Wednesday, June 16, 2021

#WEP: Great Wave

 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:

https://64.media.tumblr.com/00bffb7fe5f89f66d9be0e58469b5f07/ea2e93e6b4fb3378-79/s1280x1920/1133ed0c6e439ecdb05ed188802d3a722868cd95.jpg

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.

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920 words, FCA
 

 

Great Wave

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.

***

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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44 comments:

  1. Hi Rebecca - well done ... I thought she was going to chuck out bits of bodies of someone she'd killed. Brilliant - a great artist following the painters of yore. Love it ... such fun to read ... especially as all is well - cheers Hilary

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    1. LOL! that would have been the other direction for this to go, for sure!

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  2. Fabulous! I had NO idea what she was doing. Love the town and the townsfolk and the gossip - lots of fun!

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    1. Thanks! Are you the kind person who added me to the list, as well?

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  3. You've wonderfully captured the intrigue that prompts stories in our minds as we watch people go about the mysteries of their day.

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    1. I know, right? I used to have to make up stories about people to satisfy my kids' perpetual "what are they doing?" or of course, "why are they doing that?"

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  4. That's life in a small village for you. Everyone is nosing into everyone else's business.

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    1. Yup. They all think they know everything about everyone, but they don't.

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  5. Your story grabbed me and I was just as curious as the townspeople to know why this lady was sitting in the rain day after day. The descriptions are great and the characters are typical of a small town. Love the ending.

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    1. Thanks! I try to make my stories as fun to read as they are to write :)

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  6. Rebecca, you certainly kept us guessing. What on earth was she doing? Her love of art and creating caused her to suffer discomfort, but she didn't care. She knew what she was doing. Loved the tension shown from the villagers' point of view. Nicely wrapped up.

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  7. Hi Rebecca,

    Nice build up. I enjoyed her calm eccentricity, always polite and patient. I loved that she did this to capture the perfect wave...the light had to be perfect and that could only be achieved after a storm. Well done!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words. I could just see her, sitting out there, studying how the waves broke on each bit of shore...

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  8. Me too, what a beautifully told tale of personality, gossip, and community. Loved it!

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    1. Thanks! Getting warmed up to write about a new small town in my new mystery...

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  9. This was so well crafted, small community mentality and an artist's painstaking devotion to her art captured with gentle humour and finesse. Greatly enjoyed the flash.

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  10. Hi,
    Your story is fabulous. I like the way you built up the tension by using the people in the village. I love the way you didn't reveal what Mildred was doing until the end. I so enjoyed this story. It has hope in it and I love stories that give me hope.
    Great job.
    Shalom aleichem

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    1. Hope is something many of us need. There's a reason my stories aren't dark these days.

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  11. Of course. Why didn't I realise that? I've spent enough time studying waves, after all!

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    1. Eldest Son can sit and stare at breaking waves for hours. He doesn't paint them later, though.

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  12. To be an artist, a creative one must be a little mad. ;) Nicely done!
    - C J Austin

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  13. Mildred knew what she was doing the whole time. Great story. As an artist myself, I confound people on a regular basis.
    Nancy

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    1. Well, there's the crazy writer thing. I'm glad my art doesn't lead me to sit out in the rain for hours!

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  14. I loved this! I found myself as curious about what Mildred was up to as the townsfolk. Living in a small town myself, I have the say the actions and interactions of the townsfolk here are very accurate and well done. And the ending is perfect! I'm glad her patient study of the water paid off.

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  15. What a wonderful story! I loved the ways the people of the village interacted with each other and commented and conjectured. Great read.

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  16. Honestly I kept solving the mystery until the end. You had me hooked. The angle with all the gossip was believable and very well done.

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    1. :) Anyone behaving so oddly was going to cause a lot of gossip!

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  17. Good on Mildred for doing her thing and not allowing herself to be deterred by others' opinions. Anyway, she provided them some much-needed excitement.
    Your post is included in this week's Roost Recommendations. I share the Roost Recommendations posts on Twitter with readers looking for their next read.
    https://ornerybookemporium.blogspot.com/2021/06/roost-recommendations-15-june-2021.html

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  18. Such a fun tale. A true artist surely does not give a care to what others think of their strange efforts! I love the different theories and remarks about her condition. It painted a picture of the small town in a very effective way!

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    1. Thanks! I had fun imagining how her neighbors would see it :)

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  19. The ending caught me by surprise. I was waiting for some dark secret to emerge, or a wave to wash over her. This was fine!

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  20. You made me curious at once and I had to find out what she was up to. To my greta relief, it was ART!

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  21. I really enjoyed your portrayal of all the townspeople. Great wave, indeed.

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  22. I admire her patience and her talent and not caring about what people were saying about her.

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  23. Adorable Mildred. Her neighbors, too, are sweet.

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