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Bi-Weekly Story Prompts

Writing Prompt “Love”.

The LinkedIn Comment Thread can be found here.

This post is for STORIES related to the writing prompt: “Love”, required items: the word ‘fool’ or a word containing fool (foolish, fools etc). Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

Please Note: comments may be considered “published” in regards to other contest requirements.

All stories are fall under general copyright laws. No part may be reproduced without the express consent of the respective author.

Story Submission Rules:

  1. One story per author. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
  2. Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.
  3. Voting starts Wednesday morning at 9:00am PST and ends at 9:00am PST on Thursday via email LIFlashFiction (at) Winner will be announced in the Comment and Story thread. You may vote only once and cannot vote for yourself.
  4. The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
  5. In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
  6. The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at) with the next theme/items of their choosing.
  7. See How to Participate for complete rules and disclaimers.

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17 thoughts on “Writing Prompt “Love”.

  • Fiery Love

    Daiki, 1744.
    Watanabe Hotaka was born under the Wood Rat sign. He might’ve been born under the Ox sign, with his opulent 5kg baby body. His first cry wasn’t comforted by the warmth of his mother’s embrace. The village would soon be trashed by Ueda Eiji, second son of Ueda Kouki. Yamato Hyousuke, one of Ueda Kouki’s soldier and friend of the Minami, was to take the child as far as possible, where he could grow safely. The Watanabe were in tears as Hyousuke disappeared.

    Kurosaki Mount, 1745.
    The trip was long and hard on Hyousuke, but the seasoned warrior reached Kurosaki Mount. According to the intel he had access to, this would be one of the last towns taken by Ueda’s heirs. The moonlit sky provided the perfect cloak for Hyousuke to enter town and leave Hotaka in a trusted family’s company. Next morning, Minami Katashi rose to a child at his door, carefully wrapped in a blanket and holding a paper where “Minami Akane, YH” was written. Knowing its meaning, Katashi held the child and said: “Shame on me if you don’t become one of the best blacksmiths in the world, Akane”. And he took the child inside.

    Kurosaki Mount, 1758.
    The sun was boiling the mountainous region. Minami Akane, a medium height, strong-shaped, grey haired and green eyes was sweating carrying materials for his father’s smithy. The Minami were known for their crafting skills and excelled in short swords. These were bought by Ueda’s Army. Akane stopped to rest. His father was already yelling for him and the materials.

    Kurosaki Mount, 1768.
    The townsfolk gathered for Katashi’s funeral. The Minami were grieving, in their black kimonos, and Akane put the six coins for his father’s crossing of the River of Three Crossings, whispering: “Thank you father. I’ll take care of things from now on”. For the next two hours, Akane stood still watching his father burn.
    Later on that evening, Akane, his mother and his two younger brothers started collecting Hyousuke’s bones to his urn. “Akane… you’ll either end up hurt or dead working for Emperor Ueda” – and as she said his name, she quickly looked around to see if anyone else was listening – “we’re not even sure yet if your father has not been poisoned by him! Proceeding with the smithy is a fool’s errand!”, she said, still crying but this time for fear of Akane. “Mother, I’ve already decided.”

    Kurosaki Mount, 1778.
    The Ueda family was governing most of Japan. They stood strong because of their daring, fearless, merciless army. Young boys were taken from their families at the age of eight and trained for the Emperor’s Army. Being a blacksmith allowed Akane to escape this and spend his life crafting. This love for his craft allowed him to provide for his family and to live a relatively peaceful life in Kurosaki Mount. Until one day…

    Kurosaki Mount, 1781.
    “You will craft for me a 1,4m blade and 35cm hilt katana. I’ll come for it in three weeks’ time. Name your price”. White Snakes were associated to death, due to their unmatched fighting skills. Small swords were their weapons of choice, and the request felt strange to Akane. “Wh-“ – Akane only knew better after his tongue than to ask any question to Death itself. “90 gold coins”. The man in the black hood said: “90 gold coins you’ll get. If the sword is not ready when I come, your life will be the price”. And he left.
    Despite the threat, Akane felt he had to pour his heart and soul in this. Somehow, he knew that sword would change his world. He would work on it only during the night, so his work for Ueda’s army could proceed with no suspicions aroused.

    The following nights were spent gathering the iron scraps and heating them in his furnace, never letting it melt to keep the tamahagane pure. He’d keep an eye on the charcoal so the carbon absorbed would deliver a razor-sharp edge. He would hit it with his hammer, to mold the incandescent metal and remove the impurities; with this tedious yet demanding process, Akane would form the deadly blade and the katana’s core. “I hope you’ll be ready in time”, he prayed. Having the blade fully formed, he made a mixture of charcoal and clay. Akane painted the hamon (outline of the blade) like he did in no other blade, with a particular blend of waves and threads patterns. Then he’d scorch the blade one last time, keeping it in a safe temperature so that it wouldn’t break while he’d quench it. He would not sign his family name on it, but rather the katana’s name. “Rinku-O-Kaiju… Might fit you right”. He’d polish the blade with the water stones used by previously by his father – a set that his own father told him to save for his masterpiece. “Father, how should I know which is going to be my masterpiece?”, he asked when he was younger. “You’ll know it in your heart”. Two weeks passed since the White Snake’s visit. He was finally assembling the katana. The blade mirrored its entourage perfectly, shining a threat on it. The tsuba had a golden spacer, a golden blade collar and a golden rectangular plate inside another one. The hilt itself exuded mystery, fully covered by the straps. The kashira held a small and dangerous-looking white snake in a dark background.

    The White Snake was back. Akane pointed at the sword. The man gently grabbed the hilt and lifted the sword, holding it at chest’s height. “Rinku-O-Kaiju.”, said Akane. “That’s her name”. Grabbing the sword with his left hand, the White Snake turned to Akane and, with his right hand, threw him a bag from his vest. “Count if you wish. Otherwise I’ll be on my way”. “No need to count, mister”. Akane was still afraid of the man. Under the moonlight, Akane lost sight of the White Snake as he went to the woods.

  • “The Monster Under The Bed”
    © Carrie Zylka 2015

    Amy was in love. Obsessive, over the moon, cuckoo for coco puffs teenage love.

    “So my parents tried to stage an intervention today.” Amy said flopping back onto her bed.

    “Oh yeah?”

    “They tried to tell me that my obsession with you is unnatural, and that I was acting like a complete fool.”

    “Well, most women would not be so open to this kind of a relationship.”

    “Well that may be true, but I’ve always been open minded. I like all sorts.”

    “Don’t kid yourself, you definitely have a type.”

    “I don’t have a type!”

    “Says the girl whose favorite album is Phantom of the Opera.”

    “Okay maybe I do have a type, but at least it’s not a stereotype.”

    “No, definitely not a stereotype.”

    “I still don’t understand why I just can’t come live with you.” She flipped over onto her stomach and inched her way towards the edge of the bed.

    “Because you would hate it.”

    “Doubtful.” She pushed forward until her top half was hanging upside down just far enough for her to peek under her bed. She thought she saw a shadow skitter away but the light from the desk lamp was too dim to be sure.

    “Stop that.” The voice said from behind her.

    She twisted around, lost her balance, and fell with a thud to the floor. Rubbing her elbow she crawled up onto the bed again. “I wish you’d just come out.” She pouted. “Then I wouldn’t always have to try and sneak a peek.”

    “You know why. For now I enjoy the relationship we have just the way it is.”

    She crossed her arms. “Yeah well, that’s because it works just fine for you. Not so much for me.”

    “Be patient my love. All in due time…”

    “Fine. Whatever.” Amy lay back down with her head along the edge of the bed and stared up at the ceiling.

    The Monster Under The Bed slithered back towards the edge. Her long brown hair dangled enticingly in front of him. He reached out a single scaly hand, wanting desperately to touch her hair. He envisioned the soft locks trailing through his fingers. His eye looked down at the hideous fingers stretched forth and snatched them back. He didn’t want to foul her beauty with his ugliness.

    He’d been the Monster Under The Bed ever since she was born seventeen years ago. He’d watched her grow from a squalling annoyance to an awkward child to a stunning beauty. He was a fluid creature, made of smoke and oil but his physical presence always looked the same. Even after all these years, he’d yet to gather the courage to show his true self to her. He feared her rejection and knew if she did reject him he would be forced to eat her. He couldn’t take the chance of exposure, so he watched from the shadows and caressed her heart without her ever knowing.

    Amy sat up and sighed. “I’m going to Heather’s for a bit. See you later.” She said as she bounced out of the room.

    The Monster Under The Bed slithered backwards into the tiny shadows against the wall to wait.

    He didn’t know how much time had passed, days at least, when the door to Amy’s room opened. He began to slide forward, eager to see his lovely but stopped when he noticed the unfamiliar shoes.

    A woman paused in the middle of the room. She stood motionless for quite some time before speaking in a tear-choked voice.

    “Monster,” She whispered thickly. “Amy was killed in a car accident on Sunday. She was heading to Heather’s house when she was struck head on by an SUV. Some guy was texting and ran a red light. She’s gone…she’s gone…” After a moment: “Amy insisted you were real so I just thought you should know.” Amy’s mother broke down sobbing, turning she fled from the room.

    The Monster Under The Bed retreated back into the gloom, he curled up amidst the dust bunnies and mothballs and wept.

  • Staring into the Abyss
    Ann White

    You left me for work, you say, screaming as you went out the door. Your words are filled with hate, confusion, disgust. The throwing ceases with the door slamming shut, and now it’s only a matter of time. The phone will ring, and you will cry, “I didn’t mean it. I’m so sorry. You know I love you. I’ve always loved you. I’m so sorry.”
    My part of the conversation will go as usual, “Hello? It’s all right. It’s all fine. You have to stop yelling now. Stop it. Take some deep breaths. It’s not so bad. Calm down, I’ll see you in the morning. Everything will be just fine.”
    Everything I dreamed falling in love would be is only a pipe dream. They say only fools fall in love, and it is true. I was a cute little blond full of energy, wanting someone to love me. I was a first class fool.
    Our marriage started with you drunk and disorderly. It started with my denying there was a problem. I was fine at work, where the guys would tease and try to cop a feel. I could out dance, sing and play them into the ground. You could come home from work, cursing that the road was wrong and you couldn’t pay for the apartment we lived in. You didn’t make enough. I was pregnant before we knew it. You told me that someone was trying to kill us. I lost my job, the apartment upstairs where the MP dropped only one shoe a night, and my dreams. I couldn’t go home, and the throwing started then. The door did hit my face.
    That day you called me from the payphone. “Honey, I’m so sorry. I’m so very sorry.”
    I ignored the pain, used the powder, and looked into your eyes trying to see my dream. Dad would have killed you, but I couldn’t go home to hear about what foolish childish dreams I had had. No, my mother would have been too much to bear.
    In part, my mother modeled this for me. My father yelled. He split the kitchen table in half with a butcher knife. He yelled as he threw her across the room for having loved him. I couldn’t go home there. I pick up the phone, “Hi mom, I need to go back to school. There are no jobs for me here. Tell Dad I love him.”
    It was something not spoken of in polite society. Your mother let us move to her home. It lasted a whole month. You smoked, lied, drank and ignored your mother who was ailing from having teenagers at home. She was as polite as you, “Get the fuck out of my house.” So I did.

    We didn’t have food to eat. When the baby came, I walked to the social service’s office five miles away. You stayed home and drank. I had the baby. I had only enough bus fare to take the bus one way. They belittled me. Everything must me my fault. Ignorant woman that I was to have gotten pregnant so early. They thought I was a teenager, but I outgrew you by four days. On the way home, I hawked my wedding ring so that we would have a bit of cash. Thirty dollars for a cigar band. On the way home, I stopped to buy food for us. Orange juice, frozen pizza, formula, salad: these were for us both. I was starving. You ate the pizza while I showered and put the baby down for a nap. I drank the juice.

    You took care of the baby while I found a job. Minimum wage to fold household goods. The manager told me I had one month to fix the department. I finished in one day. Everything tagged, Everything in its own place. He offered me a management job if I could move to Tennessee. Our car was dead. The company closed at the end of the month. Your parents blamed me for our poverty. How could such an educated woman live in squalor? You were expunged from the US Army’s roll call.

    My aunt and uncle tried to straighten you out. They fixed me. I could smile at their house. I cleaned, worked for my aunt, and the second baby arrived. They gave us up.

    We separated. I was to return to the Army, but they told me I had to give my children up for adoption. That wasn’t going to happen. I worked at a bank of hopelessness. It didn’t cover our rent or childcare. You drank and slept while the baby slept on your chest.

    I pulled us together. I set rules, worked my way through a graduate degree, got a teaching job. Your son failed first grade. He called his classmates, “You little shit birds.” You got detention from his teacher, a minister’s wife. Your daughter had large eyes, a timid nature, and fear.

    You got a job, and all turned into sunshine. Your boy worried us to death, your daughter fought at school. She swore like her brother. I took care of the swearing. I had power.

    Then like a fool, I broke. My brain fried. I had trouble walking. I would sleep through teaching. Your mother told me to slow down. Your father drank. Your mother cried, and I bled for her. It was too much of her. She died. He drank.

    You stayed sober, but despaired. Everything I did wrong, you looked at me with leaden eyes. I kept telling you I loved you. Tonight was the last.

    After you called tonight, I went to the park and looked across the Potomac. As the sun went down, I did the only thing I could do to let you know how much I loved you. The water was cold.

  • Love’s fool
    Valsa John

    Aryan the god of planets smashed planets as a pastime. And now Earth was on his radar. He watched Earth from his own perfect planet, Supra. Earth was horribly imperfect by his standards, and it was time to use his laser sword on it. He checked it once more through a telescope so powerful he could see extreme close ups. After destroying over 500 big and tiny planets, he thought it was time for its annihilation, he thought.
    Suddenly he noticed a movement on Earth. His gaze followed the object unwittingly.
    Gosh that had to be the most beautiful girl’s he’d seen amongst all the planets he had explored. From head to toe she was the essence of perfection. To describe her would be talking of epitome of beauty; an embodiment of it in human form. He wondered who she was…

    Marissa awoke early before dawn and fed the birds some grain, and then the deer came near her, unafraid, trusting, and she petted them and whispered “Go” and they ran off. She thought she’d seen a hyena hiding in the bushes, but it seemed to have vanished.
    Then she sang a song that entranced all. Her voice like everything about her was perfect. She dove into the water and swam a perfect butterfly stroke.Aryan was so lost in his scrutiny of the girl, he didn’t realise that his sword was deactivated on the trigger not being pressed.

    Marissa hugged herself. She felt as if she was being watched. Aryan smiled and moved away for a while.

    She changed into a dress that sheathed her. Aryan’s breath pulled in. But why was his heart fluttering? He knew it wasn’t just a primordial feeling. It was so inexplicable; his heart was beating like an injured bird.
    Aryan had had his share of affairs in the godly world; but this feeling was something so exhilarating yet a mystery. But he knew, he couldn’t remember another woman who could cause this unease in his soul. He was truly entangled.
    He couldn’t bear losing her, if he destroyed the planet. So he decided he wouldn’t. His hand dropped the laser sword on the floor.

    Seeing his sword on the ground, Cupid said, “Are you unwell, Aryan? What has wrought this miracle that you have spared a planet? Something I have been telling you to stop since an eternity. Well, well!”
    “I don’t know Cupid, that girl there on Earth is the one causing so much distress in me.”
    “Oh that’s Marissa, she is very beautiful.”
    “She’s so perfect.”
    “So it happened finally.”
    “You’re in love.”
    He looked askance. The thought never occurred to him.

    It would be Valentine’s soon and the busiest time of his career for Cupid. He wondered if being a perfectionist could cause Aryan to lose his karmic love. He couldn’t bear the tiniest flaw.
    He wondered how Aryan would woo his lady love. Would he send flowers or chocolates; or a ring ,,, no that was too soon. They must get to know each other first. He wanted his friend to be happy. Marissa was truly perfect for him.
    “What should I do?” Aryan asked impatiently
    “Ary, you need to go to Earth and woo her. Try to win her heart. She must love you inspite of your flaws.”
    “I have no flaws and neither does she!” he retorted.
    “Well, you might be surprised, ” Said Cupid.
    “So I have to go as a human.”
    “Yes and things will change for you. You will discover things of beauty need not be perfect.”
    “You’re crazy.”

    He hid his spacecraft in a secluded place and in a jiffy reached the girl.
    Suddenly a pack of wolves set off after her. He chased them with his sword and they vanished into another direction.
    “You have saved me from those wolves. Are you a magician?”
    “I’m Aryan, the uh (he bit his tongue on ‘god of planets’), uhhm, I seek your friendship.”
    She liked that. All the other guys were only chasing her for one thing. “Yes I will be your friend. Are you from foreign lands?”
    “Yes far, far from here. Would you like to see that place? You’ll be treated like a goddess.”

    “My life is here and I don’t want to leave it. My parents have tried to convince me to get married, but I won’t leave this paradise and go anywhere else,” said Marissa
    Aryan was stunned, as a god he couldn’t live here, he thought – he was used to grandeur and he wanted to woo Marissa there – where he ruled the planets.
    But what she said knocked took him for a toss. They were sitting in the lush garden with the fragrance of roses, jasmine, and the orange fruit tress scenting the area. Aryan was thoughtful as he sat on the bench close to Marissa.
    He exclaimed, “Then this will be my paradise, too, he replied.
    She hugged him and said, “You’re an angel.”

    He lifted his eyebrows at the irony. As a human he had changed hugely. No more did he wish to destroy. He moved closer to Marissa so she faced him.
    Then he kissed her tenderly and said, “I love you.”
    “And I, you!” she replied. Her curly tresses fell on her face and she tied it up in a knot.

    Aryan nuzzled the nape of her neck, and he was stunned to see a ha’penny mole on her swan like neck. To his absolute wonder he didn’t find it repulsive. It transformed into a thing of beauty in his eyes and he uttered to himself, “Oh my, is she perfect or is she perfect!”

    Cupid smiled as Ary bent on one knee with a ring in his hand. Oh yes, he was a fool, indeed, love’s fool. He whizzed back into his universe leaving the two lovers to celebrate.

  • Maaike Vissers
    The Baroness

    He was proud of himself. Without title or land, he had made his way to the court anyway. Being a rich businessman, the nobility had to at least appreciate his money, if not himself.

    This night, he had been invited to a party at the royal palace. In his finest suit, he had made his bold appearance. Now, he should look for a fine young noblewomen to climb up the ranks even more. Someone of lower ranks would suit nicely. Later on, he could always trade her in for someone better. But first, he needed to get her title.

    So he kept his eyes out for a fine young lass to marry and danced a lot with the ladies. One particular lady seemed more interested than the others. She was a tad older than he had been looking for, but since he was going to dump her later on anyway, that would be no problem to him at all. She had been all sexy and eyes when dancing with him, so he asked a duke who she was.

    “She is Baroness Leona from Leestone,” he answered.

    “Is she available?”

    “She is, but she is a handful of a women with a…flamboyant character.”

    “So, to be very sure, she is not engaged to anyone?”

    The duke chuckled. “No, she is not.”

    This was very nice. Way better than his original plans. A baroness of age, not yet married or engaged and so obviously looking for some manly love.

    He again asked her to dance. She seemed a bit more shy this time.

    “I need a bit of fresh air, dear sir, would you please escort me out into the garden?”

    “But of course, my dear baroness. I will be pleased to be your escort.”

    In the garden they walked a bit, talking about nothing, until they reached a nice, romantic, secluded place, barely lit by the lights put up in the gardens.

    “This is one of my favorite spots in this garden,” she told him. “It is so romantic, don’t you think?”

    “You are very right there, my lady. It is so romantic, and you are so lovely a lady, would I dare to ask you for a kiss?”

    She looked at him with astonished eyes and a bit bewildered. But she nodded. So he took her chin into his hands and kissed her. She kissed him back. A wonderful, enticing, long kiss that made him long for more.

    They made out in the garden. Her body was very willing and eager to please him. She whispered to him and he whispered back; little secrets that only the night should hear.

    He wanted her so badly, he did not think anymore. He made love to her.

    The next day, he was very, very satisfied. She would marry him, he would be a baron soon. There was no doubt about it. So he went up to her room. She was there, standing at a table, reading a letter. When she saw him, she put her letter away and smiled at him.

    He fell to one knee.

    “Barones Leona from Leestone, will you accept my request to marry you?”

    She smiled kindly to him.
    “Sorry, my dear, I can’t do that.”

    “Why can’t you marry me?”

    “Because you are a prick of course. No problem, sir, we all have our little issues.”

    “You seemed fine with me last night!”

    “Did I now? Please, tell, sir, what happened last night?”

    “You made love to me!”

    “I would not let anybody hear this filthy rumor,” she said, gasping. “You do know I am the niece of the King, don’t you? He would have your head for dishonoring me.”

    The man wanted to slap her, but she caught his wrist and twisted it.

    “I will tell you what. You will help me out, and I will help you out. I have this little funding for the needy. You will graciously donate to it every year from now on, and I will keep our little secrets between us. Of course, you would also have to stay away from the young ladies, for else my tongue might slip.”

    Meanwhile, she had let go of him and taken up her letter again.

    His arm hurting, he backed away from her, bowed and left.

    Flamboyant my ass, he thought. He had come here to fool a lady but instead had been fooled by one, big time.

  • She could feel the child move – soft fluttering movements. Now approaching the end of her third trimester, her body was soft and fluid filled. Heavy with child, she had to manoeuvre through doorways and shopping malls, standing some distance from the counters and bench spaces in the kitchen. She, who had once been so proud of her taut, well-muscled abdomen, now had a belly that bulged so she could not see her toes standing. A sporting champion at school, she had gone on to play professional hockey, and later coached high school basketball and hockey teams. This was not her first pregnancy.

    She had married and already had two other children, but for some reason it was not enough. At twenty-nine years of age, Jan somehow felt she had not done enough for the world or others. The world was a mess, she mused at times to Brian, father of her two boys. She was the ultimate team player. She felt for some time that she needed to do more for the team and to contribute something extra. She was fit and healthy. Thus she volunteered for the school tuckshop, the garden tidy and filled in at the office as needed. Still she felt it was not enough.

    At home, she baked, cleaned, tidied, washed and hung out to dry and took in and ironed. She cleaned, cuddled and loved her two boys who were growing much faster than she had ever thought possible. She fussed and petted and looked after Brian who was doing well in his IT business. Their romance was still going strong after twelve years, so their lovemaking was exciting and passionate at least three or four times a week if not more. Brian came home with monotonous predictability at seven every night and each time she wondered what she would do if his fancy took him elsewhere, he surprised her with small gifts and romantic outings – just the two of them. His mother or hers would baby sit the boys or they would spend a night at one of the grandparents.

    When the idea first came to her, Brian was supportive.

    She had been reading one of the women’s magazines in her doctor’s surgery. It was a story about infertility and IVF. There was a woman sitting beside her. She turned to her and they began to talk. Gemma and her husband had been trying for seven years to fall pregnant and keep the pregnancy sustained.
    ‘It is the miscarriages that hurt most. You always think what they might have been. You know the sex of the child. You imagine. You ache and it drives you to the edge. Yet… like the ultimate masochists, we try again.’

    ‘How many?’ she asked and held her breath. Gemma struggled with a thread on the sleeve of her jacket and looked her full in the face; unshed tears glistened in her eyes.

    ‘The last one was the tenth. At eighteen weeks. Ron is saying we should give up.’

    Jan touched her arm.
    ‘Give me your phone number. I want to keep in contact. I’ll pray for you.’

    They exchanged numbers.
    Brian was supportive. Her parents and his were shocked and dismayed at first. The two couples met socially several times before the embryo transfer.
    The boys were excited, but knew this was Gemma and Ron’s baby. It was a girl. She felt protective and nurtured this baby growing inside her belly, even more than she had her boys. This was someone else’s beautiful girl – a precious package she would deliver whole and healthy to its intended parents.

    The birth was hard, but swift. Gemma and Ron held their child for the first time early one morning at 4 am. Their little girl who might not have been born but for the gift of love of a woman who believed she had everything, who believed she was blessed and wanted to extend a blessing to another couple.

    Later a friend asked them, ‘Don’t you feel a fool. Your wife’s body used by someone’s else’s child. You are not even genetically related?’

    ‘No. It was the ultimate gift of love, from one family to make another.’ Brian answered.

  • Unchurched
    By Alice Nelson ©2015

    Love your neighbor, as yourself. Hmm…I was having a hard time grappling with that one lately. After church it was customary for everyone to gather in the foyer for snacks and polite conversation. “That was such a good sermon.” Someone said. So I thought I’d ask, “What if I’m struggling with loving my neighbor and myself, where does that leave me with God?

    The response I got was silence; followed by uncomfortable glances, then a few empty platitudes, and a list of bible verses to read. That should do the trick! Then they all drifted off, finding other important engagements to attend to.

    That’s when one of the “Perfects” came up to me and said, “Maybe Sunday morning isn’t the place to ask those questions.”

    I looked at her as if she were nuts, “Sunday morning is exactly the place to ask questions about the bible, don’t you think?” She flashed her best church smile, but looked at me as if I were a fool. Note to self: ‘Never confide in her again.’

    That was how it was done at Happy Valley Bible Church though, you never pose serious life questions. Here you paint on a happy face, tell everyone that your week went well, then go home and weep into your fried chicken dinner. We were a “bible” church, shouldn’t talking about the bible be something we were encouraged to do? I always found it curious when a church called itself, a “Bible Church,” as if they were the only ones who actually used that text in their sermons. Aren’t most churches bible churches? Yeah, I was feeling very cynical about the whole Christianity thing.

    I felt utterly alone as I looked at the plastic smiles on their faces, and phony cheery countenance that made Sundays almost unbearable some days. It all reminded me of when I was in school, the misfit looking at the cool kids, who seemed to have it all together, while I was an absolute mess. Here I felt just as out of place. No one should feel that way at church —or so I thought.

    There were two main social groups at HVBC. The first were the aforementioned “Perfects.” You know the type; they come every week, with their perfect clothes, and perfectly behaved children, who sit perfectly quiet in the pews, while your kids act as if they’d been possessed by Satan himself. The Perfect family sat with those Stepford Wives smiles on their faces, proudly showing the rest of us how it should be done. These specimens of biblical perfection eventually leave the church because someone said something from the pulpit that offended their “holier-than-thou’ sensibilities. Of course they couch all this smugness in bible verses and concern for their family’s “spiritual health.” This justifies them not only causing the first great church split, but taking half the church with them in the process and starting their own “bible church.” I know I shouldn’t have taken pleasure when I heard later on that they went through a split of their own. A case of reaping what you sow, I guess.

    The second clique were the “MacArthurites.” These were the folks at church who worshiped at the altar of theologian John MacArthur. They’re the ones who constantly shoved his books in your face when all you simply wanted to do was talk to someone —anyone. They did this because getting real with people was a no-no; you were supposed to, “Take those problems to The Lord, in your quiet time with Him.” They’d say all this while handing you a John MacArthur book —of course. This group caused the second big church split. They may tell you they left because of an associate pastor who wore t-shirts from the band The Misfits, and listened to The Clash while he wrote his sermons. But the real reason they left was far more sinister. They ran away after certain accusations about improper touching came to light, and instead of dealing with it, they went to hide in the congregation of another church.

    Even after all that, the remnants that were left behind, stayed to pick up the pieces and move on. We were a much smaller group however, scarred and weary from all the break ups. Truth was, our church was dying, and had been since that first split —we just didn’t know it. When I was a kid, my dad told me that you could put a frog in a pot of water, and it wouldn’t realize it was boiling to death until it was too late. The slow and gradual decline of our church was similar to that poor old frog; we reached the boiling point before any of us knew we were already dead.

    I think it was this last gasp for breath as a church that I began giving up on the idea of finding a community of people to live life with, as we are commissioned to do. Now hear me when I say this, I hadn’t given up on God, just those that called themselves his people. Look, I realize I’m just as big a fuck up as any of them, but I wanted to find people who knew this as well, and was willing to walk with me through it all.

    I had grown tired of the politics of belonging to a congregation, one that had great bible knowledge but little else. Still, I was looking for something, and I found a local church online that seemed to be just that something I was looking for.

    Their website was nothing special, but on their homepage, sitting just above the church’s name and address, were two words that caught my attention, “Live Loved.” I wanted to do just that. And maybe I could even learn to love my neighbor, as well as myself.

  • To rush or not to

    Sayings are funny things, aren’t they? Take this well-known one: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Sounds reasonable; you should be cautious when addressing potentially problematic situations. Okay, then what about this one?: “Faint heart ne’er won fair maiden.” Well, that’s suggesting exactly the opposite; it says that caution can prejudice your chances in love. So which one should guide our actions?

    Percy Prendergast half blamed his parents for his failure with women. His father’s ancestors hailed from Normandy and were influential in the 11th century Norman conquest of Britain, so Percy’s surname had noble roots. But what the hell were his mother and father thinking with ‘Percival’?! The blanket ridicule he received during his first day in Primary School was merely a taste of things to come. He didn’t even have a middle name to fall back on.

    So Percival it was, or Percy to his friends – both of them. Percy wasn’t particularly bright, funny, interesting or attractive; he was thin, wore glasses and had spots. He developed an inferiority complex that grew and grew until even his two friends were driven away by his complete lack of sociability. For the duration of his time at Primary school he suffered silently.

    Secondary School was, if anything, worse; children can be unthinkingly cruel when very young, but in adolescence the cruelty can be intentionally designed to cause the maximum suffering. This is what happened with Percy, and his solitary trek through the desert of his young existence was punctuated with horrible episodes of humiliation. If he’d had a complex in first school, it was now deepened on an almost daily basis by name-calling, trick-playing, and physical violence … whatever way the school bullies could find to make his life as hellish as possible.

    His one beacon of hope was Daisy Wilson. She wasn’t the most beautiful girl in the school, but she was far from being the plainest, and Percy kind of liked the way her eyes crossed ever so slightly. She was popular and was always chatting and laughing with her friends during breaks between lessons, and on the bus to and from school, which Percy also took.

    Percy would sit on his own near the rear of the bus and stare at the back of Daisy’s blonde head, willing her to turn around and acknowledge him, or drifting off into a dream world where he and Daisy would walk hand-in-hand along beaches and country lanes. But Daisy never did turn around, and the romantic strolls seemed increasingly like a dream too far.

    Then one day in Chemistry class, their eyes met. Percy surprised himself by not lowering his gaze, and to his utter amazement, neither did Daisy. After what seemed like an aeon of staring, she gave him a little wink – just the faintest of flutters of her misaligned eye. Percy’s heart jumped into his mouth, hit the roof of it, dropped down to his stomach and bounced back up to its rightful place again. There was no mistaking it: even for someone with as little experience of the world as Percy, he knew instantly that he was in love.

    That night he hardly slept a wink. The reasons were twofold: he kept going over and over again in his mind that magical moment; and he was thinking about the end-of-year school party. Should he, or should he not, ask Daisy to go with him? And this is where the two sayings came into play. He could feel an even greater fool than he already felt himself to be if his angel declined the offer; but he’d ne’er win this particular fair maiden if he didn’t try.

    And so it was that a third saying ruled his heart and mind: “Strike while the iron’s hot.” He decided that yes, Daisy had acknowledged him, had shown an interest, and had apparently given him some positive feedback through her wink. It was now or never.

    The next day during the morning break, Daisy was chatting to her best friend Monica in the school yard, while Percy leaned on a nearby wall, watching the two and waiting for an opportunity. At one point a popular boy called Jason passed bringing giggles from the girls, and Monica parted from Daisy to follow him across the yard. It was Percy’s chance.

    He stood up straight, ran a hand through his hair, did a breath-check using the palm of his hand and strode over to Daisy in as determined a way as he could muster. She seemed taken aback when he walked up to her.

    “Hi, Daisy. Lovely day. How are you? Would you like to go to the party with me?”

    Daisy stared at Percy, her imperfect eyes absolutely perfect to his mind. He was in an ecstasy of expectation, and the moment lingered, lingered, lingered.

    Percy would remember the moment throughout the rest of what was to be a barren excuse for a life – that moment and indeed the one that followed.

    “You … you want … me … hahahahahaha!”

    Daisy turned away from Percy and jogged off after Monica, laughing all the while. Watched by a hundred mocking schoolyard eyes, Percy remained rooted to the spot – small, alone, a fool.


  • “Blue Chameleon Blues: Part Three of the Blue Nikes Chronicle”

    Inspired in part by Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”

    Dawn’s finger tips of rose, along with the rest of her heavenly body, repose deep beneath a quilt woven of light and Phoebus’ traces across the sky. Above, a dark vaulted blackness leaks pin pricks of lights depicting cave drawings of her friends and relatives. Breakfast or brunch or whatever you want to call it came and went in a the flick of a young girl’s knot of curls. Dinner too. The reels on the recorder spin round and round. He inhabits the two and the four like a Shakespearean fool lost in time as the drummer taps those swung triplets on the high hat while punctuating them with the kick. The bass man slaps a repetitive figure like a shuttle on a loom, weaving the groove with ghost notes and swinging so hard everyone marvels at how close he gets to the next beat without falling out of time. Memories of the Blue Diner fade into his cries, “Stay on the one, on the one!” The guitar player and piano man shade the sketch purple with notes of red and blue. He taps a stomp box, raises harp and mic to his lips and threads a melody through the narrow spaces left in time and silence. The groove holds them or they hold it. No more instrument and musician. No one knows for how long. Groove, only groove.

    A light flickers in the booth, She’s pours into the room like cream falling into rich black coffee. He feels the light on his lids and knows it’s Her. Smooth creamy skin and dark curls inhabit the groove. Somehow it becomes tighter and silkier all at once. The melody fills all the empty spaces to the point of bursting. To the bridge he cries, take it to the bridge. Tension builds and resolves to the groove and they stop. They hear her voice over the studio PA, when are you coming home?

  • Renette Steele
    They handed you to me, all wrapped in a blanket, only your sweet head could I see. I held you close giving you all my love, holding back the tears.

    The day I met you, you popped your little head out and I instantly fell in love. You never complained but always seemed to smile, not asking for much, you really didn’t need much, just love. You gave me your heart and devotion and I gave you mine.

    We went everywhere together, Seldom apart, You would sit by the door where you couldn’t be missed, ready to go, reminding me to never leave you behind, It didn’t matter where we went as long as you got to go with us, but when you had to stay behind, you welcomed me home with such joy, I wondered how I could have left you.

    You seemed to understand me so well. I loved to play whenever you asked. Your boundless energy brought hours of fun. Whenever I felt bad you seemed to know and did your best to make it better. We would walk for miles and talk it all out, or just walk and understand each others silence. You helped me see the world through new eyes of wonder, stopping often to check out this or that.

    Others thought it foolish I celebrated you each year, treating you like family, spoiling you so much. They just didn’t understand what you meant to me, how close we had become in such a short time.

    The years have passed, I love you still. I wish I could now do the same for you as you have done so often for me. Make it better.

    They handed you to me, all wrapped in a blanket, only your sweet head could I see. I cradle you in my arms giving you all my love, holding back the tears, before you must go. Those big brown eyes looking at me with such sorrow. They used to always be so full of love and joy. I see the love but parting is so hard.

    You where the best friend a girl could have. I will miss you my sweet puppy love.

    The kids had grown and gone, it was so thoughtful of them to think of giving you to me, the gift I was given in you is a treasure I will never forget. They found you more spoiled then they ever were, but they loved you still.

    Only weighing eight pounds, you were a little brown ball of fluff, but you thought you were mighty tough, until a bigger advisory came along then upon my head you would crawl. Not one to say much just a whimper or two to let me know you needed protecting.

    I miss you sleeping at my feet and fallowing me about, my walks are lonely and few with out you. I find myself looking for you, then remember you are gone. How foolish I must be to miss you so, to have cried more tears over you then over others who have passed on before you.

    You were a big part of this family and your passing has left a hole. Maybe someday we will find another, but we will also always remember you fondly, especially me, as you were my companion and friend. My little Hershey Bear.

    The love of a pet is something only a pet owner can grasp. Losing one is like saying good bye to family.

  • Daphne Thompson
    Little Girl Lost

    I miss mummy so much it hurts.

    My mummy died.

    ‘Mummy’ I whisper gazing up to the big black sky stretching far above little me tonight.
    My eyes sting as the tears well up, threatening to spill over and splash to the ground. Quickly I press my balled fists against my them and manage to stop the floodgates from opening.
    Just speaking her name tightens my heart; constricting it so much that my whole chest tingles.
    Blinking my eyes to clear away the rising tears I continue searching the sky for my mummy.

    When mummy fell ill everyone believed she would get better, leave the hospital and come back home to be with daddy and her two darling babies. She was young and fun.
    I remember my aunties telling me she would get better very soon. On hearing their words I would feel comforted, happily holding and kissing mummy’s pink floral handkerchief that I carried with me at all times.

    Unexpectedly and shockingly, my mummy died.

    ‘I want to see mummy,’ I would plead in the weeks following, sobbing inconsolably, the pink floral handkerchief wet with tears and scrunched in my wringing hands. ‘Take me to the hostibal to see mummy.’ I would beg whoever was in close range.

    One day in desperation my aunty gently picked me up and holding me in her arms walked outside and pointed to the evening sky.
    ‘She can’t come back to you anymore Janie, but she can always be your special mummy star.’
    Aunty and I picked out a big shining star and named it Mummy.

    More than four years have passed. I am seven years old now. Life is lonely without my mummy.
    I look for her star, especially when I need to feel some special mummy love.
    For me she is always the biggest star in the sky because she was the best mummy in the whole world and I love her so much.

    So many things are difficult now but I know that I must be a good girl and be brave.

    Tonight I have been sent outside alone to go to our long drop dunny before going to bed. The dunny is a short walk from the back door of our old farmhouse, winding past the water tank, a small tool shed and some bushy trees.
    At night all these things turn into fearsome shadowy shapes lurking along the path firing my young but fertile imagination into overdrive and in that moment I truly believe in Boogie men.

    I feel so scared.

    I stand still both feet poised on the back doorstep trying to muster courage to make the dash to the dunny.
    Taking a big breath I spring forward on my little legs, my left foot catches a small rock, almost falling but managing to regain balance, all the time expecting to be grabbed from behind by one of those lurking Boogie men.

    Phew! I make it!

    But the worst Boogie man of all lives right inside our house. She scares me all the time.

    Finished at the dunny I stand in the open doorway now, looking for courage to run back into the house, all the while wishing I didn’t need to pee at night.
    I am very scared thinking about making it back inside without being caught by the Boogie men.

    It is at that moment I miss mummy so much it hurts.
    ‘Mummy,’ I utter again in a forlorn whisper.
    I search the big night sky looking for her.
    ‘I need to see you Mummy.’

    There are very few clouds tonight and I can easily pick out the Milky Way winding its way across the sky.
    My mummy is not part of the Milky Way because the stars are just very small ones.
    There is the Southern Cross and the Saucepan. My mummy is not part of them either.
    I keep squinting with my eyes and peering hard at all the stars.
    ‘You must be there somewhere,’ I whimper.
    Then I see her.
    ‘Mummy,’ in choked whisper I manage to say her name yet again.

    She is one big beautiful star that shines and twinkles brightly if I stare at her long enough. She is the standout best.
    ‘Mummy, I love you,’ I whisper.
    I stare at her intently, waiting. I see her begin to twinkle. The tears press on my eyeballs and it hurts, but I am comforted. I wave back.
    I know without doubt that mummy loves me.

    Feeling a little better for finding mummy, my heart starts to feel less tight and I relax a little. Now I look for the man in the moon.
    He is there tonight, I can see him.
    The man in the moon has his arm raised ready to bring the axe down onto the wood at his feet. I like the man in the moon; he is good, jolly company, always smiling.

    Since ever I can remember being told about the man in the moon I look for him to see what he is doing. He must be a woodcutter, I have decided, because he is always chopping wood.
    I begin to feel a little calmer. While I can see him chopping wood then I know he is keeping his moon fire burning and the sky will be warm for my mummy. If she is warm then she can keep shining brightly and I can always find her.

    Now I feel brave enough to run back inside knowing that mummy is watching me and the Man in the Moon is out tonight to scare the Boogie men away.

    Safely indoors I say goodnight to daddy and to the second mummy and escape to my bedroom.
    I check that everyone is in bed, arranging the row of dolls and teddy bear so that they leave a little space enough for me to fit in under the covers with them.
    Quickly I get into my pyjamas, kneel by the bed and say my prayers; a thank you to God for looking after my mummy star and asking Him to please keep her safe until I can join her.
    I arrange my two pillows into a vee shape before climbing into bed. Scrambling in next to my favourite dolly I push and prod the pillows until I feel like I am being held in mummy’s embrace.

    It is not the same as being in her arms exactly but it is comforting enough to keep away the frightening Sieve and Tomato soup dream.

    I have to believe that my mummy is a star and anyone would be a fool to tell me differently.

    Sadly a fool has come to live in our house. When I told her about my mummy she became very angry and spanked my bottom adding an extra whack across the side of my head.

    ‘I am your mother and you should be glad, you ungrateful girl.’

    I can’t tell her she is a fool. She is a scary fool and I would be in more trouble than usual.

    It is at those scary times the Sieve and Tomato soup dream comes to my bed at night and grabs me up, putting me inside the large metal open sieve.
    I can never escape because I become very tiny in size. I get slowly spun down towards a huge bowl of hot tomato soup. We are moving slowly enough to see that I am going to land and drown in the soup. The dream always stops just before the sieve can touch the soup bowl.

    I am so scared because I know that the dream always comes back in exactly the same way.

    ‘Mummy you have chased the dream away tonight. Please chase away the fool,’ I murmur snuggling deeper into the pillows.

  • Waves
    Sanjoy Dutt © 2015

    The sound of the waves crashing on the beach, he could hear footsteps approaching. He moved to the left to get out of the way but the turf crumbled against his boots. He lost balance and looked panicked as he fell down.
    “Be careful,” a female voice called.

    He didn’t answer because he wasn’t sure who the voice was for but to him the voice seemed familiar.
    A soft woman’s hand helped him get up and dust the sand off his clothes.
    “Are you okay?”
    “Yes, I am.”
    “Please be careful, the hidden rocks in the sand makes it difficult to walk,” she said
    “I know, I have been walking here for six years.” He smiled.

    He had discovered she too walked the same path around the same time every day. Do I know you? The question occurred in his mind and he wanted to ask, but instead held himself back.

    The other day she brushed against him and said, “Sorry!” as she passed. That was the first word she said to him, an apology. Not unusual. He was used to people apologizing to him. He was somebody everyone in the town knew yet he had no friends.
    It was strange, he picked out her voice and remembered it with no idea why she drew him strongly.

    “Well, are you all right?” she said again.
    He realized she was still standing there, an act of kindness.

    “Do you really think I am not all right?” he said. Although he did not want to be rude that came out of his mouth at that moment. Kindness tires him.

    “I’m just concerned,” she said. “There’s no one out here to help you.”
    On warm summer days, he would hear thousands of voices around but today was different, it was cold and windy with the possibility of an ice cold shower.

    “There’s no one I can run into, you mean,” he smiled.
    She laughed, “The wind has become colder, it will rain, and do you mind a cup of coffee?”
    He felt the first drop of rain on his face, “At the Prince Café?”
    “That is where I was going,” she replied.
    “I have so much memory attached to that place.”
    “Really? Me too.”
    He felt the warmth of her palm in his as they crossed the traffic-less road. He could feel her walking beside her. The strong smell of coffee beans and the warmth inside made them feel better as they settled around a table by the window. The rain fell heavily and made the outside look hazy.
    “This is the place I met the love of my life,” she said.
    “Where is he now?”
    “Perhaps, I found to lose him. I am hoping I will find him again, what about you?”
    “The best days of my life got lost six years ago. Today I live with my memories.”

    “I came here with my college friends, never knowing this place would change my life forever. That day was cold and wet like today and after I ordered my coffee I realized I had forgotten my purse at the hotel room. He was watching me and offered to buy me coffee. That was how we met and fell for each other soon. I did not go back with my friends and stayed back to spend one more week with him. I remember we walked the beach together and came here for coffee every day. He loved his coffee. I was excited to return home for Halloween and break the news with my family I found the love of my life. We decided to get married soon and he wanted to share the good news with his family. Early that morning he was driving me to the airport. It was still dark outside and the road was traffic less. My heart pained at the thought I would not see him for the next three weeks. I leaned over to kiss him, just then that monster truck appeared from nowhere. I regained my senses in the hospital with a bandaged head. My memories remained closed for five long years. Even my parents had a hard time convincing me they were my parents and well-wishers,” she said.

    “What is your name?”
    There was a surprise in his voice and his walking stick slipped from his hand and fell on the floor.
    “Dorothy Larson.”
    She bent down to pick his stick for him.
    “Was his name Benjamin?”
    “Yes, how do you know?”
    “Because your Benz is sitting in front of you.”
    “You look nothing like my Benz.”
    She looked annoyed.

    “The world sunk in darkness permanently after that accident. The doctor’s had to reconstruct my face many times. Now I can’t even see what I look like.”

    She stared at his face for a few seconds and stood up.
    “Oh god don’t do this, I can’t take this,” she cried.
    Both hands holding her head she rushed out into the rain.

    Benjamin listened to the sound of the falling rain thinking can he live with memories and compassion?

  • Chitra Adjoodah
    We Are Family!

    When his father died, Hans’s mother did not want to live on her own in her big house or go into an old people’s home.
    “Take everything – the house, money, jewelleries and do what you and Bella want to do with them. Just give me a little corner to live in your house.” That what she wished. She trundled along with her walking stick, her hands and head shaking because of her Parkinson’s disease.

    Hans and his wife, Bella, sold everything and bought a farm house with a large ground. They kept two horses and put football nets for their sons to practice the sports. They believed that playing football and riding horses were good activities to develop their children’s mental and physical strength and they also gave them family time together.

    But, Bella had a problem with her mother in law. “She has to go into an folks’ home.” She bellowed. “Look at the mess she’s made.” She swept her hands across the table. “Can’t she eat with knives and forks instead of her hands, she’s so embarrassing. It’s so unhygienic!” She continued to moan.

    The mother in law dropped her cutleries and knocked her glass of juice causing more mess on the floor on hearing the insults. Her tremors grew worse.

    “My new carpet is ruined. I can’t live with this mess!” Bella looked down before she pulled her chair back and threw her knife and folk on the plate. “The other day she broke one of my best plate.”

    “I’ll order a small table, wooden cultlery for her. She won’t break them and she can eat by herself in the corner.” Hans tried to appease Bella as she walked away. The children followed their parents’ gaze as they discussed the issue.

    “What about the mess she leaves behind. I’m not a slave in this house. You and the children need a proper environment – a place where you can relax when you come home from work and a place where the children can concentrate on their schoolwork. Your mother’s behaviour is not the distraction any of us need. She is a liability, a hindrance and a social outcast. I can’t bear it anymore.” She shook her head and held her forehead with one hand.

    The mother in law felt so old as she sat in the corner to eat by herself. A reluctant tear trickled down her cheek. She reflected on the happy times she had in the past with her departed husband and Hans when he was growing up. She accepted her fate and was not looking forward for the days to come.

    In the summer, Bella caught her sons playing with the fire wood that were stacked on the side of their house.

    “Are you playing carpenters?” She asked, watching them as they sawed the pieces of wood and chiselled them with tools that were bought for them. As scouts’ boys they had sessions on how to survive in the wild and had been on yearly outing and camping in the woods.

    “We’re learning to make wooden bowls, plates and cutleries for when you and dad become old.” The children answered.

    Bella was stunned. She remained quiet for a while as she absorbed the talk.

    “Put them away tidily,” She shouted and helped them with the task after she recovered from the shock, “ and come along with me.”

    They went inside the house, and she asked them to help her pick the mother in law’s wooden table, chair and cutlery and took them outside, piled them in a heap and set fire to them.
    “I want you to go to your grandma and tell her that from today onwards she is sitting with us at the table to eat and we’ll all share the burden of looking after her and she does not need to fret anymore. I’ve cleared your mess and I can clear her mess too. It’s no big deal.” She told her sons and held her breath.
    “ Do you know why?” She asked.

    “Because she’s our grandma.” Her sons spoke in unison.

    “Right. When daddy was little, she cleaned after daddy and looked after him and taught him many things. Now, it’s pay back time.”

    “She told us some stories about our family, where they came from and many interesting things about our great, great, grandparents.” The children enthused.

    “I know that you love her, and like talking to her. From now on, I’ll listen to her stories too.”

    Later, she told Hans, “It suddenly hit me that I’m teaching my sons to be selfish, cold people without love when I saw them chiselling the wood in readiness for our future. I felt such a fool. I’ve been so unreasonable. I’m so proud of myself, that I restored the tender side of my nature that was lost and forgotten. I’m sure she’ll forgive my mistakes.” She hugged Hans.


  • You’re a Good Man, Charlie Black
    By: Randall Lemon

    Charlie Black had admired the little red-haired girl in his class ever since her family had moved to his town. The longer he admired her, the more that admiration turned to love. She had now been in his elementary school for three years and each year, Charlie found her in the same class as himself.

    In all that three year time period, Charlie had never had the courage to speak to the red-headed beauty. He considered her to be as far above him as the Mona Lisa was above an elementary student’s crayon stick drawing of a family.

    “I just can’t find the courage to talk to her,” he told his friends Leon and Sherman.

    Leon’s loud-mouthed sister, Laura had been eavesdropping of the trio of sixth graders.

    “Charlie Black, you are a blockhead! That little red-haired girl doesn’t even know you are alive and if she did, the vision of your bulbous, almost bald head would send her screaming.”

    Leon spoke up suddenly, “That’s it, Charlie Black. We’ll throw a small Halloween party and you can ask her if she’s like to come to the party. It would just be courteous. If she says yes, you can ask what costume she will be wearing and then you can get a costume that goes along with it and it will be a natural way for you to get close to her.

    Sherman had been plunking away on his toy piano attempting a particularly difficult suite by Rimsky-Korsakov. “That’s not a bad idea, Sherman. If she goes as Raggedy Ann, Charlie can go as Raggedy Andy. If she dresses as the Bride of Frankenstein, he can go as Frankenstein’s monster. If she goes as Smurfette, he can dress as Brainy or Jokey Smurf. It’s a natural.”

    Heartened by his friends’ idea, Charlie quickly fleshed out the idea, time and place of the party.

    “I’ll go home after school and make sure it will be okay with my Mom and Dad.”

    At that moment, the dismissal bell rang and Charlie Black dashed to catch the bus so he could get permission from Mom and Dad.

    The next morning, Sherman and Leon set next to Charlie on the school bus.

    “What did your parents say? Did they give permission for the party?”

    “I’m pretty sure they gave me permission for the Party.”

    “What do you mean, ‘pretty’ sure?”

    Well, what they said actually sounded a little bit like a muted trumpet. You know, like most adults. ‘Mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa-mwa.’ But they were smiling so I think it’s okay.”

    When they arrived at school, Charlie decided to go right up to the object of his desire and invite her to the party. As he started to cross the room, Laura stepped directly into his path.

    “Hey, Charlie Black, remember that time I held the football for you and you fell flat on your back attempting to kick it? Well now I’m going to watch you fall flat on your face!”

    Charlie was completely shaken by what Laura, his arch-nemesis had said. Now he felt foolish in his intention to speak to his titian-haired goddess. He wondered what evil scheme Laura had enacted to destroy his chances. He started to feel around on the back of his shirt to see if Laura had placed a “Kick Me” sign there but found none. Then he ran to a mirror to see if somehow Laura had placed a black marker moustache on his face or dotted his face with colored freckles. He still could find nothing. But now his confidence was completely broken. He slunk back across the room and climbed into his desk.

    When recess came, his two buddies asked him how it had gone and Charlie’s face turned as red and his idol’s hair.

    “I was foolhardy to ever even think about it speaking to her, let alone asking her to a party. Laura has done something to make me fail in such a way that I will be the laughingstock of the entire sixth grade. RATS!!! Now I’ll never get to speak to that beautiful little red-haired girl. I feel just horrible. I am cancelling the party and staying home on Halloween.”

    When Leon got home that evening, he asked his big sister what she had done to embarrass Charlie Black so badly.

    “Actually, I did nothing at all. But Charlie Black is so insecure, that all I had to do was sound like I had done something and it completely broke his spirit.”

    “That’s mean, Laura. I’m going to tell Charlie that he can go ahead and invite her because you are a fake!”

    Before Leon could get to the phone, Laura grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him toward her. Then she started to curl the fingers of her right hand into a fist.

    “Separately, these fingers are nothing. But when I curl them together into a single unit, they become a fighting force so dreadful that the world quivers in fear. Would you care to have your nose introduced to my fist?”

    Sweat began to pour from Leon’s brow. As he stared into Laura’s eyes, he realized that her eyes were as black as her heart.

    “Okay, Laura, I won’t say anything.”

    Laura let go of his shirtfront and patted him on his head.

    “That a good little brother. Now go outside and play with that stupid beagle, Snooty.”

  • Like a Peach
    © 2015 Sami A.F

    Is this what the love had dulled down to? Once a form of inseparable partnership that had manifested into an evil figure lurking in the shadows of our bedroom. Sooner or later, it was bound to happen, yet it was sooner than anticipated.

    It was across a large room that they had once met. Certain aspects of their relationship began to naturally flow through its course without any bumps. It was perfect. It was pure. From a casual encounter, to a committed link, to an inseparable object, their love was that pure. However, who would have guessed he was a fool disguised to be the perfect man for her. A demon disguised as her one and only. The exterior shell of such a person, was now transparent.

    Who knew that the claws of an evil entity crawled behind them. It was completely unnoticed, and entirely unexpected. He snapped. His eyes would always set on her with jealousy, with fury, and no hint of love could be found. He, suddenly, began to see her as a threat. She, in turn, began to see him as a danger that she needed an escape from. Who was in the wrong?

    All she could focus on was brushing her hair over her ears to cover the blue blotches on her neck. The blotches that gave an unappealing mark of a fist. Her hand would run over it as it stung to the touch. Every mirror or window she would pass by, her head would, involuntarily, turn towards her reflection and study her exteriors to see if any of the blue marks were visible. Her neck, her chest, even the opening of her skirt.

    What had she done? Her words wouldn’t reach him. Even if she tried, the old love had disappeared. Her only goal was to escape. Yet, she had taken the wrong form of escapism. She began to set her eyes on others. She allowed her eyes to linger over others, and she thought it would release her but that was a grave mistake. He was not the one to let things go, but her hope for him to discard her was not one that she could follow.

    Many times she would stand in the kitchen and stare at the sharp, silver blade of the knife. She was chopping a few green peppers when the instinct came to her. The urge was there. She eyed the blade for a moment, and looked towards her wrist. It was the escape. Yet, she continued to chop the pepper. The claws of evil might come in that form, yet she never took the chance. Was it a chance worth taking? It seemed like a dream. It was not an option that many would consider peaceful, but she smiled when she thought of it.

    Soon, he wouldn’t even gaze upon her. His eyes were dead, and his smile was non-existent. Where was that smile? The smile that made her heart jump. The smile that kept her eyes wide open. The smile that could cure any form of discomfort.

    All gone.

    Instead, the blank eyes of a shell stared at her. A shell she no longer recognized. She snapped, just as he did. Her eyes had dulled, her frown had intensified, and her voice failed to remain silent.

    At this point, she was yelling. Something she hadn’t done in quite a while. It felt good. A tightly wound bottle always led to inner conflict, so she yelled. An action that made her have a sense of relief.

    An action she, immediately, regretted when all she could remember was a bat swing down towards her head.


  • Romesh Chopra
    Love and Lust

    I was the only son of a very rich builder. I did not feel like working as I had plenty of money which I squandered lavishly, mainly on the girls. My conscience never pricked me as I was wasting only the dishonestly earned my father. My father still loved me; he had to because my mother adored me.

    I loved theatre and worked as an actor which earned me just cigarette money. I was tall, dark and handsome and the girls fell for me for my looks, but mainly for my money. No affair of mine lasted long as after 2 or 3 dates I expected them to take off their clothes and let me enjoy their bodies. Some felt that I was disgusting and a debauch and the others who easily fell to my advances, I felt that they are sluts. So, I remained a bachelor for a long time. My parents suggested a few matches for me which is how the Indian marriages are conducted, but the very idea of an arranged marriage seemed anachronistic and stupid to me.

    I had gone wayward because of lack of lasting love in my life which I wanted on my terms because I was tall, dark and handsome and the son of a very rich man. To my surprise, it was not acceptable to the women of substance which really astonished me. Stupid and snooty! They are so hypocritical to preserve their virginity even when actually they crave for sex. The fucking Indian girls!

    I met Rina in a party. She was overjoyed to meet me. She happened to be my big fan. She had everything I desired in a girl, pretty, knowledgeable, witty and full of fun. We started dating. She was not the one to take liberties and taken for granted. She was not after my money; she herself belonged to a very wealthy family. But she never spent unwisely, though she was not stingy or mean.. Far from it. She generously donated for noble causes and always helped the needy people. I wanted to marry her, so I checked myself from going fast, though sex was all the time in my mind.

    One day, when my parents had gone out of town I invited her to my house. I was determined to have my fun, but before that I had to prepare her for that. I offered her a glass of fine which at first she refused. On my insistence she agreed. On glass was enough to make her intoxicant as she had never drunk before. I quickly gulped two glasses more and then I took her to my bedroom. After hugging and a few passionate kisses I took her tea-shirt out and then unhooked her black bra. Her rosy nipples enhanced my passion all the more. I threw her on the bed and began mauling her. She hissed, ‘what are you doing!?’ Her protest had no effect on me and when I tried to unzip her skirt. She pushed me away with an amazing strength, hurriedly put on her clothes, and clenched her teeth, “Goodbye. For ever1”I came to my senses and profusely apologized, but it had no effect on her and she left with a huff.

    At first, she refused to receive my calls. I was desperate to tell her that in future I will behave like a gentleman. After my numerous calls, she finally relented but refused to meet me. I had to cajole, entreat and even beg her for one last meeting. To my big relief, she agreed to meet me on the weekend at Volga restaurant.

    Rina came at the appointed time, to my dismay, with a boyfriend who seemed to be more than 10 years older to her. It was a big jolt to my plan to open my heart for which I had rehearsed so much. Moreover, this man throughout was observing me keenly which made me uncomfortable and nervous. Finally, they left and I continued sitting there and ordered for Vodka. I thought that it was all over.

    To get out of my depression, I joined my dad’s business which Rina always asked me to pursue. One day, mom told me that they had chosen a girl for me and it was high time that I got married as I was already 32 and then she winked, “I told them that you are 32.” I thought that it was the best for me; I could never fall in love with another girl all my life.

    We went to the girl’s house on the appointed time. Our parents talked shop for half an hour which was of no interest to me. As per the Indian traditions, the girl came after half an hour with a tray full of snacks and sweets. Her mother said, “Here, she comes.” Mom elbowed me to look at her. I raised my head and could not believe my own eyes. It was none else but Rina. She said hello to me with a cryptic smile. My parents were enamored by her beauty. Her parents had already approved of me. Then there was the star entry of her boyfriend. I shivered that the villain was going to create a scene. He rushed to me with long strides and to my surprise, he hugged and kissed me, “Hi. I’m Rohan, Rina’s cousin. I liked you from the word go. Sorry buddy, that day I behaved like an investigating agent,” He laughed at his own joke.

    Rina’s father asked,” Any demand for dowry?”
    Dad replied, “Nothing.”
    I took mom aside and whispered something in her ears.
    Mom immediately announced, “Not even a nikka paisa [a small coin] when such a precious gem is going to adorn our home.”
    Her father folded his hands, “How can I send my daughter bare-handed.”
    Dad raised his index figure, “Okay, then I’m going to spend double the amount. Every penny on our dear Rina and not a penny on my nikhatoo [good for nothing] son.”
    Everyone laughed. Suddenly, her mother stood up with a jerk and put her finger on her chin, “Haa, we have not sought the boy and the girl’s consent.”
    Both of us simultaneously nodded our heads in affirmative. There was a huge clapping. They did not let us go without having our dinner. By the time we reached home, it was 1 a.m.

    On our firs night, I behaved with Rina very gently. For the first time in my life, I realized that sex can be a bliss. Lust is just an animal instinct.

    I can’t think of a life without Rina, the mother of my 2 beautiful kids.

  • Carrie Zylka

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