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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: India (02/12/09)

TITLE: The Bench
By dub W


I first saw her staring at me from an alley along Jawaharlal Road. It was daytime then, and I didn’t consider it flirtiest, as I was a sweat soaked white man obviously looking lost. Her dark eyes had pierced the shadows and seemed to clutch my weak mind. That was yesterday. Now, twelve hours later I am sitting here on a rusted metal bench watching sleeping ferryboats floating in the polluted waters of the Hugli River.
The note that arrived at my hotel by bicycle courier, simply said, “Meet me. K.” I sat on the edge of my bed letting the noisy window air conditioner attempt to lower my body temperature and turned the note over twice.

“Meet me. K.” Why did I know it was from her? It had to be the eyes and an unspoken message from earlier. I felt it in my soul.

Last night I dined alone. The crisp service, however, couldn’t break my mood. I had scanned the room so much that my waiter approached and in broken English asked if I had lost someone. My dinner of tomato kashundi, bekti meuniere with lemon butter, and rice pudding arrived with the elegance of royalty and I dined like a King. My thoughts though were consumed with the shadow, the eyes, the perfect face in the darkness. Although, various humans crossed my view, I didn’t see her, and sat for an hour with a foiled expectation of an encounter.

I stood on the curb and waited for the valet to hail a rickshaw for my return to the hotel. I had about determined that the note was misdirected and I had let my imagination rampage like a 1920’s “B” movie. The rickshaw ride would be slow and allow my digestion to settle from the spiced food. My transportation arrived and I settled in to the wicker seat for my journey. We started moving and eventually slid into a sea of other rickshaws. There was a bump on the carriage and I tipped my hat back to see a bicycle rider holding out a slip of paper to me. At first I thought he was another beggar; however, he dropped the note and rode on in the opposite direction.

“Bench 24. 3a.m. meet me, please.”

I tucked the note into my shirt pocket and when I stepped up to the security gate of my hotel I asked the guard, “are there numbered benches somewhere?”

He looked at me like I guessed I must of sounded – totally confused. Finally, he said something to another guard and they laughed. Then he turned back to me. “Many directions are given by locations of benches along the river – distance from the second bench to a market and the like.”

That was the first time I had even noticed the benches. Indeed, I had only once crossed the busy thoroughfare and that was to take a picture of the crowded boat traffic. I guess the benches had been there, but invisible to a camera toting tourist.

“Bench 24.” The guard scarcely noticed my out loud thoughts as I made my way through the gate.

I made my way to the bar and ordered a bottle of Himalayan bottled water. I have always tried to order local products, avoiding the Coke and Pepsi battles for simple pure water; perhaps it was my connections with similar industries that were causing the clandestine plans.

I strained to think about the bench, and the notes. I had to follow though, just to find out.

I dozed, seemingly, only moments in a overstuffed lobby chair. It was setting along a wall in the hotel foyer.

The desk clerk alerted me it was 2:30a.m. I rubbed my eyes and pulled my raincoat around my shoulders. Minutes later I stood on the steps of the grand hotel counting as many benches as I could see along the river’s edge. I finally decided to walk to one end and count, at least there would be a 50/50 chance I would find number 24.

From the right of where I stood I guessed it was about a kilometer walk to the first bench; which appeared to butt against a jetty. I counted each whole or half bench as I walked, the 24th. was directly in front of my hotel. I plopped onto the damp steel; my coat will have to be cleaned. And, here I sit waiting.

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This article has been read 558 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 02/20/09
This was very intriguing, and full of mystery.

...but I found it a bit disturbing as well, and I definitely wanted more. Instead, I felt a little bit empty at the end...maybe the effect you were going for?

Lots of great local color.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge02/21/09
Different...not sure if it's dark or fantasy. Though I think it's intentional.
Seema Bagai 02/22/09
You used a lot of authentic details in this piece. This ending to this entry left me confused.