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 20: Hometown

Welcome FL Amelia Island 2008 WBlog


With this week’s prompt, I admit, I was inspired by the fact that I had been reconnecting with some of my old friends from our rather unique hometown (unique in that it belongs to us) and thinking about how even on the other side of the planet, the place still has a hold on me. This is not a unique feeling, I know, which is why it makes for an interesting prompt. Of course, several people commented that they did not have a hometown, something they share with my own children who have been dragged all over this mad world by their restless mother. This has resulted in my children being envious of my roots, of having a shared place to remember. Sure it is just a place but our hometowns (or lack of them) shape us, more than we would probably like to admit.
This week, we have a collection of excellent hometown tales from Sunil Sharma, Lesley Crigger, Kelli J Gavin, Elena Bitner, Julie Wakeman-Linn, and myself.

Such diverse perspectives on an idea that many of us take for granted as being a universal experience, I am sure you will enjoy reading these as much as I did.

Thank you to all the contributors and be sure to return next week for a new prompt on Monday.



Memories of a small town
Sunil Sharma

Maxim Gorky in north India!

Back then, Ghaziabad was liberal and art loving. Tree-lined roads; quaint bungalows; big parks; schools, colleges and hospitals—an ideal address.

It was his hometown—neat, ordered, tranquil, educated, liberal, middle class.

And truly cosmopolitan.

On that evening, returning home, he found a solitary bookshop on the Station Road. And the Master there!

His life-long tryst with the Russians began that instant. Every fortnight, the young man would trudge there for a Pushkin, Gogol or Chekov. Gave tuitions, saved money for the classics; hard cover and well-produced, yet affordable for a lower-middle-class student, doing an M.A in English.

Exhilarating encounter!

The shop slowly became a magnet for the enthusiasts: over cups of chai, debates over the Immortals and comparisons with the French and the English were conducted. The translated books in Hindi and English, mainly from Russia, were displayed there, along with some Hindi magazines and stationery items. The owner was a failed writer and wanted to make a living by selling literature of a foreign country in a dusty town, 28 km away from Delhi, the Capital of a post-colonial country.

The literate town did not disappoint the bookseller.

Ghaziabad was getting urbanized and industrialized fast in the 1990s. A bunch of idealists tried surviving in that bleak space by staging a Brecht and/or holding poetry sessions, Ghazal evenings, painting exhibitions, some place or other.

It was pure oxygen!

The initiates would discuss Kurosawa, Ray, Fellini or Osborne.

Often, international film shows were held through a film club; being artist was bliss for the out-of-the- job dreamers, young rebels!

A lean and intense man, Raghav Verma was deeply attached to his town: Still small— every street, face and café, familiar. Neighbours=family. People smiled at the strangers.

Inclusive!

Comfortable zone!

You truly belonged there.

… death of Pa altered things forever. He had to seek a job. The town suddenly grew very small and stifling! No opportunities. He bid a teary farewell to a place whose winds and waters had nourished a yearning soul and body…akin to bidding goodbye to a poor mother!

Reality sank in. He left for Mumbai in the late 1990s and found a calling as a screen- play writer. He got money and recognition in a mega city of million aspirations.

Ghaziabad became a receding landscape. A different age!

On a recent visit in 2018, after more than a decade, he found his hometown transmogrified!

Ghaziabad had grown heavy and ugly. The old lanes brimmed with shops. Each street was a mini-market. Malls, multiplexes, bars.

Ghaziabad— an open baazar. Fancy cars. Bikes. Pizza and Big Mac outlets. Beauty- massage parlours.

Shocking!

Where is his Ghaziabad?

Small becoming big; big, bigger; a mad race!

He searched for old cultural landmarks—the bookshop, old cafés, theatres.

Nothing.

Ads of deep discounts; happy hours and sales, in every corner; everything was on sale.

Sadly, Gorky has been exiled by Porsche…forever!


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/



 

More Secrets Everyone Knows
Lesley Crigger

The trouble with small towns is they’re full of secrets. Secrets the entire community knows but never admits to outsiders.  

Everyone knows Deputy Dodd sells moonshine from the trunk of his cruiser. Moonshine Otha Queen distilled on the back 40 of his crabgrass choked property. Everyone knows because everyone buys it. Including the pastor that crawls up into the pulpit every Sunday morning and preaches a 45-minute sermon on which new and exciting way you’re going to hell, not limited to hard rock and diet Pepsi. The same pastor that dons a white hood once a month, strikes a match and burns a cross. If you ain’t white you don’t drive into Endicott and you sure as hell don’t do it after dark on a Saturday night. And for the love of God don’t drive a shitty Honda with all probability of breaking. And if you are white, you don’t talk about what happens to shitty Hondas that break down on dark roads and you don’t mention what was in the barrel that washed up the Shawnee River last winter.

 Reigning consensus is Ashley Greer was drunk or on a methamphetamine high when her two-year-old daughter drowned in a shit-stained toilet. Some people, in hushed voices, questioned if she did it on purpose. Months later all people could do was remember the rambunctious, curly haired nymph with a gleam in their eye, shake their heads and wonder.  

 More secrets everyone knows. 

The biggest secret that plagues a small town is the one they tell each other. That they care. Sure, when Ashley’s kid turned face up in a bowl of piss, the community threw an auction in the name of charity. Said whether Ashley was negligent or even responsible, the child deserved a proper funeral. Besides, Nathan, the child’s father was a stand-up member of the community. A volunteer firefighter-no less.

Old ladies baked cakes, crafters made high priced-shit, local vendors donated goods. The community came out to show support-. Mostly they spent their money and talked behind each other’s backs all while smiling at each other’s faces. Told Nathan how sorry they were. Told each other they’d never be as blind as he was. Wasn’t he at least a little responsible? He knew Ashley had problems. How could he leave a child in her care? Well, she was his mother, she had rights.    

More secrets everyone knows.

Meanwhile lives are being rearranged, destroyed. There was a time and place when a light could have been shed on such a secret, but people kept it hid instead. Or did they? Was it ever a secret? Was it ever hidden? Or just kept within the family, within the community?

That’s the trouble with small towns- they’re full of truths.  



 

The Grass That Sways
Kelli J Gavin

When the grass sways from the mighty wind

And hits my ankles and brushes my legs

I fondly remember a simpler time when

I thought being outside was my job

When mom and dad would send us out

To play all day and return for food

Maybe even water and an afternoon rest

Under the big oak tree in the front yard

When dirt was something to seek

And I knew all the birds by name

Because they kindly called out to me

Each morning to come and play

My sister and I would join in the fun

A few neighbor kids by our side

We would run and play and sing and

Shout and chase each day away

In the country the freedom we had

To explore and create new adventures

Each day led to the promise of sleep

Every night our heads hit the pillow

I now find myself lingering outdoors

And seeking out the wind and the rain

The sun and even the shade because

I miss what I had when I was a child

Nothing to distract me from the fun of

Each new day when dishes and laundry

And meals seemed to be ready for me

I know it was all done by my mom

I thank her for enabling my sister and I

To take in all the sights and sounds

Of which our country home offered

To us in abundance each and every day

Our mom insisted that we be kids

And enjoy all the nature that surrounded

Us on every side and in every season

Oh how I loved my job as a kid

 

Today I will explore

Today I will walk in the fields

Today I will pick flowers

Today I will enjoy the grass that sways


27629333_10216219743193098_42171232456058480_oKelli 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




If You Listen Hard Enough
Elena Bitner

If you blink, you’ll miss it. Flybys on the highway who never know of the things that happen just beyond that single overpass exit. Some nights, it’s nothing at all. All three thousand, eight hundred, and thirty-five of us find our way to bed without anything more exciting than a parking ticket for leaving your car running outside the Allsups.

But some nights, like nights where the moon is just a bit too full, or the comets fly by just right, you’ll hear it. Children screaming because their momma’s being beaten half to death in front of them and nobody cares enough to call the police cause she’ll just be right back over there next week. Momma’s got nobody else, you see. Her family over in Ranger already abandoned her for shacking up with a married man. Nevermind that his wife left him years ago.

On some nights, like Friday nights when most of the dads are so far into their eighteen packs that they forgot their kids were supposed to be at home by ten, you’ll hear some pretty interesting sounds. You’ll hear music out in the desert and a young girl’s voice singing along with some of the boys. Boys she’s known all her life, boys she lets touch her wherever they want to cause they make her feel loved. Boys that’ll protect her from anyone else who tries to touch her, who’ll let her get good and drunk before they try and do it themselves. That way she’ll be able to feel alright about it in the morning.

If you listen hard enough, you might even hear her crying while they do it.

On church nights, that’s when you’ll hear the laughter. The sounds of family. Everyone’s spent their Sunday morning listening about the evils of the world, so they hold their breath and listen to the quiet night and think twice about that next beer. On nights like that, you’d almost think you could call the place home. Almost.

You there on the highway, you should probably just keep on driving, though. Our Allsup’s got only the bare essentials and the gas is a hell of a lot cheaper over in Abilene. You should just go ahead and blink. Close your eyes and don’t try to listen too hard as you pass, either. Cause if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear the devil walking through the streets of my hometown. Nope, you should probably just keep on driving.


Author’s Bio:
My name is Elena Bitner and I work in the education field in West Texas. I am from humble roots in East Texas and the first in my family to make it as far as I have, so I have come a long way from that hometown. I have a master’s in Creative Writing where my thesis was centered on exposing the atrocities of Southern neglect, abuse, and substance addiction.



 

SoDak Snow and Sky
Julie Wakeman-Linn

“We’ll need the license plate number for your parking pass,” the nurse said to Bridget.

 A static electric smell filled her mother’s hospital room. Bridget, desperate for fresh air, said, “I’ll get it.”

Outside a squall had begun. The weather had been clear when the airport shuttle dropped her off. Now a gauzy curtain of snow blurred the parking lot.

With her mom’s car in the far corner, Bridget’s plan to read the license plate from inside wouldn’t work. Running into a snowstorm wasn’t optimal, but preferable to doing nothing in the hospital room.

The snow gusts raced toward the south like they wished to pass over South Dakota on their way to Oklahoma without stopping. An inch or two of snow had accumulated already on the sidewalk. Bridget snapped her khaki safari jacket and stepped outside.

Under the hospital’s awning, Bridget gulped in fresh air, but iciness filled her mouth. She raised her hands to breathe through her bare fingers.

Stepping off the curb, her footing slipped and she wind-milled her arms to stay upright. A blast blew up her sleeves. The cotton of her jacket stiffened, trapping ice crystals next to her knit shirt.

Millions of crystal shards—none of them pretty snowflakes—showered her arms, her shoulders, her hair.

The howling wind carried the sound of an 18 wheeler passing by on Interstate 29. No bird sounds at all, only the lonely truck.  Her Serengeti was never empty of calling cape doves and buzzing grasshoppers. South Dakota wind blasted like it could peel her skin off her cheeks.

“You need some help?” A bass voice called.

At the corner of the building, a guy in a snowmobile coverall held a shovel in one hand and a cigarette in the other. His gloves draped out of a pocket.

“I’m fine.” She didn’t want any help from anybody. She’d managed her life for the whole time since she left South Dakota and she would keep doing so.

The snowfall, coating the car in gray-white dust, made the license plate unreadable. She brushed it clear. MSL. Her mother hadn’t changed her vanity plate, a last birthday present from Bridget’s dad.

Her hands, covered with the wet refreezing crystals, burned. Her breasts ached under her jacket and her knit shirt. In Tanzania’s heat, she’d wear only her sandals, underwear and her blue linen sundress.

Dingy clouds muffled the sky from the western horizon to the eastern. In summer these dark clouds would spawn tornados. Serengeti clouds were cumulous, enormous puffs of white sailing by on their way to the Indian Ocean.  Over the savannah, some part of the sky was always blue.

Weighed down by these January clouds, Bridget reached the entrance and brushed her chafing hands over her hair, her arms, and her thighs to knock off the snow. She gripped her travel pack strapped around her waist to feel the cardboard edge of her airline ticket. She wouldn’t stay in Sioux Ridge long.


Author’s Bio:
Julie Wakeman-Linn edited the Potomac Review for a dozen years. Over twenty short stories have appeared in lots of wonderful journals. Her next one is forthcoming from Evening Street Review.
http://www.juliewakemanlinn.com/





Walk On By

Tiffany Key

My aunt met me in the lobby of the hotel.
“We’ll walk, if you don’t mind. I need to stretch my legs before the service.” We walked past the golf shoe store, past the speciality bookstore for birdwatchers, past the ice cream parlor on the left and the one on the right, past the weird drug store that never took down their Christmas decorations, past the old bank that was now a tapas restaurant, past the old church that was now a bank.

“You know, I had just had lunch with your mother, right before the accident. I had been telling her to get that tail light, well, you know your mother, she never could listen”. My aunt dabbed at her eyes with an old tissue ball that she pulled from the inside pocket of her purse. There were still three blocks to go until the funeral parlor.

At the intersection, we waited for a line of log trucks to pass, the traffic light swaying as stray branches brushed against it. My aunt, nodding towards the Episcopal Church catty-corner, said, “You know, they got themselves a woman priest in there. Half of the congregation was in an uproar but then what were they going to do? They are too good for the Baptists and not religious enough for the Catholics. They would have been welcomed by the Methodists but they’ve also got a woman preacher. Of course, there’s the Presbyterians but everyone always forgets about them.”

The light changed and we walked on the disheveled sidewalk, grey and white hexagons cracked and displaced by knotty oak roots. We would jump from grey to grey as kids, avoiding the white ones along with the cracks, not wanting mothers with broken backs. To our right, the haunted Victorian house where my friend’s brother rented the attic: we would sit on his splintered balcony, smoking pot while her brother and his friends played their guitars poorly and talked about what they were going to do once they got out of this town.

We passed the old hospital that was now a law firm and headquarters of our State Representative. Across the street was the old high school that was now the school board and, right next door, in the sprawling white colonial revival house, was the funeral home, crowded with people there to bid farewell to my mother. My sister was inside already, making sure our mother’s pearls were laying properly.

My aunt slowed to a halt, looking at the line of cars trying to turn into the narrow drive.
“What a mess”, she said, then looped her arm through mine. “Had they put the new boardwalk down at Main Beach when you were here last? Shall we go have a look?”
And like that, we walked down toward the ocean, past my dead mother and her dead sister, past the alligators in the marsh, past the recreation center with the new heated pool, until there was nothing before us but the horizon.


About the author:

Tiffany Key is a linguistic navigator and amateur anthropologist who lives in a decent-sized closet with four fierce contenders near a shallow sea. Her work as appears and disappears here and there. She records cognitive flights of fancy at:

saishowagu.wordpress.com



 

Volume 1 Issue 12: Addy

Sorry for the delay folks. There were some technical difficulties over here but finally they are resolved and the show can go on as planned. Thank you for your patience.

For this week’s unusual prompt, we had three contenders toss their stories into the ring. Deb Felio with her story Regarding Addy, Tim Clark’s story The Boxer, and my own piece (that ran over the word limit a bit but due to time constraints, I will just overlook my violation). Hope you enjoy our story adaptations.

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Regarding Addy
Debbie Felio

     It’s been fifteen years and I remember like it was yesterday. Isn’t that what everyone says? Like it was yesterday.
    He knew this day would come. He raised me for it. After Momi died and Dadi got too sick to fight anymore, he knew he had to make me tough. Even when Charcoal died. No tears. Just strong face. Just another loss. We both had so much dammed up. So much we never talked about. I hated him. And I loved him. And I needed him, and I hated that he needed me. I would hit at him and he would mock me. ‘Harder!’ he would shout. “Harder!” And I wanted to show him I could and would, and I was afraid I could and would.
    The first time he hid his medicine from me when he asked me to get him magic water, I hated he didn’t think I was big enough to know. And I spit my hate into his water and took it to him. He swallowed it. Everytime. He was that tough – to swallow up my hate. Did he know then it was also my fear?
     Distractions were short term solutions. Cartoons on the TV. Coloring. My collection of special bugs found in the house – each one named.  Watching Jody and Jessi next door outside. I was so alone. And I wouldn’t leave. Until that day.
     That day Charcoal died and I hit Dadi too hard and he needed magic water more than usual and we just looked hard at each other. And then.That.Tear. Coming down his cheek. We held each other tight. We both felt in each other what we knew.  And when he told me to go outside, I did. Jody and Jessi came up and we ran off together. I knew.

It was like it was yesterday.

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The Boxer
Tim Clark

“In the clearing stands a boxer,

And a fighter by his trade,

And he carries the reminders

Of every glove that laid him down

Or cut him till he cried out.”*
He could have been somebody, but, he never was. He left all of his hopes and dreams scattered in broken pieces lying in ratty gyms and smoky halls across the lower half of the country. His heart was broken, and failing. His dreams had died, and he would have joined them had it not been for her.

The only thing he had was the girl, she was his life and all he could give was the love he didn’t understand.  His daughter, his protected, his protector.

She had a curious touch, a nurturing spirit, and she cared for everything. Including the boxer. He saw the world in her eyes, and her gentleness. He could never understand what it meant, but it was his world.

The only gift he could give her was himself, and it was given freely. And the only thing she could give him was herself and she did. They shared a bond born of extreme poverty and nourished by need.

They lived off the food they could grow, the chickens they shared their shanty house with. She fed the chickens with the insects she caught, and she nourished her father best as she could. Calling on her own magic she would spit in the medicine power she mixed in his water. When you have nothing you try everything.

In the end he lost the fight but he waited battled long enough to teach the girl everything he could. He hoped it would be enough.
*The Boxer by Simon and Garfunkel

———————————————————–
Magic Water
Tiffany Key

Addy had been awake since dawn, occupying herself as quietly as possible while her father slept in the other room. She always did her best but her coloring books became boring and there were only so many times she could watch Brutus punch Popeye across the forest before she lost her patience. She was laying on the floor in her torn tee-shirt and cut-off jean shorts, listening to the chickens peck the dirty brown carpet for food that was not there.
The laundry was washed and hung up on the walls where the framed paintings of flowers doubled as a clothesline. She rolled onto her side to watch her hissing cockroach make its way slowly over the carpet. Addy reached out and scooped it back into its jar, turning the ice-pick punctured lid shut. Returning it to its place amongst the jars of crickets and stick bugs on the top shelf of the closet, Addy went into the kitchen to feed the cat. Yesterday’s food was still in the bowl but she did not realize it until she had already opened the can. It had been raining all day yesterday so the cat had probably just been holed up somewhere, waiting it out. Looking out the window, she saw the neighborhood children playing in the mud, laughing. Addy watched them for a moment then realized it was late enough in the morning for her to wake her father.
She went to his room and gently pushed his broad back. His snoring continued. Addy looked at the picture he kept tucked into his vanity mirror: her father, strong, glistening, a boxer ready to fight. Behind her, he stirred, coughing himself awake. He was sweating from his dreams and looked around a little dazed, remembering his reality.
Addy, get me some magic water.
She ran to the kitchen where the dirty dishes from days and weeks before surrounded the sink. She ripped open the powered solution and poured it into the glass before filling it with tap water. Then she lovingly spat into the mixture before stirring, carrying it carefully back to him so as not to spill it.
She was watching the children again when her father called her to the backyard. There, curled up into a ball, was the cat. Its fur was spiky wet and at first Addy wondered why it had just laid there, sleeping out in the rain. Her father had a plastic garbage bag in his hand and was just about to pick the cat up when Addy figured out what was going on. The tears rose up in her eyes before she could stop them. Her father must have felt her weakness and turned to her.
No, we are not going to do that, he said.
Addy nodded, wanting to be stoic.
Good, now show me your strong face.
It was too much.
Addy shouted no then ran into the house, leaving her father to bag the cat on his own. As he dropped it into the garbage can, he noticed the three children digging in the mud, smiling and sharing makeshift shovels.
He walked inside and was immediately attacked by his daughter, who wore his gloves as if they were hers.
That’s it, he said, delighted she was dealing with her grief like a fighter, bring it. Who’s the man?
I’m the man! Addy punched him hard in the chest.
The pain was immediate. His lungs constricted and he fell back into the armchair.
Addy, go get me some magic water.
She was quicker this time but he still managed to pop two of his heart pills into his mouth before she returned. He did not want her to know that it took more than her spit and seltzer water to keep him alive.
He drank it quickly and felt his pulse return to normal, his lungs fill with air once again. Addy stood before him, eyes wide and glistening with tears.
She looked so much like her mother. It had been over a year already. He let the tears roll down his cheeks as he pulled his daughter close.
Later, when Addy went to join the children, she turned for a moment and looked back at him, uncertain. He just nodded and thought, go on. Go on, my girl.

Volume 1 Issue 11: Childhood Wonder

We have three stories this week: returning contributor Tim Clark with his story Ghosts; The Dreamed End by Melvin A. Camasis; my story The Travellers.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoyed writing them.

Remember, new prompts are posted every Monday.

And stay tuned for an announcement about the direction Mercurial Stories is headed.

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The Dreamed End
Melvin A. Camasis

dream (1)

It’s already Friday, five o’clock in the afternoon. Coming back home from school, can’t wait to play my Nintendo Family Computer. Greeted everyone, telling them I’ve arrived home! Went directly to my room, laid my bag at the side of my drawer. Open the TV and played games the rest of the day. Mom called me out and ate dinner. After dinner played some more ‘til ten. Got very tired didn’t notice I was already dozing off in front of the TV.

Wandering off in my dream. Noticing that I no longer in our house, inside a big room that has a bed, a small couch, on top of the table is a laptop, desk lamp and a couple of books, pen, and paper notes. Besides the toilet is the door. I immediately run outside of that room but seems like I entered another one, a much bigger room that interconnects six rooms including the one I just came out off. I am now panicking up to my wits and my heart is just thumping so hard, can’t breathe air normally. I shouted very loud “WHERE IS THE DOOR OUTSIDE!”, And tears suddenly fell down my eyes. I prayed aloud saying “GOD, I know how terrible I am with my family and friends, is this my punishment?” I cried for two hours in the middle room sofa.

Suddenly heard a loud clicking sound, a very big television screen turned on and showed multiple partitioned screens on each one of the rooms and also showing on some of the screen, the most frightening thing outside of this big place. The structures of the buildings, trees, houses are unrecognizable. All turned to color black. So many dead animals, fishes on the waters. It’s like there are no more living thing can be seen. Now I remembered my family, are my parents dead? Am I really the only one who survived this terrible thing that happened outside?

I became more agitated. It prompted me to investigate from the other rooms. Maybe I can find something if I look around. The first room next to one I came out looks like a big kitchen with all kinds of frozen meat, fish, vegetables inside the freezer, on the cabinets different kinds of canned goods, cereals drinks, gallons of water, inside a fridge different kinds of fresh juices.

In another is a media center where there are different kinds of game consoles and cartridges, a big computer connected to a big screen, it really looks like a small cinema or movie and playroom. Continued on to another that looks like a gym with all the exercise equipment. Another is like a communication or control room. And lastly, a room full of books, like a personal library. Six different rooms complete with all necessities of life.

Then I heard multiple crashing and banging sounds. And a very familiar loud voice saying  “MELVS WAKE UP”! Woke up with my mom beside me, shoving me around. SNAP OUT OF IT!

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Ghosts
Tim Clark

I used to believe in ghosts. Sometimes, in dreams, I would see people who had passed away. Often I wondered if they came to tell me something, pass on a message from somewhere, or someone else. Maybe they just wanted to say one last goodbye. Maybe they weren’t there at all, and I just wanted to say one last goodbye.

After I quit smoking I joined an online support forum. It was my first real venture into the ethereal world of the internet. People would come and post about their struggles or victories, and receive advice or congratulations. One thing that was almost universally cursed, dreams of smoking.  People would rail about the dream that made them think they had started smoking again, only to realize they hadn’t. One of my online Friends said she loved her “smoking dreams.” She would never have to smoke again and could enjoy smoking without spending the money or ruining her health. The outrage was immediate and almost universal. She couldn’t really quit as long as she enjoyed her smoking dreams people said. I thought it was a fantastic solution.

Whatever the reason, I enjoyed seeing my friends and family stop by occasionally in the night. It was comforting, peaceful. They weren’t completely gone. I could see them occasionally. It was kind of a relief. As I got older and knew more dead people they quit showing up. Probably just as well, it could have been quite a parade. It might have just gotten too crowded so they just quit showing up.

Now, I am aging, and have seen the trials of everyday life. First hand I have seen the many ways simple things can become complicated problems. My dreams are haunted by deadlines passed. Ghosts of product shipped in error. Ghoulish specters of missed opportunities dance through my dreams. Sleep is never quite as restful when those visions come in the night. Emails and phone calls punctuate the seconds when you wake. It is a constant barrage of electronic questions demanding to be answered as they stream through the restless night.

I guess I still believe in ghosts. I just don’t like them as much. They aren’t as polite as they used to be.  

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The Travellers
Tiffany Key

 

When I was younger than my own children are now, my mother would curb my naughtiness with a simple threat: if you are not good, the Travellers will come and collect you as one of their own. I did not know who the Travellers were and when asked, my mother would only reply, “Oh, you’ll know who they are when they come and take you in the night”.

At first, the Travellers were just a vague threat, shadows lurking within the shadows. Then I read The Borrowers and decided that the Travellers were simply a tribe of small people with a malicious streak. This changed the shadows, the mysterious creak of a floorboard, the rattling window panes. If I could catch a Traveller, then I could convince it to take me to the others so I could reform them as well. I imagined myself the giant queen of their clan, living off blackberries and crawfish, making myself a house with stick walls and acorn cap shingles.

I began to set classic traps, boxes propped up on sticks. When those failed, I covered my windowsill with glue and used my dad’s entire box of flypaper to line the trunk of the only tree whose branches came near our house. For a while, this went unnoticed by my family. Eventually, though, my older sister noticed the insect cemetery on the oak when she tried to rescue a skink that was struggling against its sticky fate. She sounded the alarm and my mother invaded my room only to find a similar mess on the windowsill where sugar ants had attempted to cross the glue.

As my mother was droning on about what she was going to do with me, I realized I was going about it all wrong. I didn’t need to catch a Traveller: they would come and catch me.

I calmly reached over to my nightstand and pushed the lamp to the floor. The light bulb shattered upon impact. My mother hissed, “What is the matter with you?” through her teeth. She commanded me not to move and ran to get the dustpan. By the time she returned, I had already managed to climb out the window. She looked down to where I was on the lawn and started to say something but was interrupted by the rock flying towards her head. I had a handful of nice, heavy granite and began to lob them at all the windows. The sound of glass breaking into sharp shards was almost as satisfying as everyone yelling at me to stop (or else).  

That night, laying on my side, my backside sore from my dad’s belt, I smiled as I slipped into sleep, thinking that surely the Travellers would now claim me as one of their own. In the morning I would be disappointed but that night, I dreamt that they encircled my bed, twig torches ablaze, trying to figure out how to steal me away.

 

 

 

 

 

Volume 1 Issue 10: Good Gone Bad

This week’s stories come from the formidable Debbie Felio, first-time contributor Tim Clark, and myself. Like usual, the stories may have shared the same conditions in their conception but are definitely distinct reactions to the prompt. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as we did!
See you on Monday!

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No Good Deed
Debbie Felio

  He’d been around the neighborhood for the last year. Initially I thought he was scoping the neighborhood out. There are certain preconceptions, I admit. Thirty years on the same street, you might be suspicious of unknown people walking by, too. And given that most of us are on the downhill side of 60 we’re often seen as easy marks for scammers.
  But this kid – couldn’t be more than 20 – had been helping with odd jobs – yard work, cleaning gutters, even shoveling sidewalks and putting down the melt or gravel in the winter. Mostly outdoor stuff because none of us wanted to risk him coming into the house and stealing something.
  A mutual benefits sort of thing – we got those jobs that we didn’t want to admit we couldn’t do anymore done by helping someone else out – cash – no questions. And he was reasonable and dependable. We weren’t sure exactly what his name was – Markus, Marko, Mario – he answered to any of those. We weren’t a prejudiced group, but you can’t help but notice differences.
  It was one of those surprise weather days when Mother Nature decided to smile big time after a hard couple of weeks of winter. Clear blue sky, in the 70s and some early budding. Some of us were setting our chairs back on our porches and opening the house windows. We all saw Marco/Mario walk up the street from the bus stop at the light 3 blocks away. It wasn’t a regular day for him so none of us had our lists ready. He waved as he passed, but he wasn’t stopping. We watched him walk to Jake Slate’s house. Jake the Snake we called him. A slithery character who mostly kept to himself. A little too off center if you asked me. And Marco/Mario didn’t stop at the porch but walked into the house when Jake opened the door.
  About an hour later, a couple of us on our porches see him – Marco/Mario – come running out of Jake’s house – pulling his pants up and stumbling – that’s when he falls down, and me and Hadley run over to him. He’s bleeding and that’s when we call 911. The fire, ambulance and police all show up. He tried to refuse help, but because there’d been some sort of injury the police had to make a report. Seemed Jake wanted a job a little too odd. When the police go to Jake’s house, there’s no answer, so they go in and Jake’s dead – looks like he fell down the stairs. But because Marco/Mario is the last to see him, he’s now a suspect in a possible homicide – even if it’s accidental.
  He’s taken to the police station and they discover Marco/Mario came over illegally as a kid from Mexico wth his parents who were sent back 2 years ago, so they call ICE.
  That’s all I know.

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Life gets away, this time.
Tim Clark

Life is hard to understand, Occasionally something good will happen. Most times, though, random occurrences, minor, petty inconveniences barge in callously proving life is not your friend. Life belongs in a museum, behind glass, or a zoo locked in a cage. We need to control life a little better. Life walks around, taking, and stomping, and smashing, and just being a big bully in general.

We, here at Life Explained, have decided to take steps to rein in the abusive monster of reality. First we called a meeting, complete with catered breakfast, and coffee service.

It was fantastic, croissants, bagels, fresh pastries, all arrayed in artfully on long tables, covered with pristine white linens. Oh, and the coffee, was the coffee extraordinary. Dark, hot, freshly ground, steam rising as you poured it in your cup. It had to be the coffee of the gods.

A line started to form at the buffet table. Soon there was some jostling, it looked like the cheese danish were going to go before Geoff, the archivist was going to get one. He tried to muscle his way in front of Cathy, the secretary for transportation department, nasty words were exchanged. Glares, snarls and curses.

Not just swearing either. Turns out Cathy comes from a long line or gypsies. It was, in retrospect, obvious. Cathy was always wearing flowing, pleated, flowered skirts ending at her ankle. Her dusky complexion was complimented by eyes so dark and so glittering they appeared to be pupiless. When she walked, anywhere, people, in the back of their thoughts, almost imperceptibly, heard distant, primal music. A song that haunted them for minutes after she had past. Nobody said anything about the melody, why would they. And nobody made the connection, until yesterday.

Before Geoff could could get back to the end of the line all of his hair had fallen out. He had spent so much time perfecting his look, just the right amount of grey around the temples, the rest jet black, and combed precisely backward, almost aerodynamically. He spent a small fortune on hair products, to keep it in place and colored just perfectly. His clothing was chosen to compliment his hair.

When it fell out he dropped to the floor, sobbing, weeping, curled up in a ball, his face buried in his hands. His shining, bald head gleaming under the harsh lights of the flashing camera phones. It was heartbreaking, and all over Instagram.

We decided Life had won this round. Cathy got her own office, and a company car. Geoff apologized and got his hair back, in a gleaming shade of white/silver that would go with almost any suit. And we went back to work.

Don’t worry, we haven’t given up, we lost the battle, but the war continues. Maybe we will have pizza next time.

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 Imelda and Her Shiny Shoes

Tiffany Key

The first pair of shoes that someone, other than her mother, bought for her was after the great storm. The streets were flooded but she had to wear her only shoes or risk stepping on something. The missionaries had handed out the cheap rubber sandals at the end of their visit the previous year. For a while, she was able to get around with the soles flapping open like two hungry mouths under her toes. Eventually, though, the glue disintegrated completely and the shoes became a collection of irreparable pieces.   

Her mother was working in the city at the time and no one else had the money to take care of little Imelda’s footwear problem. She could not go to school without shoes and for several days, went instead to the harbor and make herself comfortable in her uncles’ fishing boat. She would bring her books and dutifully complete her daily assignments. She’d eat her lunch and then take a short nap under the canvas sail she stretched over the stern like a roof.

Had one of her family members discovered her, she would have been scolded for being on the boat but not for the truancy. Night fishermen, her uncles and grandfather thought that sending Imelda to school was a waste of money. Imelda’s mother wanted her bright daughter to do well in school so she could have a future away from the slums. It was for her beloved mother’s sake that Imelda was so diligent with her studies though, for the most part, she found school tedious. She was absorbed in an arithmetic problem when she was spied by her mother’s best friend. The woman walked down the rickety dock in fragile stiletto heels, calling Imelda’s name. When she asked the child why she was not at school, Imelda looked down at her feet in shame, unable to explain to her mother’s elegant friend that she was not allowed in school barefoot.

The woman had grown up in the same neighborhood so she understood without Imelda’s words. The woman told Imelda to pack up her books and follow her. At the mansion the woman called home, her maid was instructed to give Imelda a bath. Then she had her driver take her and Imelda to the shopping street. Imelda was speechless, nodding or shaking her head to all questions. When she was dropped off back home, new patent leather shoes and white socks adorning her small clean feet, she was irreversibly altered. She had been shown a new world, a world where food did not have to be grown or caught if you wanted to eat, a world with maids and drivers and shoe salesmen and the rich fragrance of Vol de Nuit.

Decades later, after they had arrived safely in Hawaii and she learned that not only her jewelry but her thousands of shoes had been confiscated, Imelda’s distressed mind returned to those first shoes. She smiled, remembering how she would use banana peels to keep the patent leather glossy enough to see her future, shining bright.

No. 9: Temper Tantrum: Stories

This week we have four stories of ill-temperments from Shane Guthrie, Linda M. Crate, Debbie Felio, and myself. Four very different instances of temper tantrums told in four very unique styles. Interestingly enough, all four stories happen to feature adults as the distempered.

Enjoy!

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Temper Tantrum
Shane Guthrie

My voice hurt from growling at you
To go to sleep
To be quiet
To lie still

You were screaming at me, and writhing around
You were kicking me and following me
When I tried to calm down
In the living room

But I was the adult, so it is mine to apologize

I’m sorry
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Leftovers for Jan
Linda M. Crate


Didn’t they say temper tantrums were for peevish children that weren’t getting their way? Asia shook her head as she looked at her husband laying on the floor screaming, and pounding his fists. She knew that he was tired and he had a lot of stress on his shoulders but so did she.

She was a teacher in addition to being a wife and mother. She just hadn’t felt like cooking, and didn’t see why her statement would illicit such a reaction from her husband. Her kids didn’t throw a fit about leftover night so she wasn’t so sure why a grown man was displaying such childish behavior.

“Mom, what’s wrong with dad?” her nine-year-old asked.

“I don’t know, honey. Perhaps the stress of his job caused him to lose his mind, but he is acting worse than either yourself or your brothers ever did,” she told her daughter.

This seemed to sober her husband Jan up really quickly. He pulled himself off the floor, and brushed himself off, blushing profusely. “I’m going to go take a shower and cool off.”

“You do that,” Asia snorted, watching  him as he walked away. She then turned to her daughter. “So how was your day today? Do anything exciting at school today?”

“If falling on your face during soccer in gym class counts as exciting then sure. I hate that I am so bad at sports. There are other girls in my class that are so impressive at sports, and then there’s me tripping over my own two feet. What a joke, huh?”

“I don’t think you’re a joke. We all have different talents and abilities, honey. That’s what makes us all so special and different from one another.”

“Maybe,” her daughter sighed. “I just wish I had better hand-eye coordination.”

“Well, maybe your brothers could help you practice after dinner.”

“Yeah?”

“Ew, no, Jamie, you’re a lost cause.”

“Yeah, you really suck.”

“Like really, really suck.”

“Boys, be nice to your sister. You can help her practice soccer. She used to help change your diapers, and she never complained. She used to read you books before bed, too, sometimes.”

“Okay, okay.”

“Geez, mom, you’re so embarrassing!”

“It’s my job as a mom,” Asia winked.

Her husband came downstairs a few minutes later pulling some meatloaf out of the fridge, reheating it in the microwave.

“Feeling better, dad? Your temper tantrum was a bit scary.”

Jan rubbed the back of his head, clearly embarrassed. “Yes, daddy just didn’t handle the stress of his job very well, but he’s doing better now.”

“That’s good because mom says we have to help Jamie learn how to play soccer and she’s pretty hopeless. We’re going to need your help, too.”

“Don’t be mean to your sister, you know she used to change your diapers, right?”

“Mom said the same thing,” grumbled one of the boys.

“Well, maybe you should listen your mother then,” Jan winked.

“Best advice I’ve ever heard you give,” Asia grinned.

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An Alternative
Debbie Felio

Throwing a tantrum is so classless
when there can be so much more harm
done with less crassness

you don’t have to look the crazy
to do the crazy and with enough charm
to make it all hazy

you’re enraged at what ever = it doesn’t even matter
keep your cool and at the party
on her spill the shrimp and sauce platter – oops

the seats on the flight are too narrow to flip
her long curls over your tray
so make a gradual four inch snip – so sorry

he’s late again, you can’t raise a stink
his whites with the reds
now he’s in the pink – oh, dear

In the parking lot the sports car took the last 3
spaces for nongreen cars
walk slowly beside it with your own sharp key – la di da

passed over at work – no place to shout
put on your hoodie with a pair of gloves
and pull the fire alarm on your way out –  whee

The gossip about you is too much to cope
send a well-timed letter to the culprit
“Personal! HIV test results” on the envelope. ohhh

There’s so much more evil in creativity
without showing your intention
you can get even and keep your pretty.  you’re welcome!

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The Locked Door
Tiffany Key

There was an empty bottle of sake outside the locked bedroom door. I had been at work all day in the neighboring city and was bone-tired. After I knocked on the door without a response, I went to the other side of the house to check on the kids. I opened the door and saw that they had fallen asleep in a huddle in my eldest son’s bed. I returned to deal with the locked door. We were staying at my parent’s old house until we got on our feet, giving me the advantage. I knew how to make those particular doorknobs give way.

Successful after a minute with the screwdriver, I walked through the master bedroom to the bathroom where my husband sat on the floor, back against the sink cabinets.
“What’s going on?” I asked. He just shook his head slowly back and forth.
I tried to be patient but eventually, in my exhaustion, said, “This is ridiculous.”
“Ridiculous? I am being ridiculous? No,” he stood, swaying on his feet like a boxer about to take a punch, “you are the ridiculous one.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why don’t you think about what you did today? Huh? Like who did you talk to, huh?”
“I was at work. All day. I talked to you during my lunch break. I don’t understand what you are upset about.”
“You had quite the chat with him.”
“Him?”
“Yes, him. Ah, you remembered, huh? Yeah, yeah, I know.”  And he glanced over at the computer screen where my Facebook page was still open. My conversation with my friend from high school was up in the right bottom corner.
“But we didn’t talk about anything,” I protested.
“Yeah, but I told you not to talk to him. That I don’t like him.”
“You don’t really know him. He’s just a friend. I mean, look…”.

I turned to walk over to the computer, thinking that if we just looked at the conversation rationally then he would see how insignificant it was but as I took a step, I was grabbed from behind. He threw me against the open door so hard that the hinges were pulled clean from the doorframe. Shocked but somehow I managed to get to my feet and rush into the living room.

The alcohol slowed him down and so when I saw his fist, I had enough time to move out of the way. The impact against the plaster wall created a small spider web fracture. I
 ran through the kitchen, barricading myself behind the laundry room’s slatted door. I listened for his heavy footsteps coming my way; instead I heard the front door open and slam shut. I had the car keys in my pocket: he couldn’t get far.

After the silence remained unbroken for over five minutes, I went to the kids’ room, locking the door behind me. I climbed into bed with them and my youngest daughter grabbed onto my arm.
Eyes closed and mostly asleep still, she whispered, “Dad’s been having temper tantrums all day.” I kissed her downy head and put my free arm across the others, trying to stop shaking so I wouldn’t wake them all.

No. 7: Stories: The Golden Years

So, this last week was rough in terms of doing all that needs to be done for this project. A major event at my work gobbled up my hours and energy. I typically don’t accept excuses like that from myself but since time is ticking by, I need to get on with the show. This week, we actually only have one story. Well, from me there are these two sentences:

On the day that Ronald Wright retired, he went home, kissed his wife and then took the dog out for a walk. In the park, he let the dog off the leash though the old beagle did not go too far.

I meant to finish it up today but then it became midnight and Monday transformed into Tuesday. So I am going to keep the two sentences and use them later.

Luckily, we have the ever-persistent and ever-so-talented Debbie Felio with her story “Where’s the Gold?”. Enjoy!

Where’s the Gold?
Debbie Felio
Desirable. Valuable. The stuff dreams are made of. Gold.
The gold rush brought pioneers to the great West of the United States and wealth to a great many.
Five golden rings in the 12 days of Christmas
Streets of gold in the heavens of eternity.
First place Olympians.
The fantasies-
Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – apparently still up for grabs.
Rumpelstiltskin and spinning straw into gold for a price.
Goldilocks – she was a bit of a criminal.
That goose that laid the golden eggs and look what happened to her.
King Midas whose own golden years turned on him.
Sometimes the Gold isn’t what we thought it would be. ‘The Golden Years’ was once a marketing strategy to lure active retirement-aged adults to a special new living arrangement for 55+ in a golden place called Sun City. Separating them from the rest of the population to enjoy the later years unbothered by responsibility or family. For a hunk of their gold. An artificially created goal – like that pot at the end of the rainbow.
Then on those special occasions when they were engaged with grandchildren a comment following the answer to ‘how old are you ?’  was ‘Gee, old… in years’.  Golden Years became an unfinished bridge between the young and old because there were no connecting experiences or stories to link them together. Nothing to paint a picture of life that is lived reverently or respectfully or even at times recklessly – that points to the realities of brokenness along the way and the picking oneself up and perseverance to continue the journey.
The Japanese art form of Kintsugi honors the value that remains in broken things. When a bowl or teapot or precious piece of pottery is broken, rather than set it aside or discard it, it is repaired, not by trying to hide or disguise – like so much plastic surgery that attempts to deny the golden years – but with a liquid gold that brings the fragments together again and enhances the breaks, giving the piece of pottery a more refined appearance by the highlighting of the cracks. It acknowledges uniqueness and resilience, value and honor in imperfection and age. Just as each piece has its own beauty of cracks and lines highlighted in gold, how much more might we as a culture begin connecting with each other if we begin to recognize the beauty in the lines of our own bodies – those places that record our uniqueness, our experiences, our stories.
Because those broken experiences can begin at a very young age, rather than wait for those elusive ‘Golden Years’  why not let life experiences be the uniting bridge as we recognize in each other at any age the precious and honored gold in years.

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