A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
“Scars” is a short story originally published in QWF Magazine a few years ago. I’ve decided to cut it into bite-sized pieces and post it here to start a new series called Fiction Fridays. It will run in five parts. Enjoy!
The three scars were long and deep, cut into the floor in another century and now smooth and round with age. Idly she pushed her sandal off and followed the lines with her toes. They ran parallel and started close, spread slightly for an inch or two and then shallowed and died. Her toes splayed as they moved through the lines, and, near the end, had to spread to follow the form. The grooves were wide enough to hold her comfortably and she lingered there in their ruts.
The drinks were tall and sweaty. Their sides dripped and ran, their white water puddles made high top pearls on the dark wooden table. It was only the other two customers that kept her from licking the sides of her glass.
They had walked all morning through the lower town. It had been cool and touristy, with people from the market laughing and performing for them. They had bought fruit, the huge fresh kind that only comes in the tropics, and tried stupidly to get the woman to wash it for them. Then they had started up the long steep streets that led to the old town. The morning faded, and the fierce heat afternoon found them wandering over the stones of the last century. It made them stop to argue about washing the fruit which she ate anyway. It was rich and pulpy and the sticky juice ran down her face and her arms, leaving dirty streaks. And his tone was, “You’ll be sorry!” But she didn’t care because the juice was cool and she was thirsty, more thirsty than she had ever been. And there was more, the deep purple colors hanging in the string bag he carried. But she didn’t ask; he was angry anyway. And they continued up away from the sea and into the hot afternoon.
And now she was cradled in the scars underneath the table, feeling them with her large middle toe, stroking the rounded sides and pausing in their length. It was cooler here, not much, but the thick dark walls and the deep shadows helped. And the afternoon which had covered them and collected in streaks where their clothing fit was waning, moving across the white sky, too late now to stalk them. But they were still quiet from the climb, their hair lank at the back of their necks, their clothes dry stained and their muscles languored and tired. So they sat, idling their drinks; he, reading the thumb-worn brochure from the counter and she, smoothing caresses out of three ancient scars.
She turned her drink in her hand, feeling the cool wet of it on the ends of her fingers and leaned forward and sucked at the straw, filling her mouth with the frothy liquid. He looked up.
“Don’t drink so fast on an empty stomach. In this heat you’ll get sick.” he said.
She swallowed. She remembered hearing that from her father once but she thought he had been talking about horses.
“This was a slave market,” he said matter-of-factly.
Her toes stopped in the middle scar and she pulled her foot back under her chair.
“See?” he said, pointing the brochure at her, “A slave market.”
She looked away across the thick sill, out into the gravel afternoon. The pebbles crunched under the tall heels of a woman walking just out of sight. She felt her through the soft of her footfalls that moved with a practiced space in sound and speed.
“High heels, on the gravel, in this weather?” she thought.
To be continued…