A vase—in four parts #WEP #IWSG

WEPFF Antique Vase Badge
Word count 992
FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

Below please find my entry for the WEP April 2020 Challenge. Write…Edit…Publish is a writing challenge sponsored six times a year by the good folks over at #WEP / #IWSG, an online community meant to support and inspire writers at all stages of their career. The rules are simple. From the WEP site, submissions can be “any genre except erotica, max word count 1000. Present your interpretation of the prompt in flash fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction.” Please visit the link above for more information about how the challenge works and how to get involved.

The little piece below is my first entry which I humbly submit for consideration. I found participating this round to be tremendous fun and hope to do so many more times. I want to thank all those who work to make #WEP and #IWSG such a useful resource for writers.

I’m just getting started as a writer and welcome all your comments and feedback. Thanks for having a read!

A vase—in four parts

Jane stood at the kitchen counter waiting for the glue to dry on the fragile base. Unconsciously she wanted to touch her fingers, chilled from the drafty window, to the swelling that had developed around her eye. She had to keep reminding herself not to touch her face. She needed to concentrate if she hoped to save the vase.  

David had given it to her on the day they met. The grand opening of his business, Danbury Dry Goods, was a much anticipated event. Jane and her mother had come to participate in the festivities. As Jane walked through the door, David seemed smitten. From the window display of imported Asian pottery, he selected a vase and, with an impish grin, presented it to her. Hand-painted and traditionally glazed, the piece featured a base adorned with verdant leaves emerging above a pond and a lone, white lotus that climbed, reached up the fragile neck. 

That had been a decade ago. Before their marriage and the arrival of their son and two daughters. Before he found the taste for strong drink. Before. 

Jane felt the sick rise in her stomach as she picked up the pieces in the morning and rummaged through the utility drawer for the glue. She was so sorry to see it broken.

Ramon smiled as he looked down at the vase. He was ready to pack it for the last stage of its journey—a trip across the continent to its forever home. It had served him well. He sold way more work in New York than he could have dreamed. It had been a fantastic tour, and he was so satisfied with himself—a genius idea, masterfully executed, and then well-received. 

He turned the vase over in his hands remembering the day he found it. He and his then girlfriend had decided to make a summer tour of the Appalachians. Only a few hours into their drive they had landed in a small town called Danbury, stumbling upon an estate sale for the great-granddaughter of a local businessman, the sole proprietor of the town’s general store, first opened in the early 1800s. Ramon and Gina had spent an hour digging through the unusual variety of wares:  newspapers with headlines from Lincoln’s assassination, boxes of old election buttons, and a wide assortment of period clothing. On the shelf between a face jug and a Lodge bacon press was this vase from Asia. He immediately knew the dynasty and region in China but found unfortunate hairline cracks from where the vase had been repaired.  As an investment it might be worthless, but the juxtaposition of this ancient vase from the Far East with the now antique pieces of the early American South was striking. He snapped a picture, then rearranged the pieces on the shelf before snapping another.  He ended up buying the item, and the project was launched. He and Gina began traveling all over the world finding new and interesting ways to photograph the vase—on a cafe table in Paris—on the slopes of Everest—in war-torn Baghdad—and always, its lotus reaching, straining for the sun. 

Ramon was now sending the vase on to San Francisco. For publicity, he had donated the piece to a local Asian Art museum where it would live in their collection.  He smiled once more before adding his letter of provenance and taping up the box.

Amy held up the next package from their haul. She was so pleased. She had found a little bug in the mobile app for a local courier service. Tony could now drive around following the blinking dots on the map to find where the packages were being dropped, one by one. He would pull up and then she would go grab the package. It was a fantastic haul today, and they could now pay the rent.

It was Amy’s turn to open a package. “It’s like Christmas!” she laughed. So far they had scored a 3D printer, two phones, a robotic vacuum and even fine jewelry.

When Amy saw that the box was addressed to a local museum, her hopes soared. She ripped open the box with flair but the only thing inside, wrapped in tissue, was an old vase and a letter. She discarded the letter, unread, into the pile of paper recycling and held up the piece to the light. 

“It’s ugly,” Tony sighed. “Worth anything?”

Turning it over, Amy found the cracks that went around the neck and base. “Don’t think so. It’s broken in like…dunno… four pieces.”


“Goodwill,” she echoed.

Tara walked through the door of the thrift store with a budget in mind. She would spend less than $5, no more, for a few things to set up her little altar. She was starting her life over. Again.

After years of life in a monastery, she had finally decided it was best for her to make her move back to lay life. (#MeToo—who knew that could happen in a place that was supposed to be safe.)  She would now pick herself up, preserve what worked, and let go of what did not. The takeaways from her experience had been her meditation practice and her newfound focus on compassion.  She would try to keep those alive as best she could. Thus, the need to set up a small altar.

She had found a cheap Buddha at a drug store. Now, here, she found a votive on one shelf and on another a little vase that would work. Repaired from some past damage, it was on clearance. Its depiction of a lotus was perfect for her purpose. Life for the lotus begins with its roots in the muddy bottom—only later does it manage to lift its flower to the sky. 

Tara got the vase for a dollar and placed it next to her Buddha. Then she lit the candle and took her seat.

Word count 992
FCA (Full Critique Acceptable)

Thank you for having a read and feel free to leave comments. Here are the other WEP entries for April, 2020. Enjoy!

52 thoughts on “A vase—in four parts #WEP #IWSG”

  1. Hi,
    A very interesting take on the prompt, four different lives each with a story of its own. For me, the first story about the husband turning into an alcoholic was touching. I felt the sorrow of the once happily married woman.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat Garcia

    1. Hi Pat. Thanks for your comment early on in the process. It was reassuring to get such a kind, welcoming first thing. Thanks for having a read!

  2. I enjoyed following the Antique Vase on its journey through the many lives it touched. A very unique take and one that kept on giving to the reader. Great first introduction to the WEP challenges. We look forward to more wonderful reads in the future. Welcome, zaguzan!

    1. What an original and well done take on the prompt. I loved following the vase on from one owner to the next. It touched them all so differently. I did wonder how the other three would react if they saw Ramon’s photos, especially Amy…

      1. Hi Donna! Thanks for dropping by and having a read. And, yes, I tried to fit that very idea into the story! I was so close but ran out of words! I ended up having to hang that entire thread of the story on the phrase “For publicity” and highlighting the letter being discarded. How fun that you mention that!

        I’m grateful for the 1000 word limit. Participating in this round has certainly driven home one simple truth for me: less is more. Readers do seem to prefer a word restricted diet.

        Thanks again for your comment. Best, Karuna

    2. Hi Yolanda! Thanks for your kind, encouraging words. As my first WEP run, it has been a great time and deeply encouraging. I appreciate what you and the team are doing and you’ll be seeing me around.
      Best, Karuna

  3. Welcome to WEP Zaguzan! What a powerful first entry. I certainly hope you enjoy the experience, meet new friends, and find ways to participate in future prompts.

    I love the idea of tracking the vase to different places, to different people, each so intriguing. The first one really set the scene and I enjoyed reading on.

    You’ve presented a polished piece of prose for the enjoyment of all. Thank you.

    1. Thank you, Denise, for having a read, your kind comments, for getting this group going and working all these years to make this happen. If I’ve been slow to comment, it’s because the words have escaped me. I’ve tried to herd a few of them together in order to say thank you. I appreciate all you’re doing to make this possible and I look forward to all the future challenges.

      All my best, Karuna

  4. Thanks to everyone for all the fantastic feedback and comments! I’ve been busy all day reading all the entries. I might be running out of time for today, but I’ll be back tomorrow to keep reading more of the posts. I’m having a great time discovering all of the unique talent and excellent writing from the blog hop. Thanks much and keep writing!

  5. You’ve just started writing? Jeesh, I’ve been writing for fifty years and I don’t write that well. It probably shows since I’m about as popular as toenail fungus!
    This vase has a very storied existence and I really enjoyed following it on its journey. I’m glad you entered the competition!

    1. Hi Cie! Thank you for dropping by and for your kind words. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the piece as I have enjoyed yours. (I haven’t commented on yours yet, but I’ll get there tomorrow.)

      In terms of comparing ourselves and our work with others, time and time again I find the same simple truth at the bottom of the matter: it has been my experience that anytime someone sees some good thing in someone else, it must mean they can only recognize that good quality because they share it with them. If you see some good in my writing, I believe you can only see that because it is a reflection of your own experience as a writer and lover of fiction.

      Thank you again for your kind words. I look forward to our future mutual support through the wonderful resource that is #WEP / #IWSG. Please do keep writing (and please keep reading).

      Best, Karuna

  6. Checking in after another day of reading more WEP posts and participating in my first writing group! What a great day.
    Thanks to everyone who dropped by here to have a read and for the comments. It’s a wonderfully supportive to have a few eyes on the page and to get a bit of feedback. I’ll be back tomorrow!

  7. Hi Zaguzan and welcome.to WEP and IWSG writing together. Your stories were wonderful, skilfully woven together. I love how you left a lot for the reader to piece together rather than spelling it all out. A great piece of writing.

  8. First of all, welcome to WEP!

    I love what you’ve done here! This story perfectly explores what I think people find so intriguing about old objects. Where have they been? Where will they go? Though damaged, this vase has still continued to make an impact on other people’s lives. Well done!

  9. Nicely done!
    I really enjoyed traveling between stories with this vase. I did something similar with my entry, but your entry is much more emotional. I really like the way circumstances in the people’s lives are reflected in how they perceive or view the vase.
    Congratulations on your first WEP.
    I look forward to more of your entries in the future.

    1. Hi Toi,
      Thanks very much for your comment. You’ve pretty much nailed it on the head. It has been my experience that objects are what we make of them. One object observed from a diversity of life experiences will teach us much more about the observers than the thing itself. Your comment is deeply appreciated.
      Best, Karuna

  10. I wanted to say thanks to everyone who participated in this round of #WEP. First, I had a fantastic time reading all the different posts and getting everyone’s unique take on the vase. I feel inspired and challenged. Secondly, the feedback has been quite helpful. I’m trying to work on a novel and the going seems so slow. Having some fun on the page in a manageable chunk and sharing it with others has been motivating. I deeply appreciate the support. I’ve read every entry and done my best to comment on every one. I ran into some technical issues and I wasn’t able to submit comments on a few of the entries. Please know I was there and will be back next month to see all the new entries. Thanks again for the feedback.

    Again, my thanks to WEP/IWSG for making this possible and what you’re doing for us all. I am much encouraged and look forward to June.

    Best to all and please stay safe.

    PS: My apologies for the moving target when it comes to my name. You may call me Karuna. I was trying to do the whole pen name thing. It did not go well, at all, and I give up on that. (Zaguzan is still a bit of a nickname. I will answer to both but for clarity I will go forth as Karuna. (By the way, “Zaguzan” is a made up word adapted from Japanese that means “that which is under consideration” or something along those lines. (Ahem. Welcome to my world.)))
    Thanks again everyone. I have really enjoyed the diversity and beauty of the various pieces of writing.
    Peace to all….

  11. Welcome to the WEP! I am so impressed by your story. It’s so clever how you showed the journey of the vase through history and into the lives of four very different people. I felt like the broken pieces of the vase symbolised the parts of the characters’ lives that were broken in some way-Jane’s abusive husband, Amy’s dishonest way of living and Tara’s #MeToo experience. The image of the lotus flower “reaching, straining for the sun” connects all the stories with a thread of hope. Brilliantly crafted!

    1. Thank you so much, Anstice! It means a great deal to confirm that what I was hoping to do with the piece has come across the other side to the reader. I’ve been working on a novel and it’s been like marching through knee deep molasses. I realized I better go out and do something a lot more manageable, a bit more concrete, as a bit of a reality check before I flush another year or two of my life down the drain. As it turns out, no one spat my story out, and, in fact, it seemed to bring a bit of enjoyment to others. It’s been helpful to get some feedback and I deeply appreciate your comments. Thanks again and I will be reading more of your work in the coming days.

      Best regards! Karuna

  12. That is a cool approach to the prompt! The vase that has seen so much… and maybe many more lives before it came to Jane. I did have a little trouble with chronology between parts 1 and 2–maybe some more clues in that first segment to suggest and earlier time? I’m not sure–the clues are there in Part 2…

    I was feeling bad about the vase ending up at Goodwill, but it looks like it found another good life!

    1. Hi Rebecca!

      Thanks so much for having a read and for your comments. Honest, constructive feedback is especially appreciated as I really am quite interested in discussion.

      I agree that the transition from Part I to Part II is abrupt. It takes a while for the reader to figure out what happened, that they are at the same place and seeing the same vase but with completely different eyes. My hope was that the reader would kinda “discover” the vase all over again and feel the tug of emotion in realizing its history. I admit that I completely fail to give the reader much of a hint that the setting for Part I is in the past (I left a bread crumb of a clue in the name Dry Goods) and that decision was a bit of a stylistic choice. I will own that. But, since you noticed and brought it up, I thought it might be fun to share a bit more and see if you or anyone else have any additional thoughts.

      I am currently working on a novel. The dilemma I am facing is that the work is set between World War I and the Great Depression and the years beyond. First of all, I feel very removed from that period. (I’m old but not that old.) Secondly, I also feel very removed from the experience of those times. I’ve never been to war or lived through any atrocities like that. Thirdly, you can just bring up a topic like WWI or the Spanish Flu or the Great Depression and you can see the eyes of many just glaze over with disinterest. If you ever want to stop a vivacious conversation at a cocktail party, bring up Verdun. [*****insert crickets****] In sum, as I look at the task of writing this book, I end up feeling egregiously unqualified to write on the subject.

      Ok, maybe so. I am sure that many other authors would write a far superior book with the outline I have. I laugh at myself for even attempting the novel at times. But the story has fallen to me to tell and I will tell it. Dag nabbit. (I beg your pardon; that is me ranting at the novel, not you.)

      So the question that follows me around every day like a hungry ghost is how do I get the reader back into the early 1900s in an immediate, gripping sort of way before they have a chance to slam the book shut? How do I make them feel anything, at all, about a time so far, far away? Well, maybe, you just let them gradually figure it out, ya know, a little later in the book. I began working with this as an approach and then the movie 1917 came out. That simple strategy of just dropping the viewer right into the middle of the action made the film gripping as it unrelentingly, unapologetically followed one person through a heart-wrenching tale that doesn’t let go of you until it’s quite done.

      So I admit it, guilty as charged. When I hit the submit button, I was trying a bit of an experiment. I winced, I closed my eyes, I held my breath. I really did.

      That being said, note duly taken. Thanks again, Rebecca, for giving me thoughts on the matter. And if you or anyone has any insights into making a subject so remote more up front and immediate, I am very interested. Please do keep coming back and I’ll definitely be following up by continuing to think through the best approach.

      Best to all!

    1. Well, thank you Christopher! It has been a fantastic experience and I’m glad to have found such a supportive, interesting and talented group of folks. Best regards and stay safe.

  13. That’s great! I love how both the vase and the story had four parts. An excellent journey through time with the object. And great modern tie ins as well. Good work!

  14. A clever take on the theme, Karuna, with the four ‘episodes’ in the vase’s life. Not quite the intended route – via Amy & Tony – but a perfect ending. Lotus is a powerful image like the tales. My nightly prayers include the chant “Om Mani Padme Hum”, meaning “the jewel is in the lotus”.

    As a reader of historical fiction, I hope you find success with your post-WWI novel mentioned in your reply to Rebecca.

    1. Well, thank you, Roland, for your supportive words. Yes, the lotus is a powerful symbol for me on almost a daily basis (when I have any presence of mind). And your mantra and I are old friends.

      Thanks for you best wishes for the novel. I am continuing to pursue it. Words on the page…words on the page….

      Your comment was deeply appreciated.

      1. Glad that we have the daily lotus in common, Karuna. And congratulations on making the short-list in a talented field of writers, at your first entry – I look forward to many more from you. Stay safe, sensible, and inspired.

        1. Hi Roland,

          Thank you for your kind comments. It’s been great to get some support. I began this process discouraged and uncertain that I should continue work on my draft. I think I just might keep going now.

          Thanks again and I’ll be reading more of your work in the coming days.

          Best, Karuna

  15. Beautifully well constructed. The four parts flow effortlessly into each other. Maybe more dialogue could enhance the piece. Glue in 1800, not sure about that. Plot idea and writing are fascinating and opens up my imagination. Worth a full-fledged short story, I think. Well done and welcome to WEP. Looking forward to reading you soon. Happy Spring writing. Take care.

    1. LOL. Oh, regarding the glue, I’m totally busted. After finishing the piece, it occured to me that the glue might just be a bit like the Starbucks cup’s cameo in the final season of Game of Thrones. So I googled it and ended up on a Wikipedia entry for Animal Glue. If you read (in desperation) below the fold, you can find some text that suggests, perhaps, maybe, Animal Glue, which was available at the time, could be used to hold glass together. So, for the love of fiction, I let it stick. Glossing over the business about it being water soluble, with my best innocent face pasted on, I hit the submit button and hoped the plot would adhere. But now, under further examination in the hot spotlight of reality, the glue begins to melt, the pieces begin to slip, the vase unravels before us….

      Of course, thinking it over now, if I wanted to save the vase, I could just change the date to the early 1900s. Ahem

      Thank you so much, Susan, for having a read, your fantastic feedback and encouraging comments. I deeply appreciate it.

  16. Hi Jemima, thanks for having a read and for the comment! I also feel disturbed by such behavior. And saddened.

    Thanks again and take good care. Karuna

  17. Wow! My little piece made the short list! I will consider that a definite positive result. That’s fantastic and I really appreciate it!

    What a blast! It has been so much fun to participate. The support and feedback have been helpful and motivating. My husband made a house rule that I’m no longer allowed to throw my work away. Maybe he’s right after all….

    Thanks to everyone in WEP, and I’ll be back in June!

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