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May 27, 2006

A poem by an African …

A poem by an African …

When I born, I Black
When I grow up, I Black
When I go in sun, I Black
When I scared, I Black
When I cold, I Black
When I sick, I Black
When I ill, I Black
When I die, I still Black

And you white fella

When u born, u pink
When u grow, u white
When u go in sun, u red
When u scared, u yellow
When u cold, u blue
When u sick, u green
And when u die, u gray

And u calling ME coloured???


March 22, 2006

Poetry:1

The seasons
Spring is a morning
Everything is coloured
People dance under sunlight
Cherry blossoms carry friendly wind

Summer is an afternoon
Everything is burned
People lay down under sunshine
Cumulonimbus carries angry thunder

Autumn is an evening
Everything is harvested
People are delighted with cheerful festivals
Falling leaves carry calm sunset

Winter is a night
Everything is cloaked under darkness
People are buried with warm blankets
North wind carries taciturn snowmen


March 08, 2006

Short Story: The Promise, By Hasan Shikoh

Being a father is a pleasant feeling. Particularly when of a girl. You are so proud because of having helped make such a complete, lovely contribution to the world. And when she is as sweet and ethereal as mine, bliss and pride know no bounds.

When your daughter is a little girl of five years, and you see her running among tall grass on the foot of the hill in her white frock with appliqué of tiny, colorful flowers on it, and the way she giggles chasing butterflies and beckons you to join her … and then suddenly you see her for the last time from behind Eucalyptus trees when she is twenty and in her white bridal dress and with a gleaming chaplet, running back to where the rest of her ceremony is, the cobbled promenade at the back of St Paul’s Church is certain to look lonely after she is gone. Then just some warm wind laps around your ears with a sweet-sad whisper in it. Just that. Even the sparrows and parakeets all seem to have packed up and flown away with their earlier orchestra.

The memory of her wedding is fresh. Only a few moments ago, I had been overseeing all the final arrangements just before the service began, and consequently arrived late in the chapel. The hall was packed with guests. The cacophony of ladies waiting for the bride and of the gentlemen who were talking of business and sports and government filled the air. I heard somebody say that my daughter was delaying the service until someone she had been waiting for arrived. At first I thought I should go up to her room and let her know that I was very much around, but decided against it. I wanted her to see me only in the chapel where the ceremony would be.

Soon, however, the bride, wearing her diamonds and her perfectly fitting white gown that had an arc of little white flowers that ran from her shoulders to the hem at her ankle, sauntered on the aisle with her bridesmaids and kids. I managed to find some space just behind the fifth pew and waved to her above the thronging crowd, but I could not attract her attention. The procession stopped just before the stage where the pastor waited to start with the recitation of the vows. But still my daughter looked expectantly around. I could understand she wanted me beside her – she had so wanted it all her life.

The pastor began his recitation. I determined to make my way past the throng and be with her. In a few moments, I startled her with my presence. She looked askance, recognized it was me, and she beamed. I saw the pastor notice her facial features shuffle-dance as if now there were another and happier bride before him. He stopped with the vows and asked solemnly: “Are you all right, Miss April?”

“Yes, Pastor. Yes,” she squeaked.

With her bouquet of white tulips in her left hand, she stretched out her elbow just a little so she could touch me. I shifted closer. I thought I could sense her mixed feelings – very ecstatic and then suddenly very tense. Her bouquet also slipped out of her hand, and the pastor’s mouth froze in mid-sentence. Then he gathered himself and asked in his thick baritone: “Are you sure, Miss April, that …” he paused, “… you are prepared for this?”

“Wha- Why y-yes, Pastor.”

When the vows ceremony was over and the couple kissed, and everybody hurled their bouquets at them, the lovely chiming music began to spread like a happy cloud into the hall amid shouts of “Congratulations” and “Best wishes”. Soon, the hall began to empty as people walked into the dining area where a huge cake and delicious dishes and drinks awaited them.

I kept at close heels with my daughter and Julian, my son-in-law, and she kept her left hand behind her so I too could hold her hand. Blissful with our shared little secret, we went straight to the tall, creamy cake, and she and Julian cut it, setting off great applause from the guests.

She waved to everybody and the smartly dressed people came to talk briefly to the woman-of-the moment, and she dealt with all of them very cheerfully. I could notice the way her eyes shone. It was as if the ink of a full moon were dripping from them and collecting thinly just around the lids.

The couple engrossed themselves among their chattersome friends so I pulled away. I wanted to see my daughter from different angles; close up and distant. This chance would never come again.

The chink and clatter of cutlery and the hum of the air-conditioning, and the giggle and laughter of the ladies and the boom of the men’s voices charged the dining hall. And despite all that gregariousness, the ceremony ate the dizzying succession of food like they had never eaten before. They were all merry. And this was my daughter’s wedding. How much prouder could a father be?

April detached herself from her friends and started to look for me. I could almost always sense it whenever her mind began to think of me again. I was her very special guest, she had said to me a long time ago. In other words, I was the most revered of all those people in the hall. It made me feel so big.

I stood by a tall window so that she could spot me. When our eyes met, she excused herself from Julian who was busy talking to his friends, and both of us slunk to the promenade at the back of the church.

I waited for her outside the huge mahogany door. She looked at me for a long time and smiled that indefatigable smile of hers. I smiled back and my heart pounded in my throat. We stayed like that – sentient beings – for a long time until our eyes were tearful.

Then she broke the spell: “You haven’t changed, Baba.”

“You’ve become a woman, my little girl.”

She continued to smile.

“Remember you’d said to me you’d like to take a last walk with me before I went away married?”

“Yes, April, I do.”

“Well, I’ve kept my promise.”

“Let’s go. You and me. We walk like we used to.”

We silently took a complete round of the cobbled walkway. Then she spoke again: “Listen to those parakeets. I’ve always loved their song.”

“I know, sweetheart. You always loved the outdoors. Africa was perfect for you.”

“That’s your daughter.”

“Yes, I too love Nature. I love God. He has been very kind to me.”

“God has been kind to you? What do you mean?”

“I got to meet you again so he’s been kind to me. Simple. And then I meet your mother so often now.”

“Oh, how is she?”

“Very fine. She has her work to do and she does it very well. She’s way ahead of me.”

April became quiet. The parakeets and the little sparrows hidden in the thick foliage of the trees cackled and chirped in the divine hush of the church.

This time I broke our silence.

“See those gardenias?” I said, pointing at the rows of the little flowers along the promenade. “Those were your favorite when you were seven. You always brought some from our garden and put them in a crystal vase in the living room.”

“Yes. Bu- but I guess I like tulips more now.”

I could sense she still wasn’t comfortable. Her uneasiness was drawn all over her skin. Perhaps the earlier mention of her mother had disturbed her. She had got the chance to live with me; never with her. We kept walking quietly for another eight minutes or so, before I began to get a little awkward myself. Time was passing away quickly.

“Baba?”

“Yes?”

“Can’t you stay longer?”

I was taken aback. It was as if my face had exploded. That was one thing I never wanted her to say. I would miss her just as much as she missed me.

May be more now.

“You know I can’t. You know I can’t.”

“Please. I know you want to go.”

“How can you say that?”

“You’ve been too quiet. Is there something on your mind?”

“You know I’ve always been quiet. That’s my nature. But you need to be going soon. People will notice your absence, dear. It’s your marriage day.”

Three old nuns hurried past us. One peered obliquely at April in her wedding dress, then back at her companions. They all drew the cross.

“You must hurry on now. Look how awkward it would be for you if someone else noticed you like this here.”

“But I’m with you. I’m happy. It’s my wedding. I should have whatever I wish.”

I had no answer. Life had to be lived on. She should have learnt that in all this time.

There was a long pause again. Her cheeks began to pale. She was beginning to understand now. Perhaps reality was dawning on her after all.

“Will you see me off at the door, Baba?” I noticed she couldn’t cover up the crushed look on her face as she spoke.

“You are getting late. You should be rushing now.”

“Will you come again?”

”April…”

“Will you ever come again?”

“… it … it … will not … be possible.”

She was completely still. I thought she had stopped breathing.

“Now you must get going. I have already overspent my time sanction. Go.”

She didn’t move. It was as if time had stopped. It was as if the birds had never existed.

Then I noticed the sky would turn blue soon.

“Go, April.” I choked.

Still she didn’t move. From far down the promenade the muted cackle, laughter, music and light reached us. I seemed to implode as I held back my tears.

Then I knew the time had come for sure.

I stepped forward and kissed her on the forehead. She remained stationary, but a large teardrop fell on her necklace. I couldn’t take it any longer, and quickly disappeared into the trees.
April stood still for a long time. She should go now, I thought. They must have noticed her absence by now.

“I love you … Baba,” she finally spoke to the breeze. “… and pay my regards to mama.”

Then she jerked out of her trance, quickly turned and ran back toward the church, holding up her dress. She was my little girl running on the foot of the hill among the flowers and grasses. But the tic-tac tic-tac of her white stilettos knocking on the cobbles heralded of a different kind of urgency. She had all her life ahead of her. All of a new life to live. I prayed that she might live long to have it all.

Soon, my girl vanished.

And the promenade became empty, very, very lonely.

“I love you, too, April,” I whispered from the tree I was hidden behind. I felt as if I was swollen from inside. I could not hold back my tears any longer. The dam broke.

Twelve months ago she had asked me to be at her wedding come what may. I had committed to her that I would. Because of the condition that I was in then, I was helpless. I had needed to make her feel confident, hopeful, as I lay critically injured after my car accident. In the finance ministry, work was always much, and my driver had to drive fast as we had to reach the presidency urgently. But God had other plans.

Evening settles like a song. The breeze picks up again. The solemn, silvery chime of the church bells spreads out once, then twice and then thrice. I have proudly married my daughter off. The birds with their orchestra have gone. I too must go back to my cemetery now.

Dead men don’t have much choice, they say. But I did. God has been kind to me. I was happy that according to my wish my daughter had a last walk with me before she went away as a married woman. I am sure my daughter would be pleased too, that her Baba also kept his promise.


February 24, 2006

Misery, by Anton Chekhov

"To whom shall I tell my grief?"

THE twilight of evening. Big flakes of wet snow are whirling lazily about the street lamps, which have just been lighted, and lying in a thin soft layer on roofs, horses' backs, shoulders, caps. Iona Potapov, the sledge-driver, is all white like a ghost. He sits on the box without stirring, bent as double as the living body can be bent. If a regular snowdrift fell on him it seems as though even then he would not think it necessary to
shake it off. . . . His little mare is white and motionless too. Her stillness, the angularity of her lines, and the stick-like straightness of her legs make her look like a halfpenny gingerbread horse. She is probably lost in thought. Anyone who has been torn away from the plough, from the familiar gray landscapes, and cast into this slough, full of monstrous lights, of unceasing uproar and hurrying people, is bound to think.

It is a long time since Iona and his nag have budged. They came out of the yard before dinnertime and not a single fare yet. But now the shades of evening are falling on the town. The pale light of the street lamps changes to a vivid color, and the bustle of the street grows noisier.

"Sledge to Vyborgskaya!" Iona hears. "Sledge!"

Iona starts, and through his snow-plastered eyelashes sees an officer in a military overcoat with a hood over his head.

"To Vyborgskaya," repeats the officer. "Are you asleep? To Vyborgskaya!"

In token of assent Iona gives a tug at the reins which sends cakes of snow flying from the horse's back and shoulders. The officer gets into the sledge. The sledge-driver clicks to the horse, cranes his neck like a swan, rises in his seat, and more from habit than necessity brandishes his whip. The mare cranes her neck, too, crooks her stick-like legs, and hesitatingly sets of. . . .

"Where are you shoving, you devil?" Iona immediately hears shouts from the dark mass shifting to and fro before him. "Where the devil are you going? Keep to the r-right!"

"You don't know how to drive! Keep to the right," says the officer angrily.

A coachman driving a carriage swears at him; a pedestrian crossing the road and brushing the horse's nose with his shoulder looks at him angrily and shakes the snow off his sleeve. Iona fidgets on the box as though he were sitting on thorns, jerks his elbows, and turns his eyes about like one possessed as though he did not know where he was or why he was there.

"What rascals they all are!" says the officer jocosely. "They are simply doing their best to run up against you or fall under the horse's feet. They must be doing it on purpose."

Iona looks as his fare and moves his lips. . . . Apparently he means to say something, but nothing comes but a sniff.

"What?" inquires the officer.

Iona gives a wry smile, and straining his throat, brings out huskily: "My son . . . er . . . my son died this week, sir."

"H'm! What did he die of?"

Iona turns his whole body round to his fare, and says: "Who can tell! It must have been from fever. . . . He lay three days in the hospital and then he died. . . . God's will."

"Turn round, you devil!" comes out of the darkness. "Have you gone cracked, you old dog? Look where you are going!"

"Drive on! drive on! . . ." says the officer. "We shan't get there till to-morrow going on like this. Hurry up!"

The sledge-driver cranes his neck again, rises in his seat, and with heavy grace swings his whip. Several times he looks round at the officer, but the latter keeps his eyes shut and is apparently disinclined to listen. Putting his fare down at Vyborgskaya, Iona stops by a restaurant, and again sits huddled up on the box. . . . Again the wet snow paints him and his horse white. One hour passes, and then another. . . .

Three young men, two tall and thin, one short and hunchbacked, come up, railing at each other and loudly stamping on the pavement with their goloshes.

"Cabby, to the Police Bridge!" the hunchback cries in a cracked voice. "The three of us, . . . twenty kopecks!"

Iona tugs at the reins and clicks to his horse. Twenty kopecks is not a fair price, but he has no thoughts for that. Whether it is a rouble or whether it is five kopecks does not matter to him now so long as he has a fare. . . . The three young men, shoving each other and using bad language, go up to the sledge, and all three try to sit down at once. The question remains to be settled: Which are to sit down and which one is to stand? After a long altercation, ill-temper, and abuse, they come to the conclusion that the hunchback must stand because he is the shortest.

"Well, drive on," says the hunchback in his cracked voice, settling himself and breathing down Iona's neck. "Cut along! What a cap you've got, my friend! You wouldn't find a worse one in all Petersburg. . . ."

"He-he! . . . he-he! . . ." laughs Iona. "It's nothing to boast of!"

"Well, then, nothing to boast of, drive on! Are you going to drive like this all the way? Eh? Shall I give you one in the neck?"

"My head aches," says one of the tall ones. "At the Dukmasovs' yesterday Vaska and I drank four bottles of brandy between us."

"I can't make out why you talk such stuff," says the other tall one angrily. "You lie like a brute."

"Strike me dead, it's the truth! . . ."

"It's about as true as that a louse coughs."

"He-he!" grins Iona. "Me-er-ry gentlemen!"

"Tfoo! the devil take you!" cries the hunchback indignantly.

"Will you get on, you old plague, or won't you? Is that the way to drive? Give her one with the whip. Hang it all, give it her well."

Iona feels behind his back the jolting person and quivering voice of the hunchback. He hears abuse addressed to him, he sees people, and the feeling of loneliness begins little by little to be less heavy on his heart. The hunchback swears at him, till he chokes over some elaborately whimsical string of epithets and is overpowered by his cough. His tall companions begin talking of a certain Nadyezhda Petrovna. Iona looks round at them. Waiting till there is a brief pause, he looks round once more and says: "This week . . . er. . . my. . . er. . . son died!"

"We shall all die, . . ." says the hunchback with a sigh, wiping his lips after coughing. "Come, drive on! drive on! My friends, I simply cannot stand crawling like this! When will he get us there?"

"Well, you give him a little encouragement . . . one in the neck!"

"Do you hear, you old plague? I'll make you smart. If one stands on ceremony with fellows like you one may as well walk. Do you hear, you old dragon? Or don't you care a hang what we say? "

And Iona hears rather than feels a slap on the back of his neck.

"He-he! . . . " he laughs. "Merry gentlemen . . . . God give you health!"

"Cabman, are you married?" asks one of the tall ones.

"I? He he! Me-er-ry gentlemen. The only wife for me now is the damp earth. . . . He-ho-ho!. . . .The grave that is! . . . Here my son's dead and I am alive. . . . It's a strange thing, death has come in at the wrong door. . . . Instead of coming for me it went for my son. . . ."

And Iona turns round to tell them how his son died, but at that point the hunchback gives a faint sigh and announces that, thank God! they have arrived at last. After taking his twenty kopecks, Iona gazes for a long while after the revelers, who disappear into a dark entry. Again he is alone and again there is silence for him. . . . The misery which has been for a brief space eased comes back again and tears his heart more cruelly than ever. With a look of anxiety and suffering Iona's eyes stray restlessly among the crowds moving to and fro on both sides of the street: can he not find among those thousands someone who will listen to him? But the crowds flit by heedless of him and his misery. . . .
His misery is immense, beyond all bounds. If Iona's heart were to burst and his misery to flow out, it would flood the whole world, it seems, but yet it is not seen. It has found a hiding-place in such an insignificant shell that one would not have found it with a candle by daylight. . . .

Iona sees a house-porter with a parcel and makes up his mind to address him.

"What time will it be, friend?" he asks.

"Going on for ten. . . . Why have you stopped here? Drive on!"

Iona drives a few paces away, bends himself double, and gives himself up to his misery. He feels it is no good to appeal to people. But before five minutes have passed he draws himself up, shakes his head as though he feels a sharp pain, and tugs at the reins. . . . He can bear it no longer.

"Back to the yard!" he thinks. "To the yard!"

And his little mare, as though she knew his thoughts, falls to trotting. An hour and a half later Iona is sitting by a big dirty stove. On the stove, on the floor, and on the benches are people snoring. The air is full of smells and stuffiness. Iona looks at the sleeping figures, scratches himself, and regrets that he has come home so early. . . .

"I have not earned enough to pay for the oats, even," he thinks. "That's why I am so miserable. A man who knows how to do his
work, . . . who has had enough to eat, and whose horse has had enough to eat, is always at ease. . . ."

In one of the corners a young cabman gets up, clears his throat sleepily, and makes for the water-bucket.

"Want a drink?" Iona asks him.

"Seems so."

"May it do you good. . . . But my son is dead, mate. . . . Do you hear? This week in the hospital. . . . It's a queer business. . . ."

Iona looks to see the effect produced by his words, but he sees nothing. The young man has covered his head over and is already asleep. The old man sighs and scratches himself. . . . Just as the young man had been thirsty for water, he thirsts for speech. His son will soon have been dead a week, and he has not really talked to anybody yet . . . . He wants to talk of it properly, with deliberation. . . . He wants to tell how his son was taken ill, how he suffered, what he said before he died, how he died. . . . He wants to describe the funeral, and how he went to the hospital to get his son's clothes. He still has his daughter Anisya in the country. . . . And he wants to talk about her too. . . . Yes, he has plenty to talk about now. His listener ought to sigh and exclaim and lament. . . . It would be even better to talk to women. Though they are silly creatures, they blubber at the first word.

"Let's go out and have a look at the mare," Iona thinks. "There is always time for sleep. . . . You'll have sleep enough, no fear. . . ."

He puts on his coat and goes into the stables where his mare is standing. He thinks about oats, about hay, about the weather. . . . He cannot think about his son when he is alone. . . . To talk about him with someone is possible, but to think of him and picture him is insufferable anguish. . . .

"Are you munching?" Iona asks his mare, seeing her shining eyes. "There, munch away, munch away. . . . Since we have not earned enough for oats, we will eat hay. . . . Yes, . . . I have grown
too old to drive. . . . My son ought to be driving, not I. . . . He was a real cabman. . . . He ought to have lived. . . ."

Iona is silent for a while, and then he goes on: "That's how it is, old girl. . . . Kuzma Ionitch is gone. . . . He said good-by to me. . . . He went and died for no reason. . . . Now, suppose you had a little colt, and you were own mother to that little colt. . . . And all at once that same little colt went and died. . . . You'd be sorry, wouldn't you? . . ."

The little mare munches, listens, and breathes on her master's hands. Iona is carried away and tells her all about it.

*


January 31, 2006

Short story 3

Only Stars can tell
When I hurried into the hospital ward ,mother has already fell asleep .I came late here again.I take a chair and sit beside her bed .Mother is terribly ill of anemia duo to the hardship of life for those years .Looking at the ward ,almost everything is white ,horrible white ,white sheet ,white wall and most conspicuously a pale bloodless face.
Mother ,are you feeling tired ,I ask gently in my heart.Nobody responds ,only the bright stars in the remote sky were blinking continuously .It seems that they are telling me some stories about the past ,about the memories ,about mother.
The blood in the transfusional bottle is dripping ,one drop ,twe drops ¡­.
Seven oclock in the early morning in the winter and it was still dark outside .Wind was blowing strongly with some drizzle and it was freezing cold .In the empty street ,a young mother was walking hard agaist the bloody wind with her 5-year old child on their way to the kindergarten .Suddenly the young child negligently slipped up on the ground ,crying so loudly that the young mother immediately held him up and fingered his little hand with some vivid red blood .She touched the little hand softly and felt so distressed in her heart,The child was still crying ,making the young mother panic-stricken and at a loss what to do .Then ,she held him up closely in her arms and continued walking in the dark ,freezing cold street .That little child was me and undoubtedly the young mother was my deer mother.
The blood in the transfusional bottle is still dripping ,one drop ,twe drops ¡­.
In a distant place ,a middle-aged lady was pushing a bike forward toughly with a little girl sitting at the back seat of the bike.It was so hot that even the cicada on the trees were tired of singing .Sweat was dripping from her forehead to her cheek and neck.Please do not be amazed,the little girl was my younger sister,Amy, who was deaf at only 3-yaer old.How could she face her future life without listening to the wonderful world .No ,never.
Mother tried her best to cure my sister ,even if there was only a tiny percentage of success .
Persistently ,she carried her to the hospital which took 1hour to get there to receive therapy every Sunday ,no matter how cold it is in the wintter or how hot it is in the summer.Eventually,her hard work got rewards .When my sister opened her month and said ¡°mother¡±for the first time ,mother was sheding tears with a big ,satisfied and pround smile.
The blood in the transfusional bottle is still dripping ,one drop ,twe drops ¡­.
¡°Mother ,why don¡¯t you tell me to go with you to the suppermarket ?¡±I took over the big shopping basket in her hand and blamed.
¡°I know you have a lot of work to do as well ,¡±she was always caring about others ,except herself
¡°well ,it doesn¡¯t matter ,I have been used to that those years .Your father is coming back this weelend and I must cook something delicious for him .He must also be very tired these years of living in the military by himself.¡±After saying that ,there was a happy smile on her wrinkly face.
Mother ,are you feeling satisfied now :I have grown up and will go to the university next year ,Amy is an excellent student in the art school and father is coming back with his remarkable success in career .Mother ,all these outcomes belong to you ,my good exam results ,sister¡¯s prize in the national competition and father¡¯s military exploit badges.All of these are yours ,my deer mother.
Are you feeling happy and satisfied now ?I have no idea .
Only the stars are blinking in the remote sky.

January 09, 2006

Short Story Part III – Life is wonderful

I enjoy every day. I really live every day. There is not much I cannot get along with. Life is wonderful when you accept what is given to you. This lesson I learnt years ago. Sometimes it is hard to remember, often it shows me what I have become. Thank you for being alive.

My memories are blurry, what I know I will never forget.

I heard strange noise, unbearable loud. I woke up, there were so many people crying. What happened? I couldn't realize but I knew something did happen. To me! At that moment pain overwhelmed me. I wanted to move. No chance.

Life ran out of my eyes when I had a look around, just a bit to the left and to the right. There was metal everywhere. It was very close to my body. I was confused and then I felt darkness. I didn't know how much time passed by then I woke up for the second time. The place was different but as curious as before. There were two men who took care of me and others just sitting next to me. I raised my head and looked at the ceiling of a room. A room with convoluted windows!? I realised that I was inside a helicopter. Before I could say a word I lost consciousness again.

I felt warm light shining on my face. I opened my eyes. Everything was white, I steered at the ceiling and moved my head towards the floor. It was a hospital. I felt nothing but pain in my head then one of the doctors talked to me:
"Mr. Schwerdt, can you hear me? Please do not speak. Nod ones for yes and twice for no. Do you understand?"

I nodded, one time, very briefly.

"I will explain the situation to you very shortly", he said. "You had an accident on the motorway. Anyone of your family is healthy and is sitting next to you." He paused and stepped aside so that I could have a glance on my parents and my brother. "You are severely injured, Mr. Schwerdt. We did the best we could but we couldn't repair the damage to your backbone. As a consequence you are not able to move body on your own but the head. You are paraplepic."

The vision got blurry. Tears were running down my face. 'It was a dream', I thought. Then I tried to raise my arm. Nothing. Then I tried one of my legs. Again no response. My whole life passed by in that moment and I was really helpless.

"Mr. Schwerdt", the doctor interrupted my thoughts. "...". I didn't listen, I just nodded when he stopped and looked at my parents. They saw how I suffered and cried all the time. Darkness.

The next days and weeks the hopes of the doctors were completely destroyed to help me getting back into normal life. The sadness in my heart often let him think of giving up. No future. No life. These words were in my head for a long time. But then there was the time to leave the hospital.

'What next? What can I do now?', I asked myself. 'And I baled my fists and smiled.


December 06, 2005

No Longer The Ugly Duckling

“My.. what big butt you have,” exclaimed Aunt Lucy to Mandy.

She wasn’t acting in an adult version of the story of The Little Red Riding Hood though. She was merely commenting on the size of her niece’s ever growing rear. Mandy’s face turned as red as the apple she had had for breakfast. That was the usual remark that greeted Mandy unfortunately. No wonder she dreaded family gatherings. None of “Hi sweetie. How are you?” or “I heard you scored all As in your exam! Congratulations love!” was directed at her. Only Cindy, who was born 8 minutes after Mandy, received such greetings.

Being the 8 year-old girl that she was, “I got all As too you know…” Mandy thought irritably.

That went on for years. When the twins got to high school, Cindy was famous for her good looks and slim body while Mandy, well let us just say she used to hide and avoid any attention to herself. Mandy had gotten used to most of the unkind comments by that time. Typically, she would shut them out but sometimes it just got too much for her and hot tears would well up in her eyes.

“I’ve had enough of this,” she said to herself one day. “I can’t keep on living like this. My every achievement is worth less because of my weight. I’ve got to do something about it. It’s not going away by itself now is it? I’m gonna do everything it takes to be slim. That way, i can live up to my potential and start having confidence at last.”

From then on, she stuck to her words. Nobody knew what hit her. All of a sudden, she’d have only fruits most of the time. She would have meals sometimes but like her cousin had commented, she ate like a bird. Even when her family had meals in restaurants, she would only order dessert, which of course was a bowl of fruits. If it got too hard, she’d stay at home alone while her brothers and sisters went for burgers and ice creams. On top of that, she started going for aerobics classes. The first few classes, it took all her courage to step into the room full of middle-aged women. She was barely 16 then, yet, she was the largest. It wasn’t easy for her, but giving up was not at all an option.

She kept at all of these day in and day out, checking her progress along the way. With every pound she’d lost, she was motivated to lose even more. By the time she was to go to college, she’d lost all excess weight and was not a fat girl anymore. She was finally ‘normal’ and started to experience things her girlfriends had gone through years ago.

Suddenly, boys started paying attention to her. She enjoyed the attention but she was cautious not to get too close to anyone whom she knew was only after her for how she looked. Her confidence grew. She found herself smiling more than ever before. Finally she started doing what she wanted. She started loving sports, and she tried any kind that she had the opportunity to. Nothing could stop her from living her life to the fullest. Heck, she even tried bungee jumping during a trip to New Zealand. At last, she was being the best Mandy she could be.

But was she really? At least, that’s what she’d thought initially; that she was finally free from being afraid. That was only until she met a decent guy whom she felt was sincere in getting to know her and whom she now refers to as, her boyfriend. Although she sees a future with him, she’s terrified of driving him away though. She has come to realize that she’s not completely free after all. She’s still haunted by her insecurity as a result of her self-doubting adolescence. She gets paranoid way out of line sometimes and she sees those as her ‘fat scars’. The kind which no amount of technology can help reduce.

So here goes another battle. Her only chance to slowly but surely get over her fears was to be strong, along with her boyfriend’s support and assurance. However, how much can he take? How long till she’s ‘cured’? Only time will tell..


December 05, 2005

h4. Story 3: New wish

Wai-hung was very fit in shape.

No one could ever tell from his figure that he was a typical gourmet, fond of food of various kinds and in large quantity. Almost all restaurants and hotels in Hong Kong had marks of his footprints. Had his desire for exercise not been as strong as his crave for food, he would have been very obese indeed. It was his perseverance in physical training that enabled him to enjoy the food while keeping a stout body of muscles at the same time. Carefully and successfully hidden deep in him, however, was a scornful thought towards those overweight people in streets. Wai-hung felt disgusted at the sight of flabby arms, elephant legs and dragon buttocks. ‘What would they manage to achieve in their life if they can’t even control the amount of food consumed?’ sneered Wai-hung very often. To him those who failed to control their eating habits and bodies were almost next to losers. Of course he talked with fat people, worked with them and even dined with them in his daily life but none could ever be his friends.

Strangely Wai-hung started to lose weight on a regular basis. He lost exactly 1 lb every other Monday when he put himself on the scale. Regardless of the fact that his appetite was as good as a crowd of haynes while the quantity almost the same as that of a whale, he kept on losing weight! At the beginning, Wai-hung was not at all worried. It must be related to work. Clients had been nastier and more demanding recently. It might be the result of his increasing metabolism rate. After all these years’ hard work in physical training, it was time to get the pay off, wasn’t it? Wai-hung’s muscles melted away quietly and quickly; his legs and arms looked rather like dry sticks; his cheeks caved in the way that his face reminded people of a skull. He was left with bones and skin, weighing hardly over 90 lbs that all his shirts and pants were XL in size.

‘What the heck is wrong with me? Have I got a cancer or something?’ requested Wai-hung in great earnestness, looking pale and panic.

‘Haven’t got a clue, buddy! Perhaps need some more check-ups,’ came the answer from a doctor friend, wearing a puzzled look too.

Wai-hung stood on his feet slowly, signed to his chest, thinking about dying young. Once stepping out of the clinic, a crowd of people came into his sight. They looked so pleasant and healthy that even Wai-hung almost forgot he was dying. Suddenly he was hit by a bitter, envious feeling which ran up his spine. Weren’t they the crowd of super fatties he once secretly mocked at? He looked closely at them, staring so hard and greedily at their round bodies as if his own flesh would return by just a few glances. ‘I wish I were them!’ whispered the bony man.

From that day onwards Wai-hung’s life was back on track. He looked great after two months, healthy and spirited with a big belly and double chins. He had made a lot of friends, mostly fat but pleasant guys. Wai-hung even joined the ‘Tiffany’s Elephant Club’ and became its honoured secretary. How about his body shape? He didn’t care a tiny bit about that now.


h4. Story 2: Johnny’s perfect world

Johnny couldn’t complain more about his life, could he? Having graduated from a well-known university lavishly supported by his father, Johnny worked in a top-notch company for almost three years. Recently he had been promoted to be the manager supervising a team of friendly and hardworking young people. He had a warm family of three dwelling in a nice house in the best residential area. Johnny and his wife deeply loved each other still in the way they met the first day. His 2-year-old girl Betty was so adorable that everyone couldn’t help spoiling her at first sight. His life was perfect.

Johnny felt tired, bored and even a bit upset, however. It seemed that there was something missing in his life. There should be one thing or two he would crave for or feel sorry about. What was that missing piece?

Johnny had lunch alone every day at Tiffany. One day after finishing his last drop of coffee in silence, a thought crept up. ‘Won’t it be nice to join some competitions for a change?’ whispered the voice in his mind. Why not? But what kind? Johnny got the idea on his way home. He was confronted by a poster at the train station. It was a competition of gobbling up hotdogs. Anyone interested and healthy was qualified, it said. Hotdogs had always been Johnny’s favourite and he was in a perfect shape.

It was no harm to give it a try, was it? Johnny joined the competition. On the day of competition, he just ate on and on swallowing one hotdog after another… and looked great. He won the competition at the end with more than forty-five hotdogs crammed in his stomach. By the time he got his championship trophy, he fell straight on the ground like a piece of wood. Johnny was later diagnosed that he died of a stroke. Even his death was perfect. He felt painless the moment he was gone; he died in glory and happiness with the stomach teeming with hotdogs, his favourite food.

Johnny’s world was perfect. The only thing it lacked perhaps was pain.


h4. Story 1: A Christmas gift

Tears flooded in and blurred her sight. Ruth was laid off today. It happened all the time especially when the economy was not doing very well. However as a girl without much saving, qualification, and a sick mother to look after, Ruth couldn’t afford losing the job. The openings were running short and the competition for new vacancies was keen. Ruth had no idea how she was able to manage her life and her mother’s.

Ruth knew it was her fault but was it that serious to get fired? Before she was about to leave the office yesterday, Mr. Anderson, her boss who kept a poker face all the time, rushed out of his room asking her to send an urgent email to a client richardsm@netvigator.com. ‘Be careful, Ruth! It's confidential!’ warned Mr. Anderson. Maybe she was overwhelmed by loads of work that day or maybe it was the flu she had been fighting for weeks, she missed that tiny ‘-s’ in the middle of the address that the email ended up reaching a wrong mailbox. This morning Mr Anderson’s face showed colours. He spoke to her with rage in his eyes.

With tears still rolling in eyes, Ruth packed up all her stuff quietly and went into the chilly wind outside. The streets were nicely decorated with glittering ornaments. Christmas was drawing near. Some Christmas songs were played noisily but they sounded from a great distance. Ruth had been thinking about what gift she had to buy for her poor mother. She had been ill for years, falling victim to an unknown disease. She just spent all her day in bed staring at an old yellowish photo without really seeing it. In the photo stood Ruth’s mother and a man with deep blue eyes and a charming smile. Ruth had never known her father. She was told he died long before she was born.
With her mind still on gift and mother Ruth hardly noticed her phone buzzed and vibrated vehemently in the pocket.

‘Hello, is that Ruth? Ruth Mayson?’ came a very strange voice, tense and dry.

‘Yes, this is Ruth speaking. Who is it?’ replied Ruth, thinking about those annoying advertising phone calls.

‘Could we, ur…would you….um…manage to join me for a cup of coffee today?’ requested the voice.

‘Come on,’ thought Ruth, ‘not the calls again!’ She cut the line as quickly as possible as if the voice had been a sword that would penetrate her head.

Ruth knew she was young and good-looking. Since school days she had never been short of ‘admirers’. They would ask her out, buy her treats, invite her to parties or do anything to please her. Most of the time Ruth found them bothersome.

The phone rang again shortly. It was the same voice.

‘Please, Ruth, don’t hang up, please. Could you spare a couple of minutes?’ the voice sounded so desperate that Ruth hesitated what she was supposed to do.

‘Look, I cannot talk like this on phone. Could we just meet for half an hour? That would mean a lot to me.’

They met at Tiffany, the small but cosy café which Ruth visited frequently. The voice belonged to a man in his early 50’s. The wrinkles and tanned complexion hinted he had a rich but tough life. It was only his pair of deep blue eyes that gave away the secret he had once been handsome.

‘I am so glad that you come,’ the man greeted her with a charming smile, looking quite familiar. Ruth felt puzzled.

‘Please sit down. This is my name card,’ said the man.

Ruth took the card and instantly her eyes sparkled. She knew what gift she would bring her mother this Christmas.

On the card printed Prof. Richard Mayson.


December 04, 2005

Keeping people busy, focused and effective

Glancing in front of his desk he could see a monitor, dark, and a slight shadow covering the whole desk created by light coming from a small window in the top left corner. It was the only sign for him to estimate the current time of the day. The room with its clear monotonous white colour and occasionally occurring pictures emphasised this continuous and steady look. A shelf that ranged from the floor to the ceiling exactly spaced for 15 folders in each of the seven rows. Not to attract any attention the wall shaded off into a fine nuance of grey of the cupboard in the back fitting its function of hiding documents from the last couple of years perfectly. Everything seemed to be very sterile. Every single element was necessary and destined to be there.

A man worked in this unfriendly acting environment. Like thousands others he concentrated on his daily routine like an ant in a society where everyone has its determination and place in the circle of life and in the circle of the company respectively. Sitting there, sometimes communicating with others via phone calls he started to work 8 o'clock in the morning, with a break he finished at 6pm.

Always. From Monday till Friday. Daily routine. Borrowed to death. In the little room. Just one brick of the company's foundation.

He followed strict rules that were given to him. Could it be the meaning of the rest of his life: working like a machine?

The company as the system to control, to manipulate and to motivate their "craft-workers" knew to give their employees inspiration and different new paths to follow. The individual mind has always been starting to act like that after a certain amount of time. To push away their lack of self-confidence the company had to make them remember that they were a value that is overall respected. To convince employees promotion was an adequate tool to gain this awareness and to provide balance to the system.

Encouraged to go on with his work as before he could then get in a different position. Satisfaction could be achieved and he went back to work as before and got back to daily routine. The company often used this method to keep employees efficient at work. Just at the first glance one could get the impression of an unhealthy and horrible atmosphere for people to stay all day. When you have a closer look at it you see employees who knew why they were kept highly motivated. And there was a smile in his face, there was so much to think about.


November 28, 2005

Notes: Story Structure … in brief

SPELT 2002
Workshop 1: Teaching Story Writing

STORY STRUCTURE … in brief

What do we mean by Plot? Simply, plot is WHAT HAPPENS in a short story or novel. No more, no less. It isn't description or dialogue, and it certainly isn't theme. Theme is the subject of the story – e.g. loneliness, revenge, jealousy, self-discovery. In the best stories, plot grows organically out of character, rather than being imposed from above. Specifically, plot is the result of choices made by characters in a story, especially the story's protagonist, or main character.

Renowned writer Anne Lamott ('Bird by Bird,' 'Operating Instructions') created a mnemonic device to help writers remember how to structure plots that work:
Action
Background
Conflict
Development
End

ACTION
Begin your story as close to the inciting incident as you can.

BACKGROUND
Provide only enough Background at first so that the Action doesn't confuse your readers. They don't need to know everything, just enough to follow along.

CONFLICT
Conflict constitutes what your protagonist wants, but doesn't have. It doesn't matter what your protagonist needs, as long as he or she needs it badly. The best Conflicts are dramatic and specific. Don't write about a teenage girl who's looking for love; write about a teenage girl seeking her first kiss. For one thing, focusing on the kiss will focus your storytelling and your readers' attention. Even more important, those readers will know without question at the end of the story whether the heroine has attained what she wants or not. Hamlet seeks to overcome his late-adolescent malaise, but what makes Shakespeare's play dramatic is his need to kill his uncle to avenge the murder of his father.

Conflict IS story, and, conversely, without Conflict, you have no story.

DEVELOPMENT
Development is the series of attempts made by the protagonist to resolve his or her Conflict. These attempts should increase with regard to drama and/or suspense, and ideally, each step in the Development should tell us a little bit more about the protagonist. Development can be an emotional, spiritual or intellectual journey. Often, it is a combination of all of these.

END
Here's where the mnemonic device needs further development of its own, since 'End' isn't an especially helpful term; expand it to include 3 more C's: Crisis, Climax, Consequences.

1. CRISIS is often the final stage in a story's Development. In the best stories, it involves a choice — and not simply a choice between good and evil, since given that choice, we'd all pick good. Crisis is a choice between two options of equal, or nearly equal, value. Crisis is, by definition, the most dramatic point in your entire story.

2. CLIMAX is not necessarily the most dramatic point, despite the word's colloquial meaning. Instead, Climax is the resolution of Conflict. Climax is the point of no return. At the Climax of a story there is simply no turning back; the protagonist is powerless to change his fate. Think of Romeo's suicide, the Climax of Shakespeare's play not because it's dramatic, but because it prevents him and Juliet from living together in love.

3. CONSEQUENCES is what is left when the Conflict of a story has been resolved. How have your protagonist and his world changed — or stubbornly refused to change — as a result of the story? The French call this part of the story the 'denouement' or 'unraveling.' Take the example of the uncut grass next door at the conclusion of 'The Great Gatsby' by F. Scott Fitzgerald, which indicates quite literally that the landscape of the book has been altered forever by its Action.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Of course, you aren't required to use this structure in telling stories. But if you do, however, your stories, novellas and novels are sure to work. That is, when people are done reading [one of your] pieces of fiction, they will feel as if they've been told a story.

*


Short Story: A Crime to Die For, By Nigel Spriggs

A Crime to Die For
By Nigel Spriggs

Her agent described her as genius gone cold. In her own mind, she was genius gone bad, genius found out.

She remembered the moment clearly. Seven years ago now. Conrad Macaffey phoned within minutes of the book launch. "The butler did it," he said.

In hindsight she should have thought up a better response – something along the lines of, maybe, maybe not. Or, you've looked at the last page, Conrad, you cheating stupid waste of space, over-paid, over-critical, under-achieving, book-reviewing scum. Instead she squawked, "How do you know that?"

"It's obvious," he told her. "Within the first twenty pages. A five year old could tell."

Others put it kinder, but the response was always the same. "I knew it was the butler." And then, added in a hurry. "Good read, though. Enjoyed it very much."

She determined to try harder. It somehow made things worse. Her agent looked up from the script. "For God's sake, Constance. The butler did it again."

"You've only read five pages. How can you know that?"
"It's obvious. You've mentioned him a dozen times. You've said he couldn't have done it. He's even got a limp."

"He was in an accident."

"We'll be in an accident if we publish rubbish like this." He dropped the novel in the bin. "Go write something new. And for God's sake, not the butler."

So here she was, five years down the line, screen blank, mind empty. From a shelf her novels watched her. She picked one up, looked at the writing on the fly. Constance Grainger. Queen of Mystery. Master of Macabre. Another Slasher Smasher. Constance sighed. The only mystery now was where it had all gone wrong. She couldn't seem to think straight. She couldn't seem to see. She looked down to her right. A pile of novels towered on the carpet. Greatest Ever Mysteries. The World's Wackiest Unsolved Crimes. Murdered By Who And Why. To her left, a larger pile of cuttings, taken from the press. Constance "The Butler" Grainger Disappears from Scene. Constance "The Butler" Grainger Attacks Critic at Awards (In the picture she is getting fat. Luckily, most people fail to see this. They are too busy gawking at Macaffey, the blood pouring from his nose.) Constance Grainger To Wed (again).

She'd tried marriage to get herself going. And divorce. And marriage two times again. Constance had tried everything, from not working for six months to not having a day off in three years, from typing out her first ever number one smash to typing out every single Harry Potter in the hope her own magic would return. Yet here she was, nothing left inside her, nothing left to write. All the mysteries had been solved.

And if they hadn't, they'd all been done to death: Jack The Ripper. The Mary Celeste. The Babes In The Wood. All the great unsolved. Everything had an answer. Constance couldn't add a thing. And then it came to her. What the world needed was a brand new unsolved crime. A puzzle to get them thinking. Something they'd never be able to solve, no matter how long they spent trying. At last she began to type:

Constance Grainger is retiring. Yep. She's had enough. To show there are no hard feelings, you are invited to a Farewell Constance Party at the above address on Friday, 23rd August. RSVP if you please.

She sent one to her agent, her editor, her ex-husbands, her three main rivals for the title Queen of Scream. She sent one to Conrad Macaffey. With herself, there would be ten. Constance prepared the way she used to write; quickly, methodically, and with an added touch of invention that made her feel brand new. The weeks seemed to fly.

Suddenly, it was time. Her agent turned up first. Then her first and second ex-husbands. Then the other novelists, giggling and preening. Constance showed them in, then ex-husband number three. Finally, her editor and Conrad arrived together. "Conrad," she said. "So glad you could make it. Your nose is looking swell."

He touched it with his finger. "I suppose you think that's funny?"

"Believe you me," Constance said with feeling. "You've caused me much more pain."

This seemed to cheer him up. He allowed her to take his jacket. They went through to join the others. Constance stood at the head of the table.

She tapped her glass for silence. Her guests all turned towards her.

"Well," she said. "Thank you all for coming. As you'll have seen from my invitation, I feel my writing career is over. I just wanted to hold this little party to show there were no hard feelings. Not in life and not in writing. It's been a good innings. I've had a lot of fun. So I propose a toast. Constance Grainger's dead. Long live Constance Grainger." She raised her glass. The others raised their glasses. Constance watched them drain them, then watched as they slumped forwards, one by one, against the table.

Smiling, she put her untouched glass down, went through to the kitchen. The handcuffs and bags were ready. She took them through to the other room. Her guests were sleeping soundly. She cuffed their hands in front of their bodies, then put the bags over their heads, pulled the draw-strings tight. Nine faces turned deep blue; their air began to run out.

Constance went back to her seat: one pair of handcuffs left, one drink, one plastic bag. She looked at her dying companions, then clicked her handcuffs on, drained the drug laced drink, and put her head inside the bag. Her breath began to fog it; her last chapter had begun. Constance pulled the draw-strings tight, smiled at her own genius. This was the perfect crime. No motive. No survivors. No suspects. No forensics. Detectives and writers would puzzle forever and ever, but they would never pin it to her; never, ever solve it.

Constance fell forwards, towards the table, and slipped mysteriously away.

*


Notes: Story Openings: Four Essentials, By John R

Story Openings: Four Essentials
By John R

The opening paragraphs of a short story are particularly important. If they don't tilt the reader into the rest of the story, the reader may well give up before they get to all that meaty stuff 1,000 words in.

So, make sure your opening is effective.

How?

Well, effective openings generally do at least four things:

a) introduce character
b) set up conflict
c) suggest a Dramatic Question the story will answer
d) demonstrate the writer's prose-writing ability.

a) If you introduce your main character early, you give the reader a person to focus on, and perhaps to identify with. That can increase reader involvement.

b) If you hint at the nature of the main story-conflict in the first few paragraphs, the reader is primed for what comes later.

c) If your opening raises a Dramatic Question in your reader's mind (will your main character find the love she needs, or discover the truth behind her father's lies, or defeat the school bully…?) – your reader has a solid reason to carry on.

d) In your opening you must convince the reader that you can handle the English language well enough to tell a good story. If your prose is awkward (and especially if it contains basic mistakes) your opening may not get finished – which of course means your story won't get finished, either.

Get the opening right and your reader (or editor) will keep on reading.

*


Short Story: The Man at the Bar, by Hasan Shikoh

The Man at the Bar
By Hasan Shikoh

The night flashes absently with gaudy neon signs in the empty General Mathenge Road. In numerous alleys along it, old men and women sleep with blankets draped around them. From a building in a corner, a red-orange light spills out from a doorway. A loner sits half-asleep on a chair by its entrance. A cacophony of conversation and music emanates from inside.

The night is cold. People inside the bar warm themselves with cheap beer and laughter. A bleary-eyed band plays live reggae music amid the cloud of cigarette smoke, stench of Tusker beer and body odor.

"The boss is a bastard, Kamau."

"That's not new."

"He doesn't know a damned bit about what to do."

"He's always like that, Njoroge. He has no sense."

"Who brought him to the top?"

"Money."

"I wish I had that kind of money."

"Well, you just don't."

"I know."

"Then what's the point?"

"Can't I just wish? Don't I have the right even to wish, damn it?"

"Perhaps. But you don't have money. And that is just that. You are a poor thing. You'll die so."

"Damn!"

They sip their beer.

"Tell me, where did he get that kind of money?"

"They say he's rich and has good contacts. He says he's worked as foreman for 12 years at another place. That's all. Nobody knows anything more."

"I'm thinking of quitting this job."

"Where do you think you'll go?"

"I don't know."

"Thank the Lord you can get even this cheap beer with what you make, my friend."

"Hunh!"

"Let's go over to those girls. You need to relax. They're playing roulette."

The barman snatches their lagered mugs away along with the smeared two ten shilling notes from the bar. Njoroge, taller of the two, and short tempered, lights a cigarette as they plod toward the crowd.

Everybody is excited. People are gambling. Two girls with long, red painted nails manage the game. One rolls the machine while the other collects the chips and the money. Men snuggle around them, jostling deliberately against their bodies.

Njoroge, towering above others, can see best what is going on. Suddenly, there is clapping and excitement. Somebody has won. Everybody looks greedily at the fingers giving away five hundred shilling notes to a shabby little man who wears a hat over his bald head. He has won five hundred shillings – half a month's pay – in just a few minutes. He has become rich – in one night!

The little man decides he will have a go again. He wants to get even richer. He slams the bank notes on the table and the girl pulls them charmingly towards herself. Somebody shoves people away and arranges himself alongside the girl with the money. He removes his cap and rubs his hands together. It is Njoroge. He wants to get rich, too. He, too, has a dream.

The little man rubs his huge belly as he takes a long sip of his beer. "Five hundred shillings," he says.

The girl with the money smiles.

"Five hundred shillings," Njoroge echoes.

"What are you doing, man?" Kamau cries. "You got no other money. You got a family to feed."

Njoroge counts five hundred shillings – some of it in small change – and hands it over to the girl. Kamau shouts at him again from behind other thronging men; but Njoroge's mind concentrates, and his eyes stare at the red, black and white rink with passion.

The other girl rolls the rink. The men drink and suck long at their cigarettes before the dice and the rink come to a stop.

There are cheers as Njoroge wins. He does not have many friends around so the merry-making does not last long. He wants Kamau to see him having won a game. He would like to look at him straight in the eye now.

There is going to be a set of three rounds. Quickly, arrangements are made for the next one. Njoroge has won one. If only he wins one more, he would be five hundred shillings richer – in the middle of the month!

The smile on his lips disappears as he concentrates again. He must win.

The rink and the die are rolled again. Njoroge stares at the rotating movement, concentrating so much that his eyes nearly lose focus. He curses it to stop, and prays for the red for he has chosen that color again.

The die stops on the black. The short, unkempt man wins. Njoroge swallows. His heart skips a beat. It is one-one now.

Njoroge breaks from the throng and orders a beer at the bar. He swallows the whole drink in one swig and returns to the rink, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. He adjusts himself beside the buxom girl and waits until the other one rolls the rink and the one by his side rolls the die a third time. This time, he has chosen black as his rival did before because he thinks that the short man has a lot of good luck.

The rink rotates at a fast pace, then it slows down and the poor man's heart beats faster.

"Black, darn you. Black. Gaawd … please, black!"

Njoroge watches the dial point at white, then red, then black. The rink crawls ever more slowly and it seems to stop at white; then that last millimeter squeezes past and it rests at red. The lucky little man wins again. He is the owner of another five hundred shillings now.

Njoroge's dream is shattered once again. Men praise the short man. The girls smile and eye him approvingly.

Njoroge is dazed. He does not seem to register anything now. He loses his temper. He swears at the little man and flounces at him. The men around him clamp his limbs. There is a lot of hooting. After a little struggle, Njoroge sags. The men set him free. He trudges out away from them and reaches the bar. He orders a beer but the barman looks at him reluctantly. He knows he has just lost a lot of his money and doubts whether he would be able to pay for a drink. Njoroge notices his attitude and orders rudely again. The barman complies, spilling some beer out of the bottle as he serves with disgust. Njoroge grabs it and pours the entire beverage down his throat in one go again; then he slams the bottle on the counter and orders for another.

Presently, Kamau flashes through his mind; then the issue of money for the month springs up and he instinctively grabs the new bottle that just appears before him.

There is no more money for his wife and his seven children. And there are fifteen days yet to go. He drinks.

He looks nonchalantly for his friend but does not find him anywhere. A few paces away the band entertains a sparse group of swinging drunkards to Red, Red Wine, in a smoky wash of disco lights. Njoroge seems to think for a while then pulls out some last ten-shilling notes and drops them on the counter. Then he slides away from the barstool, but his legs buckle as a sharp pang of nausea attacks him. Banter breaks out at his back.

"Shurrup!" he shouts without turning but the men hoot back even more. His knees hurt but he manages to lift himself up and trudges toward the exit, away from this smelly, noisy world.

It is three o'clock and the night has gathered on with its earlier bite. The sky is a confusing blue-black with the distant, jewel-like stars far away and above watching Njoroge slave himself along the empty road.

In the fresh air, he catches his own beer-fumed breath and feels even sicker. He drops his arm into his shabby blazer that he had bought at a second-hand clothes sale from an Indian family up at Kusi Lane, and pulls out his half-smoked cigarette. He lights it up after a series of failures and puffs deeply.

The distant howls of stray dogs reach his ears as he passes along an unlit area of the road. Just then, a skinny dog sneaks past him and he looks at it hasten away into an alley. Suddenly his spinning mental theater straightens.

Ah, yes. Although everybody else despises him – his boss, Kamau, the girls and the men at the bar – he is not the only defeated creature in this cold world.

While he is engrossed in this consolation, he trips against a large slab of cement placed half over a manhole. He pitches headlong and crashes into a dented lamp post. He senses warm blood pour across his face and a violent pain stab in his head; then everything turns dark. But still, just before he collapses, he registers a last strange solace: It is still two hours before day break when somebody might spot him, and if at all, pick him up; at least till then, it would be a dreamless sleep.

*


Notes: Ten Quick Tips for Inexperienced Writers, by V. Berba Velasco Jr.

Ten Quick Tips for Inexperienced Writers
By V. Berba Velasco Jr., Ph.D.

One of the biggest problems that inexperienced writers have is simply knowing how to get started. If you’re unsure of your writing skills, then here are some quick tips to help you get started.

1. Get yourself a thesaurus—or better yet, two of them. These can be tremendously helpful tools when you’re struggling to find the right word. A thesaurus is no substitute for a solid vocabulary, but it is still helpful in a pinch.

2. Avoid using the same word too frequently. This can make one’s work sound repetitive. Again, a good thesaurus can be helpful in this regard.

3. Keep your sentences fairly short, since longer sentences can sound unwieldy. I’ve found that 17 words or fewer is a good guideline. Do remember that this is just a guideline, though.

4. Even as you keep the sentences short, make sure that they flow together well. Sometimes, unskilled writers will simply chop longer sentences up into shorter segments that don’t blend together smoothly. If in doubt, try rephrasing the sentences or adding the proper connective phrases (e.g. “then,” “so,” “as a result”).

5. Get a copy of “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. It’s a short book, but incredibly helpful. There is no better reference for aspiring writers.

6. Don’t rely too much on your word processor’s grammar checking features. They can be quite impressive, but their capabilities are still quite limited. Spelling checkers are also limited in their capabilities, since they cannot recognize a lot of proper names and technical terms. In addition, spell checkers cannot detect situations wherein the user has entered the wrong word in place of the proper one.

7. Proofread, proofread and proofread… over and over. When you’re done, have a friend proofread your work as well.

8. Remember your target audience. Ask yourself, “What information will my audience require in order to understand what I’m saying?”

9. Avoid clever wordplay unless you’re sure that it will work. In most cases, it is best to gain more writing experience before trying something witty.

10. Remember the artist’s adage, “Practice, practice, practice”? If you want to become good at writing, then write, write and write!

*


Notes: Show, Don’t Tell, by Stamford Jackson

Show, Don’t Tell
By Stamford Jackson

This is an article I found on the net – can’t remember where. It may be useful when considering this often discussed problem:

If you've been writing long, and probably even if you haven't, you'll have heard the old writing advice, "Show, Don't Tell." This is good advice, to a point, but sometimes you can't avoid telling rather than showing. We'll explore both in this article.

Think about real life for a moment. If someone told you that a lion had escaped from the local zoo and was running loose around your neighbourhood, you'd probably want to find out if it was really true before investing in a high-powered rifle (though you might bring your cat inside and avoid going out yourself, just in case). If they actually took you to see the lion wandering about on the streets, you'd likely take protective precautions right away.

You may wonder what escaped lions have to do with writing. It's not the lions, but the normal human reaction to being told something versus being shown something (especially if that something is out of the ordinary). In the first case—being told—you may or may not believe the teller, and are likely to want further proof. In the second case—seeing for yourself—you'll probably believe right away (or at least be more easily convinced.

When to Show, Not Tell

Just as in our lion example, readers are more likely to believe something they are shown than something they are told. This is why the saying "Show, Don't Tell" was coined in the first place. So when you really need a reader to believe something right away, it's better to show it to them than to tell them about it. In other words, show the important stuff.

One area where showing rather than telling is especially important is in character development. If you say, "Jack was a cruel man who liked to torment small animals," it might make an impression on a reader. If you write a scene that shows Jack stringing rabbits up by their back legs and leaving them to hang in a cage full of ravenous ferrets, it makes an even bigger impression. No matter how many nice things Jack later does, the reader will not forget "seeing" the man torturing rabbits. Of course, there's no reason you can't both tell and show, but we'll get to that later.

Other aspects of writing can be treated the same way. Just remember that whenever something is important, you'll get the reader believing more quickly by showing it to them (and in some cases, showing it to them more than once).

How to Show Without Telling

It’s all very fine to know that you need to show rather than tell, but how do you go about it? In the example of Jack, the rabbits and the ravenous ferrets above, Jack's character was shown to the reader by writing a scene in which Jack does something cruel. To show—rather than tell—character, the scene is your most effective tool. Through scenes, we can "hear" the character speak and "see" them act.

Descriptive passages can also show things to the reader, but it is easy to fall into telling the reader in long descriptive prose.

But what about something like setting? How can you describe a place without telling? You can't, really, but you can use various tricks to make it seem like the reader is seeing for themself. Most effective in describing setting is to create a full sensory picture, complete with sound and smell and touch. Remember that you have five senses to draw on and use them all to put the reader into the setting. That way, they seem to experience the setting; you haven't told them about it, you've shown it to them. Be careful, though, not to overload the reader with too much detail. Be selective, and choose the detail that will most effectively create the mood or feeling you want to achieve.

When to Tell, Not Show

So now you know how and when "Show, Not Tell" is good advice. When is it not good advice, though? Imagine writing a novel in which every single aspect of character, every new setting, every action and every detail are fully and completely shown to the reader. How long would such a novel be? Not only would it be so long that very few readers would tackle it, but those who did try to read it would get bogged down and overwhelmed by all the stuff they were shown. Probably, they'd get bored and give up because there was too much development of trivial things.

Trivial things do not need to be shown. In fact, if they're truly trivial, they don't need to be in the story at all. But remember how I said that the important stuff should be shown, not told? Well, sometimes you have information that is important to the story—perhaps a small detail without which the plot cannot move forward, or a minor character trait that gives one of your fictional people more depth. This kind of information may not be central enough to the story to require the emphasis that showing gives it, but it still needs to be in there. What do you do? You tell it to the reader.

One place you'll find telling rather than showing useful is in scene transitions. When you want a reader to know that your characters have moved from one place to another, but the journey is not important, you can tell the reader about the move. "Sandra went down the hall into the kitchen" is perfectly adequate as a transition between a scene with Sandra and James fighting in their bedroom and a scene where Sandra gets a knife with which to kill her husband.

Unless there is something very important in the hallway that the reader needs to know, you don't have to linger there. Also, if you finish a scene with one set of characters and need to move to a scene in a different place with a different set of characters, you can simply tell the reader: "Andrew and Emily had made up but across the street Sandra and James were still screaming at each other across the expanse of their king-sized bed" quickly leaves one scene and moves to the next. It's all you need.

Show AND Tell

The moral of the story is this: show and tell. For the really important things, show the reader. For the less important but still necessary things, tell the reader. For the really, really important things, show the reader and tell the reader. Then maybe have one character tell another character where the reader can "overhear." Show the reader again if necessary. Next time someone says to you, "Show, don't tell," look at the specific part of your story (or poem) they are objecting to, and see if it's an instance where that advice is good or bad, or if it's somewhere you can both show and tell.

*


Notes: Writing True, by Timber Shelton

Writing True
by Timber Shelton

Write true. Write what you know. Open the vein and let it pour out, says Faulkner.

I have always believed these widely known, often repeated pearls of writing wisdom to mean a good writer should somehow write about their own life, delving into their most painful memories, using glimpses of the things they have actually seen or done, even in fiction. That is, until today.

While I have been told by many that I should write a book about my life, my childhood in particular, that is something I am just not ready to do. At least not yet.

I have shied away from writing anything too personal, particularly the hardest experiences of my life – the experiences that played a major role in shaping who I am, often the experiences I try very hard not to think about. Instead, I choose to write about other people’s experiences or realities – whether real or fictional – choosing situations that are as different from my own as possible, or if my own, at least my funnier experiences. Even in my journals I tend to focus on the present, or at least the pleasant.

I distance myself from my writing, and I often feel a little guilty for it, like I am not giving it my all because I avoid the pain. After all, aren’t real writer’s supposed to be angst filled and willing to pour out their tortured souls on paper? Willing to bleed ink?

Over the day’s first cup of coffee I was reading “Escaping into the Open – The Art of Writing True” by Elizabeth Berg. I usually do a little reading before I start writing in the morning to help get into a literary frame of mind. During the first chapter she gives a short biography describing how she came to make writing her career, (which sounded very familiar). I was pondering the book’s subtitle, wondering, as I often have lately, if I would ever be able to “write true” without actually sharing my own experiences. Suddenly I was blessed with one of those lovely little epiphanies that all writer‘s occasionally enjoy – that lightening bolt of pure, clear understanding that instantly illuminates a path you didn’t know existed. It didn’t exactly come from what I was reading, though it may get into this further along in the book, (I am quite anxious to find out and will finish reading it as soon as I finish writing this).

I suddenly understood that “writing true” doesn’t mean you have to write about your actual biographical occurrences, the setting and situation is just the wrapping paper. To “write true” means to write about the core of any situation – the anger, envy, joy, grief, shame, loneliness, abandonment, longing, denial, rapture, fear and, of course, love – and the impression it makes on your spirit. Emotional landscapes that most of us have visited and sometimes lived in. Finding the grain of truth in any circumstance your characters are given and how the emotions brought on by those circumstances shape their hearts. It is not the specific experiences that readers usually relate to. Instead, it is the truest, deepest and most profound sentiments that lie behind those experiences – whether it be the humiliation that we wish to keep hidden, or the passion we want to shout from every roof top.

Maybe this is something I would have learned years ago had I experienced a formal writing education, but somehow I don’t believe so. This is a realization I was meant to have today. An understanding that will change my writing from this day forward.

I don’t have to put down on paper the experiences of my life, but I do have to remember those emotions. That is something I am willing to do.

*


White Daisies

“B!! It’s B, idiot! Kuala Lumpur is in Malaysia! B!!!” yelled Benjamin.

“Yes. I’m certain Kuala Lumpur’s in Tibet. D it is..” a contestant’s voice on the game show echoed in Ben’s somewhat bare living room.

Ben snatched his remote control, changed the channel and reached for his carton of kung po chicken, “Geez!”.

Chinese takeouts and game shows for dinner were the norm for Ben, a self-confessed workaholic. He hardly ever left his home other than to go to his office. In the eyes of his colleagues and friends, he was very successful. On the contrary, he saw no worth in his assets if he’s not able to share them with loved ones. And that, was exactly what he didn’t have; loved ones.

Benjamin had never fallen in love. At the age of 40, he was disappointed at not having met a life partner while his former classmates were possibly almost ready to have grandchildren.

What made him more anxious was that he didn’t see much chance of finding love. How could he when he can’t even strike up a decent conversation with a woman? He was shy and his social life was close to non-existent. He rarely meets women and those that he has talked to, he only spoke about work and nothing else. Approaching women was certainly nowhere near his ‘to do’ list. And although some have made a move on him, they seemed to scare him off somehow. His mother leaving him at the tender age of 4 perhaps explains his fear of women.

One dreary afternoon, he was feeling particularly depressed. He had just been promoted. He should’ve been over the moon. But why wasn’t he then?

The truth is, he was fully aware of the reason. Adding insult to injury, a friend, thought to be the last one to settle down, was getting married soon. He was the only one left in his circle of friends not to have gotten married or at least have found someone.

Walking out his front door, he headed for the public garden near his apartment. Just as he stepped onto the freshly cut grass, something smacked him right on the chest. He did not see the woman as he was so engaged in his thoughts. The woman seemed to be preoccupied too. She was alone.

He wasn’t sure how, but they ended up sitting on a bench nearby. At first in silence. Not the awkward kind, both just glad to have the other’s company.

A ball rolled over to Ben and the lady.

Running after it, the little boy said to Ben, “Why hello sir, there are some pretty flowers you could give your wife. It might cheer her up,” pointing to a patch of white, blooming daisies.

A smile appeared on their amused faces and they got to chatting. They both shared their fears and longings that evening, despite being complete strangers. She was divorced from her husband and simply wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge her while he had no expectations and spoke his mind. He asked her out and she said yes.

With each date, they discovered that their ideals were very much the same; to be happy, contented and to experience life with another soul. They loved kids and a house full of them would simply be perfect.

2 years on, he stared at the tiny fingers of the baby in his arms. The boy was his own and he couldn’t believe it. His wishes had come true. Married to an amazing woman, blessed with a beautiful child, he has never been happier.

“Thank you,” he whispered, “Thank you……”


November 27, 2005

story 2

Lily is a timid and gloomy girl ,it is nearly impossible to find any smiles on her face although she is only 16-year old , a cheerful age belongs to all kinds of wonderful things ,love friendship,happiness and confidence about the bright future.But it seems that all of these had been fading away from her since 2 years ago,her mother suddenly died of a traffic accident.Everything has changed from then on.,she became qiete and depressed .It seems that everything in her life is covered with black color.

This day ,she is walking on the compus towards the teaching building where she is going to have the evening self-study classes as usual.It is dark and cold ,wind is blowing strongly on her slender body ,made her tighten the coat unconsciously.Some vague but cheerful songs coming from the nearby residences ,she looked at those bright windows and the nice pictures through that:children are playing and singing with their parents happily.She smiled but with bitter.Ever,she also had that kind of experiences when mum was still alive .But after mum died ,father became very irritated and careless about her ,or even beat her up when he got drunk..
She turned her eyes off the peaceful and clolorful pictures ,heaving a sigh slightly.,feeling extremely longly and helpless today and expecting something unusual and unforgettable to happen .

But it is till a dull day ,just as usual,nothing special.Everyone has their own business and own friends .She yearns for friendship and love so much ,but she is too shy and not dared to talk with others and always hiding herself in the corner of the classroom..
She went into the classroom quitely and carefully ,lowering her head and holding several textbooks in front of her body
.

To her surpride that there is no one in the classroom where used to be busy situations i.e.chatting ,playing ,singing etc.She felt curious and demanded to know what had happened.£¢Maybe they all went out to attend a party and enjoy fun.she thinks .

However she just feel that something special would happen although she doesn¡¯t know what that is and why she may have such strange feelings .
She goes to her seat ,openthe books and begin to concentrate on study.
Suddenly ,all the lights go off,it is completely dark arround her .Scare is gradually approaching her heart ,making her could hardly breathe.what is going on .She wondered and demanded to get out of the room and look for the reason.But she just cannt move by herself.
Just when she decides to going out ,the rest of the class pop into the room with some of them holding a very big and well decorated chocolate birthday cake in their hands ,singing the song ¡°Happy birthday to you ¡°with their genuine and beautiful sound all the time.
She is so surpried that couldn¡¯t even believe this is true¡ªsuch kind of situation only happened in her dream and long long time ago.She is looking at those smiling and blessing faces,surrounding by all kindes of carefully prepared gifts ,and could be able to say nothing except thanks to all of them .
Now she feel herself like the real birthday princess and will no longer be the lonely pitiful victim but a happy and lucky girl because she knows that she is never forgotten by others ,instead ,friendship and love would enrich her injured soul forever and forever


shot story

Father¡¯s secret
Tears rolled from her eyes when she accidentally heard the conversation between her father and another young lady on the phone.

¡°hi,dear,how are you today ?¡±father said sweetly.
¡°en¡­are you at your home or the company?¡±
¡°ok ,I¡¯ll see you in the caf¨¦ bar as usual in 5 minutes¡¯ then.bye¡±

He hangup the phone and left the room immediately and silently.Obviously he didn¡¯t notice that his beloved daughter was just in the next room.

She suddenly felt so depressed bacause she is definitely sure that father was talking with some other woman and the relationship between them seems abnormal and intimate.
Did father fall in love with someone else ? She couldn¡¯t think properly and logically ¡°what can I do then ,telling mum ,no, never ,I don¡¯t want to make her sad ¡°After a few seconds she decided to seek for the answer by herself.Then without any delays ,she rushed out of the room and called a taxi ,following her father secretly.

After a few minutes father¡¯s car stopped at a flower shop which was the one he used to purchase roses for her mother.Is he going to buy some flowers for her now or someone else?She had completely no idea.After a while ,father came out with a big brunch of fresh roses .He went back into the car and continued diving.

At last,father¡¯s car parked at a caf¨¦ bar in the town centre,he went in with the beautiful flowers .She quickly got off the taxi and followed closely of her father into the caf¨¦ bar as well .She demanded to know who is the person father is going to see.

No surprise it ,just as what she had thought,it is a young pretty lady with curly blond hair.dark eyebrow,big and cheerful eyes and wearing a mini skirt.She looked so attractive and sexy.Father seemed very pleased meet her and gave her a big hug .
Oh my god ,what has happened ? Does father really fall in love with someone else ?No he could do that because he is her deerest ,most respectful and greatest father.She felt so disapointed and helpless that tears was sheding from her eyes and hurt her heart.She wondered to stop theie conversation and ask for everything but she just couldn¡¯t move.

After a while ,they went out together and came into a nearby new building ,the second floor ,room 2.She has no patience to wait anymore .She cannt allow father to do something that may hurt mom¡¯s heart .
Her father and the other was shocked when she suddenly pop into the room and father was even pazzled.
However ,to her surprise the new room was all decorated by the pictures drawn by mum ,all over the wall.
¡°Why you are here ,darling¡±father inquired amazedly.
¡°Who is she and what are you doing here dad?¡±there is anxiety on her face and full of angry and depress in her heart.

Father hesitated for a few seconds and he seemed understand everything.He smiled peacefully and said:
¡°Dear daughter,things are not going like you immaginated.This young lady is in charging of our house ,about all the designing and decorating details.She is your mum¡¯s friend as well and her name is Lisa.¡±

The lady ,named Lisa ,greeted and smiled to her
.

¡°Actually I bought this flat 6 months ago and planed to give your mum as her birthday gift this year,as her personal,special drawing office where she can feel peace and joy.In fact I was just about to show it to her this evening ,you see ,I also bought her favorite roses .I am coming here just for the final chek of the room.¡±

After heard of that ,she felt burst of relief because she knew that father is still her great and beloved father ,nothing has changed .There is no more tears on her face ,but a pround and gratified smile .


short story 1

Then, I thought I was dying

Sweat was pouring down my face and tears could not wait to break away from the constraints of my eyes; I was trembling during this one of the most precious moments of my life and I thought I was dying…
8 minutes left, I was staring at the examination paper. All the diagrams and illustrations meant nothing to me at the moment. I was usually not an exam-phobia girl. My daddy liked to brag to others about his daughter's excellent performance in exams."Iaaaa..iaaaa…", Magpies were singing so happily outside the windows, towards which, I glanced. The picture of my dad bringing me—when I was a child—to a mountain resort popped in from no where. I shook my head, "Nooooo…leave me alone. Don't you see I am in the crisis of my life?"
I felt chilled all over, but I was soaked in sweat. Tears had terribly blurred my eyesight. 6 minutes left, I could not see any questions on the paper any more. I had tasted the strongest flavor of desperation. When my eyes were put in to rest by tears, my head was spinning on its own. What in my mind now was a montage of pictures of me and my parents—my dad brought me to piano classes; my mom made the most delicious food for me; my parents and I together filled in the application form; I was so triumphant when I made one success after another. But just until now….?
Oh, my god, another 2 minutes had passed. To others, the remaining 4 minutes means another problem solved, another 10 or even more points earned, the pathway to their dreamland, then to their bright future. By this point, I was totally hopeless in my own crazy dreamland. I glanced at the invigilator, he glared me back. Sitting at the classroom of the National College Entrance Examination—the examination of physics, I began to visualize my own gloomy future—this failure would finally lead to my total failure in the NCEE; my parents would cry; I would have to go to a low-level college; I would disgrace my family, I couldn't find a descent job and so on. I was dying.
Now, 2 minutes was all I would have for this memorable event. I guess I had entered a state called hallucination. I had a very strong urge to fetch a camera and take a shot of everything going on at this particular moment, the moment that could decide my destiny—my bewildered face, the invigilator's rigid face, and the other students' dedicated faces…
Was this ridiculous? People always take pictures in places of interests, in parties. No one would deny the logic of taking a picture in a memorable event and could anyone deny the logic that NECC is one of the most precious moments of one's life? I did appreciate it that I could achieve this final state of aloofness. With those questions, that accounted for 1/4 of the total points, unanswered, I was thinking of taking a picture of one saddest peak of my glorious life. "ling…lingg…", the invigilator, like a police, asked everyone to stop. I wiped off my tears, and sat there waiting…


November 26, 2005

Short Story 1

Short Story – A Distanced Relationship in Modern Times

Tears rolled from her eyes when I had a brief glance at my watch realising how late it has become.

A hard-sounding voice occurred through several megaphones:

“Please attention: last call for flight 437 to Hamburg, all passengers get immediately to the corresponding gates; last call for flight 437 to Hamburg, all passengers get immediately to the corresponding”.

Looking at her soft and shining face, my girlfriend Jessika could barely smile or even say a word. Overwhelmed with recent impressions she could not think of leaving the island that seemed to imprison me and not knowing when we would see each other next time.

“Come with me”, she said. But I didn’t respond to that.

Instead, I tried to talk to her, I tried to make her feel better, and I tried to give her something to think about but moving away from me. Useless. I tried to get a smile out of her face; I tried to behave funny in making some mimics she always laughed about. Useless again. I tried several times. Useless at all.
It seemed to me as if the outcome of this was just the opposite I intended to do. Strange in the whole.

At that moment a group of travellers arrived, ready for take off. I looked at their faces and their behaviour. They were happy, I guessed. As a result, the atmosphere between Jessika and me became distanced and I knew what to do next.

I kissed and hugged her long and intensively while whispering:

“I will leave right now, please call me after your arrival, I miss you so much.”

She got rid of the remaining tears on her cheeks that were nearly dry. I saw her bright shining voluminous green eyes moving away from me directly heading to her bags. Then she said:

“Okay, I’ll let you know, I miss you, too.”

I was happy when I received these wonderful sounding words coming from her inside and just expressed by letting them through her lips looking red like an ever-growing flower and always able to express her current mood. I realised to cause her pain in leaving so abruptly. She really seemed to be left alone and said although I ‘m the one who stayed on the island and is not getting back home.

When I left the airport I was as pleased as Punch. It was the right decision I said to myself. She didn’t know that I would get back to her a few days from now.

“Tears will role from her eyes again”, I smiled benignly and headed back to my car.


Tears rolled from her eyes…

Tears rolled from her eyes as she watched the couple walk away with her baby girl. Her joy. Her life. She felt numb. Yet, she dragged her feet, willing herself to walk back home.

“Home?”, Brenda thought.

A million thoughts rushed through her confused mind. The orangey brown leaves were blowing in the strong gusts of wind, brushing her cheeks, and getting tangled in her hair. But the overwhelming feeling that washed over her had nothing to do with the leaves.

“What home? There’s nothing and no one waiting there to greet me.” she sniffled.

Standing in front of it, staring, she only saw it as a white, gorgeous, 2-storey house. She didn’t see it as a home. Not anymore. It won’t be filled with the girly giggles she’s gotten so used to. No patter of little feet. No adorable smiles to start her day with. None of that. How she would dearly miss all those little things that she had grown to treasure the most.

She recalls the day Sarah had come into her life. She had called all her friends that morning, sharing with them the amazing news that a beautiful girl would arrive at her home later that day. She was ecstatic as she had been trying to adopt a child for years. Her marriage had fallen apart as a result of her not being able to conceive. They had longed for a child and the devastation had driven them away from each other. Both of them felt as though they had let the other down.

But the grief of losing her husband was replaced by her love towards Sarah. She had learnt that Sarah’s biological mother had to give her up for adoption as she saw no way of supporting Sarah. She was determined to be the best mother she knew how and she was going to care for Sarah as if Sarah was her own.

She remembers Sarah’s first steps and her first tooth. Sarah’s first word was ‘Mi’, her version of ‘mommy’. She remembers Sarah’s first day of kindergarten. Sarah wouldn’t let her out of sight even for a second.

Suddenly, the happy memories brought her back to where she was; slumped under the tree which towered over her lawn. Sarah’s birth mother, Colleen had come back for her a month ago. Colleen had just got married to a wealthy man and she could finally afford to care for Sarah.

Colleen was prepared to go to court if that was what it took to have her child back. Brenda wouldn’t have any of that. She spent a long time deciding on what to do. She loves Sarah with her whole heart and she never expected Sarah to leave her so soon. Sarah had just turned 8. She thought the soonest it’ll happen was when Sarah leaves for college.

After hours of long walks thinking of the best solution, Brenda reached an agreement with the couple. They could take Sarah home with them so long as they allow her to visit once in a while. Saying that broke her heart. She really didn’t want Sarah to leave. Sarah was her baby too. She did it anyway with the intention of giving Sarah what is best for her. She didn’t want her to grow up confused as to who her mother is. She didn’t want her to go through the pain and unpleasantness of people fighting over her.

With a heavy heart, she picked herself up and walked slowly towards her house. She would be seeing Sarah again.. real soon.


November 25, 2005

Short Story: The Story of an Hour, by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin was a forgotten American voice until her literary reputation was resuscitated by critics in the 1950s. Today her novel The Awakening (1899) the story of a sensual, determined woman who insists on her independence, is widely read and highly honored, a feminist work which was decidedly ahead of its time. Born Katherine O'FIaherty into an upper-middle-class family in St. Louis, she married Oscar Chopin when she was twenty and moved to her husband's home in Louisiana. In the ten years that she resided in Louisiana she was aware of and receptive to Creole, Cajun, black, and Indian cultures, and when she later came to write fiction, she would incorporate people from these cultures in her work, especially her short stories. When her husband died as a young man, Kate Chopin returned to St. Louis with her six children. Financially secure, she began writing fiction as best she could while rearing her children. She is a good example of an American realist, someone trying to represent life the way it actually is lived, and she acknowledged her debt to the contemporary French naturalists Emile Zola and Guy de Maupassant.

Does the psychological ambivalence dramatized in "The Story of an Hour" ring true or uncomfortably real when we consider honestly our own feelings?

*

The Story of an Hour

By Kate Chopin

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will—as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.

She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg, open the door—you will make yourself ill. What are you doing Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

But Richards was too late.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease— of joy that kills.

*