The Scribbler is pleased to have Susmita Bhattacharya of Plymouth,
England on the 4Q Interview this month. It is Susmita’s second visit. As one of
our Guest Authors she previously shared her enjoyable short story, The Mango
Season.Susmita is an accomplished
author who has just released her debut novel, The Normal State of Mind.You can discover more about by following the
4Q: We are anxious to hear about your new novel. Please tell
us what to expect when we read The Normal State of Mind.
SB: The Normal State of Mind is a story about love,
friendship and finding one’s voice. It is a story about two women, Dipali and
Moushumi and their friendship. It is a story of how their friendship helps them
deal with personal issues and the Indian traditions that dictate how they should
present themselves in society, for one is a widow, and the other is a lesbian.
The novel is set in 1990s India, and I hope to show aspects
of urban India and Indian society that have not been seen in Indian fiction. I
hope this book will bring about a debate or discussion about women empowerment and
the LGBT presence in India.
One of my favourite quotes is by Vijayalakshmi Pandit, the
first woman politician to hold a cabinet post and diplomat, whose brother
happened to be the first prime minister of India. She mentioned in a piece in
the Ananda Bazaar Patrika (1938): ‘People tell me the modern woman is
aggressive. I wonder if this is true. But if it is, she has good reason for it,
and her aggression is only the natural outcome of generations of suppression.
The first taste of liberty is intoxicating, and for the first time in human
history, a woman is experiencing the delights of this intoxication...’
This stands true even in today. She wrote this in 1938, we
are in 2015 now, and still, the modern woman is fighting... fighting for her
rights, fighting for her equal place in society. I realised that be it lesbian
or a widow, as Dipali, mentions in the book, women are still identified in
relation to a man, or to the lack of one.
It is a story simply told and I hope it will connect with
readers around the globe. When I was researching for the book, I talked to
people from different cultures and social backgrounds, and realized that there
are some issues that affect people no matter where they come from. The struggle
with coming out and acceptance is something common for most gay and lesbian
people I talked to. But this is a story set in metropolitan cities of Mumbai
and Calcutta, this is not a general reflection of Indian women in any way.
And yes, there is a lot about Indian food in the book!
4Q: You have many short stories and poems published in the UK
and internationally. How did the idea for your novel begin and when did you
decide to write this story.
SB: The novel started as a dissertation for my Masters in
Creative Writing in 2005. I was comfortable with writing short stories, but I
wanted to push the boundaries and attempt writing a novel. It was difficult to
put a finger on what I should write about. I thought of many complicated plots,
historical themes etc but wasn’t confident to write, or rather see it to its
end. But the mantra ‘writing what one knows about’ struck a chord as I realised
that my experience as a single, working woman in Mumbai and having friendships
with like minded women, and men was the best place to start. My experience as
an assistant to a well-known fashion photographer also helped me shape the book.
Though I have been inspired by some of my experiences to write the book, this
book isn’t about me or anyone I know. But I had fun revisiting some old haunts
to refresh my memory and reconnecting with old friends.
The book took eight years to write, as in between, I had two
children, moved houses and relocated from Cardiff to Plymouth. It then took two
years for the book to be accepted by a publisher, and finally it is here in
4Q: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.
SB: I was born and bred in Mumbai. In the book, I have
written about the bomb blasts that ripped through the city in 1993. I was in Art
College then, and my friend and I were returning home on a public bus. We had
made a plan to have lunch at my place. As I was preparing lunch, we heard a
bang, and the crows in the trees shrieked and flew up into the sky. We shrugged
it off, thinking someone had started off a firecracker. But it happened again,
this time closer to home. The house shook, the window panes rattled, and the
smell of gunpowder came through. We weren’t sure what was happening. This was
before the days of social media and mobile phones, so news didn’t get around so
quickly. Also, the telephone lines went dead, so we couldn’t contact anyone. My
parents were at work and my sister in school. Then a family friend came rushing
in and told us that bombs were going off in various parts of Mumbai, and two
had gone off just couple of hundred yards away from my house. And the scary
part was, when we were on that bus, it had stopped at the traffic lights just
outside the building that had been bombed fifteen minutes before it had gone
My dad returned from work and he rushed to the school where
my mum and sister were to escort them home. He had to walk past the bombed
sites and told us how the street was covered in shattered glass and debris. He
got them home safely. But in the meantime, I was worried sick as we didn’t know
when and where the next bomb would go off, and was relieved only after they all
got back safely. My friend too had to wait until her father managed to find a
way to come to our house and fetch her. Unfortunately, there were many others
who did not get back home that day. This day will remain etched in my brain
4Q: Spending several years travelling to many parts of the
world with your husband must have been an exciting adventure. Can you share
some of your experiences?
SB: I spent time on seven oil tankers over a period of three
years. Those years seem surreal to me now. Was I really on board oil tankers,
experiencing all sorts of adventures? I think spending time away from the human
civilization, seeing nothing but the blue sea and sky for days helped me look
inwards and make friends with myself. It also made me appreciate nature as well
as understand how human interference can harm nature’s way.
One of the first things that come to mind is how I came
across events/ moments without planning for them. For instance, I once looked
out of my bedroom porthole when we had anchored out at sea, and just below me
was a dolphin that was helping her little one to swim. She held the baby over
her snout and pushed it above the water to breathe. Maybe they were just
playing. I felt very honoured to be given that opportunity to watch.
Another time, our ship had anchored at Augusta, Sicily. My
husband and I stepped out to see the town, and I was intrigued to see the whole
town covered in ash. Looking up, I saw Mt Etna belching out smoke. For three
days, we stayed anchored in the bay, and I watched a live volcano with lava streaming
down the mountainside, once again from my cabin windows. We’ve been tossed
about on stormy waters, sailed on glass-like calm seas, kept watch to keep
pirates at bay and done the Titanic pose to boredom!
But again, being out at sea without much communication (on
that particular ship we didn’t have email contact), we completely missed out on
the day 9/11 happened to the rest of the world. On that day, we were treated to
best ever display of dolphins and whales that came close to our ship, and it
seemed they were performing for us. Hundreds of dolphins leaped and danced
against the evening sun, whales spouted showers and swam along the ship,
swishing their tails and diving. Flying fish glinted above the water. It was a
fully orchestrated show. We didn’t know what was happening elsewhere in the
world. That night, the Chief Officer got some news on the radio, but reception
wasn’t clear, so though we gauged something had happened, we didn’t know what
exactly. We called home and that was when we realized what had happened. But it
was only a week after 9/11, when we reached Gibraltar, did we first set eyes on
the television replays and newspapers.
On a more cheerful note, there was another very pleasant
experience when sailing down the St Lawrence River, Canada. There was a man on
the shore who would find out which ship passed by his house and he’d raise the
flag of the crew as a hello. (Not sure if he is still there, this was about 12
years ago). As we made our way down the river, my husband told me to go up to
the deck and watch the shore. So I did. Suddenly, I saw the Indian flag rise up
and the national anthem being played, in the wilderness on the shores of the
river in Canada. I’d been away from home for so long, it was as if this man had
hugged me personally and welcomed me to his home. It was a wonderful feeling.
Thank you Susmita for being our guest this week. Susmita’s
novel can be purchased here. Her website is susmita-bhattacharya.blogspot.co.uk/
Next week on the Scribbler you will meet a writing team of sisters, Lorraine Campbell and Pam Burks that pen under the name of Ellie Campbell. Read an excerpt from one of their novels.
The Scribbler is pleased to have Tim Baker as a guest author this week. Tim was recently featured on the 4Q Interview. He is an accomplished author with ten books to his credit. Tim was born and raised in Warwick, Rhode Island. After graduating from The Wentworth Institute of Technology in 1980 he embarked on a career in Architecture and Engineering. Along the way he has also worked in the natural gas industry, construction and ice cream sales. In his spare time he enjoys a wide variety of activities including sports of all kinds, music, motorcycles, scuba diving, and, of course, writing. An avid dog lover, Tim was a volunteer puppy raiser for Guiding Eyes for the Blind, raising and socializing potential guide dogs. Find out more about Tim by clicking his link below.
Following is an excerpt from one of his novels.
tracked the progress of the day by watching the shadows creep their way around
fought the need to pee for as long as she could, but inevitably lost the
struggle. Two hours later, thanks to the dampness of the basement, her jeans
were still wet from her urine. The duct tape on her face and around her wrists
combined with the cramps in her legs were an added bonus to the overall misery.
Judging by the fading light that made its way through the small window, she
decided she had been there for at least eight hours.
she heard the door open and the footsteps on the floor above, she was oddly
comforted, even though she knew she should be afraid. Just to be able to move
her arms and legs would be a welcome feeling.
man’s figure made its way down the stairs. When he emerged from the shadows,
she recognized him. Everybody called him Spanky, but she thought his real name
was George. Maybe it was his lack of hygiene, or the way his eyes seemed to be
looking off in two different directions, she wasn’t sure, but there was
something creepy about him.
or not, at least he wasn’t Lorenzo.
knew the next time she saw Lorenzo he would be there to kill her. Spanky wasn’t
the guy Don sent on such assignments, he was more of an errand boy. At least
she had that working in her favor. Now she just needed to figure out a way to
take advantage of it.
duct tape prevented her from asking the question, but her eyes conveyed it.
sent me over to check on you,” Spanky said.
hard as it was to believe, he smelled worse than the basement, and his breath
was absolutely toxic even from two feet away.
He released her and pushed her toward the
stairs. When they emerged in the kitchen he pointed toward the bathroom.
ahead,” he said.
late,” she said, indicating her stained crotch.
shrugged and took a container of milk from the refrigerator. After downing a
few gulps he offered it to her. She wanted a drink more than anything, but the
thought of sharing the milk with this repulsive man turned her stomach, not to
mention the prospect of being left tied up in the basement again with no
opportunity to relieve herself later.
casually glanced at the front door…and the secured dead bolt. The windows, at
least the three she could see, were all closed.
was the only way she would leave this house alive, and this was probably her
best, if not only, chance.
had his back to her while he checked the contents of the refrigerator. She
scanned the kitchen for a weapon.
always carried a box-cutter in her purse. Could she get to the other room and
get it out fast enough?
she could overpower him—he wasn’t much bigger than her—then run away. She
casually lifted one of the old wooden chairs at the kitchen table. It was heavy
enough to put a good hurting on the slender Spanky, then she could make a run
pain and stiffness in her legs dismissed that plan. Unless she knocked him out
cold, or killed him, she wouldn’t be able to run fast enough to escape.
straightened up and closed the refrigerator.
you don’t need the can, I guess it’s time to go back downstairs,” he said.
was no sympathy in his voice, so appealing to his chivalry wouldn’t work. There
was only one card left to play.
reached back into the buried parts of her mind and recalled her dancer’s
mentality. The ability to disconnect from the situation and ignore the
reactions of men wanting a piece of her while she smiled and coaxed them into
giving her money they could ill-afford to part with.
was part of her skill set she had hoped she would never have to rely on again,
flipped the mental switch and slipped her arms around Spanky’s neck.
he knew what was happening, she kissed him hard. She felt her stomach clench at
the foul taste and fought it with everything she had. She ran her fingers
through his greasy hair and grinded her pelvis into his already swollen crotch.
hands quickly found her ass and Mercedez increased the passion in her kiss and
added more pelvic pressure to his crotch. She slid her mouth to his ear and
allowed her tongue to dance around it as she feigned heavy breathing.
you want,” she groaned. “Nobody has to know. You tell them I was gone when you
hands released her ass and pushed her away.
way,” he said. “No friggin’ way.”
moved back in and massaged his groin. “Come on, we can have a good time. We can
make it look like I surprised you. They’ll never know.”
knew it wouldn’t matter to Gammino if she had somehow produced an assault rifle
and shot her way out of the house, Spanky would pay with his life anyway. She
just prayed that he didn’t know that.
pushed her away again.
he said, adjusting his crotch. “I’d love to take you around the world, but if
you get away on my watch I’m as good as dead.”
quiet. There ain’t no we. We ain’t doin’ nothin’. You’re going back downstairs and I’m going back to tell Lorenzo you’re
still here. Done deal. Now let’s go.”
extended his arm toward the basement door.
went for one more stall.
guess I should go to the bathroom after all,” she said.
windowless bathroom offered no chance of escape. She searched for some kind of
weapon. With the exception of a sliver of soap on the rust-stained sink and
half-a-roll of toilet paper, the bathroom was empty.
reached for the doorknob, but stopped short. She spun around and pried the
dried soap from the back of the sink.
Spanky wasn’t leaving.
television in the front room was on.
started working her wrists. The soap had definitely helped prevent the duct
tape from bonding to her skin completely and after several minutes she was able
to slip free of the tape. She removed the tape from her ankles and finally the
piece covering her mouth.
stretched her arms and legs as she took inventory of the options.
basement windows were too small and too high to allow her to get out through
one. There was a workbench along one of the basement walls.At one end of the bench were several old cans
of paint. As quietly as she could she searched the bench for a weapon—a hammer
would be ideal. The only items she found that could serve as weapons were a
screwdriver and a rusty old bow-saw, the kind used for trimming tree branches,
neither of which gave her any kind of tactical advantage. She would have to get
too close to Spanky to use them, which would result in a skirmish that she
would probably lose.
looked at the stairs and remembered the noise they made when used and knew her
chances of sneaking upstairs undetected were not promising—and even if she were
successful in making it to the top of the stairs, was the basement door
if she got out of the basement she would still face the problem of overpowering
Spanky, unless she could slip out a back door or window undetected.
odds were not in her favor. She needed a better plan.
Gammino had once said came back to her…The
reason I am where I am is because I learned to turn my disadvantages into
now her biggest disadvantage was being trapped in the basement.
just like that the pieces fell into place.
flipped through the channels and stopped on an episode of Man vs. Food. The
host was in New York City eating hot dogs. Just as it was getting interesting
he heard a loud noise from the basement, like somebody had knocked over a bunch
the fuck?” he muttered.
down the stairs into darkness he called out.
what’s going on down there?”
flipped the light switch. Nothing happened. He flipped it back and forth
several times with the same result. He took a zippo from his pocket and lit it.
Holding it in front of him he moved down the stairs. About halfway down his
foot slipped in a thick liquid.
tried to maintain his balance, but his other foot slipped as well. Before he could
stop himself he had tumbled to the bottom of the stairs and landed in a heap
against the concrete wall. He didn’t have to try to stand to know that his
ankle was twisted badly and maybe even broken.
He ran his hand over his body, feeling a thick, wet, slimy substance, which, in
the limited light, he assumed was his own blood.
sudden movement to the right caught his attention and in the blink of an eye he
knew he was in deep trouble.
watched from the shadows as Spanky slipped on the paint-covered steps and
tumbled to the bottom. She sprang from her hiding place and emptied the
contents of another can of paint on his face. When he was sufficiently blinded
she took a third gallon and slammed it across his head repeatedly until he stopped
trying to get up.
dragged him across the floor and duct-taped him to the same column she had been
moaned several times, but offered no resistance. When the roll of tape was
empty she was satisfied he would not be able to squirm out the way she had. For
good measure she kicked him as hard as she could in the groin. His body went
stood over him for several seconds to make sure he was out.
he wouldn’t be a threat, she carefully climbed the slick steps and locked the
basement door behind her.
found the keys to the van on the kitchen counter, and retrieved her purse. She
locked the house behind her before driving away.
Thank you Tim for sharing part of your story. Get the novel here Read more about Tim on his website .
Next week on the Scribbler the 4Q Interview will host Susmita Bhattacharya of Cardiff, Wales when she answers 4 questions regarding her latest novel. Susmita has been featured as a guest author on the Scribbler previously. A very talented writer.
Who doesn't love children? I have three fantastic grandkids. My collections of short stories is for them. Vol.1 is for the oldest, Matthieu. Vol. 2 is dedicated to the only girl, Natasha. Vol. 3 will be out shortly and dedicated to the youngest, Damien. I could never put the joy these three amigos bring me into words but I can leave them a legacy.
These excerpts are a taste of what you can expect in Vol 2. Links where the eBook can be purchased is below.
SHORTS Vol. 2
I was going through the storage area in our garage one day and had to dig through four boxes of mementoes I'd been hanging on to for years, items that linked the happy moments in my past. I wondered what it would be like if I had to move and I couldn't bring them with me.
1. Four Boxes of Memories.
Minister settled frumpily into his new chair. He drained his busy head of the
day’s events resting his foggy colored mane gently on the plush leather. He
drew in a huge breath through his nose, the aroma of the tanned hide of his
cushioned throne, rich and pleasing.He
pulled the handle on the chair side and a footrest responded like a storm
trooper lifting his fatigued legs. On his lap, wrapped in several elastics were
a cluster of envelopes that he had kept for many years, nothing special really,
the result of a boyish hobby he started over 80 years ago. There wasn’t any
room in one of the boxes for it but he couldn’t let them go, it would be losing
his own sense of something unique, silly to anyone but him.
shut his tired and elderly eyes, once a deep brown, now faded of old age. His
wrinkled face was wide and square shaped by nature, cheap cigars and the rough
seas that blasted winds and water upon his being as he fished the Atlantic
Ocean from the time he was a bewildered boy alongside his father. His
prodigious hands rested on the arms of the chair, the fingers splayed, they
looked like baby squids.His husky torso
was clad in his favourite blue and white plaid shirt that stuck outside of a
pair of dark blue Dockers. He was wearing his Dora slippers his four year old
granddaughter insisted her Daddy buy for “Gampy”.
opened his eyes and they were about level with the two little girl explorers on
his feet. Like many times before when he laughed at them, he remembered the
delight when he wore them for the first time, tiny Gracie danced about overcome
with little girl glee, clapping her hands and making him dance in his new
slippers, she had a pair the same and he remembered the jolly fun. He laughed
now with hearty guffaws until his tummy hurt. He caught a couple of laughing tears
with his chunky forefinger.
his vision cleared he looked around his new home. He had a large bedsitting
room, his own washroom, ample fine furniture, a few antiques from his own
ancestors and a closet full of good clothes. The walls were bare of course and
bore a hellish pink. He had told his son Eugene changing the color would be
their first task otherwise he wouldn’t live here. Before Eugene left earlier he
assured his old man that they would go shopping tomorrow.
worry Dad, we’ll go up to Livingston’s Hardware in the morning and find
something with a little less passion, something with some hair on its chest, to
make sure people don’t think you’re an old funny guywith pink walls.”
smiled thinking of his boy, wrinkles doubled around his eyes.It was a good thought, safe and cared about.
His brief interlude was disrupted as he focused on the four boxes by the front
door. They were simple Banker’s boxes, bought flat, resurrected at your office
type. They stood in a straight line in front of the closet, decked out with
square brown lids. The significant red numbers on the top of each, from 1 to 4,
made them look like toy blocks for an adult. In reality it held the most
precious items, the bullion of his life. The contents were the dearest of
everything he owned. They were his boxes of memories.
The second story was inspired by one of my relatives. A gentleman that helped shaped his own granddaughter's life. When she wanted to get married, she asked him a very important question.
2. Reaching the Pinnacle
Jeb Davis is
almost out of breath. The last half a kilometer of hiking up the mountain has
been at a 25-degree angle. And it’s starting to get steeper. Mount Carleton in
northern New Brunswick is not for cream puffs. He stops where the trail evens
out for a meter or so near the exposed root of an enormous birch tree that has
to be as old as his great grandparents if they were still alive. The bark on
top of the root is rubbed away from countless soles. With one hand on the trunk,
he stoops over to catch his breath. He adjusts his backpack with his other hand,
hefting it a bit higher, and looks up the trail to check on his granddaughter.
Thirty meters farther up, she is going full steam. He chuckles. It has always
been so. Mindy Kane does everything at full throttle.
know he’s not behind her and she’s still talking. He can’t discern what she’s
saying, but her voice comes back to him like vapor through the trees, a rhythm
that’s part of the forest. A chorus of black-capped chickadees with their two
note song provides a natural harmony. Breathing deeply he inhales the scent of
damp, dying leaves that only autumn can bring. He watches her as she hikes
under yet another huge birch tree with a canopy of mighty limbs. Yellow and
lime-colored leaves cling to more than half the outstretched arms. The stream
of early morning light passes through the half-naked limbs, dappling her
lithesome body and bulky pack. She must’ve asked a question and realized
something wasn’t right when silence ensued. She stops and looks back. Jeb can
see the teasing twinkle in her eyes even from this far. She yells out, “Whatsa
matter, old-timer? Can’t hack it anymore?”
when he scolds her.
mouth young lady. Respect your elders. Listen, Mindy, you said breaks every
thirty minutes. We’ve been chugging up this ruddy hill for almost…”
upright, he checks his watch.
minutes. Now get down here and give your Gramps a break.”
The third story was inspired by three friends
that liked to get away on camping trips.
Grown men that acted like boys when they
were on their own. Trouble always seems to
3. Pioneers in a Hurry.
It feels lonely where I’m standing even
though more than a hundred people are about me, divided and aligned by wooden
pews. The church is cavernous absorbing the low buzz of sympathy and disbelief
that whispers from the crowd of mourners. I can’t take my eyes from the decorative
urn that holds only ashes. The burnished wood gleams; the hockey player etched
upon the front reminds me of Robbie, the man that was my friend. The tiny tomb
blurs in my vision, memories burst in my head like someone threw a deck of them
in the air and you try desperately to see them all. I search for the one that
sparkles, of the time him and me and our brother-in-law became boys again,
pretending we were pioneers of a sort. It was a defining moment in our lives.
We were all crowding fifty. Robert was
the oldest, we called him Robbie and he knew everything, man was a walking newspaper.
He was average height, average build but there was nothing average about the
confidence his blue eyes expressed. He and I were friends before but by the
time the weekend was over we became great
friends. Our mutual buddy Nicholas, a slender and kindly man, was also our
brother-in-law as we all married sisters; he centered the veneer of our friendship.
He was the youngest, certainly one of the smartest. He usually always has the
best pot east of Vancouver. He’s the type of guy you always want to hang with,
the ones that keep you laughing. We called him Nick. My name is Randolph. I
We were loading the boat at the marina;
it was about 7:30 am on a Saturday, the first week of November. The sun was
hidden behind low eastern clouds. The rest of the sky was empty, topaz blue. We
joked about our good fortune with the sun about to burst out on our first
camping trip together; we had vowed to go rain or shine. I was walking back
from parking my truck listening to Nick tell Robby about the time he and I had
went winter camping. Every time Nick told it the weather was much worse and
quite a bit colder. The three of us were soon in the boat, Robby and I sharing
the middle seat of an eighteen foot dory. Facing the stern of the boat we could
watch Nick as he guided us out of the bay towards the nearest shore of the long
slender Island about a kilometer away, our adventure destination. Sailing under
an aging wooden bridge, Nick steered it through the rippling waters following
the starboard shore. Giving the throttle a slight turn lifting us and the bow,
he reached into his jacket pocket, withdrawing two similar packets of twisted
aluminum foil the size of a twelve year olds fist. He gestured for us to each
take one. He shouted out over the engine noise,
“It’s not too early to get high.”
The fourth story is about a detective named
Josephine Naylor. Her friends call her Jo. In
SHORTS Vol.1 she made the most startling
discovery of who was killing the young girls in
her city. This story continues the saga of Jo
4. Near Dead.
The wire slowly tightens around her slim neck. With
both hands Detective Josephine Naylor desperately claws at the thin cord as it
begins to dig deeper into the soft skin of her throat. Her breaths come and go rapidly
in short wheezing gasps. In a few seconds she knows she won’t be able to breathe
at all. Fear clutches her every sense as
she feels the taut wire break her skin. Her hands reach back to claw at her
assailant’s brawny, hard muscled forearms as thick as a block a of wood. She
rakes her nails along the leathery skin to no avail. The twisting of the wire
stops, just before it cuts through the esophagus. The deepest, scariest voice
“You Bitch, you arrested your own father.”
Jo Naylor freezes, wanting to choke, barely able to
draw breathe. The pitch of the whisper changes to anger, more of a hiss.
“Now I’ll never
be able to kill him.”
She tears at her throat, kicks out one leg connecting
with something solid that reacts like stone. She is slowly being lifted off her
feet by only the wire. Standing on tippy toes reaching for the hands that hold
the wire, she sees death.
It’s night time. The grisly scene is set in the bluish
glow of a full moon. The tall, broad shouldered man holding Josephine’s life in
his meaty mitts never saw the shovel coming. It’s a round mouth, curved on the
edges, caked with a little brown mud where it joins the wooden handle which is
about four feet long. On the opposite end, Jo Naylor’s partner, Adam Thorne, is
swinging with his whole body. The flat part of the shovel connects with the
side of the big man’s head. It would’ve floored most men but the giant only
staggers. His hands let’s go of the garrotte. Jo falls to the ground, gasping
in short rapid pants, hands protecting her throat.Thorne turns to face the snarling man, ready
to swing again.
Pawing at his
broken face, the man is reeling from the blow. His bluish presence sways
momentarily in front of Thorne. Adam chucks the shovel to the ground reaching
for his gun. The assailant stiffens as if sensing his own danger, he moves
automatically and unbelievably fast for someone so large. His huge fist is aimed
towards the threat, he can only see with one eye. He connects with Adam’s chest
driving the air from his lungs, the gun flying into the air. The powerful blow propels
the detective’s body backwards ten feet and to the ground almost landing on Jo.
The man runs.
The fifth and final story is my fascination with
the 1800's in the American west and the
settlers that travelled the frontier. My family
has every thing they own packed into a
wagon, even the kids.
5. Six Jutlands and a Conestoga
Jutland draft horses strain as they pull the Verhoeven family over the last
rise of their 1,200 mile journey. Bram Verhoeven walks beside the team, just
ahead of the heavy wagon, using the long leather reins to guide the lead horse,
front left. The tireless leader, Hercules, with his mate on the right, the
grand dame, Ellen – named after President Arthur’s wife – guides the team of
sturdy horses. Both are fifteen hands high, large quartered, relentless
workers. The hill they are climbing has long grass swaying in the wind that urges
them on. The lowering sun is partially hidden behind the crest, casting bright
heads of first Ellen then Hercules break out of the long shadows into the
golden waves of the western sun. Small sharp ears, thick beige manes with loose
strands turn bright yellow. Their chestnut fur turns redder still as the
animals walk into the sunlight, exposing the short neck, the muscled shoulders,
the wide withers and the strong back of these willing animals. Bram watches the
horses as they rise, pair by pair, into the brilliance. His dusty face splits
with a smile of pure joy. Time almost slows down in his anticipation of the view
his family is about to encounter. He’s seen it before. He owns it now.
sweat from his brow with his right forearm, he looks back at his wife, Lena,
who is standing up inside the front of the Conestoga, awaiting the horizon he
has talked about for the last two years. Her right hand is raised above her
head as she grasps the outer rib that holds the coarse hand-woven fabric of the
wagon’s bonnet. Veronica, the youngest, is beside her, wrapped in Lena’s left
arm. Her head, which rests upon her mother’s stomach, is covered with the same
dark red curls; her face, with the same orange-ish freckles and the same
mischievous eyes he has. Sheila, the oldest girl, leans on the front board, a
smaller version of Bram’s wife, with a thin pretty face, straight brown hair tied
up in a bun, eyes that study everything and a smile that artists search for.
They all catch his movement and wave at him.
Jonas, rides their quarter horse, Fancy, bringing up the rear, towing their
Jersey, Cinderella. Aron, who is ten years old today, is a year younger then
Sheila, two years younger than his brother and two years older than Veronica.
He is perched on the lazy board on the left side of the wagon. He braces
himself by hanging on to the ropes that hold the water barrel. His father had promised
him they would make it by his birthday. Looking at his Pap, he waves a free
hand when he sees him looking back.
Lisette is a native of Monterrey, Mexico. EBO is her first novel and is a YA paranormal romance. It's an exciting story about vampires and love. Lisette is published by Morning Rain Publishing of Ontario, Canada. She is their first international author. The link to Lisette's website is below. Following is an excerpt from her novel.
I impatiently awaited nightfall. Just an hour or so of sun
left before it would all be over. It appeared endless and pointless to me. As
the chief had promised, the whole village dressed in dark; singing and dancing
to joyous tunes as laughter filled the air. Clay pots, filled with food to the
brim, covered the tables set along the main courtyard. People from nearby
villages had arrived too. Some observed as I walked amongst the Ashanti, others
did not notice, yet no one approached or made mention of me.
Josephine came and went from my side, the small mutt always
at her heels. Not once did she laugh. Her feet did not dance to the merry
rhythm of the instruments played by skilled musicians. She did not cry, either,
yet her eyes told me the whole story. Every time those bright green eyes looked
into mine, another piece of my heart was chiselled away.
Never did my eyes leave her. My gaze followed her throughout
the day, trying to decipher what she might be thinking. She never spoke, but
observed all that happened with the curiosity all children her age must have.
Everyone approached Josephine with gifts. She was presented
with beautiful necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets made from an
assortment of materials: leather, beads, elephant hair, and ivory. Elaborate
dresses made by the women, embroidered with beautiful detail. Every time
someone handed her a gift, she would look up and nod her head in appreciation,
wearing a polite and faint smile on her face.
More than once I recognized a shadow of concern on the
cheerful faces of the gift bearers. Josephine’s eyes conveyed the sadness she
felt in her heart, but all were surprised by the mature way with which she
conducted herself. Such restraint and poise were not normal in one so young.
After receiving the offering, she would observe it quietly, turning it this way
and that in her little hands and then pass it over to me for safekeeping. After
the first dozen or so gifts, I had to turn to Ekuwa for help. She, in turn,
stowed them away in Josey’s hut to be packed that night for her travels home.
The chief watched over the whole ceremony. Alert, and always
informed of my whereabouts, he tried to anticipate any trouble I might cause.
Twice I was asked to his side, and I understood he was assessing my mood, just
in case I decided to end the whole ordeal, or maybe snatch the girl and
Without a clear idea of what weapons or pleas he thought he
could use to stop me, at times I was amused, and at others awed by the man’s
courage. He must have known in his heart that I would behave – for Josephine.
As dusk approached, the chief walked over to where Josephine
and I sat watching dancers move to complicated tunes the musicians played.
Taking a seat next to us, he spoke, “Josephine, I know you are in pain. There
is not much I can say, or do, to make your heart heal faster, but it will heal.
I promise you this: you will always have a home with the Ashanti. Your hut will
always stand ready for your return, be it for a visit, or permanently. All
Ashanti generations to come will know of your existence and receive you as a
sister. You will be reminded of this from time to time, so your young memory
will not forget as you grow. Part of you is Ashanti now.”
Unfolding a cloth, the chief revealed two bracelets. Each
consisted of a single solid band of gold, about half an inch wide, and each had
two solitary diamonds embedded on top. They were simple, yet beautiful. There
was something about the bracelets that made me want to touch them, but I held
back as he handed them to the child.
Josey looked at them with curious eyes. She tentatively
touched the diamonds and turned those wide emerald eyes on the chief, then on
me. A tear formed, but it did not spill as she placed her arms around the
chief’s neck, hugging him tenderly. Then she straightened and extended her arm
for him to secure a bracelet on her wrist while she took the second one with
her free hand.
Once he had adjusted the bracelet, she turned and with sure
fingers placed the second bracelet on my wrist. I was surprised, but it somehow
felt right. Looking into my eyes, she held my gaze with such intensity that I
felt the world spin around me – and she was gone, running, brown hair fanning
behind her shoulders, to show Ekuwa her new prized possession.
“What is this?” I asked the chief as he sighed, his eyes
following Josephine. “She has been presented with numerous gifts today, many
are beautiful and colourful, yet she has only shown real appeal for this one.
She is too young to know the difference between gold and other materials. Why
is this so special to her?”
“There is something unique about this child,” he answered.
“She knows this is meant just as she interpreted. The bracelets are meant for
both of you to wear. I confess to also using them as a test. I have watched her
carefully since you arrived, more so since her parents died. Her reaction
assures me she is more than we see, and the connection you feel is just as
strong for her. The bracelets will keep your connection no matter how far you
are from each other; although in your case I doubt any charm or magic is needed
to ensure that.”
“Thank you.” I was touched by the gesture. What was it with
these people? If I had only known that night – standing at the edge of the
village not long ago – how my essence was to change, I probably would have
walked away. So many human feelings, forgotten over a century, now so raw on my
skin, in my mind and heart. Yes, if I had only known... now it was too late.
The sun set over the horizon, and just as suddenly the music
stopped. Josephine was heading toward me at that moment. Lowering her precious
auburn head, she stopped to think for a minute before taking my hand. Tugging
lightly, she led me to her parents’ bodies, which lay on a platform to one side
of the courtyard. Flowers surrounded them, beautiful bright flowers of all
colours and sizes. Sweet incense burned all around them. Just sleeping, I
thought. I hope she remembers them as sleeping.
“Ebo.” Her voice was clear as stream water, the first word
she had spoken all day. I almost fell to my knees with pain. “They are gone,
This time I did fall, pulling her tight against my chest as
I knelt on Africa’s red earth. Tears finally came. She held on to me as her
body heaved with uncontrollable sobs. Not the wailing I have heard other children
make, just deep, heart wrenching sobs.
Everyone in the village watched. They were not allowed to
cry, but I sensed the sorrow pass from corner to corner of the village as sure
as wild fire on dry brush.
The minutes were patient as I knelt with her in my arms.
Eventually her breathing evened, and her sighs came at longer intervals. She
raised her head from my chest and looked into my eyes again. I found it
unbearable, for it was I who had brought her such sorrow. There was no reproach
in her gaze – still too young to understand that because of me, Mulos had wrenched
from her what she loved most.
“I know,” I told her tenderly. “I am forever sorry, my
As I stood, ashamed of myself, she beckoned me to carry her,
stretching her little arms to me. I carried her back to her hut. Ekuwa followed
closely, but my stare was enough of a warning for her to let us continue alone.
Lost in thought as we advanced, I startled as Josephine’s
body stiffened in my arms. “Josey?” Then the scent hit me. Hissing, I swung the
child across my back and crouched low to the ground in one flowing motion as
she instinctively held on with all her might. Every muscle in my body tense, I
concentrated on where the danger was coming from. I had been too distracted,
absorbed in her sorrow, to sense his arrival. I should have anticipated – been
ready for him.
“Ebo. The monster is back,” she whispered in my ear.
How had she known so soon? Had she seen him? Scanning the
land, I tasted every scent, vigilant for movement or sound. He was alone,
disguised as... what was it? Where was he?
Sensing the chief, I turned to find fear, anger, and a
million questions alive in his eyes. I nodded, confirming danger was amidst us,
and continued scanning my surroundings. By now everyone was still. The soft
rustle of leaves could be heard, every night sound amplified by the villagers’
The chief raised his arm and lowered it slowly. Huddling in
groups, all women and children crouched low to the ground, with the young ones
in the centre. The men stood tall and strong, alert.
“Josey, do not let go unless I tell you,” I growled. My
voice ran a shiver through her body, but still she held me tight.
Close by, Ekuwa longed to take the child. I motioned for her
to stay still, unable to decipher where Mulos was hiding. The scent moved too quickly.
North, south, northeast.
“Damn,” I hissed. “Mulos! Show yourself!”
EBO is no doubt a story worth reading. Thank you Lisette for sharing an excerpt from your novel. This is the link to Lisette's website where you can learn more. http://llombard.weebly.com/
Please drop by the Scribbler next week and read teasers from the five short stories featured in my second collection. SHORTS Vol.2