Tuesday, 17 May 2022

The Dog Who Turned Into a Man by William Pruitt, wine

            There was a dog who had a good home, for a dog, From puppyhood, he had food,  a place to sleep and a sense there was freedom somewhere. But like most dogs, he reflected the anxiety and fear of his masters. He had dreams of glory but saw shadows everywhere. When someone shouted, he cowered. He was housebroken but sometimes he was careless, His masters would hit him and he would whine. When they brought home a new kitten, he growled at her.  

            Once when he was alone with the woman, she thought she heard someone in the basement, coming up the stairs. He went to the basement door and listened with her. It turned out to be the beating of her own heart. She laughed, but he didn’t understand. He hadn’t known it was possible for anyone to be in the basement. This was one more thing he would have to listen for. He noticed his heart was also beating hard.

            The man’s constraints were more removed. He would be talking with the woman about his boss. There would be an expression of uneasy calculation in his eyes about where some new development left the man and his family. The dog  understood the man’s feelings through his eyes. He was closest to the man. He especially liked the smell of the newspaper when the man would come in from work and read it on the floor, leaning on one elbow, the dog resting his head on the paper. He also liked the smell of dirt and grime the man sometimes carried into the house.  

            The dog was always ready to take on the enemy, but they seemed too hidden and amorphous to generate anything more than an undercurrent of apprehension, despite the warmth and coziness of his home. Possibly his family was not as conscious of the pervasive fear as he was, so the routine he staunched it with had a greater importance to him, and his distress was manifest when he found that routine wearing thin.

            Then one day he broke the routine-- may as well go this way instead of that way he figured-- and going this way changed everything. For one, he was no longer a dog.

            He found he had hands. How extraordinary! He looked at them for a long time.

            That wasn’t all. His nose had shriveled but his mind opened like a crater facing upward to some new sky. When he walked, he rose up into the air and looked downward on children, fire hydrants, dogs!  

            The greatest discovery was that this bounded arena of anxiety and clock time wasn’t the only thing going on. Not only were there other worlds available, but there was a thing called options, which allowed the transformation of this arena itself. He got the idea watching people playing cards. He learned with great effort -- remember his hands had only recently been paws-- how to shuffle the deck. He understood that all his life he had been playing the hand he was dealt, and he didn’t like it. So he changed his life.

            Instead of spending all of his free time sniffing for smells, he learned there was community and enlightenment and art. These were new things under the sun, and he sensed they had the power to enhance his life a thousand fold. He pursued them tentatively at first, like a dog extending a paw to a kitten. But he was no longer a dog, he was now a man on his own, and he began to live a fully human life, with his own dreams, myths, legends.

            As he grew older, his early memories faded and he wondered why it had taken him so long to learn to shuffle a deck of cards. Or play guitar. Or dance. Or read a book with understanding.

            Then he remembered. He had actually been a dog until...when? Sometime in his past. So what was a long time to him? Compared to what? His peers? Did they used to be dogs? He read biographies and obituaries searchingly to see, but that question was never addressed. He suspected it required reading between the lines. Sometimes he thought he could tell those who had been dogs.

            It wasn’t that his life before had been a dream. He was awake enough now to know it was all a dream. No, his other life had simply been on a different track. Maybe the people who had taken care of him were dogs too.

            He wondered if he was still there, still living that other life. Still fearing shadows, still sniffing the ground.

             He wondered if he was keeping that other one alive, if there was a link between them. Of course there was, he realized. He was a hybrid. He was straddling a foundation that was half new man, half crazy forebear. He couldn’t stand on such a construction. All he could do was bow.

            One day, sitting in his chair, after all these years still enjoying the feeling of how his fingers intertwined, he decided to stop  worrying about that other guy and let him go. He’s ok, he thought. Or in Hell. 

About the author

William Pruitt is a poet, fiction writer, storyteller, Assistant Editor with Narrative Magazine. He has work in such places as Kestrel, Ploughshares, and Blueline, and in six books, most recently The Binding Dance and The Teacher Who Told Stories from Cyberwit and Hands No Hands from FootHills. wpruitt.com

Monday, 16 May 2022

My Way by Xavier Zapater, chai latte

 

Sarah regularly went to the Staunton Cafe. An old business in the neighborhood, one of those of a lifetime. She was an independent woman who worked for various companies as a digital marketing freelancer. Although she didn't have time to spend all the money she earned, she seemed content with her busy life. She always used to have the same breakfast: carrot cake and chai latte, her favorite drink. Sarah, as usual, came to the cafeteria and sat down. The waiter, who already knew her served her breakfast.

- Hello Sarah.

- Hi Mike, thanks.

Sarah put on her headphones to block out the noise. The music helped her focus. She organized his entire life around his job, but that day, something changed. As she savored his breakfast, she read a phrase on the wall: "From a certain point onward, there is no longer any turning back. That is the point that must be reached". The quote caught his attention. She stopped the audio player and asked Mike.

- Mike, excuse me, who said the phrase on the wall?

- It's from Franz Kafka, the writer of The Metamorphosis.

- Oh! I didn't know that quote. It makes you think. What do you think it means?

- I'm not sure. Perhaps, it has to do with the idea of making decisions and what they imply.

- Yes, I think so. I like your point of view. Thanks, Mike.

- You're welcome.

Mike went back to the bar to attend to other customers. Sarah continued to check the email. She still had a long list of emails to answer. She hadn't slept well that night and was having trouble concentrating more than usual. It was scattered. So she started checking his social networks. In them, she only found selfies and photos of food or travels. The typical thing that people usually upload to the network. She felt even worse, she didn't understand what was happening to her, but her head kept questioning if she was doing something interesting with her life. So, she called Mike back.

- Mike, excuse me, are you busy?

- No, not now. How can I help you?

- I keep thinking about what we talked about before.

- Oh! I see what made you think of that phrase.

- Yeah, well, it's not just that. I've been thinking about leaving everything for a long time, but I don't dare take the step. I'm too used to my work routine.

- So, what prevents you from taking that step?

- I guess it's the fear of losing what I have.

- Why don't you take a vacation?

- Yes, I have also valued that, but I think to change my lifestyle. I spend most of my time working as if I didn't know how to do anything else, and I barely have a social life. Also, I don't have any hobbies either.

- I have an idea, you could go to Spain to do the Camino de Santiago. There you will have time to find yourself.

- Oh! Sounds good. I think it's a great idea.

- If you'll excuse me. I'm going to the checkout counter.

- Sure, thank you very much for listening to me, Mike.

- You're welcome, Sarah.

Sarah closed all the browser windows and searching information about the Camino de Santiago. Minutes later, she was buying a plane ticket to Barcelona. She closed the computer, walked over to the checkout counter, and handed Mike the money.

- Thanks for coming, Sarah.

- You're welcome, Mike. Thank you for the advice. I'm going to do the Camino de Santiago.

- Oh! Yes? All right. It'll be great. When you get back, tell me how everything went.

- Of course.

- Nice ride, Sarah.

- Thanks, Mike. See you soon.

About the author

Xavier has been working in the film industry for many companies as a Production Assistant. Likewise, he enjoys Cycling Touring. He rode across Iceland and the North of Spain. He has lived for one year and a half in Melbourne, Australia working as a Kitchen Porter.

Sunday, 15 May 2022

Exchange of Letters between the Pundit and the Painter by Paweł Markiewicz, new wine

 Bijou among pearlets of an epistolary art

The epistle No. 1 as long SMS dispatched

The 5th May 2022. At the most picturesque dawn

 

Dear painter!

I woke up bright and early and think of a fulfilled day, that an angel brings me. I have seen your abstract painting und I am entranced. What a superb thing!  I want to hail you. May your picture infatuate the world in an infinite way. This oeuvre is apt to conjure all sempiternity. I like all sorts of the abstract, what is therein. Your painting is abstract-most lovely, id est full of  paints, outlines, light games, fires, what I appreciate greatly (*very). It portrays a leisurely-blue hourlet, (**little tender heaven-like Blue Hour), as if the heaven would scintillate for the sake of the embers, not from this world. The Blue joins with the Red. The clouds reveal hardly, but the sun was shown really pulchritudinous  (*** archaic: lovely) because of the magnitude. With such picture-like arts I can daydream about muse-like paradise. The Abstract rules throughout mindful of moony allure. The painting seems to hold a mirror up to epistemology of images.

Your savant

 

The letter No. 2 valid as an e-mail-message

The 6th May 2002. During the Blue Hours.

 

Dear Sir scholar!

I am willing to the dreaming with the red sun before the night. I think about a midnight full immenseness which a muse will bring to me. I have read your academic vision for the sake of a primordial woman and I am avid due to it. What is a balmy thing!. I am ready to greet you. The vision is able to conjure up all the paradise. I like all Abstract, what rests in it. Your academic work regarding an enchantress from the tribe: Homo habilis is far from the actuality and hence abstract. It kindles the fire of philosophers, that is able to turn a wood into a gold. This magician female is wise and eternally moony, to wit: dreamy. One can with her dream of golden pieces. The magic power of the antiquity is more abstract than a witchcraft of the dark age (****better known as: the Middle Ages), because it senses the warmness of the velvet being- knowledge (*****according to Paul the dreamed ontology). One employs an incantation, which a primeval human being scored on rock faces in Thuringia. It’s very gripping. The abstract dominates in the world full of tender sparks.

Your painter

About the author

Paweł Markiewicz was born 1983 in Siemiatycze in Poland. He is poet who lives in Bielsk Podlaski and writes tender poems, haiku as well as longer poems. Paweł has published his poetry in many magazines. He writes in English and German.

 

 

Saturday, 14 May 2022

Morning Prayers by Marc Frazier, Black Russian

 This morning when Father Valdez was beginning to enter the sacristy, facing him was a figure, face behind a balaclava, holding a gun. “What do you want?” he asked.

“Anything of value, Padre. Everyone knows you guys have gold this and silver that. Plus

you’re good at getting people to part with their cash.”

Even kind Father Valdez could see where this was headed. He backed away slightly.

“Where you going, Father?”

“Nowhere.”

He suddenly remembered Mrs. Duffy and the few morning mass attendees who arrived early and kneeled like scattered targets in the pews muttering softly into their aged hands. He moved closer to the masked figure, entering further into the sacristy to be out of hearing.

“So, is this where you keep the valuable stuff?” He threw a duffel bag on the floor and motioned with his gun to a large closet. “Get packing.”

“That’s just my vestments and garments.”

“Well, where’s all that cash that falls into your baskets every mass?”

A slight tingle of recognition shuddered through his body, a sense of familiarity with the gunmen. His slight body, his lithe movements, the unsureness in his voice.

 “All the money is locked in a safe in the rectory. I need to get out there and say mass or someone will come looking for me.”

The gunman showed signs of frustration and raised his voice, “Well, you better start coming up with things made of gold or some money from somewhere. I can take hostages if I have to.”

Father was excellent at reading people, and this intruder’s bluster didn’t ring genuine to him, but the stakes were high if he were mistaken. “I don’t think that will be necessary. Why would you throw everything away getting caught doing this?”

“Don’t try fucking analysis on me.” He raised his voice more. “You’re all pedos. You don’t even fucking remember me, do you?”

“I’m sorry but you have on a mask.”

“You guys aren’t usually picky about how a boy looks if you can get them naked at the rectory.”

“I’ve never done such a thing, I promise you.”

“Well, I figure somebody here owes me something for what Father Baldini did to me. The travelling priest you were tight with, the real grabby perv. Come to think of it, you showed up here pretty suddenly a couple of Sundays like you suspected something was going on. Don’t play dumb. Interesting thing about that was you were always too late.”

Father was conspicuously silent on the subject, only reinforcing the young man’s opinion.

He was thinking what a joke it was that his parents named him Juan Valdez, making him the constant butt of jokes. One afternoon when he was away from seminary visiting his family, his father asked to speak with him. His father related a story from when he’d been in Vietnam. Another infantryman had asked him to go into town with him. The reason was vague but he didn’t see any reason not to. Tomas paused, looked down, and continued.

“When we were walking along on the outskirts of town, Troy brushed his hand across my crotch. I pulled away and just told him he was barking up the wrong tree. For the rest of my tour, other guys gave me suspicious looks and avoided me, especially in the showers and locker room. You have to be really careful who you hang out with. Guilt by association still feels like guilt. At least it did for me.”

Juan was speechless, but eventually said, “Why are you telling me this?”

“So many unmarried men in close quarters is never a good thing.”

“Well, I know what I’m all about so I don’t think you need to worry.”

A very awkward silence ensued until Tomas patted his son’s knee and said, “Come on and let’s see what your mother’s cooked up for us.”

            Could you take off that mask so I know who you are. I never harmed you. Father was surprised when the youngster immediately pulled it off. Standing before him was Mrs. Duffy’s nephew who Father had taken under his wing after his father passed away after eighth grade.

            “Patrick, what’s going on? Are you high? Where’d you get that gun? Give it to me and I’ll not say a word. But if you don’t, I’ll call the police.”

            “I’m not giving up this gun. I may be high but I’m not stupid.

            Father noticed Patrick’s blue eyes which stood out like ancient marbles against his black hoodie and black everything else. He had been convinced Patrick could be set on the right path, but this other anger stalled him. Father knew he was trying so hard to be a thug to make him “somebody.”

            “If you put the gun down now, I’ll take no further action and we can talk later. I’m on your side though you don’t believe it.”

            Suddenly, Mrs. Duffy was standing in the doorway, her rosary attached to her like an appendage. “Patrick, what have you been up to? Is everything okay, Father.” She took the gun from him, slipped it into her purse, grabbed him by the ear and led him to HER pew and said, “sit,” and then to Father Valdez, “Let’s say mass.”

About the author

 Marc Frazier has published poetry in numerous literary journals. He has also published memoir, fiction, essays and reviews of poetry collections. He is a Chicago area LGBTQ writer whose books are available online. He is active on social media especially his Marc Frazier Author page on Facebook. Twitter: @marcfrazier45.

Friday, 13 May 2022

The Blind Captain by Nina E. Larsen, espresso


Now after a few years, I can finally tell you. There is a blind captain out there somewhere in the English Channel with his skipper certificate in a plastic folder around his neck. It is supposed to be an immediate recognisable proof of his skills,  in case he crashes into a rock or a boat. You could argue he will not need the certificate anymore if he get’s into trouble, but it seemed a good idea at the time.  I noticed he had trained himself up to become an excellent guesser when we did the sailing training, in many cases he did better than the seeing sailors.

 

The last day I took him apart from the rest of the group on the boat and told him that normally I would not let a blind man pass the skipper exam, but I had decided to do it. He must look disappointed so the others would not know.

You can blame me for it and say that it is madness, but who has the right to deny an old

man, who has no other choice but to live on his boat, to return to a life on land where he has nothing. No, I told him to stay away from the summer holiday places during daytime and keep quiet with his loud singing, but please be careful out there, and look out for a sailor with black hair and sunglasses, singing Shenandoa somewhere in the middle of the night.

About the author 

 Nina E. Larsen is born in Norway and live in France. She has published work in Norway, the UK, Ireland and the US, been chosen by Billy Collins for an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Fish Poetry Prize. Recently published "Where Salt and Horses live without Man" Finishing Line Press.