen to his old man’s mutterings of appreciation.
Old ladies come in to collect their prescriptions and cluck in disapproval. They know Narciso too. He narrows his small, watery eyes, and barks at them in a tangle of Spanish and French, running his eyes up and down the bare summer legs passing outside, licking his lips.
He shouts his partisan anecdotes. His grasp on the language is slippery, facts slither from his grip, and incomprehension falls upon him as easily as deafness. But we all know Narciso and his story. The real one behind the heroic escape over the Pyrenees with Franco on his tail. We know why he has never gone back to Cataluña, and we look away. We know about the wife and baby he abandoned behind the crumbling Republican lines. And we know what happened to them.

Microfiction: They took a boat

Microfiction of less than 200 words
based on the painting by Odilon Redon: la barque mystique


They took a boat, a blue boat with a yellow sail. Where could two runaway slaves go but the river? No one would chase them to the sea. Yet she shivered. He smiled and kissed her tenderly on the forehead, thinking to dispel her fears with his strength. He shrugged off the stories, but he knew nothing of the ocean. His people prayed for rain in the spring, died of drought in the summer. His land was parched; green was a colour he didn’t know.
Between river cliffs of yellow ochre they sped, until as evening fell, the little barque was borne out into the smooth ocean, green as glass. The current raced to the turquoise horizon, and thunder shattered the air into painful fragments.
What if the stories are true?
In her heart she knew they were.
His face contracted in fear when the current wrenched the little boat out of his control, and she pitied him. She wrapped her arms around his useless muscles, whispered words of love that were drowned in the thunder of the falling water. She held him tight as the little blue splinter of a barque shot over the edge of the world.