Living in the Aftermath

Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

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

“there is nothing behind the wall
except a space where the wind whistles”
from “Drawings By Children” by Lisel Mueller

I thought I’d go back to the spies—a different couple, I think–and Hopper.

Loneliness of the Night Hawk

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Edward Hopper, Nighthawks, 1942

 

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.

 

 

The Sequel: Summer Stock

New_york_restaurant_by_edward_hopper

Edward Hopper, New York Restaurant

 

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.

 

 

Imperturbable

 

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Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

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.”

Without intending to, I wrote a companion piece to another prosery piece I wrote—and also illustrated with a Hopper painting.

 

Secrets

New_york_restaurant_by_edward_hopper

Edward Hopper, New York Restaurant

 

“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.

 

This is my flash fiction “prosery” piece for my prompt today on dVerse. Our pieces cannot be longer than 144 words. Mine is exactly 144 words. The first line comes from a poem by Jane Hirshfield.