antique vaseAntique Vase is the prompt for this month’s WEP+IWSG writing challenge.  I loved the badge.  It gave so many ideas, but particularly the quality of the washed out sky and temple, that really took me to Greece. Specifically to the Temple at Sounion, on a headland overlooking the azure Mediterranean. I was there on my first solo trip abroad. I have fond memories of it, and also reminders of things one must do and not do if one wants to stay safe! An antique vase did not feature among my souvenirs. I did buy a modern reproduction at Tipasa in Algeria some years later, though.

As it turns out, my final choice of topic has very little to do with Greece, the Mediterranean or solo travel.

It’s 998 words, and gentle comments are welcome. Enjoy!

The Antique Vase

Low tide in the harbour. The boats lay mainly to one side, propped by their keels, or on a double keel, comfortably upright. It was a lovely place for a June holiday, especially in good English weather.

At first, he thought it was a tin can, or maybe even a plastic float. He’d struggled to pull it clear of the mud. He thought it had just been the hold the sticky, squelchy mud had on it. Even after dunking the heavy pot in the nearest bit of water, it still smelled of old socks and dead fish.

But it had once been elegant.

He took it up to the cottage to show Elsie.

“What have you got there?”

“Dunno, thought it was rubbish, but it seems to be in one piece.”

It was a classical shape, like it was related to a Roman amphora. But it had a flat base, and curled loopy handles attached to a rolled rim. Barnacles, cement and old seaweed hid any elegant decoration.

Elsie took it in hand and turned it round, examining what could be seen of the surface underneath.

“You know, if you could clean it up without damaging what’s underneath, I reckon it would be quite pretty. Stylish, even. Better than all those shells and pebbles, at any rate.”

Tom agreed with her. He found a large bucket, filled it with water and carefully immersed the vase.

“I wonder why it was there,” he mused. He described the exact place he’d found it.

“Not a place you think it had been washed up?”

“No, too sheltered. More like someone had deliberately thrown it in, but it had been caught in the backwash of the tide.”

“And nothing else? No sign of Granny’s silver, or the prize chamber=pot?”

Tom laughed. “No, just the one, isolated, unwanted pot.”

“It’s more a vase, I think. We must check it for markings. Maybe we can trace it.”

Tom took it out of its waterbath every day, did a bit of scraping, and put it back again. He didn’t want to scrape the ceramic decoration off. It was weathered enough by the seawater. The barnacles resisted his attempts to evict them, but he knew they’d succumb.

After a week, they had to decide whether to bring it home with them.

“Why not?” Tom asked.

“I don’t know. I just feel…maybe it belongs here.”

Tom smiled. “Softie. It’ll look nice in our conservatory.”

“Yes. I suppose, so.”

Whether Elsie’s hesitation brought on the accident or not, she slipped on the path on the way to the car, the first accident she’d had in years. “Tom, I don’t think I can get up.”

“Sure you can. I’ll just stow this in the back and then…” He put the bucket, carefully enclosed in a large plastic sack, into the car boot, and turned to help her.

Halfway to her feet, she screamed. Tom called an ambulance.

Later, he unpacked the car, and gratefully extended the rental on the cottage.

After her hip had been set, Elsie was sent ‘home’ to rest. The chaise longue in the sheltered verandah became her day bed. At night Tom wheeled it into the kitchen. Eventually she started to move about a bit.

“Time for home, then?” he asked, as she managed to spend a whole hour sitting comfortably in an armchair.

“Much as I loved this cottage when we got here, I’ll be glad to see the back of it.”

The car broke down as it went down the hill away from the cottage. Tom managed to steer it into the local garage, with the help of the local mechanics pushing.

“What do you think?” he asked as the mechanic emerged from under it.

“Camshaft gone. Needs a refit. If you can leave it here for three days, we’ll get a new one and sort it out for you.”

“Three days? We’ve nowhere to stay now.”

“Old Mikey can rent you a car, good rates.”

Old Mikey’s car was a very nice SUV in immaculate condition. It got them and all their possessions back home with no further problems. Elsie settled herself in the conservatory, debating between a stiff drink and several Ibuprofen. The Ibuprofen won. Tom unpacked, placing the bucket with his treasure in one corner.

“I think’s probably ready to be dried out now. Slowly. Maybe with a damp sack over it for a week.” He tended to its every need.

“I wish we’d never seen that thing.” Elsie glared at it.

That night she awoke to the sound of dripping. It seemed to be raining. When Tom came downstairs he found the kitchen flooded with water dripping from the ceiling. He called their insurance company, who assured him their homecare service would be with him within half an hour.

That evening, they sat in the conservatory with a nice meal delivered by the Imperial Palace. “Want some wine?”

The wine was corked.

“How can wine in a screw-topped bottle be corked?”

“Maybe it was before it got bottled.”

The next one was too.

“Maybe the whole batch,” Tom conceded. “Fruit juice?”

“You know, since we got that vase,” he pondered later, “everything seems to have gone wrong.”

“I didn’t want to say that, in case you divorced me or something, but yes.”

“Do you think that’s why it was thrown away?”

“Do you think it’s cursed or something?”

“I didn’t want to say that aloud in its presence,” Tom whispered. He grabbed a pen and paper and wrote something down.

Elsie read it and nodded.

Next day Tom got into Old Mikey’s SUV and started to drive it back. After three near misses on the way from the M25 to the M3, he pulled off at Fleet services and hauled the vase out, still wrapped in its damp sack.

So if you find an antique Roman-style vase in the woods at Fleet services. Leave it alone.

Trust Elsie and Tom. 

Just leave it.

© J M Pett 2020

Looking forward to reading more of your inspirations based on the Antique Vase prompt! Link up here…

WEP+IWSG | The Antique Vase – Flash Fiction
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26 thoughts on “WEP+IWSG | The Antique Vase – Flash Fiction

    • 18 April, 2020 at 4:30 pm
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      I love the idea of a cursed vase, though given Elsie’s intuition and the first accident, I would probably have left it behind! I did get a chuckle out of them leaving it at Fleet services!! Of all the things you might find on the motorway…!

      Reply
  • 15 April, 2020 at 3:43 am
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    Don’t take souvenirs 🙂 I didn’t really have a chance to study the badge before writing my story (while backpacking), so the image doesn’t really match what I wrote–I just used the idea of an old vase.

    Reply
  • 15 April, 2020 at 7:04 am
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    Hi Jemima – the curse of the vase … well done – and ok I’ll avoid Fleet Services in future. I do hope they had a happy marriage afterwards … or maybe they needed to take it back to return it to its salt-water grave before comfort and luck returned to their lives … fun take – Hilary

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  • 15 April, 2020 at 8:28 am
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    Apologies for several typos. I’m having eye trouble again, the cataract in the other eye is growing fast, and of course all non-essential ops are on hold at present. My reading ability is dependent on the light, its direction, and which glasses work best at the time. And whether my good eye has floaters in it. :O

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  • 15 April, 2020 at 9:02 am
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    I thoroughly enjoyed this – and was reminded of my father’s often stated dictum ‘Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints’.
    I hope that the ill luck stayed with the vase, and that their lives take a happier turn.
    Good luck with your eye issues. Floaters can be disconcerting (as can the flashes I suffer from at the moment).

    Reply
  • 15 April, 2020 at 11:58 am
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    Hi,
    I thought it had a curse on it when Elsie fell. A very engaging story. Not everything that is ancient and looks good is a blessing. There could be a curse upon it.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

    Reply
  • 15 April, 2020 at 2:20 pm
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    Wonderful story, yes, I do hope the bad luck disappears for the couple. And I hope he buried it deep enough that no one else is subject to such horrors. 🙂 Thanks so much for participating in The Antique Challenge!

    Reply
  • 15 April, 2020 at 3:58 pm
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    You’ve made bad luck look nice through the narration. Thanks.
    Sanhita.

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  • 15 April, 2020 at 5:25 pm
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    Ooooo! That was a bit spooky and you hope they are better now. Makes you want to know more about the history of that vase and what happens to the couple. Thanks!

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  • 15 April, 2020 at 8:10 pm
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    Bad luck vase – yes, better leave it alone where it can’t harm anyone. I wonder, what is its story?

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  • 15 April, 2020 at 9:32 pm
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    Hi Jemima. You’ve created an intriguing story despite your eye issues. Must be difficult. When this is all over, we’ll be new again!
    Yes, an antique find may be either cursed or blessed. In this case, cursed, I’d say.
    Thanks so much for participating in our challenge this month!

    Reply
  • 16 April, 2020 at 2:09 pm
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    That sounds like a very bad vase indeed. The story, however, was quite good.
    ~Cie the Ornery Old Lady from Team Netherworld~

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  • 17 April, 2020 at 3:11 am
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    This was a great take on the prompt! I don’t tend to be superstitious, but if I were them, I’d be thinking the same thing. I feel bad for the person who ends up purchasing that vase.

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  • 17 April, 2020 at 4:43 pm
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    That was fun. It kind of reminds me of some of the legends about bad luck coming to people who take rocks, stones, and petrified logs out of state parks. If its not in the gift shop it’s not a souvenir. Glad they finally figured it out.

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  • 18 April, 2020 at 6:29 am
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    Ha! That’s great. Cursed object. At least they figured out what it was.

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  • 18 April, 2020 at 9:08 am
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    Oh Jemima…. The cursed vase! Very engaging. Sometimes some things are just ominous. No reason but just ominous. Enjoyed your take.

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  • 18 April, 2020 at 6:20 pm
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    A distinctive take on the prompt, that captures the phrase “All that glitters is not gold,” in a rather ominous manner. Well done.

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  • 20 April, 2020 at 7:07 am
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    Great story and I love the idea of leaving it at the motorway services. I hope that’s the end of all their troubles.

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  • 22 April, 2020 at 12:55 am
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    A smelly pot, that made me chuckle, Jemima, even if I was unaware of what he’d found. You caught the characters of Elsie and Tom in their exchange. The vase wants to stay it seems. I was screaming ‘take it back’even before the corked wine. Not sure it was cursed or wanted to be left alone – or returned where it belonged. Well, I’m not going into those woods. Amusingly disturbing piece. Thanks for an entertaining tale.

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  • 22 April, 2020 at 8:44 am
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    Wonderful Jemima. Such fun and a little eerie too. Maybe it was a message for them to stay in the cottage, or at least in that Barbour town. Who knows, maybe it was time for them to turn their life about…. the future will tell.
    Have an inspiring Spring. Take care. Would love to hear about your first solo trip to Greece too.

    Reply
  • 22 April, 2020 at 9:59 pm
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    Ooh, brilliant. The perfect mix of fun and spooky. It’s interesting how the badge inspired you. Until you mentioned it, I hadn’t even noticed the image in the background.

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  • 4 May, 2020 at 1:34 pm
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    Yep, trust Tom and Elsie and leave the vase where it is. And be careful what beach finds you bring home in future!

    Reply

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