by Daniel Webre
Everywhere I looked, I could see ships’ sails. Odd for a parking lot with no water. I thought at first that a show was in progress, like the ones the old men hold on Saturdays with their classic cars. Since these were sails, I’d expected boats, but there were none. Instead, the masts punched right into the concrete. The sails billowed, as sails tend to do, and I strolled among them, taking in the wind-whipped rumble, the clang of lines, the hooks against metal poles.
I thought that no one else was around, but I was wrong. I caught sight of a woman in the distance. I could see her until she just disappeared behind another sail. Whether she noticed me or not, I couldn’t tell.
The sails seemed silky from afar. Up close, they were more like canvas and smelled slightly of mildew, despite the intense airing- out they were getting. I hadn’t realized how windy it was here. Everything around the parking lot had been knocked over, but the acres of paved surface remained and created thean illusion of a vast sea, the way the sunlight played off of the concrete.
“Tickets?” The woman’s voice startled me. Under the cover of sails, she’d circled around behind me. She was a substantial woman—her dress was made of light fabric that draped over her loosely and fluttered like the sails. She looked to be about my age, which is to say late thirties. There was something familiar about her.
“Tickets?” she said again.
“Do I need a ticket?”
She smiled at me, as though dealing with a simpleton, and she unspooled a length of nine or so perforated yellow tickets, like for a carnival ride. Each had “Admit One” printed on it.
I took out my wallet and frowned because I was out of money. I shook my head and then inverted the linings of my front pockets. She seemed to regard me now with pity.
She counted off eight of the tickets and tore. I noted the chips in her otherwise brilliant turquoise nails. I thought I felt a mild electric shock as she pressed the strand of tickets into my palm. She sighed and started to walk away.
“Wait,” I said, before she could disappear among the sails again. She was far enough that I wasn’t sure if she could hear me over the wind, but she stopped and turned and waited, albeit impatiently.
I had nothing of value, but I remembered that I had a ruby red handkerchief I kept folded into a square in my back left pocket. I removed it, and gave it a brisk shake so that it now hung loose from my fingertips.
I’m not sure what I was expecting. It had been part of a magic set I had owned as a child.
This was all that remained. I shook it again as though a dove might fly out, but nothing happened, except the wind blew the sails a little harder and several stray strands of the woman’s golden hair brushed against her eyes.
I could smell lilac now. Apparently, some traces of perfume had remained in the fabric after all these years. I wondered if it had reached her. If it had, she gave no indication other than she was smiling again, perhaps out of pity, but I didn’t think so this time.
I folded the tickets, accordion-style, until they made a single stack, and bundled them inside the handkerchief before returning it to my back pocket. The wind gusted even harder now, became deafening, and I lost all sight of the woman when I squinted my eyes to protect them.
But then the skies calmed again, and I opened them—sails spanning to the horizon. I wondered where I might be going from here, if the woman would be waiting. And all the while, the winds continued, though much more gently now. And so I walked, remembering, as I searched the sky for a dove.
the shape of light
by Tendai Rinos Mwanaka
Daniel Webre received an MFA in fiction from McNeese State University and a PhD in English with creative writing concentration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in MUSE Literary Journal, Faultline, Watershed Review, The MacGuffin, Xavier Review, and elsewhere.
Tendai Rinos Mwanaka is a Zimbabwean publisher, editor, mentor, thinker, literary artist, visual artist and musical artist with 23 individual books and 25 edited books, 1 music album and several songs, and tens of paintings and artworks curated, published, produced, exhibited and published in at least 35 countries worldwide.