Short story: Whitewash



He adjusted his binoculars to bring the house into focus as he had done a thousand mornings. He watched the girl on the roof in ragged shorts hanging out washing. He liked it best when she bent over the basket.

Later she was at the kitchen window, working hard – preparing vegetables, cooking, washing up. She never ate with the family; always alone on the fenced-in balcony and quickly, looking over her shoulder. Scared.

The next morning the man of the house was painting the balcony wall.

He focused his binoculars and could just make out the letters H E L before they too, were gone.


For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture, this time from Bjorn Rudberg, is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each story is only about 100 words long, so why not read a few others: click here to read some more or to join in.

And please comment below with any suggestions on mine, or just to show you’ve visited.


I’m very excited to let you know that one of my short stories – Baker, Emily and Me – has won the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition, which means it will be read out on Radio 4 on 29th August at 3:45 BST. So do listen out for it and let me know what you think. For those readers not in the UK, it will be up on the BBC website for a week afterwards.

49 thoughts on “Short story: Whitewash

  1. Great story, Claire. You do a great job of creating intrigue and tension in only a few words.

    Also, congratulations on the recent win. Will you provide a link to the webcast of the show once it airs? I’d love to hear it!

    All my best,
    Marie Gail


  2. At first I thought ‘hello’ but then realised it wasn’t. A chilling story. Five stars.
    I’ll try and catch the programme. It’s in my diary. I checked their website and see that one of my Macclesfield writing group is on the long list. Her stuff is good so that says something for your work. Congrats.


  3. Dear Claire,

    It took me a second look to get HEL and what was going on. I hope the man with the binoculars will rescue her. Nicely done as always.

    I’ve missed you the past couple of weeks. But it sounds like I was right in my assumption that you were off doing more important literary things. I’ll look forward to hearing the BBC broadcast online.




  4. Intriguing story, a chance discovery by the peeping Tom, what happens next is up to our imagination. Congratulations on the winning story, please do give us a link.


  5. Yeah, I thought HELL first too, and then realized HELP. Either could have applied to the poor girl I’m guessing. Great story!


  6. That’s great a Peeping Tom coming to the imagined rescue of a captive a girl in ragged shorts bending over a laundry basket…
    or was she enjoying being ogled and painted Hello and her name and number on the wall to which her husband, knowing her voyeuristic instincts, quickly painted over it before it could get her into trouble – again.

    good story. Randy


  7. Oh hell that was unsettling. It comes to something when your only chance of escape is the pervert eyeing you up. I just hope he’s intelligent and selfless enough to act on what he’s seen.
    Congratulations on the Radio 4 story. I will be listening.


  8. I loved this story, and I love that I had to stop and think about that last bit, then re-read it – I love being an active reader, and I love being confronted when I read, too. Uncomfortable truths, invigorating. It’s a great concept, I might try it privately – would love to use it in an English class.

    Congrats on the win, too!


  9. Incredible what a woman of low economic standing has to endure. it’s hardly fantastic for the more secure among us. No way out for her. The man within is a problem and so is the man without. Nowhere she can go for safety. One can guess what happened to her. Very, very chilling story. People don’t realise. Congrats on the win and go from strength to strength.


  10. Great story with a tight, high-impact ending. I could feel myself wanting to add the last letter. It reminded me of the end to 28 days later, one of those haunting images that stays with you. I hope they wind up okay.


  11. Claire, Congratulations on having a winning story!. I’ll check on that when I get the link. Good and scary story. I hope she’s saved from that situation. It sounds like she’s a slave in that house. Well written as always. 🙂 —Susan


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