Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Painted Ladies. A Short Story

Soo...I wrote a short story, using the photo prompt over at Girl From North Country. I don't usually post my work here, but it was so gratifying to write this particular short, that I thought I'd share. The story is titled Painted Ladies, and you can read it below.

Painted Ladies By Laura Page

photo prompt. source
It was one of the more distinctive buildings, downtown. Bright yellow, stuccoed, the color of sweet creamed corn.  And those smiling, painted ladies on the wall never stopped smiling.

She didn’t know why she had to pass Troy’s Gentlemen’s Club everyday on her walk. Something just led her along that route. Each time she passed, she examined peeling yellow paint and peeling flesh colored paint, filling in the long arms, legs; torsos pocked with blackened spots where a patron had snuffed out his cigarette on the wall. The painted strippers looked like larger-than-life versions of the paper dolls she’d played with as a girl. Funny, stripping had made her feel like one of those dolls. She sniffed. Only difference was, she didn’t get to dress up in new clothes after peeling off her costumes on stage.

She used to run past this building at a fast, measured clip in the afternoons, before her shift started. The tall, grinning ladies a blur. Now she walked at a casual pace, making her way toward Briscoe Street. The grinning ladies came into focus and she smiled back at them, ironically. Now she pitied them, because the pocked, peeling paint never gave them an escape. When she’d shown signs of wearing down, old at 24, she’d been replaced by a wide-eyed Puerto Rican girl, with glossy black hair that fell to her waste. Barely eighteen.  At the time, the news that she was being let go enraged her. She set fire to her locker room, took a razor blade to the rows of costumes hanging from the wheeled racks. Then, while on parole, she missed her period.

When the test showed up positive, she cried until her nose ran and hiccoughs caught in her throat. She cried like she hadn’t cried in five years, and it felt good. When she stopped crying she splashed cold water on her face, brushed her teeth, pulled her limp, blonde hair into a tight, neat ponytail, and got into her car. She pulled into a Goodwill on the other side of town twenty minutes later on a whim, entered the store, and picked up a shopping basket. She wandered the isles, not giving much thought at first to the things she dropped into the basket:  some elastic wasted jeans a couple sizes too big, a button down oxford blouse and an oversized blazer, a beat up pair of Nikes, some plastic measuring cups, a ceramic bowl, and a paperback cookbook with the words “Cheap, Fast, Good!” on the cover. She was about to leave the paperbacks when something else caught her eye, another book—a bedtime storybook for children, titled “Goodnight Moon.” She stared for a few seconds, then picked up the book and started reading somewhere in the middle--

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Goodnight cow jumping over the moon
Goodnight light and the red balloon

Another relic from her childhood. A hardcover version of this book had been in her bookshelf, next to the tin containing her paper dolls.  She placed the book in the basket.

Before making her way to the checkout counter, she counted the bills in her purse, and discovered she was a few dollars short of the total cost of her selections. So she carefully and covertly peeled the orange price stickers off of the jeans and the Nikes, and switched them with stickers she found on lower priced items nearby, a toaster and a picture frame. The lady at the cashier rang her up without blinking.

Seven months later, there was Violet. She named her tiny daughter, born two months premature, after the determined, heartsease blossoms her mother had grown in her window boxes.  Those first few days, as the doctors hovered and monitored, she felt as fragile as her newborn infant.  She knew they would make it, though. Both of them. They would grow up together.

Five years had passed. She walked each day now from their apartment complex, though downtown, passing Troy’s Gentleman’s Club and smiling each time at the ageless, painted ladies. Smiling not so much at their stuccoed faces, but at how much younger and more vital she felt now than she had when she’d worked for Troy, even though she was almost thirty now, and there were faint stretch marks below her navel.

After picking Violet up from Briscoe Elementary, they walked the few blocks home together, hand in hand, using an alternate route. One that went past the park and Safeway instead of Troy’s Gentleman’s Club.


  1. Excellent work! I love how descriptive you are in this - I really feel like I'm seeing everything with her. Especially your reference to "pocked paint" and "orange price stickers" and things like that! I love those little details - they really make a story.

  2. I love this story Laura, just posted it on my blog. Sweet,sweet ending,not at all what I expected. Thanks for playing my parlour game.

  3. Thanks, ladies! This was fun to write. Thanks to Michel for the great prompt!

  4. Hi, Laura! I'm stopping by from She Writes. This is such a lovely story. I like this line the best: "They would grow up together." It's bursting with hope. Looking forward to reading more of your work :)


  5. Hi Samantha, thanks for your comment! Glad you stopped by!

  6. Wow!! Laura I love it. Keep em coming!

  7. I love how personal, how connecting it is to read this (and I am also a huge fan of happy hopeful endings)Good Job, I love it!

  8. Wow, great story!! I love the picture you chose - perfect! I can't wait to read more of your fiction!!

  9. Thanks ladies! I actually didn't choose the picture. It was posted over at Michel's blog. She took that picture in Manhatten and posted it up on her blog as a story prompt.

  10. Oh, well super extra cool, then ;)

  11. I left a comment at the girlfromthenorthcountry for your wonderful story! I've done one too, which will be posted tomorrow. Its fascinating to me a picture can be so differently perceived! Bravo for your story, its got wonderful details and imagery. Shah from X



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