A horse and carriage, dressed in roses of yellow and white, arrived in front of her brownstone on the upper east side of Manhattan. Awaiting her exit from the building was the driver dressed in top hat and tales. "Right this way my dear" he said, as he extended his hand outward to help lift her into the carriage. Trotting along Madison Avenue, they soon reached their destination at St. Patrick's Cathedral. On the steps of the Cathedral, dapper as ever and dressed in a smile, stood the man who won her heart. The man from brownstone across the street.
Lincoln was morning-walking in the Heavenly Park. King rushed past him.
Lincoln: Why the rush?
King: Another Remembrance Day, but for what?
Lincoln: I took a bullet to make a wrong right, while much work remained unfinished. Thought enlighten future generations would tackle the part of equality.
King: And I took a bullet to remind those citizens about your unfinished mission. After all, it was a fundamental human rights issue.
Lincoln: Now, they would erect a wall to keep away the poor neighbors.
King: What appalled me was… not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
He lies on the hospital bed. I reach for his hands. They are cold. I cover him with a warm blanket.
He is dying. That is what he wants. He says he is ready. He wants no heroics.
His face is pale and clammy. His lips are purple and dry.
I bend over to hear his words. They are muffled.
I lean back and study every nuance of his facial expression. I see a flicker of an eyelid.
I try to catch a tear that rolls down his cheek.
I reach for a tissue. I am too late.
"The pen is mightier than the sword," my son, Paul, commented to his older brother, John, who quickly retorted, "My PENis my sword!". I had wanted to chuckle at his play on words but forced myself to refrain.
They looked baffled when I explained to them that that type of humor was out of step with today's reality. It is no longer tolerated in schools, offices, or social events. Even among friends, it could come home to haunt them.
"Boys will be boys" but only if society doesn't take that away from them.
Cindy has aged into rheumatism and arthritis.
She slathers ointments to restore plumpness.
Her palsied father whispers his needs rapt by the dog that’s dying.
Her father’s snapping blue eyes have faded and turned rheumy. The dog’s eyes have yellowed while its body appears to have melted.
“Daddy, I must take Rufus now, he’s suffering,” pleads Cindy compelled by compassion.
Her father is unresponsive.
Cindy gently lifts the pet.
She feels the slight tug of her father’s grip.
“Leave him,” her father whispers.
“Darling, I can’t, he must go.”
“Leave us be together,” pleads the father.
In revelation Cindy relents.
Grandma’s frail hand grabs mine, pulling me atop her musty hay pile. “Come, Girl. Come see the magic. It may be the last time. But first, promise me.”
I promise, and when the fire eats the moon, it’s only Dog and Grandma’s small box that I carry to the ship.
Dog passed eons ago. I’m now a respected Elder.
I’ve kept my promises — for the most special of the girl star sailors.
When I think they’re ready, I open the centuries-old box.
And together, in Grandma’s ancient mirror, we witness “the magic” — the faces of the next hope for humankind.
She stepped into the pedestrian crossing and stumbled. I rushed to her aid. Her wrinkled, cool hands felt like parchment. Lines radiated from her mouth like sunrays as she gave me a crooked smile. Wispy hair escaped her woolen cap, and her shawl dragged on the wet, dirty street.
I lifted up the shawl, held her elbow, and walked her across the street, while cars groaned with feigned patience.
Her voice crackled. “God bless you for helping a complete stranger.”
My throat clenched and words couldn’t escape my lips.
Ma’s memory isn’t what it used to be.
I do for him twice a week. I’ve been working for him, I guess, it must be going on four years now. He’s a pleasant enough man, middle-aged and quite mannerly, but also quite untidy. Although a Londoner, he pays me well to neaten up his rooms, launder his dirty and stained clothing, and throw away the unfortunate souvenirs he sometimes brings home late at night.
I understand his bizarre needs, and, over the years, I have learned to accept and overlook his strange behavior. We’re even on a first-name basis.
“Oh, Jack! You have blood on your clothes again?”
The foreign students were bewildered by groups of young people dashing here and dashing there. Not speaking the language, the new kids were faced with the difficult task of finding the right building, the right classroom.
They couldn’t understand the confusing maps with arrows pointing here and there, different colors for different levels, some stairs that they couldn’t go up and other stairs that they couldn’t go down.
Yet they finally somehow managed to get to their classroom - English as a Second Language. They looked around at the other alien students, noticing, disappointedly, that they were the only Martians.
Millennial Tamali and Shibashis grabbed a window-table in second floor of Calcutta’s iconic Coffee House in College Street. Looking at the building across, Shibashis began trembling “I didn’t bring my English text-book.”
Tamali: You OK, dear?
Shibashis: See that second-floor window in that building, my eighth-grade classroom in high school.
Tamali: I’m listening.
Shibashis: In first English class, we didn’t bring our textbook. As punishment, the strict teacher made us standing on chairs entire time.
Shibashis: Oh, that shame and humiliations! They’re watching and mocking from here.
Tamali: Now might be your turn.
Shibashis: Winter-recess, no classes now.
Deciding that one husband was one too many, she decided to rationalise. Inspired by the book How to Murder Someone in Five Easy Stages, she armed herself and arranged to meet her husband at a quiet railway station. Why he agreed, no one knows.
Once alone, she smashed his head fourteen times with a rolling pin, threw the body onto the railway line for the next train to crush, then fled.
The police naturally assumed suicide initially, but then forensics found blood traces away from the platform's edge.
The moral? Always read the last chapter: "How Not to Get Caught."
"Push!" Said Jack.
"I am pushing!" Replied Jill.
"Well your not doing it hard enough!"
"I'm not used to this sort of thing, you know!"
"Maybe you should use your hips more?"
"My hips, how would that help?"
"It would give you more impetus!" Priding himself on the use of a large word.
"If your going to be like that, you can damn well do it yourself!"
"Come on love, you know I need you for this?"
"But, I'm doing all the work!"
"Just a bit longer love?"
"That's what you always say, why can't we just buy a new car?"
He's tall, isn't he, Dad.
The man in front, Dad. He's tall isn't he.
There's the roar of a goal.
Dad. What's a rictus?
Never you mind, son.
Sounds bad, thinks the son.
The match continues.
Ten minutes pass. The son is curious again.
Do you have a bleak introspection?
A bleak introspection. Mum said you have a bleak introspection.
Did she, now?
He can't see the match, so the son looks up at the sky.
Clouds float by and he wonders when Dad's bleak introspection will pass down to him.
"Forget the chocolates and the red roses this year," I tell him while I cut the root vegetables into bite-size pieces, coat them with olive oil, and toss them with salt and pepper.
"You have never complained before," he says with a stunned look on his face.
"Surprise me this year with something different," I tell him as I slide the vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet.
On Valentine's Day, he hands me a box wrapped with bright red paper.
I lift out an aluminum baking pan, shaped like a heart, and I try and keep a straight face.
When Papa dropped dead in the middle of dinner one night last year, my siblings and I just assumed Mama wouldn’t be long after. We even had a meeting to decide which of us would house her. Much to our surprise, she is more vibrant than we ever remember. Between shopping, knitting club, cooking class...she doesn’t return half of our calls. I didn’t tell the others, but I’m certain she even went on a few romantic dates. Now the only thing we discuss is what she could have possibly put in the roast that dreadful night last year.
In the final month, they went to the cinema five times. To the outside world, it looked like they were any other couple wanting a cheap night out. There, they could avoid the stifling listlessness brought on by another long evening at home. It was a kind of freedom in itself. Each of them knew their role at the cinema. It became a sort of comfort to her in those last decaying days. He would order the tickets online. She would linger over the pick’n’mix, then the ice cream, before buying a small popcorn and a beer for Greg.
There was a bad crash up ahead on County Blacktop 13, maybe caused by the pounding rain. Some drunk driver, probably. Which made me think of my father, who won’t ever listen or change his constant drinking. Glad I’m away at college, but I have to come home once in a while. A highway patrolman waved me to stop with his flashlight. He asks me, “Aren’t you Joe Baxter’s kid?”
He watched as the ambulance pulled away empty, and the hearse was loaded. “Well,” he said slowly, “Then I got some bad news for you.”
“Coffee, darlen’,” says Tolz smiling at the waitress decades his junior.
“OK, honey,” says the waitress, pouring coffee, carried in anticipation, a vestige of a proficient breakfast waitress.
As she drifts amongst the tables, tossing quips and splashing coffee Tolz gazes on the vision wistfully.
Mike, observing the hang-doggedness of Tolz’s demeanor says, “Could be your granddaughter.”
Living’s adorned the men with scars and color. Their hands that engulf the coffee mugs, or rub the stubbled jaws are ham-like, calloused, and abraded.
“I don’t mean like that, I mean when we was.”
“Yeah, when we was.”
You used to drink until you passed out, but before you did, you always pointed out everything that you didn’t like about me. I cried. You didn’t hit me, but your words hurt nonetheless. When you woke up, you didn’t remember anything you said. When I brought it up, you said I misconstrued everything.
Then one night you did it again. The same words. The same pain. This time you didn’t wake up. You stopped breathing as you laid on your back. Suffocating. I didn’t call for help until I knew for sure that you were gone. I didn’t cry.
“How much was it, Eileen?”
“Oh, Harold. It’s all about money with you.”
“Eileen, how much?!”
“You can’t put a dollar value on absolutely everything, Dear. Some objects are just so beautiful you can’t really ever put a price on them.”
“You can when that beautiful, exquisite object is charged to one’s credit card. At least, that’s what the credit card company tells me.”
“The cost, Eileen. What did the necklace cost?”
“Well, it was under $5000.”
“How much under $5000.”
“Just barely under.”
“Eileen, you have enough jewelry.”
“Nonsense, Harold. There’s no such thing as enough jewelry.”
Jeff trudged through the busy city streets after his team had lost again, resenting shoppers who were quite oblivious of the score, laughing in the Saturday air.
The rain swept across, adding to his misery, and he was almost blinded by an umbrella.
"Watch it you idiot!" he snarled.
"Lost again, did they?" was the retort.
It was then that he saw a young woman struggling alone in a wheelchair. She clearly only possessed one leg and stopped for breath, soaked to the skin.
Jeff felt ashamed of his petty woes.
When I found her in our bed with someone else, she was staring at him and didn't seem to notice. I recall he had a stupid grin on his face. It was smug, and I hated that. I had to admit to myself that he was handsome, though. It was a shame in a way, what happened, because they looked happy together. I always think it's nice for people to be happy.
I don't know if they retained that happiness, but what I do know is they're now lying together in another bed, and it's where I grow my roses.
As she snuggled under the covers, her body tingling with anticipation, she felt those familiar feelings again. The foreplay was almost her favourite moment: she caressed its firmness, aware only too well of the pleasure that would soon engulf her.
She stroked it, back and forwards, wondering how something how something so strong and hard could lead to something so soft and tender.
She could wait no longer. She turned to page one and began to read.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."
Charlie looked down, turned away, felt the colour drain from his face.
“C’mon, mate. Don’t be a wimp,” Dan yelled from below.
Charlie sensed a grin on Dan’s face. An imprecation pushed at Charlie’s lips; He bottled it deep inside.
“You’ve done this before,” Dan offered.
Charlie turned again, looked to the horizon, which offered no comfort.
He took a few steps back. Then a few more. The dizzying drop no longer dominating his view. The profanity burst out as he ran towards the cliff edge. Feeling 20 years younger, Charlie plummeted towards the sea like that first exhilarating time.
American John Ford was exploring India’s southern state Kerala, blessed with lush greenery, backcountry waterways, and bridal-veil waterfalls. Inhabitants call the place “God’s own country”.
While crisscrossing, John noticed red flags emblazoned with hammer and sickle representing a left-leaning political party, flying everywhere. Though the ideology becoming extinct elsewhere, it survived here due to judicious practice of inherent philosophy of equality by state’s educated citizens. To rest of India, Kerala represents a “red state”.
That’s when a unique irony dawned on John. Back in homeland, current strongman’s hate-mongering, xenophobic, and ignorant supporters reside in regions collectively known as “red states”.