It’s amazing to see how our minds can wander in different ways; how many variations of a story can come from a single picture. We recently proposed a challenge for our readers to become the storyteller, prompted by a historical found photograph with a brief caption as the only clue: “Parisian Woman with her Cat in her Cannabis Garden, circa 1910s”. It was an invitation to step into the writer’s seat, stretch those creative muscles and imagine the rest. And now without further ado, it’s time to gather round the fireplace as we share the short stories that transported us behind the mysterious camera lens…
“The Photographer’s Promise”
On October 16, 1910, in Montmartre, reports of Shiraz vines drying up outshone news that Alfred Kannst was found partially decapitated. Both stories begin in 1905 when Aryanna de Bosque arrived from Persia. Aryanna took her cat and two small shrubs to the pastoral hills above Paris, stopping at the fountain where St. Denis washed his own severed head in 250 AD … Continue reading the full short story by Sam Michaux here.
“That Damned Tram”
Jasper removed his hat and nodded, silently following her through the hallway and into the garden. The house smelled of stale bread and unwashed clothes. He wondered where the servant girl he had spoke with earlier had gone. His subject was seated on the terrace and he subtly studied her profile as her mother led him past. Tendrils of curly auburn hair escaped from the knot tied at the nape of her long neck, which was slightly inclined to the side as she read a newspaper balancing upon her knee. Jasper’s heart thumped in his chest. He had never found a woman so beautiful and he suddenly felt strangely timid … Continue reading the full short story by Morgan Walesh here.
“Under the Spell of Forbidden Narguillés”
I patiently waited at the old wooden door. The house had seen better days, it was a drab middle class two story building. The painting was chipping, grass was shooting between stones, the windows were quite dirty, opaque I’d say, with iron bars on the outside. Mold crawled upwards everywhere. She opened the door herself, with the majestic Siberian half-breed cat behind her skirt. “Good afternoon, please don’t make noise.” She led me through a very modest home that was average in all aspects, except for the fact that it had narguillé bottles everywhere in all sizes, colours and kinds. The bottles were all used, some were half full with leftovers of herbs and water, I supposed ... Continue reading the full short story by Fabiana Sarti here.
“The Garden of Troubled Souls”
The smell, once oppressive and annoying, was now soothing. The leaves always became more pungent baking in the warm sun and because of that, Delphine would often avoid the garden in midday. Her brother Guillaume started growing the cannabis plants for the pain and injuries he brought back from the war. At first, smoking it in the garden helped him sleep, but soon it didn’t. Despite the impression that his physical injuries had healed, a deeper internal hollowness emerged. […] When sleep was elusive, he was like a ghost, organizing things in the house, wine corks, spoons, flocons de savon. Sometimes, upon waking, Delphine would find groups of similar objects laid out in an ominous way that only made sense to her sibling ... Continue reading the full short story by Sasha Ann Hall here.
“It all began with the Flooding of the Seine”.
Sharp inhale, slow exhale. I can feel the smoke wind its way down my throat into my lungs, before exiting back through my lips. A small cough. I’m still getting used to this, and the story of how cannabis found me is quite an unusual one […] When the water started swallowing the streets, I panicked, since I lived alone. I had never cared to find a husband, the whole idea of marriage seemed rather senseless and complicated to me. But the flooding made me worry about getting stuck in the house and no one being able to find me. The water seemed endless, swelling for days on end and even reaching the Gare Saint-Lazare. I emptied the basement and barricaded the doors with flour-filled burlap sacks before the water could reach us. Every night, it seemed the water rose another inch… Continue reading the full short story here by Cara Hutto here.
“Mme Charlotte and Adam both knew where these evenings were leading…”
Mme Charlotte and her lodger lived in the unfashionable area of Le Marais. This previously aristocratic district had fallen into squalor, but the buildings still had an elegance that appealed to an aesthetically keen eye. Mme Charlotte raised her eyebrows and squinted slightly at anyone who suggested she might have fallen below her allotted station in life and carried on as though a duchesse born. How she arrived in this district was nobody’s business but her’s and her cat’s … Continue reading the full short story here by Elizabeth Haughton here.
“He Knew it Was Cannabis, She Did Not”
One day, Clotilde woke up earlier than usual, she always liked a grasse matinee. But that day, she was up at 5 a.m. She was awaken by a really strange but happy dream. She had seen that Flou was riding on a huge cloud and he was singing to her... Continue reading the full short story here by Kelly Papadopoulou here.
“The Escape to Saint Germain”
A young family in a horse drawn carriage kindly asked if I would like to join them on their journey to Saint Germain. I was elated as my Aunt Bernadette and her third husband Fritz have a home there. Many years ago they had abandoned their home to travel the world. Upon arrival I walked through the back gate into the overgrown and neglected courtyard. I placed my birds on the table right next to a rather odd cat sitting in a chair... Continue reading the full short story by Heather Bender here.
Thank you for all your submissions to the MNC Storyteller Challenge, we hope to do this again soon!
Photograph courtesy of the Casa-Rodríguez Postcard Collection