Prison writing class

He got twenty-five years

for killing some guy in a road rage.

The other car cut him off.

So he reached for his gun and fired.


In this class, he has the opportunity.

more than that, the encouragement

to put his feelings down on paper.

So he writes one story about this guy


who owns every lane on every road.

And another where a killer can’t sleep

because his regret, his conscience,

keeps him awake.


And then a third where a punk

is sentenced to half a lifetime in prison,

until creative writing is offered

and he signs up.


He writes in such a rush,

in a bid to bring his life up the moment.

Then he can start on the tale where

this prisoner, so long on the concrete block,


is finally paroled, steps out into

the unfamiliar bright clear air.

He so wants it to have a happy ending.

His instructor’s holding out for one


that satisfies what’s come before.



By John Grey



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Just the two of us

Stan stood motionless, the ruled sheet of paper trembled in his hand. A grip, cold as ice clutched him, just where his heart was meant to be. He sighed.

Their marriage had come to such an end that when he walked in through the door, he hadn’t even noticed that she was gone. It was the letter, leaning next to the toaster oven when he went in search of dinner, which spelled out the facts.

I’ve tried to tell you, but you were always too busy.

On first reading, the line welled in him with anger. When, just when did she try? He ransacked his mind. She always wanted too many things. Like the holiday she was always proposing. Just the two of them. Those ridiculously expensive cooking lessons. Just the two of them. She sulked for a week, wouldn’t even look at him, when he refused her. Then she was besotted with the whim that led to joining a book club since he always said he wished he had more time to read. Just the two of them. She also had silly notions, like volunteering together at the shelter, since his hectic schedule wouldn’t allow time to have a cat or a dog. Just the two of them. Continue reading “Just the two of us”

How lucky is she

Tess had her mother’s hazel eyes, sharp nose, and chin. But she was tall, like her father. Until things turned out as they had, Angie considered it the only good thing the sixteen-year-old had inherited from his side. .

Tess had been back for eight months.  Angie left little gifts on her bed and bought her favorite ice cream even when it wasn’t on sale. And she tried to be home more, turning down extra shifts at the restaurant and cutting short evenings with Dan. She shrugged when he complained: “Shouldn’t The Princess be the one with a 10 p.m. curfew?”

Angie knew she’d have to tell Tess soon.  They’ll get used to each other, she told herself. Continue reading “How lucky is she”

Moses denied

The perishing sun dove into the shimmering expanse of the desert.  This, the last day of her residency, Christine McDaniel, a gangly redhead, all angles, caught the spectacle through one of the windows of the University of Arizona Medical Center.  No more than momentary, it lifted her spirits.  Achieving adulthood on the East Coast in Boston, she seldom saw the sun, as the clouds always hung over Harvard Square, where she matriculated for undergraduate and medical school.

Tomorrow, July 1st, she would no longer be a resident.  Celebrations were in order; at Maria’s, her favorite Mexican food restaurant, she would dine with Michael Mitchell, her present squeeze.  She’d be accompanied by Vicki Turner, another resident, and her boyfriend, Tom Davidson.  Tomorrow night would be a night of reflection and joy.  In a month she’d ply her profession as a hospitalist at St. Cecilia’s, one of the largest hospitals in Tucson. Continue reading “Moses denied”

Science project

Just like his fifth grade teacher Mr. Young had always

told him, Brian put on his thinking cap.

Brian’s fifth grade teacher’s name was Carl Young.

He was six years old, permanently.

Brian’s name was Brian Old. He was one hundred

years old, permanently. But he had the emotional maturity

and the mentality of a six year old!

Carl Young was the result of gene-splicing and

scientific experimentation. In a futuristic society,

where parents had designer babies, Carl was a gene-

splicing wet dream. With some traces of DNA from

a gene meant to imitate the great psychologist

Carl Jung, Carl was the envy of all the parents

who had ordered designer babies, that had not

come out of the test tube successfully. Continue reading “Science project”

The Black Hole

Prof. James Pickett, a prominent theoretical physicist at the Sorbonne University, Paris, was following the live e-announcement of the first photograph of a black hole (the holy grail of the field) in a distant galaxy.  As the first picture began to appear on his computer-screen, he adjusted all the control buttons (magnification, brightness, and orientation) to feel as close as he could be to the real thing.  The background announcer explained how in the illuminated lower portion, the forceful gravity was bending light to enter into the central death-zone of total darkness in the middle, from where nothing could escape.  What amazed him most was the intergalactic entanglement of light and darkness.  Prof. Pickett felt a shiver flowing down his spine.

Later in the month, Prof. Pickett flew to Mumbai, India to deliver an invited lecture at the country’s prestigious atomic research institution BARC.  His hosts arranged for him to stay in one of the prominent hotels of the city, frequented by foreigners, popular movie stars, and cricket players.  However, this multi-religious and multi-ethnic, but secular country had been on an emergency alert, due to a recent border-confrontation with its religious neighbor and subsequent fear of any extremist group’s infiltration. Continue reading “The Black Hole”

Wash and wipe

“These qualifications are handed out to people in underdeveloped…er…developing…countries on the basis that something is better than nothing” gravely intoned the official at the Department of Education and Science, dismissively handing back Sunil Herath his clip file. “…not intending to be nasty”, was thrown in as an afterthought. Sunil was left to arrive at the inevitable conclusion that he was not qualified for a teaching position in the United Kingdom.  Until that moment, Sunil had fondly believed that all that promised to be his entitlement to a glorious future in a new land, was contained in that clip file.

Vexed though he was, he could not deny that the official was right.  He had not worked as a teacher in his own country, although he had invested the last few years of his life acquiring teaching certificates awarded by the education department of southern Australia.  As a 16-year old school leaver, he had won a Foreign-Aid correspondence scholarship leading to a diploma in primary-school teaching. While engaged in low-paid, mind numbing, routine clerical chores at the municipality during the day, he had pored over cyclostyled notes and paper-bound texts sent by Air Mail from Australia most evenings at home. He assiduously completed all assignments.  Accumulating the annually awarded modular certificates, he fervently hoped that someday these would provide the key to a better life.  It did not occur to him that it was pertinent he had never been inside a classroom in a teaching role. Continue reading “Wash and wipe”

Grand revenge

“I’m sorry! I can’t find your name in the list,” said the officer in charge of clearing scholarships at the Foreign Office.

“What do you mean?” snarled Pendo, pacing to and fro by the counter.

“Have a look.”

“You must be crazy,” she said fumingly, hands akimbo. She threw the list back at him.

“Cool down, Madam.”

However, the more he tried to explain, the more she became uncontrollably hysterical. “I can’t waste my time reading a doctored list.”

“Try to understand.”

“What don’t I understand?” she yelled, trembling with fiery rage.

“Please, go clear it with your parent ministry. We can’t help as it is. I’m sorry,” said a touched officer.

Pendo was raving mad. Pointing accusingly at him, she asked, “What else did you require other than these documents?” Continue reading “Grand revenge”

The travails of Dyke Debenham

In the thin early morning hours on the day that Dyke Debenham was born, the stars were not serene.  Montgomery Debenham, Dyke’s father, tired of anticipating the impending birthing, chose to leave the waiting room, walk outside, and await in the patient’s patio behind the hospital.  Lighting a cigarette from the tobacco that made the Debenham fortune, he gazed up at the stars twirling in their journeys.  Every so many minutes a star, from the Pleides Meteor Shower, shot across the sky, dipping like a flat rock about to skim over a placid body of water.  The night that Dyke was conceived an obscure pact was concluded, for though the Debenhams had a daughter, they did not have a son.  Dyke entered this lonely world a few endless hours after with his dad in attendance in the fathers’ waiting room.  Born weighing eight-and-a-half pounds, he was no less a handful growing up, the scion of the vast Debenham Empire. Continue reading “The travails of Dyke Debenham”

Aging Rhymers

“I’ve had enough, Jack.” Jill labored to speak through panting, short breaths. “I’ve climbed this hill for the last time.”

“Now Jill, you’ve never complained before. What’s the matter?”

Jill wiped the rivulets of perspiration from her reddening cheeks. “I’m tired of fetching water from that well for Mother Goose misfits.”

“Darlin’,” Jack stopped to catch his breath, “they’ve been your friends for decades.”

“Some friends; wish I had a dollar for every time I climbed this hill, lowered my bucket into that well and carried it back down again just to satisfy Little Miss Prissy Muffet’s thirst. She does nothing but sit on her tuffet all day eating her curds and whey. Have you noticed the spread on her…?” Continue reading “Aging Rhymers”