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Amanda Oosthuizen’s story Gloves of Gdańsk is the winner of our Poland & Bruno Schulz-inspired flash fiction competition.
Do you need gloves? Take the number 184 bus. Leave between Wood Green and Ally Pally. Folded shirts are tiered in the window, matching ties tucked into collars. You’ll need to knock. Eyes will appear above the old sheet. The door will open a crack.
Inside, you’ll glimpse a room, golden like the inside of an orange. The owner, in a black silk suit, will block your path. His head is shaved, a pink rawness to the scalp, slightly dewy. You wouldn’t want to touch it.
He’ll look you over. His criteria for judgment is a mystery so you’ll face him openly. But your secrets will tumble out forming a grotesque, steaming pile at your feet. He’ll kick them with his pointed shoes dividing the muck from the awkward. You’ll wish you were a child again, where time might unravel your mistakes and hope flavoured every breath.
You’ll tilt your head apologetically. A blink of derision will flit across his face but he’ll present the room with a sweeping arm.
Drawers cover the walls in syrupy oak; each labelled: Częstochowa, Łódź, Drohobych…. You’ll enter its warm glow.
In a drawer named Gdańsk, he’ll reveal hands suspended palm down as if playing the piano. He’ll remove a pair with slender fingers, tapering nails waxen at the tips like magnolia petals. You’ll look at your own hands, the sturdy thumbs and scaly skin silver with cold, and wonder if they need replacing. Perhaps it’ll make all the difference.
To your surprise, he’ll insert a pin into the wrist. With a bang, the hand will collapse. He’ll slip the gloves onto your hands; they’ll turn the colour of your skin.
On the bus, you’ll bite the fingertip, intending to remove the gloves, but tasting bread, heck, you’ll nip off a finger.