Writing from Life Symbolism and Motif in Your Writing



Catarina scrutinized the final touches

she'd made to her maquillage; her

face, chalk white, lips accentuated

with crimson paste and her brows

plucked into fine arches above her

troubled eyes. A single, tiny, black

patch to the side of her mouth was all

that was needed before her maid

powdered her hair and placed the allenveloping

black domino around her

shoulders, disguising her voluptuous

décolletage and bone-laced slender

waist. She would carry her mask until

ready to become inconnue to all in

the crowd, but for her lover, the Cavalier,

Guido Balestra and their nineyear-old

daughter, Beatrice, who was

to accompany them to the exhibition.

It was Beatrice more than anyone in

the opera house who was transfixed

by the animal displayed in the semicircular

pit. She listened intently as

the creature’s handler pointed out

the wonders of the beast; was struck

by the pathos of the prehistoriclooking

creature, which most surely

had been on earth long before the

almighty devised man, and here,

tamed or not, was treated as an object

of curiosity. Even as behind her

mask, she gawped, her heart reached

out to it.

‘Look at this hide,’ the showman

said prodding the creature with his

whip, ‘the skin is so thick it forms

these folds, making it look as if it

wears armour.’

Beatrice felt increasingly melancholic

as she looked at the rhinoceros’s impassive

face and noted how small its

hooded eyes were, even as her own

burnt with unshed tears. ‘Signor?’

The keeper turned with the flourish of

a well-practiced showman to where

Beatrice stood grasping her mother’s

hand and bowed to her. ‘Si, Signorina?’

‘Signor, is the creature unhappy?’

‘What an impertinent question,

Signorina! Look at Clara, is she not

well fed? Do you see any sign of fear

or aggression? Does she snort, bellow

or charge at you or the arena wall?’

‘Non, Signor.’

‘Do you hear those satisfied grunts as

she grazes on the sweet hay I have

given her? If not happy, at least she is

not unhappy and so is content.’

‘Si, Signor, but what about her

horn, did it not hurt when you cut it


The keeper held the severed horn

above his head for all to see and

pointing to the rough patch above the

beast’s nose, explained with an exaggerated

bow, ‘I removed it for your

safety, least she is angered and

attacks!’ he said. Then dropping the

horn, he mischievously shaped two

fingers like horns on top of his head,

‘Gentlemen, beware the horns of the

cuckold, and watch out for your

wives,’ he added with a sly lopsided


Beatrice was about to sit down,

but the keeper hadn’t finished.

‘Tell me, little girl, should an animal

be happy, do they have rights to

happiness that no human has? Anyway,

I say that Clara should be very

happy for no one is going to eat her –

she’d be much too tough,’ he concluded

as with exaggerated movements

he rubbed his stomach and

masticated his jaw, his ribald actions

eliciting a roar of laughter from the

assembled crowd.

‘Now, to continue: ladies and gentlemen,

please pay attention to this

fine ungulate’s feet; notice how it has

three toes.’

Beatrice jumped to her feet. ‘I

can’t see. I can’t see her toes.’

Hearing her cries, an unmasked woman

sitting at the front row, turned and

beckoned to her, ‘Come, child, sit

with me,’ she said.

‘No, you mustn’t go,’ protested

Catarina, hastily raising her mask, but

too late for Beatrice was already

pushing her way through the crowd

to the front of the arena, ‘Stop her,

Guido! That’s your wife.’

‘So I’ve noticed,’ he said wryly,

‘but have no fear, she won’t know

Beatrice, even though she is my

daughter, but who, I’d like to know,

are those people with her?’

‘It’s impossible to tell with everyone

in masquerade, but one must be

her chaperone; the others are too

heavily disguised to know – you’re

not jealous are you? Since you have

me and I’m sure many others,

Mid-Autumn 2015

shouldn’t she be allowed a dalliance

or two?’

‘A courtesan is not the same as a


‘Indeed not; I give you more diverse

pleasures than a wife!’ she retorted,

slipping her hand inside his


Beatrice was making her way back to

her mother when Guido noticed a

cloaked figure, tri-corn hat pulled low

over his brow, sitting on the opposite

side of the arena.

‘Ah, I do believe signor Longhi is

here again, ‘he must be very taken by

the beast to be making so public a

visit! Beatrice, go and say Guido pays

his respects and ask if he would like

to join us.’

Beatrice slipped around to where

Longhi was sitting and not liking to

interrupt the great artist at work,

waited and quietly watched over his

shoulder as he sketched, not the rhinoceros,

but Guido’s wife. ‘That’s

beautiful, Signor Longhi,’ she whispered,

making him jump. ‘It is she

who is beautiful,’ sighed Longhi as he

tried to shield the drawing from the

child’s inquisitive gaze, but not before

she’d noticed the picture also included

a caricature of Guido, wearing the

horns of a cuckold.

Veryan Williams-Wynn, spent her

childhood travelling the world in

the wake of her military father,

which led to a somewhat eclectic

and multinational education. She

married and had four children. She

then trained and worked as a sensitive

at the college of Psychic Studies

in London and as a counsellor specialising

in transpersonal psychology

perspectives, for many years

leading psychic development


She works as an audio describer

for the blind and partially sighted

at the Theatre Royal Plymouth.

Veryan has written many short

stories for all age groups, two

broadcast on local radio. In addition

to this she has written two

books (fiction) aimed at the Young

Adult market, and her book The

Spirit Trap will be published by

Lodestone Books on December 11th.

She lives on the edge of Dartmoor

in Devon.


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