60s predictions for our 2020s

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work titled: My Diary of Lucid Dreams and Recollections.)

 

In 1965 I produced my best high school term paper on the emerging topic of population growth. And though I was reaching for greater independence, I found myself still relying on some help from both parents as I was expanding my research and writing techniques.  I concluded with a dark and brooding Malthusian prediction about the future we now face.

My father provided copies of Scientific American journals on the topic of population growth. He taught me how to chart my population data points extending from a distant past and into the 1960s.  And he showed me how to connect the various dots on my chart using a drafting tool known as a French Curve. Then, we extended the data line to the right for 50 years into the future—the one we live in today. My mother did an excellent job editing and polishing the paper. Continue reading “60s predictions for our 2020s”

Knowing Simone

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

 

Chapter One

 

‘All Saints Day,’ said Papa, ‘I’m staying indoors.’

‘But why?’ I said.

‘Because it’s cold outside, and if I see Marseille’s miserable faces, my day will be ruined.’

I wish I had stayed indoors as well. Only a few minutes from home, under a street lantern, a shadowy figure looked at me and said, ‘You!’

Taking it as a bad omen, I turned and ran, dashing over the cobblestones into a dim lane. As the city’s grimy buildings bore down on me, the figure behind hurried around the corner and kept coming. The lane’s urine odour and horse manure usually defeated the authorities but not this one.

‘Stop,’ he yelled.

Damn him, I thought, his boots even louder than mine. If he insisted on chasing me down back streets, I knew a few more that would test his resolve. No others joined the chase so what chance did he have?

I’ll outrun him, and what is more take him into uncharted lanes where the law dare not step. I have friends near though I won’t endanger them. Continue reading “Knowing Simone”

The brass ring

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

Chapter One

Salamanca, Spain, Late September

In the breaking day, a sturdy, blond man left the shadows of the city’s walls, stepping through the jagged bars of sunlight that fell across the stone arches and medieval turrets of the Plaza Mayor. He found a seat and ordered breakfast at an open-air pasteleria at the edge of the square. Then, dipping a pastry in his café-con-leche, he relived the visions that had tortured his mind for months—villages blown to rubble, panicked mothers robbed of their sons, ashen corpses in the fire-smoke of war—grisly scenes that haunted him like a residue of human sin.

In the small hours, though, with sleep gone for good, another image had come, a single body in a room smeared with blood, a nightmare from the worst time of his grief. His face hardened at the image, but he tried, as he had a thousand times, to lift himself from the trough of sadness and loss. For years Corlett had run from the stain of Maya’s death, but now, planning the last leg of his journey home, he felt his time—the time to heal—was finally near. His regrets were receding. Memories of her kisses, of days and nights together, of wine and laughter, had begun to expel the ugliness that had once clung to him like stinking rags. Continue reading “The brass ring”

Bombing the moon

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

 

I agree to drop magic mushrooms at the cottage, on the eve of my forty-sixth birthday. I’m no virgin to drugs but Cole, until recently, was monolithically against them. When he proposed the idea, he was wearing his dad’s purple-swirl sweater and said, “The constant tension is preventing release,” followed by, “Sometimes not being yourself is the point.”

The pug scampers past my feet as I open the door. It’s Winston’s first time at the cottage. His claws scrape hardwood until he reaches carpet. Cole comes in hoisting two bags. At the sound of his voice, Winston sits at Cole’s feet.

“Do you wanna go for a swim?” The pug’s tail wags.  Cole comes over and leans into me. I coerce a smile grateful this is the extent of the romance.

I sit in the living room and he presents wormlike shafts. Their brittle shells quiver on the coffee table. His share of worms rests in his palm. He tosses them back with childlike zeal. I eat a quarter and sweep the rest back.

Cole turns on the television and settles on a show where couples bid on a storage shed. It goes on for half an hour. I miss those early days of marriage. How exhausting performance is. Like when you have lust to look forward to. The way a man sees what’s impressive about you. When, in that charged way, he narrows his eyes, and I can see the possibility of a new life. A new self. Continue reading “Bombing the moon”

The immaculate deception

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

1

7:30pm, 2nd March, 1980

For a few weeks in the Fall, every year since I was nine, Daddy rented a little white cottage by a farm in Iowa.

He called it the ‘Angel’s Hut’.

There was nothing angelic about it: the rooms were airy, made from hollowed stones, while the doors rested on their rusted hinges like embalmed spittle. There was of course, the Dove Door. The door at the rear of the cottage, which was shaped like a wing; the wood had fanned out and was bleached by the sun. Daddy loved that cottage. He took me up there every year, when the trees were bursting with flames. We walked a lot, around the grounds, me holding his hand, looking up at him. He used to smile at me with all his teeth – he had such white teeth, Daddy did. The whitest teeth in the business, like a string of pearls.

When we were in the Angel’s Hut, nothing could hurt us. Nothing could stop us.

Back then I knew, so long as Daddy was with me, we could take on the world and then some. Continue reading “The immaculate deception”

Difficult loves

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work called The Sacred Beasts.)

 

My mother and I are from the Basque country, a Spanish region that is matriarchal. My mother has always been a cyclone of energy and creativity. Our village is full of competitions in Basque games and arts, most of which are held in the village tavern, as well as outdoor competitions in sports. My mother is the village’s finest bertsolariak, or spontaneous reciter of original poetry.  In this Basque artform, you are given a lead for a poem from a previous reciter as well as a particular meter, and then you must continue or even complete the poem.  There is applause and cheering after my mother’s performances because she always completes the poem brilliantly, dramatically and resoundingly.  She has no equal, not even me.  The poems are never written down or published, and my mother has scorned my attempts to do this for her.  She loves the pure lawless fire of her imagination and doesn’t want it to be limited in any way, even by a printed page that she will never read.

Poetry is by no means her only skill.  She is also one of the village’s best gamblers, for which there are tavern competitions, and she is the finest and most dramatic player of the alboco, a Basque bull horn that makes a sound similar to that of bagpipes.  As though that weren’t enough, she is one of the village’s best hill walkers as well, for which there are outdoor competitions.  The villages of the Basque region are often very poor, and paid employment is difficult to find.  Our village would be impossibly dull without these competitions, which are an important part of our culture. Continue reading “Difficult loves”

New new

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work: Gretial Taan.)

 

Ffyth has been chosen as the new dragon coach, but she is a mere fledgling, too young to have her own cubby. In this chapter, she tries to pretend to be the hyphendor and decipher the message the previous hyphendor has left her.

 

Little whispers fluttered like a swarm of butterflies throughout Mithrinva at the news that Kaleb Tad had not only ripened early, but he had departed, abandoning their new hyphendor apprentice.

“Run away, he has!” they whispered. “She’s brand new and is not guided,” they murmured, astonished and perplexed.

They clucked sympathetically and gave Ffyth hugs as she walked the halls and the paddock.

“She’s a little squirt with a big fire!”

“She’s ninnying around, grazing in patches!”

“Aye, indeedy. Spinning that waterwheel out of the water she is.”

“She’s looking for a storm on a clear day and there isn’t any wind!”

Guffaw guffaw.

“Ah, but there’s a breeze there is. A bit of a breeze. Can’t you see: maybe she does see that storm and we’re closing our looking?” Continue reading “New new”

The emancipated woman

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

Chapter 17

Ayisha decided it was time to go to Swat and spend time on a longer assignment. She wanted to study the old wood carvings, and the Swatee houses built below ground level were of particular interest to her. She also wanted to examine swing bridges made of rope and bamboo. Ayisha was trying, too, to do a study of heat   conservation and solar energy in poor ares. The Pathan guide she hired was the one recommended by Abdul. She reached Islamabad in the early afternoon and Abdul, after some refreshments, and tea escorted her to his apartment.

The Guide was a smart looking young man, lithe but slightly balding. He wore European clothes, very tight jeans, a sweater and an anorak. Dressing in Western clothes inspired confidence in his European clients. This was the policy of the Institute as the guide was also employed as a part time researcher. He came over as condescending to Ayisha as he spoke, “Don’t think you have done any research in traditional areas. I suggest you go and change into Shalwar Kameez and wear a shawl.  You need to cover your hair and your bosom.” “I know I have been here long enough” she answered.  “I have taken German, Finnish, Swiss and American women to remote areas to do their research, and I have never been turned away!” He swaggered as he looked in her direction and smoothed his hair. Continue reading “The emancipated woman”

The River Isle-Pinwheel Project

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

BREAKFAST TABLE (7:30-8:30 AM)

Seven-thirty in River Isle.

The alarm clock on Nila Sommers’ nightstand confirms this fact. With a quick, downward arm motion, Nila acknowledges the fact confirmed. Nila stretches and yawns as her large, soft brown eyes survey first the ceiling, and then the other areas of her room. A bright ray of early morning, late September sun peeps through the window curtains.

“Nila, honey,” an elderly but strong female voice with a distinct English accent can be heard from somewhere else in the house, “it’s seven-thirty. Time for school.”

“I’m up, grams,” Nila calls back. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. See you in a few minutes. Breakfast is ready.”

Nila throws back her bed covers and sits up on the side of her bed. After a few seconds, she gets up and grabs a pair of folded jeans and a clingy leopard skin top (but with black spots on aquamarine) and makes her way down the hallway into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, Nila is showered and dressed. She is back in her room, in front of her vanity mirror, applying some lip gloss and eye shadow and attempting to make sense out of her reddish brown hair. 

“Nila, it’s getting on to eight o’clock. Autumn will be here soon.”

Nila rolls her eyes and sighs. Autumn San Martine is Nila’s best friend. But Nila recognizes her grandmother’s play on her friend’s name. A small smile. Continue reading “The River Isle-Pinwheel Project”

Sagittarius

(The following is an excerpt from a longer work.)

 

“It’s so nice to see you again, sweetie.”, she told me. Her face was more like, ‘Where have you been all this time?’ But I always took it as her worrying too much about me. Hey, at least she cared about me, right?

“It’s been a while since I’ve been here.”, I said, yawning so loud the neighbours dog probably ran off. “You still okay with dad?”

If it isn’t already obvious to everybody in the neighbourhood, my mom and my dad go through many different phases of being together and then not. It’s one of the reasons why I’m just called Yannathan. Not anything else. Just Yannathan (it’s also just so much cooler sounding to have one name only!). People all come and ask me why they haven’t gotten a divorce. They mention that it’s quite normal for Aboriginal people to be in turbulent households, but I always tell them that they’re fine. I have hope they’ll find a way to always be with each other even if they part for a while. Continue reading “Sagittarius”