Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Short Story: Eliyahu ha-Navi by Mark Sparber

I read Eliyahu ha-Navi by Mark Sparber in Strange Horizons, another short story site. It is a Jewish science fiction with lots of fantasy elements.

"Although he was not recognizably human, in 1908 the old man was nevertheless recognizably Jewish. He looked as I imagine he must have looked for a thousand years. He was dwarfish and twisted, with long, gnarled limbs that grasped whatever they could clutch with a fierce clawing motion. His gray, matted beard and sidelocks met on the ground, where they tangled with each other and with the filthy fringes from his prayer shawl. He was small enough that my great-grandparents could fit him into an accordion case, and this is what they did, so that his moans and wheezing might be mistaken for the sound of wind running through an instrument's reeds."

This beginning sets the pace of this story which in a way defies description. Here prophet Elijah is brought to live in the new world. For the reason "It is Elijah that will tell the world of the Messiah's coming! He will go from door to door, knocking and saying, 'Gather your prayer shawl, gather your phylacteries! He is here! The Messiah is here!"

Elijah is taken to be a stinking old man. He is hated by the children yet they have to look after him. As an obligation for a better world, for the arrival of the Messiah.

When the narrator finds him in a bad state, we see a change in his heart. He no longer hates the pitiful prophet. He somehow has developed fondness for the wizened old man and prays for him to live.

The imagery in this story is good. It has that fantasy element which keeps us rivetted to the story. In the beginning, we hate the prophet but we slowly come to like him, even saddened when he falls ill. For all his fault, he seems like a helpless old man locked in a time period of not his making.

"From outside the room, from some distant hallway, I heard the moans and wheezes of an accordion."

I recommend.....

Short Story: Time, Again by Tim Maly

Another short story read for Short Story September Challenge. This is the 31st one. A bonus read!

"Before we met, you showed me your diary and then we were having sex on the wooden floor of your living room. I still remember the way the plants filtered the sunlight and the sound of the tea kettle building up steam. Then our son was at the foot of the bed, asking me where you'd gone."

Time, Again by Tim Maly defies description. It is short short story. One feels timeless reading this. One wants to what period of time is the protagonist talking about. It seems like a dream. Yet it is not. One wants to know about this time which can't be described. And what does Time, Again means? Maly has created magic with his words. A delightful short story which has past, no future.

"There's nothing I can do. The future is just as real as the past. There is no before or after anymore. Because of you, there never was. "

We weren't meant to live like this."

A story meant to be read. Click on Time, Again and read on.........

Monday, September 29, 2008

Short Story: Leaving the Yellow House (1957) by Saul Bellow

I read Leaving the Yellow House (1957) by Saul Bellow online in Narrative Magazine.

This is about Hattie Waggoner who is seventy two years and lives alone in a Yellow House. Only six people live at Sego Desert Lake, including her. The neighbours are helpul and caring.

"Hattie was not exactly a drunkard, but she hit the bottle pretty hard, and now she was in trouble and there was a limit to the help she could expect from even the best of neighbors."

Nonetheless, Hattie is liked by her neighbours. Then she has an accident, where one of her arm breaks. She is unable to take care of herself and her neigbours urge her to sell her house so that she will have some money to look after herself by taking in someone else. Hattie has lived in the yellow house independently for more than twenty years.

She is forced to look out for options. She looks back at her life. However, as is her habit, she procastinates that too. She has always lived in self deception, where the world is all rosy for even though the truth is so much further. The Yellow House has been her home for twenty years, a part of her. She cannot give it up.

The story ends, with Hattie thinking,“Only tonight I can’t give the house away. I’m drunk and so I need it. And tomorrow, she promised herself, I’ll think again. I’ll work it out for sure.”

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Short Story: Weddings and Beheadings by Hanif Kureishi

Weddings and Beheadings by Hanif Kureishi is an interesting title. I found it online in a back issue of Zoetrope: All-Story.

"You don't know me personally. My existence has never crossed your mind. But I would bet you've seen my work: it has been broadcast everywhere, on most of the news channels worldwide. Or at least parts of it have. You could find it on the Internet, right now, if you really wanted to. If you could bear to look. "

The narrator seems to be a film-maker who is made to video tape beheadings by some people who seem to be terrorists. Although the place is not mentioned, it might have been set in Afghanistan or Iraq or any such place. At least thats what I presumed. It is a short story but makes one sit up and notice. Here the narrator, the place and the terrorists, all remain nameless.

It is dark, deeply sad for the victims as well as their families yet it has that black humour. To quote a few lines of conversation between friends who take such shots:

"Don't bury your head in the sand, my friend. Don't go losing your head now. Chin up!"

"It's too dark, it's not going to come out and you can't do another take."

"You'll get a prize for the next one. Don't you guys love prizes and statuettes and stuff?"

At one point you do feel he is enjoying his work in a macabre way.

"To make the shot work, it helps to get a clear view of the victim's eyes just before they're covered. At the end the guys hold up the head streaming with blood, and you might need to use some handheld here, to catch everything. The shot must be framed carefully. It wouldn't be good if you missed something. Ideally you should have a quick-release tripod head, something I have and would never lend to anyone."

Maybe it his way of being clinical. After all it can affect the mind. This line of work. How did the title come about? It is explained by the narrator in the story:

"Until recently, my closest friend filmed beheadings, however he's not a director, only a writer, really. I wouldn't trust him with a camera. He isn't too sure about the technical stuff, how to set up the equipment, and then how to get the material through the computer and onto the Internet. It's a skill, obviously. He was the one who had the idea of getting calling cards inscribed with WEDDINGS AND BEHEADINGS."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Short Story: The Ruin of Grant Lowery by Audrey Niffenegger

The ruin of Grant Lowery by Audrey Niffenegger

Grant Lowery meets three elderly women in a bar. They had made a bet.

"We made a bet," said the lady, with a serious expression. "We bet that you would be willing to spend a year with one of us, and teach that one how to be human."

He has a vision of a blonde girl in his mind and he can't make out what it is. He chooses or it is already chosen that he spend a year with the nameless fairy who contated him first.

"He woke the next morning with a sense of something forgotten, an appointment missed; what day of the week was it, anyway? Someone had brewed coffee. Grant felt slightly hungover. He struggled to remember the previous evening, but failed. He sat up and looked around."

He is in his own apartment but now completely redecorated and the fairy is there waiting for him to wake up. When he asks her name she shuts him up. His days fall into a pattern, he doing chores for her. Still he dreams of the girl. Then one day the girl tells him the old fairy is named Harriet. When he calls her by her name, she disappears. And the blonde girl takes over his home. And him.

A fairy tale set in the contemporary world with all the elements of present time evil. It is not about fairies but most likely about witches. Read on.....

Short Story: Hair by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Hair by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a fairy tale published in Guardian.

Hair by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

"The mother cried every day. The father had signed the agreement one afternoon after drinking a whole carton of Guinness at the club, after his friend Lugardson proposed a game of cards and wrote out the agreement that said whoever won would take over the other's property and added that it was a joke of course and not at all legal. And so the father signed it and then lost the game. Lugardson took the agreement to court and the judge was Lugardson's crony and he ruled that the father had truly signed away all that he owned. His company. His homes. His cars."

After the father lost it all, they had nothing. Their friends deserted them. The mother despaired. She had no money to do up her hair, uncurl it, burnish it and straighten it. The daughter too saw her real hair for the first time, and was amazed by it.

".....watched in wonder as it grew back, soft and dense like wool, for she had never seen her natural hair. In their old life, as soon as her hair grew out, it had been singed and straightened. Now it was vibrant and kinky and full. She did not comb it but lovingly untangled it every morning with her fingers."

It saddened the daughter to see the state of her family. She wanted their former glory to be restore. One day she felt her hair talking telling her the "the agreement is in Lugardson's air conditioner." The daughter did not believe her hair speaking out but the voice in her persisted. At the behest o that voice, she went an stole bak that agreement taking it to a uncorrupt judge. At last their former glory was restored. Lugardson was punished.

This fairy tale has an expected happy ending. The daughter can be assumed to be the priness here and her fairy Godmother is her natural hair.

Short story: Narcissa by by Hilary Mantle

Narcissa by by Hilary Mantle is a fairy tale. I must say, a very unusual fairy tale, the likes of what I have not read before. Just read the opening lines:

"In the days when all the priests were dead, and most people walked around with their heads tucked under their arms for safety's sake, there was a princess for whom nothing was ever good enough. You will want to know what she was called, but this she did not know herself; given her choice from Names A-Z, she had got up to R and torn the book apart with her teeth."

When she comes of age, the princess is seeking a mate for herself. She wants "hand-built suitors from the land's best workshops." But when they are wheeled in fron of her, she says, "These are not good enough for me."

Now what did the princess looked like?

"You will want to know what the princess looked like, and I can tell you only that this varied from day to day. Sometimes she looked like Helen of Troy and sometimes like Cleopatra, depending which head she called for when she woke in the morning. No wonder the bottled souls failed to recognise her. And she had trouble knowing herself, as none of the mirrors in the palace was good enough. They hung them picture and landscape, they lit them up and lit them down, they tinted them and silvered them, and sometimes they sneaked up on her with wing-mirrors and make-up mirrors, but still she said, "These are not good enough for me."

As she did not find anyone good enough for her, the years went on. She was 50, 60 or maybe 70 when she came across a closed cupboard. Opening it she found creature unlike anything she had seen before. Surprisingly it answered her back the way she used to talk to others. And hence she found her soulmate.....an ugly hedgehog like creature who looked like her.

A fairly tale which is not rosy and all things beautiful. It is about us, the inner ugliness within us and about our ego, which needs to be curbed. And uglines of the soul begets ugliness.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Short Story: Gwen's Grief by Jennifer Cande/Disappointed by Al Riske

Gwen's Grief by Jennifer Cande

A surreal story where a girl keeps loosing each of her body parts. Finally she ends up with nothing. She finds a new boy parts in Russ' attic and makes a body for herself with the help of those. Slowly re-building taking the best out of those. Very over-powering story. Surreal and different

In the first read, this story seems unreal. However, what I assimilated that we can lose ourselves entirely if we are not too careful. We should not give anyone the power to rule over our heart and mind. That is what brings us down. But, we can re-build ourselves. Literally from scratch. Gwen does, despite her grief. She renews herself.


Disappointed by Al Riske

Petra sets a date for her friend Danielle and is disappointed when the narrator does not kiss her friend.

It remains a surprise why she herself did not want to date the narrator. Even though Petra asks for a blind date, she is not very enthusiastic about it. This story left me flabbergasted. I did not get it at all. I stil mention it here. If someone reads it and explains it to me, I welcome that. .

Short Story: Tomorrow is too Far by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Tomorrow is too Far by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a short story I read in Prospect online.

Only your cousin Dozie knows who killed your brother Nonso

Here a girl is reminishing about something which happened 13 years ago. It was the summer her brother
Nonso died. She has gone bask to that plae, where her brother had died. She again meets her ousin Dozie. She has alway been in love with him. Their granmother had preferred her brother over them. He being, her daughter's son, and she being a mere girl. Even when grandmama was dying, she thought of Nonso, talked of Nonso, even though Dozie was her all this while..

You turn away. There is a long silence while you watch the column of black ants making its way up the trunk, each ant carrying a bit of white fluff, creating a black-white pattern. You feel a rush of gratitude and pity and love and contempt for Dozie for not wanting more, for accepting so little. And you wonder about destiny - if Nonso was destined always to be loved more, if love on the whole is always predestined, if it is ever possible to earn love, or to obtain love that was not originally portioned out for you.

It strikes you too - the illogic of missing something you never had.

Even after his death, Nonso won. In the eyes of her mother too, he was the coveted one, not she. How did he die? Who is responsible for his death? The secret is safe with Dozie. However, forgetting is not easy. Not even after 13 long years.

Thirteen years is long enough to forget, long enough to choose what to remember.

This is the irony of the story.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Short Story: Gina by Alex Burford/The Reading Room by Jen Michaelski

I read Gina by Alex Burford and The Reading Room by Jen Michaelski at Pindedyboz online, another site with good short story collection. Don't forget to check the archives.


The Reading Room by Jen Michaelski

A lady is reading aloud slowly from a periodical in a library. The senior librarian informs the supervisor about after much buzz amongst the librarians. She arrives and tells that she is not to read aloud in the library. The lady is flustered and says she is not doing anything wrong. But the supervisor asks her to accompany her. She is led to "a dark basement that smelled of old books and wet paper" where three children are sitting on the floor, reading. The supervisr asks her to read for them and walks out locking the door. Looking at the children, the lady wonders if they are going to eat her. They look so hungry.

"She looked back at the children. She could sense, with a shivering degree of certainty, that they were hungry."

Reading this very short story, I felt a chill run down my spine. How did the children come about? Why were they locked from outside? What was expected of the lady? Why was she too locked in?
Do read The Reading Room by Jen Michaelski


Gina by Alex Burford

It s a short short story. One cannot put any kind of classification to it. It is about Gina, who I understand works in a club, probably dancing. The narrator wants to have sex with her. He takes her along. She falls asleeep in his car. He looks at her, thinks of her family and pushes her out of the car letting her lie on the road. Ater a while he does come back for her, although he knows she won't have sex with hm.

"Gina and I are not friends."

Why did he think that? He wants to believe a lot of sereotyped stuff about Gina but she is not what he wants her to be. She is very different. To know about her, read Gina...

Booking Through Differently

What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries?

Yellow Knife by Steve Zipp comes into mind. It was an interesting book but very difficult to summarise. It defies description. I liked the use of symbols, metaphors and signs. And the journey along with the author. Somehow, there aren't enough words about how the book makes us feel. A difficult read but well worth it. I did review it but not the way I wanted to. I learnt a lot about Canada, a country I know nothing about.

Short Story: Say Yes by Tobias Wolffe

I had bookmarked Say Yes by Tobias Wolffe long time ago. I never got around reading it.

It is about a married couple washing and drying dishes. They are conversing and their conversation goes horribly wrong.

"They talked about different things and somehow got on the subject of whether white people should marry black people. He said that all things considered, he thought it was a bad idea."

She is unable to take to his views. She thinks skin colour ought not be a criteria for marriage. When she asks if he would have married her if she had been black, his answer is in the negative. She is not pleased with it. And walks out of the kithen completely ignoring him. He is hurt by her behaviour but goes on about cleaning, drying and mopping the kitchen. He takes the garbage out. When he comes back, the house is dark. He goes to bed and hears a sound..

"He sat up, but he couldn't see a thing. The room was silent. His heart pounded the way it had on their first night together, the way it still did when he woke at a noise in the darkness and waited to hear it again - the sound of someone moving through the house, a stranger."

Maybe Ann had become a stranger. I felt that Ann had no reason to get angry at/with him. The husband answered her question truthfully. I felt sympathy for him. Maybe in the darkness, Ann was proving a point that colour is only skin deep. A good end where one can think in different ways.

Short Story: The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down the Pants by Kelly Shriver

The Ethical Dilemma of a Sandwich Down the Pants by Kelly Shriver has an interesting title. Thats what drew me to it. I found it online.

People are in a queue waiting (impatiently) to pay up for their purchases in a store. Suddenly there is a commotion. The cashier gets up to grab a shoplifter.

"We all wonder why the cashier, a Dominican woman, probably as old as my mom, all of five feet tall, bothers to confront a shoplifter."

The thief has shoved the sandwich he stole down the front of his pants and pretends he has not done it. When she insists on having it back, he "removes a small cellophaned lump from his pants, hands it to his accuser", and walks out. The cashier puts it back into the cooler and resumes her work. All of a sudden the store is filled with anticipation. Now no one is in a hurry to go. Their uppermost thought being, who is going to pick that sandwich? And whomsoever does that, he/she has to deserve it.

For others, everyone speculates to tell them not to eat it. Suppose an old woman picked it:

"Black, white, Asian, it wouldn't matter. We would treat her like our own Abuelita. We wouldn't let her eat the stoner-crotch sandwich."

Two drunk Harvard students enter wearing "VE RI TAS t-shirts" and talking loudly. The narrator recognises them as her students, who gave her much trouble in class quoting from blue-books. She studiously ignores them. Everyone wills them towards the cooler. The taller one reaches and picks it up. Evetryone is kind of happy about that fact.

For a short story, it asks a lot of questions. What is right or wrong? Shouldn't the cashier throw the sandwich into the trash can instead of putting it back in the cooler? Shouldn't the customers arn the buyer? Why did they feel happy when the drunk, loud-mouthed Harvard students picked it up? What is moral?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Short Story: Gargoyle by Joyce Carol Oates

Gargoyle by Joyce Carol Oates is one of the the Stories of the Week 2008 in Narrative Magazine.

What to make of loneliness. Can you imagine? Three-fifteen a.m. and you lie spread-eagled in bed in your cocoon of a bed in your ripe swollen cocoon of a body while I drive through the snowy drizzle querying myself about life.

Driving along a deserted boulevard. Yellow street lights high atop slender poles. Rain, snow. Mist. Wind. What to make of loneliness. Not anger, not rage, not the wish to die or even the wish to murder. I’m too exhausted for all that. Just loneliness. What to make of it. Aloneness. Can you hear me? Can you guess? Never. You are eight months pregnant now and lie sleepless beside my lover, your spine aching, your stomach bloated, you are a beached bewildered mammalian creature gasping in the air.

Here we are privy to the thoughts of a mistress, who speaks of her loneliness to the wife of her lover. No, not verbally but in her thoughts. As if she almost wills her to listen. She talks of the wife never being alone, what with three children and fourth on the way. Meanwhile, the wife also is awake, silently lying beside her husband so as not to disturb him. She gets up and roams silently throughout the house finally coming to stand near a window. Does she think of the mistress? Does she resent her husband? The mistress' tone is despising towards the wife. She amosts hates her. So does the wife although it is not said in here.

Gargoyle asks a very important question. The mistress speaks of her loneliness. What about the wife? She might not verbalize it but her movements imply it. In the darkness of the night, she is as lonely as the mistress even more so despite having a husband and three children. Both are united in their aloneness. Loneliness. It is so tangible here.

I make my way cautiously to your front door and put out my hand, as if to ring the doorbell. But I don’t ring the bell: I merely press my fingertips against the window.

And you, inside, in the warm slumbrous depths of the house, hesitate only a moment before putting out your hand as well, so that our fingertips meet—nearly meet—through the glass.

I had not read anything by Joyce Carol Oates till date. After reading this short story, I am going to check out more of her works.

Short Story: A Perfect Day for Banana fish by JD Salinger

A Perfect Day for Banana fish by JD Salinger opens with Muriel Glass waiting to be connected on the phone. While she is waiting she coolly uses the time reading a fashion magazine, and painting her nails amongst other things.

"She used the time, though. She read an article in a women's pocket-size magazine, called "Sex Is Fun-or Hell." She washed her comb and brush. She took the spot out of the skirt of her beige suit. She moved the button on her Saks blouse. She tweezed out two freshly surfaced hairs in her mole. When the operator finally rang her room, she was sitting on the window seat and had almost finished putting lacquer on the nails of her left hand."

It is her mother who is worried about Muriel Glass. She keeps talking about Muriels' husband Seymour who seems not quite normal. Muriel brushes it all aside. Meanwhile Seymour is at a beach when a small girl Sybil chats up with him. They talk silly as is with an adult and a child. He talks about Banafish to her wishing to show it to her. She seems to see one too. Abruptly he gets up, and when he takes the lift, he thinks the woman n the lift is starng at hs feet. He lets it known to her. He comes back to his room, finds his wife sleeping peaefully in one of the twin beds and picks up his his gun, aiming it.....

This story is not as smple as it seems. It is a complex story. It speaks of a man who is under severe depression. Maybe due to the war. He is self conscious of his pale skin. He needs to be understood but his wife is more bothered about fashion and trivial talks. She does not even try to understand him. The best part of the story is when Sybil and Seymour interact.

"Are you going in the water?" Sybil said. "I'm seriously considering it. I'm giving it plenty of thought, Sybil, you'll be glad to know." Sybil prodded the rubber float that the young man sometimes used as a head-rest. "It needs air," she said."

Despite the tragic end, it has its lighter moments...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Short Story: You in America by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Taken from Zoestrope All-Story, You in America by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, explores a Nigerian Igbo immigrant girl's experience in the US. This was nominated for the Caine Prize in 2002.

Here the girl is talking in first person.

"You believed that everybody in America had a car and a gun. Your uncles and aunts and cousins believed it too. Right after you won the American visa lottery, they told you, "In a month, you will have a big car. Soon, a big house. But don't buy a gun like those Americans."

Here she speaks about how she is watched with curiosity, how people assume certain things, how no one wants to know what part of Africa she belongs to. She does meet a man who is knowledgeable. He interests her.

"And you knew you had become close when you told him that your father was really not a school teacher in Lagos, that he was a taxi driver. And you told him about that day in Lagos traffic in your father's car, it was raining and your seat was wet because of the rust-eaten hole in the roof."

This story is told in a simple way but is very well worded without any loose ends. One dwells into her mind and speculates what is like to be her, of a different skin colour in the land of Whites. A story not to be missed....

Short Story: Honeymoon by Ivan Kilma

Honeymoon by Ivan Kilma is another short story I read online from a back issue of Zoetrope: All-Story.

"He drove with one hand, his other arm round the girl. Over the past year he had become used to driving in that mildly uncomfortable one-handed fashion, and the two of them had traveled like that across half of Europe, the German autobahns, the oddly deserted road between Chalons and Meaux..."

Here we see a man and a woman driving. They have known each other for too long and have been real close. Now she has got married to another man and is spending her honeymoon with this man. When they reach the place their destination, she asks him that they pretend it is their wedding and why not have a wedding feast. In that gothic house, there are five guests, one of them is a soldier and another a girl who seems to be smitten by the soldier. The man agrees to pretend although he wishes to be alone with her. While she is dancing with the soldier, he almost hates her. When at last they reach their room, she wishes to go out. They do go out and are almost in the verge of making love in a hut on top of a haystack, when they hear the soldier arriving with the girl.

At last they are alone and when she asks him if he loves her, he says no even though he is in love with her. He knows, she is using him yet he cannot do anything about it. He is too much in love with her.

"I love you," he said. "I love you madly and I'd give everything, absolutely everything for this moment with you."
"I know," she whispered. "I know. Dog," she then said quietly. "My dog!"

What I deduced from this story is that he is an older man and she opts not to marry him. So she goes and marries someone else but she spends her honeymoon with him, knowing that he can't refuse her. One ends up sympathising with the man and despising her.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Short Story: Dating A Dead Girl by Sara Powers

Dating A Dead Girl by Sara Powers is a short story I read in one of the back issues of Zoetrope All-Story.

Peter is looking for a house. He has limited resources. He is disillusioned with what he had been looking. His real estate agent finds hm a ramshackle house and suggests they move it to another neighbourhood. Peter is not too happy about it but he cannot afford any thing else.

"Peter was a design professor; he built conceptual furniture that was clever, ironic, enigmatic."

When he gets back to his garage apartment, he finds a beautiful, tall but mean looking girl waiting for him. She turns out to be the sister of a girl, he had dated only twice and did not call again. Meredith tells him that Charlotte is dead making him feel guilty although he had no reason to feel that way. Meredith says that their mother wants to meet him. He is reluctant but he agrees and goes to meet them. Meredith does not care either way if he comes or not. But Sigrid, Charlotte's mother is happy to see him as she assumes that Peter made Charlotte happy. He knows he did no such thing but is unable to escape them. He is asked to make a box to hold Charlotte's ashes.

"Charlotte's being cremated," she said, sitting. "And we're going to have a ceremony. Something sacred, a celebration. A release."
She stopped a moment, imagining, Peter thought, the release, whatever that was. He was wishing for one himself.
"What I want is a box of some sort to hold her ashes. A vessel." She took his hands again. He disowned them. "A vessel made with love by a man who kissed her. It's perfect."
There were many things to which Peter would have agreed in order to hear "Goodbye" from Sigrid and Meredith by then, and this he could do. A box for ashes, a vessel for his escape, a container for his guilt. Something plain, dignified, relatively simple. A lacquer of some somber, yet joyous color. He would have agreed to anything, and so he agreed to this, with relief, and promised a box within a few days."

Justin finds a place for the house to be moved and meanwhile, Peter builds a box in the shape of a tiny house for Charlotte's ash. Meredith comes and leaves the box of ashes with him. What happens next? I can't reveal the end without spoiling it.

The house for the dead girl is a metaphor. Peter does not have a place of his own yet he builds a tiny house to hold Charlotte's ash. For a girl he barely knew. That is the irony. This story is powerful.

Book Clubs

This week’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about book clubs!

Do you belong to a book club? Is it online, or face-to-face (f2f)? How long have you been with the group? What have you learned from them? Do you like how the group is run, or would you make changes to it if you could?

Formally, I have never been a member of any book club. Once I did participate in the discussion for East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Although it was supposed to be done in 15 days, it went on and on for two months are so, as initially people were too lazy to read the book. I was one of the first ones and impatient to discuss and no one to do it with. When those started trickling in, I had lost interest by then. I had moved on to many other books. It spoilt me for any other reading with that group. Next time they chose Catch 22 by Joseph Heller and it never got discussed! The Kite Runner met a similar fate. One too many, don't you think?

As I read at my own pace and own specific choices, I do not like the constraints placed by a book club. I do like to chose books from my blogger friend's recommendations. But reading together no, as of now. Especially online. I do discuss books with my close friends and my brothers. Somehow being a part of a book club is not very appealing to me. Maybe because of my initial bad impressions about it.

I think I should try joining an interactive one. I should give it a second chance. One should always be open for new ideas. Instead of novel reading, I am more open to online book clubs solely meant for discussing short stories. Can anyone recommend one to me?

Short Story: Ghosts by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Anyone who has read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie would agree that she is not a writer to be missed. Her writing is so good that we are propelled towards it. I found Ghosts online at Zoetrope: All-Story. Do check it out by clicking on the title.

Like Purple Hibiscus and Half of the Yellow Sun, it too has references of the Nigeria-Biafra war and the after-effects of it.

James Nwoye, a retired professor of seventy-one, has gone to the University bursary to ask about his pension, whih he has not received or a while now. Here he meets another person Ikenna Okoro, whom he had known long time ago before the Nigeria-Biafran war. Everyone had assumed that Ikenna had dies in that war. So the professor is shocked to see him/ They get around talking about the olden times. Ikenna says that the red ross helped him escape to Sweden, not letting out reason for it. He does speak of his family whih he lost in the war. He asks James Nwoye about his family. The professor tells him that his daughter Zik, died in the war but he and his wife Ebere, had another daughter Nkiru, who is now a doctor practising in US. During the war, they had escaped to US. Although they did come back but they never could visit their old house.

"In fact, Ebere and I came back to Nsukka right after the war ended in 1970, but only for a few days. It was too much for us. Our books were in a charred pile in the front garden, under the umbrella tree. The lumps of calcified feces in the bathtub were strewn with pages of my Mathematical Annals, used as toilet paper, crusted smears blurring the formulas I had studied and taught. Our piano—Ebere’s piano—was gone. My graduation gown, which I had worn to receive my first degree at Ibadan, had been used to wipe something and now lay with ants crawling in and out, busy and oblivious to me watching them. Our photographs were ripped, their frames broken. So we left for America and did not come back until 1976. We were assigned a different house on Ezenweze Avenue and for a long time we avoided driving along Imoke Street, because we did not want to see the old house."

James Nwoye's wife Ebere, is dead. Still he can feel her presence. As he says, she comes to visit him, rubbing Nivea on his skin, the way she used to do when she was alive. Although dead, she is tangible for him. However, he can't speak about it to his daughter.

Here we have to speculate who is the ghost----Nwoye, his wife or Ikenna. In a way all three are. Dead or alive, it does not matter.....

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Short Story: How to Bring Someone Back from Dead by Veronica Schanoes

I was kind of google searching for stories related with death and I found
How to Bring Someone Back from Dead by Veronica Schanoes. As I am reading short stories right now, I thought to give it a go too.

The story has a has a surreal feel to it. And that is to be expected. Someone close to you is dead. It can be anyone, your father, mother, son, daughter, beloved. Anyone. You are under a lot of pain and you want to bring that person back from dead. So you undergo a journey to achieve that goal. You are hurt in the way. By the way of thorns, stones, brambles...

Then you have to avoid talking to the weird characters you meet on the way, like black Ravens or wolves who anyway do not speak your language.

"You may ask an old woman who sits by the path mumbling to herself. If you walk by without a word she will reveal herself to be a witch and eat you in two bites, but if you ask her for help and offer to share an apple with her, she will give you guidance. Do not throw stones at ravens. You may ask wolves for help, but you should not believe what they tell you. They do not think carefully. They do not think as we do."

You go on. Your pain for your loss plods you on. When you finally get there, you just lie down with that person. Although that peson does not acknowledge you. However, you made that journey. Is it fruitful?

To find that, read the story. I won't say, it shook me up. Because it did not. In Hindu mythology, we have numerous stories like this. So there was nothing new for me. Apart from the language, maybe. The new element here is maybe the modern interpretation of it. That too, is not new for me.

Short Story: Clara by Roberto Bolano

The New Yorker has some good short stories. I have been raving about it all week.

Clara by Roberto Bolano

"She had big breasts, slim legs, and blue eyes. That’s how I like to remember her. I don’t know why I fell madly in love with her, but I did, and at the start, I mean for the first days, the first hours, it all went fine; then Clara returned to the city where she lived, in the south of Spain (she’d been on vacation in Barcelona), and everything began to fall apart."

This is one story which kind of ignites and bangs on your on your face.
The narrator is in love with Clara most of his life. They just can't be together. However, he keeps thinking of her and also keeps in touch with her. He in his own way cares for her. In his words, after one such call to her:

"When I hung up, the homeless guy was standing about five feet away. I hadn’t heard him approaching. He was very tall, too warmly dressed for the season, and he was staring at me, as if he were near-sighted, or worried I might make a sudden move. I was so sad I didn’t even get scared, although afterward, walking back through the twisting streets of the town center, I realized that, seeing him, I had forgotten Clara for an instant, for the first time, and only the first."

Clara is cold towards him but she too cannot get away from him.

"Her voice was as cold as ever, that voice in which she always recounted her life with the detachment of a bad storyteller, putting exclamation marks in all the wrong places, and passing over what she should have gone into, the parts where she should have cut to the quick. "

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Short Story: A Man Like Him by Yiyun Li

I read A Man Like Him by Yiyun Li online in The New Yorker. Yet another short story I read for the Short Story September Challenge. I have already read and loved her collection of short stories, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.

In this story, Teacher Fei , a sixty four years old retired art teacher lives and looks after his mother who is in her nineties. He is not married the reason for which is not told, at least not in the beginning. In the course of the story we come to know that he is adopted by his mother.

In a magazine, he reads about a girl who is revengful of her father who she thinks had an affair whih resulted in his divorce with her mother. She wants that he should suffer becos of it. Thus she sues him for it. Teaher Fei, is somehow drawn to that father. And initiates a meting with him. Here we learn that he as an art teacher in a school had been accused of inappropriate behaviour with one of his girl students, although it was never proven. He wishes that the father should sue his daughter.

Teacher Fei, according to himself, is no angle. He goes to chatrooms pretending to be someone else.

"A man like him. In the street, Teacher Fei pondered Mrs. Luo’s words. What did that mean—a man like him—a bachelor without a son to carry on his blood, a retired art teacher whose name most of his students had forgotten the moment they graduated from elementary school, a disgraceful old man who purchased fashion magazines at the news-stand and wasted his afternoons alongside teenagers in a cyberworld, making up names and stories and sending out romantic lies? What did he deserve but this aimless walk in a world where the only reason for him to live was so that his mother could die in her own bed?"

The story is filled with suspense. And makes an engrossing read. Yiyun Li does not disappoint at all. In her stories, one gets a glimpse of the communist China. One of the best reasons to read her.

Short Story: Shorty’s Paradise by T. Coraghessan Boyle

ad yet another story, Shorty’s Paradise by T. Coraghessan Boyle in the Narrative Magazine for the Short Story September Challenge being run by CB James. I am enjoying exploring and reading short stories online. I have found many nuggets out there. This one is pegged as a sex story.

“Shorty’s Paradise,” is taken from T. Coraghessan Boyle’s novel The Inner Circle. This concerns sex research of varied "subjects" as they say, collecting data. Here the two scientists are involved in doing field research on the habits of coloured prostitutes. There they are caught the police in an unflattering position, which compels them to carry a letter for all such future research saying,“in the event that the nature of his research takes him into localities where the purpose of what he is doing might not be clearly understood.”

This has an interesting topic. Although it is pegged as a sex story, it s not titilating in that way. It speaks of sex research, not the sex act. The story is clinical. The narrator is interested in facts, collecting datas rather than anything else.

"My ears rang, my head ached, my eyes felt molten, and nothing, not even the details of the most arcane sexual practices could arouse me from my torpor—not coprophilia, incest, or sex with barnyard animals. I just nodded, held the subject’s eyes, and made my notations on the position sheet."

Although he does admit getting aroused talking to coloured prostitute.

"I remember being moved by her simple, unnuanced recitation of the facts, the sad facts, as I hadn’t been moved before. Unprofessionally, I wanted to get up from my chair and hug her and tell her that it was all right, that things would get better, though I knew they wouldn’t. Unprofessionally, I wanted to strip the clothes from her and have her there on the bed and watch her squirm beneath me. I didn’t act on either impulse. I just closed down my mind and recorded her history, one of the thousands that would be fed into the pot."

Short Story: Florette by Ward Just

Florette by Ward Just is yet another story I read online in Narrative Magazine for the ongoing Short Story September Challenge at CB James' blog.

It starts with Florette being carried in a stretcher by four man from a pine forest. It is very cold and snowing and those man are having difficulty in walking.

"The way down was hard, the trail winding and slick underfoot, insecure."

She has fallen down and hurt herself somehow while taking a walk on that Sunday afternoon. While they are carrying her, she goes about thinking about her life. She, a French woman is married to an American. She thinks of her mother, her father who left them both when she was five, her first husband, who was an older man and died leaving her nothing. She thinks of her knitting. She drifts from present to past, back and forth. She is conscious of her pain and the cold. She wants to reach the clearing as soon as possible but she can't do a thing about it. She is dependent on the people who had been carrying her and now are taking a little rest. They are not hikers but are rough and coarse people.

I liked the way the story goes. Initially we know nothing about the woman. Slowly we know that she is a middle aged woman. Her reminiscences about her past in he thoughts and it is as if we are intruding upon her thoughts. Another story told in inner voice. I recommend...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Short Story: Leaving Memphis by Lauren Birden

Leaving Memphis by Lauren Birden is a short short story I read online in Narrative Magazine.

The narrator is sitting at the bus-stop waiting. She sees a woman who seems to be wanting to talk. She tries to ignore the other woman by pretending to read a novel. But that person still comes and sits down with her. And can't be shaken off. She has a peach scar, like an asterisk on her left cheek. She starts talking about her life expecting the narrator to do the same. So they exchange mean tales about each other's life and family. Then she tells the narrator that they are the same person and expects her to agree.

The reader wants to know more about their lives. Wishes to dwell into the mind of the woman who is thinking about this whole encounter and its effect on her.

It might be a very short story but has many elements for the reader to speculate...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Short Story: The Headstrong Historian by Chimanda Ngozi Adichie

The Headstrong Historian is another story I read online in The New Yorker for Short Story September.

First let me take what interested me here before I give a brief sketch of the story. To begin with, it touches upon many issues. One about a headstrong woman who can stand upto anything. She stands up for her rights. For what is her due. And who makes a decision even though she is not comfortable with it. To send her only son to study in a missionary school. Then we see missionaries calling the traditional customs primitive and the people who practice those heathens. We also see the Nigerians who had studied in missionary schools taking to westernised ways, despising their own people and their ways. The issue of Colonisation is also touched upon along with slavery, which is blot on History.

It covers the entire span of Nwamgba, a Nigerian woman born in the late 19thCentury, who insists on marrying Obierika even though his family is cursed by miscarriages. After many miscarriages, she gives birth to a boy. But her husband dies soon after and she is harassed by his cousins. To protect her son of his rightful inheritance, she enrolls him in the Catholic missionary school. After studying there, he changes and he turns his back on the traditional ways, which he considers heathen way of living. Nwamgba is no doubt hurt by it. When her son’s wife gives birth to a second child, which is a girl, Nwamgba believes, she carries the spirit of her dead husband. She is extremely fond of this girl, who somehow has an inexplicable bond with here grandmother.

Although, Nwamgba makes pottery, she is also a great story-teller. Her grandaughter grace, is the one who finds her true calling. We see glimpses of Grace's future. In a way, she too is a historian, like her grandmother Adichie has written it in such a way that, it feels more like a novel than a short story. I recommend this to be read by all...

Seasonal Bookings

Does the changing season change your reading habits? Less time? More? Are you just in the mood for different kinds of books than you were over the summer?

What has season got to do with reading? Moods affect more on our reading habits than change in season. Books I pick up depend more on my mindset rather than the weather. Lately I have been reading short stories. Assorted, I should say. Not with any specific topic. I am just searching the net and look out for good stories and read them.

July and August were two months when I almost did not do any kind of reading. My mind was simply not in it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Short Story: The Flints of Memory Lane by Neil Gaiman

In Neil Gaiman's Fragile things which is a collection of short fiction and wonders, The Flints of Memory Lane is a true account of a ghost story. Here Neil Gaiman starts with saying that some places are haunted and there is always a reason for that. Then the author speaks of his house, which was built in the grounds of the old house, he had been staying before it was sold by his father. He missed his old house. One night while he was going out to a friend's place, he saw an oddly dressed gypsy woman standing beneath the street lamp, staring up at his house. When he addressed her, she did not answer but looked at him and smiled in a nasty way, that chilled him.

In his own words, he was scared and he walked out of the drive and when he looked back and saw nothing. Profoundly scared, he went over to his friends place and asked his parents to take him home. Although he never saw that woman again, he could not find any reason of her being there. He couldn't find any kind of losure why she had been there. As far as he knew, the house and the grounds were not haunted.

All he remembered was her yellow-black smile under the sodium lamp of the street light and his chilled reaction. In his own words, this is not a great account but he still wrote it down although in his own words, this was not story shaped.
Gaiman's story telling is very good. Even though it is not one of his best acounts, he still manages to make it interesting. While reading it, one does feel the chill he must have endured at the age of fifteen.

Short Story: Natasha by Vladimir Nabokov

Natasha by Vladimir Nabokov is another short story I read online on The New Yorker for Short Story September being conducted by CB James.

Exiled from Russia, Natasha lives with he father Khrenov, who is very old and sick. He had lost his two sons and Natasha is the only one who has survived. Their neighbour Baron Wolfe, is attracted to Natasha and wished to be with her.

It has some elements of imagination and magical vision in it. And I felt that all the three characters lie to each other. Natasha says her father is getting well and goes out to spend a day with Wolfe. And Wolfe in turn lies about his travels to Afria and India. Natasha in turn tells him about her strange visions where she feels light and almost flying. It shows the power of imagination which can take us into journeys from our minds. The imaginations of all three is kind of concrete here. I liked the ending.....

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Short Story: Awake by Tobias Wolffe

Awake by Tobias Wolffe is a short story I read in The New Yorker yesterday for Short Story September being conducted by CB James. It seems I like exploring and reading online stories.

In this short story, Richard, a student is thinking about his relationship with Ana, an improvised Russian waitress. She is very fond of reading the classics and he has only pretended to like those. He is lying beside her while she is sleeping and is filled with desire for her. However, he knows not to wake her up. To drive away thoughts about his need for her, he thinks of the various classic literature brought by Ana and kept in his room. He even gets up to read a few lines. However, nothing seems to hold his interest save Ana, who is sleeping peacefully by his side.

What drew me on was the conversations Richard has with himself in his mind. I am reading a lot of books like this lately. He is analysing his relationship with Ana and thinks he met her too soon in his life. He loves her yet he does not. Maybe if he had met her later on in his life, he would have been able to claim her love as his right. I liked this part, somewhat. Can we really speculate on what should have happened? Or what should happen? Is his insecured feelings about Ana keep him awake? Ana is an immigrant, yet she knows what she wants but Richar being in his own country does not. It is not a story which stands out. Yet it interests us in its own way.

Awake by Tobias Wolffe by clicking on it.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Treatment for Books

Do you treat books carefully, or do you just treat them as any other object? Do you have certain things you refuse to do with books (write in them, etc)? If so, what are they?

Ill-treating, a book, any book is kind of sacrilege for me. It does not matter whose book is it. Yes, I used to write on my text books when I was in school or college. Even now I write in the margins of the reference books I use for my students.

I avoid turning the books so as not to spoil the spine. I do not dog-ear my books. I use book marks. I even made a few bookmarks which are a hug hit with my family and friends. I hate turning corners. I do write my name and date of purhase, other than that nothing. I even put dust covers on my books. Not the hardbound ones but the paperback ones. I cringe if I see a spine damaged. For me, it is death of a book.

However, when I was in school, we used to tear apart each and every page of any romance novel and read it! Those days are long gone! I still possess a lot many of my old tattered books whcih I have lovingly repaired over the years. I can't imagine tearing apart any book now.

Books need to be cared for and looked after. I cherish my books too much to cause real damage to those.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Dear John by Norma Betz

Title: Dear John
Author: Norma L Betz
ISBN: 9781434310712
Publisher: authorhouse/2008
Pages: 206

Andi of Andilit sent me copy of Dear John by Norma L. Betz to guest review it for her. I liked reading this.

Plot summary from Back Cover:

When financial aid administrator Susanna Smith goes to Massachusetts to settle her aunt's estate, she doesn't suspect that her well-ordered life is about to take an unusual turn. Susanna and her faithful Weimaraner companion, Quincy, embark on a journey to the past that not only reveals a connection to a famous ancestor whose circumstances parallel her own, but also results in an important discovery about her own life.

What did you like most about the book?

Although it is fiction, it relates to history, that is star of The American Revolution and tells us about women in the eighteenth entury who were very liberated. I liked the letters Abigal wrote to her husband. They are the main stay of the novel. As we get to know about the historical significance via the letters. These letters are what make Susanna realise her roots as they provide great insight into her ancestors mind.

What did you like least?

It tends to get long winded at places. I felt too much detailing spoiled the flow at times. However, it is a well researched novel.

What did you think of the writing style?

Her writing style is good. Not very complicated, very readable and sucks us into it.

What did you think of the main character? What is the central character’s biggest problem?

Susanna is an independent woman who has only herself to care care of save her dog, Quincy. She is very fond of him and thinks of him as her dear friend. She even talks to him as if with another human being. He also responds in a similar way. Her biggest problem is she does not wish to get emotionally closer to any other human being. Not even her aunt when she was alive.

What effect do the people in the book have on one another?

William Shaw had a great relationship with Susanna's aunt. He transfers his affection to Susanna. Mrs O'Hara is a very motherly woman who loves Susanna for what she is. John, William's son develops some kind of feelings for her. And then the Local librarian is also a very likeable character. The local police too is very co-operative. There is a community feeling and all are supportive of each other. Jerry is the only villain here.

Any other particularly interesting characters?

I found the dog, Quincy very interesting. He can understand whatever Susanna says. He loves his mistress to distraction and is very protective of her.

What did you think of the ending?

Quite good, under the circumstanes. It ends with a positive note.

Do you recommend this book? If you use a rating system, what’s your rating?

Yes, I do recommend this book to anyone who is interested to read about history with a bit of mystery and also to those who wish to learn about woman's rights in the eighteenth century. I would rate it 3.5/5.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Novel About My Wife by Emily Perkins

Thanks Rebecca, for the great questions!
I need not go for a full review now!

Title: Novel About My Wife
Author: Emily Perkins
ISBN: 9780747584223
Publisher: Bloomsbury/2008
Pages: 271/Hardback

What was it that made you pick up this novel in the first place? I personally find the title to be quite intriguing; did this play a part?

I did not pick it up. It is gift from a friend of mine who lives in UK. He knows about my love of books and gifted it to me along with a few others. Yes, the title intrigued me! The protagonist is writing a novel about his wife, in flashbacks.

For those not in the know, why don't you give us a brief run-down of the novel so far.

It is about being married, the intricacies of it, the intimacy of it. Tom is very much in love with his wife, Ann, who is pregnant. They move to a new house and she sees a man stalking her. Is he real or just an imagination of her mind? This is pegged as a gothic novel.

This novel is told through the narrative perspective of the character Tom, a bitter, middle-aged man (who is, obviously, telling the 'novel about [his] wife'). Do you find Tom to be an interesting character? Is his voice compelling?

Tom is not bitter. He is very much in love with his wife. Yes, I found Tom interesting, his thoughts compelling. One continuously needs to know his thoughts about Ann, their relationship and their friends. Tom's internalized thoughts are fascinating. Don't we all talk within our minds? So does he.

What do you think of Perkins' writing? How would you describe it to someone who has not read her work before?

Perkins has a way with words. Her writing has many layers to it. I found the novel almost surreal and mystical at places. Intense too. I couldn't put it down after halfway through.

I've seen it written that Perkins "writes brilliantly about dismal people". In your reading of this novel, would you agree with that assessment?

In a way, she does. However, she makes those dismal people likeable and endearing. That drew me into the novel as soon as I started reading it.

They always say you should never judge a book by it's cover, but what the hey, what are your thoughts on the cover of Novel About My Wife?

I think I would have picked it up for the cover and the title. I found those arresting.

Would you recomend this book to others (why/why not)? If so, to what audience would you present it to?

Yes, I would. For couples. Who are in the verge of a relationship or committed to each other. Also to single persons who need to know the finer nuances of marriage, love, relationships and the feelings and emotions that go with it. Understanding is another aspect of it. Frankly I liked reading it.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Booking Through Villiany

Do real-world catastrophes such as 9/11 (and the bombs in Madrid, and the ones in London, and the war in Darfur, and … really, all the human-driven, mass loss-of-life events) affect what you choose to read?

India is not new to terrorists or terrorism. We have had it in the Kashmir region for more than three decades. We have cried hoarse about it to the world at large but no one listened to us. Only after 9/11 happened, US woke up to the fact that it was very real and they were also a part of it in the larger view of things. I wouldn't like to dwell on the political stance about US for the middle east. That is not relevant to this topic.What is relevant here is, how can anyone kill innocent people? That is hard to understand. But then terrorists have no feelings or sentiments. For them we are faceless and nothing can come between their brain-washed beliefs. At one point or other, powerful countries (I don't need to name those) have created terrorists to counteract terrorism. And it has only backfired. Have we really learnt any lessons from those? The state that the world is in, apparently not.

For me terrorism is very real. It is there at every corner. Especially for those who live in Delhi. Twice I have been in the vicinity of terror attacks, only saved by God knows how. For the last thirty years or so, we have terrorists killing people in the Kashmir region. Every day. And bomb blasts elsewhere are not uncommon. Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Varanasi, Hyderabad are just a few places I mention here, which have been affected by terrorism and blasts. Recent ones took place in Ahmedabad which left 50+ dead. We cannot move anywhere without security check up. All this does take a toll.

And now taking on reading. I can read about terrorists, I can even watch movies too. (However, if something like this happens, I go off reading completely for a while. Any kind of reading). Nonetheless, I think all of us need to read about terror attacks, terrorists and terrorism. If only to understand the whys and hows of it. Trying to escape the reality of it is not going to let it go. I need to understand how a terrorists' mind works. Because I can't get over all those people who are dead for no reason at all. Terrorists simply do not need any reason to kill. They just do it. Cliches simply do not work here. Religion, faith has no meaning when one is left dead and/or maimed, in body, mind or spirit.

And in the midst of it all, please do remember that the world is much beyond US and has faced terrorism much before 9/11.

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Saturday, September 6, 2008

Short Story: Blue by Yuvi Zalkow

I found this story on narrativemagazine.com. One has to be logged to read the full story. I am providing a link of that here. This is the story of the week. I read this for Short Story September being conducted by CB James. (Do click on the links for more details about the challenge)

Blue: A Story by Yuvi Zalkow

Here a man sees a woman across the street with clear details and without any thought goes to meet her. He observes a lot of things about her. She too talks to him and takes him to the bowling alley. Without any thought he follows her.

The story does not have much in the sense that you have to get inside both their minds. And interpret how you like. Why does a man go to meet a woman who is a total stranger? She looks past him. She does not give him any kind of signals. So what makes him go to her? How does her name affect him? What fascinates him about her? Why does not ask her motives when she takes him along to the bowling alley?

It is a very short story and it can take our thoughts to many directions. I thought I would share it here, with you all.