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.
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.”
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.”
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
Tomorrow, after parachuting into France, we may never see each other again. My nights will carry a new loneliness, of being someone else, Night Hawk. Already, I look different. My mouth is unfamiliar with my American dental work removed. I own only carefully mended French-made clothing and shoes. We risk our lives to save others–and we carry suicide pills to take if we’re caught. I must learn to dream in French.
Last night, we finally gave in to desire. Swooping in like raptors, we grabbed and held each other. Last night our kisses and caresses expressed what there are no words for—that when it is over, said and done, it was a time. And there was never enough of it. Someday, perhaps. For now, our memories, like this letter, must be tucked away in a locked drawer, and kept for the future.
I’m continuing with my spy and Edward Hopper collaboration for the dVerse Prosery Prompt that I’m hosting.We’re using the line I have italicized from Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s, “A Time.” Come join us, if you’re so inclined, for a bit of flash fiction, no longer than 144 words.
Perhaps the story did not end with the slam of a door and a parting of ways. Certainly–as with that other famous play–the audience thought that was that. They discussed the denouement. Then, they exited the theater and quickly forgot about it.
But stories always go on, even if we can’t see behind the curtain; even if what passes for drama is mundane or boring and closer to farce. Three kids in six years for him and a move to the suburbs (but not too far away); a steady corporate rise for her.
They connected again on social media. She saw photos of his children playing in their grandfather’s dentist office. There were not many shots of him and his wife together. He saw her photographed at business functions and vacationing in exotic locales. No steady partner in sight.
“I’m in New York for a conference. Do you want to get a drink and catch up?” He messaged her.
The audience thought, this time they will marry. And they did, moving back to their hometown, where he could be close to his children.
But they couldn’t go back to their old roles. Their characters had moved on from ingenue and young hero. Within three months, there were more slammed doors. And when she was offered a new job in another city, she took it and left.
A bit of flash fiction. Claudia McGill challenged me to write a sequel to her story-poem. Yeah, so the sequel is longer than the first part. 😏 Read hers first here.
I follow the instructions exactly. At the automat I get a cup of coffee and sit at an empty table. My pulse is racing, but I appear calm. Like everyone else, I look weary; my once fashionable coat discreetly mended.
A young man in a nondescript suit sits at a nearby table. As he turns the pages of his newspaper, he mentions the rainy weather. I reply with the code phrase. We sit for a while, sipping our coffee, each of us seemingly lost in thought. Then the man puts his coat on–leaving the newspaper on the table–and starts walking toward the door. I stand up, and as I pass his table, I pick it up.
We both exit. We go in different directions down the imperturbable street. It’s difficult to believe there’s a war going on.
This is bit of flash fiction for my prosery prompt for dVerse. The prompt line that must be incorporated is “We go in different directions down the imperturbable street,” from Gwendolyn Brooks, An Aspect of Love, Alive in the Ice and Fire.”
“I don’t know why I was surprised every time love started or ended.” Perhaps I wasn’t, not really. Not in those days. I was like the wind blowing in and out of places, and love followed—a gentle breeze or a gale—either way it was here and gone. Until Joe.
We both had worked as codebreakers. All that’s history now, of course, but even now, I can’t give you any details. Enemies remain—secrets, too. I didn’t even notice him at first.
Then one day, I glanced up as he was consulting with a colleague. He looked at me and nodded. I nodded back. Without a word, we had an understanding. Later, we met for coffee…
It’s been thirty years. He brings me coffee every morning. I’m surprised if he doesn’t spill a drop or two. But that will be our little secret.