Do we ever truly get over such events? War, death, destruction—the thousands of ways humans hurt each other and the Earth? As Nighthawk I had to be cool and calm. It wasn’t only my life at risk, but the lives of many others, too. I had to be calm when the man with shiny black boots and a cruel face entered the restaurant. I had to keep my face blank when the officious manager met with him, and then declared, “So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.” Calmly, I smiled at our oppressors, poured drinks, and served food while residents starved. Calmly, I plotted to destroy them–until the night you didn’t show up.
I still have nightmares.
Prosery for Ingrid’s prompt at dVerse, using the line “So if all do their duty, they need not fear harm” from William Blake’s The Chimney Sweeper. This is a continuation of my non-linear spy tale.
Is it realistic to believe I can think like Nighthawk again? The war is over, and I’m a different person now. I stare at my reflection in the river–it’s me, but these clouds are clearly foreign. Such an exotic clutter against the blue cloth of the sky doesn’t happen anywhere else. I’ve tried to forget the beauty, along with the horror.
But the memory of that day insists on surfacing. That day–when the sun shone in the azure sky dotted with cotton balls, and sunflowers reached up for honeyed streams of golden light. We made love and scraped together some scraps for a meager meal. We thought it a feast, washed down with some local wine we had found in the shed. Oh, Paul! If only we had had more days like that. If only that safe house had truly been safe.
I’m continuing with my story of wartime spies for dVerse, where I’m hosting Prosery today. I should mention that anyone can participate in any dVerse prompt, as long as you can post a link in the Linky. This Thursday will be Open Link Night–live.
The lines I’ve selected for today’s prompt: “But these clouds are clearly foreign, such an exotic clutter Against the blue cloth of the sky” –from “Clouds” by Constance Urdang
So, she’s become Night Hawk again. It’s scary how easily she’s slipped back into the role, an act of survival once. But she’d not been acting with Paul.
Yet, despite her skilled spy-craft, every trace of him seemed to have vanished like raindrops in arid ground. And what would she do if she discovered he had betrayed her? What would she do if she found anyone who had?
She considered Rachel, a survivor she’d met in Maine after the war. They’d become good friends, and though Rachel seemed content in the small fishing village, Julia knew she was tormented by night-terrors. She remembered when Rachel said: “No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. . .for when I meet one of those bastards again.”
But what would Night Hawk do? Julia’s not certain at all.
Continuing with my spy saga for dVerse and Lisa’s Prosery Prompt using this line by Zora Neale Hurston: “No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.” from “How Does it Feel to be Colored Me” in World Tomorrow (1928)
As Julia shook herself from those bleak memories of occupied Paris, she considered what she knew. Not much. Maybe it had been a crazy idea to return to France, but there was no paper trail—only memories to guide her.
Think. What is crucial to finding the way? Is this? “There is no beginning or end to the story—time circles,” an old woman with jade green eyes in a war-weathered face had told her. She was one of thousands of refugees streaming back into post-war Paris.
Julia sighs. What is she missing? She needs the one puzzle piece that will let her see the entire picture. And somehow Paul, and her relationship with him is the key.
If there is no beginning or end, she needs to work from the middle. She needs to become Night Hawk again.
Perhaps this one doesn’t work as flash fiction, but. . .more on my non-linear make-it-up-as-I-go spy story. This is for Prosery on dVerse, where I’m hosting today using the line: “Crucial to finding the way is this: there is no beginning or end.” From Jo Harjo’s “A Map to the Next World.”
In her memory of that time—the war, the occupation–every day was bleak and dismal, as if filmed through a grey filter. Most everyone looked pale and gaunt. She dressed in layers of threadbare clothing—and ate what scraps she could obtain. Her thin face seemed all eyes, but she thought, “only mouths are we.”
Who sings? The distant heart, which safely exists in the center of all things? Perhaps, but the mouths she knew then were hungry and crying for food, not singing. It wasn’t only the winter gloom; it was also a darkness of the soul. She kept her mouth closed, so that she wouldn’t reveal any secrets–and so that she wouldn’t scream.
But what about Paul? Had his mouth also stayed closed? She needed to know her sacrifices—and love– had meant something. She needed to find him now. (144 Words)
Another installment in my occasional and non-linear spy series for today’s dVerse Prosery prompt. Sanaa has chosen quite a difficult couple of lines for her Prosery prompt!
Sometimes the past seems more real than the present. We float on tributaries of seconds, minutes, and years—merging in the river of time. Do we choose the course we take, or do we simply follow the currents?
Could I have chosen differently? Could you have?
Our brief time together was fueled by danger, not dances or riverside picnics–I still hear jackboots in my nightmares. I don’t even know if you’re alive. But I’ve always preferred knowing even the hardest truths, and I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being. I will keep looking for you, Paul. I still miss you, as though a piece of my core has been lost—despite the possibilities.
Did you betray me?
I look down at the Seine, but it gives me no answers. It reflects only the present.
Another episode of my spy story for dVerse , where I am hosting Prosery Monday, prose of no more than 144 words that includes a line from a poem chosen by the dVerse host. The verse I chose for everyone was an unintended challenge.
“I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility that existence has its own reason for being.” — Wisława Szymborska, “Possibilities”
Am I really on my way to Paris? My mind drifts and tumbles like the clouds outside the plane’s window. I think back—when I met Paul (as he was called then) that first time in the woods. I hadn’t slept much the night before. I couldn’t stop thinking of the bombs and the flames—London burning; my family gone. I wanted the cool peace of the ancient forest that surrounded our training area. I heard his steps and turned quickly. My instructors would have been proud of my instinctual fighting stance. “I saw you leave,” he said, “I was worried about you.” I said, “Do you know Yeats? ‘I went out to the hazel wood because a fire was in my head.’” He smiled, and as I looked into his grey-blue eyes, I knew I was smitten–and I knew it was dangerous.
Back to my Prosery spies, but no Hopper this time. This is for dVerse, where Kim asks us to use this line from W.B. Yeats’ “Song of Wandering Aengus.” ‘I went out to the hazel wood, Because a fire was in my head’. I love this poem, and it is such a well-known line. I first incorporated it directly into the prose, but it just didn’t seem right. So, I hope this is not cheating, but this seemed much better to me. Also, in my head, I always hear this line sung because I knew Judy Collins’ song version before I knew the poem. Kim shares a Christy Moore’s version.
I’m weary, and sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy. The secrets that fill them are an extra weight I carry with me always. In the terror of those times, they were a fuel I swallowed eagerly, and they kept me alive then. How could I know that they would stay within, bricks cemented to my core?
We all had secrets. We were chameleons. Pierre/Paul/Hans—he had so many names. Were any of them real? Where are you? I’ve wondered for over a decade now. Oh, there have been rumors—he was sighted in Moscow, in Buenos Aires, in Singapore—but none of them have checked-out.
Yet, I can’t rest. I’m comfortable here in Maine, living on the pension from the job I’m not allowed to talk about. But I’m going back to France. I have one final lead to follow.
I’ve returned to my spies and Hopper for Linda’s prosery prompt at dVerse. She asks us to use the line: “Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,” from Mary Oliver’s “Spring Azures.”
When Pierre finally arrived at the safe house, it was empty. A chair by the table was overturned, a broken plate lay on the floor. Nothing else seemed disturbed. Below the loose fireplace brick, he found some money and a letter.
My love! Where are you? I sense danger snapping at my heels–I fear I’ll never see you again. But– reading what I have just written, I now believe—I MUST believe—we’ll see each again—soon!
Remember our woods, the spring—no one can take away those memories.
All my love forever,
What have I done? he thought, as he shoved the note into his pocket. Grabbing a stale bit of bread he found in a cupboard, he filled his flask and left—not knowing where he was headed, only hoping it was towards her—and not too late.
Back to my spies for a bit of prosery flash for dVerse. Lillian is hosting and asks us to use this line:
“Reading what I have just written, I now believe” from Louise Gluck’s “Afterward.”
The war has been over for five years, but still she watches for him. She can see him as he was–in threadbare clothes like everyone–but somehow elegant. As her cigarette burns untouched, along with the food on her plate, she thinks about their last meeting and his promise to meet her at the safehouse.
She sat inside it for hours, as the day darkened to dusk, then thinking she heard a sound—she remembers it so well–walking outside to find there is nothing behind the wall except a space where the wind whistles. And then the soldiers came. Had Pierre betrayed her? Is he living a life with another name now? How many names has he had?
She has survived, but she’s only half alive. She sits at the table in the dreary café till closing. Then goes home alone.
This is for dVerse, where I’m hosting Prosery today, using