I had some short stories, poems and photographs to share ... and so here I am

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The Dresses That Won't Be Chosen

When I entered the shop I triggered some ghastly buzzer, which made me jump like a deranged woman. My elegant posture vanished and my cheeks fell. The noise was similar to what I’d set off the day before when I walked underneath one of those security arches at the island’s main airport. Instead of wishing me a lovely holiday, the guards had got all excited about my innocent buckles and a coin lost in loose stitching. Another ear-splitting buzzer was the last thing I needed.

The elderly shopkeeper sitting inside didn’t look up, though. Madam stayed focused on some ears of corn she was dehusking with a small knife. I use the word madam, but she could very well have been a man. The dry, chubby hands were definitely masculine, and so too was the grimy woollen hat. I would’ve said mister if it hadn’t been for the stockings and red, pointy shoes.

The lady should’ve been happy, no? No one for kilometres, and then there I was, stumbling into her dingy shack. I mean, you wouldn’t exactly call it a shop. Don’t make me laugh.

‘Those dresses hanging up outside,’ I said.

‘Not for you, dear.’ She ripped the hair and skin off another poor cob, still not wanting to see my face.

‘Not for me? I’m sorry?’

‘They’re for other women.’ She kicked the pot of naked corn in front of her.

Had she wanted to force the cobs to the bottom to make more room? Or had the lashing out been a warning? ‘The white dresses outside,’ I said more forcefully.

‘Sorry, my love, but you’re not going to be wearing one of those.’ This time she looked up, pulling off her hat. Yes, a man’s face. Eyes almost bleeding. Short, scruffy grey hair. Skin that resembled pastry. A man! Except for those shoes and stockings, and a dress made of dark velvet.

‘Well, no one else is wearing them,’ I said. A dim bulb crackled overhead, swinging from what seemed to be shoelaces tied together. ‘I have American dollars. I presume yours is a business that relies on profits?’

‘It’s not about money, dear. I just didn’t make a dress for someone like you.’

‘Well, of course you didn’t! I wouldn’t expect to find something made to order.’

She laughed and shook her head, the knife looking dangerous in her hand. ‘Don’t get angry. It’s not good for you.’

‘I could just try one on, madam. It’ll take just two minutes.’ I did feel angry. I thought these island traders were the ones who had to hustle. If I hadn’t had my heart set on the dress with the fine lacework around the middle, I would’ve stamped my way out of there, slamming her cardboard door behind me.

‘We have one for a woman who will fall in love,’ she said, her eyes now fixed on the ceiling. ‘There’s another one for a woman who will fall pregnant. Then there’s one for a woman who will love another woman.’ She looked sideways at me. ‘There’s also one for a woman who will leave her husband. Plus there’s one for a woman who will make a lot of money.’

‘Eh? Come again? How on earth do you know I’m not one of those women?’ The knife changed hands, slitting the neck of another innocent cob. I stepped back away from the bulb, over towards a dusty counter, and almost fell over a box full of colourful beach umbrellas. ‘You’re not making any sense.’

‘You’re just not one of those women, my love. They told me when you came in. You need a different dress. But I haven’t anything right now. I don’t know what they want me to make yet. Next week.’ She kicked the pot again and then gave it a couple of shakes with both hands.


One of the white dresses moved in front of the window outside, puffed up by the sea breeze. Thin rays of sunlight came through the decorative bits.

The old woman stood up and brushed bits of corn silk and leaves from her dress. ‘Come back next week if you want, dear. But remember that they choose you. You don’t choose them.’

‘What a load of nonsense.’ I laughed, but the sound seemed to be much lower than usual, like something had altered my voice. I put my hand up to my throat.

‘If you want a dress that chooses you, that could bring you something, come back. Maybe it will offer you the very thing you want.’

I marched to the door and then spun around to face her. ‘Oh, I don’t think so. I haven’t heard anything so crazy in my entire life. Dresses that won’t be chosen? Dresses that pick out women and then change their lives? How utterly ridiculous!’

The shopkeeper lifted up the pot without any effort and placed it on a table. She smiled. ‘Take care of yourself, dear.’

Out in the street, I found my husband stroking one of the dresses. ‘So, which one did you choose?’ he asked.

I got closer and saw he'd taken a hold of the one with the lacework around the middle. ‘Nothing,’ I said. ‘Let’s go.’

He didn’t release his grip on the dress, though. He held it out to me, grinning like a child. ‘It’s funny, but I’ve just had a strange vision of you in this one. Barefoot and pregnant. In a field of corn.’

© Copyright, 2008. Seamus Kearney. "The Dresses That Won't Be Chosen"


Unknown said...

Seamus, this is fabulous. What a fascinating concept. I love stories that stay with you long after you have read them and I think this one will!

S. Kearney said...

Minx - Thank you my dear. I'm glad you liked it. Yes, once again I am writing from the point of view of a woman. Mmmmmm. :-)

Anonymous said...

I just love this story Seamus, I can hear the raspy corn husks. Dresses really do have the power to alter a girls life.

S. Kearney said...

Kat - Thank you! :-) Those poor little cobs! And yes, all my girlfriends say that a new dress can spin them off in a new direction! :-)

Sarah Hina said...

Is there one for a woman wanting to travel to this island? I'll take one of those. ;)

This concept is very whimsical, Seamus, yet I like the dark undertones, too. I'm a little confused by the woman/man selling the dresses. Did her dress turn her into a man?

Anyway, nicely executed piece! :)

S. Kearney said...

Sarah - Ahhhh, if only a piece of clothing could transport us to a delicious place! :-) Re the shopkeeper ... now that would be telling! lol

Marja said...

Oh what an original amazing story. I loved every bit of it. I don't owe any dresses but feel the urge now to buy one. If they let me.

S. Kearney said...

Marja - LOL! Thank you. Yes, if they let you! :-)

WH said...

Every word is exactly where it should be, and that's what it's all about.

S. Kearney said...

Billy - Yes, but is every dress where it should be? lol

Jon M said...

Great story Seamus...could have sworn I left a comment on here last night but it's not here now! Maybe it didn't want to be left! :)

S. Kearney said...

Jon - Thank you. And hahaha. Careful of those computers, Jon. They choose what goes out, not you! lol

Lane Mathias said...

Fabulous story Seamus. I love the mix of ethereal and 'down to earth'. I read it the other day, let it ferment and am still thinking about it today.

S. Kearney said...

Lane - Thank you. I had great fun writing this. The minute I took this photo I knew a story would come out of it. :-)

Eric Valentine said...

A fascinating story Seamus, like Lane I have read it now four times and it still grips me. I just know I will be here again this week. :)

Years ago I visited a store like that at the straw market in Jamaica.. bought a hat though.. not a dress.. on second thoughts, the hat did seem to beckon.. :)

Unknown said...

This is absoultely wow! I loved the part when the lady talks about the dresses. Very descriptive. Very gripping! :)

S. Kearney said...

Eric - You are an absolute star! Reading it four times! Thank you. It means a lot to me. And: the hats that won't be chosen! lol

Puresunshine - Thank you. I'm really glad you liked it. :-)

virtual nexus said...

Highly effective. Gave me the heeby jeebies. Now, if you fancy trading your frocks for a Lancaster bomber...

Unknown said...

This I love Shameless - absolutely perfect - the twist is great!

S. Kearney said...

Julie - Thank you. Sorry about the heebie jeebies. :-) But hopefully they were worth it. And Lascasters? - love 'em! :-)

Cailleach - Thanks. I'm glad you like it. I thought a lot about the twist, so I'm glad it came across OK. And I LOVE the avatar - very stylish. Good to see you there. :-)

Kay Cooke said...

A really captivating story ... marvellous writing. I am still pondering on its little tricky glints. The twists.

S. Kearney said...

CB - Thanks. :-) It was great fun writing that, and coming up with the little 'glints'. I wonder if everyone sees what I see! lol

Chris Eldin said...

I've only read a few of your writings, but this is by far my favorite.
I LOVE the concept behind it! I really fell into your story.
Nicely done!

S. Kearney said...

Church Lady - Thank you so much for your feedback. :-)

Anonymous said...

I read it all, it gave me lots of vivid details and pictures <3.
Man, I'd read this than a boring book in school!

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant! I LOVE the concept. How original.

Seamus, have you thought about publishing a collection of short stories and/or poems? I know you mentioned plans for a novel, or something to that effect, but after reading your poems and short stories, I think you could also consider that option.

S. Kearney said...

Dalya - Hello and welcome! Thank you for your comments. I'm glad you liked my story. :-)

Jamaican Dawta - Thank you. You are too kind. It's funny that you mention that about a book of short stories or poems ... others have said that recently and the idea seems to be warming up! :-) I'm glad you like what you've read.

Pearl said...

wooah, cool story!!!

Dena said...

Hi Seamus,

I found your blog this morning and have so enjoyed your story. What a wonderfully fresh piece and oh how I suddenly long for the perfect dress...

I'll be back to visit often.


S. Kearney said...

Pearl - Thank you!

Dena - Hello and welcome! Good to have you call by, and I'm glad you liked the story! Please do visit anytime, and I look forward to checking out your blog. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was amazing. I like the subtlety, "I had my heart set on the dress with the white lace in the middle.", and then she realizes she won't get it. I like how you left hope in it, as well. "Come back. Maybe it will offer you the very thing you want."

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simson12 said...

After reading I do not think that they actually fought in a battle just garrison duty so I was thinking maybe another regiment of IR-Kurprinz to flesh out the whole brigade or another Curiassier regiment or both. One final thought was that I would redo the flags in Cavenderian and add a Cavenderian Regiment or Squadron.
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simson11 said...

A very nice looking cavalry regiment. I hope that you can make it to the SYWA convention. I'm sure that you will have better luck in the game. I think that "aisle between the tables" caught you off guard. I watched you play in other games and I can say that you are a good wargamer. so chalk it up to some bad luck, nothing more than that.
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simson11 said...

Nice write up, you mentioned the game played with the guys who did a Napoleonc set of rules. I have those rules and quite like them, could you please give a run down on how this set played.
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nguyen said...

I can say your painting is far from crap if these are the results you produce! I'd be more than happy with that standard of painting. Thanks also for the tip of using a dark green-gray as a highlight for black. I will try it. I find a sand/buff color useful for red highlights.
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simson12 said...

Sorry for the delay on the naval battle, but our group is involved in a 7YW campaign and getting the group to change has been difficult. I'll keep pushing because it really looks interesting.
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simson11 said...

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simson11 said...

Hi Rahina!
Like everybody I am running out time not out of ideas. It is so wonderful to paint outside, although it is sometimes very exhausting to capture the fleeting moment. Thanks!
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simson11 said...

Stefan beautiful work lately. You sound like you have had a great paint visit to america. The one of Wayne painting on the beach is fabulous. I like the finished one, and there is something very powerful about the early stage photo of this painting too. great progress with all your work here!
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simson11 said...
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simson11 said...

The work is as solid as ever..I was just on your web sight looking at your plein air body of work..amazing and solid. Glad I checked in, you continue to inspire.
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simson12 said...

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simson11 said...

Gruesschen von Donauabwaerts! Danke fuer den Hinweis auf taegliche Updates von kuenstlerischen Erguessen. Indoor ist die Otdoor-Malerei gut zu geniessen. Die Frau M. und Sohn hab ich gestern zum Flieger gebracht, ist schon wieder in SoCal. Viel Inspiration und Spass noch und grandiosen Output wuenscht
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