Streets of the New Town (flash fiction)
“Don’t go down that street,” our guide said. “Further down that street, they’ll steal your wallet, your purse, your jacket, your shoes. They’ll rob you blind. Not meaning they’ll steal your eyes, but they’ll practically take everything else.”
“Okay,” we said. “We won’t go down that street.”
We were grateful for the advice about this new town, wise advice to avoid being robbed. We stood just outside of our hotel, close to the outside wall of the hotel, so we could stand close to our guide and see her finger as she pointed to the dangerous street on our map. Beyond our little group, people bustled by on the sidewalk and cars bustled by on the busy street.
“Don’t go down this street either,” our guide said. “That street is dirty.” At this, she wrinkled her nose. “I mean, dirty. Garbage in the streets. The place smells really, really bad. You do not want to go down there.”
We nodded. We sure as anything did not want to go down a smelly street like that.
The guide continued, her finger pointing to another line on the map, “And down here, it’s loud. I don’t know why that is, maybe all the musicians stick together and for some reason picked this particular street to live on. I don’t really know for sure, but I do know that place is loud.”
We said we prefer to keep our ear drums intact, so we’d steer clear of that particular street.
“Good,” the guide said. “Now, this street is also one to stay away from. Lots of bars there. All their doors are open, and if you walk too close to the bars, the owner grabs your arm and pulls you right in. Oh, he’ll sweet talk you into how nice his place is and how good the drinks are and there’s tasty food for the kids and the bartender even dances on the bar sometimes. But you know what?”
“What?” we asked with baited breath.
“Before you know it, you’ll have spent almost the whole night there. Sure, you may sing a few drinking songs with the regulars and you may make some new so-called friends, but—and this is a big but—you’ll leave the establishment drunker than a skunk and not know your way back to the hotel. You’ll ramble over the darkened streets not knowing which way to go. Because those streets around there simply all look the same. So, please, don’t head down that direction.”
We nodded, saying, “Okay, we’ll avoid there, too. But what about getting a bite to eat?”
“Good question. This street here”—her finger pointing on the map—”has lots of fancy restaurants. We’re talking world-class eateries here. But the problem? Let me tell you. The problem is that they’re all so blooming expensive. To eat in one of those places, you’ll have to take out a second mortgage or sell your kidneys or even one of your children.”
“We certainly don’t want to do that,” we said. “Well, what about the street you live on? How is your street?”
“Oh, it’s boring there. Absolutely nothing happens on my street. You’d be bored to tears if you go there.”
“So… what is there fun to do here?” we asked. “We have the whole weekend.”
She leaned in close, as if to share conspiratorial secrets with us that she didn’t want passersby to hear. “If I were you, and please don’t think me presumptuous for saying that, but if I were you, I would just stay here. You’re in a very comfortable and safe hotel. I’d march back into this fine hotel and up to your cozy room and order room service and find an entertaining movie to order. That’s what I’d do.”
We thought that over for a moment. “But what about seeing the sights? What about the stories to tell about our trip?”
She shrugged. “Just go to the hotel’s gift shop and buy some postcards. Read the back and tell your friends you went there. Okay, now I must be off. I’ve got another group to meet several blocks away. Ta-ta, and enjoy your stay!”
We watched her walk away and join the current of the crowd on the sidewalk, and then we turned to look at each other with questions in our eyes.