She let her bucket fall into the darkness of the well. And although she didn’t believe in the magic of prayer, its unrequited response always exasperating her disappointment, she slackened the rope as if the bucket would soon take on weight. Ignoring what she knew, she pulled the bucket off the bottom, listening to it scrape along the well’s walls, accepting resignation only after she grasped the bucket by its handle. Under a cruel blue sky, she would try again tomorrow.
They don’t. They will endure meager annoyances, knowing that a few mites is better than freezing to death in a storm.
Songbirds will often construct their nest in a single day, without care or regard for procedures, or illusions that it could last forever. After the chicks have flown, it will be abandoned, and construction of the next can begin. Their home is a temporary fortress, and immediate protection from the elements supersedes the idea of building something that will outlast them. They don’t let a few parasites rule their outlook on life.
The letter was official, but not ‘Taxman official’. Curious, I opened it.
‘…writing on behalf of a friend searching for her family. Her grandparents were Betsy and James Tucker…’
Shocked, I stared. My grandparents? Stopping, I counted off the cousins on my fingers. Nope, all accounted for. Holy crap! One of my aunts had a love-child! I gazed at the paper as realisation hit me – was she my sister?
I answered the letter (of course). Dad HAD been a good boy, but Aunty Alice…? Really? And such a silly reason to have deprived us of cousin Erica for so long.
Struggling, she managed to grab the telephone: dialled 999.
"Welcome to the all-new one-stop emergency service," the automated voice said. "Press 1 for ambulance, press 2 for fire, press 3 for police, press 4 for coastguard, press 5 if your call is not urgent, press 6 to hear these options again or please hold to speak to an advisor." Then: Vivaldi.
Pressing 1, she drifted in and out of consciousness. Blood from her stomach knife wound coursed all around her.
"Thank you. Press 1 for gunshots, 2 for road accidents, 3 for stabbings, 4 for..."
But she heard no more.
He sat down heavily in the chair and looked at the various pictures of Megan in his mobile phone. Her smile lit up each photo as she gazed happily at the camera.
He could still remember her last words to him. “It’s just too soon,” she had whispered before disappearing from his life.
Her clothes still lingered about, and took up half the closet. The sheets still had her scent and he wondered if he would ever wash them.
A picture of them kissing caught his eye to which his hand began to shake violently. The phone slipped from his hand.
Mark was waiting for a passenger-ferry on the bank of Irrawaddy River (Myanmar). Suddenly, a flock of local poor children surrounded him. Perky Maya, paralyzed below waist from childhood-polio and on a movable wooden-platform grabbed his jeans.
Maya: You must be an American money-ball to buy our handicraft dolls.
Mark: American, but not a money-ball. OK, here’s a $10-bill for some. Make sure to share.
Maya: Don’t worry. I’m the leader. I’ll cover everyone.
The ferry took off, when everyone heard a rolling noise. Maya, raising her right hand, was shouting “Hey Mr. you left your wallet on the bank.”
“I don’t know if I can do this,” Alan said.
“They take everything off?” Mary asked.
“Everything,” Sue said.
“You adjust quickly,” Joe added.
Mary read the sign. “Ultimate Nudist Camp?”
“The new owners renamed it,” Joe said. “We were unsure but it brings such freedom.”
“But … my penis …” Alan stammered.
“Their nudism is completely non-sexual. No erections here,” Sue said, getting out and undressing.
Alan and Mary stared at the nudists - there were no men, women, boys, or girls - all were blank.
“Come,” a naked Joe said, minus clothes and privates alike, “let us set you free."
We had just bought a Victorian home in Connecticut. It was in our price range because it needed a lot of work—and a rumor the place was haunted.
I went downstairs to catch up on some reading. One of the previous owners had built a red phone booth with a chair and small desk inside. It even had one of those old-fashioned telephones on the wall, although the realtor said it was just for decoration.
I had just sat down and opened my book when the phone rang.
We put the house on the market the next morning.
“Whew! Some party last night.”
“You’re telling me. I thought you’d never stop singing.”
“What are you talking about? I never sing in public.”
“That was definitely your voice. Though, I wasn’t sure about your face.”
“Oh, just a huge lampshade over your head.”
“Impossible! I’d never act that way at a party.”
“Even after a drink or four?”
“I moderate my alcohol intake as needed.”
“Wasn’t needed yesterday, huh?”
“Enough! I don’t have to take this!”
“Hey--chill! I was right there next to you!”
“Singing even more loudly and dancing like an idiot.”
I stood in the sanctuary, and pretended not to bleed. A party of screams, and a war of whispers fought for airtime. One man, who spoke like a gameshow host, read some magic words. I felt quiet as ice. My brother was in the coffin, and Jesus was on the cross.
I always suspected but I was never sure...
The way that bird looked at me. Stared. Not with it's head cocked to the side but straight ahead, riveted.
Can that be Uncle Jed? I thought. Come back as a bird?
My uncle was a crotchety, mean old-timer but he loved birds. Built beautiful bird houses after he retired. Used to walk through the woods and do bird calls.
As I said, I suspected but was never sure.
Till that one day that bird, still staring at me, said "of course it's me, you idiot!"
Late that evening, a young woman was coming downhill alone. A wraith of a figure approached from the other direction, darting in and out of basements and tenement stairwells.
Suddenly, he popped up beside her from yet another basement, a bottle in each hand. Bravely, she challenged him.
"Sh'ma bottles," he insisted. His emaciated face spoke of drink and drug abuse.
Neighbours appeared. Someone took the wraith's photo, threatening to call the police. It emerged that he'd stolen the alcohol from a nearby, recently-delivered grocery consignment.
Eventually, the wraith – alcohol-free – and the woman continued in opposite directions. Of their lives.
The Azgard soldiers stands to attention under the sweltering blue sun, beads of red under each of his five green eyes. The High-officer had better not see him sweating like this!
Miranda wakes from a vivid dream. A BLUE sun? She can still feel the beads of red sweat. Weird! Oh well, time to get the kids to school.
The Elf-Lord slumbers as his dream deepens; he picks up car keys and ushers three whining children out of a door. “Who are you really?” asks his higher-self, connected to him by the merest silver thread.
“All of us,” he whispers.
I'd been hiding in the factory for weeks, only venturing out under the cover of darkness, seeking any tidbit or morsel I could find, when I found the dog.
The dog had a good nose and I trusted him, but one evening he got a whiff of his former owner and he lead me to him.
To my surprise, when the man tried to cut me, the dog leaped in, biting the hand that used to feed him. The knife dropped and I snatched it up, backhanding the blade across the oaf's throat.
I didn't eat, but the dog did.
There is nothing like a fire drill to separate the overtly confident and socially inept. Navigating your way through a tightly woven sea of ill-fitting suits is now an essential life skill. One misstep could see you drown in speculation and questionable attire. Avoiding the overfamiliar becomes impossible and there’s only so much stilted conversation an individual should have to endure.
Worse still is the slow march back to your desk, exchanging pleasantries with people you scarcely know and all because some imbecile left the toaster on for too long. Damn them and their recently cremated slice of wholemeal bread.
Dr. Kaushik Chauhan, a Stanford-educated Indian scientist married Ms. Victoria Lee, a southern belle. They settled in Silicon Valley. On a recent Saturday, he was watching a telecast football-match, his alma mater playing against a smaller Catholic college.
Kaushik (screaming): Huh, they even brought along their nun as the savior!
Victoria (shouting from kitchen): Why the Indian bread?
Kaushik (astonished): What do you mean by “Indian bread”?
Victoria (annoyed): I just heard you said “They brought along a “naan”, the Indian bread we order with our curry.
Kaushik murmured: “No wonder, cops still pull me over on the highways.”
Zane was shaking as he eyed the attendees. He knew his speech inside and out, having rehearsed it numerous times. The huge university crowd, though, was making him jittery, and he was speaking to his biggest audience ever.
He gulped, taking a deep breath. “You're a solid speaker,” he told himself. “They'll love you.” His positive self-talk wasn't working; if anything, he felt more anxious than ever.
What was that technique his girlfriend taught him?
Oh, yeah--picture the audience naked!
He peeked through the curtain, and almost fell over laughing.
“Thanks, dear,” Zane thought. Piece of cake now!
Grey sky to match my grey mood. Clouds threatening to burst.
Sifting through the remnants of my father’s recently extinguished life.
Books, papers, and storm-coloured photos.
One catches my eye. A mother. A father. A sleeping baby. Family.
On the back in a loopy scrawl: Tatjana, Brett and baby Alex.
One hand flies to my mouth to stifle the cry.
The photo drops to the floor.
‘Alex? What’s wrong?’
My vision blurs. Lies etched in cold marble – ‘Tatjana Smith. Died in childbirth.’
I never met my mother. This photo can’t exist.
The sky groans with the knowledge of suppressed secrets.
It was 6:00 p.m. and Angela was already seated in the bar of the hotel she was staying in. She was there drinking and sulking over the fact that, after three months of fieldwork, her research was completely useless.
The data so far collected was more than okay but what was the point if the government was planning to relocate the entire village? The fact that they had lived there for more than eight hundred years was irrelevant, all because they wanted the beach to construct “modern” hotels.
Wasn’t the local ecosystem damaged enough, hasn’t the native people suffered enough?
They started to appear gradually in their annual convention. Being scarecrows, their gathering was taking place on the grassy knolls of the quaint village of Kettlewell in Yorkshire, instead of glitzy Ritz-Carlton in London.
Lou, the old-timer looking haggard, lamented “Why I’m here? No crow even comes close to those genetically-modified plants!”
Benny, dressed-up red-nosed clown, while juggling four tomatoes, chimed “Talk about changing time. Nowadays, even a clown like me becomes a suspect in harassment cases!”
Glamorous Mdm. Roxborough, while chewing a piece of Parkin, inquired “Brexit or no Brexit?”
Just then, the pub-door opened for the afternoon pint.
Mr. Doitz made Clarice go to the blackboard to show him how she came up with the answer to the algebra problem. He was sure she’d copied Billy’s answer. Clarice trembled, not understanding she suffered from dyscalculia. The problem she laid out on the blackboard looked like something Stephen Hawking would write about string theory and how the universe was created.
Through clenched teeth Mr. Doitz said, “Stop.”
Clarice turned to him and said, “But I’m not done yet.”
“Just stop. It’s impossible to find the answer that way.”
“Maybe you can’t, but I can.” And she did.
How had it come to this? My life is over now, you see? I blew him a kiss as I leapt into the sea. Time slows to a crawl. The ocean beckons and calls to me. Hitting the icey waters now. I start to fall far beneath the churning waves. My breathe escapes my body. I feel pressure pushing upon me like a vice. The sea has swallowed me whole. Wrapping around me with cold devilish hands. Thats the last thing to run through my mind. The lights dim, curtain is drawn. The end of my show has finally come.
I had been climbing the ladder for seventeen years. I had no apparent need of water, or food, or the need to relieve myself. I never slipped, never slowed. Seventeen years of hand, foot, hand, foot.
I could see nothing above or below, and only a brick wall to the front, side and rear. There was light, but I could not tell from where it emanated.
One morning- I thought that it was morning- I came upon a skeleton clinging to the rungs above me.
I passed it carefully and continued on. I knew there’d be more, in time.
“Dawn on the see sure,” Katelin laboriously typed, “their livid a mer made. She swum round with her fiend's, they had a ventures, ones they got lost in see we'd an ones they fond a dessert I lend. An other daze their was doll fins an a good see which how helped them git purls.”
“It's a wonderful imaginative story,” I told her. “And what a long piece of typing! Let's see if we can correct some of the spellings.”
Katelin stared at me in righteous indignation. “I already done that,” she protested. “I done Spell Check on the pewter!”