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Flash contest #15: Write a story or poem inspired by a Renoir painting.

The week commencing July 6 (Daily Creativity Prompt #76) was our fifteenth week of flash contests, with a prompt that took us back to the scene of Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s painting, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette. Our entrants wrote a story or poem inspired by Renoir’s painting this week. We received more entires than we expected, and, as always, enjoyed reading all of the writings that were submitted. It was fun to see how differently many of you approached imagining going into the scene in the painting: the judges read everything from mystery stories to poems written from the perspective of the lamps in the trees (a couple of our Highly Commended choices)! One of our winning writers this week also sent an updated version of the painting, apparently made for her by Renoir himself, to go with her story (thanks, Ruby!).

Well done to all of our entrants, and particular congratulations to all of our Winners and Honorable Mentions! See below for all of their names, and keep reading to experience the writing created by our winners.

“The Brendon Disappointment” by Lucy Berberich, 11, Oxford, OH
“Paris in a Painting” by Fern Hadley, 11, Cary, NC
“Let There Be Cake!” by James Hou, 10, Short Hills, NJ
“Summer Day” by Samuel McMullin, 10, Portland, ME
“A Taste of Bal du Moulin de la Galette” & its illustration "Travelling back to Moulin de la Galette," by Ruby Xu, 10, Annandale, VA

Honorable Mentions
“Lost Lisette in a Crowd” by Joyce Hong, 10, Oakville, ON
“Allia T. and the Case of the Disappearing Violinist” by Naomi Kap, 11
“An Atypical Guest at the Moulin de la Galette” by Amruta Krishnan Srinivasan, 9, San Jose, CA
“Mama’s Mask” by Michela You, 11, Lexington, MA
“The Journal Entry of a Pessimistic Person” by Charlotte Zhang, 11, Portland, OR

Lucy Berberich, 11
Oxford, OH

The Brendon Disappointment

Lucy Berberich, 11

The music is loud and joyous, and the smell of popcorn and drinks in the air made the occasion all the more bright. The young Wendy Brendon, dressed in a dark magenta gown, is sitting at a table, swinging her legs back and forth to the music, eyes dancing with glee. She was only thirteen, but she’d already attended several festivals like this one. They never failed to brighten her mood, though. Wendy was a cheerful young girl and almost never had a frown on her face. This day was no exception. She was grinning eagerly, taking in everything around her like it was all a new sight. Her parents were dancing off to the side, giving her a sideways glance every now and then, wondering if she was going to do something other than sit and stare. She hadn’t planned on it. She just enjoyed watching. All the happy people, dancing, laughing. It was nice just to see them, even if she didn’t join in herself.

As the wind picked up a bit, Wendy felt her hair blowing around her head, the little hat that sat atop it tilting and threatening to fly away. She knew if she let her outfit get mussed up her mother would be livid. Mama Brendon was quite strict and cared an awful lot about her daughter’s appearance. Wendy wasn’t a beauty queen, no boy ever looked twice at her, and Mama Brendon was always trying to find out
why, what the reason was for this. Papa Brendon couldn’t care less, and was always taking Wendy out to the market or to work with him to let her get away from her mother’s hovering. Perhaps part of the reason Wendy loved these events was because her mother was distracted and didn’t have time to fuss over her.

Her parents were quite the big-shots in the town business. Her father owned a huge company that ran quite a lot of the town, and her mother was a member of almost every club, board, and organization in the vicinity. They were well-known, and were always getting invited to things. Her parents didn’t enjoy them like she did; they just didn’t want to decline and seem impolite. Her parents were obsessed with being polite.

So the fact that Wendy never even got up, or danced, or took part in the events at all was quite a disappointment to her parents. She was so carefree and all around un-ladylike that she was ridiculed and looked down upon by most of the residents of the town. Not that it mattered to Wendy. She wanted people to like her, sure. But she wanted them to like her for her, not because she acted like her mother, or, god forbid, her elder sister, who was the perfect child. They didn’t get along, and Wendy didn’t want to be anything like her. Maria was shallow. She had no personality, no ambition, no goals, nothing that she strived for. Wendy didn’t want to be like that, a doormat for people who treated her like garbage because she was “the weaker sex”. That wasn’t who she was, or who she would ever be. She wanted to enjoy life to the fullest, experiencing all the things that men could experience.

So for the time being, she’d act the way she wanted to act. Grin from ear to ear, eat whatever she wanted, talk the way she wanted to talk. She was going to be who she wanted to be. People, her parents, her sister, and everyone, would just have to learn to deal with her. Simple as that.

Fern Hadley, 11 Cary, NC

Paris in a Painting

Fern Hadley, 11

I gaze at the painting blankly. Is this meant to be a powerful piece of artwork? I ask myself. Because I’m not feeling its power. Confused, I wonder if I can call myself an art lover if I don’t understand art at all.

Making an effort to understand the painting, I study the image before me. My eyes, trained to observe art, quickly notice how little red there is among the sea of dark blue and bright yellow colors spread throughout the painting. Two women, I observe, are located near the center, the first thing that an onlooker’s eyes are drawn to at first glance. They look similar, as though they might be mother and daughter. It appears as though there are four different figures in the painting—all female, I notice—that are looking directly at me.

Yet even as I find these patterns in “Dance at the Moulin de la Galette”, I haven’t experienced it for myself.

I close my eyes. As I breathe in—breathe out—I hear music trickling into my atmosphere. Bright and vivacious, it flickers like fire in my ears.

Where is it coming from?

It grows louder. My eyes snap open, and I am no longer in front of my desk.

Men and women waltz in front of me. Sunlight filters through lush green leaves that flutter in the breeze, dappling the clearing with a pattern of light and shadow. The fresh air smells of blossoms and the warmth that early summer brings. The music dances with the breeze, a melody to the laughter and conversation that fills the ambience with joy.

I close my eyes again, breathing in the sweet-smelling air. When I open them, I am yet again sitting in front of my desk, staring at the image of a painting displayed on my computer.

Yet it isn’t just an image of a painting. It is the very picture of joy, a beautiful sensation that—although so simple—is sometimes so difficult to find.

And I found it in a painting.

How beautiful art is, I tell myself. And suddenly inspiration ignites within me like a flame to a candle.

My fingers begin to fly across the keyboard.

James Hou, 10
Short Hills, NJ

Let There Be Cake!

James Hou, 10

I’m almost there! Anton thought as he hurriedly walked through the dancing crowd.

In the distance, a colossal table came into view. A lively tune played in the background. SMASH! A gargantuan shoe came crashing down inches away from him. BOOM! He jumped out of the way as another shoe came down, weaving his way through the multitude of shoes until he was finally at the table. He crouched for a moment and sniffed the air as a strong sugary scent wafted into his nose. Anton exclaimed, “That way!”

Suddenly, the towering heel of a shiny black shoe adorned with a blue ribbon came crashing down next to him. Anton gasped as a curtain of fabric swept him up into the air and onto the hem of a striped dress.

He started to scurry away but a face came into view, staring ominously at him. Anton cowered in fear, as a long finger with a sharp painted nail flicked him away onto the edge of a white tablecloth. Anton thought, Oh no! Everyone can see me! He scurried up and across the tablecloth, past glasses of colorful wines and crumpled napkins. He sprinted up a silver fork and bit off a chunk of buttery cake. A shrill voice shrieked, “Ant! There’s an ant on the cake!”

CRASH! An upturned glass blocked the path in front of him. A hand hovered in the air and pounded onto the table behind him as Anton darted left and right. The table vibrated with every strike, causing Anton to lose his balance and with a plop, he fell off the table and onto the blue dress of a girl. Anton scrambled down and into a crack in the cement. Eventually, the people stopped looking. He heard a voice say, “I can’t find it. It’s gone.”

Anton furtively returned to the edge of the grass, hoping not to be seen. Soon, he was back at his anthill. Anton walked down through the tunnel and announced, “I’m back–and I brought cake!”

Samuel McMullin, 10
Portland, ME

Summer Day

Samuel McMullin, 10

The brass band’s ballad hovers over the couples
as they dance in the light summer breeze.
The last rays of sunlight peek through the branches
bathing faces in a warm glow.
I sit back in my chair and close my eyes and smile
at the melodic laughter of the children running through the crowd.
I listen to the cheerful conversations
and take a last sip from my champagne.
The stress of the day floats away
like a leaf on a stream,
and I have not a care in the world.

Ruby Xu, 10
Annandale, VA

A Taste of Bal du Moulin de la Galette

Ruby Xu, 10

“Would you like some cheese fondue?”

A slender waitress smiled at me. I nodded with a big bite of yummy falafel in my mouth. What a relaxing place! No more pandemic, and no more social distancing! Everyone was so NOT six feet apart! The food fragrance was floating in the air, enticing everyone’s appetite for delicious Parisian dishes. Here came the beef bourguignon and cassoulet at which nobody can help being mouth-watered. Along with the delicacies, the sound of talking, laughing, music playing, and happy dancing couples deepened my sense of pleasure. This is a Sunday afternoon at Moulin de la Galette! You can dance, drink, and eat into the evening with no social distancing rule!

People were dressed in fancy clothes: men with top hats and women with laced dresses. A huge table filled with appetizing desserts–macaroons, croissants, baguettes, cheesecake–and cheese fondue. The table was decorated with iridescent coils. I was so delighted by the splendid social gathering in such a beautiful outdoor park that I was not aware that what I was wearing was beginning to draw attention.  As I devoured a piece of chocolate cake, a young lady walked toward me.

“Bonjour, who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Tiffany, from America,” I said easily.

“Oh!” She exclaimed. “From America!” she mumbled.

“We are suffering a pandemic and I am trying to get away from it,” I explained to her.

“What’s a pandemic?” She was confused. During our conversation, we gained a lot of attention. Gradually, people started gathering to inspect my clothes, and ask me questions. I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans, with my hair in a ponytail, whereas they were wearing thick dresses or suits, with hair in buns or brushed under hats.  They had never seen anyone from the future, especially one with an iPhone 11.

“What’s that?”

“What is it for?” Questions of all kinds flooded me.

“How did you get here?” A milliner asked curiously.

“...from America and back into 1876 Paris?” a waitress continued.

“My art teacher sent me here to better understand the meaning of oil paint. I'm supposed to go back this evening by teleporting through the Artanor.”

I explained that the Artanor was a magic device that can send a person time travelling. That raised more questions.

While I was enjoying the conversation, an artist named Pierre-Auguste Renoir recorded this marvelous meeting across time and space in his painting. He created an oil canvas of the party, including a time traveller: ME! I admired it and was thrilled with this precious gift. It was starting to get late, so I reluctantly wrapped up my dinner at le Moulin, and said a good farewell to my new friends that I'd made in 1876. With a full stomach and a sweet memory, I zapped myself with the Artanor and got brought back to 2020. I appeared in my house, in front of my computer with the art class still going on. I took the painting out of my bag and examined it. Surprisingly, Pierre-Auguste Renoir wrote me some painting tips as another gift on a sheet of paper! I applied some of the tips, that gave my painting a brighter look, and finished my masterpiece...

Travelling Back to Moulin de la Galette by Ruby Xu, 10

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