Quick Stories #9 Cheers Dears

Café Noir et Blanc, Joinville-le-Pont 1948, taken by Robert Doisneau (1912-1994) a noted French photographer who had a poetic approach to Paris street photography and later became a pioneer of photojournalism.

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it. I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the prompt (above) is a black and white photograph.

Cheers Dears

There had been bitter discussions over the guest list regarding Roderick’s brother Ivan, the odd sheep of the family, and whether or not he should be invited to our afternoon wedding.

I thought Ivan, while not fully conversant with wedding etiquette, well, any etiquette really, was an all right sort of fellow who could knock back a sherry with the best of us.

Roderick joked that he was the only person who had ever seen Ivan take a bath; one bath.  Ivan was perpetually in transit to and from distant coal mines.  No perks, just Black Lung, high risk, low pay.  Whereas Roderick had chosen banking, and naturally I was pleased with his substantial wages.

Over family luncheon, Roderick tabled the No-vote and Ivan replied “I’ll find a way.”  Mother had stifled a nervous giggle; I remained silent.

Ivan’s occupation had not dimmed his wits and I personally think that’s why Roderick’s family shunned him.  He could be too sharp with his tongue and cut too close to the bone.  Roderick said he spoiled things.  Strangely enough Ivan never aimed an acerbic comment in my direction.   

Our big day arrived and the ceremony was only slightly marred by Roderick inexplicably going red in the face and choking during the vows.

Afterwards, our wedding photographer suggested something casual.  Something along the lines of newlyweds imbibing a fortifying drink.  The cosy bar where we first met was chosen for its location halfway between the church and reception rooms.

Stephen, the best man, hurried us through the narrow streets as shoppers stopped to smile or offer a cheeky comment.

I sensed somebody was following us but I couldn’t pinpoint anyone when I looked back.  “Nerves,” I thought, squeezing Roderick’s damp hand.  “Guests to greet, boring speeches, cake to cut.”

My bridesmaid Ethel is a teetotaller and declined to accompany us.  Wisely as it turned out.  The gritty pavement ruined the soles of my satin shoes and the hem of my gown.  I knew Mother would be distressed, aggravating her heart condition.

On the way into the bar, I snagged my bridal veil on something, the door handle perhaps, and Roderick untangled it with a tut-tut of exasperation.

We ordered our drinks, and one for the photographer. While Stephen chatted up the barmaid, the photographer positioned himself further down the counter, clicking away.

“Oops,” I said during a playful attempt to give Roderick a sip of my drink.  Liquid dribbled onto his hand-made silk cravat.

He tut-tutted again, grumbling “Don’t want to look like Ivan on my wedding day.”

I raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow.  “Our wedding day, husband dearest.”  Under my breath I muttered “Here’s to Ivan…”

During our bridal waltz, news came that Ivan had been killed when a tunnel collapsed on the early shift. A week later, our agitated photographer said “No charge”.  Roderick was distraught. Ivan looms in every photograph in our wedding album.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

A Friend Pops Up 24 Years Later

Have you received an email, text message, Facebook request or card in the letterbox which made you wince?  Me too.  And it was today.  I guess I should be grateful that the sender did not phone me.  I would have spluttered my way through the conversation and tried to weasel out of giving this person any information about myself since I last saw them 24 years ago.

Do I feel annoyed, upset or beguiled by their surprise appearance on Facebook?  I’m not sure.  First, I wondered what prompted this bolt-from-the-blue contact.  Second, I wrote down our backstory to get my head straight:

We worked together before our children were born, she was going into a new marriage and I was leaving an old one.  This woman’s role was administration manager or something like that, she did a lot of accounts and moaned about the way forms were filled incorrectly.  She had a corner office with a big desk and spent a lot of time talking to staff in an over-friendly, mocking way that unpopular people have when they are trying to be popular.Wedding 13

As a matter of fact, I’m ashamed to admit, I became part of her bridal party.  I succumbed to pressure and involuntarily became a bridesmaid.  Her friend or her sister was matron-of-honour and I think there may have been another bridesmaid but maybe I replaced someone who wasn’t up to task.  Anyhow, I remember the gown fittings, the diamanté jewellery, the shoes, the bouquets, the whole rigmarole was exhausting.  On the Big Day I had professional make-up applied (trowelled on) and I thought it looked hideous.  My hair was whooshed back and I felt as stiff as a Barbie doll.  A close-up photograph of me doesn’t look too bad – gosh, I was young.


Now, dear reader, I was in a relationship with an army sergeant at the time and the wedding photographer was an ex-boyfriend.  I don’t remember feeling tense about them being in the same ballroom.  Maybe I blotted out that part of the evening.  I do remember my ex-boyfriend wilfully snapping a photo of me dancing with my new partner.  I’m not a dancer.  It was an okay wedding ceremony with theme colours of pink and maroon which were quite tastefully done.  As befits the centre of attention, the bride played her part but the groom was a bit quiet, e.g. rather inanimate character.  Predictably over the intervening years, the cake, food, groomsmen and speeches left no impression.

Wedding 11

Not long after the Big Day, I resigned from the corporation where we both worked and I started another life.  I briefly met the woman in question about two years later outside a local video store (remember videos, overnight rental, tape jams?) and she was with her husband and six months pregnant.  From what Facebook will let me see, she has a couple of children now.  With no family news or information, she perceptively called me ‘Stranger’, asked me if I was still living in the same place and did I want to meet up?  Why, and why now?  Truth must be told; I was uncomfortable around the woman.  She had the knack of grating on me, especially when she initiated ‘jokes’ with co-workers.

A long-time friend, a dear person who lives in the countryside, says he has been contacted by various ‘friends’ he hasn’t seen in years and feels they are freeloading in their desire to drop in on his rural idyll, taking advantage of a convenient escape to the country.  I, too, have had similar occurrences in suburbia but I tell people that I do not entertain at home and we don’t have a spare bed.  And that is true enough, depending on the visitor.  With this mystery reappearance of a workmate (as opposed to friend) who made no contact with me after the wedding, much to my relief, and now wants to buddy up as if 24 years is no time at all – I don’t get it.

Is she divorced?  Is she retiring?  Is she thinking kind thoughts about me?  Or is she bored with her life and Facebooking randoms from her past?  Another truthful moment; I don’t think we would have one single thing in common.  Possibly she has changed, possibly I’m anti-social, possibly infinite variables.

Wedding 14

Am I tempted?  Sure, I’m tempted.  I could click Accept or Decline on that Messenger button.  Click Accept and, hey presto, all will be revealed.  Also, it would expose a lot of stuff I don’t want to remember very closely.  Then there’s the difficulty of worming my way out of it.  I don’t want an added extra to my social life right now.  As previously posted, I am cutting back on my social media.  I want to move forward…write and relax…my way…I guess I could just say ‘hello’ and not get involved…I guess…

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

N.B. Apologies to friends and followers who would like a Comment box.