Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge: Under the lychgate

1024px-antos_frolka_auf_dem_weg_zur_kirche

Painting by Antos Frolka


 

My hands shiver under my furs and though the wind cuts across the brown meadow, I know it’s not the cold that causes me to shake.

We pass a young beech, leaves quivering, the sound like tiny bones – shrew, mole, unfledged robins – rattling in a purse. The church is up ahead, squat as a matron, the roof like a hat of red felt pointing heavenward.

I keep my eyes locked on the church, turned from my soon-to-be husband, his drooping lids, his idiot smile. The thought of those hands, those over-moist lips on mine …

It’s as we pass through the lychgate that Hilda Goodchild catches my eye. She presses ahead but seems to stumble at the last moment and Joshua – my almost husband, her ever loving son – dashes from my side to save her from falling.

Her look of triumph tells me the stumble is a sham, a way to draw my attention to the yellowed paper flapping in her hand. The moment I see it, see the scarlet ribbon flutter at the base, I know it’s the deeds to my father’s farm – my farm.

How fitting, this pause in the shade of the lychgate. I shift my feet, wondering if I have the spot, whether it’s here or here the coffins pause before their final journey to the church. My father, my mother, my sisters, all waited here – patient as only the dead can be – before moving on.

Soon it will be another’s turn. I feel the blade tucked in my sleeve, the metal warmed through by the heat of my wrist and I smile.

 


Written for Jane Dogherty’s Microfiction Challenge. See the lovely painting and write a short story to go along with it. See here to join in and to read the other stories.

 

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35 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge: Under the lychgate

    1. Haha! Thanks Jane. I wonder if my character will go for the old hag … or for her darling son? That could be a worse punishement, I think. Great painting again, a great balance between leading us and giving us plenty of wriggle room 🙂

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      1. You can probably tell that I’m working out my own impressions when I write the post. I find a painting that intrigues, then I start to ask myself why. I’m glad you’re enjoying playing along.

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      2. Yes, it’s a great challenge and nice to have a slightly different one too rather than a word or a photo. It makes you think differently somehow.

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      3. I know photography is an art, but I always find more in a painting than a photograph. Perhaps because a photograph essentially captures a moment and the result is often as much through good luck as good management. A painting though can have layers and depths and meanings, symbolic or realistic. The interpretations are for the viewer to find.

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      4. Very true. I remember going to a talk about Mark Rothko’s Seagram Murals. What on the surface look like blocks of colour are carefully layered, designed to draw the viewer in to see below the surface, to reflect an inner life, the thoughts of the artist. Something pictorial is just as open to interpretation and nuance.

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      1. Indeed, indeed. I would say you were a woman after my own heart, well, I would, if I wasn’t certain it would give you NEFARIOUS ideas. A pleasure, as ever. 🙂

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  1. The painting and the story are super, the eyes in the portrait really arresting. I like your first person POV. I could be wrong on this, but is that relatively recent for you, that you’re writing more first person?

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    1. I think you’re right about the POV – I’m usually a third person gal. I remember reading early on that writers have to be careful when tackling first person, that it takes practice and third is easier. I slip into second every now and again, but only for very short stories – a tricky thing to pull off otherwise. Thanks for reading Bill

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      1. Thank you Bill. I take that as a huge compliment from someone so adept at writing first! I’ll probably still stick to third most of the time – it gives you more scope linguistically. There’s nothing worse than reading a 1st person POV where the language is unrealistically flowery. Thanks for reading 🙂

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    1. Aw, thank you so much! What a lovely comment – you’ve made my day. I think she might go for sloppy lipped Joshua first, just to punish the old bag the most. Though sadly, if she kills either of them she’ll die herself soon after and the church wouldn’t let a murderer be buried in the graveyard. Thank you again 🙂

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    1. Thank you Michael! Glad you liked the ending and that you felt she was justified. Though of course, there’ll be no happy ending for her either if she goes through with the plan. Thanks for reading

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