Finding Joanna - by Julie Harris - What a dreary day! Outside, a scowling sky, stinging needles of rain, an ocean of black umbrellas. Inside, the same discussion, night and day. Finding Joanna a husband.

“Someone serious-minded,” Mother demands. “Someone hardworking,” Father insists, donning his dark overcoat and brandishing his umbrella. He’ll soon melt into the crowd of breadwinners flowing toward the train station.

“Like a [something] of ravens,” Joanna mutters to herself, trying to remember the word.

A young man is shown in, hands her his card - “Dylan Murphy, Portraits”. He sets up easel and brushes, smears color after glorious color onto his palette.

"No need for all those, " Joanna sighs, lost in folds of the drab grey silk Mother chose for this setting.

“Hmmm.” The young man cocks his head to either side, taking her measure, making the first brush strokes.

His silence is both comforting and unnerving. She attempts a conversation opener.

“What’s the collective for ravens?”

“Unkindness.” She brightens up when she recognizes his correct answer, and hopes he’ll elaborate, but he seems content with the one word.

A while later she tries again. “Do you own an umbrella?”

“Many,” he responds and keeps painting.

“What colors?”

“Every color except black.” His longest answer yet, delivered with a hint of laughter. Joanna’s starting to appreciate his long silences. Freed from the rigors of small talk, she can brood on her dreary life.

The afternoon light is starting to fade when Dylan finally puts down his brushes and peers out the window. “Here they come.” Sure enough, the black umbrellas are returning home. “Like an unkindness of ravens, certainly.” He echoes her morning thoughts, then adds, “An unkindness only, Jo, not a malevolence. Surely you can manage that.”

“I was born into that world. But marriage is so … permanent.”

“Come see your portrait!” A riot of colors, energy and exuberance. Mischievous eyes, determined chin. A woman who knows her own mind.

“Is that really me?” The old, stale world of Joanna is disappearing, even as a new one begins to hum and sing.

“It’s you alright! Would this woman marry a raven?”

“Not on your life!” Jo exclaims.

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Julie, I really enjoyed the humorous conversation between Joanna and the portrait painter. There are wonderful nuances of both colour and lack of in your story. You cleverly compared the black umbrellas to an unkindness of Ravens. Funny how Joanna very much under the control of her parents becomes Jo a lively character with strong opinions!

Thank you, Margarida. I love the way you notice small details - the nuance of color and lack of color, for example. I’m so glad you picked up on the “Joanna” to “Jo” transition. I hoped readers would notice that, and you did!

I’m a great lover of collective nouns. They add so much to a vocabulary. I’m just glad Joanna didn’t compare the black umbrellas to crows!

A great story, Julie! I have to confess that I missed the transfer of “Joanna” into “Jo,” but I did see how “finding Joanna a husband” turned into “finding Joanna” when looking back at your title. Very nice job with those and many other details. I love it how you contrast the vivid colors with the blackness and how you describe the people in the story.

Thanks for your comments, Christer. You’re the only one who has seen the way the title grew from the story. Bravo for that observation! I look forward to reading more of your stories soon!

Hello, Julie. I enjoyed it so much. It is humorous read, Julie. And the end is satisfying that answered to your title, “Finding Joana”.

Thank you, Lotchie. I hope you will write a story soon and record it. I look forward to your beautiful writings.

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Julie, your story is wonderful, moving Joanna from apathy to enthusiasm through her interaction with the painter. And the chosen picture could not be more perfect!