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.”
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
In their dreams, they sleep with the moon, though I don’t think they remember it– the moon. Kirsten says she does, but she was only three when we left. Still, it’s become our bedtime ritual to say good night to things, even if she and Lilly are too old for picture books. We have no telephones or red balloons–or kittens and mittens, for that matter. I hold on to my tattered copy of Good Night Moon—print books are rare and treasured, this one especially so because I remember Jonas reading it to the girls. They and I managed to escape on the last ship from Earth. We’ll never see it or the Moon again. We’ll never see you again. Good night, moon; good night, my love. I’ve become the old woman whispering, “hush,” but in my dreams, I sleep with you.
I’m hosting dVerse today for Prosery Monday. For this prompt, everyone must use the line “In their dreams they sleep with the moon.” It’s from Mary Oliver’s, “Death at Wind River.”Good Night Moon is a popular picture book. My husband and I had it memorized at one point. **Also, a reminder that Thursday’s dVerse will be a live event.
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.
“NASA plans to grow food on future spacecraft and on other planets as a food supplement for astronauts. Fresh food, such as vegetables, provide essential vitamins and nutrients that will help enable sustainable deep space pioneering.” NASA
Here, a red moon rides on the humps of the low river hills. It’s always a red moon, always low in the sky. The rivers do flow, but the water is. . .different. There’s no blue sky, fluffy white, cotton ball clouds, or golden, blushing dawn. Perhaps it’s some consolation that we can see a million stars–shimmering, sparkling jewels, in constellations that are becoming familiar to me now. I’ve started to name them—that one that looks like a dog, Dorcas for my old hound. And that one—just above? I’ve named it Peter Rabbit.
I see it from the greenhouse, rising over the salad greens. Slowly, we’re putting down roots. My baby will be born soon. I’ll name her Sylvia for my mom. We will make our garden grow, and perhaps she will plant a forest for this new Eden.
A bit of flash fiction for Prosery Monday. Lillian has selected two lines from Carl Sandburg’s “Jazz Fantasia.” I chose the line above in italics. My poem has nothing to do with his evocative poem. It’s actually a sort of sequel to an earlier prosery piece I wrote, which you can read here, if you’re so inclined. My mom’s name really was Sylvia, and she didn’t garden, but she loved gardens. For some reason, this song from Leonard Bernstein’s Candidepopped into my head while I was writing. It always makes me cry.
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.”