Showing posts with label Short Stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Short Stories. Show all posts

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bicycle Commute (Bim Angst)

Photo mash up:
Author Bim Angst with her bicycle
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It was the first day. Not the first day of the bike commute, but the first day of that year’s bike commute. It was the first day of a renewed but not a new commitment.
Top ten reasons she liked the bike commute. But today it was a fat tire, not the sleek little Pinarello she so loved. The asphalt was wet. It has been a month since she was on a bike. She has been taking care of the man. He is laid up with both legs in immovable casts and he needs taking care of, which he knows and allows — not that he has a choice. But which he is seeming quite to like. Somebody else is doing the taking care of today. When she began the taking care of him, it mattered to her greatly — surprise surprise — that she be the one to do all the most very important of the taking care. It mattered to her that he like she was the main one taking/giving the care.
But today. So, it didn’t really matter which bike on which she did the commute. Editing will be needed. Wet asphalt, time away, strength in her legs diminished, who knew what loss in lung capacity. She made the sensible choice.
Order them ten to one. Whatever is at the bottom of a ten reasons list everybody will assume is number one anyway. Why is it usually ten? Top ten. Ok. That sounds nice. Two syllables both starting with hard Ts. Alliteration. Double, equal accent. Remember to harvest the sage. Not a dactyl. Not a trochee. That was three. Not an iamb. Something. Doesn’t matter. Look it up anyway.
Ten. Containment. Things aren’t getting out of hand. It will not go on forever, it will end, maybe shortly. That’s a splice. What was it they said, she read in some journal, about even very bright people being able to remember/handle a maximum of seven things at once? She doesn’t let them use the slash words. But they’re useful. Except when you read out loud. You have to make that chopping gesture in thin air. Point of view shift.
So why ten? Why not seven? Top seven reasons. Slow ones can’t cope with even seven. Three. Sometimes two.
Maybe don’t number the list. Just start in. By the third (numbering again), everybody will just get it’s a countdown. They always seem to confuse it’s and its. Who is this everybody? Not everybody reads. Especially those young people. Does texting count as reading? Sexting?
Number 7. Can’t help the numbering. Need order. Need structure. Even if it is imposed and does not organically take shape. Number 7: Because I live in a beautiful place. Every place is beautiful. Everywhere has its beauties. It’s a frame of mind. It’s a bike frame of mind! Bike frame, get it? Road surface doesn’t have to count, unless it’s good. They always ask her not to count the bad stuff. We live in a beautiful place.
Grit, potholes, washout, lots of broken glass. Beer bottles. Always beer bottles. Passing traffic, some bleeping horns right when they come up behind and scare her the way somebody can make you jump saying boo loud right in your ear when you don’t know they’re back there. They’re their there. They’re there in your hair.
Be fair. 100 pass. Maybe two honk. 98 is a good percentage. 200 pass, maybe one yells nice ass. Hot old bike chicks agree, honking means you have a nice ass. Flipping the bird means you have a nice ass. Yelling nice ass means you have a nice ass. Throwing a can means you have a nice ass. Getting out there on the bike means. No matter how slow you go. You’re out there. The kingfisher is out hunting today!
5000 pass maybe 1, if that, pulls up revving fast in a white sedan with a license plate you cannot read with your single distance no bi/trifocal goggles. Zooming revving up behind, laying hard hard hard on the horn, cruising alongside 30 yards still hard on the horn and then pulls off the horn and yanks hard to the right right in front to slam on the brakes and see if you smash into his back bumper and then he can complain you hit him or do you drop and burn sliding on the side of the road. Peels out. Waves goodbye. Flips the bird. Can you really hear him laughing? Why is it always a guy?
Maybe drivers think tooting the horn is a nice way to let you know they’re back there. Think that. Be generous. It is a beautiful place. One in maybe 5000, maybe not even. A lot more assholes when you drive the car. Road rage. Every stinking day rage. Especially on 422. It makes headlines. Often. People get arrested waving guns out there. Cara carries a gun on the bike. Yo, as Pat says, what’s that about?
The mountains. Never again move out of the mountains even though they’re harder when you’re on the bike. That which does not kill….Nietzsche. Pretty sure. There seems to be some capricious shifting going on.
Number 6: Because it makes me feel virtuous. This will not make the list, at least not this way, but such is what revision is for. One can revise one’s self into something like intelligence. Vonnegut, right? Credit. And a good heart. Clean thoughts. Burning calories not fossil fuels: Number 6. Why oh why do I keep forgetting to bring a snot rag?
Number 5: Half the day’s exercise is done before work. The other half is pretty much a given and you can’t crap out without embarrassing yourself now that you’ve announced you’re commuting by bike. So there. Stronger, better half sticks childish tongue out at weak, lazy, evil half. This is what is meant, partly, by commitment. Once you’re in so far, there’s no turning back. Except if you don’t proclaim intent, ain’t nobody know you didn’t ’ceptns you. Do you like you? Sometimes. Maybe a little bit most days. Most days. Not all. On the bike always.
Four miles, maybe five. Kicking in. Cooking cooking cooking. Booking booking booking. Number 4: It feels good! Number 1? Good chemical stew. Bathing in endorphins. Simmering in the marinade. Mixing metaphors. Synapses snapping. Burning off the toxins. Clarifying the butter. Does clarifying butter get rid of any of the cholesterol? Something about the brain. Which is connected to the heart. Real. Figurative. Metaphoric. Metaphysic. Is that a word? Think it and you alter capabilities.
Number 3: Get rid of cholesterol. Or some such stuff about health. It’s good for you. Me. Her. The cyclist. Cyclists in general. Anybody. Everybody. The general public. At least that which reads. Are people who read less obese?
Number 2. Don’t go there. What will be number 1? Stop those juvenile thoughts. You can’t skip number 2 and number 1 (even if you leave off the numbering) if you’re doing a top 10/7 list. What’s Number 3? Jiz? Giz? Comes/cums from gism? Jism? How is that spelled? Eat a good/better breakfast before you get on the bike. Everybody loves jiz. But. Butt. Here we go again. If they only knew. Don’t even think about Top Ten. Two Ts. T.T. Titties. I used titties in a story! Tits and ass. T&A T&A T&A.
Number 1: It’s good. It’s all good. Can you say that? Will anybody anywhere have any idea at all what all you mean? Good is relative. (Even if you don’t have good relatives, or what you think are good relatives. But that’s relative to. Too.) Come back. Stop circling. Cut through the mall/plaza parking lot and completely bypass the bottleneck. Right turns. That’s how FedEx does it. It is FedEx, right? UPS? Look that up. They won that award. For right turns. Get it right, right/correct, if you’re going to use it. Your going to use it. Feel free to make mistakes in a draft.
Number 2. Going back behind the Giant where the trucks unload is kind of like looking at the bowels of the American retail industry. Not deep into the bowels because then you’d have to get into the packing houses and sweat shops, the places where they wear white plastic suits and rubber gloves, condoms, where they wear galoshes because they’re slopping around in blood and guts, ear plugs so they don’t have to hear the screams, face masks so they don’t sneeze on the meat you eat. That rhymes. Does rhyme kill it? This is why you eat vegetables. (Evil twin inside, we know you so dearly love a good grilled steak, but we forgive you, you’re/your only human.) Try to be humane. Try harder.
Don’t think on this too deep. Deeply. The language is alive. Adjective. Adverb. Either okay now depending on how you look at it. No lumpers here. Do they have big hooks? (Did you read that as boobs or books?) Who unloads the trucks? The drivers? The stockboys? They’re not all boys anymore. But they are, aren’t they, still boys in that sense/way. It’s a different culture back here. Culture. Apply to everything. Like it. But that’s number three. Or number four. I like it. It makes me feel good. Same thing? Give up what makes you feel bad. Even if for a very short time it makes you think you feel good. Remember butter.
Number 1: You get to wear fluorescent green and shocking pink. Petty but true. Important. That sweet daughter who as a little girl got so very very angry/indignant when someone else picked out clothes and made her wear them. Minor but first first first. Even if you don’t put it there. Everybody should get on a bike. Pedal off this fat. There is no such thing anymore as a prosperous gut. Nobody under the age of 40 even knows what that means. Sweat. Smile. Get lean. Smile some more. Do it. Just do it (Nike ad). When you smile, you change the chemistry in your brain. Say hello. Change the world. Ha. Smell the neighborhood. Smell your own sweat. Sweet. They confuse that too. Sweet sweat. Sweat sweet. That’s a command. Listen to the voices. Make conversation. Cut pollution. Give up cars, have a little fun. Change the world one pedal stroke at a time. Really. It’s true. It’s all true.
Number 1: It takes more time. Maybe that’s the point. Press the button for the automatic door.
In the intervening time, she talked to very young people about commas, something she did that no longer seemed important in the same way it had seemed important when she first started talking to young people about things like commas, though now that it didn’t really matter if she did it well it was said she really did do it pretty well. How many words can you take to say something? But now the main point was not the commas but the way it pays the bills that pay for the rest.
And so today, not yesterday, as she sat down to the computer, she thought she should have written it yesterday, when it was all there in her head whole and perfect.

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BIM ANGST lives with a small pack of big dogs and bicycles from Saint Clair, PA.

“Bicycle Commute” was originally published in Pennsylvania English, issues 33/34, Spring 2012.

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“Bicycle Commute,” © 2012 by Bim Angst, has been posted on Poets.net with permission from the author and may not be reposted or republished without permission.





Monday, March 1, 2010

The Right Career (by Zorica Petkoska)

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“Six years for a bloody bachelor’s degree! Two times in the hospital because of a ruptured eye capillary! All those damn all-nighters! And for what!!!” Bobbie was swearing at full speed in his dressing-room. Swearing violently, yet barely audibly.




“All that chemistry, all that physics…for what?”

“The universe is laughing behind your back.” That’s the saying he got with his coffee this morning. The café is offering “daily sarcasm” now instead of the good old perfectly boring fortune cookie.




“We’re going live in five minutes, Bobbie!” A voice reminded him.

“I’m coming!” He yelled out.

Lights. Camera. Action. He got used to this.

“Hello, my dear viewers. For today’s experiment you will need the following ingredients…”

He graduated in chemistry as his major and physics as his minor, yet he couldn’t find a job in this in this topsy-turvy society, where trained musicians moonlighted as taxi drivers and uneducated people owned large businesses. Instead he was on television, hating it all, while some kid somewhere gets drunk to death for not fulfilling his dream to work in the media. It’s a twisted little world and a twisted little story.

“…then, you add some sodium chloride, you decide the quantity according to your taste…”

He hated this circus. He should have accepted that job in the supermarket, it wouldn’t be as embarrassing as this one.

“…. One litre of H2O is poured in the mixture and you let it simmer for fifteen minutes…”

Yet, his knowledge of chemistry is a precious possession that no one can take away from him.

Just you wait, and you will all see.

The whole twisted world is wrong.

“…the state of aggregation should neither be solid, nor gas. You should get a liquid mixture through a process of hydrating some solid elements and letting some gasses expire in the liquidizing process…”

I am so sick of this.

“…you decorate with some parsley at the end and the special Easter stew is ready!”

He hated that an educated scientist like him should end up in a ridiculous cooking show. He must rely on his knowledge once again. He pulled out a syringe.

“And, at the end, ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the most beautiful chemicals – THALLIUM. Its magical properties are spreading throughout one’s body and….well, you’ll see,” he added casually.

The next moment he injected the main dish with it.




“This is an excellent poison,” he continued, “as it cannot be seen with a naked eye, and when tasted, one dies a slow, lingering death.”

The whole TV studio fell silent.

“And, of course, I am joking, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “You know how I like to add a bit of a chemistry in life, because where’s chemistry, there’s love.”

“This syringe contains hot salty water. It is an excellent trick in order to make the meat equally salty in the inside as on the outside,” he explained.

The crew could be heard breathing again. Anything was possible with Bobbie.

“Please, fetch today’s meal to the director of our station. I promised him a decent holiday meal,” said Bobbie to an assistant, a young man.

“Of course, sir.”

And Bobbie went home pleased, singing all the way: “Thallium, I love you, you are real, you are true.”

And the accompaniment to it were the sirens from the ambulance rushing towards Channel 6 Studios.

Bobbie knew they were rushing in vain. He knew for certain that the director would suffer a slow and agonizing death. Chemistry confirmed that.

And where’s chemistry, there’s magic.




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Zorica Petkoska (also known as Zoria) is a graduate student of English language, specialising in translation at the Department of English language and literature, Faculty of Philology at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia. She is also teaching translation there as an assistant to a junior professor. She has been writing poetry since a very early age and published one poetry book in 1999 (The Dream’s Stars and Sparks). She has been writing poetry, prose and drama up to this day, and also engaged herself in amateur drama writing, staging, directing and acting. She writes both in English and in Macedonian.

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“The Right Career” is copyright 2010, by Zorica Petkoska. All rights are reserved. This story may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.

The images and artwork are copyright 2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Taken from the Notes of a Prisoner (Dragan Georgievski)

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…As I started up in this world, I was a menace, a fiend of man and woman, and I became someone else. I was born, and I ceased to become that same fiend I always knew when I looked in the small pond in front of our house. The impeccable pond, in front of our house, grew each and every day for as long as I can remember. It was situated near a village, not far away from Athens where my parents, my two sisters and I resided for a long, long time.



In the beginning, I used to love looking at that wonderful reflection every day, when I started off at school. My Greek primer in hand and my dedication to the study of Homer and Horace, painted my face in that pond, the pond that kept growing as I grew.



And then, I realised, I had become someone else. One day a completely different face was looking back from that small pond and it kept smiling back at me! I could never smile like that! I was never able to do anything, except be serious about my studies and never leave home unless it was for school or the local library. I threw a stone inside that pond and it started to make so many circles, that my analytical brain started counting them one at a time, never assuming that I was counting how many times my eyes multiplied within those circles.



I had become a man, but not just any man, I dedicated myself to the study of thunder and rain and everything that caused trouble to that little pond. But, there was something else beside my dedication to this study. In fact, I had tasted something that I had never tasted before. And it wasn’t the taste that you get when you bite a beetle which has, by accident, fallen into your mouth. I felt my own blood, human blood. Then the person looking back at me in the pond was different. The smile of that person grew larger, and suddenly the pond grew larger as well. Its appetite grew in a way. But what grew in me was a calling to serve that pond. Once it even turned into a swan. He called to me, gave me instructions and disappeared. I was ready and I did what I had to do!



Now that I recall all this, so as to present you with the facts: I have become someone else. I am not allowed my freedom to visit that pond, because I am put behind a wire. I am looking at a mirror instead of a pond, watching television instead of reading Horace and listening to the news forecast instead of studying whether the weather will lighten up, so that my jail-mate will stop nagging me about my know-it-all brain!



But a very important thing hasn’t changed, though. I have remained in service to that pond. I have managed to get my cell just opposite my master’s house, and now I can finally show you my perspective! I have taken a couple of pictures to make it easier for you…Even though, it became very clear to me at first that I have become my master’s servant, the world managed to disturb that picture by saying that I was only throwing stones into a pond that made circles inside my head. But my master instructed me differently. I was able to change that picture into something else – my own image I have kept inside my head.



Dearest reader, I provide you with those same images now, and I leave your honourable mind to bring a suitable answer to the question you asked me before. We all serve different masters, enlightened one, but I chose to serve the first and the biggest one of them all! He sits on the top of everything, hides behind every corner, goes into the soul and the mind and governs....oh how, he governs...




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Dragan Georgievski (b. 1983 – Skopje, Macedonia) is currently a Senior Undergraduate student of English and Czech Language and Literature at the ‘Ss Cyril and Methodius’ University in Skopje. He has translated works from English and Czech into Macedonian and Aromanian and vice-versa. His latest work was the translation of three plays by George Bernard Shaw (Androcles and the Lion, Overruled and Pygmalion) into Macedonian and is currently working on translating Macedonian literature into English.

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“Taken from the Notes of a Prisoner” is copyright 2010, by Dragan Georgievski. All rights are reserved. This story may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.

The images are copyright 2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

People with Burnt Tongues (Ana Lakaliska)

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The Skopje sky is like a silver blister, ready to splash its contents all over this city of statues. So monotonous, concrete, enveloped in a mist of exhaust fumes and the noise of heels on top of the shrill voices of street vendors. Little barefoot children, splashing in the puddles from yesterday’s downpour, chasing people, begging for spare change. Chestnuts being roasted on every corner. Massive billboards hover above our heads.

We escape into a café. We haven’t seen each other in a while. Not much is different. Mya has changed her hair back as it was three years ago. It still makes her look older. “That’s what I was going for,” she always said, when we strove to find something pleasant to remark after her unfortunate visits to the hairdresser’s. But she doesn’t really care. She never has.

I came here to write, Mya came with me to dispel the awkwardness, as if to write in public were a crime, a kinky thing to do. We pick a spot in the back, dark, understated corner; we didn’t come here to be seen, we came here to see each other, catch up.

I place a notebook in my lap, I cover it with my scarf, so that people won’t see, won’t wonder, won’t judge. We order. “An espresso for me,” I say to the waitress, while Mya is in the mood for tea.

The day has descended heavily on the city today. We walked for only fifteen minutes to get here, no more, and yet, we’re drained.

The grim day follows us through the window. The lights on the upper floor are lit, giving our surroundings the sweet mellow hue of an almost ripe peach. A soft cloud of cigarette smoke hovers, squeezing through the railing. I spot a pinch of cinnamon with the tobacco. I should have ordered something with cinnamon.

A couple is positioned in the booth across from us. They’re like ghosts; they’re made into bland shadows by the light throwing itself in from behind their backs. They sit apart, she on the sofa, he on a recliner. Two cups and a sugar shaker rest on the table between their legs.




I notice the God-awful, Macedonian pop music in the background. This used to be a classier place. Smooth jazz, world music, gigs in the evenings. Today, we’re surrounded by guys with the same haircuts, sporting the same striped sweaters and ray-bans on a day with no sun at all. Almost all the girls have their hair in a bun. That’s one trend I’ve missed out on lately, I guess.

She flips through the menu as one would do at a dentist’s waiting room. His eyes are lifted towards the flat-screen, but do not meet it. The air between the two of them seems thicker than the rest of it.




In all my eagerness to get warm, I take a sip from my coffee. I burn my tongue. I set the cup down while my face twists in a knot.

Mya cracks up. “Rash!” She smiles and dips the tea bag in her cup. I cringe and look away again.

He’s playing with a lighter. His elbows are on his knees, his head in a bow. She sits there with her hands joined on the side of her hip. They share no words.



Mya speaks about her summer vacation; about her studies; about her boyfriend’s studies. They’ve been together for ages. I listen with only one ear. She talks about the last party I missed, about a semi-known singer and her lover who is her neighbor, about another friend’s feud with one of her professors. I scribble in my notebook.

He adds some sugar to his coffee and twirls the spoon in it with a lightness of wrist often met in men whose only physical activity in the day is this circular aerobic workout. He lifts the sugar halfway towards her, not looking. Her head, as in a twitch, shakes to say no. He pulls it back softly.



Mya starts talking about the time her boyfriend and she were pulled over by a police officer for speeding and they cheated out of it by pretending she had appendicitis and he was rushing her to the hospital. She says it would have been pretty nasty if they hadn’t found a way out, since they were pretty much intoxicated and ever so slightly high, at least he was. She sees I’m amused, so she becomes even more animated in telling. Her hands are flying around. It’s not the story I’m so entertained by -- this is the fourth time I’ve heard it -- but I had never heard it from her. I laugh because I notice how the story has morphed from one gossip’s mouth to the next. Or maybe she is just spicing it up for me. She does that sometimes. Now, I’m not saying she is a liar or anything of the sort; she just likes things a little bit over the top. Like that shirt she is wearing. Too… pink. My glance strays from her once again.

The waitress places a bill on their table, joining their vow of silence and walks away, as with people she knows, people she trusts. He places two bills on top of it without looking at it. She is already in her coat and extends a step towards the door.

Mya asks how I’ve been doing these last few months. I sigh. I start speaking of meaningless things, minor endeavors, bumps on the road. Mya listens as if I’m relating the truth about the origin of the Universe. It’s always been baffling to me; I never managed to develop that keen interest in other people’s affairs. Still, I babble on.

She pushes the heavy glass door and is out of the café, while he’s still battling with one of the sleeves of his jacket. He catches up with her and his arm goes dryly around her hip, like two tree trunks fighting for territory. They walk out of sight. The crisp air from when she opened the door arrives in our corner. They’re replaced by a solitary, pale statue of a pained woman wrapped around a guitar on the promenade.




It’s one of those new, ugly ones, completely ridiculous. They haunt this city. It’s like Skopje doesn’t need its mortal citizens anymore. It has its new, sound-proof, marble and gypsum ones.




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Ana Lakaliska is a student of English language and literature at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, Macedonia. She has been writing from an early age and has won a number of local and national awards for her poetry. Some of her poems have appeared in collections and publications from competitions, as well as Macedonian newspapers and periodicals.

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“People with Burnt Tongues” is copyright 2010, by Ana Lakaliska. All rights are reserved. This story may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.

The Skopje images/artwork are copyright 2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel and may not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Short Story: “A Pomegranate Heart” (Afrodita Nikolova)

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About this video

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I know that I will most certainly die. You do things and then you die. Gandhi said: “Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

See that small child eating pomegranate on the bench in the yard of the old wooden house? Well, that’s me. When I was little there were two things I couldn’t resist: looking at girls in miniskirts and eating pomegranates.

Girls will be girls, but pomegranates, that juicy wet liquid, blood soaring in the mouth to 99 degrees, that’s something.

When I was little I must’ve thought that my Momma’s right breast was a pomegranate, for I’m told that I clung to it and only to it, perpetually. I clung to my older sister too, but I guess it must’ve been that she always wore those velvet miniskirts.

I used to think that the moon is one huuge pomegranate, yellow from the outside, but red from the inside. I always had these dreams of squeezing the moon, but with my teeth. The erotic substance, the red juice bubbling in my mouth cavity as the mass of red juicy seeds sprinkled the inside walls of the cheeks. There is nothing erotic about it, yes, I know.



What I also know is that the moon is not a pomegranate, I was told so afterwards, but did that prevent me from believing in my childhood theory? No. Did that prevent the child, sitting on the bench in the yard of the old wooden house, from expecting every winter, the snow to fall in red snowflakes? No. I was definitely convinced that if I don’t sink my teeth into the moon’s core, than someone else will do it and he will fail to do it properly and the red dense liquid will fall onto the clouds and it’ll get stuck in them as food gets stuck in teeth, or maybe as gore forms on an infected wound. That’s why I expected to see, every damn winter, how these clouds release the moon’s gore on the surface of earth, as red snow. Even then I knew of envy. Maybe I didn’t know it was called so, but I did have this unknown warm suffocating feeling inside, every time I thought someone else would spill the moon’s insights, let alone that I won’t even know about it, because there maybe won’t be snow to foretell it, or if it came as rain maybe I’d think it was only muddy rain. People envy, children too, the one who says he doesn’t lies, but I envied someone without a face, body, name, without even being sure of someone’s existence, but as the globe is a cradle of so many people, I knew that some day, someone will come up with this idea. I knew that this childish idea will mature soon enough in some human mind.

I’m telling you, it wasn’t me, if it was, I would be glad to tell you it was. I couldn’t have tasted the real moon’s substance. I do admit that I like eating pomegranates even now, but I doubt that even Neil Armstrong could have tasted something of it on the moon. It is totally absurd and imaginary.



When I was an adolescent, my Poppa used to be my best companion. I knew then how stupid was to have been in fear of my childhood theory so I shunned it. It was then that I clung to Poppa, more than to any other member of my family, though he didn’t wear a mini skirt, and though I still loved eating pomegranates and staring at girls in mini skirts.

He unlocked the door of reality to me, the medicine and mystery of human body function.

Thanks, Poppa, I owe you the degree I’ve acquired in medicine, may you rest in peace.

He died from a heart condition. It was these clogs of blood that formed in his vessels, which stopped the flow of blood forever. The great philosopher Martin Dubrakov Pleskov ceased to be, not his theories.

Yes, I know that “great minds think alike,” my Poppa used to say that. He liked literature a hell of a lot. He told me once, I remember, to cherish the science, medical science, but he always had a subtle way of getting to his point. He instigated my becoming a cardiologist and he was a man of great humour. I know that talking about him now doesn’t make sense to you, but once, when Suzi was my girlfriend, he quoted: “…give her an onion, it’s your heart wrapped in brown paper.” You see now, isn’t that an improvement to my childish theory, to say that the moon is a heart wrapped in yellow and grey paper?

My Poppa died on the table, his chest, open in front of my eyes, under the bloody plastic gloves on my hands.

Even as I was holding the instruments, I knew I couldn’t fix his clogged vessels.

Was it difficult?

It was, but isn’t it that “whatever you do in life it will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it”?

I tell you now, dear lawyer. I’m not guilty of any crime. I wasn’t able to help the patient Majovski as I couldn’t help my Poppa. All patients are equal to me. If I say in an interview or in a book something that may imply myself being a doer of a crime, it is all empty association. And, man is not always what he says or what he does.



I do admit and it is written in my record, and in my biography that I did, after the death of Poppa, take his heart and sink my teeth into it. Does that make me a perpetrator? It is in accordance to the law that one may do what he chooses with his relative’s remains. Is it moral? Grief-stricken people are free even of the possibility to sense morality. That is my story, dear Ms Paula Korevski, you are the lawyer whom I trust thoroughly and you have to know I’m not guilty of any crime.

Mr B. Dubrakov Pleskov, a renowned cardiologist, was led to court the following week, mumbling under his breath, “the moon is a heart, a pomegranate, and all human hearts are beating moons, pomegranates.”

The case about the missing patients’ hearts is still in process. It is said that in one of his interviews he supposedly stated that he always taught his children the theory of the moon being a pomegranate when they were small. When they became adults they were well aware that the moon is only the round object that moves in the sky around the Earth and can be seen at night.

The sources continue to claim that Mr Pleskov was taken away somewhere… “Old age snuffs out the flame one has for women,” Pleskov told the media, “but it never extinguishes the gluttony to eat pomegranates.”

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“A Pomegranate Heart” is copyright 2010, by Afrodita Nikolova. All rights are reserved. This story may not be reprinted or reposted without permission from the author.

The video and images (“A Pomegranate is a Beating Heart”) are copyright 2010, by Jennifer Semple Siegel.

“Copper Mountain,” the YouTube track for “A Pomegranate is a Beating Heart,” is courtesy of Dan-O:
Free Music by DanoSongs.com.
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Gift of the Magi (O. Henry, a.k.a. William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910)

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O. Henry (William Sydney Porter, right) with his daughter Athol and wife Margaret Porter, early 1890s (Wikipedia).
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One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.

There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.

While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.

In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."

The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very good.

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor of being owned by Jim.

There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had mastered the art.

Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her hair and let it fall to its full length.

Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from envy.

So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters. It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed on the worn red carpet.

On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.

Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the "Sofronie."

"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.

"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."

Down rippled the brown cascade.

"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.

"Give it to me quick," said Della.

Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was ransacking the stores for Jim's present.

She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87 cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old leather strap that he used in place of a chain.

When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.

Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully, and critically.

"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and eighty- seven cents?"

At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready to cook the chops.

Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still pretty."

The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow, he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he was without gloves.

Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.

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HD Christmas Tree - "Watching Their Flocks," by David Nevue



pepnpanz**
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Della wriggled off the table and went for him.

"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!' Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for you."

"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet even after the hardest mental labor.

"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my hair, ain't I?"

Jim looked about the room curiously.

"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.

"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve, boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the chops on, Jim?"

Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark assertion will be illuminated later on.

Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.

"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."

White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.

For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.

But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"

And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"

Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm. The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.

"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."

Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled.

"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you put the chops on."

The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

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"The Gift of the Magi" originally published in 1906.

Courtesy of Project Gutenberg

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**pepnpanz, creator of the YouTube Christmas video, says,

My flower garden-themed Christmas tree was captured with my Canon HV20 HD camcorder & filmed in the 16:9 format in TRUE High Definition. Perhaps next year YouTube will be able to accommodate this movie in its huge encoded HD format for true HD viewing. :)

Being an ardent flower gardener I've been collecting only European hand-blown glass flower ornaments for years but could not display them until I found the perfect artificial tree. Two years ago I DID find my tree - made in the USA, yet! Once my tree was decorated it became a part of my home and my heart I keep it up and decorated all year-round! Such incredibly beautiful ornaments don't belong stored in a box!

I strung my tree with 1600 lights. The majority of my hundreds of hand-blown glass ornaments were made in Germany, where the artistic technique originated and continues to flourish. Others were created in Eastern Europe such as my garland from the Czech Republic.

"Watching Their Flocks" was composed and performed by David Nevue and is from his Christmas album, "O Come Emmanuel".

The CD with this track and others plus sheet music can be purchased at http://www.davidnevue.com/

Hope you all enjoy having a glimpse of my shimmering Christmas tree... моя Різдвяна ялинка! :)
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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Book Review Thread: Fiction

Have you recently read fiction that you absolutely loved or hated?

Here's the thread for you.

This thread is open to those of you who want to review fiction of all kinds: novels, short stories/fiction, and novellas.

The first signed (not anonymous) and quality review (negative or positive), will be elevated into this post.

Some Guidelines and Caveats:

  • No Self-Promotion. There is another thread for self-promoting your work. However, you may add an link to where one can buy and/or see more information about and other reviews of the book.

  • You may use this thread only; book reviews in other comment or incorrect genre threads will be moved or deleted.

  • By posting a negative or even neutral review, you do leave yourself open to attack by unhappy and angry authors about your review, and these comments will not be deleted.

  • Anyone may comment on your review, including reviewed authors. If you are an author, you are welcome to respond to the review, but you may not self-promote in this thread. Instead, go to the self-promotion thread. Self-promoting comments will be deleted from this thread.

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