The Market – A Short Story

Dawn was approaching, and the streets thundered with rage now that it awoke. A great serpent of smoke snaked its way into the fidgeting crowd, in great wicker baskets of spices and herbs, over stalls of decaying wood and peeling paint jobs, then eventually dissipating into the wispy silver air. Signs and advertisements stood bold and brash. Suspended several floors in the air with scrappy nails, their striking colors jutted out against the bleak background, muted after decades of weather and age. The pungent stench of anticipation and heated conversation hung low in the morning air. Frail old women clutched their floral purses close, making their determination clear to the rest of the crowd. Their hands perched on the handles of capacious cloth bags on wheels. The group were as fidgety as ants before a thunderstorm, gesturing wildly and rambling incessantly about the weather, various bodily pains, and overachieving grandchildren. Groups of businessmen in crisp, freshly laundered suits stood in an orderly line, their faces painted with serious contemplation. Lurid streaks of light washed over the crowd of agitated shoppers. Neon plastic shopping bags crinkled and rustled against sweat soaked clothing. Some wore pained frowns of tiredness, while others were oddly optimistic. The dash of sun reviving vivid spots of crackling electric color; vibrant like dancing fire hearths and fireworks on New Years. The mob of people descended mercilessly down the street, haggling and bartering along the way as they made their trip to the next stall; their next unsuspecting victim. The ruthless sun’s fiery reign brought exhaustion, sweat, and not-so-silently grumbled complaints. A sickening assortment of pains and aches silently creeped up on amateur shoppers. The crowd however, remained unwavered. Nothing could rouse them.

Hundreds of stalls littered the sides of narrow streets, of which a ravenous horde meandered through like a dark flock of birds during migration. Cluttered storefronts gave off a homey ambiance, welcoming customers inside polished glass doors. Wooden planks nailed clumsily together was a makeshift roof for rainy weather. Old raindrops slid from the cracks, splattering onto the harsh grainy ground below. Satiny scarfs and velvet dresses hung from iron rods running down both sides of the door. They fluttered in the slight morning breeze, the sweet staleness of tobacco lingered in stores, a radio blasted current events and today’s weather. The cashier countertops were wooden and sticky to the touch.

A wave of people flooded the streets; a domino line of heads congested rickety cobblestone paths, even the narrowest of trails were overflowing. They prodded and gaped at the stalls filled to the brim with smoked meats, boisterous fabrics, and gleaming jewelry. Woven baskets brimming with vibrant spices threatened to topple over, their fervent aroma humming in tune with the humid air. Stall-keepers stood their ground even as the spirited bargaining spiraled into something abominable. Arguments were customary. Rusty coins sailed overhead. Spittle evaporated into the humidity. Sweat trickled down wrinkled noses. Suffocating clouds of smoke and ash rose from bustling food stalls emitting ambrosial fragrances. The sea of people kept the anonymity of the smoke’s origin.

A lone elderly woman wandered down a spindly path. Her back hunched over with age. Coarse white hair was littered with sparse strands of darker gray, a flimsy sheer headscarf covered most of it, leaving only a few strands to collect sweat which dripped occasionally down her wrinkled skin. Her face was creased with years of lively emotion, crows feet crept down from her eyes when she squinted at the weather, delicate and intricate like a silky spider’s web. Beads of perspiration clung to her hairline, dripping down the bridge of her nose every so often. Her silken scarf, a woven emerald green, darkened in places where sweat had gotten tangled in her hair, and the back of her hunched neck. Bony fingers held crumpled notes of coloured cash. She stood exposed, out in the open for the sun to bear its wrath. The toes of her tattered shoes frayed where they met the concrete. For the rest of the crowd, their feet burned and blistered in places unimaginable. As they stretched their leaden joints, arms laden with bags of anything and everything, they just carried on along the cornucopia of a street.

Cathy Li

Cathy Li ’25 is a new sophomore at Blair. She’s excited for her first season working at The Oracle. Cathy hopes to write about a variety of topics which interest her, including arts, student life, and pop culture.

Blair Academy