The South

Nostalgia by Linda Beeson Rosendale

My fondest memories of childhood are of church services, the scent of Momma’s perfume and her suede coat with a fur collar. The smell of that perfume, a combination of sweet flowers and citrus, combined with the softness of her coat take me back to a simpler time, a time when adults were in charge, you could walk the neighborhood without fear, parents watched out for all the children in the area, and everyone knew you.

It was a simpler time, a time when honeysuckle bloomed fragrant and beautiful and we drank the sweet nectar from its blossoms–a habit my mom tried to discourage, to no avail.

Evenings at Mama’s house spent catching “lightening bugs” or swinging on the front porch. Family and friends always dropping in. Play dates didn’t exist. It was a much more informal time and place. I still prefer that kind of thing.

Now, suffice it to say, I lived in a small town in The South. Sometimes, especially when I was a teenager, it wasn’t so convenient to have all those people in my business. But now, I’m glad they were. I messed up enough with the eyes on me, but without them, I shudder to think!

The South. Yep, capitalized, cause it’s like a whole other world if you aren’t from there. From our expressions (so good it makes you wanna slap your grandma) to the milk and cornbread for a midnight snack, and everything in between. There is no place like it.

The Yellow Sun

A Tale by extetsjoibe

My mother, when my eldest brother Osman was born, nursed the eldest Khan, Abu Nutsal Khan. Then she nursed the second son of the Khan, Umma Khan, and reared him; but Akhmet my second brother died, and when I was born and the Khansha bore Bulach Khan, my mother would not go as wet-nurse again. My father ordered her to, but she would not. She asked: “Should I again kill my own son? I will not go.’

Then my father, who was passionate, struck her with a dagger and would have killed her had they not rescued her from him. So she did not give me up, and later on she composed a song . . . but I need not tell that.

Hadji Murad grew thoughtful. He remembered how his mother had laid him to sleep beside her under a fur coat on the roof of the saklya and he had asked her to show him the place in her side where the scar of her wound was still visible.

He remembered the fountain below the hill when holding onto his mother’s sarovary (loose Turkish trousers) when he went with her for water. He remembered how she had shaved his head for the first time and how the reflection of his round bluish head in the shining brass vessel that hung on the wall had astonished him. He remembered a lean dog that had licked his face. He remembered the strange smell of the lepeshki (a kind of flat cake) his mother had given him – a smell of smoke and sour milk. He remembered how his mother had carried him in a basket on her back to visit his grandfather at the farmstead and left him there. He remembered his wrinkled grandmother. He remembered all of this. But he remembered most how his mother would wake him with her bright sun even after she was long gone, turning down the path away from her parent’s home without even a look backwards.

Where is your mother now? someone asked.

My mother is now in Shamil’s hands, he answered, and she must be rescued. When he smiled, he captivated everyone around him.

No, one of the others said. This was long ago. She is no longer in his hands.

Yes, I know, he said. I just want to see the scar one more time, that’s all. I want to see how her scar became a bright yellow sun.

The Bank of Happiness

A New Idea by Airi Kivi

A very Estonian idea: The bank of happiness

Star of Gratitude

The Star of Gratitude is the “money” of the Bank of Happiness – the Value Entity of the Good Will. The rate of the Star of Gratitude is 1 good deed = 1 Star of Gratitude.

The Star of Gratitude can be equal with a big hug, a box of chocolates or with gratitude coming from the heart. If you have at least one Star of Gratitude, you have done something important. The Star of Gratitude is a reminder of a good deed and can cheer you up during hard times. There could be endless amount of Stars of Gratitude on your account, everything is up to you.
The Star of Gratitude will promote the gratitude economy besides the common economy in the society. The Star of Gratitude enables to increase personal image capital. On the day when you become a millionaire of the Stars of Gratitude, you will become one of the most honorable people in the society. The Star of Gratitude is money that will never be devaluated!

In the future the Star of Gratitude could also become a real exchange unit, for what it might be possible to get a cup of coffee in a cafe etc. What will be the value of the Star of Gratitude in the society, depends on all of us!

The Dow Chemical Executive

A Poem by M. Lapin

–based on the poem, “The Colonel.” by Carolyn Forché

This is what is true. I went to the Dow Chemical executive’s house. He had a servant, a very plain-looking girl, probably from strong stock, with wide-open eyes and thin lips–the kind you cannot kiss. She brought into the room 
a tray of coffee, tea, cream and sugar. His daughter sat at the table that filled the space playing a handheld video game, his son sat near her watching the small screen. On the only other piece of furniture in the room, a long antique couch, lay a The WALL STREET JOURNAL, two cats, and an opened book faced down. The sun had left the sky and outside a piece of moon streamed light onto a small pond like steam. The executive offered me a seat at the table. That was all that was in the room: a couch and a table with eight chairs around it–no television, no shelves full of books, not even a computer. He asked his children to leave, asked the servant to bring his wife in, and then turned to me and asked if I had dinner yet. Near the doorway was an expensive box hiding an alarm system. Through the large picture window I could see bright lights go on and off throughout the yard when a deer decided to take a walk across the lawn. The deer, caught in the light, decided to stay. Suddenly two large dogs ran at it and it fled instantly into the brush and over a large fence. The executive watched the chase with amusement. We ate braised beef, good wine, vegetables he bragged came fresh from the garden. The servant brought in sour sop, mang cow, a half dozen chom choms and a large dragon fruit. None of these could be purchased at the store. I was asked about my blogs, my forums, a few other things. I, a guest in his house, invited, answered each request with tight brief sentences, asked how he had obtained all of this Vietnamese fruit. The servant cleared the table. At my question, the executive looked me intently in the face, did not give me a chance to reply, raised his hand and excused himself. He came back with a box that made noise when he placed it on the table. He opened it and took out one vial, then another, and still another. He picked each one up and placed them carefully on the table until there was nothing left in the box. At first I thought I was looking at brine, blood samples maybe, simple vertebrae in salt water, early embryos I studied in school, and then I realized each bottle did hold an embryo, an underdeveloped baby–could it be?–, deformed, in some instances unrecognizable as a human. They were like
 creatures from a H. G. Wells’ Doctor Moreau. How else can I describe them? The executive lifted one vial of an embryo beyond deformity, shook it in our faces, dropped it back onto the table where we watched it roll until another vial stopped it. I want this noise stopped, he said. As 
for compensation or anything else, no, tell your group they can fuck themselves. He paused. I have the cause for this in this house. I can show you if you wish. Forty years I’ve collected these abortions, these imploding genes. Then he smiled. Something for your blog, no? the executive’s wife asked. Her husband laughed and placed the vials carelessly back in the box and the servant came into the room and removed it.

The Dragon, the Ship and the Shapeshifter—Part 2

A Short Story by Laura Seabaugh

“Hoy!” the captain shouted. “By my bootstrap.”

Kantile’s head spun in the direction of the door and she caught a glimpse of the captain filling the door frame before she dropped to the floor beside the bed. She’d been so intent on the keys that she hadn’t even heard the door open. She flattened herself against the bed frame, but there wasn’t enough room for her to hide beneath it. From her hiding place she could see the captain’s boots as he and an officer entered the room.

She took a moment to consider her options and tucked the captain’s log under her shirt. It was unlikely she’d escape the cabin without being caught unless she changed form. The keys were lying on the bed in plain sight. As discreetly as possible, she reached up and felt for the keys she hadn’t tried. She only had time to grab one before the captain started moving, and barely managed to slip it up her sleeve before he came stomping around the bed.

Both their eyes went wide when he saw her, but she was on her feet before he knew what was happening. The other man, an officer in fine shape, tried to beat her to the door. Fortunately even without being able to change form, the shapeshifter was a slippery little scalawag. She grabbed his shirt to hold him back as she lunged for the doorknob. She was only trying to get by him as she flung open the door, but in her haste she accidentally hit him in the face with it.

She rushed onto the deck and stopped, looking around. As much as she wanted to find the first mate, she had to get away and try the last key on her shackles. She took the stairs to the poop deck and shook the key from her sleeve as footsteps pounded after her. An officer grabbed her arm, knocking her off balance. The key flew from her fingers. She fumbled after it, missed. With a brassy chime, it bounced over the railing and got swallowed by the ocean.

So disappointed was she as she watched the dark waves splash against the hull that she didn’t notice Captain Seelig step up behind her until he started laughing. He ordered the officer to fetch her chains while others restrained her.

They clamped chains to her shackles and prepared the plank. They dragged her around and jeered and spat at her. They emptied her pockets, which was disappointing, but not as disappointing as their discovery of the ship’s log in her shirt.

“I’ll take that,” the first mate said. He claimed the log from the officers and walked away without contest.

Kantile gaped at him, only to have a gag shoved in her mouth. With a nudge from the officers, she took a step down the plank, except it was more like a shuffle with the extra weight of the chains. If not for the iron, she would have been happy to get off that ship. At the surface, it was going to be a fair day. The sun was rising through the mist in pale shades of pink and orange. The breeze smelled of salt and summer, and the sails flapped in sync with the waves lapping against the ship. It would be dark and cold in the depths below.

She took one last look over her shoulder and found no allies among the crowd. The captain stood back, arms crossed over his gut. “Perhaps you’ll find your key at the bottom of the ocean,” he sneered, stirring a rise from his officers. Then they released their end of the board and tipped her into the sea.

She floundered in the freezing waves as the ship’s wake pushed her away. The shock of the fall had frozen her lungs, and her limbs felt like they were made of clay. As hard as she tried to kick her legs and flail her arms, she found herself sinking. The shouts aboard the Zoarcid became muffled as the ocean closed around her. The last thing she saw was a faint dawning glow on the horizon before the waves swallowed her up.

Iron had always irritated her, but the iron around her ankles had never felt so heavy. She stared helplessly as the surface rose farther and farther away and the depths grew darker and darker. In her flailing and thrashing, her gag had come loose, but no one would hear her underwater. Her body protested the lack of air and, in a futile effort to breathe, found seawater instead. Then to her surprise, she felt the water flow through her gills. She reached up and found gill slits in her jaw, and yet she was feeling them with human fingers.

It was the most awkward thing, being half-shifted, but better than drowning. The iron burned her ankles and she could feel the strain it placed on her transformation. She was still sinking, having no energy left for swimming. Being surrounded by ocean was almost like floating in the cosmos. She was weightless, oblivious, and completely at the mercy of the elements. There were even stars glowing in the distance. Or suns, two of them, shining in the abyss.

They were almost upon her before she realized the shining objects were a pair of eyes, giant eyes with fiery light behind black slits. Their warm glow reflected on red scales. Air bubbled from snake-like nostrils, and the sea churned and swished as the creature wrapped his talons around her. Before she could say, “I’ve been caught by a dragon!” she was speeding to the surface in his grip.

The dragon swam like a frog, propelling them up with his wings. When they broke the surface, he placed her on the bridge of his nose and treaded waves. The early light made the dragon’s scales gleam like cut rubies. He huffed water from his nostrils.

Kantile coughed and hacked from the transition back to lungs. “I didn’t know sea dragons had wings,” she said, clearing her throat.

“I’m not a sea dragon,” the dragon answered.

“Oh.” She coughed.

A chuckle rumbled in the dragon’s throat. “Sorry to disappoint.”

She patted the top of his spiny head. “That’s okay. Thanks for fishing me out of the water. I was thrown off a ship.” She looked around. They were surrounded on all sides by ocean and sky with no sign of the Zoarcid. “The ship! We have to find it!”

“I plan on it,” the dragon replied. He started to swim. How he knew which direction to go was a mystery to the shapeshifter. “And when we do, we’re going to rescue her from all the vermin on board.”

“What about that first mate?” she prodded. “He’s especially devious.”

“Come now,” he mused, “I’m sure he’s not all bad.”

“He took the ship’s log and got away while the captain threw me overboard!”

“That he did. Your diversion gave him just enough time to stow it safely away.” There was a queer tone in his voice that made him seem to be speaking in third person. She had a hunch that her new dragon friend was in cahoots with the first mate.

The sea lapped up his sides as he glided across the surface into the rising sun. Kantile hung on to one of the spines that grew from the dragon’s nose and let the wind dry her hair. As fast as the dragon was moving, she could hardly sit still as anticipation thawed her limbs and brought a widening smile to her face. If there was one thing she enjoyed more than a mutiny, it was a battle.