FLASH FICTION CONTEST
by Dawn Burns
Photo by CaSu Photography
I am in Santa Fe. Not exactly Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I walked last summer with my poet friend, but a Santa Fe of the mind.
Once more I am with the poet, our travels having brought us here for a reason I don’t yet know.
The day is hot and dry and bright. Santa Fe Plaza, empty. I do not understand.
We pass behind a weathered stone wall and a market spills over with vendors selling made and fresh things. On hot metal surfaces small fish sizzle, flat and crisp and perfect for eating. Inside charred skin their flesh is white, moist, and flaking. I watch an old woman flip the fish with a stainless steel spatula, then slide them onto a waiting plate.
Fennel roasts over an open fire and I am filled with a deep hunger. I salivate at the scent and sight, and think to myself, “Strange for something I don’t care for much.” Still, the hunger does not fade.
Also in the market are iron cook pots filled with beans, red beans with thin red sauce that spills across tan Melmac plates on a long counter.
To eat authentically in Santa Fe means platefuls of red beans alongside roasted fennel. Sitting beside the poet, I see this, and watch as men at long tables with full plates fill their mouths. I want to be authentic, or at least to seem so, but I have not forgotten the sight and sound of sizzling small fish. Their aroma penetrates the whole of Santa Fe.
A man with tanned feet and long toes walks barefoot through the market. I watch. I wait to see what will happen. Will somebody tell him to put on shoes? Will he step on something that will cause him pain? His arms sway comfortably at his sides as he moves without the weight of shame or expectation. He has no place to be, just walks in Santa Fe like he owns the place. Like he owns nothing. I watch his feet, follow them with my eyes. Soon his bare feet are joined by others, weathered and worn but strong-boned and confident, all moving together.
I am not a native to Santa Fe and my feet are not seasoned. Still, I strip them down and begin to walk, heat from the pavement rising through my soles.
I feel the fine grit of sand against hard brick, my skin tender but ready to toughen.
And then I go walking, scared I shouldn’t, but too much wanting to turn back now.
Dawn Burns is a writer of fiction and creative nonfiction, and founder and co-organizer of the SwampFire Retreat for Artists and Writers. She was the recipient of a 2014 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award in Fiction. Her work has appeared in Women Under Scrutiny: An Anthology of Truths, Essays, Poems, Stories and Art, and in various journals. Evangelina Everyday, her novel in stories, will be published by Cornerstone Press in March 2022. Dawn lives in Syracuse, Indiana, where most mornings she can be found taking pictures of the sunrise over Lake Wawasee for her latest project, Dawn at Dawn: Sunrise Reflections. Find her at www.dawnburns42.com.