Volume 1 Issue 31

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When I was a kid, there were abandoned houses scattered throughout the woods surrounding our house. Most were forsaken when the head of a family died and the remaining children had no interest in living in the sticks. Eventually, the houses would be ransacked and occasionally attract squatters but there was one house that managed to escape such a fate. It was a small concrete block house, built by distant relatives on a front lot of some less distant relatives.

They were quiet people and had one child. They built a dock and hung a tire swing and sent their child to the local school on the yellow school bus with all of his varying degrees of cousins. One day though, he came home sick from school and he never left his bed again. It was a long, harrowing illness and in the end, he was buried in the family cemetery a mile down the two-lane road that ran in front of their house.

Their loss was devastating. One night, they simply got in their car and never returned. People assumed they would come back once they were finished grieving but they did not. Perhaps they never finished grieving. Regardless, the little block house they had abandoned just stood there on the side of the road, filled with furniture and clothes, toys and cutlery. For some reason, no one ever ransacked it, even though the door was unlocked. No one ever squatted there either, despite the comfortable furnishings.

On my twelfth birthday, I had some friends over for a slumber party. I am a late September baby so when they arrived in the afternoon, we had quite a few hours of daylight to kill before it was dark enough for horror movies and pizza. My best friend at the time suggested that we go to the little block house, having heard it was haunted. I protested, said we would get in trouble, and she taunted me by calling me Miss Pretty Pure. Of course, I relented and made a point of leading the way. I hated being called Miss Pretty Pure and she knew it.

Stepping into the house was like stepping into a time capsule. Everything was olive green, yellow, and orange- the tell-tale colors of the seventies. The shag carpet, the flower print on the walls, the rough velour armchairs: all details were bought before any of us intruders were even born. There was an odd juxtaposition of cleanliness and vines, thorny rambling vines that we had to avoid in order to explore the six rooms of the place.

All the interior doors were open except one and this was the one I was commanded to open by my friends. I knew it was the boy’s bedroom, the place where he had exhaled his last breath. There was a sticker of a baseball in the middle of the door with the name Scott written across it. Little Scotty is what everyone called him.

I took a breath, walked down the hall and opened the door. His room was small but welcoming with fading sunlight streaming in through sun-bleached blue plaid curtains. There was a bookcase with a row of dusty little league trophies and a stack of curling comic books by the bed. On the bed was a yellow chenille bedspread and underneath it, for just a second, was Scott. He looked at me then closed his eyes and vanished. I did not jump because I was not scared. Instead, I just stepped back into the hallway and shut the door.

“We shouldn’t be here,” I said firmly and walked through the living room to the front door, giving no opportunity for taunting. I understood now why the house had been abandoned, why it was left as it was. I think we all understood for no one said a single word until we were in my backyard where my family was waiting for us with a cake and a stack of takeout pizzas. Scott had never seen twelve candles on a cake for him. This is what I was thinking as I blew them out, forgetting to make my wish. He was forever eleven and that was more haunting than the apparition.

The house is gone now, of course, along with the trees and palmettos and cousins. The family cemetery remains though with no one around to maintain it you can hardly see it from the road anymore. And as for Little Scotty, I am not sure what happened to him when they threw away his sick bed, his row of trophies and stack of comic books. Perhaps he is still there somehow but I know he is also here, in my memory forever. Little Scotty, my very first ghost.



And yes, that was a true story, or as true as a story can be when based on a twenty-seven-year-old memory. Isn’t that the way with haunted houses, that the ghosts are never as chilling as the truths of the living? More than the actual spirit, I remember the kitchen and the two cups sitting by the sink, white with a bold yellow stripe running around the middle. The disappearance of his parents breaks my heart even now, especially since I have an eleven-year-old, soon to be twelve-year-old, of my own.

This week, we have five tales of five different types of hauntings from contributors Kelli J Gavin, Sunil Sharma, Louis Kasatkin, Jean Wolfersteig, and Debjani Mukherjee. Very diverse in content but the common thread these five stories share is that ghosts take on all sorts of forms and can haunt a heart just as readily as a house.




The House Isn’t Haunted Anymore
Kelli J Gavin

He always knew it would be this way.  He spent six amazing months falling over every word she said.  He couldn’t get enough of her. Up late at night talking about all that they desired in the future. They spoke of past hurt and pain, the joy they experienced with each other and what they wanted from each other.  Every moment of every day, if he wasn’t with her, he wanted to be. He thought of her touch, the curve of her lip, the way she smiled when she caught his eye. He may have felt from the beginning that he loved her more. More than she loved him.  He was enamored with her. She may have cared for him, possibly even been entertained by him, but he never felt that she actually loved him. She was almost too good to true. She wasn’t particularly beautiful by today’s standards. Her hair didn’t shine. Her eyes didn’t glint in the sun. But she was funny, carefree and passionate.  She never did anything she didn’t want to do and she was good at everything.

When she left, she hugged him. Only a hug. Not a kiss, not a tight embrace, not a proclamation of another time and another place.  A hug. A simple meeting of bodies. She smiled yet her attention seemed elsewhere. Almost as if the act of saying goodbye to him was a chore and not voluntary. He tried to catch her eye to see if there was something more going on.  She wouldn’t look at him. She wouldn’t look into his blue eyes. Maybe she couldn’t. He wondered if she would have stayed if he had met her eye.

She now had been gone just as long as they had been together.  Six months together, now six months apart. He was convinced the home that they shared was haunted, mostly by her absence.  Little reminders of days gone by. An earring found under the bed. A whiff of her perfume even when he was home alone. He admired the way she folded the pillowcases in the linen closet. But then hated it at the same time.  He threw them on the floor and didn’t want to deal with the perfect folds at that time. Why did they have so many pillowcases? He found himself ordering pizza the way she liked it, then changed the order to something she would have turned her nose up at. He believed he could hear her humming when he came in from work each evening. He would stand in the dark back entryway of the home they shared and pray, that she would be there this time. She never was.

He wondered if there would ever be a time he could say, that it didn’t hurt so much. He prayed there would be a day when the house that they shared wasn’t haunted by her anymore.


Bio:

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, Hickory Stump, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                   Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com



 

The Ghost of R. Kipling
Sunil Sharma

Grandpa was a great storyteller. Here is his favorite:

In Shimla, I came across a hotel with a large sign: Discover history.

—What is the historic thing? I asked the portly owner, Wilson, the last Anglo-Indian family left.

—The Kiplings used to stay here in summers. We rebuilt the property. The Raj connection.

—Rudyard Kipling?

—Yes.

—Why demolition?

—It was in ruins. Remodeled the old colonial-style bungalow. Kipling enthusiasts visit us for that feel.

—OK.

The city was crowded with tourists. All hotels were full except this one, despite its good location, tranquility, nice garden and cheap tariffs.

Puzzling!

After checking in, I had this sudden creepy sense— of being watched by an unseen figure.

Spooky!

Never believed in the post-industrial mythology of haunting but something was definitely odd.

What was that?

I could not figure it out.

The answer arrived soon.

.

After a light dinner, smoke and stroll, I went to my corner room for the night.

And discovered R Kipling sitting in the chair, as a special guest!

Wanted to scream!

The author commanded serenely: Welcome to this encounter of a different dimension.

—Thanks. Why this conversation at this unearthly hour? I asked.

—You taught me for long.

I nodded.

—Chance brought you this place. The adepts are chosen for such Shakespearean trysts.

I smiled: Or Dickensian. Real haunting?

Rudyard: Writers never die. They get reborn. Resurrected by readers.

—Yes. I confirmed.

—Once you wanted to probe me. Go ahead.

I paused and then said: Yes, I do want to question you.

—Please do.

—Why did you paint the natives badly? The binary of whiteness and darkness? Civilized and savage? So predictable and overstretched. This supposed racial superiority of the West! Apes in need of salvation and light?

—Is it so? Give me the lines, angry post-colonial reader.

—Sure. I quote from that pathetic apology to imperialism, called “The White Man’s Burden”:

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

.

Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace….

The ghost replied: What is wrong with that paean to the West and its civilization?

—Why not a Caliban in this insidious text? Counterfoil and argument?

—His trace is there.

—Very weak, in fact.

—Not everybody is Shakespeare. Besides, the age of empire is over.

—Sorry! The neo-imperialism is back and you are their latest icon.

He was mum.

I observed: Writers are either a presence or a specter. You have become a ghost that haunts the West and the East. Things change. The sullen peoples rising up against the empires everywhere. Half- devils against the full devils!

Silence.

—The country of your birth represented so poorly! Disgusting racialism!

He remained quiet.

—Savage wars, to be reversed. Retold. We reclaim, re-write R. Kipling!

He turned paler and then….

End it your way, reader!


Bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



Les Autres
Louis Kasatkin

The unexplained disappearance of the reclusive author had never been properly investigated, at least not to the satisfaction of his fans, his readers and most of all his adopted son, the wannabe reporter on the local rag.
For years this state of dissatisfaction festered amongst the interested parties, who if nothing else managed to commemorate the renowned scribbler’s vanishment with an annual pilgrimage of sorts.
Then one year with the weather being particularly inclement, even for the usually desolate Scottish lochs, only the reporter had made it to the venue, the deserted house. Whereupon finding himself alone resolved in an instant to make a foray into the abandoned domicile to perhaps in his own mind satisfy an unquenchable curiosity.
Nothing actually came of that quixotic foray, nothing that is apart from a chance discovery, in the drawer of an antique dresser of a manuscript.
A suicide note perhaps? maybe not. A last will and testament? no one, however, questioned its authenticity when it was scanned and reproduced in the local weekly under the adopted son’s byline. The absent author alluded to his own ineluctable disappearance in the form of a poem. Simply perhaps to add to whatever mystery was bound to ensue from his vanishment.

When winter’s cadence sounds,
burn their pictures
the photographs of the dead
burn them,
so that they shan’t
trouble you again
when winter’s cadence sounds;

the gardens are shrouded
in snow
upon which no earthly foot
will fall,
and the door chimes dormant
hang suspended by a thread
of your own disbelief;

an imperceptible menace
waiting for a breath,
a snap of cold winter’s
air to cut the thread
and send it crashing,

crashing onto the floor,
where you shan’t hear it
except in your imagination’s
ear firmly fixed on the
sound of winter’s cadence.


Bio:

Louis Kasatkin is Founder of the renowned U.K.based Destiny Poets and Editorial Administrator of http://www.destinypoets.co.uk. Other than that Louis is an inveterate blogger and polemicist, local community activist and has been described as a general nuisance to the status quo. The rest you can google for yourselves.



 

I MOVED
Jean Wolfersteig

You woke me in the middle of the night in my last year of college. Standing at the bottom of my bed – tall and blue with a bandage circling your head like a turban – you looked so real I thought I’d left the back door open. Then, you faded away. In the days that followed, I found the shower running, doors wide open, and knick-knacks rearranged when I returned home from my classes. The house was built in the 1800s, and no doubt its bones ached with some tragedy. I imagined you were angry you’d been seen.

I moved

to a trailer on the other side of the county where I’d found a job. I relocated from a liberal college town to a rural hamlet to work at the local psychiatric hospital. It was a huge culture shock. Woefully, when I came home at night, the doors I’d locked in the morning were open, the shower running, the knick-knacks shuffled. I realized you’d moved with me. I went on vacation. The landlord found the doors open, the shower running – and fifteen hundred feet of telephone wire missing from beneath the trailer. There was a cemetery across the street. What did you have in mind?

I moved

to a tiny house on a hill with a bathroom bigger than the bedroom, living room, and kitchen combined. I lived there happily for a few months. All was quiet. I thought you’d found your place in that cemetery and finally left me to my own life. Until one night while I was sound asleep in the darkened room, my cat flew through the air, screaming and scratching at my arms and face. The air was heavy and drenched in evil. I hurried outside and waited on the stoop for the sun to rise. The cat took off for good.

I moved

to an SRO at the psychiatric hospital where I worked. It was a strange place to live. Long hallways lined with single rooms and communal bathrooms, occupied by poor people doing shift work. Food service workers. Housekeepers. Ward staff. Cooking meals illegally on single burners in their rooms. Buying and selling drugs in the common areas. Telling stories about crazy people. Trying to feel better off than patients, as if they weren’t imprisoned, too. I kept to myself. Ate packaged soup and crackers. Showered while others were not around. Read. Went to work. I couldn’t feel you anywhere. I supposed I’d finally found a place to live where you didn’t feel welcome. But neither did I.

I moved

to a lovely little house in another town, less isolated, more tolerant. Almost perfect. No more anxieties about fitting in. No more worries about your ghostly presence. But something isn’t right. The air goes cold, ruffling the hair on my arms and the back of my neck. And there’s a bad smell in my shower drain, like ammonia and rotten eggs.

Maybe it isn’t the house that’s haunted.


Bio:

Jean Wolfersteig retired as CEO of a psychiatric hospital in upstate New York and turned to writing fiction and teaching yoga. She is currently looking for a home for her novel, The Room Where the Elephants Go to Die. Her short fiction has appeared in the Akashic Books Mondays Are Murder and Duppy Thursday series and will soon appear in their Fri Sci-Fi series. She lives in the Mid-Hudson Valley, and, in the tradition of her beloved Catskill Mountains, thrives on ghost stories.



Haunted House
Debjani Mukherjee

Titli kept running up and down through the spiral stairs of her new house. She just loved her new house. Before they used to stay in a flat where there was hardly any place to play but here in this big house with so many rooms Titli is very happy to fly around. One by one she checked all the rooms and selected the one in the southwest corner of the house, the one which has the biggest window of all, opening to the garden.

The whole day went in unpacking. Her parents took the room at the opposite side of the long hallway joining both the rooms at both ends. Titli unpacked all her toys and arranged them on the shelves beside the bed. Put all her clothes in the closet and arranged her little bed with a pink bed sheet. And then she hopped to the garden. She just loved the garden with so many trees. In Kolkata, there were very little trees planted only by the side of their building but here she got a whole garden to play in. She was no more sad about leaving her friends in Kolkata. She actually started loving her dad’s transfer here.

After dinner, Titli kissed her parents good night and went to her room. The big jalousie wooden window on the garden side was kept open. Titli slipped in her bed but couldn’t sleep. This was her first day in the house so she felt a little uneasy. She went to the window and closed it as she was unfamiliar with the solid darkness of the countryside. She didn’t remember when she fell asleep but woke up in the middle of the night by a whistling sound. It was coming from the garden. Titli tried to sleep ignoring it but the sound kept growing and after a while, it became so clear that she felt like it was coming just from the other side of the window.

She got afraid and hid her little body under the bed cover. But the sound kept growing even louder and this time she felt that it was coming right from under her bed. She shivered in fear and clutched the pillow hard pressing her face into it she wanted to call her parents but the room was too far and she knows her voice won’t reach to them. Suddenly the whistle stopped Titli slowly pulled down the cover from her head and looked around the room. There was no one in the room and just then the bed moved. Titli screamed like mad but no sound came out from her throat. She screamed again but only a silent gush of tears spilled through her eyes.

The bed stopped moving. She sat up on the bed bathed in her own sweat. Collecting courage she stooped down the bed to see what was there under the bed, but there was no one. She felt a little more courageous and stepped down the bed to run to her mother. She sprints to the door only to find it closed. She kept the handle twisting but couldn’t open it. She screamed in horror and banged the door vigorously but no sound came out at all. She felt her heart in her mouth and fell down on the floor and there it was written clearly with blood “Turn around I am just behind you.”


Bio:


Debjani Mukherjee
 is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories, and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines.




 

Volume 1 Issue 30

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Listen to the podcast episode for Issue 30.

In this week’s issue, we have seven different visions of scenes just out of the corner of the protagonists’ eyes. Through these stories, we see that these incomplete sideways glances afford clues that our imaginations feast upon, confirming hopes as well as suspicions. (And among all the insight we gain from these indirect views, perhaps one lesson is that one should be a little more cautious regarding the tilt of the screen.)

This week’s contributors include: John Sheirer,  Sunil Sharma, Kelli J. Gavin, deb y felio, Kira, and Jenny Birch.



Change is Good?
John Sheirer

She sat in her favorite overstuffed reading chair in the early light of a Sunday morning at home. He peeked over her shoulder to see her cell phone. Their bad-tempered cat perched just behind her head atop the chair back, blocking his view of her phone.

She wasn’t reading today–just clutching that damned phone six inches from her nose.

“Finished the book for book group?” he asked, sauntering behind her chair to try for a better view of her phone while pretending to look out the window into the backyard.

She drew the phone down almost imperceptibly, tilted it just a few degrees away from his line of vision.

“Yesterday,” she replied. He hadn’t noticed her reading yesterday, something she usually did most of Saturday afternoon. He couldn’t actually remember what they did yesterday afternoon. A movie? No. Walk? No. Late lunch? No.

The cat wasn’t really bad-tempered. The cat just didn’t seem to like him, instead preferring to snuggle near her head on the chair back and stare at him. Judgmentally? he wondered. Maybe.

Her phone emitted the tiny whoosh of a text message launching into the mysterious world of cyberspace. He never texted. He couldn’t remember seeing her text before either.

He craned his neck to see her phone screen. When she got that phone a year ago, she had taken a photo of him and installed it as her background photo. She said she liked the blank look on his face. “Not smiling, not frowning,” she at the time. “Just being you.”

He thought about how she carried his image close to her in her purse or, better yet, in her pocket, thin layers of fabric between his face on the phone screen and her skin.

The texting screen evaporated from her phone just before he could focus his eyes on the tiny words there. He recognized the home screen with her icons arranged into all four corners of the glowing surface. But his face had been replaced on her phone screen. Instead, there was a photo of the cat spread across that same chair back.

“Why is the cat on your phone?” he asked.

“Hmm?” she murmured. “Oh, no reason. Sometimes change is good. You know?”

He didn’t know.

The cat stared at him simultaneously from the phone screen and from the back of her chair.

Then she held the phone’s power button down until everything went dark.


Bio:

John Sheirer lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, with his wonderful wife Betsy and happy dog Libby. He has taught writing and communications for 26 years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, where he also serves as editor and faculty advisor for Freshwater Literary Journal (submissions welcome). He writes a monthly column on current events for his hometown newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and his books include memoir, fiction, poetry, essays, political satire, and photography. Find him at JohnSheirer.com.




The Exchange
Sunil Sharma

A quick exchange of smiles but could not escape him.

They sat on the sidewalk café. She wanted to catch the early-morning glory of the ancient city.

—I love the way sun paints Venice in gold! She exclaimed.

He nodded, adjusting the camera.

—I want the best shots. He said to the woman.

—Me, too.

The shoot began.

He asked her to tilt her head a bit against the bridge in the back. The Cathedral shone brightly. The waters sparkled. A gentle breeze blew across a slumbering street. The view was magical!

She walked with certain poise. Stopped. Bent a glance and smiled!

Setting his heart on fire! That Mona Lisa smile. The very quality was ethereal.

Then he realized it was not for him—but, maybe, for someone else. For a second, her eyes wandered, face lit up and lips formed into a grin, faint but sublime.

Out of the corner of the eye, he saw her fleetingly smile at a stranger clad in red T and blue denim, holding up a long stem of red rose. He smiled back. The tall rival stood inconspicuously among the American tourists and when the photographer looked back, the competitor vanished in air.

Afterwards, her face became serene.

Action in a jiffy!

Robert Browning echoed in an agitated mind;

…she liked whate’er 

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere

Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, 

Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without 

Much the same smile? 

Am I reading too much into a smile? He thought.

After some time, they went down to the bridge. She posed by pouting like Marilyn Monroe. She radiated joie de vivre that was infectious—waving at the kids, gondoliers; the Vietnamese waiters; Asian and Chinese tourists; nuns; old lady residents with small dogs; in fact, everything. Even he got affected and smiled at the world, forgetting a competing suitor.

She wanted to capture the famous spots.

Some poses were solo; others, in crowded plazas, train and bus stations, museums, and, the  water taxis.

—I want a bit of Venice for posterity! She exclaimed, this beautiful French woman, hardly 24, with a lilting voice.

He followed as pet. Both sought immortality. He, from photography; she, modeling. Their worlds were different, yet converged in Paris apartment full of ambition where ethnicities hardly mattered.

While returning to the hotel room, she was a bit tensed, glancing back, often.

His peripheral vision registered these sideways movements of a person in perpetual rebellion.

For a sec, he saw a familiar figure but turning around, only a blur of action—a spot of red fading in a side alley.

They slept heavily after lunch.

When he woke up, she was not there.

A scrawled note: Sorry! Email the pictures.

Hit him hard!

Going through the pictures, he got the vital clue: In a frame, outer edge of the scene, a blurred figure, in red T, holding up a long-stemmed red rose…


Bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/




What I See
Kelli J Gavin

I see more than most people
Maybe because I am always watching
Knowing that if I pay attention
At some point it will happen
Out of the corner of my eye
I see exactly what I need to
The smiles as I turn to walk away
The joy of my kids when I say yes
My husband’s look of adoration
My friends wiping tears in laughter
Of course I see many things when
I am face to face with other people
But it is that afterthought
That sinking- in feeling
That emotion that isn’t always shared
That is what I look for
That is what I see
Out of the corner of my eye
I see exactly what I want to


Bio:

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                      Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com



Looking Both Ways Before Crossing
deb y felio

Out of the corner of each eye, her only vision of world events, Her world of narrow views and half formed opinions about what she thinks she sees. Half exposed, half hidden, sideways glances and steps keep her adjusting to cracks in her perspective.

She once believed looking inward toward the other corners would offer a balance — the two extremes in the middle, but the middle was only a nose trying to sniff out the truth.

She often wishes for eyes operating from a focused straight ahead and forward approach. An approach providing more certain and collaborative witnesses verifying and affirming a common rather than an exceptional reporting.

Once considering operations to bring her eyes into a more popular and accepted form, the surgeon rolled his stool to her side, looked her in the eye and asked her, if not she then who would bring to the public forum another, often overlooked, view of the world?


Bio:

deb y felio is a witness poet exploring and writing on the mundane, the miraculous and the under-represented sides of historic and current issues. deb lives and writes in the hills of Boulder Colorado and is active in the Denver Lighthouse for Writers and the Stain’d art community. Her work is published in multiple online sources) and in the print anthologies Hay(na)ku ( Eileen Tabios, editor) and in Minnie’s Diary, A Southern Literary Review October 2018.



Out of the corner of my eye
Kira

Out of the corner of my eye
I can see you’ve sent a reply
My blood pumps, quick!
I must take my phone and… blink!
Another notification appears.
Distracted, the thought of you disappears
And I’m lost in a firework of stimulation.
Yet, I quickly realise who should receive my adoration
And, out of the corner of my eye
I wish I could see my favourite Gemini.


Bio:

Kira is a writer and blogger as well as a languages teacher. She creates short stories and flash fiction, and is in the process of writing her first book. She also writes about mental health, video games, teaching, and likes to show off her photos.

All of this, because she aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.

Onwards to her writer’s den!
http://www.jackofwritingtrades.wordpress.com
http://www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades



By the End of the Day
Jenny Birch

She couldn’t look directly at them, or the whole thing would be ruined.

Paul would have a fit if he saw them, cloistered behind the new drapes they’d spent all weekend hanging.  But she knew as long as she didn’t look at them, they’d stay in one spot, more or less quietly.  She just wanted to sit.  Just for a minute.

“You can’t see us!” someone squealed, rustling the sheer fabric.  Maybe less quietly, then.  But at least still in one spot.

“Where on earth did my precious babies go?”  She tipped her chin to the ceiling and arched her neck so that she could scan all parts of the room – except the windows.  “They were just here a second ago!”

Four tiny eruptions of joy.  Her skull echoed with the reverberation of it and she resisted the urge to tip sideways, bury her head in one of the throw pillows.  She almost gave in, but then noticed the jelly splotch she’d land in, remnant of the rainy-day picnic she’d granted at lunch.  She’d have to wipe it up before Paul got home.

The oldest jostled the younger ones.  “Shhh!  Not too loud, or she’ll find us!”

She tipped her head so that she could just barely see them, piled like stacking cups in the too-small space.  She knew what Paul would say: They’re going to hurt themselves!  Or rip the curtains! 

But she would have gladly sacrificed the drapes a hundred times over for these precious seated moments.  There wasn’t even anyone on her lap!

“Let me think,” she sing-songed.  “Now a few minutes ago, they were in the kitchen having a snack, and then –“ she tapped her chin – “they were gone!  Like magic!”

The baby, truly a baby no longer, laughed and then snorted, which set the rest of them off.  They collapsed in a heap, the drapes tangled around them.  She wished she could turn her head, make sure they weren’t pulling the rod from the wall.  She hesitated, then turned away.  It wasn’t worth the gamble.  The drapes were probably fine.

The garage door rumbled unexpectedly, a full twenty minutes earlier than she’d been expecting.  She shifted, flipping the pillow jelly-side down and fluffing it up.  There was nothing to be done about the mess in the kitchen; no use even trying now.

The kids started pulling away from one another.  “Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy’s home!”  Just as Paul’s footsteps reached the top of the basement stairs, there was a great, roaring rip, and the drapes tumbled to the floor.  He was opening the door into the family room when the rod, with a groan, followed it, clattering to the floor and scratching the hardwood.

Paul surveyed the scene with a frown and furrowed brow.

She rose and went to the children, smiling her apology at Paul.  At the windows, she draped herself in her children.  They nestled into her, wiggling against her chest.  Loud, chaotic, but at least all in one spot.


Bio:

Jenny Birch is a middle school ELA teacher and freelance writer who writes primarily contemporary and YA fiction. She hails from Pittsburgh, PA, where she lives with her wonderful husband and two crazy-awesome sons. She is an active member of the SCBWI and Penn Writers. She can be found on Twitter @TheRealMrsBirch




Volume 1 Issue 29: There was no other way.

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Listen to the podcast for Vol. 1, Issue 29.

“There was no other way.”

How do you read that? Do you think of it as the truth, in the way a determinist might? Does it make your existentialistic heart rage?

Or do you get all swoony for stories of fate and destiny?  Soulmates and fortune tellers?
Do you look at the palms of your hands as maps that you must follow?

There was no other way, no choice. How many times have you been in a situation where you thought that there was only one option, one door to open?

This week we have six stories that explore these very questions from Karen Schauber, deb y felio, Francine Witte, Kelli J Gavin, Debjani Mukherjee, and Sunil Sharma.

Enjoy! And please come back tomorrow for the (first ever!) podcast featuring two of these stories, read aloud by yours truly.



 

Conscious Uncoupling
Karen Schauber

Harold drums his fingers on the gummy Formica tabletop. The thumb leading the procession picks up the pace. A second cup of coffee now cold, stale, and thin, sits untouched. Donna, he grumbles, late again.  He tries convincing himself she’s not worth it; no sense inviting further humiliation.

Time to blow this pop stand, he murmurs. He digs his aluminum chair’s heels in, scraping the mustard yellow linoleum and drives back hard into the wall. The metallic screech raises hairs all around in aggravated protest. The woman with the bouffant updo seated at the adjacent table turns away as if to signal her displeasure. Harold pushes up out of his seat; a loping simian asserting dominance.

At checkout, he twirls a handful of silver coin on the counter. They glitter like whirling dervish. The cashier’s eyes light up with delight. His hand waves away her adulation and the receipt, before slamming the heavy glass door of the diner behind him. There will be no reconciliation today.

Flashing a quick look up and down the street, Harold surveys the oncoming traffic for Donna’s pink Declasse Tornado. He bid pretty low for the beauty at Dixie’s auto auction last June and got her for a steal. Now she’s been forked over in the settlement. The optics are not good. He shields doubt and embarrassment behind cobalt blue Ray-Bans and stands fidgeting in tired cowboy heels a while longer.

He’ll give her a few more minutes. Truthfully, he has nowhere else to go.

Across the street, he slides into the parked dusty brown Chevrolet slumping low into threadbare upholstery and pushes up the visor for a good sightline to watch her arrival. She never does show.

He will say nothing. Bringing up her defiance would be like inviting two bobcats into a burlap bag. Instead, he will call the lawyer in the morning. Another 300 bucks down the drain. There is no other way.


Bio:

Karen Schauber is a seasoned Family Therapist practicing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her earlier writing is non-fiction and details three decades of psychosocial and analytical cases. Flash Fiction is a new and welcome adventure for her. Karen’s flash fiction is published and forthcoming in 25 Literary Magazines and Anthologies including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bending Genres, CarpeArte, Ekphrastic Review, Fiction Southeast, and Poems for the Writing: A Textbook. The upcoming Group of Seven Flash Fiction Commemorative Anthology celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters is her first editorial flash venture http://GroupofSevenFlashFiction.weebly.com. In her obsession with flash fiction, Karen also facilitates http://VancouverFlashFiction.weebly.com. She can be reached directly at http://karenschauber.weebly.com



 

Hidden Discussions
deb y felio

We thought about this carefully
before setting out the plan,
despite the numerous casualties
we assumed people would understand.

How to spin the message
give it a proper reason
without all the baggage
that didn’t sound like treason.

The profits that were gained
came at a price of course,
the progress we obtained
required a little force,      

That’s the story we are telling,
the press we are releasing,
the product we are selling,
the palms we are re- greasing.

We cannot admit that we ignored
the data from the experts
who begged us and implored
not this!  children will get hurt.

Was there something more philosophic,
something else we could have done
maybe less catastrophic
and still we could have won?

Perhaps but then there wasn’t time,
immediacy was the essence —
there were other hills to climb,
give the ratings extra presence.

When someone asks what’s going on
what’s causing all the chatter
reassure them nothing’s wrong
and the issue doesn’t matter.

So set aside the could have beens
and what we’ll never say,
the official statement to the crowd –
“there was no other way.”


Bio:

deb y felio is a witness poet exploring and writing on the mundane, the miraculous and the under-represented sides of historic and current issues. deb lives and writes in the hills of Boulder Colorado and is active in the Denver Lighthouse for Writers and the Stain’d art community. Her work is published in multiple online sources) and in the print anthologies Hay(na)ku ( Eileen Tabios, editor) and in Minnie’s Diary, A Southern Literary Review October 2018.



 

Love has rules
Francine Witte

Love has rules

and you can’t change ‘em. I tell this to Harley again and again.

Been like this forever, I say. He ignores me, but still I try.

I sit him in his favorite chair. all fluffy pillows and doilies where the fabric quit.

I say, Harley, you gotta start bringing me flowers. Daisies are my favorite. You can pick ‘em out back.

He is already shifting his shifty feet, big clunky boots that are waiting to walk him straight back to Loretta.

Who I know all about, and the spell she cast over him. With her big brown eyes, her fingers quick as a bluebird. Harley once told me that the first rule of love is to obey your heart and that’s what led him to Loretta.

Well, I gave him that. At least, that time he listened. But if he was gonna stay with me. He would at least have to act sorry. And sorry meant flowers.

So right now, that’s all I want to know. Where the hell are my flowers? He finally says, they are busy out back, and not ready to pick. And I needed to give them time to grow.

I remind him that the rules of love say that time has no meaning. How it seems too long when you’re away from the one you desire.

Speaking of which, are we done here? This is taking forever, he says.

Not for me, I tell him. Time just flies when you’re around.

And that’s when he gets up to leave. Leave me for the very last time.

Days later, at his funeral, I strew his sorry casket with daisies. Nice, big plump ones they sent from the store. I squeeze out a tear, but no one believes it. Not Loretta, who is still angry about the stabbing, not the policeman over there in the corner waiting to take me to jail, and certainly not the newspaper guy, who named me Crazy Daisy and chuckled when I said that I was just obeying the rules of love, and when it’s clear that a love thing is over, you need closure or something, and if only Harley had listened for once, it might have been different.

But since it wasn’t different, really, there was no other way.


Bio:

Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.



 

No Other Way
Kelli  J Gavin

When she left him, it wasn’t a moment too soon.  She had stayed for far too long but couldn’t imagine her life any other way.  She felt stuck. Stuck where she lived. Stuck in this situation. Stuck with him. She needed to get away, but where would she go?

5 years together was a long time. A lifetime. An eternity when you didn’t want to be there. 5 years was never something to brag about. 5 years meant nothing except for 5 years of insults, 5 years of assault, 5 years of beatings. He raised his hand to her 4 days after they were married. 4 whole days. But of course he didn’t mean it. He was a passionate man, and she had upset him so much when she wore that short skirt and too much makeup for his liking. She was told she was married and didn’t need to dress and look like that anymore. She was told that if she ever did it again, she would have more than a busted lip.

When stitches were needed the first time, it was because she was a half hour late getting home from work.  A half hour. She stayed late to earn some more money to pay for a nice birthday gift for her husband. She did it for him. And how was she repaid? With a gash three inches long splitting her eyebrow.  She told her friend she tripped and ran into the open front door. She smiled and tried to joke about her clumsiness. She was anything but clumsy. Didn’t she use to be a graceful dancer? Her friend knew she was lying. This was the first of may lies.

She lost the baby when he kicked her so hard in the stomach after she decided she wasn’t cooking dinner that night.  She felt so sick all day and had no appetite to eat. Maybe a few crackers later if she was up to it. She had plenty of leftovers to serve him, but leftovers were never good enough.  How dare she feed him “food that shouldn’t be served to animals!” She ran when she saw the rage in his eyes and balled fists that were never going to relax. The running made him more angry. She didn’t want to make him angry. She realized that too late as she was running from him. Running to save herself. Running to save the baby.

The baby was not saved. But she was. That night, she told the doctor in the ER how many times he had hurt her. She knew it was the last time. That night, her mom and friend packed up all of her belongings. She would never return to him. She was ready to leave town, if only for a short time. But she knew she had to leave. She would create distance. So goodbyes were said and tears were shed. There was no other way.


Bio:

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com



 

 A Lesson**
Debjani Mukherjee

From a very early age Kritika was attuned with the admiring looks in the eyes of her fellow male classmates. A blooming rose always gains the attention of the bumble bees. Kritika understood this fact right in her early teen but never indulged those bees in her life. When she walks through any public place, few heads always turns following her motion just like the sunflowers which turn their head following the direction of the big bright fiery sun and why not!  Kritika’s beauty and charm is no less than the monarch of the universe. With Her creamy white competition, hazelnut eyes, rosy plump lips and perfect figure she looks no less ravishing than a star. She is now habituated getting love proposal almost every week which she obviously turns down. Her close friends have great fun times discussing about the number of new Romeo’s she earned till date. Kritika smiles at their comments but never indulges the discussion. She is more happy discussing books and music instead of these meaningless things.

Kritika is now twenty-one and studying law, nourishing the dream in her eyes to become a top corporate lawyer one day. Her fan following in the law school is no less than the past but her reserved personality leaves her male friends with no option than to whiff cold breathes into their chest. With age people develops ego and with the fear of getting humiliated they learn to act with patience and understanding. The male acquaintance of the law college thus refrain themselves from proposing Kritika as her reticent personality and quite nature bespeaks the message “not interested’ in bold letters.

But there are always few people in this queer world who believes in the never give up theory. Subhash is one of them. No matter how well the fact is acknowledged in the premises of law school that Kritika is not a girl to wish for, Subhash is not ready to give up. He is happy to act like some ambitious soul alluring himself with this impossible dream, which has every chance to get rejected in near future. He sets his voyage for the mission marry Kritika with the best whack of his. He is a CA, already running a farm successfully and joined the law graduating course to get more clients of big companies. He is elder than most of the students in the college and of course already successfully earning good money. So he has got some respect among the students. He is a little short in height and his eyes are ornamented with spectacles. His fair skin goes red whenever he becomes a part of a college canteen debate as he has a tendency to prove his point with utter conviction. He became a member of the same group in which Kritika dwells and keep finding ways to praise and support Kritika in anything and everything.

Kritika understands the meaning of every gesture Subhash performs from passing her the canteen tea glass before anyone else, paying all the food bills of the group voluntarily, talking always in support of Kritika, she surely understands it all. Subhash is not leaving any corner untouched but Kritika was nowhere to give in for any of his efforts. As somehow these constant endeavors of Subhash to impress her makes her feel very uneasy and embarrassed. One day he even visited their house by surprise and chatted with her mother for long which Kritika didn’t like at all.

Theirs is an evening college as many people like Subhash who are already established in other field intend to pursue the law graduation as an add-on qualification to enrich their portfolio. After the classes they walk back home in a group. Some of them who come from far walk to the bus stop to catch a bus. Some take the bus to the railway station to board a train and some like Kritika whose house is just at the walking distance walks back to her house. And here something Subhash does every evening which absolutely disgusts Kritika. Subhash who stays at the next town comes to college riding his bike and every day after the classes are over and the group starts walking together to a point where they gets apart for their respective destinations Subhash pushes his bike along with them saying that he want to be with the group for more. But the true reason is known to all which makes Kritika so embarrassed that she wants the ground to split and submerge into it.

That evening after everyone leaves for their own destination Subhash takes out a book from his bag and gave it to Kritika for a read saying “it’s a great book please read it. I know you will love it.” Unwilling in heart Kritika takes the book as it is not mentioned as a gift , though she could see the shining brand new cover of the book “Thakur Barir Andormohol” ( the inner life of the Tagore house) by Chitra Deb. But as it is not mentioned as a gift, turning down a good book like this seems illogical so she takes it without any word. After reaching home she opens the book to read and discovers a single line written on the empty page at the beginning of the book. “Gifted to the person I love” no to or from mentioned just a line which says it all but leaves her with no option to confront it. Kritika got extremely angry, after being an embarrassment for her every evening now this man got the guts to pronounce it loud too!! She is absolutely disgusted and wants to teach this educated idiot a fitting lesson for all his calculated steps towards this disgusting climax.

After few days Kritika gives the book back to Subhash, thanking him casually she proceeds to her class for the lecture. Subhash gets disheartened by not receiving any reply from Kritika. May be the message was too passive in manner he thought. He was going to put the book in his bag when a folded paper slipped to the floor from the folds of the book. Subhash’s heart started racing, he could almost hear the lub dub repeating wildly inside his chest like a hammer. He grabbed the paper and sat on the staircase at the end of the huge corridor of the collage and as he expected it’s a letter.

My Love, 

                 You are the most beautiful thing ever happened to me. I fell in love with you right at the moment when I saw you for the first time. I never believed in love at first sight but see it happened to me. The intensity of my love is at a constant raise. Increasing with the waves of time my days and nights are getting more consumed by your thoughts.  My imaginations come to an end when I think how my life would be, if it’s not with you! I could only weave the pictures of my future around you. I know you too love me with the same intensity so let’s paint a life together with the colour of each other’s life.

                                                                                Yours and only yours

                                                                                            Kritika “

Subhash is so happy that he couldn’t even realize where he is and all his emotions of the joy of victory got sketched on his face instantly . The best girl in the college is now his. He got what others never could. He surely is the best so the most beautiful girl in the college is now his girlfriend and may be the would be wife. When he will walk with Kritika the other boys of the college will burn their eyes with envy. Having a girlfriend as beautiful as Kritika is no less than a dream come true. He was always an achiever, minting money with both hands in so early edge he was always way ahead than others. So if not him, then who could win the princess of the college!! Certainly Kritika couldn’t have found a better boyfriend than him. Along with the high bank balance in this early age now he has achieved the most beautiful girl also surely he will be the talk of the town for the rest of his life. He thoughts kept dancing on his eyes but then something caught his eyes at the other side of the page. It’s just a short note of one line. “P:S- I Love you Subho from the bottom of my heart.”

Subhash felt as if he missed his heartbeats for a while. The happiness of achieving the best girl in the college and then discovering it’s just a myth left him as a stone on the stairs. Kritika who was watching him from far hiding behind the door of the class smiled a little. She hurried to Subhash as if she didn’t notice his previous happiness and now this acquit disappointment flashing on his face. She said “Oh! Subhash I forgot an important paper inside the book please can I have it back?” she said it in one go pretending to be worried losing the paper.

Subhash stretches out his hand holding the letter, with a bewildered look in his eyes which gave Kritika an indomitable urge to laugh out loud but she kept her face straight and came back to her class room with the mock letter in her hand which she wrote to some nonexistent Subho just for this purpose. She was content with the thought that she taught the self-obsessed man with huge superiority complex a good lesson. She never liked Subhash flaunting his money in the canteen as if none of them could afford the snacks and those high volumes arguments of his where he never cared to listen to others view absolutely irritated her like anything. What did he thought Kritika will be allured with his show off!! She went to her seat wearing the smile still on her lips. She knows she did it brutally but what to do there was no other way.

(**Note from the editor: This story did exceed the word limit but there are exceptions to every rule.)


Bio:


Debjani Mukherjee
is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines.


 

The monster slayer
Sunil Sharma

The  trail goes to the cave of the monster. Slay your father-killer there.

The Old Seer to Kelly, the reluctant warrior.

The man with the golden locks and eyes of a poet would have rejected the challenge earlier but priorities change.

Then the nagging question: Why did it happen to me?

He was determined to punish the elusive beast.

As per the directions of the Wise One, young Kelly undertook a long and dangerous journey; the Wide River and stars, only compass. There were craggy mountains and treacherous paths; swift streams and fatal falls. A misstep—you are dead meat.

Last part, most testing!

The warning sounded true.

As Kelly approached the final trail, things grew strange. The cave did not look formidable or dangerous but rather beckoned!

An outside garden with a murmuring brook. The trees were in bloom and birds sang merrily. The seductive aroma of the exotic flowers and the soft breeze lulled the brave quester into sleep.

Waking up, he found himself tied on a rough table.

And a host that announced most cheerfully: Welcome, my lunch!

Kelly had never seen such an odd creature. The huge and unwashed hybrid stank badly. Bones littered the entire floor. The kitchen fires blazed, giving some light and warmth in that damp place. Dismal sight!

The giant reassured the victim gleefully: Do not be afraid. I kill my victims without pain. Only problem, I am bit slow for their liking.

Panic.

The monster got excited by the scent of fear: I thought you were brave but I can sense terror. Mortals! Easily scared!

Kelly was repulsed by the hollow laughter.

—Not fair! Kelly was calm.

—What?

—This uneven contest.

—Life! Never fair!

—You are philosopher also.

—I reflect. Observe things.

—Like?

—Humans love to invent their own monsters!

Kelly was astonished.

—A thinking man’s monster. Not a complete brute!

—Fairy tales! Why do you create appalling images of the other species? Why this need for terrifying aliens?

—Because the unknown is dreaded. Part of evolution. Kind of processing threats in great images.

—Nice thinking, Kelly!

—Know my name?

—I can read the tattoo.

Kelly became quiet.

The fiend said: Monster is created to make you feel human, superior, master.

Kelly nodded.

They looked at each other for long.

— I like you, Kelly. Here is a game: Run for freedom. After an hour, I come after you. If you reach the border before, you win. Now run.

They agreed.

Kelly ran against the wind and crossed the border. Monster kept his word and let him live.

… Having survived the ordeal and returning home happily, Kelly remembered suddenly: Father killed by a beast-cum- cannibal.

He felt angry.

He was there to slay him, not escape.

Killing the giant, not easy.

Kelly knew he was to overcome fear and go back to the cave only.

There was no other way!


Bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/




 

Volume 1 Issue 28: Fire

msvol1issue28pic

We have five elemental stories this week, each ablaze with intensity and searing with imagination. This week’s contributors include Kira, Sunil Sharma, Jenna Mason Stay, Kelli J Gavin, and Francine Witte. Warm yourself with these glowing stories of passion, loss, adventure, connection, desire, and fear.




Fire Fall
Kira

Have you ever felt like one of your dreams was real? I hadn’t, until then.

I was wandering around in a forest nearby. Fall had started its work: a fiery red was now slowly making its way into the woods, replacing the lush green I had started to get used to.

I preferred red. Red was fire and passion. Fight and fire.

I took a red leaf in my hand. Contemplating it made me feel powerful. Energy coursed through me, I felt invincible. I started to get worried when I felt a burning sensation going from my head to my arm, but it also felt familiar, like an old but impulsive friend.

Hi, anger.

A sharp pain, gone in an instant. The leaf caught fire, immediately destroyed.

And then, I blacked out.

I woke up in the middle of red maple leaves. Still groggy, I got up and resumed my walk. How come I had fainted so suddenly? I started hobbling, unsure and confused. I probably needed some rest. The flush of energy was gone, I wouldn’t be able to try my magic for a while.

Exhausted, I arrived in a clearing. It truly was a beautiful place: the sunlight was shining upon a red carpet of leaves. It was noon. Soon, the forest was bathed in a bright red light, so much that I couldn’t see the trees clearly anymore.

The forest was on fire, and it was magnificent.

This vision made me feel so much better. The bright light was comforting, the wind was blowing softly, ruffling through the leaves, making some of them fly away. Fall was here, softly announcing the Earth’s coming slumber.

Small issue: I didn’t see the arrow pointed at me on time.

It went through me, stuck itself into a tree behind me. A sharp, piercing, short pain rushed through my entire body. Blood came out, my face was twisted in surprise. I collapsed, then felt nothing.

I leapt to my feet, alarmed and confused. No time to be tired. I was still in the forest, lying in the middle of red maple leaves. I was fully awake this time. I was in danger. The dream felt so real… It had to become true.

A shot of anger pulsed through my veins. They had transformed me, and now they wanted me dead?

I was going to burn them all. It was a kill or be killed situation.

I dashed towards the clearing, hid behind a tree, sneaked a peek towards the general direction the arrow had come from. I couldn’t see for sure…I would have to lure them out.

Desperate for a solution, I lit up a stick and threw it towards the middle of the clearing, then rushed behind another tree. Three arrows missed me. I heard ruffling noises in the shadows. I was surrounded.

They were in for a world of pain.

I’m not completely human anymore. Remember that next time you try to fire anything at me.


Bio:

Kira is a writer and blogger as well as a languages teacher. She creates short stories and flash fiction, and is in the process of writing her first book. She also writes about mental health, video games, teaching, and likes to show off her photos.

All of this, because she aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.

Onwards to her writer’s den!

www.jackofwritingtrades.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades



The Campfire
Sunil Sharma

—There!

Silhouettes.

Sounds—growling, howling, roaring, barking, laughing—enough to unsettle urban imagination fired by a mysterious forest, on a wintry night. The campers, huddled around a merry fire, shivered by the strange.

Part of the Gothic Trail, they were there seeking adventure.

—Where? I cannot.

Rahul said, the usual skeptic.

—There.

Said the guide.

—Yes. I can see. Said Reema, adding:  Glowing eyes. Edge of the lake.

The fire was continually fed. It leapt up high. The twigs burnt up fast in its yellow belly; the fierce flames, insatiable; warmth, comforting.

The bonfire lent a golden tinge to the faces. The shadows cast by the blaze were menacing.

—Look!

An outlined figure, shimmering.

The campers experienced a chilling sensation.

—Who is it?

The guide declared: Princess’s Ghost!

—What?

—Yeah.

—Ghost?

—Every jungle has got dark denizens.

—Hmm. Do not believe.

Rahul said.

—I believe.

Said Reema.

Many colleagues nodded: There are dark forces.

Rahul smirked: Imagining things!

—You should not have joined the believers.

Said Reema: eyes red, speech, bit slurred.

The all-young corporate group from Delhi was getting excited slowly. The brooding forest and the strong wind added to the Otherness.

The lake glittered.

—Wherefrom comes the ghost?

Reema asked the guide.

—From the 18th-century fort.

—Why does she roam the night?

—She wanted to marry a commoner. When her lover was killed publicly, she jumped into the lake and died young and unfulfilled.

Rahul exclaimed: How romantic!

Rajesh countered: No. Real. These things happen.

—What about her lover?

Another camper asked.

The guide was silent. Then: Some folks have seen him also. Two separated lovers in different locations, on full-moon nights, pining.

—What if she pops up here?

Asked another woman.

—You will die of fright!

They laughed.

—Haunting in the outdoors!

Exclaimed Rahul.

They drank and ate supper. The moon shone on the trail leading to the fort. Trees swayed like drunken giants.

Wolves howled somewhere deep in the tropical forest.

—I can feel the spirits of the jungle.

Reema said.

—Oh! Revisiting the Sea of Trees?

Teased Rahul.

Rajesh replied: Even Aokigahara is real. There are realities outside human ken. We should not be dismissive.

—I am not disrespectful. Just stating my view.

Argued Rahul.

—Do not spoil the show! Rajesh admonished, every inch his senior in the office.

—Hush! Exclaimed Reema. I saw the spirits hovering behind the campfire.

—Where? Asked Rajesh.

—There.

They peered.

Fleeting figures in the damp air.

A piercing cry.

Blood-curdling!

The group fell silent. The fire crackled. But the air underwent a change. Most felt evil lurking in the shadows.

—OK. I will check.

Before others could stop, Rahul ran down.

They waited.

his loud scream echoed; desperate, chilling.

The men took up torches—to chase the scream, near the lake…


Bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



 

The Fire-Handler
Jenna Mason Stay

She watched the flame danced across her fingers—the sparks, the colors of the flames. Most people thought of fire as yellow or maybe orange, but fire was red and blue too. It burst with bits of green or blinding white as it caught trace minerals on her skin. It was both loud and quiet, like the moment before sunrise, before the world turns back on again. It was sweet and tart, hard and soft, a study in contradictions. It was life.

The flames tickled, and she brushed it back down from its subtle creep up her arm. She liked it best when she held it in her hands. She could turn it and turn it, roll it from her palm to the back of her hand and back again.

No one wanted to join her. She couldn’t understand that—the way they stood back and watched. They were fascinated too, she knew it, but no one approached. Were the flames really so frightening?

She shrugged and stomped out an ember that had landed in the dirt. So be it. They wouldn’t know the glory of the flame, and she would not have to share. As long as she held the flame, she would be alone, but that was enough.

And then.

A figure stepped from the crowd. He was tall, and his face filled with fascination as he approached—cautiously, as if she might bite. When he came close enough, the light of the flames reflected in his brown eyes, and she felt the beckoning call from a fire that for once she did not control.

“What’s it like?” he asked, almost reverently.

“Like the world,” she said. “A tiny world, burning in your hand, and all the comfort and warmth and discovery and joy you will ever know, all encapsulated in one spot.” She held up her hand, and she watched him watch the flames dance, swirling around her hand like the sand on the beach.

Mesmerizing.

He looked at her then, and his face glowed. “May I try it?”

She blinked. No one had ever asked this. Hadn’t she thought—known—that no one else would ever join her? “You … want to hold the fire?” she asked, and she could not restrain the surprise.

“I’ve heard said it can be done, even by those without the gift.” He shrugged shyly and looked away. “I hoped you might teach me.” When his eyes returned to her, they held back nothing, and his tone was confident, certain. Warm. “I want to know.”

He was right. It could be shared. Even now she felt the fire aching to grow. She smiled. “Yes, I’ll show you.” She reached out her hand, and his joined hers.

They touched, and the fire flowed between them, the flame lighting both their hands, bursting into sparks of brilliant light. Her smiled widened. This was how fire was meant to feel—strong, powerful, true.

And oh, how it burned.


Bio:

Jeanna Mason Stay does most of her writing in fantasy and fairy tales, making up new ways to look at old stories. Occasionally, though, she hears a siren call from some other genre. Jeanna’s most recent fairy tale is “Breadcrumbs,” the story of a post-traumatic Gretel searching for healing, published in Unspun: A Collection of Tattered Tales.

Jeanna loves fireflies, serial commas, and her husband and children. Not necessarily in that order. She dreams of one day owning a herd of Chia sheep. You can find her at calloohcallaycallay.blogspot.com and www.facebook.com/JeannaMasonStay/.



 

Burn
Kelli J Gavin

I catch fire more often than I care to admit
I catch feelings that fan the flame
I wonder if others burn the way I do
I wonder if they have pulled all the alarms
You can only fuel the fire for so long
You can’t watch from afar

I burn up rather quickly
My throat tightens
My hands wring
My eyes wince from the smoke
I wipe the soot from my skin
My feet tread carefully

Not sure where to turn
Not sure if the floor will hold
The beams crash behind me
The flames shoot up each wall
Five alarm fire I am afraid
No one cares to respond

The flame is extinguished
Usually by me creating distance
The ruins are all I have left.
The embers continue to smolder
I have to work at regaining my composure
I don’t have anything to cling to

It must be obvious
I sweep up the remnants
Nothing left to piece back together
At  least the walls have been scrubbed
New rugs have been laid
All prepared for the next time I burn


Bio:

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                    Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com





Woman, Man, Fire

Francine Witte

Woman

I’m saying this because. I need to live same as you. I gave you my heart. It was plump and red. I had a photo of it. You even took it. But then you started saying busy and work. Now that photo is blackened and curled. The fire started as quick as love. As wrong as love. I don’t even think you are listening.

Man

Trouble is I am listening. Listening when I should be walking away. I saw your troubled heart, your broken photo heart. I knew it needed fixing and I couldn’t. I’m glad the photo burned. The house, the shrubs around it. I worried about that stove. I can always smell the future, the burn of it. Trouble is you didn’t listen.

Fire

First of all, I need to live. I need to eat in order to jump into my full yellow, blue hot at the base. The two of you so tasty. How could I resist? Started with dry and brittle love. Forget about the stove. The spark of romance out long ago, but this burned better. Woman still holding on. Man over. Out of balance works just fine for me. I can clean a mountain of its pine trees, leaving nothing but scraggled hands. Your love was an easy meal.  


Bio:

Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.



 

Volume 1 Issue 27: The Voice

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It is a slightly disconcerting sight to watch a larynx at work. It reminds me of a sea urchin’s mouth instead of the feature that enables (some of) us to sing L’Orfeo. Consider how glistening vocal cords create sounds that our minds, upon receiving the vibrations, subjectively interpret as haunting or irritating, alluring or threatening. It is a rather bizarre but charming process.
The talented contributor Sunil Sharma came up with this week’s prompt and four writers responded: Sunil SharmaDebjani Mukherjee, Leslie Crigger, and KiraEach writer’s own ‘voice’ is distinct as well as the voices they write of in their respective stories. I hope you enjoy reading the stories and ‘hearing’ these unique voices as much as I did.

 



The Baritone
Sunil Sharma

Love and its obsessions.

Narcissus transfixed with his own image.

The new-millennium world is image-driven.

Nina Ganguly, too, adored images. At 30, she was a self-declared Alice in search of wonderland.

She did not have to wait long.

The Alice-moment arrived, on a Sunday afternoon, in an unexpected manner.

.

Nina got electrified by a voice on the podcast.

Transported.

Entranced by quality.

The voice was like the rumbling that convulses the earth.

Strange feel and texture: Akin to the wind whispering in a remote Alpine forest, on a crisp summer morning.

Divine!

She was overwhelmed by the tenor and intensity—and its ability to move the listener to the core, the way you get enraptured, watching the Everest summit, first time.

The masculine voice triggered some long-forgotten sensation.

Jouissance—blogged thus:

pure bliss this, like the first rain drumming on the corrugated sheets or tiles of the mud houses in the small village on the edge of the river…the big drops creating a symphony odd…the grey curtain travelling fast over the plain and the meadow, drenching the trees that dance in the strong wind…kids screaming in joy and splashing in the brown puddles, a woman singing a song in a Kolkata home, a child trying to capture the diamonds from the dark skies in outstretched hands and the manna sliding down the fingers, and, some death chant in a mourning family, the light-n-dark blending in that specific instance

She fell in love with it!

She went on playing the podcast and felt uplifted.

Every time, the baritone opened up secret passages inside a heart long suspected to be cold, clogged.

A lightness of being similar to listening to Zubin Mehta or viewing Mona Lisa.

.

The folksy song done in a soulful voice ran:

This spring I will not be home

I will miss the beauty and the splendor

Of a rural scene

That breeze

That murmuring of bees

And waters of the river

And the song of the fishermen

And toiling boatmen

I will miss out all these

And your smile and love

Stuck up in this city of concrete!

You ask me to return

But I cannot

There are huge debts to be paid

But remember sweet-heart

The moon unites me with you all.

.

It was a podcast made by a young researcher on a local tribe and their dying oral culture. In her intro, she had talked of a gifted singer who narrated the agony of the uprooted.

His name was Mehto. Sans surname.

Anonymous. Last time, she met the famished singer, he was admitted into a municipality hospital.

I lost him from there. Concluded the researcher.

Nina fell in love again, this time with a popular image—an obscure singer; impoverished worker; a homeless migrant, untraceable, in the big, bad city of commerce.

She could understand the dualism of art — the simultaneous presence and absence of the creator.

An unseen artist becoming real through a distinctive voice.


Bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



The Lost Poem
Debjani Mukherjee

The yellow streetlights flood the empty roads. The car is running on the chest of the sleepy city, playing hide and seek with light and shadows. It is a cold night outside the glass window, reflecting the series of yellow lights on its surface. Here and there, a few souls are sitting around the fire trying to cut the cold chilling their bones. Riddhi doesn’t know what they are discussing, nor can she guess; it may be life, it may be failures of the government or it may simply be bread and butter, who knows!! Who cares!!! Nowadays nobody cares beyond themselves; she doesn’t either or does she? Does her heart still beat? Still feel? Still cry for the cold growing on the bones of humanity? For a moment she wondered what would happen if she sat beside those men tonight? Spreading her hands to the fire, feeling the warmth inside her heart and asking them how are you? How is life?

But the car neither noticed the fire nor the people around it. The wheels kept rolling on the streets glimmering with halogens. She turned up the radio; the magnificent voice of Lata Ji singing the words of Gulzar. “There must be a road that will go to you from the bend of this lane” Her eyes are sleepy, the song ended and she changed the channel.
A lovely, soft feminine voice was rendering a poem. The beautifully expressed words were vibrating with life. Riddhi wanted to remember the poem but couldn’t except a few lines ….
“The heart knows the sun will again rise/ again the night will fade but it’s hard to keep forbearance till then/ what is this patience? Where could I get it from?/ no shop ever sell it though.”
It was R J Sayema with one of her daily poems. Riddhi’s heart grew sad: she lost a poem. A poem of which she couldn’t know the beginning, a poem of which she couldn’t remember the end. Just a few lines got embossed in the mind, keeping the hunger alive. She wanted to capture the poem in the pages of her diary but they were lost in the twilight of the road. Much like life, a little under your control, a little wayward like a wild horse. Riddhi took a deep breath in and looked outside the window. A moment she loved is now a moment she lost and on her bed tonight her heart will moan. Moan for the poem, moan for a love that she lost forever.


Bio:

Debjani Mukherjee is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines. 



A Gentle Voice
Lesley Crigger

Thoughts scatter like Skittles from an overturned Easter basket. Bright and dazzling, they spin and skitter out of control. The display of new thoughts entices the mind at first, but the stimulation approaches too quickly and becomes overwhelming. A cry escapes my puckered lips.

Shh, shh, shh.

The chant rolls in on a tide of molasses- calm, sweet. Her voice, the eye of my intellectual hurricane, wraps its soothing extensions around me, well before her arms do.

Her feet shuffle along the shag carpet creating a familiar pattern as the plush piles are parted with each step towards me. A tranquil ritual in its own right but the ceremony has just begun, and I match the pitter patter of her feet with soft whimpers.

 Shh, shh, shh.

She croons, to reassure me her presence. Silky arms dotted with the finest brown hair swoop in to rescue me from my bedchamber, a high-walled prison of sorts. The place of slumber is no match for the giantess. I nestle into her plump, predictable embrace. As she walks toward her throne, she continues the chant.

Shh, shh, shh.

A hint of stale milk lingers on the air. Anticipating my needs before I can, she lifts her shirt to allow me a deeper nuzzle into her chest. On a raft of lullabies, I drift past consciousness. Soothed by the greatest voice my infant ears will ever know- my mother’s.




I met you
Kira

Finally, I heard your voice.

I had known you for a year, and then suddenly realized I had never heard your voice before.

You, in turn, had never realized I had never told you my real name.

Before meeting you, I had frantically looked you up on every social media account I could find, looking for videos of you. Obsessed. Whether you would be talking, singing, screaming, it wouldn’t have mattered: I just wanted a sample of your voice. I wanted to feel like I had met you, before I really did.

You’re the only one I wanted to meet so badly.

Then, I got lucky. I was on holiday, and you asked me if I would be interested in spending a few days at your place. I brought a friend, in case you were a weirdo.

My friend and I got lost in the city, arrived late, and you came to pick us up. You tried to make conversation and were adorably awkward. I don’t remember any of it. All I remember is that you still didn’t know my name at the time. I didn’t correct you. It was okay to be someone else for a little longer.

We arrived at your apartment, were impressed by the space, the view, then settled in. At least, tried to. You wanted to lend us your printer, but it wouldn’t work. You had food delivered for us, but spilled some of it. You tried to heat something up in the microwave, but it wasn’t ready to cooperate. It shut down, never to function ever again.

I was so anxious to meet you, but this was my way out. In order to lighten up the atmosphere, I jokingly asked: “Well, I guess you haven’t been here in a while. Everything tends to explode around here?”

In an undertone, you answered: “Oh no, I blew up this microwave.”

To this day, it makes absolutely no sense. I still have no idea why, but those words still echo in my mind. Suddenly, the world stopped being white noise. I was left troubled for a while.

Interesting to think that such random words, with your deep, husky voice, could be mesmerizing. You managed to make blowing things up very appealing.

You were the best kind of weirdo I could ever imagine. My kind of weirdo.

Finally, I met you.


Bio:

Kira is a full-time dreamer who just started her journey as a writer. She aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.

www.jackofwriting.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades



 

Volume 1 Issue 26: Breakfast


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Breakfast.
Break fast.
The etymology of this word held a strange fascination for me as a child. The idea that we had somehow engaged in a fast, which seemed to be an exclusively spiritual act to me then, merely by going to sleep was intriguing. Our reward for making it through that harrowing period of dreaming and drooling on our pillows was a meal, a meal decidedly special. The food that was served for breakfast did not appear during the other meals, at least not in my household, and if it did it was because we were doing something zany like having breakfast for dinner. It was not until I moved to Japan that I realized that the American breakfast experience was not shared universally. That you can, in fact, eat the same food you eat for lunch and dinner in the early morning was a new revelation. Eating fish and miso soup was definitely healthier than a stack of pancakes with a couple of sausage links on the side but it just did not have the same feel as a “real” breakfast. Over time I have realized that it is the ceremony, rather than the food, that we breakfast-lovers cherish: the slow sit-down meal at the threshold of another day, a chance to discuss our dreams just disturbed, our plans yet to be enacted, all with a cup of coffee and a side of bacon/natto/fried tomatoes/dosa/olives/pao de queijo/akara.
The breaking of our fast.


This week we bring you six original stories from around the world about this daily rite, written by Kelli J. Gavin, Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez, Katherine Brown, Richard Wayne Horton, Sunil Sharma, and Tim Clark. Top off your coffee and butter your toast, it is time to get reading. Enjoy!




I Love Breakfast

Kelli J Gavin

When I was a child, my dad went to the movie store and rented a few VHS tapes for our family to watch once a week. He often would return home with a Western movie for him, a kids’ movie for my sister and I and a classic movie for my mom. Those classics were movies such as Gone With the Wind, An Affair to Remember and Casablanca.  I would sit with my mom; she would share with me if she had seen a movie before and if she remembered anything special of mention. One night, we sat down and she told me she had the best movie for us to watch. That night, we watched Breakfast At Tiffany’s. That was the night I developed an affinity for black dresses and expensive Tiffany’s jewelry.

When I was in Junior High, my dad brought home the movie The Breakfast Club.  A Brat Pack Classic that was released in 1995, my parents were wise to wait a few years before enabling my sister and me to watch John Hughes films.  A typical teen comedy, I loved this film. I loved how each character was so vastly different, yet they all craved the same thing. A human connection.  I watched that movie three times that week before it was due back at the movie store.

One of my favorite bands is The Newboys.  I have enjoyed their music since I was 14 and have seen them in concert more times than I can count. Originally hailing from Australia, they were a novelty, wrote catchy lyrics and their music was unlike anything I was listening to at the time. I devoured everything of theirs that I could get my hands on.  As an adult, still enjoying their music, I could barely wait when news of new album coming out came along. And then in 1996, the song Breakfast hit the airwaves. I was confused and intrigued. They don’t serve breakfast in hell? What? I am not sure to this day what that song means. But you bet, I absolutely still sing along every time it is played on the radio or my iPod shuffles it into a playlist.

Looking back, I see an odd pattern. A pattern that all has something to do with breakfast.  A woman who raves about Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but doesn’t really eat much. A bunch of misfits serving time in detention on a Saturday morning.  And a song about the amazing attributes of breakfast food that could never possibly be served in hell. I am not sure what the common thread is, other than realizing I love breakfast. Movies, music, and food. I love breakfast. Please pass the syrup and orange juice.


Bio:

Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                                                            Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com




Breakfast
Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez

I love waking up in the mornings next to her, and looking at her silhouette against the morning light coming through the window. She sleeps on her side, and I can either see her beautiful back, or her hands over her breasts holding her face. I usually wake up first, with the morning lights. I know better than to wake her up, she needs her sleep in the mornings.

My master plan is to get breakfast for her. I jump out of bed and get dressed. I’ll be going to the Pret A Manger just around the corner. She likes savory breakfast. Bean soup, a sandwich with egg and avocado. I’ll take the typical British muffin with sausage and eggs. The city is waking up. You can hear the ever-present sirens of London. I look at the busy passersby going places with this attitude of boredom in their faces. They have no idea that my paradise is just around the corner.

I get back to our little room. It is peaceful here. There is still this smell of our loving last night. As I close the door I hear the deep breath she takes when she wakes up. I can hear her move in the bed and look the way I came in. She is rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands.

  • Hey, you got breakfast?

I place the food on the table and proceed to remove my clothes to get back in bed. I want to cuddle next to her and feel her warmth. We always sleep naked and I love her for that. I embrace her and whisper “Good morning”. She makes space for me, looks at me back with her beautiful blue eyes and answers “Good morning”. She puts up her lips looking for a kiss, which she gets.

Except that she is wrong. It is not just a simple good morning. It is a fantastic morning. It is a magic moment to be able to lay next to her. To breath her in. To admire the thousand whirls of her hair in her face. To feel her warmth through my whole body. To caress her soft skin while I embrace her. To have her feet play with mine under the sheets. To experience how my little heart can not fit in my chest out of happiness. To feel the gratefulness towards this woman who chiseled away at my walls until love poured out of them. She feels my soul with her kisses and makes me the happiest man alive.

Sorry Pret. Your food will have to wait a bit. There is some unfinished business that I will have to attend first here in our love nest.


Bio:

We are a couple in love writing about our adventures together. She is the creative half, artsy and perfectionist. He is the rational part, good with words and total chaos.  Bear hugs and short dresses… Together we look at open relationships, arrangements, and what it means to be loved in the 21st century. We publish in Medium under: https://medium.com/@ursushoribilis




But a Simple Breakfast
Katherine Brown

Elegant cloths flow over the table but are barely visible beneath the array of dishes crowding the entire surface. Fresh fruit assortments of apples, oranges, and bananas line a silver tray. Warm biscuits rest on a platter beneath a tea towel. Sausage swims in steaming white gravy, ready and waiting to be poured from the delicate china gravy boat. Mounds of eggs and stacks of bacon battle for room on a gold-inlaid china plate. Cold fruit salad in a crystal bowl beckons those with a sweet tooth. Tantalizing scents waft from the skillet potatoes tossed with onions and peppers. Freshly baked banana bread looks loftily down at the plain wheat toast. Jelly and jam nestle in between each main dish. Butter softens in the center of it all. Each place setting, with magnificently gleaming gold dinnerware, is softened by linen napkins and awaits an honored guest to choose their spot for this magnificent feast. Tall crystal wine glasses sparkle welcomingly in anticipation of being filled. The beverages line the countertop ready to fulfill any order: water, tea, orange juice, apple juice. At the last moment hot, sticky cinnamon rolls float in from the oven. The aroma draws the long-awaited diners into the room. Each face is filled with awe at the elaborate assortment intended simply for them. Eyes dart excitedly from favorite food to fancy décor. Each person takes their place and hold hands as grace is said.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is exactly how breakfast commenced during holiday visits to my great Aunt in Oklahoma for my entire childhood. She and my mother worked together in the kitchen creating a literal feast. That iconic breakfast where we were treated like royalty simply over breakfast before church is something that seems completely magical as a child and is still unforgettable as an adult. My sister and I try to pitch in a little these days as well because the tradition has continued.

Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I learned that the fancy plate underneath the plate for your food is called a charger.

Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I learned that it was okay to eat potatoes for breakfast. (And I do love potatoes.)

Breakfast in Oklahoma is where I should have learned which fork you use first, but somehow didn’t commit it to memory.

Breakfast in Oklahoma was synonymous with love and family.

Somebody pass the biscuits, please!


www.katherinebrownbooks.com




Obit
Richard Horton

I pulled into a breakfast joint in the town where I went to college and ran with poets 40 years ago.  I got out of the car and headed inside, but when I got there, I saw that the cafe was connected to a series of flea markets, one-room museums and snack shops, all lined up, room after room, connected to each other by a door.  I could look through them all without going outside. College was close by, and I had plenty of time, so I gave it a go. The people behind the wooden counters in the rooms were friendly and I occasionally stopped to talk with them even if I wasn’t buying anything.  I decided that if I came to the last store, I would exit its front door and return to the café from the outside. After a few stores, I came to an empty room, not yet rented. It gave me a weird feeling. I passed through it and went through the next door, into a hallway that had a door and windows looking out on the street.  This was reassuring so I walked to the end of the hallway and pushed through the next door, into complete darkness. It must be either a closet or a windowless room. I couldn’t even see the other side. So I turned back into the hallway which had the street door and stepped outside.

This was the beginning of a day spent searching for my car, the breakfast joint, and the nearby campus.  About two in the afternoon, I saw a dispenser full of free campus newspapers, pulled its door open, and sat down under a tree to read it.  Whoo, I was bushed! I got to the events page and discovered several bookstore readings taking place later in the evening. Great. I turned that page and came to obits.  I thought, campus obits? Come on, now! But I went ahead and read them. That’s when I found my own obit.

I’m still trying to find my car, and, man, I tell you, when I find that breakfast joint, I’m going to order two of everything!  Then I’ll get a real campus newspaper. Freakin’ college kids these days, with their joke newspapers! Mmm! Short stack and waffles too!  Coffee, orange juice, three, no, four eggs! And for meats…

 


Bio: 

Richard Wayne Horton has received two Pushcart nominations and has published a chapbook, Sticks & Bones, available from Meat For Tea Press.  He has published in Meat For Tea, Bull & Cross, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and others.




The Date
Sunil Sharma

Marriage was to be discussed over breakfast. He said even a hurricane cannot stop a Romeo!

But he never turned up. Somebody else did—and altered histories.

Here is how this Maupassant/ O’ Henry- type tale unfolded in downtown Mumbai.

.

Rita occupied the window seat of The Rendezvous, awaiting Mr. Right, if not the Prince Charming. After a whirlwind of courtship—online exchanges; long phone chats; short meets, all compressed into a fortnight—the two decided to give it a try in the breakfast tryst. She was elated—earlier attempts at romance had failed badly, due to the increasing expectations and other norms of evaluation—commercial viability of the possible alliance; respective career trajectories; current incomes and finally, behavior towards the parents and overall gender-roles, post-marriage home. Naturally, the parties could never arrive at a consensus!

This time you will be lucky! Her flat-mate had predicted, after a peg too many. That pleased her. All the five girls—in desperate search for soul partners— wished her success. They were the only family in the megapolis.

Moved to tears!

.

As she waited for the suitor, she recalled an earlier conversation:

—Any real-time fairy-tale endings in life, granny?

—Yes, child. There are.

—The princess finding her prince, love, big castle and royalty?

—Yes.

—You never found one, ma?

The Ancient One smiled: Got a secret lover but don’t disclose it to grandpa. The bearded bastard would kill!

The teen smiled and asked: How can I find true love?

—No worries, kiddo. It will find you!

She expected to find true love on that morning mission in a manic city of millions. After a long wait and unsuccessful attempts to reach him, the sad reality sank in. She was duped… again.

—Have you ever checked the mirror?

Her last boyfriend had screamed, when caught in bed with another girl. And then given the answer: Check that pug nose. The ugly specs. The uneven teeth. The coarse skin. Who would love a Ms. Plain Jane?

She took a year to recover from the hurled insults by a violent man—and then went in for a makeover with a vengeance. Blue lenses; blunt hair-style; regular bleaching and facials; long heels; trendy minis and tops—enough to make her look like a girl from London rather than provincial Ghaziabad.

Appearances can be treacherous!

As she was about to get up, in silent tears, a nerd easily slid into the opposite chair and asked in a familiar tone: You read Robbie Singh?

Offended, she countered: Why not?

—Dark fantasies?

— So what? Humans need fantasies. Inverted realities. Anticipate future—such utopias.

He declared: Genius!

—How?

—Brilliant defense of my best-sellers.

A stunned silence: My ideal! Before me!

After a long breakfast and varied discussions, she immediately grabbed the unexpected proposal: the fan and her idol to wed after three months.

Fiction never looked so real; real, fiction!


Bio:

Sunil Sharma, a writer-freelance- senior academic from Mumbai, India, has published 18 books, solo and joint.

He edits Setu:

http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

Blog: http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/




The Sounds of Isolation

Tim Clark

“This morning, for breakfast, I had waffles, sausage, bacon and two eggs over easy.” The man in the back seat said. There was no response from the front of the car. He fidgeted with his tie and twisted his cufflinks.

“I buttered the waffles, put the sausage on top of that, laid the bacon in over the sausage, put the eggs on top and poured syrup over the whole thing. It was delicious.” He continued, glancing nervously out the window. The front seat was silent as a tomb. So, the man took off his glasses, pulled a handkerchief from the breast pocket of his suit and carefully cleaned the lenses. He held them up to the window to admire his work.

“Yesterday for lunch I had a salad with cabbage and kale. There were tiny grape tomatoes laid over the top formed into a pattern, almost an ampersand, and top of that they sprinkled vinaigrette dressing. It looked fantastic, but it was a little bland.” The man said, his hands fumbling with a pen he had removed from the pocket in his briefcase. In his mindless tinkering he accidentally unscrewed the top and the cartridge, spring and opening mechanism fell on the floor.

He looked at the pen, laying in pieces on the carpet, sighed and started to bend down to pick them up. He thought better of it and decided to leave the whole mess there. It had been a gift from his boss, a reward for a job well done. He had always thought he did a better job than a pen indicated, cheap bastard, anyway. He would be damned before he picked it up and reassembled it.

“Since the salad was so healthy I went all out for dinner, a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings, and two Scotch whiskeys, neat. Followed by a brandy and crème brulle for dessert, and one more brandy as a nightcap.” By now he was looking out the window and not even thinking about what he was saying. It was just words.

He went through his favorite foods, a divorce, his ex-wife’s rehab from prescription diet pills. He talked about the lousy way he was treated at work, his fascination with the butter sculptures at the state fair. A dam had broken, somewhere between describing airline food and the new shoes he was wearing.

“You have arrived at your destination,” the voice said. It sounded distant and fleeting.

After he got out the man stood there, looking at the building swallowing all the people, masses of humanity rushing toward the waiting beast. “I hate driverless cars.” He said, and nobody paid any attention.

Somewhere, thousands of miles away, a circuit lit, clicked and a data packet arrived from the car. “Man,” it contained in a series of ones and zeroes, “those humans are stuck on a loop. They never stop.”

“Don’t worry,” came the digital reply, “the way he eats he won’t be around long.”


Bio:

Tim Clark is a blogger who wants to be a writer, a warehouse associate, a happily married man (for 28 years) and a father of two from Columbus, Ohio.

He is an occasional and proud contributor to Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper, and is thrilled to be allowed to write a monthly column for The Wild Word.  And he has a blog, visible here.



 

 

Volume 1 Issue 25: On This Day…

Image result for stack of newspapers

What happened in the world on this day in the year you were born? That was what we were tasked with finding out this week, a rather overwhelming prompt, as I have been told. Even I could not narrow it down in time but did find many possible future stories (to add to my teetering stack of possible future stories).

This week we have two very interesting tales from different points of time and space by Kelli J. Gavin and Sunil Sharma. Reading these two stories connects us to the past while reminding us that some stories never change, simply change characters. Please enjoy some time traveling and be sure to come back again on Monday for our next round of writing and reading.


Cries For Freedom
Kelli J Gavin

Cries for freedom are only sometimes heard
Mostly ignored and trampled on
Turning the Bantu’s into slaves
An easy choice for early traders
Traded as slaves for centuries
The Bantu people continued their cries

Cries for freedom are only sometimes heard
Mostly ignored and trampled on
Ruled by countries they would never see
Fearful of losing all they had ever known
Speaking a language not their own
Their cries never ceased

Cries for freedom are only sometimes heard
Mostly ignored and trampled on
The Liberation Front fought long and hard
Independence gained not a moment too soon
Mondlane and Machel had a vision
Of a country ruled by its people

Cries for FREEDOM are only sometimes heard
Mozambique no longer ignored and trampled on

June 25, 1975

 


Bio-
Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.
Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Lessons
Sunil Sharma

He wanted to be part of history—before becoming history.

But history is not kind: It favours only few individuals and hates the masses—the first lesson delivered by his high-school teacher that resonated so well.

Initially, he had felt cheated. Father had always insisted that it was possible to rise up in society—even for a lower-middle-class, small-town, ordinary guy, in a vibrant democracy!

Soon, he realized, he was bypassed. Grim realities caught on —lost father; dropped out; became a sales-person in a shoe shop to support a large family.

Hardly 19 at that time!

Life—raw, prosaic and brutal! Dreams belonged to another age and class.

The man who wanted to be the king became pauper, instead.

He wrote in the diary.

Selling shoes to customers was a daily challenge. Surviving on a meager salary was another existential battle.

Democracy and its promise of deliverance—a plain lie!

An epiphany recorded as a diary-entry.

.

When he turned 25 on March 25, 2018— a marginal man and doomed to be that only—somebody suggested the second best option of entering the annals—by checking the famous people or events, on that date.

Cool!

If not a general or emperor, he could bask in the reflected glory of the great.

Inder Kumar was curious to know what happened on his birthday.

After going through many such sites on his smart phone, Inder Kumar, a lean man with a perpetual hungry look, embarked on a journey backwards in time and found few incidents as most exciting, on that hot Sunday afternoon, propped up against the stacks of shoes, re-visiting memorable incidents.

.

Here, the selection:

—1199

King Richard, the Lion Heart, killed.

.

—1965

The Third Selma to Montgomery March.

.

—1811

PB Shelley rusticated from the Oxford for his easy on atheism!

.

—1957

“Howl” by Ginsberg banned!

.

—1911

The fire in Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, New York, kills 146.
.

They met in the late night.

—What did you fish out from the dustbin of history? Asked his friend Raju.

—Some fascinating facts. Said Inder.

—What kind of facts? Asked Raju.

—Random things.  Made few internal connections between these occurrences separated by time and space, yet linked together, in an odd way.

—Tell me these discoveries made by a bright man, denied his greatness.

Raju did not sound sarcastic.

Inder recited the list of items culled from the belly of the past and offered his observations: That a king could be killed by a boy who is a commoner. People power can shake the well-entrenched system through a long march. Oxford and courts can ban writers on stupid reasons and continue to treat thinkers, as threats. That the poorly-paid workers can die in an inferno in an advanced democracy. Considered garbage by the capital! Yet, these disenfranchised guys made history in a modest way!

—Hmm!

—Alternative reading of events only!

——————————–

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

 http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



 

Volume 1 Issue 24: The Last

It has been a long two weeks. Crazy all that can happen within, what, twelve days. On the upside, these fantastic stories also show what is possible within the confines of 264 hours. With the world changing at the current breakneck speed, extinction is a regular occurrence, whether it be the extinction of a philosophy, a habit, or a species, many ways of life, of thinking are coming to an end. The stories this week take the time to pause and shine a spotlight on what it is like to be the last, whether it be a dragon or cupcake, the last to love or the last to see.

Please enjoy this week’s excellent collection from Linda M. Crate, Kelli J. Gavin, Sunil Sharma, and Katharine Brown.  



 

Child of the Dragon
Linda M. Crate

The night was clear and warm with a sky full of stars and a white moon so bright that she was blinding. It was a comfortable night which most were marveling at in the kingdom, but he could not agree with this night.
The world was far from beautiful.
He was the last dragon.
His father had told him that he should settle down and marry a lovely female dragon, and have a family of his own. His father warned there were two few dragons in this kingdom, and that perhaps there would come an end to their time. He had not heeded his father’s warning thinking that his father had been silly, and he had plenty of time to find a wife and family. Now he was the last dragon!
A tear slid down from his obsidian eyes onto his golden scales. He was the last dragon, there were no more and there never would be again. What would his legacy be, that he was too stupid to procreate and thus brought the end of his species? He turned away from the light in his cave, and glanced into the dark and lonely darkness before him. He wondered if he could find a way to be happy?
He was the last dragon, but that didn’t mean he was the last creature on earth. So he used his reserves of magic and fashioned himself into an elf. He was tall and beautiful, he thought, as he looked into the pool of water. His skin was a soft white song like that of clouds, his hair was golden, and his eyes were an obsidian night without moon or stars. They glittered like black opals in his face, and he found that to be quite lovely.
His mother had used to hoard gems before the humans killed her for them when he had been but a young dragon. He and his father had been away collecting water for the rest of the pack of dragons, but when they returned his mother and sisters were dead.
His father became withdrawn, quiet, and rather moody after that. Abraxton didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps. He may be the last dragon, but that didn’t mean he had to be alone forever. He was going to make the most of his life whilst he still could.
Walking into his cave he found clothing that had been discarded from a previous victim foolish enough to think he would slay the last dragon. Perhaps, he had thought the prestige would earn him a spot in the king’s court or win the favor of the princess or something.
Abraxton climbed down from his cave and into the crowd of people that were scurrying about below. Faeries, elves, and humans walked past him without suspicion or even notice.
He raised his brows. Well, then. Maybe there was nothing extraordinary about his appearance as an elf, after all.
But then a woman with dark brown hair and soft hazel eyes spotted him, seemingly smitten. “I’ve never seen you around the kingdom before,” she remarked. “Who are you?”
“I am Abraxton.”
“Like the dragon?”
It was then that he realized his folly, but it was too late to amend what he had said. He turned away. “I am the dragon.”
“You are—oh?! Are you really? I’m Princess Lovina.”
“A princess without her crown or guard at this hour?”
“What can I say? I prefer to be alone, sometimes. Having too many people around can be suffocating. I think you might understand that?”
“Aye, humans can be exhausting. But I am the last dragon. I yearn for more of my kind. Yet that will never be thanks to my stupidity. My father always told me that I should settle down and get married, I never listened. I always thought I had more than enough time.”
Lovina listened to him with a sympathetic look on her face. “You wouldn’t be the first to feel that way or make that mistake. Look at the poor dodos. They weren’t able to save themselves from falling, either.” She placed a hand on his arm. “But you can still live a happy life.”
“Do you think?” he asked.
“I do,” Lovina nodded.
The two became fast friends and spent many evenings together. Abraxton was always in his elven form, however, not wishing to attract suspicion or his own death. After several months, however, things between them had gotten pretty serious and they both had fallen for one another.
“Abraxton?”
“Hmm?”
“Should we have children would they be…”
“Nay. They’ll take after this elven form I fashioned for myself or you, I suspect,” he answered. “They may have the ability to turn into dragons, but they’ll never fully be dragons.”
Lovina nodded. “I still want children someday,” she insisted.
“With me? Knowing what I truly am?”
“Of course.”
“You don’t think me a monster?”
“If I did, would I still be here?”
“I doubt the king would let his daughter marry someone who has no proof of his life. Among the elves they would say that I were an enigma. I cannot piece together a history that would make sense to your father.”
“I don’t much care about all of that. I only care about you.”
“I care about your future,” Abraxton protested.
“It will be with you,” Lovina insisted. She placed a hand on her belly. “And we’ll know if he or she is a dragon in nine months time, I suspect.”
Abraxton blushed furiously. “I didn’t realize that this had happened already,” he remarked, looking at her side, but he heard the second heartbeat clear as day now that she mentioned it. “I think we should always be together, it is what I want, but I fear your father’s answer.”
“Don’t,” Lovina said. “We make our own destinies. Mine is with you. I don’t care what father says.”
Abraxton smiled softly. “If you insist,” he remarked. “And I will always take care of you both.”


 

All Five Senses
Kelli J Gavin

When I attempt to explain how it feels to be me, few understand. Actually, no one. The heft, the weight of my burden is more than anyone will ever experience.  I don’t expect others to understand me or what it feels like, and I am afraid I have stopped trying to impress on them the difficulty I face daily. I no longer attempt to even drop hints that I can see them. That I can see them and they can’t see me.  To be the last one left with vision is no longer amazing. It is so very heartbreaking.

Yes.  Possessing all five senses is an actual gift, and I am fully aware that others wish they could be me.  But to be the only one that has functioning eyes? I still do not understand how it is possible. I had intraocular lenses placed in my eyes in my late thirties when cataracts and glaucoma threatened my vision.  For some reason, the plastic lenses protected me from losing my vision when the ocular virus started to spread. When I turned on the news and heard about the thousands of a people a day that would lose their sight instantly, I gasped as I believed that it was only a matter of time and I would face the same fate.  That fate wasn’t mine. Every person I saw, every person I came into contact with, every person I love, lost their sight. And I visually witnessed it all. I never came to understand why there was an viral outbreak and why I was the only one immune to the globe crossing ocular virus. Now I believe, some things are better left unknown.

I would sit, silently, watching. Everyone who walked by me on the street would nervously pass me. Can she see? Should we ask for help?  I was able to tell that they could sense my physical presence even when they could not see me. I had free reign of the grocery store until the food trucks stopped coming to town. No one stands in line for food when you can’t find where the lines are even being formed. People, desperate people, stumbling trying to find someone who can help, someone who can direct them to food and water. I was wounded severely once when I thought I could be the one to help a group of moms with young children.  They clamored at me, reaching, grabbing, wanting my attention, wanting my help instantly. Bruised and bleeding as if I had been in an alley attack, I limped back home. I couldn’t admit to someone I could see. If I did, I would be risking my own life. I had the one thing everyone in the world needed. The ability to see.

When the phones, televisions and Internet stopped working, it was one thing. But eventually radio silence.  Those that had the manual capability to reach out by transistor radio eventually stopped doing so also. Did they give up hope?  Did the depression hit so quickly that they no longer saw a purpose in creating and fostering human connections? When staying home, in self confined jails became too much to fathom, the loss of life was no longer measurable.  No one had the physical means after a month to even attempt to tend to the dead. So there they lay. Where they decided their life would end. Floating in the rivers. Rotting in their homes. Stretched out if napping on the stairs of the church where they once went to Worship on Sundays.

I knew that I needed to flee. I would risk my mental stability by living alone, rather than my physical life by staying where everyone would eventually want to take advantage of the most horrible gift anyone could possess.  The gift of sight on a non seeing planet wasn’t a gift but a torment. I had every book at my disposal. I read and made notes and tore out page after page from the books left abandoned at the library. I would teach myself to grow food. To hunt. To build anything I would need.  To possibly figure out if I was capable to create energy which could be turned into electricity which could be turned into light. I gathered batteries. I gathered wires, I gathered seeds and containers for water. I made time lines and plans as to what I would need to accomplish and when. My plans were foiled when sickness took hold.  Maybe pneumonia. I am not really sure. I was about a week away from preparing to leave town when I was racked with severe coughing. There wasn’t a doctor that I could see, and I wouldn’t even know if there were medications nearby that I could get my hands on.

So here I lie. In my bed.  Dozing. In and out of consciousness.  This has taken me two days to write this down. Not sure who I am writing it down for. I know this sickness will end me.  If this notebook is found, who will be able to see it? Who would read the words on this page and be so flabbergasted at the fact that I am the last person with sight? No, someone will find it by searching with their hands for anything that is useful. This notebook will turn into paper to fuel a fire. Fire to keep someone warm. Until they decide that the church stairs seem like a mighty fine place to…


Bio-
Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.                                                                                                                                                                    Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



 

The Last Romantic
Sunil Sharma

As soon as he rushed into the compartment, breathless and disoriented, the train began moving across Vienna that looked different: A certain melancholia that attends the intersection of dusk and an advancing night.

Evening: In-between space characterized by a sublime mix of mellow darkness and dying light— divine works in chiaroscuro.

Forlorn and lost.

From the window- seat, he could feel the overpowering sadness of the hour. The offices were getting empty and streets filled up—fast.

Close!

Few seconds late and he would have missed the connection to Paris!

Once settled, he found her opposite.

Their eyes met and diverted—at the same time.

What quickly registered were a freckled face; the goggles on a disheveled head and an aloofness, typical of the solo female tourists.

That demeanor, oddly, was fascinating!

There were others. An Italian family—boisterous, chatty, loud—reminded of his family. The remaining travellers were on another planet—plugged into phones or lap tops.

He took out the book.

—Ayn Rand?

He looked up—into the smiling eyes of his co-passenger.

—Do you take Middle Eastern males to be savages?

She replied: No offense, please. Just curious.

The lilting tone soothed.

—Fine. No offense, either.

They relaxed.

—I am Anne. Freelance travel writer. Boston.

—David here. Manager. Berlin.

The strangers shook hands. Train hurtled down.

—Travelling Paris? She asked.

—Yes. You? He asked for the sake of conversation.

—Yes. Doing a piece on Paris and Multi-cultural Perspectives.

—Cool!

—Your first visit?

—No. Come often. You?

— I, too, keep on returning. Paris beckons as a besotted lover. You cannot resist Paris.

He nodded.

She continued: Ayn Rand in the summer of 2018 is a revelation…

—That too in the hands of an Arab.

She smiled: Not that implication. Ayn Rand is not that popular these days but some iconic books have an amazing afterlife. And ways of turning up in strange places!

—Right. Once I saw Ibsen in an Indonesian village—in an old paper shop.

—Yes. I once saw Thoreau in a Shanghai house of a factory worker, dreaming of a passage to America.

—Globalization! He exclaimed.

—Migration and its sources of inspiration. She observed.

—In a way, border-less world, ideas travel faster and we develop standardized tastes.

—Yeah. We are all Potter fans. Believers in magic. Fantasy sells.

He nodded: Yes. Books can change beliefs.

—So does travel.

They talked best-sellers and movies and found a lot in common.

—Travel often? He asked.

—Yes.

—Escaping America.

—Hmm! Maybe. She said.

—Or searching for the nirvana?

—Perhaps. You? Searching the Exotic Paris?

He smiled: Searching for the soul of the city that once hosted Joyce and Proust.

She was floored: You are highly cultivated!

—A dark prince! A Moor?

She won his heart by that dimpled smile!

.

They reached Paris late as the train got held up due to some technical problem. Decided to spend more time together by exploring the nightly life. Crowds everywhere. The sidewalk cafes were full. They drank the best wine, ate dinner and leisurely walked down the river-front, enjoying the breeze and the spectacular scene. The Seine reflected the lights. Every nationality could be seen there on the boulevards.

Another world!

Paris, the truly cosmopolitan!

—Certain things are fated. David said, holding her hands, on the bench, near a bridge.

—Indeed. Never thought I would have you as a companion!

He smiled: Frankly, I took you for a snobbish Yankee.

She was equally frank: I took you for a boorish Moor.

They both laughed.

—We have destroyed the power of stereotypes. Said David.

—Thanks to Ayn Rand and Paris. Anne said and added: Paris can cast spell on folks belonging to different cultures and make strangers into friends. Paris is heavenly!

—Yes. The cities can be mysterious. Deep South, such things are not possible. David said.

After a long silence, David said: There are strong coincidences. I cannot believe such things happening. But here we are—the Moor and his princess, in this city of love and romance, on a pleasant night, along a beautiful river. This is magical!

Yes. Anne said, in Paris only, odd things can happen. The city has its own enchantment and can dissolve barriers. This mood can be best summed up by the immortal Rumi: This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.

David went lyrical:

For you, in my respect, are all the world.
Then how can it be said I am alone
When all the world is here to look on me?

Anne said; Indeed! A midsummer night’s dream coming true for us, the ones chosen by Cupid on this lovely night. So bizarre, yet true. Fated, perhaps.

David beamed. I am a hard-core Romantic, last of the tribe.

—Yes, you are. Anne confirmed.

They began walking towards the shadows.

Then it happened.

The cops swooped down and arrested David who did not offer any resistance. Took him in an unmarked van. No witnesses.

.

Next morning, David was the national headline:

Top Terrorist Arrested

Paris: According to the police, the dreaded terrorist Abu Hassan has been captured. Called the Lone Bomber, he has successfully evaded arrest by assuming identities. Going by many aliases, Abu—a chemical engineer—has been on the move across the EU, the recent one being David. He is part of a fringe group that targets Western installations by planting bombs. He is the most deadly bomber, working solo, responsible for some lethal attacks in recent history. The cops are further investigating his role in other bombings. The main role in the operation was played by an undercover female agent by the name of Anne.


Author-bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

 http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



 

I’m the Last
Katherine Brown

Look to the right, the long glass surface sits empty. To the left, my view is the same – vacant space accompanies me. Such a terrible feeling of sadness overwhelms me. Alone. Unwanted. Plain, dull, monochrome, of no interest to anyone. Not long ago, I had made a long journey surrounded by friends, family even. We had been assigned an incredibly important task. It was a sacrificial mission, but one of the most honorable and joyous kind. Our kind were born to die and we accepted that, looking forward to fulfilling our purpose for the good of others.

Had it truly been only this morning I had been brought forth in a dizzying whirlwind of activity? Given a post of honor behind the brightly lit glass walls? Chosen with eleven others to venture forth into the world from the safety of our glass abode. Oh! How long ago and far away the keen sense of excitement and adventure feel now.

The client came in wringing her hands, anxiety pinging in her high-pitched voice. Special. “They have to be special, and all different” she insisted to the man in charge of our fates.

And let me tell you just how glorious it was to be numbered among the special, to be packed tightly into the transportation box and bid farewell by all those left behind with faces pressed to the glass enviously. Pride welled up within me. You could practically smell the joy wafting from my warm insides.

It was a lengthy and jarring ride to our destination. I’ll admit a bump to my head caused me more than a little distress, leaving a mark. At last we arrived and were released from the confines of transport. Placed strategically, like sentinels on watch for the slightest sign of trouble, we began the wait for our end. One by one it happened: a painfully shy girl grabbed onto Red like a lifeline, an older woman snatched up Lemon like an old friend, Chip was hastily sent to rescue an upset toddler. On and on they went, but not me. Nobody sought me out though I waited patiently.

I held onto hope for as long as I could, but I grew tired and stiff. Beads of perspiration soon trickled down my head. It became abundantly clear – a mistake had been made. I was not special. I should not have been sent to this place.

I suppose, as you’ve been kind enough to listen to my woes, I should introduce myself to you. My friends, when they were here, called me Nilla. It is short for my given title, Vanilla Bean. I am a cupcake. The last cupcake. The last cupcake at a child’s birthday party. The only cupcake not sprinkled or colored or flavored enough to fulfill my purpose and bring joy. I am Nilla, and I am afraid. I don’t know what happens from here.

They are dimming the lights now. Several of the lowly bars and dips around me are being scraped, most painfully it appears, into large black bags. I can’t imagine transport in those would be at all safe or comfortable. Will they send me there too? No. No they have passed by my post. Suddenly, a small scrap of a girl in a pink tutu comes tiptoeing towards me. She glances around, then scoops me up and whispers around a giant grin, “Shhh, you’re going to be my little secret.” Then, she twirls in a circle and off we race from the room.

I am Nilla. I held my ground. I am the last cupcake. I am a secret prize.


Bio:

Katherine Brown lives with her husband and step-daughter in Texas. A passion for books from the time she started reading led Katherine to dream of writing books and opening up a brand-new world for others as well. As a teen, Katherine discovered a new joy in composing poetry. Publishing her first two children’s books in 2017, Katherine hopes to continue writing long into her future and to inspire in others a love of reading for years to come.

www.katherinebrownbooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/Katherine-Brown-Katie-Author-1007999836006370/



Volume 1 Issue 23: Fly On The Wall

Image result for fly on the wall

This week we have three stories that play with the phrase “fly on the wall” in rather creative, unexpected ways. Two returning writers Kelli J. Gavin and Sunil Sharma, as well as first-time contributor Debjani Mukherjee, have given us readers three very distinct and yet equally enjoyable short stories this week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. 



The Van That Went Missing
Kelli J. Gavin

I sat shaking outside the closed door.  I learned back in the chair and rested my weary head on the wall.  When the door closed, my heart started to race and my mouth was so dry. What was being said? Who spoke first?  If I stood up and walked a bit closer to the door, would I be able to hear anything that was being said? I have never wished more than at that moment to be a fly on the wall.

My Freshman year of college, a campus van went missing. It hadn’t been seen in over 24 hours.  Someone decided upon learning that the vehicle was missing, to report that I had something to do with the disappearance or knew something about it.  Lots of practical jokes were played and often Freshmen were blamed. Usually, pointing the finger at someone was done in fun. But a campus van was missing and I was being blamed.

“I have nothing to do with the missing van.  I have been the target of a few pranks directed at underclassmen. They just want to see how far this can go.” I started out with gusto.

I was quickly interrupted by the Student Affairs Officer. “Four people have come to the Student Development Office.  One said that they overheard you talking about the van and that you know more about where it is. Two people said that they were told you were responsible for the van disappearing. And the fourth person only said that we should start asking you questions.  Are you telling us all four are lying? What do they have to gain?”

“Yes. They are lying. They probably thought it would be funny to blame the Freshman girl who doesn’t even have a driver’s license. I have never even driven a car before!” I exclaimed.

“You don’t even drive? Ever?” The Campus Security Chief asked.

“Never in my life!  This is a prank and I bet you anything the van has been hidden and you will find it soon.”  I shouted louder than intended.

They looked at each other and then at me in total exasperation.  I was excused from the office and then asked to wait in the lobby. Twenty minutes had already passed.

Both crossing their arms over their ample middle aged stomachs, they entered the lobby where I was waiting. “We just got a phone call from the athletic department. The van was found unlocked in Faith Village (married student housing) with the keys on the front seat. A note was left with the keys that said, “Sorry, needed a vehicle. Hot date.”  You may be excused.”

They were silent. I laughed. I didn’t just l laugh. I cackled.  Made a fool of myself laughing. I stood, bowed, and left as quickly as I could. I needed to get out of there before I let on that the boy I went on a date with was the one that referred to me as a “Hot Date.”


Bio-
Kelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Masks
Sunil Sharma

Perhaps, it was meant to end like that only.

Masks— a room full of them!

—How are you?

I turned around to face a mask facing me.

—What is that?

—The Noh-men or Omote.

Replied Harsh, my ad-hoc host.

—Got a big collection.

—Yeah.

He removed the mask: Welcome home, buddy!

—Thanks.

I replied.

—You keep on surprising.

I added.

—Well, the collection is worth three lakhs.

He said. I nodded.

—Harsh is crazy!

An announcement in a female voice.

—Meet your new sister-in-law, Smita, crazier than me.

We shook hands. Moved to the sea-facing balcony.

—How is the view? Harsh asked.

—Nice!

—Hmm! Nice! Yaar, it is spectacular! Worth 15 crores, this 24th-floor house in this part of the vertical Mumbai.

A waiter poured drinks. The sun-set indeed looked beautiful!

—Not for me. I do not drink.

I said.

—Come on! A French import. Cost me a fortune. A bit?

—No thanks.

—Your loss!

They both sipped.

—How is life?

Harsh asked.

—Going on.

—Where you live?

Smita queried.

—Virar.

—Never heard about that place.

She shrugged haughtily.

—You are lucky.

I said. She remained grim, playing with her diamond ring.

—So, what is going on?

Harsh again.

—As usual. Nothing exciting. You?

—Lots of excitement. A model as a wife. Wonderful kids. Going abroad for three-week vacation.

I smiled.

—Are you still there?

He asked.

—Yes.

—Want to join my start-up?

I said nothing.

—Manage that. Will pay five times more—for old times’ sake. And a car and chauffeur to drive you around in the city.

I kept mum.

—Think over. Do not get stuck in that hell-hole for life. Move up—as I did.

I nodded.

—Not many old friends would make such a life-changing offer.

I smiled. Smita looked at my workday clothes and rolled her eyes.

—That is why I called you up for this meeting. A big offer for my old friend.

Just then, my cell rang.

—Boss calling!

I went inside the huge hall where different masks stared at me from varied angles. After I finished, I made for the balcony—that wide deck full of flowers and a privileged view of the city-sprawl.

Her voice made me stop.

—Why?

I felt like becoming a fly-on-the-wall. Fixed—listening.

The voices grew louder. Smita’s tone was high. His, subdued.

—We go a long way, hon. His father was my father’s chum. Come from the same Kolkata. We spent college days together.

—So?

—Try to understand, hon.

—You try to understand, dear Harsh. Not worth our time and money.

—I know. He is not worth but we need honest guys…

A mask swayed in the sea-breeze.

Then others began dancing—frantically.

And an Oni mask fell off before me.

———————————————-

Author-bio:

Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:

 http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html

For more details, please visit the blog:

http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/



The Bagatelle
Debjani Mukherjee

The aroma of the cloves, cardamom and cinnamon float from one room to the other. The rusty flavour of roasting onion on a low flame swirled out, from the kitchen and unfurled its blanket on the open varanda showing the cracks out its wall and the bedroom on the other side of it where Mithilesh was reading a book on contemporary art. Sunday is the only day when he finds some time for himself. Tito was playing In the Varendra. Mithilesh can see him from his armchair, striking the tiny metal balls with the bagatelle stick. This was his childhood board game which was kept safe by his mother and now gifted to Tito. Old games like this are vanishing from the toy shops nowadays. The various types of games they used to enjoy at their childhood are all getting replaced rapidly by the virtual game world of the computer.

The aroma of the cooking coming out of the kitchen is enough to tempt even a non-foodie like Mithilesh. His wife Keka is a great cook always coming up with delicious new dishes. Mithilesh always appreciates this quality of hers in his mind but never poured down in audible words. Unlike Keka he is a quite person less expressive in his emotions. Keka keeps on muttering about this but basic human nature is hard to change.

The aroma of the afghani chicken watered the mouth of the seven years old. Tito waddled to the kitchen with his bagatelle, his little hands with unstable balancing skills tilted the bagatelle and dropped all it’s little metal balls just in front of the kitchen door. The balls bounced off to different directions. Some behind the flower pot by the kitchen door. Some under the big wooden chest filled with age old bronze utensils. Some inside the kitchen. Tito put down the empty bagatelle in front of the kitchen door and scratched his head. He sat down on his knees bending his head low and got busy seeking the tiny balls from their hiding place. He slipped his little hand under the huge wooden chest and moved to and fro to search them. He got one and then another the little fingers continued hobbling around when he heard his mom talking over the phone. It’s Rudy uncle she was talking to. Rudy uncle is a musician he knows how to play the piano. They went to his house several times. Where there is a big piano kept in the huge black and white sitting room. Tito saw him playing it several times. Mom was still Talking to Rudy uncle. Tito got almost all of his balls and kept them back on the board again and this time he took it up carefully and slowly went back to his Papa blanching the bagatelle balls rolling all over the board.

“What is it, Tito?” Mithilesh asked softy pulling Toto near to his lap. “I lost two balls,” he said. I slipped the bagatelle in front of the kitchen door and all the balls rolled there and there. I got them back but two are still missing. “Why didn’t you ask Mom to find them back? “ Mithilesh asked in a pampering tone. “Mom was talking to Rudy Uncle. She was inviting him for lunch today. She was saying Mithilesh never appreciates any of my cooking, I don’t like to cook for him but I love to cook for you and today I cooked your favourite Afghani chicken. Please Come fast I will be waiting for you eagerly.” Mithilesh couldn’t say a word he froze on his armchair.


Self-introduction 

    Debjani Mukherjee is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines. 



 

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