Category: Fiction

August 9th, 2004 by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

Walking briskly, almost at a half run, Hema loped around the track. She couldn’t believe how much space there was here – so much space to drown herself in. She loved it. Basked in it. Being alone on the track didn’t bother her – indeed she looked forward to these stolen moments at lunch. Instead of eating she would take off, run towards the track, the bottom half of her pantsuit exchanged for flowing cotton pants. Summer on the East coast was not arid like the heat of Calcutta and by the time her legs, unaccustomed to pantyhose and sneakers, hit the asphalt of the track, she was already sweating.

The dark circles forming under her arms and around her neck would later disappear when she exchanged this twin set for a fresh one. For now however, nothing mattered but her and the silence. She tried to imagine the vastness inside her, tried to compare it to the circle of the track. She wanted to picture her lining inside, red, soft and cushiony, waiting to nourish their baby. The image was fuzzy in her head because she kept getting distracted by the doctor’s voice, “Keep trying, keep trying. There’s nothing wrong with either of you. You’re both perfectly healthy.” Hema had wanted to slap his smug face. He had beamed at them from behind a desk cluttered with pictures of a chubby boy with a toothless grin and a dimply girl in a children’s bathing suit. They were in various poses, sometimes with a woman, sometimes on their own smiling into the camera. Each picture was in its own frame. Six in all. The images of their pale white skin haunted Hema’s sleep.

Her legs drove her onwards; she pumped her hands as she had seen the elderly women in her neighborhood do every evening immediately after dinnertime. She could feel the cotton rubbing slightly across her hips, chafing with the rotating movement of her thighs. The shell of her twin set hung directly below her navel and she fought the urge to feel for her bellybutton. She was fascinated by this hole. Its emptiness was evidence of her lifelong debt to her mother. She tried to imagine a cord stretching from between her legs to the center of a squalling, blood-covered infant. She couldn’t. Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, USA

July 28th, 2004 by Leigh Banks

It was late evening and the Bay of Alcudia was still a cauldron.

The tourists were wilting visibly under the red sky. Americans dabbed at their faces with kerchiefs as they steered their Winnabebagos of bellies through the crowds. Germans were scrupulously clean in their long shorts and red faces – and the Brits, well they were just the Brits, low-slung Bermudas revealing tourist cleavage, sweat breaking out like grease on roasting pigs.

But what can you expect in such a popular part of Mallorca? It’s Marbella, Torremolinos and Blackpool all rolled into one … the perfect place for sun, sex and sangria.

Something happened though, late that evening, as the street vendors turned fake watches into gold, the restaurant barkers handed out flyers, hotels pulsated to the Chicken Song, and the English bar’s neon donner kebabs flashed above their doors.

I was down at the marina, where millionaires walk on water and the hoi polloi dream of getting off dry land. Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Spain

May 24th, 2004 by Mordechai Shinefield

Yisroel Rosenburg was not the first student in Yeshiva to have non-Jewish magazines in the dormitory. That is an accomplishment so old that no one dares take responsibility for it. Nor was Yisroel the first Yeshiva student to start a secular magazine. That honor lies with a young Texan who was responsible for an issue of Rodeo USA. The Texan is learning in a kollel in Israel right now, and refuses to discuss his magazine out of embarrassment for his lasso days. Yisroel Rosenburg though was the first Yeshiva student to interview a famous hip-hop artist in his dormitory.

Friends of Yisroel’s father arranged a meeting between the now famous student, and the chart-topping hip-hop star, GJ57. It had been Yisroel’s aspiration for a number of years to be published in a music magazine, and he saw an in-depth exclusive interview with the nation’s hottest star as his ticket into an already overrun market. They met in his small 20ftx20ft dorm room, leaving the rapper√ɬ≠s entire posse outside to scare the students and flip out racy comments through the window to the seminary girls, walking by the building below.

“So,” Yisroel began, taking a deep breath and praying to G-d not to let him screw up. “What was your intention in writing this last album… how did you conceptualize it in the development?” Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, USA

May 17th, 2004 by Joe Jaffe

Fisherman Reuven (1)

Jaffa is one of the oldest ports in the world, formed naturally by a protective string of rocks. For three thousand years it served as a small commercial port handling both goods and passengers. In the 1930’s, the British improved nature by building a breakwater, a modernization that extended the port’s use for a further decade. After the Second World War it fell into decline. By the 1960’s the sole remaining activity was fishing.

I always wanted to live by the sea. When I stumbled upon an abandoned ruin in the port, I resolved to make it into a home. This turned out to be much more difficult than I had imagined, but eventually the complicated and lengthy job was completed. That was a long time ago. I have been living ever since, here in the Port of Jaffa.

Standing at my study window I can throw a stone into the water. I am a spectator in a front row seat, of the sea and its moods, of the coming and going of boats and the activity on the quay. It is a never-ending performance, sometimes dramatic, sometimes comic, usually entertaining and during the winter storms, awe inspiring. The term ‘front row’ does not fully describe my vantage point. I live upstairs, and it would be better to say that I am in the centre of the front row of a dress circle. I look out from a perfect height. Had it been less, the view would have been obstructed, and had it been more, I would have been distanced from the scene, particularly from the immediate foreground where so much happens. Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Israel, Mediterranean

May 9th, 2004 by Elizabeth Mumbi Waichinga

[This is a fable written to portray the sad state of care giving that still exists in Kenya in relation to Down syndrome and other disabilities.]

At the labor ward that night, everyone was smiling. Twelve years had passed since the Wambaras’ marriage day and, because they had no offspring, gossip had been raging in the village that “Wambaras’ wife must be barren.” Despite all the disappointment and rumors, the Wambaras got along well. They maintained hope that their patience and love of God would bear fruits, as the local priest taught.

Finally, after much prayer, Mrs. Wambaras had conceived and the gift the Wambaras had long been waiting for finally arrived: a baby boy. As he left his mother, the baby delivered a strong first cry of arrival, an assertion of being granted existence without his consent. As the doctor took the baby for examination, Mr. Wambaras looked at his wife, and both smiled irresistibly.

In the examination room holding the 3.5 kg baby in his left hand, the doctor grimaced and muttered inaudibly. Something was amiss. The baby had flattened facial features including bridge of the nose, bulging almond-shaped eyes, malformed hands and feet, and the palms had a palmer crease that clearly indicated his condition. “This boy,” he declared, “is not a normal child.” Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Kenya

April 27th, 2004 by Michelle Picard

When I was at school, we gained our gender images from two sources: Barbara Cartland romances and our history lessons about the Voortrekkers and The Great Trek. Barbara taught us that women were emaciated and helpless; history taught us they were solid and labouring. While Barbara’s Selina’s or Ianthe’s fainted and cried for help, the Afrikaner Hanna’s and Magda’s loaded guns and trekked bare foot over the Magalies Mountains. But both images had one thing in common: self-sacrifice. The men were dark and dashing or burly and religious, but they shot “the enemy” and they rescued the damsel or the nation, while the women prayed at home and willingly sacrificed.

I remember my first hiding at school, and the first lesson: boys’ needs come first. I was in grade one and the teacher was telling us about our Afrikaner heroes. We watched a stirring slide show with a voice over about Wolraad Woltemade (technically Dutch, but no one was counting), who with his trusty horse risked his life to save umpteen people from a sinking ship and eventually perished in the waves in his attempt. I was interested in this heroism, albeit sorry for the horse that had no choice. Then Mrs. Van Der Merwe turned to us with gleaming eyes, “Now girls, here is something for you”. The plummy voice sorrowfully intoned the tale of Rachel de Beer, a young girl who saved her brother’s life. Apparently the two children got lost in the veldt one winter evening, and as night fell they stumbled freezing in the dark. They were found the next morning in an ant heap. Rachel had taken off all her clothes and given them to her brother. They first removed her frozen dead body from where it covered the hole of the anthill and then found her brother – alive. At the mention of the naked Rachel, I began to snigger uncomfortably. Naked people were never mentioned at home, certainly never at school! Mrs. V. turned, she pounced. I was hoisted across two desks and dragged to the front of the room. Her ruler rained blows on the back of my legs, my arms and finally shattered against my back, “You filthy brat, you’ll learn, you’ll learn!” she said, and I did. Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, South Africa

April 18th, 2004 by Karamoh Kabba

Her name was Yei Fomba, but she was commonly known as Dabuteh, a sobriquet from her father, a humorous man who was fond of calling his children by nicknames he gave them according to their character or temperament. As a little girl, she was known for her joyous disposition when her mother’s cooking pot used to be more than half-full of rice, and thus, the name, ‘Dabuteh’, meaning half a pot full. ‘Half a pot full’ was an indication that rice would be sufficient for everyone on a given day. But those were the only days, in the confines of her parents that she enjoyed childhood.

Dabuteh was born into a family of over forty children, of which nine were siblings from the same mother. But she called her father’s remaining seven wives ‘mother’ and they treated her as such without qualms. Her mother had lost a child at birth whose twin sister had also died of chickenpox two years later. Her mother had told her that her twin had called her in the heavens and that was that. Of her six siblings, a boy and five girls, five were sent to school to learn the white man’s language. Her eldest sister had married and had gone away to a distant land. She was the only one left to help her mother with domestic work and petty trading that helped pay school fees for her school-going siblings.

She lived in a town called Gbamendo, in a big compound situated along the main motor road leading to a prosperous trading town called Kwendu. At thirteen, she was ready for initiation into the Bondo Society. Most of her sisters were recent or old Bondo initiates, a ritual that marked their rite of passage into womanhood. Between ten and thirteen is the prime time for Bondo initiation. It was now her turn for the female circumcision ritual. Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Sierra Leone

April 11th, 2004 by Jozef Imrich

“That’s what happens to exiles; they are scattered to the four winds and then find it extremely difficult to get back together again.”
Isabel Allende

On July 7, 1980, I became the enemy of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic and was sentenced to life imprisonment. On July 8, a part of my parents died. On Radio Free Europe they listened to my obituary, five years after their daughter Aga had died. It turned their world inside out. My parents believed I was dead for over forty hours. They were the longest hours in my Mamka’s life. When my cousin Tibo eventually informed them, that according to the latest reports on Radio Free Europe, I was alive, Mamka just cried.

On July 8, I stood before the mirror as if I were another person from the one I had been the previous morning. I experienced a rude awakening from the outside world, a dark liquid world. My first thought was, “What if I’m dead, but don’t know it?” Where did the nagging voices come from, prompting me with thoughts like ‘If only I had …’ and its evil twin, ‘How am I ever going to … ?’ Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Slovakia

April 3rd, 2004 by May Ng

Afraid to sleep lest the nightmare might begin again
Lulled by the magic show, called Ceasefire,
Put on by the chameleon government of SLORC, SPDC…
The calm before the storm is always the bad news for you little children of Burma who have lived in a shipwrecked state for too long.

Comforted by the mistaken notion
That it could never be too bad for us Burmese
Who could always get used to the hardships, deprivations, tortures and military domination
In my inescapable nightmares
Where all of you are forever in agony and we ourselves and everyone ceases to care.
From my vantage point of view I see the optimism of the free world slipping further and further out of reach
from the political chaos of Burma

Afraid to sleep lest the nightmare will come again
I saw the dead faces of the living generals of Rangoon
Under their tight brown masks hardly covering their vacant greedy minds
Inescapable bad dreams where so much blood had shed since they took power Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Myanmar

March 19th, 2004 by David Omowale

The morning sun was a mammy apple, big and round and yellow. On this mammy apple morning a child awoke and went out into the world. It was in the morning of life, filled with the fragrance of lemon grass and the freshness of orange blossoms. There was a green glossiness about the world like the glossy smoothness of mango leaves. Films of dew had formed on the grass and on the tiny leaves of the shy Ti Marie and the precocious jump-up-and-kiss-me that ran together on the ground. Dew dripped from the leaves and branches of the bird-cherry tree and the sugar dish bush. The aroma of coffee and homemade cocoa, brewed from freshly baked and grounded beans had not yet contaminated the scent of lemon grass that was the natural aroma of the mammy apple morning. The makers of breakfast were still cuddled in their beds, late risers on Saturday mornings.

The child skipped gingerly over the gravel and dew-drenched grass towards the gifts that waited under the big longe mango tree at the back of the house. The windblown mangoes lay where they had settled after falling and rolling, waiting for him. But the night wind was not the only bringer of gifts, for there were plums to be collected under the mango tree, big red dimpled plums, sweet-scented pink-skin pomme rose and yellow skin cashew with blushes of red, the nut intact at the bottom end, to be twisted free, put out to dry and, later, roasted. Presents from bats and owls. All went into the old straw hat, one by one, two by two. All except their gifts of galba, good only for pitching as marbles or as missiles for catapult. Read more of this article »

Posted in Fiction, Grenada