Stand Tall

Blossom

One bright Saturday morning, just after breakfast Isaac drives to a nearby mall in a rundown car with his father. He sits in the front seat, behind the rustiest door. It is fun to drive with his dad. He loves how the tires float sideways in the wet road or when his dad honks the horn. It sounds like the Sesame street blue monster bopping its nose. The mall is full of people and on each door of the store it says “Don’t miss the Father’s day sale”. He takes a sip from the  grape juice bottle as his dad takes him to the glass elevator. “ So dad, I wonder if all these people are buying gifts for their dad. If you say yes, then I should buy something for you. Right?”

Isaac’s father pulls him to one safe corner inside the elevator and adjusts the small front pocket on his son’s faded blue t-shirt. “ May be they are shopping for father’s day or they may be going to watch movie. Remember the school is out for summer. But you do not have to worry on that. We are here to enjoy our day together and that is the best gift.”

“ I agree dad.”  He concentrates on his ride in the elevator with glass walls. He feels as if he sails into the enormous blue sky like Superman. Below him, all the people has turned into moving dots.He feels tall and brave.The elevator stops and as he pushes himself out his father stops him from behind. “ Isaac! Wait for your turn. I always remind you to follow the Rules. Rules are extremely important and more exact the better.”
“ Sorry dad.”

After the mall, they visit a friend’s house who lives in a few blocks from the mall. Their house resembles a stack of beige rectangles. The rectangles are brick and they glistened after it rains. Though they look delicious, he is not supposed to taste them.That is the rule. Sometimes when he gets crazy, he licks the wall. His friend calls him retarded and his dad abruptly pulls the chair back. “ He is tired from the long hours in the mall that is all. I better take him home.”  They return home quietly; his father concentrates on the wheel and Isaac looks at the puffy white clouds and the tiny birds up in the sky.

Around six in the evening Isaac plays with his bright yellow toy train on the front porch, while his father reads a newspaper sitting on the stair. The battery of the train stops working and his toy train stops in the middle of the first round.Issac kicks the train and it hits the wall and flips. He tries hard to fix it but could not. His father closes the newspaper and looks at him.
“ Don’t be so harsh on others.”

“ Sorry dad, it will not happen again, but at the same time I do not like the way the train behaves!”

“ Have a little patience!” He sits with Isaac and helps him putting the pieces together with lots of patience. 

After dinner Isaac brings out all his rocks from a big plastic box, and spreads them on the floor. This his collection from all the national parks that he has visited with his father.Once a week, he washes and dries his rocks. Sometimes he colors them to make them brighter and happier. He feels himself as the Superman of the lifeless objects.

At the second week of August, Issac starts the middle school. His Psychiatrist has guaranteed that he is normal now.In last visit, the psychiatrist, a tall, skinny, gray-haired man Dr.Robertson asked him. “ Do you want to draw a road runner looking at the picture, while I do the tests? Or you can color it. Whichever one you like. Go ahead.”

Isaac did, he is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His road runner looks like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. And now he goes to school. In the school playground he meets his old school friend Ron. He always boss him around or clearly bullies him; he kicks his desk, snaps his pencil in two, sometimes eats his lunch, bumps him from behind in the recess line. But Isaac does not how to respond so he stays quiet, does not say a word.

That afternoon it rains. The parking lot reflects the sky from a thousand puddles. His father comes to pick him after school. As Isaac walks into the house, he notices that the brick of his house is dyed dark with water. They are stacked together like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers. But he does not want to lick the brick anymore. He follows dad’s rule; no tasting the bricks. That night before, bed Issac draws a spectacular rainbow with his father, sitting on the wooden floor of the living room. And the rainbow has only his favorite colors; Blue, orange and yellow.He dreams he is riding the glass elevator into the space. The earth disappears beneath  the clouds and a billion stars. His dad says, “ You are a superhero, do you know that? “ A big  delightful smile beams on Isaac’s face.

It is a cloudless day in early summer. A few cardinals are chasing each other in the back yard through the magnolia branches. A gray squirrel is busy eating nuts. Isaac sits close to the big glass window in the dining room and eats his lucky charms in a bowl of milk.He could see the planes drawing white chalk lines in the sky. After the school, his father looks at his tired face and bruises on his hand. “ Is it Ron?”

Isaac does not reply.

“ It is time I would like to teach you how to defend yourself, son!”

The wind is moving across the yard, swirling. The leaves on the grass are all glossy and speckled. They keep lifting onto their edges then slowly toppling over. That is when his father starts to teach him to punch,how to do back kick and front kick.

Next day the a substitute teacher comes to the class; a tall, skinny young man. He allows the class to vote on everything instead of taking his own decision: “ What would you like to study next: science or history? All in favor of eating in class, raise your arms.” It is a mess. No One listens to him. As the substitute teacher leaves the classroom for lunch, the students end up eating in the class except Isaac. As Isaac opens his lunch box, Ron comes, snatches his sandwich. It falls on the floor. The whole class turn and watch but no one says a thing. During recess in the late afternoon, Isaac spots Ron on a tower. He approaches the tower and climbs the ladder. It seems as if he is riding the glass elevator. He feels tall and powerful, he rises into the clear blue sky like a superhero.Ron stands at the platform’s open edge. Isaac runs towards him and shoves him. His body hits the ground, nothing happens except a few bruises. But the principal punishes him with weeks of suspension. During the car ride from school,his father drives quietly. Isaac turns his face towards him. “It may be very wrong dad, but I had to do this. He bullies me all the time and it hurts me. I am trying to stand for myself.”

 

Imaginary

“ Can you give me a house?” The boy asks standing close to the huge tree.

“ I have no house,” replies the tree. The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house.Then you will be happy.” The tree smiles.

The boy without any further thought, cuts off the tree branches to build his own house. It hurts the tree but she keeps quiet. She is just delighted to see the boy, her childhood friend.

“ Disgusting! So ungrateful! Selfish boy!” Hope uncrosses her legs, sits upright, legs drawn in and her eyebrow bends. She closes the book with a thump and hides it deep behind the other books in the walnut bookcase. As she turns around,she hears her mother’s voice from the kitchen.

“ Hope!It is almost time for school.”

Hope glances at the windsor cherry finish clock on the wall. It is almost 8.30 am. She marches through the narrow hallway to the dining room to grab her lunch box. Something fluttering out the  glass window caught her eyes. A bright cardinal sitting in the pine tree and staring directly at her. For a moment their eyes locked, and they look at one another their heads slightly tilted. “Welcome my new friend!” The cardinal chirps and then takes a flight, cheerfully. Hope’s gaze returns to the dining table.

“Did you memorize the timetable?” Her mother sips her tea, trying to look at her sideways with the cup at her lower lip.

“O, snap!” Hope nods her head in disbelief and tries to find out a reasoning.That is the main reason that she wakes up real early but she completely forgot! It must be the way she has arranged her books in the book shelve. Her study room has two doors. If you enter from the right side, then immediately you will notice the school books in the bottom shelve. But from the left side of the entrance your eyes directly fall  on the wonderful story books. Well,there is no other reasons to verify this event, so she must have the right conclusion. Now she realizes that instead of memorizing the time table, why she read a few pages of the book The Giving Tree.And she does not like the greedy, self-centered boy at all. “ Nope ! Nope! The friendship is such an amazing thing and the boy did not care to keep it! And on the other hand the tree is so affectionate, so kindhearted and so thoughtful! I am confident that my tree friends are wonderful like the tree in the book.

“Hope! Did you memorize or not? You need to focus more on your math.” her mother looks directly at her, one eyebrow arched.

Hope does not like to lie to her mother. There is something mysterious in mother’s eyes! They understand your inner feelings without any confession.She bends down to tie her shoes avoiding her mother’s eyes.” Don’t worry mom, it will be fine.I am getting late for school. Bye.” She leaves and her mother tilts her head back to sip the warm tea.

 

The bell rings for the first class.Hope sits with her two elbows on the small table, her hands clasped in front of her, her two fingers leaning against each other and against her thin pink lips.Hope tries her best to remember the time table before the class starts. She could remember up to the 7 but gets stuck in the eight table. The door opens and math teacher appears.He sits on his chair, takes the roll calls. He closes the book,pushes the chair to one side and abruptly stands up. He starts to ask question in a random order. Suddenly his eyes falls on Hope.

“ Hope! Please stand up. What is eight times eight?

Hope tries to count in her head. She stands straight. “ Sixty two.”

“It is hard to hear your voice. Come to the front of the class and speak clearly.”

Hope’s forehead and palms are warm and sweaty. As she tries to walk her way from her seat, her unstable nervous hand bumps into other notebooks and they fall in a pile. All the student’s curious eyes  are on her. She does not know where to look. “ Sorry! Pardon me!” She tries to  picks up the books from the floor.

She stands in the front. Her unstable nervous hands squeeze both sides of her maroon skirt.She closes her eyes for a second to do her prayer but suddenly she forgets the right one. Instead she begs the wonderful, kind tree of the story book. “Please help me.I will be your best friend forever and will not hurt you in any way.”

“ What is eight times eight?” A deep voice echoes.

A long breath.

Hope opens her eyes to answer. “ Sixty two.”

“What?” Now the voice is not only deeper but it sounds more angrier.

“Sorry, it is sixty four for sure.” Her voice is confident.

“ Excellent!Next week I will start the question with you so be prepared. You may go back to your seat.” The math teacher turns his attention to the class.

That evening after school, Hope opens the iron gate of her house and runs to the garden. She has to give this wonderful news first to all her friends in the vast garden.

 

Detonate

 

Lora nervously smooths her skirt and then her hair, and asks to see Mr.Daniel as soon as the butler appears. A small smile ebbs across his face. “Please have a seat,ma’am,” he says gesturing dramatically to a marble living room filled with elegant  furniture. He disappears without a sound. Lora walks into the living room her small heels echoing throughout the enormous, empty space.Sunlight glints off the shiny floors and reflects the gilded, mirrored furniture. She takes a seat in a stiff, high-backed upholstered chair, places her portfolio against the chair and then takes a deep breath. After a while of waiting, she takes a few echoing steps towards a set of massive French doors and pulls on one.The door opens with a silent whoosh and walks outside. Her eyes widens. Stunning, she thinks.

Colors immediately overwhelms her visual senses: the home is white, sleek, almost an homage to an ancient Greek structure and it sits against a towering hill lines with cypress and old grape vines. The outdoor patio is a world unto itself; the waterfall, the white clouds and house. She turns back into the room and opens her portfolio. She pulls out the sketchpad and set of soft pastel and begins to paint. For the longest time, the only sounds are the waterfall, her pastel dragging along the paper and two hummingbirds chasing one another around the patio.

“It is beautiful!”

She stops drawing, drops her pastel and reaches out her hand. “It is a pleasure to meet you sir,” she says.

Daniel smiles his famed dimpled smile. He extends his hand and takes a seat. He has a short-sleeved polo shirt and black pants, his dark hair slicked to one side. “ May I?” he asks, reaching out his hands for her sketchbook. He studies for a second, his dimples growing even deeper. “ You are hired. When can you start?” he says handing her back the pad. “ You are a real talent. It is lovely to meet you and let me know when your design plans are finalized and we’ll get started. I am sorry but I have another meeting.” He stands and shakes her hands again before lifting it up into the air. “ I trust your hands with my home,” he says before sauntering away.

Lora watches her beloved pastels roll over the paper, her smile widens across her face.

“What should I paint on the frame?” asks her daughter Summer, shaking her from her memories.

“Up to you,” Lora says into her mic, toggling her wheelchair closer to view what her daughter is sketching: the sun and the clouds. “Pretty.”

“ But it is boring mom, not like your paintings.” Summer says, her face serious as she scans the yard and the horizon.

“Close your eyes, be still. It is in quiet the wonder begins.”

Summer keeps her eyes shut. For a moment, there is complete silence. Suddenly she opens her eyes and watch the lanky,grey bodied, crimson-capped birds head nearby wetlands and the exquisite sunrise. “ I got it !” she says, setting down her pastel and picking up a paint brush. After a few minutes, Summer stops and turns to Lora.

“Is painting what it’s like to be you?”

Lora looks at her little girl and raises her eyebrows. Tears rushed to Lora’s eyes, but she swallows hard to stop their rise. “Yes.” she says, her voice breaking. You are exactly right. It is like I’m stuck in place but my mind is flying and full of wonder. I can do anything in my imagination and be anyone I want in my head, even though I can’t move.”

“That must be an art,” Summer says, nodding her head. Now I understand mom.” She turns her heels and begins to paint again. She holds the frame for her mother to inspect, her posture rigid and a proud look on her face. “What do you think?”

Lora’s eyes widened. On the frame, Summer has painted a birch arching over the window, its bark white. Instead of leaves, she has painted faces: Lora’s, her father Daniel’s’, her brother Don’s and her own. On the right side of the frame, she has painted Family Tree in pink. The thought behind it is very mature and deeply sensitive.

“Beautiful,” she says. “ You are a true artist. I am proud of you. Never give up.”

“ Thank you mom,” she says taking a dramatic bow. Today I will present this best gift to my  dad.”

Lora’s husband Daniel died in the last deployment, in Afghanistan although she survived.  Lora wipes her tears and looks at her daughter. “ Your father will love this gift.Go get ready to visit dad.”

 

 

Welcome to relax in a strange world

Heal

A series of images fill the whole area in front of her; People running, crowds of running men, women with infants and children holding their parent’s hands, showing desperation. A dozens, then hundreds, in pants,t-shirts,shouldering each other,shouting,crying for help. It is almost possible to hear the mass pulse of breath and pounding feet. She can see the tennis shoes with holes and some without the laces, sandals, barefoot. They keep on coming, trying to escape somewhere, something dreadful, mouth open, arms pumping. So desperate to hold on to their families, small children, older parents. She does not understand the words that come out of their mouths but she feels their feelings!

The image fades away slowly but the screams continues. The images reappear again, they come wheeling around the corner.Jade hurries to the only safe zone, the market wall, back flattened,arms spread.The people blast past with wide, scary eyes.They don’t have any destination, they don’t know where to run, where to hide themselves and the children.Outside it is like winter fog, not quite yellow and not quite white. Parents run past her holding tightly to the small bodies of the infants.They try to breathe, but it is hard and there is something in the air. Very suffocating! The white foam comes out from some of the children’s mouth. People are on the side of the road with their older parents,choking, gasping for air. Some are lying motionless in the  mud. Most of the people crying for help and begging for mercy.

Jade’s mind is tunneling back to the parents who are hovering over their children. She could not take it anymore, she wants to do something. Do more that a pledge, write articles, blogs, sending donation.“We are with you, we promise”, she murmurs with a determination. Jade runs through the fog. But she starts to lose her balance.Her eyes sting, nose start to stream.Her out stretched hands hang in the empty air and fall to her sides. She could not take it any more.

It is almost morning.Jade opens her eyes.The dream is so real as if she was there with them. She takes a deep breath. It must be the news that she watched last evening and she switched off the TV before the news ended. “Who is going to help all those innocent people?” She wonders and sighs.It is mentally tiring and hard to believe.  Instead of waking up, she pulls the bed sheet up to her chest and closes her eyes.

She is in a garden with trimmed hedges, shade trees, blades of grass, every sort of flowers. On one side of the garden, a bench in the shadow of a tall tree, a still figure, apparently human. He turns her way and nods, a gesture of permission and Jade approaches slowly.

“ How fragile we are.Is not it true?” He says inviting her to seat on the bench.

“I do not like all these things that are happening to the innocent people.The sadness and stress are hard to bear.” Her forehead wrinkles as she say.

“You try your best to help others and sometimes you have to gather more energy to move ahead. Stress will come but at the same time you need to learn how to cope with that. You seat in a quiet room, close your eyes and listen carefully. What is it you hear? Not traffic,not much sound.” he says “ You hear something but what? The mind itself. The world hum.”

As he explains she tries to understand what it means, she wants to heal herself and others. She closes her eyes.She is able to say what she feels and she is also the same person who stands outside the feelings. All the words themselves all there is or she is just the words. she listens to what she hears. She can feel the time! It feels like she tries to become someone or she is inside something. Is this her own body! Where is she? She is the first person and the third person. She is with all the people she watched in the news and they are in her. Is she trapped? Or this is the reality? Her mind lengthens and reaches them, console them touching their hearts.

Love appears in strange ways

Acceptance

It is a Friday before the spring break. Daisy drives back home picking her daughter Emily from her school. In the car, Emily eats her favorite vanilla ice cream cone and tells her mother all the interesting things of her day in her school. She is a brilliant story-teller just like her father.In the middle of her story Daisy’s cell- phone rings. A call from her son.

“ Emily, please answer the phone”, Daisy says looking at the road straight.

“ Hi brother! We are going home. Do you want to speak to mom.Well she is driving so you can tell me.’’ Emily asks taking one more lick from the cone.

“ What?Really! And you did not stay there? Yes, you are supposed to. Okay, I will ask mom to rush. Bye.” Emily takes a deep breath and turns to face her mother.

“Mom, my cat has a baby in front of our house under the iron bench. And brother did not stay there. He is older than me and he should know what to do in this type of situation.Right mom? So please drive faster.I want to check on the kitten.”

Daisy is not a cat person. She likes the dogs whom you can train or who listens to your command. But cats! They have their own mind and they climb on everything. A cat always behaves like a king and all others in the house have to obey its orders.The stray cat followed her husband and daughter to the townhouse a few times and before she knows, the cat was adopted as a pet. One evening Daisy returns from work and finds a small ceramic bowl with milk at one corner of the living room. “ What is the bowl of milk doing here on the floor?” She asks.

Her husband and daughter both look at each other and reply at the same time. “ It is a part of the game that we are playing, nothing to worry.” A shiny-penny smile flash on their faces as they turn their head towards the front door. Daisy leaves the room without any doubt. After a few days, the milk bowl appears again at the same place and this time tiny dry foods on a paper plate besides the bowl. Daisy walks into the room. Inside the living room, behind the sofa her daughter plays with a cat; game with a yarn. It is very slim yellow cat with white patches on its face and paws.

“ Emily! What is the cat doing inside our house?”, she screams. The cat runs away through the open door and her daughter apologizes. “This is the stray cat that followed me and dad. She does not have any other friend. She has decided to be my friend and I could not say no to the cat.” Emily says flatly, twisting the yarn around her finger.

Daisy looks at her daughter’s pale,sad face and understands her deep affection towards the stray cat. “ So the milk bowl and the cat food are real! She takes out her shoes and pulls a chair to seat. “Why didn’t you tell the truth on the first time?” Daisy asks.

“ So here is the fact,she says wisely drawing a long breath. Emily pauses and picks her words very carefully. “ I know that you do not like cats but she is a very nice cat and I do not have any pets. Dad told me that he will talk to you later. May be he forgot.’’ The next day tabby cat gets the name Blossom and becomes one of her daughter’s best playmate. Daisy receives warm tight hug from her son and daughter. Now she has a kitten. Daisy still do not like cats.She does not say anything but anger bubbles in her mind. Now they will be two, cat and the kitten. The house will be a big mess and the cat hair! laik!

In few days the house turns into a playground of the kitten. Inside Joy and laughter gather and spread. The beautiful kitten is named Chottu. He has the same color on his body just like his mother. Sometimes he hears his mom’s voice outside and climbs the window blinds to reach her. After a few minutes you will find him dangling in the blind by his front paws.Other days he sleeps inside the shoes of either Daisy’s husband or of her son. And the only way to find out is to slip your feet into the shoes un attentively and startle to hear a soft mew from inside the shoe. Even in early morning when you are in a hurry to walk into the kitchen and unknowingly step on the tiny kitten  who likes to sleep on the middle of the room. One night around one o’clock, just after the rain, Daisy’s son Aji is busy doing his homework when he hears a sound. It is faint but sounds as if someone is begging for help. The kitten has escaped through the narrow opening of the front door. Aji has to climb the slippery fence, walks to the house-top to rescue the kitten. That is Chottu’s first adventure where he climbs the fence, goes to the rooftop but could not climb down. Daisy’s husband loves to play with Chottu. He teaches him to play with a small rope or to catch a small bouncing ball. Chottu crouches, his eyes locked on the tiny ball’s movement. He lowers his entire body with all fore legs aligned as he gently lowers his haunches, contracting them so that he becomes slightly rounded like a cocked spring. From that place, he leaps off the floor with a force, boldly pouncing on the tiny ball. Afterwards he plays the ball back and forth between his two-front paws.  

In a big city it is necessary to find a good high school. Daisy and her family decide to move into a suburb for same reason a good neighborhood and best school for Emily. Before their move they decide to give away the kitten to one of Emily’s friend whose cat just passed away from cancer. It is a very hard decision. Emily does not want to give away her pet, but she agrees to in one condition that she will visit the cat every weekend. If the kitten stays with her best friend then it may not be a big deal.

Three weeks have passed. One winter morning, on a saturday, Emily gets a phone call from her best friend. “ Hi Emily! I do not know how to say it but if you don’t mind”, she hesitates, “Please take your kitten back.”

“ Why? Is everything alright?” asks Emily with real concern.

“ He is fine, but very boisterous. Last evening he climbed the table in dad’s room and knocked the coffee mug on his laptop. It is getting a little hard to manage him.He is not an indoor cat and he will enjoy more in your house with big back yard.” She replies.

The smile on Emily’s face is wide open, sunny without a doubt on the world that everything will be wonderful today.

So they get the kitten back.Gradually Chottu transforms from kittenhood into a young wildcat. He is like a character from a daredevil story, who loves daring stunts. He is a hyperactive cat who loves to leap, climb and explore-all the big trees and house tops. Happiness, in Chottu’s world is fresh can food, a few spoons of warm milk, cat nips and climbing the trees. He loves to hide in boxes and leap out from them unexpectedly. He would honker all the way down, making sure the flap of the box is closed over his head, and spring out like a jack-in-the box to scare their dog.Some days he growls at the door. Daisy opens the door and screams. Chottu stands there with an  awesome present  either a dead small bird or a squirrel in his mouth. He does not understand the scream because he just wants to make Daisy happy with a precious gift. He forgets and repeats the same thing in another day. Daisy has a very dominant personality which classes with the cat’s personality. Sometimes it is hard to understand who is the boss is it Daisy or the cat? Having played to his heart’s content,Chottu would come inside and take his power nap on Daisy’s pretty mats in the kitchen, in the hallways or on the nice leather sofa. He sleeps like a talisman curled gently in the shape of a coma as if dug up from a prehistoric archeological site. Quietly and gingerly, he tiptoes around the house in a leisurely fashion. He loves to sit with Emily while she does her homework but not when she practices the violin. He hates the shrill sound of it.

The back yard with trees is like a forest to Chottu. He would race recklessly around one particular area and then climb high up into one of the tall trees, exploring his body in mid air-as if about to veer off in another direction.

Chottu is almost sixteen years now. Almost eighty in cat year! As soon as Daisy comes home, he greets her and follows her in happy, half-swallowed little yips. “ Yes, you are home! Feeding time. Daisy gives him his favorite can food, after that a little warm milk and a few treats. The feeding time continues until Daisy goes to bed. Chottu has slowly but surely conquered Daisy’s heart.

It is the second day of spring when Daisy notices a difference in the cat. He approaches the food bowl half heartedly, sniffs, takes one lick then walks out from the room. It is not typically his behavior. “ Are you Okay? Come I will give you a treat. Come!” Daisy says opening the treat packet. Chottu turns around and walks slowly towards Daisy. He says a small mew and sits there. He is not hungry. “It may be the can food or the food bowl. I should clean the bowl again.” Daisy murmurs. She throws the food and washes the small food bowl again. Next morning, Daisy finds the cat under the dining table. As soon as he hears the footsteps he opens his eyes, purrs softly and walks towards Daisy. But after two or three steps he sits on the wood floor. He breaths heavily. “What is going on? She strokes chottu’s head. “ Come on kitty,” She coxes, “ you are a strong kitty. Come. Do you want me to feed you today?” Daisy runs to get the cat food. Rising unsteadily to his feet, Chottu lowers his head to the bowl but does not eat any. He rubs the top of his head against Daisy’s leg and purrs. And his purr is very feeble. “ Poor thing, Daisy sits on the floor close to Chottu and calls her husband to take him to the veterinary.

The next morning, a cloudy day. It is hard for Daisy to concentrate in her work. She wants to know Chottu’s health condition. Around noon she calls her husband. 

“ We have to let him go. The virus has spread in his body and he is suffering. Pray for him and for his soul. He will be with us in his next life. Are you listening?” Daisy’s husband asks in the phone.

Daisy drops the phone on the counter. She leans her elbows on the table and cries.

“…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Kahlil Gibran

 

Here and Beyond

Vivid

Olivia climbs the stairs all the way up, negotiating the steep and treacherous stairs to tell Matt that he has missed a very important phone call. It is treacherous because they are remodeling their house again and stairs are just stones piling on each other. The caller, she says was a woman, whose name she did not catch. He waits. She is looking dreamily beyond him now, out through the sloped window in front of the desk, to the hills in the distance, pale blue and flat. What, he asks gently, had this woman on the phone wished to speak to me about? Olivia with an effort withdraws her gaze from the view. “A film, she says in which it seems you have an offer in a leading part.”

This is interesting. Matt has never acted in film before. He inquirers as to the movie title or what it is to be  about. Olivia’s look grows vague, more vague that it has been up to now. “ She did not tell any title or about the movie.” She lowers her head and frowns at her husband from under her eyebrow in solemn silence, like a child who has been asked a difficult and onerous question the answer to which she does not know.

“Never mind, no doubt the woman will call again.” He says.

Olivia was very sharp but now it has changed a little. Her glossy, kohl-black eyes have lately taken on a faded, filmy aspect which worries her husband Matt. Some nights are different from the others. She wakes up or at least leaps from bed, and goes dashing in the dark through all the rooms , upstairs and down, calling their daughter’s name. It is kind of sleepwalker state which seems to her real thing that her daughter is living, trapped in one of the room of the house. Matt holds her still until she grows quiet. “ She is there in her bedroom,” she whispers in the dark. A long deep sigh. They lay on the bed on their backs for a long time holding each other’s hands. Around them the hall furniture stand dimly in the gloom like shocked and speechless attendants.

After their daughter’s sudden death Olivia finds herself venturing, tentatively to entertain the possibility not of the next world, exactly, but of a world next to this one, contiguous with it where there might linger somehow the spirit of those who no longer here and yet not entirely gone either. When she overhears people speaking of bereaved, she hungrily scans their faces to see if they really believe their lost one not entirely gone.

The curtains are thick and drawn tightly shut and Matt does not realize the dawn has come up until he sees forming above him a brightly shimmering image that spreads itself until it stretches over almost the ceiling. At first he takes it for a hallucination generates out of his sleep-deprived. “ I can see her clearly. Look at her pretty blue dress with white laces and colorful tiny mirrors on the bottom of the dress.” Olivia whispers clutching Matt’s hand.

” I remember this dress. It really looks good on her. This is the one we purchased in one of our trip to Agra. Right?” Matt asks turning his face slowly towards his wife.

” Yes. She spotted this dress in one of the roadside shop in-front of the Taj Mahal.” Olivia replies with a small smile. ”

They speak in whispers as if the very action of their voices might shatter the frail assemblages of light and spectral color of the image above them.The thing seems to vibrate inside itself, as if the teeming particles of light itself. Surely they feel this is not entirely a natural phenomenon for which there would be a perfectly simple scientific explanation. But surely this is a thing given to them as a gift, a greeting, in other words a sure sign to comfort them that their daughter is there. They lay there watching it , awestruck for a long time. As the sun rise the world above them are setting, retreating along the ceiling until it develops a hinge at one edge and begins to slide steadily down the far wall and pour itself at last into the carpet. Straight away they get up and start their dealing with the day. They are comforted a little until the wonder of the spectacle to which they have been treated begin to diffuse, to slip and slide. They absorb into the ordinary things of life.

Her memory

Blur

Every hour a thought floats to the surface. If we’re all going to end up happy together in Heaven then why does anyone wait? A big sadness hangs behind her ribs, sharp and gleaming, and it’s all she can do to keep breathing. She does not know the reason but one early morning she had to fly to her grandfather’s house with her dog Luke. She never goes anywhere without her parents! Her grandfather’s house is long and narrow, like a train  and it has five bedrooms: a big living room in the front, a rectangle kitchen, a prayer room, one study room and other two are bedrooms.  The windows are all the same but the color and the pattern of  lacy curtains are different in each one.Grand father hugged her in the middle of a sentence and there are tears on his cheeks. “ Are you okay?” Riana asks with deep concern in her eyes.

“ Yes, now that you are here everything will be fine.” He replies. He says that there was a time when all the houses were a collective farm and grandmother used to walk everyday to work in a chemical plant. She was a brave woman. Now she has to be hooked up to her oxygen machine every night. “ It must be the chemicals!” He says with a heavy sigh. It is cancer. First they found it in my mom, then in dad in his lungs. She imagines cancer as a tree: big, black, leafless nasty tree which took her parent’s lives. Riana walked into her grandmother’s room to meet her. Her face resembles a lot with her mother. “ Hello grandma!”

She smiles and asks her to sit on her bed. “How are you young woman? It is so nice to see you here. Make yourself home and feel free to ask if you need anything. Your grandpa will help you.” “Thank you grandma.”

In the afternoon Riana stands on the front porch.Out side she can hear the little white butterflies are looping through the willows, the grasshoppers chewing the leaves.

“God made the world and everything in it.” says her grandfather. Riana thinks, then why isn’t everything perfect? She wants her parents back in her life. Up in the sky she sees her dad sipping coffee and watching the evening news and her mother reading a book leaning on the couch. Their cat is taking a nap on a piece of  old newspaper. It is not that blurry at all.

“ Tell me about my mom.” Riana asks her grandmother sitting on her bed. She glances over and then her eyes are a thousand miles away. She tells all trips down the river in boat, fun days of picnics in the park,  time that they spent in the swing set reading stories together. Suddenly she pauses and closes her eyelids. Riana understands and leaves the room quietly.

Oné rainy day,when she was five something happened to her. Her mother called the family physician and she put some drops in her eyes. Pretty soon all Riana could see are blurs and colors.Dad was a fog a mom was a smudge and world looked like it does when your eyes are full of tears. A couple of hours later, right when she was riding in the back seat of mom’s car, the world started coming back to focus. She could see the trees, the leaves more clearly dark on the top and pale on the undersides, are moving independently but still in concert with others.

Almost everyday she misses her parents; mom walking into the grocery store holding her hand or to the library picking books for her and the bicycle ride and story time with her dad.Sometimes in the silence she feels her mom, together with her, under the beautiful sun, both of with decades to live.

Her grandfather does not believe her. He sits on the edge of his bed, elbows on the small table with droopy eyes and broken blood vessels in his cheeks. He wipes his eyes and tells her that she needs read more books and start thinking about school. Riana stands close to her grandfather. “You don’t believe in anything that you can not see or feel? I believe in souls and I feel my mother on my side. Even I see her and dad sitting on the puffy cloud” Riana says angrily and leaves the room.

That night she lays in her bed with her grandmother. The unpainted plaster of the wall slowly cracking all around her. She tries to remember a sentence mom or dad said but everything seem so blurry!

Evaporation

Translate

She is alone in the suit. She sits in an armchair, wearing a robe and slippers and appears to be asleep. Her lean face, silver hair uncombed, pale hands folded in her lap. Celia sits on a cushioned bench watching and waiting. Soon her thoughts fall away from the still figure in the chair.Celia loves her mother who sits before her, leaning into the light shade by a table lamp nearby. Her mother is like a friend and they talk and discuss everything. It is hard to see her mother in this situation. She wishes her dad to take care of her mother. Her father defines terms, draws diagrams, rushing to airport or preparing for conferences. At home he stands before a full-length mirror reciting from memory speeches he works on, refining his gestures and facial expressions. He never has time for his wife.Her mother is a lover of daylight and dense of life. She gathers and tends children, teaches a course in an adult education program, belongs to a group of volunteers who read to the blind. Her mother opens her eyes. She is not surprise to see Celia. She knows that Celia will be the first one to appear on her side.She takes Celia’s hands and holds it.

“ It is so nice to have you here. How was your flight?” Her voice is a near whisper. She has trouble dealing with the congested syllables in few words. Celia is very close to her mother and she wants to make sure that her mother will be taken good care of. She moves her chair closer to her mother.

“ If you don’t mind then I would like to ask you something. Do you think about the kind of world you’ll be returning to?”

“ I don’t think about anything. There is the final point. It is a moment never to be thought of except when it is in the process of unfolding.” She replies taking a sip of water from the glass.

“ Think of the age of the earth, oceans appearing and disappearing, think of the age of galaxy. All those billion years. And you, me and all others. We live and die in a flash.” She continues to speak. She is all face and hands, body gathered up within the folds of the robe.

“ What will happen? Do you have any idea?” Celia asks tucking her mother’s hair behind her ear. Her mother knows the rigors of science and sometimes she is philosophical just like her father.

“ My grand father used to say that,lines of brilliant light, every material thing in its fullness, a pure object. They are everywhere, of course in libraries, in museums, in mud, places of worships.” She closes her eyes for a moment and then looks back at Celia.

“ The person is a mask, the created character in the medley of dramas that constitute your life. The mask drops and the person becomes you  in its truest meaning. It is the conscious mind that stays. The reality is that everything has a beginning and an end to it, so don’t worry about that.”

Celia leans her head on her mother’s shoulder. It is hard to understand her mother’s philosophical meaning on life. She wants her mother to be happy and to enjoy the last few days of her life..

“ I understand mom, just testing your knowledge.” Says jokingly.

 

unique

Lukewarm

There are large blank patches in her memory that shift locale daily, unpredictably. Every morning when Hope wakes, she remembers something that the day before she has been unable to recall her house number, phone number or the name of the book. Then an hour or two later she notices a batch of new blanks she can not remember her social security number, the name of a few mysterious vegetables in her refrigerator.She has been told by her doctor so many times to let her family know that but she does not care much.A nurse visits her every morning.Although she does not expect the day to play out like this.Around nine in the morning, nurse Jena enters to her room without knocking. She draws back the white curtains and the sunlight floods the room. From her bed Hope glances the sloping meadow, the pretty pond, the waterside houses and her irritation passes.

“Let’s check the vitals,” Jena says. “ Get ready to take a walk in the garden.” She is an abrupt, oval-faced woman with graying wavy hair. She treats her like a small girl who Hope does not like at all. But sometimes she likes Jena’s crisp personality and her bark of laugh when she resists her attempts to get her up or make her follow a strict diet or to drink eight glasses of water in a day.

Hope has been told by her surgeon not to live alone after the heart transplant.The residue of  painkillers and anesthesia lives for six to seven months. Her insurance covers some, but not much. Now that the new president in office, he wants to repel the one health care that she has  but not sure what will happen in future. Hope is stubborn to depend on others.

The doctor has called dozens of times since the surgery about her heart. But Hope is tired to talk to anyone.

Awake. The pulsing cry of doves. Hope cranks the shutters open. She takes the coffee mug from the drain basket, sets the water boiling.She lapses into thought, as she stretches her legs, pushing the chair back against the wall.Today she should return the call.

“ Hello doctor! You tried to reach me?” Hope asks running her hand through her hair very lightly, just once.

“ How are you feeling Hope? Yes, I tried to reach you several times because the mother who donated her deceased daughter’s heart wants to meet you.”

They are both silent for a moment.

“ She wants to meet me! But I am not sure if I can handle that doctor.” Hope places her right hand onto her heart and feels its sturdy beat.It belongs to the young girl who died in the car accident.“I guess I owe her a lot, right? I mean she is the one who made the decision to donate her daughter’s organ. Well, sure doctor I will go for a short visit.” A pause fills her chest.

“ Thank you Hope.This will be better for both of you.”

It is lovely day, the sky is bleached turquoise color. The meeting is set on the top of a hill,close to a small white church. Hope stands steadily for a few seconds, then squares her shoulders and slowly walks up to the top of a hill breathing hard, leaning heavily on her cane, her heart pounding. There the woman stands in a white dress.Young enough to be her daughter, Hope thinks. Short wisps of brown hair crosses her forehead, no makeup or any jewelry. She extends her right arm. “ I am Alexis,thank you for agreeing to meet me. I am so sorry that you have to walk all the way up.”

“ It is fine,I need some exercise too.” Hope says with a small smile. “ It is so thoughtful of you to make this decision.”

“ My daughter was very close to my heart. It was very difficult for me to leave without her.” She looks up to meet Hope’s eyes. “ I want to listen to her and feel her. That is the reason I want to meet you.”Alexis walks closer. She leans her face forward towards Hope’s chest and closes her eyes. She listens to her daughter’s heart.Tears run down on her cheek.They stand there for a long time holding each other.

Determined

Overwhelming

Louisa places herself on the sofa between a sheet and a soft blanket, her head resting on a white pillow. She closes her eyes and folds up, elbows at her midsection, hands pressed together between her knees. She lay in a kind of timeless drift, a mind work spiral, carried on half formed thoughts. She opens her eyes again. She hears something that sounds like sand spilling, a trickle of gritty dust between the walls of the room and the room begins to move in a creaking sigh. Louder, powerfully. The wind makes the shutters swing and bang.Louisa sits up for a long second,deeply thoughtful, before throwing off her blanket. She listens to the edges of the room, the interfaces. She rushes to the door and opens it, half aware of rattling lampshades. She grips the edge of door frame and faces into the room. All the things inside are jumping up and down.She opens the door and stands until the shaking stops.  She pushes her hands against the door searching for a calmness in herself.

The sky is low and grey.The traffic lights are dark in certain areas. The long lines of cars, knotted and bent. Outside the streets are crowded with people.Voices fall around her. The noise subsides then begins to build again. The world is narrowed down to inside and outside.

People call to each other on the street. Out side she has the oddest conversation with one of her neighbor. She has hardly said a word before this. Suddenly he wants to talk. “ The news said a power station may have failed, causing a flash. Thirteen people were dead.”

“ What will we do? The older woman with a dog in her tight arms asks “I thought my heart was going to jump right through my chest. I have never met this in my whole life! It is so scary!”

“We will wait and see.” The man says in a deeply concerned voice.

The older woman raises her eyebrow. “ I don’t think we should wait, instead we have to act in an intelligent way.

Louisa smiles. She has made up her mind.The loud, empty noise like an earthquake can not scare her.There is no point of sitting back and wait for magic to happen. Louisa shakes her head.The scale of justice has tilted a lot in wrong direction. Constitutional principles and societal values should not be threatened.They have to make the things happen and it is no doubt that they will. She walks straight into the big group of crowd to raise her voice and fight for civil right, women’s right and equal justice.

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Lekhamisra

Lekhamisra

Hello and Namaste to my wonderful bloggers and readers. I am Lekha, grew up in one of the beautiful city of Odisha in the mystical land India. My paternal grandmother was a perfect story teller- stories of brave kings and queens to stories of freedom fighters, to stories on kindness,honesty, compassion, truthfulness. As soon as I learned to read, my marvelous adventures started through the fairy tales, the mysteries, the classics and the autobiographies. O’ Yes, it was lots of fun! At middle school my imagination started to take wings into short stories and sometimes in sketching. In 1987 I came to USA to continue my education in Psychology. Life got busy with my son and daughter in their school,library, music class, dance class, tennis, soccer, scout, debate...Staying active is very important for me.So after work, I enjoy going to different classes - kickboxing, RIPP, PiYo and Yoga. I have a deep affection and respect to Nature. For me winter is the champion. During winter vacation it is always delightful to hike on the gorgeous,stunning and beautiful snowy mountains in different national parks. After the children started their own lives, enormous time has poured into my weekends. I decide to do devout my time in volunteering. But still I could not satisfy my hunger and craving to do something more. One evening, I was reading some article on international issues on children, women,and on animal cruelty, which were very disturbing, traumatic and sad.I could not stop my tear or could not sleep. It is very hard to see others in suffering. Life is more fulfilling and rich when you help others, when you bring smile on others. “ Be a rainbow in someone else’s clouds.”- Maya Angelou. So I start to write again. I want my writing to be a strong voice for others in distress; for the innocent animals,for children, for women, on global warming and for all other social causes. Sometimes the truth is hard to digest but I am determined to reflect on those topics to make my readers aware on social issues. And I am thankful to WordPress for providing this wonderful platform to express my observation, views and dreams. I hope you explore the stories,enjoy and leave appropriate comments.

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