ON PARIS

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris ... then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." Ernest Hemingway

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

#WEPff entry for #WEPApril #writingchallenge. My #flashfiction - It was Evie's Idea - a #Covid-19 story.

Whoops! This published a tad early. Never mind. WEP is live in 5 hours... 

Hello all who come by!

It's time for the #AprilWEP challenge. During this time of Covid-19 and the challenges it brings, many of us are finding strength, more than ever, in our writing. 

My flash came to me when I woke one morning a few weeks' ago, no doubt brought on by the constant inundation of Covid-19 news stories from around the world.

I hope you enjoy my story, which when I analyse it, is a love letter to Santorini in the Greek Islands where I spent a wonderful day a couple of years ago. Like my hero, not long enough.

WEP CHALLENGE FOR APRIL 2020! - OUR CHALLENGE - ANTIQUE VASE.

EVIE’S IDEA

It was Evie’s idea to holiday on the Greek Islands, to spend a day on Santorini, the insanely beautiful jewel set in the Aegean Sea.

It was Evie’s idea to walk every square mile of that island, to explore every cave where in World War 11 she told me the locals hid from the German invaders, spending days and nights huddled together, existing on raw onions and grass, all that stood between them and mass starvation.

That was until the Germans discovered the caves and the onions. There was nothing left for the island inhabitants.

They suffered.

They starved.

They died.

As we walked through the streets of Oia along the ridge overlooking the waterfront, Evie regaled me with history of the Greek Islands I never knew, history she’d kept to herself. ‘To prolong life, the islanders bartered everything they owned, everything they couldn’t eat. Their possessions were few. Just old bowls and utensils belonging to their parents and their parents before them, all the way back to antiquity. They didn’t know these relics would one day be considered valuable. All that was valuable at the time was their lives and the lives of their children.'

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Hustling along the beautifully tiled streets of Oia, Evie grew increasingly irritated by the crowds. They pushed their way along the ridge, stopping to take in the breathtaking view over the sea, cameras snapping the whitewashed buildings tottering down the cliffside.

Up and down one set of narrow concrete stairs after the other.

Where to Stay in Santorini - Neighborhoods & Area Guide - The ...

Then Evie grabbed my arm. She spied the vase. An antique vase. Perched on its pedestal. In the window of the smallest shop I’d ever seen.

‘Look.’ She pointed to the whitewashed walls, the bright blue painted door, the red checked curtains framing the windows. ‘Isn’t it darling?’

Evie thought everything was darling, except the hot mess of tourists pushing and shoving, anxious to cram everything into this island-hopping experience, anxious not to miss the ship which left in two short hours. When they looked down the hill to Fira, the capital, their cruise ship loomed like a threat.

‘Evie, let’s keep moving. There’s still a lot to discover.’

She stood gazing in the window, mesmerized. ‘I must have it,’ she said, clambering down two steep steps into the tiny hole-in-the-wall-dusty-with-desperation shop.

The vase didn’t look as good at close range as it had from the window. Its main features were covered in years of dust and grime. How long had it been sitting there, waiting? Evie’s lineage was Greek and by the rapt look on her face as she traced the delicate lines of the vase, I saw that she was transported back in time to the stories from her mother’s childhood during the German occupation, how they’d survived on a diet of onions and grass.

The old Greek shopkeeper approached, his eyes rheumy, his hair tousled and falling past his shoulders, his front teeth missing as he beamed at us.

I insisted on checking the base to see if it said made in China, but no, it seemed genuine, something we could take along to the Antique Roadshow next time it came to Yorkshire.

‘There are very few of these old vases left,’ the old guy said, lighting up a filthy-smelling cigar and blowing smoke at the vase. ‘This one I found myself in a cave high up in the hills near the caldera. Someone had buried it aeons ago. Must have been their treasure. You are the first to show an interest. Perhaps it was meant for you.’

We made it down the chairlift to the boat, bathed in the glorious marmalade sunset over the Aegean Sea.

Two Amazing Spots to Watch the Sunset in Oia, Santorini | Earth ...

Evie clutched her vase to her chest as we stood on the deck, watching the twinkling lights of Santorini disappear. Her eyes were alight with the fervour one feels when given a peek into the past.

‘We must come back soon,’ she whispered, tears running down her cheeks.


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Home again

I checked in on Evie every evening. We’d share a glass of ouzo and toast to our next trip. Both being alone, we loved to travel together.

‘I must go back to Santorini,’ she said, a week after we arrived home. ‘I want to spend days, not hours, exploring. I want to know more about my ancestors. When I listened to mother’s stories, I was detached. Now I’m invested.’

As we planned our next travel adventure, she nodded at the vase in pride of place on her mantlepiece.

The vase. Evie was completely obsessed.

I had to admit it was beautiful with its classic lines, its black silhouette figures, its scrolls.

Then Evie took sick.

We’d congratulated ourselves on making it home before Covid-19 hit, but it appeared we hadn’t.

Evie tested positive.

I tested negative.

The hospitals struggled to contain the outbreak.

Evie demanded she isolate at home.

I was no nurse, so I hired one. I did everything I could. But Evie was over seventy. In the high-risk category.

Her descent was swift.

Hospital. Intensive care. Respirator. It killed me to watch her through the glass, gasping for breath as pneumonia took over her lungs.

Dressed in my hazmat suit, mask and gloves, I was allowed a minute to say goodbye.

Her bony hand reached for mine. ‘Son,’ she said, ‘Come close. Listen.’


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After the outbreak was over, I sipped ouzo on my tiny terrace in the cave-house AirBNB in Oia, anticipating the sunset, talking to the antique vase in the center of the glass table.

‘Evie. Mother. I’m back. I brought you to your favorite place. We didn’t have much time that day. Now you have eternity.’

At sunset, as the golden-orange-pink tipped sun dipped into the Aegean Sea, I made my way down the rocky slope to the rocky shore, my arms covered in red welts from the riotous red bougainvillea growing wild, snatching at me each step I took. I reached the beach made up of black, red and white lava pebbles.

Mind Games - 1000 EUR Oia, Santorini Greece -

I uncapped the lid of the precious antique vase. ‘Goodbye Mother.’ Her ashes caught the wind.

It was Evie’s idea.

Her final resting place would be the Aegean Sea.

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WORDS: 1,010
FCA

Go HERE to read more WEP stories for ANTIQUE VASE.

If you haven't yet participated in WEP writing challenges, or you've backslidden, we warmly invite you to participate in two months' time for our June challenge: 


I'm writing this over the Easter weekend, eagerly anticipating Andrea Bocelli's Easter Sunday concert on youtube. Here he sings a favorite of mine. Very apt during this time of Covid-19.


Enjoy my post? Please hit my buttons!


56 comments:

  1. Just beautiful, Denise! So many threads throughout - and so much heart! I'm glad her son brought Evie back to her roots :)

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  2. Lovely story. I know it's a very different feel, but the captivation with the Greek islands and disdain for tourists reminded me very much of Shirley Valentine.

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  3. Very heartfelt post. Enjoyed the flow of the story. Be well and stay safe.

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  4. Oh Denise.
    It is too early in the day for my eyes to leak. They are though. Thank you, and huge thanks to Evie's boy who brought her home.

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    1. Glad your eyes leaked, Sue. Mine did too writing this.

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  5. Wow, not at all what I expected but so fitting. I know how Evie feels with the crowds. Makes it hard to enjoy the moment with too many folks. Especially those more interested in a selfie than the beauty before them. :)
    I love it when the moment you wake the story is there. Great job! Beautiful story!

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    1. Thanks Renee. It's wonderful when you wake and a story is fully formed. I hardly changed a thing from my longhand version.

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  6. Hi Denise - brilliant ... and I could see Santorini and feel the heat, the crowds ... yes, what a lovely tie up - evocative ... so difficult to know re ashes and what to do ... but a great modern tale, with an 'antique' twist ... and good to know Covid19 does end. Loved the story and take - Greece is just amazing ... take care - Hilary

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    1. Yes, I hope there'll be much joy when Covid-19 ends. I'm not sure what the world will look like then.

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  7. Hi,
    Beautiful! You have me drawn in until the end. I liked how you brought in the Covid 19. I also love the connection between the vase, the memories Evie had from her mother and Evie's own death. The emotional ending gave me a joyous feeling. Evie rested in peace.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. I'm glad you got the joy at the end Pat. It could have been morbid, but not what I wanted. I wanted Evie's joie de vivre to shine through to the end.

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  8. Hi Denise, I enjoyed reading your post. Well-written and heartfelt, the story unfolds in an unexpected way with genuine emotion. I have always wanted the Greek islands. I think Evie had a fine idea. Thanks for sharing your story!

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    1. Thanks Karuna for reading my story which I enjoyed writing so much. I'm glad you like it!

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  10. Mesmerising. I have enjoyed the whole journey. The beauty of Oia, Aegean Sea, crowded Santorini Streets.
    Sanhita Mukherjee.

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    1. Thank you Sanhita. I'm glad you were with me on my journey.

      Just letting you know people cannot comment on your post which is a shame as everyone wants to give their reaction.

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  11. Your scenes are always so descriptive. I have asthma and diabetes, both of which put me in a high-risk category for COVID. I'm not particularly worried about contracting it, because my son and I live out in the boonies in a town of 154 people. One day I assume my son will have an urnful of my ashes, but he won't have to go to Greece to scatter them. He can just bring it back to this podunk little town and step out on the prairie. This is the only place I've ever felt at home, so it suits.

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    1. I'm glad you feel so at home in your home. I'm all for traveling over the world every chance I get. Sadly my wings are clipped for the moment, so I'll enjoy trawling through my past experiences.
      Keep well and safe!

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  12. Wonderful; sad and uplifting simultaneously. I could almost see that island, the sunny steep streets, the flowers, and the vase. It fits that Evie's son brought her ashes back to that island she liked so much.

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    1. Thanks Olga. Glad it was vivid in your mind.

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  13. Now that was really powerful and so bittersweet.

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  14. What a lovely and relevant story, sad and yet sweet too. Way to go with staying current and bringing a sense of hope to this whole situation. I like the connection to past, present, and future in this story. Nicely done.

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    1. Thanks Toi. I'm glad you liked its sadness and sweetness.

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  15. This story is both beautiful and sad, and the ending was perfection. I'm sure this pandemic will be inspiring many more stories from all over the world for a long time to come.

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  16. A beautiful story. Sad and lovely at the same time.

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  17. What a lovely, but heart rending tale. The virus is sure to bring many stories. Stay safe and take care Denise!
    I'm not there this time but I will be back in June.
    Sonia (https://soniadogra.com)

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    1. Missing you this round Sonia. Looking forward to seeing you in June.

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  18. Certainly a time-relevant story. I imagine there will be too many non-fiction versions like this soon, sadly. It's well-written and vivid. I like how you made me feel like I was there, going to the shop.

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  19. A lovely story, a beautiful and poignant ending.

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  20. Beautifully written Denise with all the wisdom and details of a well-travelled soul. Priceless multiple compound adjective “ the holeinthewalldusty desperate shop”, ha,ha. Very poignant denouement. Congratulations and thank you for sharing.

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  21. Your story was so full of feeling that I was swept along with the emotion, wishing you didn't have to make Evie die, wishing she could take that trip she wanted to. Skilfully written, very creative, the juxtaposition of the happy holiday feeling and the beauty of Santorini with the reality of this frightening virus.

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    1. Yes Kalpanaa it’s always unfortunate when our characters die. She was an early death. How many have died in real life from this virus?

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  22. Denise, this is such a beautiful and moving piece. The story about the locals hiding from German invaders is fascinating. This line, in particular, struck a chord with me: "They didn’t know these relics would one day be considered valuable. All that was valuable at the time was their lives and the lives of their children." It got me thinking about how much we obsess about material wealth, but when it comes down to it, our possessions are worth nothing compared to our relationships and memories.

    I didn't suspect that Evie was the speaker's mother. That was a great twist. The ending was so bittersweet and poignant. Great job.

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  23. Oh Denise, you made me cry! What a beautiful, poignant and contemporary story. Relationships of people, place and time all braided together. Loved the phrase 'marmalade sunset'. Evocative!

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  24. A lovely, and descriptive tale. Well done, Denise.

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  25. You were five hours early, Denise so my apologies for being five days late with my praises. Interesting facts woven into a beautiful piece - but tragic as too real. With a moving ending - a fitting end. I didn't know everything about Santorini in WWW2 - I know more about the Battle of Crete. But the place will always be special for me, exploring the ancient ruins and the volcano - and your pictures rekindle memories.

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    1. The history is horrifying but fascinating. Glad you liked it.

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  26. So lovely, and so right for Santorini. Uplifting and sad, all at the same time. Brava.

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  27. Very touching and very timely! You've used your remembrance of a beautiful place to create more beauty in the form of words. Thank you for the Santorini visit and the poignant moment at the end of your tale.

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  28. A beautiful story even if tinged by tragedy. I like the idea that Evie has come full circle and is now at one with her ancestors.

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  29. This made my heart turn inside out. I'm so glad he was able to be with her at the end and to carry out her last wish.

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