OLYMPIC GLORY: GOING FOR THE PYRITE

  by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Here is our traditional Olympic Tale, “Go, Shelva! Go!”

A curious letter to the editor appeared in the Moscow Times-Oppressor on May 1, 1895 under this banner headline:

‘BRAMBLE SURFING FOR SUMMER AND FUTURE OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES?’

     The query by my great grandmother, Shelva Fiction, a Moscow immigrant to Cincinnati, U.S.A, came in the form of a detailed proposal.  She postulated:

‘If ever there was a first-ever most extreme sport to include in these first modern-day Olympics, this, my Mother Russia, is it.  I would be willing to lead a team to Athens…’

Her earnest though unconvincing letter is of little relevance to its reader 120 years later.  But g-grama Shelva’s personal account of how she comes to discover the sport’s ultimate thrill makes for seat-of-the-skirt, edge-of-the-bramble board reading.  We at Fiction House Publishing discovered her original accounting in the archives while doing archeo-apology work.

A side note:  When notified the 2014 winter games would be in Sochi, Russia, we sent a copy of her letter to the Sochi Olympic Bureau, hoping to generate interest in adding Bramble Surfing to their menu of sports.

Unfortunately, their definitive one-word reply was, “NYET!”

Hear now, Shelva’s accounting.  Enjoy!

*     *     *

 SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA    Mine husbant, mine sweet druzhyna may be a doctor, still, all the women in my family back in Russia insist on a midwife.  “So, I ask mineself – “Vy shoult I be different?”

(Note to yourself, Shelva:  You may sometimes talk like a gibbering greenhorn, young Mrs., but try to write clearly, like the famous American, newspaperwoman, and adventuress Nelly Bly.)

The midwife, an affable but formal Ohioan, gently pats my still-flat belly and looks softly into mine eyes.  Her hand is warm, her words, caressing.  “You are doing well, Mrs. Fiction.  Just be sure you get enough exercise in the many coming months.”

“It is a lovely day.  I will start now,” I tell myself, buttoning up my blouse and tucking it into my cotton skirt.  I leave horse and shay near her house downtown.  Our hired hand Efraim Ephraim can pick it up when he comes in for supplies.  I walk – shank’s mare – the Amerikans call it – the three miles home.  I remove my patent leather city shoes and put them in my purse.  Summer’s heat-baked soil caresses my feet.

Ahh!  So refreshing:  Like my young girl treks through the gently rolling Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) with Mother and brutter, Ivan.

By walking, I am able to notice for the first time, the seeming ocean of brambles overtaking the lush green land folds near the Fiction House.  The dense, prickly vines twist and twine together, some 15 feet high at their crest.  Their pin-sharp points are no longer than my pinky fingernail.  Even their thumbnail-size leaves have little stickers.

Ach!  So thick:  To get to the sweet smelling fruit-berry yield, how could even a sly rabbit enter the brambles tangling morass?

“If not stopped,” I tell myself, “they will creep into mine bedroom window some dark night and strangle me in mine bed.”  (Similar horror lore our Moscow cook, Vampira, told Ivan and me when we were small – about her Carpathian Mountain village.  Her stories still give me nightmares.  Even now in the bright sunlight, I shake a little from fear.)

“Efraim Ephraim,” I shout when I see him currying our nanny goat, Galena.  Efraim:  He’s always wiling away time with anything to detract from the thousand more important things needing doing.  “What on earth, Efraim?”  Before I can finish…

“Well it’s like this Mz. Shelva.”  He hikes his britches, runs the comb through his chin hair then continues.  “She’ll give a lot more milk if…”

I block out what he says until he finishes.  It is easier to let his stream of tall tale run its course, then to hush him.

“Why are all these brambles here, Ephraim?”

“Doc Fiction brought ‘em from Lindia for special berry elixir.”

“Does he need so many?”

“Nope.  It’s like this Mz. Shelva.  Doc let ‘em grow wild.  Seems he had a Dr. Heartfield on one side of the property as a neighbor.  A Dr. McCoy, the other.  They were always raiding his medicine supply when he was out.  No honor ‘mongst some of them physicians you could say.  The Lindian brambles kept ‘em at bay.”SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

“Is there any bit of truth in that, Efraim?  I am not that green.  Hatfield and McCoy.  Surely!”

“They was here before your time Mz.  Moved on when they couldn’t raid Doc Fiction’s patents no more.”

I retrieve lopping shears from the tool shed.  “To work, Efraim.”

Efraim tries one more gambit to maintain the E-Z life.  “What say we put all the goats to chawing and chewing.  I’ll just bet they could handle it.”

“That won’t do Efraim.  It would make their milk too sticky.”

I catch Efraim Ephraim off guard with my nonsense.  For once, he is speechless.  I take the goat by the horns and hand him the loppers.  “This landscape needs a woman’s touch, and your muscles need developing beyond what currying provides.  We’ll make the outside of the Fiction House look like my lovely Vorobyouy Gory.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAEfraim looks at me crookedly then glance away quickly and shyly as if I’ve said something indecent about female anatomy.

“For gosh sakes, Mz. Shelva.  You shouldn’t talk like that.”

Feh, Efraim.  To work!”

I return an hour later wearing durable country clogs so I don’t get stickers:  Little progress do I see, though Efraim tries hard.  A pile of rigid clothesline-diameter branches that he has cut – they razor into the ground.  Dozens of little nicks and gouges stain his cheeks and arms red.  An errant bramble, catches in Efraim’s wild black hair, encircling his head, making him appear gallantly ready for ancient crucifixion.

“Oh, no.  This will never do,” I say.

“You’re right, Mz. Shelva.”  Efraim grins, just a little too quickly.  I realize, real as his sustained injuries are, they’re not too painful, and that Efraim most likely has embellished his appearance with the crown of thorns.  He starts to mosey to the shade tree where I tethered Galena.

“Oh, no.  This will never do,” I repeat.  I take Efraim’s hand.  “Come with me, sir.”  My mind whirls.  ‘How can we solve this sticky situation?’  We go to a storage shed.  Suddenly an answer clicks into my thoughts.

“Take these boards to the bramble bushes Efraim.”

They are planks, about three feet in diameter and six feet long.

I lift one upright, and then lean it onto low growing brambles.  As I begin to walk onto it, and slightly upward, the springiness of the plants makes me bounce lightly.  Efraim’s eyes widen in surprise.  “What are you doing?”

Ah, exercise, just like the midwife advised:  Feels so refreshing.

“Hand me another board, Efraim.”  He does.  I extend my platform-path outward another six feet and upward slightly.  I walk up it, and bounce as if I am on a trampoline.  My heart beats faster as the board pushes the hardly-giving-in plants down ever slightly, yet evermore.  Just as some women in my condition crave odd foods, I’m realizing that I’m craving excitement – of the extreme variety.

“Be careful, Mz. Shelva,” Efraim shouts.  In the distance, Galena adds her “Nays”.  Efraim’s arms twirl like windmill blades as he signals me to come down.

“We’ll lay the brambles flat.  One board at a time.  Then you and Sir Winston (the mule) can plow them out, Efraim.  Hand me up another board.”  Befuddled about what to do, he grants my request.

Another and another.  Nearly breathless, I reach the crest.  I’ve pushed it down, from 15 feet high to ten feet.  I stand straight.  My breathing is deep and powerful.  My heart races.  I raise my hands over my head.

Queen of my world!

I bounce, springing high above the board nearly a foot and a half:  Sweet freedom of the open sky.  Captain Polly flies to and lights on my shoulder.  She whispers.  “Aark!  Now you know how I feel while soaring, Shelva.”

What happens next is scary and exhilarating all at once.  The potential energy of the bunched brambles turns kinetic.  The thick springing-loose vines push back at the board I am on.  I’m instantly lifted five feet.  “Whee!  Oh, no!  Any control I once felt, vanishes.  Captain Polly clutches painfully into my shoulders and flaps her wings, as if to balance me, to keep me from falling into the even more painful, clutching brambles.  On the ground, nothing Efraim can do but echo Galena’s no – nays.

Suddenly, from the berries being crushed and making things slick, the board with me on it begins sliding, surfing downward.  There I am, bending, crouching to stay on it.  I extend my arms to steady myself.  I maneuver the board this way and that, in smooth semi-circles, to keep myself upright.

I travel ten, fifteen, thirty, fifty feet.

I imagine I am on an ocean wave, riding to shore, the bramble stickers, sharp sharks’ teeth readying to devour me.  Am I crazy?  I love it.  I twist, turn, feel like doing a somersault.  If I did, I just know I’d land feet first on the board and continue my wild ride.  Captain Polly echoes me as she holds tight.  “Whee!  Ooh!  Ride it Shelva.  Ride it on down.”  The pain of her talons no longer bothers me.  Any fear of falling into a prickery netherworld disappears.  All that is there for me is the ride, the wild trip downward into oblivion and heaven all at once.

Has even my heroine and idol, Nelly Bly, ever known such adventure.

“Wait until winter,” I excitedly tell myself:  “When my bramble slope ices over with snow.  Then I’ll put my Russian skiing expertise to the ultimate test.

“Maybe invite Nelly up to my slopes.”

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2014 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CHEF R.K.’S GOURMET SURPRISE

By Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Please enjoy a piece from the Fiction House Publishing’s most recent work,  The Seasons of My Giving Back.cover the seasons of my giving back

In the preceding chapters,  I discover that my ‘giving-back to the world’ summer job as youngster would be volunteering on a road kill clean up gang.  How can this help others?  Soon I would see, and it would change my life.

Ingredient I:  A Large Portion of Can Do

Once upon a time as a lad, I possessed a plastic picture finger ring.  From the first day I saw it in the bric-a-brac shop – MAGIC!  Twist it, just slightly.  A glittery red, white, blue image quickly changes, back and forth, from Old Glory to President Kennedy.  I listen as his courageous profile challenges me:

“Ask not what your country can do for you, Raji.  What can you do for it, hmm?”

I fury, fume, and wonder aloud.  “How can I help?  There must be a way.  There must!”  But, to a ten year old in Cincinnati, everything seemed right in my world.

When my parents overheard me and saw the ring they said, “Raji, you are too young for the late President’s Peace Corps.  Yet there is much you can do.”

For this task, the trips to their homeland, Lindia.

Though Lindia is but my adopted country, as an orphaned foundling, its kind people helped saved my life following the typhoon.

So this is where I began my many ‘can do’ summers, volunteering for something I’d not anticipated, certainly not relished – the road kill clean-up crew.  Many wonderful things came from it:

Just one of them – meeting lifelong friend, Chef R.K.

(His real name is Rhandi Khan.  But because of his unusual roadwork, initials R.K. seemed more appropriate.)

Ingredient II: A Touch of Magic

A type of painting similar to the here-now flagged-later Kennedy ring, murals the side of Chef R.K.’s twenty-foot long wagon that sits alongside the road in the Lindian Woods.  The painting shows Lindia’s Goddess Nardesha.

Blink and her outstretched palms lift from her creamy silk gown.  She raises upward, Heaven bound.

Other images painted on the wagon:  long lines of crunched road kill.  You can almost hear Nardesha whisper to them, “Come with me, my gentle creatures.  The bondage of your spirits to this earthly realm is complete.”

You blink; mongoose, cobra, lizard, squirrel, a fish – a FISH? – And dozens of other artist-depicted road kill puff out, are reborn, and then parade proudly skyward.

“You like picture?”  Chef R.K. asks, hardly looking away from his cooking.  His grill is the length of the wagon, and three-feet deep.  Covering its surface are sizzling meats he filleted from flattened critters.  They intermingle with steamy vegetables and pots of bitter-smelling broth.

R.K, in his 40’s is lean and tan, his face clean-shaven.  He is shirtless, and in short pants to keep cool in the warm Lindian sun.  His arms, hand and head move so fast you’d think his ancestors were octopus.

His magic dust he sprinkles constantly:  Ground herbs and spices in pouches hanging from his belt.  They marry the bill of fare then birth tantalizing sweet scents.

R.K. controls his outdoor kitchen as a concert pianist does piano keys.

Nothing burns.

He removes sumptuous morsels, large and small, round, square, long, that were once animal sacrifices to the speeding steel gods of the highways.  Now the critters are platefuls of inviting delicacies.  Mongoose-cobra, rat-wildcat, eternal enemies sauteed together as one.  He passes the dishes quickly to a line of other volunteer boys and girls who distribute them to the hundreds of bedraggled humanity.

“The impoverished, Raji” he says, putting his mouth near my ear so I may hear midst the clattering pots and pans.  “They too have the right to taste the wealth of Goddess Nardesha’s sumptuous array of bounty.  Her food minions such as I; we have the ability to provide it, lovingly, tastefully.  This is why I do what I do.  I serve but the freshest of kill.”

Because of all the chattering of the gathering, and all the happy eating sounds, I can hardly hear Chef R.K. say “hello-goodbye” to my parents.  He knew they were bringing me.  After hugging me, they leave, not wanting to be in the way.

I know I won’t see them for weeks, but it is hard to feel my sadness at their departure for too long because R.K. instantly puts me to work midst the frenzy.

Ingredient III:  Endless Humble Offerings

Welcome to the Lindian Woods (Image ©2014 Raji Singh

Welcome to the Lindian Woods
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

Everything R.K. serves comes from the Lindian Woods. He points to boxes of orange and yellow cocoa pods other volunteers gather.  “Crack open.  All these, Raji.  Separate bean from white.”  His voice necessarily is staccato, to keep pace with his swift actions.

I slam the pods together like castanets.  They open easily.  The insides are marshmallow soft, chocolaty pungent.  I barely have time to taste it.  R.K. ratchets it away and spreads it on the grill for flavoring.  He waves his arms from his chest, outward, to indicate to me the impoverished.

“Today, we serve them.  “So we eat last,” he orders.

When all the pods are open – “Good Raji,” he says tersely.  “Now.  Sprinkle this on the oxen’s grass.  He gives me a bucket of sour smelling powder.  “When that is done.  Shovel up their droppings.  Bring them to me.”

One of the other busy volunteers – a freckled, black haired girl my age, who for reasons I couldn’t yet understand at that time in my life – smiles hugely at me. She whispers, “The powder is R.K’s secret extract.  It makes the droppings smell sweet as clover when burned.  This is a must.  Because it is with it he heats the grill.”

She fidgets timidly in her jeans and t-shirt.  Her black eyes sparkle.  She smells sweet, like vanilla ice cream.  “My name is Reena, Raji.”

Dozens of tasks I accomplish that first day on the road kill crew – stoking the lavender aroma flames, washing pans, slicing pineapple, mashing mango – all for the purpose of feeding those in need.

By now, I am drained of energy.

Reena brings fresh coconut milk and we share a half-shell.  Inconspicuously, she wipes my face so R.K. doesn’t see we sneaked it.  Briefly, she holds my hand.  Her fingers are warm, lithe.  I breathe deeply.  This moment of joy, like I’ve never known before, this brief respite from President Kennedy’s “can do”, renews me.

“Yes!”  I shout inwardly.  I suddenly understand, feel the importance of President Kennedy’s words.  To me they mean, ‘only by helping others will you help yourself.’

Though we’ll eat nothing until all are fed, this thought would power me through the afternoon, then the rest of the summer, stay with me throughout my life.  And the succulent scents – they would give me strength of willpower as well as muscle.

Ingredient IV:  Fish, But Never Foul

Every so often, a volunteer runs up, shouting while carrying a dead fish.  “She’s delivered another one.”

R.K. takes it, sniffs, smiles, says,  “I can always count on her to deliver only fresh.”

‘Her?’  I look around.  ‘Her, who?’  I wonder. Finally, another curiosity gets the best of me.  I must ask, “How…a fish as road kill?  How could so many keep falling off trucks?”

R.K. laughs, but his mournful sound seems a dirge.  Midst his busyness, he takes time to explain.  “There is sea kill too, Raji.  The wood and fiberglass gods of the water – the yachts – they leave much torture in their wake.  As long as there is sea kill and road kill you will find me here summers and holy days.”

All of a sudden, I hear a familiar voice.  “Aarrk!  Catch Raji.”  I look into the blue sky.  Just in time to put my hands out, and grab what a parrot drops – a four-pound fish – bigger than her, her biggest delivery of the day. “Ahoy, Captain Polly,” I shout, so excited in my surprise to see her.

“You know our Captain Polly,” says Reena.  “Often she helps us.”

“We are the best of friends, in Cincinnati.  Geez, Reena.  It’s such a small world.”  Suddenly I have this desire to show Reena all my hiding spots and favorite places in my neighborhood back home.

My smile gets huge as Reena’s as she looks at me.  I’ll just bet she knows what I am thinking.

Reena stammers a little, and glances away briefly, deciding what she will say.  “Umm, Raji.  Uh, well…  Captain Polly certainly does get around.  Maybe you know her compatriot in the water?”

I look through the Woods, to the muddy river that parallels the road.  I see the top portion of a tattooed brown shell bobbing above the water.  “Turt!” Turt’s a land-sea creature called a Trumpeter. He’s the size of a giant Galapagos turtle. He ferried me on his shell from the ocean and through the Lindian Woods to safety after the typhoon.  He saved my life!

Turt winks at me and with his beak-snout, and scoops up unfortunate sea kill and tosses it skyward.

Swooping Captain Polly seizes it in her talons.  She grunts as she’s pulled slightly down by the weight.  She manages to stay airborne.

Oh, so that how she’s able to deliver such huge loads.  Her momentum plus her ‘can do’ willpower propels her.

Captain Polly drops the fish to R.K., then lights on my shoulder to rest.

I smile, and pet her glistening blue and golden plumage.

R.K. laughs.  “Well, Raji.  Appears it is old home week.  It ought to be an adventurous summer for you three musketeers.”

I look at Reena and say to myself, “the four of us.”

Ingredient V:  Replenishing the Spirit

It’s getting dark.  The poor, fed for another day.  Only the volunteers remain.  We eat, yet there is plentiful uncooked food remaining.

“Nothing wasted,” declares R.K.  “We’ll slow cook the remaining overnight on the cooling grill.  It will provide many breakfasts.”

With the help of Turt who moseys up from the river, we all load the grill onto the wagon.  Captain Polly squawks directions.  “Higher, lower.  Aarrk!  To the left, right.”

We yoke the oxen and harness them to the wagon.  The volunteers disperse.

Walk With Me to the Kissing Tree (Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

Walk With Me to the Kissing Tree
(Image ©2014 Raji Singh)

Reena remains.  She pulls me aside.  Her face shimmers in the starlight.  “My parents will be picking me up soon, Raji.  I…I…just wanted to say how glad I am we met.  I’ll be returning to help R.K. again next week.  I…I’m anxious to see you again.”

Headlights beaming onto Nardesha indicate an approaching car.  Reena kisses my cheek, and runs to the vehicle and gets in.

I feel…I don’t know what I feel.  Surprise?  Joy? Shock?

All these emotions roil wildly within me.

The Final Ingredient:  Contentment

The oxen, so used to R.K.’s route, pull the wagon by rote.  They’ll know to stop just before daylight, so R.K. can ready for another day’s cooking.  He and I recline on sleeping bags atop an elevated bunk on the wagon.  We are far above any wild animals that are fortunate to avoid becoming road kill.

Captain Polly is dozily reliving the day with Turt as she perches atop his shell.  He rides on a sturdy sidecar-like storage platform attached to the wagon.

R.K. points skyward.  “You will learn the constellations as summer passes, Raji.  It is so relaxing to search the heavens.  See there.  That is Orion.  Look, Andromeda.  She is a beautiful young princess.”

I study the formation, but I don’t see stars, only Reena.

I think R.K. reads my thoughts.

He says, “You like Reena, yes Raji?”

I nod.

“Good,” he says.  “She is a sweet girl.  She has been a little helper of mine, almost ever since she could walk.  She lives by my restaurant in Lindia City?  I am sure you’ll get a chance to see her a lot.”

R.K starts telling me about himself, his wife and grown children, his history with road kill wagons – he has one of them in each of Lindia’s 40 provinces, all with their cooks, volunteers.  I hear what he says, but my thoughts are on Reena.

Anxiously I ask, “Does Reena have a boyfr…

Before I can finish, Captain Polly, half squawks half sings,

“Reena, dear Reena.  Our dear Raji is smitten.”  Turt joins the serenade, with a trilling trumpeting.

The Final Garnishment

I went to the Lindian Woods one summer, decades later, to visit R.K.

Nowhere in sight.

I returned to Lindia City and stopped at his always-crowded restaurant.  The road kill wagon sat cobwebbed in the alley.  He took a few moments to visit.

“The steel gods of the highway Raji:  They’re ever bigger, soar ever faster.  Yet there is little road kill to collect.  Who would ever think?  It is because there are so few of Nardesha’s creatures remaining to pass from one side of the road to the other.  Who can say why so many are no longer here:  Chemicals, pesticides, changing temperatures, the flooding coasts?  SAD!  Which species will be next, Raji?  Yours and mine?”

If you knew R.K. as I do, you’d know he is undefeatable.

He pats my shoulder before returning to the grill.  “Raji, we road kill chefs have a new weapon.  It is something so simple.  It is called ‘NOTHING WASTED’.  We make sure there is no waste in any of our restaurants.  From just here in Lindia City, we feed hundreds of thousands poor each year.”

R.K. smiles broadly as he happily flips, fillets, and fricassees.

WHEN NEXT WE SEE REENA AND RAJI:  ‘WALK WITH ME TO THE KISSING TREE’              

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2015 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

USE YOUR IMAGINATION TO FIND YOUR PASSION

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Please enjoy a piece from the Fiction House Publishing’s most recent work,  The Seasons of My Giving Back.

In the preceding chapter,  I discover that my ‘giving-back to the world’ summer job as youngster would be volunteering on a road kill clean up gang.  How can this help others?  Soon I would see, and it would change my life.  A strange and wonderful sixth sense would awaken.

*   *   *

My parents and I walk along the gravel roadside, amongst Lindia’s most impoverished, to meet the man in charge of the road kill crew.  A crescendo of sound and scent, mixing, becoming an almost indescribable sixth sense, overpowers me.

The Scents:

Carried on a spicy bed of gently warmed cinnamon twigs, propelled by a soft breeze, comes a unique sweet-coconut, sleepy-cocoa aroma that one may smell only in these Lindian Woods.  Quilting it are the sour of lemon drips, the pungent shavings of ginger, earthy cumin, the licorice smell-taste of fennel, and the sharp mint of coriander.

These delicacy scents, are the kinds savored daily by even Lindia’s poorest.

These are all combinations completely new to me.  I would learn all about them that summer and they would remain with me, in my smell and taste sensations to my adult days.

The Sounds:

The scents mix with the sweet, hypnotic strings of sitar music that flow smoothly through the pungent air, mixing, roiling together until they become one –the unknown sixth sense.

Where have I heard these soothing sounds?  So familiar.

I feel I am swept onward by the wave of humanity in which I travel, toward the smell, toward the sound.  The music and the aroma do not get more intense and louder.  Instead, they mingle even more; become even more – as one – if that is possible.

Then I realize.  The music is from an identical, scratchy, yet still beautiful old 78 Victrola record Mother so often played.

From Beethoven’s Ninth – Ode to Joy played in gentle solo by Ravi Shankar.  His echoing strings seem to still the Lindian Wood’s bird whistles and small animal chirps.  Are the creatures studying the tone, so they can later join the serenade?

I tell myself.  This is the most beautiful music ever composed; and played at its most beautiful.

The Intermingling:

I imagine myself a movie cartoon.  My nostrils flare to breathe in all of the scent that I m able.  I puff up my face as if a hot air balloon.  My body rises, is parallel to the terra firma that my feet no longer touch.  My ears enlarge, as those of an elephant; they flap like wings to take me to the sweet sound and smells even faster.

Not my parents, not the crowd, notice as I soar up and above them.  Airborne, the scents are ever fresher, and the chords of the sitar even more clear.

My sixth sense allows me to smell-hear the crackling sizzle of car and truck flattened monkey, mongoose, and cobra, dropping onto a grill and being filleted and fricasseed.

(In school I learned that in parts of rural America volunteers collect unfortunate deer, cow, and wildlife that wander onto roadways. They prepare their remains for the poor and hungry. Lindia’s population is so much larger, so there are even more people in need.)

Magically, it seems, there is not one shred of gamey meat or melting fur drifting my way.  I realize – it is nothing supernatural.  The Chef’s culinary way, combined with Maestro Shankar’s unparallel intonations creates this never before known sixth sense.

Am I the only one who realizes this?  If so, why?

Have my suddenly acute senses, via imagination, helped me discover my life’s passion?

My chance to ‘give back’?

NEXT WEEK:  ONWARD, TO SAVOR CHEF R.K.’S GOURMET SURPRISE

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2015 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Children, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

IMAGINE…DREAMING AS A KING, INSPIRING AS A GANDHI, UNITING AS A MANDELA (or simply – using laughter to lighten another’s load)

by Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

   This post was the foundation of the novel, The Seasons of My Giving Back.  It reminds us of the power of caring for one another.

* **

  I am James Thaddeus Fiction, the Fifth – a true Fiction.  Typhoon tears me from my parents.  I alone survive.  I become an orphan foundling, taken in by new loving parents Dr. Ben and Indira Singh.  Now I am Raji.  These are my found and foundling tales.

*     *     *

     At least twice a year – from kindergarten to high school – Lindia bound with my parents.  Away from comfortable home quarters at the Fiction House Medical Clinic in Cincinnati, we’d fly, to some impoverished hospital half-a-world away.

Side by side, they ‘cared for’; with me fetching blankets, ferrying bandages, filling water bottles.

“You are learning of one of life’s greatest and yet simplest gifts,” Mother would tell me after a long day.  “Giving!”

Fa, ever the believer that, “there are good lessons to learn in every situation, son,” would add, as if he were prescribing a long-known miracle drug.  “Every unselfish act, Raji, helps you avoid, septem peccata mortalia, those seven deadly sins that tempt all humans:  Lust, envy, gluttony, sloth, greed, envy, wrath.”

I enjoyed helping the sick by assisting my parents, but a nurse or doctor I’d never be.  Soon, they sensed this.

“Many are the ways for you to help people, Raji,” they agreed.  “You will find one if you use that vivid imagination of yours.  In the meantime, we have just the right thing for you while we are at Hospital.”

As any other ten-year-old – Adventure – that is what I yearned:  I’d just read Robinson Crusoe.

So, as we traveled, to where this mystery assignment would commence, I was allowing my imagination free play, as a way to wile away the early morning hours.  Never ending are the tales a tyke can create while riding alone in the back seat of his parent’s sedan.

I smiled broadly and said to myself.  “My parents will sense my desire.  They’ll let me ‘give’, by allowing me to work on a cobra-milking farm – where the venom is transformed into healing medicines.  I’ll become the Number One Squeezer in all Lindia.”

I hear a deep ‘Hah!  Hah!’

Did Fa hear my thoughts; or sense my thoughts?  No he and Mother are chit chattering about illnesses.

Poppy Sol, bouncing brightly along the treetops of the Lindian Woods, looks through my window.  He’s nearly out of breath from trying to keep up with our vehicle’s pace, but still he’s able to sputter.  ‘Hah, lad.  Kidding ye must be.  Never would your Fa, let alone your Ma allow you to become a Squeezer.’

My aspiration of adventurous altruism skids to a dead stop.

But one of Poppy Sol’s stray rays allows a flickering rebirth of hope.  ‘Holt on a minute now, me young bloke.  Just perhaps, I may have a gra-a-a-nd way to bring about a change of mind in them.  Let’s say we…’

I am so excited, but I cannot understand the rest, so, to the glass I put my ear, to, better hear.  Sol can be a mighty prankster – at least in my tyke imagining.  But I’m just sure this is no pranking.

Luny Mum’s beam enters, right through the window glass on the other side of the vehicle.  She taps my shoulder.  ‘Don’t you be believin’ a word that fabricatin’ ol Sol be tellin’, Raji.’

Loving Mum, she’s readying to bid adieu to the day, but still she takes time for me.

‘Raji, as your earth mum says, “use your imaginin’.”  Dream like a King, mi lad.  And Think.  Of how might you inspire?  How might you unite?’

Hmm!  I wonder.  How?  Then a flash of brilliance comes.  ‘I know what I’ll do Luny Mum.’  Poppy Sol glares through the window at me, anxiously awaiting my decision.  This time I know he won’t guffaw.  My great idea burns in my thoughts hot and bright as Sol.  I sniff.  I think I smell my brain afire.  Burning brain:  It smells rubbery.  I never took time to notice the acrid scent of smoldering synapses in the hospital, if ever there was an occasion to notice such a thing.  I look around:  No smoke billowing from my ears.  Look up:  My cowlick isn’t a red flame lick.

‘THUMP!  THUMP!  THUMP!’    

The sedan hit a pothole, causing a flat tire.  That’s what I smell.  Fa retreats to repair it.  Mother keeps him company.  As we sit, a line of chauffeured silver and gold Rolls Royce and Bentley pass us.  I blink.  No, I’m not imagining this.  I see it – with my own eyes.  I just hope not all those well-dressed passengers had my grand idea at the same time I did.  And now they’ll beat me to the punch; or in their case, the champagne.

Luny Mum interrupts my thoughts.  ‘Tell us your plan, young ‘un.’

‘I’ll become a tiger trainer.  We’ll take the big cats to the hospitals to entertain the sick.’

Whaat ho, lad?’  Queries Poppy Sol.

I look out; think I see laugh lines creasing Sol’s glow.

‘Hah!  Hah!  The patients are there to be cured.  Not get eaten.  Don’t be daft, lad.  They wouldn’t let your creatures past the front doors.  Hah!  Hah!’

     ‘Sol’s right, Raji.  You must think of other ways to help.’

But I thought it was such a good idea.

My parents get back in and we’re off.  Curious, I ask.  “What are all those fancy cars doing so far from Lindia City?  On such a desolate road?”

Mother turns, squinting to see me midst Sol’s glow of curiosity.  He also wants to find out why.  Mother’s soft face is aglow with compassion as she explains.  “Often these days, Raji, such royal caravans may be seen.  They too make pilgrimage, for a sole purpose – to give food to poor people.”

“HA!  HA!”  This time the laugh isn’t from Poppy Sol, but Fa.  He looks briefly from the road ahead to address Mother.  “You know well as I Indira, why they journey.”

“But at least they do, Ben.  That is enough for me.”

Fa begins carrying on a ‘prescription’ conversation with me, glancing at me in the rear view mirror almost as much as he does at the road.  “As Goddess Nardesha proclaims, Raji.  It is easier for an elephant to traverse safely through an active beehive than for gentry to enter the glorious hereafter.”

Mother laughs.  Luny Mum joins her.  I wish the two could meet.  I know they’d enjoy the others company.  Maybe one day they will.  Mother says, “Goddess Nardesha has an irascible sense of humor that your Fa likes, Raji.  And she is right.  To appease Nardesha:  That, I believe is why the royal caravans have come into existence…

“Watch the road, Ben.”

As their front seat chit chattering focuses on elephants, beehives, and gentry, Luny Mum’s gentle beam strokes my shoulder.  ‘Other ideas lad, other ideas.  You’ll not want to become one of Nardesha’s pachyderms.’

‘I know just the thing, Luny Mum.  To the sea, I could sail.  Train otters to catch fish for me.  Then I’ll bring the nets-full, to the poor.’

‘Never,’ glares Sol.  ‘Fish!  Where’s the ADVENTURE?  Besides, those you mayest ‘elp be land bound.  In your journey, the floppers would half-bake in me heat.  Would do more hurt than ‘elp.’

‘You’ll have to imagine another way to help the earthbound,’ Mum glows.

“Ben, watch the roa…”  ‘SCREECH!’  Fa swerves to avoid creating road kill of a mangy mongoose.

I’m pushed against the door.  The jolt frees the answer that must have been in my thoughts all along, but trapped.  ‘I know Poppy Sol.  I know Luny Mum.  I shall give back, by helping.  This solution will be unbeatable.’

The celestial glares and glows show that Sol and Mum are interested in this latest proposal.

In unison.  ‘Go on lad.  We await your decision.’

I am so excited I talk so fast I hardly stop for breaths.  ‘Poison tip dart artisan for tribesman to use in their blowguns.  To defend their forests from foreign tree rustlers who ravage the land for selfish profit motives.  Those, elephants, care not a whit about the people, animals, and plants they displace and destroy.’

Sol glistens.  ‘Blimey, lad.  Poison tips.  An excellent idea to rid the undesirables.’

Mum’s stern reaction.  ‘Nonsense you two.  Never ‘ave I heard anything so ridiculous.’

‘No, no, Mum.  Fa has medicines that deaden but do not kill.  The rustlers are unconscious, just long enough for the tribesman to inform authorities to come and jail them.’

I see I’ve convinced Sol, but Mum, she still needs work.

“Watch the road, Ben.”  ‘SCREECH!  THUMP!’  Fa slides into the back Rolls of the royal caravan.  To protect from injury Mother braces her hands against the dashboard, and Fa holds tight to the steering wheel.  I am tossed, over and into the front seat, landing, jostling safely onto Mother’s lap.

‘Youch!  That’s gotta hurt lad.’

“Not really, Sol,” I say aloud.

“What say, Raji?”  Mother asks, gently stroking my cheek.

“Oh, just imagining,” I say.

Luny Mum strokes my other cheek.  ‘It is time I take my leave, lad.  Glad everyone is safe.’  With no fanfare, Mum fades, disappearing into the blue.

We get out of the car just in time to see the train-like chain reaction of Rolls and Bentleys slowly bumping, one at a time, undamaged into the car preceding it.  Their natty sarong and dhoti-attired owners are too occupied to notice, or care.  They’re quite conspicuously appeasing Nardesha by directing their tuxedoed butlers to distribute, from porcelain tureens, sweet smelling delicacies, to the unending lines of raggedy passers-by.  Some of these poor stop to taste, but only for a moment.  Most continue the ongoing movement forward, as if some holy destination lays ahead, some nirvana worth passing up the caravan’s mere morsels.

As Mother, Fa, I, and, Poppy Sol follow, I notice dozens of youth, around my age.  They load unfortunate road kill onto carts, then they also move forward.

I squint upward.  Anxious in my curiosity I query Sol.  ‘From your position, you can see what is ahead.  Where is everyone going?  Is the reason they’re not stopping to eat the gentry’s food, does that have something to do with it?’

‘HA!  HA!’ is Sol’s reply.  ‘Raji, I can see quite clearly from here the job your folks have arranged for you.’

‘Tell me.  I am so anxious to know.  What it is?  Tiger tamer?  Cobra Squeeze?  Poison tipper?  Otter fisher?’

‘You’ll not like it, young bloke.’

‘You’re wrong Sol.  Any helpin’ kind of daring-do adventurin’, ‘ll do me fine.’

‘Well then, brace yourself, lad.  Your ‘elpin’ ‘ll be…

On the road kill gang.  Surely that’ll ‘elps ya from becomin’, a elephant.’

It’s a good thing our whole conversation took place in my imagination:  Because my mental shout of ultimate disappointment would have deafened all within a mile.

What possible good for humankind could the road kill gang provide, I ask myself?

And, just where, oh where – are all the poor, bound?

NEXT WEEK:  ONWARD, TO SAVOR CHEF R.K.’S GOURMET SURPRISE

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2014 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE GLUMS, PART II

By Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we never lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Feeling blue, part 2? This will lift your spirits! Here’s an 1820’s tale about my great-great-grandfather, the Carper. (An excerpt from Tales of the Fiction House)

*    *    *

Mariner spins and spins for Carper. Next tale, “Pharaoh’s daughter, the beautiful Princess, she discovers baby Moses agrowin’ ‘mongst the Nile’s bulrushes and reeds. He’s a mighty foundlin’. Sproutin up, leadin ‘is people through torturous deserts to freedom. Still leadin em yet today.”

Carper’s eyes spark. “Still?”

Mariner nods. “So jus’ maybe you’ll grow up to do some leadin’ of yer own.” He strokes Carper’s face. His crinkly lines of melancholy begin disappearing. “N’ then Carper, there’s Romulus and Remus. Foundlin’ twins suckled to survive by mama she-wolf in a grassy valley of seven hills. Them boys went on to found the great city, ROME, twixt those hills. I ported there dozens a times. Bee-youtiful’ Carper. You’ll go there one day.”

Carper’s eyes spark.

Mariner picks a couple of ratty-tatty books from the shelf and opens them to pictures of ‘M’ in the bulrushes and ‘R’ and ‘R’ at the teats.

Carper’s imagination is entree into the pages. Escape to imagination begins washing away the GLUMS. The tunnel begins shrinking, then, zap, like that, disappears.

Carper wades out to meet Moses. Princess lifts the future prophet, but wait – a cratered old gator is sliding their way. His vibrating growls quake the pages. The Princess’ delicate gold bracelets and necklace chime as they brush her silken gown. Growl isn’t from the gator. His snout is closed. Carper glances out from the pages, to the wanted poster. Laza Bones Thibidioux turns Adonis-side profile and shows his mangled gator side. He’s the growler. He peers at the helpless trio retreating to shore.

He snorts, ‘Git em ol Uncle. Feast on der bones den toss one out ta yer kin.’

Uncle ratchets mouth, snaps inches from Princess’ waist. Her golden belt rips away and tangles in his pointy teeth. Looking victim to an overzealous ancient dentist Unc leaps above water. ‘CHOMP!; Just misses swaddled Moses.

Carper uproots a rigid reed, taller than he is. He parries, thrusts, as he did battling Turt. He realizes what he must do to save Moses, but not the same thing that saved him from Turt. With free hand, he plucks another reed. He slaps Uncle Gator’s snout with one while jabbing with the other. Unc winces, but he’s a comer.

‘Git that Carper, Uncle,’ Laza Bones shouts.

Carper lets him get just so close, then rams reed between Uncle’s upper and lower jaw. It sticks, holding open snout. Squealing, frightful noises no Princess should ever hear! She covers ears. Carper, to the rescue. To give her majesty time to get away he begins spinning the uncle like a bottle, pushing him to shore. He upends him with the reed as he did Turt with Harpoon. He stands triumphant atop flopping reptile. Poised rigidly with reed he looks a miniature of Mariner’s ‘Poseidon with trident’ picture.

‘Curse you Carper,’ shouts Laza Bones Thibidioux.

Suddenly Carper finds himself watching from a few pages on as loving wolf mother nurses Romulus and Remus. A galloping gator descends a hill and heads toward the unsuspecting trio. ‘Git em Auntie,’ shouts Thibidioux. ‘Keill the beetch and adopt the boys fer yeren’ own. Haul em back to the bayou where dey can be learned the swamp things that’ll let em rule the world.’

No reed. No harpoon. Carper knows he must make do. He looks about barren valley. He spies a ropey snake and grabs it. Auntie lunges. He snaps snake like a whip, coiling it around her snout. (Just like Kunta did to save the Reverend at the river, James lauds. Maybe Carper and Kunta met somewhere along the way?) Carper loads Romulus and Remus onto mother’s back. She smiles thanks, R & R gurgle, and off to safety they ride.

‘GRR,’ Thibidioux growls. His teeth chatter as terbaccy stick he chews sticks in his craw. He chokes it out. “Ye’s not seen de las a me’s, mon fishboy.’

Carper exits the book.

The GLUMS! Gone. But remnants remain. Carper shakes; cries out. “I’m not Moses. Not the twins. You tell me I’m Carper. But I know I’m not. Who’m I Mariner?”

Turt cranes neck so his calming, hypnotic eyes are parallel to Carper’s. ‘Relax Carper. Breathe slow, deep. Count the twinkling starfish as they swirl.’

Ol Tom purrs, gently slipping his head to Carper’s cheek.

Mariner squints. “You have to be someone son. Least for a while. Up to me to help that along, til you can decide who you be. I didn’t just pluck your name from the sea. I named you after one of the noblest foundlings of all time, the renowned Carpier of Lindia, a great poet and storyteller who inspired his people. He led them to freedom of not only body, but of spirit.”

“Carpier?”

‘Carpier?’ James, too questions, right along with his great-great grandfa. I know that name.’ James stands invisibly next to Carper. Their shoulders rub, but neither feels other.

“Patience. I’ll be spoutin ‘a the Carpier right soon.” Mariner rights up the slouching boy.

Suddenly Mariner begins peering over to the space – where James ain’t. He whooshes his hand, right through James.

For a moment, James thinks he can read Mariner’s thoughts, ‘You be there, but a haint you ain’t. I’ll untangle that mystery knot.’

Then Mariner continues talk with Carper. “In Carpier you have a great legacy to live up to. But I saw right away when I fished you from under that cart that you got it in you.”

Mariner runs fingers over Turt’s shell as a sea captain would a globe. He stops at a thin, turbaned man. “I tried my hand at carvin’ one time. Carved Carpier, sittin lotus-leg next to Kunta’s village. He’s tellen ‘em tales to make their days go easier since they lost their beloved Kunta to the slavers. He’s tellen em, ‘Kunta forever resides now with their ancestors in Polaris’.”

Mariner looks back over at James. Again, James is deciphering Mariner’s thoughts, ‘I’s sure you taint a haint. Just as sure as I knows you ain’t the Carpier; ‘cause I knows the Carpier. Say, are you the little Kunta returnin’ from his restin-place Polara for a spell?’

You want to break down time barriers and shout the surprise: ‘Kunta’s growed and alive, Mariner. A ropin’,’ariling downriver.’ Sure wish some way I could let you know that.

(To see Part I of the Glums, go to Post No. 162.)

(Read more of Carper’s tale in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.)

(Tales of the Fiction House ©2012  is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2012 Raji Singh

©2015 Raji Singh (New Material)

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CINCINNATI’S FIRST INDEPENDENCE DAY PARADE – A WHIMSICAL TALE

by Raji Singh

 Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)


Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

 Welcome to our annual 4th of July parade from  Tales of the Fiction House. Have a wonderful holiday!

Cincinatti, July 4, 1826

The Cincinnati wharf-shack sways in a light breeze. Close your eyes, you’ll think you’re drifting out to sea. But Carper’s are open and he glares at Laza Bones’ wanted poster and Laza Bones glares back. Carper asks Mariner as they eat upon tabletop Turt. “The sweet little baby Bontez really grew up to be that – ‘thing’?”

“Yessuh, he did.”

Laza Bones ‘grrrs,’ at Carper, pulls out ‘trusty blaubuster’ and shoots. ‘BAM! BAM!’ Flouted barrel smokes. Wharf-shack rattles. Carper ducks. Projectiles ‘ziinngg’ off Turt’s shell, ricochet with a ‘tiinngg’ off wall-leaning Harpoon, deflects straight at Ol Tom, who leaps, ‘MEE-OWW-OWW-OWW,’ straight up from Mariner’s shoulder.

Mariner just keeps chowin’ chowder and talin’ tales and explorin’ Turt’s tattoos.

Turt, he’s really only yawning.

Ol Tom, just napping.

“The whoppers we conjure up in our imaginin,’ eh Carper,” Mariner says. “They make for some right good tellin ‘bout to others. Bet yer imaginin’ a whale-of-a-tale now.”

Carper glances at the poster, board-stiff.

The gunfire is real. It’s outside. Old Cincinnati’s tower bells begin tolling midnight. People are whooping, shouting, running wildly about.

‘AHEM! AHEM!’ Thibidioux’s alive again and he’s prying into the worlds of others. Slyly he grins at Carper. ‘After hearin’ mah story, dontcha’ feels sorry fer me, boy?’

Carper thinks he sees the evil sneer of King Creole on Thibidioux’s face. ‘Not one bit, Laza Bones. Don’t know how you got how you did. Only knows you did. N, that’s that. I’ll jus be like the Mariner, and ignores yer hair-trigger ways.’ Carper refreezes him, and, with little boy impetuousness, glances out the wharf-shack’s porthole and becomes transfixed by the doins’.

“Nuf a my jaw-jackin, Laddie,” Mariner says. ‘Good, the boy’s seein’ more than what’s right in front of ‘ims.’ He scratches chin stubble. “This tiny ship’s not big enough to net in all your thoughts and dreams, hmm Carper.”

Carper gazes out the round, 19th century version of a television to the world. Turt joins, then Ol Tom awakens and with his Cyclops eye, he does too. “Well all right,” Mariner says, rising to pull a raggedy curtain as if pushing an off button. It barely closes and they continue peeking out. Mariner strokes Carper’s hair, pats the nape of Turt’s ropey neck, then tickles Ol Tom.

“All that hoopin’, hollerin’. It’s turned Independence Day, Carper. Country’s independence as well as yourens’. Probably the first one you’ll remember. What say we make it real tootin’ special. Takin’ a part in it. Not just watchin’. Yes-sir-ree! 1826 America. This great lands a’ enterin’ its second 50 years and two of its great makers are still ‘akicken: Tom Jeffers… and Johnny Adams.”

Mariner takes a wooden crate from his sea trunk. He tosses a glob of matches atop the conical and stick-like contents. “China-man gave me these when I docked Singapore. We’ll light up the Cincinnati sky right well to celebrate.” He picks up tiny American flags mounted on pencil-like sticks. “I got it Carper. What this stodgy ol city needs is a parade. We four ‘ll start it. The gaul-dondest’ a parades.”

That captures Carper, Tom, and Turt’s spirit. Carper observes the old salt. Aglow like crystal are his eyes, showing his excitement. It’s worth more than any gold.

“Blow the horns and git set. The si-reen, she’s abeckonin’. Time to hoist anchor.”

Turt trumpets. Ol Tom mews, and Carper claps hands as a seal he’d once seen in pictures.

“All aboard,” Mariner orders. Ol Tom leaps on his shoulder. Mariner lifts Carper to his other shoulder then climbs atop Turt. He leans the fireworks crate between his legs and the back of Turt’s head. Turt exits the shack and trumpets shrilly, excitedly down the pier then soon, onto a street. Ol Tom screeches as torturously as he would if he were perched on a fence wailing to virginal felines.

Carper sings made-up songs with words he’d heard Mariner say. “America, America, Tom Jeffers and Johnny Adams. America, America. Yessirree we’re still a tootin’ and akicken’. 50 years and for always.”

Crowds gather along wooden sidewalks. They cheer the motley paraders.

You see their faces. They glisten in the streetlamps’ glitter and look wondrous with joy. And they are looking at you. Smiling. You know, by a fresh, new, and keen instinct, that you are bringing them this joy. It makes you, the floundering Carper, happy.

Mariner lights fireworks then holds them above his head for launch. ‘POW!’ Earth is stinking sulfur smoke, but the sky explodes into a glittering bouquet of red, white, and blue.

You feel more and more of your sorrowful pain slipping, disappearing, into the colors. You hear a soft voice that comes from amongst them. ‘Bonnie boy – live forever with this joy you now feel.’ Embers from the wilting colors seem soft fingers, wiping your tears of joy.

More sky bouquets. Onlookers line up behind your fours’ parade. Hootin’, hollerin’, shootin’,and fireworkin’ continue on down the street. The crowd joins in your child’s simple ditty. “America, America, Tom Jeffers, Johnny Adams…”

You learn from this that if you speak, people will listen to you – enjoy what you have to say.

And, on this day, little does Carper realize – BORN, is a showman.

The parade, introducing boy to world, exhilarates Mariner. He has chosen so much joy in a life that began so ill fated, yet he considers this his happiest time. Boy seems to have made ancient, young again. Mariner’s hopin’ he can teach every of life’s lessons he’s learned, to him.

Ol Tom ignores the fal-de-ral. He’s had a lifetime of cheering crowds among the swabbies, every time he’s cleared a pack of rats from a ship. Warm milk, an albacore head, and a soft warm feline brought on deck at the next port are the rewards he’s craved.

Turt cranes his neck high like a ship’s mast. He’s the vessel, sailing his friends through an ocean of people. Today, much as for the Carper, this is the beginning of a new life for Turt. The joy he found in old friend Kunta, then in Mariner and Carper, is now suddenly emanating from all those surrounding them. Decades of hatred of two-legs melts away. He suddenly realizes – it seems so simple now – all he has to do is to just let the hatred go, loosen fin-claw and SWOOSH! Forever, his burden – banished.

He blares out his pride of being a trumpeting creature, louder than ever.

As he does, the crowd’s cheers for he and his mates, boom. “INDEPENDENCE FOR ALL.”

Turt makes his vow this day – to forever care for the Carper, and for those he cares.

Cincinnati’s first annual Fourth of July parade begins with these four – unlikelys. The country will remember the half-centennial – bitter sweetly. On this day, the country-makers Tom and Johnny will die within hours of one another. Cincy will remember it for the shelled ship, its stooped, ancient Mariner captaining it with his one-eyed first mate and the little singing boson.

When the city celebrates the centennial 50 years hence, every blauhard ‘tween ages of 15 and 60 will have stories to tell how they or relative rode along. In 100 years, giant floating balloons and wheeled floats will depict Turt, Carper, Mariner, and Ol Tom in the first parade. In 150, at the Bicentennial, Presidents, future Presidents, and also-rans will be seen buttonholing voters – claiming Tom, Johnny and the original 4 paraders all would have supported them.

Turt will be at each of these events – watching from the Ohio River, maybe a secluded park, or, quite conspicuous in the crowds’ midst – though quite invisible midst the hundreds of concrete or styrofoam Turt replicas. He always returns. He will be at the next you can bet.

With this first parade Carper’s reputation as fixture on the streets and piers of Cincinnati – it is set. No more is he a ‘bastaad son-of-a nickel-a-night whure’, but, friend to nearly all, with words for them that are listened-to, revered, because he’ll have gleaned wisdom at the pulpit of the Mariner.

“This parade, she’s far from over. So don’t be a leavin’ yet,” shouts Mariner.

You smile. So do all the parade watchers, who’ve become paraders.

©2012 Raji Singh  (Tales of the Fiction House)

(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment.  Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.  You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE.  They are completely different stories.  My novel is available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)

©2013 Raji Singh

Posted in Children, Children's stories, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, Uncategorized, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

THE GLUMS

By Raji Singh

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction ‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’ These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House. I cannot refuse. (Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Our Founder, James Thaddeus “Blackjack” Fiction
‘Tell our stories, Raji. If you don’t, it will be as if we’ll never have lived.’
These whispering cries of joy and sorrow rise from the bookshelves and portraits in the Fiction House.
I cannot refuse.
(Artwork enhancements by: Joseph Rintoul)

Feeling blue? This will lift your spirits! Here’s an 1820’s tale about my great-great-grandfather, The Carper.  (An excerpt from Tales of the Fiction House)

*   *   *  

THE GLUMS

– is what the Mariner sees in Carper when he stops his story. Crinkly lines of melancholy envelope Carper’s face. Ol Tom senses sadness. He leaps – from Mariner’s shoulder to Carper’s. Licking the boy’s cheek caringly, he mewls, ‘AHEM, TURT. Little help here.’

Turt breaks his distracted gaze from a fish glowering up at him through the wharf-shack’s planked floor. Carper’s look mirrors Turt’s own sadness, when he thinks of Kunta or of his own foundling-shelling days. Turt trills soothingly and with beak-snout, pets Carper’s hand.

Laza Bones Thibidioux reaches from his wanted poster and grabs Harpoon. He points it at you. ‘I gotta use for this. I’ll be a seein’ you in a century or so boy. I’ll deal with YOU, then.’

Mariner takes sad Carper onto his lap.

THE GLUMS. Mariner’d seen it among fellow sailors: A blanket of fog that smothers, first mast, then souls. “Keep spirits up mates,” he’d say. “Soon we’ll port. There ya can breathe agin’.” ‘Til then, all Mariner could do was keep spinnin’ yarns, hopin’ some tale’d restart the sweet music of their hearts. For this young mate he’d do the same.

“None of those damnable, blue GLUMS, Carper. I know yer feelin bad. But ya hasta’ remember, as a foundlin’ ya come from a mighty proud line. Holy Moses! Could say, our likes date back ta times’ beginning.”

Mariner’s words stick, briefly, to Carper’s thoughts. Slowly, away they peel. So suddenly, so craw-wrenchingly, Carper feels he is spiraling down – alone, helpless – through a dark tunnel in his thoughts. These are the GLUMS. Mariner’s words are a net but Carper slips through. He reaches for Ol Tom’s paw and Turt’s fin-claw: in vain.

Laza Bones leaps from poster and shifts Harpoon away from you and toward Carper. He pokes at him. ‘Git you on down, down, and stays yaz der at de bottom, mon fishboy.’

You try to pull Laza Bones away from Carper but your arms slide right through him.

There is a lil’ Carper existing in Carper’s mind. Eeensy, so teensy. Carper knows, small though he is, he is mightier than all the bad Laza Bones’ of the world. So gently, but oh so forcefully Lil Carper whispers, ‘Listen to Mariner. Let his words be your line. Hold tight. Don’t fight when he reels you in.’

Mariner’s arm encompasses Carper’s waist. With other, he flails, animating the story he tells, about Kunta, “even as a little boy, so brave a boy, Kunta saved many lives though enslaved by the worst of GLUMS.” In Carper’s half-real – half-tunnel world, Mariner’s arm seems sword fending off Harpoon. The more he concentrates on Mariner’s tale, the further off Laza Bones Thibidioux drifts, until again he’s imprisoned in his poster.

Laza Bones poses handsome side out, as if he’s Honest Abe on the penny. ‘Who me? I wouldn’t harm a soul.’ He’s not fooling Carper, or James. Both know there’ll be a next time.

(Read more of Carper’s tale in the novel, Tales of Fiction House. Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures.)

(Tales of the Fiction House ©2012  is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)

©2015 Raji Singh

Posted in archeo-apologist, Fiction House Publishing, humor, satire, Short stories, whimsy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment