WEP February 2020 Challenge: Cafe Terrace


Genre: General Fiction
(The work that this will become part of is paranormal/sci-fi)

Word Count: 1000

Rating: PG-13 (profanity, discussion of adult situations)

Full critique accepted providing you agree to use the Hamburger Method.

Here is the kind of critique that is acceptable:
"I liked it when Paul told the roaming fishmonger that he wasn't interested in buying week-old fish. I am a bit confused as to why you are mentioning the fishmonger since he doesn't appear in the story. The fishmonger seems like an interesting character."

This is the kind of critique that is not acceptable:
"I don't usually read about farty old bastards reminiscing about their bygone youth, and I really don't care that Paul is sad about Gerry losing his memory. Paul seems really immature for a guy in his fifties, and I don't care about his wife either."

Further notes follow the story.

As Paul Clifford drifted off to sleep in the early hours of Valentine’s Day 2015, he dreamed of the unseasonably warm Valentine’s day in 1981. The then 27-year-old guitarist had been booted from the house by his wife with a kiss on the cheek and a swat on the backside as she told him to go walk off his nervous energy before it rubbed off on their five-and-a-half-week-old daughter. Paul promised Sophia that he would be back in time for their date that night. He jumped on his bad motor scooter and rode from the couple’s home in North Wembley to the Crouch End suburb where he had lived from 1963 to adulthood.

“Bloody place has changed so much,” Paul mused as he parked his scooter in front of La Parisienne Café on Wisteria Avenue. Paul entered the café and asked if he could use their telephone. After ringing up his brother, he asked if he could take tea on the terrace. The proprietor, a doughy, middle-aged, olive-skinned man with wild waves of black hair, a welcoming smile, and a warm Greek accent invited Young Sir to have a seat wherever he chose.

When Gerry stepped out of a cab an hour later, he looked rather the worse for wear. Paul hailed from the terrace with a sunny grin.

The proprietor led the bedraggled Gerry to the table and procured a teacup.

“Could I have coffee instead, Mate?” Gerry inquired. “Black, very strong.”

The affable gentleman returned to the interior of the shop.

“Funny pair, them,” he remarked to his brother. “Same size, similar faces, I am thinking them to be brothers or half-brothers. But the one is so sunny with his shining golden curls, and the other looks like he just crawled out of a tomb.”

“I think the dark-haired one is nursing a hangover,” the tall, slender brother observed. “You and I are a funny pair when you think about it. We are the Laurel and Hardy of pastries, the fat and the thin.”

Both brothers laughed, and the plump brother brought Gerry his coffee, walking in on the middle of a mild dispute.

“Why the bloody hell are you sitting on the terrace in the middle of feckin’ February?” Gerry demanded, shivering as he pulled his jacket around himself.

 “Ain’t my fault yer a feckin’ vampire what can’t tolerate the sun. Don’t be a cunt.”

“And don’t you be a right boor in front of this chap,” Gerry admonished, lighting a cigarette.

“Pardon my language,” Paul said, turning to the proprietor. “We’re brothers, and sometimes…”

“Yes, yes, this I know,” the proprietor laughed. “I work with my brother, the skinny broomstick behind the counter. It is funny you mention you sit on terrace. My name, you see, is Taras Tarasios. My brother is Xavier. We welcome you into our shop anytime. Will you young gentlemen be taking lunch today?”

“Yeah, Mate, that would be good,” Gerry agreed. “Bit of a bender last night, I’m afraid. Probably ought to get something other than coffee in me. Nothing too heavy, though. Annie would have my head if I slagged off dinner tonight ‘cause I ate too much lunch.”

“Maybe we could split something,” Paul suggested. “Bowl of soup apiece, then a sandwich to share. Whatever you’ve got on special, Mr. Taras.”

 “So, how’s Danny doing?” Paul asked, referencing Gerry’s son, born five days before Paul’s daughter.

“Well, he ain’t had a seizure in twenty hours, so I guess he’s arite,” Gerry said. “Are you sure this bird you’ve hired to watch the kiddas tonight is up to the task of caring for a wee chap with seizures?”

“Well, she ain’t just any bird, she’s a nurse,” Paul replied, looking on with concern as Gerry procured a flask from his coat pocket and poured some of the contents into his coffee.

“Hair of the dog that bit me,” Gerry explained. “You needn’t say anything, Paulie. I’ve got to get this trouble of mine under wraps. I don’t want me son growing up with a drunkard for a father.”

“Gerry, if I was speaking with anyone else, I’d say this wasn’t my business, but you’re the closest person in the world to me, so I’ve gotta ask. Are you happy being married to Anne?”

“Well, who the hell else was I going to marry?” Gerry quipped. “Seeing as I put her in a family way, it only seemed the right thing to do. Don’t start with me, Paulie. Not everyone is so fortunate as you and Sophia, who have a love affair so sickeningly sweet it could rot the teeth right out of your head. Not sure I’d want one, really. Wouldn’t be able to concentrate on business if all I could think of was the love of me life. I’d always be dropping clinkers from me guitar like you do these days.”

“Aw, go fuck yourself,” Paul chuckled, lighting a cigarette. “Yeah, I got lucky when I landed Sophia. Never thought a beautiful bird like her would take to a feckin’ ugly blighter like me.”

“Paulie?”

Paul turned to look at the person shaking his shoulder. He woke to see Sophia’s worried eyes and realized that there were tears on his face.

“You said you wanted me to wake you so you could have lunch with Gerry at the care center,” Sophia said.

Paul sniffled and dried his eyes. Sophia procured a comb and ordered Paul to sit while she combed his thinning hair.

“What were you dreaming about, Love?” Sophia inquired.

“A Valentine’s day years ago when I met Gerry at that café in Crouch End,” Paul said. “Alice and Danny were barely more than a month old, and me and Gerry…well, I was twenty-seven and he was twenty-nine, but we hardly seemed more than kids ourselves. Now he’s forgetting more and more as the days pass. Every day I lose a bit more of me brother.”

Sophia put down the comb and embraced her husband as he wept.

~Cie for Team Netherworld~

Further Notes:
This piece will become a chapter in the current WIP from this universe, tentatively titled The Ballad of Gerry Clifford.




Digital art by me. You are welcome to use it, but please credit me. (Cara Hartley, The Real Cie, The Ornery Old Lady, or even Cie Cheesemeister will do.)

I worked with the geriatric population including many people with dementia for a cumulative of around 25 years. I had to get out of the field when it started to become personal. It's one thing to be a caregiver whose patient has dementia. It's quite another when it's someone you know.

37 comments:

  1. Dementia is I think the cruelest of illnesses (which says a lot given just how cruel that playing field is). The person you love, the person you knew is gone, but the body they inhabit needs a lot of care.
    And yes, while this danced heavily on some of my buttons, I so understand the reality of the situation being a nightmare which invaded Paul's dreams. Tears are entirely appropriate, and I am glad that he has Sophia.

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    1. Glen Campbell's wife said that it's better to die pretty much any other way, and I agree with her. My father had vascular dementia, which is a different beast from something like Alzheimer's, but the person who left this world was not the one we had known for most of our lives. He had been a college professor. Towards the end of his life he was sundowning and confusing situations on TV with reality. He was also wheelchair-bound. When I saw the picture that my mother chose for his obituary, I was shocked at how much he had really declined in a six-year period.
      My aunt had probable Lewy Body dementia, although nothing was ever 100% confirmed. My uncle said it onset quickly, but I think she was probably hiding her symptoms until she simply couldn't anymore. It was so difficult for him to take care of her at the end. She was never violent, but she would go off wandering, and she didn't know who he was anymore. It took forever for him to get her into a home. She ended up having a massive heart attack a few months after, which took her out. It still seems surreal.

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  2. Oh, my heart! I've got a Loved One with dementia and totally understand. It's heartbreaking. Horrid disease that robs people of so much more than memories. Sending hugs to you.

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    1. Thank you, and back to you. It's the worst. It's like losing the person twice, once watching them decline and once again when they pass away.

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  3. What a twist at the end. I didn't see that coming! Really well written.

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  4. Oops, Just had a fight with my sister. Better be calling to make up with her. Time slips by to quickly then all we have are our memories, until we don't even have those. Great snippet from your ballad. Happy belated Valentine's Day.

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    1. Thank you. My relationship with my brother is strained. I keep feeling like I really need to do something to fix things, but it's hard to know what. Especially when there is so much physical distance between us as well. I'm in Colorado and he's in Arizona.

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    2. The same for us, and I'm still trying to figure out a way to apologize - even though an apology is the one thing I really want from her. LOL But I'll get it done, she only means well.

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  5. It is heartbreaking, when someone you love start loosing their memories. It's like the person you knew isn't there anymore, and a stranger with the familiar, beloved features faces you instead.

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    1. Agreed. Sometimes it takes a toll on their physical appearance as well. My father looked like a shade of himself, although his body was bloated with fluid from congestive heart failure. The day he passed it was on one hand a relief and on the other hand there was a great emptiness.

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  6. I'm neither a spammer nor a troll, and hopefully, not dead wood. I'm here to offer my meager comments on your WEP submission. First, I was sorely disappointed not find the fishmonger, but moving on...

    The description was perfect in this, and the light touches of humor made the characters interesting and gave me an inkling of the tone of your book. Here are my favorites: "the other looks like he just crawled out of a tomb"-- "love affair so [sickenly] sweet it could rot the teeth right out of your head"

    I think it's sickeningly, but you could also use sickly. In graph 6, you might change "gentleman" for "proprietor" so the POV shift is smoother for the reader. Also you might consider making it immediately clear (I'm sometime obtuse) that your character is returning from his dream to the present. "Paul WAS ANNOYED at the person shaking HIM OUT OF HIS DREAM. He woke to see Sophia’s worried eyes and realized that there were tears on his face." I'm also suggesting this because in sentence 1, he turns to look and in sentence 2 he wakes. My brain says you can't turn to look before you wake. You wake first.

    Good luck with your manuscript, I'm already liking the characters and tone you've established here.

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    Replies
    1. Sickly is good. Paul wasn't annoyed by the person shaking him, he was curious as to who it was. Which means I need to make that clear!
      I would beg to differ about not being able to turn to look before waking, but I tend to astral project and also to have problems with sleep paralysis. But that's a whole other story!
      Thank you for your comments, I appreciate it.

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  7. Hello Cie! Another paranormal for our enjoyment for the CAFE TERRACE prompt. Love this: '...the other looks like he just crawled out of a tomb.' LOL. I knew where this was going.
    Love your digital art, BTW.

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  8. Hi,

    I enjoyed reading your submission, and I was engaged with Paul and Gerry and there conversation. It drew me in. Then I realized toward the end that he had been dreaming. Is there any way to restructure so that the part about him dreaming is more obvious at the beginning?

    Your dialogue between the two brothers is spot on. That's what hooked me.

    Great job.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

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    1. Hi Pat,
      I'll certainly look at that part before I publish the book it goes into. Thanks for the thought.

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  9. An engaging and poignant Valentine flash. Dementia is devastating for the entire family, especially the caregivers.

    I liked the touches of humour, the character development, and the twist at the end. I'm glad Paul has a supportive wife around and a solid 34-year marriage. He'll need that support to navigate the crisis of his brother's illness. I particularly liked the comparison of love so sweet that it rots the teeth out of the head :) and also the 'Laurel and Hardy of pastries'. Great job!

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    1. Thank you so much, Nilanjana. My mother was my father's primary caregiver. I worked full time and my brother lived out of state, so we weren't able to offer much respite. Taking care of him took a toll on her health too.

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    2. Yes, I've seen it in my extended family. The stress on the family/caregivers is corrosive. We have a somewhat better understanding of both disease and caregiving now, though it's not easy still. Decades ago the situation was even more dire. Terrible for everyone involved. Heartbreaking.

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  10. Oh..How I know about dementia. It can be devastating.
    The characters are interestingly built and the conversation gripping. Paul realizing that he had been crying in his sleep..That's relatable.
    Sonia from A Hundred Quills

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    1. Thank you, Sonia. Dementia is horrible. After my father had a major hemorrhagic stroke, it took a toll on the entire family. Really, we've never recovered. He had more strokes after that and developed vascular dementia. He has been gone closing in on ten years now, and it still doesn't seem real.

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  11. Dementia is a terrible thing. The idea of slowly forgetting everything terrifies me. I enjoyed seeing the relationship between the brothers when they were younger, and I was heartbroken at the end. Wonderfully done!

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    1. Same here. As Glen Campbell's widow said, it's better to die some other way. I worry more about vascular dementia than something like Alzheimer's. Except for my aunt (mother's sister) there isn't any history of that sort of thing in my family. I have idiopathic hypertension and diabetes, so I'm very vulnerable on the vascular front. I do take antihypertensive medication and use insulin, but it still worries me.
      I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Thank you for stopping by!

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  12. I found your piece really interesting and the ending was so emotional. Dementia is such a cruel illness. The characters were very well developed, especially as they each had a distinct way of talking, and their brotherly relationship seemed very realistic. I'm intrigued by the baby with seizures and hope that he will be all right.

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    1. Thank you. Danny does show up as an adult in the story I'm working on. I used to work as a nurse with medically fragile children until my own health prevented me from doing so. One of my patients was a boy with a rare x-linked illness who had frequent seizures.

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  13. What a beautifully realistic story of love and loss. Dementia is so hard- there's no other way to describe it. Kudos for adding a touch of humor to a subbject so heartbreaking. Lovely piece. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Dementia is the actual worst. It seems so cruel and heartless to me to not only lose one's life but to lose oneself in the process. Thank you for your thoughts.

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  14. Dementia is a truly evil disease. This is sweet and sad both. The accents were clear, the voice intriguing. Loved the verbiage, the by play between both sets of brothers.

    Thanks for a glimpse of the WIP.

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    1. Thank you, Dolorah. It's odd, but in all the years that I worked with dementia patients, there was a cognitive dissonance about what was really going on with them until it hit home for me in a personal way. I never had a problem working with those folks before that time. Afterwards, it became too depressing and I went to the other end of the spectrum and started working with special needs kids.

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  15. Hi Cie - what a true tale to life piece for the prompt - you did do really well ... and I just enjoyed the characters, wondering where we were going ... but the ending is just too terrible to contemplate. I was so grateful neither my mother, nor my father's brother had dementia - even though were terminally ill for a few years (as I looked after them), but at least lucid. It's good you're drawing on your knowledge - one can read that in to your words too ... congratulations - cheers Hilary

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  16. The dialogue throughout was entertaining, lively and brought the characters alive. Informative too, Cie, but they never ate hamburger or fish. Where was it? ;-) Like how you wrote the sad twist at the end. My late ex-mother-in-law had dementia and it was so difficult for all her family. Looking forward to next piece of art - great use of the prompt, Cara.

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  17. I like that you have 2 pair of brothers in this piece. The humor throughout and the mention of the children makes the ending more poignant and heartbreaking. Good job on the word choices to imply an English accent, too.

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  18. Your story, the way the conversation unfolds and your fabulous imagery made this such a wonderful read for me. Thet at the end was an added bonus. Dementia something I would rather not think about, it's so distressing, and I'm in awe of you for having worked in that field for 25 years. There were a couple of typos but I think cleemckenzie caught those so I won't mention them. Wonderful story, so real.

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  19. Thank you for the warning at the beginning - taking that on board I did read on. Your story is so true to life for so many people, the people who are suffering and those that try to help or watch them suffer.

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  20. This story was so poignant and fun, all at once. It had every thing, the exotism of the Greek brothers, the authentic and light banter between Gerry and Paul and the twist at the end, dementia, that I didn’t see coming. As you mentioned sci-fi at the beginning, I imagined Paul leaving Sophia and never coming back for their date, having fallen in a time warp or something. Vivid images in the words and great links. So very well done.
    Wish you all the inspiration necessary for your ongoing novel. Take care Cara.

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  21. That is so touching! Love the way the conversation shaped up.

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