Short Stories: ‘The Blue Dress’

A linked series of three short stories introducing Rebecca, a Canadian teenager, living in Montreal during the 1940s.

Blue dress cropped

For many years I had coffee each morning in the cafe downstairs from my office. Occasionally, I’d meet Riva, an elderly woman who also stopped at the coffee shop before work. In March 2012 I told her I was retiring at the end of April. “I’m going to write. Short stories, maybe a novel.”

Riva perked up. “I have a story.” She proceeded to tell me about a blue dress that she had received as a gift when she was 12 years old growing up in Montreal. When I said her experience would make an interesting short story, she generously offered it to me – if I was interested. She didn’t have to ask me twice. The result is The Blue Dress.

Before I finished writing ‘The Blue Dress’ Riva told me another. “My girlfriend and I did something wicked. I don’t know if I should tell you about it.” A little persuasion and she ‘spilled the goods.’ The story is called The Maid.

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Story behind the Novel

It has been said that the writer doesn’t choose his story; instead the story chooses him. For many years on weekday mornings, I bought a cup of coffee and read a book in the café downstairs from my office. This quiet half hour provided a welcome transition between the aggravation of commuting and the pressure of IT work.

Book Front CoverOver time I recognized other patrons who remained in the café rather than grabbing a coffee and rushing back to work. One day I met Riva Weiss. I laugh because I ‘heard’ Riva before I met her. She has an irrepressible laugh and a voice that fills an auditorium. One day, she stopped at my table and asked what book I was reading. Over time, we discovered we shared a similar taste in literature (novels by English and Irish writers). Before long, we recommended and exchanged books with each other.

In March 2012, I told the coffee group I was retiring at the end of April. “What do you plan to do?” Riva asked.

“I’m going to get back to writing. Short stories, maybe a novel.”

Riva noted that I favored literature with ‘dark’ themes. When I agreed, she said, “Well then, I’ve got a story for you.” Over the next half hour she Rebecca Phototalked about her engagement when she was 18 years old in Montreal. She graciously offered me the chance to ‘write up the story.’ Instantly, I knew that this was more than a short story. Riva was surprised when I brought in chapter after chapter for her to read. “I thought this was going to be.” Like the apprentice’s broomsticks, the chapters kept coming. “But you haven’t even got to the proposal yet!” Even I wasn’t prepared for the final length: 90,000 words. “We’ve got a novel,” Riva said.

Echo from Mount Royal

Read the first three chapters of the novel
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