Volume 1 Issue 27: The Voice

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

 



The Baritone
Sunil Sharma

Love and its obsessions.

Narcissus transfixed with his own image.

The new-millennium world is image-driven.

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

She did not have to wait long.

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

.

Nina got electrified by a voice on the podcast.

Transported.

Entranced by quality.

The voice was like the rumbling that convulses the earth.

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

Divine!

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

The masculine voice triggered some long-forgotten sensation.

Jouissance—blogged thus:

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

She fell in love with it!

She went on playing the podcast and felt uplifted.

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

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

.

The folksy song done in a soulful voice ran:

This spring I will not be home

I will miss the beauty and the splendor

Of a rural scene

That breeze

That murmuring of bees

And waters of the river

And the song of the fishermen

And toiling boatmen

I will miss out all these

And your smile and love

Stuck up in this city of concrete!

You ask me to return

But I cannot

There are huge debts to be paid

But remember sweet-heart

The moon unites me with you all.

.

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

His name was Mehto. Sans surname.

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

I lost him from there. Concluded the researcher.

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

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

An unseen artist becoming real through a distinctive voice.


Bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



The Lost Poem
Debjani Mukherjee

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

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


Bio:

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



A Gentle Voice
Lesley Crigger

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

Shh, shh, shh.

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

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

 Shh, shh, shh.

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

Shh, shh, shh.

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




I met you
Kira

Finally, I heard your voice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, I met you.


Bio:

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

www.jackofwriting.wordpress.com

www.facebook.com/JackofWritingTrades



 

Volume 1 Issue 26: Breakfast


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


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




I Love Breakfast

Kelli J Gavin

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com




Breakfast
Mimi and Miguel Rodriguez

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

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

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

  • Hey, you got breakfast?

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

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

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


Bio:

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




But a Simple Breakfast
Katherine Brown

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

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

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

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

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

Breakfast in Oklahoma was synonymous with love and family.

Somebody pass the biscuits, please!


www.katherinebrownbooks.com




Obit
Richard Horton

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

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

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

 


Bio: 

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




The Date
Sunil Sharma

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

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

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

.

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

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

Moved to tears!

.

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

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

—Yes, child. There are.

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

—Yes.

—You never found one, ma?

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

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

—No worries, kiddo. It will find you!

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

—Have you ever checked the mirror?

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

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

Appearances can be treacherous!

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

Offended, she countered: Why not?

—Dark fantasies?

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

He declared: Genius!

—How?

—Brilliant defense of my best-sellers.

A stunned silence: My ideal! Before me!

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

Fiction never looked so real; real, fiction!


Bio:

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

He edits Setu:

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

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




The Sounds of Isolation

Tim Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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

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



 

 

Volume 1 Issue 25: On This Day…

Image result for stack of newspapers

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

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


Cries For Freedom
Kelli J Gavin

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

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

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

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

June 25, 1975

 


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

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Lessons
Sunil Sharma

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

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

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

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

Hardly 19 at that time!

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

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

He wrote in the diary.

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

Democracy and its promise of deliverance—a plain lie!

An epiphany recorded as a diary-entry.

.

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

Cool!

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

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

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

.

Here, the selection:

—1199

King Richard, the Lion Heart, killed.

.

—1965

The Third Selma to Montgomery March.

.

—1811

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

.

—1957

“Howl” by Ginsberg banned!

.

—1911

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

They met in the late night.

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

—Some fascinating facts. Said Inder.

—What kind of facts? Asked Raju.

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

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

Raju did not sound sarcastic.

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

—Hmm!

—Alternative reading of events only!

——————————–

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



 

Volume 1 Issue 24: The Last

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

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



 

Child of the Dragon
Linda M. Crate

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


 

All Five Senses
Kelli J Gavin

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



 

The Last Romantic
Sunil Sharma

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

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

Forlorn and lost.

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

Close!

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

Once settled, he found her opposite.

Their eyes met and diverted—at the same time.

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

That demeanor, oddly, was fascinating!

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

He took out the book.

—Ayn Rand?

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

—Do you take Middle Eastern males to be savages?

She replied: No offense, please. Just curious.

The lilting tone soothed.

—Fine. No offense, either.

They relaxed.

—I am Anne. Freelance travel writer. Boston.

—David here. Manager. Berlin.

The strangers shook hands. Train hurtled down.

—Travelling Paris? She asked.

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

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

—Cool!

—Your first visit?

—No. Come often. You?

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

He nodded.

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

—That too in the hands of an Arab.

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

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

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

—Globalization! He exclaimed.

—Migration and its sources of inspiration. She observed.

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

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

He nodded: Yes. Books can change beliefs.

—So does travel.

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

—Travel often? He asked.

—Yes.

—Escaping America.

—Hmm! Maybe. She said.

—Or searching for the nirvana?

—Perhaps. You? Searching the Exotic Paris?

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

She was floored: You are highly cultivated!

—A dark prince! A Moor?

She won his heart by that dimpled smile!

.

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

Another world!

Paris, the truly cosmopolitan!

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

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

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

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

They both laughed.

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

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

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

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

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

David went lyrical:

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

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

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

—Yes, you are. Anne confirmed.

They began walking towards the shadows.

Then it happened.

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

.

Next morning, David was the national headline:

Top Terrorist Arrested

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


Author-bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



 

I’m the Last
Katherine Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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

www.katherinebrownbooks.com

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



Volume 1 Issue 23: Fly On The Wall

Image result for fly on the wall

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



The Van That Went Missing
Kelli J. Gavin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com



Masks
Sunil Sharma

Perhaps, it was meant to end like that only.

Masks— a room full of them!

—How are you?

I turned around to face a mask facing me.

—What is that?

—The Noh-men or Omote.

Replied Harsh, my ad-hoc host.

—Got a big collection.

—Yeah.

He removed the mask: Welcome home, buddy!

—Thanks.

I replied.

—You keep on surprising.

I added.

—Well, the collection is worth three lakhs.

He said. I nodded.

—Harsh is crazy!

An announcement in a female voice.

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

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

—How is the view? Harsh asked.

—Nice!

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

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

—Not for me. I do not drink.

I said.

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

—No thanks.

—Your loss!

They both sipped.

—How is life?

Harsh asked.

—Going on.

—Where you live?

Smita queried.

—Virar.

—Never heard about that place.

She shrugged haughtily.

—You are lucky.

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

—So, what is going on?

Harsh again.

—As usual. Nothing exciting. You?

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

I smiled.

—Are you still there?

He asked.

—Yes.

—Want to join my start-up?

I said nothing.

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

I kept mum.

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

I nodded.

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

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

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

Just then, my cell rang.

—Boss calling!

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

Her voice made me stop.

—Why?

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

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

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

—So?

—Try to understand, hon.

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

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

A mask swayed in the sea-breeze.

Then others began dancing—frantically.

And an Oni mask fell off before me.

———————————————-

Author-bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



The Bagatelle
Debjani Mukherjee

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

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

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

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


Self-introduction 

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



 

Week 22: Prompt

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Inspired by the neverending heatwave…

Look forward to seeing your stories this week. And hey, how about inviting a friend to give it a try this week? The more the merrier, right?

See you Thursday!

Week 2: Stories (Protagnonist with missing body part)


The Missing Eye

by: Linda M. Crate

 

The pirate captain was missing an eye, but she felt that her trade was worth it. Her remaining eye, her right eye, could see things that normal mortals could not. She could always tell which pirates were real and which were ghosts, she could see through ships and walls to know her enemies weaknesses, and she could always tell where the gold was buried.

She did not know what that wicked creature of the deep wanted with her eye, but she had little care as the strength of her new eye was far great enough to make up for the loss of her left eye.

She smoothed black, curly hair from her black eyes. The black woman placed one boot over the side of the ship as she gazed over the side of the boat.

Captain Cinnamon Rodgers glanced into the green-blue sea and smiled. She had loved the ocean for as long as she could remember. This day was peaceful and sunny. There were few clouds in sight that drifted past on their white trains which always reminded her of the fuzzy little tails of rabbits.

She thought of the siren’s request. It was rather strange, wasn’t it? But so what? She was given an ability that most men or women would kill for. The ability to know secrets she ought not have which always gave her an advantage in battles against other ships.

Cinnamon gave pause, however, when she saw a merman climb up the side of her ship. She glanced at the beast realizing he had a missing eye.

“I’m looking for the rest of my body. My lover said I would find it here.”

Ah, so that was what the villain who took her eye was aspiring to do with her eye. Well, there was no way she was going to lose the male version of herself. She wondered if he shared the same weaknesses as she did, but she knew it was too dangerous to check.

She could see that as he was genetically made and not born that his lungs seemed to have some weakness to them so she lifted her revolver and shot him in the chest.

The merman died or so it seemed. She wasn’t taking any chances. “Jacob, throw that fish back into the sea!”

“Aye, Captain!”

The merman bit hard into the pirate’s leg, sending him screaming. “Very well, I was hoping to get a matching eye, but I suppose this one will have to do,” he remarked, snatching the eye of Jacob without any mercy or tenderness. He didn’t damage the eye, but the damage to Jacob’s face was great.

Cinnamon gasped as he died at her feet. “You monster!”

There is no difference between you and I, my lady. In your greed you traded your eye without thinking of the consequences.” The merman put Jake’s eye in his empty eye socket. “Ah, much better.” He then hopped off the boat and back into the sea.

Cinnamon couldn’t move.

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I Can’t Believe…

© 2018 Karl Voorhees Aloysius Aabingdon XXXII

(From the editor: This one runs over the word limit but because we only had three stories this week, I made an exception. Also, be aware that it contains language/subject matter that might offend some readers.)

I can’t believe he chopped my pecker off.

We were fooling around on the tenement roof where we all grew up; George, Crazy Ralph, and me. Hiding from our parents, who dutifully pretended not to know where we were and most assuredly pretended not to know what we were doing. The three of us were up there sharing a Tarryton 100 George filched from his old man’s pack and sharing a Miller High Life that Crazy Ralph lifted from the family’s beer fridge. Me? I brought the roof key and the matches.

Anyway, we were up there smoking (⅓ of a cigarette) and drinking (⅓ of a beer) and generally goofing off when Crazy Ralph decided he was one of the Three Musketeers – you know, the one that hates the Guitillermos in 5B – and breaks off one of the wires from their TV antenna. Only TV antenna on the block. Let’s them pull in all five local channels. Well, it used to. We could hear old man Guitillermo shouting and hollering from the fifth floor clear to the roof. Which was, technically, the sixth floor, the open-aire accommodations we called it back in the day. Fortunately the lock worked from the outside as well.

So, once we get bored with listenin’ to the old man going on about the tie score in the bottom of the ninth Crazy Ralph gets back on his Musketeers kick and is comin’ after me with his crazy sword, a rapier I think he called it. And he’s slashing and hacking and swinging all over, really going to town. He’s laughing and I’m laughing and dancing about trying not to get hit with the damned thing when I end up hopping up on the lip that goes around the edge of the rooftop.

We’ve all hopped on that before and, uh, whatcha call it, muscle memory takes over and I stop dead in my tracks to keep my balance; shoulders back, hips out, balancing momentum and gravity and a deep, deep desire to not dance the six floors to the pavement below. Key phrase here is ‘hips out’.

The roof gravel slides a bit throwing Crazy Ralph just the tiniest bit off balance. Being a selfish bastard and not wanting to take the express elevator to the first floor himself he reacts by, among other things, flailing his arms.

Did I mention ‘hips out’ yet?

The antenna wire whips by so fast and so close that it slices a couple of buttons off my shirt and I can feel the damned thing shave my stomach. A look of shock, then horror passes over Crazy Ralph’s face, then he leans over the edge and upchucks while looking down over the side. I lean over, too, so I can see what’s so fascinating.

Apparently, we’re watching some piece of roof trash fall onto the street in front of a dump truck and a city bus. The truck straddles the trash but the bus immediately behind is pulling over for the 112th street stop there on the corner and flattens it, the flattens it again.

“Direct hit!” I yell joyously. Bomber pilot is a favorite game, especially during summer rush hours when the streets are full and drivers are too busy dodging pedestrians and each other to stop and try to see who’s dropping crap on them from the rooftops. This was an almost unheard of, legendary ‘double splat’!

“Oh, God it hurts!”

Father Vido will get nothing from me for using the Lord’s name in vain. There was nothing vain about it. I hurt and I wanted relief now, and I wasn’t above asking the Big Guy. Unfortunately, it seems He was out golfing with some rich guys across the river because I hurt until the ambulance showed up and the boys knocked me out with some kind of a shot.

I woke in a haze in a hospital ward where a cute, fresh-faced nurse was ministering to me and blushing furiously. When she realized I had come to she turned beet red and practically ran out the door. Poor thing.

Have you ever had your pecker chopped off by a TV antenna wire? I don’t recommend it. Really, I don’t. They told me I was really lucky about the way it happened. I guess the veins and arteries got all stretched out and then knotted themselves back up when, well, you know, and that’s why I didn’t bleed to death up there on that stupid roof.

Then after a bunch of operations, including bringing in some new kind of plastic surgeon for some experimental surgery, they told me it was just bad luck the way it happened because the veins and arteries got all stretched out and then knotted themselves back up when, well, you know, and they couldn’t figure out how to keep anything down there alive without a proper blood supply. And wouldn’t you know I couldn’t get the original equipment reattached because guess what the “Direct hit!” was that the bus ran over…

So now and forever I sit for everything, facing the wall when I need to pee, facing away when, well, you know, and mopping up after when I need to do both. Trust me. Mopping is definitely the lesser evil.

Crazy Ralph has been on Broadway, off Broadway, and near Broadway for going on 8 years now playing Zorro. Rumor has it he had that antenna wire made into Zorro’s sword. He visits me often. I’ve never asked.

And George, poor George. George never fully recovered from the trauma of that summer evening. His sweet virgin sister is now my sweet virgin wife, and she talked about it one time. Only that once. It seems George felt incredibly guilty about the whole event. Seems he’d been in a fight with old man Guitillermo earlier that day and had put the TV antenna bit as a bug in Crazy Ralph’s ear. She said he blamed himself completely which I never believed until I heard the story of how he died.

He’d been depressed and nearly deranged for years, ever since that fateful night. One day ‘nearly’ took a left turn and become ‘completely’ and he stood at the kitchen table, placed his manhood squarely on a cutting board, and ruined a genuine Böker carving knife brought over by his great-great-great-etc-etc-grandfather from Germany back sometime in the 1800s by using said family heirloom to hack off his own pecker.

Because of the clean cut – would you believe that that thing was still sharp enough to shave with? – there was none of my vessel mangling and poor George bled out on the kitchen floor in about three minutes. Although some experts argue it was more like about seven or eight, after you factored in shock, the fact that blood pressure and volume outflow would drop while the bleedout occurred, and that since he ended up lying on his back on the floor gravity played no appreciable role.

George’s death by appen-dick-tomy still gets a group of coroners and police detectives goin’ at it when the subject comes up. I’ve been known to stroll by their tables at various events and just toss in George’s name and a random bleedout time and walk away. It’s always fun to watch, like chummin’ sharks.

And because no bus happened along through his kitchen before the ambulance boys got there, ol’ Deranged George got buried in one piece.

Bastard.



—————————————————————————————————————————————-

The Fare
Tiffany Key


Michael was driving his friend’s cab with a hack license ever since the company let him go. Insurance liability, was the excuse they gave, didn’t matter that it was not his fault, that he had been the injured party. He had worked out the deal with Hasem where Michael had to give him all of Saturdays’ fares and tips and Hasem could stay home and study. It was hard every week when he calculated how much he had brought in but his injury meant that he had little choice.

It was on a Saturday evening when Michael had a celebrity fare, a professional-athlete-turned-talk-show-host. The celebrity was on two phones when he settled in Michael’s backseat, talking on one with it wedged between his shoulder and left ear, and texting with both oversized thumbs on the other. He shouted his destination at Michael who in turn pulled into traffic and made a U-turn at the light. The celebrity somehow managed to light a cigarette, not an electronic one, but an old-fashioned paper and leaf cigarette. In doing so he ignored the multiple signs that Hasem had affixed to the windows and seat-backs, declaring that his cab was a non-smoking vehicle. Celebrities, Michael thought, and cracked the windows.

They slowed down for the caution light and came to a halt. A man crossed in front of them, a man who was noticeably disheveled, even at a distance. He appeared to be having a private conversation and was pounding his clenched fists against his thighs when he looked straight into the cab and yelled, “Fuck you, you crippled freak”. It surprised Michael that the man saw Michael’s truth so easily but what was more surprising was how agitated the celebrity had become.

“Fuck you, fuck you? Do you even know who I am, you motherfucker? You just messed with the wrong fucking superstar, calling me a cripple. I ain’t no cripple, you shittard. I had one little accident, off-court, and it was a long fucking time again. No, fuck this, I am not going to get into this with you, a simple-minded, motherfucking cabbie. No, that is why I have a lawyer on retainer.” It was at this point that Michael realized the misapprehension.

He had been afraid of being found out, of repulsing his customers, but never of being accused of insulting someone. He pulled up alongside the curb per the celebrity’s request.

“Turn your face this way, man, let me take your picture. Ain’t nobody going to get away with that bullshit. I’ll make sure you go viral.” Michael obeyed and just as the celebrity touched the shutter button, Michael opened his mouth wide.

Later, when the celebrity sent the picture to his social media manager, he noticed that there was something wrong with the cabbie’s face but he couldn’t immediately identify what it was. It unsettled him. He studied the picture until he realized that the cabbie’s mouth was just a gaping cavity.
No teeth, no tongue.

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