Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Break (02/06/06)
TITLE: He Was a Russian Spy
By Daniel Hall
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I turned my head rightward and saw a newspaper held up by gloved hands. I had sat beside many such newspapers on similar park benches, but never one which claimed to be a Russian or a spy. I figured the holder must have audibly read a line from his paper.
I returned to my book. Two sentences later, the whisperer repeated, "I am Russian spy." Being so odd, yet so real, his whisper could not have been addressed to me. I glanced back at the paper and gloves. Below them, I noticed two short legs covered in black pants and shiny, black shoes which barely touched the ground. Everything was still. My mouth opened, but nothing exited. Another oddity suddenly divulged; his newspaper was upside down. I forgot how to blink.
"I am Russian spy." It came again without movement from the paper or its owner.
Again my mouth opened, and again nothing came out. I closed it, opened it, closed it, opened it. Silence. I took a breath, shook my head several times, and finally managed to say, "Are you talking to me?"
"Are you listening to me?" he asked still whispering.
I was terribly confused, but said, "I believe I heard you say that you're a Russian spy."
"You did," he assured me, "I am."
"Well . . . uh . . . good luck with that," I said and turned for a quick departure. His whisper stopped me.
"I like States of America. I break with my country."
I turned back to the paper and asked him to repeat.
"I broke with my country."
"Just. I was Russian spy."
"A nut," I thought and scanned for a bicycle officer to no avail. Assured of his insanity, I again wished him luck, and turned to leave. Again, his whisper stopped me.
"Pssst, I need job."
I looked back toward the paper which remained perfectly still. "Well, buddy, you're holding a newspaper," I said impatiently, "Turn it around and look in the classifieds." Inwardly, I confirmed his lunacy.
"I am spy," he whispered.
"Yes, I'm well aware of that."
"I am good spy."
"Okay. Have a nice day." I turned to leave.
"You need spy?" he asked still behind the paper.
I turned back to him. "Did you ask if I needed a spy?"
"Yes. I am good spy. I was Russian spy."
"Look, buddy," I said angrily, "You're nuts. I'm outta here." I stood, took a step, then mockingly said, "Do I need a Spy? Cuckoo!"
"No, no cook. I am good spy. I was Russian spy," he whispered loudly from behind the paper as I walked away.
"You're nuts!" I shouted and accelerated leaving his muffled whispers behind me. I refused to look back.
Weeks later at the mall, I had found a seat, while awaiting my wife. Five lonely minutes passed, when a man, dressed for business and seemingly worried, walked briskly by with a large bag. He passed on. A half minute later, a tiny man, wearing a black hat and sunglasses, his hands thrust into the pockets of a black suit, and being slightly bent and almost tip-toeing, moved stealthily by. I watched until he was gone. Five more lonely minutes followed, when the businessman startled me by sprinting passed and disappearing in the opposite direction. A few more minutes passed when the man in black came stealthily back, looking around as if he had lost something. He stopped a few yards before me and depressingly sighed.
"Rats . . . gone," he muttered with an accent.
A long pause followed. He stared ahead into space; I stared at him. He slowly removed his hands from his coat pockets. I noticed black gloves. A previously concealed newspaper jutted from his pocket. Then, with tremendous speed, he jerked the paper from his pocket and sat down, right next to me. I dared not look over, but heard the rustling of his paper. Finally, I peeked and saw a newspaper held up by black gloves.
"I am spy," came a whisper.
Infuriatingly shocked, I howled (which, I now remember, caused his legs to extend straight out below his paper), fled, have since eluded all newspapers, and have not seen him again, yet.
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