I open my inbox last night to discover that a certain writer’s organization had sent me a $20 gift certificate to Amazon.com. Scrolling to the bottom, I read in light grey print: “Dear Emily, Congratulations on winning an Honorable Mention in the WOW! Spring ’12 Flash Fiction Contest! Your story, Instructor Biography, is outstanding. So well written & creative. You paint a vibrant picture of an interesting world. We all loved it, and it also captured the heart of our honorable guest judge, literary agent Regina Brooks. Keep up the excellent writing! We look forward to reading your work in the future.”
So I don’t know how many people entered the contest, but I was in the top 20, and that is a huge deal for me since I’ve never won a writing contest in any way since I was 11 years old. I figured since the story is kind of fitness-related, I’d post it for y’all to read. It’s flash fiction, so it won’t take but a minute to read.
Sidewalks didn’t seem to be made for runners in No. 3 Village, but for the small children who squatted over the drains to relieve themselves and for women dressed in tulle skirts shielding their bob haircuts with umbrellas. Dana McKenzie would do what she had to, though, to keep herself in a routine. What did she care if the polluted air went down her windpipe like a live mongoose? It was either do this or bend herself like a twist tie in front of internet Yoga tutorials.
Dana jogged in place at the corner in front of a milk-tea shop called D-LITE. Two young girls in matching sweat suits looked at her sidelong, one rubbing a shock of black hair between her palms as if it were a Persian cat. At last the green light flashed; rickshaws wove around her as she ran to the other side of the street, hopping the brick embankment.
To her right stood skeletons of buildings, ahead an open field dotted with trash heaps, a few dogs poking their noses through them. These dogs seemed to populate the open areas of the village in the same way as retirees at their evening dance classes did, repeating motions solemnly but with fluidity.
One dog, however, stiffened upon spotting her as if she were a duck taking flight.
He padded toward her, a low growl in its throat, burnished curlicue tail rigid. She slowed until she was statue-still. The dog circled her then stood, looking at her intently the way her own Pointer back home had stood gazing into gopher holes. She hoped that all those people who claimed predators could smell fear were full of crap.
Dana heard voices to her right, and she looked over to see a fence on the edge of an apartment courtyard. The residents were all outside, and they came, poking arms through the holes in the fence and peeking over, smiles spread across their faces, laughing and talking to each other in the language that was still so new to her, in a dialect she could probably never imitate. The dog stood poised in front of her, daring her to run, as they snickered at her from behind the fence.
“What?” She threw her hands up in supplication toward the spectators. Her audience mimicked her and their giggles swelled into full laughter. She wished they would call the dog, throw a stick—do anything other than stand there and laugh at the stupid foreigner who thought she wouldn’t need a rabies shot.
A man in a blue suit left his post at the complex gate and walked toward Dana and the dog. He brought down his square-heeled shoe square onto the animal’s shoulder with a loud thunk. It squealed like a deflating helium balloon, and then skulked off toward a vacant building. The guard shuffled back toward the crowd and its waning interest.
This was the moment that set Dana McKenzie on her path to mastering Vinyasa Yoga.