September 1948: From the Memoire of Miss Penelope Miller

Stanley Kubrick’s Photos of 1940s New York City via


The days of the week lined up like buckets, ready to catch whatever fell in. On that Sunday evening, I was alone in my apartment, relishing the unknown of the week to come. The smoke from my cigarette mingled with the sweet scent of wine, making me feel indulgent and grown-up; a working girl in the big city.

The following morning, I dressed, made some toast and coffee, and headed out the door to work. My midtown office is a bit far to walk but I like to do so on a nice day. I enjoy looking up at the buildings and moving along with the crowds.

I walked home in the evening as well and my feet were aching by the time I reached my building. I had just leaned on the wall to adjust my shoes when I heard the raised voices of two men from an open window overhead. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

When I reached my apartment, I kicked off my shoes, poured myself a drink and opened my own window. I like to sit on the ledge and look out at the city. I’m a country girl no more! I could still hear the men arguing and realized they were in the apartment below mine. I wasn’t in the mood to eavesdrop, so I closed the window and turned on the radio instead.

Nothing out of the ordinary happened on Tuesday. On Wednesday evening, though, they were at it again. I stopped on the sidewalk when I heard them arguing and rummaged in my handbag, trying to make out something of what they were saying.

One of the men moved over to the window and I caught a glimpse of him: neat hair, three-piece suit, not handsome but well turned-out. He was quite angry, accusing the other man of throwing his words back at him, of twisting something he’d said. I was curious but the argument didn’t seem unusual.

It was a cool evening so I didn’t open the window when I got upstairs. I’m not sure if they were still arguing, but I couldn’t hear anything from my apartment.

Thursday morning, I noticed their window was still open. It seemed dark and quiet inside. It’s none of my business whether people leave their windows open or not, but I did think it odd, cool as it had been the day before. And it’s only three storeys up! You never know if a burglar might get it into his head to try to climb up there. It wouldn’t be that difficult.

As always, I dined with Diana after work that night, so I didn’t get home until quite late – about 11:30. As my taxi pulled up to the curb, the man I had seen through the window on Wednesday staggered out of the building. He looked up and down the street, keeping to the shadows and avoiding the light from the streetlamps. I tried to stall as I paid the driver, hoping I could make it up to my place without having to pass him. It was then that I noticed his hand was bandaged and blood was seeping through it.

When I could wait no longer, I got out and, keeping my head down, slipped past him. I could feel his eyes on me.

That night, I was sure I heard noises outside my room and in my half-dreams I thought the man with the bandaged hand was at my door.

I felt ill Friday morning. I must admit that I was scared to leave my apartment in case I should see him again. I called in sick and spent the day at home, restless. I was trying to convince myself that I’d made something out of nothing when I heard a commotion coming from the apartment below.

“Did you think you were god?” that familiar, sinister voice shouted. Then I heard three gunshots. Soon after, sirens and flashing lights filled the neighbourhood. I heard people gathering on the street below, but I stayed put.

I still don’t know what happened with those men but the apartment is empty. Sunday evening has rolled around again but this time, I am hoping for an uneventful week. The only sounds drifting in through my window now are from the never-ending traffic. It’s true what they say about this city – it never sleeps. But, sleep or not, Monday morning always rolls around and the first bucket begins to fill again.




13 thoughts on “September 1948: From the Memoire of Miss Penelope Miller

  1. The full circle that you used, starting and ending with the buckets was very nicely done but now I want to know what went on downstairs. Penelope lives in a big enough building that we may be able to hear different perspectives from other tenants. Maybe? Very nicely done!

  2. I love how you’ve given us the flavor of the era, the “outside” view of the goings-on in that apartment, and the way you bring the buckets back at the end.

  3. “making me feel indulgent and grown-up; a working girl in the big city.”Love this line. I think we all have that moment when we stop and say to ourselves, ‘well Im a grown-up now’ and it does feel indulgent. Almost as if we don’t really know what do do with it for a while.

    • Exactly! I cut that line and replaced it several times so I’m glad you picked up on it. I thought it was an important part of her character. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  4. I’m so glad you kept the opening line up-beat. I love the skip in her step she has in the beginning of the story. And as the story progressed, she learns that living in the city means being privy to other people’s conversations (I learned that lesson quickly myself). Nice job, Silver!

    • Oh, Nate, I’m so glad you approve! Thank you for such a great challenge this week. I really liked the visual the prompt line left me with but I struggled to make it link in seamlessly. I wanted to try to keep the crime from the media prompt slightly apart from the character – I didn’t think she needed to know what happened. That’s the anonymity of the big city. And the more I wrote, the more I pulled on the 4 weeks I spent working in NYC. I’m glad it seemed realistic enough to remind you of your own experiences.

  5. I enjoyed journeying into the 40’s with you – nicely captured in the small details. I also liked how you brought it around and tied it all up together in order to start over again.

    • The weeks are kind of like that, aren’t they? Relentless but also renewing. No matter what happens one week, there’s always the next week, and the next. Thank you for your comment!

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