Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge : The slap and hush of the water


Painting : Ilya Repin, 1896


I wondered if she was the oddest creature I had ever seen.

Her appearance was dishevelled – the hair tangled and uncurled at the temples and nape, the hem of her skirt dropped and fraying. A blue and scarlet feather hung from her hat band, dulled and heavy with grease.


Her clothes had been good once, the fabrics expensive though worn, the tailoring better than my own, if my untutored eye was any judge.

On three consecutive evenings I passed as she stood on the north bank of the lake, her pale jacket seeming to float before the black, clinging pine trees like a child’s paper boat on a pond.

Each time I saw her, I considered introducing myself. But then each time she was held in a moment of intense concentration, gazing not at the glassy, limitless waters, but at the ground, at a criss-cross of sticks or a fir cone half buried by mud. I almost crouched beside the spotted hound lying sphinx-like at her heels, but his mind seemed to drift elsewhere too, perhaps to the far shore, to a chase of hares and twitching squirrels.

On the fourth evening I took the same path, saw the hound, head lowered to his paws beside a trail of  boot prints. The imprints began deep and dark, but soon faded, growing shallow where the water had lapped them away.

It struck me as I rushed back to the house, in the shadow of the pines, in the slap and hush of the water –

I never saw her face.


Written for Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge. See the lovely paintting and write a tale to match. See here to join in and to read the other tales.


24 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge : The slap and hush of the water

  1. This has the ring of truth, Lynn, of lost or missed opportunities, of wondering whether a look, a touch, a gesture or a word might possibly have made a difference, have changed the past. Heart-wrenching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it Chris – yes, it’s a ‘what if’ story. What if the narrator had stopped to talk to her? Would she be there still? Thank you so much – your comments are always valued 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Super. The “On three consecutive evenings” paragraph my favorite, the metaphor of the paper boat and the way her coat clings…I like how little it takes to lead us somewhere, you’ve got that down pat. (Lead us right over the edge, into the water, ha!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Bill. This one came together just right. I fought a few times over the para you mentioned until I thought of the paper boat, floating on the pond, a foreshadowing of her in the water perhaps. Thank you for the lovely comment

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Michael for the lovely comment and so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, the mystery was intentional, though I have some ideas about her back story, poor lady. Thank you for reading 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Merril. It could be a longer story, couldn’t it? The narrator becoming obssessed with the dead woman, trying to discover who she was and why she killed herself. Yep, sounds like the premise for a novel 🙂 Thanks for the lovely comment

      Liked by 1 person

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