Category Archives: Stories

What is happiness?

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A prose poem by Rohini Sunderam

The following piece was written for a collection of inspirational stories, articles, and poetry produced and edited by Robin Barratt called Happy. If you want to read it or indeed buy it, do visit his website where you will also learn more about this wonderful man who is totally committed to writing and promoting writers, and whom I am pleased to call a friend. http://www.collectionsofpoetryandprose.com/happy/

“What is happiness?”

The infant gurgled in the old man’s arms.

“You are happiness,” The old man replied. “Your innocent enjoyment of every breeze. Your laughter at the sight of your mother’s smile. That’s pure happiness.”

“But, how do you know if you’re happy?” the child asked the old man.

“You don’t,” the old man replied, “But your pleasure in every morsel of food, the fact that your tongue can taste all the nuances of each mouthful, discern all its textures, its layered flavours, top notes that tell of meat that’s been braised, its delicate juices released as you bite into it. The sweet-sour melting tones of a fruit, some with the sweet blossoming just as it slides down your throat. Your ability to catch all the subtle nuances of a single grape as it’s crushed on the tongue. That’s happiness.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” the young boy said, “How do I taste things so differently than you do?”

“Your palate is young and hasn’t been tested by the acrid tastes of disappointment, nor yet savoured the bitterness of sorrow. Your lively taste buds are still easily aroused by hundreds of smells and sights. Your eyes are still bright with the hope of youth.”

“I still don’t understand you,” the young lad said. “Surely I see as you do. The sun as it rises and sets. The leaves on the trees, the fine delicacy of a bud on a twig. Granted my vision is sharper, but yours is softened by wisdom.”

“Ah!” the old man sighed, “Wisdom. That is just youth’s way of taking the edge off the blows of old age. Our faces are weathered by the winds of sorrow. Toughened to leather by the salt of our tears. Our once young, soft hands are calloused with care and our shoulders hunched by the weight of our regrets. Your youth gives you strength to handle the onslaught of life.”

“I think I now get what you’ve been saying to me,” the young man said taking a deep breath. “I now have concerns and worries, like you. Responsibilities too. I have a family and their needs overtake my own.”

The old man smiled, his eyes lit up, bright as the sun as it sinks in the west. His weathered face glowed a mellow red and the whites of his eyes had a hint of blue. “Thank you for making me happy,” he said.

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Drinker of the Wind

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Some time ago when I was at the ad agency in Bahrain, I worked with some very talented artists and illustrators. One was Linda Strydom – who created the illustrations for Corpoetry and among so many others there was Francis Tiongsen, his brother David Tiongsen who is nothing short of amazing and many others who do so much more than computer graphics. If you check out their portfolios in the links provided you’ll know what I mean.

All that is by the by. Just thought I’d give some friends a plug!

This poem came about because Francis loved horses and at the same time we were doing a brochure for a real estate project created around the theme of horses, in particular the Arab. He’d created some captivating illustrations which then prompted this poem based on an old Bedouin legend.

 

 

 

 

DRINKER OF THE WIND (sharaab alrreh)

He was Erebeh, he was mystery,
The Arab steed that flew
Across the desert sands
Chasing the storm
His hooves thundering a warning
To those who had sinned
He was the first Drinker of the Wind.
His mane was midnight,
His eyes were the stars
The light from his hooves,
Four galaxies that shone from afar.
One look from him, one shake of his head
The other steeds followed wherever he led
He ruled the old dunes,
He ran wild and free
And his sinews were limned
With good honest sweat:
The Drinker of the Wind.
Long was he hunted,
Hard was he sought
And the Bedouin tribes
Over him once had fought
His was a spirit born to be free
A being not to broken, nor ridden was he.
But legends tell us,
One wild winter night
A lone Beddu approached him,
So humble, polite
And our Arab stallion
He pawed the hard dunes
And took unto him a mare
Pale as the moon
Then he left as he came
That dark winter night
Like a vision, a dream,
A mere flicker of light
Never again seen by mere men
For he truly was 
The first Drinker of the Wind.
Some say they saw him
Against the dawn sky
Some say they hear him,
When the wind rumbles by
But the Bedouin know
And their legends declare
The Drinker of the Wind
Can’t be seen anywhere

For he left as he came
On that wild winter night
When the sky was a mantle
As dark as could be
And the wind moved the dune tides
Like waves on the sea.
No moon, not a star
Shone that magical night
When the Drinker of the Wind
Disappeared from all sight
He flew up to the heavens
The night sky took him home
Where, as he was meant to
He still freely roams
The first Drinker of the Wind.

Note: The Arabian Horse – 

And God took a handful of South wind and from it formed a horse, saying: “I create thee, Oh Arabian. To thy forelock, I bind Victory in battle. On thy back, I set a rich spoil And a Treasure in thy loins. I establish thee as one of the Glories of the Earth… I give thee flight without wings.”

— Bedouin Legend

(Byford, et al. Origins of the Arabian Breed)

 

Hearts for Valentine

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Valentine’s Day was approaching and our publisher was in the throes of revamping the website. How do we make it more interesting? Let’s add a blog, he said. Let’s add stories and so I was moved to write this story, which is now available on Smashwords as a free read.

Here are the opening lines

They never celebrated Valentine’s Day, “Such a load of nonsense!” she said as they held hands and laughed at others’ follies: boxes of chocolates, bouquets of red roses tied up in guilt, hasty dates at restaurants waiting to lighten the lovers’ wallets.

There were jewellery stores dripping diamonds with their adamantine facets, sharp enough to break hearts. Rubies as red as the blood of the nightingale’s heart in Oscar Wilde’s tale, that beckoned lovers into the stores. Emeralds as green as the eyes of a mistress when she sees her lover with his wife on his arm winked through the shop windows at passers-by. The temptations and offerings were everywhere, and so hard to resist.

“We show love every day, and that matters more than chocolates,” he said.

“It does,” she answered laughing that carefree laugh that comes from the heart of a woman who knows she is loved.

Their children teased them, “C’mon Dad, get with the times!”

He shrugged. She laughed

Yet, one year arrived when she wished – it was just a little wish, light as the last snowflake of winter that disappeared in the warmth of his smile – that they did something a little special on Valentine’s Day. They never had, so why start now? After thirty some years of a happy marriage, there was really no need for any special recognition of the day. The commercialisation of love on display seemed too garish for them. Yet the little wish persisted in her mind, no longer an ephemeral snowflake, more like a spangle from a Christmas decoration. So that year, on his breakfast plate she placed a small dollop of raspberry jam in the shape of a heart.

“Oh!” was all he said. His hazel-brown eyes crinkled at the edges and lit up with suppressed laughter. He finished his single fried egg, sunny-side up on toast and then followed it with his second toast and the little heart of raspberry jam melted on its surface, spreading its soft sweet jelly redness over his tongue.

You may read the rest of the story on our Ex-L-Ence Publishing website

http://www.ex-l-ence.com/blogs/high-days-and-holidays/hearts-for-valentine

Or download it here:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/704228

On life support

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By Anjan Muhury

This post is written by an old schoolmate and friend, Anjan who belonged to a time when we dreamed impossible dreams. He is one of our crazier school friends who has plumbed life and experiences to their limit. Today he is a “Beacon of hope for better hearing” in Long Beach California where he provides professional audiological services to the community. You can read more about him on his website: Jay’s Hearing Aid Centre. And you can ask him any questions with regard to hearing and hearing loss right here on Fictionpals, and he says he’d be happy to answer them.

I was slowly floating down and down in the ocean. The light blue ocean slowly became darker and darker as the sunlight became less and less. Voices seem to fade in my mind, and thoughts became incoherent, disjointed as the futility of trying to fight back caused me to relax my body, and assist my downward journey into darkness. The pressure of the ocean water increased steadily, and gave me a feeling of complacency, and a couldn’t care less, slow mental process of silence began to build a cocoon around me as a last fight against death….

I wasn’t even looking for anything. It did not matter anymore. I heard a bottled cry. Maybe a whale around nearby. I turned and saw what looked like fishing line dangling and swaying with the currents. Another cry. Funny that sounded like a muted piano. For a quick moment I even paused to think and waited for another sound.I saw the fishing line drift closer and I woke up to a final reality. Maybe I could clutch it and pull myself to the top. I wrapped my toes around the hook and bait and propelled myself upward.

Then I was in the midst of bubbles, thousands of bubbles, accompanied by gurgling sounds. I saw a dark shadow below me and realized that it was a whale shadowing me. Again millions of bubbles. I took a chance and opened my mouth and felt the popping of some bubbles in my mouth. I swallowed them and felt fresh energy coursing through my body. Again, more bubbles, and again I got to swallow some more air. I felt raw energy in my hands and legs.

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Extract from a work in progress

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I am at last working on a story I had started way back in 1994! It’s also my first novella set in Halifax. I have written one short story set in Lunenburg County in Nova Scotia, and you can read that here, it’s titled A Rhyme and a Reason, the first thriller I have ever attempted.

And now, here’s a peek into a tale to be…

As she approached Scotia Square, Meera looked around seeing everything afresh. She marvelled at the old buildings standing amiably next to newer glass and concrete structures. The red brick and the sombre grey, articulated doorways with raised eyebrows looking forever down their noses at the large plate glass of some upstart new high-rise. Thankfully, there weren’t too many high-rise buildings here. There was an olde-worlde charm she hadn’t noticed before. It’s quite a beautiful old street, she thought. I’ve never really looked at it properly. A bit like Calcutta. Almost straight out of Dickens! Then she smiled, trust me to think of Dickens. I used to think it was a dreary grey English sort of street, which it is, but now I have a job and it takes on a romantic air. I am so, so, lucky. It’s been less than three months since we arrived and I have a job. Part time too, the most wonderful part of all. I can fix dinner, do the housework, make lunch… the plans started to fall into place. I’ll tell Ajoy that now we must do the laundry just once a week. Oh, God! A number two. My bus!

She almost shouted out aloud. Then lifting her sari slightly, displaying silver anklets worn over skin-tone knee-high nylon stockings, she ran to catch her bus. ‘I have a job’ the chorus in her head came to a crashing crescendo as she clambered up the steps and tossed the coins into the receptacle with a flourish. I’m an expert at doing that already. How Canadian will I get? She wondered. Will I ever wear pants? I may have to when it gets really cold. A dress? Never! It must be so strange to have all that cold air going up your legs, oof! She shuddered at the thought of it.

When she reached her stop, Meera almost ran up to the strip mall on at Lacewood and Vimy, where Ajoy had recently established their video rental store. She pushed through the door, he had a couple of older customers and was deep in conversation. so she wandered to the side and looked at the list of videos on offer. Through the corner of her eyes, she watched him speaking with animated gestures to his enchanted audience. Her heart skipped a beat, he had grown old so suddenly. The hair at his temples had begun to grey and there was a thinning patch at the crown of his head. His large soulful eyes, usually edged by laugh lines, had begun to droop in the three months since they had come to Halifax.

Excerpt from ‘An Undesirable Marriage’

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Meriel Brooke is another fellow author from Ex-L-Ence Publishing. She has written four books: The Story of Jacqueline Jackdaw, Pot of Gold, Sugar Pants and An Undesirable Marriage, here’s a little peek into the book that spans both the World Wars.

Finding cabin number nine, he knocked on the door softly. Ruth opened it immediately and, after a quick glance around, took his hand and drew him in. The cabin, was remarkably spacious and contained a single berth, a dressing table, a writing desk, a small wardrobe and a wash basin. The porthole was closed, and an overhead fan whirled gently.

“Ruth, I really…”

“It’s all right, I won’t eat you,” she interrupted. “Come and sit down. Do you know Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto?” He shook his head.

“It was written twenty years ago. Sit down and listen.” Sam sat down on the chair next to the writing desk on which there was an open gramophone which Ruth proceeded to wind. She lowered the needle onto the record, and the stirring strains of the third movement of Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto filled the cabin. For three minutes Ruth stood quietly beside him. As the needle reached the centre of the record, she leaned forward, pressing against Sam as she turned it to the other side. He did not react. She went and sat on the narrow bunk as the music started again.

When the needle reached the centre of the record once more, Sam raised the arm and gently repositioned it in its holder. He rose to his feet. “Thank you, that was wonderful. I’d like to hear the rest of it sometime.”

To buy her book click on the link above or here.

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Excerpt from ‘Five Lives One Day in Bahrain’

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Until another author friend sends me something to share with you, here’s an extract from Five Lives One Day in Bahrain published by Ex-L-Ence Publishing. Check out the site for many good reads.

Rosita is late:

Rosita had been so exhausted that after her six o’clock Skype call to her mother that morning she’d gone back to sleep and had slipped into such a deep slumber that she’d gone past her softly buzzing alarm and her roommate Wendy’s door-banging departure. She woke with a start, “What time is it?” she exclaimed aloud, rubbing her eyes and yawning all at once. She reached out and looked at her large wristwatch, which she’d set on the small table near her bed. “Oh No! Nine o’clock! How did I do that? Now I’ll have to take a cab, and I was hoping to catch the bus.” The unnecessary extra expense upset her rhythm. But she knew she needed to look good, have all her certificates ready and arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of the 12:30 pm appointment. No way could she catch a bus now.

There was too much riding on this job! Her very own section for hair styling, a salary of two hundred and fifty dinars plus sponsorship and the lady, an English woman married to a Bahraini, seemed to be kind and understanding. How was she going to get to Budaiya in time? All this buzzed through her mind as she hurriedly showered and sprayed herself with both a new deodorant and the Kenzo she’d used so sparingly and carefully ever since the American marine Ricky had given it to her three months ago. That was something else she’d kept from her mother and the girls at the Red Rose Salon in Juffair.

You can also buy the book here.

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Excerpt from ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’

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SuZanne Ahlin is a fellow author from Ex-L-Ence Publishing. She has written two books: A Secret World and Be Careful What You Wish For.  Here are a few lines from the latter.

Please note, these excerpts are not what you will see on the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon. So you are getting more of an insight into the story.

SuZanne, your book sounds exciting.

They started by announcing all those that would remain as heads of their clans, then they arrived at the Vampires.

They turned to Alexis,

“You have brought an Anim to us without permission,” another breath among everyone was taken. They looked at the head of the werewolves,

“Does your clan have any claims?”

“She’s not to be claimed, she is my property!” Alexis’s voice sounded like thunder and people looked terrified.

“You dare defy us once again?” One of the men stood up, he looked furious.

Jeannie didn’t know what was happening to her. It was like somebody else was talking through her.

“He doesn’t defy you; I belong to Alexis and no one else.” She was flying over the floor now. “Is there anyone here that dares to defy my decision?” She turned to the three men, “Do you?”

Everyone in the ballroom was shocked that she had challenged The Regime.

The man with the cane stood up and went to her. She landed, but there was a glow around her, not like the burning one but another kind.

To read more, you may buy her book here.

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Excerpt from ‘An Appropriate Act of Love’

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Lynda Tavakoli is the first of my author friends to share an excerpt from her book of short stories, Under a Cold White Moon.

Thanks Linda, that sent chills up my spine.

One evening my father failed to return from work. The house had been, as usual, quiet during the day, my elder siblings having by then dispersed to lead more normal lives elsewhere and I now wonder how I never noticed their leaving or indeed how long it had been since I was the only child remaining. The food was on the table; bacon, sausages, tomatoes, potato bread and two eggs – all fried as he liked it and now coagulating on my dad’s plate. Mother sat across from me at the table, hands tidily on her lap; mine stuffed in the pocket of my sweatshirt making bigger the hole already there. Where is he?

For an hour, maybe two, we sat like dead fish frozen into an icy lake and still he did not come. Beyond the window of the kitchen light was being sucked slowly out of the day and finally the grey gloom of evening started to invade the room. A fear was beginning to gnaw at me and although my mother had moved not an inch during that time I regarded the subtle change in her manner with growing panic. The eyes that for so long had scorched her resentment into my soul had taken on the look of a hibernating tortoise reluctant to accept the onset of its awakening. They were dead eyes to match the dead words that finally slunk out from in between her teeth,

“Now are you happy?”

To read her book click on the link above or visit her publisher here.

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The Cactus Blooms

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My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

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