Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge: Iska, Leon & freedom


The painting, What Freedom!, by Ilya Repin is the focus of Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge 15: Freedom. I perceived the painting as a rushing river metaphor. Or is it more?

For Iska, it had been a whirlwind: from orphaned shop girl to wife of a man with hundreds of relatives. A 12 hour train to his family’s country home for wedding celebrations gave Leon, an excellent story teller, the opportunity to make Iska laugh til her belly hurt with tales of his boyhood misadventures. He was resting now, so she memorized the passing landscape absorbing so she could sketch later.

Eventually, she laid her head on his shoulder and drifted through his boyhood tales. He spoke of the river as a living entity. They stood on the banks, the cold grasp of winter still upon her. Leon’s breath came in white puffs: “Spring can undo cold winter’s damage freeing the river into a joyous dance.” He held out his hand “Come – let’s join with the river for our wedding dance.” Taking Leon’s hand, and holding her hat down with the other, they stepped into the swirls and waves of winter’s detritus and debris being swept away. Spray beaded on her new felt travelling coat, but the river brushed by, too happy to stop and wet her dress or Leon’s cape. Dancing freedom with the spring-happy river . . .

Iska heard the conductor over the roar of the laughing river, 15 minutes to their stop. She was back in the train carriage. Leon got down their carry-on baggage, while Iska tried to manage her wind-mushed hair and hat pin. As she slipped on her coat, the bodice felt cool and damp, as did the hem of her dress.  Never mind – with suitcase in one hand, and Ivan’s in the other, she stepped out into the river of her new life.


7 thoughts on “Jane Dougherty’s Microfiction Challenge: Iska, Leon & freedom

  1. merrildsmith September 29, 2016 / 6:49 am

    I love the dream–or reality. :) Lovely story.
    She could notice the wetness on her coat, as she stands.


  2. Suzanne September 24, 2016 / 5:34 pm

    Delightful. A true rag to riches story.


  3. sarahsouthwest September 24, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    Ah, sweet love story. I love your river metaphor – I know the image suggested it, but you used it so well.


  4. Jane Dougherty September 24, 2016 / 8:45 am

    I like the dream element in this. Traveling is always a good background for waking dream sequences. I interpreted it that she was entering his dream, since he was asleep. I like that idea. Since she was wearing her coat in the dream, maybe she should be wearing her coat in the train? I’m not sure ladies would have taken their coats off in a public place, and I bet Russian trains were freezing. I was a bit surprised that she took Ivan’s hand at the end. I’m guessing you changed his name from Ivan to Leon at one point and left a stray Ivan in the text. First thought though was that she was preparing to run off with someone else, a former lover maybe, while poor old sleepy Leon was struggling with the bags :)


    • tale weavering phylor September 24, 2016 / 4:22 pm

      That scenario with Ivan was a misedit, but you suggest another interesting way to end the story. I thought she should probably have been wearing her coat (especially on a Russian train), but wasn’t sure how to introduce the wetness, and I thought without her coat, she was sharing her inner self with Leon, and had no other thoughts but for the two of them. A rewrite would have her with coat on. Now should she get her freedom with the mysterious Ivan or the “known” Leon, lol.
      Thanks for your comments.


      • Jane Dougherty September 24, 2016 / 4:47 pm

        Good point about taking her coat off when she’s with Leon, sort of symbolic. It could have been wet around the hem or the fur trim if she’d kept it on.
        As for the shadowy, sexy Ivan. Why not. Sleepy Leon probably wouldn’t notice…


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