Tag Archives: creative writing

Spice Bazaar–Istanbul

Before my eyes could adjust, the smell was upon me–pungent and powerful. My eyes were stinging with scents I did not recognize. Inside the ancient spice bazaar, crowds were swirling, the noise was disorienting. Shop keepers smiled and nodded at weathered women. Women scowled back in negotiation. Shouting began as a wave that crested and broke over exotic shops in the tidal rhythm of the ancient spice trade.

IMG_2930_Burka
Islam is the most populous major religion in Turkey. Although no longer required, many women still wear the burka in public.

I raised my camera to capture the confusion and she froze. Perhaps she thought her burka made her invisible. Amidst the current of chaos she had been invisible. I would not have noticed the androgynous shape among the many shapes in motion.  It was in that moment of pause that our eyes met. Her eyes were all I could see. Sights and sounds and people were swirling about us and I could see her eyes.

Sadness.

I think that’s what I felt. I’m not sure if that’s what I saw.

She raised her hand, translucent against her robes and I took the photograph. We stood there for moments, centuries swirling before us. I could not see beneath her coverings. I had no desire to violate tradition. But in that moment, in her eyes, I could sense a depth of inner life, hidden beneath the burka; hopes, dreams, struggles, desires, hiding in the Misir Carsisi Spice Bazaar, in Istanbul.

Muse 3

Jeff signaled and turned left into a gravel lot. He could hear crunching under his tires and immediately felt less substantial. He pulled around back of the warehouse and shut off the engine. It wasn’t quiet. The warehouse was under an overpass. The roar and hiss of cars screeching by just feet above him made Jeff think of banshees howling on the wind.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic.

Jeff stepped out of his car. The ground was wet. It had rained overnight. The gravel sank in the mud just below it.

Quicksand.

The warehouse was abandoned. It had been for a long time. Cinderblock walls were stained with moss and filth. Graphiti-artist-wannabes had practiced here before changing careers. Broken glass windows let the inside blackness out. Jeff crunched around the building looking for a door. It wasn’t locked. The corrugated steel man-door was rusted off its hinges. Jeff pulled on the handle and the door groaned, painfully. The door handle was wet and Jeff wiped his hand on his Levis. He hoped it was only water.

“I knew you would come.” A woman stepped around the corner of the building. Her voice had a note of helplessness to it. Jeff suspected it was put on.

“What are you doing here?” he demanded. She was wearing high heels and an overcoat, forties noir. He didn’t think you could even buy clothes like that anymore.

“The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime.”

“Oh come on,” Jeff shouted, “I’m trying to be authentic, and all you do is come up with clichés.”

“Oh, please. You’re the one who put the dead body in an abandoned warehouse. Talk about cliché.”

“I didn’t put a body in there.”

“Not yet.”

“Not ever.”

“You will.”

“I won’t.”

“Then, why are you here?”

“Research.”

The woman laughed. “You should go inside.”

“Why?”

“The body. Remember?”

“There is no body inside this warehouse!”

“Do you always talk to yourself?” Jeff jumped and turned around. A large man stood in shadow just inside the doorframe.

“I wasn’t talking to myself.” Jeff looked over to where the woman was standing. She was still there.

She smiled.

I might be losing it.

“Could you give me a hand?”

DSC00544_JD_Warehouse_shovelJeff squinted against the light to get a better picture of the man in the doorway. He could tell the man had a shovel.

“What do you need?” Jeff asked.

“I’ve got this body in the trunk of my car. I could use your help burying it?”

“WHAT?”

“Now this is getting interesting,” the woman said.

Jeff looked toward the woman. She smiled sweetly. “What are you going to do?”

“Why are you still here?”

“This story’s just getting started.”

“Let’s go.” Now Jeff could now see the man also had a gun.

“You’d better help him.”

“Why?”

“Because you want to know what happens next.”

“I don’t think so.”

“You need to know.”

The large man stepped through the doorway. He had a shovel in one hand and the gun in the other, pointed at Jeff. In the light, Jeff could see he had dark hair, a lumberjack build, three-day stubble and an award-winning smile.

“Cheer up, Jeff. What’s the worst that could happen?” They walked to the man’s car like old friends.

“How do you know my name?”

The man popped the trunk. “I think you know how.”

Jeff didn’t.

The man reached into the trunk and rolled a body over, a woman, blond. The hair on the back of Jeff’s neck stood up. He felt the blood drain from his face. He wanted to throw-up and pass out at the same time. His wife, Jill, stared up at him.

“You take her feet. I’ll take her arms.”

Jeff couldn’t move. He couldn’t think. He turned to look back at the woman.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“You did this. This is your fault. I told you, NOT MY FAMILY.”

“You wrote the words, Jeff. You made it real.”

The man cocked his gun.

Crazy, unhinged, Jeff turned back around and shouted at the man, “YOU’RE GOING TO SHOOT ME?” Jeff took a step toward the man. “SHOOT ME!”

The man smiled. “You’re going to help me.”

Jeff leaped at the man, fury and rage driving him forward.

BOOM. Jeff saw the muzzle flame in slow motion. He watched the bullet enter his stomach, cold, then searing hot. For a moment he felt like he was flying, backwards.

If I hit the ground, will I die?

DSC00548_Warehouse_Leaning“This is my story, Jeff.” Jeff was on his back, looking up. The man stood over him, pointing the gun at his face. “I make the rules now.”

Jeff opened his eyes. It was dark. His heart was pounding in his chest, thumping in his ears. Jeff felt for his stomach, where the gunshot tore into him, slamming him backward.

Nothing.

Jeff could see moonlight through his bedroom window. It was late, quiet. He sat up in bed. Memory of the pain was still there. He wiped sweat from his forehead. He felt like throwing up.

Jill stirred in bed beside him. Jeff tried to calm his breathing, his heart rate.

“You should write this down, Jeffrey.” The woman was silhouetted against his bedroom window, black curves against mini-blinds.

Jeff jumped out of bed, the anger returning, adrenaline pumping.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” Jill sat up, sleepily.

Jeff turned to look at Jill, then back toward the woman. She was gone. He slowly turned back to Jill. “Bad dream,” he whispered.

Jill lay back down. “Come to bed.”

“I will.”

Jeff stepped into the bathroom and closed the door. With the light off, he turned on the faucet and splashed his face with water.

I don’t think I can do this.

He sat down on the floor.

“I’m going crazy.”

In the distance, Jeff could hear the woman laughing.

The Long Walk Home

On The Path

School was out.  I would meet him on the path.

Halfway.

I could see him, standing there.  He didn’t have far to go.

I waved.  He didn’t.

“Come on,” I shouted.

 

He didn’t move.

I could see his face, from a distance.

“What’s wrong?”

Then I heard it growl.  Behind a tree.  It barked.

I walked faster.

It barked again.  Advancing.

I could see it.

The dog was small. To me. I smiled, not realizing I had been holding my breath.

It posed no threat.

But he was small, too. So small. To him, the dog was big. Huge. Terrible. Mean.

I stopped.

The menace was between us.  He would not pass.

He looked at me for help and shuddered.  I could see his eyes well up.  The sob was uncontrollable, involuntary.

“It’s just a puppy,” I said.  “He won’t bite.  You can make it.”

He didn’t know that.  He wasn’t sure.  To him the threat was real.

Sharp teeth, bared.

I closed the gap.  I challenged the foe.  I vanquished the demon.

He held my hand as we walked home. His little body shook with sobs he tried to hide.  We didn’t speak.

That night, with some time and distance, he told me about the monster.  It blocked his way.  It threatened his life.  It captured him and wouldn’t let him go.  It was too big, too scary.

I saved his life. He said.

I laughed and held him on my lap. I sang a song to help him sleep and went to bed.

I dreamed.

The way was dark.  The threat was real.  I could not pass.  I felt the violent sob shake my soul.

You can make it.  I heard him say.

I wasn’t sure.  I didn’t know.  I couldn’t see the way.

In the dark I reached out.

He took my hand and we went on.

La Ville Lumiére: but first you have to get there

Eiffel TowerThe good news–Tom and I were going to Paris for a documentary film shoot.  The bad news–we only had one day in the city for B-roll. Fortunately, our contacts in Paris agreed to provide a driver who would take us wherever we wanted to go.

Great! We’ll meet him at the airport.

We arrived in Paris early in the morning. Our flight from England had been bumpy and a steady rain was falling in the city. In spite of the early hour, Charles De Gaulle airport was crowded. I’d been to Paris before and knew what to expect.  Pushy people. Cranky travelers. Still true.

Charles de Gaulle AirportWe retrieved our gear and made our way toward the exit, passing the line of people holding signs. I didn’t see my name. We came to the end of the row.  No sign. No driver. Finding a spot for our carts, I made a call.

“Pierre, where are you?”

“I am here.”

“Where?”

“Here.”

“So are we.”

“This is good.”

I don’t speak French.  Pierre spoke English, but I had the impression that complex concepts were not part of his capabilities.

“How do we find you?”

“Do not worry. I will find you.”

Really? How? The call ended before I could ask. Tom looked at me skeptically. He had listened in on the conversation. He decided to swim against the current and take another pass at the sign holders.

“No luck?”

“Nada.”

“I didn’t know you speak Spanish.”

“I don’t.”

“Bonjour mes frères.”

True to his promise, Pierre stood before us, holding a sign with our names on it. His smile was encouraging.

“Bonjour,” we said. “How did you find us?”

“This way,” Pierre said, ignoring our question and stepping into the stream of transient people.

“How did he find us?” Tom asked me. I shrugged, following Pierre’s example and pushing my cart into the stream.

As we made our way through the airport, I noticed that Pierre was older than he sounded on the phone. He had a shuffle-step limp and didn’t seem to see particularly well. When the crowds thinned out and I could walk beside him, Pierre assured me he could drive us anywhere we wanted.

“Perfecto,” I said, not really sure which language, if any, that was.

Parking terminal 2FOur carts piled high with equipment, Tom and I forded the river of humanity-in-transit as Pierre lead us to parking level minus-2F.  We followed him, slowly, through the underground depths to row eleven, space twenty-six.  Pierre stopped abruptly and stared at the car in space twenty-six.  Tom and I stared at Pierre, staring at the car in space twenty-six.

“Pierre, I don’t think this car is going to work,” I said, as the truly Parisian mini-smart car waited proudly before us.

“No,” Pierre said.  “This car will not work.”

Tom and I looked at each other, not sure if this realization was just dawning on him or if Pierre had known this when he rented the car.

“Pierre, can we exchange it?”

“No,” he said with his strong French accent.

“No?” we repeated.

“No!” he repeated.

“Pierre, this car won’t do.”

“This is not my car.”

“Not your car?”

“No.” Pierre said.

Tom and I looked at each other again, relieved.

“Okay.  Where’s your car?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?” We had picked up the habit of repeating everything Pierre said.  It was comforting but not really clarifying.

“No.” Pierre continued to stare at the smart car. “This is where I parked.”

Now what?

Pierre began to shuffle down the row of cars. “Sometimes I have memory problems,” I think I heard him say—not sure—he was facing away from me—maybe I just imagined he said it.

“What kind of car is it?” I asked.

“Use the clicker,” Tom suggested.

Pierre didn’t answer.  He just got further away.

“I’ll help him,” Tom said, abandoning his cart and racing down the opposite row of cars.

Charles de Gaulle parking 2EIn moments, Pierre and Tom had disappeared from view and I was left alone with two carts of equipment.  The air in the parking garage was stale, carbon monoxide mixed with French tobacco.  The temperature seemed to be rising.  The ceiling seemed to be getting lower. The lights were growing dim… I sat down on my baggáge to wait.

Charles de Gaulle airport is big.  Really big. So is the parking structure. Pierre and Tom appeared and disappeared at regular intervals, emerging and submerging into and out of the bulkhead dividing rows.  This was comforting and disconcerting, for awhile. Then they were gone. For a long time.

When he eventually did return, Pierre assured me he had parked in one of the rows.

“Good to know,” I said, trying not to be cynical. “Which one?”

“It should be here,” Pierre said.

I could only agree, both of us shrugging as if the car had moved by itself.

Tom finally returned, breathing hard.  He had jogged the entire length of the section.

“Volkswagen,” Tom said. Pierre had remembered somewhere down one of the rows.

“Any luck?” I said.

“No,” Tom said matching Pierre’s accent.

After one hour of searching for the car, using the clicker, we began to think maybe someone had stolen it.  However, Pierre assured us that was not the case. He gave me the impression that Paris was without thievery of any kind.

“Have faith,” he said.

What else could we do? There was only so much daylight available.  So, we kept looking—faith and prayer tinged with a hint of desperation.

Charles de Gaulle parking section 2EAfter two-and-a-half hours, in a different terminal, we found the car.

“Voíla. Right were I left it,” Pierre said, smiling sincerely.

“Voíla,” I said. My French accent was not as good as Tom’s.

As we got in the car, Pierre asked, “Would you drive?  I don’t know how to drive a stick shift.”

Tom and I looked at each other, uncertain now how Pierre had actually parked the car.  “Sure,” I said, “Let’s go see Paris.”

“I will show you,” Pierre said.