Writing Prompt: The eyes have it…

It’s funny, when I speak to people the first thing that strikes me is their eyes. From taking a good look, I’m usually able to gather a pretty accurate picture of their character. Sometimes I ignore my instincts and it has only ever caused me grief when I went with what was said rather what their eyes told me.

I’ve seen so many things; grace, honesty, beauty, treachery, friendship, fear, love, curiosity, distaste, among others, all hiding just beneath the surface. Recently I was talking with someone and during the course of conversation, I cracked a horrible joke. Although I seriously bombed, there was something charming in the recipient’s reaction. There was a shake of the head, as if appalled by my poor taste in cheesy jokes, but the eyes told me it wasn’t so horrible.

The exchange was the exact opposite of an experience I had a few months ago in the pub. I was mingling with the group and watched a conversation between two people taking place. As they spoke, there was something flat, disinterested in the eyes of the person listening to the other speak. Despite the obviousness to me, there seemed to be a lack of comprehension in the person speaking. Had she looked up into his face instead to staring over his shoulder or into her wine glass, she would have changed the subject or paused long enough to let him get a word in…

They say that body language is important, but nothing tells a clearer story more quickly than the look in someones eyes.

Try this, write a short paragraph describing someones eyes. Shape, colour, expression. Then, go deeper, give them emotion, make them react. What do they see, how do they respond to either what they are seeing or what they hear.

Writing Prompt: The eyes have it…

Far Away Places – A Short Story

The girl wore cut off jeans, a white tee shirt with CK on the shoulder and blue canvas trainers. Agnes reached for the card she held out to her and waited for her to speak.

The girl looked embarrassed, as if she were uncertain of what she wanted to ask. Agnes looked at her more carefully. The trainers looked new and her hair, held in a ponytail and tucked beneath a baseball cap gave her a tomboy look. A Mercedes waited outside the RV Park’s office.

“I know this is a weird question,” the girl said, “but will you mail this for me?”

Agnes reached out from behind the counter. “No problem. I mail things for people all the time.”

“Yeah, but I didn’t get the postcard here. It’s from Venice. I forgot to mail it there so I put a US stamp on it instead.”

Agnes looked at the card. It was a colour photo of a gondola nestled against a dock. In the foreground there stood a large decorative building with ornate towers and carved windows. A small brick bridge connected the building to another stone structure as impressive as the first.

“It’s the Palazzo Ducale on the Grand Canal. My parents and I were in Europe for six months and now we’re touring the States before we go home. Have you ever been to Venice?”

Agnes shook her head. “We don’t get to leave much. You know, looking after this place.” Agnes waved her arm around her to demonstrate.

“Right.” The girl said. She seemed to be studying her. “I know how it goes. Well, thanks.”

The girl was graceful as she went to the car. Her head was high, her steps confident. Agnes watched her get into the Mercedes station wagon. The parents were trying to control a dachshund in the back seat.

Agnes looked at her reflection in the mirror behind the till. She looked tired and much older than her seventeen years. Her blonde hair was limp and a small pimple was just appearing under her chin.

She looked at the card again. The place seemed to be from another world, where everyone was sophisticated and spoke with musical accents. She imagined herself sitting in the gondola with a handsome Italian rower taking her from one fancy café to another.

“Agnes, I need you in the outside bathroom. They’re out of toilet paper in the ladies room!” Her mother shouted from the back of the store.

In all the years she had worked for her parents at the RV Park, Agnes had never seen her mother replace the toilet paper in the toilets. It was always her job.

I’d never have to do that if I went to Venice, she thought. My handsome servant Marco or Luca would do it, or my maid, Maria.

“Agnes!” Her mother’s voice echoed through the shop.

“Coming!” Agnes shouted back.

Her family had never had a proper vacation. They went to Disneyland for three days in the summer when she was ten, but from then on it was camping trips in the summer or visits to Grandma’s every Christmas and Easter. Ever since Grandma had her stroke every day off was spent driving to Stockton to see her.

“Gran need us.” Her mother had said. “She old and she loves to see her grandchildren. We don’t know how much longer we’re going to have her with us.”

She had said those words six years before and every year since. The guilt kept Agnes from complaining. She loved her Grandmother and new she should make the effort with the rest of the family. Besides, what else would she do? She had no money but the meagre allowance her parents gave her. The RV Park only did well in the summer when the climbers passed through on the way to Yosemite or up to Mt. Shasta.

“Agnes!” Her mother called out again.

Startled, Agnes looked toward the back of the shop then at the card again. She could feel the slight bump where the stamp met the rough paper and the words “Wish you were here…” appeared. People should always go to far away places, she thought. Places better than this.

Outside, two boys ran across the wet lawn. They had turned on the sprinklers and were running between the jets, shirts off, shorts soaked.

In time, the photo would deteriorate; fade, like the memory of that perfect place. The mailbox was behind the counter, just above the bin. She let the card drop.

© Eliza Dashwood

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