Saturday, July 2, 2011

No Ordinary Affair

He first laid eyes on her on a sultry, windless night when the world around him seemed still yet brimming with expectation as if something extraordinary were about to happen. He saw her standing there silvered in shimmery pale moonlight, her body poised perfectly, her face finely featured and exquisite. He felt mediocre and tried his best to mask his commonplace demeanour, but he could not stop the words that tumbled clumsily from his lips. He did not expect her to react, much less reciprocate, but he knew he had to profess what he felt deep in his heart. His coat may have been torn and his shoes dirty, but his love for her was immaculate. When he was done, he stared deeply into her unblinking, beautiful eyes, searching for something...anything. And then he thought he saw a mere hint of amused affection and he knew that for her to ever consider being with a man like him, he had to woo her in the most spectacular way he could. He visited her every night at the old museum, the place where they first met. He sang songs of love, recited odes of longing and wrote volumes dedicated to her ethereal beauty. But she spoke not a word and with every passing night, the hope in his heart grew dimmer. On the night of the fire, he was on his way to tell her he would not be visiting her anymore, he couldn’t bear the heartache. When he saw the leaping flames engulf the museum, he did not think twice, but lunged inside the burning building and searched desperately for her. The smell of melting candles flooded his nostrils as he stepped over the pools of liquefied wax. Everywhere he turned, he was met with the sight of distorted, mangled statues, their arms and legs melding grotesquely with each other. He found her lying on the ground, half buried under the charred debris. She was covered in soot, but still as beautiful as her maker had intended her to be. He lifted her in his arms and carried her home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Box of Blue

He put everything he had in that little box
All that was sweet, all that was her
                           
The ribbon she wore when they first met
The movie tickets he bought that day
The silver earring she thought she lost
The button that fell when they last embraced

He put everything he had in that little box
Bittersweet reminders of what would never be

The flowers he bought, but did not send
The velvet case with a solitaire ring
The letter in which she bade goodbye
The photographs he ripped apart that day

He gave everything he had to that little box
And it took and took, until there was nothing left

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Camel and the Cactus

On the thick golden blanket of scorching sand, a thirsty camel roamed. In the distance he spotted a lone cactus. After a small exchange of words, he realized that the cactus was thirsty too. Like the camel, the cactus had exhausted its store of water. The cactus knew of a tiny oasis a few miles from there and since it couldn’t walk, the camel offered it a ride on his back. They wandered for miles and miles, but there was still no sign of the oasis. The camel began to wonder if the cactus had tricked him. At the same time the cactus became suspicious and wondered if the camel had planned to eat it. Both strongly opposed the accusations and were most offended that each had doubted the other. A little while later, they came across a solitary traveller, who informed them that there was no oasis, only desert as far as the eye could see. He had with him a small flask of water, tucked safely in his pocket, but asked the camel and cactus not to drink from it as he still had miles to travel and needed every drop he had. But he did offer to give them shelter in his tent until the morning. The two readily agreed but as they followed the traveller they could not help but gaze yearningly at the flask. The camel frowned at the cactus’s lecherous stares and suspected that if he was not vigilant, the cactus would steal the flask in no time. The cactus too had seen the desire in the camel’s eyes and knew that the minute he turned away, the flask would be gone. The kind traveller welcomed them into his tent and even provided them with a blanket for shelter against the harsh winds of the nights. Sleep came quickly and heavily to the traveller but the camel and cactus tossed and turned. They had seen the traveller place the flask in the middle of the tent and it was well within the reach of both.

When daylight came, neither the camel nor the cactus could be found. A day later, they met again. After an awkward greeting, the cactus apologised to the camel for not thanking him that night. The camel confessed that it was he who should be doing the thanking. Somewhere in the distance, a thirsty traveller wandered deliriously across the hot, rippled sands, his insides burning from the poison he had been forced to drink. True to their word, the camel and the cactus had not taken even a sip from the flask; they had only ensured that the traveller had drunk his fill.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Surrender

On the shell-encrusted sands, sat a man lost in deep thought. It was a pleasant summer evening, the sky a beautiful shade of blue and the breeze flirty and cool. The man was savouring his last few moments of freedom. It wouldn’t be too long before the police tracked him down. Fraud, swindler, thief…yes, he was many things, but a neglectful father was not one of them. Even while he spent the rest of his life in a prison cell, his daughter would be able to go on living a comfortable life. ‘My father, the embezzler’, unfortunately that’s how she would always remember him. He sighed heavily and looked up at the sky. Probably the next time he stared at the sky, he would be doing it from within the electric-fenced, barb-wired, heavily guarded confines of the prison yard. Ah freedom! How easily he had taken it for granted, until today when it was at stake. He took a deep breath of salty air. But how free had he really been? Trapped in a failing marriage, grief stricken at the possibility of losing his daughter for good, burdened with the guilt of his criminal ways. He could almost hear the police sirens now. He could still run, but for how long? No, he would not put up a fight this time. He had known it would come to this sooner or later. It was the correct thing to do and he would be doing something right for the first time in his life. The sirens were louder now. He stood up and dusted himself. He was ready to surrender. He raised his hands in the air and waited for the police to find him. They found him in the water a day later, face down and bloated, but finally free.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Loaf of Love

The aroma of freshly baked bread is a comforting one. But tonight Miguel Paes felt far from comforted. He wiped his sweaty forehead on his shirt sleeve and pedalled faster. He had been delivering bread across the village for nine long years and not once had he been this late. There were only three bread loaves leftover today. In all the rush, he had miscalculated and in addition to being late, he was bringing home less bread for dinner. He knew that his wife and daughter would be terribly hungry by now. Ever since he had started working at the Rosa Bakery, Mr. Rosa had treated him like a brother and often talked to him about his personal life. It was the Rosa’s wedding anniversary today and Mr. Rosa had insisted on telling Miguel about his plans for the evening. As usual Miguel had been half-listening. Mr. Rosa was probably with his wife on the deck of a fancy cruise ship by now, giving her the special surprise gift he had been gushing about. And here Miguel couldn’t even give his wife a decent meal. He swerved shakily to the right as his front tyre hit a stone. He stuck out his right leg just in time and managed to keep the cycle from toppling over. But the lid of his bread rack came loose and the three bread loaves now lay covered in dirt at the side of the road. Cursing, he placed his cycle on its stand and picked up the loaves. He was going to put them back in the rack when he realized that one of the loaves was lumpy. Miguel was slightly surprised because he knew that Mr. Rosa was a stickler for perfection and inspected each and every loaf before sending it off for delivery. As he dusted the loaf, he felt something hard beneath the lumps. Curious, he tore the loaf apart and then gasped. Nestled inside the doughy fluffiness of the bread was a beautiful necklace made of white gold with a stunning key-shaped diamond pendant. Mrs. Rosa did not get her special surprise gift that night and Miguel’s wife got much more than a decent meal.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Kind of Magic

The inside of the top hat was dark and cool, its satiny black lining soft and faintly smelling of clove tobacco. The rabbit stifled a yawn. The act was taking longer and longer every day. Outside, the magician was speaking, his voice booming and echoing through the large auditorium. The audience clapped continuously. The rabbit assumed that the magician must have begun his card trick because he heard another voice on stage. It was a young female voice. This segment of the act usually dragged on. Card tricks involved a great deal of interaction with the audience. The rabbit yawned widely, licked his lips and leaned back against the soft lining. Soon he was fast asleep. A few minutes later, he felt a sharp tug on his right ear. It was the magician signaling him to get ready for the finale. He rubbed the sleep from his eyes, sat up straight and waited for the magician to chant his string of nonsense words. He was suddenly aware that all was silent. He couldn’t hear the magician and neither could he hear the audience. And then there was a drum roll and a velvet curtain began to lift. The rabbit found himself facing a large crowd of people. They were cheering and clapping. He bowed low, took off his hat and turned it over to show the audience that it was empty. Then with a flourish he reached inside and pulled out something…something large, bulbous even, with a sheet of oily matted hair and shaggy black eyebrows. It was a head and it looked displeased. The smell of clove tobacco emanating from it was overwhelming. The rabbit felt another sharp tug on his ear and awoke with a start. It was the same dream every day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tea with Molly

Ben Tucker always began his mornings with a trip to the cemetery. He would carry along a foldable chair, a flask of tea, two cups and a jar of whole wheat biscuits. The cemetery was a ten minute drive from his house. At the cemetery, he would head over to the grave at the farthest right and prop up his chair beside it. He would toss away the dried twigs and leaves and flatten the mud with the palm of his hand. Then he would place the cups on the soil and pour tea into them. Lifting a cup with one hand and helping himself to a biscuit with the other, he would lean back and soak in the morning sun. Then with a little nod at the grave, he would take a long sip. He would close his eyes and imagine that his wife was sitting beside him instead of lying in a wooden box several feet below. It had been their daily ritual for 52 long years. Every morning of every day, they would sit at the table and sip their tea in silence. After so many years of being together, there had been nothing new to tell each other. The sounds of sipping were the only sounds that broke the silence. He couldn’t bear to have his tea alone now. As he sat by her grave, he remembered that last morning they sat at the table having tea. He had surprised her by making the tea himself. He remembered how she had reached out to wipe away the biscuit crumbs from his mouth. He remembered how she had gripped her cup tightly with trembling slender fingers. He remembered her expression as she had taken her first sip of tea and realized that it would be her last.