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Bewildering Stories

Denis Bell, A Box of Dreams


A Box of Dreams
Author: Denis Bell
Publisher: Adelaide Books, 2017
Length: 156 pp.
ISBN: 0-9992148-1-0; 978-0-9992148-17

Excerpt from “The Streetwalker”

When Jerry was twelve, he accompanied his mother on a weeklong trip to France. Jerry’s father was scheduled to go with them, but something important came up at the last minute and he was forced to cancel. Jerry’s father was a senior partner for one of the more prestigious law firms in the city. The man worked long hours, and since Jerry did not have many friends, he and his mother spent a lot of time in each other’s company.

They stayed in Paris, in a small hotel, three blocks from the Champs-Élysées. Jerry’s mother signed the register Mrs. Vanessa Polk, though her actual given name was Vera, and son Jerrold, though nobody ever called him that.

The hotel was unlike any Jerry had seen before-tall and thin like his mother. It looked fancy on the outside, but was quite shabby inside, with small, dusty rooms with cheap prints on the walls, and a tiny elevator about the size of those phone booths that disappeared with the advent of cell phones.

Jerry’s mother was in the habit of taking regular walks back in New York for the sake of her figure, so the two of them spent a good part of every day in Paris traipsing from one art gallery or museum to another. When returning to their hotel one evening, they took a wrong turn and ended up on a street with once grand three-story houses, now gone to seed. There was a line of heavily made up women standing on the street, spaced at intervals of twenty feet or so apart. Jerry asked his mother if the women were all waiting for somebody. His mother’s face turned pink and she told him not to look at them.

As they reached the end of the street, Jerry glanced back and happened to catch the eye of one of the women. She was red-haired and pretty, and she looked very young, perhaps only a few years older than Jerry himself.

The girl wore her hair piled on top of her head in a bun, and Jerry noticed that she sported an unusual feature that either detracted from or enhanced her appearance, he couldn’t say which-an oval shaped birthmark near the hairline on the right side of her forehead. The girl smiled at Jerry in a lopsided sort of way and shrugged, as if to say, I don’t know what I’m doing here either.

Copyright © 2017 by Denis Bell

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