Canvas-shaded stalls faced each other across an asphalt central aisle. Varied items, from baked goods and produce to jewelry and cutlery were on display. Mary Patrick strolled into this pedestrian thoroughfare, trying to look like any other Saturday shopper, with limited success. She drew many second glances and some smiles and nods. There were even a few guilty looks, with some people drawing aside as she passed. At least no one was openly disrespectful. That might have earned them what the kids called, “The Look.” She would resist that impulse. She mentally recited a “Glory Be” on one long breath. A display of handmade paper drew her attention. Seeds and tiny dried shreds of petals flecked pebbled sheets or pale grey or ivory. She would have loved to dream up a project to use the paper on, but that wasn’t why she came. She finally saw it—the stall Karen mentioned. Purses, pouches, eyeglass cases, and checkbook covers in light brown leather covered a display table or hung from racks. All were tooled in curling scrollwork. She discovered the wallets and flipped through them, bypassing bird, flower, and leaf designs. Finally she found the one she wanted. Less attractive than the others, it was covered mostly in a design of crudely drawn flames, except for the one corner that held a curling capital B. An elderly man approached the leather dealer and began reminiscing about the leather work his father used to do. There would be no better time. Mary Patrick opened the monogrammed wallet and took the sealed silvery plastic sleeve from her pocket. A tube, flattened, and with a rolled edge, sat inside the plastic. It insinuated itself against her too-sensitive fingers and she shoved the packet into the wallet’s credit card section as fast as she could. She buried the wallet under a few others and turned away, walking fast. She passed at least three vendors before she remembered she was supposed to be shopping, not chasing down someone to punish. She slowed to pass the last few stalls, but still nothing registered past the reddish haze that limned her vision.
Roscoe Lee spun the numbers on the lock and went towards the noise of the market. His bike was out of the way now, behind the train station. No one he knew would see it, especially not on a Saturday. Billy Czerwinski might get ideas if he saw Roscoe lock his bike, and Roscoe didn’t need that. Once he pulled off his next feat, Billy would finally recognize his superiority, but Roscoe didn’t want to deal with any noise from him before that happened. First he had to do what that old black lady said. “Just put this handkerchief in a leather purse you’ll find at the French market. It will be decorated with hummingbirds and hydrangeas.” She wouldn’t say any more than that. He had to go on the Internet to see what hydrangeas looked like. He just hoped no one spotted him putting a gay-looking lace handkerchief into a purse. Imagine what Billy Czerwinski would make of that. He didn’t see used consoles or games anywhere, so the food was the only good thing about this market. There was kettle corn and…score! The bacon he smelled was from some stand that was giving out free samples. He snagged a handful, ignoring the glare from the girl behind the table and walked on, munching. He was wiping the grease off on his jeans when he saw Sister Mary Patrick. Christ! He ducked behind a booth that sold some kind of cloth stuff—scarves and like that—and craned his neck to watch her from his hiding spot. She was at a stand full of leather purses. Just where he needed to go. What did she need with a purse anyway? He pulled back, considering. “Young man!” said a fat woman. She wore glasses with a chain dangling from them, “Would you mind not touching my merchandise?” “Sorry,” he mumbled. She stared over the tops of her glasses until he backed away from her booth. He wet his lips and snuck another peek at the purse stall. Thank God. Mary Puke-trick wasn’t there. Then he thought of something else, and turned his head back the way he’d come. Not there either. Was she really gone? He hoped so. He looked in every direction and didn’t spot her. Could she know he was coming, somehow? She might be hiding, even now. He moved slowly towards the leather stall swiveling his head as he went. His mouth felt like paper. No matter. As long as Mary Patrick didn’t catch him—and no one else he knew saw him either—he could drink after he finished the job. Leather purses lay on a table or hung from hooks near it, seeming to mock him with their curlicued flowers, fruits, and birds. He was rifling through the purses when a voice startled him. “Robert! What a surprise! Are your parents here? Crap. “Hello Mrs. Yao. No, just me.” “Really? What a big boy you’re getting to be, here all by yourself.” She didn’t sound like she thought it was a good idea. That was all he needed, someone asking his parents what he was doing a mile from home without supervision. Inspiration struck. “It’s kind of a secret, Mrs. Yao. Do you think my mother would like a purse?” It worked. She got that “awww” look that women and girls sometimes got when they thought something was cute. “I’m sure she would. Well, you be careful. Head straight home after this.” “I will.” She left, pushing her granddaughter’s stroller. Roscoe turned back to the purses. He finally found the one the old lady had described. When no one was looking, he pulled the crumpled lace handkerchief from his back jeans pocket and crammed it into the purse. Then he took off for the water fountain and drank as much as he could before hopping back on his bike to ride home.Of the three scenes I wrote, I think this is the one that best fulfills the assignment, though I won’t know for sure unless readers share their guesses about Roscoe’s job, hobby, and emotional state. Feel free to comment below! Anyone else out there following along with these Writing Excuses podcasts? Posting your work? I’d love to see it…
I’m leaving in 3 days. The image above is a visual clue to my destination. If you click on the picture, there’s an audio clue as well.
I’m very excited. And nervous. I call this state “happrehensive” because I like to shove words together to make new ones. Maybe it’s the German part of my heritage.
Anyway, here’s what’s happening: I’m going to a writing workshop/retreat with some wonderful writers-as-instructors: David Anthony Durham, K. Tempest Bradford, Mary Robinette Kowal, Nisi Shawl, and Cynthia Ward. There are also some pretty impressive writers-as-fellow-workshoppers, but the list is really long so I won’t subject you to it. However, many of my fellow attendees have some rather impressive credits, so I’m hoping not to embarrass myself.
Next week you’ll probably mostly see photos in this space—some from my garden and some from vacation. Sis, some cousins and I went to California for a long weekend. It’s a thing we do.
There will be a workshop-related post later. Maybe more than one.
Public domain photograph of the Appalachian mountains by Ken Thomas.