It's time for the bi-monthly WEP challenge. This year's prompts are all from famous paintings, interpretation up to us, of course. Here's the June prompt:
WEP Challenge are open to anyone. Post during the 3-day posting window, then link back to the WEP post page, and visit the other writers to enjoy a bunch of great stories! Read more about it here.
920 words, FCA
The hooded figure was reported to have visited the same rocky point on the shore every day for a week. Always at high tide, and carrying a large pack.
It wasn’t that no one knew who it was; there were no strangers in the tiny coastal town. Nor did anyone wonder about the hood. Any sensible person outside was wearing a hooded rain parka, and rain pants as well. The question everyone was asking was what Mildred Perkins thought she was doing out there in the rain and crashing surf, and what she had in her pack.
There was some attempt to speculate that she was engaged in some form of smuggling, but that stretched the credulity of even the most imaginative gossips in the tiny town. For one thing, no one could land a boat out on the point. For another, it was broad daylight, or what passed for broad daylight in the teeth of the winter rains, not a time when smugglers usually operated. Further, as far as anyone knew she’d been alone out there all the time, though admittedly even in the interests of a great story no one had been willing to sit out in the rain and watch as long as Mildred sat on the rocks.
Archibald Quindlen had reported seeing her sitting on the rocks for two hours while he was down the tiny sand shore trying to get his engine started so he could move his boat around the point to his proper mooring. In the end he’d given up and rowed the damn thing in order to beat the tide, and because he was tired of working in the rain.
“Didn’t see a damn thing except Mildred sitting there dripping,” he grumbled.
Sarah Pritchard was quick to point out that his attention had been on his boat, not on Mildred, and she could have done nearly anything without him noticing.
Archibald had retorted that she’d just been sitting every time he looked up, and what were the odds? He might have been a little less polite than that.
Victoria Jones admitted Archibald had a point and tried to keep her own watch, but after a half an hour she conceded that watching someone sitting motionless was pretty dull work, and maybe Mildred had gone mad, anyway. Plus, it was still raining.
This situation went on for a week, during which time it never stopped raining for more than about fifteen minutes at a time. All efforts to question Mildred ran smack into the impenetrable wall of a smile so warm and calm that it appeared to hide nothing while giving nothing away.
After four days, Mildred changed her vantage point to sit on the second point over from the first. Then she began to move from one point to another, up and down the shore, sitting in one spot sometimes for hours and sometimes only for minutes. Since no tourists came to town in the pouring rain, business was slow and everyone was going crazy wondering what she was up to.
This made it harder for the townspeople to watch without being obvious, not just to themselves but to their neighbors and to Mildred. Anyway, people were losing their enthusiasm for prowling about in the rain only to learn that she was just sitting there staring at the waves. Since Mildred didn’t seem to mind, or even notice, the rain, they were forced to conclude that she really had gone mad.
“Well, what if she is mad? She’s not hurting anyone,” Charles Godfrid pointed out. “Leave the poor woman be. She seems happy enough.”
For that reason, no one was watching when the rain finally ceased and Mildred at last opened the large pack she’d been keeping dry under her voluminous rain poncho (worn over the rain parka, a common precaution on that very wet coast).
The storm blew itself out late in the morning, and by noon the sun was shining. Young Joshua Pritchard ran down to the shore to see what treasures the high tide had brought, and noticed Mildred was eating a sandwich. That made perfect sense to Joshua, who was ten and starting to develop a frightening appetite. He briefly considered going and asking if she had anything to share, but his mother had told him not to go near the poor crazy woman. Anyway, his attention was caught by some very promising bits of fishing net and he forgot all about her. The next time he looked up, she’d gone off to some other spot for watching the breakers.
By two, the sun and breeze had dried things pretty well, and Mildred had found the place she wanted to stop.
No one at all saw when she opened the backpack again. This time she pulled out not her lunch, but an easel, a large drawing pad, and a box of paints.
She began to work.
It took weeks, sitting out storms, then waiting until it was just dry enough to not soak the canvas. She could work only until the calm changed the scene too much, then had to wait for the next storm. No one paid any attention to her now. Mildred was just “like that, you know,” they said, and left her alone.
At last she was satisfied, and stopped going to the shore.
Mildred’s detailed study of a single tiny portion of the surf took first prize at the country fair. “Great wave,” one of the judges wrote in the notes.