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.”

 

Advertisements

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.

 

Wonderland

No way! Really! What a surprise!!”
Gabriella makes a 360 degree turn holding her cellphone.She leans against the dining chair and reads the current weather again “ Winter storm warning in effect until midnight..A strong arctic cold front has pushed through…Temperature will continue to fall across the area with most of Texas below freezing  already and freezing rain will turn into sleet and snow. University and most of the offices are closed today due to this inclement weather.”
Her overly excited legs pad on the cold tiled floor towards the kitchen window.  She opens the wooden blind.
“O,My!” Her voice an octave higher.
Outside, the flurries of snow has been roiling in the air and dancing in perfect synchronization, thudding against the ground. The morning light struggles through the murky cloud and dazzles on the snow. The tree branches hang low with the weight of snow. A thick white comforter of gorgeous snow covers the rooftops. All the  brown and golden fall leaves on the deck look exquisite.

“Is it a fairyland!”  A loud clap of laughter bursts from her mouth.Her eyes dancing now. They go wide and shiny and bright again. Her eyebrows are so high, the’re nearly hidden beneath the long bangs on her forehead and then, in an instant she takes a decision.

There is no point of wasting time. She loves winter and her favorite is a day in snow! Robert Frost’s poem A Winter Eden flashes in her mind
A winter garden in an alder swamp..

As near a paradise as it can be

And not melt snow or start a dormant tree….

So near to paradise all pairing ends:

Here loveless birds now flock as winter friends,

Content with bud-inspecting…

A feather-hammer gives a double knock.

This Eden day is done at two o’clock…”

It is too exciting for Gabriella to stay inside. After bundling up in jacket, woolen hat, scarf and glove, she opens the front door and steps out to take a walk in the green belt trail. As she takes a turn towards the trail, from the trail of her eye she glances at the older couple standing on their  front porch. They wave their hands with a smile. Gabriella stops at the curb.

“ Good morning Gabriella!” Mrs.Bezos wraps her grey and white shawl around her exposed neck. “Are you going somewhere?”

“ Morning!” Gabriella waves her hand. She points at the trail. “ Yes, to take a small walk in the trail.”

“ Are you crazy?In this weather!” The small smile is still in tact on her face but her eyes widens for a moment and her mouth slightly ajar. She gives a quick shake of her head. Her husband steps in.

“ Sweetie, the roads are now very slippery so don’t venture too far.” He thrusts both his hands in his jacket pockets.

“I know.” Gabriella nods her head, “ You stay warm.” She continues her walk. The native Texans don’t like the snowy weather. They enjoy more of a clear, sunny weather.It is extremely cold with icy rain and slippery concrete sidewalk, but it is perfect for Gabriella.  Her breath is pale against the numbing air, she blinks as the ice perfectly touches her face and dust her eyelashes. The wind whispers as the snow falls like confetti on her deep blue woollen cap.It is almost forty-five minutes of walking, there is not a single soul in the trail and her mind is completely enveloped in Percy  Shelley’s poem on snow –

        The cold earth slept below;

        Above the cold sky shone;

            And all around,

            With a chilling sound,

From caves of ice and fields of snow

The green grass was not seen;

            The birds did rest

            On the bare thorn’s breast,

Whose roots, beside the pathway track,

Had bound their folds o’er many a crack

            Which the frost had made between…

Her cell phone lights up in her jacket pocket. She adjusts her footing on the icy road and stops.

Her husband is in the phone.

“ Where are you? In a venture?”

Before Gabriella answers he says, “ The roads are so slippery and it is extremely cold! You

should not have gone out.”
“ I am returning from my walk and not to worry. It is getting very slippery but I am careful.”

“You are really crazy! Who takes a walk in this type of weather? Okay walk slowly and come home.” He hangs the phone. Her husband likes the cold and snow, but he prefers to stay inside and enjoy scenes from the living room window with a cup of hot cocoa or read his newspaper sitting near the fireplace.

 As the icy rain falls harder and faster, Gabriella decides to turn around and return home continuing with Shelley’s poem on her head  
“The wind made thy bosom chill;

            The night did shed

            On thy dear head

Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie

Where the bitter breath of the naked sky

            Might visit thee at will.”

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

snopy

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.

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.”