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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Autobiography

Dave Riese -smallerBorn in 1946, I grew up in Arlington, Massachusetts. In 1958, I moved to Toronto, Canada for three years, when my father was relocated by his employer.

Attending school in Canada for three years provided two valuable lessons: I looked at the United States as an ‘outsider’ and I lost my Boston accent. My seventh-grade teacher gave me an impromptu pronunciation lesson when I told him, “My fatha had an idear.”

College

I attended Bates College in Maine, majoring in English literature. During my junior year, I studied at Oxford University and travelled to Russia, France, Italy and Greece during vacations. I graduated in 1968.

Military Service

I enlisted in the Air Force one step ahead of my draft board’s kind invitation to join the army in Vietnam. For no apparent reason, the AF assigned me to hospital administration. I married Susan, my high school girlfriend, during leave between tech school and my first posting to the Philippines at Clark Air Base. During my final two years in the military, my wife and I lived outside Washington D.C. near Andrews Air Force Base.

Graduate School and First Job

After my military discharge in 1972, I attended Boston University for a Master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism. The following summer, the University of New Hampshire hired me to script and film videotapes about government social programs for the elderly. In those days, a portable video camera was heavy and attached to a bulky machine which recorded images on reel-to-reel tape in black and white. During the recession of 1976, the grant was not renewed.

A Career in Information Technology

Luckily at that time, companies were eager to hire people for their data processing departments. Liberty Mutual Insurance hired me to attend their three-month training course in computer programming. I learned later that the major reason I was hired was my writing and communications background. I’ve often said, “This goes to show an English degree is a valuable asset!”

During my 35 years in information technology, the industry evolved from punch cards for mainframes to personal computers using the internet. I retired from Mass Financial Services in the spring of 2012.

Retirement

Before retirement I told himself, “You call yourself a writer, but you’ve never made it a priority and done the hard, daily grind.” Since then I spend 3 – 4 hours, 5 days a week, writing, usually in a local coffee shop.

My wife and I moved north of Boston in 1974. We have two children: a daughter and a son. Jessica lives in Ireland with her husband and two daughters. Jeffrey and his wife are pediatricians practicing in Providence. They have a son and daughter.

I am a member of:IBPA Logo

IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) is an organization that provides programs and support for independent publishers and self-published authors.

NWU LogoThe Boston Chapter of the NWU (National Writers Union) is the only labor union that represents freelance writers.

ALLi LogoThe Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is the professional association for authors who self-publish, offering contacts and campaigns, education and collaboration.

 

 

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