Sunday, 21 April 2019

Turok and Andar

by James Bates

hot chocolate


"John, you doing all right down there?"
            "Yeah," he yelled back upstairs. He really was, even though they were getting ready for his brother's funeral. He flipped open the comic book he'd been looking at, "Turok Son of Stone # 4, The Bridge To Freedom." The one with Turok on the cover, spear in hand, his brother Andar beside him, holding a club, getting ready to face a huge Tyrannosaurus Rex. "Just thinking about Andy."
            Maggie scurried down the steps and in a moment was standing next to him, hand resting compassionately on his shoulder, "You're going to miss him, aren't you?"
            John set his comic book aside. Over the years he'd collected all sixteen of the early editions of "Turok Son of Stone." They were published between 1955 and 1960 and told of the adventures of two young Native American Indian brothers trapped by an earthquake in a canyon in the rugged southwest desert, a treacherous land populated with huge flesh eating dinosaurs. He kept each issue in a plastic sleeve in a dark green three ring binder; the binder that now lay open on his desk. He caressed it lightly before closing it. "Yeah, Maggie, I really am."
            His wife of forty-one years pulled up a chair, sat next to him and put her hand on his arm, "We can wait a few minutes to leave if you want."
            "No, we should get going." He sighed and was quiet for a moment.
            "What?"
            "I was just thinking about one time up at the lake."
            "Up north?"
            "Yeah, my aunt and uncle's place on Big Sandy."
            "Their summer place, right?" He nodded, yes. "What were you thinking about?"
            "Oh, I don't know. Just stupid kids' stuff."   
            Maggie knew how close John and his brother had been. Andy had died the previous week after a mercifully short struggle in aftermath of a massive stroke. He'd been sixty-two. John, two years older had been by his side. Like he always had been, it seemed to Maggie. She'd never known two people as close as the brothers were. Never. Now John would have to figure out how to move on and live life without Andy.
            "What were you thinking about?"
            "You know how I told you we used to spend a month in the summer up at the lake with Auntie Harriet and Uncle Dave?"
            Maggie gently began to rub her husband's shoulder. She'd heard his stories many times but knew he needed to talk. She prompted him, "You always loved it up there, didn't you?"
            "Yeah, I did. Both of us." He sighed and fought back a tear.
            John had hundreds of stories about "Being at the lake," as he called those times. Today, this one stood out and went something like this:
            It was early August in the afternoon. White caps were marching across the big lake, waves crashing on the shore. The wind was blowing hard off the water cooling the two brothers as they played in the shade of a huge cottonwood tree in the front yard. Auntie Harriet had let them use an old quilt and they'd spread it on the lawn.
            'This will be our raft,' John had said.
            'We'll be on the ocean,' Andy added, beginning to embellish the imaginary game they were creating at just that very moment.
            'I'll be Turok and...
            'I'll be Andar,' Andy added.
            In the comics, Turok was the older brother and Andar the younger one, a relationship that worked perfectly for both boys.
            John shaded his eyes with his hand, peering out in front of them, 'Let try to paddle across to the other side. See if we can find some food. We can hunt for some Pterodactyl eggs or something.'
            'Oh, boy, Turok, these waves are huge. Do you think we can make it?' Andy said, bouncing up and down on his knees.
            'Yeah, we can,' John said, simulating paddling with a pretend paddle, 'We just have to watch out for sea monsters.'
            For a minute the brothers were silent, each bouncing on their knees as they paddled across their make believe ocean, both of them lost in their own world.
            Suddenly Andy yelled, 'Turok, watch out.' He lunged for his brother and pulled him down on the raft, covering him with his body, protecting him, 'That big water dinosaur almost got you.'
            'Oh, boy, that was close," John said, wiping his brow, " Thanks, Andar, I'm safe now.'
            The two brothers grinned at each other and began paddling again.
            The scene played out in John's mind as he told the tale to his wife, missing nothing. The memory as fresh as the day it happened, over fifty years ago.
            When he was finished John became silent. Maggie, who had been rubbing his shoulder the entire time, squeezed it and stood up. "I should probably finish getting ready." She looked at the clock on the wall. "The service starts in just over an hour."
            "Yeah, I know. I'll be ready. We can leave in ten minutes."
            "Okay. See you upstairs?"
            "Yeah, I'll be there."
            John watched Maggie walk up the steps, then sat for a minute, thinking of his brother and how missing him would never begin to describe what he was going through. They had been so close. There were so many good memories.
            After they had reached adulthood, John became a high school science teacher while Andy worked in construction, framing homes for a local contractor. They'd stayed close. Their wives became friends, and their kids even got along. Their lives had been rich and fulfilling even though they'd each battled their own personal demons, John with alcohol, Andy with pain killers. They'd continued to stay close and in touch, even during those difficult years. In many ways, they were more than brothers, they were best friends; soul mates.
            And that's why it was frustrating, sometimes, to try to explain how much Andy's loss meant. In John's mind's eye he saw Andy back at Big Sandy lake on their raft, battling the waves, fighting the good fight against water monsters and dinosaurs; he saw his brother's skin, tanned chestnut brown from weeks in the sun. Sure it must have rained back then, but not in his memory. They only wore cutoff jeans those summers, no shirts or shoes. In his memory, the air smelled of lake, a perfume of rotting seaweed and dead fish only eleven and nine year old boys could appreciate, even love; the sky was always a deep blue, with white, puffy clouds drifting by, purple martins calling in the background drowned out by the squawking of the gulls forever flying overhead; in the early evening they fished from the dock, casting their lines, the lake turning still as the sun went down, the water smoothing to glass as a yellow moon rose above the trees to the east; a while later the milky way would then magically appear, stars covering the domed sky in whitewash of cosmic beauty.
            Even now, at the time of Andy's death, John sober for fifteen years, Andy drug free for fourteen, the memory of those long ago days was as fresh and clear as it had been back then, the pure, unencumbered days of their youth.
            John sat quietly for a moment, the memories flooding over him. He knew he should get going; knew he should move on and take the next step to laying his brother to rest. But he wasn't ready. Instead, he reached for his binder. It opened arbitrarily to "Turok and Andar # 16, Secret Of The Giants," the first of the comics he'd ever purchased when he'd started collecting them. It had the two brothers on the cover, bow and arrows in their hands, facing a Stegosaurus, ready to fight to the death.
            John smiled and opened the comic to the first page and began to read. The service could wait. His brother was still with him. He wasn't ready to say good-bye just yet.

About the author

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He collects old marbles, vintage dinky toy race cars and YA fiction from the early twentieth century. And, yes, he also collects Turok and Andar comic books. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers' Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed and Paragraph Planet. You can also check out his blog to see more: www.theviewfromlonglake.wordpress.com.

The Girl Who Wore Her Heart on her Hip

by Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

white wine

She stood there in the darkness, beneath the star filled sky. The subtle evening wind blew in her long chestnut hair back in waves like that of the sea before her. Gently, she undid the zip that ran as a river up the side of her violet silken dress and softly lifted it up over her head  and allowed it flutter to the golden sand that lay finely around her where it rested in a heap. As it slipped to the floor, a small heart upon her hip came into view, deeply sketched in an amber shade of henna upon her milky white flesh. She shook her long hair out of her pale face and continued to lightly step upon the powdery sand until she once again stopped to remove her black lace bra and panties and allowed them too to fall upon the sand. She reached up and brushed her hair from her face and over her head so it hung slightly differently as she continued. She smiled to herself as she her toes touched the edge of the cool sea water and she began to enter its depths. He tip toed behind her, keeping his distance. His dark hair blew in the wind and his eyes twinkled as her saw her brazen form displayed silhouetted against the moonlit midnight skies. He shook his hair from his eyes and - naked - followed her into the water. His muscles gleamed and glistened in the subtle light that shone from the sky; pure unspoilt lunar luminance. He picked up speed as he approached the shore line, no longer caring whether she saw him or not. He watched her, coveting her, as she allowed the salt water the gently wash over her body. He entered the water himself with a strange groan, a longing released at last. She snapped around to view his naked muscular body in the water behind her, she gasped in shock. “Baby!” She giggled musically, “where were you? I was getting wet…” his ruby lips curled happily at this thought and he reached his strong hand out to her and brushed her blushing cheek lightly, as if reaching to touch a butterfly. She blushed deeper as he touched her fair skin and whispered “don’t stop”. He didn’t. He leaned in and the pair kissed as divine lovers in the crystal pure light. The cool water rubbed and lapped against their amorous forms as they pulled each other closer and embraced until they became one. Gently, they began to make love.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

The Potato Patch

By Michal Reibenbach

poteen

The neglect in the garden has long settled in. In summer the only flowers in the garden are a few Hollyhocks who stubbornly show their tall, magnificent blooms above the tangle of weeds.

Every day after work her father goes out into the garden, where he plants row upon row of potatoes.
His little daughter is curious about the potato patch, ‘Why are you planting so many potatoes?’

‘The potatoes will clear the ground from the weeds,’ he explains.

‘What shall we do with so many potatoes?’ is her next question.

‘If Moses supposes his toeses are roses then Moses supposes erroneously; for nobodies toeses are poses or roses, as Moses supposes his toeses to be,’ chants her father.

The daughter thinks to herself, ‘He’s reciting a tongue twister in order not to answer my questions.’ Out loud she simply says, ‘You are funny!’ 

Occasionally a scientist friend of her father comes to visit. He watches on with intrigue as her father rushes energetically from one end of a row of potatoes to the other, digging up potatoes at each end, then moving onto the next row and going through the whole ritual once again. Her father clarifies, ‘The potatoes are spreading at such an alarming rate, I’m endeavoring to contain the patch so that it doesn’t completely swallow up the whole garden.’

The scientist says, ‘With your energy and my brains we could build a thriving business together!’

Their cottage used to be an old stable. Her father piles up the potatoes in a part of the cottage, which hasn’t as yet been renovated. Daily the stack of potatoes is growing ever larger. The potatoes at the bottom of the pile begin to rot and to smell revolting. The nauseating smell attracts cats who come to ‘pee’ on the pile. It now begins to stink ‘to high heaven’. The little daughter asks her father, ‘Why don’t you sell the potatoes instead of letting them rot?’

Once again to avoid  answering his daughter’s question her father chants, ‘If Moses supposes his toeses are roses, then Moses supposes erroneously; for nobody’s toeses are poses or roses, as Moses supposes his toeses to be!’
    

Friday, 19 April 2019

Vanity



by Stephanie Simpkin

a half-drunk mug of cold tea


Last night I had a dream, so vivid, so real.

My wife Maureen, we met, when we were both, seventeen, a lifetime ago!

I, an apprentice engineer, she a typist, first serious relationship, for both, of us.

The usual story, in those days, pregnant! We married, much to our parents dismay. A whole life in front of you, they, had all said.

A son Peter, soon, followed by our daughter, a year later. How old would they be now, let’s think, Peter, forty-seven, Caroline forty-six.

I wonder if they have children, if I have grandchildren?

I was stupid, foolish, unfair, unfaithful, the women, so many of them. I told Maureen I would never leave her.

We had a beautiful house, swimming pool, tennis courts. Both the children at private schools, then university. Wonderful family holidays, I played golf with my many friends. Why, was it not enough, why?

Why, I met Suzy. The ONE. Stunning, beautiful, young,  a famous model. Cold she was, so cold. She always got, what she wanted. I gave her everything,  anything. Spoilt, selfish, I didn’t know  that, at the time. Love, love at first sight, me, not her, blinded by love, addicted to love.

Funny, when we first met, Brian Ferry preforming live, the cabaret.

I saw her, was drawn to her, an irresistible force, a magnet, I had to have her, fate, destiny.

We were celebrating. I had been  invited to the palace, in June. Sir Edward,  had a nice ring to it.

By now, I was a very, very, successful, wealthy man. I had just made it into the Sunday Times rich list.

A lowly apprentice, from Grimsby. I can still  remember, the fishy smell. Our first flat, above a newsagents, we were happy, so happy!

Now, I mix with royalty, captains of industry, film stars, donate huge amounts to charity.

I asked my oldest friend, (we had been at primary school together, he’d done rather well too), to introduce us, he knew her.

Don’t do it Andrew, he had said, she’s bad news, don’t, be an old fool!

Old, a fool, me?

My friend brought her over. Up close, wow! She took my breath away, her eyes, bright emerald green!

I ignored Maureen, all evening. I couldn’t help myself. I was hooked,  smitten, mesmerised. Eventually Maureen  left. I didn’t notice, I, didn’t care.

I went home three days later, not ashamed, no phone call, no apology, I, was so happy! Ecstatic!

My bags where packed, on the front lawn. Maureen had the locks changed. She wanted a divorce. I had humiliated her, over the years, but now, all over the papers, front page news.

All my friends told me, I was mad, vain, stupid, she only wanted  my money. She was thirty years younger than me.

No one liked her, the women, were probably jealous, all the men wanted her, she, chose me.

I gave Maureen the house, the cars; I paid her a very fair settlement. She would be a very wealthy woman. At first, I saw the children every, weekend.

She stopped me seeing the children. Stopped, me, talking to Maureen, stopped me playing golf.

I know I was weak, foolish. I couldn’t help myself. I loved her, pure love, the sex, she was wild.

After a month, she had the first of many affairs. She said the men meant nothing to her.

She’d crook her little finger and I would go, run! She said, if I married her,  she would be faithful.

We married, immediately, the wedding of the year!

I gave her everything. Diamonds,  emeralds, especially, emeralds. Expensive cars, whatever, she wanted. She was mine, my wife, I was so, lucky.

My solicitor advised a pre-nup.  I would not listen,. It was ME, she wanted, not, my, money. She promised to love me for ever, the age gap, no problem.

By now, we were Sir Andrew and Lady Frost. She told me, no children, it would ruin her body, what, a body. People misunderstood her, why, did no one like her?
 
We had homes, in the south of France. A huge house in Barbados, where we spent winters. A penthouse in London. A super yacht, I named after her. A private plane. Everything, a women could possible want, never enough, never.

I tried contacting my kids, now both married. I wasn’t invited to the weddings. I was informed, I wasn’t wanted.

They would not speak to me. I sent Christmas, birthday presents, returned, unopened, no contact.

I tried asking  Maureen for help, pleaded, begged, nothing!

By now, all my old, friends, had deserted me. Our new friends, hers really. Parties
late nights, she was a brilliant cook;  she never cooked!

The drugs, they all did drugs, she said. She would stop, if, I changed my will.

I left everything to her. She was perfect, is perfect, absolutely perfect.

She said she loved me, she would be with  me, forever, in sickness, and health.

Oh! I hear her voice, she’s here, can’t wait, to kiss her sweet lips, see her, my love, my life.

“Good morning, Lady Frost!”

Who’s that, not one, of her men  friends, no!

I can smell her perfume, I am so, excited.

That beeping, that constant beeping, I can’t hear, what they are saying, turn the beeping off.

 “Lady Frost, I need a decision, please. Any family, children, grandchildren, friends?”

“No one! Switch, the machine off!”


Thursday, 18 April 2019

A Herald to Apollo

by Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

cool fruit juice

Tall trees towered and lined the wide clean mudded courtyard pathway forming a canopy, veiling the trail from the world above. Their gently pointed leaves whispered and rustled in the subtle breeze that brushed through them and the well-kept grass, painted a perfect shade of lush forest green. The same spring breeze that fluttered the perfectly clear waters of the pond central to the grounds of this place. The waters rippled and waves lightly formed upon its translucent surface, as if waves in the ocean. Within the lake, a Brobdingnagian figure encased in pure gold emerged. Figures; horses; dolphins. Directly ahead, a man; a God. Rising towards the west, a mistake? An error of judgement? He had a large hunting horn pressed against his frozen lips as a herald to heaven. Thick metallic hair hung about his unfeeling eyes; eyes that could not see. At his right and left golden hands, two perfectly carved horses with oddly beautifully angry eyes; far exceeding the humanity of this living counter parts with a strangely angelic eminence. Their manes were stiff and refused to yield to the insisting power of the wind. Their bronzed muscular forms refracted the lowering sunlight which faded out between the trees. Many similar horses joined them; bucking and rearing. Perpendicular, two dolphins swam away from each other with mouths gaped wide open in warning perhaps? Their golden tongues gleamed and glistened as the solar luminance above dance and dallied as it dissented. Centering, a huge jet of water shot into the heavy, dewy, dusk air with the righteous fury if the tempest. Cold. Unnaturally cold.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

The Hanging Tree

by Mitzi Danielson-Kaslik

pineapple juice


Are you, are you, coming to the tree? They strung up a man they say who murdered three. Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree.


A lonely hillside stood shrouded in mist and a thick veil of darkness as a chilled dusk closed in from the foaming sea, tossing with Poseidon’s fury as a harsh cold rain beat down as a pounding drum. And yet there was an unbreakable silence lingering in the air as a departed spirit that could not be shifted. A small clump of pure white daisies held each other tightly for support as if attempting to withstand some unfelt wind, some secret untold force in the sickly grass. They were failing. The daisies were blackening, decaying and dying. Above, a thing of great deformity stood knotted and gnarled in a deep shade of umbra. The thick bark crawled over itself in the darkness as if attempting to escape its inevitable destiny. Halfway up, the trunk opened up wide to create a gaping oval; a void which no light dared enter. A cavernous mouth eager to consume any life that was foolish enough to enter its inky blackness. Above the void, the bark curled and swirled further as it stretched out as desperate arms drowning in the thick dewy unbreathable air and formed crooked sickly leafless branches with points like daggers. Something was suspended from the thickest, most twisted branch; it itself was thick and twisted. Its end bore a loop. What it could be remains unclear. 



Are you, are you, coming to the tree? Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free. Strange things did happen here, no stranger would it be if we met at midnight in the hanging tree.


Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Nights in White Satin

by  Mitzi Danielsonkaslik

cold tea

 

The sound of hurried talking emanated all around as the locomotive screeched to a halt beside the cold grey stone of Platform Three. I gazed at the people, some hand in hand, just what I’m going through, they can’t understand, what happens now? I can’t remember what to do next. What do normal people do next? I waited. A smartly uniformed guard trotted along the edge of the platform and opened the heavy blue glossed doors with huge brazen handles which flashed in the vicious bright sunlight and waved his hand welcomingly. The happy people in bright clothes with big suitcases interjected his action with a smile and clambered aboard the train. 

Now I had an action to perform, I too hurried aboard the train via the little silvery scuffed step dragging my old battered suitcase behind me. All I had in the world was in the bag. Everyone’s bags were bigger than mine and I could only assume they were only going on holiday. Finally, managing to move my suitcase aboard, I followed it and entered the smart, clean carriage before me. Next instruction? The happy people in bright clothes with big suitcases lifted them and shoved them unceremoniously into the huge metallic racks above the crowds. Was that safe? Too many bags and that rack would collapse, not that I could get my case up there anyway, I haven’t had to lift anything in as long as I could remember, I wouldn’t have the strength to perform the task. What to do now? I waited. A young gentleman approached me a few seconds later and asked if I needed any help. I simply smiled at him. He happily launched my suitcase up overhead and hopped away back to a young woman who looked rather taken aback at his helping me. She was dressed much differently to me in bright shades of rose red and blushing pink with dashes of white here and there, while I was clad in a grey knee length dress with a sort of matching throw over the shoulders. It was odd. The young gentlemen and the young women took seats at the front of the carriage. I had my next plan of attack: find a seat and sit down. I sat on a navy-blue velveteen scuffed seat just beneath my suitcase where there was no one else.

That was scary. At least I’m okay now. The deafening sun grew lower in the sky as its shade changed to a deep amber with blueish notes running as rivers through the air and began to blind me. I’m not accustomed to such brightness. As I closed my eyes to shield them, one thought remained in my mind. Him. How he formed his letters. The strange words he used that id never heard before. I remember his smile. It can’t have changed that much in a year, can it? I wonder if I’ve changed. I can’t remember much of what happened before. Only his smile. Not even the sound of my own voice really, I’d learnt to hear it inside my own head. His voice was there too. It was as if he’d grown as I had over the time we were apart. He was a part of me. I hoped had remembered my voice so he could remind me how to sound that way. Not long now. I’ve waited this long, I can wait until this train pulls in. I shan’t get bored. I’ve spent a year with nothing by my mind, his voice and our letters to keep me sane. They thought I was insane, but I ask you, could an insane person write a letter everyday and find a way to get it into the mail and equally find a way of receiving one every night? No. I didn’t think so. To pass the time, I reached into my pocket, took out a little black notebook and pencil and began to write him a letter. For old times’ sake. My last letter. I promise myself. Wait. I should try speaking. How? What to say? What if I can’t? No. None of that matters now. I left that behind. I looked out of the window for inspiration but was met with my own reflection. My eyes caught his. Of course, there’s only one thing to say “Oh, how, I love you.”. It came as a great shock to hear myself to bluntly. So truly. The train picked up speed. Not long now.