Short Fiction ~ R.J. Kinnarney
Honourable Mention, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 12
Lost again. Rita had walked the back alleys of the souk every morning and, every morning, she’d got lost. She found herself engrossed, wandering along, soaking in the rainbows, drowning in the spicy air. By the time she lifted her head, she was lost.
This morning was hot. Just like all the others had been. Dry heat, though. Not like the insufferable, suffocating humid heat at home. This was bearable. Home wasn’t.
She was sure that she’d passed this particular spice stall a hundred times already, its vast brightly coloured sacks of ground cinnamon, cardamom pods, ginger roots, neatly lined up. An army of spices. What she hadn’t noticed before was the stall next door. One man sat, bent over a rug. There were hundreds of rug stalls here, thousands if you counted them across the whole of the city but this one drew her eye. Maybe because the guy was taking no notice of people passing. He wasn’t trying to entice people in. He didn’t look like he was up for a morning of haggling. He was just getting on with his work.
Rita moved in closer.
“Sit.” The man didn’t look at her.
She sat on a leather stool. She watched as his hands moved swiftly backwards and forwards across the rug. He was sewing a rug right in front of her. Rita had never thought how rugs were actually made. There was so much she hadn’t thought about.
The man held his needle and thread up to the light. “Golden yellow. The colour that his hair would have been. The colour of the joy he would have brought you.”
Rita’s mouth filled with acid.
The man continued to sew. He took out another length of thread and held it high above his head. “Sapphire blue. The colour his eyes would have been. The colour of the fear you would have felt for him.”
Rita’s breath grew shorter and shallower.
The man drew out a length of deep red thread and held it up.
Still the man didn’t look at Rita. His only focus was the rug.
“Crimson red. The colour his blood was for a few short months. The colour of the anger that leaked from you.”
The man’s hands flew across the material.
Rita began to cry. A gentle, silent stream of salt.
The man reached for more thread. He held a length of darkest grey out towards Rita. “Deep metal grey. The colour of your husband’s heart. The colour of the sadness which he, too, feels.” The man looked at Rita for the first time. “Grey is the colour which binds you together.” He took the thread and snapped it, all the while looking into Rita’s eyes. “Take this.” He rolled the rug and handed it to Rita.
Now she realised that this had all been a ploy. “How much?”
“Take it. It belongs to you.”
She wondered whether the man hadn’t understood her. She took out her purse. “Money?”
“No. Please take it.”
Rita left the stall with the rug under her arm.
That night in the hotel, cradling the rug, she slept solidly for the first time in months.
She woke with the dawn, the sun touching her face. She reached across the vast bed and felt the empty space next to her. It was time to go home.
R. J. Kinnarney is trying to make sense of their tiny corner of the world, through tiny pieces of writing and lots of reading. Currently working on a novel, which looks at attitudes to war, communication, prejudice and what strength means. Work can be found at 100 Words of Solitude, Funny Pearls, Southam Book Fest, 101 Words, Daunt Books, Café Lit, Dwelling Literary, Sledgehammer and Pure Slush; soon to be at The Hungry Ghost, Free Flash Fiction. Links to online and print published works can be found at rjkinnarney.com Twitter: @rjkinnarney