Edward Hopper, “Automat,” 1927

I follow the instructions exactly. At the automat I get a cup of coffee and sit at an empty table. My pulse is racing, but I appear calm. Like everyone else, I look weary; my once fashionable coat discreetly mended.

A young man in a nondescript suit sits at a nearby table. As he turns the pages of his newspaper, he mentions the rainy weather. I reply with the code phrase. We sit for a while, sipping our coffee, each of us seemingly lost in thought. Then the man puts his coat on–leaving the newspaper on the table–and starts walking toward the door. I stand up, and as I pass his table, I pick it up.

We both exit. We go in different directions down the imperturbable street. It’s difficult to believe there’s a war going on.


This is bit of flash fiction for my prosery prompt for dVerse. The prompt line that must be incorporated is “We go in different directions down the imperturbable street,” from Gwendolyn Brooks, An Aspect of Love, Alive in the Ice and Fire.”

Without intending to, I wrote a companion piece to another prosery piece I wrote—and also illustrated with a Hopper painting.


70 thoughts on “Imperturbable

  1. I had a feeling you might choose the word ‘imperturbable’ as your title, Meril! It’s a great word, a great piece of flash fiction, and I love the Hopper painting you chose – which came first, the story or the image? I think your characters belong to some kind of underground resistance, perhaps in Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam.
    I used to use Hopper paintings to teach creative writing before I retired – they offer so many possibilities.

    • Thanks so much, Kim. Perhaps they were working for the resistance somewhere. (Did they have automats in those places?). I wrote and then I thought of Hopper. Yes, his paintings do seem to tell stories.

  2. I think Hopper would fit excellently with the mood of my story as well… I love how you brought forward the mundanity of resistance. Even the simplest thing like messages becomes an adventure… I think the coffee was surrogate coffee as well.

  3. This is great, Merril! And I love how it so neatly ties in with your previous prosery post (planned or not!)
    I really have to start visiting museums more…

  4. This is exactly the sort of thing that first came to my mind when I saw the prompt, and then my piece decided to go it’s own way, despite what I thought. Thank you for writing what I thought should be, and doing it so well. I would love to know where this clandestine meeting takes our protagonist (if they are indeed the protagonist).

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I’m glad I was able to put into words what you had been thinking about. 😀 I think the woman is the protagonist, but I don’t know what happens. . .at least not yet. Perhaps I’ll think about it.

  5. kaykuala

    We both exit. We go in different directions
    down the imperturbable street. It’s difficult
    to believe there’s a war going on.

    This Corvid 19 thing is making us to adopt very unfriendly attitudes among us. It is a quiet war ongoing!


  6. A great piece of flash fiction. I would have guessed that you had Hopper’s painting first, then wrote your character from it. The painting is a perfect companion to your story (and yay, I didn’t know you wrote flash fiction as well as poetry!)

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