ALAMOUD THE GOAT

10_alamoud the goat, crop1

 ALAMOUD THE GOAT

 

          Little Pashmina chased her only playmate, the beloved baby goat Alamoud, through the ruins of her stone village beside Lake Kansaoya.  When she cornered him, Alamoud made a capricious hop and then charged to butt her gently.  Pashmina reached down and held up Alamoud’s foreleg.  Alamoud put his tongue out the side of his mouth and blew, making the wet vibrating sound that made Pashmina laugh.  Pashmina mimicked Alamoud and Alamoud was taken aback.

       Pashmina then heard the call of her mother, Mazdayasna.  Pashmina looked up to the hills and to the cave in which she lived all alone with her mother.  Her mother wove sweaters from goat hair for the distant followers of Tourism.  Her mother had told Pashmina mysteriously that her father was the Lake. 

       Mazdayasna called again and waved her arm to Pashmina and then she started down the goat trail.

       Pashmina asked Alamoud, “What can this be, God Willing?”  But Alamoud stood absolutely still, looking past her and then trembling.  A great shadow fell over Pashmina.  Pashmina turned around to see an enormous man with many scars on his face and arms.

       “Are you God?” she asked breathlessly.

       “I am Saoshyant,” he smiled, “You are Pashmina?”

       “Yes.”

       “Where is… your mother?”

       “She comes, “ pointed Pashmina.

       Alamoud hid behind Pashmina and bleated.

       When Mazdayasna arrived she was holding some sweaters.  She stood before Saoshyant for many breaths.  Suddenly Saoshyant embraced her mightily.  Mazdayasna moaned and began to cry.  Pashmina was alarmed.

       “Punish me and not my mother!” cried Pashmina.  Alamoud bleated in fear.

       Saoshyant and Mazdayasna both looked upon Pashmina with tears in their eyes.  Suddenly Saoshyant burst into laughter.  He released Mazdayasna and in one stride he knelt down and embraced Pashmina mightily.

       Alamoud bleated and trembled but still he charged at the great hands of Saoshyant and butted.

       “Well!” boomed Saoshyant.  “I need more warriors like you, little one.”

       Saoshyant released Pashmina and arose and turned to Mazdayasna, “And I need more sweaters to trade for food and ammunition for my men, oh Beloved.”

       Mazdayasna bowed her head, “I am sorry.  I waste nothing.”

       “I know.  I know.” And Saoshyant embraced Mazdayasna again, “We will be satisfied with what God provides us.”

       Mazdayasna whispered, “God Willing, you will have victory and you will return to stay with us forever.  And then it will be safe to tell Pashmina.”

       Saoshyant turned away holding the sweaters in one hand, and scooped up Alamoud in the other powerful hand and while holding Alamoud by all four legs upon his massive shoulder he strode away.

       Pashmina cried out after him and was running behind him, “Where are you taking Alamoud?”

       “To Heaven, Pashmina.  It is God’s Will.”

            Her mother called to Pashmina to come back.  Alamoud was bleating in terror.  Pashmina burst into tears, “Take me instead, God.  Take me instead!  Do not take my friend!  Do not take Alamoud from us!”

       Saoshyant’s stride began to lessen.  Pashmina caught up to him and she fell upon the ground groveling, “Oh, merciful God Saoshyant!  Release my friend!  Release Alamoud”.

       Saoshyant looked down upon Pashmina.  The sand was devouring her tears.  With a sigh, he lowered Alamoud to the ground and released him.  Alamoud ran to Pashmina and hid his head next to hers.

       “Brave Pashmina and noble Alamoud, you are my Window unto Heaven itself.”  

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THE NARROW WOODS

11_the narrow woods, crop1

THE NARROW WOODS

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        I was twelve years old. My family moved to a new town during my Junior High School.

        They had talked forever about moving . They had looked at all kinds of places. I never believed that we would ever actually move.

        Therefore, now I had lost my few friends.

        I dreaded that new school. Back then I used to read a lot. I had an insect collection. I had a tide-pool aquarium. I was a real book-worm nerd. I felt a little better when I found a cool little lizard on my way to school that first day. He let me catch him easily and I found out that he would just sit on my shoulder. I named him Master Blaster. I hid him in my button-down shirt pocket.

        Mrs. Daws was teaching us French for first period. She taught French with a Southern twang. In class, for an exercise in French, I had to pretend I was asking Brittany Reina for a date. It was humiliating.  Brittany didn’t have to say “Beaucoups les nons” like that and make everyone laugh. It was only pretend.

        I found out that Brittany’s boyfriend was a tough guy named Wyman Wood. Wyman was in my gym class. For laughs, he would threaten to beat-up this “slow” kid named Grant Siemens unless Grant beat-off in the showers. Wyman and his friends would scream with laughter and make fun of Grant’s last name. The cacophony in the locker-room was demented.

        At lunchtime all the lunch area benches were crowded and boisterous and a little bit unnerving. There was one table at the outskirts where I saw Grant Siemens sitting next to a girl wearing a scarf. I went to that table and sat at the opposite end. I took Master Blaster out of my pocket and placed him on my shoulder. I offered him a pinch of lettuce from my sandwich.

        Grant said to me with a bright-eyed beaming smile, “That is so cool. What is your name? My name is Grant.”

        I lowered my head and glanced around, “Hi, Grant.”

        “What is your lizard’s name?”

        “Master Blaster,” I said and Grant howled with laughter.

        “This is Carolyn,” Grant pointed to the girl beside him.

        I raised a finger, “Hi, Carolyn.” And then I realized who she was.

        I already had heard everybody talking about Carolyn, making fun of her. Carolyn Calhoun was a short shy little girl with a round, round face, a long pointed nose, bad acne, and a bright sweet smile and happy bright eyes. She looked at me sideways, head bowed and sheepish. With her scarf, and her long dress over her potato-shaped figure, she reminded me of a Polish refugee in my World War Two book.

        “You better hide Master Blaster,” she said to me softly.

        “Why?”

        “Master Blaster is in danger.”

        Just then, I noticed that Wyman Wood was approaching Carolyn. I whisked Master Blaster into my pocket.

        “Hey, Calhoun!” shouted Wyman, “My friend Schminky over there is in love with you!”

        A boy, evidently Schminky, at the adjacent table stood up and whirled around with a revolted look and cried, “Oh, God, fuck you,” and everybody at the table shrieked with laughter. The boy dropped to the ground, pretending to gag.

        Wyman then turned to Grant, saying, “Good show today, Grant SEMEN.” And Grant grinned along, whipping his hand up and down in mock masturbation, actually enjoying the attention.

        Brittany, sitting at that adjacent table, screamed in mock horror.

        “Aw, leave him alone,” came out of my mouth. Wyman’s friends at the adjacent table, including Brittany, went, “OOooo!”

        Wyman glared and then he crept toward me at the opposite end of the bench as ominously as he could, “Hey, faggot, I hear you asked my girlfriend for a date! What now? Are you gonna teach me a lesson?”

        I started to say, “Aw, why are you ..,” and then Carolyn caught my eye. So when Wyman grabbed my shoulders and yanked me off of the bench and onto the ground I curled into a ball and cupped my shirt pocket to protect Master Blaster. Wyman kicked me once, in my unprotected ribs.

        “So the Retard Convention has a new member. Let’s all welcome the new girl!” Thankfully, Wyman returned to his applauding followers.

        I got up, mortified, trying to tell myself that I had done the right thing… for Master Blaster, that is, who was safe. I sat back down at the table.

        I asked Grant and Carolyn, “Does that shit happen all the time? Why do you eat next to them?” and my tough talk trembled a little, “Carolyn, how did you know he’d pick on me like that?”

        Grant interrupted matter-of-factly, “He picks on everyone.”

        Carolyn closed her bright eyes, “No. I could see it. I see things.  I hear things.  I don’t always understand what I see. I am a fortune teller.”

        “What?”

        Grant spoke up enthusiastically, “Tell him why you don’t have a million zillion dollars if you can tell the future!”

        Carolyn opened her eyes and smiled innocently, “It is the gift. I heard my Grandma say one night that I was a ‘bortion but I lived. If I had a million dollars then I would lose the gift.

        I asked, “You are serious?”

        “Yes. I can even tell that my mom and my dad are going to leave each other, and they never yell at each other; they never say anything. I can just tell.

        “OK? OK. But what else?” I asked politely, trying to be serious.

        “Do you like to read?” asked Carolyn.

        “Sure, but with these glasses, who couldn’t tell that…?” I chuckled.

        “You are going to be a story writer.”

        Well, she was sure telling me what I wanted to hear. But then the bell rang, sounding the end of the lunch period. We three stood up to go to our respective classes. I waved vaguely, “See you Monday.”

        Carolyn answered as I walked away, “I won’t be here Monday. I’m going into the narrow woods.”

        “Huh?” I asked, but she didn’t seem to hear me as she walked away.

        On Monday the whole school was wrapped in a buzz about Carolyn. She had been killed in an automobile accident.

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MISS GAIDO

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MISS GAIDO

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        How many women get two careers? Especially one as lucrative as this one is. That bachelor party was quick and easy.

        Oh, shit, I’ve left my windows down on my car. Some cat has probably pissed in my new car.

        Focus! Put the cash away first, in the locking bank bag.

        Who’s next tonight?

        What’s it say on the dashboard memo?

        Mmmmm, what’s this? “The Kohn party” – Shit, this is bad even for my handwriting.

        “GPS: ‘Kohn party’.” OK. I don’t remember punching this one in. Mmmm, not far.

        I could never have afforded this car on just my salary. Voice-activated radio.

        “FM: ‘104 point three’”. Alright. I like this song.

        “…It’s per-son-al, myself and I, we got some straighten-in’ out to-o do-o…”

        Hey, alright, here we are. Only a couple blocks. The word must be getting out. Nice house. The music inside is kind of loud. I won’t need my boom box.

        “Hello?”

        Wow, this house is even nicer inside.

        Why is this kid answering the door? Why is he smoking a cigar? “Is your father home?” This kid looks familiar. Who are those other two boys? They look familiar.

        “Hey, uh, kid, what’s going on?”

        “What do you mean, you’re sorry?”

        “You’re the one who wrote on my memo pad? You changed my GPS?”

        “That bachelor party was at your father’s house?!”

        “This is Travis’s house? Who the… Wait a minute…”

        Oh, God. Holy shit.

        “You’re Phil, you’re … Travis and you’re… Allen from Fourth Period English!”

        Aw, what the hell.

        “Yeah, $316.73 will do…”

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A YOUNG WIVES’ TALE: LORELLA SHIEKH

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A YOUNG WIVES’ TALE:

LORELLA SHIEKH

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        Lorella Shiekh was walking slowly, elegantly, down the dirt road. She wore a widow’s gown of black lace. A chic black laced hat shielded her head underneath that Georgia sunshine. She wore sunglasses. She was bare-foot. As Lorella strolled, little tufts of powdery yellow dust arose to adorn her feet.

        Her husband Shahran was dead.

        “He was a parasite and a stink bug,” thought Lorella. She raised her arms and fluttered her hands like wings.

        That dirt road passed directly through the corn maze canyons of her Daddy-Daw’s farm in Dawsville. The mourners were still gathered back there at her Daddy-Daw’s house.

        They all knew Lorella. She was brave, big, loud, beautiful, bright, joyful, and mighty.

        They all had known her husband, Shahran. He was feminine, small, mean, difficult, fearful, dim, and a coward.

        Sheriff Arvin Biggs never had accepted that Lorella had married Shahran out of love. It was Arvin who loved Lorella. Arvin was sure that Lorella loved him still. Arvin was big, loud, fast, and always ready for a fight.

        Arvin suddenly stepped out of the corn onto the dirt path in front of Lorella.

        Lorella’s left hand flew to her breast as she gasped.

        “Lord! Arvin, what are you are doing out here?!”

        He sneered, “Investigating crop circles.”

        They stood and stared at each other.

        Lorella spoke, “This won’t be good, Arvin.”

        Arvin asked, “Lorella, do you think I’m still having a good time whenever I’m with you?”

        Lorella scolded, ceasing her careful English and now drawling, “Now you all just forget all that will you now?”

        Arvin retorted, “Forget how we made ‘crop circles’ together or forget me having a really bad time ever since you met that, that, …” he was at a loss for a bad enough word for her dead husband, Shahran.

        “He’s dead, Arvin, dead. You need to show some respect for the dead now.”

        “Why’re you so concerned about ‘respect’ anyway, Lorella? Everybody knows why you married Shahran. You married his fucking Ahy-rab money. You talk all about ‘respect’. You planned all this, didn’t you?!”

        “Stop that now, do you hear me Arvin Biggs?! I am grieving and I will not hear you talk to me that way. You need to go!” Lorella glanced quickly around.

        Arvin shook his head, “Nothing else here except your conscience, Lorella.”

        “How dare you all talk to me about ‘conscience’, Arvin? You want the fact? Well, everybody knows you did it. And you talk to me about ‘conscience’? You need to go before they…” and Lorella glanced past Arvin.

        Arvin glanced quickly around.

        Lorella pointed at Arvin, “Ah-hah! Anybody can see that you have a guilty conscience. You need to go.”

        “We need to get this straight, Lorella: Shahran confronted me that night with your birth control pills. I didn’t do anything except tell him he was a dim little man. There are witnesses.”

        “And those witnesses will say you argued with Shahran and that you left right as soon as Shahran drove off.”

        “So damn what? I’m a Sheriff of Daws County! I’m in charge of this investigation, and I’m calling it an accident. He wasn’t murdered! And he was too much a coward to kill himself. Rich boys don’t commit suicide like that.”

        Lorella’s brow furrowed above her sunglasses, “So that same night that Shahran dies he leaves behind a letter he was writing, right so I would find it, a letter to the County saying that you were having an affair with me. I was visiting Daddy that night, and Daddy will say so, but Shahran thought I was going to rendezvous with you. Do you understand?”   She spoke ominously but Sheriff Arvin did not catch the meaning, “I have that letter and I hid it.”

        Arvin barked, “Well, he didn’t mail it; so what? No one’s gonna know that, ever. I’m in charge of this investigation.”

        “He didn’t mail that letter but what if he did mail another letter that we don’t know about, one that’s going to be shoved into your face some day?”

        “You and I grew up together in this town; so what? And nobody in Dawsville liked that mean little S.O.B. of yours, anyway. He owned the whole town.”

        “And now I do,” said Loretta, “Don’t forget. My daddy’s family founded this town and then the Yankees took it away. This whole town owes me now. So do you. You all were … disloyal enough … to sell-out this town to Shahran so he could figure on selling to developers.”

        “And just what did you sell to him, Lorella?”

        “I sold him just exactly what he needed: an American wife and children.”

        “Children? Shahran found out you were secretly taking birth control pills! I don’t blame you, Lord knows, but now it can look like we were having an affair after all! And you sure as hell know that it is untrue.”

        “We were lovers once and everyone in Dawsville knows it. And you made it clear to this whole damn County that you hated Shahran. Lord, you kept sayin’ that I was meant to be yours.”

        “Don’t you fuck me with that now,” bristled Sheriff Arvin. “Don’t you threaten me or, or…”

        “Or nuthin’, Arvin. This town is going to go along with anything I need, you’ll see. I own their lives now and they think they are free again because they think I am one of them. My daddy knows what I did. They all know what I was trying to do. I was fighting for the family. For Dawsville.”

        Sheriff Arvin Biggs looked at last with fear upon his beloved Lorella.

        When Lorella then walked regally back into her daddy’s house all the mourners there stood and faced her with almost imperceptibly bowed heads.

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THE END OF YEARS

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THE END OF YEARS

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        It was Saturday night, New Year’s Eve. Arlen was at the mini-mall Lavanderia Laundromat loading a washing machine. He was alone under the fluorescent glare. He shut the washer lid and pushed the tray of coins into the slot. The washer began to throb.

        Arlen shuffled outside into the icy-cold evening. There was a lot of moonlight. He looked up at the great asteroid now looming brightly behind the full moon. The great asteroid made the moon look like the iris in a cosmic eyeball. It peered through the shimmering auroras in the upper atmosphere and it blinked behind the gauze of smoke from volcanoes far away.

        “It’s actually beautiful,” said a voice behind Arlen.

        “Aesthetics is dead,” replied Arlen curtly to the stranger. Arlen went back inside the Lavanderia Laundromat to watch the TV on the wall.

        The stranger followed him inside and said, “Funny how the European Space Agency nick-named the asteroid Godot.”

        Arlen muttered, “What’s a GUH-DOH, anyway?”

        “Waiting for Godot?”

        “Huh?”

        “The famous play: Waiting for Godot? Oh, Godot’s the pivotal character that you wait and wait for and never hear and never see,” replied the stranger.

        “That’s probably why I never heard of it and never saw it.”

        “It’s about waiting in faith, about the meaning of day to day existence, about God.”

        Arlen looked over at the stranger and furrowed his brow, “What are you?”

        “Oh, I was a Performing Arts major. Now there are no students left. It was a private school and they closed.”

        On the TV a team of NASA administrators addressed the army of glaring cameras. “The prognosis remains the same: Godot will likely miss the earth but there is a slight chance that it could strike the moon and send it careening into… toward us… the earth.”

        A reporter asked, “What does ‘a slight chance’ mean?”

        A NASA administrator consulted with his colleagues and then answered, “We are working on an exact answer. Parameters are shifting as Godot approaches.”

        Another NASA administrator said, “Even if it misses the moon, we know that the effects of Godot’s gravity will be…severe.”

        The TV flickered and lost the satellite signal.

        Arlen turned around to see if the wash was done. The washer rocked rhythmically with the spin dry cycle.

        “Almost done,” observed the stranger behind him. That irritated Arlen for some reason.

        Arlen said to the stranger, “The last wash allowed was at 9PM. What are you doing here?”

        “Oh, I just wanted to share this with somebody,” said the stranger as he reached into his oversized coat and withdrew a big squared bottle of Devil’s Cut, “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey,” he smacked, “Happy New Year!”

        Arlen licked his lips involuntarily. “What’s your name?”

        “Name’s Asher. And yours is…?”

        “Arlen.” He instinctively put on his salesman’s smile.

        “Can you believe that the Iranian guy in the liquor store next door just gave this to me?”

        “What? Why?”

        “Actually, he’s giving everything away. He’s leaving for Las Vegas.”

        The TV reignited. A pale news anchor was blinking, “The migrations are continuing. This is the stream of vehicles going to Las Vegas, Nevada, as seen from SkyWatch-6.”

        “And this is a scene of the Holy Repentance Tent City in the Canadian wilderness. It was taken by a viewer in a private plane crossing to Colorado.”

        “Please remember to forward your pictures and videos to us at Channel Six…”

        The picture became a dancing jig-saw puzzle rainbow. Then the TV lost signal completely.

        “Arlen, let’s drink to the end of your spin cycle!” and Asher took a hot gulp. He winced and handed the bottle to Arlen.

        “It was a flawless cycle, wasn’t it?” asked Arlen rhetorically as he dug out his damp compressed clothes and plopped them in the wheeled basket with the one hand and received the Devil’s Cut with the other hand. He halted and took a quick series of gulps. He sighed, “Flawless.” Arlen then bent over and wheeled the basket around the washers, “I only hope the dryer is half as good.”

        Asher laid his palm on the round glass door of a dryer, “This one is still warm.”

        Arlen loaded the dryer, “The owner of the Lavanderia Laundromat came in a while ago to collect coins and to refill the bill-changer. He is thinking about staying open around-the-clock now. He won’t leave his business. He doesn’t approve of Vegas, and he is not religious. He will stay open until the electricity and gas are gone. He told me that this business is all he has.”

        “It is good to have something,” said Asher wisely.

        Arlen shut the dryer door and nudged the coins into the slot. The dryer began to labor. The damp clothing leapt up and collapsed down, again and again.

        The TV signal revived briefly, “Already there have been recurrent tidal inundations along all seaboards.”

        Asher recalled thoughtfully, “There was an army truck up at the Food-4-Less. They told me that most of the military has deserted to be with their families. They said it’s the same in most other countries.”

        “At least, at last, we have ‘peace in our time’,” observed Arlen reverently.

        “Except the Middle East, of course,” amended Asher.

        “War is all they have.” said Arlen.

        The Devil’s Cut was shared between them like a gentleman’s game of tennis. Their understanding grew more and more incisive. Their minds became one.

        “I am sure that the government has created a giant underground computer to back-up all our knowledge and understanding.”

        “What will it run on when the power grid is gone?”

        “Nuclear power. They have dozens of nuclear reactors underground that are cooled by underground streams. They will provide power for hundreds of years even if no one touches them again.”

        “Well, by then the streams will have changed course. The reactors will have overheated and melted and fallen into the center of the earth.”

        “Whoa! Then, when the computers are found by our descendants, or by the aliens, they’ll wonder why we carved those tiny silicone tablets, chips, and wonder what the strange patterns mean, and ask why we enshrined them in a catacomb of metal. There won’t be any Internet to search for understanding and meaning and truth.”

        “So we will not even be a memory. We will not have existed in any way that can be proven except by God.”

        “Except…by…God… thus proving the existence of God!!”

        “You see? You understand.”

        “I like to understand.”

        “What else is there to strive for but to understand?”

        “What about faith?”

        “We must have the faith that we will be able to understand.”

        “But.. when you understand then there is no longer faith.”

        “I don’t understand.”

        “Take this dryer here. I pretty much understand how it works and so do you. It doesn’t take faith, it takes money.”

        “So, money is faith understood?”

        “That’s a good way to think of it.”

        “So that is why the money says ‘In God We Trust’.”

        “Yes, the government understands God.”

        “And we have faith in our government.”

        “Your logic is like clockwork.”

        “I’m not sure. I heard that even the atomic clock is undependable in Godot’s gravity field.”

        Asher looked toward the large plate glass window of the harshly lit Lavanderia Laundromat. There was a ghostly Asher and a ghostly Arlen that seemed to be standing out in the empty parking lot.

        “Is it the New Year yet?”

        Arlen made a sour face, “What does it matter?”

        “I have resolved to be more understanding. Won’t you join me?”

        Arlen raised the diminished bottle of Devil’s Cut, “We still have a little Sweet Abandon left before our New Year’s Resolutions are in effect.”

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ONE LAST LEAF IN WINTER SKY

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ONE LAST LEAF IN WINTER SKY

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One last leaf in winter sky

Beckoned cold wind, heaven sent.

Naked branches whipped awry,

Bowing down and penitent.

Trembling did they dispossess

At the weeping clouds’ advent.

Was I only passing by?

Looking up to acquiesce,

When I could not circumvent

I endured to stay bone dry.

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