24. The Silver Comb (Part 3)

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Intoxicated by the sense of independence, the young boy wandered through the market, soaking in the world around him. Brilliantly colored tents lined the streets, protecting the peddlers’ commodities from the scorching noontime sun. Farmers sold their produce from the backs of their mule-drawn wagons, and foreign merchants with dark skin and yards of cloth wrapped atop their heads dangled their jewels and riches before the passersbys, speaking with thick accents that Zephyr found hard to understand. Vendors and craftsmen leaned over their tables to capture his attention, pining for the assumed riches hidden within his pocket.

“Here, little boy!” croaked an elderly florist with fine specimens of her trade woven into her hoary braids, grabbing him by the shoulder, “Buy a daisy for your sweetheart? Or maybe a rose? For your mother? I’ll give you to for the price of one ─ a special National Day Sale!”

“Oh… ah, no thank y─”

“No, young lad, look at this!” the cobbler beside her imparted and snatched the boy away. “I’ve got a brand new pair of loafers with your name on it! What color do you like? Black, brown? Tan, navy? I’ve even got them in the national colors to help you celebrate our country’s birth with style!”

“Um… I already have a─”

“He’s already got a pair of shoes, ya halfwit!” another pair of hands yanked him toward yet another table. “What ya need, son, is a nice, new play thing, yeah? How ‘bout this fun, little spinnin’ top? Or maybe a toy soldier for ya? Ya look like a strong li’l man, don’t ya, eh?”

“Well, I really shouldn’t… I need to get a─”

“Come on, son. It’s okay to get something nice fir yerself on a holiday, yeah? How about this sturdy jumpin’ rope?”

“Or these brogues!”

“Or this bouquet!”

“Ah… I’m sorry… I…” Zephyr slowly backed away from the three insistent purveyors. “I really must go!” Young and agile, the boy turned tail and darted away with ease.

A few seconds later, half-way down the street, a horrendous gurgling erupted from his stomach and his nostrils underwent a sensory overload when he found himself surrounded by the mouth-watering scents of sizzling meat and sugary delights. Hundreds of chickens twirled on spickets over orange flames alongside roasting boars’ rumps and steaks smouldering on grills. Cream-loaded pastries and frosted cookies filled with jams of every known fruit lined the bakers’ tables. The gurgling turned into a roar, forcing his feet to shuffle toward the nearest stand.

            Fishing out a golden coin, the boy licked his lips and scoured the counter. His eyes flickered to and fro like an indecisive honey bee attempting to find the perfect nectar in a vast meadow of wild flowers. The chocolate moose, light and delicate, caught his attention first, but then he quickly transferred to a miniature pecan pie with a perfectly golden crust. His mouth foamed at the sight of the fluffy, red raspberry soufflé cups, and the candied apples dripping with red, gooey goodness made him whimper in excitement. Everything looked so delectable, he couldn’t decide! Then he saw it, the most toothsome treat of all ─ a dainty, double-decker cake with a middle layer of fresh strawberries and cream, drizzled in a pink, sugary sauce. The faint wisp of a memory of a smiling woman, presumably his mother before she’d disappeared and left him alone with his father, placing such a dessert in front of him tingled in the back of his brain, sending warm fuzzies all through his being as he handed the confectioner his coin and trotted off with his edible treasure.

The End

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