STORY THREAD; Dec 10 – Dec 16, 2015 Flash Fiction Writing Contest: “Guilt”

Please note: In December the Flash Fiction Family will be taking a Christmas Break from Dec 17th to Jan 4th, 2016.
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This post is for STORIES related to the writing prompt: “Guilt ” (Either real, or perceived). Critiques, comments and feedback are encouraged on the LinkedIn Comment Thread; non story comments here will be deleted.

The point of these friendly contests is to hone our craft and create successful stories within a predefined set of limitations. There is no monetary compensation.

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Story Submission Rules:

One story per author. Stories must be in English, unpublished and your own work.
Stories must fit into a single comment box and must be under 1000 words.
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The winner shall name the next week’s writing prompt.
In case of ties, co-winners may be announced and the moderator shall select a winner to name the theme.
The winner has three days after the announcement to contact either Alice Nelson or Carrie Zylka via LIFlashFiction(at)gmail.com with the next theme/items of their choosing.
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13 thoughts on “STORY THREAD; Dec 10 – Dec 16, 2015 Flash Fiction Writing Contest: “Guilt”

  • December 10, 2015 at 8:53 pm
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    THE PLATFORM OF SURRENDER

    Upon the Platform of Surrender nothing is veiled or hidden, neither physical nor spiritual. This isn’t the place for confession or final pleas. Innocence is not debated here, nor guilt. Mercy has never shown it’s face once the Platform is occupied. There are no second chances. The Platform is a fait accompli.

    Walker spit, tried to raise his battered and bruised body. Blood drooled from his mouth and pooled on the Platform. Pain wracked his jaw and ribs and places too numerous to count. “Any time now, Dani,” he managed to mutter through the pain and swelling.

    “En route. 20 seconds,” came the reply in his ear.

    “Judgement,” bellowed the Administrator Spur Adjudicate Tamn’r, “has been made. We are here to witness.” He turned to the crowd, solemn, serious, and raised his hands, palms up.

    Jesus Fucking Christ, Walker thought. How did this happen?

    ___

    Two days earlier the Seed Anthropologist had landed in an uninhabited area and cloaked his craft. His mission was to subtly influence the population and move them from superstitious beliefs to something more enlightened. The job, while thrilling, was dangerous in these early stages when little was known or understood about the culture.

    Walker grabbed his pack. He stared at the old-style tattoo on the inside of his wrist. The design was interwoven areas of black ink. He tapped the tattoo twice at one end and activated its biometric scanners and the nano-filament antenna woven through it. It was important that he not have any tech more advanced than the locals, at least none that could be detected. Tattoos were common and it gave his ship, Dani, a way to keep tabs on him.

    “I’m off.”

    “Safe travels.” Dani’s words sounded in his ears, almost as if the ship were in his head. Inside each ear was a bioengineered mole that allowed the ship to speak to him. Both the tattoo and mole were powered by his own body’s enzymes and electrical system, virtually undetectable.

    Little was known of the small planet. It was in the pre-industrial period, marked by the same woes found throughout the galaxy. They served three Gods, each confined to its own culture. Little else was known. Walker exited the wood and found himself on the edge of a small but influential town.

    At the edge of town was an eating establishment. Patrons were seated outside enjoying the day. Walker sat at a table near the road and placed his bag on the ground next to him.

    “Looks like you’ve traveled a long way. Let us buy you a drink.”

    “I come from up north.” Walker pointed to a half empty drink on the table next to him. “One of those.”

    A finely dressed man approached his table. He had the smile of a politician and the measured gait and air of a man in charge. “I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m Administrator Spur Adjudicate Tamn’r.”

    “Walker.”

    The Administrator extended his hand. They clasped each other near the wrist. The Administrator smiled. “Odd name, Walker.”

    The Administrator kept the hold of Walker’s wrist and smiled. He looked down at his wrist. Visibly taken aback, his grip tightened and twisted Walker’s wrist slightly.

    “Well, said the Administrator, “enjoy.” Abruptly, he turned and walked away.

    “Okay,” Walker whispered, “that was weird.”

    “I have no explanation,” Dani said.

    His drink was delivered but as he picked it up the Administrator returned with two men who looked like guards.

    Anger was in the Administrators voice, though he was smiling. “You are either a fool or Chechin has you up to something nefarious. Regardless, we will learn what that purpose is. Come easily, or you will be beaten here and dragged.”

    Walker was led into the largest building on the town square. He was thrown into a cell.

    “What’s going on here?”

    The guards stripped him, bound his hands above his head and pulled at a lever that raised his body a few inches off the ground. His ankles were shackled.

    “Tell me your purpose and I will make your death quick,” the Administrator said.

    “Death!”

    “Surely you must know. Our God – the one true God – doesn’t tolerate non-believers.”

    “What are talking about? What could I have Possibly done. I only just arrived.”

    “It isn’t anything you’ve done. It’s who you are. Now stop wasting my time.”

    The Administrator glanced at the guards. A whip snapped and pain shot through his back then flooded over him. Another whip, and another, this one lower, opening a gaping cut across his right thigh. Walker screamed, blood ran down his leg, over his ankle and onto the floor. He screamed again from the pain and shock, his weight pulled at his wrists.

    The Administrator stood inches from him. He lifted Walker’s sagging head. “What is your mission?”

    “No mission,” Walker mumbled through pain. The Administrator punched him in the jaw, blood flying several feet away.

    “I will have an answer, NOW!” The beating went on for another half an hour.

    Tamn’r stepped back, sighed and shook his head. “The third heathen Chechin spy in a month. These are testing times.” He turned to the guards. “Deliver him to the Platform at noon.”

    Walker mumbled, “Who is Chechin?”

    “You haven’t been beaten that badly. You wear the false deity’s mark on your wrist. You are convicted of the crime of bearing false witness. You will die upon the Platform.”

    ___

    “This man is guilty of bearing false witness,” the Administrator told the crowd. “He wears the mark of Chechin upon his wrist. His death will prove our worthiness to our Lord.”

    The crowd grew excited.

    “Through his death we will preserve our our way of life. It is not ours …”

    The ship uncloaked and slowly descended from above the square. People screamed and ran. Fear gripped the Administrator and left him shaking in disbelief.

    The Seed Anthropologist raised his battered and beaten body. There is a saying here: Upon the Platform Of Surrender nothing is veiled or hidden.

  • December 11, 2015 at 6:25 pm
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    The Odor Epoch Ends
    By Ben Boyd, Jr.
    All rights reserved.

    Prior to 900 A.D., everyone wishing to bath used the local river, or a public bath.
    Rare individuals owned their own tub. To make matters worse, between 900 and 1354 A.D., Europeans shunned the practice of bathing more than one a year.
    The reason given most often has to do with the new religion, Christianity. The Christian leaders insisted public bathing fostered too much public sex. The most righteous of the righteous were never wrong according to the lesser righteous, but how much is too much? The bright line fades to gray, here.

    However, coincidentally or not, the Black Plague killed one third of everyone in Europe between 1346 and 1353. The Plague might have had one upside. Quicker than a laser blast, the Plague brought back the old idea of cleanliness being next to Godliness. This bit of non-fiction is trivial compared to what really brought the bathtub back to Europe and ended the Plague. See for thine own sweet smelling self.

    A brilliant light flashed and a stranger appeared as if he came from thin air. The stranger, a medium sized bald headed man dressed in a peculiar onesie, stood in front of Dr. Pierre Arnour. as he drank his morning tea at C’est Si Bon, a busy sidewalk café, on the dirtiest street in the Moulin Rouge in Paris, France.

    Stunned by the light and the sudden appearance of the stranger, Dr. Arnour asked for a name. The man sputtered. “Gregorious Soontobethe Eleventh.” Arnour sat stunned. A Pope named Gregorious X, who ruled the Christian world for many years, died mysteriously in 1271. Some thought he was possibly a Plague victim. Arnour’s curiosity peeked.
    “Pardon me, but do you speak French?” He asked pleasantly. The man shrugged. His expression rendered any answer moot.

    “Oh dear. I see. Why not?” The Doctor asked quickly. Still no answer came forth.

    “Oh never mind.” Arnour turned away and resumed his sipping hoping the man would vanish as quickly as he came. The man continued to stand and stare. He would not move on. Arnour grew irritable and impatient. Finally he said, “Yes? What is it? Do you need something from me? I am a Doctor. Perhaps you need my services? Yes?”

    The man spoke in gibberish but added a comical pantomime using both hands to rub his body.

    Arnour looked on baffled, but figured obviously the man must be a lunatic. He rose from his tiny table and made the “come with me” sign with his hands.

    The man clapped his hands twice. A dog appeared. For a brief moment, a stairway to a strange looking metallic vehicle, suspended in the air, materialized but quickly vanished. Arnour took no notice of the vehicle since his gaze was fixed on the just materialized dog. He looked at his teacup and then at the dog. He shook his head.

    “Mon Dieu. I should have ordered wine.” He waved at the man again. The man with his dog followed along behind Arnour. As they walked, the man stopped twice to retch. The dog marked every lamp post. Arnour took notice of this oddity and thought, this lunatic must be very ill. I am just the man this poor fellow needs. They walked on.

    Ten minutes later, Arnour stopped in front of his office.

    “Here we are. Now see here Sir! If you are ill with the plague or something else, I shall bleed you and have a look at your vitals.” He motioned the man to go inside. The man shrugged again.

    “I must say, I am intrigued by your exceptional appearance but really, I don’t allow dogs in my office! They are filthy with fleas, you know. You may leave the dog outside, please.”

    The man entered. The dog followed. The man noticed a large wooden tub in the corner and walked hastily to it. The dog followed. Both got into the tub.

    Arnour stood mesmerized. The man rubbed himself all over again.

    “Soooo, you wish to bathe? Most people, myself included, don’t use the bathtub but once or twice a year. Dogs never use it. You were throwing up. Do you think a bath will cure you? It won’t. Bleeding will.”

    The man had bewildered expression on his face and quickly pulled up his sleeve. He studied a metallic wristband briefly and punched several shiny knobs. He answered Arnour in perfect French.

    “No Monsieur, I want to bathe because of this filthy flea infested planet. I threw up because you smell horribly.”

    “Sacre bleu!! You do speak French? What is the language you spoke before?”

    “Chinglish. It is the common tongue, on Earth 2.3. It is a bastard mix of English and Chinese, s’il vous plait.”

    “Earth 2.3? Ah ha! I don’t know this country! Is it near Spain? The dark smudge color of your skin is not from dirt? It is permanent? Forgive me. I assumed.” He eyed the tub, arched his eyebrows, and ordered his rotund little wife to fetch hot water. She cursed him silently.

    He spread his arms and said, “The bath is complimentary, my dark friend. However, I must charge three silver coins for the dog. I will have to change the water when the dog finishes. Fleas, you know.”

    The man handed him a small box. “When you bath again next year, you must try this. It is called soap. Surprisingly, it kills fleas, smells, and plagues. I hope to open the territory for franchising soon. The shops will be called “Quick Dips”. The baths will be private, of course. Keep this sample. I will be in town for a while.”

    “If your scheme fails, what then”, Arnour asked.

    “Then I will be guilty of failing to stop the Plague. Earth 2.3 will never exist. But I am proof it exists, so I will succeed.”
    Arnour shouted immediately, “Mama, bring some wine, more hot water, and join us in the hot tub.”

  • December 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm
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    BEYOND SCRUMPING

    I don’t know if you’ve ever felt it, but I always have: that sense of guilt in some situations when you know you’re completely innocent. I suppose it may have something to do with the idea of original sin; at least, I remember feeling this kind of guilt from a very early age, before I’d really had the chance to do anything ‘wrong’ as such.

    “Was it you that scrumped Mr Atkins’ apples?” my mother asked me one day.

    Mr Atkins lived next door to us and had a couple of fine apple trees, bearing delicious Cox’s Orange Pippins. Old Akkers, as the kids down the street called him, was very proud of his trees and the fruit they bore. When the season arrived he would put a sign outside his gate announcing ‘Apples For Sale’, and he wouldn’t be short of takers. But now he’d noticed that from one day to the next, he was missing a sizeable number off the trees.

    “Me, mum? Course not.”

    I was firm in my denial, but my face told a different story: I’d begun sweating and blushing under the interrogation, and my eyes must have looked shifty because my mother said:

    “Look at me, Freddy. Now, did you scrump those apples?”

    I continued to deny the ‘crime’ but my face condemned me to a weekend in my bedroom. I was of course completely innocent – it was Alec Baker that had taken the apples, in fact – and the bitterness I felt at the unjust punishment, and at my mother thinking less of me without reason, remains with me to this day.

    It was the first time that my guilty demeanour got me into trouble, but it wasn’t the last. And the next time it happened, the police were involved.

    Every summer our family would go to a holiday camp on the south coast. I used to love it – I’d make good, albeit temporary, friends, we’d play football and pinball, fall briefly in love with girls from the other end of the country, experiment with alcohol … they were memorable times. We went for eight years in a row, and it was in the eighth year that I had a run-in with the law.

    The holiday camp would put on after-dinner dances in which our parents would shuffle around the dance-floor pretending to know the waltz and the foxtrot while my friends and I watched on. One evening, I took a break from making fun of the dancers and went into the toilet. I was almost knocked over by a boy, a little older than me, rushing out. I soon found out why: the toilet was all but destroyed, the washbasins broken and on the floor, water spurting out of the exposed pipes, the mirrors smashed.

    While I was surveying the wreckage, an adult came in and caught me there in the middle of the room, it would seem red-handed. The manager of the holiday camp was informed and the police called. As with the case of the apples I denied everything, but once again, my face was beyond my control and I was declared guilty.

    My parents’ pleas eventually convinced the manager not to press charges, but they had to pay for the damage. As you can imagine, our relationship was a little frosty for some time, for them because of the shame and anger, for me because of the injustice of it all.

    I grew up and found gainful employment as a pilot – planes have been a lifelong passion of mine. I fly light aircraft in and out of the country, sometimes carrying individual passengers, sometimes acting as a courier of urgent documents. My company – ‘Freddy’s Flights’ – is based at a small aerodrome in the east of the country.

    The first time I brought a client into the country, I was given the third degree by the resident customs official, George. Asked if I had anything to declare, I said that I didn’t, but my face started acting up again and George ordered a search of my bags and the plane. The search was very thorough, such was George’s conviction that I had something to hide, but of course they found nothing. George was very annoyed because his training had prepared him to spot people just like me, but this time his training let him down.

    The next time I came in, George asked me the same question, I gave him the same answer, and because of my guilt-ridden face there was another search, this time slightly less thorough. On the third occasion, George asked me the question, I answered as before, and he winked at me and waved me through, despite the sweating, the blushing and the shifty eyes.

    And that’s what gave me the idea of how to make my guilty conscience work for me. I’m now into the third year of a different line of business, although I keep the conventional service going as a cover.

    You’d never believe how lucrative a bit of virtually risk-free smuggling can be.

    .

  • December 13, 2015 at 12:55 pm
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    Guilty pleasures

    Deep in the alley Amy skulks, nervously looking left and right. What if anyone should see her? The very thought causes her to cringe back into the darkness.
    Six weeks ago the problems began; it was the party that highlighted everything. The invitation had come out of the blue, why would they target her?
    Amy has always been fairly easy going, not one to worry unduly, but these past six weeks have been a nightmare. She is torn between her own needs and the dictates of the majority.
    If it weren’t for her friendship with Esme everything would have been fine. Esme is manipulative and needy. Subtly and slowly, she draws Amy into her schemes.
    Amy is not a partygoer, nor is she one of the ‘in crowd’ though she is a self-confident person and good at her job.
    The party is a glittering affair; the hostess stands out from the crowd. Tall, poised and elegant, she is surrounded by admiring men; many of them, Amy guesses, are male models or bit part actors.
    As for the women, an aura surrounds them; they exude an air of wealth and fame.

    ‘What am I doing here?’ Amy wonders.

    Next day, back at the flat she shares with Esme, they are both nursing hangovers. Esme is feeling wretched and needs to offload on to someone.

    “You were quite a little mouse last night,” she says to Amy.
    “You spent most of the party in a corner. Why didn’t you circulate? And if I were you I would have visited the hairdresser. That dress you bought last year – has it shrunk?”
    Amy shrugs.

    “Kill me now, why don’t you?”

    It is a fact, though, that Amy feels inadequate surrounded by all that glamour and glitter. A long time has elapsed since her last make over.
    Pulling out the phone directory she finds the name of a gym. Working out her budget carefully she can afford a personal trainer as well. Some new clothes and a visit to the hairdresser complete the picture.
    Amy’s personal trainer is not as she imagines. The first appointment, instead of something constructive, such as exercise or a jog, is more of a fact-finding mission. She expects a certain amount of exercise, but not a questionnaire.

    “What do you want from this training?”

    The question throws Amy; what does she want? She manages to stammer out a few requirements such as getting fit, and maybe losing a few pounds in weight.

    “Right! Tomorrow I will design a plan. It’s important that you are serious about this; my time is valuable, and so is yours.”

    Amy feels like a schoolgirl who has been summoned to the headmaster’s office.
    A month later, after a punishing diet and exercise regime, Amy, though she has lost a few pounds and feels more energetic, is finding all the restrictions galling. Instead of coming home from work and settling down with a drink and her favourite TV programme, she finds Tony, her trainer, there on the doorstep in his running kit. Esme, as usual, gives her no support.

    “I don’t know why you are wasting your money on that jerk. All he thinks about is fitness. I bet he spends all his money on steroids and all his spare time body building.”

    It is true that Tony is fine example of muscle-bound manhood, but he has no personality whatsoever.
    As the weeks progress the regime grows more aggressive; the diet more restrictive. Amy begins to rebel. This is no way to live. She tries to end the contract that she has agreed with Tony.

    “You signed for a three month contract and that is what we agreed on” He is unrelenting. “There is no possibility of a refund; we will see this through until January.”

    “What about Christmas?”

    “I will make a concession, you may have Christmas day off,”

    Amy is desperate; she is not sure how long she can hold out on a diet of protein drinks and salads, even the odd glass of wine is prohibited.

    ‘A girl’s gotta live’ she tells herself.

    And that is why we find her skulking in the alley, furtively looking left and right. A large cream doughnut clutched in her hand.

  • December 14, 2015 at 9:18 pm
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    Guilty as Sin
    By: Randall Lemon

    James was infected by a creeping sense of doom.

    His mother had been living in a nursing home for two years. She was 102 years old. He had tried to visit her about three times every month, but as time went by, he seemed less and less able to keep to his projected schedule.

    The nursing home was called Fairwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. It was located about an hour’s drive from James’ home. Sometimes when he missed a visit, he would use the weather as an excuse.

    “It was snowing and the roads were too icy to drive on safely.”

    Other times he would miss a visit and blame it on his health.

    “I’ve been suffering from a touch of stomach flu and didn’t want to take a chance on infecting Mom or any of the other patients at Fairwood.”

    Once, he had even blamed his failure to show up on mechanical failure.

    “I blew a tire and it took AAA so long to show up to fix it. Then I was afraid to drive such a long distance there and back on the plastic doughnut replacement tire. So I tried to buy a replacement tire at the auto place but they were backed up and it took hours before I had another tire.”

    Yes, James was a great one for excuses but not so good at meeting responsibilities. He knew this and it made him feel guilty. He tried to assuage his guilt with the thought that his mother suffered from slight dementia.

    “She never recognizes my wife, Sue and thinks she is just some friend of mine until I set her straight. While we’re there she keeps dozing off and I doubt that she even remembers we came by. When I ask her when my brother, Fred came by, she always gets a vague expression on her face and says something like, ‘Last week I think.’ Even when I know he hasn’t been by for a couple weeks.”

    It was less than two weeks to Christmas and he was supposed to show up tomorrow. His brother and sister were supposed to be there as well. It had been quite a task for all of them to be able to find a day and time they could be there together even though they and their spouses were all retired.

    Now a mere eighteen hours prior to the scheduled visit, James realized that he had purchased absolutely nothing as a Christmas gift for his mother.

    “I’ll get her a big box of candy. My mom loves candy,” he told Sue.

    “No good!” replied Sue. “Your brother already said he is bringing her candy. You can’t give her the same thing. Maybe we could run out and get her a sweater or something?”

    In exasperation, James replied, “We gave her two expensive shawls last year and those had disappeared within a week of Christmas. Either the staff or some other patient has them now. A sweater would be gone before she could even get it buttoned. Maybe we could give her a fruit basket? But then again, pears, apples and such would prove too difficult for her to eat. I’m stumped. These visits are a giant pain in the ass!”

    The minute the words left his mouth, James was horrified. After his father had died when he was eight-years-old, his mother had raised him on her own. She had seen him through a private high school and college working as many hours as she could at a grocery store. She had always bragged about him to friends and family saying how smart and talented he was. She had given unstintingly of her time and love.

    But, what was most awful and what filled James with the greatest dread was that even knowing all that, he still hated having to take his time for the visit.

    Yes, he was guilty, guilty of being a selfish ass and being unable to love his mother one-tenth as much as she loved him. He knew in his soul that God would recognize his sin and James feared just retribution. James was already sixty-four. Would his children take the time to visit him when he was placed in a nursing home?

  • December 15, 2015 at 6:04 am
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    Rosie

    Mama says I have the gift to spin a great yarn. It took me a long time to figure out what she meant. Now that I have she encourages me to spin on paper. Maybe so she can find out what I am thinking. Daddy says my stories are a bit far fetched but they really happen. Any way here I am sitting in my favorite tree, pen and paper in hand. I am not sure where to begin or even if this story should be told, Yet it seems to want to come out.

    To tell the tale might be a bit unbelievable but to me it is all just as true as when it happened, though others might remember the details a little differently.

    Mama says when I was born I had so much dark hair framing my white face I reminded her of a porcelain doll, a pixy among her roses, so she named me Rosealynn. I prefer Rosie or Rosa.

    when I was a few weeks old, my daddy had me at the store, carrying me on his shoulder, a little boy and his mama went by, daddy heard the little boy say “look, that man is carrying a monkey.”
    He was probably more right than he knew, as that monkey in me loves to come out at the most unexpected times. I never did like to sit still, my curiosity tends to get the better of me, much to mama’s disapproval.

    Mama prefers me to be more like her roses, standing regal and proud. She has the most beautiful roses in all the world. Whenever I look for her I know I will find her in one of two places, cleaning her castle or talking to her roses.

    Mama says if we give our all to the LORD and let him direct our lives then we will be a sweet fragrance, like a rose to Him. I try mama, really I do, but there is just a stubbornness in me I can’t seem to explain. I guess mamas right, I am more of a stink weed.

    Mama says knows there is a very tender heart in me, one that just seems to understand people who are hurting and what they need to feel better. I just need to let GOD use me more. Wonder how I can do that?

    Daddy calls me his little munchkin and twinkle toes because I like to dance and I tend to sneak up on him. Daddy tells me trials are good for us, they help build character. I must be full of it by now, I seem to have lots of trials and mama calls me a character. Wonder if GOD thinks I am a little Character too, or if I am truly building the life he wants me to have in Him.

    Mama says cleanliness is next to godliness, so we must be real close, cause we are never to be seen dirty. I think I change clothes six times a day. There are; play clothes, town clothes, school close, bed time clothes, church clothes, go to meeting cloths and visiting clothes. Mama could save herself a lot of work if she’d just let me make it through a day wearing the same thing all day. We could save closet space too.

    When we have company coming, Mama cleans everything and tells me not to walk on the rugs or sit on the furniture. Mama and Daddy have a friend who is over six feet tall. When he comes to visit, our house feels like a doll house. When mama complains he’ll have to excuse the mess, (the crooked magazines on the coffee table,) she hasn’t had time to clean up, Mr. Prisk gets a sly grin on his face and pulls out his white gloves, smiles at me, turns and runs his finger along the top of the door frame. Then showing his glove to mama says,”Yes, most peoples houses are dirty up here but you would make the hospitals envious, now relax a little.” Then with a twinkle in his eye, he knocks the magazines off the coffee table, as he sits down. Daddy and I just laugh when mama’s temper starts to flare, then daddy and Mr. Prisk pick up for her. Mama gives me that look, as though it was my fault, I know I best be quiet and go to my room.

    One time mama told me of a meeting we had to attend, how very important it was I act like a lady, sit still keep quiet. I promised to do my best. But Levi and Eli thought it would be real cute to put ice down the back of my dress. I squirmed and squirmed, I tried hard not to make noise but it was so cold. Mama is the kind who can discipline you with a look, make you fill guilty even if your not, and believe me she was not happy, I could tell by the stern look she gave me, if she looked at her roses that way they would wilt on the spot. Later I tried to explain, but there was no reasoning with her, I had not behaved the way I should, I would pay.

    “why can’t you act like a lady, be more delicate? I guess if you want to be looked upon as a rowdy child you can, but please do it when I am not present! There will be no play for you tomorrow, you will spend the day cleaning.”

    I snuck out to my tree to read a bit, Mama came looking. I heard her call and tried to scramble down but I lost my footing and fell, right on top of one of her prized rose bushes!
    I broke my arm. But mama was stewing over her roses.

    Now I am in my tree with pen and paper, telling myself don’t accept the guilt.

  • December 15, 2015 at 1:33 pm
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    Every Little Helps

    “Father I’ve sinned!” Marie sat, shoulders hunched up looking at her clenched fists, in the confession booth. She religiously attended Sunday prayers and always had something to confess. “I’ve lied.”

    “Have you, my child?” The voice of the priest asked behind the partition in the booth.

    “The house was in a mess. I did not clean it for a month or more. The Christmas season was looming, my paperwork, my tax return were heaped up in the lounge, waiting to be sorted and filed away. There were so many jobs that needed my attention and I didn’t know where to start.” Marie closed her eyes and pushed her head back.

    “What this got to do with you lying? Come to the point,Marie, Other people, who needs my blessings too, are waiting in the queue for their worse confession. blessings”

    Marie continued, oblivious of the priest’s comment,“I was watching this programme called Obsessive Cleaners and it dawned on me to how messy my house has got to. I had fallen in such a rut that I had become like the couch potatoes, those messy people as shown in the programme. I looked at all the boxes in my lounge with things that I don’t remember hoarding in them and they were staring at me as if pointing an accusing finger at me for boxing them for so many years. I got up to clean because I didn’t want to be like those mental people. I was very worried. I cleaned the toilet. That all I could do. I didn’t have a clue how to tackle anything else.”

    “Why don’t get your family to help you out or get a cleaner?” The priest suggested.

    “I did. Well!”

    “Now, You don’t have a problem anymore. The Good Lord has helped you and will forgive everything you’ve just confessed about.”

    “I haven’t finished yet, father.”

    “Hurry up! I’ve got others waiting, Marie”

    “I went to the Cards shop and bought 7 Get Well cards and displayed them on the mantel shelf. My daughter came over, saw the cards and asked me, ‘Who the hell is ill here?’” ‘There’s no one else except me living here.’I answered, not looking at her and pulled my hair over my face so that I looked ill.”

    “Why did you have to do that?”

    “Damn I,t father! Around Christmas time you always get visitors, people dropping in to say hello or give you a card. I thought if they see the cards they will think that I have been ill and that was the reason why the house was full of clutter.”

    “Is your house still dirty? You’ll get rats and germs which will make you ill.”

    “Yesterday, my daughter and her friend came and they cleaned the house. Would you believe, I even helped them with it? It’s the season of goodwill and sharing they said and sorted out all the things I no longer use, my old or not fitting clothes were taken to Oxfam who, they said, were collecting for the Syrian refugees who have nothing and there I was hoarding stuff that I would never use. They sold some of my stuff on ebay, the internet site. They, then brought the Christmas tree and decorations down from the loft and we sang along as we put them up. I couldn’t do anything before and the good lord sent those angels to give me strength to sort all that out. I feel so guilty that I had pretended and lied that I was ill. For Christ sake, why didn’t I do it before? I felt liberated from the junk…”

    “The Lord understands and has forgiven you. Bless you, my child.” The priest pulled the curtains from the window and added while facing Marie across the bars, “Would you go home and have a nice cup of tea now in your clean house, Marie. Your sins are wiped out. Some people are waiting in the queue.” He reminded her before pulling the curtains back to cut off communication with her.

    Marie walked out of the booth and smiled at the other churchgoers. She held on the arms of one person in the queue and told her. “I feel so much better now that I confessed about my sins. We’re blessed to belong to our church. My faith has deepened, my belief is stronger and my heart is lighter. I’m bursting with energy.”

    – – –

    Marie was window shopping when she spotted her daughter and her friend inside the shop looking at the array of perfumes that were being displayed. “Fancy meeting your here,” She surprised them. She took the bottles of perfume that they were holding. “I’ll buy them for you girls, my way of thanking you for being there for me, for donating my stuff to those who needed them. Christmas is for giving and sharing to quote your own words. I’ve got your Christmas present here.” Marie waved the bottles at them.

    “Mum, they cost a fortune.” Marie’s daughter tried to take the bottles back from her. She pushed her daughter’s hands away.

    “I’m glad we used the season of goodwill to get you to part with the stuffs you’ve amassed over the years and which you no longer use.” The friend said. “By the way we know you weren’t ill, the cards were not written by anyone.”

    Marie almost dropped the bottles on the floor and as she stepped back she almost knocked the display of perfumes. Her daughter reached to her and steadied her. “You knew. Jesus Christ! I’ve just come from the church to redeem my sins.”

    “What have you done with the cards? They aren’t rubbish. They can be used.”Marie suddenly remembered the unused cards.

    “Oxfam and people who can make use of them are the benefactors.” Her daughter hugged her.

  • December 15, 2015 at 4:02 pm
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    Eyes of Rebuke

    ‘So Rayphe what day do you and Marnie head out for your research trip?’

    Theodore and Eko had joined Rayphe and I for coffee and pastries at the local Gloria Jeans.
    It was a welcome break amid the frenetic rush to be organised for our trip into the New Guinea highlands.

    Rayphe sipped his long black, savouring the first caffeine hit of the morning.
    He crossed his lanky legs and ran a hand through his silver locks.

    ‘The flight is booked for next Wednesday but quite a few loopholes to close up before then as you know.’

    ‘I have to get another rabies shot and my assistant has a few of my lab tests to document and collate for me.’ I volunteered.

    Three heads turned to me and gave a perfunctory acknowledgement of my contribution to the conversation before turning back and continuing as though I didn’t count.

    Rayphe, usually a genial guy and a caring partner, got caught up with Theodore and Eko and ignored me even though we were all colleagues at the World Health Organisation research centre.
    Normally he would have made an effort to give me air time.
    His insensitivity infuriated me.

    Ha, misogyny at its best I seethed.
    Yep you guys, just a woman in your eyes but a force to be reckoned with as you will see Mr. Rayphe.

    ‘I have been an admirer of your ingenious work for years,’ said young Eko with unabashed admiration in his voice.

    Two hours of sitting at the cafe tolerating Rayphe being addressed and praised for his ingenious work hardly lent itself to a chatty drive home.
    Still basking in all the praise, Rayphe was blissfully unaware of my fury.

    ‘Theodore and Eko are good mates and colleagues. We should invite them around more often Marnie.’
    Silence from me and the air suddenly thickened enough that it could be cut with a knife.
    Rayphe fell silent.

    Research brought us together in the first place and then research took us out into the field – to the remote jungle areas of the globe to study the risks of viruses found in bats then being transmitted to humans.

    The realisation that the Ebola virus could be transmitted by bats is the reason for our latest trip out into the field for further surveillance and critical research.
    Again we are about to work as a team to gather data, bring it back to the lab, make our findings and report to WHO.

    My own research studies and published papers stand to serve me well. I am known as a scientist who collects ‘good’ data.
    I really could stand in my own right but everyone in the department recognises Rayphe and I as a close couple and they assume we want to work as a pair.

    Wednesday came, everything was ticked on the long list and we were ready to fly out.

    On arrival in New Guinea we met our allotted staff, collected supplies and set off for our location. After three days of arduous travel we arrived, set up camp and got down to work.

    Surveillance of bats entails collecting blood and other body fluids which can be highly infectious and our living conditions are very basic and remote.

    Being experienced we both knew the risks and had a first aid and evacuation plan in the event of an emergency.

    After several weeks of successful surveillance work we were suddenly faced with an emergency.

    Rayphe fell ill – gravely ill.
    We activated our emergency plan. Two local men were sent out to walk for help. It would take them a few days to reach town.

    Meanwhile I nursed Rayphe but no matter what medications I gave he continued to deteriorate.
    The last resort was making him comfortable through bouts of sweats, high fever and pain.

    I took precautions to protect myself.

    Help was still a day away at best.

    ‘Rayphe is not going to make it.’ I shuddered.

    He was increasingly delirious. He could not eat and barely drank. It was agonising to watch.
    Worst of all Rayphe was clearly in pain.

    Eyes wide open, fixed on my face and pleading… I would turn away, feeling dreadful.
    When I dared turn back his eyes caught me up again.
    That pleading look was burning itself into my memory. I had to dismiss it and keep focussed on the task at hand.

    The day that help arrived Rayphe died.

    It was distressing to see the outpouring of grief among the porters and staff that knew and loved Rayphe.

    The remote location and tropical temperatures left no alternative but to bury him at the campsite with an arrangement made to gather and test some of his tissue.

    Ironically he became a subject for his own research.

    The surveillance was aborted and it was arranged for me to gather all our data, collate and submit to our office.

    I looked forward to contacting Theodore and Eko and inviting them for coffee and pastries at Gloria Jeans. This time I would have their full attention.

    It had been easy to infect Rayphe with blood samples taken from the bats we handled. No one suspected.

    I felt smug as I took a sip from my long black and prepared to regale Theodore and Eko with my research findings.

    At that precise moment Rayphe’s face swam before me; eyes wide open and pleading.
    I wiped my hand across my eyes in a futile attempt to erase the vision.

    I was no longer interested in being in the company of Theodore and Eko and excused myself on the grounds of feeling unwell.

    They understood. Rayphe’s death was still very raw and they showed compassion.
    ‘Take good care,’ said Eko gently.

    I stood, thanked them and walked out with Rayphe’s eyes still swimming before me, staring at me.
    This time it was more an expression of reproach.

    Rayphe’s legacy was to inflict guilt and remorse.

  • December 15, 2015 at 6:43 pm
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    Remorseless
    © Emmanuel Malho 2015

    Zeke was stepping up his pace. Richard and Zack always were by his side in his moments of need, and this was no exception. Now, Zeke was urging them to follow him. They were heading to Abbott’s Harbor, where the Mermaid’s Song was waiting for her passengers.
    – We should hurry. We’ll miss the Mermaid’s Song! – gasped Pete, the new young sport.
    – Don’t sweat it. We’ll make it. – reassured Zack, smoking his cigarette.
    – Not at this speed. – observed Richard, eyes on the boat.
    Zeke was walking ahead. The three of them were usually very talkative. Tonight, no one was able to say a word. Not after what happened almost an hour ago.

    Zeke’s trade in electronics fared well. Too damn well for a 32 year old. “Graduate. Don’t date before you finish college. If you can’t wash your teeth after every meal, always wash them before going to bed. And every time you’re facing something, remember: you’re my grandson, you can do it”. He could remember his grandfather Joseph saying those words when we was little. That was when Richard appeared. Zeke had it all covered. Before he graduated, his older brother died in a bike accident. Doctors said he didn’t reach the floor alive after the crash. Zack came up with his cool, old teenager attitude and stood by Zeke’s side ever since.
    Zeke tackled his way through workplaces, and felt at home when he started his business. Using the knowledge and network he gathered until then, it seemed easy, sustainable and profitable to build up his own trade. A few months later came the marriage proposal. Lisa Thompson, 5 years younger than him and the apple of his eye. A year married, came Thomas, their now 5 years old little boy. But that success came with a price. The last few months, Zeke was growing nervous. Anxious. Afraid, even. He started psychologist appointments. He didn’t think these appointments were necessary. Though he was living with Lisa and Thomas, he spent so much time with Richard and Zack talking about his issues that he thought the appointments were meaningless.
    – I don’t know how Lisa doesn’t complain about the times I spend with you guys. She’s an angel. – said Zeke before taking a sip of his beer.
    – Yeah, with wings and a halo! – puffed Zack.
    – You should treasure her – advised Richard. – Not all women are like that, you know?

    “You demonstrate strong symptoms of kakorrhaphiophobia”, said the psychologist after some sessions. The fast ascension brought a proportional fear of losing it all. Day by day, week by week, the fear became unbearable. Lisa watched him wither away. When they were lying in their bed, she’d curl up in his chest:
    – What’s wrong, love? I can see there’s something wrong. Is it us?
    – It’s nothing, dear… Don’t worry. – He’d hug her tightly. She would sleep profoundly in his arms. He’d spend the night shaking from the inside. The fear of losing his business. The fear of not being able to pick up a job. The fear of not being able to provide for her and their son. The fear of losing her.

    Business started to fail. One by one, his customers would change to other suppliers. Conversations with Lisa began to disappear. His talks with Richard and Zack were filled with his loss of customers. He felt going in a downward spiral with nothing to break his fall. Lisa was spending more and more time out during the day, when he couldn’t watch her.

    One day, Zeke snapped. He went home earlier, and not to his amazement, Lisa wasn’t there. Thomas would only get out of the kindergarten in an hour or so, and Lisa would pick him up and come home. He waited, holding and sipping his glass of bourbon. Click. Finally, she had arrived. She noticed the door was unlocked.
    – Honey, I’m home! – She went to Thomas’s bedroom, and then to the living room.
    – Who is he? – Zeke asked.
    – Who is… who?
    – Don’t look so surprised… I know everything… – Zeke’s voice turned lower each word.
    – So you want to know what I’ve been doing these days? – She smiled. – I’ve got great n- She didn’t finish the sentence as he hit her head with his bourbon bottle.
    Lisa woke up lying in their bed. Thomas was crying. She felt her head ache and the blood flooding out of the bruise. She was tied by her hands and her feet to the bed. Zeke came into the room quickly, with a knife in his hand. He stood next to her.
    – No… Zeke! Wait! What’s going on??? – she asked, as if she were pleading for her life.
    – I won’t lose you. – he said breathing heavily – If I can’t keep you, no one can. – And he pulled her head back and cut her throat. A spirt of blood stained him.
    – Quick, change your clothes. – ordered Zack.
    – Go to the Mermaid’s Song. Make it double. – advised Richard.
    Suddenly a cry came out of Thomas’s room. Without a second thought, Zeke went in and gave his son the same treatment he did to his wife. When he got out of the room he noticed a paper coming out of Lisa’s purse. It was a contract. For a big lawyers’ firm nearby. She’d start working there next week. “That would be the great news”, he thought.
    – To the Mermaid’s Song. Now. – he said to Zack and Richard, the latter still looking at Zeke with disdain. As soon as he got out of the building, a young boy – he couldn’t be more than 5 – joined the party.
    – I’m Pete! – He rushed into the party.
    – Let’s move, now – continued Zeke.

    Zeke was almost stepping in the Mermaid’s Song, followed by his companions.
    – Lad, you’re coming? This lady ain’t got all night! – grumbled the captain.
    Zeke took a last look behind. The anxiety was gone. The fear was gone. No feeling of pain. No feeling of guilt.
    He felt free.

  • December 15, 2015 at 7:06 pm
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    Purple
    By Alice Nelson ©2015

    My friend Scott died today; it wasn’t a quick death, he’d been dying for years. Drugs had taken over his life, and no matter how many times he got clean, the demon always won him back.

    His drug of choice was Heroin. It came in these tiny purple baggies, stamped with the words, “Pretty Penny” on the front. “Look for the purple stuff,” he said to me once, “that’s the good shit.” He was always telling me about the good shit.

    Scott had big dreams of being a writer someday. Every time he got high he’d say to me, “Ellis, man, I’m like fucking William Burroughs, that mother fucker was like a genius.” He felt a kinship to the author who also struggled with heroin, and still managed to write Scott’s favorite book, Naked Lunch. In high school he carried it around until it was dog eared, and the front cover went missing. He would sit at lunch and scrawl story ideas all over it. But Scott couldn’t put together more than a few pages of his own writings before giving up; he was a chronic quitter —except when it came to heroin.

    I didn’t know what drove Scott down his destructive road, what pain he held inside that cost him his life. He never talked about it, and I never asked. We were both lost, and looking for something neither one of us could identify; and for a time we thought we found the answers in our friendship.

    I met Scott when we were 11, I just moved to the neighborhood, and he thought it’d be funny to run over my feet with his bicycle, then he sped off laughing. But Scott didn’t expect that I’d get on my bike, chase him down and enact my revenge; we were inseparable after that day.

    Scott’s mother died when he was 3, and he never had much of a relationship with his father. He wasn’t a rebellious son, he seemed to love his dad, but he just couldn’t find any words to say to him. There were the rumors around school that his dad was abusive, or an alcoholic, or a fucking CIA operative who had Scott’s mother killed. These stories ran the gamut, and Scott laughed at all of them, but he didn’t reveal then, the real reasons behind their strained relationship.

    We called his dad Scott The Elder, and on those rare occasions when I saw him, he was nice, but suspicious of us both. He was usually on the phone, or on his way to the hospital —he was a pediatric surgeon. When he’d leave, Scott and I would order pizza, and watch movies until sunrise. I miss those days.

    For as long as I can remember, Scott dabbled in drugs of some kind. Eventually his drinking gave way to pot, which gave way to whatever substance would alter his mood, or make him forget. Soon he was high or drunk more than he was sober. That’s when we started fighting, that’s when the cracks in our already fragile friendship started to show; and just before I left for college, Scott started hanging around a really skeezy crowd; after that I only saw him occasionally. Maybe if I had been more present in his life, it might’ve ended differently for him…maybe.

    Scott turned to his muse heroin more and more, but the day before I was leaving for college he showed up out of the blue, with a gift. It was the Stone Temple Pilots CD Purple, he handed it to me and said, “This is the kind of Purple shit I thought you’d enjoy.” That’s still one of my favorite albums.

    I loved Scott so much…still do.

    I returned home from college a year ago, and when I saw Scott, he didn’t even look like that cute boy with the reddish brown hair and adorable freckles anymore. He was emaciated, dirty, his eyes were deep in the sockets, and his teeth barely hung on for dear life. He found me, Scott always had a way of finding me, at my apartment downtown. My mom told me that he had gone downhill, but I didn’t expect it would be that bad. He handed me a letter, said not to read it, to wait until he was better.

    “Promise me Ellis that you won’t read it until I’ve got my shit together.”

    I made that promise and tucked the letter away in my closet; but Scott never got better. He died that night. I will never forgive myself for not reading the letter sooner; maybe I could’ve helped him, maybe he’d still be alive. But the truth was, I couldn’t wait for him to leave, I couldn’t bare looking at him the way he was.

    He was found in some rundown house, known as a place where junkies went and did their thing. Those little purple baggies were sprawled out all around him; in the end, they were the only friends he had left. I wasn’t able to read his letter until after the funeral, no one came except me and my parents, even Scott’s father didn’t attend.

    The letter said:


    Hey Ellis, my one and only friend. No one could help me, you know that don’t you?
    Just like no one could help her —my mom. That’s why dad hated me so much, I was just
    like her, and he couldn’t deal with it again. Don’t hate him, he loved me the only
    way he knew how. You know what, I always thought that you and I were friends because
    we were a lot alike, but you never let the darkness win. See you on the other side.

    —Love, Scott

    Was it inevitable that Scott would end up like this? His certainty did nothing to lessen the guilt I felt, and will probably always feel. I put on the Stone Temple Pilots CD he gave me and cried.

  • December 16, 2015 at 8:16 am
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    The Journey

    The thin, shriveled woman was finally on her journey and she was afraid. In her mid-60s, she was practically all alone in the world. Her two daughters were married into two far flung villages.

    For two decades, she wanted to make a pilgrimage to a temple which was roughly 100 kilometers from her village and will take a little more than a day to reach. Over the years, she saved every single paisa to make this journey happen. She made straw baskets, gathered wild reed to make brooms out of, collected ripe tamarind pods in the season to pound them into pulp and all these she would sell at the weekly village market. It was years since she had two meals a day. Gifting her daughters with money or clothes was beyond her means. And that was precisely the reason that their in-laws and the husbands mostly refused to send them home. They barely visited her at the beginning of every year for the harvest festival.

    Today, sitting in the bus, she was afraid. Her dream to make this journey was fraught with risk, in her mind. She was carrying two hundred rupees – a large sum for her. She tied it at the end of her dupatta (stole) and pushed it down the inside of her arm. The small bundle she was carrying held one change of clothes and two dry rotis (bread) along with a dollop of dry chilli pickle packed tightly in the wild teak leaves.

    She climbed into the bus and sat in the front row next to the window. There were a few passengers already seated towards the back. Eventually, more people boarded though none sat next to her. Three rowdy looking teenagers climbed in and one sat next to her and two behind her. She tried to ignore them and started chanting the name of the lord whose temple she would be visiting soon.

    The bus did not leave for another one hour and when it did, the old woman immediately closed her eyes and prayed. The route to her destination was through mountain roads and she was well aware of the dangers on the way.

    Soon, her prayer turned into chanting ‘I hope nothing goes wrong’, ‘Let not the bus fall down the mountain’. At the first pit stop near the foothills of the mountains, almost all the passengers got down but she refused to. The rowdy boys returned and gave her menacing looks. There was no one else in the bus. Just at that moment, the conductor returned. Seeing him, the youngsters moved out again. She sighed with relief.

    The bus started and moved slowly up the mountain. The narrow road was missing in large patches and the last monsoon had eroded precious concrete and had created huge potholes. The woman did not dare look outside her window down the mountain out of her fear. She repeated over and over ‘Let not the bus fall down the mountain’.

    At one point, the bus stopped right at the edge of the road giving way to a stream of jeeps and cars coming from the opposite side. She made the mistake of opening her eyes and she froze at how precariously the bus stood. She squeezed her eyes shut and now prayed aloud ‘Let not the bus fall down the mountain’. The rowdy youngster shouted in her ear, “You old hag, stop saying that or we may actually fall down the mountain and die” and laughed out loud.

    Hearing her worst fear verbalized, the old woman broke into cold sweat. The bus moved again after what felt like ages. Her agony increased by the moment and now she started cursing herself for having undertaken this journey in the first place. The conductor, in the meantime, switched on the tape recorder. Bold film songs with raunchy lyrics streamed out and the boys next to her started singing loudly and off-tune. With each bump on the ghat road, the songs changed the scale and the speed. Nothing bothered the woman. Her prayer continued loud too, though now it was drowned in the music.

    Evening started to fall and long shadows fell onto the road. Still it was too early to switch on the headlights. Once again, the bus paused by the muddy shoulder on the side of the road so that another bus could pass.

    The old woman squeezed her eyes shut once again and prayed loudly ‘Let not the bus fall down the mountain’. The narrow road was too tight for two buses to cross each other. The opposite bus almost scraped its side against the mountain. The old woman was now beyond frozen and stood up in her fear because she could see that the driver of the bus had inched a step or two towards the cliff to make more space for the other bus.

    The old woman was now shouting out her chant. The bus crawled another inch towards the cliff. The situation made everyone nervous. Even the rowdy youngsters fell silent and stared down the windows on the other side to watch the scraping metal of the two buses.

    Though it looked impossible, the bus tried to move a little more. A little slip and the left front tyre kissed the air. With its balance lost, the bus went down in a free fall, as pre-empted by the old woman. The whole bus erupted into loud screams. People and things fell onto each other, crushing and twisting everything. The bus turned over a couple of times and scraped and slid down the rocky face.

    Those who remained conscious continued to scream and cry out loud.

    The mutilated bus stilled at an angle from the rocky wall. Some people had their spines broken, others had their limbs broken. The old woman, crushed between the window and unconscious people, opened her eyes. She felt a twinge of something and a question flashed in her mind – did I bring this on?

  • December 16, 2015 at 11:28 am
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    Prosecuted

    I was searching for her, and finally found her. She was with some beggars and looked half crazed; in fact some would call her mad. I didn’t want to think she had gone that far. I made a sign to another beggar woman, “Please take the money and give it to the green sari lady.”

    She was tapped on the shoulder. Kalavati turned and saw me. She threw the money down and the others grabbed it. She spat on the ground, all the time staring at me. Then she laughed loudly. People from the other vehicles were staring at me oddly, but I didn’t care. I knew I deserved it. Her hatred was all I would get from her, yet I sought forgiveness. I had sinned by treating her like a beggar. But this wasn’t my first…

    ____________

    Chris and I met at the boarding school where I was being bullied and he stopped them. From then on we were good friends. I had joined the boarding late, after my mother died. Then on, we were together always. We studied together, played basket ball, football and sat together in class.

    After that, we joined college; me in law and he – Engineering. We fell for the same woman. Only she fell for Chris and that was that.

    And soon they were to wed and I was chosen as best man. Who else? I got a tuxedo tailored. Chris lived in Worli and it was an hour’s travel from my place.

    I was fighting a major case during this period, for a boy charged with rape and murder and I knew he was innocent. I had checked all the witnesses and questioned them, and all I could see that these boys tried to make him part of their evil deed, but he refused, so they kicked him out of the bus, only to pull him back again a few metres away. He was unconscious and unaware of anything that took place then, but they blamed him.

    I knew I had a solid case, and the prosecution’s witnesses backtracked and kept changing their statements. They were weak and I knew I would walk away with victory. I had an intern working with me and he was thoroughly briefed to handle the case.

    The wedding fell on the day the final judgment would be, and I was in a dilemma. I grilled the intern, Krish, and he seemed confident enough. I knew he would handle the sum up, and highlight how and why Raja was innocent.
    I had to reach Worli and was excited. I took my car, put my tux in the back and then called my intern and once more gave him the brief. I felt a little fear in his voice, and reprimanded him. “We have come so far, now you just have to take it to the finale.”

    And I zoomed off. I was late and the ring was with me. Suddenly a car swerved from another lane. The crowds and the police questioned us and warned the errant driver. I was already half an hour late. I drove as fast as possible.
    I had reached the church and switched my mobile to silent. I was flushed and hoped all was well. But the scene that greeted me was a mirror of contrast. The wedding was over, the couple danced together, and then Chris saw me and was red with anger. Without giving me a chance he started shouting. “Karan, you’re my best man and you delay, when we have to vacate the premises in an hour, what was I to do? There’s another wedding after an hour…”

    “I understand, but I…” He wasn’t ready to listen.

    I removed the ring from my pocket, and gave it to him, then walked back to my car. He was my friend he should have know that once I made a promise I wouldn’t break it. But right now he was hindered by anger.

    He shouted, “Stop, Don’t leave, please.” I waited for a while. I told him that my gut feeling told me to go back. Something was amiss. I rushed back to the court and the boy’s mother said:

    “Why have you come now? You’re too late.”

    I went forward to meet my intern, and he was sitting with his head in his hands.

    “What happened?”

    “We lost the case. The prosecution had a secret witness …and you had switched off.”

    Oh no, I forgot all about switching it on in the confusion.

    I was silent. I had no right to say a word. “Let’s go and see the boy we will appeal in Supreme Court. I will do everything in my power.” The mother was there and she was sitting on the floor crying. The boy had committed suicide. I stared in shock.
    “Get out from here; you are not fit to be a lawyer. You killed my son.”

    I had. I could have attended the reception later, but I was excited to be at my friend’s wedding, forgetting my duties. My client was dead, and I was guilty. I would always be.

  • December 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm
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    THIS STORY THREAD IS NOW CLOSED.
    Thanks to everyone who participated, and for those who would like to enter next week’s contest, check back here tomorrow after 9am PST to find the links for the new story thread.

    Now it’s Voting Time!!
    Please submit your 1st – 5th place vote (In order), for this week’s Writers Hangout Short Story Contest to LIFlashFiction (at) gmail (dot) com no later than 9:00am PDT / 12:00pm EST / 10:30pm IST / 5:00pm WET/GMT on Thursday/ 4:00am AEDT (Friday).
    Results will be posted later that day.

    Placing “Guilt” in the subject line is helpful but not necessary.

    REMEMBER IF YOU DO NOT VOTE FOR YOUR TOP 5, YOUR STORY WILL NOT QUALIFY.

    Please note: your email address will never be disclosed, shared or sold, but may be used for administrative purposes.
    Good Luck Writers!

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