As I walked the Prairie Path early one evening (around 7:30 I believe), I saw the sights that by now were beyond familiar to me. You see, I walked this same path most evenings around this same time. Dinner was over, and I had no desire to sit mindlessly in front of the television. I always chewed not one but two sticks of gum while I walked, and I noted that my chewing action and my steps kept perfect time.
And as I strolled, I saw them. The dentist engrossed in his smartphone while walking his white and black pug; I imagined he was either watching episodes of that TV series “Deadly Dentists”, or looking at x-rays of the teeth and gums of the patients he would see tomorrow. The young mother (Kathy was her name) pushed her son in a stroller slightly ahead of me; I watched as her ponytail swung side to side with each step, for unlike me, she did not stroll – this was exercise for her. I saw the blue house with the two identical front doors side by side (not French doors you see; each of these doors was fully framed and had a doorknob on the same side – the right). I imagined that each of these doors led to a different era in the life of the house, a time warp of sorts. Maybe one day I would stop and test my theory. Continue reading “The Path”
There is a lot to be said for saying nothing. It is a secret that the sterile air in the hospital room knew all too well as it scratched against my eyelashes like a wind in tall grass, glossing over the previous occupants. The white sheets, crumpled and depressed, betraying the intended look of cleanliness.
‘Winnie. Winnie, wake up,’ the nurse said from behind the white-washed tunic as he guided a wheelchair through the door with a serviced tone, like his vocal chords had been dipped in honey and enrolled on a people-skills course before being installed. And yet quite impersonal, I thought.
‘We are just going to take you down to theatre, my love,’ he said, half looking at her, and half herding her like a commodity he was used to dealing with. ‘Let’s get you up,’ he continued, practically unfolding her from the mattress. Continue reading “Saying something”
Standing about Saul Soderberg’s bed this early in the morning could only be pensive doctors or nurses on a mission. He refused at first to open his eyes. From the medical gibberish, a dizzying onslaught, especially that early in the day, the sacramental palaver could only be coming from someone with a medical degree. With his eyes still closed he tried to remember exactly where he was, and to what end. He opened his left eye to find the doctors, all in lab coats as white and unblemished as an orchid, listing over the left side of his bed. One introduced himself as Feldman, an attending physician in the neurological department of Beth Israel Hospital. Both eyes opened. He pulled his bed sheet to his chin. “Do you know why you’re here?” The rest of the doctors stood about the circumference of his bed looking a generation younger than Feldman. Looking at him as though he was an inchoate being, they said nothing, merely observing. Continue reading “Ancient Mariner”
The hotel is haunted, or so the old man tells me. I feel out of place here, a place where there are two weddings today and the architecture is dazzling and where it seems like I’ve stepped back in time. All I have with me is my backpack, yellow with flower patches sewn on it. There’s a sign that says “Observation Deck, 52nd Floor” in neat handwriting near the elevator. I press the elevator button. A woman comes to stand with me, her face young and round, wearing 1930s dress and a wistful smile.
“Are you going up to the deck?” she asks me.
I nod and fiddle with my backpack straps.
“It’s a nice view.”
The car gets there then, and I don’t have to make any more conversation. I think about why I am here. Two days ago, I decided that I was tired of everything in this world and that the best place to go was Chicago, and the best thing to do was to book a hotel room in an old hotel, and all I needed with me was my backpack.
Captain Graham was uncomfortable. He disliked London clubs, but here he was, drinking tea in one. Moreover, he was sitting opposite Colonel Child, a man he always hoped to avoid.
“Glad you could come,” Child said.
As if I could refuse, Graham thought. I can hardly ignore the man who was my commanding officer in the Military Mounted Police.
“Now that I’ve retired from the army,” Child continued, “I run my family’s insurance business. Among our policies, we insure the Sea Wolf Cup, one of the silver trophies of the London Guards regiment. It’s a very valuable item dating from the seventeenth century.” Child puffed at a cigar and looked straight at Graham. “And it’s gone missing.”
“A costly claim for your company, sir,” Graham commented.
“Not if the cup is found and returned,” Child replied.
When Graham said nothing, Child leaned forward. “Look, you’ve been a retired army investigator for almost a year. Since Christmas 1908, wasn’t it? You should use your skills. Finding the cup is just the job for you.”
The soft January sun was slowly slipping behind the distant glacier-covered mountain range. The range surrounded the Sukh Marg (Happy Valley in English) in Northern India. On the other side, the region with same namesake belonged to neighboring Pakistan. For millennia, this sub-continent was inhabited by a peaceful civilization. Then the colonial power appeared on the horizon and ruled the place for two centuries. At the end, they would disappear in a midnight, leaving the land divided on a map, without any thought of future consequences. The larger parcel retained the name India, a secular country with the majority practicing Hinduism. The rest became Pakistan, a religious country, the majority practicing Islam. Overnight, Sukh Marg also got divided on that map. However, each country had wanted the entire valley for its strategic location. Thus it became a flash point between neighbors. And nothing changed in the past seventy years. Continue reading “Death comes to Happy Valley”
It was midnight when Kerry Ford was rushed into the emergency room unconscious because of a drug overdose. Doctors and nurses tried to save him, but Kerry was gone, and a doctor went to the waiting room to his mother, father and older brother, Alan, and they stood when they saw the doctor. “Folks, I’m sorry. We couldn’t save him,” the doctor said sadly. When his mother heard the words, she gasped, had a heart attack and fell to the floor, dead.
After the funeral for Kerry and his mother, Alan and his father went home and sat at the kitchen table. “Alan, what kind of evil monsters took my boy and your mother from us?” he asked with tears in his eyes.
“Girls, Dad. He told me they never stopped taunting him, calling him names. He said it never stopped. They said he was trailer trash, and made fun of us. They made fun of you because you work in a factory. The evil monsters were girls; Jamie Carr and her friends.” Continue reading “Not good enough for Jamie”
In the dark agony of the sky, lightning reigned and thunder became. Ensconced in the cab of the Ford pickup, Tom Jamieson, the driller for Hudson Drilling, sat behind the wheel gazing at the rig, staring at the strands of rain running down the windshield. Beside him, Ramone Estavez, his roughneck on the rig, tapped him on the shoulder, passing him the thermos bottle nearly full of milk-warm coffee. Chauncey poured himself a cup of coffee, while Ramone lit up a cigarette, cautiously dispelling the smoke exhalation away from Tom, as well as Ron Alvarez, the other roughneck, sitting to his right.
Just a half-hour prior, they had been working the rig, carving up spicules of shale, probing the underbelly of the Wingate formation for old stream bed deposits of uranium. Beginning as a light drizzle, the rain blossomed into a full thundershower. At the first sign of lightning, Chauncey hoisted the kelly rod and motioned to the others to get in the pickup. Though they had not suffered the full fury of the front, all were soaked, Ron and Chauncey in their jeans and white, cotton T-shirts, Ramone in his coveralls. For another half-hour, they waited for the rain to culminate. Ramone smoked another fag while they spoke little. Too dangerous to work on the drilling rig with its steel derrick in a thunderstorm, grappling awkwardly with the doused drilling rods in the mud was a dicey operation. Continue reading “Thunder above, fire below”