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English Publications

Short Stories

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Lost In Chinatown

Thomas Stovall

The same song was swimming in her head as she walked alone through the streets of Chinatown. It was the advent of another evening on Mott Street. She passed bakeries, dress shops and souvenir stores while dodging people on the narrow sidewalk.

The cold wind blew through her hair but still, the song would not let her be. She swept the hair from her eyes and noticed her hand was slightly trembling. She assumed it must have been from the wind. Her head was pounding from a migraine headache she woke up with. She wished the song would leave her but it lingered like an unwelcome guest. The melody was simple and repetitive.

She entered a stationary store and bought a coloring book. Without even glancing at it, she tucked it neatly into her bag. She heard a familiar sound and looked towards the corner. There was a young, handsome boy about seven or eight years old. Her heart nearly melted and she found herself running towards the boy, calling his name. The icy wind made her nose run so she retrieved a tissue from her coat pocket and held it to her nose. The boy had turned the corner by this time. She reached the corner and frantically searched for him but he had vanished. All she could see was Mott Street clouded by her tears. The pain from her headache was now unbearable. She glanced at the tissue she had been holding and saw blood.

Daylight had all but disappeared. The song left her. The still darkness of night was about to engulf Chinatown.

****

 

Her apartment was small but she didn’t care. Upon entering, she carefully removed the coloring book from her bag and gently placed it on one of several high stacks of such books in the tiny living room. Her nose had stopped bleeding. She took some migraine headache medication in the hope it might relieve some of her agony.

"…The Nasdaq was off nearly 7% in today’s session…"

Throwing off her coat, she sank heavily onto the couch and sighed. She realized she left on the radio before leaving for work. It was a station which broadcast mainly financial news. As she lay prone on the couch, she could hear the sounds of surrounding apartments; pots banging together, children laughing, a baby crying. What it must be like to be a baby, she thought. No memories, no past; only the present, which won’t be remembered, and the future, full of hope.

"…a bruising day on Wall Street. Decliners beat advancers nearly 6 to 1…"

Heaving another sigh, she retrieved a yogurt from the refrigerator and sat down morosely. There was a knock on the door. For a moment, she considered pretending not to be home, but finally answered.

"Hi, Lilly, how are you feeling?"

It was Maggie Wang, a young lady who lived in one of the surrounding apartments. She glanced at the high stacks of coloring books in the living room and sat down, somewhat tentatively, at the kitchen table.

"I hope I’m not interrupting your dinner, Lilly."

They both chuckled at the thought of a raspberry yogurt being dinner.

"It’s not an interruption, believe me. I was just daydreaming."

Maggie gave Lilly a sympathetic glance. For some reason, this annoyed Lilly though she did not show it. She then felt ashamed for feeling annoyed because Maggie was the only friend she had.

"…many analysts feel the technology sector was grossly overvalued…"

Maggie glanced nervously at the radio and then again at the coloring books which nearly reached the ceiling.

"How was work today?" Maggie’s was surprised at the strangeness of her own voice.

Lilly rolled her eyes. " The markets were way down today. I almost expected to see people jump out the windows."

Maggie winced. "I hope my mutual funds are okay." She shot another glance at the coloring books.

"…high energy prices, a declining Euro, profit warnings…"

"The markets are always like this. Up and down. Just like a person’s life." Lilly looked up from her yogurt and noted something odd in Maggie’s demeanor.

"Okay, what’s on your mind, Maggie?" Lilly smiled faintly. "I can tell when something’s on your mind."

Maggie smiled too but her face turned into concern. "Lilly, I’ve been meaning to ask you something for a long time…" Her voice was now low and reassuring, almost motherly.

"…some analysts feel the Fed must do something…"

"Lilly, don’t you think you should stop?" Maggie bit her lip.

Lilly registered mild surprise and asked, "Stop what?"

"…the Fed must do something…"

Maggie nodded towards the stacks of coloring books. She said softly, "Why do you keep buying them?"

"…the Fed must do something…"

Lilly stood abruptly and angrily turned off the radio. "I’m sorry Maggie but I have to do something."

Maggie stared at her in shock. Tears welled in her eyes as she slowly stood and walked towards the door.

Lilly suddenly turned towards her. "I’m sorry, really. Thanks for being a good friend."

They hugged briefly and cried together for a minute. Maggie patted Lilly’s arm and sadly left.

 

****

She looked out the window and saw the young boy across the street. He was holding a coloring book. His dark hair looked so beautiful to her. His smile made her heart break. Unable to choke back her tears any longer, she held her head in her hands and sobbed uncontrollably. Her nose started to bleed again and there was a terrible, sharp pain in her head. She thought of school clothes, basketballs, pencils, and all those stacks of coloring books in her living room that will never be touched. She heard, for the millionth time, the long screeching noise, the sickening thud of metal, the crying…then the silence.

The room was spinning so fiercely, she was forced to sit on the edge of her bed. Her nose was pouring blood and her vision became blurry. She reached for a framed picture on her endtable and held it close to her as she lay down. The simple children’s tune which overwhelmed her on Mott Street came back to her, this time as a Lullaby. Her vision was now gone. She was swimming in her tears and the only thing saving her from drowning was the vision of a beautiful, young boy. She suddenly felt free and happy as she went to embrace him.

"I love you so much, baby…"

Her last tears were tears of joy.

- End -

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