Volume 1 Issue 38: Resolutions

A year ago, I started this endeavour as an attempt to balance my writing practice with my Japanese study. It was, essentially, a resolution. Like all resolutions, I faltered many times. I wanted to quit every other week, questioned the conception of such a foolhardy resolution, was puzzled by the evolution of the project. It grew from the seed of my desire to write regularly and became an entirely different tree, filled with the fruits of others’ labours.

Accepting the tree as it was, letting it grow into what it is now, was more meaningful than establishing a better writing practice, it turned out. Supporting others in their own literary resolutions required a creative skill set that I did not possess at the beginning of 2018. Many people question the point of New Year resolutions and this is a much overlooked value of the tradition: setting a goal and heading towards it, even if you end up far away from your intended destination.

One glaring aspect of sticking with this project over the last year has been a very practical one: the realisation that I cannot do everything. Teaching full-time, raising four young citizens of the world, and running this website has consumed all my minutes, leaving no time for my language studies. And since I cannot let go of two of those elements, I am afraid that I must surrender the time given to Mercurial Stories so that I can focus all my non-work/non-parenting time to my studies.

I am an immigrant. I shed the nomadic expat identity when I started thinking about high schools and universities here in Japan for my kids. I have always resented studying the Japanese language because it took away from my writing but I also discovered over the course of this past year that I want to become a translator, specifically a literary translator. My reading and writing skills can still be of use, combined with my ever-expanding understanding of the Japanese language and culture. Thus, I no longer resent the time and effort I must invest. It is a long road ahead of me and first I must dedicate one year to an intense course of study that involves total immersion: reading, writing, and eventually speaking in Japanese for at least 70% or more of my days. This means that editing an English language flash fiction journal will not be feasible.

Know that it is a hiatus, not discontinuation, but it will likely be a lengthy one: it is possible that I will not return here until 2020. The website and FB page will stay alive so you can read (and link to) stories from past issues. And when I have passed my proficiency exams, I will let you know what the next prompt will be. Until then, I just wanted to tell you how grateful I have been for your participation with this “resolution”. Thank you for your stories, your encouragement, your readings, everything. It has been a very interesting journey.

Okay, now on with the show….

This week we have seven resolute stories to get you going for the New Year:

(2) To the Letter by Copper Rose
(3) A One-Liner by Mark Patterson
(4) Why I Do Not Make New Year’s Resolutions by Kelli J. Gavin
(5) Dating at 50 by Karen Petersen
(6) A Village Outing by Sunil Sharma
(7) Unbreakable by L Swartz

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Volume 1 Issue 34: Dawn

I used to live on an island far out in the middle of a steely blue sea. During that time, I was in communication with a friend who meant more to me than I meant to him. The imbalance of our relationship was rooted in our very different situations that created very different perceptions of this world. I was off living in on the other side of the planet, teaching kindergartners; he was stuck back in our hometown, working long hours in the service industry without much hope of change.

Nothing captured our imbalance more accurately than a quick exchange of photos we shared, on a morning (my time, evening his time) when I got up before dawn to walk down to the harbor in time for sunrise. Sunrise and sunset were the only moments in the day when we shared the sun at the same time, a fact that felt rather significant then.

So I sent him pictures of the glorious sky, the pinks, purples, oranges, reds painting the heavens as the sun eased itself into another day.

In return, he sent me two pictures he had taken early that morning: one of a very dead possum, ghostly in the camera’s flash, and the other of what I thought was a bowl of flour, being weighed on a kitchen scale.
It turned out that it was not flour.

Two different dawns, two different worlds.
 
This week, we have seventeen different dawns, seventeen different worlds.

(2) “Static Dawn” by Christopher Roper
(3) “Dawn Awakening” by Rekha Vallippan
(4) “FLASHPOINT” by Louis Kasatkin
(5) “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?” by Elaine Mead
(6) “Awakening” by Kira Writes
(7) “Once Upon A Time At Christmas” by Christy Kunin
(8) “Love by Dawn” by Mark Kuglin
(9) “The Avowal” by Debjani Mukherjee
(10) “May the Night Take Me” by Kelli J Gavin
(11) “Lauds” by Kathy Sanford
(12) “The Sun is Rising” by David Ritterskamp
(13) “A Misty Dawn” by Jose Varghese
(14) “First Light” by Sunil Sharma
(15) “The Scammer” by Julie Eger
(16) “Cowboys” by Kristin Ferragut
(17) “Goin’ to Dirt” by The Poet Darkling
(18) “Trapped” by Audra Russell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Volume 1 Issue 32

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The saints surely have come marchin’ in with this issue. We have thirteen different stories from around the world, defining the word ‘saint’ from a wide spectrum of meaning. We see “saints” who beg, who suffer, who give everything away (including their last scrap of clothing…). It is a beatific collection to read this week, following on the heels of All Saints Day. In this issue, you will read the following heavenly stories:

(p. 2) Amazing Pleasure Kelli J Gavin
(p. 3) Sunil Sharma
(p. 4) Thomas McDade
(p. 5) Mark Kuglin
(p. 6) deb y felio
(p. 7) Louis Kasatkin
(p. 8) Riham Adly
(p. 9) Cary Crossen
(p. 10) Kathy Sanford
(p. 11) Karyn Powers
(p. 12) Debjani Mukherjee
(p. 13) Annie Bien
(p. 14) Karen Petersen 

Also, don’t forget that nominations for The Pushcart Prize are still being accepted until next week. Please know that the nominations are anonymous so if you happen to nominate yourself, that is between you and yourself. It is your opinion, after all.

The podcast for Issue 31 will be up later today and I will be contacting the selected authors for Issue 32’s podcast later very soon.

I am also working on the printed edition that will be released next month. It is coming together nicely and will include a Mercurial Stories tote bag. Very exciting (for those of us who collect tote bags)!

Also, I have an idea about putting together a bilingual/multilingual issue in the future. This is just a seed right now but if anyone is interested in discussing it with me, you know where to send your thoughts: mercurialstories@gmail.com


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Volume 1 Issue 30

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Listen to the podcast episode for Issue 30.

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

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



Change is Good?
John Sheirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He didn’t know.

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

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


Bio:

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



Bane of My Existence
Mark Kuglin

Up until that moment, everything had been picturesque and idyllic. I had been lost in thought and daydreams, for over an hour, and thoroughly enjoying my solitude. Although I was sitting at a busy outdoor cafe— and could hear the nearby traffic and conversations of other patrons and passersby— it was like sitting next to a babbling brook in a peaceful, quiet meadow on a gloriously sunny day.

 

I was thrilled to be in such a wonderful mood and I felt carefree. I could feel each nerve ending and all of my senses were heightened by my inner stillness. Combined, it created a magical world of ideas and infinite possibilities.

Tragically, it ended the moment I spotted Jerry— out of the corner of my eye. In an instant, I knew my solitude was over. The odds of him leaving me be or passing on by were zero. He would stop.

Jerry was— and still is— the type of person I derisively call a trumpeter. There’s no need to describe him because I am sure you are well acquainted with his ilk. Trumpeters— like Jerry— come in all shapes, sizes and forms and they occupy every imaginable role in life. They’re the ones who feel compelled to loudly announce their arrival without any regard to what you may be doing. And after forcing themselves upon you, they chronically interrupt in order to deliver a non-stop monologue.

To make it worse, Jerry brought the added bonus of being absolutely clueless as to how his behavior affected me. And trying to point out his deficiencies— in a kind way— was an absolutely futile endeavor. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t have a part in anything.

******

The moment Jerry saw me, he made a beeline for my table, took a seat without asking and said— without preamble, “It isn’t healthy to be spending so much time alone.” But before I could respond, he emphatically stated and then asked, “You must be depressed!…What’s going on with you?”

“I am..er..was completely fine..,” I started to say.

“That impossible,” Jerry interjected. “I could see your depression from down the block.”

“Actually, you’re…”

“Nonsense,” Jerry tsked. “There’s no way you can fine. Healthy people don’t spend their time alone.”

“How dare you, “ I said— in an assertive tone. “Who are you to call me unhealthy?”

“Now, now,” Jerry tsked again. “No need for that…Besides, you proved my point”

“What point?” I asked— with anger in my voice.

“Anger and depression are identical…Anger is outward and depression is inward.”

At this point, I should have gotten up and left him sitting there. However, my anger got the best of me. “As hard as it is for you to believe,” I shouted, “I was fine until you walked up.”

You don’t have to be an asshole,” Jerry interjected.

“Actually I do,” I countered. “You left me no other choice.”


Bio:

Mark Kuglin is an American expat currently living and working near Ensenada, Mexico. He writes fiction, poetry and the occasional essay. Samples of his work can be found on his website markkuglin.com or by following him on Twitter @cr8fiction. Additionally, he has a profile and a page @markkuglincreativewriting on Facebook.




The Exchange
Sunil Sharma

A quick exchange of smiles but could not escape him.

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

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

He nodded, adjusting the camera.

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

—Me, too.

The shoot began.

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

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

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

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

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

Afterwards, her face became serene.

Action in a jiffy!

Robert Browning echoed in an agitated mind;

…she liked whate’er 

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere

Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, 

Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without 

Much the same smile? 

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

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

She wanted to capture the famous spots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

They slept heavily after lunch.

When he woke up, she was not there.

A scrawled note: Sorry! Email the pictures.

Hit him hard!

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


Bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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




What I See
Kelli J Gavin

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


Bio:

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

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com



Looking Both Ways Before Crossing
deb y felio

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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



Out of the corner of my eye
Kira

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


Bio:

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

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

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

 



By the End of the Day
Jenny Birch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul surveyed the scene with a frown and furrowed brow.

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


Bio:

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




 

Volume 1 Issue 28: Fire

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




Fire Fall
Kira

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

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

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

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

Hi, anger.

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

And then, I blacked out.

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

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

The forest was on fire, and it was magnificent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were in for a world of pain.

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


Bio:

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

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

Onwards to her writer’s den!

www.jackofwritingtrades.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades



The Campfire
Sunil Sharma

—There!

Silhouettes.

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

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

—Where? I cannot.

Rahul said, the usual skeptic.

—There.

Said the guide.

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

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

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

—Look!

An outlined figure, shimmering.

The campers experienced a chilling sensation.

—Who is it?

The guide declared: Princess’s Ghost!

—What?

—Yeah.

—Ghost?

—Every jungle has got dark denizens.

—Hmm. Do not believe.

Rahul said.

—I believe.

Said Reema.

Many colleagues nodded: There are dark forces.

Rahul smirked: Imagining things!

—You should not have joined the believers.

Said Reema: eyes red, speech, bit slurred.

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

The lake glittered.

—Wherefrom comes the ghost?

Reema asked the guide.

—From the 18th-century fort.

—Why does she roam the night?

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

Rahul exclaimed: How romantic!

Rajesh countered: No. Real. These things happen.

—What about her lover?

Another camper asked.

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

—What if she pops up here?

Asked another woman.

—You will die of fright!

They laughed.

—Haunting in the outdoors!

Exclaimed Rahul.

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

Wolves howled somewhere deep in the tropical forest.

—I can feel the spirits of the jungle.

Reema said.

—Oh! Revisiting the Sea of Trees?

Teased Rahul.

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

—I am not disrespectful. Just stating my view.

Argued Rahul.

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

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

—Where? Asked Rajesh.

—There.

They peered.

Fleeting figures in the damp air.

A piercing cry.

Blood-curdling!

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

—OK. I will check.

Before others could stop, Rahul ran down.

They waited.

his loud scream echoed; desperate, chilling.

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


Bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



 

The Fire-Handler
Jenna Mason Stay

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

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

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

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

And then.

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

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

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

Mesmerizing.

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

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

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

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

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

And oh, how it burned.


Bio:

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

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



 

Burn
Kelli J Gavin

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com





Woman, Man, Fire

Francine Witte

Woman

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

Man

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

Fire

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


Bio:

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



 

Volume 1 Issue 23: Fly On The Wall

Image result for fly on the wall

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



The Van That Went Missing
Kelli J. Gavin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Masks
Sunil Sharma

Perhaps, it was meant to end like that only.

Masks— a room full of them!

—How are you?

I turned around to face a mask facing me.

—What is that?

—The Noh-men or Omote.

Replied Harsh, my ad-hoc host.

—Got a big collection.

—Yeah.

He removed the mask: Welcome home, buddy!

—Thanks.

I replied.

—You keep on surprising.

I added.

—Well, the collection is worth three lakhs.

He said. I nodded.

—Harsh is crazy!

An announcement in a female voice.

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

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

—How is the view? Harsh asked.

—Nice!

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

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

—Not for me. I do not drink.

I said.

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

—No thanks.

—Your loss!

They both sipped.

—How is life?

Harsh asked.

—Going on.

—Where you live?

Smita queried.

—Virar.

—Never heard about that place.

She shrugged haughtily.

—You are lucky.

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

—So, what is going on?

Harsh again.

—As usual. Nothing exciting. You?

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

I smiled.

—Are you still there?

He asked.

—Yes.

—Want to join my start-up?

I said nothing.

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

I kept mum.

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

I nodded.

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

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

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

Just then, my cell rang.

—Boss calling!

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

Her voice made me stop.

—Why?

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

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

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

—So?

—Try to understand, hon.

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

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

A mask swayed in the sea-breeze.

Then others began dancing—frantically.

And an Oni mask fell off before me.

———————————————-

Author-bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



The Bagatelle
Debjani Mukherjee

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

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

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

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


Self-introduction 

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



 

Volume 1 Issue 21: Nonsense Word

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(image from here)

This week’s prompt was a little more challenging than others, more strict in some ways. Reading around an unknown word, divining its meaning or simply accepting your ignorance, is something that we usually advance out of as readers. (Unless, of course, you learn how to read in a second language, in which case, dealing with unknown words is just part of your daily life.) It is an uncomfortable feeling and yet we readers persevere for the sake of the entire story.
This week we have five stories brought to you by returning contributors Kelli J. Gavin, Sunil Sharma, Tim Clark, and myself along with a story from a first-time contributors, Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez.

I hope you enjoy fafflabing them as much as I did!



My 11-Year-Old Daughter 
Kelli J Gavin

No one ever told me that having an 11-year-old daughter would be so challenging.  Having an 11-year-old son was one thing, he is now 15, and aging was something that was considered inevitable and even sometimes a nonevent. My daughter seems to be on a mission to make me prove that I somehow received the highly coveted Able To Parent Card at some yet to be discovered by me University. Some days, I think I know what I am doing, and others, I lose my cool when I pick up a fourth discarded wet swimsuit off the floor. She is at the awkward, challenging age, right between childhood and being a teenager.  I sometimes want time to slow down and keep her as my baby. Other times, I can’t wait for her to mature a bit, for her to be able to make better informed decisions and for her to desire to take better care of her possessions.

Summers are hot in Minnesota.  We try to accomplish all that needs to be done in the mornings before the heat and then we find reason to slumber in the shade or accomplish other indoor tasks that are calling our name. In the Dog Days of Summer, summer school is over, and the kids are awaiting fun times at the cabin and at the Minnesota State Fair. But these days can be long.  After a book or two have been read, chores have been completed, summer homeschool curriculum has been checked and rechecked, and miles and miles have ridden on bikes and scooters, the neighborhood kids seem to reconvene after lunch at our house and in our pool.

Because my daughter swims many times a day, and has yet to discover that she has the ability to hang up a wet swimsuit and towel over the banister of the deck to dry in the sun, I often spend the first 10 minutes when I get home from work doing these things and scoffing.  I greet my husband warmly as we discuss the happenings of the day and what I will make for dinner. By that time, my kids usually discover that my work day has ended and the onslaught of questions begin. Mom, can I go to Funky Minds on Wednesday? Can Albert come over for dinner? What time are you taking me to Vacation Bible School tomorrow afternoon? And about 15 more.

When I study my kids while they are in full blown question asking mode, I finally look at my daughter. I mean really look at my daughter.  Her hair is disheveled and ratted up, damp from her morning swim, her glasses are smeared with the sweat and filth of a hot summer day.

“Babe, your glasses are mess. It looks liked you licked them.” A tell her a little flustered. She removes her glasses from her face as I reach for them.  I want to explain to her that shuvblenderting isn’t a bad thing. That she could shuvblendert from her dad and he would be happy to be of assistance. But she won’t hear me. She thinks that I am pointing out all that is wrong with her.  I quickly clean them, smile at her, kiss her sweaty forehead and replace the glasses on her beautiful face. I answer a few more questions when she then tells me she is starving and wants to know when dinner will be ready.

In all my parent wisdom, I think, oh my goodness. This is the perfect opportunity to teach her that shuvblenerting is an important thing to do. “Well, sweet girl, I have a lot of vegetables and a salad to prepare.   I need to shuvblendert.” She gladly joins me in the kitchen when she realizes that dinner will be ready if we both work together. As she starts peeling carrots and I put a pot of water on the stove, I begin. “Sweet girl,  I came home today from work and I was so tired. I saw all of your swimsuits and towels strewn everywhere. I have asked you many times to be sure to hang a wet swimsuit over a deck chair or lay it flat on the table. And I have also asked you to hang the towels flat over the deck banister to dry in the sun.  I need you to promise that you will only wear one swimsuit a day and that you will always turn it right side out and lay it flat to dry. I shouldn’t need to be the one to do these kinds of things when I get home from work. You are 11, and absolutely able to hang up your suit and towel. If not, you can always shuvblendert.”

She looks at me with ocean blue eyes and smiles. “Mom, thanks for telling me what you need from me.  I can’t promise you am going to remember to do it every time, but I will try. You know, I have a lot of important places to go and people to see.”  Her humor shines through sometimes at most ridiculous times. She knows what she is doing. She is avoiding reprimand by attempting to make me laugh. It works. I first, fight a smile and control my laughter. Then, my lips betray me and creep up into a toothy grin only my mother could love.  We laugh freely together, and I pull her into an embrace, carrot peeler and all.

No, I may not receive more assistance around the house from sweetheart of a daughter. But I will get to laugh with her, love her and encourage her and always teach her to shuvblendert.


Bio-

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

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



The game
Sunil Sharma

They were the dreaded RASUB!

And tough to crack!
.

Post-lunch, the ritual started.

The man called God ordered: Proceed!

The second man, identified as Charles Ludwig Dodgson, intoned: KO.

The third man, Homer and the fourth, Nietzsche, repeated: KO.

The hymn KO-KO reverberated across the hall and corridor.

.

The director was aghast.

—What the hell!

—Watch for few more minutes, sir!

The deputy pleaded.

.

KO.

KO.

KO.

KO.

.

The director was incensed:  Sheer nonsense!

—A daily game!

—Find out the meaning of this drivel! Some real conspiracy here! Find out.

—Yes, sir.

.

The group was given third-degree. The interrogators insisted for the hidden meaning.

The frail victims shouted: KOKOKO!!!

—What does KO mean? The chief asked.

—Key O— Key O— Key O— KO-KO!

—What does it mean?

When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

—Which is to be master…

The interrogators gave up.

.

The inmates were intellectuals feared for their theories that altered perceptions and critiqued the System.

Part of a shrinking movement called RASUB—some got murdered; others disappeared or shot down; many died in jails—these four minds were committed to the safest haven—the Asylum—by declaring them as mad.

They were the enemies—for claiming that everybody was divine and therefore equal.

The State did not like such a philosophy.

It was the job of the director to eliminate threats.

Non-sense is subversive!

That was official decree.

.

The group kept on chanting: KO. KO. KO.

The director and his team were driven nuts.

They could not make sense of the chant. The Director brought in specialist that worked hard to understand the game but miserably failed.

The more the four were tortured, the fiercer the recital: KO-KO.

As if their sanity depended on this mantra!

.

The Home Department sent the ultimatum: Three days to unravel the meaning!

On the brink, the portly director joined the group in disguise—for better understanding of their world and mental processes.

God said: Proceed!

Dodgson said: KO.

The director said: KO.

They all stood up, linked arms, closed eyes and started dancing as initiates in the mysteries.

God said: They can kill body, not mind!

Others shouted: KO.

God said: They can kill minds, not thoughts!

The group shouted: KO.

God said: We are all one. We all are God!

Blasphemy! Thought the Director.

God sang the loudest:

They can maim us

But not our spirit

And— not our songs

That defy time!

 

Superman: KO! KO! KO!

They all chorused: KOKOKOKO! KOKOKO!

God: Next?

Dodgson: NUF!

Nietzsche: Finnegan and Jabberwocky! Godot.

Dodgson: Love math, time travel. Back from 1865.

The director recommended: Commit them to the dungeons. Saboteurs and their verbal games—lethal!

Lastly: TEL METH TOR! They are GO-GAUG— advanced creative people, best understood in future only!

He was also put in that hell!


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/



Balderdash
Tim Clark

“Balderdash.” The man said, his deep voice boomed, echoing off the concrete walls, bouncing around the room.

He was dressed in a waist coat with long tails, a bow tie in a complimentary color, a striped shirt and wore a top hat. He carried a walking stick that turned into a sword. I know this because he threatened to run me through, after slicing my donut in half.

We were sitting in the coffee shop next to the laundromat out on Highway 61.

“This coffee is great. And I am starving.” I said to my roommate. We were getting ready to go see a Steely Dan concert in Red Rocks outside of Denver, and were doing our laundry so we would have some clean clothes. We were excited, smiling and laughing, it was going to be fun.

Right in front of our table the man sprang into existence, out of thin air, dressed in a way that made me think of the last century.

He pulled his sword out of his cane, swung it through the air with a menacing, terrifying hiss of agitated air, and sliced my donut in half. Cream filling sticking to the glinting steel, oozing on to the neatly bisected paper plate, and the cleanly cut plastic table cloth in a creepy, unwholesome way that will change the way I look at donuts forever.

I looked at my roommate, and he was staring at my dying donut, unable to take his eyes off the misery unfolding on the table.

“I have been looking for you. All through time and space, across countless universes. I have come to run you through. Like the animal you are.” He said. The sword flashed again, knocking my coffee cup into the wall. Dark liquid ran down the grimy cream colored walls. I smiled at the counter person, trying to assure him that it was my coffee, but not my fault. He glared at all three of us and went to get a mop.

“I… I’m… you… why would you want to kill me?” I finally asked. Trying to think of a reason anybody would want to hurt me. I was nobody, and nobody knew me, and nobody disliked me, at least not enough to kill me, I thought.

“Grandpa, that isn’t him.” A voice said, and a woman flowed and rippled into solidity beside him.

“It isn’t?” The man asked.

“No.” She said.  

“Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I thought you were someone else.” The man said, trying to reassemble my donut, his hands working, fumbling, a lop sided smile breaking across the deep shade of red spreading across his face.

Then they were gone.

“I’m not sure we should have breakfast together anymore.” My roommate said.


Bio:
Tim Clark lives in Columbus, OH, where he works for a small warehouse.  He is proud of his marriage, but he would have to ask his wife how many years it has been. He has a blog about life and the perils involved. You can see it here,
Life Explained.

He writes occasionally and with pride for Street Speech, a local homeless advocacy newspaper. He is a contributor for Mercurial Stories, Writer’s Newsletter, Cross and Bull Stories, and has stories in anthologies from SmartyPants Publishing and the coming edition of Blank Tapes. He is particularly vain about his monthly column on The Wild Word. Tim is in the act of writing his first novel, based on a series of short stories, and random memories and imagination.



Todeloe
Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez

Are we living a todeloe life? 

She was texting with a friend as we were walking to the beach. Towels and cold water in a bag, her hand on mine. It was late afternoon, the city busy with a mix of locals and tourists. Not a cloud in the sky.

– He is calling me todeloe! 

Why would he do that?

– I just asked if he had ever been in a threesome

That explains it.

– But are we?

There is a book we like to read. “Call me by your name” from Andre Aciman. There is a chapter in that book where the two main characters are at a book reading in Rome.

“Oliver, sei un todeloe”

I couldn’t tell if he was being called todeloe because of the two babes he had wandered in with or because of me. Or both.

“Se l’amore” he replied.

It’s love, I replied

What is there in an adjective? It is just a way to assign attributes to a noun. There are adjectives that are absolute, like sweet or red. There are adjectives that are relative, like todeloe. You need a frame of reference to call someone todeloe. A todeloe in rural Texas is someone having a fourth beer. A todeloe in Rome is a guy walking into a party with two babes and his boyfriend.

Does it really matter what you are called? I don’t go through life looking for approval from others. I don’t try to impose my way of thinking in others either. I’m too busy being happy and admiring the beauty in the world for that.

I actively choose to be in love with my girl. She happens to like girls, at least one of them. I happen to like girls too. I understand her and can relate. Heck I can share my secret moves when making love to them with her. I even explain my tricks to her in herself as we make love.

Will I let an adjective stand between me and happiness? Is the person calling us todeloe the shepherd calling the lost sheep back into the corral? Or is that the person that got lost in the pursuit of happiness? Straitjacketed by a list of things you should do or not do set by a group of people more interested in the survival of their community than in the happiness of their members. 

So, my love. I’m busy being happy. I’m busy admiring the beauty in our love. I am busy planning our next adventures, which might or might not involve another girl for you. I am busy enjoying the moment with you, sharing our thoughts and our feelings. I am busy admiring the drawings that you make, or reading the words that you write which give me a glimpse in that beautiful mind of yours. Is this called living a todeloe life? I prefer calling it living it a happy life.


Authors’ 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



Vonnox
Tiffany Key

“James, get out of that tree. I am telling you for the last time, mister.” The boy was midway up the tree, on the thickest branch, the one that splayed out into three fingers, giving James a decent platform to rest.
“Never,” he called down to his mother. “Not until you give me back the vonnox.” His mother put her hands on her hips.
“I told you, James, the vonnox is not meant for little boys.”
“But you let Beth have it.”
“Yes, and Beth is not a little boy now is she?”
“It’s not fair. Robert’s mom lets him use the vonnox all the time.”
“I’m sure that is not true. Robert’s mom is not stupid.”
“I didn’t call her stupid. Robert’s mom is just really nice, nicer than you even.”
“Oh, is that so? Well, nice or not, I am not going to let you hurt yourself just because you got something in your head.”
James looked towards the house and saw his older sister leaning out the bathroom window, dangling the vonnox from its long, metal prongs. Beth was grinning.
“Mom, Beth’s making fun of me now.” His mother turned around just as Beth pulled herself and the vonnox back into the bathroom. She sighed.
“I’ll take care of your sister later.” She stood staring up at her young son. She knew bringing the vonnox into the house was a mistake but her mother-in-law had insisted. And without her husband around anymore to help defend her from his mother’s ideas and opinions, she had learned that it was better to accept defeat than to lose every battle. Less energy spent that way, she reasoned. James had turned towards the trunk and she could not see his face at all anymore. All this fuss over a stupid vonnox. And of course, once he gets it, he’ll lose interest. But if she gave it to him, well, it would horrible if anyone found out. Better to resist than live that down, no matter the nuisance.

“Okay, fine, suit yourself. I am going in where the air-conditioner is running and there are brownies cooling on the kitchen counter. Half walnut, half plain.” No response. “Okay, then, I hope you know how to get down from there. Your father lent the ladder to Uncle Charles so I can’t rescue you once you get scared.”
“I’m not going to get scared, “ James said, his voice low but determined.

“Well, I am going in now.” She looked up and saw her son clinging to the tree like a baby monkey clings to its mother. Sighing, she made her way across the green lawn, doubling back only after she was out of James’ line of sight. She sat down under a pine tree right behind James’ oak. She thought of her husband, lost out in the world, and her wild hope that the vonnox would make life easier.

“Mama! Mama!” James cried.
“I’m here, darling,” his mother responded, jumping to her feet. “Don’t worry, baby, I won’t let you fall.”


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.

——————————————————–

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.

———————————————
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.

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