Marisa’s Cat

October 7, 2010

Marisa had a cat with wings. You couldn’t see them, of course, but she knew they were there. Small, iridescent things, sprouted from delicate feline shoulder blades, fluttering and shimmering and glowing with unknown colors, patterned with tiger stripes and leopard spots.

People might think that a cat could not possibly fly with such little wings. Well, look at a bee. How does that work? Bertrand Russell observed that, for an angel to fly, it would have to have a breastbone thirteen feet long. Maybe they do.

And anyway, Bertrand Russell had thought a lot about cats and wasn’t even sure that they existed. So Marisa expected that he would have found a cat with wings just as acceptable as any other.

Marisa had never seen an angel but was content to imagine that impossible breastbone, as well as the rest of the seraphic bone structure that accompanied it.

Marisa’s cat had a prominent breastbone, but by no means, even cat-sized, did it pro-rata to an angelic thirteen feet. Depending, that is, on the size of the angel. Still, she knew that her cat had wings, and that it flew.

She knew because, when she was down at the bottom of the pit, when she could not get out and everything was black, down would swoop her cherubic, impossible cat, and pull her out. He would catch his tiny, falcate-moon claws in the tangles of her hair and lift, lift, lift, and they would rise together, straight through the window bars and out into the light, she and her cat.

Once, he laid her gently into warm, silky water and hazy jasmine-scented steam, and never even got his paws wet. Another time, he settled her into a soft bed, tucked his wings against his bony flanks, and curled up beside her, purring quietly at a job well done. And there was the time that he rested her into an old wicker chair, in a green-shaded place, and then dashed off across the grass, unfurled his wings and floated off into the summer air in the mazy wake of a butterfly.

And when, at last, it was time for Marisa’s cat to start circling up towards the harvest moon, he took Marisa with him, and they ascended together, dizzy and delighted, into the star-strewn autumn sky.

First published October 2010 by the wonderful Hazard Cat –

Tourrettes en Fête

April 22, 2010

The normally quiet Provençal village square is a mass of shouting people, and missiles are flying everywhere. The young gendarme is in the thick of the fray, but he seems unconcerned ­– he’s seen it all before. Probably, in his youth, he would have been a part of the chaos, pitching in with the rest of them, but now his role has changed. Someone finds their target and he removes his hat, grinning, to brush off the handful of violet confetti that has covered it. Ah yes, policing the annual Tourrettes-sur-Loup Battle of the Flowers must be a tough job…

In the days running up to the Violet Festival and its subsequent orgy of petal-throwing the village is, seemingly, its usual tranquil self but, behind the sturdy wooden portals of its tall medieval houses, acres of chicken wire are being sculpted into fantastic shapes, ready to be smothered in blooms when the time arrives. Every group of citizens, from the local football team to the nursery school, will have their own float and competition is fierce to be judged the finest. Likewise, the local shopkeepers are finding inventive ways of celebrating or replicating their wares in blossom.

By the evening before the festival, it’s hard to believe that there is a flower left to be had in the whole of the Côte d’Azur, but now it is time for the ordinary villagers to do their bit. Stalls in the market are soon bringing in extra shipments of mimosa and violets from goodness-knows-where, so that every window, balcony and doorway can be garlanded in vibrant yellow and purple. Despite warm March sunshine during the day, the narrow streets stay cool and shady and an evening chill means that wilting is an unlikely prospect. As visitors we somehow expect that our little rented house may be excluded but the neighbours are having none of it – “oh but you must, it is tradition!” – and so we, too, are emptying vases and unrolling twine. Then we stand back to admire our efforts, look at the other houses that surround us… and rush to the square for extra supplies, determined not to let the side down for the British effort.

While we sleep, the work continues. Wagons of every shape and size are wheeled out of barns and garages, the vast chicken wire creations are loaded aboard, and then every centimetre of surface is smothered in dew-fresh carnations, irises, violets, mimosa, tulips. Wires are stretched between the houses and strung with smaller shapes. By the time we wander out to the bakery, we are able to laugh at the rows of “washing line” on which clothes pegs hold a white carnation bra, tiny red tulip briefs, striped violet-and-snowdrop socks and a pair of pink carnation “big pants”. And the ice-cream parlour’s huge cone in a visual feast. In the square some late arrivals are struggling to unload a huge multi-coloured duck from the top of a 2CV, to be hung outside a restaurant. At the other end of the scale, one of Tourrettes’ elder citizens sits at her window offering tiny posies of intensely scented violets for us to sniff at as we walk.

As the day progresses the crowds grow – estimates are that some 10,000 people pile into the tiny village to admire the handiwork. Moving among them the eccentric “Pignata de Castille” band play ancient tunes on highly decorated instruments that appear to be made from kitchen utensils and terracotta pots.

Finally, the parade begins. There is no street wide enough for it to pass through and so it winds around the square time and again, giving everyone a chance to see the smiling ladybird of the école maternelle, surrounded by serious-faced infant dressed as bees and butterflies; the goal-scoring boot and ball; the undersea world of the Riviera (schoolchildren dressed as fish) dominated by an imposing octopus.

Behind us, a huge mobile wood-fired over is turning out massive trays of the traditional Niçois chickpea-flour pancake socca, which is eating hot from paper cones, sprinkled with green olive oil and black pepper, but not even that can overwhelm the scent of flowers that now fills the square.

At last the judging is done – we never found out who had won over the cheering of the crowd – and the shout goes up for the battle to begin. In an anarchy of joyful destruction the float-builders who have worked so hard to create their masterpieces grab handful upon handful of delicate blossoms and begin to hurl them towards the upstretched hands of the crowd. The tall and the quick are soon laden with ravishingly muddled bouquets, the slower and less ruthless grab fallen blooms before they can be trampled underfoot. It is impossible not to get caught up in the madness, as even the gendarme found out.

It’s over as quickly as it began. By nightfall the square is returning to normal, save for it’s sweetly-scented “litter”, and the denuded wire ladybird and her fellows have vanished back to their sheds. We were told by an elderly lady, the daughter of shepherds, perhaps a Manon in her day, that the Festival was not always this grand – once, in Tourrettes, the land was so dry that the only things that grew were olives and violets. Maybe this Rite of Spring, part celebration part destruction, commemorates a time when the only thing one dared to waste were a handful of transient, delicate blossoms that showed the land was still alive. Now acres of greenhouses provide the ammunition, but the delicious, pagan joy of welcoming the returning sunlight is as potent today as it ever was in Provence.

moon over the digue

September 26, 2009

moon and digue

the blue boat

September 26, 2009


The Cat Man

August 24, 2009

My first published story – thanks to The Legendary ezine! Here they are:

And here’s the story:

There is a small island, a bare, dry rock of a place, with a harbour at one end and a monastery at the other, set in Homer’s wine-dark waters, nestled snugly in the reluctant arms of the Turkish coast. Nothing so very special, you might think, but, once upon a time, if you were there of a warm evening, settled at a rickey harbourside table, sipping an ouzo or a retsina and nibbling from a chipped dishful of salty olives and anchovies, you would have seen an amazing thing.

As if at some silent signal, the island’s shabby assortment of patchwork-patterned cats would begin slipping from the shadows, padding softly to the water’s edge, and sit. Watching. Waiting.

At first, you would not even notice the stocky fisherman, plaid shirt, bushy beard, strolling towards you along the quay. But the cats would notice, and you would see them, one by one, falling into step behind him, until he was walking, Pied-Piper-like, past your table to the salt-faded net sheds.

There, while his assembled followers sat again and waited patiently, no leg-winding or mewing, he would fill bowls with all the gutty, boney, bloody detritus from the day’s catch, and feed his flock. He was their god, and he walked amongst them every evening.

We did not know his name. We called him the Cat Man.

Once we asked Costas, who ran the bar, if we might buy the fisherman a drink to thank him. He’s very shy, reclusive, we were told. It would embarrass him. He keeps company with the cats alone.

Some years later, returning to the island, we waited for an evening promenade that never came.

We asked Costas, where is the fisherman with the cats?

Costas topped up our glasses and shook his head. It had been a hard winter that year, no boats getting to the island for weeks, and people and cats were hungry. Giorgos, our marvellous Cat Man, had gone out fishing. He had used that infallible Greek solution for a fast catch in bad weather. Dynamite. One slip, maybe it was the cold, who knows, and his hands were blown to pieces.

Fellow fishermen got him back to the harbour, he was flown to the mainland still alive, and the surgeons must have worked some kind of miracle, but he would never fish again.

We saw him the next evening as he walked along the quay, his prosthetic hands hanging by his sides. There were no cats in his wake. Cats are, after all, fickle creatures, and anyway the old generation, who basked in his beneficence, was long gone.

But, Costas told us, it had made Giorgos a changed man. Having to accept the care and the concern of his fellow islanders had brought him out of himself. Now he would join them at the bar for a drink and a laugh. It turned out he was a fine singer when Lefkas picked up the wheezy accordion. He had met a good woman, who kept house for him and… Costas winked, and moved away along the bar, topping up glasses.

Giorgos did still have one cat. Fatima. Costas pointed her out to us, as she dozed peacefully in the shade, and she lived up to her name. The sleekest, glossiest, fattest cat on the island. And, although it was bitter that his hands could not caress her fur – the greatest pleasure, as anyone who loves cats knows – still, we thought of her curled up close to that bearded cheek at night, purring, sending him to sleep with her melody. Bringing a good man sweet dreams of when he was a god.

We got to buy the Cat Man that drink at last.

This is a true story.

Welcome to FirstFolio

August 13, 2009

Fay Franklin is a professional travel guidebook editor and writer, and a member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. However, she regularly strays away from the world of non-fiction as a participant in a weekly literary flash fiction writing challenge at Her short stories have been published by The Legendary, HazardCat, Fiction365, Cuento, StoryMondo, The Ghastling and Litro, which made her one of its “Ones to Watch”. She lives by the water on each side of the English Channel, but not both at the same time.

herbarium st valery