Flash Fiction: “My Dinner with Emilie”

Thanks again to the cool and crazy folks at Write It Up! for helping me craft this story of love across time and space.


My Dinner with Émilie, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 618

Blue lightning crackled around me. I stared out the porthole at the swirling vortex of Time itself. Cosmic energies swirled in and around my vessel like the gentle flow of a warm summer breeze. Then, as the generator’s hum died down, I shielded my face from a shower of white-hot sparks that flew out of the nearest console.

Goddammit. It was always something with the insulation.

I straightened my tie. Once the sparks fell away, I pushed the door of the time machine open. When I stepped outside, I cast a critical glance at my surroundings. Judging by the decor of the living room where I’d landed, I’d say that I was somewhere near the middle of of the 18th century. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with Late Baroque art and furniture, you know? No one needs that much ornamentation on what is essentially a coffee table.

I heard someone shouting down the hall in French. Smiling, I poked at the button on my auto-translator hidden inside my shirt collar. The smooth European tongue morphed into the familiar iambic English that was my bread and butter. I spun around in time to see the doors open, and an elegant woman enter.

She wore a gray wig, as was the fashion of her time. Her ornate dress swirled around her ankles, but it wasn’t her attire that captivated me. It was her face. Her calm, bemused expression. Those cool, analytical eyes running up and down me and my machine.

I’d found her at last.

“Aha!” I clapped my hands together. “Bonjour! Madame Émilie du Châtelet! Mathematician, physicist, and bon vivant! Just who I wanted to see!”

True to her form, she didn’t seem too alarmed. Émilie leaned past me to examine the time machine resting on her carpet. “Most curious, Monsieur. I hope you have a good reason for intruding.”

“I do! I’m here”—I executed a swift bow—”to ask you to dinner.”

“You’re presumptuous, Monsieur.”

“No, the restaurant is. Well, more pretentious. Trust me.”

“And where is this restaurant?”

“Paris, approximately 400 years from now.”

“400 years?” The Frenchwoman frowned. “Impossible.”

“Not if you have a time machine.” Angling back, I patted my hulking vehicle on the cooling chassis. “Which I do.”

At once, her eyes lit up. Oh, but how could anyone blame Voltaire’s desire when you saw a face like that? “You can travel through time? Through time? The equations alone would be outrageous! I must know how it’s done!”

Like a true gentleman, I offered Émilie my arm. “Come with me and find out.”

One hop and skip through the vortex, we arrived in the parking lot of La Cambuse, with plenty of time to grab our reservation. This upscale Parisian restaurant had been built out of the broken-down caboose of an ancient locomotive near Bonne Nouvelle. It was pretentious, gaudy, and overpriced for a typical dining experience. But at least the wine list was excellent.

As Émilie rambled on about how my machine would revolutionize our understanding of time and space, I stole a drinking straw from a nearby waiter. While she wasn’t looking, I slipped the straw into a slot in my generator. That would replace my burnt-out insulation for at least a few more trips, I figured.

Then came the pièce de résistance: me, walking into La Cambuse with Émilie du Châtelet. And sitting with his wife in the lobby was Professor John Curtis from Stanford University, slack-jawed and staring.

I didn’t miss my chance. As we passed by, I leaned over and declared, “Why, hello, Professor! Good to see you! By the way, did you know you lost the bet? I’ll take my twenty bucks now…!”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Flash Fiction: “Surrounded By Stardom”

One of these days, I’ll make it to Paris. However, that’s never stopped me from writing many a story set in some Parisian neighborhood. There’s something magical to the city (or at least my visions of it).

This story also comes courtesy of the prompts I received from my friends at Write It Up! Burbank. Enjoy.

Surrounded by Stardom, by Alexander Paul Willging

Word Count: 462

It was supposed to have been Jean-Philippe’s big day. It wasn’t every day that an American celebrity waltzed into his small fashion boutique in the heart of Paris. The streets of Montmartre were lined from one intersection to the next with dozens of paparazzi and fans, both foreign and domestic.

And all poor Jean-Philippe could do was try not to cry.

“How could this have happened?” his assistant Odette shrieked. She cowered behind the row of mannequins in the store’s main window. “We were so careful!”

Jean-Philippe put his hand to his cheek. “Honestly,” he murmured, “how could we not, ma chérie?

The world-famous Kardashians had arrived only three hours late, and Jean-Philippe hadn’t worried. The sisters had bickered over his spring season outfits, and he’d been fine with that. One of their boyfriends had toppled over a window display, and the boutique owner had bitten down hard on his lip, but still he’d said nothing.

He had been so genteel, right up until the point where Mademoiselle Khloe had slapped a now-intoxicated Kim, who was presently recovering in the back room.

Jean-Philippe had offered his condolences over the phone to Kim’s manager. The manager, however, had demanded a paparazzi-free exit—“or else,” he’d added.

The implications were clear. Jean-Philippe could not afford to fail. Literally.

“Maurice!” he called out to the room behind the silk curtains. “How’s it coming back there!”

“Almost finished!” the tailor cried in his rough dock worker’s voice.


“Well, she passed out, monsieur. She’s more cooperative now.”

Mon Dieu,” Jean-Philippe whispered.

His mind whirred into action while his eyes drifted over the wreckage of his boutique and his nervous wreck of an assistant. Outside, the sea of cameramen and young ladies in obnoxious black wigs grew restless. They made waves, brushing up against the shore of his tiny storefront.

And then, he leapt. Inspiration struck hard and fast.

“Odette!” Jean-Philippe called out. “Go into the back. Get the prop box for our summer season.”

“What on Earth for?” she asked, her eyes peeking up from her new position behind the counter.

The proprietor smiled. “Only the finest performance of my life.”

Everywhere one looked, the crowds laughed. Cameras flashed. The sun blazed down on the cobblestone avenues. And Jean-Philippe ignored them all.

He just kept dancing with his beach ball.

His face was painted white, and he’d dug up a black-striped shirt for himself. On top of his beach ball, he’d glued a simple black wig. With his ensemble complete, he lost himself to the dance.

Only when his cell phone buzzed, and Odette texted him that Miss Kardashian’s entourage had smuggled her away, did Jean-Philippe drop his beach ball onto the street.

The crowds gasped.

And when he bowed, the whole street burst into applause.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


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