martes, 7 de octubre de 2008

The Poetry House (collection of threaded flash fiction)

1: The Great Fire

The zealously guarded story of the Poetry House begins precisely in 1694, when Sam, a travelling musician lost his valuables in the Great Fire of Wiggleyshire. His given name was Samuel Bechamel and he was a French harpist and a cook. He was not a very good harpist, to be honest, but he did make an excellent cook. People at Dijon, where he was born, said that the problem with Sam was that all his passion went into preparing delicious meals, so he had none of it left for his music. Sam could only play two songs on the harp, but he was capable of preparing 79 different kinds of eggs, and was known to have invented chocolate covered raisins when he was only 3 years old. So why did he become a travelling musician? The answer is simple: Sam wanted to see the world.

But although Sam travelled a lot, he was never alone, Asparagus, his dog, was always with him. Sam found him sleeping on the porch of his home the day he left Dijon and from then on they became inseparable. Asparagus kept Sam away from loneliness and trouble (at least most of the time), and in turn, Sam did the same for him. As far as Sam was concerned the only difference between them was that Asparagus was furrier and could follow the trail of a red fox for miles; apart from that they slept in the same bed, ate the same food and even dressed alike (you’ll never believe this, but Asparagus even wore a hat).

It was noon on the 5th day of September when Sam and Asparagus arrived in Wiggleyshire with very long faces. The inseparable couple had had an argument for the first time in seven years and four days. That morning Asparagus had growled at Madam Curvalier, Sam’s benefactor, when she refused to pay his monthly stipend saying “she was no longer to waste generosity in such an absence of artistic talent”.

“I don’t know how many times I‘ve told you one should never growl, nor even grin, to people that are going to give you money” Sam said to Asparagus, “no matter how stupid they are.”
But Asparagus wouldn’t listen.
Sam tried explaining how they needed the money and how asparragu’s attitude wasn’t helping.
Asparragus showed no sign of him paying attention and even turned his head away in the most disdainful manner.

It seemed like they had reached a dead end.

So that day, for the first time in seven years and four days, Sam went to out eat leaving Asparagus behind, in the room they had booked for the night.

Autumn and darkness had fallen heavily on Wiggleyshire when Sam returned to the Figgly Inn (also called the Piggly Inn, the Tinggley House or the “rotten slum”, depending who you were talking to). He had walked all the way to the other side of town to think things over and was ready to speak to Asparagus again and make things right, but when he got to the top of Contrition Street the Tinggley House was not there. The police told him the “rotten slum” had been one of the first buildings to be engulfed by the flames.

There were no words to spell out his loss, so when required to describe his valuables, Sam declared:

27 gold pieces (£32.8)
5 guineas (£5.5)
4 French Louisdores (£2.12)
1 Performance suit (£2)
1 Linen shirt (15s)
1 hat (5s)
10 silverplatted buttons (£1)
1 Chest (7s)
1 harp (£2.50)
3 books:
-Le cuisinier françois (3s)
-Le pastissier françois (3s)
-Le Cuisinier royal et bourgois (3s)
Asparagus, a most dear relative.

In the police files he was listed as a harpist and given £5 in compensation for the burnt instrument and performance suit. As for Asparagus the local newspaper was kind enough to include a death notice:

ASPARAGUS, Loyal friend and companion of harpist Sam Bechamel. Could hunt red tail foxes and take care of small children. Very clean, never soiled where he wasn’t supposed to. Died in Fire, September, 1694.

2: The Window

Without Asparagus around, loneliness had begun to creep inside Sam. At first it tried to come in through his eyes but tears washed it away, then it tried his ears, and there loneliness found an obstacle free way because Sam had refused to receive comforting words from the towns people.

Sam was lost. He had been sitting on the front steps of the police station for a very long time, not knowing exactly how long because ashes from the fire covered the sky making it impossible to tell between day and night.

Destiny never closes a door without opening a window and here is what it opened for Sam: just when loneliness had almost congested every cell of his body, he took his hat off and with a sigh placed it on the floor. Almost immediately, a man dropped a golden coin in it.

“Cheer up lad!” the man said.

It was Lord Cubbington, town’s banker and lady’s man. Extravagant, is probably the best word to describe him. Lord Cubbington slept all day and conducted his various businesses during the night, he was allergic to wind always wore a red string tied around his left index finger, and didn’t like the taste of water. People said he had picked the strangest habits during his journeys to America and China. I once even heard that he ate worms for breakfast, and that he grew something called coconuts to extract silk from them. But, truth be told, even though John (that was Cubbington’s name) was quite strange, he was a good fellow with a particularly warm heart for other’s misfortunes.

Sam felt the weight of the golden coin now resting proudly in his hat and bemused he lifted his head to find what he thought was an angel. The confusion came, you’ll see, from Lord Cubbington’s attire. This day (as many other days) he was dressed entirely in white except for a black velvet cap, but even that was topped with a luscious white plume. His shoes were of white velvet, his stockings were made of white knitted silk (most likely from his home-grown coconuts), and both his doublet and short breeches were of white velvet embroidered with silver threads. So yes, Lord Cubbington looked like an angel all dressed in white (and that is why every single lady in town, married or not, had something or other to do with him).

“Well, thank you” uttered Sam.
“There is a reason for every thing, you know” said Lord Cubbington emphatically.
Sam was, for once, speechless.
“There are no coincidences in this life” Lord Cubbington continued, “everything is part of a master plan that has been perfectly choreographed to its last detail. So there’s no need to worry, just keep your head up, think of the abundance of life, and I assure you that everything will turn out fine”
“Are you an …” said Sam.

But before Lord Cubbington could answer his question a knot of galloping wind rushed through the street and tipped Sam’s hat over. The golden coin started to roll down the street in a jumble of autumn leaves. It gained incredible speed and was dangerously heading to the sewage. Sam’s heart pounded and with a leap (worthy of an agile frog) he recovered the coin just in time.

“That was close,” Sam said turning towards the angel. But there was no one there. Not even up the street. Sam was perplexed; he was certain that he had seen an angel because it even had disappeared.

But Lord Cubbington was no angel (at least not in the biblical sense). What really happened was that he had seen the wind coming (he had a special sensitivity due to his allergy) so before the gush of air hit them, he had gotten in an alley to protect himself.

The gush of air had cleared the ashes from the sky. Sam could now tell with certainty it was a crisp early morning. As for the loneliness, he checked and noticed he could only feel it resting in his left elbow, so he figured it would eventually go away.

3: The Swerving Plan

Sam had the impression from the walk he had taken before the Great Fire, that Wiggleyshire was not very big. He had taken the Main Parade (whose official and unpopular name was Undeviating Road) from north to south and calculated he had crossed from one end to the other in less than 20 minutes. But now walking in full daylight, Sam understood why it was called Wigglyshire.

The town was planned in the late 600 AD by a man called Jefferson Swerving, a middle aged bachelor engineer with a taste for curves (of all kinds). He was appointed by his Majesty the King to transform the insipid town of Wigglyshire into a “a royal settling of breath taking grandeur”. That was no petty chore (especially given the King’s tendency to beheading), but he was not appalled, oh no, the engineer was a fearless man.

First, he went on seclusion for six months to the mountains of Braviera to get inspiration from nature. He took precise notes of the daring contour of sinuosity of every single mountain in the region. By the time he left, he personally knew every dimple, every crack and every turn of every mountain. He filled hundreds of notebooks with notes about undulation and winding sketches (that unfortunately would later be burnt in the Great Fire that killed Asparagus).

Then, when Mr. Swerving returned from this twisted retreat, he travelled to study the flora and fauna of the famous Island of Ricurvo. No one seems to know where this island is or if it really exists or if Jefferson Swerving just made it all up, took the expense money from the Royal Treasury, and spent two years eating cream pudding in his estate. But, what we do know, is that when he came back, he made an announcement in what was then the town center and unveiled, (to a couple of passersby) the new plan for the construction of what he called the “Mesmerizingly Wiggly Town of Wiggleyshire”

I once got to see the original map Mr. Sweving sent to the King, and I have to say it looked very much like the insides of a human being (intestines, if you know what I mean). The only straight street was the Main Parade, which ran through town from north to south like a spinal cord and from each side emanated an intricate pattern of wiggly streets. To say it plainly the map looked like a box full of ribbons winding in and out the Main Parade in the most capricious manner.

The King loved Jefferson Swerving’s idea and immediately assigned a gigantic amount of money to build what the people started to call “Serpentine Village”. Curves were believed to be the representation of everything good and prosperous to come; sinuosity in every single form and manner was the vehicle that was transporting everyone to abundance. There were many changes, everything became round. The town’s people took it so seriously that even an edict banning the use of sharp edges in speech, buildings and art was proclaimed.

A rounder way of life where the pursuit of fatness was considered ravishingly sensuous, and the generous offering of free food and drink to anyone who would help out in the construction, attracted a lot of persons to Wiggleyshire. At the beginning this brought a lot of educated people to town, all the region’s greatest painters, merchants and poets were there to praise and profit. But then, as the offer became widely known, Wiggleyshire became extremely crowded. There wasn’t enough space for everybody so people started sleeping and defecating on the streets. More and more construction funds were spent on feeding the notably lazy volunteers, until one day the construction came to a halt. A permanent halt. Only the serpentine of streets, buildings and houses on the East part of Parade were completed. The West was never even started so it began to grow in an uncontrollably dangerously square manner.

The East part of town is what Sam discovered walking that crisp autumn morning. He walked for hours in the maze of wiggly streets with a whole in his stomach and the golden coin burning in his pocket.

4: The Smell

Sam figured it had been two days since he had last eaten. It was noon already so every single house he passed on the winding streets of East Wiggleyshire exuded some delicious smell. The first scent he recognized was that of ale and steak coming out of a tavern with a red door. He paused and took a long deep breath, as if he could eat that steak from its smell. A few steps ahead a woman opened a window on a round tavern and the smell of fresh made bread surrounded him, practically sweeping him off the ground. But just when Sam thought he couldn’t take it anymore, he passed by a quaint little cottage where the smell of walnuts and baked apples was so strong he even stopped to smell the walls, (and was very close to licking them). Now he was certain he couldn’t bear the weight of hunger any longer.

He sat on a wooden bench that was propped on the back of a building opposite the sweet smelling cottage and with a deep sigh started thinking what would Asparagus do in a situation like this.

“He would have probably gone for the food” he thought. “Because Asparagus was the sort of fellow who would just jump and get hold of the situation really. He wouldn’t be here sitting on a bench being tortured by food. He wouldn’t be calculating every penny. Oh no Asparagus would already be eating in the best place he could find and then, with a full stomach, he would figure out what to do with whatever money he had left. No one can think proper thoughts with an empty stomach, he would have said. But not really, because he couldn’t literally speak, although there were some times when I’m sure that...”

“Are you the one who lost the doggy to the fire?” said a tiny voice.

Sam looked at the sweet girl covered in freckles that was staring at him.

“Yes” he said
“Well then, my Mommy says you can come inside”
“Your Mother?”
“Mhm she said she is going to give you food and board for one night out of utter pity”
“Utter pity?”
“Mhm she said utter pity because you had lost your dog. My mother likes doggies very much. I love them too. And we saw your dog through the window at the fire”
“You saw Asparagus?”
“No I said we saw your dog! And it was very, very sad. Everyone tried to get him out but no one could because the door was locked. My mommy says the doggie died like daddy”
“Oh I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Well you don’t have to be sorry because I see him every day, so I don’t really miss him.”

The little girl stood quietly for a few seconds and then started playing with her dress.

“Shall we go then mister? Mommy is waiting and she doesn’t like waiting very much. Besides, Miss Beth just made apple crumble with warm walnuts and we’re going to miss it if you take so long!”

The girl started pulling on Sam’s coat, so he got off the bench and followed her across the street to the door of the sweet smelling cottage. On top of the door Sam saw a dangling black sign with golden letters that read:

“Quigly Tea House: A palace of herbal bliss”

The little girl swung the door open and then disappeared inside.

5: The Itch

The prospect of having warm apple crumble, made Sam’s heart pound so hard he could feel the thumping in his head. He was one step away from entering the tea house and being full again, when he felt a terrible itch on his right ankle.

At first, he didn’t take it very seriously, so he bent down took his boot off and scratched the itch through a convenient hole in his sock. But before he could make the itch go, he felt another sting on his left calf. So he used his other hand to scratch. Sam was now in a knot rampantly scratching both legs and ankles and knees when he realized what was going on.

He had had itching fits in the past. The first day it happened a heavy storm of apples and leaves fell down on him. It was the day he left his home in Dijon; the itch was so bad he had had to strip down to his underwear and rub himself against an apple tree. From then on, he had had other itchings, but the only thing he knew about them was that no matter the intensity, if it itched, then something big was going to happen.

If seen from a distance one may have thought Sam was a stage performer rehearsing a very complicated dance. But to him it felt more like vicious ants crawling inside his worn velvet suit biting everywhere. There was a very high level of coordination that was needed to calm an itching; it was a masterful combination between placement, strength and speed. This fit was considerably strong and Sam figured he would need at least five pairs of hands to ease the itch, but he had only one; so he he used his right hand to scratch his head, the left one to scratch his stomach and crotch, rubbed his bootless feet on the ground and scrapped his lower back and bottom against the tea house’s wall.

“Can I help you?” a voice said.
“Actually you can” said Sam stepping away from the wall without opening his eyes. “Right shoulder. There, to the right, down, down, now to left. There! Now stronger! Ah! That feels good!”

And as it always happened, the itch went away as unexpectedly as it started.

When Sam turned around to get his boots back on and thank the stranger, he saw a woman, a very delicate woman with milky soft skin sprinkled with cinnamon freckles. Her raspberry lips were slightly parted in a smile and her profound green eyes were examining Sam. Her hair was pulled back into a tight bun at the bottom of her neck.

Sam thought that this beautiful creature must be the little girl’s mother, the one that didn’t like waiting.

“Thank you, Madam, for your help, I mean” Sam said while struggling to get his boots back on.
“Glad to be of assistance. The name is Mrs. Quigly, how do you do? Now would you come inside, we’ve been waiting for you” she said.
“Certainly Madame, I’m sorry if I kept you waiting but I got this most sudden itch and no matter how hard I tried, the pungency...”
“It’s called dirt. Now please do come in”
“Yes, yes well thank you and sorry”

Tucking his shirt inside his pants Sam followed the woman.

“Before we go in, I need to warn you that you shouldn’t stare like that. At a lady. You shouldn’t stare at a lady like that. Especially not to a married one, like me. My husband has a very strong temper and he is not going to appreciate you staring. Is that clear?” the woman said straightening her apron.

Without waiting for Sam’s reply she swung the wooden door into which the little girl had gone in earlier. Mrs. Quigly looked so in control, yet so sweet it remained Sam of pie, a freshly baked pear pie to be exact.

“So are you coming?” she said, “There is roasted lamb and warm crumble”

the Life and Times of the Persona Writer (project for a play)

“Oh hi, I mean hello, it is Sarah isn’t it? Nice to finally meet you Sarah.”

“Yes, I’m David that is correct. I was just making sure you were you because these dating services tend to be unreliable sometimes don’t you think? Once I was supposed to meet a Maria and a Stephanie turned up instead.”

“Yeah, it is crazy.”

“So, would you like something to drink maybe? Let me call the waiter.”

“No, I haven’t been waiting much, although we had set the date for nine right?

“Oh no, no, no, don’t worry about it, I’ve been having fun here, waiting.”

“Yes lots fun indeed, I’ve been watching people and trying to figure out who wrote them…”

“The Lady is having wine, is that right Sarah? And I’m having rum with coke with a dab of sparkling water and a twist of lemon.”

“Or maybe not, you know what, I’ll have wine as well.”

“Red for me please.”



“Can we have the menus please? Thank you.”

“This is my favorite restaurant in this part of town. Whenever I’m in Brooklyn I eat here. Love it. It’s like a personal tradition. I hope you like it as well. The fried salmon with pumpernickel in a red sauce with sautéed coriander asparagus and fried Italian pancetta is absolutely wonderful. Have you seen anything appealing?”

“A Garden salad, well that sounds, sounds great, as well, yeah a Garden salad, good choice.”

“I’m a writer. I’m actually an Individual Persona Profile writer, or an IPP you see: Individual Persona Profile.”

“What is it? Oh well it’s a bit complicated to explain if you’re not in The System, or at least related to it. But then again who isn’t related to The System. Look, in layman’s terms, what we do is write people, personas really. We create their personalities you see, to maintain some sort of order in the world. But more than order it’ is balance the word I’m looking for.”

“Yes, balance as in “cosmic balance”. For example, take that couple seating at the table near the bar.”

“Right, those exactly. She is your typical man-eater-sex-bomb: perfect blond hair, endless toned legs and a distinct hourglass 30cm proportion between her hips and waist. He, on the other hand, is the epitome of what we writers in the business call “money-attractive”. He is short and fat, not overweight but fat, has a heavy sagging nose, hints of a crooked back that will most likely get worse with age, and I could even bet that whoever wrote him probably made him terrible in bed. But the man is loaded, look at his shoes and belt, they always give a character away. So what the system does is that even though those two make an awfully odd couple, somehow they work well together, look. The way she looks at him, how he touches her. There must be shared traits somewhere in their infinite disparity that make the relationship possible. Which is what we’re all looking for at the end isn’t it.”

“Well romanticists call it Love, we at The System call it universal balance.”

“Now don’t laugh, it is true. IPP writers are really responsible for maintaining universal balance. I probably shouldn’t tell you this but, what the hell… this is how it works.”


“We writers have a Manual with many Individual Personal Profiles described in detail. There are nerds, addicts, fashionistas, geeks, millionaires, divas, bums, psychopaths and, of course, The Types: the jealous type, the depressed type, the macho type. You name it we have it.”

“Yes, we have romantics as well but I hate writing those. Really.”

“And how the whole process works is quite simple really. After a two month Induction course and only if if you get lucky in the Graduation Raffle you get a Manual and are automatically certified as a genuine IPP writer. So much for 90% work and 10% luck, even if you’re the brightest during the Induction course, if you don’t get a green ticket during the raffle you’re, well, you’re screwed you know. But if you get a green ticket well you’re in!”

“Can I have a fork please? Do you need anything Sarah?”

“Just smell that coriander and pumpernickel, it’s a symphony.”

“This smell reminds you of growing up? How strange, me too. My mother used to make the most delicious chicken with tons of coriander for Sunday dinner. And pumpernickel, well that has to do with my grandmother basically.”

“Yeah well that was a long time ago, what was I saying?”

“Right the green ticket. So after that lucky break of fate you get logged into The System. And then after a period of 24hrs to 15 work days you’ll get your first Request. This means that before becoming an IPP, you need to be prepared to survive on your own moneys from two to three months. Nobody tells you that, of course, so many IPP’s quit after they’ve got the ticket.”

“It is quite ironic indeed, you’re right, but…Can you pass the bread please...but what in The System is not ironic? I mean life in itself is quite …”

“Oh sorry, yes what is The System. Well, as far as I know The System is like the universe’s central brain. Apparently it controls everything from every thing. The system is the one who sends us the Requests for IPP’s. Let me give you an example, you see those two old ladies sitting next to each other by the fire place.”

“No not them, the other really old ones to your left.”

“Exactly. “Floodingly flowered” that is a great term to describe them!”

“They look like they are friends don’t they? Well, that is no coincidence. In a certain moment of her lifespan flower lady number one needed a friend, so The System acknowledged the Request and sent it to an IPP writer. The writer did his job and there she is. Then at some point, that The System decided, the flower ladies met and became friends.”

“Yeah, it’s amazing isn’t it?”

“No, au contraire, it’s a fairly easy job and the pay is extremely good. The only burden is deadlines. They are very strict with them: if you don’t answer a request in 72 minutes you’re automatically fired.”

“That is a good question. I really don’t know why it works like that I just always turn them in on time. My guess is that sometimes they may be in a rush to create personas for other’s people’s lives.”

“Oh yeah I’ve wrote loads of them. I’m the proud creator of five thousand six hundred and three personas.”

“Haven’t met any of my creations yet, I think.”

“But enough about me, I’ve been talking all dinner long, tell me more about you. Actually would you like some dessert?”

“Or coffee? No?”

“What? You have to go? So soon?”

“Another appointment, oh I thought you said you were free tonight.”

“It came up. Suddenly. Ok I understand.”

“No don’t worry about it, I’ll just ask for the check and we can get going.”

“No I don’t think The System ever makes a mistake. Well, to be honest I don’t really know. I guess not. But what do you mean by mistakes exactly?”

“Oh no not that, The System never gets a wrong Request. Maybe it’s that the person making the requests doesn’t really know what he or she needs. Maybe they think they do but they don’t. Or maybe the person is mistaking what she wants with what she needs. Because what I do know is that The System gets the Requests just as the person, well, just as the person requests it, literally, that’s why they are called Requests. No mistakes there, a pure direct transmission.”

“No, I don’t think it’s the writer’s fault either if you don’t get what you requested. It is true, like you say, that every decision that the writer makes has consequences on the end product, the persona that is, but as writers we follow a strict protocol. The Manual I told you about remember. For example, if the person is asking for a boyfriend with certain characteristics, let’s say, a successful man that loves dogs, the writer looks “successful” on the Manual and works with the given characteristics of that profile. At the end the persona, this man, may end having a taste for cars or supermodels, and maybe big smelly feet as well, but rest assured that when the writer finishes creating him, the man will be successful and will most certainly love dogs. So no there are no mistakes. I think it has more to do with requesting the request than granting it.”

“Well the check is here. No please don’t worry I’m inviting. Come on please put your money away it was and is my pleasure.”

“Wait, before we live I wanted to ask something. Can I call you? What do you think? Would you like to go out again some time?”

Phone Booth

The first thing that strikes me when I see the sign “Phone Booth” across the street is that it is pointing directly to a convenience store. I walk across the cobble street and I find myself driven into a crowd of noisy customers buying alfajores, gum and cigarettes. It’s early June, the 20th to be exact, and the wind is incredibly cold even inside the corner of Calle Florida and Cordoba where the store is located in downtown Buenos Aires.
I dive into the crowd driven by the colourful packages of chocolates, and candy mixed with condoms and matches that are neatly organized in uneven plastic shelves along the counter. Behind it, a man in his early fifties stares at me and then winks. I loosen my scarf.
I move as quickly as the crowd will let me. When I finally get past it I find myself in a spacious room. It’s brightly lit by a crude white glow, which bounces off the cream coloured tiles that cover the floor. Wood panel doors with green numbers on them surround me. It’s like being inside one of those books where you get to choose the fate of the story you’re reading by selecting an ending to each chapter. There is a distinctive stench of urine lurking in the room. I need to go inside any of the little cubicles very quickly. I choose number 7.
Behind the unusually light door is a very tiny, dimly lit cubicle with nothing in it but a worn out black leather chair and a mirror which covers completely the wall in front of me. Exactly in front of the chair, bolted halfway down the mirror, is a small, but sturdy, wooden shelf. A phone is resting on it.
I leave my purse on the chair and take my coat off. In the process the mirror misleads me in calculating the dimensions of the cubicle, so I bang the fake walls and contort until I finally get it off. I pick up the receiver and sit on the chair when I realize that either the chair is unusually low, or I'm ridiculously short, because either way I can’t reach the rest of the phone. I smile at myself on the mirror and sit on the shelve hoping it won’t break. Ah, a moment of tranquillity for the travelling birthday girl.
I dial home but there is no answer.
I sit on the chair and wait for a little while. Then I stand up, sit back on the shelf and dial again. I listen to the little beeping pulses dialling and as I hear the first tone, I look at myself in the mirror, examining my hair and face like if I was in my own bathroom. I notice my bra has somehow moved from its original position and is now pressing one of my boobs making it stick out in a very funny way. Victoria would be very disappointed if she could see what her Secret is doing to me. So I stand up, hold the phone to my ear with my shoulder and lift my sweater and push my boob back inside the bra, safely into place. I stay there with my sweater around my neck for a little while. A couple of unanswered tones go by. I look at my boobs, they have gotten so much bigger since I got here two months ago. I'm guessing it can either be attributed to all the chocolates and the greasy steak I've had for lunch every single day, or I'm pregnant and the father of my child is the Holy Ghost. I stand up straight, man I do look sexy, I strike a Marilyn Monroe pose, squished boobs and puckered lips. I'll have such a hard time loosing the extra pounds when this vacation is over. Several tones have gone by and nobody answers the phone so I finally hang it. I pull the sweater down, and sit back on the shelf, it squeaks.
I can hear someone talking, vaguely. I think it might be the person in cubicle number 8, which is just to the right, so I press my ear to the wood panel. I feel the cold on my face but there is no voice on the other side of the wall.
I dial home again but this time the line is busy. I remember I haven’t had lunch yet and I can sense the human stench from outside vigorously fighting to get inside the cubicle. Now I can hear two persons talking. There must be two persons inside cubicle 8 now. I'll try calling home latter.
I put on my coat and scarf and open the door. The stench and the bright light from outside, punch me on the face like a professional boxer. I turn around, a bit nauseous, and I bend a little to grab my purse from the chair. As I take it and look up, I see the mirror again, only this time I share the reflection with two guys who are looking at me behind it. They seem to be in some sort of cubicle themselves. One of them is wearing a baseball hat, and is standing there, staring, with his right hand inside his pants, while the other is just sitting down eating something wrapped in tin foil.
I’m paralyzed for a second. "Have they been there the whole time?" I think. "The whole time!"
The images of me pushing my curves into place and posing and, oh God what else did I do in there? Did I also pick my nose? I shiver back into action. I start walking towards the front of the store very quickly. How the hell did I not notice it was a two way mirror when I got inside that stupid booth! I can feel my cheeks uncontrollably warming up. I get to the counter and, in a hurry, take out my wallet. There aren't any costumers there anymore, so the cold wind and the sweet smell of chocolate are very strong.
“How much do I owe you?” I hastily say to the man behind the counter while I button my coat. "Because the call never went through, you know."
He points to a sign behind him that says:
"We will charge you 1.50 pesos for dialling internationally, even if the call doesn't go through"
"What's wrong with you people?" I say while almost throwing a five pesos bill on the counter.
The man looks at the bill and then stares back at me.
“Were you the one in seven?” he asks while scratching his head.
“Yes,” I say.
“Well then," he says grinning from ear to ear, "in that case... it’s nothing…Miss.”