Near 500 words: Pilgrimage

Sona was an American girl who went off to India, then ended up in Nepal. She loved the Hindu festivals, especially Holi. She met Guy in Kathmandu, fell in love and wanted to get married. Guy was having none of it. He was there on his father’s dime and he knew he wouldn’t approve of Sona. She wasn’t his dad’s kind of girl. But he just couldn’t tell Sona. So he took the coward’s way out and left in the middle of the night.

The next morning she woke up. Guy wasn’t anywhere near her. She waited a week, then decided he wasn’t coming back. “Son of a bitch,” she said.

Her guru told her that Guy was her karma. In a previous life, she had done the same to the several men in her life. It wasn’t punishment. It was the universe setting things to right. It still hurt. But Sona smiled and moved on.

That was when she met Wu. Wu left Shanghai and came on pilgrimage to the Ganges. He was tall and Chinese. Everything about him was Chinese. He even ate with chopsticks. Sona learned to eat with chopsticks. It only seemed the right thing to do.

Sona’s guru told her that Wu would leave her as well. So she up and left him. Better to be the leaver than the leftee.

Somehow Sona found her way to the Dalai Lama. He wasn’t quite what she expected. He was just as human as she was. The Dalai Lama was a busy man, but he managed to tell her about the Buddha. Sona being Sona gave up her guru and began a sitting practice. She sat in front of a mandala and meditated. Some days she did this for hours, some days for only a few minutes.

One night she walked through the streets of the city she happened to be in. They were streets that had once been built by the British. Down the street, she saw the man who was to be with her for the rest of her days. It was Guy.

“You left me,” she said to tall, dark and handsome.

“I’m sorry,” he said to the short, blonde haired girl. “I needed to think. I went home and talked to my dad. He had a woman all picked out for me. I met her. The night before the wedding I had a dream. You were in that dream. I realized I was not going to be happy with anyone other than you.”

The two kissed under a giant moon. They turned to it and realized that the Buddha had given them this moon. That night they made love. The next day the Dalai Lama with that Dalai Lama smile of his married Sona and Guy. He was happy that they had found each other. And he knew something neither knew. Sona was carrying the next Dalai Lama.


Near 500 words: The finger a sentence

The finger a sentence
the hand a paragraph
the arm a chapter
the body a novel.
Each house a Proust
or a Scott Fitzgerald
next to a Virginia Woolf
or an Ernest Hemingway
down the way from Tom Sawyer
and Huckleberry Finn,
neighborhoods collected
and bound within the walls
of a library, the city.

There are so many marvelous ways to think about human beings. Such a diverse clan we are. Some of us have brown eyes, others blue or green or hazel. Some of us are Catholic, some Protestant, some Hindu, some Jewish, some Moslem, some Buddhist. Others atheist or middle-of-the-road agnostic.

Some are poets, some singers of tales. Some dancers, some performers on a stage. Some gardeners, some vintners or builders. We laugh. We cry. We love and we lust and there is not one that isn’t part of something bigger and more wonderful than ourselves. Aren’t we amazing?

Who is to say that extra terrestrials might not like us?

One thing is for sure. We are each the summation of our experience. We see through a lens those experiences have given us. Each of us could write a hundred novels and still not be finished with the raw material.

When I think about what kind of novel, I wonder. I definitely do not have The Answer to that one. I have to uncheck historical epic. Nothing Game-of-Thronesying about my existence. I sure am not porn. My sex life is definitely not that interesting. Could it be that I am a romance? Probably not. As far as I know, I have not made women swoon or their hearts go pitter-pat. And I am not a Western. I don’t wear cowboy boots and I don’t know “Get along, little doggy”.

I definitely am not science fiction. I am not that technologically inclined. And there’s little doubt that I am fantasy. Ain’t no way I would go off with a bunch of dwarves and slay a dragon. I am not that much of a mystery. My life is pretty an open book. So Sam Spade, stay away.

As far as horror is concerned, I am pretty sure that I am not Dracula or Jason or Freddy Kruger. I do have blackouts during the full moon. But that just means that I need to cut the sugar and eat more protein.

If I have a genre, it has to be a comedy. I might just be one of those boys Tom Sawyer convinced to paint his aunt’s fence.

So what genre do you think you belong to?

Near 500 words: Grief

Helena loved her accordion. It had been a life saver when her husband died after months of suffering with cancer. During his illness, she picked it up and played for him often. Sometimes when he had the strength, he danced to her music. That accordion was the only constant thing in her life and she kept it close at all times. Even taking it to work and sitting it by her desk.

Helena loved going through art books. One day she came upon a portrait of George Washington and his family. There was Martha and her granddaugher and her grandson with a slave off in the corner to do their bidding. She studied the faces, then the background, then how they were positioned.

It was interesting that they had a map unrolled on the table. The granddaughter held the map in place on the table while Martha pointed to some point on the map with a ruler. The grandson stood just behind the President, looking over his shoulder with one hand on a globe. As Martha and the girl discussed places on the map, George looked off into the distance. His face had one of those “what might have been” looks.

Helena began to hum a tune. She picked up her accordion and made the instrument sound like her hum. Over the next few days, the hum did not disappear from her head. It seemed more and more insistent that she finish the piece she had started.

It was her first composition and it took two years. Day after day she worked on it. Never having composed before, she had to learn how to build a tune into a piece of music. Every night she came home from work, ate a quick supper, then sat down with the print of the painting, a large notebook and her accordion.

The composition was called “Longing”. It was just music and no words and it was sixty minutes long. It paralleled her husband’s life with George Washington. With its music, she told the story of how Washington had wanted to go to sea when he was a boy and how her husband had wanted to be an artist. Both chose different lives than their childhood dreams. Lives that they found satisfying but still the two men were left with those longings.

One Saturday night, she called together her closest friends. After some wine and cheese, they sat back to listen to her music. She said, “This is for Ben.” Then she began to play. For the next hour, not one of them moved. The music froze them to their seats. At the end, they each had tears in their eyes. They too had remembered their childhood dreams and experienced once again that longing for what might have been.

Near 500 words: The gift

Alicia wanted to go dancing. Dancing had been her passion since she was a girl. When she was thirteen she had tried out for ballerina.

“Your butt is…well, let’s just say, your butt is too much butt,” the dancing school owner told her. “And besides you’re too short.”

Wasn’t that just the way with dreams?

In high school, she’d liked painting. And she’d been half good the way she was with a lot of things. She was a half good sketcher, a half good runner, a half good writer, and a half good singer. Half good but nothing special. Until she got a camera for Christmas.

It was from her mother. Her mother, who hated Alicia’s dreams being quashed. Every night she went to sleep thinking how she might give Alicia some support. It broke her heart to see her daughter’s face drop when she was told she couldn’t. Her mother wasn’t sure about the camera.

Alicia looked at the camera. It wasn’t much of one but it was all her mother could afford. She’d picked it up at a pawnshop. And she had gotten her daughter two rolls of film.

Alicia took the camera out and examined it. Played around with it the way a boy plays around with his first football, giving it a good once-over before he tosses it. Finally she opened the box with the film. She pushed one of the rolls into place. Without being told or reading the instructions, she knew just what to do. She adjusted the lens, aimed and shot her mother. Click went the camera just like it had been waiting to do.

That first roll of film her mother paid for. “But that’s it,” her mother said. “I don’t have the money for more.”

Alicia picked up the developed photographs a few days later. She waited until her mother came home late that night from her job.

“What’s going on?” her mother asked, giving her a suspicious look. She’d never seen that kind of look on her child’s face. She wasn’t sure whether to be concerned or happy.

“I picked up the pictures,” Alicia’s voice full of all the excitement a girl of fourteen can have.

Her mother dropped her purse on the table. “Well, let’s see.”

The two, mother and daughter, sat at the table as Alicia opened the treasure chest of a packet with her photographs. She shook them out of the envelope and onto the table. Her mother picked up one and she picked up one. Then they exchanged. The photographs were only half good. All of them but one. That one was magical.

That was years ago.

Now Alicia was ready for some dancing. She jumped on the back of Daisy’s motorbike and off the two of them went. They were going dancing, and then Alicia would take her pictures of the whirling dervishes of dancers on the dancing floor.

That night she danced and drank and laughed and took her pictures, knowing that the world had many more photographs waiting for her.

Near 500 words: The nurse and Mr. Smith

Charlie had been a nurse for twenty years and had seen all kinds of patients. Few patients gave her the satisfaction she received from Mr. Smith. Though in a great deal of pain, he bore the pain like an old trooper.

She got the call from her service Tuesday morning three weeks earlier. “You’ll be with a Mr. Smith.”

Charlie almost laughed but she didn’t. Smith was quite a common name and she had served her share of Smiths. And Joneses as well. Little did she know this Mr. Smith was going to be different.

On her initial interview, she remembered Sarah, his daughter, telling her about her father. Tears filled Sarah’s eyes. Seems he had been in pain for much of his whole life. How he managed it Sarah wasn’t sure.

Charlie began her work, administering the drugs prescribed, adjusting his body in the bed, taking care of his bowel movements. As she moved through her work, Mr. Smith did not complain. Most of her patients did, but he did not.

As she watched Mr. Smith sleep, she saw his body struggle for the peace he deserved. When he was awake, he sometimes spoke through the pain. There was a peacefulness in his voice as he struggled through that pain. During these times, he told stories. His stories were funny and often dirty. She did not mind. His stories had a life in them that few writers had in their books.

One day Charlie got an idea. “Mr. Smith, can I record your stories?”

He smiled as his words struggled to get out. “If you would like.”

She turned on the recorder and he started a story. This one was about pirates.

Over the months, Charlie sometimes wondered if the old man’s stories were recollections of an earlier life. Or were they dreams or imagined?

After six months of attending Mr. Smith, he let go of life. Charlie had been reading Dickens to him that night. She went into the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. When she returned, she looked over and realized her patient had left her.

She walked over and closed his eyes, then reverently kissed him on the forehead goodbye.

She left the room quietly, tears in her eyes. She called his daughter. “Sarah,” she said. “Your dad has left us.”

“I’ll be right over,” Sarah said.

Sarah came and she saw her father and she smiled. “He had a good death, didn’t he?”

“He did. I have something for you.” Then Charlie handed Sarah his stories. “These are for you.”