Excuse me

She belched, and not for the first time that evening.

It began as a low rumble and as she tried to contain it her cheeks inflated to the point where they looked quite like the testicles of a bull.

The rumble became a raucous roar as, against her will, it erupted and exploded with a great, rasping croak that reminded Betty of the sound that an enormous toad might make if it were run over by a cement lorry.

When the belch had run its course, Monica smiled the same innocent, demure smile that she always smiles when what she really wants is for everyone to forget what she just did and get back to talking about horticulture or whatever it was that Philip had been discussing before she belched.

No one in the room particularly liked Monica so it proved to be easy for everyone to ignore her, with or without the smile.

“Speaking of castor seeds,” chimed Betty, “when ground up and scattered on the lawn they serve as a marvelous deterrent to gophers and moles.”

“That’s good to know,” Philip replied. “Isn’t it Susan?” he added as an aside to his wife who, unfortunately had fallen asleep on the adjacent love seat.

The conversation was cut short yet again as Betty stood to make an announcement. Continue reading “Excuse me”

Gun held in the wrong hand

I showed up for my first W.O.O.F. show in the basement of a now-long-ago bankrupt college. John Greenhorn is behind the mixing board. He has produced “The Rookie Season” now for years. It is a crazy mix of baseball lore, gun stories and garage rock. He carries a certain gun I am told. That may be because the station is in a dodgy hood known as the “Carjack Capital of the USA.” Or maybe it’s something more complicated involving identity…

He has a bad marriage so avoid ANY reference to marriage, happiness, celebrations, anniversaries, rings, consummation, gowns, champagne, receptions, honeymoons, “Married with Children,” women, wives, sex, “Seven Year Ache,” prenups…

Being from Amsterdam, I think of suitable topics for discussion: “Radar Love,” the THC in Amsterdam weed, “Hocus Pocus,” that “Pulp Fiction” scene about Amsterdam, or that sativa hybrid “Laughing Buddha” … But, be careful, he might flip, thinking entrapment or narc. Continue reading “Gun held in the wrong hand”

Dimension traveler

I run through an ocean of high and thick grass for what seems like hours. Every bone in my body aches, but I must not stop. Thoughts of missing her torment me constantly. Without paying attention to my surroundings, I trip over an igneous rock jutting from the ground.

I’m on a weapons qualification course in the unsupported prone position. The brass deflector protects the left-handed soldier from getting hit, but as always in the military, the sergeants do not have one and I must fire my M-16 right-handed like the others. Without tasting the dirt beneath me, I aim at the paper target several yards away. The black circles stare back, daring me to hit center. I fire three shots, and the Army range instructor bolts halfway down the range towards me. He shows me that I hit the other targets instead of mine, but I do not care. I want to be with Bonnie. I close my eyes in frustration.

As I open my eyes, the sharp edges of a mountain scrape my face. I grasp its handholds. I cannot stop the bleeding in my fingertips, and I am afraid my fingers are broken. I call out her name, but all I hear is my own echo. The thin, barely breathable air makes me unable to hold on. I let go. Continue reading “Dimension traveler”

The monetary cost of selfies

Millennial Brad and girlfriend Amy with trail-guide Beth were hiking on a shorter (10km) Inca Trail to arrive at the Machu Picchu ruins.  They started early morning hoping to cover the distance in a reasonable time, take a bus to the nearby town for the night, and then return next morning to explore the ruins.  But, their habit of taking selfies and posting instantly on social media took over, costing valuable time.  In mid-afternoon, Beth informed them that at their current rate of hiking speed, they would miss the last bus to the town.  As a result, it would cost them $300 to hail a cab from the town to transport them there.

Wandering llamas and alpacas suddenly realized two human beings were flying forward in supersonic speed, with a third one in toe.  The kind bus-driver waited a few extra minutes.  Lately this phenomenon had been happening quite often.

 

 

By Sankar Chatterjee

 

The tenner

The steam from my coffee indicated it was still too hot for a first sip. Resisting the omnipresent urge to consult my cell, I inspected the others sitting in the diner with me. Loneliness hung in the air like a bittersweet syrup. They might as well have been thousands of miles away. Mine was not in any way an interested appraisal, just a way of passing time till my caffeine made the journey from lip-burning to just right and much too soon to tepid.

Definitely more singles than couples at the mid-morning hour on a dreary day. One group of four in shorts and gimme caps obviously forced off the links due to the unexpected downpour. Only interesting subject was an older man who kept pulling what looked like a small picture from his wallet. He would then shed a few quiet tears, bring it to his lips for a moment, wipe his face and, with a wistful smile, replace it in his wallet. One can only hope to be paid such tribute.

The revolver in my jacket pocket felt heavier and heavier as the minutes inexorably expired, wasted, unclaimed. The metal cold, hard, malevolent as I started to withdraw it. If only I had some truth to hold onto.

Then out of the corner of my eye, a man, his life, hurrying by outside the window. His image, contorted by the droplets on the pane, disjointed. He progressed haltingly, confused and unsure, marked by spurts and staggers, hesitant, then determined. Comical almost. Continue reading “The tenner”

The curious case of a white sculpture

Bill hiked for three hours arriving at the mountaintop Himalayan valley.  The trail snaked through dense pine forests, shiny apple orchards, and fragrant lavender fields.  Surrounded by natural beauty, there stood a century-old temple.  Entering the temple, Bill noticed devotees praying in front of a white cylindrical sculpture.  The sculpture appeared similar to a black version that he had seen before, while traveling throughout this ancient country.

The truth followed.  Indeed, the original sculpture was made up of black stone.  Being on mountaintop, the temple occasionally would get shattered by lightning.  Afterwards, the resident-priest would collect carefully the multitudes of broken pieces from the dust of total destruction.  He would then re-attach the pieces utilizing molten butter as an adhesive.  In the cold environment of mountaintop, the adhesive would solidify quickly.  Several iterations of the process over past century created the current completely white appearance of the sculpture along with the myth of its invincibility.

 

 

By Sankar Chatterjee

 

Justice

Sam sat down, wishing she could disappear. Sighing, she tightened her scarf around her neck, a force of habit, and decided that Tony’s funeral was perhaps the one place where she couldn’t avoid talking to people—playing the grieving wife, on the other hand, would be more appreciable.

She saw the guests approaching, beginning with Mrs Gonzales, their sixty-five year old neighbor who hosted barbeques every Sunday; Emmett Hanson, Tony’s roommate in college and lastly, Greg Jackson, his partner at the NYPD. She still remembered the day when Tony had, for the first time in three years, allowed an outsider into their home. Greg, sweet Greg, as a symbol of gratitude, had brought a set of cutlery, somehow, having noticed the fact that Sam loved to cook. The set had included six plates and bowls, a ladle, several spoons and a knife and was heavily decorated with intricate oriental patterns, carrying a green colour.

Approaching the coffin, Greg glanced back at Sam, his eyes holding an emotion that didn’t quite border on sympathy for a grieving wife.

Instinctively, Sam tightened her scarf as Greg took a seat behind her. The priest began his sermon by stating how nice of a young man Tony was and what a shame it was that he lost his life—in the most brutal way—a swift cut to his neck; he stood no chance. Continue reading “Justice”

How to serve your fellow man

The virus had the entire community quarantined for so long, relationships were strained, to say the least. Couples married for 50 years and more were finding out that they didn’t get along so well now, or hadn’t gotten along well for quite some time.

With all activities canceled, staying home became a prison; all-be-it, a comfortable one. —The TV was working, cell phones were working, and yard work was always in need of attention. Thank God for the computer and the internet. In time, food became a problem. The monotony of eating the same foods, in the same surroundings, with the same person, 24/7, began to take its toll.

After months, when the virus had run its course, it became clear what had been happening behind closed doors—Those who emerged into the new day, had gained an exorbitant amount of weight. Their mates, however, did not emerge fat or thin. In fact, they didn’t emerge at all.

The pre-virus, town population of 6,000 had shrunk to approximately 3,000 inhabitants. These fewer, but fatter, people were a glaring testimony to what had happened. The survivors pooled their culinary knowledge, and put together an anthology entitled: “How to Serve Your Fellow Man”.

 

 

By Don Lubov

 

Wealth inequality

For several days, Ray was crisscrossing Morocco with his young guide Ahmed.  However, he had noticed that staggering wealth inequality existed even in this small country, ruled by a rich king.  A computer engineer himself, Ahmed could not find a respectable job with a good salary.  Near the end, Ray arrived in Casablanca.  He wanted to locate the specific bar depicted in the iconic movie “Casablanca” with Humphrey Bogart and Catherine Hepburn.  Instead, he got dazzled by the Hassan II Mosque, the recent wonder of the city.  An architectural masterpiece, it was built by the current king to leave behind his legacy.   The place can accommodate a total of 100,000 worshipers during a prayer session.  Ray learned that the final cost was close to a half billion Euros.

Ray heard Ahmed murmuring, “Really, for whom our country shed its tears, when ordinary people lack food and basic healthcare?”

 

 

By Sankar Chatterjee