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

The ghosts of Iowa

In the land of Iowa, land of the corn,

a grandfather lived in Grinnell.

When he died, they all would mourn,

assuming his soul went to hell.

 

They buried him in the grave site,

assuming that their grandpa was dead.

But when the ghost returned in white,

from the old farmhouse they fled.

 

A scarecrow watched the haunted farm,

and not a crow would go anywhere near.

One day a traveling schoolmarm,

approached the farmhouse without fear.

 

Assuming the house abandoned to all,

the house would be her own downfall.

Around the farmhouse she started to snoop,

seeing all the chickens in the coop.

 

She thought she’d steal some chickens,

but she got scared like the Dickens.

From the grave came a ghostly hand,

protecting the farm in the evil land. Continue reading “The ghosts of Iowa”

The slopes of Mount Sopris

From the paddock of the barn, I stood watching the snowstorm furl and unfurl over the windward slopes of the Elk Mountains like the coarse cotton of a shroud.  Not yet seven in the morning, I’d already mucked out the barn and combed the hair on the half-dozen horses Kate and I kept.  Footed in the foul, fecal soil of the paddock, I drank my last cup of coffee that Kate had brewed and poured in the Stanley steel thermos I took with me as I began every morning.  Gathered at my feet was Clancy, the border collie that never left my side.  Restless already, he was pawing at my pant leg.  I gazed at the enfilade of clouds advancing towards the homestead my great-grandfather built by hand, south, by south-west, and roughly eighteen miles out of Carbondale.  The cirrus clouds were just started to skate over the summit of Mount Sopris, and soon after the blizzard blossomed over the slopes above timberline, they would descend scattering the herd to the lowest swales of the fence line of the ranch at the edge of the White River National Forest.  Before finishing the entire cup, though, I upturned the steel and dark grey, plastic cup and sprayed what little was left among the dirt and clumps of horse dung.  Having finished my coffee, I screwed the cup back on the Stanley steel thermos, setting it on one of the fence posts.  I strode into the barn to collect Pancho, my favorite horse, to ride the fence lines, to check on any strays or any other head that was in distress.  It was the rite of a rancher I’d performed ever since I finished high school in Carbondale. Continue reading “The slopes of Mount Sopris”

Tombstones and Toblerones

“Sylvie, where are you going?” My mother’s voice is impatient from the living room. I ignore her and leave. After Dad died, she became one of those earnestly sad people, and in our grief counseling group, I didn’t have the heart to tell everyone how her sorrow was fake, playacting for all of them. She got her comfort out of it. She never loved him the way spouses ought to—he was convenient. I didn’t want to leave him under wraps. I wanted Oliver Vaulter to be more than a pitiful epitaph over a grave that contained not a coffin, but an ocean blue urn, slightly cracked. I told our group who he was, of his burgundy winter coat, his brown eyes (a dominant trait, he would always tell me), his summery cookies and how he would say “Cripes!at all inconveniences, something he learned from his grandmother.

I am going to the grave of said Oliver Vaulter because if I don’t, no one will. It has been nearly two years now since he lost control of his car and slammed into a tree. Did you know that you’re more likely to hydroplane if you go over thirty-five miles per hour? The policeman said he was going forty. The speed limit was fifty.

I bike out of our driveway, ignoring the bite of the winter air. The people at the BQuik know me well. I come in, once a week, on a nearly-broken blue two-speed. I buy two Toblerones and then bike to Preston Memorial Cemetery. Though the theory is that one is for my dad, I always eat both of them. Continue reading “Tombstones and Toblerones”

The Mistress

(This is an excerpt from a longer work titled “Ithaca”)

So it began, their affair. An affair born out of a certain indolence on her part. He had been there, he had insisted, she had let him. He was otherwise not at all her type. The shape and texture of his nose and his unkempt hair annoyed her. He was seldom sober. He snored like a truck engine all night. But he would have been a good friend had they not slept together. He was the kind of boy she befriended easily, unpretentious, funny, politically engaged, open, and good-natured. She visited his art studio on Saturday nights. They would get drunk on table wine, smoke pot, and listen to his favourite jazz CDs. The liaison indulged her poetic and romanesque senses. She was a mythical sex goddess in a French film. She was complicated. She was free. She belonged to herself. She was a real adult at last! He could not hurt her.

Vincent was separated from the mother of his young sons.

— She’s a cold woman. I’ve been frustrated and bored for so long. Here you are, so invigorating, so exotic…

— Careful with that word… Remember how you found your wife exotic once.

— What went wrong with your marriage? Continue reading “The Mistress”

33

I don’t want to die but Miss Hooker says

that I’ve got to and so does everyone

else, she includes herself, she’s my Sunday

School teacher, she saves my immortal soul from

Hell so that when I’m dead it’s Heaven is

where I’ll go to spend Eternity and

see God and Jesus and the Holy Ghost

and the saints and family and maybe

a few old friends and some enemies, too,

Judge not lest ye be judged, Miss Hooker says,

or maybe that was Jesus but it’s good

advice whoever came up with it and

besides, my enemies might be surprised

as well to see me up there, in Heaven

I mean, and maybe we’ll become friends once

and for all even though I doubt it now, Continue reading “33”

Tom Flaherty

Long before the margins of morning arrived to the sun slowly rising to burn off the fog that caped the thin peninsula, Tom Flaherty had already stolen from his bed only to make coffee and toast whole wheat bread in the toaster.  The clock over the kitchen table read four-forty.  Coffee made, bread toasted and buttered, Flaherty sat down at the table, to read yesterday’s San Francisco chronicle, for today’s had not yet arrived.

Starting from the front page, he found nothing to warm his heart, to turn his mind, to diminish his increasing cynicism.  Disgusted with the ongoing politics of the country, which he ascribed to a left-wing conspiracy, and the incompetent government bureaucracy of the city-state that was San Francisco, he turned to the Sports section of the paper. Continue reading “Tom Flaherty”

Bastet

The archeologist labored in the hot sun.

Lionel Pantheon, expert archeologist, dug

with his flunky, Doctor Simeon Watkins.

 

“Oh, pray tell.” said Simeon Watkins.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Look at the treasure I found. A statue of

Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess. This must

be worth millions! We’re going to be rich!”

 

“No, I’m going to be rich.” said Lionel

Pantheon, producing a handgun, and shooting

a bullet through Simeon’s skull.

 

Lionel looked around to make sure nobody

was looking, and shoved Simeon’s body into

the hole in the desert sand. Continue reading “Bastet”

Loch Ness Monster, reincarnated

Simon Jones was born to wealthy parents in the suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Growing up, his parents showered him with all kinds of fancy but expensive gifts.  But what interested Simon most was reading the science fiction as well as stories of unusual mysterious creatures from around the world.  He was always fascinated by the tale of the existence of the Loch Ness monster, called Nessie, that reputedly inhabited the water around the Scottish Highlands.  Throughout his academic career Simon excelled not only in his studies but also in extra-curricular activities.  He wrote for the school newspaper, eventually becoming one of the co-editors.  At the same time, he took part in several athletics programs.  With such an all-rounder profile, Simon’s parents expected that he would be interested in the academic program of an Ivy League institute like Harvard, Yale, or Columbia. Continue reading “Loch Ness Monster, reincarnated”

Henrietta

She ran away with a man when she was seventeen,

a farmer’s son who knew about curing tobacco

but not much else. Grab the stalks, strip the leaves,

then twist those leaves into ropes…that was the extent of it.

 

Didn’t earn no money at it not with the drop in prices

that year. And besides, he was a drinker, always at

the worst kind of rotgut: home-made corn-liquor

that could strip the paint off a car.

 

But it was her decision to run away with him,

first one she’d ever made in her lifetime.

And choices in a small town are as thin on the ground

as the soil once the tobacco’s been through with it.

 

He figured he’d get a job on one of the big plantations

down south but what with his overall laziness and

drinking and her always tagging behind him, they ended

up in hovel somewhere in mid-Georgia, begging for change Continue reading “Henrietta”