Short Story


As the downpour splattered and splashed back on the black sampietrini or cobblestones, she immediately stepped her heels, tapping towards the nearest glass door of the usual trattoria or restaurant in that corner. Her beige trenchcoat got some water stain by the shoulders, creating obvious patches and her well-coiffed hair, in an up-do bun, got drenched. Some strands even loosed their way down her face.

 She went straight to the powder room and fixed herself.

When she was done, she examined the intensity of the rain through the clean, transparent wall. It is still too strong to brave through. She thought. And, it looks like it will not stop yet in any minute. She sat in one of the empty wooden stools near the door.  There were six of which, surrounding the small service ledge in white marble where two have been used by two grizzled males who are babbling about the last week’s Brazil and Italy FIFA match. The latter won and the frenzy took over each Italian, from every trattoria or osteria she knows. She noticed the service crew, who is a teenage male lanky, walked towards her and before he could come near her, she exclaimed, “Un cappuccino per favore!” Her standing index finger emphasized an amount of one.

                She surveyed the display at the back of the countertop while her coffee was being prepared. The tiny and red stacks of brick wall was adorned by five old pictures, flat framed in wood. They appear as the trattoria’s centrefold to where any new eyes will hold a long stare because of the tiny string lights hanging horizontally above, accentuating the cosy presentation. The photos vary in sizes and one of which features the service crew in a denim romper to some place that looks like a stock farm. She beamed warmly. That fetch a memory of Carmen’s Eatery. There are also copies of smiling faces hanging on the back of its counter, only that these are backdropped by a century-old white curtain where dried and stringent splatters of food sarsa or sauce were screaming to be noticed as well .

Carmen’s food stall appeared as an extension of the squatter residences behind it, shuffling with their structures of houses in rusting tin roofs and cardboards. The eatery is even as nasty as the murky waters in the duct, running inside the scullery where ingredients are being cut and prepped. But nobody minded, people go there for the cheapest lunch. And she went there for work. Before.

 She brushed off the spark of another fold of memory.

She took a deep breath to regain her focus and she opened her pressed powder to take a quick preen. She needs a well-mannered version of herself to meet the boss that she needed to impress. She really needs the job! THAT big job in a seaside restaurant in Livorno, Tuscany, so she can’t afford a huge blast-from-the-past distraction that can hinder her to a dream of basking her tan skin under Tuscany’s golden sun. Funny, how she used to despise her natural shade back there in the Philippines where she received jokes from her aunts for being dark. She always get compared to her other female cousins who kept white complexion for using Papaya soap. She tried to do the same, envying their ivory glow, but it did not work on her. Her childhood scars went subtle.

   She looked back at herself in her mirror and fell satisfied at her stubborn curly locks pressed tightly up her head already with the help of bobby pins—kept for almost a month in her purse-- and at her lips, shimmering in ruby red.

“Sei bello.” You’re beautiful. She taught proudly with an excitement that had never left her chest. She cannot wait anymore to live in Tuscany. The sun, the beach, those are the things she anticipate.

She surreptitiously glanced at the door through her pressed powder mirror when some flustered gentleman got inside. He might be also caught by the unwelcomed attendance of the rain. She looked up his face. All of a sudden, her senses were caught off-guard. She gaped. Her heart throbs in breathless beat and it seemed like the air went thin. She was gasping for it.  Sweat also began to blister out her temple.

                She frisked for her hanky on the left side pocket of her coat and got it out instantly, dabbing her widow’s peak.

She could bet all the subtle heat of Tuscan sun that that gentleman is Alfonso. ALFONSO. The thick brunette strands, the deep-seated eyes, the drooping lower lip, and all those jaws: those could sum up that face she HONESTLY knew six years ago. The grandeur of those traits will never be stolen by another identity; even, through the luxury of the coat he used over his body or the gold-plated wrist watch on his left arm.

                She followed Alfonso with a look to a table at her back, launching down to a wicker chair.  When he was about to reflect his eyes on her tiny mirror, she snapped it close. How could the world serve that human being in this huge Italia? How could he crept his way inadvertently on her life again?

But that was the past! Warned her mind. It shouldn’t bother her anymore. Her life now is far-fetched from the pity that she was from their history page.

Be brave, Annita! That’s another attempt at consolation.

                Her coffee arrived in a ceramic cup over a saucer, placed neatly before her. The aroma suffused to fill her nostrils and the whole delirious trattoria. It gave some spike on the happening that she would have never thought to happen. But silently, and she cannot deny that in the back of her mind, she did hope for. She scoffed with that tinge of delight. After all, Alfonso can still thrill her, just, after all, the anguish she buried for years in the Philippines. She was a bit disgusted with herself and twisted the upper lip in lop-sided manner. She then turned her wrist to check the time on her silver-plated Seiko watch. She’s still an hour away from the interview on the third block from the place they are in.

                It has been five years. She thought as she turned her gaze again, outside the thrumming precipitation. The dark clouds that brought the rain cloaked that side of the street as if it will come to dusk.

 Italy, the land of shoes, leathers, beautiful clothes, coffee, pizza, pancetta and cheese brought her a different world, different from the balmy Carbon street were most people are in seeding and tattered shirts, making their  earnings in slippers, partly just to take a grip at fried chickens sold in the corners. The present has almost been devoid completely of the old life and sentiments she felt she has forgotten. And, got rotten under all heaps of hope. 

Nothing will hurt anymore. She calmed herself. Nothing will even happen to be dragged again to that old self of hers, to the old fool Annita. Even if she is caught to the day she has prayed to avoid.

 If she’s a bit glad, she agreed, it is that she has seen an old acquaintance. It’s like that feeling of seeing one Filipino you knew in Italy. And she believes, the guy deserves a “hi”.

                She inhaled to muster all courage in the world and turn herself slowly to the left side to greet Alfonso. There. Just when her eyes landed on his face, he seemed enthralled to be searching on her face too. His mouth opened in surprise and he looked like more than happy to have seen her in the most unexpected place of the most unexpected time.

                “Annita?” He worded almost soundless.

                She smiled from ear to ear. Her heart skipped a beat, the kind she felt six years ago when she was all-possessed by that mad love. Is she prepared for another damnation? So her smile hang there dry and in wary of what could happen after a minute or two with HIM!

                He swiftly moved out his chair and before she knew it, he already landed in a stool on her left, still in amazement.

                “Is that really you?” He asked on that kind of huskiness in low baritone that only Alfonso can exude. Then, each good old, sweet thing from their past came flooding inside her. It was so strong she is slinging some harsh, loud curses against it in silence.

                “Y..yes!” An amount of uneasiness almost stalled her single word.

                “That silly Annita you knew from Cebu.” She added, nodding. She could feel her inhalation by that second.

                “God! I never thought I could still bump into you!” He gladly exclaimed.

                “Me too.” Then, she could not agree more.

                “And in Italy!” He exclaimed. He could not contain his disbelief on the wildest circumstance that brought them together.

                “Yes, in Italy.” She repeated.

                “We can really never can tell.” Alfonso, still bedazzled, checked all the corners of her head as if it is still like a dream.

                “So how are you? It’s been like,” she paused.

“Years.” And turned to her cappuccino, taking it in her lips. Some uneasiness crawled in her, remembering how it had been and how they are now. Then, in a moment, the well-lighted corner of their past starts to dim again. And, the skeletons shook out from the shadows.

“I’m doing great. Remember that stout Italian I had for a boss in Ayala?” Alfonso conspicuously manifested his jubilation over her and that unprecedented meeting while she is slowly fumbling down the darker tunnel of memories.

“Per favour servi il mio caffe qui.” Please serve my coffee here. He called the attention of the person in the counter.

“Yes. Francesco. You kept texting me about him being dear to you, but, on the other hand, disgusted on how you cook his Bolognese ragu.”

“Still best memory you got there, Annita. That mind is like a pot of brilliance.” It was impressive.  His dark eyes squinted.

“Well, he made a real good Italian cook out of this handsome boy.” He quipped and that got her a little tickled. They laughed together while hers got to be feigning at the end of the momentum. Nothing has changed. He is still a master of tongue-in-cheek bragging. She learned that Alfonso’s kitchen skill got him in Italy when the good, old Francesco opened five successful bistros in South East Asia and eventually owned two in Roma. He posted Alfonso in here with a great deal of salary to look over them while he could be fluttering away in some Asian countries.

“Wow.” That’s all she could say. Her thoughts hang on how unrealistic life had turned itself just to put glory on the hands of Alfonso. After finishing her cup of cappuccino, she calmly placed it back to its saucer. Who would have thought that THIS GUY, who used to cajole his charm on her to steal in an impoverished eatery in Carbon Market for his vice, will look as sleek and count-like after years of grinding off his abrasive and shabby self.  

“I know, Annita. It is amazing, right?” She looked at him as he threw a glance at her. That glanced that his eyes flung that could stick unto her soul. She shivered, but he did not notice. She quickly contained it.

“But really, we can never can tell. And look? Look at you, too.” The thrill of pride came rushing with his utterance.

 She served a thrifted smile on her lips. Unable to give empathy to its hilt. Yes. What has become of her too? She was once jailed for a day for him, for theft. It was like this, on a rainy day, only that it was before the restaurant closing, when she has to make an account of the day’s earnings and Alfonso rallied from the door and went straight to her. He was wearing a soiling shirt with white “TIDE” detergent as its front marking.

“Oh! Here you are again, pestering Annita!” that was her Aunt Lucy, boorish for eternity about her good-for-nothing boyfriend. She also worked in that carenderia as its cook. She was carrying some empty cauldron she got from the wooden counter, covered by yellowish oil cloth that was festered by houseflies.

He threw a glare at her aunt who jostled at his glare and went straight to the kitchen in an up-chin. Alfonso went back at her, shifting into a rueful face she cannot bear to take. It got her. Again.  She does not know how he can make her heart swing or fall to a plunge, as if the only thing she can care are his hands that will hopefully,  catch her from a dangerous trip.

“I need money, Annita. The police are cracking down the dens and Roger needs his money back.”

She was taken aback. Fear crept into her nerves, for Roger rang thousands of bell for being the notorious crystal meth peddler in their area. She knew stories about him, most were disgustingly atrocious, confirmed by the .45 calibrated gun he always carries on his tattered sling bag she once saw.

“I don’t even have any centavo here..” in soft trembling voice, she answered in sympathy.

“But, Roger’s going to kill me!?” He cut her through that hiss in between his teeth. His eyes were furious to where trouble is spelled, specifically in his dilated pupils.

She sighed in trouble. Her mind is on a battle to untangle the snare that Alfonso put them in. Then, her sweat glands opened wide to release sluice of sweat, intensified by Cebu’s balmy weather. The white towel hanging from the back of her shirt is serving more its purpose.

“I will lend money from Carmen.” She pertains to the owner of the eatery.

Alfonso moved his eyeballs from left to right, fidgeting for unknown reason.

“When is she going to come?”

“About an hour from now.”

“Annita.” He whispered, leaning himself over the counter.

“Just get two thousand bills now. I don’t think she might notice it.” He glanced at the bills mounded through a rubber band on her left hand..

“I cannot do that, Alfonso. That is stealing!” Indignantly, she raised her voice.

“Shhh Shhh,” He cut her again anxiously. All the nerves on his throat furrowed due to his strong reaction.

“But Carmen might not let you borrow anymore. Remember you still have thousands of loan from her.” He whispered again as if fearful of anyone eavesdropping from them.

Yes. A five thousand loan to be exact because of Alfonso, too. All those went to his odious vice. His work as “kusinero” or cook in the next door’s carenderia will never be enough to sustain his support for his old  parents in Talisay and most of all, his exploit in sniffing grams of white substance.

As long as she could remember, he was taintless when she first met him. It was five months ago when he was just employed, during the end of their shifts, when both of them were walking in the dark and muddy alley through the shanties. It is the only shortcut she can use from work than going around the highway.

She dwelled there all her life while he just bedspaced in one of the dilapidated boarding houses.

“Good evening! Weren’t you afraid to be walking alone here?” He broke the silence while he was at her back, tailing on a narrow space in between the shacks.

“Been here all my life. What to be afraid?” She tried holding her balance on her foot, stepping on a protruded stone in a murky puddle.

“Good for you.”

“Well, I just moved here. What’s your name?”

It was when she arrived at the opening. The lighted tiny street was still full of bystanders loitering in some sari-sari stores and children running to and fro.

She spun and faced him with eyebrows buried towards the center, implying curiousity. 

                “I think I could use some few more friends.” He added. Then, the light from the side street light hit his face. The man was way taller than her and she could not understand, suddenly, her heart is slipping from its usual beats. Instantly she knew, from that very moment that she got attracted by this handsome moreno she hasn’t known yet. All she could do now is to welcome him through a warm smile, just as it exploded inside her.

                “Annita.” She told him her name, neverminding the enchantment she might have shown to him.


He smiled back, presenting his teeth. Those were not perfect, but the dimple, the wrinkled eyes, and his defined jaws made them a million-peso worth.

                They immediately became friends, and she became his secret admirer. That started the going-home an excitement for her. Even an hour before 9 p.m., she will be all prepared from parting the eatery, restless to meet Alfonso in the alley. There are times that she would miss him on the dim shortcut for reason that he was seeing Martha, but that fact never stopped her from liking him in a deeper, unfathomable reason.

                Things moved fast. After a year, Alfonso and Martha broke up. She was there for him in all the tormenting days that he could not bear from happening. They will stay late in Prosesa’s Sari-Sari store. He, inebriated in his Red Horse beer was being waited by her through munching all the Chippies and Corniks. She will be waiting for him to be totally drunk and eventually, ask him to go home.

                She did not get tired. Who gets tired when you got a loving heart, the strongest muscle in the human body? It can endure all the blows of jealousy and punches of neglect as long as its longing is suffice--to see and to talk with him every single day. She was hoping that it will lead him to divert his affection towards her.

                And it did happen. They became more than friends. But Alfonso was still on his deepest sea of remorse, unable to be salvaged, recuperating through her and through a vice that put him into another snare.

                “Yeah. Time has changed me into this.” She would like to let confident supercede on each word she pronounced, but that failed. Her voice was weak that it broke instantly to silence. Blame the deluge of loneliness from the flashback. She bowed her head down and put her lips together, pulling them inwards. She felt her drying lipstick. It has chapped itself in this chilly weather.

                “I’m sorry.” He wistfully said, and a deep sigh followed. It’s as if he read what she always had in her mind.

                It was the moment when time learned to stop for her. After all those years, starting when she fell for him up to the time she entered this tratorria, time, finally, was kind for her. It gave her the words she had frustrated to suffice down her stomach for the longest time. There are those people who had done her various mistakes, but the grave that Alfonso dug for her was the thing that she could lie back in some of those nights after she was bailed out from jail.

                “I understand it is the reason you moved out the squatters and disappear. God knows.. I looked for you in any way.” He continued in a remorseful tone.

 But, Alfonso did not came when she waited on that dark and scalding concrete corners of the fetid cell. The pickpockets, the drug pushers and the users who were still in the spur of psychedelic effects, and the squeaking rats were her frightening companions. She could not bear remembering that night when all she could do is whimper in one corner, exhausting out the dismay of crumbled expectation about Alfonso—that for once he will suddenly come to save her. Just for once.

“I was lucky enough that your Aunt Lucy’s teenage son was unaware about “us” and gave me your number. But, you never replied, Annita.” There was pain on it. There was pain reflecting on his eyes when she faced him.

He could endure a lot of pain, but he was too coward to iron out the intricate mess she made for her, or it’s just that she was NOTHING to him after all. So when she was forgiven by Carmen and freed, she decided to meet Alberto, her persisting septuagenarian Italian suitor whom she met online. She settled with him, five months before he succumbed to cancer.

                “I wished to see you. You know that.” He broke her wallowed thinking.

                “I know.” She remembered how his message suddenly popped up on her analogue phone during those time she departed already from Cebu. He was talking about how he changed and got a new cooking job. There was that surge of emotions when it happened, but she needed to remember the rotten jail and the neglect he had made her feel. It was one big fight she lost in a moment and won for a long time. Since then she promised, she would never put herself on that self-demeaning bout anymore.

                She inhaled and held an amount of cold, fresh air on her lungs. She bet that that has cleared her from the webs of doubts from the past that clang on her insides. 

                “Un altro capucinno per la bella signora.” One more cappuccino for the beautiful lady. He told the service crew.

                “No. I’m already fine.” She turned to him.

And, gave a breath of relief.

                “It was all done, Alfonso. I’m fine now.” It was her response for his sorry.

He got it right, as it got him alarmed.

                “Thank you.” She added and smiled warmly.

Annita put her right hand over his which held the cup.

                “I think I need to go now.”

                “But can’t you spare a time for me?” Alfonso demanded with troubled grim written on his face.

                “You gave your sorry already and I am forgiving you. It was all I ever wanted since then and I think it should end there.”

                She paused. It will be her last time memorizing his face.

                “It was really nice seeing you again, Alfonso.”


Seeking Happiness! [Short Story]

Bina entered the room like a tornado [A]! She is so angry; her cheeks have turned red! Her husband, Ifaz, has come in. He finds Bina standing next to the dining table inhaling and exhaling breaths so fast. Ifaz does not utter any word. He simply walks towards the sofa slowly like a criminal and sits by moving the remote control away. His left hand is put on his chin. He is looking like a lost Greek soldier! She is literally fuming like fire! Throwing a glass towards the TV, she says,

- Marrying you is the worst decision of my life! It was heavenly when you expressed your love for me 3 years back [B]. Now, I can see your real face. You have been deceiving me by your MASK. Not anymore!

- What have I done?

- You do not know what you have done! I have so wanted the child but you and your parents have made me abort it. Why? Because it was a girl and your mother does not want to have a “GIRL” as a grandchild! How could she herself being a woman even think like that?

- But, I wanted to have the child! What is my fault?

- You just shut the hell up? You are spineless like a cockroach! Why were you not bold enough? Why did you not assert that we want the child?

Ifaz goes near Bina and tries to console her by wiping her tears away. She does not let him do that. She rushes towards the washroom like a rocket! He goes back to the sofa, takes the remote control , keeps it on the little table at the corner and lies down on the sofa. He looks at the ceiling being so depressed. The fan is moving. He compares his life with the fan. In fact, his life is moving on and on like the earth. His life has no balance whatsoever! Ifaz opens his eyes after hearing a noise. It is coming from the bedroom. Actually, he comes to know that Bina has dropped the luggage so hard on the floor that it sounded like something happened! He has thought she may have hurt herself accidentally [D]. He calmly asks,

- Where are you going?

- I am leaving!

- What do you mean?

- It is over! Our marriage is over! I cannot stand it anymore!

Ifaz holds Bina’s hands gently and tries to hug her but she moves herself away towards the corner. She is still crying; her eyes look red like the red roses. She leans against the wall and looks outside the window. It is raining outside; it is also raining inside, inside her heart, there is ceaseless rain! The outer rain shall stop within a few moments but her inner rain does not seem to be stopping! Ifaz goes to her and keeps his hand on her right shoulder; she moves again and starts packing up her clothes.

Bina leaves. She throws the ring at Ifaz while departing. After some moments, he makes a phone call but she does not answer it. He calls her several times but his endeavors go in vain. After a few seconds, Ifaz tries to connect but finds that Bina has blocked his phone number! Out of anger, depression and all, he kicks the dining chair and hurts himself. He thinks that perhaps, as pressure creates diamonds, pain can purify his soul, pain can help to change himself, pain can make him a better person, pain can turn him into a being with a ‘spine’! Pain, pain, pain!

This is a mere physical pain, much more weighty mental pain awaits Ifaz. His phone rings. He becomes delighted by thinking that the call must be from Bina. He gets the phone and looks at the screen. It is not from her; it is from her mother. Before Ifaz tries to say something, his mother-in-law starts crying like a child! He realizes that something so bad has happened! He frantically asks,

- What happened?

-  My daughter has committed suicide [C]!

- Oh God! Oh no! Oh God!

Ifaz falls to the floor. He has lost his consciousness. When he opens his eyes, he finds himself at a nearby hospital. Actually, he had a serious injury in his head while he fell down at home. His parents and other relatives are eagerly waiting for the doctor to say something positive about Ifaz’s recovery. The doctors are trying their best to save his life but the condition is so critical. He feels that he is also going to die; he smiles a little by thinking that he is going to join Bina soon in the afterlife! Without her, his life is nothing! It is like the sun without the moon! As the sun and the moon together make the world beautiful, livable and balanced, similarly, Ifaz believes that his and Bina together used to make LOVE itself beautiful! Indeed, she was angry with him but she loved him so much.

Ifaz closes his eyes. The teardrops pass his cheeks and fall on the bedsheet. His brain takes him to an endless journey now. The day they first met, the way Bina smiled, her unique way of running fingers across her hair, her love for the poor, the pets, their walking together on moonlit nights along the river, her kisses, love, affection, her whole existence- all are drawing his attention strongly as if the memories are pulling him like a colossal piece of a magnet!

Out of the blue, Ifaz sees a baby girl; she is as cute as Bina! They are looking at him in utter contempt. He feels that, just like Bina, the unborn baby also considers him as a murderer; as if he is the meanest creature on earth! More teardrops from his eyes pour out at that very moment. He says to himself, “Yes, I agree, I am a murderer!” Ifaz breathes his last [E]! 

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A Blaze of Glory

“I think it got smaller today too.” The owl said.

“As the day before that.” The fox answered, “And tomorrow it will happen again”

No one remembers how long ago it started. The Sun started getting smaller each day, out of nowhere. The humans were scared the first time they noticed. Even some of their scientists went into bunkers, saying the world would freeze and that everyone would die. Others were in denial; telling people that while this was real, it would take a long time for the sun to die out and that everything would be fine. After a few months of everyone living in fear, not much changed. Well, not for the humans anyway. But we could feel it. We could feel in different parts of the world, how they began getting colder and colder. Our families, the other animals, were slowly dying. The humans thought they were so smart, they built special burrows to protect some of their kind. It is impressive really, how they can adapt to survive. But even more impressive the way they think that just by ignoring a problem, it will go away.

“What if it doesn’t?” The owl asked frightened, “what if it just disappears and everything ends?”

“Then that was the way it was intended” The fox responded.

“The humans think it won’t come to an end.”

“They never see an end to anything.”

“How is that possible?”

“They think that they know everything. That they are superior. Even when a disaster is their fault, they try to get rid of the blame, saying that it their actions were ‘necessary’ for the greater good.”

“Do they even care what happens to the planet?”

“No, as long as they are comfortable, they don’t even care what happens outside their own burrows.”

The owl got silent for a moment. He turned his head backwards to a human city. Some buildings new and shiny, higher than the older, destroyed ones. Even they don’t care about their old homes.

“What will happen to them?” the owl asked.

“The same thing that will happen to us”

“You think they won’t survive?”

“No one will” The fox answered her “even they have to understand that. Their cities won’t save them when the planet freezes and all life goes away.”

“It could happen tomorrow.”

“It could.” Said the fox, laying down while he started to close his eyes “If it doesn’t, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” said the owl, who shivered a little, looked at the starless sky and then closed her eyes as well. “see you tomorrow.”

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Lady Creole

I never drink on a Sunday, the Lord’s day, but for some inexplicable reason, today I take a swig from the amber bottle as soon as I leave the bed. Maybe it’s the passing of time, or the cracking bones, but today I feel the wig so heavy in my head, the makeup and fake lashes so corrosive, burning. Yet, even with all my hurts, I manage to brave the bright sunlight and blistering heat of the Crescent City. Pierced by the Mississippi, the town welcomes me like an old friend —familiar sights of city boys and girls wearing their Sunday’s best and the smell of beignets from the shops. I can see the young and old looking at me —the same funny look every day: pity, disgust, but with my head held high I make my way into St. Louis. Even in the good Lord’s house I can see them staring. They watch as I kiss His merciful feet and sit in the benches on my Sunday pink dress and pillbox hat.  They watch as I onto my bony knees and pray for forgiveness. But I wear my faith like a shawl, protective and strong against any evil eye —but not all are unkind. Some nod politely as I walk past their benches, and others even whisper a “Good morning Miss Dauphine” as I walk to the front of the church.
My bench rests in the middle of the parish, right under His glorious gaze as he hangs in the cross. At this hour of the day, if the summer sun shines right, the stained windows will colour his face into a million different tones, majestic and glowing. I can see the whole altar from this place, burning white with the priest in the center. Our light of holy guidance.
At night everything changes, everything becomes like burning incense, hazy, nauseating, suffocating. The bars, the clubs in Bourbon street, the dancing and drinking. I was made for this life but I don’t want it, I don’t remember who I was before today. I burned through it all, as I see the end so near, staring at me right in the face. But I know, next week it will all be the same, over and over again until the last fire inside these wrinkled, painted eyes, dies. I stare at myself one night in the mirror, and don’t recognize whatever it is that is staring back at me.

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A minute to remember

A minute to remember

By Pedro Gómez de la Garza

I was reading the newspaper, Nicholai Tibets (Russian) had won again. That would be his 49th fight and his 49th consecutive victory, he had been born to fight, or that´s what everyone says. He was the sensation at the time, everyone would talk about him. At just the age of 19 he had become the best boxer in the world. He had beaten all of his foes in the first round by knockout. No one could survive his ferocious fighting style.

I remember the first time I read about him, he had been boxing for just three years, but still he was at the top. How? Everyone was wondering, how could he beat all the professionals who had started fighting since they can remember? How? There was no answer, not even he knew the secret of his inhumane strength. Once in an interview, he said that every day since he set his goal, he had done 100 push-ups, 100 sit-ups, 100 squats along running 10 miles each day. But that alone could not be. That simple exercise routine could not possibly be the secret of his strength. How could it be? Any normal teen could do it. So was he really born to fight? was he really meant to be the best in the world?

“Don´t waste too much time reading the newspaper Thomas,” my brother interrupted my thinking, “only three more pianists and it´s your turn.”

He was right, I needed to clear my mind, I had prepared myself for this moment, and it finally came. Hours and hours sitting next to the piano and now the time had come for me to show the results of my sweat and sacrifices. But I knew it was useless, there were too many extraordinary pianists in the competition; I could never be at their level. I was just and average pianist maybe even a mediocre one. After listening to the first participant I decided to get out of the hall, calm my nerves think about something else until my turn to play comes.

I left the newspaper on the chair I was sitting on and went out for a smoke. It was freezing outside, I knew I shouldn´t be smoking minutes before my turn but I needed it, although my hands would freeze and I wouldn´t be able to play. I started thinking again about Nicholai. I needed to think of something else than the perfect interpretation of the first pianist I heard. I was nervous, even with the cold, my hands were sweating; I could not play that way. After I finished the cigarette I went to the restroom so I could wet my hand in hot water and then dry them with that brown recycled paper they always use.

My parents always tell me how talented I am, and how gifted, but I know those words are not true, those words are just because I´m their son. “This is not a competition with others” I remembered my teacher saying those words, “this is a competition with yourself, just do your best and the results will come along.” Some loads of bullshit, if I´m not here for the first place, then what for?

I remembered when I understood Nicholai´s words in the interview. What he really wanted to say is that perseverance is the key to success. And so I started to play for two to three hours every day. But, could that be enough? I know the other pianists would play for eight hours every day, but I just could not do that. Was I lacking will force? Motivation? What?

“Michael! It is your turn,” my brother had always been there to support me. My parents had made so much effort to afford my private piano lessons, to buy me a new piano; I needed to reward them, but against so strong foes, how?

I entered the hall, and glanced at my teacher, she was excited. I walked to the piano, it was a Steinway for concerts, beautiful. With my left hand I touched the piano and bowed to the public and to the judges. There were four of them, two Russians, one Chinese and one American. I sat on the piano and concentrated. I felt hot, the hall was like an oven. I started playing.

I began with a prelude and fugue from Bach, one of the easiest, certainly not at the level of my fellow competitors. I went through it perfectly, better than always, I felt great. Then, it was time for my Beethoven sonata, I could feel the sweat of my forehead dropping to the piano and to my fingers making it more difficult to play, but finally I played my third and last piece and the most difficult one, a polonaise by Chopin.

I heard the clapping of the public and stand up, and I looked at the judges, the two Russians had a cold feelingless look in their eyes but the Chinese had a smile, I knew he had approved my Chopin.

The time for the judges to declare the winners came, I was so sure I was not in the first two, but I hoped for the third place or at least an honorable mention. They gave away the honorable mention, the third and the second place. It was all over.

“And the first place,” started the American judge is for, “… young pianist Ana Fedorova …” not me. I cannot describe what I felt, sorrow, regret, desperation, I don´t know. But the judged continued “and Michael Hall!”


What I felt that minute was worth remembering.

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Ridiculous riddle

An astonishing adventure of...

A band of brotherly bugs


"Creepy crawlers" the crowd called


Disheartened, dishonored deemed the disheveled.

Everyone eked as they exited the entryway.

For they were fearless fighting for freedom.


"Go! Get  out! Be gone!" they all gasped.


"How did this happen?"


It was instantaneously indeed.


"Just to jump" the critters jokingly jested.


"Kill the king!" the kid cackled.


Loudly laughing, luring them to the lake, to make him a meal for the mammoth big mouthed monster.


"Never!" Near our end, in our nautical nightmare.


Our orphaned oily selves, oh is our fate.

Plunged into the pleasantly cool pond to ponder.

Question? "Question what I ask"

Rid of our reality, it is our reality to reveal.

Snatched up by a snag of a sapling root.

Taken, tortured, torn into two.

Unearthed creatures with one purpose.

Valiantly trying to wiggle..wiggle..wiggle...

X marks the spot they yelled.


"Young one reel it in, we got one"


And that is what  I was, simply a worm with no real purpose.  

Only to be fish food for fun.

For the worm was no more..ZZZZ.

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The writer that had nothing to write about.

The writer that had nothing to write about.



There is this guy who calls himself a writer. He had never write about anything specifically. He usually took his pen and wrote, wrote, wrote. He wrote sentences or paragraph, on the bad times he would just write nonsense words.


Once he came by to a newspaper editor to request a job as a reporter and he was accepted, not because this was a good writer but because it was a not good newspaper.  He was there no for money, no for fame, just because he liked “writing” as he called it.


He wrote senseless pieces, as the report on a seagull crash, or the note on some poker player at a bar. Papers were printed once a week, and week after week he looked for the column he had been writing. He read it; he read it again, and again. Once he told a friend about his job but in special the reading part of his note. His work was writing, not reading.


If he was asked why he liked more reading than writing he answer that because as much as he read more he learned about himself. While he was fine with that nobody bothered him.


As the time went, the writer was a happy reader of himself. Maybe some other person that maybe used to buy all the newspaper on town and read them had maybe come to read his columns. But if he had readers or not he continued to write.


He once told his friend that writing is not to reading, as if they had some kind of proportion. Writing is to make things happen, he continued telling his friend, and reading is to learn what happened.


He never kept the paper, he would just read and dump it. He had no money, barely a bed, a piece of bread in his pocket. But he was a writer that was important enough to him.


The writer wrote about all he could, all he could imagine to happen. That was his magic and charm. He was crating a whole different view of things. The editor was happy to read his note, the light notes as he called them. Maybe is not worth telling that the newspaper was more like a scandal sheet.


There were other writers, real ones, writers that got a lot of money, had sport cars, went to Cancun for vacation and a lot of fancy things, he admired them but did not dare to be like them. He was happy with his situation.


The mystery about this man was how he made his living. As he said, by writing he made things happen. So in some incredible way he was able to live with that. He was a powerful writing magician.


I do not mean that he was an actual magician or that he workout magic, no way. But certain things did happen because he wrote about them.


Apparently a wealthy man read a news in which the writer was proposing an investment in some special bank account. The investor got 15% in profits out of that investment. The wealthy man was so happy to he decided to give the writer part of the money.


Another time he wrote a senseless article about ten reason why to buy a 1983 thunderbird, someone read it and buy the car. The seller asked the buyer who told him about the car, he told him he was convince by an article in the newspaper. The seller went to the writers office an offered him part of the revenue.


This was his way of leaving until newspaper was sold and the new owner just did not accept him. He told the writer that it was about time for him to go along to write somewhere else. So there he was, sitting next to me, pen on hand and thinking what to write about. He did not have something to write about.



 This story was written by Juan Pablo Estrada




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the light

The last thing Jim remembers is being hit in the back of the head, as he was walking down Arizona rd. last night as he was walking home. Now he’s in some kind of dessert, he feels his body really heavy, Jim is almost naked and has an incredible headache. Let’s think logic Jim thought, probably I was assaulted they take all my stuff and leave me here in the middle of nowhere, I better look for help. So Jim started walking through the dessert feeling how the heat touched his skin and feeling how he was getting more tired as every minute passed, when finally a highway appeared and didn’t seem much transited but a big truck appeared as Jim was giving the thumb up signal for a ride, the truck parked immediately in front of him. The driver of the truck was a tall white man, Jim asked for water as the driver took out a little bottle of fresh water down his seat, then Jim asked for his name he simply said “My friends call me Doc”,  apparently Doc was not much as a talker he didn’t answered the consequent questions that Jim popped out, and also seemed strange that he didn’t ask anything about the almost naked man he had just picked up in the middle of the dessert, maybe it’s more common that what I think Jim said. Jimmy was staring at the view outside the window, he didn’t know where he was nor where he was going but he felt kind of safe with Doc, he seemed like a good person an anything was better than dying in the dessert. Suddenly in the distance Jim sees a tunnel that cross a mountain down the middle, something happened, the sky turned black as they were approaching the tunnel, lightings and heavy rain started falling down the sky and he could not see anything beside the highway they were and the tunnel approaching, Doc started stepping on the gas, as he started screaming “Come on! Come on!”, the black color that was covering the sides of the highway started moving like they were chasing the truck, and at the same time the tunnel started seemed to be getting smaller and smaller, Doc was screaming louder every time, and Jimmy had never been so scared in his life, he covered his eyes even though he wanted to see if they would make it or not into the tunnel, then complete darkness. Jim though he was dead but when he opened his eyes he saw he was inside of the tunnel and Doc was saying “We are good, we are good”, then he saw a light at the end of the tunnel, what a cliché he thought and then as they get out of the tunnel something changes, Jim is still seeing a bright light but now he realizes he’s lay down and that bright light comes from a lamp, the kind is used in hospital surgery  rooms, he cannot move his arms neither his legs, it seems like are tied up, he feels something inside his throat and nose,  he starts feeling panic he wants to scape,  but then he hears a familiar voice, Doc’s voice saying  “Calm down kid, everything is all right, you did it”.

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And Your Veins, They're Not Fables

Short Stories

   I look up at the sun; I can feel my face turn bright red.  I wipe my sweaty hair away from my forehead with my arm; it’s too hairy for a girl. I step away. I look at the dog house I made. I didn't need to make it; we don’t even have a dog. My ma made me go outside because she doesn't want me to see how much she drinks.

   I walk to the middle of the yard and sit down. I take my hammer and a left over nail and hammer it into the dirt. That's all we have in our yard. Dirt. Most people have grass and a garden and a fence to keep all their childrens in. All we have is dirt and dust and a metal gate that stabs your hands and legs if you try and climb over it. I run my thumb over a scar on my leg. I keep hammering the nail into the ground, taking it out and startin’ over. I hit my thumb with the hammer.

     "Damn," I throw it away from me and spit at it; it lands near the gate. A man is standing there. His skin is dark.

     "You alright?" He says to me. "I saw you hit your thumb with that hammer, there."

     "I'm fine," I say.

   He pushes the gate open and walks towards me.

     "Are you sure?" He says. He squats in front of me and takes my hand in his.

   I nod and take my hand away from him. He smiles at me.

  I hear the screen door with no screen in it open up.  It's my ma, in her dressing gown with a glass of something.

     "Hiya," the man says.

     "Hello there," my ma says. She loosens the tie on her dress and presses the glass up to her neck.

     "How old are ya, boy?"

     "20." He stands up. "How old are you?"

   I laugh once. He looks down at me.

   My ma raises her drawn on eyebrows and closes the collar of her dress.

   He holds his big hand out for me to take. I take it. I get up.

     "I'm Heathcliffe," he says.

     "What kind of nigga has the name Heathcliffe?" I ask him.

He shrugs. "I do." He turns away from me and walks back towards the gate.

     "I'm Lowery," I say to Heathcliffe as he closes the gate.

     "Nice to meet you ma'am." He tips his hat. I walk inside.

     "What did he say to you?" My ma asks.




   I crawl inside the dog house I made. My dress snags on a nail I didn’t hammer in all the way. I see a pair of legs walk in front of the dog house hole. They’re a man’s legs.


     “It’s me, Heathcliffe.”

   I crawl out from the doghouse. Heathcliffe is holdin’ paint cans.

     “I got you some paint for that there dog house.” He holds the two cans out to me.

     “Set ‘em down over there.” I say and point my tool box.  I put my hair back over my ears. I don’t want him to see how red they are. My back is facin’ the house. I hear behind me the door open and slam shut.

     “Yoohoo! Heathcliffe, is that you?”

     “Yes ma’am it’s me.” He tips his hat.

     “Heathcliffe dear, I was wondrin’ if you know how to fix a broken sofa. The leg on ours’ come off.” She leans up against the doorway.

     “Why yes I do ma’am. I can fix that no trouble.” He looks at me and then walks for the house, taking off his dirty hat.

I get into the house last.

     “Heathcliffe sweat heart, could you fix the sofa outside?”

     “Outside, Miss? It’s awfully hot.”

     “You’ll be fine. I’ll even make you some lemonade.” She smiles at him.

     “Alright ma’am.” He nods and drags the sofa out the door.

   My ma sits down by the kitchen window to watch Heathcliffe.

     “Make him some lemonade, will ya?”

     “He’s got tattoos, sweet mercy.” I hear my ma say.

I walk over to the window and look. Sure as Hell he does. They’re nice ones too.

     “I hate tattoos.” She sips her drink.

I smile.


Ma keeps findin’ odd jobs for him to do around the house, mostly outside.

   I go outside to Heathecliffe to take him a cup of lemonade.

     “You don’t have to do this ya know.” I say.  I thrust the cup at him.

     “I know, but I wanna.”


He doesn’t answer me but I see him smiling.

     “Hey, you know, I’ve been thinkin…since I first met you.” I cross my arms.

     “What about?” He says without looking at me.

     “Your tattoos.”

He straightens up. He turns around and smiles at me.

     “I want some.”

     “Do ya?”

I nod. I know he’s gonna laugh at me and tell me girls shouldn’t get tattoos. My mama always says you can’t catch a man if you got tattoos.

     “You got any money?”

     “Yeah, I got some. Not much. I could take some from my ma.”

     “You get a holda’ that money, and I’ll take you to a man; the same one who done this mess to me.” He moves his hand all over the places with tattoos.

     “I like ‘em.”

     “Thank you. So whad’ya say?”

I nod.

     “I’ll come by your place first and we can walk togetha’” he says to me as I walk away.

     “No, I can’t be seen with a nigga in public. Just tell me where it’s at.”

     “Sure thing ma’am.” He usually smiles when he calls me ma’am. He didn’t. I feel sick. I frown at myself.

As I walk inside I see my ma standing at the window, stirin’ her drink.


   I hear the radio announcer’s voice ramblin’ on. I keep lookin through the crack in the door to make sure ma isn’t coming this way. I finally find my ma’s emergency money. It’s not a big wad but it’s enough.  I leave her room.

     “I’ll be at Christine’s,” I say. I walk out the door, slamming the screen.

 I walk into town and I see Heathcliffe sittin’ on the sidewalk edge.

     “Hiya,” I say. I smile.

     “Ready?” He gets up, pattin’ his thighs. I nod. “Where you gon get it?” He looks me up ‘n’ down.

     “My side.” I start walkin’ towards the building.

     “Whatd’ya want?” He opens the door.

     “Virgin Mary shavin’ off all her hair.” I walk inside. Heathcliffe laughs hard.

     “Where in the hell did you get that idea?”

I shrug. “I had a dream ‘bout it.”

He laughs again.

     “Does it hurt much?” I feel sick.

    “Yes,” he says.

     “Oh.” I sit down.

A man walks out from the back.


Nothin’. I don’t feel a damned thing. Heathcliffe walks up from behind me and slaps me on my back.

     “That hurt.”


We walk home. I’m holding his hand. I don’t care who sees me with a nigger. My ma sees us through the window. She walks out the door and walks up to him and I. She never leaves the house.

     “What were you two doin’ might I ask?”

     “I got a tattoo.” I walk right on past her.

     “You did what?”

I lift my dress up. Heathcliffe can see my panties.

     “Put your dress down, child!” She slaps me. She grabs my wrist and drags me to the house. “I knew being friends with a nigga was a bad idea. Go home,” she says to Heathcliffe.

     “No ma’am.”

    “Excuse me?”


I turn ‘round.


     “Wanna eat with my folks?”

     “Sure.” I shrug.

     “You’re not goin’ nowhere, Lowery.” She digs into my shoulder with her fingernails.

     “Yes I am and you can’t do a damn thing about it.”

  I walk away from her. I grab Heathcliffe’s hand and walk out the gate; it doesn’t close behind me because it’s too rusted. 

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