Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Rescue - Part I

So it turns out that writing a story a week is harder than I thought. To make matters worse, I'm not even writing my regular pseudo-reviews of books because I'm telling myself I should be writing stories instead. So it looks like the target of fifteen posts this month is going to be harder to get to than I thought.

So I'm going to cheat a little. I'm posting a story I wrote some time ago. I didn't post it here because it's a strange sort of story and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I also couldn't think of a good title for it, so any help would be welcome.

It's also a long story by my usual standards, so I'm posting only half here. The second half will be posted tomorrow. Let me know what you think!


Her skirt looks like it's made of cobwebs. It shimmers silver in the half-light.

I watch her legs as they walk past me. They are light brown, supple, fluid. Her silver-grey shoes tap a perfect rhythm on the pavement. I dare not look up, lest the perfection be lost.

When she has crossed me, I let my eyes travel up. They climb up over her skirt, which swings gently as she walks. They lose themselves inside her long hair, waist-length and brown and curly.

I rise and follow her. I want to know where she lives, that's all. Perhaps she lives nearby, in one of these narrow streets where the buildings on either side lean in close, as if they want to talk. But that seems unlikely. She's probably just cutting through to the neighbourhood next door, heading for the broad streets with the trees on either side and the houses set back from the road.

She walks on through the crowds. She doesn't seem to be aware of the stares and the comments that follow her. A girl like that would stand out anywhere, but more so in a neighbourhood like mine.

It's nearly dusk, and the birds are shrieking and flying in broad arcs overhead before roosting for the night. Cables crisscross above the street, black lines against the last yellow flourish of the sun. Dim lights are coming on in windows. Shrill women shout their lives' disappointments at each other across the street, competing with the blue droning of television sets.

She turns into a side road lined with food carts, alive with the smell of greasy paper and bubbling oil. The hiss of frying food mingles with the babble of a happy evening crowd. The vendors' faces gleam sweatily over their vats of hot oil. The bright lanterns on the carts burn her skirt golden.

Suddenly, a group of urchins surrounds her, teasing her, dancing around her in tiny banians and tinier shorts. Their teeth flash white on their dark faces, their voices come together in a meaningless cackle. There, she has agreed to buy them some bajjis.

I still haven't seen her face - only the gleam of her teeth as she laughs, the curve of her chin as she bends down to talk. Her hair frames her face, falls across it, hides it.

I turn sideways, step out of the flow of the street. I buy a cup of tea, climb a couple of steps of a nearby staircase, and lean against a wall, watching. I can see her better now, she's part of the golden circle cast by the bajjiwala's lantern. She is talking and laughing with the kids. They are mesmerized by her, only half-listening as their eyes take in her beauty, their smiles wide and glazed with the surreal-ness of her.

I'm jealous of them, they are so close to her. I would have been part of that group just three-four years ago. Now I'm in-between, too old to be one of them, and too young to join the gangs.

She is the center of the street now, the rest of the activity is only a background for her. She laughs, and the street smiles with pleasure. She frowns, and the street holds its breath. People move around her in eddies, they turn back to catch a glimpse of her again. They slow down as they move away from her, as if she's a magnetic center they can't quite escape.

A glimpse of black down there in that golden mesh. I tear my eyes away from her luminescence. A group of youths is threading their way through the crowd towards her. Jeans and tight bright t-shirts, shiny hair and black shades. They push men out of their way, fondle nearby women, pat children on the head roughly enough to make them cry. I recognize them - they are part of Sraav Usmain's gang.

The plastic cup of tea I'm holding is crushed by a sudden spasm of my hand, spilling hot tea on my fingers. I barely notice. How do I warn her, how do I rescue her?

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