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The Market in the Heart of the City

With one eager inhalation, she fills her halls with the first round of customers. Still stiff with the sleep of night, this first breath draws quickening life into groggy corridors. A stretch and a yawn from wide, creaking, opening doorways invite another small crowd. The City Market had been stirring for some hours, and now with the sun hanging in the sky above bird and building, she is ready to rise. The shining warmth of well-settled dawn massages her outer walls and breaks through the high glass augers frightening away chilly night air.

Charleston City Market Entrance
The Market Entrance Widens on Inhalation

City Market Season Begins

This was not just any day on Meeting Street. It was mid-April. Spring break was underway. The tenacious chill of winter reluctantly gave way to heat and blossoms. Pockets of tourists and residents alike jingled with money from refunds. This promised to be a busy day for the market, who was still setting her intentions for the day with each blow of her nostrils. She was not caught by surprise. This time comes every year without fail, and she had decorated herself for the occasion.

Dressed in gorgeous flags and signs she sought to compete with the colorful bouquet of spring petals. Just as attractive as the bloom to the bee, she spun and danced and attracted many wandering eyes. Several incoming hadn’t visited for over a year and others arrived whom she met for the first time. She loved to be admired. Not simply for herself, but this was her duty. Her neighboring friend, the Farmers Market, had just returned from his winter vacation. It was both of their jobs to sustain the thriving commerce and activity of the city and she couldn’t wait to gloat. All in good fun, of course. They had a mutual respect of one another and were earnest old friends.

An Honest Dollar

One more deep breath. The street was a pulsing current of life, flowing with waves of curious meandering and late appointments. It has been hours since the morning and the rush has officially begun. In just a few months the same amount of labor will leave sweat dripping from air-conditioned pipes. Not yet, however. Fresh, cool Spring keeps the air moderate inside and outside of the market’s several open edifices. Regardless, the work is laborious. She hyperventilates with the ingress and egress of customers and gawkers. Her sides seem to bulge painfully from the bustling within her walls. Ever so slightly she settles and stretches her aged bricks to make room for the commerces within her.

She didn’t mind. This was a job she had come to love. These first days always excite her, but today particularly she housed new art. Several entered the City Market just for this alone, but today she was extra proud and wanted everyone to enjoy the colors and canvases leaning upon her booths. She flaunted them joyfully, beamed at every exclamation of how pretty they were, how talented the artists, how well that depiction of a docked boat would look over the sofa. This is what she lived for. Each transaction was life-blood, each paused and engaged shopper a heartbeat. And nothing brought her more pleasure, except maybe on occasion an exceptional street performance. There was very little that didn’t energize her bones. Little she didn’t enjoy. But there was one thing.

And Dishonest, Too

The word “commerce” deconstructed means “merciful together.” It pays a slight nod to an archaic idea of mercy, one many may be unfamiliar with nowadays. In long forgotten times if you killed a poor man’s cattle, you have destroyed his livelihood and he must pursue strict justice. Kill the cattle of a king or queen, however, and it was simply one of many. To demonstrate their power and abundance they could show mercy because they could afford to. The market was the symbol of being merciful together. Of commerce. She was a dance of abundance. In her bosom all were welcome. The wealthy, the peasant, the harlot, and even the tax collector on their tax season vacation. Regardless, what she couldn’t stand was a thief.

Theft disrupted the very soul the market embodied. With theft comes distrust. With theft comes guarded and unfriendly displays. Theft brings unfriendliness, and that is why she can’t forgive it. Without togetherness there an be no mercy, there can be no free flowing trade within her cavernous halls. It makes her ill and she hates it. Today, deep in her belly a woman tried to steal a fragrance from a booth as the vendor turned. Another spied her before she could get away. The upset turned the market’s stomach and she regurgitated the thief with a shudder. The market can’t excuse theft. One can busk, or panhandle if you’re brave. But never disrupt the spirit of the system.

The Busy Day is Done

The evening approaches soon, but the Sun still hangs fairly high overhead. What was once shoulder to shoulder congestion has hummed down to empty tables and some stragglers entranced in conversations. The City Market’s brick walls and cement floors are sore from today’s activities. While it has been splendid, she is glad to relax and recover for the night. Her art sold, and baskets packed up for tomorrow, she’s proud and has earned her rest. Slowly, one-by-one large doors and gates slide to a close.

Tomorrow promises a new day of wares and wanderers. Tonight the market will sleep and dream. City Market season has begun. She’ll need her quiet night’s slumber. Morning isn’t far away and soon her tables will billow with soaps, fabrics, woven trays, spices, and toys again. Shortly after, she will once again open her nostrils and breathe deeply. The air is cool over her rooftops.

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“Wiccan Bonfire Seance”

In response to a writing prompt by my friend Michael Jenkins:

I couldn’t tell what time it was. Honestly, time didn’t seem to be a thing that mattered anymore. Did it ever? Mist and tree moss became like air to me. It was all around me and in plentiful quantity. My eyes were desperately peeled for anything that differentiated itself from the earthy smell or sound of leaves crunching over topsoil. No grazing deer, no shooting star across the rustling canopy. Just nothing but the same. I never imagined it could feel so empty in a place so full. I never imagined I could feel so alone anywhere. Alone for what seems like eternity. Where was I before I was lost here?

Who was I before…?

A sudden tingle ran down my spine. I felt nauseated when it passed along my loins and hipbones. What was that? It fell like the wind carried an answer to my question. When I asked it I felt immediately both foolish and frightened. I couldn’t seem to remember myself, but shuddered to almost hear my forgotten name being called from across the distance. I knew I couldn’t survive the sudden shattering of my isolation, so I turned around slowly in case someone was actually there. Was anybody there? Dear God, please somebody be there.

A bit more than a quarter turn of my body and I was able to see a flickering orange spark. Again, a wave of reminiscence washed over me from that direction. As if I was being called by a name that had escaped me. What could one do when being called but to follow and answer? Anything to escape the solitude. To get help.

It was less walking toward the light, more like being drawn. Like falling sideways, facilitated by unwitting legs. The sound was louder now, but still indistinguishable over what seemed to be a howling wind. It pushed away as strongly as the urge to move toward the glow pulled.

Closer and closer now. I’d grown so accustomed to the chill of night air I’d forgotten what warmth feels like. It felt like life. How had I forgotten what life feels like? Life. There was something moving around the light. Shadows flitting about, eclipsing it briefly every so often. Sun and Moon. Solar and lunar occultation. It was a fire.

The shadows must be people. Even as I watched them I still couldn’t see them. Tall wisps of veiled motion. The wind was strongest here. The call was loudest here. I could almost make out syllables. Consonance. Meaning. Even faces began to draw themselves on the indecipherable figures. I could see their faces. It only then occurred to me that they had stopped dancing. That they were all looking at me. That they could see me. They were waiting for me. Calling me.

Who was I before I was here? How could I have forgotten what life feels like? Here I am. Why have you called me? The fire grows.

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A Who Gets a Clue

A young Who in Whoville was feeling quite down
He moped and he moped and he moped around town
He moped until in an old tavern he found
A wealthy old Who who was buying a round.

He sat by the bar, ordered drink and a chaser
The wealthier Who asked him, “Why the long face, sir”
And then did that sad Who look at him sadly
“I need lots of money, I need it quite badly!

My medical bills come to such an amount
I grow even sicker each time that I count
I need need a new Huvulu hovering car
So I can make sales, for I travel quite far

My mother is aging, my daughter needs clothes
My wife needs her hobbyist tools, so it goes
I’ve built up my debts in attempt to make due
So my life is quite hard, but sir, tell me of you.”

That affluent Who sat himself rather tall
He cleared his old throat and began with a drawl
“I’m Finneas Flavius Finkle the Fourth
Son of the Mogul Sir Finkle of Gorth

I’m visiting now to review my investments
To see which will fail, and see which are destined
To 10X my money, and those I will choose
To spend some more on, the others, set loose.”

Now this caught the ear of the sadder of two
For never before did he meet such a Who.
“For handouts I’d never request on a whim
But Finneas, sir, my outlook’s quite grim

I have a small savings, enough for a month
A greater amount I used to have once
But now it is spent, the rainy day’s here
Sir how should I spend it, would you please share?”

That Finneas smiled at the sad Who so kindly
“What is it you do, sir, would you remind me?”
That sad Who, he answered, with minor chagrin
“I sell door to door, needles and pins”

“That market’s no good,” said the wealthier fellow
“To it say goodbye, to others say hello
You best look around, pins and needles are dead
When everyone has them, well now they need thread!”

This marveled the Who to hear oh so wisely
“Oh thank you, good sir, for what you advise me!”
And so he ran home and took all his cash
And ran to the Thread store, he ran with a dash

He bought all the thread that he could at the time
He bought every spool with his very last dime.
Well sure enough soon as he made his investment
Another who walked in with tears in this vestments

“Sorry to run in here making a racket
I’ve holes in my socks, in my pants, and my jacket
Please sell me your thread so my clothes I’ll repair
I’ll buy it then I’ll get out of your hair”

Well now the sad Who had no sign of his sadness
But now he was filled with threadly fueled madness
“This store has no thread left” He said to the guy
But I think I could find some, I think I could try.”

“Oh please” said the Who, in his torn apart coat
“I leave in an hour and travel by boat
I must look my best for a meeting is soon
And if I can impress it will mean quite the boon!”

“And what could you pay” said Who 1 with a smile
“Well, all that I have” said Who 2 in a while
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a spool
And made all of his money back on that poor fool!

The Threadman behind his old counter amazed
Immediately ran to his phone in a craze
“Order me thread, for the price has now soared
Get all the thread that the shop can afford!”

Back at his home was a Who feeling glad
With all of his savings and thread that he had
He surely would soon be a millionaire
Living in luxury without a care

The next day he went to buy even more thread
But the prices were risen by 10 to his dread
He didn’t know if he could afford the price
But he bought 10 more spools. He bought 10 more spools thrice!

Now that old Threadman feeling quite keen
Has more money than his thread shop’s ever has seen
Soon was the word that thread was the thing
That money and riches and power, would bring

Soon every Who down in Whoville had spools
They had spindles and reams, they had needle point tools
Thread fever attacked and it did with a heat
Buying and selling and trading elites

Every color had its own unique market
Prices would rise and would fall right on target
And wasn’t that first Who once felt so small
Well now he’s the richest Who here of them all!

His car was a beauty, his daughter was dressed
His wife lived in leisure, no sign of distress
He quit his old job and now lived in a mansion
With rooms filled with thread, so he built an expansion

For months this continued but soon there was trouble
This wasn’t a market, no sir, but a bubble!
Soon thread speculation proved out a disaster
The price of thread fell, well and then it fell faster!

The Whos they all panicked, the rich and the rabble
They built their whole town as a Tower of Babel
And down fell the bricks, fell every last one
Until poverty struck, now Whoville was done

One day came the mogul, his venture to cash
The only non-thread based new business, the last
He sold it and closed it and nearly left town
When he saw his old friend, and again he was down

“Seems like your town’s in the midst of recession
You ought to spend wisely instead of just guessin
Well now all the money is vapor, you see
Well maybe for you, but just not for me

You see while your city’s a ghost town, quite dead
I owned all the factories spinning the thread
I closed them as soon as the price rose too high
Knowing a bubbly busting was nigh.”

“How could you lead us into this position
Surely you saw this, you surely envisioned
Once I was poor and that was enough
But to be rich, then poor, well sir that’s quite tough!”

“Now sir,” said the Who of a wealthier sort
“It’s you who spent all of your cash,” with a snort
“I told you, quite wisely, to trade in some spools
But you sir went all in like a blind bumbling fool”

With that the Who left, and Whoville was alone
With the worthlessest thread, all money now blown
Now if ever a deal seems to good to be true
Well it probably is, don’t get strung along, too!