Her shoes clip-clopped along the concrete like a sticky metronome. Approaching a hot dog vendor, she said, “What types of mustard do you have today?”

He responded, “I had a pure-bred Schnauzer but now he only has three legs.” He then handed her a sweating bottle of water before turning away.

A few feet away, a metal newspaper dispenser reflected the harsh sunlight. She stepped closer, blinking at the headline…

(Entries must touch on the topic in some way to qualify.)


New York City, 1945.

Gabriela slipped into her too-big clogs and closed the door behind her.

The outside halls always smelled like vomit and pee but at this moment it seemed very fresh and ripe as it clung to the stagnant air.

She wrinkled her nose and quickened her step.

Clipityclop… Clipityclop… Clipityclop…

The flapping laundry, already out for the day, hung between the buildings. Every square inch was filled to capacity.  Soot had already begun to settle on some of the clothes.

Mama usually had hers out by now, too. But not today.

Gabriela had noticed her mama’s belly was getting big again. That meant a baby. It made mama miss work at the sewing factory and stopped her from doing the laundry. Tonight, the watery cabbage soup would have to stretch even further.

Clipity Clop… Clipity Clop.

She slowed.

Sunlight was forbidden entry by way of the towering buildings surrounding the tenement.  Gabriela loved the way her wooden shoes echoed between the brick walls. They made music in the dark, ugly place.

She’d knicked the shoes off a stoop on the Westside. Gabriela kept them close lest they be used as firewood. Neither did she want to go back to wearing the worn pair of shoes passed down from her older brother. The cardboard inside always slipped sideways allowing tiny pebbles to embed themselves into her feet.  These were the best shoes she’d ever had.

Clipity Clop… Clipity Clop.

Gabriella didn’t like the shadows that lurked around the barrels and crates that littered the alley.   She had to stay alert.

She could see a cat nursing her latest litter of kittens. That will be mama soon, though little Roberto was still at the breast. And, lately, second from bottom, Maria, was snuggling in for a nip, too.

Gabriela had considered it. Last night as she took her place on the mat in front of the stove, she thought about wedging herself into the already full bed to get close enough to mama to suckle until she was full.  The idea was soon nixed though as her mother had discovered lice in her thick, matted mop of hair. Within minutes, it was shorn completely off and she was banned from the bed.

Clipity Clop… Clipity Clop.

She stayed her course when out of the shadows came a three-legged mongrel dog.  In its mouth it held an enormous rat.  Gabriela stopped and watched as he hop-walked to the corner to tear away at his prize.  Rumor had it that the neighbors from two floors down had chopped off the dog’s leg, boiled it with potatoes and served it with sour bread. The dog survived and didn’t seem to hold a grudge, but Gabriel had to wonder about those neighbors now.

Clipity Clop… Clipity Clop.

She felt the waft of fresh air funnel into the dank alley. It amazed her how the alley would suck in  all that fresh air from the street only to stop it before it got far enough to do anything.

Gabriela emerged from the darkness and smiled.  She blinked several times but still had to squint against the brightness as she continued on her journey.

Clipity Clop… Clipity Clop.

She stopped and stared at him in all his glory.  He was so big and fat that his greasy, stained apron couldn’t cover up his hairy belly. She could see it jiggle every time he moved.

She shivered.

Clipity Clop… Clipity Clop.

Gabriela stood at her journey’s end. The end of her rainbow. It smelled like heaven and reminded her that life would soon return to normal.

“I’ll take two. With mustard.  Extra on the second.” she said.

“Get lost you little sewer rat,” he said. “I don’t want your kind around here.


She moved a few steps away.

Customers came and went.

She watched as he blew his nose into his fingers and wiped it on the side of his apron. The stringy pieces of snot clung there with the relish he served. His hair was wispy over his billiard ball head. Sweat gathered at his yellowed collar and puddled into the folds of his neck.


She again stood in front of him.

“I said get lost. You’re bad for business.”

“But Uncle,” she said, “I need a sausage for the soup. There’s many mouths to feed and mama said you’d help.”

“Me? I’ll not help. I’ve got my own brood. Now away with you.”


She moved closer.

“This came in the post,” Gabriela held up a letter. “Papa’s coming home.


She watched his face melt into his chest. He looked like one big piece of quivering blubber now.

“He’s alive?”

“Oh, yes,” Gabriela said. “We received word about three weeks ago. Do you know how mama got with the last two babies?”

His upper lip quivered and she heard him fart. She craned her neck to see if he’d wet himself.

“You were supposed to take care of mama.  I’m not sure he’ll approve of your methods but perhaps with some sausage you may find redemption. I heard the priest say that at mass last week. I don’t know if he was speaking of sausage, though.”


She stood on her tippy toes looking into his food cart.

Slowly he wrapped two sausages in dark waxed paper and handed them to her.

Clipity…clop. Clipity…clop.

She sat on the sidewalk and slowly bit into one of the sausages. Boiled fat and mustard ran down her chin.  Gabriela wiped at all the drippings with her filthy hand in fear of wasting any.

In the distance she could hear the newsie shout, “Allies Secure Peace. They’re coming  home.”