“Best Foot Forward” by Brandon O’Brien
Akashic Books is proud to introduce a new flash fiction series, Duppy Thursday. Though we’re based in Brooklyn, our location envy of the Caribbean is evident throughout our catalog. One aspect of Caribbean literature that appeals to us is the integration of folklore into contemporary stories—a perfect example being Jamaican author Marlon James’s debut novel John Crow’s Devil, which we published to great critical acclaim in 2005. Whether it be the spider Anansi, the devil woman La Diablesse, the Soucouyant, Mama Dlo, or Papa Bois, these mythical beings have injected life (and death) into the literature of the region. As with our other flash fiction series, we challenge you to tell your story in 750 words or less.
This week, Brandon O’Brien serves justice.
This was the ninth time that week she had noticed it: a splitting migraine. It caught her off guard. She almost dropped her glass all over the dance floor. It made sense now, at least, but sense did nothing for the pain.
The clicking of her heels against the tile as she walked to the balcony stood out even more to her ears. One part sound sensitivity, one part self-consciousness. She glanced at the man as he stood there, leaning on the balcony, his cigarette letting out a faint wisp of smoke, ashes on his navy-blue shirt and faded denim jeans. She took a gulp of her drink for courage and left the rest on a nearby table.
She could see the man’s recent past in her mind. They’d never met before, but no matter—her mind did its own thing. She saw him raise a hand at a woman in his own house, heard her scream for help as he beat her unconscious. All night she had seen him, flashes of different days, all the same.
She stood before the man, lust-red gown down to the floor, and smirked seductively. The migraine was worse—another flash, a bottle of Carib over the other woman’s head—but she powered through silently.
“Evenin’, sugar,” she said. “Mind if I join you?”
The man grinned. “By all means.”
She looked down to make sure her appearance was still in order. Her left leg showed through the slit in her dress, all the way down to her ruby stiletto heels. Perfect.
“Waitin’ for somebody?” she asked him.
“Maybe. Maybe I was waitin’ for somebody like you.”
She smiled. “You does save lyrics like dat for every girl you meet, or dat was just for me too?”
“Nah. I is not a lyrics man. I just sayin’ how I feel.” He put his cigarette out on the balcony and flicked it into the air, over the street below and out of sight.
“Well, if you want, you could get to know me better,” she said. “I kinda getting fed up of dis club anyway. We could . . . find somewhere more comfortable, maybe?”
The man leaned toward her, putting his arm around her waist. All of her mental alarms blared—bad breath, poor demeanor, the visions still replaying in her head—but she stayed the course.
“I might know a place too. Just de two o’ we. If you want to have a little fun.”
She bit her lip coquettishly. “Of course. Lead the way.”
“Wha’s your name, baby girl?”
“Wendy.” Not true. Didn’t matter.
“My car right outside, Wendy.” He let go of her and headed down the balcony staircase to the avenue below.
She looked down again, peeling back the rest of her dress like a stage curtain, only a little. Only enough to compare both of her feet.
She couldn’t control it if she tried. Almost every time she was out, she’d brush up against a wife beater or an unfaithful boyfriend, and the flashes would come. Her mind would throb with them. She didn’t know why, just that it stopped hurting when she hurt them. The time before, she had been grabbed by a man while walking from work. When she reached for her knife—a precaution her father had insisted on since she was a teenager—and cut him across the cheek . . .
It almost felt euphoric. It would overwhelm her for hours. Secretly, she had grown to crave it. She wondered what would happen if she did something really bad. If she lured a man alone and tortured him, returned to him every ounce of pain he’d ever inflicted. Was that what she had been given? The power to return the favor on another woman’s behalf?
She noticed her right heel had come off. It must have slipped off somewhere. She peeked back onto the dance floor and saw it by a bar stool. She skipped back in briefly for it, sliding it into her purse. She’d need it, of course, when the transformation was through.
She couldn’t help but hear it as she walked down the steps to see her new victim. One part sound sensitivity—more visions sprang to life as she saw the man winking at her beside his white Mitsubishi. But the other part was pure self-consciousness. The worry that he’d see her right cow-hooved leg and know that, tonight, he was meant to die the death of a spiteful man.
BRANDON O’BRIEN is a performance poet and writer from Trinidad. He has been shortlisted for the 2014 Alice Yard Prize for Art Writing and the 2014 and 2015 Small Axe Literary Competitions. He has also represented his country as a member of Trinidad and Tobago’s first Brave New Voices slam team in 2008. He performs regularly with the 2 Cents Movement, is a performer and facilitator with the.art.IS Performing Arts Company, and is a recording performer on the Free Speech Project radio program on several local radio stations across the island.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a Caribbean location and incorporate some aspect of folklore, whether centrally or tangentially.
—Include the location and the referenced folk tale or figure of the story with your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Accepted submissions to Duppy Thursday are typically posted 2–4 months after the notification date, and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Nov 13, 2015
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