Philibert Schogt – Excerpt from End of Story

Excerpt from End of Story
by Philibert Schogt

Now where were we? Ah yes. Johan and John. It may seem a bit childish for a man of our age to refer to himself in the first person plural and with two different names. But to us, it’s perfectly natural. In fact, the two names weren’t even our idea. Our parents were already using them before we had learned to speak, and in all probability, from the very day we were born.

Although we have no conscious recollection of the scene in the maternity ward of Bracebridge General Hospital, on February 15, 1946, we have often pictured ourselves as a newborn baby, asleep in our mother Elsa’s arms. Nine months earlier, she and a few friends joined the crowds lining the streets of Amsterdam to cheer as the brave Canadians who had liberated Holland from the Nazi occupation came marching by. One of the soldiers tipped his cap for her, she rushed up to embrace him, and the rest is history.

Bruce Butler, her Canadian hero, was now seated on the edge of the hospital bed, nervously clutching his cap while trying to catch a glimpse of the baby boy asleep in her arms. Back in those days, husbands didn’t help their wives huff and puff during labour, nor did they ceremoniously cut umbilical cords; they waited outside in the hallway until all the screaming was done and the mess cleaned up, the midwife only then stepping out of the room to congratulate them on their baby son or daughter.


That is what our father called us. And that is how we were officially registered at the County Hall. Our mother looked at him with a pale smile, meanwhile cradling us a little more tightly in her arms. Everything was new to her in this country, everything so strange. She was already eight months pregnant by the time the paperwork was finally in order, allowing her to board one of the boats from Liverpool to Halifax with all the other war brides. From Halifax she had travelled onwards by train to Ottawa, where our father was waiting for her with his pickup truck and some extra blankets. The trip across the ocean had been enough of an ordeal, but nothing could have prepared her for the bitter cold of an Ontario winter.


That is what our mother insisted on calling us. Perhaps the Dutch sounds comforted her.

What’s in a name, Shakespeare’s Juliet may have asked herself out loud, but if we compare Johan’s life history to mine, my answer would be: just about everything. From day one, our roads diverged. It wasn’t just that our mother spoke Dutch to Johan, while our father spoke English to me. They introduced us to two vastly different worlds.

Upon returning to Canada from the war, our father had taken over a derelict farm for next to nothing on the shores of Three Moon Lake, just west of Algonquin Park. It was derelict for a reason: the soil in this part of the province was poor, and the growing season too short for any serious farming. Whether it was a keen business sense or a lucky hunch I do not know: long before tourism became the most important industry in the region, he reckoned that the value of the land was not to be extracted from the soil itself, but from the magnificent scenery. Tearing down everything but the main farmhouse and the adjoining barn, he reused as much of the material as he could to build holiday cabins. Slowly but surely, Bruce and Elsa Butler’s Getaway Cottages took shape, Butler’s Getaway for short.

Always outdoors, always at work, he had little time for us, although occasionally he would let us help, or make us believe we were helping him, the way parents do with small children. “Stand back!” may very well have been the first English expression that I understood, my own first word “hammer” or “axe”.

When we weren’t getting in our father’s way, we would follow our mother about. She was usually to be found indoors, cleaning a cottage for the next guests, in the barn hanging the laundry between the rafters or in the kitchen preparing dinner. So Johan’s first words will have been quite different from mine.

Obviously, since we share a body, the two of us have always occupied the same position in space at the same moment in time. Yet when we look back at our lives, it is as though we see ourselves and each other from different camera angles. I too, remember how we used to sit by the wood stove listening to our mother reading us a Dutch children’s book, but there is a built-in distance to the recollection, as if I am standing outside the house, peering in through the window, and it’s only Johan who is actually sitting on her lap. And I am sure Johan will attest to a complementary experience, seemingly looking out the window while our father is in the yard splitting logs, resting his axe every so often to let a little boy gather all the firewood and load it into a wheelbarrow. And that little boy will be me. It’s the difference between looking at a picture and being part of one, between hearsay and first-hand experience, between a translation and the original.

As we grew older and other sources of language became available to us – school, friends, books – the gaps in our respective vocabularies were gradually filled. Once we had moved to Holland with our first wife Cindy and had lived here long enough to catch up with the latest vernacular, any outsider would swear that we were perfectly bilingual. Yet to this day, the original “feel” of both languages has never changed. To us, Dutch will always be the language of the hearth, English the language of the great outdoors. Certain words miss the immediacy that they do have in the other language, as if we’re still that little boy peering in through the window or that little boy looking out into the yard. A cookie will never taste as good as a koekje (“kook-yuh”), a kano (“kaw-no”) will never glide through the water with the grace of a canoe. So in a deeper sense, we are not at all bilingual, we’re semi-lingual twice over.

Perry McDaid – The Rebellion Chronicle

The Rebellion Chronicle
by Perry McDaid

“My Da says your Ma was a writer. He sez she used to do poems an’ stories an’ stuff.”

“Your Da sucks bottles dry.”

Their friend Aimee giggled despite herself.

“Does not,” Sinead objected a little too loudly in her broad Derry accent.

“Sssshhh, she’ll hear us,” Eimear hissed.

“So what,” Sinead snapped, albeit in a low voice, “Auntie Bronagh never lifted a hand to anyone.”

“Aye , but she’ll shoo us out of her room quick enough,” Aimee pointed out, posing this way and that with some costume pearls. Her soft Donegal twang was in no danger of carrying downstairs.

“They’re gorgeous,” Sinead faux-gasped. “Here, gimme a go.” She got up from her hunkers where she’d been examining the box at the bottom of the built-in wardrobe. The lid slammed shut. They all froze.

Eimear made clawing, strangling motions with her hands in Sinead’s direction as they waited for the sound of footsteps on the stairs.

Although the pile on the stair carpet muffled any movement, the handrail wasn’t fully secure and tended to issue a low squeal as wood and metal argued about parting company. There was a creaky board under the carpet of the fourth tread. Alone, the first sound would indicate that someone had grabbed the rail and was likely listening intently for any justification to ascend. On its own, the second would suggest that the adults were mounting a sneak attack. The two together meant that the girls were in bother no matter what.

Aimee eased the pearls from around her neck and lowered them with only the slightest of clicks into the pressed cardboard case. Noiselessly, she held both sides of the box and controlled its closing, wary of hinges and the metal catch. The downstairs voices started up again with accompanying laughter. It must have been a natural lull.

Sinead opened the box again. Something had caught her attention: a thin manila folder with the word STOPPED emblazoned in red capitals along the edge of the tab.

“What are you doing?” Eimear hissed. “I told you….”

“Look, my mother told me that some high-flyer, an M.P. or something, is the reason your Ma stopped writing entirely.” She turned with the folder in hand. Her eyebrows did a little dance to her wicked grin. “There could be state secrets in here … or a terrible scandal. See …. ” she continued in an animate whisper, indicating the legend.

“It’s not as if she was a journalist,” Aimee cajoled, moving away from the jewellery cache. “It won’t be illegal or anything. It could be entirely innocent.”

“What about what Sinead’s mother?” An uneasiness was possessing Eimear now, despite her usual level-headedness.

“Um,” Aimee didn’t say.

“What do you mean “Um”, Blondie?” Sinead demanded.

“Well, your Mum claimed last week that Mister Collins, the newsagent was a spy.”


“He lost an eye in a car accident.”

“Well,” Sinead muttered sullenly, “it was a natural mistake. He had an eye patch. He was hardly going to be a pirate.”

Snot ran out of the noses of the other two girls as they tried to contain themselves. The shadow of embarrassment passed and Sinead joined them.

When they had all coughed a bit and wiped their noses, Eimear relented. “Go on then. I might even get a story out of it for English homework. I’m stuck at present.”

“You?” Aimee and Sinead chorused in an ugly combination of accents.

Eimear winced. “Don’t do that again, girls. Pleeease?” They grinned. “Yes, me,” she continued. “I have this maddening block.” She shrugged. “I suppose that’s why I came up here in the first place: to find inspiration. Let’s hear–”

“It’s about the rebellion,” Sinead announced, sotto voce.

“What rebellion?” Aimee, being from a ‘quiet’ part of Donegal, was just about ignorant of the “Troubles” in Ireland from the 1960s to the nineties.

“Ssshhh!” Eimear was snared.

Rebellion, by Bronagh Sproule…” Sinead began.

“Sure that’s not your mother’s name,” Aimee objected.

“Probably a pen name,” Eimear guessed.

“To protect her from prosecution,” Sinead said; all drama.

“Go on, for God’s sake, and catch yourself on.” Eimear was eager to hear the real content.

Sinead read a few lines into herself. “Awww, it’s just a story.”

“Go on anyway.’

I’ve looked teenage since I hit nine… “My Ma always said that about yours. She towered over…”

Eimear glared, Sinead returned to the text.

…and was teased ruthlessly for hanging about with my classmates. When older boys called to me in the street, I used to be mortified; and thankful when adults told them off. Mum said men used to whistle at girls. You never get that now. “Where was she living, a convent?”

Another glare.

“Well Parr-donn me,” Sinead drawled before returning to her narration. I also used to be chuffed when neighbours would scold that I looked older than my age and they should be ashamed of themselves. She paused as if to comment but spotted the lurking glare-athon. “Do you want to read this?”

Eimear snatched it from her. “Yeah.” She drew her forefinger and thumb across her lips and widened her eyes. “Got it?”

“Aye,” Sinead sighed. “All right.”


“What did I do?”

“Nothing yet… Well?”

“I’m a mouse.”

“You’ve a what?” Sinead was always looking for a double entendre, especially where none existed.

“Did you bust your zip?” Eimear asked dryly, tapping her own top lip.

“Arrarr,” Sinead said between pursed lips, pinched between forefinger and thumb. She made a twisting movement to represent locking and mimed throwing ‘the key’ over her shoulder.

“Okay then. She writes:” I also used to be chuffed when neighbours would scold that I looked older than my age and they should be ashamed of themselves. “I remember her telling me of that sort of neighbour. They used to be very protective. Now you could be murdered in the street and they wouldn’t twitch a curtain. It’s getting as bad as the big cities.”

Aimee and Sinead glowered silently.

“I’m just providing background,” Eimear said defensively, and moved on. Then I turned thirteen. Apart from the obvious body changes all girls have to deal with, I found myself growing embarrassed and resentful of my protective neighbours. It no longer seemed they cared, but rather that they were interfering. My best friend shrugged agreement when I shared this with her. What they can’t see…was her approach. “Hah, sounds like you, Sinead.”

Sinead swivelled where she sat and pawed the ground as if looking for the invisible key she had thrown away. Eimear rolled her eyes.

Together we’d sneak off to quiet corners for a snog with boys our own age and up. We even pitched tents during summer and stay out all night, secretly arranging with lads up the street for them to visit for some harmless experimenting in the wee hours. Because the tent was in other parents’ front gardens, no-one seemed to suspect.

“Whaoh-ho, Aunt Bronagh, ye girl ye!”

Eimear ignored Sinead’s outburst and regarded Aimee, who was having a silent laughing fit.

“What’s with you?”

“Snog,” Aimee mocked, catching her breath. She went back to her amusement.

Eimear sighed loudly and went back to her recital. The nosey neighbours who never seemed to sleep said nothing, despite our terror. They just leaned out the windows giving us dirty looks before shaking their heads and drawing the curtains when we gave them the fingers. Their lips moved, but I never heard what they were saying; I was just thankful my parents couldn’t either.

“Well, that explains the change in attitude by today’s neighbours. This is actually rather insightful. You could do the school project on the reason behind shifting social responsibility.”

“Frack!” This was Eimear’s favourite cuss word.

“What,” Sinead said. “Is that such a stupid idea?”

“No, it’s actually brilliant,” Eimear acknowledged. “I’m just surprised it came from you.”

Aimee laughed out loud at this.

“Ha, ‘fracking’ ha,” Sinead drawled. She made a spooling motion with her right hand. “So, are we nearing any sort of story by this great writer Ma of yours?”

Eimear read into herself a few lines ahead. “Hmmm, it seems to be getting interesting. You’ll appreciate this, Aimee.”

We smoked. My friend’s father sold booze and ciggies from his house, so we were never without. We’d get drunk and sing into the wee hours, and tell anyone who complained where to go until, that is, the ones at the corner house appeared. They didn’t take any abuse, and we lost many a can of beer when running away. One of them had a particularly loud voice and used to yell ‘What sort of home do you come from that lets you out at this time of the morning?’ at the top of his lungs so our parents would hear. God, it was mortifying.

Eimear grinned at her friend. “Any idea who the black marketeer is, Aimee darling?”

Aimee stopped laughing, and started wondering about the windfall which had allowed her parents to buy a big house near Letterkenny.

“I know who the loudmouth is,” Sinead volunteered. “That’ll be my Grandda! He can still scare the rooks away with that goul of his.”

“Goul?” Aimee was eager to deflect the conversation in any direction at all.

“You know …,” Sinead explained, ‘… a big loud angry growl with enough swear words to curdle cream.”

“Oh!” Eimear had read on to the end and now sat face flushed bright red. She had dropped the pages at her feet.

Aimee bent and snatched them up, eager to retaliate after the reference to her parents. She one of those readers who don’t anticipate more than a few words ahead: following the words as they fell in recitation and thus narrating in a sing-song presentation which skews the meaning for those listening.

Fortunately my parents were either out ‘on the razzle’ themselves, or too busy smoking the ‘wacky baccy’ and knocking back cans themselves to pay any notice.

Aimee took that much in well enough, and stuck her tongue out: licking a finger and chalking a point in the air. Heedless to Eimear’s silence, she continued. Unfortunately, one of my Ma’s friends heard and passed it on when they sobered up the following day. She mimed a quick chortle.

We moved base to a secluded park left open at night. The seventeen and eighteen year-olds there were really cool about sharing space. My friends didn’t want to stay. When I wouldn’t come, they deserted me. Big deal! I thought. One of the guys was really nice. He was really friendly. I stayed to talk to him when his mates went to bed.

“Hmmm,” Aimee muttered appreciatively. “Naughty Bronagh.”

Sinead was frowning, sharing glances between the terribly quiet Eimear and the pages. “Aimee…”

No-one, Aimee went on, heard my screams or saw,… Aimee trailed off. “Oh dear God, Eimear, I’m so sorry.”

Eimear’s face was white now, and she stared into space, echoing in a murmur the last line of the story: the real reason her mother had stopped writing.

I can’t hide now, and I’m not laughing. He’s in prison. I’m carrying mine.

Arthur Davis – Roy’s Desert Motel

Roy’s Desert Motel
by Arthur Davis

“Of course I’m going to make the meeting on time, so stop whining and give my message about the Markson account to Lenny.” Jerry Bishop switched off his cell phone and tossed it on the seat next to him. It bounced off the leather, tumbled to the floor, and disappeared.

He shouldn’t have spoken to Donna so harshly. Some day she would up and leave him and he’d spend another year going from one gum-chewing dimwit to another trying to find someone who can take a message or file a document, or spend most of the day on the phone with their friends.

Though he reasoned, who would want to work for the vice president of a three-employee insurance office in the middle of nowhere hustling retired farmers, day laborers, truck drivers and outcasts from trailer parks. And, every month, the same divorcees, screaming kids, drunken husbands and cheating wives.

He reached into his shirt pocket for a cigarette but came up with a wad of messages from Donna. He had given up smoking a week ago at the insistence of his doctor and, because his second ex-wife wouldn’t leave him in peace after realizing his getting emphysema might threaten her alimony.

The drive from his office in Bisbee, Arizona, only an hour southeast out of Tucson, was something he looked forward to each month. The tail end of the swing south into New Mexico ended back north in Douglas, Arizona, and a night with Sherry Burgeon who ran a little cafe her mother opened twenty-one years ago. Sherry was sweet, wore too much make-up, believed every Hollywood tabloid and, though she had long since seen her fortieth birthday, still had a body worth a wet dream.

Jerry turned down the air conditioner to conserve his battery as a jackrabbit jumped from the roadside into his path. He watched with fascination as the little gray-brown creature sat there, unaware it was about to become road kill.

He hammered his horn a couple of times. “Lazy little prick.”

Twenty yards away he swung the wheel sharply, skidded against the shoulder of the road, kicked up a whirlwind of dirt, and struck a small rock that bounced up against the undercarriage. When he regained speed and composure there was no sign of the rabbit in his rear view mirror.

Three country western songs and an endless commercial for Texas Southern Beer later he noticed his gas gauge dropping. He got out of the car, bent down and spotted gas draining through a two-inch gash the rock must have made in his tank. He jumped back in the car, jammed down the accelerator and prayed. The odometer quickly passed ninety miles per hour on the late-model sedan. He steadied himself out at an even hundred. If there were police around, he only hoped he would be picked up on their radar.

“OK. We can do this.”

He searched for another channel but it was all the same shit-kicker’s droning, same lamenting pathetic men and women spilling out their sad guts over lost loves and misspent lives. The gas gauge’s thin red indicator slipped under the quarter tank mark. He had eighty or so miles to go to the next town.

“Think,” he exhorted himself.

The desert just west of the Continental Divide was barren with only scrub, sand, saguaro, dung beetles, and rattlers. He had left a good job in Los Angeles eighteen years ago with his first wife. It was supposed to be a new beginning for both of them, and turned out to be a repeat of past failures.

The indicator slipped through the red, Empty-zone. A few emergency gallons and the engine would sputter and die. He was trying to calculate how far he had to go when he spotted something at the edge of the horizon steaming up from the heat waves on the tarmac.

“Yes!” he shouted, fist-pumping the air. “Yes! Yes! Yes!”

The sedan slowed but not before it covered enough ground for Jerry to make out three small bungalows behind a main house. He couldn’t recall it being there in his last trip. His car rolled to a halt no more than fifty yards from a battered sign reading, Roy’s Desert Motel.
He switched off the engine, grabbed his briefcase, and slammed the car door shut. The baking late July afternoon sun was still a formidable presence. He hadn’t seen any sign of life except for one lousy rabbit. No trucks or cars on a road that was routinely used by both.

He walked a few paces, remembered his cell phone and returned to the car. He bent down at the side of the car and examined every inch of carpet under the seat. It was not on the floor between the rear and front seat either. A sickening feeling welled up into his chest.

“OK, don’t panic.”

The neon light announcing Roy’s was broken. Two weathered pine chairs sat on the front porch. Neither looked as though they would support life. The vending machine at the end of the porch was empty. A pair of tumbleweeds lazily crossed the tarmac nearby and fell into a patch of cacti.

Jerry Bishop opened the screen door and stepped inside. The air was cool. A long couch occupied one side of the office, a desk the other. A radio was playing in the background. He dropped his briefcase on the couch and straightened his tie. He leaned over the partition but couldn’t find a telephone. He heard voices, music and footsteps.

A young man came out of the back clutching a dog-eared paperback under his arm. The boy couldn’t have been twenty. He was wearing regulation jeans and dust stained black t-shirt. His face was round and soft and with small grey eyes sunk deep in his freckled face.

“What can I do for you?”

“Well, for starters, I could use a phone.”

The boy sat down behind the desk. “So could I.”

“I ran out of gas a few yards down the road. Can you spare a few gallons?”

“You want a room?”


“All we got are rooms.”

“No phones or gas?”

He looked up again. “We rent out rooms. Rooms are what we’ve got.”

Jerry glanced around the office. The weathered blue walls were bare. The linoleum frayed. “And there are no phones in the rooms?”

“No phones anywhere.”

Playing along. “So you’re all booked up?”

“We were. They all left this morning. You can have your pick if you’re staying the night.”

“Do you have a car around here?”

“Mister, we got no cars, no phones, and no gas.”

“I have a meeting up in Douglas and I need to get gas or find a phone so I can tell them I’m going to be late,” he continued. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“No, but I see your problem.”

“Anybody around these parts have a car?”

“Sure. Some folks do.”

“But there’s no way to call or reach them. Right?”

“Maybe someone will drive by and you can flag them down.”

Jerry walked to the door. The mountains in the distance were cloaked in a charcoal afternoon shadow. Soft white clouds drifted high overhead. “I’ve landed in goddamn lost fucking world inhabited by inbred cretins,” he lamented quietly, and turned to the boy. “So when was the last time a car came by?”

The boy folded his book up and set it on the desk. “Just now.”

“I mean before me.”

“Don’t know. I was out back reading. Expect I’d still be there if you hadn’t come along.”

Jerry had meetings scheduled for afternoon and evening and Lenny was going to need help processing the new Markson account. “You live here?”

“Born and raised here.”



At least the kid has a sense of humor. “Where did the name come from?”

“Grandfather’s name was Roy.”

“What an amazing coincidence. My brother’s name is Roy.” Of course it wasn’t. It was just that Jerry couldn’t figure what to do next. No car. No gas. No phone. No brains.

“Take your pick. All three of em’ are empty.”

“Jacuzzi in every cabin?”

“Just like in the big hotels.”

“You’re kidding, of course.”

The kid got up and came around the desk. “My grandfather was a very smart man, mister. He wasn’t a cretin with a sense of humor either.” He reached back over the desk, picked up his book, and before he disappeared into the back, added, “Keys are on the desk. They’re all fifty bucks a night.”

Jerry Bishop stood in deafening silence. He hadn’t considered the possibility of a mind-reading cretin. He picked up all three keys and went out into the suffocating heat. His car stood like a beached whale in the desert.

“Fucking wilderness.”

Without immediate help he was going to miss a night between Sherry’s welcoming thighs, her shapely buttocks in once hand and Jack Daniels in the other.

“Fucking rabbit,” had plenty of time to save itself he considered, and stepped up to the first cabin, inserted the key into the lock and pushed. He was met with a blast of cold air.

The inside was several times the size he would have imagined and decorated in rich fabric and accented with ornate antiques. Rose and green silk curtains covered the two windows. There was thick, wall-to-wall pile carpeting, a loveseat, a lounge chair upholstered in some exotic burgundy colored fabric, and two heavily cushioned chairs offsetting the front of a king-sized, four-poster oak bed. Music was seeping into the room. He went directly to the bed.


He let his fingers graze the fine finish on the large Korean enameled chest of drawers. Just like the one he had seen in a museum in San Diego years ago. His heart pounded with excitement.

The bathroom contained a large white Victorian sink, toilet and oversized glass-enclosed shower and an ample Jacuzzi, as promised.

“Not a bad love nest for fifty bucks.”

It took half an hour for him to go through the other two cabins, which were much like the first. He went out to his car, checked for the phone again, removed his suitcase, searched around for signs of life, then bounded back to the cabin as though Sherry was waiting for him in her favorite black silk teddy.

He stripped off his clothes and plunged into the warm Jacuzzi. The shower had twin water poles on each side of the enclosure that sprayed out high intensity water. He held onto the safety railing and turned up the pressure. He stepped out, toweled off, and rolled onto the bed.

“Well I’ll be dipped in shit and rolled in cracker crumbs. This is definitely not bad.”

A small chest in the corner of the room held a freshly stocked bar. “Sherry is going to love this place.”

By the time he’d finished off two mini-bottles of Jack Daniels he realized he hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

He flipped open his suitcase, took out a pair of casual trousers and yanked open the door. The night was desert black. A moonless evening illuminated only by the twinkle of dying stars. Forgetting his shoes, he hopped the distance to the office and pushed open the door. He tapped the silver desk bell but there was no response.

“Here Lightning Boy. Here Lightning Boy. Come out, come out wherever you are.”

He walked to the partition behind the desk where the boy first appeared then disappeared, and knocked. No answer.

When he could no longer stand the frustration, he yanked the door open. The same twinkle of stars greeted him. A light breeze swept across the desert enveloping Bishop in a deep chill. He shuddered violently.

“What the fucking hell is going on here?” He fell back through the doorway and against the partition. The view from inside the doorway was a framed chink of iridescent desert defying a jet-black sky.

“Where’d he go without a car?” he said in a voice only his fear could hear.

He fought to control his trembling and walked back to his cabin. He locked the door, turned on the oversized television screen, grabbed a bottle of beer and a can of macadamia nuts, and watched basketball until the nightly news came on.

“Fucking rabbit bastard think he could stand in my way, in my way, like he owned the road?” One of the empty beer bottles fell off the bed.

“I’m drunk, and I’m worried about an empty beer bottle. But, you know, it’s the empty ones you have to be concerned about,” he garbled, crawling like a scared child to the fridge. He pulled the door open. “OK. That’s better.”

Jerry Bishop slept on the carpet in cabin number one of Roy’s Desert Motel that night. He slept, as they say, like a baby, having gone through a six-pack and a handful of bottle shots of Jack Daniels. He woke to an acid dry day. He stumbled half-naked outside and threw up behind the office. When he stopped heaving, he wiped his face and looked up. A jackrabbit sat a few paces away, staring him in the face.

The rabbit’s eyes darted left and right, assured itself that it was in no danger from the rattler that had been following it all morning, and eyed the evil smelling creature with suspicion.

“You’re responsible for all this!” Jerry screamed, swinging his arms in a wide, senseless arc. “But you’re not going to get me. Not you, not my wives, not any of those incompetent parasites in my office.”

He lunged forward and landed on his face. When he looked up the rabbit was gone. Bishop ran haphazardly through the scrub and sagebrush. Following an imaginary path, he lurched forward past mesquite and ancient Palo Verde trees. Soon the pain in his legs was matched by the burning clutch in his lungs and the throbbing pain in his head. When he stopped stumbling and looked around, Roy’s Desert Motel was gone too. “Oh no. Oh no, oh no, oh no,” he frothed. “You can’t hide from old Jerry here.”

Another hour of wandering and he fell to his knees and began frantically digging a hole in the sand. He used both hands to scoop and scour until he had dug a pit in which he could almost kneel. “There’s water down here. I read that aquifers are under all deserts.”

He dug and dug until his fingers bled and the sun baked his back a deep umber. He dug until he was half submerged in the hole. He dug until the rattler that had been stalking the jackrabbit, having found the scent of his puke behind the office, caught up with him and struck squarely at his buttocks, before sliding back into the sagebrush.

He became dizzy and disoriented. His breathing became shallow and labored. He flapped his arms around, every so often, slapping the air near his buttocks to prevent another mosquito from taking advantage of his vulnerable state.

He grew weak, and could barely sit up. He remembered falling over into the pit. He remembered the sun hurting his eyes. He remembered watching a tiny ant scamper away a few feet from his nose. He felt the sweat drip down his forehead and sting when the salty solution bled into his eyes. He thought he felt something crawling up his back but he couldn’t be certain. But he did know Lenny was going to screw up the Markson account. He just knew it.

David Lawry took his usual half-hour to walk from his parents’ trailer park and opened Roy’s Desert Motel at exactly seven o’clock. He took down the welcome sign, switched on the air conditioner and checked for spiders and other nasty creatures that might have invaded his sanctuary.

The asshole’s car sat on the shoulder of the road, only the key to cabin one was missing. He would tell the asshole about the trailer park after he paid his bill and checked out.

Most people would have considered reading people’s minds as clearly as their own, a gift and not a curse. But it had plagued Lawry his short life and he felt much better as a recluse than a spectacle. It was probably the reason he enjoyed the solitude of maintaining Roy’s. It was preferable to listening to a soundtrack of evil most people had in their heads.

The rental car was eventually towed to the local police station and examined by the medical examiner for signs that might lead to the whereabouts of one Jerry Bishop, who apparently had disappeared into the desert without a trace. While the investigation proved inconclusive, the auto mechanic assigned to detail the car at the rental agency in Bisbee discovered a cell phone wedged high into the springs under the seat next to the driver.

A deeper sweep of the surrounding hillside a week later revealed Bishop’s partially decomposed body. A forty-three year old male Caucasian of average weight and height. The coroner concluded that the body exhibited no unusual or suspicious injuries or trauma, but that Bishop’s system was overwhelmed by a lethal amount of snake venom. When combined with a substantial amount of alcohol, the coroner suspected it rendered Bishop incapable of making his way back to the motel. Essentially, he died in the grave he seemed to have dug for himself.

David Lawry, the grandson of the man who the motel was named after, later confided to the coroner that he sensed that Jerry Bishop had a death wish and was so depressed about his life that what happened in the desert may have more to do with his frame of mind than the more obvious forensic and pathological circumstances that precipitated his death.

When the coroner inquired as to what made Lawry so certain of Bishop’s mental state at the time, the young man quietly withdrew his observations.

Sara Shea – Parchment

by Sara Shea

Title: Parchment
Medium: Parchment, New Inks
Artist: Jacob Hugh
2074 – 2120

This museum wing contains “Parchment”, masterpiece created by artist Jacob Hugh. “Parchment” is exhibited behind climate-controlled casing, guarded by military personnel and monitored by twenty-four hour state-of-the-art surveillance. Photography of any sort is strictly prohibited. Please remain behind the velvet ropes and supervise children. Once you have viewed “Parchment”, move to your right, so others may have their turn. Proceed into the corridor and board the travellator, which will transport you through halls displaying panoramic 3D footage of scenes from Hugh’s life. Debark in the South Wing. Exhibits of historic photographs, videos, media clippings, memorabilia, ephemera from Hugh’s estate, and interactive displays are housed in the South Wing. Do not re-adjust your earpiece. Your multimedia guide will automatically correspond to your shifting location within the museum. To pause the narration at any point, simply think of the color red. Think of green to re-start.

Be sure to visit the gift shop. Holographic clones, body scan magnification apps, documentaries, accessories, holographic skin suits and temporary appliqués are all available for purchase.


The Colorful Life of Jacob Hugh
2074 – 2120
Multimedia Biographical Guide

Jacob Hugh’s masterpiece compares to works by Michelangelo, Escher, Klimt, and Warhol. In his lifetime, Hugh became one of the most influential and highly valued artists in history. Born in Tahiti in 2074, Jacob Hugh was the only child of courtesan and political spy, Cora Hugh. Scholars and critics place great emphasis on Hugh’s earliest childhood years in Tahiti. Captivated by color and light, Hugh often described his childhood as “a kaleidoscopic realm where tanagers and iridescent parakeets flickered in emerald jungles; where prismatic fish drifted through aquamarine seas, and sunsets the colors of frangipani flowers gave way to phosphorescent tides and starry nights.”

The identity of Hugh’s father is unknown, although academics surmise he was of Polynesian descent. Little is known regarding the true identity of Hugh’s mother, Cora. There is evidence she served as a social media savant and undercover geo-tagging analyst for the French Government. She held passports under several pseudonyms. Regardless of her mysterious origins, there is no doubt Cora Hugh was a cultured, intellectual woman. After leaving Tahiti, Cora traveled extensively with her young son, residing intermittently in luxury apartments and finest hotels of Paris, Milan, Berlin, Qatar, Rome, Singapore and Bangkok. She hired an elite contingent of private tutors to educate her gifted son.

Nurturing Hugh’s early artistic aspirations, Cora spared no expense on the finest paints, pencils, tablets and graphics programs. Though Cora never enrolled her son in any traditional school, she equipped him with an eccentric but extensive discipline in the visual arts. In interviews, Hugh later admitted that his mother had “frequently vanished for days, or weeks at a time, with no explanation.” When tutors or other caretakers were unavailable to look after Hugh, Cora deposited her young son in the halls of museums and art galleries, instructing him to memorize works of art. Jacob Hugh credited his unusual upbringing as the foundation and inspiration for his masterpiece.

By age nine, the ambidextrous Jacob Hugh was producing accurate reproductions of works by DaVinci, Escher and Klimt– entirely from memory. Most of these early works were lost in a fire that ravaged Cora Hugh’s Milan apartment in 2087. Recently, however; five of Hugh’s exquisite sketches were discovered in a safe deposit box that his mother purchased in Paris in 2085. Four of these original drawings sold for over fifty million dollars a-piece, in a Dubai auction. The fifth drawing is now displayed in the South Wing of this museum.

Cora Hugh died in London in 2089. Medical records cite her cause of death as an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. She was thirty-seven years old. Whether this overdose was accidental or intentional is not known. Regardless, the tragedy left Jacob Hugh orphaned at the age of fifteen. He began work on his masterpiece that same year.

Funded by a considerable inheritance, the grieving Jacob Hugh returned to Polynesia, where he apprenticed himself to a traditional tattoo artist; a Samoan Chief named Tyrian Freewind. Under the guidance and tutelage of Freewind, Hugh gained recognition as an emerging tribal tattoo artist. Hugh inked the initial tattoos on his own arms during that period in Polynesia; elaborate bands of geometric designs that morphed into scales of coiled serpents circling his biceps.

Hugh’s quest for enlightenment, his passions for art and adventure, led him from Polynesia to India. In 2093 He traveled from Calcutta up the Ganges River to Bangladesh and Delhi, studying with various Swamis, learning the practice of yoga, the art of henna and godna tattoo. Shocked by the extreme poverty he found in cities along the Ganges, Hugh gave away his inheritance to the children, the poor, the sick and hungry of India.

He trekked on toward Nepal, traveling at times by foot, by bus, by camel and caravan. He became disoriented and lost in the Himalayan Desert during a sandstorm. He suffered dehydration, starvation, extreme exposure to sun and wind, and early stages of photo keratitis– desert blindness. His sunburned skin began to peel. Distinct hues and colors of the surrounding desert began to blur, fading slowly into a vast white light. When death seemed most certain, Hugh came upon an ancient formation of metamorphic boulders; fantastic geological forms, eroding in harsh desert weather. The boulders offered shade, protection and relief from violent winds.

Hugh discovered a gnarled pomegranate tree growing safely in a rock fissure amidst the boulders. The miraculous tree bore one ripe fruit. Hugh survived for seven days, curled within the fissure, staving of starvation by rationing his consumption of pomegranate seeds and blood-colored juice. On the seventh day Hugh was rescued by Tibetan monks, who found him and carried him to the safety of their Zen Monastery. Under the care of these monks, Hugh recovered his strength. His vision and perception of color slowly returned.

Hugh adopted Buddhist practices of the monks. He shaved his head and donned a monastic robe. He spent the year of 2094 with the monks, fascinated in particular, by their tantric art of sand mandalas. Hugh assisted the monks in gathering substances used to create the mandalas; colored sands, granules of lapis lazuli and ruby dust. He helped the monks to collect desert flowers; first drying the flowers, then employing mortar and pestle to grind blossoms into colorful powders. He knelt with the monks, painstakingly arranging colored grains into elaborate patterns.

Hugh identified the moment of his spiritual awakening as a day in the monastery: “I balanced a single indigo grain of sand in the palm of my hand,” Hugh explained in later interviews “admiring it in rays of golden sunlight. Suddenly, I saw my whole life reflected in that grain. As Himalayan wind swept the grain from my palm, I understood the purpose of my life.”

Hugh parted ways with the monks, traveling on to Paris and Amsterdam where he served brief stints of employment in various tattoo parlours, inking under the pseudonym T.J. Windhue. During this period (2095-2098) Hugh began to experiment with inks, pigments and carriers. He began an extensive correspondence with European and Asian ink manufacturers, as well as other notable tattoo artists. He began developing recipes.

In 2099, Hugh rented laboratory space in a science building owned by the Berlin University of the Arts in Germany. (Hugh’s early notes, along with sketches and recipes for his masterpiece, are exhibited in the Berlin University Gallery.) In Berlin, Hugh began importing small quantities of heavy metals; cadmium, chromium, cobalt, barium, cinnabar, as well as azo chemicals. He corresponded with chemists and gemologists, obtaining dust from finely crushed Aubergine Tahitian pearls, jadeite, black opals, blue garnets and various precious gems. He experimented– mixing platinum, silver, copper and crystalline gold dust; with rare earth elements, ultra violet pigments and liquid crystals. He refined recipes for carriers and binders. All the while, Hugh funded an elite team of Berlin University engineering students, whom he’d commissioned to develop a laser-precise tattoo gun.

Over the next year, Jacob Hugh illustrated his chest with stunning layers of tattoo; silver dust, aquamarine, indigo. He captured dazzling waters of the south Pacific, adding images of tropical fish, sea fans, starfish and turtles. He etched an over-layer of ultra violet ink, until his chest and shoulders glowed with a phosphorescent aura. On the rippling surface of ultramarine, just over his heart, Hugh inked a portrait of his mother. Her gentle face floated faint, diaphanous; as though distant and viewed through deep water. Some critics claim that Hugh mixed his mother’s ashes with various ink pigmnts and silver dust to achieve her vitreous portrait.

The complexity of Hugh’s project evolved as he illustrated his body with memories of his fantastic travels. Phosphorescent waters of the South Pacific spilled down his torso, swirling into darker waters of the Ganges River, which ran the length of his left thigh. Faces, exquisite portraits of his spiritual leaders, shimmered like holograms emerging from dark currents of the Ganges.

The Himalayas rose along Hugh’s shoulder blades, jutting into a pale blue sky at the base of his neck where desert wind swept grains of sand into thin air. Brilliant dots of color rose up the back of Hugh’s neck, gathering at the top of his skull and swirling into a more cohesive pattern; the edge of a mandala. It took Jacob Hugh seven years of painstaking work—dot, by dot,—to complete the tattoo mandala that eventually covered his entire face.

There was no anonymity for Hugh once his facial mandala was complete. In the streets of Berlin, people stared. Media and paparazzi pursued him, demanding interviews, answers and explanations for his unbelievable art. Tattoo artists begged Hugh to publish his innovative ink recipes. His Berlin laboratory was burglarized.

In 2101 Hugh retreated to a small island off the coast of Greece, where he continued to work on his masterpiece; adding mysterious neon inks to illustrations of urban streetscapes and skylines of Paris, London and Amsterdam that ran the length of his forearms. But public curiosity could not be satiated. Finally, in 2102, at the age of twenty-eight, Hugh agreed to an interview and photo shoot with a young reporter from the London Art Review. Then came the exorbitant offers. A preeminent gallery in Basel, Switzerland offered Hugh one million dollars to pose, nude, for three days in their gallery, in conjunction with the opening events of Art Basel. Hugh accepted the offer.

Art critics went wild. Those who saw Hugh in the flesh during that first exhibition described the experience as pure rapture. They claimed his flesh “glowed and glittered; as if he’d been dipped in stars.” They praised his elaborate designs of sea creatures that morphed into Escher-like tessellations. They described his facial mandala as mystical, breathtaking, holographic; a layered millefiori of vibrant color. The medical community voiced concerns regarding toxicity of ingredients in Hugh’s inks. The public demanded more showings of Jacob Hugh.

Some critics proclaimed his art as genius, revolutionary, the future of modern art. Others condemned him as a grotesque, deviant, circus freak. A prominent gallery in Rome invited Hugh to display his nude body, but the Vatican forbid the exposition and censored all media coverage. Protests, strikes and riots ensued in the streets of Rome.

Hugh was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2105. Prestigious art schools bestowed honorary degrees upon him, inviting him to teach and lecture on the intersection of Ethnographic art and Modernism. Once again, Hugh began to travel. Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Madrid, Moscow, Cairo, Mexico City, Stockholm, Buenos Aires, Lima, Cape Town, Sydney. Galleries, museums, and art institutions worldwide scheduled exhibitions of Jacob Hugh. All the while, Hugh embellished his masterpiece. To him, it was always a work in progress.

Hugh took great pride in inking himself by his own hand. He commissioned a select group of renowned tattoo artists to assist in completing his designs on areas of his body he could not reach. There was ink between his toes, on the soles of his feet, his tongue, his gums, his earlobes and eyelids, the corneas of his eyes, his genitals. He had his fingernails and toenails sliced away, in order that he might access and illustrate the pink ovals of empty flesh below. Fine art photographs and nude videos of Jacob Hugh circulated through the Internet, appearing in pornographic websites and erotic publications worldwide. Much debate centered on Hugh’s illustrated genitals.

A pomegranate tree rose from Hugh’s loins, its windswept branches arced the length of his penis. On the right side of his scrotum, an ancient boulder shielded the tree from desert winds and gold rays of a neon sun that stretched over his right hip, blazing into his abdomen and pelvic region. On the left side of his scrotum, a fragile branch bowed with the weight of a single, crimson pomegranate.

While visiting China in 2107 to lecture at a Beijing university, Hugh disrobed in a public park, exhibiting his tattoos to a group of art students. He was promptly arrested and imprisoned. The President of the People’s Republic of China chastised Hugh, labeling him as “vulgar, perverted . . . masochistic.” Hugh spent forty days and nights in a communist prison while international governments negotiated his safe release. This experience likely led to Hugh’s addition of the gleaming metallic handcuffs he inked around his wrists. He was banned from China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Syria and several other countries. Media coverage of his artwork was censored in Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Sudan and Turkey. Hugh was offered political asylum in America, and granted American Citizenship through Refugee Status.

Hugh became the wealthiest man in the world. He achieved status in The Guinness Book of World Records in 2109, as the most tattooed human in history; creator of the world’s most the vibrant tattoo art. He was celebrated as “a man who stood beyond the bounds of race and skin color… beyond categories of ethnicity.” With funds raised from exhibitions, he launched art schools, galleries, elite tattoo parlours, color research corporations, environmentally responsible ink manufacturers, progressive advertising design firms, and art museums. He brought art schools, art initiatives and museums to far, impoverished corners of the globe.

In 2111, at the age of thirty-seven, Jacob Hugh was diagnosed with the HIV virus. American tabloids claimed Hugh had contracted the virus from a homosexual lover in Tahiti. Those rumors were never substantiated. Art critics now claim that the virus came from an infected tattoo needle. Hugh sought treatments; but the virus quickly progressed into AIDS. Lesions began to rise through the ink of Hugh’s priceless masterpiece.

The public clamored for a cure for Jacob Hugh. Hugh donated billions to research and pharmaceutical companies in search of a fast-acting cure. He agreed to serve as a test subject for a new, experimental AIDS antidote. In an unprecedented, internationally broadcast reality television series, Hugh shared his real-time experience with AIDS and the experimental antidote. Fifty Hues of AIDS became the provocative, reality television series of an era. The visceral series ushered in a new genre of reality television. Reality Pharmaceutical Trials: Cures and Futures. Real People, Real Progress: Yesterday’s Epidemics and Tomorrow’s Drugs.

The AIDS antidote was hugely successful. In a matter of months, Hugh was entirely cured. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Time Magazine honored Hugh as Man of the Year, and published his iridescent face on their cover, along with the caption “The Man Who Became Art, the Art That Became the Cure.” Jacob Hugh became the spokes model and avant-garde advertising campaign for the pharmaceutical company that patented the antidote. Hugh honored the young biochemist responsible for discovering the antidote, by illustrating the man’s portrait on the palm of his right hand. The pharmaceutical company copyrighted the slogan; “Let’s give a hand for the cure!” running that tag line, accompanied by their logo; across a photograph of a joyous and grateful Jacob Hugh, applauding. The advertisement became an icon for changing times; end of an epidemic.

Produced from a particular genetic protein found only in a near-extinct species of deep-sea starfish, the AIDS antidote was prohibitively expensive; only available in the United States, and only in limited quantities. As scientists worked frantically to duplicate the protein synthetically, distribution of the antidote became the hugely controversial issue. Distribution was carefully controlled by a new, government-run, health care initiative. Waiting periods were lengthy. Applications for the antidote were processed in order of most-to-least extreme AIDS cases. In a backlash against the government health care act, Hugh voiced concerns and protests, advocating for the establishment of privatized antidote distribution centers.

As Hugh’s fame escalated, so did concerns about his safety. Everywhere he went, people wanted to touch his radiant skin. He was mobbed in the streets by fanatics. In 2116, The U.S. government required Hugh to employ body guards. While visiting the Caribbean in 2117, Hugh was approached by a masked man carrying a vessel of battery acid. Fortunately, one of Hugh’s body guards wrestled the would-be attacker to the ground in the nick of time. Both the body guard and the attacker were grotesquely scarred and disfigured in the incident.

Following the horrific attempt on Hugh’s life, the government designated Jacob Hugh as a National Treasure. The government demanded a halt to Hugh’s international travels and placed strict restrictions on his passport. Hugh vehemently protested these restrictions. He went into hiding in the mountains of northern Idaho, refusing to exhibit his masterpiece, granting only radio interviews.

Over radio broadcasts, Hugh proclaimed; “Below the ink, I am no different from anyone. My skin is merely my chosen media for recording my life story. Freedom of artistic expression and freedom of travel are imperative to my journey. I need to be with the people! I must share a masterpiece symbolizing transformation of my life journey into spirit. My art is merely a map and archive of my time here. I must travel and teach about the impact of art and ideas on social consciousness.”

Eventually, the American government lifted restrictions on Hugh’s passport, assuaging him with a private jet to assist in his international travels. Hugh immediately scheduled a retrospective exhibit in Tahiti. En-route to Tahiti from LAX, on May 1st of 2120, Hugh’s jet was hijacked. The jet vanished entirely from tracking systems. And Jacob Hugh disappeared.

Hysteria rocked the world of modern art. IT ON Had Hugh been kidnapped?IT OFF The FBI and the CIA launched an extensive investigation. Art critics raised the possibility that Hugh had grown weary of fame, fortune and publicity . . . and finally staged his own disappearance.
Two days afterward, the President of the United States addressed the nation; revealing news that the White House had received a ransom note. Hugh’s captors demanded that billions of dollars in U.S. aid be funneled to key embargoed countries. His captors demanded a lifting of certain U.S. trade restrictions. And, they demanded a supply… of the limited antidote. The terrorists would guarantee the safe return of Jacob Hugh, only after their demands had been met.

An emergency UN summit was held. Negotiators were called in to work with the terrorist. U.S. embargos and trade restrictions were temporarily lifted. A medical distribution task force was readied to transport the sensitive antidote to an undisclosed location on a moment’s notice. As the nation endeavored to appease the terrorists, the FBI traced clues regarding Hugh’s kidnapping and whereabouts.

Seven days after his disappearance, FBI agents located Hugh and his captors on a tiny island near French Polynesia. Employing satellite surveillance and body scan technology, FBI agents pinpointed the unmistakable glow of Hugh’s elaborate tattoos. In a secret meeting, on May 8th of 2120, the President of the United States authorized a covert operation to liberate Hugh from an island prison guarded by terrorist kidnappers. FBI agents and SWAT teams planned a night raid to overtake the compound.

But something went amiss, in the jungle, on the dark tropic night. A flock of florid parakeets startled one of the kidnappers. Two American Green Berets and an FBI agent were killed in a sudden burst of machine gun fire. Remaining SWAT team members opened fire and took the compound by storm. But they were too late. In an apparent suicide pact, Hugh’s captors had taken their own lives, as well as the life of their hostage. A single bullet to the chest had pierced Hugh’s heart, as well as the diaphanous portrait of his mother, Cora.

Hugh’s body was flown to a forensic morgue in Washington, DC. As news of his death made its way around the world, investigations and international litigations were launched against the U.S. government. Italic on Had the government covered up crucial information? Mystery, controversy and conspiracy theories swirled as the world mourned.Italic off Memorial services were schedule in Tahiti, Nepal, India, France, Germany, the US, and an array of other countries.

Hugh left no heirs, and no known family. As lawyers struggled to untangle Hugh’s estate and assets, several countries began to argue over his body. Tahiti petitioned for the return of their native son. The U.S. upheld Hugh’s status as an American Citizen and National Treasure. Monks from the monastery pleaded for a traditional cremation ceremony in the desert. The Pharma Company that had cured Hugh of AIDS, produced and publicized a document Hugh had signed; donating his body for exclusive, scientific research by their company.

“Who Owns the Late, Great Jacob Hugh?” ran headlines of the International Herald Tribune. Litigation dragged on for months as Hugh’s body lay in cold in the morgue. Finally, the case reached U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court initiated the process of dividing complicated ownership of Hugh’s body. Hugh’s skin was granted to the U.S. Government as a National Treasure, under conditions that his flesh be removed and adequately preserved by a select team of medical experts and parchment archivists. Hugh’s internal organs became property of the Pharma Company, on conditions detailing the transport of all bones and unused parts to a grave site in Tahiti and a Monastery in Nepal.


Today, millions of guests arrive annually to experience “Parchment.” Many describe the journey as a pilgrimage. Those who knew Jacob Hugh in his lifetime claim that the priceless “Parchment” has lost its once vibrant glow. Yet, children, who never knew Hugh in the flesh; marvel at its fresh, halo-like aura. Italic Every visitor describes different sensations, different experiences with “Parchment.”

Some visitors are fixated by the colors, vibrant hues, designs and patterns. Others seek meaning in the timeline of geographic travels. Some are awed by its potential to influence and impact. Some express horror, disgust, guilt and shame; or anguish, denial and grief. Still, others experience healing and spiritual awakening. Many admit their perspectives on “Parchment” are dynamic and shift over time. Most express concerns that despite all efforts toward preservation, “Parchment” will ultimately crumble to dust.

This concludes your multimedia tour. In an effort to further this exhibit as a progressive, educational and interactive experience; the museum offers feedback stations. We invite you to reflect, share and upload your responses to “Parchment” in the guest tablets provided.

Thank You for Visiting “Parchment”




Sara Shea — EZ Money

EZ Money
by Sara Shea

This the ring?” The man behind the register at EZ Money Pawn Shop asked. His cool, steady gaze was on the girl, as she slid the ring over a slender knuckle.

He already knew the ring was hers. The tan line on her finger gave it away. Exact outline of the gold filigree. He felt bad for her. She was young, pretty … dazed and starring at the ring with wide eyes.

Intimidated by his piercing blue eyes and severe features, she’d nearly fled from EZ Money without inquiring. Too innocent to know his hard gaze resulted from decades dealings with addicts, thieves and liars; she’d only sensed he could see right through her.

“I’ll call the police if you wanna press charges. I’ll get an officer out to file a report.” She stared up at him; a deer in headlights. “Or you can just buy it back. Without pressing. Up to you. I take cash.”


She’d met Nick three years ago. They’d tumbled into love. After her grandmother died, he’d suggested they move in together and rent a one-bedroom near the lake. She felt grateful Nick had been there for her at a difficult time. She’d never lived with anyone else besides Nana.

She’d waitressed while Nick ran rentals, boat repairs at his friend Gordy’s marina. Out on lake summer nights, drinking Rolling Rocks with Nick and skinning dipping under the stars, her life had finally made sense again. Thus, she didn’t want to admit that he’d changed.

Nick’s late nights with Gordy; days he’d slept through work, his moodiness, strange anxious behavior … tip money gone missing from her purse. She’d discovered the drugs last week. Prescription bottles of painkillers in Gordy’s name. Then the ring had vanished. The ruby nana had left her.


“Watcha wanna do?” the man at EZ Money asked again. “Press charges or pay cash?

Irving A. Greenfield — A Symphonic Afternoon

A Symphonic Afternoon
by Irving A. Greenfield

Mario’s fourth epiphany occurred in Avery Fisher Hall. He came into Manhattan from Fairfield, Connecticut, to attend a 2 o’clock performance of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the featured soloist, a young Russian violinist, who would play Dvorak’s Violin Concerto.

Mario bought a ticket for the cheapest seat—a third tier box seat—though he readily could have afforded to buy a center orchestra seat. But he was there to immerse himself in the music and not be distracted by the conductor’s bouncing movements. In his opinion, having a conductor was just another example of showmanship and had nothing to do with the music.

Though there was an elevator to the third tier, Mario slowly climbed the marble steps. He told himself it was good for his heart, and therefore worth enduring the pain in his arthritic knees and hip joints.

Settled in his seat, Mario laid his coat neatly over his lap, took out his white metal frame glasses and began to read the program notes. He read carefully. None of the three pieces to be played were familiar. In addition to the Violin Concerto, there was another Dvorak composition, the “Overture” to The Devil and Kate, and Tchaikovsky’s Second Symphony, the Little Russian.

When he finished reading the program notes, Mario replaced his glasses in the outside breast pocket of his brown tweed jacket; and the folded program went into the inside breast pocket to show Anya, his wife. But he knew that she wouldn’t even bother to feign an interest in how he spent the afternoon. Rather than think about Anya and become upset, he gave his attention to what was happening in the concert hall. A French horn player and a trombonist tuned their instruments. Two violinists began to bow.

Suddenly the woman on his left said, “Isn’t it exciting to see and hear such a talent?”

He was about to answer, because the soloist will be on the conductor’s left, we will not see him. That would have been an accurate statement. But instead, he smiled and said, “Certainly to hear him.” Though it was half an answer, it seemed to satisfy her.

More of the players drifted to their places. The timpanist tuned his drums.

Mario’s attention was again diverted by the woman next to him. She said, “I have a subscription. I spent the morning in the museum and come here in the afternoon. Friday is my culture day,” she laughed.

Because it was an open invitation to engage in conversation and the woman seemed to be so jovial, Mario answered. “I’m in the city for the concert,” he said looking at her. She had gray hair done up in a bun, tortoise frame eyeglasses and wore a white jacket with a green sweater under it, and black slacks. In his opinion, carelessness not fit for a concert hall. He, on the other hand was fittingly dressed for the occasion: wearing a white shirt, a Brown tie and tan slacks and a brown Harris Tweed jacket, perfect attire for the afternoon event.

“I live within walking distance,” she said.

“I don’t think I could take the city on a full-time basis,” Mario responded. “I’m always thankful when I return home.”

Her round face became pensive, and several moments passed before she said, “I like the country, especially the seashore. From time to time, I go to Cape Cod or Sag Harbor. I’ve done paintings of each of those places. But the city—well, it throbs and I like the throb.”

Out of courtesy, he asked, “Should I know your work?”

She laughed, “I’m just an amateur painter with a means to indulge my amateurism.”

He was going to say she was in an enviable position. But he was in one too. He had been left a considerable sum of money by his father and received a substantial monthly pension check from the university where he had taught philosophy for thirty years.

“Painting provides me with another language, a way of expressing myself,” she said.

It was the way she said it—the self-congratulatory tone that immediately rankled him.

During his thirty years of teaching, he had heard and had read so much about self-expression that he had come to believe it was just another excuse a certain type of person would use to avoid responsibility either for an act of omission or commission. He wondered which of the two it was in her case.

“I’m not very good, but I have a great deal of fun being not very good,” she said with a smile.

Mario wanted to end the conversation before the woman said something that would disturb him. At sixty-six he was easily disturbed. Luckily the house lights dimmed, and there was a burst of applause for the concertmaster who began tuning the orchestra.

“Enjoy,” the woman said.

Mario managed a smile.

The conductor came on stage, and the applause was louder than it had been a few moments before and lasted longer. Eventually the applause subsided. A heavy silence filled the hall broken by several staccato coughs. Then, the music began.

The first selection, the overture to The Devil and Kate, didn’t last long enough to impress Mario. But the audience applauded wildly. The conductor took his customary walk offstage, returned and left again for several minutes while the stagehands rearranged the chairs to accommodate the additional instrumentalists for the Violin Concerto.

“The last piece had such lovely dance music,” the woman next to him said. “You could just feel the youthful exuberance.”

“Perhaps that youthful exuberance was a youthful lack of ability,” Mario suggested. “And to cover, if you will, to hide what he lacked the talent to express.”

The woman looked as if she were about to answer; but another burst of applause signaled the arrival of the conductor and the soloist.

The house became quiet and the music started.

Closing his eyes, Mario listened intently. The soloist played deftly and with emotional involvement. The music was intricate, and Mario found himself drifting away from it. Anya was the cause. She was his third wife. Lily was his first. He had been married to her for twenty-three years, long enough for his son, Paul, to graduate from college. He had endured almost a quarter of a century of marital and agony. He would have ended it sooner; but he not only had a son to consider, he also at that time had been a practicing Catholic.

The marriage ended without any explosion, not even a whimper. On a Friday afternoon he walked into the kitchen and said, “I’ve had enough. I’m leaving.” Lily didn’t even bother to look up from whatever she was doing, washing her hands, Mario remembered.

Four years later, Mario married a former student of his, Ellie. The marriage lasted two years. The woman was pathologically jealous; and he was guiltless of any marital indiscretion.

Shortly after his divorce from Ellie, his father died. His mother had died while he had been married to Lily. With a sizable inheritance from both his parents, he no longer had to scrape by on a professor’s salary out of which he had to pay two alimonies. His new status had enabled him to consider marriage again. By this time, he had met and had fallen in love with Anya, an Indian woman.

Of his three wives, Anya was the most beautiful and twenty-three years younger than he. She had a classic Indian face, black flashing eyes, waist-long, black hair that at times seemed to be iridescent, and exquisitely proportioned body. Her beauty captivated him; held him spellbound. Looking at her nude body not only gave him erotic pleasure but also artistic delight. Her breasts were high in fall with large pink nipples. Her ivory colored skin had a unique scent, especially when she oiled it with body lotion. And, unlike his supremely first wife, she thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of sexual intimacy.

Mario frowned; and the flow of the music caught him again. But the frown lingered. His own sexual needs and her ability—obviously her desire to fulfill them waned as he became more cognizant of the intellectual disparity between them, or so it seemed. But in truth he was aware of the difference between them before they married. She was an ordinary woman with no more than a secondary education while he had a doctorate in philosophy and taught aspects of it, especially those connected with Platonism, at the University. He hoped his overwhelming feelings for her would compensate for her lack of intellectual maturity. Even with this hope for their future, he came close to cancelling the marriage, but couldn’t see any way to do it and continue to maintain his dignity.

The sudden eruption of applause wrenched Mario away from his thoughts and back into the concert hall.

“Wasn’t that wonderful?” The woman next to him asked.

“Yes, quite spectacular,” Mario answered.

“It’s soulful music,” she said.


She laughed. “You know—the longing that is expressed. Something just beyond reach.”

Mario cocked his head to the left and raised his eyebrows.

“Haven’t you ever had that feeling that—you know something is out there but you can’t grasp it? I feel that way about my painting. Even with my dabbling, I feel I could do something… something better. But it’s not within my grasp.”

Mario nodded gravely. He understood what she said. “Yes, I know exactly what you mean.” His tone of voice matched his considered nod.

The conductor returned for the last number on the program, The Little Russian Symphony.

Mario thought about the woman’s words. They expressed something about his own ideas about art, but they also expressed his concept of love—the passion, the sexuality, and the intellectual ties between a man and woman. He knew his problem: he wanted to be loved absolutely; and none of the women he married were capable of that kind of absolutism. Lily was passionless. Ellie’s accusations killed his desire. Though Anya had the passion, but she mistook soap opera reality for REALITY never bothering to think about those things that he spent his life thinking about. Once he asked her what she thought about good and evil; and she answered, “They exist.” He waited for some sort of development, a follow-up. But none came. “Why do they exist?” he pushed.

Anya shrugged. With her eyes glued to whatever nonsense she was watching on the TV she said, “Does it really matter?”

Mario wanted to scream, Of course it matters. It matters very much. But he restrained himself and walked out of the room.

Suddenly Mario sensed the end of one of the symphonies’ movements was coming. But because he had not been following the music, he had no idea which one it would be.

The music’s last three chords sounded and the applause exploded.

To Mario surprise the symphony had ended.

“What a delightful afternoon!” The woman next to him said; and she clapped vigorously each of three times the conductor reappeared on the stage.

The applause subsided. The house lights came up; and the people began to gather up their coats and move into the aisle.

Mario followed the woman.

When they reached the corridor behind the box, she said, “It was a pleasure to speak to you.” She held out her hand. “My name is Florence Winter, but my friends call me Flo.”

Mario took her hand and shook it. “The pleasure was mine,” he responded “I’m Dr. Mario Fusco.”

“A medical doctor?” She asked.

“To my father’s disappointment, only a Dr. of philosophy,” he answered. They were still holding hands, and he liked the feel of her hand in his.

“I’m impressed with anyone who has the stamina to get any kind of doctoral degree,” she said.

Mario nodded and released her hand.

“Will you be here next week?” She asked looking at him as they walk toward the stairs.

Mario hesitated looked at her as if he was seeing her for the first time, and with a smile, he answered: “Yes, I think I will.”

Lou Gaglia – Hiatus

by Lou Gaglia

After his regular Friday night T’ai Chi lesson at Carnegie Hall, Frank walked down Seventh Avenue for only one block before turning, as usual, down the quieter, less crowded 56th Street on the way to the Sixth Avenue F train. Fifty-Sixth Street was well-lit, quiet but not isolated, and 6th Avenue was more open than the tightly-packed Seventh. On these streets he liked to think about Josephine’s lessons, committing her notes to memory and letting what he learned sink in.

Josephine was almost five feet tall and ninety years old, and she moved like a thirty year old. She was sharp and gentle and demanding and exacting and positive all at the same time. She taught creatively and always delved for meaning and subtlety. Tonight she’d talked about activity and stillness, how important it was for the mind to be aware, during a form, of the parts of the body that were still as well as the parts that were moving.

He thought there was something beautiful about being aware of what was moving and what was still, but he didn’t know why it was beautiful.

When he reached 6th Avenue he almost turned immediately right, but the light turned green so he crossed the street. He liked to walk through the city, liked to walk fast, and didn’t like to stop. Often when he reached a corner he turned right or left rather than wait for a green light, then crossed later when and where he could. If ever his walking route could be mapped out, it may have consisted of almost all green zigs and zags.

A few blocks from the Rockefeller Center train, as he neared the corner of 55th Street, he heard pops—two and then another—from across the street. Figures moved hurriedly behind the glass lobby windows of the Hilton. And then another pop, and a flash. Frank stepped down into a small courtyard in front of an office building and ducked behind a bush growing out of a large cement pot. He saw them move toward the door, and so he ducked his way from cement-potted bush to cement-potted bush and then crossed 55th Street from behind a truck without looking toward the Hilton. He stayed close to the buildings, walking quickly, and his heart raced.

People passed him going in the opposite direction. A man in a long coat, unaware…two women soon after….

He wanted to tell them, but they passed so fast—or maybe he did. His green zig-zag on the map would now be green streak interrupted with large red dots. When he reached the subway stairs he heard the train and ran down, jumping the last few steps as the downtown F came to a stop. He stepped inside just before the door closed and sat down near it, gripping the cold silver pole.

He watched the impassive faces of people all around him, some standing but most sitting, and blew out a huge sigh, feeling safe there underground speeding along a tunnel among strangers.


Although East Broadway and Market and Monroe Streets were darker and more solitary, Frank felt safer as he walked home from the subway. In his courtyard, three ladies who always seemed to be sitting on the third bench gave him warm hellos. He stepped into the elevator in his building just before the door closed. Lena from upstairs, his former student in her late teens, was inside leaning into the far corner.

“Hey Lena.”


He pressed number six and looked at the closed brown door.

“My mutha says hello,” she said.

“Oh! Say hi back. I haven’t seen her.”

“She’s sick.” He turned to look at her. “She thinks she’s sick. She keeps fainting or something.”

“Didn’t she get checked?”

“They don’t know what it is.” She sighed and looked upwards with a frown. “I think she’s faking it.”

The elevator slowed to a halt, and the door swung open. “Well, tell her I miss her laundry room banter.”

“She don’t banter.,” Lena said, moving up to press the close button. “She just yells.”

He smiled. “Tell her I said hi anyway.”

A month earlier a friend of Lena’s had jumped from the roof to her death. She’d jumped on the side of the building opposite the courtyard into the alley used only by maintenance workers. This was the first time he’d seen Lena since, but he’d seen the four Boccia brothers, also former students, sobbing in the courtyard before they went on a several days rampage against any innocent who got in their way—upsetting the shopping carts of older Chinese women, threatening strangers who came into the courtyard, drinking openly, laughing and cursing and daring security to call the cops on them.

At his apartment door, Frank glanced over at Rita’s door across from his before he unlocked. Rita was in her eighties, and the last time he’d seen her, her leg was wrapped up and she walked with difficulty, using a cane. “I’m an old lady,” she’d laughed when he wondered what could be done for it. “There’s no reason to get anything fixed at my age.”

Inside, he locked up, threw his jacket on the couch, and gazed out the window. Lena’s friend would have landed somewhere near the front steps, he thought, where people came and went constantly, even now at 9 P.M. But she’d wanted to be considerate, maybe, or private, or just invisible.

He shuddered, remembering the Hilton shooting, Josephine’s interesting words about paying attention to stillness during activity far away now. Josephine had broken her hip in a fall only a year before, pushed down after a theater production while exiting among a large crowd. Now she was back, at ninety, teaching again, walking easily, speaking and thinking like a thirty year old. She didn’t believe there was no reason to get anything fixed at her age.

He wanted to feel palpably Josephine’s determination and will again. But Rita’s resignation and the girl’s suicide and the Hilton shooting raced through his mind. And then there was that other shooting, six years before. He sat on his windowsill and looked directly below at a young family with two small children sitting on the benches…

On East Broadway as he walked home from work, the thin man in the dungaree jacket appeared next to him, slightly in front, and fired three-four shots quickly a little silver gun and the girl four years old or younger holding her mother’s hand dropped forward and down he wasn’t playing he shot her not playing and she was on the concrete and her mother folded herself down to the falling girl and the man curled back behind Frank into the alley and Frank still hearing shots ducked behind the bakery wall and then jumped inside.

“Call 911!” he shouted.

“You call,” said a voice, so he raced to a back room but heard the sirens before he could dial. The police were already there when he went back outside. The ambulance was on the way. There was absolute silence in the crowd of almost all Chinese people surrounding the woman. She screamed and sobbed over the child.

Frank looked at the sky. “God,” he said.

Uniformed police asked with disgust through the silence who saw it. “I did,” Frank called out and felt the crowd’s eyes on him as the ambulance arrived and police hustled him behind a van. They questioned him and then took him to a car.

“I’m not getting in there,” he said, seeing a young Chinese man in the back seat.

“He’s another witness,” the officer scoffed.

They drove him through the neighborhood, past basketball courts and handball courts and side streets, but all he remembered was the jacket and the small silver gun…

He went into the kitchen and grabbed a few crackers from the pantry, then picked up his jacket from the couch and walked out of the apartment.


He intended to walk to the Brooklyn Bridge the long way, past Columbus Park and then the court buildings. On the way he bought The Daily News and tucked it under his arm, thinking briefly of stopping at Rokka’s for a coffee, but he didn’t want to see anyone he knew.

Glancing down East Broadway before crossing Chatham Square, Frank saw the spot in the distance where the little girl had been shot. She had died afterwards, and the shooters were never caught, or he would have been called to be a witness. There were three shooters because the police had told him it was a triangular hit attempt on another gang member who was beyond the little girl on his side, a guy all three shooters missed. Frank could have sworn the man shooting the silver gun had been aiming downward, right at the little girl, not beyond her at some gang member.

So he went the opposite way, to the bridge, and maybe he’d walk all the way to his old neighborhood in Brooklyn, stopping on the way at the diner on Clinton Street where he’d get his coffee, pie and sports section: his cure for the blues.

Frank liked to watch faces, so he glanced in turn at those who came toward him down the wood-slatted incline of the bridge. None of them exchanged looks with him, so he watched freely a large group going out together, dressed up. Men were dressed in suits or in jeans and t-shirts like him, alone. Women were alone walking fast, or in pairs, walking slowly. Some teens walked in large groups, and there were young couples, a few pushing strollers that Frank didn’t look into. An older couple walked slowly while others passed them on both sides. He stopped watching when he reached the center at the top of the incline, and walked fast all the way down into Brooklyn.

The sports section and coffee at the diner helped him think baseball and basketball for a while, but after he finished reading and sat sipping his coffee, the shooting of the little girl and the older girl’s suicide and the Hilton shots flashed into his mind. He tried to shake it all away, wanted to be somewhere else again. Impatiently he left the entire bill, plus tip, on the counter and hurried back to the bridge.

Halfway across again, at the height of the walkway, he decided to sit on one of the benches under the huge arched towers. He faced downtown Manhattan and watched the lights, the projects quiet from where he sat, while below the walkway traffic hummed loudly. Idly he opened the paper again and read from the front this time, having exhausted the sports section.

A few pages in, he scanned an article about an Arkansas man who was forced by some ex-friends to eat his own beard in a dispute over a borrowed lawnmower. At the top of the article was a photo of the man, showing a wild brown scruffy beard still attached (or newly grown). He wore a baseball cap and had a vacant look in his eyes and parted lips.

Frank laughed out loud and shook his head, then read the first two paragraphs. The man’s ex-friends had guns and knives, and they shaved the victim’s beard and forced him to eat it. Frank didn’t read far enough yet to find out how deeply involved the lawnmower was. He rubbed his eyes to keep from laughing again and looked at the Friday night crowd rushing by him on the bridge, not one of them noticing him sitting there.

He read the rest of the article. It was written as though it were a deadly serious crime, and the ex-friends were being sought. No tongue-in-cheek comments from the reporter…nothing about the lawnmower’s involvement in the crime, either as accomplice, victim, or object of jealousy.

Frank chuckled, folding the newspaper tightly and tossing it into the bent steel garbage can beside him. He watched each face as it went by, wondering what was going on in each mind. Was it a swirl of complicated thinking and feeling in this person, or little eddies of thought in that one, or nothing much at all in those?

Did any of them wonder at how perfectly still one T’ai Chi hand could be, while the other turned so slowly and precisely, at the same time as the entire body—legs, arms, waist, and head—moved in tempo, all parts finishing a form at once? Were any of them wondering at their own beating hearts or at their racing minds that felt the present and flashed back to many moments and looked forward, all at once? Did they wonder at the stillness of death and where they went after that? Did any of them think that even a thing like that was at once beautiful and horrible? If he shared this, grabbed one of them by the shoulders and wondered aloud, would any of them think so too and wonder about it with him?

Would any passing person crash into despair too, remembering a little girl dying, or an older one?

He watched their faces, looking intently into as many of them as he could. They were all strangely beautiful in their preoccupation or oblivion, but why did they so intently walk some place if life could end so quickly, if it couldn’t tell them that they would always be someone, or become no one?

He thought of going to the bookstore on Crosby Street, or maybe to Fay Da Bakery on Mott, or maybe just home to sleep, but he didn’t make a move. In the morning he knew the sun would be up and he’d feel like going to a bookstore or a bakery, but now it didn’t matter if he went to any of those places or if he just sat there all night perfectly still.

Raouf Mousaad Basta – Fata morgana in Amsterdam

Fata morgana in Amsterdam
by Raouf Mousaad Basta

It was after two months in the Camp: the political refugee camp on this island, which is not sure of its name. Then at last I received an invitation from my lawyer to discuss my case.

My case is simple, but my lawyer thinks it is not easy. (I met her only once before. She had been appointed by some ministry.) In this country they think many things are not easy.

However, I told her—my lawyer—“madame lawyer, I do not care about the result of the trial. I care about one thing: going back.”

She asked: “Back where?”

I said: “Back to the desert.”

Of course, she—like all people here—wants to find logical reasons for human behavior. Logical! From the beginning ‘they’ did not know what to do with me. I had come to ask justice but they arrested me to subject me to their own justice.

I told them: “Sorry to have come without visa, just let me go back” but they said: “Sorry. You cannot go back till we subject you to our justice. Then you can go back.”

And so on and so on. It just means they want to punish me.

I know also she wants to wash her hands off me and off my case. I do not blame her. She told me in our first meeting in her expensive office at one of the canals, that my case confused her. Jokingly she said that. I asked her why. She said because I challenged the basis of her convictions as a lawyer. I did not understand it but…I did not comment. I know now that I made a mistake.


If you ask me now what mistake and why this is happening, I can tell you in length the whole story of the journey, which became more important and even more interesting than the reason of the journey itself.

I have no special likening or hatred for the cities and countries and refugee camps I passed through asking justice. They are just places which belong to other people different from me in everything: color of skin, language, habits, even the way they laugh and of course the climate and food of these places.

However, in spite of all that or perhaps because of all that I do not care much about these places, countries, people, language, food, climate, etcetera, because I know I am not going to stay here and live in a small concrete place like my cousin.

And, by the way, I did not come here to look for work or to live or even to visit my cousin who has a shop in Amsterdam. The mistake I mentioned before, was that I came looking for a mirage in concrete buildings around people who have their own way of justice.


For a person like me, born in a tent in the desert with lots of space around, there are many ways of justice. For instance if a camel enters the small farm of my aunt Fatima we do not punch the camel, we give Fatima something instead .But If the camel insists on visiting her farm, we give her the camel and she is free to do what she likes with it. Most probably, she will let him go on eating.

This land here, small and with watery grey rainy mornings, long dark rainy nights, gives me uneasy feelings about myself and the idea of asking help and justice. I was born near the mountain on top of which, according to the popular belief, God spoke to Moses when Moses and his people were looking for refuge. Everybody knows that the desert is the land of refuge.

When somebody comes to us to ask for help and refuge we do not put him in prison (we do not even have one … although the government has many), but we put him in the guest tent, offer him food and water, and after three days we would go to him and ask him what he wants.

My family earned their money and reputation by giving refuge to people and by leading believers to the top of the Mountain, either by mules or by foot (for those who want to suffer more than others). When I was very young, I used to climb the Mountain, waiting for the voice of God to speak to me, because I was stuttering like Moses. I grew out of stuttering and wishing to hear voices from the Mountain.

But then when I became fifty-six, I had to leave the Mountain, the tent, my family and the desert, traveling to other countries, asking for justice, or, because I thought that I should fight for justice I had to travel, leaving behind me the interrogations, torture (and possible death).

But let me tell the story slowly, in my old way of telling things, not in the new quick way people want to hear things from someone like me “please can you hurry up, we do not have all the time in the world ” smiling politely (or so they think), to show “no offence intended”. I am not sure why, as they spend a lot of time sitting in the cafés and bars waiting for someone to speak to them.

However, let me concentrate. Some three years ago, when my youngest daughter was born, I became the leader of my tribe after my father’s death. I inherited it, as eldest son. I got his camels, (and his Japanese four-wheel drive), his sword (there were also modern weapons) and a large piece of land in the desert, which is also part of the common heritage of the tribe.

This land is the prettiest scenery between the Mountain and the sea. It is near the place in the red sea where Moses and his tribe are believed to have crossed when fleeing from the Pharaoh.

I was born in this land, as was my father and his father and all my ancestors.

This piece of land has a history of hiding people fleeing injustice. There are places where one could live in peace and listen to stories beside the fire, where nobody can find you if you do not want to be found.

And, lots of mirages.

Here is the problem I mentioned in the beginning, which started with our mirages. People who do not live in the desert know nothing about mirages, which turn slowly – if you believe and have patience – to things with which one can play.

It would become what you believed you saw.

Are you patient now so I will explain?

They turned to playful things to play with us, the people of the desert. Why? Because they are bored… When you live in the desert you have to do lots of things just to survive, but if you are sure of your survival like the mirages are, you do not have anything to do. They are just there.

That’s how they get bored.

If you having nothing to do, then you are bored…

Then you want to play or you want to kill.

However, because we, the people of the desert, know mirages well enough, we only let them play with us and do not let them kill us.

They—and we—enjoy having games, tricks, and the fun of playing together games and tricks. The funniest game is what we desert people call “catching Mirages”.

The desert is like human beings, she loves tricks and games. She also behaves often like them: angry, moody, deceiving, loving.

Some time self-pity like us.

I could not tell my lawyer or the investigator of the minister of justice about this thing of the desert’s self-pity. Or games. They would think I am crazy. I told them about other things, which are part of reason.

Some of the reasons are like this: Some rich tourist company from across the sea wanted to take the common land of the tribe and build hotels and swimming pools (the sea is so near!) but I refused to sell it for any price.

The other reason that the whole tribe does not want to sell: this land is full of mirage games. I played here “mirage catching” and now my children and their children are playing here.

Even some other tribes ask permission to play mirage catch on our land. We make it in to a great festival.

The games are like this: We all know the perfect time for the mirages to appear. .. So we wait. They always come in time… and than begin to call us to play with them ….One would say, “I see the lost camel of so and so … he is walking beside the tent of so and so.” Somebody else would say “no, it is not the camel you are seeing… I am seeing the four-wheel drive of my brother, which has been stolen. I see it in the oasis of so and so.”

The players divide themselves into two teams. The players of the first team agree with the person leading their team. The second team agrees with the second person. Then we, the elders of the tribe, agree between each other which team should win.

The winner must slaughter a goat or two and offer it to the losers so they can take the best parts and then we all sit together and eat.

Then this tourist company came and with them the money they offered us for the land. Of course, the news spread across the desert and all tribes were angry. I felt that the desert became angry and more hostile and the water in the secret places was disappearing. Palm trees refused to give dates in their time. The desert could hear and listened like human beings.

I asked the elders for a meeting to discuss what was happening. The meeting went on for days. We all agreed not to sell.


This decision was received badly by the tourist company and by the police officers in the desert because they knew how much allowance the company would give them to close their eyes for collecting corals from the sea, or when the tourists go diving in the forbidden areas or shooting eagles.

It happened suddenly: they came with guns and many soldiers to dismiss us from the land of the tribe which belonged to us for thousands of years. They said we do not have papers to prove the ownership of the land. True, we do not have silly papers, because simply our ancestors came here before they came to the valley.

What happened later is a sad and long story; I am not going to bother you with it. The elders of the tribes asked me to travel to the other side of the world and put our complaints in front of the chiefs of the tribes of the world.

So I went to the embassy of the land of America where the nations sit and listen to complaints. They refused to give me visa and laughed at me. They told the local authorities about me.

This is why I fled because they wanted to arrest me.

However, I knew people who take money and help other people to travel. My cousin in Amsterdam said: why go to America… come here to this land because there is a court to do justice around the world. So I decided to go to see and speak with my cousin who lives in the city of Amsterdam city he has a big restaurant. He had met a woman from this country some years ago when she came to climb the Mountain and she took him back with her.

Only once he came back to visit his mother and he told us fantastic stories about this country of his wife and how he eats a lot of halal meat every day, because his mother was worried that he was not eating halal meat.

He told us stories about the important people who came to his restaurant and ask his advice about many things. He said these people like justice so much that they make a special court to put the bad people in front of judges, even if they are big kings or high police officers.

Why I was been chosen to travel? Because I know the tongs of the other two countries at the other side of the sea. I learned their tongs when I used to trade in the town near by the place where tourists come to climb the Mountain.

The Tourist Company did not like that either, so they send somebody after me to put obstacles in front of me, so I would not be able to speak to the court. And of course I did not get visa from their embassy. I was smuggled in after I paid a lot of money.

My cousin in Amsterdam has a small shop selling “Halal shwarma” not a big restaurant as he said. But never mind, he seems happy to see me. He named his shop Fata Morgana. I asked him what it meant. He smiled and told me it means Mirage. He said because he misses the mirages.

Then the police arrest me one day because I have no visa. My cousin brought a good lawyer who said that I came here to ask political refuge, although I told him and the police that I am asking only for justice and would like to return back to my tent and my desert and my mirages as soon as I finished.


That is how I become a refugee in the camp. You see… if you are patient and give me time then you will get to the bottom of my story and may be find a way to help me to go to this big court. If I succeed, then I will bring justice. If not then they will send me back accompanied by soldiers to another prison in my country because the two countries consider me dangerous.

My new lawyer believes me or that is what she tells me; she is asking to meet me today to discuss the case, as she put it. My cousin advises me to drop the whole thing.

I ask him—after I agreed—if he can put me in contact with people who can smuggle me out from here and back to my tent. He looked to me as if I am crazy.

I am sitting now in his mirage shop after he came to collect me from the railway station. I smell the food he is giving to his clients… Not really nice. I ask only for coffee.

I think I would not mind much to return back to the desert or even to a prison in my land where every thing is clear… The mirage is a mirage the injustice is injustice; the prison is called prison and not a camp…

I think he began to like my idea because he looked to me and began to laugh. “People pay a lot of money to come here and you want to pay money to get out… where is the logic?” he asked.

We both laughed. I heard him speaking to some people in his phone asking about a way to smuggle me out.

Coming Home by Susan Carey

Coming Home
by Susan Carey

I was down in the river meadow when the white-topped ambulance showed above the overgrown hedges, going up the road towards our farm.

‘She’s coming home, she’s coming home!’ A childish voice rejoiced in my head and I ran up to the farmhouse to greet her. Tears were falling by the time I got there and in choked silence I watched the ambulance men help her out of the vehicle.

“We saw you running,” one of the ambulance men said. I could only nod in response. Mum had come home, but it would be for the very last time.

How would we cope, my stepfather, sister and I? We had one strong woman to rely on, our District Nurse, Joan Ingram, who fought so that Mum could come home to die. If it was left to medical bureaucracy, my mother would have been shoved up to the end of a hospital ward and forgotten. A woman, who knew the smell of shit better than the smell of disinfectant and who had helped countless ewes to lamb, was almost condemned to spend her last days in the sterile environment of a general hospital.

Mum was in the final stages of ovarian cancer and was taking liquids and morphine intravenously. A hospital bed was set up in our living room and the district nurses came twice a day to administer medication. I looked forward to Nurse Ingram’s visits the most. Joan brought the hustle and bustle of life with her and the power to briefly persuade you that life might just one day be alright again.

Joan was a well-rounded woman. The seams and waistband of her navy blue jacket and skirt were showing signs of strain. She kept her dark hair back in a bun but disobedient strands of hair escaped and fell around her face. Her pill-box hat had usually slid down by the end of her rounds, arriving at a jaunty angle. She had a capped temporary-tooth that sometimes wriggled loose and fell out of her mouth. The sight of Joan’s ample bottom restrained by navy blue Crimplene as she retrieved the tooth from under a piece of furniture, made us smile.

One evening she arrived and announced. “I’ve got something to celebrate.”

My stepfather, Harold, fizzed open the cider bottle.

He poured a small glass of cider and pushed it into her hand, ignoring her protestations.

Harold, Joan and I raised glasses. My sister was out for the evening. Taking a break from full-time care of Mum. Outside the birds were singing as dusk approached and in the top meadow our first spring lambs were playing King-of-the-Castle. Mother Cat was curled up on Mum’s bed, purring.

“What are we celebrating then?” Harold asked.

Joan didn’t need much prompting as she loved to talk. “I had my thousandth baby today!”

“You’re looking well on it,” Harold remarked.

She walked over to Mum’s bed and leaned down towards her. “This week I delivered my thousandth baby, Nell.”

“You’re a marvel, aren’t you. I don’t know what we’d do without you.” Mum said, a glimmer of a smile around her lips.

“It took me back to one of the first babies I delivered. What a night that was!” Joan put down her glass of cider, unsnapped her nurse’s bag and took out a morphine ampoule, ready to inject into the drip.

Mum shook her head and held up her hand. “No, not yet. I want to hear the story of the first baby.”

“Alright then, Nell.” Joan patted Mum’s hand and placed the unbroken ampoule down on the bedside table.

“It was one of my first, solo call-outs.”

We settled back, waiting for the story to unfold.

Joan sat down in an armchair near Mum’s bed and took a tiny sip of cider. “It had been raining solid for days on end. I’d just finished watching Z Cars and got up to switch off the telly, when the phone rang. Even as I walked to the phone I had a sense of something not being right.

She’s having a baby, Miranda’s having a baby! The well-educated voice shouted down the receiver at me, his words slurring into each other.

Alright, now try and calm down, I said. Your wife and I need you to be calm.

We’re not married, Man, but you’ve gotta come quick! My chick’s having a baby.

I asked him where he was phoning from and my heart sank when he told me the address. The Manor in Hay-on-Wye was notorious back then. Squatted by a hippy commune. An exodus of them had come down to the Welsh borders, escaping the rat race and had set up shop in the dilapidated stately home. The house was about half a mile back from the road and the track would be deep mud after all the rain we’d had.

I’m on my way, I said.

My windscreen wipers were going like the clappers but they weren’t much good in that downpour. After driving through that for an hour, The Manor loomed in the distance, its windows all lit up as if it was on fire. I parked on the roadside at the entrance, not wanting to risk getting stuck in the mud. I pulled on my wellies and got out my bag and torch. Even from the road I could hear the rock music blaring out from a downstairs window. Loads of brightly-painted old bangers were parked in front of the house; 2CVs, Renaults and VW campervans all higgledy-piggledy on what used to be landscaped gardens. I was drenched by the time I reached the house. I stepped through the enormous doorway into a great hall where a long-haired bloke was propped up against the curling banisters. He lifted his hand and said: Hi, Babe.

Nobody ever called me babe, not even in those days and I certainly didn’t merit the title when I was in my uniform and mud-splattered wellies. He had a drunken grin plastered on his face so I ignored him. The double doors to the main drawing room were open. Inside, a sea of prone bodies lay strewn over ramshackle furniture and empty bottles jostled against each other on the floor as I picked my way over the debris. Candles in the windows were burning down low and the smell of wax and some sweetish tobacco was overpowering. Brightly coloured saris hung in the windows. The whole place could go up in flames if they caught on one of those candles, I thought. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about.

The main drawing room led onto another room full of people in varying stages of consciousness and then, almost as I was beginning to give up hope of finding anyone sober, a young man came up to me and took my arm.

She’s through here, Love, Miranda’s through here. I recognised his voice from the phone. He led me along a dark corridor into a room at the back of the house. Must have been a library judging by all the old books on the shelves. On a filthy mattress on the floor was a young, long-haired woman. She was on all fours, as high as a kite, crying out: I’m having a baby, I’m having a baby. She was stark naked and the baby’s head was just showing between her legs.

‘Now keep your head Joan Ingram,’ I said to myself sternly as my heart hammered in my chest. ‘You’re the only one here who’s still got her marbles and that baby is depending on you!’

I knelt down beside the bed and helped the woman breathe through her contractions. They were coming rapidly by then. She gave one last push and screamed like a banshee. Even though she was stoned, I was amazed that her body knew what to do.

I supported the baby’s head and the little girl popped out into my arms, sweet as a nut! The woman had the baby so easy, like a cow calving. Thank God there were no complications. Maybe the baby knew it would have to be sharp to survive in the world it had just come into. I quickly cut the umbilical cord and wrapped her in a clean towel I’d brought with me. I gave the baby to the mother, who seemed to have sobered up a bit and then instructed the father to go and get a bowl of hot water to help mother and daughter clean up. I was just getting my breath back when an enormous red setter came lolloping into the room and ran off with the still-warm afterbirth. I dashed after him, stepping over party-revellers and smashed wineglasses – I needed to take a sample back with me to the surgery – but it was no good. He shot out of a back door and disappeared into the night.’

The thought of Joan Ingram chasing a red setter as it ran off with her patient’s afterbirth brought tears of laughter to our eyes.

“I stayed the night to make sure they were alright and on the way home I parked the car on a quiet road. The sun was just coming up. I pulled onto the grass verge and had a good cry. It was a miracle I didn’t lose that baby. A miracle. I was so inexperienced, not much more than a baby myself in those days.”

She smiled at the memory, stood up and quickly administered Mum’s morphine. She straightened her pill box hat and said, “Got to get the old man’s dinner on.”

Harold stood up and opened the door for her.

“See you tomorrow.” She smiled and waved at Mum.

“Thanks for the story,” Mum whispered as she drifted into sleep. “See you tomorrow….”

Chapter X from The Other Man by Ronald Linder

Chapter X from The Other Man
(A novel written in the 1970s)
by Ronald Linder

Early Sunday morning, weary but buoyed by the fact that he might be discharged that day, Ralph shaved, preparing for the psychiatrist’s visit and his decision whether or not he would let Dr. Ralph Bouman go home. The telephone rang, and for an uncontrollable instant, he hoped it was Jeff. But Ralph realized that was weak and wishful thinking.

As the phone kept ringing, he turned off the water in the sink and thought about answering it, wondering if it was Jeff begging for a second chance. But how could a second chance get rid of Jeff’s family or his idea that the world came on a serving tray? Jeff would probably laugh at his story of the orderly he’d ditched who’d been assigned to guard him last night so Ralph didn’t “hurt himself.” Jeff had to learn they were through.

Ralph wiped his mouth and chin and picked up the phone. A familiar coaxing voice with the clink of ice cubes in a highball glass greeted him. “Ralphie – is that you?”

“Yes—Agnes.” Ralph hadn’t expected a call from his sister. They hadn’t spoken in two years.

“You have to come down right away! Dad’s had a heart attack and Mom’s going crazy. I can’t handle her. And she blames you because you weren’t here being his doctor!”

Scatching a sudden painful itch on his neck, Ralph saw blood on his fingernails. “Just wait a minute.” He tried to keep his voice low and controlled. His arms and hands dropped with a special heaviness he always felt when he talked with Agnes—those weights of anger, fear and disappointment. The older sister who should have been around and never was, when Ralph was growing up. She was a ghost who never helped with anything. For years Rob hadn’t been able to finish reading a story or sit through a movie with happy brothers and sisters or families.

Ralph was also surprised that he felt no reaction at the news to his father’s heart attack, but years of his father’s schemes and promises that never came to pass dulled his son’s senses and feelings. He didn’t believe anything his father said or did.

“Agnes—you’re calling me at the hospital. I’ve been sick myself,” Ralph said flatly.

There was a pause at the other end, then Agnes’s young, surprised voice asked slowly—“I didn’t know. I thought I was getting you at work. Are you better? Uh—what was wrong with you? Anything catchy? Agnes was always the hypochondriac.

“Just pneumonia and a coma.”

Another pause, “Then—you’re better now?”

“Yes, I hope to go home in a day or two.”

“Good Ralphie—then you’ll come down. I’ll meet you at the airport.”

“You don’t need me that fast! I haven’t been to Vegas for two years…and Mom’s last letter said I was dead to her!”

“Oh, you don’t take her seriously! Remember—A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish one is the grief of his mother—.“

Ralph shook his head wearily. His sister had always been conspicuously religious, but only for her own purposes. “Please do me a big favour and don’t quote the Bible. It makes my stomach hurt, coming from you.”

“—Whoso despiseth the word shall suffer thereby. But he that feareth the commandment, shall be rewarded.”

“Agnes—I’m going to hang up!”

“Don’t do that. I’ll stop.” But you know, we don’t hold grudges. Mom and Dad need you now.”

Dizzy and angry, Ralph twirled around, just catching the edge of the bed in time to sit down. “Why do they want me around just when they need me?”

“You know, that’s not fair. They really love you.”

“Then why couldn’t Dad ever pay the bills or have food in the house?”

“Ralphie—they had a lot of hard luck.”

“Because Dad would never quit the theatre and get a real job. He always had to be the star.”

“He was a star, Ralphie, twelve shows a week, and don’t you ever forget it!”

Ralph could see Agnes sitting at a desk in the back at one of her ice cream parlours in Vegas, her young, underpaid, high school soda jerks out front scooping ice cream, making malts and shakes and stealing a little money out of the till. She had the highball glass in her hand as she read the Bible on one side of the table and How to Win at Blackjack on the other.

His father had always praised Agnes. “Such a good girl, so smart and sweet with a real future.” He hardly said anything about Ralph who’d been born thirteen years later.

“Let’s not fight,” he said. That’s all Mother ever does.”

The voice from Vegas became frantic. “What the hell’s wrong with you? Don’t you have a heart? Your father—your Dad almost died! Mom wants you here! She needs help to get back and forth to the hospital—I’ve got a business to watch!”

“So do I! Listen, Agnes, I was very sick. I almost died. I didn’t let Mother or Dad know because they’d only say I brought it on myself. That I deserved it, because I didn’t live down there with them and support them.”

“You’re ungrateful.”

“Ungrateful for what? Oh, Christ, I’m sorry you called. I was planning to go down there anyway in four or five days—God knows why. I really must be crazy, but maybe that was to convince myself one final time before I break all ties that I wouldn’t be losing anything worthwhile!”

Agnes’s voice changed from a sullen, self-pity to a bright, saleswoman’s banter. “Listen, Ralphie, if you’re interested in something new, I’m thinking of opening up another store, right on the Strip.”

Rob looked for cigarette, but saw none in the room. “I’m broke, Agnes.”

“You always say that. How can a doctor be broke?”

“It takes careful planning.”



The new shiny voice went on. “Five thousand will do it.”

“I don’t have five hundred!”

“What the hell do you do with your money?”

“And what about yours, Agnes?” What about your husband and daughter? Do you have any insurance for them or do you trust your luck, like Dad did? Or do you have a son who’s a doctor who they don’t know about?”

“Don’t get nasty, Ralphie. George is still working. I don’t have to worry about him. I’m warning you…!”

“Or you’ll do what?”

“You know—!”


“You— you and your roommate!”

“Me and my roommate what?” Agnes didn’t know that Chuck had been gone for four years.

“Oh—you know!”

Ralph remembered his fights with his family always came down to something like this—some innuendo or half statement he was supposed to carry the rest of the way—so that he’d been forced to pay his mother and father a hundred dollars a month for years to keep them quiet—to keep them from bothering Chuck—and forcing him never to be able to tell Agnes what a stinking bad, big sister she was.

And Ralph blamed them for his never having any money—because they would want it. Any savings would mean a fight. He couldn’t have money and just tell them “No,” because he’d feel too vulnerable as a queer. It was easier to say, “I don’t have it.” But he knew he’d have to learn to say “No,” or he’d find himself trapped in a net of yesses and sures and okays, with no way to escape except by taking another bottle of sleeping pills.

Talking to Agnes he felt a bone-hollowing loneliness. He looked down at a stack of books he had checked out of the hospital’s library. For years when there was no one to talk to, he lived with books. They were his mother, father, sister, friends—but Jeff showed him there could be so much more. He caught himself almost crying.

Ralph’s father and mother tried to take everything away from him. They’d been American nomads—with their midnight elopements from landlords who kept Ralph’s books hostage in hotel basements, never to be recovered. Ralph brooded over how many other families in moving-crazy America drifted from city to city with stuttering jobs and incomes. He wondered how many other men his age could never remember a home—not even a kitchen-heated tenement. He could see himself, age nine or ten, sitting in big chairs in hotel lobbies, reading—because his father and mother were upstairs “busy for awhile.” But they had taught him how to fight in a silent sneaky way. He had to battle to stay in school. His father wouldn’t have minded if Ralph had dropped out of school to get a job and “contribute to the house.”

So he fought and stayed in school—despite his father’s demeaning smiles, his mother’s angry, nagging eyes, Chuck’s putdowns—because his medical-student-lover was poor and he didn’t want Ralph to ever feel good enough to leave him.

“So, will you be here tomorrow?” Agnes asked.


You have to—it’s your duty!

“Right now it’s my duty to stay alive! I told you I almost died, you bitch!”

Ralph thought of the parents who depended on him—he had a responsibility to them. They were mostly simple, trusting people who could never understand the complications of his life—but who knew if they were sick, he usually made them well. Some of Ralph’s patients had died when he had left New York because they refused to go to anyone else. The doctor who took over his practice told him. And though he’d always considered himself dispensable, always thought if he wasn’t around there would be some other doctor to take his place, there were certain patients who wouldn’t go to anyone else. He had saved lives because he was somewhere at the right time and did the right thing—if he hadn’t been there, those people would have died—and death is the only real endpoint in life that can’t be apologised for or corrected—no matter what anyone straight, gay or “family” yelled. He realized that his keeping alive meant that probably at least a few other people would live, instead of die. But if he gave in anyone longer to what he wasn’t himself, he wouldn’t want to live.

After the long pause on the phone…softly…hurt…”Ralphie—you don’t have to use dirty language.”

“You don’t understand any other way—and even then you don’t understand! Mother won’t have anything to do with me unless I give her my whole life—and father wants money—any money—from anyone—that’s Mom and Dad! God—you people make me angry!”

“If I were you, I’d come running and pray to God and your parents for forgiveness.…I can’t keep driving Mom around…she screams for her darling Ralphie!”

“Agnes—I won’t be there at all! You’ve convinced me. Thanks! The faster I forget all of you and the rotten life I had with you, the better. I’d only give Mother a heart attack—or get blamed for one anyway.”

You have to come!

“I’m hanging up. Tell Dad good luck!”

“How can you be such a bastard?”

“Maybe I am a bastard! Maybe that’s why the three of you are so different from me. I was born by accident—Mother told me a hundred times. Doesn’t that make me a legitimate bastard?”

“But we always treated you like one of us!”

“No you didn’t. I was a pain in the ass to all of you—then a pain in the ass who was a doctor who could do the things a doctor does. I was never a son or a brother!”

Ralph slammed down the phone, furious and guilty and lonely and for an instant, he wanted to try to ram his body through the tenth-story, wire-reinforced window.