Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Reginald Marsh Short Story Challenge - My Entry

This is my entry in Patti Abbott's Short Story Challenge based on a painting by Reginald Marsh. Patti will be posting her own story and links to other entries by other bloggers on PATTINASE today. She will generously be donating five dollars for every entry, to the Union Settlement, a Social Services Agency in Harlem in need of funds.


White Dress, Red Buttons.

“These heels are killing me. I feel like I’m standing on a slant.”

“You’ll get used to them. Stop fidgeting. Mind over matter.”

“I miss my boots and fatigues.”

“Boots and fatigues were not the norm for women in 1936.”

“How did they stand it?”

“Women of this era wanted to be stylish and appealing.”

“Stylish, hell. This is murder.”

“It’s the damned girdle I find bothersome.”

“Threw mine away. I thought the books said there was some big rubber shortage.”

“Not big enough, apparently."

“Well, it was take it off or stop breathing. I definitely need to lose five pounds.”

“I can stomach a little discomfort. It’s only for a few more minutes anyway.”

“Very funny. I hate all this standing around.”

“Don’t keep checking your watch, you’ll attract attention.”

“Oh crap, here come those two coppers who were giving us the eye.”

“German. Remember to speak German.”

“Stop hissing, I remember.”

“ Good evening, ladies. But not a good night for loitering. Be on your way now. No trouble.”

“We’re not loitering. We’re waiting for our boyfriends.”

“You’ve been standing here for a half hour. Maybe your boyfriends aren’t coming.”

“ Has it been that long? They must have been held up at work.”

“Don’t think much of a man who’ll keep his girlfriend waiting.  Maybe you’d like to come along with us. Kurt, do you think these young ladies would like to come along with us?”

“Yes, I do, it’s dark and the streets are always crowded with ruffians at this time of night.”

“We can take care of ourselves.”

“ Can you? Maybe we’ll just take a look at your papers. Kurt, do you think we should take a look at the ladies’ papers?”

“Yes, I do. One can’t be too careful these days.”

“What is that, a lipstick?”


“Why did you do that?”

“I don't like being leered at, especially by an ape whose breath smells like sauerkraut."

“The stun flash is only for dire emergencies. Now what?”

“With all these people milling about no one will notice.”

“They’re police, Hal. They’re not moving. Somebody is bound to take notice.”

“Let’s walk over to the other side of the lobby. Casually. Act casually.”

“They’re falling over.”

“Pretend we don’t notice.”

“They’re drawing a crowd.”

“I hear an ambulance.”

“This is a very noisy city. I noticed that right away.”

“I can’t think how people stood it.”

“I’ve just had another thought. You think those cops are pick-ups?  Sent by Morley?”

“Doubtful. They didn’t identify themselves. Plus, the odor of sauerkraut. Too much verismillitude."

“What if…?”

“Stop worrying. I triple-checked our calculations down to the second."

“Do you think this clamor will stop him showing up tonight?”

“He’s eaten dinner here every night this week and according to the books, he’ll continue to do so for another three weeks.”

“That was before you froze two cops in mid-sentence.”

“I wish those ambulance attendants would get them out of here, they might start coming around.”

“It’s not easy to lift large frozen produce.”

“They’re leaving. Blend into the crowd. It's just another few minutes."

“They’re rounding some of them up for questioning, Leo, we can’t let that happen. At this rate we’re going to have all kinds of incidental damage.”

“Tomorrow night it will be something else. We can’t freeze them all. It’s only five minutes till zero hour.

“I wish you’d get over your use of quaint colloquialisms.”

“I pick them up from Morley.”

“Morley is a brilliant British eccentric. British eccentrics are allowed leeway.”

“What do you think he’ll do to us?”

If we make it back? Sticky duty. Ten years in the outer districts. Snail smugglers.”

“I hate snail smugglers. The smell…!”

“Actually, I’m surprised we’ve been allowed to get this far. Somehow I expected Morley to come barreling through the portal with a couple of nets.”

“Do you think he suspected?”

“Probably. He's always on the look-out for travelers trying to fix things."

“Why didn’t he stop us?”

“Morley has his ways. We may have fallen in with his own plans.”

“I haven’t seen anyone we know - yet.”

“The shift override won’t fool him or the portal for long. But he'll still be 27 minutes behind us."

“I wonder if we'll be remembered for this.”

“They might never know any of it happened. We might not happen."

“We’ll be unsung heroes.”

“I’m not interested in being a hero. I’m interested in stopping a maniac."

“The crowd is clearing, here comes the car.”

“Get ready. Right on schedule. That’s the thing with these Nazi fellows, according to the research, they were always on time.”

Adolf Hitler stepped out of the automobile, brown-shirted bodyguards in place forming a phalanx. A woman was seen to pull a red button off her dress and fling it in their direction followed by a hellish, fiery explosion.


Note: Painting by Reginald Marsh (1898 - 1954)


  1. Fanciful and well done, Yvette. I, on the other hand, went for dark and bleak. All those old movies have influenced you, haven't they? I like stories told only in dialog - they're like little radio plays. Plus I like trying to figure them out as they unfold. You got me though. When the one character called they other Hal I laughed. Time travelling soldiers in drag! I love it.

  2. Boy oh boy, did you ever string me along! From "h'mm" to "aha" to "but, of course". Quite the ride, Yvette. (Here's where you bow to applause.)

  3. By the way, love your painting selection.

  4. This really kept my brain busy figuring out what was going on.
    Loved this line. "British eccentrics are allowed leeway.”
    Great story and thanks so much for writing one.

  5. LOL!!! This is a fun story.

    I was able to see that painting, "Red Buttons," recently at the Huntington Museum. Next time I get to see it, I'll have this story in mind.

    Thanks. ;-)

  6. Oh, well done! This was great, Yvette. So, where's the novel?

  7. What could be better than portal-leaping for breakfast. You have created a virtual page-turner...what's next, what's next, my mind kept asking. I really enjoyed this, its red unexpectedness.

  8. John: Time Travelling Soldiers in Drag. Sounds like a sci-fi expose. Ha!

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    Soon as I respond to comments, I've off to read your story and everyone else's. :)

  9. Thanks, C.W. I'm bowing now. :)

    I liked writing this in dialogue. Fun.

  10. Patti: You're welcome. Your generosity was my inspiration. :)

    This was a fun challenge.

  11. LJR: Thanks very much. Glad you enjoyed it. But no laughing in the museum. :)

  12. Jacqueline: Don't have the patience, J. Short stories are my limit. But I will admit I had tons of fun writing this.


  13. Marylinn: Thanks so much. I'm glad you dropped by to read my little story. If it kept everyone guessing then I guess it worked. :)

    I love time travel stuff. Soon as I saw the painting it all leaped into my mind.

  14. Yvette,

    You definitely have a "feel for phenomena," and for dialogue, too.

    Lots of fun. I enjoyed your short story, and that painting by Marsh is one of the ones I really liked.

    I was trying to figure out who those women were, who they were waiting for, and now you've done it. Good job.

  15. Liked it Yvette - clever telling a story only in dialouge only. Great!

  16. Kathy: Thanks! I enjoyed trying to figure out who they were too. :)

  17. Thanks, Dave. It's great to see you dropping around to leave a comment or two. Much appreciated. :)

  18. I had no clue where you were going with this until the end, loved it. Dialogue stories either work or don't for me, and this one worked very well.

    Loved it.

  19. Thanks Ryan, I really do appreciate praise from one who's reviews I so admire.

    I'd never written a story just in dialogue before (well, except for that last paragraph), so this was a definite 'first' for me. :)

  20. Yvette, I really enjoyed it.
    I love it when the plot is developed only by the dialogue.
    And this, was a brilliant dialogue.
    Dry, precise, with no uselessl fringes.
    Playing hide and seek with the reader.
    If only this story could really happen...

    Brava, mia cara!

  21. Oh Viv, thanks so much. I'm thrilled to came over to my blog to take a look. :)

    I too wish this story could have happened. But you know, anything's possible.

    I still MIGHT happen, in the future.

  22. Back in the day, I started writing stories all in dialogue and before long they morphed into one-act plays. It's fun to see your dialogue performed by good actors.

    We know from history that Hitler kept surviving those attempts on his life, so I'm guessing this was another one of those times.

    Keep writing, and thanks for dropping by my blog today.

  23. Ron: This was my first try at writing a mostly dialogue story. I must say I really enjoyed it. Maybe I'll do more.

    This was a very fun challenge even if some of the stories were very noir.

    I left the ending open-ended, but in my heart I think Hal and Leo succeeded.

  24. Great take on the picture and you're right--great minds do think alike.

  25. I love this, Yvette! Absolutely brilliant dialogue.

  26. Well, if they went to all the trouble to cross-dress as well as time-travel...fun stuff!

  27. Katherine: Thanks for dropping by.
    It's nice to meet a fellow 'great mind'. :)

  28. Bev: Thanks, kiddo! Glad you enjoyed it.

  29. Todd: Thanks!

    I guess I was implying that dressing as women would make them seem less threatening. :)

  30. That's a nice comic buildup to an unexpected ending!
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  31. Thanks, Peter. Glad you dropped by. :)


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