Assumption

Assumption

The astrologer, a new age woman who sounds like the type to wear crystals and carry tarot cards, asserts that the people themselves have created the problem out of a need to get in touch with their places in the universe, their spiritual selves. The person standing next to her doesn’t agree. “ It is linked to spirituality, yes, but not the kind you speak of.” he shrugs his shoulder. “This is a wake up call for us. Soon we will be doomed.”

Megan returns from her morning walk and her way out of the trail she spots them at the side of road.Out of curiosity,Megan holds the dog leash tight in her hand and walks closer to check what is going on. On the edge of the narrow street, a pink bleeding heart, its soft fern like branches out stretched in five foot arcs. From the underside of each branch, the blossom dangle in perfect shape of hearts. It looks pretty big.The gentleman scratched his head. “We have a big problem!” He points at a seventeen foxglove Their blossom which ordinarily look like upside down thimble, large enough to find one’s thumb are now the size of small drinking cups. It is a strange sight, but without saying anything to them Megan nodded with a tiny smile and left. She thinks if God want to end the world, He should start from the regions that are notorious for sin. Well, all these may be totally superstitious.She could imagine the deep, measured voice of scientists, “ There is no evidence or real scientific explanation to these incidents.”

It is a pretty Saturday morning; bright and sunny! Her next door neighbor, Mrs Smith discovered something intoxicating. Megan waves at her as she is ready to open her front door of the house. She calls out, “Megan, have you seen these tulips?” She points at the plant.

Megan turns and walks into her front yard. She is standing next to a blossom that matches her in height and is roughly the same size as her head. Megan glances at it again.It is straight from a fairy tale; vines running here and there, foliage twisting around foliage, arching above the fence, the mailbox. And next to it, in a few feet the rose plant is almost dying. It used to be full of pretty white roses, but now the branches are deep brown and black, they are wilted and dry.Mrs Smith nodes in disbelief. She brushes her hair nervously from her face. “ Something strange is going on!” She wipes the sweat from her forehead. Humidity was hovering over. She continues. “It is a freak circus show! But clearly I think the universe is not happy at all.”

Megan glances at her face. “Why?”

Mrs Smith straightens her back and adjusts the straw-hat on her head. “ Soon something will happen, I can sense that.” She opens the cap of the water bottle and takes a few gulps. “This year it was not only Harvey, but so also so many devastating things going on around us!  Remember, how we use to see rabbit or a dog on the moon’s surface?” A deep sigh. “Yesterday,I noticed a completely different thing on the surface of the moon; A swiftly running lion, its mane flying backward with speed.It is terrible.”

Megan gives her a surprise look. But she does’t tell her anything. She must be watching the current news. Her dog started to pull, he is getting restless to go inside. It is the heat, gathering around tightly. A pregnant pause. “Mrs. Smith, it may be a mixed signal. There is always a mixture of both good and evil. We will be alright. Don’t you worry! Lucky is getting impatient so I had to go. Take care.” Megan leaves.  

That evening, she walked out to the deck still thinking about what Mrs Smith told her in the morning. Lucky follows her behind, waging his long bushy tail. Megan lifts her eyes to the sky. The face of the moon looks like the profile of a majestic woman. She could see her pointed chin, her salient brow, bright, omniscient eyes, nothing else.Megan smiled. The moon looks perfect to her eyes. This is so crazy! We are the silly, silly people.

On a rainy Wednesday morning, Megan has a strong sense of loss over something after a nasty stomach flu . A stab of Pain courses through abdomen and down her groin and she decides to visit the doctor. She is lying on a table counting ceiling tiles, when the doctor, a robust man in his mid fifties with dark hair, dramatically removes his glasses and tells her the facts. He kindly points at the telltale bean shape on the x-rays and says it is the kidney problem,and we have to do more tests. She feels like crying while she fills the saucepan with water and dumps the oatmeal for her husband, she sobs while moving her pots of marigold, each one just on the threshold of blooming, to the front porch.  She scrubs the whole kitchen counters, cleans all the drawers, she vacuums every floor of the house,knowing full well, too, that her husband would repeat the task.She wipes her tears and watches her daughter dancing around the room on her tiptoes, pretending to be a ballerina. She reads her favourite stories and colors with her sitting on the living room floor.After tons of x rays and doctor visits, she was lying on the hospital table eyes closed, cold and unmoved as bookends when she suddenly notices a smile on the doctor’s face that appeared at the end of his sentence. “Well, the good news is that you appear to be pregnant.” She kept her eyes closed, because behind them she could see what the doctor must be seeing on the screen: a shape, a pulse.

 

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Their Gifts

Mentor

One bright Saturday afternoon in May, Hans leans over his desk, neck craned, eyes blinking and takes note of everything his teacher Ms Wilson says. Besides him friend Lora and Doug are staring straight, vacant eyes. Liz on the other side sits silent. Dan is nodding his head as if he understands everything that Ms Wilson says. In the middle of the lecture, Ms.Wilson stops at Hans’s desk, smiles. “ Only take note of the important points.”

Hans stares back. In his mind this is funny, in English everything is random. In the preparatory class sometimes his teacher would say, “Here are the rules about preposition,” and then,three minutes later, “But remember when it comes to writing there are no rules!”

The contradictions are slowly driving him crazy. He has to prepare for the fill-in the blank of the critical reading section, has to memorize the vocabulary list, make flash cards.Then Ms. Wilson walks over to the chalk board and writes, “Follow the grammar questions.”

Hans sits with his mother at the dining table and vocabulary swims in his brain, letter jumping in and out of line.

“What are you thinking.”his mother says. “Be in the moment.”

“I am too tired.”
“Why?” She lays the spoon on her plate. “ Hans, You are not doing anything wrong, wrong things or wrong crowd of friends? She asks pushing her loose curls out of her eyes.

Hans laughs.

“Be respectful!Do you know that you have to score real good to get into a good university?”

His father who was listing to the whole conversation in the living room appears at the dining table. He pulls a chair and joins them. “I studied hard, got scholarship to go to Standford. It is not that easy.” He takes a spoon full of lentil soup. “ So concentrate on your studies.So how is your practice classes going?” he takes a gulp of water from his glass.

Hans finishes his vegetables and raises his head. “ Ms Wilson is good in explaining everything. I am thinking , may be I should take a gap year first before going to college.”

His mother chokes on her food. “ Gap year! From studying?” she asks.

“I heard some of my friends take time off, like travel, or think, whatever.. He regrets of saying wrong words although he meant something different. He is waiting for his father to shout at him. But instead his face brightens. He laughs hard. “Your whole life is a vacation. You have not done anything like the other kids in your school. We have worked hard our whole life to provide you all the comfort,best education,tennis lessons, violin classes, boy scout..” His father pushes the chair and leaves.

Hans sits on his chair. He likes science, good in literature, history but he is the average student. His report card always stays on B-plus. He finishes his dinner and retreats to his room. The room has baby blue walls and the walls have pictures of him playing violon, or tennis.His desk is full with books and binders, papers tumbled, school pictures. His mother knocks at the door and walks in. “ Hans, what is going on?” She arranges herself on a chair, her knees towards the bed.

“ You are special kid.” She says carefully. “ If you try, you can do much better. You have all the talents in yourshelf.Confidence is very important!” her voice is now firm and emphatic.

“What do you mean? I am just an average student.” he asks.

“ It is fine but if you work hard, you can get good scores too! Now go to bed early and early morning you can practice for your test.” She pushes the chair back to leave.

In the following week, on saturday, Hans was the first one in the class. He approaches Ms Wilson’s desk. “Excuse me. Ms Wilson,” he says. “ I would like to know the tricks to master the SAT score.

“Tricks?” she puts down her pen and looks up, blinking behind her glasses. “ Well, you have to know all your stuff or at least try to memorize them or have a sense for it.”

“Like?”

She leans forward in her chair. “ Today after the class I will look at your practice answer shit and after that I will be able tell you how to proceed further.”

“Thank You.” Hans says.

He is happy to see his friend Meg next to him in the class.She has an oversize pink shirt and big hoop earring. She is always very confident. Hans decides to ask her on some tricks to improve his test score. “Sure, I will tell you if you come with me to our temple.”

“When?”

“Tomorrow.”

Hans meets his friend at her temple.He removes his shoes, socks and sits besides Meg and watches as she places her palms on her knees and closes her eyes.

“There is nothing but this moment,”the guru said. “We will close your eyes and feel the universal love move through us. Let go of all your worldly thoughts, just observe them coming and crashing in your head one after another.”

Hans squeezes his eyes shut. The rug they sit on is old but has beautiful oriental patterns all over it. Hans listens to the silence. All his anxious thoughts on different subjects appear one after another in a long line, sometimes they even cut the line and appear on the front.He oserves them in his mind’s eyes. After twenty minutes he hears Namaste. He opens his eyes. The people bow and stand.

“What do you think?” Meg asks him as they walk into the open air.

“ Very relaxing! The thoughts of scoring high is still there, but it is not that stressful anymore.” he glances at Meg. “Thank you for the tip.”

 

Home

Elaborate

Annie is waiting outside of the George Bush Intercontinental airport for Mrs. Hall, her mother’s friend. Around 3.30 she finally arrives in her blue car. She leans over from the driver’s side window. “Annie! Get in.” Annie opens the door and gets inside the car.

“Thanks for picking me up. I was planning to take a ubar.”

“Not to worry. It is my pleasure. So how was the flight?”

“Good, no complaint.”

“I heard from your mother that your work is very hectic.”

“Yes, it is. But I like to stay busy so it is fine.” Annie glances at Mrs.Hall. Her hair is dyed an unnatural black and falls in tight springs around her face and down her shoulder. Her eyes hidden behind the big, round sunglass, but Annie knows they are dark brown and deep-set. She knows mrs. Hall when she was eight years old and used to visit her house with her mother. She remembers the fancy silk curtains in her house, always moved in breeze, fresh-cut flowers in clear glass vases, there was always sunlight everywhere. She had two cute and playful dogs;one Labrador and one pitbul mix.

Annie used to play with the dogs while her mother and Mrs Hall talked and baked together. In someweekends they volunteer together.

“ I remember that you used to love writing and your first story in the Houston Chronicle. A beautiful story on bullying, very brilliantly written! Are you still writing?” She asks.

Annie nods her head. “Sometimes.”

“Excellent! Keep it up.” She leans closer. “Here comes your home.Listen I have a meeting to attend so I will not go inside. But give your mother a hug for me,okay?” She smiles.

“I will, and thanks for the ride,” Annie says as she lurches out of the car. Annie opens the front door of her parent’s house.It has been a year, but to her surprise everything is the same.Inside the house the floors are covered with oriental rugs, her favorite is the bright blue kitchen, the one chipped tile on the floor with its corner cut like someone stole a piece of pie. Her mother is in the kitchen and has a khaki pant, a baby blue v’neck t-shirt, her favorite color. Her dark, wavy hair parted on the side and falls on her shoulder.

“Annie!, she closes the refrigerator door and runs towards her to hug. “ I’m so happy to see you!” She wipes her happy tears and smiles. “So she picked up on time.”

“Yes, it was nice to see Mrs. Hall. She has a meeting so she left.Where is dad?” Annie looks around.

“He is in the backyard, busy in planting.Go surprise him.” Excitement spills over from her voice. “In the mean time I will make tea for you.”

“That sounds perfect mom! I would love that. Please make the Assam tea with lots of ginger and cardamom.”

“I will.”

Annie  walks out to the back. In the backyard her father is busy in planting okra, eggplant, tomatoes and zucchin. His thin hair combed over his bald spot, his glasses smudged.
“Dad!” Her father takes off his eyeglass and looks up.

“Annie!” He wipes the sweat from his forehead and stands up straight. He has dirt all over his hand and on his gray pant. “I’ll be there in a minute. Today, your mom has been cooking all your favorite foods. We are so happy to see you after such a long time.”

“ I am glad to be home!”

Annie stands beneath a blooming tree and lifts her face upward where the birds perched high above her.

“It is a yellow-billed magpie, her father says from behind. “Very pretty! Isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.” Annie walks back into the living room. The walls in this room are streaked at least a dozen different colors, from beige to buttercream. Her parents want a color that will suit them before they paint the room. Her father has washed and changed into a blue t-shirt and stands in front of the lightest streaks, the beige and antique white. But her mother is nearest the bright yellow, the one they already discarded as a silly color.Yet, that night, at least from where she sits, the yellow seems to illuminate her mother’s lovely face and she is confident that yellow will be a perfect color for that room.

Unique but Delightful Universe

Invisible

Life appeared to be vastly calm as they started the train ride. Toby loves the sway of cars on the tracks, the blur of trees and towns on the other side of the window. Lillian glances at her four-year old son; wide smile and bright eyes. Suddenly happiness bubbles inside her. Toby will love her friend’s farmhouse. The train arrives at Albarracin , a small town. They descend from the train. Outside her friend Jenna is waiting with a big stuffed bear.

“Welcome! How was the ride?” She asks as she takes the bag from Lillian’s hand.

“Wonderful! Toby loved the ride.” Lillian replies.

“Come, let’s get in to the car.It’s little bit of a ride.” They walked towards the car. Inside the car Lillian settles herself with her son in the back seat while her friend drives.  Toby insists Lillian to honk the horn.

“We don’t need to but I will do it for you.”Lillian smiles and honks softly. Toby claps his hands. “It sounds like the SeSame street blue monster bobbing its nose. Right mom?” He asks leaning towards her mother.

“Yes, it is.”

The house sits at the edge of an expanse of water, clear and blue like the robbin’s nest. Toby jumps out from the car as Lillian opens the car door. Lillian follows her son. Toby stands there mesmerized. His eyes follow the beautiful yellow ducklings as they waltz on the muddy shore. Toby sits there at the edge of the water, sticking smooth stones. He seems quite contented. Lillian chats with her friend as her son stacks the stones and stacks them again and his posture relaxed, at ease. Jenna watches Toby and looks back at her friend. “So how is it going with Toby?”

Lillian sighs. “ Well, you never know. Sometimes he is so calm and other times he turns everything upside down.”

“Did you check with the doctor?”

“Yes, last friday he had an appointment with dr. Robertson.” Lillian smiles. “It is funny when Dr asked him to draw a road runner from a picture book. Then he said “Beep, beep.” Lillian tries to remember the funny picture. “ Toby did. He is good with eyes but with bodies! Not that much. His roadrunner looked like feather duster attached to a gardening rake. But I liked it because he gave it a try.”

“ Does he have any friend?”

“ There are two boys of his age group. Sometimes they come to play with Toby.” Lillian glances at Toby. He has made a tall shape with the  wet rocks. Toby looks at her mother. “Mom, look they look like crispy double vanilla sugar wafers! Looks delicious! Can I lick to taste it?”

Lillian laughs. “ No, Toby. Don’t lick the rocks. They don’t have any taste but we will have a real wafer.” Lillian walks towards Toby. “Let’s go inside.”

 

In the living room Lillian sits with her friend on a couch. Two cups of green tea sits on a tray in front of them on the small table. Toby quickly gathers up all his cars, brings them to the couch. He begins lining them up in rows. But the rows are different than usual, the colors all mismatched . Yellow meets red meets green. He is trying to express something, he doesn’t know how to. Lillian leans over towards him. “Toby, would you like me to play with you?” She puts her hand softly on his shoulder. He ignores her and becomes more anxious. He rearranges the cars without any order and move them frantically so they are crashing into one another, tiny toy accidents.

“ Let’s go and play outside on the trampoline.” Lillian says with concern.Toby puts his thumb in his mouth and walks outside with her mother. A bright smile flashes in Toby’s small face. He bounces on the trampoline like an elephant crashing from side to side. Lillian laughs and giggles  with her son.

            

 

Fabric

Fabric

Bright and early Anna wakes up on her bed. She is determined to buy the book with her stored fortune. So, she brings her glass jar stuffed with dollar bills and coins, her saved money and spills them out onto the off white carpet.She is in the middle of counting when her father knocks at the door and before she answers, the door opens in a soft click. He glances at her counting the coins piled high.

“ Good morning Anna! How much have you got there?” he asks sitting at the edge of the bed.

“ Fifteen dollars and ninety two cents.” she keeps her smile tight to hold back her pride and sticks all her fingers between her toes for the low pull of pleasure. Her father takes his glasses off to polish them on the bottom of his gray shirt, the held them up for inspection. Still dirty- he never manages to get them completely clear. “What do you want to do with your money?” he rests his glasses on his face, pushing them up snug against his nose.

“ A book fair is going on in our school and I want to buy Winnie the Pooh, The story of Babar and books on Amelia Bedelia.”

“Wonderful! Wait, wait.” he disappears. Anna sits with her high spirit on hold. Her father reappears with two dollar bills and hands her. “ Go ahead and add this to your savings.Last week you helped me in walking the dog.” he says.

Next day after school Alina returns home from school and runs to see her father. In the living room, her father reads a newspaper on his favorite couch. Alina settles herself close to her father. He returns his gaze from the newspaper to Anna’s face.

“How was the school today” Did you buy the books?” he asks.

Anna opens her backpack and shows him the books. Then she holds her hands out, palms up. “ I spent all the money. Only a quarter left.”

His father laughs. “ Start saving again.” he says folding the newspaper.

“ I meant to say that there is another book fair coming before the school closes for summer.” She says with a candy filled smile. She opens her fingers and shows two fingers to her father. “In two months.”

“Well, we can always get books from the library.”

“But dad.” she protests. “ It’s not same as collecting books. I want to have my library like you have yours.”

“ Well, I understand that.” He thinks for a moment. “ You can help me in watering the plants in every week and I will help you in buying the books that you want.”

“Sure.” Anna claps with both hands with excitement.

Her mother’s room has a wooden multi tiered riser holding all her spools of threads, organized by hue, cotton, metallic and silk threads. The drawer is full of various notions: needle, thimbles, tapes, glue, yards of elastics and velcros. And fabrics! Big square wicker baskets lined up on deep wall shelves and full of solids or printed cottons, silks- you name it, she has some. Her mother loves quilting.Anna enters to her mother’s room. On her table there is a cobalt blue fabric with peacock prints at the edge,- standing still, some with their wings thrillingly outstretched.Her mother cuts the fabric, it sounds like symphony. It conjures an image of a head bent over a machine, the feel of fabric slipping through the fingers.

“Hi, mom! Look what I bought today.”

“What?” Her mother sits straight and glances at Anna’s face. Anna shows her three books.

“ Exciting!” she smiles leafing through the pages.

A huge smile flashes on Anna’s face.“Yes mom. Today I think my world is a beautiful Fabric!”  She says.

 

Funny but memorable

Conversation

You must be Clara,” a woman says when she approaches the main desk in the middle of the library. She has wispy salt and pepper bangs and a lined face, very thin.

Clara nods her head in response.

“ Welcome to our library,” She shakes her hands. “ I’m Jennifer, director of this library. I am glad that now you will be an important part of our library. “ Come, I will show you everything. Clara follows ms. Jennifer.

“You will be in charge of the circulation desk, but usually you also collect late fees, take care of the frisky printer, check in the books. Remember, always assist our patrons with a big smile.”

“Thank You, I will.” Clara steps in behind the desk and grabs the edge of the mental cart for support. Today is her first day in this job. At the end of the day, the director says, “Don’t forget to wear a Halloween costume tomorrow. It is storytime for the children.”

Next day, Clara finds a long white gown in her mom’s closet and decides to wear that. Instead of a tight bun, she keeps her hair loose. She glances herself in the mirror one last time. It is perfect, she resembles Emily Dickinson.

When she walks into the library, Jennifer looks at her. “Oh dear, did you wake up late?”

“ No, Clara says. “ Usually, I wake up very early.”

Jennifer frowns. “Why are you wearing a nightgown? Did you forget to wear a costume?”

“ This is my costume.” Clara replies and glances at her own white dress to check if anything wrong with that.

“Are you the pop singer Lady Gaga?”

“ No, no, she smiles. “I’m Emily Dickinson.”

“The poet!” Jennifer adjusts her eye-glass on her small nose and tries to check the costume again.

“Yeah.” She still tries to figure it out.

“Towards the end of her life, Dickinson was kind of hermit and only wore white.”

“Huh.” Jennifer turns her attention to the paperwork.

Around one fifteen, Jennifer comes running to Clara’s desk.

“Ian isn’t coming in today.” She gasps for air. “You’ll have to do the storytime for the kids.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

“But, I’ve never done this before, Clara says,her head spinning.

Jennifer frowns. “ It is easy, just pick up a few Halloween story books for the children, read the stories, sing one or two songs and at the end give them the candies. It will be over is thirty minutes.”

“Sing songs?” This is getting worse by the second.

Clara grabs the story books from the book rack, a special Halloween display, picks up the big  ceramic candy bowl and runs to the kid’s section.

Clara steps in to the overly decorated children’s room and smiles at the kids. Her heart stops to gallop.

One small girl in a Medieval princess costume stares at her.

“Did you forget to comb your hair this morning?”

“She is the girl from a TV serial.” Her mother says to her daughter.

“She’s not, her daughter says, rolling her eyes. “She’s lady Gaga.”

Clara shakes her head. “No..I..” Her cheeks flares up.

“Lady Gaga doesn’t wears pajamas,” a tiny voice says, cutting her off. “ I think it is the pirate.” A boy in Star War Yoda costume comes forward.

Another boy in a Spiderman costume walks towards Clara. “She is the ghost of  Christmas past?”

All the sixteen kids turn back to stare at Clara. Clara shifts herself in a small chair. This is much worse than she anticipated. She takes a deep breath and claps her hands together.

“ Let me sing a beautiful song before I proceed to a wonderful ghost story.” She offers them her friendliest smile. The kids lean forward on their seats. Parents take a deep breath.

“Hope- Hope is the thing with feathers.

That perches in the soul

And sings the tune without words..” The poem hangs in the air and the kids just stare, silent.

“Are you a ..bird?”

“Hush,one of the parent asks the boy to be silent.

Clara glances around at the tiny faces. She guesses they’re a little young for this type of poem. “Okay let’s get started. I will read you the story of White dog.” She holds up the book.

The air erupts in cheers and shouts.

A few lovely things in Life

Almost

Can you believe this! Anne leans closer to the cold window and looks at the front yard. All the trees, mailbox, lawn are covered with snow and it is almost seven-foot of snow.

“ I am telling you it is global warming. It may be a fake news or not a science after all for our president but it is the reality.” The nature suddenly has awaken form its torpor and unleashes the worst snowstorm in living memory. O’my! She is cursing the cold in her small,old,one story brick house. They get snow every winter but not type of Siberian winter which has struck Erie, Pennsylvania in error. Snow is always pristine from distance. Her basement, largely below street level and has poor heating. Snow is alway a nightmare. But Anne loves to do her morning yoga and meditation there. The frost-covered glass impedes light from entering through the small window and the inside gloom is hardly dispelled by the naked bulbs dangling from the ceiling. The basement has only the essentials; one long beige colored sofa, a thick oriental rug to cover the floor and a small wooden table with two chairs on both sides. Anne has her yoga mat, exercise balls and barbels in one corner of the room. She loves the quietness of the room.

The storm begins on Wednesday with a heavy snowfall followed by a fierce squall that lashes the streets. The forces of wind causes trees to bend and freezing weather kill many birds who has forgotten to migrate, fooled by the previous month’s warmth. A state of emergency is declared. Most of the offices, library and a few department stores are closed, although it would have been an adventure to visit the stores for Christmas shopping or to buy something special for the New Year’s eve party. Anne does not have to go to the university, so she takes the advantage of unexpected freedom to decorate her house elaborately for the upcoming New year’s eve party. She has arranged all her beautiful collection of clocks on the mantel as a countdown decor, has folded colored paper cubes to make decorative strings of lights, has taped giant confetti to her bare stone wall in the front living room.

“ Hopefully, all our family members and friends will make to the party.” She opens the thick wooden blinds from the window and glances outside. It is still snowing. The two tall red pine trees in the front yard of her neighbor’s house are almost covered in snow. She spots their puddle running around in the snow wagging her small black tail.Anne hears her husband Richard’s footsteps in the kitchen.

“ Good morning! You have already started baking!Let me know if you need any help.” he turns round and opens the back door to let the dog out. “Wow! Look at the snow! And it is still snowing! It is like the North Pole in here.” The bitterly cold wind fills the kitchen. He comes back into the kitchen closing the door. “ For the love of God, turn the heating up, don’t be so stingy.” Richard increases the thermostat and returns to the kitchen . “ A hot cup of strong coffee will do miracle.”  Richard makes coffee and takes a sip. “ This is wonderful! He walks towards the kitchen window and glances outside towards the snow.

“ I am not sure if guests will be able to drive here. Look at the snow fall.”

“ Let’s keep our finger crossed.”

“ I have an idea. We should prepare some healthy stuff for this party. Like sautéed Brussels sprout,avocado salad roll ups, Stuffed mushroom with feta cheese, garlic.”

“ We have most of the items and let’s go through the list first before adding up more items. I have already made green pea soup with carrot and celery, Mexican spicy corn bread and zucchini chips.”

“ That sounds wonderful. Hey, do you remember that tonight is Nora’s performance in  Warner?”

“ Yes, I do and we will try to make, it but we have to check if the theater will open tonight.”

Anne leaves the room to get her cell phone and confirms that it will open just one hour before the play starts.

Nora is Anne’s adopted daughter. She was five years old when they adopted her.She is the best gift in Anne’s life. Anne had all the fun with Nora helping her in homework, making school projects, playing Barbie, building legos, riding bicycle. Nora has given her the happiness that she will never find anywhere else in life. Nora is always gets lost in the maze of a feverish imagination and boundless curiosity, constantly wearing her heart on her sleeve, weeping for suffering humanity and mistreated animals. Anne has helped Nora several times in rescuing animals. And Nora always love to act. She has worked in school dramas, college plays. Theater arts is her favorite subject. Tonight, seventeen years old Nora plays the role of Mary and Nick her best friend, plays the role of gorgeous George of the story “It is a wonderful life”- a Christmas comedy-drama  based on the short story ‘The Greatest Gift’. “ In the story,they are both optimistic,innocent idealistic. George dreams big and is driven by a thirst of adventure. But he sometimes misses the truth what is right in front of him that Mary, the prettiest girl in town, is destined to be the great love of his life. Nora loves the story because it teaches loyalty and devotion. George Bailey is the poster boy for loyalty. He is epical loyal to his family, his business and to Bedford Falls. While they are practicing in the back stage Nora suddenly stops.

“Come on bring the words to life and give them more emotion.”

“Fancy talk. I don’t know how to.”

“Imagine that you are telling a story to a friend and he wants to know every detail of the story.  You should tell with some emotion, more details.”

Nick nods.

Richard gets out of the house and shovels and tries his best to clear the snow from their driveway. Around five in the evening they set off in their Lexus, travelling twelve miles until they reach downtown theater district.The road is slippery and hard to drive. The car headlights reveals a desolate cityscape as Richard drives cautiously, peering out through the semicircle free of frost on the windshield.The streets seems like those of an unknown city; for a minute her thinks he is lost,even though he has taken the route so many times before. Time seems at a standstill. The hum of the heating blower and the relentless back and forth motion of the windshield wipers give the impression that the car is suspended in a heavy fog. Anne from the passenger sit sighs.

“It is so dark! Drive slowly. The roads are so slippery!” Anne turns her face towards Richard.  “  It is only for Nora’s sake that we are coming. We can not see her sad.”

“ I understand. Don’t worry.” He concentrates in driving.

It is almost six thirty when they reach at the theatre. The parking lot is full.

“It is surprising to see all these cars!”

The decoration inside the building is mesmerizing! The room is full, instead of roadblocks and snow storm. The whole family took the front row straight across.The show is a huge hit. Anne hugs Nora after her performance. Nora looks very pretty with broad shoulders, a long neck and sparkling, spinach colored eyes. Her strapless blue chiffon dress with narrow chiffon ruffle neckline is breathtaking.

“ Both of you did  such a wonderful job! We loved your acting!”

“Thank you mom. I am glad that everybody came to see the play in this severe weather.”

“ This is your first performance on stage and we could not miss that. I can say confidently that It will be a promising new year for you.” Anne laughs hugging Nora.

 

 

 

 

Turning World

Prefer

Last two days it has been raining cats and dogs.The thunder and lightening lasted for long rumbling low and long. It was not normal to have this type of rain at the end of October.It is hard to tell where water ends and where the sky begins. Today the sky is clear and the bright sun is washing over the door steps. It seems like today colors wants to take on their old vividness; things have points, edges and have outlines.

But Isaac leaps into thought, stretching his tired legs, pushing the chair back against the wall. He is in touch of grief just like his whole family. Sometimes you try to hold on to something so tight but it somehow it slips away! His laughter has a desolate edge. He somehow feels a need to pray, he wants to fall on his knees and pray, but what would he pray for? To bring back his mother? The reality of life does not work that way! He sits upright, legs drawn in. Isaac glances at his watch.

“Where is she? It is getting late.”

He watches from the small window at the maple tree, the branches holding two slightly yellow leaves with apologetic gentleness and how have they held on until the end of October? Right behind it is the light, generously the color from the setting sun sprays upward over the open sky. Issac puts his large hand to the side of his face and thinks about his sister who is almost fifty, but because of brain injury sometimes it is difficult for her to understand the simple things of life. A soft knock comes on his door.

“ Hello, brother.” Sheba, her sister appears at the door in a long pale green dress, a little dusty at the corner. She smiles, her eyes warm as she walks past him into the room holding a few shiny rocks on her right hand and a small chips pack on the other. She moves to the couch and sits down. Sheba arranges all her rocks in a circle on the small  the coffee table and the shiniest one in the middle. Issac sits slowly in the  armchair in the corner and watches her.

“I have not seen you the whole day? Where did you go?” Isaac asks carefully clearing his throat. He does not want to upset her.

Sheba scoots her feet under her, leaning down to push aside her black sandal. “ Today I met one of mom’s friend. Remember Diana?”

“ Wow, you saw her. How is she. I have not seen her for ages.”

“So I was sitting under a big tree and watching the children playing soccer. I wanted to play with them but then I changed my mind. They are too young and I bet they do not play by the rules. So I decided to just sit and watch.” She giggles covering her mouth.

“ It was so funny that me and the tree looked the same; still and quiet.” She giggles again. Yes, a lady with nice looking gray hair in a navy blue saree was standing patiently and watching the game. At the end of the game she walked towards me and said, “ Hi, Sheba, is that you? O’ my you have grown so tall and pretty!” Her voice sounded so familiar. I glanced at her. “Diana!” Then we hugged each other and she told me all her stories; her children, her husband, a lot. But I did not have patience to hear such a long story. Do you know it is like the book says Never ending story. Yep, just like that. So, I waved my hand and left.”

“ It is wonderful that you met her. Did you invite her to our house?” Issac leans his elbow on the table in front of him.

She crosses her arms. “ No,next time.” She uncrosses her arms and runs her fingers through her hair, which parts towards the front and to her long braid. “So, where is mother? She told me that she will come back from the hospital and I have been waiting for last three days. It is hard to fall asleep without her on her bed. I stare at the objects, to the ceiling and let my mind go blank and when my tears dries I blink.” Sheba looks down to the floor.

“ First I thought she could not come because of the heavy rain and storm, but today the sky’s so clear and bright!” Sheba leans on to the open window to make sure that the sky is still clear.  She nods her head.

“ Well, it is dark now, but still a clear sky.” She returns her gaze towards her brother.

And there is a silence that went on for a little while. Isaac is used to silence, but this is not a nice one. He leans more against the cushion thinking how to answer his sister’s question. He sits straight.

“Remember, last time I told you that our mother is a star now, he points to the sky through the open window. “ There, I can see her clearly, just in the middle.”

Sheba cranes her neck and looks upward. “There are millions of stars in the sky, so which one is mom?” She consoles herself. “ May be the brightest one. You are right brother. It is the middle one.”

Isaac stands there with her sister. “She is the brightest one because she was the kindest, warm,loving woman. Everybody liked her.” Isaac returns his gaze. “ Show me your rock collections and I want to see the shiniest one.”

Sheba’s eyes are moist. She is still glancing at the star studded sky. Her mind, which has been spinning, rearranges itself. She feel herself again.

“I will,but you have to give two big half a dollar coins.”

 

“ Sure.” Isaac laughs. His eyes begin to break into a tenderness around their corners as he steps back from the window.

 

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Meeting an Angel

Express

The truth is bright and stark, not as willing to bend to the mind’s will. She presses one hand to her heart again and wonders if  she has made a mistake. Closing her eyes she thinks of her grandfather, grandmother, her parents, their love, affection. She could not meet their expectation! Sigh. Countless thoughts and questions envelop her mind. As Lekha leans against a soft pillow on the narrow bed, the thick printed curtain parts. Lekha sits straight. A woman in middle forty enters in a navy blue saree with gold border. Her black hair in a loose bun, small gold earrings on her ears, deep red bangles on her  both arms and a big red dot on her forehead, in between the brows. She appears to be a simple and friendly lady. Sometimes you meet someone and suddenly your heart sings. Yes, it is something like that. But who is she? May be a relative of my boyfriend .Out of courtesy, Lekha gathers her lilac colored silk saree from slipping and climbs down from the bed.

 “ Good morning! She smiles, pursed lips, raised eyebrows. She points at the bed. “ Please sit.” Her bright big eyes settles on lekha’s face for a while.

“ I heard from my son and sister about you. Is it true that you like my son?” She looks up at the ceiling, then to the wall.” A small sigh. She shifts and leans gently against the bedpost.From the trail of her eyes Lekha notices a slight similarity between mother and son, same nose, oval face, big brown eyes. A voice distracts her.

“ I understand completely. In our society we have to think hundred times before taking this type of decision.” Her eyes fastened on lekha.

“ Your parents love you so much and you just left them! She nods her head in disbelief. “ Sweety, if you want then I will arrange someone to drop you at your house.”

Lekha sits quietly. Her head down. She has no answer.  The stubborn nineteen years old girl is there to stay.

It has been a month after that incident. Now she is married and stays with her in laws.It is bright Sunday morning Lekha comes out of bathroom with a wet towel and pauses as her mother in law calls her. Lekha looks towards the veranda. Her mother in law sits on a wooden chair with a small white teacup. Without raising a hand from her lap, she offers a narrow smile.

“ Darling, today is a very special day.” She takes a sip from the hot tea.It is a special day for the new daughter in law to cook lunch for everyone and usually the neighbors come to taste the food. You can cook whatever you want. A big smile flashes on her face. She pushes the chair back and takes the cup to the sink. “Let me know if you need anything special for cooking and I will get those from the neighborhood store.”

The wet towel  slipped from Lekha’s hand when she heard about cooking. It is a grave situation. She can prepare special tea with ginger and cardamom. What else? She knows how to make chapati. Well it may not be quite round but it may work and rice is the easiest. In her parents home the cook does everything so she has no idea how to cook. She always thing cooking is boring, wastage of time. Instead read book, write or explore nature. But somehow she gets the confidence to do the task. Her father always says confidence is the key to success.  Lekha walks into the kitchen. “Oh, no! There is no gas stove here”. You have to use kerosene to light the woods which she has never done before. “Well, I will try.” Lekha pours a little kerosene on the dry woods and strikes the match. Yep, it works, the flame starts.She looks at the pots to cook rice but they are not the stainless steel or brass small pots, instead they are huge clay pots. “ Wow! It is even hard to lift the pots when is full with water.”Rice is almost done. She has to remember how to prepare the potato curry. Which one goes first? She stands with six big raw potatoes in a container and spices in a small bowl.A long deep breath. Lekha sits on the kitchen floor and peels the potatoes. One end of her light pink cotton saree is towards the other stove. Her mind replays a few scenes of the kitchen but the there is no clue to know the steps of the cooking. It feels real hot in the kitchen. Lekha wipes the sweats and suddenly hears her husband’s voice. “Take off your saree, right now. Take off.”

“ What? Here in the kitchen?” A shy smile hovers on her face. But she feels very hot. Must be the humidity. Then her mother in law comes running with her husband and both of them pull her saree fiercely.

“ Fire on your saree!”

She pours a bucket of water on the saree to diminish the fire. All the faces are white with fear. She hears the soft voice of her mother in law.” Sweetie, are you okay? You should be more careful while cooking. Do not worry, you go and change. I will ask someone to help you out.” Lekha walks out of the kitchen to change to another saree. She returns back into the kitchen. There her husband’s youngest sister has started to  peel the rest of the potatoes. Inside the kitchen her mother in law is mopping the water. She stands straight as Lekha steps in. Lekha is scared that she may say something.

“ Lekha, do not worry about cooking.” She points at her daughter. “ She will finish up and if anyone asks then let them know that you have prepared everything.”

Lekha looks at her face.She is so nice just like my grandmother or  my mother! I am so lucky to have her in my life.

It is the second week of wedding, a pretty spring morning. The sun is resting on the mailbox when Lekha opened it to pick up the mail. It is a letter from her grandmother. She walks to the backyard and settles herself on a wooden bench to reads the letter.She reads and reread each sentence. All of a sudden he face falls slightly. All the sweet memory of her grandma comes live.  She starts to sob.

“ Morning!” Her mother in law walks through the back gate. “ What are you reading that makes you cry?”

Lekha wipes her tears in the back of her palm. “ It is grandma’s letter. I miss her so much. I wish I can go back to her, see her, hug her and spend time with her.” Her mother in law sits down next to her on the bench. They sit silently. The air is thick with the scent of  honeysuckle, white and yellow blossoms dotted the bushes.

“Smell that?” She asks.

Lekha lifts her face from the letter and sniffs. “ I do not want to. I want to go back to my grandmother.” Her face is down. Her mother in law’s hand touches Lekha’s shoulder softly. A tear falls from the corner of her eyes leaving a trail down her cheek. She put her arm around Lekha. “ I understand your emotion and I can feel your sadness. But you made this decision of marriage. The only way is to wait for a miracle to happen, so that you can meet your family again. Give some time.”

Lekha looks at her. “She is so kind, warm,compassionate! She is the  sweetest person and the greatest gift in her life!Time will heal this.”

“Thank you so much Mom!” says Lekha folding the letter in her hand.

“ What for? She smiles. “ Come let’s go inside.

Two days back my ninety-three years old mother in law  passed away.

Her motherly affection, love, kindness will always stay with me. It will be perfect to say that she was an angel not only for me but to all others in her family, her neighbors,to strangers!

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Life from different angles

Inhabit

Her quiet and lonely life  has lasted for almost a year. One foggy week goes by, then another. One silent evening is followed by another silent evening. One cloudy day, after visiting the last patient, Liz drives to a nearby town to meet her friend Mei, a writer. Mei opens the front door holding the I-pad in one hand. A warm smile flashes on her small round face.

” Liz! After a long time! It is so nice to see you. Come in.” She closes the door from behind  and Liz takes off her shoes before walking into the living room. On the rectangle coffee table there are magazines and books are in a big pile. A few candles on one small table in one corner of the room. As Liz sits on the beige couch, Mei glances at her face.

” How are you Liz? I tried to call you so many times and even e-mailed you but I never received any reply! You need to let it go and move on with life.” Mei touches her shoulders.

” It is not that easy, not at all. But I am keeping myself busy in the clinic.” Liz replies slightly touching her ring then she pauses. ” How is your Novel coming?”

Mei brings the i-pad  and opens the goggle drive. She lets her friend read the story while she walks into the kitchen to prepare some tea, something to calm her friend. It is a pretty long story. Mei is almost forty and has been working on the novel for the two years now. she is a great believer in revision and revises each section on the novel six or eight times before she goes to the next chapter. Each time Liz comes, she reads hundred pages more. In many respects it reminds her of Henry’s screenplays. In one sentence the story might leap thirty years ahead and then in the next leap sideways two thousand miles across. But she loves to read her friend’s novel. Mei comes back to the room holding a small tray with two beautiful floral tea cups.

“This will help you relax.” Liz lifts the cup. The aroma of the tea wraps her as she sips the tea. Mei takes the I-Pad and starts to read her own story for a minute or two. She turns her head towards Liz and starts to talk on editing her story.  She concentrates more on her writing. After an hour or two of flipping a few magazines and reading the new edited lines of Mei’s story,Liz decides to leave.

” It is not nine yet. Stay a little longer and I will be done soon. Afterwards we can talk and watch a movie together.”

” It is fine Mei. But I have to leave. Tomorrow I have two meetings between eight to ten in the morning. Good night!” they hug each other.

After one week,on a partly sunny day, just after the announcement of a upcoming hurricane, Liz flies to Chicago to meet her friend Adel, a wonderful artist and her college friend. It is late afternoon when Liz reaches in Adel’s house. They sit in his dining room and talk for a while touching different events of their lives. On the table lay one or two sketch pads, sketch pens and a few almost completed sketches on one side of the table.

“The light is fine today,” he says “It seems to melt a little around the point where the water met with sand. Not at all like yesterday.”

“It was too bright Yesterday?”

She grimaces. “Too flat?”

” How is your clinic and the new patient?” Adel asks.

” It is very busy in the clinic and the new patient is getting stronger. she is seventy five but the surgery went well.”

Liz appreciates him as a kind and thoughtful man but does not like him when he is totally engrossed in his art! Liz leans over from her chair and touches his arm, and he stops sketching the dog until she moves her hand away.

” I came to see you after a long time and instead of talking to me you are concentrating on your sketch.”

” Sorry!” he says lifting his eyes from the sketch, then he frowns on the dog. ” I haven’t figured out the light,” he says. ” If I can’t understand simple light, forget about the stone sculptures.”

“It is the same light wherever you are, only your angle changes.” She shifts her chair closer. One of the cook places two cups of coffee between them on the table.

” We are good friends,” she says.

“Indeed, you are welcome to stay here in my home until you decide something else to do.”

Thank You for the invitation but I am needed in the clinic. I can’t leave it in short notice.”

Adel gives a short laugh that sounds precisely like the first abrupt sounds of a boiling kettle. ” You need someone to be with you and about the clinic. you can open one here and start your practice.”

Liz is surprised. ” It is not that easy to close one and open another in a completely different city. ” She glances at his face. ” Also what is the point of moving here? I will be busy in the clinic and you will never have time to spend.”

Adel sketches an errant line in the  dog’s tail and rubs it with his thumb. Then he stops.

” We are friend Liz. I will stand by you and give you company whenever you need. You have to make a decision. You have to be brave like Jules Verne who went twenty thousand leagues in search of the vastness of the sea.” He tosses his head back. “It is impossible for you to understand.”

” Now a days I stand alone in the early morning hours, where there are no foot prints besides my own behind me and I can feel a stark of emptiness in my heart. I understand everything very well.” Liz reaches right over and takes a sip of the hot coffee. Adel shakes his head and looks at Liz. ” He is gone Liz. You need to get over it and start a new life. I am serious.”

Liz glances at him. He starts to fidget with the sketch book like a young boy in school. She wonders how long she would have to sit with him before she could reasonably escape. Liz thinks of all the people she has met. She wouldn’t miss any of them and none of them would spend even a moment wondering of they would miss her. Each of them would fade in the other’s mind like paper dolls in a sunny window.