Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction #13: Inn-Woman of the Sun (3 rev)

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Caspar David Friedrich

Inn-Woman in the Sun (3 rev)

Thanks to Jane’s patient and constructive criticisms, the story is closer to where I wanted it to be. If you have read earlier versions, please read again as I hope I have clarified some points, removed detritus and kept the less-than-microfiction flowing.

I rose before the sun; it is my ritual and constant. Drew on my robe, and walked out beyond the compound gates to welcome her. She should not return alone from her cold and lonely night. My cold and lonely nights since Hector’s passing. Not that Hector was one for the passionate warmth of a sunrise; he had his addictions, I had mine.

As I greeted dawn on a foggy day – still knowing she sat lonely on the horizon – a figure appeared out of the mist – like magic smoke and mirrors.

He asked if an inn or cottage might be available to let, as he was on a sort of rambling holiday. As Hector’s afflictions were costly, after his death, I turned our home to a small cottage-inn. Having just learned my honey-mooning guests for this week would not arrive, was forward enough to explain the terms, services, and costs. A ray of her coloured glory parted the grey, lowering skies, and my new guest’s umbrella seemed so unnecessary.

We chatted about the sun and her paint box. “Are you an artist,” I rather boldly asked, noticing his case. He smiled, “Of a sort,” he said, “of a sort.” He hummed Saint-Saëns, but I daren’t ask if a musician, too. Perhaps my piano would answer the question.

A most polite and erudite gentleman. Quiet – collecting specimens of all sorts. He checked in saying he’d like to amble about the countryside for the day. With a packed luncheon, my directions, and his collecting case and tools, he headed off towards the west. I stood at the door and wished him luck.

He returned just before sunset with a bouquet of wild beaming flowers and summoners plums for me. How did he know my favourite flowers and fruit? I was enamoured. Dismissing the servants early, I dined with him – cold fowl, cheeses, fresh bread and and for his hard walking, ale.

I made polite conversation, which he returned, but it seemed his amethyst eyes in his tanned skin burned more brightly than this morning.

I kept brandy and sherry for the guests. I suggested he retire to the parlour, and feel free to smoke whilst waiting for his brandy.

He was playing Saint-Saëns on my piano when I entered the room. He bid that I should join him with a small sherry, and continued playing Danse macabre.  Hector would be appalled that I acquired a taste for sherry from entertaining the paying guests. And on coldest nights, a small glass to warm my frozen heart. Now, he would be sputtering, and getting ready to find his own danse macabre in a opium pipe. His wife, servants abed, alone with a virile male. I realized that was the scent I had been inhaling all evening – of a real man. It was as intoxicating as the sherry could be. Dead Hector was effete and a wastrel; my guest was anything but.

“Do you dance, Miss?” he inquired. Quite honestly, I replied, “Infrequently.”  “Then we shall remedy this, he said – standing and bowing in front of me.

Hector be damned, as he no doubt was. I rose; his hand was pleasing warm but loose on my waist, while he took my hand with his other. Humming Saint-Saëns, he first sedately waltzed me about the room. Then the pace became faster, his hand tighter, warmer, and the pins flew out of my hair, sending it water-falling down my back, then around me as he spun me. The stays loosened on my corset, the buttons on my bodice opened and I could fully breath as we danced faster around the room, his hot hand on my waist, my hand firmly glued to his. My boots too restrictive; my hose unnecessary to dance in my bare feet.

What remains of the week are vignettes, more felt that remembered. My dawn ceremony with me dressed as nature intended celebrated on the eave of my house. A week of  no hair pins, nor corsets. Only loose hair buns, and draping gowns. Dancing, always dancing. Bottles of wine and firelight. Amethyst eyes and gentle tanned hands. Picnics with beaming flowers scent and summoners plum juice running down my chin. Laughter. Caresses and sweet kisses; breathless crescendos; a cacophony of delights.

Too soon, the week was over. I asked that he might stay another week, collect more specimens for his case, as I had no guest pending. But he kindly said “No, what I sought in this part of the county, I found. Time to ramble on.”

I walked him to the gate at dawn, wished him well, and watched him walk into another grey foggy morn when sad, lonely sun hid her tears. He was gone in an instant, but I stood hoping the sun would split sky and I’d see his striding walk along the road.

I walk to the gates each dawn to welcome the sun. I feel her radiance on my out-turned palms. On fog-grey morns, my silly schoolgirl heart might wish that he will appear again, to collect more specimens or to declare me the best specimen to be found. Maybe the very erudite, polite, and enchanting, enthralling Mr. Theodore Gardener will stop by. Til then I hum Saint-Saëns on occasion.

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17 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction #13: Inn-Woman of the Sun (3 rev)

  1. Jane Dougherty September 12, 2016 / 3:36 am

    I love this version. To my mind, you’ve hit just the right balance between backstory and story. The characters are intriguing as is the ghostly Hector. No scene setting beyond the emotions and desires of your mc yet there’s a whole world in your depiction. Great stuff :)

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    • taleweavering September 12, 2016 / 11:48 pm

      Thank you Jane. You were very helpful in the process!!!!!!!

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  2. Jane Dougherty September 11, 2016 / 10:23 am

    First apology I want to make is that I assumed this was a European setting. My parochialism. Your writing suggests Europe very strongly to me, but it could be set in America or Australia for all I know, making many of my comments out of place. I don’t know much at all about how American or Australian society worked outside the big cities in the C19th, so I’ve been commenting only on how the Europe I know about worked. Ignore if it isn’t appropriate.
    The other thing is that I feel that you knew exactly how many characters were necessary in this story, and I’ve pushed you into adding servants when they have become an encumbrance, as you rightly point out.
    So, IF this is is Northern European setting, I’d say, you don’t need to mention that there are servants as that would be taken for granted. They’re wallpaper, invisible. No need to explain what they’re doing, just let us know that when she and Dr T get it together in the parlour the maid is in bed and they are alone. I imagined her playing the piano when the house was settled for the night because she could now that hubby was gone (I’d have made her a young widow rather than a young unmarried woman because widows are more respectable, and a young woman without a husband would excite comment) and that drew Dr T downstairs. He’d have brought his own drink because I don’t think a woman living on her own would have had alcohol in the house, especially not if she’d had a dissolute husband. The fumes on Dr T’s breath would have been enough to excite her.
    You’re dead right that having to add backstory about the servants detracts from the narrative. You have two perfect flesh and blood main characters, and if you want a third, it could be the ghostly memory of the dead husband who is so much the opposite of the worldly, cultivated Dr T.
    All this is how I imagine the story from your strong character portraits. I feel as though I know the house, the characters, and how the woman feels. I’m sorry I badgered you into adding unnecessary detail. You knew best instinctively.

    Liked by 1 person

    • taleweavering September 11, 2016 / 6:09 pm

      Your points were all good and well taken both times. Part of the issue, I think, was the nebulous 19thc time frame and location — much would depend upon that.
      Although there wasn’t the “lords and the ladies” as back in England, there were the social graces, ties to Britain, and to America — Canada was unique that way.
      There were social conventions and the creation of “class” although harder to replicate in some places than others.
      I studied the intersect of social, woman’s and religious history in colonial and 19th c America and there are many similarities — especially with the development of a middling class. Canada took cues from England and America which had a class/caste system of it’s own. Plus the habit of shipping off the wayward, and later young American women marrying lords for titles, and the lords for the cash.
      Dr. T’s ramble was not specific enough to provide context.
      Servants are gone, dead Hector — a wastrel and opium addict — with little interest in women — is the 3 shadowy character.
      I had made her unmarried so her behaviour would seem more wanton, but a widow would run a country inn.
      Thanks so much Jane. I am learning an incredible amount from you and the other participants.

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      • Jane Dougherty September 12, 2016 / 3:30 am

        From what I have gleaned from Henry James and Edith Wharton (Willa Cather I’ve only read for early colonial Canada), nineteenth century mores were similar to European but society was already much less hidebound, notions of class were less rigid and women had more liberty. That’s why I’m not sure how much freedom to ‘do her own thing’ your woman would have had.
        There’s a story, I think it’s by Katherine Mansfield, about a girl who marries an unsuitable dissolute character and comes back alone from their honeymoon in Europe, still a virgin and very much embittered—husband had fallen out of a hotel window in a drunken stupour and killed himself before he’d got around to consummating the marriage. She was consequently a widow, still very young, totally inexperienced as far as love was concerned, but considered suspect soiled goods because of her tragic honeymoon. I loved that idea. The story came back to me instantly when I read yours.
        Reading through your writing is such a rewarding experience for me as I like the editing aspect, don’t know how good at it I’d be, but know that I couldn’t bear to pick over writing that just wasn’t any good to begin with, or for a writer who wouldn’t have the ability to put things right. You fit the bill perfectly as a trial run—supposing I ever have the nerve to try and make a go of it :)

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        • taleweavering September 13, 2016 / 12:03 am

          I was an assistant editor with an academic journal and I really enjoyed 95% of the authors. We selected potential submitted ms, and I guided the author through the editorial process. Most were pleased to be published, and I especially liked to encourage those who had just begun to publish. They were polite, met deadlines, submitted quality revisions, etc. The 5% arrogant jerks made the job difficult, but they were only 5%. If you ever want to talk about editing, let me know. Choose your job well, and it can be a joy. You have the skills to take on such a job.

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          • Jane Dougherty September 13, 2016 / 3:40 am

            I’m thinking seriously about it, just not at all sure how to go about finding a job. Small publishers are a no no. The editors are on a treadmill, have no say in the mss they are asked to edit, and often don’t get paid enough to make it worth their while. Free lance is the way to go, but I’ll have to ask around a bit to find out how to go about it.

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  3. Jane Dougherty September 10, 2016 / 6:28 am

    I’m glad you sat up to finish this. It was worth it—for the reader at least! Humming is becoming his visiting card, like Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter. I love the colour and movement in this, and the ending is perfect. I think you need to make it clearer that we start in the present and the story proper is a flashback. That first transition reads more like a slip of tenses rather than a real change of time. Just a niggle (you know how priggishly insistent I am on accuracy) with the social standing of your woman. She comes over as rather genteel, the kind of lady who would have sherry and brandy on her sideboard. I don’t see her running a B&B on her own without even a scullery maid, and certainly not the kind who would take up a brandy to a gentleman in his room, when they are alone in the house. Sounds more like a one-woman bordello :) I’d drop her social status a bit, or have her send the maids off to bed because she’s intrigued by the new gentleman. Propriety, my dear, propriety :)

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    • taleweavering September 10, 2016 / 3:22 pm

      Thank you Jane I wanted her to appear conventional in a slippery 19th century time frame — hair pins and corsets — and the magic of her guest gets her to be overcome convention — obviously this wasn’t clear. I’ll get the staff to bed early or a night off.The brandy was actually in the parlor with the piano which is where she gives him the drink. — again unclear writing. I wanted to leave the matter of getting upstairs unstated.
      Thanks so much Jane, I’ll work on this this and let you know when I’ve made “repairs”
      How’s your head and your neighbours?

      Like

      • Jane Dougherty September 10, 2016 / 3:33 pm

        It’s clear about the conventionality and the loosening up. It’s simply the starting point that I queried. If it’s genteel poverty, give us a clue about falling on hard times. If she’s a working woman, give her conventional helpers like maids. The C19th was extremely hidebound and there was no room for mavericks, not women anyway.
        Heads fine now, thanks. The neighbours are not.

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        • taleweavering September 10, 2016 / 3:59 pm

          Thanks Jane. I’ve been doing revisions, and will keep that in mind, as my story grew rather considerably. Thanks for the advice, re hard times, etc.

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          • Jane Dougherty September 10, 2016 / 4:08 pm

            I’m glad you don’t mind. I can get pretty obsessive about anachronism. And I’m not an historian so don’t really know better than anyone else :)

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            • taleweavering September 10, 2016 / 8:26 pm

              I’m afraid it’s longer, and I may have over mentioned the servants. Slight addition to last line.
              Thanks so for all your help.. Posting revised now.

              Liked by 1 person

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