SmokeLong Quarterly

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A Foreign Woman

Story by Roberta Allen June 15, 2006

Beneath a hazy sky, a foreign woman, alone on vacation, wanders through the early morning market while vendors arrange fruits and vegetables. One fruit, fallen from a bin and squashed beneath a sandled foot, attracts a beggar’s eye. Women wipe their hands on filthy aprons while dogs sniff the feet of passersby. Swarms of flies speckle the skins of ripened guavas. When a vendor raises his arms to adjust the tarpaulin over his stall, his hiked-up tee-shirt reveals a bellyful of large black scars. Crouched amidst the trash, a mother nurses a child from a breast that resembles a rotten pear. A young mother runs through the market, screaming that her child is lost. A boy sells a newborn kitten. He puts the kitten in a paper bag and twists it closed. He tears holes in the bag with his teeth so the kitten can breathe. When he laughs, scraps of paper cling to his tongue. Amidst the noise and dust and ruckus, men hunched under huge gray sacks, their eyes to the ground, hurry past rows of cages, jammed with parrots and canaries, guinea pigs and fowl. A girl in a vegetable stall picks her nose and rubs it on her tattered dress. Beyond the stalls and trucks, decaying houses line the narrow winding streets. The second story balconies all have the same wrought iron railings, twisted out of shape. But the foreign woman sees none of this. She’s worried about her boyfriend. Has he been faithful? Will her plane home this afternoon leave on time?

About the Author

Roberta Allen is the author of eight books, including the short short fiction collections, The Traveling Woman, The Daughter, and Certain People, plus the writing guides, The Playful Way to Serious Writing and Fast Fiction. She teaches at The New School and leads Playful Writer Workshops in Woodstock, NY, and in Chelsea. For more info, visit www.robertaallen.com.

This story appeared in Issue Thirteen of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Thirteen

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