Memories

About Forums Den of Writers Critiques Memories

Viewing 19 posts - 1 through 19 (of 19 total)
  • Author
    Posts
  • #911
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Here’s a nasty little story I have been playing around with for fun. Have at it, critics!

    Memories

    Two tall men wearing overcoats followed the nurse down the corridor towards Room 19.
    “Florence can be a bit slow some days but most of the time she’s surprisingly bright. She was quite perky earlier so she should be able to answer your questions. She’ll tire quickly, though, remember she’s over ninety.”
    “Thank you, we’ll bear that in mind” said one of the men.
    The nurse knocked and opened the door. A woman was sitting hunched in an armchair placed next to a made bed, gazing at a television set bolted high on the opposite wall.
    “Guests for you, Florence.” Then to the men, “I’ll leave you to it.”
    There were two chairs against the wall under the television set and the woman indicated her guests should sit there. She lowered the volume but didn’t switch off the set.
    “Florence Watson?” A nod. “I’m Inspector Monroe of the Metropolitan Police Force and this is Inspector Duval of the Police Nationale, the French police. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
    “What about?” A surprisingly clear, strong voice.
    “You were in France in 1954, with the British army, is that correct?” asked Inspector Monroe.
    **
    Florence had been a surgeon in the Medical Corp deployed to Paris after the war. With a three day pass she’d joined colleagues on an excursion to the Belgium border area but after the first day she’d become bored and bid her companions au revoire and set off back to Paris. Looking for lunch prior to catching her train she’d come upon a restaurant. It wasn’t the finest restaurant in France by a very long way but it would do and, besides, it was walking distance to the train station. Inside it all looked a bit shabby, its best years behind it. But it was to become the start of a delicious adventure so she would forgive it its shortcomings whenever she thought about it later.
    He’d intervened while she was trying to order lunch in her appalling French.
    “What language are you trying to speak, mademoiselle, if I may ask?”
    “Cantonese” she replied with a smile. “Would you care to help me, make sure I don’t order pig’s testicles or something?”
    He moved to her table, said his name was Robert and she thought him perfect. His English was nearly faultless and during the meal they made jokey small talk and discovered they were both leaving for Paris on the late afternoon train. Parfait, she thought.
    “Well, seeing as our first date’s going so well, how about dinner tonight in Paris?” he said.
    “I don’t see why not, I have no plans for tonight.”
    “Bon, but there is one condition.”
    “Anything.”
    “Don’t wear that uniform. I’d love to see you in a pretty dress.”
    “As you wish.”
    **
    Florence had her raincoat collar turned up, a cigarette cupped in her hand to keep it dry and she was not happy. He was late. This was the right place, she was certain of that – corner of rue de bloody something and rue de bloody something else – but she knew she’d got it right. Damn men, she thought, they are so full of themselves, they think they can leave a lady waiting in the rain and there’ll be no consequences. There are always consequences, Robert, my boy.
    He hurried towards her, umbrella aloft. “My god, I’m so sorry, I got involved in something and didn’t realize the time. Can you forgive me?”
    “I’m cold and wet and very disenchanted. You could at least have given me the name of the restaurant and I could have met you there.”
    “Sorry, sorry, so stupid of me. It’s just down here, come on.”
    In the lobby of the restaurant he continued his apologies and pleas for forgiveness.
    “Whether or not I forgive you will depend entirely upon how the evening unfolds. You’d better make it good.” A seductive smile softened the rebuke.
    The dinner and the restaurant were excellent. A simple cassoulet in a small smoky den with brick walls and a trio playing blues and jazz. Later, as they sipped brandy with their coffee he suggested, as she knew he would, they go back to his place for a nightcap. She teased him a while and then agreed, with a look that said she knew precisely what he thought might follow the nightcap.
    He lived in a small apartment on the second floor of a block off Rue Foyatier in Montmartre, a short walk from the restaurant. In the kitchen they chatted; Robert was fussing with drinks and Florence was fiddling with a set of knives stored in a wooden block on the counter.
    “Voila!” He held a glass in each hand which rendered him helpless to defend himself when Florence drove the paring knife into his groin. And that was the start of a night of exquisite pleasure for Florence. Gagged and bound, Robert did not find the leisurely vivisection pleasurable at all. Death came as a considerable relief.
    **
    “Yes, Inspector, I’m sure you are fully aware I was a surgeon with the Medical Corp at that time.”
    “Do you remember a Robert Evra?” asked Inspector Monroe.
    “How could I forget him. He was my first.” A crooked smile, a flash of something in eyes as bright as buttons.
    “Your first what?”
    “You know very well, or you wouldn’t be here. I’ve been expecting you for many, many years. You’re rather late. After all, DNA profiling has been with us for more than thirty years. I keep up to date on these things.”
    The two men glanced at each other, then the French officer said,
    “What can you tell us about him, Robert Evra, your time with him?”
    “I was on three days leave, sightseeing in the northeast, and was returning to Paris. I met him in a rather bad railway restaurant between Brussels and Paris. That chance meeting made up for what had been until then a very boring weekend.” The smile again. “I suppose you’ll want to hear about the others in due course. I’m quite looking forward to that. Memories are so wonderful.”

    #923
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    I thought this very well written, John; nicely constructed, with the flashback. I kept wanting to read on. The only suggestion I would make is in the ending. “He was my first” is good because you immediately think she means her first time with a man, but quickly we see that’s not what she meant – which gives away the ending too soon. Much as I like the “He was my first” I would drop that line so that the first we know that there were others comes right at the end.

    Write on, John.

    #925
    Tony Lyttle
    Participant

    Oh – and it might be good if there was a veiled hint of what was to come, earlier on. I mean heavily veiled, so that its true meaning would only be realised after reading to the end. Just a thought.

    #936
    Elle
    Participant

    Hi John, I enjoyed the story and the twist.I agree it is well written and I enjoyed the little touches of dark humour. Personally I would have left the end at “he was my first.” and add something about memories to keep the ambiguity of the statement.

    Also I wanted to get a bit more in Florence’s motivations or maybe not motivation but some kind of foreshadowing. Why was he her first? What prompted her to stab him? Was it premeditated or impulsive?

    The opening of the 2nd paragraph is a bit telling and I was wondering whether you could show a bit more and also the word is “au revoir” not “au revoire” (I knew that French mother tongue will come in handy some day!)

    Weird question but was that for the Fictive Dream September slam?

    I hope this helps!

    #952
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Thanks Tony, good points, noted.
    Thanks, Elle. I guess my spell checker doesn’t speak French! Good points. I think I have a tendency to over-explain or I would have ended it at “He was my first”. Need to trust the reader more. The telly paragraph is a bit of a cop out – I’ll need to rewrite it.

    I can’t remember what the original prompt was, but I put it away after the first draft and have just gone back to it.

    Thank you both for taking the time to critique the piece.

    #963
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Taking on board the comments so far, here’s an edited version, with a title change.

    The First Time
    Two men wearing overcoats followed the nurse down the corridor.
    “Florence has quite perked up since you arranged this visit so she should be able to answer your questions. She’ll tire quickly, though, remember she’s over ninety.”
    “Thank you, we’ll bear that in mind” said one of the men.
    The nurse knocked and opened the door. A woman was sitting hunched in an armchair placed next to a made bed, gazing at a television set bolted high on the opposite wall.
    “Your guests, Florence.” Then to the men, “I’ll leave you to it.”
    There were two chairs against the wall under the television set and the woman indicated her guests should sit there. She lowered the volume but didn’t switch off the set.
    “Florence Watson?” A nod. “I’m Inspector Monroe of the Metropolitan Police Force and this is Inspector Duval of the Police Nationale, the French police. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”
    “What about?” A surprisingly clear, strong voice. A hint of mischief.
    “You were in France in 1954, with the British army, is that correct?” asked Inspector Monroe.
    **
    Tramping along country lanes in the rain with a group of colleagues from the military hospital soon lost its attraction and Florence said au revoir and set off back to Paris. Looking for lunch prior to catching her train she came upon a restaurant near the station. Inside it all looked a bit shabby, its best years behind it, but it was to become the start of a delicious adventure and she would forgive it its shortcomings whenever she thought about it later.
    He’d intervened while she was trying to order lunch in her appalling French.
    “What language are you trying to speak, mademoiselle, if I may ask?”
    “Cantonese” she replied with a smile. “Would you care to help me, make sure I don’t order pig’s testicles or something?”
    He moved to her table, said his name was Robert and she thought he’d be perfect. His English was nearly faultless and during the meal they made jokey small talk and discovered they were both leaving for Paris on the late afternoon train. Parfait, she thought.
    “Well, seeing as our first date’s going so well, how about dinner tonight in Paris?” he said.
    “I don’t see why not, I have no plans for tonight.”
    “Bon, but there is one condition.”
    “Anything.”
    “Don’t wear that uniform. I’d love to see you in a pretty dress.”
    “As you wish.”
    **
    Florence had her raincoat collar turned up, a cigarette cupped in her hand to keep it dry and she was not happy. He was late. This was the right place, she was certain of that – corner of rue de bloody something and rue de bloody something else – but she knew she’d got it right. Damn men, she thought, they are so full of themselves, they think they can leave a lady waiting in the rain and there’ll be no consequences. There are always consequences, Robert, my boy.
    He hurried towards her, umbrella aloft. “My god, I’m so sorry, I got involved in something and didn’t realize the time. Can you forgive me?”
    “I’m cold and wet and very disenchanted. You have a lot of work to do to earn forgiveness.” A smile softened the rebuke.
    “Sorry, sorry, so stupid of me. It’s just down here, come on.”
    The dinner and the restaurant were excellent. A simple cassoulet in a small smoky den with brick walls and a trio playing blues and jazz. Later, as they sipped brandy with their coffee he suggested they go back to his place for a nightcap. She teased him a while and then agreed, with a look that said she knew precisely what he thought might follow the nightcap.
    He lived in a small apartment on the second floor of a block off Rue Foyatier in Montmartre, a short walk from the restaurant. In the kitchen they chatted; Robert was fussing with drinks and Florence was fiddling with a set of knives stored in a wooden block on the counter.
    “Voila!” He held a glass in each hand which rendered him helpless to defend himself when Florence drove the paring knife into his groin. And that was the start of a night of exquisite pleasure for Florence. Gagged and bound, Robert did not find the leisurely vivisection pleasurable at all. Death came as a considerable relief.
    **
    “Yes, Inspector, I’m sure you are fully aware I was a surgeon with the Medical Corp at that time.”
    “Do you remember a Robert Evra?” asked Inspector Monroe.
    A crooked smile, a flash of something in eyes as bright as buttons, “How could I forget him. He was my first.”

    #1052
    Elle
    Participant

    This reads better and I like that ending much better. One thing I think it’s missing at least for me are smell, colours, touch, little details that makes a scene come alive and differentiate it from other stories. For example, the smells in the nursing home, or when you said the restaurant was shabby, how was it shabby are we talking mismatched furniture, wooden chairs with peeling yellow paint, what does Florence remember about Robert what little details did she cling to, the blue silk pocket square that she kept, crumbs of bread stuck in his moustache, etc…

    I hope this helps.

    #1054
    John S Alty
    Participant

    You mean the coppery tang of blood as her scalpel slices through pale flesh?! Just kidding. I know what you mean, Laure, I need to work on the atmosphere.
    I hope this exercise is helping others to get a grasp of what makes a story work – join in everyone.

    #1070
    Squidge
    Participant

    Like it. You mentioned ‘telly’ bits – as in telling, rather than showing. So when we first meet Florence, you tell us ‘a woman was sitting in a chair’ – a simple change like ‘a woman sat in a chair, eyes on the tv’ can make it less so. Similarly, towards the end, ‘He held a glass in each hand which…’could become something like ‘The glasses in his hands rendered him…’ shows us why he can’t defend himself rather than telling us.
    And yes, I’m with Laure in that adding something about what Florence remembers of the detail of the attack can bring it to life even more. It doesn’t necessarily need to be gory, but things you wouldn’t think someone would notice when they’re committing murder.
    This story definitely has legs – now to make it run!! 😉

    #1074
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Thank you Squidge,I appreciate the input. Food for thought.

    #1153
    Raine
    Participant

    This is brilliant, John. So much the opposite of where I expected it to go at the opening! I love her poise with the police – it adds such an element of shiver-factor.

    I agree with others that a light dusting of other sensory details would help make the thing more potent, but I like the easy, matter of fact voice so don’t lose that.

    One thing that stuck out for me was the speaking Cantonese – perhaps the restaurant needs flagging as CHinese, or perhaps doesn’t need to be Chinese at all as she may well not be fluent in French?

    THe other thing that occurred to was her heading off from her military posting – she’d need official leave, (and a pass to go to Paris, I think?). But also, she’s a surgeon, so perhaps you could use that bit to foreshadow very, veyr slightly. Some ref to loving her job, or being bored of simply amputating limbs, I don’t know. Maybe. It wouldn’t really mean anything till the reveal, but I think it would be sneakily sinister.

    THis is a great wee piece though – I’d have a look for homes for it. Occulum do dark flash things I think?

    #1156
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Thanks Lorraine. To some extent you’re reading my mind! I’ve changed the opening, she’s on a three day pass, we’re down to one policeman, added sensory bits, edited, edited. Your comments are very helpful. I think I might just put it on my website.

    #1378
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Only just got to this. Great stuff. Works by itself or could be part of something longer. I had a couple of comments and then I realised there was an updated version that had addressed them. Great voice, and I love Florence’s, ahem, sangfroid and acerbic wit.

    Tiny editing thing – Medical Corps rather than Corp.

    #1379
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Thanks, Daeds. It’s been an interesting exercise.

    #1557
    John S Alty
    Participant

    Thanks everyone who contributed. A name change from Florence to Felicity, to avoid confusion with a hurricane of that name, a couple more edits and it was picked up by Across The Margin. Should be out in the next week or so. Now titled Felicity’s First.

    #1559
    Daedalus
    Participant

    Brilliant, well done John. Please put a link in the Podium when it’s published? You’re on a bit of a roll, there

    #1560
    Elle
    Participant

    Brilliant, congratulations!

    #1581
    Newbie
    Participant

    Well done, John. I enjoyed reading it but didn’t comment as things I wanted to say were already dealt with.

    #1742
    StellaOlivetti
    Participant

    Yay! Well done, John. I did really find this horrible (in a good way). The only thing that jumped out at me (in a bad way) was the use of “seductive” to describe her smile, but that had gone anyway by the second edit.

    Stella

Viewing 19 posts - 1 through 19 (of 19 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.