Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Another short tale to add to my series... A hidden view of everyday life.

The girl was a good for nothing nobody. That was obvious just from the way she asked for, and ordered, her food. There was a twitch to her lips and that nervous hand movement that gave her away. She had learned from years of working behind the counter to spot them.
            In reality, she couldn’t do much about those tramps that thought they fit in with the proper society. All that was left to her was to scowl at the tables and snap at the limp girl that was running the tables to do her job properly. The thing was weak and skinny, far too much so. She had come in asking for a job and almost crying. That was one of the things that were so detestable. Tears and begging were not viewed highly by anyone here.
            It was all fine and acceptable in books and stories. In the dream lives girls who were wealthy and could afford to, lived in. The damsel in distress, the poor princess, the delicate flower broken by the evil stepmother, these were all acceptable if you could get out. She supposed these stories had to have happened, had to come from somewhere. There was always a grain of truth in the most ridiculous high tales.
            She was well aware that the back of a grimy bakery held nothing remotely romantic in its confines. The fire was always lit, there was always fresh beverages brewing, ready to be flitted away to a waiting customer. Her pastries sold out everyday and she had to admit that on the other side of the counter things did look fine. Indeed, she kept up that notion herself. Much like any other restaurant on the bust streets, she provided her customers with a cheery atmosphere and good food, fairly priced.
            She kept the place spotless and once a week in the evenings she rented out some fiddler or the like to entertain her guests with music. She smiled and cooed at children that came in with their parents. She gave away sweets when they pleased her with a smile or laugh. She worked hard on the friendly atmosphere and was satisfied with the results.
            What she couldn’t stand were those young girls and men who she could tell had more on their hands than she herself did. It ruined her already delicate mood, and she was prone to go into fits of anger. She took to the back then, taking out her stress on already kneaded dough, or scrubbing out something that didn’t need it.
            It was always hot in the back. Summer of winter, the bakery area and storage were bustling with about two to three girls that did their utmost to please her. They never did. She supposed she was their wicked stepmother, and she saw it in their eyes sometimes. They hated her, but needed the money and despite her cutting remarks and an occasional cuff on the head, she had some respect for them. They reminded her of herself; long ago. She had since then become one with the dough that she was now rolling.
             The soft lump beneath her hands spilled this way and that, depending on the pressure she put on it. Much like her own body, it was deformed and pale, and she couldn’t come to terms with herself. The nights she had the courage, she would stand in front of the standing mirror adjacent to her bed and wish fervently that the candlelight would transform her into what she once was.
            That never worked. She would weep to herself and watch the lines left by her tears glisten on her fat cheeks, making them appear even more disgusting. She’d run from the hated thing swearing that she’d never again look into it only to come back the evening after.
            Sometimes she wondered if making deals with the devil worked. Maybe if she switched her landlord (as she saw it) would produce desirable results. But she was frightened that it would; those nights she wouldn’t look into the mirror, afraid to see something more.
            She was standing in the cool inside of the cafeteria, looking out onto the sunny patio, a deep frown on her face as she looked on the woman and man talking to her. Wasn’t it funny, she thought – a baker and a philosopher?
            The umbrellas coloured the many faces that were bustling around the many tables. The girl’s face looked a bit disfigured; the man was obviously no one to be trusted. She considered for a moment if she should throw him out? Offer her a position?
No, that would not do. She was too pretty after all.
            She retreated back into her place behind the counter and observed the man handing the girl a paper. She really ought not look, but she should tell him to leave. Oh, no need now, he got up and left himself. What about her? The girl looked paler, fidgeting even more so now. She could feel her irritation rise in her like bile. She turned into the back to torment her own girls. When she came back out again, the wretched creature was gone.
            She breathed a sigh of relief. Perhaps she really should offer her a job…

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I suppose a poem is in order. After all, isn't that what we are all about?

The breaking voice of a love song has no right to make your heart flutter
It has no voice with which to argue.
Identity lost, found, let go again until the canvas spins.
A voice that thunders on frail strings creates the box within which you  see me…

A pulsing beat forces the heart to play to its own beat.
But I will not… cannot… will not because why should I? the master of my fate, the painter of my masterpiece, the lowly, bound servant of everyday utensils, why should I listen or care if not for the rush of what is not otherwise possible?

In your little world of pots and pans, of boiling oil and smells that make my mouth water...
Why should I?

I stand in the kitchen door and observe shyly as you destroy everything that you can reach
The china, delicate patterns goes first.
There is no sound as it dies. I wonder how a thing that can last thousands of years can be so easily shattered by a simple whim.

The fish is burning – I point out and you yowl louder, wanting to attack it too but afraid of the heat.
It amuses me, your fear of hot oil but not of glass.
I tell you so, but you’re already gone.

Only attacking the inanimate is your punishment
You still think I have some tie to the things that are here? I don’t, never had.

Pretending to ground you, to make you feel better, to not hear accusations of being better than I really am, but am I really?
I am nothing, even I know that and yet you think I am so egoistic as to beleive I have still some way to fall
How very foolish my little friend, how pathetically idealizing of you.

If I laugh you’ll cry, and then it will have to go back to pretending that everything is tolerable.
I’ll start to clean up the small littered blades of the porcelain on the grimy floor, I’ll shoo the dog away, not wanting it hurt.

I’d shoo you away too, but that will be of no avail
You have fish to fry after all…

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Les Bonbons

In truth, I have taken a liking to my first short story, it being the beginning of something bigger it seemed. That established, I decided to create a short story for each of the characters in the first. The meek attempts of a beginner, so to speak.

He had seen her more than once. She was at the street almost every day. There was something in the way that she sat quietly, never speaking. He knew what he had to look for, knew very well which ones he could approach, which ones would listen and believe. He was not a cruel man, he though. Essentially, ha was helping the needy, a sort of charity worker, he thought.
He liked the area, it was old true, but it had an alluring quality to it, one that brought in strays. He saw many like her there. They were lured in by the colours, pretty shops and reasonable prices. Anyone could feel better here. It didn’t take much after all. All he had to do was offer up a kind word, a small drink on him. A smile that didn’t seem fake.
He knew how to go around that. There were ways to bring a bit of liquid to the eye, easier still to infuse a soft shimmer into his voice, something that those hapless fools would perceive as emotion, truth, desire. Easy as that, and there were so many of them.
The street looked like high end, he supposed. It was in fact crawling with the poor, the helpless, the gullible. He allowed them the pleasure of thinking they were in control. That’s as much as he could really offer them that was truth. The feeling of control. After all, they were going to lose it quickly. He smiled at his internal pun.
There were ways of enjoying one’s life within this catatonic city. There were exercises one could do in order to not surrender fully to the thrumming pulse of a dying megalopolis. He imagined a dragon, huffing out its last breaths. He often dreamed he was one of the teeth, he was one of the spartoi.  The very idea was ridiculous. He was as far from that as possible.
He did not own a mirror; he knew quite well he would detoriate if he had one. He could feel himself, no need to see himself too. Not beyond what was reachable like this.  
He supposed he lured them in because he did not look the expected part. He had no new clothes, did not lather himself in perfume. Could not afford any, and when he could he would spend it on better pastimes. He licked his lips in anticipation of his next feat.
She was just like the rest, needed to be to qualify. He sat near her, sometimes catching her eyes. He saw her fidget, he liked that. She was unsure of herself; he would make her think she knew exactly what she wanted.
He had left a small piece of paper behind once. From his nook in the door he saw her pick it up, look through and place it right back where he left it. It became a game, she an unwilling player. Soon however, she relaxed around him. She no longer glanced his way, he became an unseen routine in her life. Her dream, her destination.
When he approached her at last, she was ready for him. She listened intently, not saying a word. He knew she was listening though; it was obvious by a slight widening of her eye, a gentle shift of leg. He noted when and on what subject, word.
He learned to read her like an open book. He didn’t smile, he realized she did slightly, but his teeth were rotten, almost all completely decayed. An impression mattered in this job, he wanted to look shabby and sad, yet presentable. He wasnted to become the embodiment of a stray that she would pick up and take home with her.
Yes, it was she who was doing him a favour, really. He was grateful she was so easy to convince, he needed to eat after all.
It was altogether sad that there were no real colours in these parts. He remembered carnivals from his childhood. Those were filled with colour. There was so much to do, so many games he wanted to try. He would wander around, picking up scraps of candy and fallen treats that weren’t too old. That was the rule, it had to be relatively fresh. Not like he could afford to play games or eat sweets.
Even in a place meant for children there had to be money involved. If you had no parents, you had no money and that, it seemed to him, was where the rope drew short. He remembered thinking that you couldn’t be a kid if you couldn’t go to the fair. He thought there were ceremonies you had to pass to become one.
Thinking about it now, there were. He took pleasure in seeing others play, win toys, balloons. He had always wanted to try cotton candy.
He had sat down once, away from the crowd, on a bench. He thought how cruel it was that he was allowed in but not allowed to do anything otherwise. He had started crying, sobbing into his grimy sleeve and at the same time, he was already at home, mentally going over the probability of finding food at home. The smell that was wafting through the crowd and from the many vendors was suffocating, his stomach twisted into tight, painful knots. So did his throat as he tried to stop the wicked convulsions in his chest.
She had skipped up to him. A perfect picture of a loved child, matching green socks and bow and all. A doting mother was standing not too far away, proud of her dear girls good heart, worried that the dirty street boy would hurt her precious one.
She handed him an apple covered in a deep red glaze. He looked up at her, ashamed of acting a sissy. She looked uncomfortable, unsure of what to do with the gift he hadn’t taken yet. Finally, the melodious voice of the mother reached them.
He was still busy studying her. She gave him an awkward smile and left the gift on the bench beside him. He wished it was money instead; he would run home and present it to his Father. He would have been proud. Would have clapped him on the shoulder and made a slurring comment of praise.
A week later his Father would not come back. He blamed that girl; if he had only got some money.
He disappeared on the night the fair closed. Jack supposed he had left with the fair, left with the ponies, the fire breathers, the ballerinas, the tight rope walkers, the wild animals, the clowns.
They had forgotten to take the hyenas…

Monday, June 20, 2011


This is a short story for a short story class. I was bidden to choose three authors and create a story which, I hope, has some sort of a connection to all three. These are; Hemingway, Rhys and Poe. I had hoped to capture the essence of each and all together... 

I lived in a nice city. A big city; where people are supposed to grow up and be successful. If not, then they are subtly instructed by their own survival instinct to act like they are. Smiling is a must, in a big city, no one likes to see another frowning. It is the only art worth learning well. It is easy, so easy, to walk with chest out and chin up, to look at others, passing you by in the exact same fashion. We are all successful, our steaming cups and polished shoes speak for us. But it is so easy to brew and polish. No one will ever know, no one will want to wonder into what is underneath the new jacket, what hides under the brushed hat.  I learned that early on, when I used to wonder around this glazed wasteland as a girl. I never liked my reflections then, in the window panes of the shops that lined the streets. It looked back at me frowning, looking after the people scurrying about with a longing and an eerie gleam in the eyes that I never supposed I had.
I only liked one street in that city. It had the old flair of days I only read about in books. The cafes were my favorite, they figured on every corner, their colourful umbrellas bright against the champagne sun. They coloured the people underneath them to look like stuffed animals and dolls. Happy colours. I paid particular attention to the design, the spirals in the steel, those were pretty. I use to imagine strong men, like in the circus, bending the ends of tables and chairs into those coils. And the tables were all nailed to the pavement. I knew that no matter what, those tables would be standing, with their pretty legs, no matter what.
It reassured me.
But it was that street itself that finally convinced me to follow my heart. My reflection always smiled when I looked into the shop windows on that street. And the cobbled stone ways gave the appearance of a culture that you could not find anywhere here. I used to count them, sitting under a colorful umbrella, smiling.
The sun never set on that street, whenever I took the trip across the city to see it, it would be bathed in light. Like in the paintings, there was a look to it. When the sun hit the windows of the old, crumbling buildings just so, it would scatter to the populace below and everything would become a mysterious soup of glitter and smiling faces. Even the pigeons scattered around and underneath the nailed tables boxing each other for the crumbs of croissant, seemed more regal, less gray, gray like the city beyond that street.
I would flee before night came. I was afraid of seeing that antiquated splendor grow cold, lose its pulse and blend right in with the by ways I had to suffer through on my way back.

A new acquaintance suggested a trip, a job was available overseas, he said. Good paying, and I could pick where I wanted to go. He said he had connections in many cities. I had met him underneath a green umbrella. He had been coming to the café for a while and I had seen him before, but now he approached me and struck up conversation.
He liked to talk, I realized, and felt saddened for him. He told me about wonderful architecture, small, curving streets of old cities. “You like old places?” he asked me once. I nodded. I liked him because he did not smile. I wanted to live in a city that was like this street! I wanted sunshine; I wanted old cafes, great big buildings made out of huge blocks of stone, not flimsy --  unbreakable, strong, just like the cobble stoned street. The past was strong, sturdy, beautiful. The present was a shallow echo for that and I knew that there would be none of it in the future for me.
I wanted to go back to the future I had no place in and carve out a piece of that curved steel for myself. My reflection was smiling again as I made my way, peeking into the store within. It was empty, a few newspapers littered the floor, and an old cash register stared blankly back at me. But its outside was so pretty! Windowpanes and a beautiful wooden door and an old peeling sign. It was almost entirely invisible, but I saw the sign well. “Move & Co.”
The next day, the man was back. I agreed, I’d leave within the week. He slipped me a piece of paper with an address I was supposed to travel to, in Paris. There was a friend there, he said, “He will take care of you until you can stand up on your own.” I took the slip, he also passed me an envelope, it was a bit puffy, it reminded me of the skin under my Mother’s eyes. I didn’t look inside.
In two days time I was away. I had come back to say farewell to the street one last time. I sat underneath a red umbrella, the man did not come.
I dreamed of wide, arching passages dancing with the afternoon wind. Alabaster colonnades that reached to the sky, underneath which there were young girls selling bouquets of fragrant violets that I could bury myself in! I saw fountains flowing with merry water. To sit on their edge and partake in the pride of the people allowed to call themselves citizens!

And then I was there, climbing the narrow, rickety staircase. There were words written on the peeling paint. I could not understand them, just like I could not understand the people outside. The words coming out of people’s mouths reminded me of the curved iron I had wanted, beautiful, cold.
The friend was there all right, he was waiting, he said, for about an hour. I let him know I couldn’t understand the language. His eyes shone with tears, but he was smiling.
When I would walk to my place, I would only look at the cobblestones I stepped on. People did not smile here, they rushed forward, just like in my city. So I kept my eyes downcast, catching snippets of conversation as I passed by, I did not want to understand what they were saying, eventually though, I did.
The sun never shone where I worked. I would only look up when I got there too, I would tilt my head as far as it would go to see the tip of the famous tower. I would look at the steel, at the long, straight lines crisscrossing along the length of it, I would touch the very bottom, and I would hate it. I’d walk around and around it, getting slightly dizzy and then I’d need to crouch and hold my head just to steady my spinning mind. I’d heave out the innards of myself, colorful umbrellas and curled bits of steel, and wonder. Is this it?
Mostly though, I hated that squatting man underneath it. I would make my rounds, casually walking around the tower, as unassuming as I could possibly be. I became what they desired; nothing to stand out, no distinct colour, hair, dress… Plain, fitting with the background. A face to forget, or to fill in.
But that man was always there, crouching. A beggar, I thought at first, there were enough of those around. But he never got anything. In fact, people passed him by as if he didn’t exist. No, I became convinced only I could see him. I would look at him and he would look at me and that’s it. He never made a sound.
I remember a lady passing by me once, she glanced at me quickly, a flutter of a eyelid before she scurried away. I looked after her, her ankles were so thin, and in her high, new shoes she looked like the tower, she also looked like she was going to collapse on the cobblestones. Her legs looked unable to support her at all. But she never saw the man, looked right through him, through me.
I must describe, for he fascinates me as well as taunts. His face is painted thick with makeup, the smile on it as bright as the colours underneath the umbrellas. And he just looks at me. Sometimes, when the sky isn’t sullen, I can see him giggle, but only if I crouch right down over him. He never touches me, so it is allright. Mostly though, he cries. But that smile I painted on is always in place…