When I stopped rowing the boat to catch my breath, Salvador lunged towards me, grabbed the oars and threw them into the sea.
“Congratulations,” I said. “We’re now adrift.”
“Stop moaning, Luis. Do I mind if we lack means of propulsion? No. And look behind you at René. Is he troubled? Definitely not.”
I glanced at René.
“He’s not bothered because he’s sleeping and dreaming, as usual,” I said. “As for you, Salvador, you’ve deprived the boat of its oars because you’re frustrated. Your latest artistic effort has yet to sell, so you’ve reverted to your characteristic puerility.”
Salvador stuck his tongue out at me and stared at the clouds.
“I discarded the oars, Luis, to create a stimulating situation. For weeks, you’ve been grousing about how your ideas for your next film are dull and repetitive. You need something to galvanise you.”
“Does this help to ‘galvanise’ me?” I asked, gesturing at the two oars floating away.
Looking like the heavens caved in that day, grey hoary clouds drove in encompassing all the northwestern horizon, proceeded by rapacious gales ripping the sage from this nearly worthless patch of earth, followed by flurries of scathing snow like so much ash swirling. In Baggs, Wyoming, winter had arrived. Starting with scarcely any warning early in the morning, we mounted to ride out and greet it, my father, Seamus, my brother, Seth, and me. Galloping off toward the herd of Hereford, we set out to round them up and drive them towards the paddocks and the barn where their hay lay like listless straw soldiers. Soon the blizzard immersed the spread; my only home, my only heritage.
No more than eight hundred acres, this patch of prairie circumscribed by barbed wire, the Blind Owl Ranch was meager compared to some of the other surrounding ranches. When storms erupted, the herd gathered at the downwind section of the spread, up against the barbed wire fence—so too that morning. Stirrup to stirrup, we gamboled towards the southeast corner of the pasture, where the Herefords appeared as apparitions in the blowing snow. Slowly we drove them back towards the paddock where they’d find forage. There, none would succumb to the freezing winds. Turned towards the tempest, the storm stung my face, ice hanging from my horse’s hackamore. Wheeling off in a new direction, a single Hereford required me to ride him down. I am Samuel Sutherland. Here I was born; it is here I will die. Continue reading “That cowboy soul of yours”
Tillie: Psst! Psst! Tom, over here by the azalea bushes.
Tom: Tillie, girl, where’ve you been? I’ve looked all over the barnyard for those beautiful feathers. You mad at me?
Tillie: No, I’m not mad but what’s the matter with you? Struttin’ around here like you owned the place. Don’t you know what time of year it is?
Tom: A good time if you ask me. Why I haven’t missed a meal for the past month. Farmer Brown’s been layin’ it on heavy, honey, what with all the extra feed he’s been puttin’ out. You’d think he was tryin’ to fatten me up.
Tillie: Fool! That’s exactly what he’s doing. Ain’t no human gonna buy a scrawny, ole turkey with no meat on its bones.
Tom: What’s the humans got to do with it?
Tillie: I swear,Tom, you get denser every year. Don’t you feel the nip in the morning air? Haven’t the squirrels started gathering their winter supply of nuts?And what do you think has been falling off the trees leavin’ em naked as Jay birds? It’s comin’ up Thanksgiving! For some reason known only to man, our turkey population takes quite a dip around this time. Seems our species is the ‘meat of the day’—never could figure out why. We’re not exactly the best looking fowl on the farm.
Tom: Well, now Tillie, don’t be selling us short. I’m proud of my plumage and have you ever heard a bigger gobbler?
Tillie: Well, all I know is that Thelma got the axe last Thanksgiving and I haven’t liked the way Farmer Brown has been giving me the eye this fall. So I’m hidin’ out and if you don’t want to become a poster boy for “Butterball”, you best be getting your carcass behind these bushes, too.
Tom: Gee, Tillie, if you really think we’re in danger, we could maybe fly away and hide in the woods.
Tillie: Tom, stop your gobblin’ and think. When’s the last time you managed to fly to the top of the fence? Just because we’ve got wings doesn’t mean we can fly-especially, since you’ve been pigging out on all that corn Farmer Brown’s been dishin’ around.
No, we’ve got to lay low and stay away from Lucy Goose. She knows her kind have been sacrificed as substitute turkeys more than once. She’ll rat on us sure as shootin’. You know she’s always squawkin’.
Tom: You got that right—her beak never stops flappin.’
Tillie: No, I’ve got a plan. Just after dark, when everyone has settled in, we’ll pass the word that fox is on the prowl. That’s good for some noise and commotion and it always gets Farmer Brown’s attention. We’ll keep on the edge of the raucous and as soon as he opens the gate make a B-line for the woods. He’ll be so confused he won’t know whether to chase after us or go for the fox. My money’s on the fox—more to lose if that critter’s in the henhouse.”
Tom: “But Tillie, I don’t run very fast anymore. What if I get caught? It’s curtains for me! You’ll be in the woods with that wild cousin of yours.”
Tillie: “Just look at it this way, Tom. From what I hear, humans rave about us on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but we’re even better the day after!”
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”
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?”
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”
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”