Cafe terraceCafe Terrace – what a gorgeous badge. As soon as I saw it I had the setting for my story – it took a while longer to develop the plot!

This is my entry for this month’s WEP+IWSG flash fiction.  Checkout the process at the WEP site.

The word count is just over 750, and gentle criticism is welcome.

Two Petits-pains at the Cafe Terrace

I am, at last, in Arles.

On the way down from Paris we stopped in Lyon, and climbed the cliff to the magnificent chateau. The Saone joined the Rhone and we followed them to Avignon. Sur le pont I danced in my head as far as the crumbling masonry, fenced off for health and safety. As if any of the tourists would risk their lives on that heap of rubble over the thrusting waters so far below.

Yes, they did, according to the notice displaying a ‘note of a tragedy’ from the local paper.

Was it coming south, to the Midi, that infected the brain with some sort of madness?

Was there something in the air—other than light, warmth, and a feeling of freedom?

Ever since college I had imagined this trip. The footsteps of my hero, seeking out his views, maybe even daring to make my own representations of them. Could I match those wayward cypress trees? Would the sun oblige by shining in the right place at the time I could get there?

“I’ve had enough, Arlene. If you don’t want to go back, I’m going by myself.”
Hector and I were sitting in a cafe, or rather, on the terrace outside, when he made this announcement.

“I thought you were as keen as I am to see where van Gogh got his inspiration.

“I was, and I have. It’s lovely scenery. I’m ready to go back. Darned flies.” He punctuated his grumble with an accurate swat at a mosquito which had had the temerity to land on his arm.

I didn’t see a squashed mess, so assumed it had escaped. “Well, I suppose the marshes do mean there are flies about. It’s quite difficult to eradicate them without poisoning the biosystem, I believe.”

“To hell with the biosystem, it’s my blood I care about. They can’t have it.” He slapped the back of his neck, then whirled a beautifully laundered cloth napkin around his head.

I wanted to comment on our responsibility for restoring the biosystem. It was better to keep quiet. He’d go on as long as he wanted without me stoking his fire.

We sat in silence looking at the view of the street. Nondescript, really. A few faded geraniums nodding from windowboxes in the Juliet balconies. Some laundry strung out to dry, even in this day and age. Charming, but characterless. Well, not really less, but definitely not full.

“This place has all the charm of a railway shunting yard.”

Hector sometimes surprised me. He’d been very keen on railway shunting yards in his youth. But then, we all change as we grow older.

Van Gogh certainly did. What a change! From a young man who just wanted to be a painting pastor, to one of the maddest and most brilliant painters of the fin de Siecle. Practically the inventor of Post-Impressionism.

I had fallen in love with his work when I was a teenager. I had a few more pictures I wanted to see in real life yet. I said as much.

Hector grunted.

“There’s this view of the aqueduct—” I showed him the postcard I’d brought with me “—which I think will take most of the day to reach unless we hire a car. And the room at Anvers, the hospital, and the Van Gogh museum. What do you think?”

A bit of soothing might help his mood.

I was wrong.

He tapped away at his phone and announced a train leaving Arles soon to connect with the TGV to Paris. He’d be there by eight o’clock. ‘Just in time for a good French dinner,’ he added. He continued tapping, then announced a reservation at the hotel we’d stayed at on the way down.

‘So.’ His finger paused over his screen. ‘One ticket or two?’

I looked up and down the street, drank in the peculiar smells of southern French cities, and thought of the Camargue, and wheatfields, and cypress tress against lurid purple skies.

‘One.’

He pressed his phone, watched the screen, then put it into his pocket. He finished his drink and stood up. ‘There’s another train in the morning if you miss this one. I’ll get the Eurostar tomorrow afternoon. You can catch me at Gare du Nord.’

As he walked away, I wondered just why he thought I would catch him up at all.

I had a life’s dreams to catch up on.

Maybe I’d stay.

By the time night fell, I had engaged a room above the cafe, and a part-time job as a waitress.

A starry, starry night indeed.

© J M Pett 2020

Now go and visit more stories inspired by this prompt!

WEP+IWSG Flash Fiction | Cafe Terrace
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27 thoughts on “WEP+IWSG Flash Fiction | Cafe Terrace

  • 18 February, 2020 at 12:49 pm
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    Love it! I really wanted to write this one, but all my down-time has been spent either catching up with people or just zoning out—no writing. I might try something today, but it’s unfair to post up a story without time to read others’ so I probably won’t :).

    The only thing that stopped me a bit here was about the street being sort of charmless. She didn’t quite seem ready to acknowledge that—or maybe she can see through the lack of charm to something more?

    Reply
  • 18 February, 2020 at 2:53 pm
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    I like the way this unfolded. There seems to be a lot of hidden subtext about their relationship in what the characters say (and don’t say). I get the feeling she will be happy and free to explore her dreams now.

    Reply
  • 18 February, 2020 at 3:01 pm
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    I really enjoyed this. I liked Arlene’s humour. The wee comments about Hector sometimes surprising her – ‘he’d been very keen on railway shunting yards in his youth’ made me laugh. I was so glad she decided to stay.

    Reply
  • 19 February, 2020 at 12:23 am
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    I love this Jemima. I also love the south of France and following van Gogh’s paintings around. Awesome. I somehow think she’s going to stay in the south and catch up on all the van Gogh trails she’s dreamed of.
    An awesome entry for Cafe Terrace.

    InLinkz won’t open for a few hours. I’ve taken the liberty of adding your link so it’ll show up right away.

    I have a lovely feeling about this challenge. So close to my heart,..

    Reply
  • 19 February, 2020 at 2:29 pm
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    I love it! Sometimes your dreams just don’t jive with your reality, but a simple change is all it takes! And what a dream. Great story, job well done!

    Reply
  • 19 February, 2020 at 2:35 pm
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    Fabulous! I would have stayed as well!!
    And now I’ve got Sur le Pont d’Avignon swirling around in my head! 🙂

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  • 19 February, 2020 at 5:13 pm
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    Certainly the right choice! The charm of a railway shunting yard indeed! Love this piece – full of promise of better days!

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  • 19 February, 2020 at 5:43 pm
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    Hi,
    Encouraging! She decided to cut the strings and discover herself. He’ll be surprised when she doesn’t show up the next morning.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Reply
  • 19 February, 2020 at 6:23 pm
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    For my two cents, I think she absolutely made the right decision. Hector showed signs of being rather demanding and inflexible. I think whatever attraction he may have held for her would have worn off quickly.
    ~cie from Team Netherworld~

    Reply
  • 19 February, 2020 at 8:27 pm
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    A charming story. The guy is a jerk. She did right to ditch him and follow her dream.

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  • 19 February, 2020 at 9:36 pm
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    Hooray for following her dreams. And hiss and spit at the Hectors of this world. The Hectors who so often hector others into following them.

    Reply
  • 20 February, 2020 at 1:05 am
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    I love this piece and the ending is perfect, Jemima. A starry, starry night indeed. I’m just sad I never got to Arles now. Your character got her priorities right.

    Reply
    • 20 February, 2020 at 7:31 pm
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      I’ve always wanted a holiday in the Camargue. I’ve been to Lyon, Avignon, then on to Toulon and points east. It’s lovely there, but no wild horses!

      Reply
  • 20 February, 2020 at 6:07 am
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    I’m so glad you got that job and decided to stay. I love the way you talk about things. The laundry… definitely not less, but not full either. Ha! Well I learnt a few nuances about writing on reading you. How a simple tale can be made charming with the right kind of writing. So enjoyed being here!

    Reply
  • 20 February, 2020 at 6:20 am
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    I absolutely loved this, Jemima! Brilliant use of the prompt. Character development is luscious too right down to the riff on Arles. Splendid entry for Cafe Terrace.

    Reply
  • 20 February, 2020 at 7:55 pm
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    You created two vivid characters in such a short amount of time. I’m glad she chose to stay, and I hope she chooses to stay for as long as she likes.

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  • 21 February, 2020 at 11:57 am
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    This story was skilfully crafted with the relationship between the two carefully drawn. The bit where he waves the napkin around his head to chase away the mosquitoes says so much. An excellent entry.

    Reply
  • 21 February, 2020 at 5:56 pm
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    I really enjoyed this. I kind of felt like the relationship was falling apart more each time he swatted at the flies. I’m happy she stayed. I hope she’ll be happy. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • 21 February, 2020 at 8:33 pm
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    Good for her, I say. You have to fulfill your dreams while you can. You had some great lines in this one–nicely subtle and humorous. Well done.

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  • 22 February, 2020 at 11:35 am
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    I’m glad she stayed. A lovely read.

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  • 22 February, 2020 at 9:53 pm
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    I guess some passions just aren’t meant to be shared, lol. Loved the beautiful descriptions in this.

    BTW: I love the cover for Chronicles of Marsh.

    Reply
  • 24 February, 2020 at 3:34 pm
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    Hi Jemima – she was absolutely right to stay and see where life led her – he sounded a boor … and wasn’t even kind enough to join her in her pleasurable look around. Lots of stories I hope to come from Cafe Terrace … cheers HIlary

    I too had to look to find a way to your blog to be able to comment … I couldn’t make it from the linkylist, nor from my feedly: not sure why – but I’m here – cheers Hilary

    Reply
  • 28 February, 2020 at 3:22 pm
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    Thank you Jemi for this beautifully descriptive trip to the South East of France. Vivid and authentic dialogues make the story really come alive on the page. Well done.

    Reply
  • 28 February, 2020 at 6:15 pm
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    We all have those dreams to catch up on! Loved reading your piece.

    Reply

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