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Charlotte Buchanan, 05 Aug '12

I thought you might like this. I don't want it anymore. It's not that I don't think she's gorgeous because she quite clearly is. I've even met her - that's how I got this photo of her. But I don't want it anymore.

We were out somewhere in France last year and someone said he knew a place we ought to go. We went. Cheap beer and pretty girls. The girl on the other side of this was a dancer; spent much of the night sitting on my knee in her underwear. She put on my hat and made it look...well, see for yourself. That's one of her tricks, of course. I woke up the next morning with empty pockets and this photo. I must have thought it the photo was of her in my hat, taken that night, but really there wasn't time. Just a scheme to make a guy feel special.

I only got cynical yesterday. Until then, I'd been in love with the photo, convinced she really was "dreaming of me" like she's written on it. I'd kept it with me for a whole year. Me and this photo...we'd had some fun. Every time the boys got letters from home, it'd be all this moaning, "little boy's got measles, there's nothing to eat, can you send some money?" I never had to put up with any of that. Photo can't moan, can it? You just pull it out of your wallet and remember how her skin felt. But yesterday, one of the boys got a telegram. His wife was dead, killed by a bomb. What he felt, I didn't feel. I never could. It hit me suddenly - it's only a photo. Might not even be her under all that makeup. And whose is that hat?

You have it, mate. Another for your album. Enjoy.

Comments · 8

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  • Charlotte Buchanan said...

    I don't want to say too much about this because I'd like to know if you readers think it conveys what I want it to convey. Sometimes, as you lot probably understand because you're writers too, I can be so involved with a piece that I fail to explain enough of the basics! I know this piece is far from perfect - I've just had it rejected by another writing site. Anyway, thanks in advance for reading.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Mairead O'Neill said...

    I really enjoyed this. I think it communicated really clearly the benefits of having a kind of fantasy lover, a memory that could be romanticised, and then later on the futility that came from treasuring such a fragile and superficial kind of thing. Really good, very simply written which adds to the impact. :)

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Anthony Blackshaw said...

    My impression is that the main character is probably a solider stationed overseas and that the period is possible world war II because of the reference to the telegram and France. I could of course be completely wrong :)

    To derive this I did have to read it through a second time. The problem with such a short piece is the reader doesn't have a lot to go on and can be unforgiving, whilst in a longer piece they might be more patient and wait for further clues to be revealed.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Charlotte Buchanan said...

    @Anthony Blackshaw, you're completely right about the setting, actually! Thank you very much for your comment too - it was a helpful insight and I have a better idea now of why it was rejected (I wasn't told). This is the second time recently it's been suggested I'm doing something that doesn't work in flash fiction. Writing brief stuff for on-screen reading isn't just writing a short story yet shorter, is it? You (I!)actually have to write in a different way. Thank you for your comment because it's been very helpful. Cx

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Charlotte Buchanan said...

    @Mairead O'Neill thank you for your comment too. I'm really glad you got the messages of fantasy and futility and I'm pleased it worked for you. It was a lovely first comment, actually, and it made me feel a lot better about this piece!

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Nathan Ramsden said...

    Regarding the suggestion made elsewhere about you doing things that "do not work", I'd take all such comments with a salt cellar. Rejection (or acceptance) is not a guaranteed measure of quality. Also, I'd say the ambiguity is what makes this piece work for me; there's nothing so dull as being given clear answers. Open-ended questions are much more satisfying in the long run. As are answers that are hinted at, embedded within the prose, little implicit things that call almost no attention to themselves and yet, by osmosis, lead a reader where you want them to go.

    In that vein, I'd say you seem to know what you're doing and therefore should carry on writing like you want to write. I like this piece.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • bill spencer said...

    What @Nathan Ramsden said, the "do I like this enough" is totally subjective and depends on whoever it is. I like it quite a bit, especially "I only got cynical yesterday." I think that's a great line. Having the wife get killed by a bomb felt to me (to me) like too much, I felt the writer manipulating at that point (whether true or not), and I don't think you need to be that dramatic to make the ending work. But this is all just me, one person. It is a lovely piece of writing.

    • Posted 4 years ago
  • Angela Watt said...

    Hi Charlotte. I tend to echo Mairead O'Neill's comments above. I don't think that I can put it any better than she has - the mix between fantasy and romanticising and then the futility of it all. I'm not sure if you've ever read Tim O'Brien's book called The Things They Carried. It is set in the Vietnam War and discusses different soldiers and the different things they carry through the war with them to keep them going. I think that you would enjoy it, based on having read your Burrst. Look forward to reading more of your writing.

    • Posted 4 years ago