Friday Fictioneers – Late

Photo Prompt © Carla Bicomong

“My father is late,” she says as if this would somehow explain why she hadn’t turned up for work.

“I see,” I say. But I don’t see. “Where has he gone?”

The only answer is a shrug. How can she tell? Nobody knows. Her eyes, russet flecked with gold like sunspots on two stars, are filled with sadness and with resolve.

“Perhaps he’ll come back soon,” I suggest helpfully.

But she looks like I might be a little crazy.

“He’s late,” she repeats slow, as you might to a child.

I’m still not giving her the response she clearly expects.

“Late. Dead,” she says

I am overwhelmed by embarrassment.


Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here

80 thoughts on “Friday Fictioneers – Late

  1. This story seems deceptively simple; a misunderstanding between a manager and an employee. But perhaps there’s more to it than that…”Her eyes, russet flecked with gold like sunspots on two stars, are filled with sadness and with resolve.”…Why is the manager noticing such intimate details? Why are her eyes described in such attractive words? Why should the eyes communicate resolve? This could be the start of a love story…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Neil, I thought about that possibility after I had posted my comment. I should have added “In the English language.” Which, of course, brings up the question of what language was being spoken. Perhaps it was English, but a construct that is not used here in the States. I live and learn–at least part of the time 🙂

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      2. I meant among English speakers in Southern Africa. English is not so much a language as a family of closely related languages, which can vary quite considerably. Hence Churchill’s aphorism that the US and the UK are two cultures divided by a common language

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Yes. And Churchill certainly had a way with words 🙂 On a trip to England over 20 years ago, we were at the Tower, and one of the Beefeater guides cracked a joke about English teachers who come to England to learn to speak the language correctly. It was funny, and I’ll swear he was looking right at me 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  2. The meaning of words and how they are used–an endless source of misunderstandings. It’s not only in English, I suppose every language with regional vernacular has them. It reminds us to be kind to non-native speakers.

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  3. I like that the usage of the word late in two dialects, for lack of a better word, caused the misunderstanding. Trying to speak a foreign language among natives is fraught with these embarrassing moments! Love the winston churchill quote!

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  4. At first I was thinking – don’t be embarrassed, she should have explained herself better. But I see in the comments it’s a common term in South Africa, in which case … awkward! Great story, and lovely descriptions too.

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  5. I can feel the extreme embarrassment of the co-worker. The reticence of the girl who was late to declare her father was dead might be because if she says it plainly, it would make it real and she wasn’t really ready to admit it. Well-written!

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  6. This has greater meaning on a second reading. During the first, the manager’s misunderstanding is clear; during the second, the employee’s confusion/ bewilderment to the manager’s responses is made plain. Language can always confuse as well as clarify.

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  7. I didn’t know that “my father is late” is a commonly used formulation in South Africa… thanks for the language lesson. 🙂
    In England, I heard the phrase “she is poorly” for the first time, meaning “she is ill”, and I thought: that doesn’t sound right. “Poorly” is an adverb!

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