Sunday, 9 September 2012

Little Madame Brest's Last Cigarette

Thanks to Chuck Wendig for an ever inspiring flash fiction prompt 1000 words the limit.  This week he talked about aspects.  Read more on his blog: here. 

I chose the three words: imprisoned, graveyard and insects.

Little Madame Brest's Last Cigarette
by Angie Arcangioli 
974 words

Little Madame Brest inched her way to the waterspout with a watering can intent to freshen the flowers that wilted on her late husband’s tomb.  She’d come there almost daily since his death four years before and never had she seen ants like today. 

Everything was little about Mrs. Brest, especially her feet and the elegant leather souled pumps she wore.  Everything was small except for the big sore on her leg just above her ankle where the cat had scratched her.  The doctor told her that it was normal at her age for a cut to heal slowly.  This one hadn’t healed at all, it was purulent.

Thinking about how to kill the ants, she walked slowly, dreading she might slip on the cement near the waterspout that dribbled incessantly.  A treacherous slime had mushroomed out in the shape of a splatter mark where the drips fell.

She avoided the slime and stretched her arm out as far as possible to fill her can but try as she might she could not reach the waterspout.  The slime had expanded since her last visit, a week before.

Frustrated, she regained her husband’s tomb to promise him she would return the following day, water the flowers and kill the ants.  She felt guilty that a week had passed since her last visit, but she was tired from the heat spell, so unusual for Paris.  They had said to stay indoors with your feet up, to drink lots of water.

“See you soon,” she said when she bent her knees, and planted a kiss on the ceramic photo of her late beau.  But when she tried to stand up her knees locked, like they sometimes did, and she knew she was in trouble.

“Oh dear,” she said to her deceased husband.  “I am really stuck this time.” 

The sun beat down on her husband’s tomb, which was in an isolated part of Montparnasse Cemetery.  She knew that the guardian would be sleeping in his shack, feet on the table, chair leaned back, TV screaming some stupid program.  Her feeble voice would hardly reach his ears but she decided to try to call for help just the same.


She waited but no one came so yelled another three times expecting after each cry: foot steps, an apology, a worried voice.  But no one came.

Yelling made her thirsty and the torrid sun on her bare head made her dizzy.  She’d planned to pay homage to Monsieur Brest, water the flowers then stop for a bite on her way to the hairdressers thus she had forgone even drinking a glass of water.  She’d planned on adding water to her pastis before lunch. If she drank too much she’d have to pee and she didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom at the hairdressers.  It was just too humiliating prancing around with all that goo on her head or worse with rollers in her hair. 

She scorned herself for not drinking some water with the café she’d had when she bought cigarettes.  Alas, she could smoke and wait.  Someone was bound to find her. 

Madame Brest let herself fall to her hip on the granite tomb, that was clean at least, and rummaged through her handbag for her cigarettes.  She removed the cellophane wrapper took out a fag and searched for her lighter but realized she had left it on the counter when she’d fed the cat.

“My oh my, what will I do,” she said craving a cigarette more than water.

“Oh this is terrible.  Help,” she yelled.  But no one came.  The sun scorched.  Her head grew light.  When her hips cramped from the contact with the cold granite, she lowered herself to her elbow.

The stone was too hard for her frail elbow so she stretched her arm and let her feather-weight body lay on the tomb.  She was pleased at least that she had chosen the model with a carved cushion.  It wasn’t goose down but it did keep her head up where she could see the photo of her dear husband and keep an eye out any other soul in the cemetery.  The far away entrance was framed between her feet. 

She admired the fine leather tips of her pumps.  Then she saw an ant on her ankle.  Her knees were locked and her hips and back cramped so badly that she could not bend to brush it away.  She tried to sit up but the stone hurt her elbows and her head spun from the heat and the effort.  Her whole body cramped from the pain in her knees.  She was imprisioned.

Another ant appeared and another.

“Help, help, help.”  No one came.  “The ants. Help me, please.”

She opened her sac to look for her mobile.  She would phone for help, why had she not thought of it before. 

“Silly old dame.” 

She laughed at herself relieved that she would now be saved.  She found the phone and pack of matches.

More ants crawled on her leg, swarmed the oozing sore.  They were eating her alive.  They explored the rest of her.  She felt them in her skirt.

Frantically she lit a cigarette then phoned the police.  

“Bonjour, gendarme,” said a female voice.

“Hello, I am Madame Brest, I am stuck, the ants are eating me.” 

“Madame, we are busy,” the voice said.  “How can we help you?”

“My knees locked in the cemetery and the ants are eating me.”

“Call the ambulance, Madame,” the voice said before ending the call.

The ants crawled into her nose and bit her eyes.  Screaming, she flailed her arms and fainted.  Her knees unlocked and her head relaxed.  Prone, on her husband's granite tomb with the stone pillow, she nourished the ants.



  1. Eww - didn't see that coming. Poor little old lady. But at least she did have one last cigarette.

  2. Hi Ravens, I tried to make her imprisoned. Don't know if it worked.

  3. Interesting way of imprisoning her. And I like the way the injury came back at the end. A few typos here and there, but this was a pretty decent story. Don't get many stories with elderly ladies. It was a nice switch :)

    1. Hi JD,

      Thanks for the comment and especially the criticism. It makes me happy that you felt she was imprisoned. I think I could develop that aspect more. Sorry for the typos they are one of my biggest mistakes.