IN COUNTRY by Jenny Aspen | A Short Story About Love In Paris


Jenny Aspen’s first short story for Needle In The Hay is a short story about love in Paris. Far from clichéd, Jenny sprinkles just enough difference into this tale of two writers to keep things interesting, as an unlikely duo of Americans find themselves bonding over home.

 It’s hard to write romance without taking irony into account, and here Jenny shows us how it’s done. If you like ‘slice of life’ type stories with a strong self awareness you will find plenty to enjoy here.

This story was shortlisted for the DALLAS LAWYERS CLUB Short Story Contest.

Want to find out more about writing short stories? Check out our Short Story Page.



A Short Story About Love In Paris 

by Jenny Aspen


“There are definitely places in this world where irony is lost more than others.”

That was Doug, being cute I guess.

We met in Paris, on the steps of Sacre Coeur. The perfect city to fall in love – You say. You’d be right. Doug was from some little town in Midwest USA. The kind of place where people said “Oh that’s wonderful!” and they meant it. For a guy like me, skinny and small, Doug was easy to fall for, even if he was straight as the Eiffel Tower.

Sorry, that was a terrible metaphor.


Doug’s mother loved “The Europeans,” and saw to it that her children’s education included a healthy dose of Langues-Other-Than-English-But-From-The-Same-General-Area-As-England. By the time he was sixteen Doug and both his sisters could speak German, Italian, and French.

“Learning it in a class is not the same as speaking it ‘in country’,” Doug said. He had taken me to see the Sorbonne… From the outside.

“You love that phrase,” I said in reply.

“What? In country?”

“Yeah, even the way you said it I can just tell you love it.”

Doug just smiled his big, goofy Midwestern grin.

Paris, the city of art and coffee and cigarettes. The city of museums and parkour. The city of my first, and only film.

I graduated from Purdue with a major in Greek Mythology, but I grew up in California. I knew Doug’s big smile from the guys that played for the Boilermakers. Guys that I didn’t assoicate with. Guys I saw from far away. Up close, the smile was less threatening than I imagined.

“What kind of guy goes to Purdue to study Persiphone?” Doug asked. But it could have been anyone asking that question. It was the sort of degree that screamed ‘lack of direction’. Learning for learning’s sake.

“He’s still figuring things out,” my Mother would say.

My Father was less forgiving. “You could be anything, a Doctor, a Lawyer.”

“I am anything,” I told him, but he didn’t care.

After the Sorbonne we stopped at a cafe with white tables and red umbrellas and chairs and ordered coffee, as you do.

The film we were both working on was an action adventure movie hoping to position itself somewhere between James Bond and the Bourne franchise. The points of difference were that the main character was a woman and she didn’t use guns.

“Kind of like Macgyver,” Doug explained.

I told him I didn’t know who that was. I’d only been hired because there was a few references to Greek mythology in the script (The bad guys all had the names of Greek Gods, stuff like that) and one of the producers knew my brother. I was supposed to be Doug’s ‘myth advisor’ while he took care of the action.

We drank our coffee and I tried not to fall in love with the straight boy from the Midwest who just kept smiling.

What did you mean when you said, “There are some places in the world where irony is lost more than others.” It was late and we were back at the ‘office’, an empty fifth floor apartment the studio had hired.

“In the old buildings of Paris the ground floor apartments were worth more than the penthouses,” Doug told me. “On account of there being no elevators. Anyway it means some places are more like the dream of the place then the place itself.”

“You want to know what I think? You think too much, and about unimportant shit.”

“What do you mean?”

“Its five to midnight. This rewrite is due 7am tomorrow.”

Doug waved his hand “Don’t worry about it. I heard the production’s shutting down in Paris. Too expensive. Too many permits.”

He must have seen the disappointment on my face.

“Don’t worry, well just film the rest of the scenes back home,” he drummed his fingers on the table. “Back in the USA.”

Doug didn’t get it. Didn’t get much of anything I suppose. Here in Paris we were equals. When we got back home, things would be different.

“Hey, say it again,” I said.

“What? There are definitely places in this world where irony is lost more than others?”

“No, the other one.”

Doug smiled his big dumb smile. “In country,” he said.