Fantasy Sad Contemporary

I am the woman who sits at the café edge, the one with bluish curled hair, the one who writers her Ls all cursive, the one who only loves men named Martin. I am she. I sit. I watch. The café belongs to me within my soul. I live here. I sit under a viney shade with a cup in my raw-rubbed fingers, blue curls hiding my eyebrows, sitting, watching. They call me Mademoiselle Sorcière. The witch-lady.

I do this every day, here in this café. I drink the same tea, smile the same smile, sit in the same place.

But the people that I watch are different.

I sit. I watch. I see him.

Small, ugly, red-haired. Limping. His left knee seems not to bend, and the limp is a bold swagger. He sits across the café from me, searches the accented crowd, gives a child a wink. He bows his head.

His glasses are green, like the bottoms of expensive bottles of soda, round, thick, embellished, beautiful. They are the most beautiful glasses I have ever seen. I cannot take my eyes away from them. The frame is white, like burnished platinum, sheening off the green glass. The glasses are the most beautiful things in this café. Green. Jade. Verdant. Green, like jealousy.

I cannot help but think these things as I watch him. he drinks, smiles, nods, speaks to passersby. They all seem to know him.

I hear one talk.

“Rineult! How are you?”

“I’m well, thank you, Mercia-Suis. You?”

“Oh, wonderful, Rineult. My daughter just had her sixth. They named her Mercia-Suis Rose, after me. Isn’t that the most wonderful thing?”

He smiles, nods. He is very pleasant. He is polite. Orders another cup of tea. “How wonderful, Mercia Suis. My congratulations.”

Rineult looks directly at me, me whom no one has loved, who curls her blue hair to hide a lifelong scar, who rubs her fingers raw with worry each night, waiting, waiting, waiting for the bear-fairy, he looks at me, and he winks at me.

He stands and walks toward me. Asks, “Hello. What is your name?”

“I am Mademoiselle Sorcière.”

He laughs. “Is that your real name?”

I cannot speak. I shake my head.

“I… wanted to ask you a question, Mademoiselle Sorcière. I was directed to you by an acquaintance.”

“Go on.”

“Do you know anything about the Festival of the Bear’s Hand?”

I breathe, in and out. My tea goes cold. I look at the street, at the flowers lining the walkway, the children weaving in and out of the vines and blossoms. “M’sieu Rineult, that Festival is not of this world. The Festival of the Bear’s Hand is not for you to know of. Do not make a mistake.”

“Mademoiselle Sorcière, I am sorry. Where is it?”

“M’sieu Rineult, do not look for it. Do not make the same mistake that I did.”

His gaze follows mine, to my hands. He looks at me, searchingly. I nod. “Do not. Do not. You have no idea—”

I stand and leave. His green wonderful glasses follow my path, looking rather lost.

I’ve lived my whole life in Russia. They call me the Herr here, because my heavy black hair looks German, because hair rhymes with Herr somehow. I am big and bulky. I work for the nuclear-science department, I am the assistant to the Head of the department. The Head is Vichnowsky, a small thin man younger than my son and smarter than Einstein. I am intelligent, but compared to Vichnowsky I am bacteria.

I was working on a new project, a dangerous project that not even the man Vichnowsky answers to knew about it, not even Head of Heads, Tobotskyni. Vichnowsky, the midget Rabotkina, and I were the only ones who knew about it. We kept it nice and confidential in the blueprints in an office behind the boiler room, Rabotkina’s usual office, nice and safe with the calculators and math formulas and top-secret international defense statements.

In came a man, ugly, rather, head covered with a thick wool cap. Through his heavy winter clothing I could tell he has a strange swagger, a tight unbending limp. I was shocked and screamed for him to leave now, and Rabotkina joined me: The little midget only knows to follow and obey. Idiot.

Vichnowsky said, “Quiet, fools! This is our new recruit. Here, you introduce yourself.”

The man had the strangest spectacles, a white frame with huge green glass. It was unnerving. I could not look away. They were lovely, intricate, wonderful, a true piece of art. He stood straighter, took off his cap. His hair was greasy, an odd color of black, like someone had poured boot polish over his head, painting over whatever color had been there before. He seemed middle-aged, with a lined face that had known smile-scars and too many sorrows.

“I am Seth,” he said. His voice was clipped, formal, painfully polite. Firm. “I am senior leader on this project.”

I glared at Vichnowsky, who shrugged and mouthed Tobotskyni assigned him.

I rolled my eyes. “Seth,” I said loudly, holding out my hand, “I am called Herr.”

His lips curved up and his beautiful glasses lifted. “Good to meet you, Herr.”

We sat.

“Tell me, Herr,” he said quietly, when we had finished with the day’s work, “Have you ever heard of the Festival of the Bear’s Hand?”

“What’s that?”

“Well,” he looked behind him, over his shoulder. “Well, I am looking for it. As a child I heard of it. It seemed like a fairy festival. I have spent my life searching for it, under many names and many disguises. My mother told me of it as a boy, and a woman in France, a witch-lady, told me not to look for it.”

“Your name is not Seth.”

It was not a question.

He adjusted his glasses. The green shone slyly.

“The Festival of the Bear’s Hand,” he said again.

I shook my head.

“If you hear of it, will you let me know?”

“Of course.”

His glasses smiling, Seth stood and left the office, and the door slammed coldly behind him. I never saw him again.

The little girl swung high into the night stars, bumping them out of the way. Her pale pretty hair followed her like a melting shadow. She shouted with joy and screamed with delight as she flew higher, higher, higher. High into the sky, obscuring the moon, an enormous exotic bird.

“Daddy!” she cried. “Daddy, come catch me!”

The man stepped out of the shadows, white-framed green glasses blurring his eyes. His left leg swung round painfully. His hair was white and thin, a hint of pink at the edges that might have been red in his youth. He sat on the park bench and watches his granddaughter.

“Oh, do it without me, Anna,” he called back.

He laughed at her flying figure. The cool night air whistled gently, smelling of sweet honeysuckle. The grass at his feet was thick like carpet, thick and young and green as his glasses.

He pulled out a yellowed piece of paper from his pocket. On it was written words, in spidery calligraphy, underlined and circled and folded and unfolded at thousand thousand times: Festival of the Bear’s Hand.

The old man who had forgotten his true name looked down at the paper, up at the white-haired granddaughter who flew like a white red-breasted beautiful bird, and down again. Then he closed his eyes and ripped through the yellow, once, twice, again, again. The pieces, countless as the stars, fell at his feet and the ground swallowed them up gladly.

January 26, 2020 21:28

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Asher Winters
23:09 Feb 02, 2020

I love the description of his glasses and the use of similes in this story, quite a great story.


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Unknown User
16:34 Jan 29, 2020

<removed by user>


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Ryan LmColli
15:12 Apr 08, 2021

That was amazing a smart story! You're a gift to those around you.


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