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Sula in the river

Swimming pool : Picture prompt

I’m not sure just who Sula is yet, but she has decided to make an appearance a second time now, after this post.

Sula looked down from her fifth storey balcony at the silver-webbed ripples making their steady way across the body of the swimming pool in the cool air of the morning, and exhaled. She had not smoked in so long the back of her throat burned a little every time she drew in, but she wanted to get back to her old ways.

Wild ways involving boys, men, dances all night, very little food and water, a lot of drugs and booze, migraines, dark lipstick, red-streaked hair, hangovers, piercings, fast cars, wind in her face. She wanted back those who-gives-a-shit-about-anything kind of days.

As Sula coughed and took another drag, she realized that she was no longer alone in the early tropical morning, the pool now rippled from the middle outwards. A tall man swam free-style in easy long strokes, and though he had swim-goggles on, he seemed to look up at her every time he passed her balcony. Colored tattoos floated on his back as he swam. Though all she could see were blobs, she imagined a dragon, its tail flicked to the left shoulder blade and two ships below each shoulder, forever sailing in a beige sea, their sails buffeted by high winds, sailing away from each other yet remaining the same distance apart.

She drank in the smoke and swallowed, never blowing out, a trick she had learnt decades ago, in her teens. She looked around to see if anyone else could see her, but no, the balcony in the new home she had moved into faced a green hill, and was not visible to the neighbors. No children or nannies in the playing area beyond the pool. No guards walking out to patrol the condominium, no laborers coming in to work on renovations. A myna warbled from somewhere within the foliage on the hill, and far out on the main road a few cars plied to and fro, making her think of the big city she had left behind.

As she leaned on the cold metal of the balcony railing, she thought she met the man’s eyes as he looked up mid-stroke from inside his swim-goggles. She wore no bra, having just woken from sleep, and it would be easy to lower the strap of her spaghetti, and flash a milk-white breast when the man looked up next. She could then hook her finger and ask him up, go back in and wait.

Her finger burnt and the tiny butt whirled down and fell on the pavement beside the swimming pool. She had let it burn too long. From inside her apartment, a small boy’s voice wailed, “Mommy, poo-poo, Mommy, Papa says hurry!” She ran inside, beating the air around her to shoo away the smell of smoke.

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • bronxboy55 says:

    All that from a picture of rippling blue water. That’s impressive.

    • Damyanti says:

      Well, I also saw a flabby, frog-like man in a swimming pool once, and he had the two-ship tattoo…free-writing is also free-association, I guess.

  • LanaD says:

    I hope Sula shows up again as well. I liked her instantly, identified with her completely!

    • Damyanti says:

      Thanks, LanaD, and welcome to my blog. Am thrilled that you identified with one of my characters. I must be doing something right!

  • oh says:

    I hope Sula shows up again. Yes, write more!

  • John Ling says:

    Very very evocative. Does this story continue? I hope it does. =)

    Thanks John, I hope it does, too.

  • indigo bunting says:


  • I swear I could smell cigarettes when I read this. And I rather think that child needs a clean up. Yes, and I can definitely hear traffic too.
    You really do put your reader in the picture.

    I guess I get inside the character and write whatever comes to me. These are warm-ups for stories, so I hope I can take the reader in with me in my final stories as well. Thank you Gladys, you’re always kind.

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