The Woman From Down Under

by: David Daniel

An offering of flash-fiction where the extraordinary is happened upon in the most mundane of haunts…

It was a warm August morning and people were waiting to order iced coffees, the line inching sluggishly forward as busy baristas were filling orders. Casually, I said to the woman just ahead of me in line, “Are you from around these parts?”

I always ask this question in some form or another. It’s a natural, neutral connector. I’ve traveled a lot of places over the years, and I’m interested to hear where other people have been, where they consider home.

The woman, who was wearing a sundress with an iridescent blue-green shimmer, hesitated, then began to speak, but the sudden sound of grinding ice consumed her words. I leaned in closer. “I’m sorry?”

Her voice, soft and unsure, was once again muffled by persistent noise, this time lost in the hiss of the espresso machine.

She repeated herself. “Atlantis.”

I was merely passing through the area and didn’t know the Ocean State very well, so I didn’t have an informed response. I simply said, “Is that in Rhode Island?”

The woman’s pale green eyes grew confused. “Atlantis?”

I too became confused, my perplexity surely obvious. “Wait, like Atlantis?”

The line shuffled forward and the woman, turning again, replied, speaking quietly: “Here, look,” as she extended her shapely, suntanned leg. On the instep of her foot was a tattoo: a small red heart.

“Is that like a symbol?” I said. “A heart?”

“Not that.” She wriggled her toes.

For a long moment I stared. At last I looked at her face. She was gazing at me with a no-one-ever-believes-me expression, and just a little glint of hopefulness. I didn’t know what to say.

Then it was her turn at the counter. “How may I help you, ma’am?” the barista asked.

“A medium Tahitian Spice tea, please,” I heard her say, “with extra ice.”

And then it was my turn, but I was still thinking about the webs between her toes.

 

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