I started to turn but there was a gun in my back or something pretending to be a gun. I faced forward. The voice was familiar, a woman’s voice, a cigarette voice. Philip Morris unfiltered. I think that’s the only way Philip Morris comes. Smoking them was a grand statement, too big for me, but if I was right about the voice then we’d shared a few together, she and I . . .
At last the cat fell asleep and, because Armand still could, he drove his police-issue Crown Vic through the Plaza, down Main Street. He took a left on 47th, slid past Latte Land then Pottery Barn, past Barnes & Noble and Gap Kids, then left again. Three fat men stood outside a fake Irish bar and laughed while the snow came down, but Armand drove right past them too, over the bridge at Wornall and left again, to Ward Parkway then Main then 47th again. Around and around he drove while the cat slept in the cardboard box beside him . . .
His father had never come, nor his father’s father. Nothing called them. They drove their herds to the ridges, within sight of the distant towers and haze, and sold them to middlemen. They turned their horses when the business was done and rode back to the steppe, to the autumn camps and their families and the young, strong animals that would survive the howling winter and fatten in the spring . . .
It was when the papers come out with the gyal’s picture print big and broad on the front page that August Town people did find out her rightful name. Marilyn Fairweather. It sounded right. It sounded like a white woman’s name. But for the six days she had been in August Town we had just called her “the white gyal with the camera.” Or “the white gyal” for short.
The girl playing badminton is the one. But I don’t want to believe it. It is because her legs are so shapely and long and, in their stunning whiteness, betray a winter spent indoors. Her ankles are well-sculpted, her knees pinkly glowing, and there is something about her slender wrists that suggests the modest charms of aristocracy. I don’t care much about the rest of her. It is the shape of her shadow, the way she stands there bored in the shade of the cruise ship’s upper decks in a green skirt with white tennis socks pulled past her shins; I watch her lean over as she traces something with the edge of her racket, some invisible word or shape in the air. She is daydreaming and the picture she makes in the middle of the ocean liner is one of absolute splendor. I hear the sound of her laughter as the shuttlecock flies her way, her laugh which is not the kind of haughty one you’d expect from a girl who looks the way she does, and suddenly I’ve lost my nerve . . .
May is Short Story Month, and Akashic is celebrating by featuring one short story on our website every business day in May. To launch our Short Story Month celebration, we bring you a guest post from Larry Dark, director of The Story Prize and former editor of the O. Henry Awards.