Flash Fiction: When They Were New



The harpsichord had woodworm, much of the ivory was gone and one broken leg was jacked up on bricks. Peter flicked out his coat tails, eaten into fine lace by moths, and sat.

Dressed in ragged petticoats and crinoline, Cara curtsied low and I took her hand, kissed it. As we danced I thought of those who’d played and danced before us; the people who’d worn these clothes when they were new. And as if from above I saw Peter sitting and us cavorting on the dusty floorboards, fading and turning, turning and fading until we too disappeared into time.


A Friday Fictioneers 100-word flash fiction inspired by the picture above, provided this week by Jan W. Fields. Click here to join in and write your own, or here to read other people’s.


If you live near Bath, England, you might like to know that Our Endless Numbered Days has been selected as The Big Bath read by the Bath Literature Festival. You can get a free copy of the book, read it and come along to open book clubs, and a couple of events I’m speaking at. More information.


62 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: When They Were New

  1. Very atmospheric… ‘broken leg jacked up’ places it immediately in a modern setting and again your imagery is wonderful ‘eaten into fine lace by moths’ and enhanced by one perfect rich word like ‘cavirting’ … fab! AND unusually, no hidden darkness as such but yes, can see why narrative could be perceived as ethereal.


  2. Woodworm and “coat tails, eaten into fine lace by moths”; “ragged petticoats and crinoline,” and dusty floorboards. This is so well done with the photo. Takes us back in time….Just lovely.


  3. This is beautiful. Setting a scene and creating an atmosphere: you are an expert with this. To me this reads like a blending of present and past, for a moment, time stands still, and the narrator and the spirits of dead people are one: at the same time acting and watching.


  4. Beautifully written Claire. Some wonderful sentences that conjure up all sorts of images. As I read it I could picture them dancing and fading away. I loved the way you started with your description of the battered old harpsichord and then that hint that Peter, in his moth eaten clothes, would once again bring it to life.
    A great read.


  5. I may be wrong but I see a deserted house, long deserted, with children who found a way in. I know of property disputes where this can happen. The land can’t be sold until the legal rights are settled. I’ve probably taken this too literally. You’ve painted a memorable mind picture with these few words, Claire. Congratulaitons on the continued promotion activities available for your book. 🙂 — Suzanne


  6. Awesome – I saw these people as ghosts, briefly returning for one last dance then fading – …but I going back over it, I can see the ‘alive’ POV too. Haunting piece, regardless of interpretation.


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