Narcissus is the final prompt in the Year of Art inspiration from Write Edit Publish Now. It’s been a fascinating year, some of the paintings I loved, some I couldn’t get my head around, but the creativity of my companion authors has been astounding.

narcissus WEP

This is how the WEP leaders described the prompt:

This one depicts a classic subject by an Italian Master and needs no introduction. Narcissus is a well-known character from Greek mythology – his story has been repurposed and retold all through the ages. Caravaggio was one of the prime movers of the Italian art scene of the 16th/17th century, and a good few of his artworks are based on the classics. He was a controversial figure in his lifetime but has come to be recognized as an artist with far-reaching influence on modern painting. He was a master of chiaroscuro and developed the use of shadows in art.

This particular painting can be interpreted in many ways – will you update Narcissus’ story to fit a modern timeline?

Or retell it from a different angle/POV,  perhaps a Narcissa instead?

Explore the mental disorder that is known after Narcissus and its impact on caregivers/physicians/family?

Or perhaps go in a different direction entirely – make Narcissus quite incidental to the story – maybe the painting is only a prop in the setting?

Remember, there is no right or wrong interpretation. You can make the prompt front and center of your entry. Or not. Totally your call. Think out of the box, or rather, frame – and delight us with yours.

I decided to go in a different direction. This turned out at just under 600 words. A little taste of life in my part of the world, maybe.

The Scent of Narcissus

Winter.

Dark, dreary, cold. 

Rain splashing under her feet as she walks through sodden leaves, swept into sludgy piles by the tail end of the latest storm.

People dashing about spending more money than they can afford on things for their children. Things that would be broken or forgotten by New Year, and end up as just so much more landfill. The consumer society gone mad.

And perhaps we are going even more mad, struggling with these on-off-on Covid restrictions.

Who can make plans when the framework you’re making them in can be changed almost at random?

A friend planning to spend her first Christmas with her husband’s family in Spain. Stuck between the risk of thousands of pounds spent on quarantine when she returns, and the disappointment and possible recriminations if she cancels now. Or even being stuck in Spain if they change their rules while she was there. It happened the first time round. It can happen again.

The lights of the pharmacy. Her world reduced to the streets around her, walks to the local shops, deliveries from the supermarkets, and cheery postal workers. She’s lucky with her postie. Must get him a Christmas box—bottle-shaped.

She picks up her prescription, and that for her neighbour. Signs for the neighbour’s and produces ID. She just gives her name and address for her own. Strange mix of security, really. Nothing makes sense in this world any more.

She pauses at the florist’s shop. Should she splash out on a Christmas wreath? Maybe not. She can dress up her old one, put fresh greenery in it, maybe some heather and holly berries, if the blackbirds haven’t had them all already.

She shrugs her collar up round her ears and pulls her woolly hat down on her forehead. The rain has turned to sleet again, and her nose is cold. Nose-warmer. Mask.

She pulls the mask back out of her pocket and puts it on. It may be a nuisance to talk through at the pharmacy, but it’s the law. Wear masks when shopping. It does help her cold nose, but at the same time the damp from her breath moistens, warms, and then cools the fabric. And she can’t smell the florist’s shop any more.

Is this what it’s about? Loss of taste and smell brought about by Covid or by mask-wearing?

She trudges home, thinking about spring, and warm days, and birds singing.

As she reaches her street, the rain lets up, and the cloud gives way to a deep blue sky in the west, the sun already set, but the stars not yet out. Except—low down, a bright one: Venus, probably, or maybe Jupiter.

She removes her mask and breathes in the cleaned air. A hint of birdsong—yes, a robin sits at the corner of her roof, singing almost under his breath, suggesting it won’t be long before he starts courting the other robin who’s been at the feeding station. A scent from the winter jasmine, and something else…

A delivery by her door, safely out of sight of casual passersby. Flowers.

Image by NaoYuasa from Pixabay

She picks them up and steps inside, folding back the paper to release the burst of perfume as the flowers meet the warm air.

She smiles.

Narcissus.

He remembered.

He remembered her.

‘Merry Christmas sweetheart, even though I can’t be with you. We’ll be together again when this passes.’

The scent of narcissus fills the house for the next few days, till Christmas is over, and a new year can begin.


I hope you have a restful and restorative festive season, and that the new year brings you fresh ideas, new hope, and plenty of writing inspirations.

And if you’re in need of some more reading matter, please look back at Giftmas, a multiple-author story I was involved with. It starts at Rhonda Parrish’s blog, and you can click onwards from there.

Giftmas 2021

The Scent of Narcissus | Flash Fiction #WEPFF
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18 thoughts on “The Scent of Narcissus | Flash Fiction #WEPFF

  • 15 December, 2021 at 1:02 am
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    How nice to read something uplifting for a change. Something hopeful. There are so many gloomy stories for this prompt.

    Reply
  • 15 December, 2021 at 1:13 am
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    Love the ending – we all need those moments on a dull and dreary day!
    Wishing you all the best for 2022!

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 1:24 am
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    That is a lovely, descriptive story, Jemima. 🙂 The flowers offer a bright spot in this otherwise dreary COVID existence. Best wishes for a Happy Holiday season and a better New Year for all of us! 🥂

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 3:34 am
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    Lovely to have the flowers, rather than the psychological disorder! You really painted the scene of wintertime streets, too. Funny, though–I don’t feel the on and off of the mask orders, because honestly, I’ve never stopped wearing mine in stores and the like. Totally agree about the breath making it soggy, though!

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 5:48 am
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    This is beautiful. Bright and hopeful in the midst of day days and times. I welcome Narcissus each and ever year – and plant them by the hundred.

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 9:10 am
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    Hi Jemima – yes my Cornish genes come out at this time of year … and I’ve started sending narcissi from the Scilly Isles to my brother, SIL and her sister for the Christmas season each year – love it when I visit. Delightful story – and how wonderful getting fresh perfumed narcissi … lovely – have a peaceful and happy time … cheers Hilary

    Reply
  • 15 December, 2021 at 9:41 am
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    This is lovely, and I can almost smell the florist shop and the flowers delivered home. Sad, bewildering, but in the end uplifting. (Shannon @thewarriormuse dot com).

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 9:01 pm
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    So many nice touches in your flash, Jemima. I wasn’t sure where it was going, but the ending was perfect. A good description of modern times and the drudgery at times of living with Covid. Love your use of the senses, smell especially. Nice segue from the florist shop into the flower at the end. Great story for this time of year.

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 9:37 pm
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    Your piece addresses so many of the anxieties that we’ve all been dealing with throughout the pandemic in a thoughtful way. The sweet ending was also uplifting and left me smiling.

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  • 15 December, 2021 at 10:50 pm
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    I love this story. You captured the essence of her life well and gave us a pleasant surprise at the end.
    Nancy

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  • 16 December, 2021 at 3:24 pm
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    Happy holidays to you as well, Jemima! Tension, release, tension, release…seems to be our way of lives these days. The lovely ending definitely helps put things into some perspective. We all need hope and flowers.

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  • 17 December, 2021 at 1:17 am
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    A day in the life… Oh yeah, I can relate. Well done, This is the kind of writing I need to practice, and practice, and practice. Love it!

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  • 17 December, 2021 at 10:50 am
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    The scent of narcissus fills the house for the next few days, till Christmas is over, and a new year can begin.
    So much hope and positivity in that ending line – loved it. A gentle, heartwarming, uplifting flash about living in covid times. Much enjoyed the descriptions and imagery – very engaging. Well done!

    Reply
  • 18 December, 2021 at 6:04 am
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    I loved the thousand little details which you captured in this flash piece. A positive and uplifting story which is needed amidst the Covid-induced doom and gloom. The perfect ending too!

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  • 18 December, 2021 at 6:21 pm
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    I forgot to give this a tagline! Sorry!
    How about just…

    Life in the world of Covid.

    Reply
  • 29 December, 2021 at 12:46 pm
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    Wonderfully descriptive post. I felt I was her but wondered at her pessimism and it was such a delight to see how the mood changed and lifted with the surprise gift. Flowers tend to do that, don’t they? Lovely story.

    Reply

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