Memory Lane

Your character doesn’t make impulse purchases, but one day at the market they felt compelled to buy… what?
I'm using this to try and get under the skin of a character I'm working on. Any feedback appreciated

The jazz shops being closed for another half hour or so yet, I decided to wander through the market. Most of the stalls were just beginning to set up. One or two of the traders were standing looking up at the sky, undecided as to whether they should open or not. Of course, to leave now, would invite not a little irritation from the other traders. Much like sailors on a sinking ship, traders who leave a market hardly inspire confidence among the buying public. Solidarity. It had been Dad's A - Z. I saw myself once again, sitting on that high stool just about making it up to Dad's shoulder while he gave me a running commentary on all the goings on. That, of course, was long before that stroke of good fortune which enabled him to progress from a flea marketeer to antique dealer; almost overnight.

I squeeze my way through the narrow alleys trying to distinguish the various smells which begin to lay assault on my nose. I used to play at guessing with Dad. And there's the cheese vendor. Now he is one for the nose. Same old sign in front of his stand: touch, smell, taste. And the young guy's Dad always used to slip me a couple of extra pieces with a great big wink.

"Mister, over here." I turn and meet the brightest smile. A large lady vaunting her wares, holding out an alphabet full of colours; finest cloth for the best of ladies. I'm no longer sure if it's me talking or her. Nothing much changes on the market. The whistling of the loudspeakers and a voice announces the last chance to win a bottle of Baron Dumarrier... Suze's favourite.

How lucky I am to have found in him a second father. I was sixteen when Dad went. I'd have probably got by alone. But it was good to have someone give me a guiding hand. And when Suze invited me to be part of his set-up, I sprang at the chance. To be honest, I think he only asked me because he was a bit disappointed in his son, a somewhat profligate young man who did his best to squander his father's trust. But even after their reconciliation Suze continued to treat me like one of his most trusted friends.

The church clock strikes ten. One of the two shops is bound to be open by now. I push my way through the crowds and try to overhear the trader's banter. At the end of the alley, a small wood-crafter is busy at his wheel; a variety of his creations on the table in front of him. But my eye immediately falls on the three monkeys on the table: Dad's three monkey. I can see them still besides the old shop till. Dad always had them there. He called them his motto. In reality, they were his life.

Three monkeys: the first his hands over his eyes; Dad's voice exhorting me never to close mine to any injustice for the sake of convenience. The second, his hands over his mouth... Dad's favourite: "Never let an ugly word frequent your lips." And if ever I had done, I'm quite sure he really would have taken some Marseille soap to wash my mouth out. And then, the one I could never understand. Hands clasped over his ears, he could never hear no evil. How I used to protest. It's not my fault if people say bad things when I'm there. Am I wiser now? I'm aware of the temptation. But do I flee?

The three monkeys look far nicer than the old chipped ones Dad had in the shop. The craftsmanship is beautiful and the deep rosewood adds a touch of fright to their looks. I cannot resist. Money changes hands. The monkey's are mine. I go off in search of my partitions. And only when I gaze into the shop window do I realise I'll have to put off my purchase until I'm paid next month. Not that I care.


This is a fantastic piece. The first thing that struck me was the jazz reference and that I hadn't thought of using a music focus for my prompt being a drummer and all.

However, the link between father and son through the three monkeys was beautifully crafted. A wonderfully deep connection between past and present that is captured in concise brevity.

19 March 2010 at 11:41  

Definitely one of my favourites of your pieces! You really conjured up the colours and variety of a market.

19 March 2010 at 15:35  

What a great piece. You truly painted pictures with your words.

19 March 2010 at 22:47  

Love the bit about the monkeys. It gives a great insight into the character of both father and son. Great use of an object to reveal character.

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