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)
(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 30: Podcast

For Vol. 1, Issue 30, the random number selector chose John Sheirer’s “Change is Good?” and Kira’s “Out of the corner of my eye”.  Congrats to both writers. I was pleased with how compatible these two pieces were when combined in the podcast.
I hope you enjoy listening.

Volume 1 Issue 29: There was no other way.

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

“There was no other way.”

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

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

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

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

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



 

Conscious Uncoupling
Karen Schauber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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



 

Hidden Discussions
deb y felio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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



 

Love has rules
Francine Witte

Love has rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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



 

No Other Way
Kelli  J Gavin

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

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

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

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

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


Bio:

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

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com



 

 A Lesson**
Debjani Mukherjee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Love, 

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

                                                                                Yours and only yours

                                                                                            Kritika “

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

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

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

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


Bio:


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


 

The monster slayer
Sunil Sharma

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

The Old Seer to Kelly, the reluctant warrior.

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

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

He was determined to punish the elusive beast.

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

Last part, most testing!

The warning sounded true.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Panic.

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

Kelly was repulsed by the hollow laughter.

—Not fair! Kelly was calm.

—What?

—This uneven contest.

—Life! Never fair!

—You are philosopher also.

—I reflect. Observe things.

—Like?

—Humans love to invent their own monsters!

Kelly was astonished.

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

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

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

—Nice thinking, Kelly!

—Know my name?

—I can read the tattoo.

Kelly became quiet.

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

Kelly nodded.

They looked at each other for long.

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

They agreed.

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

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

He felt angry.

He was there to slay him, not escape.

Killing the giant, not easy.

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

There was no other way!


Bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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




 

Week 25: Prompt

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Welcome to week 25. This week’s prompt requires a little research. What happened on this day in the year you were born? (“This day” being the day you write the story.) My suggestion is to look at the headlines and go from there. Like for instance, on September 10th, 1979 Cleveland began bussing students, arson was suspected in 2 more barn fires, Louisana was hunting down some escapees, and a hostage guard survived a slit throat. More story possibilities than I know what to do with, actually. Find a story that you can follow back to the people involved. Those are your characters.

I look forward to reading your stories on Thursday evening. Now get writing.

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. 



 

Volume 1 Issue 20: Hometown

Welcome FL Amelia Island 2008 WBlog


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

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

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



Memories of a small town
Sunil Sharma

Maxim Gorky in north India!

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

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

And truly cosmopolitan.

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

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

Exhilarating encounter!

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

The literate town did not disappoint the bookseller.

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

It was pure oxygen!

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

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

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

Inclusive!

Comfortable zone!

You truly belonged there.

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

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

Ghaziabad became a receding landscape. A different age!

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

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

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

Shocking!

Where is his Ghaziabad?

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

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

Nothing.

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

Sadly, Gorky has been exiled by Porsche…forever!


Author-bio:

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

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

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

For more details, please visit the blog:

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



 

More Secrets Everyone Knows
Lesley Crigger

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

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

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

 More secrets everyone knows. 

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

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

More secrets everyone knows.

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

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



 

The Grass That Sways
Kelli J Gavin

When the grass sways from the mighty wind

And hits my ankles and brushes my legs

I fondly remember a simpler time when

I thought being outside was my job

When mom and dad would send us out

To play all day and return for food

Maybe even water and an afternoon rest

Under the big oak tree in the front yard

When dirt was something to seek

And I knew all the birds by name

Because they kindly called out to me

Each morning to come and play

My sister and I would join in the fun

A few neighbor kids by our side

We would run and play and sing and

Shout and chase each day away

In the country the freedom we had

To explore and create new adventures

Each day led to the promise of sleep

Every night our heads hit the pillow

I now find myself lingering outdoors

And seeking out the wind and the rain

The sun and even the shade because

I miss what I had when I was a child

Nothing to distract me from the fun of

Each new day when dishes and laundry

And meals seemed to be ready for me

I know it was all done by my mom

I thank her for enabling my sister and I

To take in all the sights and sounds

Of which our country home offered

To us in abundance each and every day

Our mom insisted that we be kids

And enjoy all the nature that surrounded

Us on every side and in every season

Oh how I loved my job as a kid

 

Today I will explore

Today I will walk in the fields

Today I will pick flowers

Today I will enjoy the grass that sways


27629333_10216219743193098_42171232456058480_oKelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com




If You Listen Hard Enough
Elena Bitner

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



 

SoDak Snow and Sky
Julie Wakeman-Linn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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





Walk On By

Tiffany Key

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

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

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

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

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

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


About the author:

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

saishowagu.wordpress.com



 

Volume 1 Issue 19: Summer Nights

Hello there.

Summer nights. That term brings up vivid images, memories, and associations in our collective imagination. And yet in this week’s collection, we have four stories that diverge from the traditional and present what might be the true nature of a summer night: the unexpected twists and climaxes that seem only possible in summer, when our inhibitions melt away.

The four stories were written by returning contributors Deb Felio, Sunil Sharma, Tim Clark, and myself. I hope you enjoy reading them.


City Night Lights
Deb Felio
 
Zombies in town – they’ll walk right past
no one’s slept since April last.
 
4 little hours is all there is
between dark and light
in Anchorage.
 
Summer time and the sleeping’s
not easy
most folks stumbling –
feeling queasy.
 
Tempers are short – just like the nights
and no one cares about
those Northern Lights.
 
Pull those shades, darken the room
your body still thinks
it’s only noon.
 
Really, Las Vegas has nothing to boast
no one sleeps here either –
this city of ghosts.
 
Summer nights – a mystery –
Zombies in town
and that includes me!
——————————————————————————
About the author:
deb  y felio is a witness poet and essayist writing the underside or other side of historical and current issues. She is published in various online journals and will be in two anthologies to be released Fall 2018. She enjoys the opportunity to share some humor as a diversion from her more serious topics, believing laughter really is good medicine. She lives and writes in Boulder CO, USA.

A summer night and butterflies
Sunil Sharma

 

That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear
.
—Shakespeare

Summer nights are magical. This being one. That familiar smell: Raat Rani!

Startled, he becomes fully awake. No Queen of Night in the Mumbai home!

Odd! The fragrance lingers strongly… triggering a sensation.

A crevice opens up:

…Ma grew the night-blooming jasmine that rendered long summer nights aromatic. He would fall asleep by the scent wafting up to the roof where the family slept, watching the moon-uncle and the stars, the divine bodies so near, yet so far; the experience, almost other-worldly.

father talking of fairies, Puck, enchanted forest… to a pale and diffident kid…with a stammer and low self-esteem; a dreamer, academically poor during those magical hot nights under a North Indian sky; often, in the distance, thunder and light, creating regions fantasticnow lost forever.

Restive, he gets up and throws open the windows on the smoggy city.

Urban sounds rush in.

…a long train-whistle: Instantly, taking him back to a provincial town. Elder brother leaving for an army post in Kashmir; a tearful good-bye…the dreadful news…killed in action…

Something died that day along with the martyr.

Subsequently, he left for Mumbai and forgot the delightful summers that kept them awake as a family and enjoy the bounties of sky and earth. Folks talking into mid-night, lying down on the stringed cots, fanned by a hot breeze, contented, simple, un-complaining, working very hard, believing in a just God. Cool mornings would come as a pleasant surprise.

The whole neighbourhood slept in the open—the way passengers still sleep on the platform of a railway terminus, long lines of people with hands and legs tucked in, like packed statues—a community of underdogs united by adversity and finer values and empathy.

They were all one extended family—localities, communities and cities—all one. That innocence is lost in 2018.

As the night advances, he hears other sounds— The Nepali cook stir-frying noodles in the corner joint; the thud-thud amplified by the comparative quiet of street, getting emptier.

Crescendo of harsh decibels: ear-splitting horns; strays barking madly; a siren in a distant alley; somebody talking loudly on phone.

As the silvery light brightens the jagged skyline, he remembers another sepia-tinted scene, from a different age.

The catching of fireflies on the special summer nights—an interesting activity:

…they would go with nets and jars. The gloom would be illuminated by these fascinating creatures. A strange glow in the dark fields; dots punctuating the sheet of liquid blackness. Kids and adults catching the moths in jars and nets in fields and forests. The nightly expedition, liberating, exhilarating, giving a high; an encounter with nature outdoors, so re-vitalizing!

As Raghav, the busy screen-play writer, stares at the unwinding streets, he smiles at the childhood and early youth coming back and reviving the clogged arteries and innards, due to heavy schedule.

I wish I could chase butterflies in Mumbai, every summer night!

———————————————-

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/



Saved by a summer night

Tim Clark

The sun had been burning across the day with a ferocious anger, burning bright and unforgiving. It had traversed the world as far as we knew it from east to west leaving people tired, mean and vengeful.

“Can I get a large unsweetened tea with extra ice?” The man asked with an edge to his voice. He glared with unconcealed contempt at me, looking over the top of his square, wire rimmed glasses. Resting on his jet black, curly hair was a pair of sunglasses. Together the temples from both pairs pushed the tops of ears out making them look misshapen and comical.

I thought he looked ridiculous. His sleeveless shirt had broad stripes of red and blue running in circles around his chest and mid-section and his left carried a tattoo of a pirate.

I thought “screw that guy” and hardly gave him any ice and added sugar to his tea.

He took one drink and exploded, throwing the cup at my head. I ducked and it hit a display filled with sugary fruit pastries.

As he scrambled over the counter I grabbed the basket from the fryer and swung it as hard as I could. Unfortunately he stumbled and fell. With nothing to stop my momentum I twisted all the way around knocking the cash register off the counter.

It landed with a terrifying crash just inches from his foot. There was an explosion of small change and coins rolled and skidded everywhere. The pennies caused him to slip as he lunged viciously toward me and it was more of a sloppy embrace between distant, drunken cousins at a reunion than the painful body check he had planned.

Some loose coins and what small amount ice there was from his sweetened tea undermined my footing and we squirmed, and twisted past the soft serve machine, the counter where orders landed as they were finished and past the startled, staring drive through attendant. She stepped aside and watched us roll out the small window through which cars were served.

With a thud we landed on the roof of a small black Chevy with aluminum wheels, power windows and red stripes. Rolling down the windshield we left a large dent in the hood and tore off the antenna and one of the windshield wipers. The owner leaped out and began smashing us both with her purse as we rolled across the parking lot toward the highway.

It looked like the whole thing was going to go terribly wrong. Then the sun dropped behind the horizon. A cool breeze with a slight hint of ocean salt and pine forests rolled gently across us. A small shower passed over and we stopped. Our faces were inches from each other and we were only a few feet from the roaring traffic of Highway 61.

“You know, sweetened tea isn’t so bad.” He said, standing, reaching down to help me up.

“The next one is on me.” I replied.


Summer Festival 
Tiffany Key (who was rather inebriated when writing this)

The frog danced with the toad. All the lesser goblins wore masks to hide their shame. The bonfire flames rose higher, licking the lower limbs of pine trees. The ghouls and gods sat on their pedestals off to one side, pouring each other sake and feeling smug. Round and round the dancers went, circling the fire that was hotter on this summer’s eve than the midday sun. In between the dancers’ legs dashed nine-tailed foxes and racoon-dogs shifting into naked men, human men who would have been killed had they stumbled upon their party. Luckily they still smelled like racoon-dogs which meant the lion-dogs standing guard did not mistake them, even if they were disgusted by the sight. Sparks shot high and fell onto the straw roof of the makeshift pavilion but the ogre just reached over and tossed the smoldering mess onto the bonfire, not minding the little demons trapped inside, knowing that they would escape the heat as little dark snakes until they were safe and regained their shape. Round and round the dancers went, drunk from gold-flaked sake, drunk from the merriment of being hot and together, drunk from Mars and Venus and the full yellow moon hanging sultry and plump in the indigo sky.

And I, who sat in the boughs of my favorite camphor tree, had I been spied I would have been torn apart and shared amongst the party, for a six-year-old girl made for tasty morsels. Perhaps I would have begged for mercy, would have sworn that I would not tell anyone of their annual gathering. I would have been honest because I did not need to tell anyone, the whole village already knew of their private forest festival. Tattling would have only made trouble for me as I had been told over and over to stay away from the woods after nightfall. But who can resist the red lanterns, the laughter of friends and enemies reunited, the sake making them forget their old grievances, the drum pounding, the shamisen played by a faceless woman in twelve layers of kimono like royalty, not seeming to mind the heat that made sweat roll down my forehead, stinging my eyes?

All around me fireflies blinked, the rhythm of their flashing signals lulling me to sleep. In the morning when my mother and grandfather found me, unharmed and sound asleep in the shrine’s sprawling tree, they decided to leave me there so I could find my own way home.
——————————————————

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


 

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