Gurney Drive

Gurney Drive

A Story by GenXer

I wrote this for a "City Smells" competition. It was also an excellent way of preserving my memories of Gurney Drive in Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia.


A small boy skips down Gurney Drive in the balmy, breezy twilight. About half an hour ago, the sun blinked away in the west. Now the moon floats above the Malaysian island of Penang.


Families and tourists crowd the pink paved sidewalk that runs along the coastline. A strong odor rides on the wind that is blowing across the adjacent muddy beach. The sulfurous stench grows stronger as the tide retreats.


The boy suddenly stops on the sidewalk, and then turns all the way around. His eyebrows twist into a frown and he pushes his lower lip out in a pout. Just a moment ago, he was walking with his mother, father, and sister, and now they have disappeared.


He looks at the narrow street where cars sit bumper to bumper, clouding the air with smelly bluish fumes that make his nose and eyes sting. Clusters of people pass closely on both sides of the boy, and he smells perfume and aftershave, and the occasional whiff of body odor, a reminder of the day's intense, dripping heat.


The child starts walking again, heading north with the sea to his right.


He passes the giant Gurney Plaza shopping mall, and a delicious aroma begins to curl around the edges of the stink coming from the beach. Following the scent, he walks faster and sees his destination, the outdoor Chinese food court. His face brightens with relief.


The boy starts to run. He weaves among all the walkers' legs; bare legs and trouser legs, pale legs and tanned legs. Then he darts between two parked cars and crosses the road, his heel just barely escaping the front tire of an approaching scooter.


The food court immediately charges all of his senses. Bold red paper lanterns dance in the frisky breeze over dozens of eating families. People stroll and browse the food carts, talking and laughing.


Giant woks sizzle and spit, sending out fragrant garlicky clouds. Sweet-smelling banana pancakes bake in cast iron pans. Rows of flat dried squid that smell of the sea hang on strings, flapping and spinning in the wind.


The boy stands at the edge of the old crumbling pavement, looking for his mother. His eyes roam the food court for several seconds, and then his face begins to crumple.


"Kuan-yin!" a female voice cries. "Kuan-yin!"


Kuan-yin turns and sees his mother hurrying toward him. His smiling father and sister wait near a char kway teow stall. Kuan-yin happily meets his mother's arms, his beaming face outshining the moon's.

© 2010 GenXer

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a good read.

Posted 11 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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1 Review
Added on November 8, 2010
Last Updated on November 8, 2010
Tags: Gurney Drive, Georgetown, Penang, Pinang, Malaysia, street, food, smells, air, hawkers, Chinese



Denver, CO

I'm a proofreader by trade, but I don't harass people about their grammar, spelling, or typos. It *really* doesn't matter unless it's something official or something that is about to be printed or pub.. more..

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A Book by GenXer