Flash Fiction by Loren Miner
The soil along the edges of the sidewalk was moist from the morning dew. A beautiful orange and purple hue were slowly giving way to a powdery pastel; at an hour when there were more pigeons and squirrels than people. Buzzards and bottom feeders, feasting in a plentiful valley of blue steel trash dumpsters and miscellaneous waste. Litter flapping in a light breeze, leaping off the cool pavement, to and fro, like flying fish over an asphalt ocean.
As night recedes, a war-torn taxicab intrudes upon the slumbering landscape. Soon thereafter, fleets of sordid motor vehicles bridge a never-ending chorus of detestable transports. As morn approaches, metal contraptions surface in all directions, far and wide, signaling the start of new beginnings (like groundhogs after the rains). African and Haitian cabbies (nappy-haired navigators) whizzing-bye the vacant horizon (40 to 50 miles over the speed limit): unaffected by the uneasy hush of Western daybreak. Ebony complexion and bountiful lips emanate the untainted fullness of The Motherland. Untamed ancestors foreshadow an earthy marrow; empirical blackness running as deep as the fertile taproots of Eden.
All as a tiny Asian lady plods down an adjacent side street (towards Chinatown): wearing a straw teepee hat (shading her face) – draped in layers of haggard linens. Balancing a long bamboo pole across her miniature-dollhouse frame (with two, humongous trash bags knotted to each end of the stick). Bulging collectibles bending the branch downward. Each strenuous step wavering the rod- until gravity forms a tedious semi-circle. The slightest motion triggering a peculiar imbalance (immolating the playful rock of a child’s see-saw). Every couple of blocks, the shrewd woman abandons her belongings (a shopping carriage chock full of decrepit beer bottles and dented aluminum cans); just long enough to scurry in-and-out of murky alley ways and enclaves (cat-like); scouring garbage cans and litter baskets for hidden treasures beneath a smoldering milieu of temple-like, smoke stacks. Phallic citadels burning milky incense skyward- disintegrating smog cascading shades of green over a slum vastness. Pressing onward with her unenviable cargo, head slightly bowed, beyond a dreary panorama of buoyant nothingness. Trudging the smooth cement with her mule-like sleigh: in the same anonymous manner as the ancients wading through the muck & mire of Babylon 6000 years ago.
To the left, a newspaper truck comes to a screeching halt, as a burly blue-collar tosses a heavy stack out to the thirsting street corner like red meat bait to a hungry carnivore. Periodically, other large vessels pass through, dashing silence with grinding diesel engines (like giant whales parting sonic waves). Intermittently, an unobservant cop car crawls through at a snail’s pace- waiting for the shift to end. High above, the towering rooftops of tenement buildings pose concrete and mortar edges- embroidering the distant skyline like gothic pillars in a pop-up storybook. All as visceral imagination bears witness to an ominous mist steadily rising from the sewer depths… fearful thoughts dissipating one after another into the gloomy forgotten. Yet and still, not until uncertainty has hearkened the worst sort of dungeons and dragons.
Indeed, to the inhabitants of this bustling metropolis, one million strong, these short-lived glimpses of solitude can be quite foreboding. The placid air of morn, frightening as the gnashing growl of a Rottweiler Terrier. The eerie blare of silence, unsettling as the hiss of a rattlesnake. Otherwise, stirring quite a commotion to those who have not made its acquaintance… to those who have not had the pleasure. To the depraved masses living in the underbelly of a postmodern, industrial capital: peacefulness is often more alarming than guns shot blasts or ambulance sirens. In the fast lane of the wayward rat race: tranquility is as disturbing and out of place as a speckled giraffe hoofing down Massachusetts Ave.