I saw a raven dancing over the corpse of its recently deceased friend, making the human voice - like a trick from Loki. I can't help but think it was murder,as it plucked the feathers out, throwing them in the air like it was some kind of dark ritual . . . I swear it turned, looked me dead in the eye and winked like it's going to remember me. I got the feeling it was saying something rather rude. I thought it was the magpie who murdered in mischief and mayhem. Perhaps it just got tired of being part of the unkindness.
As the sun crept to the horizon and melon hues filled the sky, the local boy flirted with me, leaned in, and took my hand. He convinced me with his grinning eyes and come-hither finger to leave my new classmates as embers from a small beach fire smoldered dim. Maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for me to fit in after all.
Around the bend, he eased me against a coconut palm.
Extracted a gecko from his pocket.
And thrust it down my blouse.
Laughter filled the background of my screams.
He sauntered away.
“Haoles no welcome here,” he said.
The egg sac twitches inside her belly. Her babies eager to breathe the new air of a new world, as she searches for a warm, safe place.
Attracted to the hot waves of carbon dioxide pulsing from the centre of the room, Mama stretches her eight legs across the soft, supple surface, intrepidly feeling her way closer.
Easing her plump body through one of two darkened tunnels, Mama wriggles deeper. Fine fibres brush along her distended body.
Her babies throb with fevered anticipation for the freedom soon to come.
The man’s nostrils twitch, but still, he remains asleep.
Daddy says sometimes I’m naughty but Mummy says I’m not naughty because I’m good and try to make them happy and that’s why I try to do kind things like make them breakfast before they wake up and help with Baby Georgie but Daddy tells me no in case I hurt him but I wouldn’t because I love Baby Georgie and I’m going to make tea for Mummy and Daddy before they wake and I’m going to make sure Baby Georgie doesn’t cry and wake them and I can put the pillow on him so he won’t cry so loud.
There’s probably no more satisfying pleasure than be able to blitz an itch. The occasional scratch enlivened Norman’s life and he always looked forward to the next one but one day he had two and he didn’t know which one to scratch first. The next day he had three, four, five..they were multiplying. Soon his whole body was covered in flaming itches that were too hot to quell.
The dermatologist recommended UVB Light Therapy but said he would need to protect his necessaries. Norman’s sister-in-law solved the problem by knitting him a Willy warmer… made to measure.
There was a hush in the crowd as he stepped up to the microphone. They all knew he hated public speaking, but it was his father’s funeral.
He cleared his throat. “You all knew me as the kid whose mother ran away, raised by a father you called selfless and kind. I never knew that man.
The man I did know? He’s the one who told me about my mother on his deathbed. You see, I finally found her. She was exactly where he said she’d be. In the basement freezer where he put her twenty years ago.”
Walking to the footbridge, we filled a plastic bag with gathered treasures. At the middle of the bridge we chose sticks from the bag.
He counted three and we both dropped them then rushed to the other side to watch them float out.
“There’s my stick, mama.” He ran to drop his next stick.
When they were gone, acorns plinked and rocks splashed. Our bag of treasures empty, I said, “Time to go.”
“Okay, mama.” Yawning, he rubbed his eyes and held his arms up to me. “Carry me, mama.”
“Okay,” I smiled, hefting his little body into my arms.
Wherever he went, people used to recognize him. They were happy to see him. They wanted to be with him. His days were filled with meetings, lunches and dinners. Someone always wanted him for something.
But over time he lost his power and his looks. His calendar, once jam-packed, is now open. No one reaches out to him. No one needs him anymore. No one wants him anymore. When he goes out, no one looks his way. He feels invisible.
Sitting alone, he wonders whatever happened to all those people he no longer sees. Are they too feeling invisible?
Ah love, great to see you. I’ve chicken curry for dinner.
- No thanks, Mam. I’m vegan, remember?
Oh yes. Sorry. There’s apple pie for dessert. You’ll have some of that.
- I can’t do gluten or sugar. I told you that the last time.
Did you? Sorry. I got that fair-trade coffee you like.
- No thanks, I’m caffeine free now.
Oh, for God’s sake. What can you have?
- Anything gluten, sugar, caffeine, meat and dairy free but I’m not hungry.
Afraid I’ll try to poison you again?
- Mam, your case worker is taking notes.
Her olive skin is flawless. She looks at me with her dazzling champagne - brown eyes and I melt. When she opens her mouth to speak, I can’t get my eyes off her sensuous, pouting lips. I can’t find any fault in this perfect creature. She’s every man’s dream, I should be thanking the gods. With her velvet-black languid eyelashes she blinks softly, as if waiting for me to say something. But I’m dumbfounded. She’s not the woman I saw in the photo. What happened to the woman I fell in love with? Plain Jane is who I want.
Janine took off her apron.. I can’t wait for today to be over. For once, please pretty please, may nothing go wrong.
She smoothed down her dress, and picked up the two-tiered chocolate birthday cake she’d made for her twins.
This time was different. This time the twins and their pals would eat their cake. They would not laugh.
This time she wasn’t going to trip over the step leading into the garden where all family parties were held and land head first in a gooey, splattered cake.
The step was long gone. She’d re-married the builder who’d removed it.
The elderly woman looked around her yard. Her extended family had come to help her “clean up” the yard.
As much as she loved her family’s company and appreciated their help, she hated when they came to do yard work. They’d been doing it for twenty years, ever since she’d turned seventy. The year Marv had passed.
She turned to look at a kitten that her great granddaughter was showing her, then turned back to the commotion in her yard.
They were taking away so much.
“No!” she gasped as looked ahead. They had cut down her favorite tree.
Lloyd and I joined the team around the same time. But even though we shared the same college degree and age, work was never really fair. It started when I helped him understand our first deliverable—an individual task assigned to each of us. We both completed it, but Lloyd was the one who received the Rookie Award.
Lloyd continued to get nominated for awards despite his tasks requiring more revisions than mine.
What was I doing wrong?
Weeks later, a few giggling ladies asked me for his Facebook. That’s when I realized work was more than just the job.
You’re late for the meeting! Stress! Hail a taxi. “Uptown, fast as you can.” “Sure, no problem” replies a deep voice. His lovely, soft, blue eyes twinkle in the rear-view mirror. Flirty chat, his rugged shoulders, his hearty chuckle. The taxi becomes an oasis of calm, of possibility. You arrive Uptown, reluctantly exit the vehicle. The meeting is chaos, a room full of blame and recrimination. Now you’re late for the next meeting. Stressed again! Hail a taxi. “Downtown, quickly please.” “Sure, no problem” replies a familiar deep voice. You forget the meeting and decide to explore the possibilities instead.
Serena felt hands trying to touch her through the skin veil. She could hear her new mother’s pride, father’s joy, aunt’s envy and brother’s confusion. She floated around the fluid, wanting to go back to her old life and the children she left behind. Serena opened her mouth, but could not scream. Her kicking legs hardly reached beyond the fluid. When she was taken out, Serena let out a last cry for her past life. Then she blissfully forgot everything. She was now ready to start a new life as a boy called Adam.
The wristwatch is barely visible at night-time, all dark face and black leather strap. Everyone’s asleep, lids firmly down in a darkness of their own. Whoever they are, whoever they’re lying next to, the black dog lies between them, noiseless.
The watch had been gifted when the mantle clock stopped the eve of Granddad’s funeral. People came and stayed from further afield or as close to home as next door, whose burning smells penetrated every window.
Their acrid consecutive burning this particular night causes a reaction in the wristwatch; but it cannot alert the sleeping that they are already lifeless.
Only 50 metres left, and I’m headed only for silver. The racewalker 15 metres ahead is going too strong. But wait – he falls, is he passing out? As I press forward ... he isn’t in trouble, is he?
I know the CPR steps.
But the gold!
I turn. The third walker’s some 10 metres away. I can do it!
But where’s the trainer? I trot up to the fallen athlete, feel his absent breath, lay him on his back ... Mr. Trainer’s here!
The athlete behind struts past me, and as my man regains his breath, touches the finishing tape.
The line snaked forever, moving at snail’s pace. Mandy sighed. Customer service? What a misnomer!
She advanced one step, checked her watch. She needed to get home, make dinner for the family, and finish her story for the evening writing group.
‘An Evil Character’ was the prompt. She’d written the story but still needed a name. Nothing seemed to fit and she didn’t want to offend friends or family.
Finally, she reached the counter. The assistant couldn’t have been less helpful but Mandy smiled as she walked away.
I’ll call my character ‘Sandra’, she thought, recalling the assistant’s nametag.
Breath weaves through the trees pursuing new life, its former host having exhaled its last.
Time-honoured distress cries from a distant farmhouse draw Breath out from the forest.
‘Maaah,’ a ewe bleats mournfully, trying to lick her cold, inert lamb into existence.
‘Why isn’t it crying?’ An anguished mother implores, as a midwife tries to feverishly massage warmth into a newborn, slowly turning blue.
Breath’s former host’s heart had stopped, but the lungs last gasp was robust.
The lamb mewls feebly, raises its head.
Weak but stable, the newborn wails.
Breath had been bestowed with sufficient life force for two.
For so many, gloomy and dismal days lie ahead as if the past few years haven't presented them enough challenges.
Challenges...umm...I, too, am presented with them, but I also present them and am quite fortunate in this regard.
My success is attributed to the fact that I take advantage of every opportunity, and I do mean every opportunity. Unemployment? What's that? Some people just don't understand, but some people do….With a very good track record, my future is still promising…
You see, I kill for a living...I am cancer.
I stand there, unable to move. I try to, I want nothing more, but I can't. I'm frozen. Frozen by the fear that lives so deep in my mind.
One of my wet palms is pressed, hard, against my stomach, willing the pain to stop. The other is clutching the weapon. The threat.
My heartbeat quickens until it's beating so fast I start to fear it might burst out of my chest.
I'm going to die.
I take a deep breath, trying to steady it again. It's not real. I push the phone up against my ear. I'm okay.
I was a bit late for the rendezvous.
The weather had turned hostile. The wind shrieked furiously, agitated by the rushing dark clouds that changed their bizarre shapes every few moments. The darkening twilight was momentarily bathed in light by the series of lightning, followed by peals of thunder. Suddenly it was raining heavily.
If she had come, I would have known it by the whiff of scent from her body. And the howling of dogs.
Was she letting me go on her fifth death anniversary? Setting me free to start a new life instead of clinging to the past?
Arriving in Tangiers, Morocco from Tarifa, Spain, college roommates John and Carlos entered into a mint-tea shop inside historic medina. The place was packed with locals watching a live-streaming on a large TV.
It was the final match between Liverpool (UK) and Real Madrid (Spain) in Champions League. The Moroccan crowd was equally divided supporting either team, but the Spaniards won the trophy. The owner brought out some local sweets, distributing free to everyone for a great game.
Carlos commented to John “For the sake of peace, if the world could have arranged a similar match between Ukraine and Russia!”
On the fifth day, it hits me:
I've grown lighter.
Evaporation. The buffer between skin and muscle, lost to the angels.
But this is a good thing. With it diminishing load, my raft maintains buoyancy.
As does the discoloured sweat from my pores.
We'll remain afloat. Another day, at least.
Yes! I wake on the sixth, to blue, contention validated
The seventh, and the gannets howl their derisions.
Day eight. My raft develops a hiss.
Day nine, my lungs.
Wait it out, I tell myself. Until the tenth.
By then, God willing, I'll have floated away.
The evening meal was simple to prepare, perfect for a hot summer evening. In a large pan, I warmed two finely-chopped chillis and some sliced garlic in a little butter. (I find butter works better than oil for this dish.) I set some peeled prawns and chopped parsley aside for adding later. When the water in the separate pasta pan was boiling, I added 8oz of linguine and salt.
Weary from my exertions, I flopped into a chair. I yawned and rubbed my eyes. The pasta would take eleven minutes.
Then I discovered that the chillis were very, very hot.