Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fiction exerpt: My Dad's Murder

After 9/11, our teacher asked us to write an essay on when it is appropriate to kill someone. I guess the first thing that came into most students’ minds was: “Is it appropriate to kill Osama bin Laden?” “What are the moral and ethical implications to kill a religious or political figure that is presented in the media as an evil person?” “If it isn’t appropriate to kill Osama, would it be appropriate to kill any other political leader such as Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin Dada?” My mind went somewhere else. I wasn’t interested in the politics of it. To me, obviously, if someone rises to the top as a political threat, there are ideas or beliefs that put him there, and killing that person does not eradicate those beliefs, it only fuels them and gives them power and, therefore, reality. Then what? That can’t be conducive to peace and harmony. No, my mind went somewhere else, somewhere personal, very real, and, up to yesterday, very painful.

I was five years old when I saw my dad shoot an intruder. The blast, the face pierced and distorted, the blood, the brain pieces, all real, forever indelibly set in slow motion in the deepest fabric of my being.

It was just past three in the morning. I remember hearing the living room grandfather clock’s chime. I had just woken up from a nightmare in which a hooded man dressed in black strangled my dad.  I could not see his face, only his hands. It took minutes. Breathless, dread-filled minutes. Mom and I were hiding under the couch. She was holding my mouth so I wouldn’t scream. Her hand felt limp suddenly. I knew she had fainted. My dad’s killer had disappeared. I woke up with a strange feeling of trying to scream without being able to, as though my voice had been tampered with. That’s when I realized it wasn’t real. I heard the clock. I heard some unusual noises downstairs. I walked softly to the top of the stairs and I saw my dad shoot a man dressed in black with no hood. I was shaking and sweat was pouring out of my pores drenching my pajamas. I did not know I had so much water that could merely leak out through my skin.

I could not speak for several days after that and I did not want to be around dad. Dad and Mom knew it had to do with the events that night but they could not get a word out of me. They sent me to a counselor lady who asked me to draw pictures, anything I wanted. All that I could draw was lifeless bodies, missing parts, lying in blood, with many, many, angels hovering over them.

The essay homework came eight years later. I was still torn inside. Torn about the need for one man to die to save another’s life, and his family. I felt guilty for preferring us to live over a stranger I did not even know. I did not know how to express any of that to the lady counselor at the time. The essay was giving me a chance to talk about it and not keep it all inside; a mysterious and confusing forbidden land.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Fiction exerpt: For Thrill's Sake

Seagulls laugh and screech, and fish and fly. The waves are regular; the wind has dropped. And Misery talks out loud for Joy’s benefit.

“We’re not going anywhere. The wind has died.”

“Yes. There’s not much to do.”

“This is annoying. It all started so well. I was looking forward to it. And now look at us.”

“The sky is blue all the way to the horizon. What a sight!”

“And that makes you happy? You’re not going to call for rescue?”


“It does not make you happy?”

“I’d be happy with any weather.”

“O … kay. Whatever. How about the rescue?”

“What for?”

“I don’t know, you know, so we’re not bored for hours on end.”

“You’ve never just done something to enjoy the process?”

“Well I do enjoy the process if I know I am getting to my goal.”

“What is your goal?”

“The thrill of speed … full wind in our sails.”


“What do you mean ‘Ha!’?”

“Just acknowledging.”

“Well aren’t you going to do anything about it?”

“I am.”

“You’re not doing anything.”

“I am letting you vent.”

“I am just fine! What are you going to do about being stranded on this infinite ocean?”


“Why not? Didn’t you invite me on your boat? Aren’t you the master sailor?”


“So …”

"There’s a master above me.”

“And who’s that?”


“Well, I’m never doing this again!”

“I guess not.”


Deeper silence.

Silence filled with tension.


(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ficition exerpt: The Never Ending Summer

Until that famous summer when banks collapsed by their own doing, pretending they needed to be rescued, Antonio Carrinian had an easy life. He actually had two lives he never mixed: one as a teacher, and one as an epicurean lover. He taught mathematics, and tutored those who needed extra help making himself available until about eight o’clock in the evening. Then, he went out for dinner and charmed his way to a date or went dancing which often ended with the same result. I am Serena Maltez, a colleague.

Antonio failed mercilessly any student who attempted to pass exams using memorization only. He warned them. He told them he did not believe people could not do math; he believed there were those who were scared of math and those who were not. He told them that if they thought they could not do math, they needed to ask for his help. He always made time for his students. Until eight o’clock that is. They would meet in his office or at a cafĂ©. He never let anyone down. Those who took his challenge passed. No exceptions. And not because he was easier on them: they actually learned the material, to their own surprise.

At night, after his last student left, he went to a bistro. He was an affable and handsome man and shared his table freely with people. That is also how he met women. They noticed right away he did not wear a wedding ring. Inevitably they asked if he had ever been married. He cleared any doubts by letting them know he had no interest in a relationship. His love was for mathematics and for teaching it. Some women excused themselves then, if they were looking for a long term relationship, but first waited for a response, hoping he would change his mind. He never strayed from his principles. He never fell under the spell of seduction, which turned him off. If women were intrigued and did not ask for a long term relationship, he was more then happy to prolong the night. He did not get attached and, yet, never left a woman without a gallant goodbye kiss. If a woman asked if they could meet again, he always said: “God willing!” He smiled, and walked away without leaving his phone number or his address, and without asking for hers.

That summer, when banks collapsed, everything changed. His students were agitated and withdrawn; he could not hold their interest. It affected him. He skipped meals. He stopped listening to music. He did not seek dates. He became a recluse. He spent all his time with his students or thinking about how to get their attention so he could teach them. He had always been able to help those who wanted it. But no longer. That summer the proportion of students seeking his help was higher than normal but few showed any progress. After 20 years of successfully teaching students other math teachers had given up on, Antonio was facing failure for the first time.

He was walking aimlessly, distracted, after school one night, when he heard a familiar voice that drew him back to the outside world. It was Jenna, one of his current students.

“Mr. Carrinian?” she said.

“Yes,” Antonio answered. He stopped to look at her. She was dressed in blue jeans that were falling apart, showing holes and threads. She had a light blouse on, not ironed. She was one of the students he’d been unable to help so far. He was embarrassed. He feared he’d lost his magic. He had little confidence left. It felt like death.

“Hi!” she said, shyly.

“Where are you going?” he asked.

“Nowhere,” she said. “There’s nowhere to go.”

“What do you mean?”

“Don’t you know?”

“No, I’m sorry ...”

“It’s just that thing that’s on everybody’s mind, sir.”

“What thing?”

“There’s no money, no food to eat, my parents are either angry or depressed. We’re going to lose our house to foreclosure. We have nowhere to go. I don’t know if you know what students are saying about you?”

“Please, Jenna, tell me …”

“You’ve been the best teacher anyone has ever had. But now they say you only care about math, it never was us you cared about.”

“Oh!” Antonio said. “May I invite you to dinner?”

“It’s not just me, sir. It’s about half the students in our class.”

“Yes, you’re right, I could not feed everybody. But, can I offer you dinner this time so you can help me see how things really are for you?”

Jenna accepted her teacher’s invitation.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Fiction exerpt: A Long Way From Home

What Abby needed, she wouldn’t say. She found Josh’s brochure somewhere, liked what it said and the way it looked. She giggled as she admitted she was drawn to his photo on the brochure. She knew what she did not want. She did not want Josh to use hypnosis on her. She did not want to lose control. Someone had done that to her before and she felt manipulated. She thinks he seduced her under hypnosis. Josh assured her he would only support her on her path, he would not offer anything she did not want to do.

~ ~ ~

Josh attended a workshop on learning to use his intuition. On several occasions, they had to pair up with a partner from the group. They were to get information intuitively about a relative of the partner so that information could be confirmed or refuted by the partner.  For one exercise, they tuned in to a relative who was alive. For another, they were to tune in to a dead relative.

Janet sought to connect with Josh’s grandfather on his father’s side, Andreas. She said that Andreas told her he understood Josh now, he understood what he was doing with his life and he supported him. It certainly was a message Josh loved to hear, because he had felt so misunderstood by his family since childhood, but it was not a message that proved Janet had truly connected with his grandfather.

Josh sought information about Janet’s mother. As he closed his eyes, and took deep breaths to relax and be open to her mother, he saw a middle aged man, trying to pull a woman his age out of a fire. Her hair was dark and disheveled, long enough to reach her shoulder blades. Her dress was simple, uniformly navy blue or black. She resisted him, her face in pain, looking away from him. He had short brown hair and wore a white shirt with sleeves rolled up above his elbows. Neither one of them was on fire. The man came out alone. He could not save the woman. Janet did not know what to make of Josh’s vision. There had been no fires involving her parents. The teacher encouraged them to think metaphorically. What could the fire represent? Janet said that her mother was deeply depressed and her father had to leave her because he was getting burned out.

That experience convinced Josh he was able to tap into information one could not rationally know, information that involved people he had never met, whether dead or not. He was left with a feeling that the message from his grandfather could be real, that Grandpa Andreas really cared about him and his family more than he had known. He felt joy from this thought.

~ ~ ~

Abby had abandoned the Catholic Church as a teenager. She felt ostracized from her family. After a few sessions with Josh, she reconnected with her Christian roots. Josh was Catholic from his upbringing. He felt a kinship with any path that has love as its core. He had come to a place where he heard a common message conveyed by all religions: to love one’s neighbor, to be humble, and to be of service. He met many who preferred to commit to one religion and, within it, to a specific denomination. He respected that.

His goal was to help people love themselves and be the best human being they wanted to be. With this kind of support, the rest seemed to fall into place with time. Abby came to believe that her God and her Jesus Christ were different from Josh’s.

To Josh, she had become color blind to some of the colors that make a true Christian. To her, she was concerned about false Gods; she was not color blind, but she became convinced certain colors were less divine than others. Josh thought the best way to help her was to allow her to explore that path and he asked her if she had gotten what she wanted from their work together. She wanted to keep meeting with him.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)