Not sure what I am writing today. But there are several stories in the edges of my conscience that I am unable to catch and yet unable to ignore, like an errant flyaway hair that constantly tickles me while I am trying to work, talk, cook, teach…
Some are great beginnings with no end in sight. Some are just middle like waking in the middle of journey realising you have come so far but with no recollection of where you started and where you want to go. Others are faint memories of dreams I wanted to turn into stories but never got to it.
I am also in the middle of looking for a publisher/agent for my second book. It has been 4 months with no traction, which keeps me awake at nights. I have mails from people who want me to give them money to publish my book. Why would I do that? I think the whole point of writing a book is to SELL it to a publisher. Or am I missing something? I haven’t even found a literary agent since Short Stories is, apparently, not a great market.
So, if you know a literary agent who might be interested in Short stories from a writer in India, please let me know.
As for the bee in my bonnet, I guess, I will have to deal with it myself.
Author’s note: The first line of this story was offered as a prompt by Darlene when I had hit a writer’s block. I hope I did it justice.
She whispered, “Home at last.”
Last year, he had hit his wife in a fit of rage, as he had so many times before that. But this one became one time too many. She had succumbed to the injuries. He had his job cut out for him as he disposed off the body and dodged the authorities, trying to prove that she had, in fact, run away with her new lover. The case was finally closed and he was celebrating his new-found freedom with a new date when ‘she’ had walked out of the closet where he had once hid her body.
She had never been a pretty one and death hadn’t done her any favours–unmade hair, shrivelled skin, bloodshot eyes, the eerie air she carried around her and the rancid smell that accompanied her had made him shit in his pants. Weirdly enough, his date couldn’t see anything and she only smelled a faint flowery perfume! So, when he went berserk, she assumed he was a crackpot and had run for it, leaving him alone with a murderous ghost who wouldn’t kill him, just brought him close enough every time. She had promised she would make him feel every single scar he had given her in her lifetime; that she would make sure he regretted the day he had married her. She had made good of her promise ever since.
When she wasn’t hitting him with things or strangling him in sleep, she would pleasantly discuss how she would torture him once she was stronger. She would often show up suddenly behind him in the mirror, in the car, in the grocery store and at work; and scare the daylights out of him. She would touch his back in the bath, leaving a trail of goosebumps, promising an eternity of pain once she was ready. He couldn’t tell anyone she was haunting him because saying that would mean confessing she wasn’t eloping and actually dead.
He tried praying, but his prayers only kept her mildly amused. Apparently, when you kill someone and they come back to haunt you, God declines to interfere and all bets are off. Eye-for-an-eye and all that. He had tried holy water, witchcraft…
When in a moment of insanity, he had begged her to kill him, she had smiled sweetly, “Killing you atones your sins. It frees you to go to heaven while I rot here in nothingness. I certainly can’t lose my only source of entertainment, can I? I want to finish what you started, very slowly, in the dragged out painful manner that you always loved…”
After too many sleepless nights with an overactive ghost trying to strangle him, always falling a little short of killing him, he had fallen sick. Hospitalised, he would wake up to find her sitting on his bed near his feet, smiling cruelly, waiting for him to wake up, so she could start over again…
He hated her now even more than he had hated her in life. He knew he had been right to kill her in the first place. But after too many sessions like this, he broke down. Assuming that gradually she would gather more power and hurt him worse, he had split his veins open, hoping to be finally rid of her. She had smiled at him sweetly then and whispered, “Running away, are we?”
When he left his body behind, he waited for the white lights to arrive, how it happens in the movies. But none came. Suicide was a sin. He realised he wasn’t going to heaven or anywhere at all. He finally understood what she had meant by once she was “ready” and “stronger”–that he had entered the same domain where she had been gathering power–when she had given him a twisted smile that promised an eternity of endless pain and whispered, “Home at last!”
I wanted to write about this for past one month but either I didn’t have time or the will or energy… So, our area is in temperate zone, around one kilometre from the river–half a kilometre by flight… of course planes don’t fly for such short distance, but birds do and that’s why we often see a lot of water birds here. Also, there is a small farm–I mean, really tiny farm–across the road inside what once used to be a government park. Which means that we get lot of birds around harvest and tilling. And there are trees, quite a lot of them where bird’s nest.
In short, it is a bird watcher’s paradise.
Every year, during winters I and my daughter spend an incredible amount of time on the rooftop, taking in the sun, watching birds and feeding birds. Several birds visit the rooftop on a daily basis and others we see in the overly large trees closer to water and larger fields close by.
We have gray and black Crows, Eagles, Hawks, Owls, Peacocks, Rock Pigeons, Wood Doves, Orange-black Mynah, Yellow-brown Mynah, Pied Mynah, , RufousTreepie, Babblers, Barbets, Cuckoo, Parrots, Magpies, Sunbirds, Sparrows, Tailor Birds, Kingfishers, Egrets and Lapwigs as a usual fare.
We also get guest birds during winters: green pigeon, Indian gray hornbill, black Ibis, brahmini starlet, speckled finch, black and white finch and others unnamed but awaited birds that grace us with their presence every year.
Out of all these birds, Gray Hornbill and Green Pigeon are the most difficult to take pictures of because of their colour and reclusive behaviour. They choose the densest tree and the shortest flight route. They move from trees to tree, hardly ever crossing more than a few feet at a time. A bunch of them is nesting in a tree that is just far enough that my phone never captures their picture. The only way is to either befriend the neighbours who live close by (not my cup of tea) or climb to the highest branches of the 60-feet tree (What are you even suggesting?!). So I had send out a prayer to God to let me take a pic and they started coming to a tree closeby so I and my daughter can look at them properly.
I took a few pictures. See if you can spot them.
first pic: At least 5 hornbills in the tree along with starlets
second pic: what horn bill looks like
third pic: Black Ibis
Fourth pic: at least 8 green pigeon.
Let me know if you see anything in the first and last pic. 😄
The Hungarian horntail 🐉 guarding a clutch of eggs 🥚🥚🥚, one of them golden, between her feet, throwing flames 🔥 at Harry Potter 👦🏻 while he flies around on a broomstick 🧹 with a huge smile on his face.
My daughter is five-year-old and she is a Harry Potter fan. She is not old enough to read the book on her own but she has been eating it up in large doses since last year, thanks to her mother who has read the entire series 7-8 times already. She has reached the Goblet of Fire and Harry has just finished his first task with flying colours, and my daughter is celebrating with his portrait with the dragon. I think they both look handsome.
Or rather, Harry looks handsome. The dragon is pretty with her open blond hair.😊
This is the day when India truly became independent because it was now that it adopted it’s new Constitution and shed the laws forced by British Government. It was the day when India declared itself as a Democratic, Secular, Socialist, Republic and hence created the foundation over which the new India rests now.
It is not perfect but it is mine! Like all of us, it is a work in progress. Let’s make our country great.
Wow, has it really been over a year since my last post? I’ve still been writing, reading, learning… And here, at long last, is a new story. I hope you enjoy. Don’t forget to check out the Tiny Tales Podcast for more stories that you might not see here: https://www.tinytalespodcast.com/
The child lay on the shore of clouds and gazed at the world below. Beneath the pool of sky, land stretched green and gray and brown. The shadow of drifting feather clouds passed dark over the forest, pierced by the jagged arrows of bird flocks.
An arm sweeping, stirring the empty sky, the child watched through half-open eyes. Wind tickled his fingertips. He was wide-awake, dreaming. Walking the green stretches. Striding through the trees. He scaled mountains, forded rivers. Mighty Cirus. Unafraid.
Sighing, he stretched an empty hand to the open sky, shifting near enough to the edge that…
Author’s note: Originally, I had told this story to my daughter to bring a twist in the old story. But when my daughter chose to retell it to me, as it happens so often with retellings, she added her own touch. By the third retelling, the story had its own character. Then, she created illustrations at my request. I couldn’t help but share it.
If the story doesn’t make sense, well, it’s not mine. You have been warned.
The Happy Beginnings
Long ago, there lived a girl. We don’t know her name, so for the sake of reference, let’s call her Cinderella. She lived in a huge house with her father, stepmother and two stepsisters. We don’t know their names too but it doesn’t matter; it is not their story.
Cinderella was really happy in her life with only one problem–she hated bathing. In fact, the only person who could urge her to take a bath was her father.
Once her father died, no one in the family could make her bathe again. Within a couple of months, the situation became unbearable for the family. The house staff quit, complaining of smelling death in the house. Soon, the outside staff that took care of animals and gardens quit too, believing the hearsay of the family being haunted.
The step-mother tried everything in her power to subdue Cinderella. She made her do all the household chores, reminding her, “If you bathe even once a week, the staff would return. Then, you wouldn’t have to do all this work.” But Cinderella remained unmoved. After four months, the stepmother started to get strangling dreams at night because of the smell that was now Cinderella permanent companion. She had no other option but to move Cinderella to the attic.
The Royal Ball
Years flew by. All the girls were now quite grown up. Cinderella happened to be prettiest of them all, but you wouldn’t know that, considering the cakes of dirt stuck to her body. The only clean place on her body was her hands, that were washed many times a day because of the chores she did. Her hair fell limp, caked with dirt too, on her back, never moving in strongest of winds.
One day, the king announced a ball dance at the castle, inviting all the girls of the city. The rumours were that the prince will choose his bride and the future queen during the ball. Their mother had dresses made for all three girls who were quite excited to go. On the morning of the ball, she asked all of them to get ready. She specifically requested Cinderella to take a bath. But Cinderella, being what she was, just went in the bathroom and splash water on the walls and came out toweling herself and wore her dress quickly.
She couldn’t fool anyone though. As soon as she joined her stepmother outside the door, the old lady wrinkled her nose and told her that she will have to stay back; they could not take her to the ball smelling like a dead cat otherwise the soldiers will toss them all out. So, they left Cinderella behind crying outside the house.
Suddenly Cinderella felt someone behind her. As she turned back, she saw a small figure the size of her palm hovering in the air behind her. She sniffed the air and asked, “So, what died here? And how long back?”
Cinderella was rather surprised at the sudden appearance and the enquiry, but she replied with as much dignity as she could summon. “Well, my mom died a while back and then my dad.”
“Yeah! I know that. That’s why I’m here. But, still—What’s this smell?”
“Ah! That must be me!”
“Really! How did you manage to do that? Upset stomach?”
“No! I…well, I just don’t like to bathe…”
“Ah! Okay, so why were you crying?”
Cinderella relayed the incident of the day and the fairy just shook her head. “Well, you didn’t leave her much choice, did you? What if the horses had bucked by the smell? Well, if you really want to go to the ball, I can arrange that but I cannot assure entry, considering the smell…”
Cinderella finally gave up. “Alright, I’ll go and take a bath!”
“Darling! The time you need to take off this amount of dirt and smell from your person…the party would be over by the time you reach there. We need to arrange something quick and easy. Ah! I get it! Stand back!”
She swiped her wand and a mango moved out of the fruit basket and started to swell until it was the size of a carriage with shiny golden wheels. The flies began swarm around it. She, then, picked two flies and turned them into horses. Then, she turned one into the carriage driver and asked him to tie the horses to the carriage. Flies don’t mind smelly things, so they would do well. The fairy then asked Cinderella to step inside the mango-turned-carriage.
Once Cinderella was seated inside, she suddenly remembered, “What will I tell my family?”
“Nothing. Just avoid them. They won’t believe you anyway.”
“No, I mean, my mother will be furious if she returns before me and realises I went all alone.”
“That can be arranged.” The fairy swiped her wand and another Cinderella stood there. “Ensure you keep the family happy until Cinderella returns.” The clone smiled and went inside.
The Bath, the Ball and the Magical Lease
The door and windows were immediately barred, the carriage started moving and a warm shower started coming down from the top of the mango soaking Cinderella’s clothes. The fairy handed a soap bar smelling like a mango to Cinderella. She did a quick job, but fairy made her repeat until all the dirt and grime was gone. Cinderella’s dress was still smelly, so, the fairy created a new dress and pretty shoes too, which Cinderella wore quickly as the castle came into view.
The fairy whispered, “You have two years until all of the magic is gone. Use it well.”
And then she left with a pop.
As Cinderella stepped in the party, everyone looked at her. She looked rather pretty and freshly washed, and the smell of mango soap clung to her. Of course, the prince asked her to dance with him and again and yet again. She was rather elusive of her whereabouts but the prince was totally taken with her because of her deep knowledge on the things that really mattered, like how to bathe horses and polish shoes and buttons and how to be happy with simple things in life, like having someone to serve food.
So, he asked her to marry him. Of course, Cinderella agreed and they were married in a quick ceremony the same night. Cinderella knew she’d have to bathe everyday now but she didn’t really mind it so much anymore.
Two Years Later
Two years flew by. The time of magic lease ending was up, so on the last day, Cinderella returned to her home.
She was greeted with a sight of her clone–freshly bathed–sitting in a lawn chair along with her sisters laughing at a joke while the staff that had returned was busy working around the house.
She decided to wait until the magic wore off in the evening and this one was gone and hid behind some bushes. She heard a pop behind her. “Hi! Why are you hiding in the bushes?” the fairy asked smiling. “I am waiting for the other me to disappear. I have returned. Why is she still here?”
“Ah! That one will remain forever. One of you sisters wished she’d be forever the same, and I am their Godmother too.”
“Then, where will I go?”
“Back to the palace obviously. Don’t you want to be with your family?”
“Of course I do, but once the magic ends, I will be back to my old self again.”
“And you are not your old self yet?”
“I don’t see any difference.”
“Well, where are the dress and shoes I gave you?”
“I’m sorry. I seem to have misplaced them. I went looking in my closet but they were missing. Even the mango carriage, the horses, and the driver were missing when I went to get them. Someone might have taken them for a ride,” Cinderella looked apologetic.
“That’s because the magic ended last midnight. The dress and shoes are back to nothing now. And you can’t expect to recognise three flies in a place full of horses and that mongo must have become someone’s late-night snack.”
“But then, why am I still the same?”
“Well, you bathe everyday, I believe? That’s not magic. And your clothes and shoes are made by humans too. What is there to change?”
“But I look pretty.”
“You ARE pretty, darling. You just needed a bath. Now, if you are done with the questioning, there is a girl stuck on a tower I must send a prince to.” With those words, the fairy disappeared.
Cinderella took a great sigh of relief and went back home to her happily ever after.
Damn that rat! I am having a bad hair day, or rather an even worse hair day because I always have bad hair. It’s a curse that has followed me since forever.
I keep rat poison around the house and in the gardens too but one of these always sneak in. And, then, my hair go haywire, sniffing in all directions, getting tangled in the process, never remembering that they can’t leave my head to hunt it anyway.
My life is hell. Yours would be too if you had a headful of snakes for hair. I am Medusa and I’m still trying to hide these cursed ‘hair’ under an assortment of wigs.
I hate Athena. Just because I was slacking from my duties as her priestess, thinking of the time I had with Poseidon, she had to curse me. She could have simply fired me from the post. But no, she had to make a point. And now, I have to deal with hair that eat rabbits for dinner. And live for an eternity too.
Earlier, it was easy. I would simply petrify anyone who stared at my ‘hair’ longer than needed. But it became increasingly difficult when soldiers came calling to check if I had seen certain missing people and finding their statue in my garden shed. They could never pin the abduction/murder on me but my luck wouldn’t hold out forever. Also, now people have trackers on their phones, and sometimes in their cars too.
That’s why I started this business of fashion wigs. It gave me an excuse to have an unlimited supply of ridiculousy large wigs to hide my own head and adverstise my fare too. Getting rabbits to feed my snakes was also an issue, so I started a small rabbit farm on the side, increasing the products to guniea pigs, hamsters and hare. Of course, they are scared of me and never come to me easy. But then, who cares. They are not my pets. They are pet-feed.
Speaking of which, my ‘pets’ are now settling down. It seems like the rat has finally left the room. Nagina is even rubbing her head against my cheek, probably asking for a belly rub and Vipe is pointing his head towards the bag of treats.
Sigh! Don’t I love them all! I just wish they weren’t so much work…