Volume IV, Issue 2– August 1, 2013
I pushed upon my gate and found it gone ‐ David Jeffrey
“New Beginnings” Poetry and Prose from the students of the 2010 Oxford University Summer Creative Writing Program.
Turl Times Volume IV Issue 2 – August 1, 2013 ISSN#: Pending Turl Times Inquiries: On The Grass LLC 508 W 6th Street Apt 1 Bloomington, IN 47404 Editor & Publisher Jackie Lee King Assistant Editors Carolina Amoroso Dipti Anand Amy Lovat Guest Editor Lorenza Haddad Layout & Design Jackie Lee King Images & Artwork Coat of Arms – Ashley McMillan Jackie Lee King James McDonough Additional Image sources on Back Page General Copyright Notification All contents of the Turl Times are Copyright © 2013 On The Grass LLC, its suppliers and/or participating publications, their contributors, licensors and/or advertisers. All rights reserved. All digitally represented pages of publications accessible through the Turl Times are protected by their respective copyrights. Notwithstanding reservation of rights hereby noticed, additional specific copyright notices of individual copyright owners may be provided herein. Materials obtained through this or other Turl Times publications remain the property of the copyright owners of such materials and are also protected by national and international intellectual property laws, conventions and treaties and may only be used for providing proof of insertion and/or proof of publication for advertisements ordered for placement within the publication(s) in which they appear (if any). All other uses are specifically prohibited without prior written permission from the copyright owners(s) including but not limited to republishing in print, electronically, or by any other means; distributing, whether or not for payment or other consideration; or copying, reproducing, displaying or transmitting for any other purpose. These uses are prohibited whether in whole or in part or in combination with other materials. © Turl Times © On The Grass LLC All Rights Reserved 2013 The Turl Times is a Private Newsletter distributed, via the Internet and print, from the students of the 2010 Oxford University Summer Creative Writing Program.
Table of Contents
Introduction .................................................................. 8 Lorenza Haddad I Carry Your Heart, I Carry It In My Heart ........... 9 Dipti Anand Through the MONA Looking Glass .................... 10 Janet Barr Mumbai Beginnings ............................................... 13 Trisha Bhattacharya Courting Knells to Toll ............................................ 17 Wafik Doss (Fiko) The Crack In Tolling Knells ................................... 18 Wafik Doss (Fiko) Torture For The Heart ............................................. 19 Lorenza Haddad Beginnings ................................................................. 25 Jackie Lee King The Shit That Started It All ..................................... 28 Amy Lovat Ceremony .................................................................. 30 Sean McIntyre Back Page ................................................................... 33
Lorenza is a college student from Mexico. A warm hearted, sweet young woman, Lorenza can often be found wandering through Blackwell’s, reminiscing about excellent salads she’s had in the very recent past, and, unfortunately, sometimes careening headfirst into thick, dense briar patches. Her long, flowing locks have inspired much jealousy in the female population. In the future, Lorenza hopes to spend a great deal of time strolling around sunny warm beaches and reading books under gently waving palm trees. If this fails, she has her heart set on becoming an archaeologist.
Dipti Anand is a dreamer. She has never met a word she didnʹt like. She began her love affair with writing at the age of 9, when she wrote her first poem titled ʺSmile.ʺ After receiving her BSc. degree from Babson College, USA with a double concentration in Entrepreneurship and Literary and Visual Arts, she currently attends New York University, USA where she is pursuing an Interdisciplinary Masterʹs of Arts degree in Humanities and Social Thought. Clearly this is all just a ploy to distract her friends and family from her true hopes and dreams, which are to be a Bollywood dancer. Dipti specializes in giving people false directions to well‐ known destinations and dressing as well as she possibly can, even when the weather is just absolutely unbearably awful. She also loves bubble tea.
Janet Barr’s passion for writing short stories and screen¬plays arises from past adventures at home and abroad, an Honours De‐gree in Fine Arts from the University of Melbourne, and an earlier career in critical care nursing in Australia and England. Drawing on characters and events, real and imagined, Janet creates stories in a compulsive and probably futile attempt to make sense of it all. She returned to Oxford Uni¬versity’s Summer School in July 2012 for a stimulating week devoted to screenwriting and continues to work on short films with colleagues in Mel¬bourne.
Janet Barr P. 4
Wafik (Fiko) Doss
Trisha Bhattacharya is a creative writer born in India and brought up amidst varying cultures and geographies. Traveling, reading, photography, and matters concerning the spiritual aspects of life, are some of her interests in addition to creative writing. Her repertory of educational qualifications include: certificate in creative writing from Oxford University, and certificates in short story writing and poetry from Stanford University. Her contribution within the sphere of creative writing includes: feature writing, fiction writing and poetry. In the past year and a half, she has been working as a regular freelance features writer for the Deccan Herald, an established newspaper in India, and has contributed numerous features especially those on art and culture, living, and education, to them. She has also conducted a few interviews, and published them with the same paper, during this time period. Her short stories and poetry have found publication with the Times of India earlier, and several travel features written by her were also featured in the Hans India. She also published several features on art and culture, travel, and blogs with an online venture called www.caleidoscope.in, and some other features written by her, were also published in www.kolkatamirror.com. The winter and summer collaborative issues of Twenty20 journal, 11th Issue of 34thParallel, On the Grass, and many issues of Turl Times, are some of the foreign journals, where her work, particularly in fiction writing, have appeared. She wishes to contribute to the world of published literature, through her work, in the form of quality fiction writing, feature writing, poetry and other creative and writing‐oriented endeavors. Wafik Doss, Fiko, Devious Doss, Indiana Fiko, these are all names I am known by too many and to the few, as for Dodgy Doss, well that would be nice to if someone thought of it. ANYWAY! I’m 22 years old, now studying English Literature with Creative Writing at the University of Surrey after 3 years at the American University in Cairo where I had also minored in Theatre. Currently pursuing work in publishing, whilst also volunteering to work alongside a Professor for the company Veer where have recently published a book for the writer Peter Larkin, entitled 049. I have published a few poems for the group WTWN at AUC and 2 other poems in the American and British Poetry anthology along other student poets. My passion for literature stems from my mothers artistic side of the family and my lack of business keen is yet to be associated to any family member. I recently volunteered to be one of the poets reading at the Surrey Poetry Festival held in Guildford where to my honour I read 2 works alongside internationally renowned poets. I hope to open a publishing company of my own one day and bring back to my home, Egypt, the flare for art once again after being part of 2 glorious revolutions that have overthrown to flawed and corrupt governments who have been a great source of distress all around. Finally, the I would like to partially apologise to a baboon who will not be giving birth soon due to unforeseen circumstances of a tiny brawl 8 years ago in Bali, Indonesia, but in fairness he shouldn’t have grabbed my peanuts, from my hand.
At the age of 40, Jackie decided to leave a career in Corporate America to pursue his dream of becoming an accomplished author of short stories, essays, novels and plays. In pursuit of this ‘hobby,’ he attended the University of Oxford Summer Creative Writing program and has never looked back. Out of this experience, he worked with an illustrious team of authors and artists that created a publication showcasing creative writing from around the globe. He continues to write about the music industry (his other hobby), in his spare time. From record labels, to concert venues, to the artists themselves, he has spent the past 20 years immersed in this ever‐changing industry. His articles that span from Taylor Swift to The Genitorturers (currently at 120) and he continues to promote great musical acts in both Country and Heavy Metal. You can check out several of his articles at http://www.a2une2u.blogspot.com.
Jackie Lee King
Are you allowed to call yourself a writer if you’re unemployed? Amy has just begun her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Newcastle, Australia. She is studying Young Adult Literature, and hence attempting to re‐live her teenage years. Also, Amy loves editing. She first realized this love of spelling and grammar when she was six. She stole her best friend’s ‘writing book’ and vandalized it with a red crayon. She remembers the rush, followed by profound contentment. Amy is a self‐confessed grammar and punctuation freak and one day hopes to make a career out of correcting the mistakes of others. Either that, or stay a Uni student forever. She is definitely on that path at the moment. Amy achieved a First Class Honours award and faculty medal for her Honours in Creative Writing thesis in 2011. Soul‐searching was the theme of 2012, during which time Amy oscillated between crippling self‐doubt and reckless, creative abandon. Late in 2012, she was offered a full‐time scholarship to study postgraduate creative writing. You can follow her writing at http://amzlove.wordpress.com.
As a writer, playwright, screenwriter and producer, Sean McIntyre has produced and written plays which have been performed in Australia, Ireland and the United States. His play ‘A Kind of Destiny’ featured as a finalist at Crash Test Drama (March, 2012) and has twice been awarded Best Actor (JUDAS). Now a screenplay, ʹA Kind of Destinyʹ is the third film in Sean’s ambitious and eagerly awaited trilogy of short films ‐ ‘The Loaded Dog Trilogy’ – which he will produce and direct in 2014. He is in talks to reprise his role as ‘JUDAS’ is a Hollywood‐based, Melbourne‐ born actor. Sean is creative producer of the innovative script reading series ‘A Fistful of Scripts’, which he created and launched at Theatre Works, St Kilda in July 2010. In August 2010, he completed an intensive 3‐week course in Creative Writing at UKʹs prestigious Oxford University. A frequent contributor to ‘The Turl Times’ (Oxford, UK), his writing also includes personal essays and short stories. During 2012, Sean collaborated as playwright and executive producer with Chilean director Marco Romero Rodriguez on a unique ʹmicro theatreʹ project for Melbourne and international audiences ‐ Lounge Theatre (Jimmy Flinders Productions). Sean achieved a 3 star review from ‘The Age’ during its 2012 Melbourne Fringe Festival season at The Butterfly Club (Melbourne) – a thoroughly deserved reward for an unprecedented run of 19 shows at 3 different venues in 3 months. His short play ‘The Pickup’ was selected as a top 30 finalist from over 1100 plays for Short and Sweet (Melbourne, 2005 and Sydney, 2006) – the world’s largest short play festival. A media and marketing communications consultant, Sean established Wise Words Media in 2003. He is based in Melbourne, Australia.
Introduction Lorenza Haddad
Change is scary. Even when it comes at the best moment, even when it comes out of necessity or even boredom, taking the plunge into the abyss of change is no easy feat. Change brings lessons, lessons that sometimes we are unwilling to learn, but that we must learn nonetheless even if it means life unbalancing us to do so. Though change may seem as an enemy, it always brings hope as it carries a new beginning by the hand, prompting us to embrace it. A couple of drastic changes transformed my outlook on life and reinforced my values. Denial and rage is the easiest answer when you have no control over the decision, over your own future. Once Mexico got too dangerous to live in, my father decided to relocate the family. I was uprooted from my home, from my country and my P. 8
customs. I was angry, raving mad, not at him as I understood his decision, but at my people, at Mexico, who had made me a willing exile out of necessity. Change had been too sudden, too drastic for me to bow my head before it. I fought against it, rejected my new country and people, rejected the culture. I pushed back with all I had, but I grew tired and after some time I realized I was not closer to Mexico but farther away. It stopped feeling like home. I missed it, but I didn’t want to go back. I had changed. That event that had turned my life upside down gave me a new perspective. I wasn’t the same. The negative aspects stopped being important. This was my chance to do something bigger. This was not the end. I wasn’t looking back. I opened the door to my new life. It brought about another decision, now one made by me, to end a five‐year relationship. Making the decision was hard, but executing it was fairly easy. I was different, and he was, too. I wanted more. Endings don’t send a letter in advance telling you when they will come, they don’t wait until you are ready. They just present themselves at your door, closing it behind you, leaving you to pick up the pieces
of the old life. A window sometimes opens letting light in for a while then it closes once more. The point in life is finding the new doors to open instead of walking endlessly in a corridor, too afraid to start anew. Wandering in this corridor brings despair and anger, opening a door brings hope. The strength and courage that it takes to take your hand off the closed door and venture to find a new start keeps most glued to their past. It took me a year to venture forth and then another one to let go of the past, to let go of a relationship that represented who I was not, who I wanted to become. Now I look towards the future as I step outside this new door. How long will this period last? Who knows, maybe it’s just a portal leading to another door, or maybe it’s a long journey ahead. I don’t care anymore; I’ll just let myself go. That’s the beauty of a new beginning.
I Carry Your Heart, I Carry It In My Heart Dipti Anand
I carry a basket of weaves weaved with new threads year after year after year – little threads that interlock and embrace and glisten, in the panoramic view of the sun and you, and you, and her, and us, laughing. I carry the scent of my father’s lingering perfume, persistent, like sea‐salt, clinging to every last skin cell as I nap in his blanket after he has returned to the day, and I, to the happy confidence that he is always here. I carry the softness of my mother’s warm hands, and her fingers, long and far‐reaching, crossing all time, dimension, age, ego, but deepest yet, like sunlight trapped in a jar, into my own restless soul.
I carry the hushed sound of my father’s sweet smiles, anything but silent as the twinkling in his eyes erupts like fireworks and the muffled sounds of his humming to a tune he will teach me, if I do not know. I carry the whispers from my mother’s serene lips that unleashed me onto a world of thought, of expression, of action, where I swim, and breathe in large gulps of air – a bubbling reminder to float. I carry my parent’s hearts in mine, under the light pressure of their energies tugging at chords of my soul, agreeing to disagree, disagreeing only later to agree, to be, to grow, to become a sparkle like the shining brightness that their souls emit and if I were, I am, I will be – I can only hear my head think thanks, thanks and thanks.
Through the MONA Looking Glass Janet Barr
It’s been thirty‐five years since Anne McGravie‐Wright and I last took a ride on a ferryboat together. We were on the Orkney Islands off the north coast of Scotland, day‐trippers to the beautiful windswept island of Hoy. Our departure point was the small harbour town of Stromness. I had just been thrown out of Botswana in southern Africa but that’s another story. We were in our early twenties, a long way from Anne’s hometown of Chicago, USA and mine in distant Melbourne, Australia. Careers and families took us in different directions until we met again, only months ago, quite serendipitously through a friend of mine, a sculptor. It was a warm midsummer day in late July 1978 when we boarded Stevie’s ferryboat to Hoy. The sea was choppy in Scarpa Flow where the Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea merged cold currents towards the Arctic Circle. Stevie’s modest ferry boat had navigated the passage to Hoy and back in weather less kind than on that day in July, blessed with blue skies and a mild sea breeze. We hiked in T‐shirts and shorts across the hills of Hoy, picture‐ book lovely with its cloak of heather in full bloom. I’d come to Orkney to visit a mutual friend who had fallen in love with a Scottish scientist turned crofter on a finger of land in the harbour of Stromness. There must have been something in the air there, where Anne met her first Australian partner P. 10
while on an extended working holiday that lasted several years. Long after my brief stay, he wooed her back to Melbourne and our mutual hometown became hers. It is now July 2013 as Anne and I take our second ferryboat ride together on the opposite side of the globe. New beginnings. We are in Hobart, Tasmania, the large heart shaped island south of the Australian mainland. Anne is now a respected private art consultant and cultural tour designer. For many years, she worked as an art and exhibitions conservator for several cultural institutions across Australia, including the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne. I remember the blown eggs Anne painted in exquisite detail to sell to tourists on the Orkney Islands all those years ago. A graduate of the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, she shared her talents with the locals and tourists in Scotland and now Anne has established her own company, Avec Pleasure, for art lovers and collectors, culture and travel. I have been invited to join one of Anne’s focus tours to interstate and international art fairs, museums and galleries. Today our destination is MONA, the Museum of New and Old Art, in Hobart. On a crisp midwinter morning we board the MONA ROMA, a flash affair compared to Stevie’s ferryboat of decades past. A double‐decker, motorised catamaran
painted a dramatic jungle print in shades of blues and greys, black and white, dominates the wharf. The Saturday crowds are yet to descend on nearby market stalls lining historic Salamanca Place. Its nineteenth‐ century sandstone warehouses are dwarfed by Mt Wellington towering above us, the summit dusted overnight with a light covering of snow. Punctually, at half past nine, the catamaran pulls away from the wharf in the centre of town to transport us further inland along the quiet waters of the wide Derwent River. Snug in the upper lounge, we sip hot coffee from the bar while a few hardy passengers weather the chill wind outside on the rear deck. For company they have a large, fibreglass cow keeping watch over the railing and, on the opposite side, a row of sculpted sheep for children to sit on as we speed upriver. Twenty minutes later, passed suburbs and monstrous industrial sites belching smoke into the cold Hobart air, we turn left towards a peninsula of land. It is the site of a once struggling vineyard now revived with gallery buildings, café, restaurant and accommodation pavilions dotted among the trees, tended vines and sculpted landscape. We are one hundred and forty seven degrees east of Greenwich and almost forty‐three degrees south of the equator. I’ve checked the numbers in deference to the role mathematics has played in the
establishment of MONA, opened to the public two and a half years ago. It is the private museum and art gallery of David Walsh, a successful gambler and local Hobart boy of humble beginnings who, in his adult years, amassed a fortune at blackjack tables around the world. A mathematician and self‐confessed computer nerd, he has built on his early interest in coin collecting to acquire an extraordinary treasure trove of antiquities and contemporary art. Permanent and changing exhibitions are exhibited in buildings designed by Melbourne architects that includes a house by the late Roy Grounds built some years ago, and more recent additions by Nonda Katsalidis. They are works of art worth the visit alone. From the wharf we hike up the ninety‐nine steps cut into the sandstone hill where angular rusted walls lead us to the top the peninsula. This is a gallery like no other. The aged appearance of metal on exterior walls is new Corton steel; the vineyard on which MONA is built is old, the exposed sandstone inside and out much older still. We are met by a charming curator who explains that the architect was obliged to accommodate David Walsh’s passion for tennis, which explains the synthetic court dominating the entrance to the gallery. Once inside the reflective façade, we enter a circular glass lift to descend three floors through the middle of a spiral concrete staircase cut into the sandstone core. Patrons trek up and down the stairs around us, confused by the web of zig‐zag ramps, stairs, passageways and gallery spaces from cavernous to small. We are yet to discover that this glass lift will be our most reliable reference point and escape route in the vast underground maze.
We exit the lift and walk down a gentle slope towards a well‐ stocked bar at the base of towering sandstone walls cut clean and smooth. It is ten in the morning and MONA bar is open for business. I’m not sure if I’ve just stepped onto the set of a James Bond film or fallen, like an antipodean Alice, down a rabbit hole into some weird Tasmanian Wonderland. Unlike Lewis Carroll’s Alice beneath Port Meadow in Oxford, I overcome the temptation to ‘drink me’ as bottles and glasses lined up on the bar glint enticingly in mellow light projected from above and below. It is just a little too early for me. The sandstone, millions of years old, glows a warm honey colour enriched by striations of creams and browns. Black clad attendants kit us out with headphones and a hand‐held gadget called an ‘O’ device to hang on lanyards around our necks for text and verbal commentary at our fingertip command. It is the brainchild of technophile David Walsh, able to identify art works in our immediate vicinity at the push of a button. We set off to explore the underground vaults of old and new art. Hours pass. The current exhibition, titled The Red Queen, hints at a looking glass both magical and absurd. We have been warned. The absence of signs on the walls is a welcome relief from the ubiquitous texts that compete for attention in too many galleries and museums. It is liberating to simply look and feel the art object’s emotional impact unmediated by labels and the opinions of others. We are told that only the toilets were signed, reluctantly, out of necessity. The consequences of Marcel Duchamp’s scrawled signature, R.Mutt, on a urinal to declare it an art object apparently linger long. MONA does employ a generous scattering of human guides for our enlightenment
throughout the gallery spaces in addition to the ‘O’ device. Two at a time we are admitted entry through a heavy door, across a moat like entrance, to a silent darkened room. My toes are alert as I feel my way carefully around shallow, black rectangular pools. We allow our eyes to adjust to the low light that draws us toward two narrow raised crypts. I gaze at the Egyptian mummy encased in faded painted timber lying horizontally on our left. On our right, a replica reveals the transition from flesh to skeleton and back again in a video loop that replays over and over, the demise of human flesh and bone of the body on our left. We are transfixed. I wonder what this Egyptian would have thought, had some soothsayer foretold of the transport of his bones to this far away place so many centuries after death. Old bones in a foreign land. We emerge, blinking into the muted light of a cavernous space intersected by more sharp angles, doorways, stairs and passageways. It is as though we are moving figures in a lithograph by M.C. Escher, the late Dutch artist renowned for his drawings of impossible architectural constructions. A bloated, bright red car in the distance draws us passed contemporary paintings and distorted photographs hung on angled walls. A curtained doorway reveals an Asian performance artist slowly trimming the perimeter of a rectangular sheet of white paper, adding to the mist of finely shredded paper billowing around her. Only her dark hair, dark eyes and olive skin and we, her spectators, contrast the silent white room. We tiptoe away, disorientated in time and place. My friend points to the concrete floor on a landing of stairs between open galleries. An overhead projector plays a video at our feet of a
life‐size hand shepherding miniaturised people and cars across a busy intersection. The video of the god‐like hand superimposed over the video of our urbanised, ant‐like behaviour amuses and disturbs as it mocks our relentless attempts to impose order on others and ourselves. Somewhere distant, we hear bells ring at odd intervals. Eventually we find visitors taking turns to bounce on a giant trampoline inside a circle of thick, roped net. The weight and bounce of the human body rings large bells placed at intervals beneath the taught trampoline. I want to take it home so I can jump for hours to the sound of bells and have friends over for ‘bounce and ring the bells’ parties. Beside the trampoline, a father and his young daughter laugh as they attempt a game of table tennis on a bright blue table. It is an exercise in futility. The surface of the table is interrupted by a series of triangular crevices cut horizontally at intervals along the surface to capture the ball. Like moths to the light, other visitors hovering nearby await their turn, determined to serve the ball over the net and return it to their opponent at least once. One or two get the ball over the net but the return is quickly caught in the trap. It’s addictive. Players keep coming back for more, their ambition thwarted time and time again. It is like a gambling den down here where daylight is banished, coloured lights play in distant spaces
and strange objects loom in dark corners. We are lost in space and time. Spot lit in a recess we are drawn to a giant Buddha. It is cast in aluminium, three meters high and sits facing a replica of itself although the latter’s head has crumbled away. A gallery attendant tells us the headless version is made of incense ash collected from temples across China, then transported to Tasmania to be tamped into the mould by MONA studio assistants over five days. The aluminium mould was unbolted and reassembled opposite, an intact reminder of the figure in ash that will gradually crumble to the floor and be swept away. The old is new, the new is old again. We circle the ash image and the aluminium mould in a figure of eight, the eternal process of form and decay, twins different yet the same, silent and majestic beneath the mellow light. My stomach rumbles. Hours have passed and I’m hungry for daylight and fresh air as much as for food. We re‐enter the circular glass lift and ascend the hollow core of subterranean galleries to the foyer above the cliff. We exit stage right through glass sliding doors to the forecourt, squinting in the midwinter sunshine that warms the terraces and scattered day trippers enjoying the view. There is much to see above ground too. Sculptures, landscaped paths, the pruned vines and winery with its casual café all beckon. Today
we are being indulgent with a leisurely three‐course lunch in MONA’s cliff top restaurant, The Source. I feel my normal size again with table, chairs and cutlery on a human scale and plates of food and wine to match. The five of us have regrouped around a table high above the river to sip fine wine that needs no ‘drink me’ written on the glass. Time passes and the long lunch ends with one brief hour left to explore the grounds of MONA before the ferry plies the Derwent River back to town. We wrap ourselves in coats and scarves and sit out on the deck beside the cow and children laughing on their sheep seats as daylight cedes to night. I watch as the glowing lights of homes and industries cast rippled beams of colours on the wash. We are told that MONA has given Hobart and Tasmania the most significant injection of tourism, employment and income since the opening of Australia’s first legal casino on the waterfront here forty years ago. Now they have one of their own punters with a different vision for their hometown to thank for sharing his success with them and us. Down a strange hole in the earth we have been with new friends and past friendships revived. Old ways of seeing challenged and new beginnings; we all drink to that.
Mumbai Beginnings Trisha Bhattacharya
In your eyes, I saw the misty blues of summer, Which I had seen when I had peered above momentarily, at the sky As we had stood And I could not deny, That I saw all colors, not just blue The hill kissed greens, Sun hued yellows and oranges, Grape exhaled purples, Cherry touched reds, Moon showered silvers, Liquids in bottles carrying inebriating golds And I knew without any obscurity, For me and for you, that it was true, What I saw in you was what you saw in me So I just let it be, For I knew everything would be fine … always so fine … ‐ Cassandra Alvares
That was the last poem on the last page of the book. Not in print, but in pen. I had just written it, on the last blank page of the paperback I had in my hand. The book was finally complete. A purple colored, published poetry book, which had been penned by me, Cassandra. I am Sofiaʹs twin sister, who is sitting right in front of me. She is a popular television actress. She is working for one of the major daily soaps airing on Indian television currently, and is engaged to be married to her co‐star, the lead actor, in the same soap, by the end of this year. She and I have just returned from a small book launch ceremony,
in a major bookstore in the city. Which city? Mumbai. The book was received tremendously well by the audience and the readers at the launch. I had to answer a few questions too, but it was alright. My sister was looking at me, for some repeated affirmation of what had happened, to perhaps, relive the aliveness and success of earlier. Her eyes were alight with curiosity and delight. We were twins, but looked different. I was the leaner one between us.
“This is incredible Cassandra!” Sofia grinned, waving her hands in the air, and pouting her lips. “It finally came out.” “Thank you,” I smiled. We were sitting in an open‐air cafeteria on Carter Road. The sound of auto rickshaws and cars plying on the road was quite audible to us. But it did not disturb my peace of mind, and Sofiaʹs too, I believe. We were used to it, the effervescence of the city, and its completely fast pace. “Did you write it during the winters? All these poems?” Sofia said. “Is that why you had been away?” “Yes,” I nodded. “You were gone for a while,” Sofia said. “I did not know you would go to Lumbding!” “I needed time alone to finish it Sofia, and Lumbding was the perfect setting to do it,” I said. “At least for the kind of poems I was writing. I even visited Margherita for a while, before going to Lumbding.” Sofia, clasped her hands, and moved about in her chair. She never could sit still. She was always on the move, even when she was sitting. She was listening to me intently, however, even in her movements. I laughed with affection. “Great. Margherita is a pretty place. I remember. Was Lumbding, the way it used to be?” Sofia said, her frame almost blending well into the background, as it had become dark and she wore a black dress. She stopped shifting in her chair somehow, and looked less restive, all of a sudden. “Hills, cool misty air, snakes, trees, and tigers?”
The hills had still been the same, green, brumous, cool on the eyes, narrow and broad roads through them leading you to wherever you wanted to go; it drizzled sometimes, and at times, it was warm and humid. The tiger sightings had lessened of course, I did not hear of any sighting while I had been there. Snakes, yes, they still appeared every now and then, if one was sharp enough to see them, rolling into the bushes, when someone approached. “Yes, it is more or less the same Sofia. Everything you may remember about the place. Except for a slight increase in the buildings constructed.” Two Indian Christian girls in that small town in the state of Assam, we had been a cheerful and elegant duo. A liberal outlook, an affinity for other cultures as well, had brought us friends from everywhere. Most of our schooling had happened in Lumbding. But after school, we had moved to Delhi, and then after a few years there, we had shifted to Mumbai, a city bursting with life and drama. Our family was still, at present, settled in Delhi, but we had instead, found a very small apartment, in a grand location, by Mumbai standards, to stay in. This location was Bandra, a part of Mumbai, which was quite posh and swish, like cream layering coffee. We had been very fortunate, in Mumbai, so far. Our dreams had slowly but steadily come true in Mumbai, the erstwhile ʹBombay.ʹ After brief job‐spells in various companies, in Delhi, I was now working full‐time for an upcoming and popular poetry magazine in Mumbai. The book of poems had happened by chance, and I was glad it had. This was my first book of poems, P. 14
and I had dedicated it to Siddhartha, not directly though. Who is Siddhartha? He was my best friend, still is. We studied at the same school in Lumbding. ʹHow we became friends?ʹ is an interesting story. It happened because of his perseverance. I think he liked me since the first time we met in school, during assembly, early one morning. I think he liked how I looked, effortlessly simple and pretty, and how calm I was, unlike my sister, who was feisty and gorgeous. Sometimes Siddhartha would follow me home from school, and then in the mornings, he would come to our house, wait outside, and follow me to school, while I walked through the hills with my sister. His house was quite near ours, so it felt normal anyway. Sofia and I were never disturbed by his presence, because we felt safe around him. Sofia and I, gradually, initiated small conversations with him, once in a while, as he would walk with us. One evening, as I was returning home, and Sofia was not with me, I tripped on a stone, and grazed my knees, as I fell. Siddhartha was there to help, and gently accompanied me back home. After this, I guess I trusted him more, and we grew closer as friends. We would often study together, at his house or mine. Sofia would join us sometimes, and some other friends. Perhaps, a kind of a love took shape between us, over time. The kind you develop at an age, where most impressions, stay for long, and bonds develop quickly, and become everlasting. We studied together at the school in Lumbding, for several years after that, before our parents took me and my sister away from Lumbding
to Delhi. I was still quite young then. Parting with Siddhartha had been excruciating, more for me, than for Sofia. I just saw him once, standing there, waving at us, quiet, no expression on his face. His peaceful and caring demeanor, beyond his years, stayed with me, as our car had sped away from Lumbding. From Delhi, I wrote letters to Siddhartha, and he wrote back to me. In those days, there were no emails, so, we would write on paper, until of course the electronic mail came about. This went on for quite some time, without any meeting in sight, as he was finishing college in Lumbding, and thereafter, began working in his fatherʹs business. Post college, my work took me and my sister, who had wanted to work as an actress, in Bollywood or Indian television, to Mumbai. The city had come as a surprise. The noisy, yet silent beautiful beaches, the traffic, still, yet fast‐moving, people in a hurry, some worried, some not so worried, some trying to get to work, some to attend to whatever personal matters. There are ways in which Mumbai can entrance you, by providing ways of exploration, by opening up streams of discoveries, by transporting you in a jiffy from one place to another, gently, if you are used to it, or else it will give you the chance to just be, but yes, the being would still somehow arise in some kind of activity. Maybe walking or running at some park in the evenings, going for a drive, or simply watching a Bollywood or Hollywood movie, or a play at a theater. The city is a live wire. And I did land my first proper full‐time job in Mumbai, and my sister too found a vocation which interested her, and suited her theatrical abilities.
Mumbai is about entertainment, money, celebrities and the common man. It does run on materialism and dreams. I have never been much of a materialistic person, but I do not see anything wrong with materialism either, because Sofia too likes the best cars, perfumes, jewellery and everything precious money can buy, and so do many of our friends. I personally, always sought pleasure in literature, poetry, in the world of words, and the more spiritual aspects of life. My boyfriend, Xavier, is more like Sofia. I havenʹt told you about him, have I? Well, I met him here in Mumbai, and have known him for quite a while now. He asked me if Iʹd marry him a few weeks after we had met. I have not said yes to him yet. I am waiting to find out if I do truly want to spend my life with him. He says he can wait. Hmm. Anyway, Siddhartha is like me, in fact, more so. Whenever I have a question about some deeper issues of life, he writes to me, telling me how to deal with the situation. “Be like water!” Siddhartha had once said, in his letter to me, “Move like the water, over stones, and through spaces, and deep crevices. Water adapts, so should you.” His words have resonated in my mind oftentimes, and have
brought about deep changes within me.
“What is he doing in Mumbai?”
Anyhow, from Siddhartha, my attention now turned to Sofia, who was on the phone. She has been on the phone for the last five minutes, with her fiance; meanwhile, I had drifted off to somewhere else in my thoughts. I wondered if I should tell Sofia about my meeting with him this time in Lumbding, and the changes he has envisaged for his life.
“He followed me here, a few days back. He said he wanted a change. ”
“What is it?” my sister caught on to my concern quickly enough, and put the cellphone away. “Well, I met Siddhartha when I was in Lumbding,” I said, thinking of how I had walked up to his old house, and had been received so warmly by him and his entire family. This was much after I had finished my writing there, making sure he hadnʹt seen me taking walks, in the evenings, outside the guest house, in case he was passing through the area. Siddhartha had been angry I hadnʹt told him about my visit earlier. He did understand later on. “And, what happened, how is he, is he married?” Sofia exclaimed, the earlier curiosity in her eyes, ablaze now. She was excited to hear about him, as I was to speak of him. “He is in Mumbai now. No, he is not married.”
“He never wanted to move out of Lumbding. And why havenʹt I met him if he is here?” “He is putting up at his uncleʹs place right now. He wants to meet you, but needed to settle down before he did.” Sofia looked unconvinced, playing with the mobile in her lap, while some people in the table behind us, pointed her out to each other. I thought they might walk up to her to say hello. But they did not. They recognized her, that was a given. I steered my attention back to Siddhartha, while they continued gaping at her. They looked like tourists from some other part of India. “I had gone to his house in Lumbding,” I smiled. “He looked just like the pictures he had sent us of him. An older more mature and good looking Siddhartha.” “It was a kind thing from the universe, to place him back in my life. He says he will help me with my second book of poems,” I said, looking sweetly at Sofia. The overhead lamp lights were casting a kindly and warm glow on her face, and hair. She
again moved in her chair, and placed an elbow on the table in front of us, and cupped her cheek. The people behind us were chatting amongst themselves now, having forgotten Sofiaʹs charming presence. “Thatʹs great. But, what about Xavier?” Sofia said, crinkling her thin brows, and pursing her red lips further. “Why have you put yourself in such a situation? Will you be seeing the both of them now?” “No, Sofia, I cannot cheat Xavier. I may marry him, you never know,” I said, abruptly, staring at her from behind my glasses. I wore only a slight hint of makeup, but my cheeks were getting warmer with her questions. “Since Sid wanted to follow me here, I could not refuse. He says he would like to try a new career in Mumbai.” “You and Sid go a long way back, although there wasnʹt anything romantic between the two of you, due to whatever reason, but it went beyond,” Sofia exclaimed. Before I could respond, Sofia picked up her mobile, which was ringing loudly, loud enough for the people behind us, to stare at her, again. Someone important was calling her, as she raised her eyebrows in alertness. I couldnʹt see who it was though. She answered it. “Oh, does the director want me to come now?” Sofia said, pausing, and then running her fingers through her hair, and swiftly picking her bag up from the table. “I will get to the studio right away.” Worry lines formed on Sofiaʹs forehead, as she apologized to me, and asked me if I was going to be all right by myself. I assured her that I was going to be fine, before she left. I sat there for a while, reading from the book in my hands, and was about to P. 16
leave in a few minutes, when Xavier appeared out of nowhere, pulled me into his arms, and planted a kiss on my cheek. “Hey, beautiful, sorry, I was not there for the ceremony, but am here for the after‐event party?” he said. “Where are your friends?” “I am meeting them tomorrow. Today was hectic,” I said, hugging him fondly. “But I thought you werenʹt coming, and who told you about this place?” “Sofia did, in the morning. She didnʹt tell you she had invited me, because you hadnʹt?” Xavier said, grinning. “She must have forgotten to tell me,” I said, a smile brightening my face. “I knew you would be very busy, so, I did not invite you. And you donʹt need such formalities from me!” Before we could sit, and order some coffee for him, my cellphone went off noisily, once, inside my bag. I pulled it out, and gaped at the message from a known number. It was Siddharthaʹs. My palms became sweaty when I read his message. He was going to be here, in a few minutes. Earlier in the day I had informed him about this cafe, and that I could be here after the launch. But he was going to be busy elsewhere, was what I was told. I was not expecting him, as a result. These two wonderful men, facing each other like this, one not knowing about the other, was not a mental movie, I would like to play out in my mind, too often. Sofia should not have told Xavier about this place. If I had nothing to hide, why was my heart beating so fast? Oh, why did I not tell them about each other earlier? Xavier was a possessive man, and I had never shared anything about Sid with him.
In panic, I looked further down the road to another cafe inside, which would be out of sight, from the main road. As soon as I grasped Xavierʹs hand, to pull him in that direction, Siddhartha had stepped out of an auto rickshaw and was headed to where I was standing with Xavier. I was late. Xavier, stared blankly, at a tall and handsome Siddhartha approaching me, and looking ever so comfortable in my presence. Taking my eyes off Xavier, I quickly introduced them to each other. “Xavier, this is Siddhartha, my good friend from Lumbding. Sid, this is Xavier, my fiance.” Xavierʹs features relaxed from shock to joy. Siddharthaʹs face stayed stoic. I stood, silent, not making eye contact with either of the two, instead, looking at the empty table behind us. A meandering crowd was still out and about, on the narrower streets around us. I could not bear to look at Siddhartha, who I knew was upset, because I hadnʹt told him about my fiance, all this time. Maybe we could have started off, where we had left, had Xavier not been there, but he was. Siddhartha, my best friend over the years, a man from my past? Or a man who was with me at present? I chose Xavier, for my heart had said so, in that moment. Siddhartha had my book of poems in his left hand, and was grasping it tightly. As he reached out one hand to my fiance in a congratulatory handshake, I smiled at my best friend. I was standing with two very important people in my life, and it truly felt like a new beginning.
Courting Knells to Toll Wafik Doss (Fiko)
Breathe in the calm before the storm The final calm to leave where we are borne. Twenty two and counting. Seconds knitted to minutes, Minutes sown to hours, Hours fettered to days, Days re‐stitched in wider gaps Accounting years where so many months Have fallen through, this is how time Eludes us. Time that tells my story, That hems me into this ragged figurine Of wiry scars and seeping wounds. Scars that flow through my limbs As tributaries to a blocked stream. Wounds that snuggle deeper In my veins, making me the jagged cliff Edge where words come to falter, to fall. Twenty two knocks Goes the clock within my breast. The clock that moves twenty two aching limbs Remaining. With every morning stab, I fill more with holes and needles tips Than my youth would fill with knowledge. I know too well the mark of a needles edge, But who of you will ever know who’s bleeding From whose bled? Twenty two years, the storm rises, The calm remains. The daily dose Of pain fuels on the beating crevice. So many words have tripped off The etch of my tongue, they falter, They fall onto this obstinate paper, The pen smugly strides in lines it thinks It understands, that I, myself, alone Cannot comprehend.
Voices scream too loudly now Echoing thoughts of thoughts, Shards of dreams behind reflections Of doubts no longer among the conscious. I bare a laden conscience full of shades Still too young to think they’re shadows, to Covet me beneath the cloak of its sorrow. I am sorrowful, but not yet full of sorrow. I fear for those I love. With a land that disintegrates, That once held so many words Has fallen into an abyss of ignorance. I fear that those I love are losing tongues, Limbs now interchangeable, but words, Unattainable. That as a babe I sung in different tones, The beetles beneath the rocks now rule, And they have taken my words. My brothers abandon me, My friends sift left and right. One more and I must be The rusting syringe, to rip severed ties. Twenty two years nigh upon the door. Twenty two and counting ever more. Twenty two knocks, twenty two beats, Twenty two will walk, wail, wed, and weep! Twenty two drops repeat. Twenty two years will claim my life, Twenty two years to warn, Breathe in the calm before the storm The final calm to leave where we are borne.
The Crack In Tolling Knells Wafik Doss (Fiko)
Nigh the twenty second mark of my days Knocks upon the fetters of my door Agedly I step, though still this youthful rage Breaks gates ere I reach the knob! What have I given? That I may say, Nay that I may stand! And speak to you now Preach to you now, plead to you now! That I who has sacrificed time for you, Love for you, with blood that seeps through Every gaping pore my body cannot sew to Together as the patched doll I grow into Knits apart. I have stood amongst many great a man Greater a woman, but with what? What am I? To stand among the greats and say with minutes to spare That age tolls twenty two minutes of pouring history to a crowd. Twenty two days of wavering parents, Mourning death for taking the wrong stop inside their children’s Homes than their own. Twenty two hours I’ve waited for a friend to call my name In a land not my own now that my own land has given up But waits till I turn to call back, and Say I’ve abandoned her. Twenty two seconds till the final toll. The knell now echoes louder, Louder echoes toll against your ears, The beat of knees to the ground, Beards flapping against the dying winds. Friends turning to lovers who turn ever Quicker to others more concerned with life Than with living.
Twenty two years ago I asked you to listen Now I ask you twenty two seconds more, To speak. Before our ears wrung with lauded mouths And smaller tongues, confident of their reflections Through a lens. Never fearing 22 million eyes Hidden behind every pointing camera, these do not See light where you claim from the darkness. Twenty two heart beats are done! Quiet! The echoes are gone! Quiet! The clock has rung Tis rung! Deny it! Quiet!
Torture for the Heart Lorenza Haddad
The day they took my sister I was supposed to look after her. I thought she was old enough to take care of herself. I was wrong. I have never liked having a sister, having to share and care for her. I have always wished to be an only child, but not like this. Not when she disappears and it’s all my fault. I will get hell for this, for not taking good care of the ‘perfect child’. Don’t get me wrong, I love Luce, but sometimes she’s too much to handle. I remember my mom telling me “Emma, watch over your sister.” When I rolled my eyes, she added, “Remember that when we die, she’s the only family you’ll have.” “She’s 14. You left me alone since I was ten.” “You’re tougher.” That was her answer every time. I was tougher. “She would be too if you didn’t baby her so much.” My mom rolled her eyes this time. “You’ll take care of her. It’s final.” So that was it. I had to take care of Luce on a Friday of summer break. Great. I had no money, no car and no way to get out of babysitting. I didn’t even get paid to babysit. I texted Karli and told her to go to the pool party without me. It was not like I had killed myself every day for a flat stomach just to look hot in my bikini.
Karli texted back immediately, You’re coming and ten minutes later, I was sitting in the back seat of a black shiny car with Jimmy at the wheel. I loved how Jimmy’s arms looked as he grabbed the wheel, his muscles tensed every time he turned the car. His whole body was perfect; he looked like a swimmer, broad shoulders, small waist, statue like abs and pecks. I wished he would just ask me out but he just saw me as his up‐ for‐anything‐friend. We would go skydiving, pierce some random body part or go kayaking at 3 am at the club’s pool. We had so much fun together. Why wouldn’t he ask me out?
beginning I had always been there for her, but as time went by and I started high school, the taunts became so unbearable I stopped defending her. I felt so bad I stopped talking to her and hanging with her because I felt she judged me for being so weak. But no matter what, Luce always smiled.
Jimmy looked at me from the rearview mirror; his dark green eyes making my heart jump and do laps all around. It hurt to even think like that. Luce didn’t even notice, she just sat next to me, her eyes looking out into the dark.
“It tastes bad,” she answered making a cute disgusted face. Everything she did seemed cute and graceful. Ugh.
Luce wasn’t a typical fourteen‐year‐old, she needed more care than any other, and even more patience. She wasn’t retarded like some kids said, just different. Her way of thinking was special and I knew it, but I couldn’t help being jealous of how my parents treated her and all the attention she got. I missed the times when we were little, when we played like normal sisters, not when I realized I had to protect her from the sneers and be a target myself or keep quiet but risk losing her. In the
The party was awesome. Jimmy, Karli, Tony and I played ‘foosball shot’. Girls against boys in a match of agility and endurance. We were in the middle of the match, Karli and I losing not only the match but also our consciousness. Luce was looking at me, her eyes disapproving. “Drink some,” I ordered.
“But it feels good,” Jimmy said handing her a glass of Vodka and cranberry juice. Luce gulped; she hated being cornered. She looked at me pleading, but I just smiled. “Come on! Remove that stick from your ass,” Karli said approaching us. She laughed, her throaty look‐at‐me laugh as she made a gesture of taking something from Lucy’s butt. Jimmy laughed along and so did I. Luce took a sip but Jimmy tipped the glass so she had to drink it
all. She would never have spilled it on her new pink dress.
whiskey, but Jimmy loved it. He stole me away as our song began to play.
but none dared to go in. I couldn’t see Luce anywhere.
We spun around her as our drinks spilled on the ground. Jimmy stopped stunned as he realized he had no alcohol left in his cup. He, Tony and Karli went to get new drinks.
He twirled me around, mockingly, as I pretended to be a ballerina. I laughed at his robot and he laughed as I tried to break dance. “Shhtick to belly dancin,” he slurred in between laughs.
I walked towards the bushes. I don’t know what I was thinking, maybe that she was hiding behind them. I could see the street and Luce walking alone. I was about to shout at her, for being so stupid, but that’s when I saw him.
“Em?” Luce said unsure.
“Are mom and dad getting a divorce?” her eyes filled with tears. I couldn’t bring myself to hug her, she would only cry. In this place you couldn’t show weakness, all around were vultures ready to strike. My friends were nice enough but the rest you never knew. I was always scared to show I cared about something because they could always take it away.
After what seemed like two and a half songs we walked towards the yard falling on top of each other unto the grass. Full of liquid courage I pounced on him, as fast as my spinning world allowed me, and kissed him. My nose bumped into his but his lips were so full and moist, everything else didn’t matter. He managed to pin me down and hold me there, kissing all the time. Finally he let go and dropped beside me. It had been a long kiss, but I still needed more. “Wow,” we said. That was all that was needed.
“Probably baby, why?” I didn’t look at her, not wanting my fears to show, and a little, because I couldn’t see her clearly.
Somehow everything spun even worse out of control, so I sat. I looked around for Karli, I had to tell her we had kissed!
“They’ve been fighting so much… and….”
“Where’s Luce?” I asked suddenly agitated, my drunken head suddenly clear. Jimmy just shrugged and smiled, a drunken stupid smile. I got up. The pool was right beside us, shallow at first and then about two feet deep. It was maybe about ten feet wide right in the middle of the big yard. On three sides it was surrounded by flowers and bushes, on the other was the terrace, big enough for a bar and two big sofas. There were about a dozen people sitting there, getting drinks, like Karli and Tony, or dancing. Others were inside the house, a two story, yellow building. All around the pool were couples, sitting or laying down and a couple of drunks passed out. The pool was empty; everyone in bathing suits
“Mhmmm,” I managed as the earth spun to a rhythm that wasn’t my own.
“You’ll always have me,” I told her looking, I thought, straight into her eyes. Moments like these were why I could never hate Luce. Even if she was 14, she was still innocent and small. She did need to be taken care of. “Promise?” I pulled my pinky out and she hooked hers with mine. “Promise.” I said as her eyes turned back to her normal happy glow and her smiled returned. Jimmy came back, yelling something I could not make out. He handed me a drink and we downed it on the count of three. I shivered, as I tasted whiskey and coke. I hated P. 20
He was walking towards Luce with his hands on his hips and his lips ghastly white. He limped on his right foot and his muscles trembled with every step, but his eyes remained steady. The pit black marbles didn’t leave her face for even a second. “Get her,” he said in a soft singing voice that didn’t go with his body. I stood there, looking at him, trying to quench my parched mouth. Hate started to build up inside my chest. I wasn’t afraid of him. He looked like a bad imitation of a human being, lacking the grace to relate to people. I stared taking in every detail of his contorted face, every vein of his muscled body. I had the urge to remember him, to store him in my memory forever. “EM!!” her shout shook me out of my trance. It resonated
everywhere as I saw this ugly man and another taller, broader and stronger take her. They grabbed her arms and legs, covered her mouth and carried her. “LUCE!!” I pleaded but I still saw her disappear. “DON’T!” I shouted, but none of them noticed. “NO!!” I cried, but I wasn’t there to save her. I pounded at the bushes looking for a way out. I knew the bush scratched my arms but I couldn’t feel it. My legs gave way but somebody caught me before I fell. The whole party was staring at me, curious and mad I had taken them away from their drinking. “Em? What’s wrong?” Karli asked. “I need a phone,” I said searching, half out of it. “Here,” Karli said handing me her bright pink one. “This is 911, what is your emergency?” a nice calm voice answered. “My… my… my…” “Are you okay miss?” the calm voice talked again. What was wrong with this woman, why was she so calm? “My… my sister has been kidnapped.” “What’s your address?” The voice was still calm. “I don’t fucking know!!” I shouted at the lady exasperated. “My sister, Luce Roldine, is 14 and I just saw two men take her!” I shouted into the receiver, “Do something! What part don’t you get?” “Calm down. Police are on their way. We have your location.” A faint click sounded and the line went silent.
I stood there. It couldn’t have been called standing because I could feel Jimmy’s strong arms supporting me. I felt how his hands felt strong against my skin, how his arms felt like a refuge. I looked at him and knew that he understood. He wasn’t drunk anymore, or didn’t look it. He was somber, remembering. His brother had been kidnapped some weeks before, the ransom was paid and Christian returned safely. I knew how Jimmy had suffered and we weren’t supposed to go out as much because of ‘the risk’. Kidnappings happened, that’s what we said, and kept living our lives. But I knew about cases were the kidnapped wasn’t returned, where they disappeared with the money and the hope, where they destroyed the families. Jimmy sat me down, carefully, as I felt my formerly jumping heart collapse and beg for air. It was almost dead. And if my parents found out, I was too. Karli sat beside us but she kept giggling and kissing Tony. She was drunk and no help. Everybody else had gone back to their drinking and dancing. No one even noticed that a small innocent girl was being ripped of her innocence. The Cruella de Ville song started sounding. I kept looking straight into Jimmy’s eyes, wondering what was that, who dared play that song at a party. Jimmy pointed to the phone stuck between my legs and I remembered that Karli had put that ringtone so whenever her and my mom called we wouldn’t answer. I looked down and my throat tightened, it felt like I had swallowed a whole chip and it was scratching my throat as it went down, hurting with every gulp. The blue light illuminated Jimmy’s face and I saw the pain etched in his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” he mouthed as I put the phone to my ear. Sobs were all I heard for the first couple of seconds. My mom’s voice came from those sobs, forming from the pain. “Karli, Karli dear? Is Emma ok?” “Mom, it’s me,” my voice cracked. She had thought I was taken, too. It would have been a smart idea to tell her I had been taken, too. It would have saved me her sad voice and blaming tone. “Oh Em!” she cried out and started crying again. “Gio, she’s okay, Em is okay!” I felt the tears fill my eyes. We were in the middle of the party sitting in the grass, feeling the freshness of it, the life it still had and could enjoy. It wasn’t being stolen from it, like Luce. “Mom, Luce is not.” She cried more and more every time. “They called…sniff… us Emma, but they… they… they said they had you both, at least one of my babies is safe.” Bawling like a baby wouldn’t be the words I would use. She was bawling like a grown woman, someone in deep and indescribable pain, someone who was in danger of losing a child. “Mom I’m sorry!” I cried out and literally cried while I said it. I knew it had been my fault. I shouldn’t have left the house. I should have been a better sister. “Em, this isn’t on you,” a deeper voice said. My mom was crying too much to talk. “Honey listen to me, this is not your fault.” “But daddy I made her come.” I sounded like a five year old, but I needed his reassurance, I needed someone to say it, to liberate me from the guilt.
“Honey, they came to the house first. If you hadn’t taken her they would’ve still had her, both of you.” “What do they want?” I half begged God and half cursed Him, too. I knew they wanted money but why us? “Daddy, I need you.” Jimmy held me as we waited for my parents to come pick me up. We waited inside. We had tried to wait outside and get away from the noise and the careless fun, but as I neared the street my legs trembled and a small yelp escaped my tight throat. The car finally arrived, my mom’s Audi Q7. It was fixed and bullet proof and you could barely see inside. I shivered thinking about the kidnapper’s white pickup truck disappear with my sister in the back, how I couldn’t see inside their windows either, how I couldn’t see Luce’s face crying out to me but I could still imagine it. I closed my eyes and felt two sets of arms hug me tight. A scream started to build inside my throat but then my mom’s smell of cookies and Dior perfume relaxed me. I was safe now.
Jimmy stood awkwardly to the side, until my dad included him in the hug. We all stood there, crying and giving each other strength. They had already talked to the police but they needed my statement and I was in no condition to give it. They took me home and told me to give my witness statement tomorrow but made me write down every detail I could remember. I couldn’t remember the plates, but I knew the van was a white Ram 55 something. I described the men as best I could, frustrated that
I hadn’t seen them enough. Jimmy sat with me all the time.
his arms. My mom sighed, heavily her chest falling as the news sank in.
I woke to the annoying ringing of the phone. It was all a dream I thought as I sat up. Jimmy was lying beside me on my l‐shaped chocolate brown couch. My mom and dad were sleeping in the reclining chair, holding each other and waiting with their cell phones in their hands. It was real.
“She’s alive,” she mumbled to herself and managed a sad smile. A part of me smiled with her but the other remembered Luce’s pleads and wanted her dead. There was so much they could take away from us, but they could also take things away from Luce if she lived.
I got up and ran towards the ringing bomb. Anytime it would burst and ruin my life forever. I knew what was coming next, but I at least owed her a bit of courage. I sighed. “If you wanna see your preciosa alive have ten million pesos ready by Sunday.” Then the line went dead. My dad was standing beside me as I looked at the phone. Privado. No one to hate, no name to curse. Privado. Just like our life had been until two men had come into it unannounced and unwanted. His eyes were pleading; they were begging me to tell him good news. “Ten mil in one day,” that’s all I could manage to say. I had heard my sister’s cries in the background. I was glad my dad or mom hadn’t picked up, I was glad I could do this for them and save them from the hurt. Luce was asking for me, begging really as she cried out again and again “Pleeeaase, don’t. Nooooo, don’t touch me.” “Is she okay?” my mom asked between the curtains of tears that barely let her see. “She’s alive.” I turned around and fell into Jimmy’s arms. He was the only one steady enough to hold me. I hung there, sprawled like a homeless dog in
A hysterical laugh rose from somewhere near. “Ten mil in one day? Are they mad?” my dad’s voice rose with every word he uttered. He kept laughing as he thought. Grabbed his blackberry and left the room. My mom sank to her chair and fell asleep again with the ghost of a sad smile still visible on her face. Her baby was alive. I closed my eyes wanting time to go faster. I looked at my watch, 8:52 am. They had had Luce for more than six hours. I couldn’t help but imagine her lying on a filthy floor, her pink dress dirty and ripped. I imagined the noises behind her, birds chirping announcing a new day, cars honking and kids shouting. They were near a school, I thought as I pictured a grimy house in the part of town they called la ‘Robona’ (from the verb robar). Luce’s screams took over my thoughts and I shook my head, willing my mind to not picture the men near her, to not picture them on top of her. I couldn’t imagine, I just couldn’t even think it. I woke up again. It was dark out so I looked at my watch, 10:30 pm. I had almost slept through the whole day, Jimmy stiff beside me. He smiled at me as I kissed his cheek. He hadn’t moved because I was laying on him. Last night was our first kiss and here we were acting like a couple, dealing with something we shouldn’t.
“I talked to my parents, they’re helping get the money. They say it’s fine if I stay,” he said, his smile fading. He had been through this before. Torture for the heart was what he had called it. Torture was right. The second call came exactly when Buzz and Woody were inside the rocket shaped crane game. “Is she okay?” my dad’s voice asked. “No, I first want to see if she’s alive! ... Oh, oh, baby. I’m going to get you back. Don’t cry, please be strong,” my dad almost begged her, his eyes full of tears. Suddenly my dad’s face went blank. “I need more time… Please… No, never… Yes, I understand.” His eyes turned dark and they conveyed all his anger and helplessness. His voice had been higher and higher until at last it became flat, giving in without a choice. I looked at him and tried to tell him that I wanted them dead, too. No, not dead, suffering. I wanted them alive and make them suffer, make them lose their hope and love and everything in one instant. “I know honey, I know,” he said shaking his head. We didn’t even know their names. He fell on the sofa next to me, crushing my legs. He patted my head as he watched Buzz and Woody being taken by the crane. A crane, something inevitable, something commanding, but still something you tried to avoid. I rested my head on my dad’s big shoulder. It was stiffer than usual, carrying the weight of my mom and their pain. “I can be strong, too,” I told him. I tried to let him know that he wasn’t alone, that unlike my mom I
wasn’t a mess. He hugged me tight and didn’t let go. We finished watching Toy Story and I managed a smile at the end. I told Jimmy to not go and went for my down comforter. I walked to my room, it was down a corridor from the kitchen right in front of Luce’s pink door. I hesitated for a second before going back, resting my hand on the cold presence of emptiness. I ran back towards the living room as I felt the presence chase me. I lied down on the couch, barely fitting, next to Jimmy. His arms were tied around me, keeping me strong. Keeping me safe. We looked for something interesting on T.V. and couldn’t find anything but cartoons. Jimmy laughed at Tom as he tried to catch Jerry but fell into a hole. I smiled at Jimmy’s laugh. If he had managed it and came out better, so could I.
There was a call at 2:30 am. It was a slurred drunken voice. I could hear it as my father talked into the phone. “I want the other one,” it said, “one daughter for the other. Or the ten mil.” I felt Jimmy’s body tense exactly as my dad’s, their fists tightened and their jaws became more pronounced. Jimmy seemed to growl from inside and he held me closer and tighter. Woody tried that with Buzz but he was still taken. “Neither,” my dad’s voice came out like a bark, a harsh sound he only used when he was eternally pissed at me, like when I crashed his new car. “Dad,” I started but Jimmy’s face made me cower behind the comforter. “NO,” their voices sounded inside my shattered heart and
vibrated through my body. They weren’t losing me, too. I preferred to be lost than to lose. My dad turned back to the phone. “I need more time.” A clear and simple statement. Didn’t we all? “No,” the voice said. “I gave you your choices, you have until 10 am to decide.” The phone flew and crashed into the wall, breaking into two pieces. Which one to choose? My dad just walked away.
We waited for the call the next morning, all together, huddled around the phone. It was a new one, the one in my parent’s bedroom, that wasn’t broken. We were restless but calmed. My dad paced, my mom sat like a statue and Jimmy and I ate Rocky Chocolate chip ice cream with melted Nutella on top. Chocolate is good for depression I read somewhere, it makes some chemical reaction in your body that makes you feel happy. Well even if it wasn’t true, eating something this fatty and delicious boosted my mood. The police hadn’t called yet with any news and I hadn’t given them my statement. When my dad had mentioned the pick up, the police stopped asking questions and slowly left us. So here we were dealing with this alone, waiting for a call that twisted our hearts and made them thump as loud as a stampede ready to be let go. The money was already in a black plastic trash bag, so old schooled and clichéd. The sound I came to dread came sooner than I expected. Jimmy had made watching movies with him better than just sitting around and I jumped as soon as I heard.
I could hear the click the phone made as it went on and my dad took the call. I could hear the silence we created as we sucked in one last breath, waiting for the voice telling us Luce was okay and we were getting her back. “The money or the other one?” the voice said, right down to business, not even a ‘hey, how you doing.’ “We only have 8 mil, but please…” my dad’s voice trailed off as he feared the answer. There was silence, more than there was before. “We’ll take it. Leave the money at the Mc. Donald’s downtown, inside the bathroom and lock it. Have it there by 11 am. After we get it and count it, you can have her.” “No, at the same time.” “How do we know you’re not trying to con us?” “What?” I could hear the clear anguish and surprise in his voice. I was surprised at what happened next, what he did considering the circumstances. My dad laughed. “Me con you? Are you kidding? You’re
playing with a life here, my daughter’s life!” “First the money, then the girl.” “You’ll kill her after you get the money.” It wasn’t a question but I was still amazed at his coldness, of how he could say it. I couldn’t help but think that he had given them the idea. I knew better. They were worse than human, they were monsters. “We’ll kill her if we don’t get it.” They gave us no choice. My dad’s mouth moved but no words came out. His eyes looked around trying to find an answer. There was none. My mom just shook her head and tears stained her rosy cheeks, her big green eyes framed by dark circles, her nose red from all the blowing and her lips trembling. She had lost some weight in just two days and she seemed so fragile that if I pushed her she seemed to break just like an egg. “Okay,” he finally said nodding. “Promise you’ll give her back.” He held on to that small hope, that even monsters had honor. “Cross my heart.” Then a click and nothing.
We all ran around the house looking for things we forgot once we got to a different room. I put on a sweatshirt and some shoes, combed my hair a bit and brushed my teeth. Jimmy washed his face and put on his shoes. We were all dirty, not having showered since the party. We didn’t care. Hygiene didn’t matter right now. “Where do you think you’re going?” my mom spoke for the first time since the kidnapping. “Bobby, she’s not coming with us.” She stomped her heelless shoe. She was shorter without her high‐heeled shoes. She looked frumpy and unkempt, without makeup or nice clothes. “Em, please stay. We’ll call you,” my dad said. I never would’ve obeyed but that had gotten us into this mess in the first place. I nodded and he gave me a light tired smile. “Good girl.” He kissed my forehead and looked at me. His eyes were black and sad, with dark circles under his sad doggy eyes. Wrinkles that hadn’t been there had formed around his eyes and his lips were bloody, small teeth marks around the lips. “I love you,” he finished as I saw his legs tremble as he kneeled. He picked up the trash bag and disappeared looking like an odd, skinny Mexican Santa Clause.
Beginnings Jackie Lee King
It feels like morning today, like there is potential in all things around me. Last night, I donated most of my furniture to the ‘neighborhood swap meet’, which in reality is the loading dock at the Salvation Army. I have just enough food in the fridge for a few last meals, but I’m not worried. I feel light and airy and don’t want to weigh myself down with a lot of sustenance. There are a few items that I’m keeping for the day. I read this book a while ago about simplifying your life and that all you really need is one robe and one bowl. I’ve extended it to a few more items, but it feels good not having a bunch of clutter to maintain. I have a hard time keeping up with myself these days and inanimate objects just don’t merit much thought. I’m at peace. Why am I so scared about how things are going to change? I’ve lived in this small town forever, and I’m eager to move on to something different. So much has happened in the past two weeks and even more in the last twenty‐four hours. I don’t think that I can do what needs to be done, but that really doesn’t matter. All I know is that I’m ready. Ready to begin. I pop the last of her strudel in the oven and brew myself a cup of instant coffee from the hot water in the tap. There are no spoons, so I swish the slightly brown water around in
the mug hoping that the powder will mix thoroughly. For a moment I wonder if the initial color of the water is from rusty pipes or that this stuff mixes instantly. The pastry is done, and I grab it out of the oven with a few paper towels wrapped around my hand so as not to burn myself. There’s nothing to sit on in the room, so I decide to go outside and sit on the porch. There’s a swing, chained to the overhang, and I decide that I’ve not really invested as much sittin’ time on that thing as I would have liked. The chains that attach the swing to the overhang are a little short, and my feet dangle about an inch off of the floor. I feel like a kid again, and sip on my coffee and wait for the strudel to cool off. Over the years, I’ve burned my mouth on that cinnamon filing too many times to take a chance of it spoiling my day. She was really a good baker; she would have been at work now. Its overcast, but not to the point that it looks like rain. There is a slight breeze that waves the vapor off the top of my coffee. I catch the scent of it and imagine that it’s one of the more exotic varieties she kept bringing home from work, instead of swill I bring home from the coffee hour at church. I take a sip and see the school bus approach a group of kids standing out on the corner. God, it seems like a long time ago now. I was
nervous then, but not like now. I was wondering if I would make friends, if I would be bullied, but mostly I wondered if they had a good swing set in the playground. I rock a little harder on the porch swing and hope that the chains hold. I feel like there is something missing, like there’s too much room on the swing. The pastry has cooled down enough so I take a significant bite; my mouth is instantly filled with cinnamon and sugar and I feel a slight buzz. There are a few bits of apple that have lodged into my cracked molar. It stings slightly, but not enough to stop eating. At this point I only have a few bites left before I move on. I have to check in with my counselor in about an hour to facilitate my transportation. She’s been such a good help, though I think she’s too attractive to have a career like this. She should be out enjoying the world and savoring her beauty, but she has a good heart and likes to help people out, and I can’t blame her for that. She’s the kind of gal that is easy to love. Still, the impure thoughts come and go, no pun intended. I fantasize that if the circumstances were different, I would have asked her out on a date, but I’m spoken for. The coffee is getting cold and I gulp most of it between the last few bits of the strudel. I close my eyes and listen to the breeze rustle though the trees and determine that it must be fall. How did I miss the summer? I guess I was really distracted these past few months. The trees themselves gave me no clue; there has been an extortionate amount of rain lately, and all of them are a plethora of green. I see a police car turn the corner and I take that as my cue to go back inside the house. Guess he’s
making sure that the children get off safe to school ‐ smart man. The screen door sticks a little and it ends up slamming up against the house. Several of the children look in my direction, but then turn away and mumble at my clumsiness. Great, now I’m the creepy man in the one‐ bedroom house that slams doors.
pack of her cigarettes lying on the floor. I found them in the cleaning process and didn’t have the heart to throw them out. I’ve always wanted to know what it’s like to be a smoker. It equalizes all people, from all walks of life, and all you have to do is just stand there, and share a smoke. After all, I’ve spent enough time with one
The place is empty and smells of fresh paint. It didn’t take too long to paint the walls. I never knew there were one‐bedroom houses. We’ll, I mean, I’ll get my security deposit back for sure, not that it matters. The money will come in handy for something else I guess. I’ve cleaned everything in this place to almost an inch of its life. There’s a
I pick the pack up and there’s a lighter shoved inside the pack. It has her astrological sign, Cancer, printed on the side of the lighter. I think of the irony and decide to light one up. What the hell, you only live once. I look out the window and see that the bus and the officer are both gone, so I return to the sanctity of the porch swing. I place one to my lips and light
it, pull in a breath and then cough for what seems like ages. Maybe it gets better, maybe not. Now I have this lit cigarette and no ashtray. My coffee cup is still on the swing and I decide that it’s the final resting place of this cigarette. I wish I could have gone to the funeral, HER funeral, but it would have been awkward. It’s hard when you have to face up to the reality of a situation, one that has no happy ending. I’ve asked God for help, but as of yet there has been no response to my query. Through it all, I think THEY have my best interests at heart, and who am I to question the plan for me? All I know is that I miss her and hope that I’ll get to see her again in some sort of afterlife that I’m not supposed to envision. My Masters of Divinity at Loyola gave me a lot to think about and what I really want to accomplish in this life. I wanted to bring more people closer to God, but without all of that hellfire stuff. In my opinion, a gentile approach is better than something that is forced down your throat. She really understood that. I find it funny that I can’t even speak her name, let alone think it. She liked my humility. Said that it made her more humble in her approach to life, though she was always a bright star in mine. My cell phone buzzes and a text message comes through from my counselor, asking me if I’m ready to go. I don’t feel ready, but I’ll make sure that I’m where I need to be, when I need to be there. I’m glad that the judge, an old friend that I used to ride the bus with back in elementary school, gave me time to take care of a few things before I have to go. I go to the fridge and grab a peanut butter sandwich, one SHE made a while ago, so that I’ll have a snack on my way to the asylum. It’s
still good, right? I put it in my backpack, which is already stuffed with a change of clothing, my study bible, notebook, and several soft lead pencils. I don’t like putting things down in ink, I like to have my options open. In the process of zipping up, my notebook falls out and opens to a page where I ‘changed’ my mind for about three pages. There are still bits of eraser trapped in the binding, and I pick up the book and brush them away. All that is on the page is May 31st, her diagnosis day. I flip back and look at the previous entries, which are still present at the moment. I was at the end of my studies and about to take my vows, when something was coming to a head with her. We talked about her course of treatment and that even though it was stage four we felt that she had a fighting chance, God willing. I guess we spent the summer just driving around and talking about it at length. It made things easier because we didn’t have to look at each other. We could just say what was on our minds without having to see the other person’s expression. I was an excellent driver, very careful. Never took my eyes off the road. And then on her birthday in July, she wanted to look into my eyes while we drove. I have driven the backcountry roads for so many years that I really didn’t need to have my eyes on the road to know where I was going. She gave me directions, where to turn, when to slow down and when to speed up. She passed me a thermos and told me to drink as much of it as I could before I broke her gaze. It was coffee, but with a bite. It burned down my throat and I felt a little weak. She asked me to
keep my eyes locked on her ‘til I finished the beverage, and then unbuckled her seatbelt. I don’t know how fast I was driving, but the police report noted that I must have been going at least 70mph. With all of the rain that summer, it was difficult to determine how fast you were going. I get another text, ‘I’m on my way.’ God, my counselor, is on it. I bet she’s going to make a difference in life. Maybe she can facilitate change. They say that God is in the details, and she seems to be a detail‐oriented person. I run my hand over the cut on my chin where the steering wheel clipped me when the car suddenly stopped – my only physical injury, and of course the tooth. I walked away from that twisted mess of metal and glass. Well to be honest, I stumbled. I just couldn’t get my feet up under me. I felt weak and dizzy. I guess I was over the legal limit. I told her, ‘I don’t believe in that,’ it’s a sin and then made a pun about young people from the Far East. Everyone has difficulties, but God will never give you anything that you cannot handle. She said that God gave us free will to do whatever we want in this world – Dominion over all of His creations, including ourselves. This was an argument that I was never going to win, so I just let it go. Left it to his will.
A final text arrives on my phone, ‘I’m outside.’ I put the notebook back, take out the sandwich, and zip up my backpack. I walk out onto the porch, turn and lock the door and drop the keys into the mail slot. ‘Don’t you want your keys?’ she yells from the car. ‘It’s only for six months, and it’s only for observation.’ ‘I don’t need them.’ ‘You’ll be back.’ Not likely. I walk towards the car, a Buick, and go around and let myself into the passenger side. ‘PB&J?’ she asks. ‘PB&M – Marzipan, it’s the last thing she made me.’ ‘Are you hungry?’ ‘No, I’m going to save it, or at least pray over it a bit.’ ‘So, as terms of your release, I’ve found a great rehabilitation center where you can serve. I’ve spent a lot of time there, part of my job.’ ‘Then I’ll get to minister to you as well.’ ‘Perhaps.’ ‘Good, I’m finally ready to take my vows.’
During the trial, my counselor kept begging me to tell the court who made the coffee that morning and that if was aware of its contents. I knew. She was giving me a way out ‐ a way to help. She would say that ‘if life gives you melons, then you are dyslexic.’ I think I understand now.
The Shit That Started It All Amy Lovat
On July 10 2013, a man decided he needed a change. His name was Fabio and it was his 35th birthday. Fabio was stuck in a rut, I guess you would say. Every morning he awoke to the sound of Mr Poncelli, the man who used to live on the bottom floor but moved to the middle floor on account of the rising level of the water. Fabio’s neighbour also moved up to the middle floor on account of Mrs Manfredi, the previous occupant, dying earlier in the year and leaving her estate, such as it was, to Mr Poncelli. Given that she had no children of her own to pass her belongings to, the flat was left to Mr Poncelli as gratitude for the many times he took the old woman to church in his fancy new motorboat. The sound of Mr Poncelli hosing down the fancy motorboat roused Fabio between 7.15 and 7.30am daily. This timeframe changed infrequently during the summer months as Fabio liked to sleep with his bedroom window open so as to reap the benefits of the slight breeze, if indeed there was one, and Mr Poncelli sometimes preferred to go about his morning routine involving his beloved boat at an earlier hour so as to remain in keeping with the ebb and flow of tourism in the city. At approximately 9 o’clock every morning, Fabio ventured
outside. He stood outside the door to Mr Poncelli’s former bottom‐level residence, looked left and then right up the narrow street, and began to walk. Wandering the streets on a hot summer’s morning, Fabio passed three fruit stalls. The sun pierced the flesh of the softer fruits ‐‐ peaches, plums and mangoes ‐‐ thereby intoxicating the Squares with rich, sickly‐sweet smells. The juices leaked from some of the unluckier pieces of fruit squashed on the bottom of the pile and Fabio loved the soft ‘drip, drip, drip’ sounds of the juice escaping onto the cobblestone underneath the rack. But now, on this morning, even the aromas that emanated from the puddle were dead to him. Between the hours of 10.30 and 11.30am daily, Fabio sat on a bench in San Marco Square and observed the tourists in all their indignity and bad fashion sense. He had a particular distaste for tourists who looked like tourists: backpacks, maps, cameras around their necks, hideous little bags slung over hips of all shapes and sizes. And those sandals. Oh, those cumbersome, touristy sandals with the Velcro straps across the toes, instep and around the heel. On some days, Fabio felt like he could write a book about those sandals, emphasising how unfit they are to be worn in public, if at all. About how they
completely and utterly (and sometimes devastatingly, if the wearer is otherwise quite good looking) ruin even somewhat decent outfits. Most of all, though, he desired that a law be passed stating that if any person, male or female, insisted on lowering themselves to wear such ugly footwear, they would be forbidden to also wear socks with said footwear. At times like these, when Fabio was all fired up about a topic (usually tourist‐related), he had to remind himself that he was no longer a lawyer. He did not need to think critically anymore. He could simply enjoy the view, or lack thereof. Lost in his thoughts, Fabio looked down at his brown leather shoes, the same pair he has worn every day since November 2, 2007, the day of his retirement, and sighed. ‘Speaking of hideous fashion,’ he thought to himself. At his age and within the confines of his current state of mind, there was abundant excuse for poor fashion sense and poor footwear in particular. Despite the fact that shoes were always of extreme importance to Fabio, he no longer cared so much for his own footwear. In saying that, he still believed that he had perfectly sound licence to accuse others of shoe crime. Fabio loved his routine. However, since that day in November, delight turned to complacency. Complacency became
boredom. Boredom became indifference. We do not know whether Fabio would have reached the next level, because later on the day of July 10 2013, something happened. An episode of what one might call divine intervention. I speak not of Carla’s almost‐suicide, nor of Fabio’s almost‐death had she fallen and landed on him, but of the episode with the pigeon. The pigeon shitting on Fabio’s head.
The luscious locks of his black hair were, only in the last six months or so and much to his despair, turning a distinct shade of grey near the ears and nape of the neck. Fabio had brushed his hair meticulously (or, not so much) in perfect routine that morning at 8.05am, and now it was ruined. The pigeon droppings, in shades of green, brown and murky white, infected his jet‐black locks. That was when Fabio had looked up. I am not sure of the reasoning of that action ‐‐ did he expect to see the pigeon hovering guiltily in mid‐squat above his head? If so, however unlikely, did he think that he would be able to scold it, waggling his finger and swatting at the air above him in the hopes of catching the pigeon on the backside with a well‐deserved smack? I do not know, and I don’t think he did either.
Poor Fabio, nothing so out of the ordinary had ever happened to him, so naturally he was confused. What would become of the rest of his daily routine? He may have to go home and shower before continuing his walk! That would just mess the day up entirely. Fabio was rather distraught. Alas, we shall never know of his true intentions regarding the pigeon, because when he looked up towards the sky, he saw Carla. Carla was a twenty‐one year old tourist from Australia. The bitter ghosts of her past relationships lingered in the air, even in Venice. In Paris, London, Moscow...wherever she travelled. They loomed over her life like a dark raincloud at a time when any forms of raincloud, metaphorical or physical, were not at all common. They followed her, watched her every move. They turned the waters of her evening shower lukewarm and flooded her mind with darkness incomprehensible to the average soul. On July 10, 2013, Carla could not escape the raincloud. Sometimes she could for a little while, throughout her travels. When she found a place where the beauty was recognisable, she could pretend that her life had been pleasant. That her twenty one years of existence were totally worth it because they brought her to this place. San Marco Square was one of them.
cathartic and she seriously thought that she was going to be okay. Apparently not. Carla pushed her way through the crowds at 12.45pm on that day, making her way to St Mark’s Clock tower. Everything was a blur, save for a few faces that randomly stood out. A woman with red hair holding a baby and calling out to someone, a middle‐aged Italian man with ugly brown shoes sitting on a bench, multiple stands selling a vast array of colourful fruits... She pushed passed her fellow tourists, locals and salespeople, intent on only one thing. She needed to get to the top of that tower. She needed to look down over the Square, remember that she despised herself and her life, and jump. Carla never did quite make it that far. To the jumping part, that is. She climbed to the top, stood looking out over the Square, closed her eyes, spread her arms wide and was just about to tip her body over the edge when there was a lot of noise and commotion from below. A middle‐aged Italian man with ugly brown shoes was making a fuss. Something about a pigeon. Then, Fabio looked up and their eyes met.
Tourists and locals bustled about, not giving her the time of day. Usually, at home, this would grate on her. Constantly being ignored and unappreciated was the crux of her problems. But here, she relished it. She loved that no one knew who she was, where she came from or what the hell she was doing in Venice. At first, being overseas was quite p. 29
Ceremony Sean McIntyre
Kylie’d out. So I couldn’t help but notice.” “Not many people can carry off a decent K. D. Lang, let alone the K. D. slash Annie combo”, I said. “Tell me about it,” she said. “The Langoir got so tubby. So quickly.”
She asked me to come for moral support, y’see. No one in our group is left. Just me. Poor thing, least I can do. Pick up the pieces. No, I’ve never been to a divorce ceremony before. They’re becoming very common now. That’s what she said. It’s all about closure. New beginnings. She said that, too. Seems to be over it, but I’m not sure. Don’t tell anyone you heard it from me but...I heard Jerramae simply got it done over a cold‐hearted hand‐shake at a suburban law practice in Gainsborough. Conveyancing specialists, apparently.
It’s a lot of trouble to go to. For a divorce. I’m here early. Can’t help it, I’m the punctual type. So far I’ve met a dwarf, a drag queen wearing a Danny la Rue ‘Suntan by CascasdÉ’ and three giggling twenty‐somethings (here on their lunch‐break, I’m told, and already out‐of‐control on the red bull champagne cocktails).
I’m looking at the invitation.
I thought the ‘DIVORCE REGISTER’ a tad tacky. I just signed it with a brief note reminding the poor love that life goes on. Another woman was lined up behind me. I couldn’t help admiring the hair‐do on her. We got talking. As you do.
“Do you mind if I pay you a compliment?”
PHILLIP AND HOWARD INVITE YOU TO JOIN THEM FOR THE SPECIAL OCCASION OF the divorce (in lower case letters, mind).
She said, ‘No’. Smiled that sort of cat’s‐bum smile one gives when one likes to acknowledge one in such a way that lets one know you’re imposing upon them.
JOIN US AT THE OFFICES OF HUMPRHEY AND FLATLOW, LEVEL 61, 26 SUFFOLK PARK ROAD, BEACHAM”
“You carry the ‘do’ so well,” I said. Genuinely, too. “Your stylist must have you up on his wall of envy, I bet”
They chose a faded pink card with gold‐embossed lettering. Same as their wedding invite. Hmmm. Must’ve got a good deal. Returning clients, I’ll bet.
She gleamed down at me from her style pedestal.
“RSVP 20 July 2013. HOWARD FELDGATE 0905 266 714”
“Not many people go for the Annie Lennox slash K. D. Lang these days.” “Oh, I know,” I said. “It’s all Kylie‐this, Kylie‐that. I’m just all
Well. What can one do but concur? So I did. The law firm is providing the catering, by the look of it. “Howard is such a tight‐ arse,” observed the K. D. ‘Émuloir’. “Well, it makes sense,” I said, as she turned away from me to ‘exit stage left’, “Why not go for an economy of scale. Wouldn’t make sense to bring in the help from outside.” Speaking of help, the waiter is dead cute! In a kind of ‘wanna scrunch him up, take him home and help myself!’ way. I think I made him self‐conscious, somewhat. I asked the most inane questions of him. He must have known I was coming onto him. It’s just so distracting having ‘the straighties’ at our functions. I mean, really. They get in the way of a good time. I do wish Howard would be more thoughtful. I could never have another partner in the legal field again. That’s him over there. Just walked in. Yes, I know, isn’t he. And he’s making that ‘thing’ with his tongue. Does that when he’s feeling awkward. Yes – whenever the attentions not on him. See the way his Adam’s apple works its way up and down? Nerves. Dead giveaway. Howard told me they had a terrible row over whose law firm they were going to use. In the end he won out ‘cos Philly had to concede the
point that, yes, Howard had compromised on the wedding venue. So it’s only fair Philly should let Howard choose the divorce venue. I’m all for supporting my friends in a time of need, but it’s a shame Philly didn’t win the upper‐ hand on this one. Can you feel the postmodern, dot‐com decor closing in on us, too? Or is it just me. That reception area is too strong, too visceral. I had to put my sunnies on as soon as the lift doors opened. The receptionist is going to have permanent crow’s feet from squinting greetings at every client that walks through the door. Oh. Look what just...there’s Sierra. Flew in from Yemen last night (according to the grapevine. Not that I’m one to gossip). Look at her swanning about, the trollop. Dear, pull your head in. Please. Nobody cares if you’re up to your eye‐balls in botox and designer Sheik‐whatever‐his‐name‐is. Oh, she’s simply brazen – poor Howard. He doesn’t need that thing flaunting its Arab conquests under his nose. A bit of decorum and sensitivity, I mean, come on. Really. Yes, exactly what today should be about. ‘Decorum’. ‘Sensitivity’. I do like the little honour guard of pink flamingos around the divorce guest register, though. Has a keen eye for detail, our Howard. A kind of ‘fuck you too, Phillip’ to Philly. They had a massive row over the bon‐boneierries apparently. He wanted flamingos. He wanted penguins. He got the flamingos. He got hot under the collar. Poor thing. Got his way, though, have to admire the fighter in him. Stick to your guns, dear, that was always my advice. At least they were able to agree on the officiating party, which is
nice. It shouldn’t be a drawn out ‘pistols at ten paces’, ‘my friends hated your friends, anyway’ affair. See that one over there? That’s our Stuart. Gone to a lot of trouble, too. You can tell. See how she’s even waxed her shoulders? Kind of advisory for Greek trannies. Almost compulsory, one might say. But the stubble, that’s the bane of her existence. No matter how freshly applied the makeup, the stubble always manages to fight its way towards the light on that one. Ignore it? Couldn’t. She’d just end up looking like a cheap drag act from Kyneton. And nobody wants that. Not even Philly, broad‐minded as he is. So I guess we won’t be having the ‘Guava Fists’ serenade us this time ‘round. They were just starting to do some business on iTunes, too. Howard looked so cute at the wedding, singing his little heart out, making his way through every ballad known to lip‐synching divas the world over. He only had eyes for Philly that night. Would’ve brought a tear to the eye if not for the disaster that followed. But we won’t go there. Strange how things turn out, we never picked it. We’d christened them ‘the golden couple’, y’know. You’d never fit them in anyway, I suppose. The ‘Guava Fists’, I mean. Maybe Howard thought to cook up a CD to play on the office intercom. If not I can always load them up on the iPod. Might block out the sound of Sierra gloating, if only she’d... Oh. My. God. Oh God. Oh My God. Oh...My...God.
Did you see who just walked in? No, no. Don’t look. Don’t look. Over there. Don’t look!! I said. Over there. That one. Over there. Oh My God. Oh My God. At the Divorce Register. I SAID. Don’t look. OhMyGod. OhMyGod. Oh. My. D’youseewhoitis? D’you?
ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. ohmygod. D’youseewhoitis? Can you just stand up? Stand up! Pretend to call Philly over. No, don’t call Philly over! PRETEND to call him over. Just stand in front of me. Stand in front of me. Still. Stand still. Stop looking. Don’t ask...just do it. Are you covering me now? Can she see me behind you d’youthink? No, I’m ok. I just need a minute to compose myself. Well, fairly obvious I would have thought. Grab the waiter. Let her see me flirting with him. No, wait. Don’t do that. What should I do? Well. We had a ‘thing’ last year. Met at Howards ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ Halloween soiree. I went as Cruella de Ville and she arrived – smoking hot, mind you – in a dapper gangsta pin‐stripe. Sidles up to me, completely unannounced and no introduction whatsoever, says: “’Scuse me. Are you the Lady lookin’ for the Tramp?” OhMyGod. OhMyGod.
It’s seen WhatthefuckdoIdonow?
‘Stay calm’. What the bloody hell kind of advice is that? OhMyGod. It’s too late. Ok, well might as well maintain a veneer of cool indifference, I guess. They say things happen in threes, you know. Howard and Philly. Howard, no more Philly. The Lady and The Tramp.
In. Out. In. Out. Deep breaths. Now girlfriend. You’ve been super‐cool to chat to but I think I can handle it from here. I hate break‐ups. Detest divorces. Sick of ‘em. Nearly didn’t come. To be honest I had my iPod loaded to the brim with ABBA. Was going to zone out the entire ceremony to ‘Thankyou For The Music’ and... But now she’s here. I’m saved. OhMyGod. OhMyGod. Here goes nothing. Vive
l’whatever! Say, before you go. What’s your email addy. Maybe you’d like to come to our ceremony? Why, of course there will be. Don’t you believe in happy endings and new beginnings?
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Image Credits Maldives Sunrise, Cover Image http://besttripadvisor.net/maldives‐sunrise.html P. 7 & 8 Lorenza Images Courtesy of Facebook P.7 Mexico bricks http://mexicoinstitute.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/mexico‐bricks.jpg p. 7 America Bricks http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5267/5843221707_492db6c3a0_b.jpg P. 8 Beginning Again http://www.nofunds.info/2012/10/learn‐to‐begin‐again.html P. 9 Drawn heart on sand http://facebook.coversdaddy.com/drawn‐heart‐on‐sand‐1928.html P. 12 MONA exterior, Hobart by Fredrick White http://artblart.com/2011/08/17/the‐museum‐of‐old‐and‐new‐art‐mona‐hobart/ P. 15 Mumbai at Night http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/picturegalleries/4307256/Slumdog‐ Millionaire‐Mumbais‐real‐slumdogs.html P.18 Cracks http://limited‐vision‐stock.deviantart.com/art/Cracks‐01‐196969796 P. 20 Kidnapping and Ransom http://www.goinsurancerates.com/kidnapping‐ransom‐insurance/ P. 24 Desert landscape with cracked mud. Nevada, USA (Panoramic) © QT Luong terragalleria http://www.terragalleria.com/black‐white/america/nevada/black‐rock‐ desert/picture.usnv26040‐bw.html P. 26 Untitled © Jackie Lee King 2013 P. 27 Low sun on an old country church Michael Kight , snapdragginphoto Taken on October 29, 2011, Bluestone, Virginia, US http://www.flickr.com/photos/snapdraggin/with/6908078488/ P. 29 Bird In Flight © Jackie Lee King 2011 P. 32 Free At Last http://mikew58place.blogspot.com/2010/04/divorce‐ceremony.html
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Turl Times is a creative writing publication distributed, via the Internet and print, from the students of the 2010 Oxford University Summer...