Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Mid-Week Flash Challenge - Week 157

This week's picture is of the cover of an old novel - La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma) and was written by French writer Stendhal in 1839. It's a story about a fictional Italian nobleman who lived in Parma during the Napoleonic era. The story was very popular and has been turned into Opera (1939), film (1948 & 1964), TV (Series in 1981 & 2012) and translated in novel form as recently as in 1997 & 1999). 

This particular picture was taken by a writing friend, Jessica Maybury, who makes things out of discarded objects such as this cover, and I was attracted by the colour and design of it. 

The General Guidelines can be found here.

How to create a clickable link in Blogger comments can be found on lasts week's post here.

There is also a Facebook group for Mid-Week Flash, if you fancy getting the prompt there.


Natalie smoothed her hand over the cover. She loved it: such a vibrant colour, such a perfect symbol on the front and with that title among her bookshelves, no one would pick it out. But if the contents were revealed … Natalie took a deep breath, she didn’t want to think about that. It was her secret.

She traced the lines of the candles and couldn’t resist another glimpse at the scribbled pages within. No, she told herself, you had to wait until tonight to try them.

She stayed busy throughout the day, going to work and daydreaming about what might happen that evening. And once home she waited until it was dark, occupying herself by moving furniture around and setting the scene. Then, with great awe, Natalie took the book down from the shelf and opened it. 

Standing in the middle of the room she began to read the words out loud. They sounded strange to her ears and she wondered if she was saying them right, with their true pronunciations forgotten over the centuries. But the light in the room began to dim and she was sure there was some kind of mist forming.

She kept reading until she came to the end of the first part and waited. By this time the entire lounge was full of some kind of ethereal smoke. She couldn’t see the fireplace a few feet in front of her, or the armchairs she’d moved up against the wall either side. She wasn’t sure if the manifestation had worked until she heard a cough, and then a voice cut through.

“Hello.” There was more coughing. “Oh dear, it seems the superfluous words have made a bit of a mockery of this business with all this mood smoke.”

Natalie waved the air in front of her face to try and clear it, and saw the outline of someone in one of the armchairs. Eventually a thin figure came into view, lounging in what looked like a smoking jacket, one suit-clad leg over the arm of the chair, swinging a black and white brogue shoe. It appeared to be a man with a long spindly moustache and Brylcreemed hair, holding a long cigarette holder in one hand. He looked as though he’d come from the 1920s.

“Who are you?” said Natalie.

“You called me up, my lovely, you should know,” he replied, casually taking a puff from his cigarette. 

“Erm …” Natalie scanned the next section in the book.

The man chuckled. “I’m just playing with you. Ernest’s the name. The dashing gentleman you ordered.”

“Oh.” Natalie felt her face flush. She’d never been good at hiding her disappointment.

“Not quite what you expected, it seems.” Ernest swung his leg off the arm of the chair and sat forward. “Where did you find the scripture?”

“What this?” Natalie indicated the scribbled words. Ernest nodded. “It was in my grandmother’s chest in the attic. It was given to me when my father passed away last year. I don’t think he ever looked in it. He’d would have left this for me to find otherwise.”

“Was your grandmother Maud Rivensby by any chance?”

Natalie felt goosebumps rise on her arms. “How do you know that?”

“Because she used to call me up all the time when she got bored, which happened a lot after her husband ran off.” Ernst sat back. “We had some good times,” he said wistfully, puffing some more on his cigarette.

“Ran off? He died in a car accident.”

“Is that what she told you? No, he wasn’t good to her, ran off with some woman he used to work with. Shame. She deserved better.” He sat forward again. “So you’re her granddaughter then?” Natalie nodded. “And now you too are looking for a bit of fun in your life.” He winked at her.

Natalie’s smile faltered. “Erm … I’m not sure anymore. I mean, no offence, but you’re not quite my type.”

He grinned, and the air shimmered around him. His face altered, filling out, the moustache disappearing. His whole body reshaped along with his clothes: muscles and broad shoulders appeared, wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He flicked his head forward, and then threw it back, sweeping a hand through the full head of blond, chin-length hair that had appeared. He grinned. The cigarette gone. 

“Is this better? In this form I’m Eddie. Happy to be at your service.” He winked again.

This time Natalie’s blush was one of attraction. This was more like it. This had been what the book had promised.


  1. Stendahl, 384 words, by J.P.Garland @JPGarlandAuthor


    “Over here, hon.”

    It was finally warm enough to sit on the patio, and I was taking advantage. Not only were we limited in where we could go, but the cold weather added a layer of bizarreness to everything that was going on. Michelle was working in the garden when she called me. She walked up the slight incline to the patio with a spade in one gloved hand and the other hand attempting to get a stray strand of hair away from her face.

    She hoped we had past the last frost-night and was putting a row of hydrangeas along the edge of the picket fence that separated our lot from the Olsons’.

    I knew I was to be enlisted for some digging duty or another, but she surprised me.

    “You look to comfortable to bother, so you can do it tomorrow.”

    The sun was such that I had to use my hand to shield my eyes to watch her approach.

    “What are you reading?”

    “Stendhal. First time.” I lifted the purple book to show her.

    “Is that what you got at the Book Barn when we were last there?”

    “Yeah. I heard it was about northern Italy so I thought I’d take a look.”

    Michelle sat in the lounger next to mine, separated by a small, round table.

    “Any good?”

    “Too early to say.”

    We were quiet, and I lifted the book and opened it where my finger was acting as a book mark. After I read about a paragraph, she said, “Do you think we’ll be able to go back?”

    “Back” referenced the north of Italy. I had family there, or at least did from generations before, and we spent a marvelous week going from town to town and lake to lake in a car we rented in Milan. Each town, no matter how small, had a string of boutiques and several restaurants with their Primi and Secondi placards out front. We were younger, and we each had a precise memory of several of the meals—the pizza and the pasta and the dessert—we shared at an outdoor table watching people pass as only people in northern Italy can pass.

    “Someday. Maybe.”

    “I hope so,” Micelle answered as she rose to get back to her hydrangeas. “I hope so.”

  2. I reckon a lot of ladies would like that book! What a charming and fun tale, well done Miranda.

  3. Well I don't know how I ended up here with this one but well … I Died at Dinner I hope like it.

  4. Seems my brain cells keep trying different things when I write. Makes for some interesting "where the heck did that come from" moments.

    It's A Book

    1. It's a good example of different mindsets and how sometimes you have to make choices. Thanks for joining.