A-Z: Z is for Zone


Writing prompt: ZONE

Provided by:  Claire Goverts,
a fellow A-Z challenge participant, yet again. Please visit her excellent blog. Thanks Claire, this is the 3rd or 4th of your prompts I have used. All letters done, now looking forward to the May 2nd Mega Blog!

Genre: Fiction

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With sacred rites we burn her. The funeral pyre sings and crackles in the riverside air.

This is what we come to, this cliche of ashes and dust. Our body hears nothing, sees nothing, feels nothing, just lies there and burns, spreading into the air in specks, and soon there is nothing where there was a person.

I sit down on the ground, Indian squat style, knees bent to my chest, my feet planted on the ground and feel the muscles in my thighs strain and pull against my skin. My eyes tear up from the smoke, and the stench of burning flesh pushes into me, under the incense, the sandalwood and the clarified butter we have offered the fire.

This is what it is to be alive, this moment when I can breathe, swallow, clench, scream. My love is floating around me, I’m breathing her in as I inhale the smoke, taste her ashes on my tongue. She has left me and joined me in many strange ways at the same time: she was my wife, but now she has become the air around me, my zone.

I take a step, then another one, faster and faster, I’m alive, and she within me. There’s a dazing whirl in my eyes as I run.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.

Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: Y for Youth


Writing prompt: YOUTH

Provided by: Claire Goverts ,
a fellow A-Z challenge participant. Please visit her excellent blog!

Can’t believe I have one more post left to go…Z, and we’re done!

Genre: Fiction

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Youth and blood spatter, magnolia

A to Z: Youth and Magnolia

The magnolia tree outside his apartment lit up his eyes as he wrote. He had to hurry, because they would be here soon. He had to write of his lost youth, of his encounter with the butcher, how he was spared, and became a butcher himself.

But first he had to take out the .45 bullets, the cold, sharp, dead things. Not his weapon of choice on the flowers he picked up, the boys who fell for the hush, the softness of his voice, never recognized him for who he was until too late.  Youth was stupid, that way. No grown man would have entered his car.

Knives had life, they hummed and sang with each spurt, but not the easiest things to use on your own throat. Things could get messy. He wanted a clean end and he knew how to shoot a .45 ACP from his days in the army.

The pistol readied, he sat down again to write, but the words would not come. He thought of the last boy, the one that almost got away, of how he lay under the earth, carved and peeled, so close to him.

He needed to decide how to end this.

He took one of the pale pink blossoms he had gathered that morning on his table. Magnolias should be red, he said, like blood, or youth. Not magnolia seeds. He began peeling the flower. The butcher had taught him this way of making up his mind.

I will be here when they come, he said, and tore a petal. I won’t be here, he said, and tore another.

He heard a bolt slip somewhere at the back, and knew they had found him. He wondered how he had missed the sound of cars pulling up.

The pale pink petals, having done their job, lay on the parquet around his feet.

He scribbled on the pad before him: Under the magnolia tree.

Let them find out the secret of the thriving posies that weighed the tree to the lawn.

As the door opened, he fired his shot, and a tiny red magnolia blossomed on his throat, where his voice had been.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: W is for Wonder, X for X-ray


Writing prompt: WONDER, X-RAY

Provided by: Nicole , a fellow A-Z challenge participant. Please visit her excellent blog.

Genre: Fiction

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I wonder sometimes if I’m as dirty on the inside as I feel on the outside.

But the X-ray shows I’m merely broken.

My forearm has hairline fractures in two places, the doctor says, and I might have torn a bicep tendon. My bones have joined back earlier in other places, and look almost straight.

You want to tell me what happened, the doctor says, it is not natural for young bones to break so easy. Are you sure you fell on your hand? For a second I believe I can stay here for all time, in this room chilled with air-conditioning that smells a little of painkiller gels and alcohol. I’m tempted to tell her. The doctor reminds me of my mother, or what I think I remember of her before she died. But you can’t remember all that much at four.

Then I catch Dad’s eyes across the glass door. I swear he can hear each word from his blue chair outside the doctor’s office.

As I get my arm fixed up, I feel those eyes boring in, the eyes that make me dirty.

On my way out the doctor hands me the X-ray, taking her time about it. I take one last look at my bones, and then feel a small card under the stiff, thick X-ray as I shove it into the brown hospital envelope she gives me.

Call me anytime, she says, but I do not nod. I slip the card in my pocket without looking at it, clutch the envelope, and walk out to my Dad.

Tonight I think I’ll call her. If he does not find the card first.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

V is for Victorious


Pipal tree

The Victorious Pipal Tree, Photo credit : Shubha

Writing prompt: VICTORIOUS

Provided by: Alex J. Cavanaugh, one of the organisers of the A-Z challenge. Please drop me some prompts for  W, X, Y,Z.  I need them all!! Photo credit : Shubha

Genre: Fiction. ( I have added links to unfamiliar ‘Indian’ words. )

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The Pipal tree of her childhood stood right where it always had on summer afternoons, when its dry, heart-shaped leaves flapped in the heat and fluttered down, their stalks slender and firm even in death, smelling of the earth and wood.

She dipped them in inks and paints, red and green and blue, and made paper hearts. She left them in books, on her father’s study table, pasted them on the walls of her courtyard, the dead leaves brought to life.

For years after they hacked down the Pipal and placed a tall government building of dark windows and gray walls in its stead, the leaves came to her on moonlit nights, clapping against each other in her dreams.

They fell in whispers on the neighborhood lane where once she climbed trees, scraped her knee playing hide-and-seek, chased after boys and marbles in the red dust, soaked the earth in ochre and cerulean on Holi, helped her pig-tailed friend draw explosions of colored Rangoli each Diwali on pale circles of smeared cow-dung that smelled like swampy mud when wet, and like hay when it dried.

They called to her and spoke to her of withered roots, of a trunk gone mad with grief, of homeless leaves looking for little girls to rescue them. She did not know they spoke of themselves.

When she reached an age when the call of the roots is the strongest, she gave in to the Pipal leaves in her dreams, and sought out that lane.

I’ll go home one last time, she said, I will go look at my old Pipal tree.

But she never made it back home. The country of her birth did not let her in. She was a Pakistani now, and Pakis are not welcome in India.

She asked her grandson to find pictures of her old neighborhood on the internet, but he found none. No one told her of the cold, ugly building that stood in its stead.

So the tree remained where it had always been, in its victory over time and place, its roots like matted hair slow-moving in the breeze, its gray bark pitted, but strong on its immense, tangled trunk.

Its new-born red leaves welcomed spring,  its purple figs fed mynas in the month of May. Its dried-heart leaves found their way to her, and there they remained.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

U is for Under


Writing prompt: UNDER

Provided by: Claire Goverts via Twitter. Please visit her excellent blog, and drop me some prompts for V, W, X, Y,Z. I find I need them all.

Genre: Fiction

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I don’t know about you, but when I look at me, I like what I see.

I like, for instance, the star that used to stop less than an inch above my cleavage. It stood out, blue and proud, the first tattoo I got me made, to remind me I could survive.

They marched me into and out of prison with a bunch of kids my age, which was twelve. Not the number of kids, my age. The star that time was at an innocent place, but it became a challenge to all that dared question my right to do with my life as I will.

That phoenix you see on my arm, I got it when first I fell in love. I had risen, I said, above all the hate given me and found it in me to love.

Each flower, each colored cloud, each letter, every sword, every petal, each verse, running into each other has meaning, some of which has escaped me.

I would not let the colors fade, I said, the primroses on my stomach would not wither and fall, the snake that crawls up my leg would not lose its way in a maze of wrinkles.

My skin is not a covering, it is what holds my body together, I said.

Now that my eighties are far behind and I no longer have a cleavage, when it is hard for me to swallow sometimes, when I remember each slow moment of what happened fifty years ago, but forget what I had for lunch, or if indeed I had one; I know not just my skin, but my body is a covering.

The colors of the tattoos have seeped into my soul, and even when the body is gone, the colors will remain.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: T is for Tell you what


Writing prompt: TELL YOU WHAT

Provided by: I’m not sure who gave me this one, but I loved it! If it was you, just give me a shout-out, and I’ll link to you.

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Tell me a story, Ana says, like she says each night, tell me a story, Daddy.

Tell me that one about the squirrel and the tree, where the tree was not a tree, but a city where the squirrel became king. Or the time you met that black-maned lion on the way home, and got late for my swimming lesson.

I shake my head and smile, there isn’t enough time for stories.

There is all the family still to see her, each one to try and smile at that wee little face grown smaller in the last few months, the tubes and machines running through and into her tiny body. There is so little time.

I try to talk past the rock in my throat.

Then hold my hand and let’s travel, she says, and I remember her first injection last year. When she started crying , I said, “Ana-kins, hold my hand, and let’s travel. We’ll be off together on a plane to never-never land and that injection won’t touch you.”

I had lied, because today, her six-year-old hand is riddled with punctures, and a small needle still wages a losing battle.

I’ll get Mommy, I say.

Don’t go, Daddy, and don’t be afraid, just hold my hand and we’ll go to never-never land, okay?

Okay, I say, I’m right there with you.

Another lie. This time, when she’s really going,  I can’t take the plane with her.

Tell you what, my Ana-bel.

Yes, Daddy?

I feel a story coming on… I’m going to tell you a story.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

S for Sacrilege


Sacrilege, writing prompt

S is for Sacrilege

Writing prompt: SACRILEGE

Provided by:  Joy fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! Please PLEASE leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :)  I need prompts for T, U and V most desperately!!

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Today is the day the rain on the window sill at night would bring fear, and loathing, and pleading for mercy. But not to me, for once.

It will stop her breath in her lungs, the words in her mouth,  the bile in her stomach, and the slaps and kicks she has marked me with, my mother.

That word seems an alien thing. Mother. I have seen bitches take care of their puppies inside the drain under the culvert. She feeds them when they whine, licks them clean, and nuzzles them from time to time.

But not ours. Today when I came back from school, I saw the same welts on my baby brother’s back that I always see on mine in the bathroom mirror. She must have been in one of her drunken rages. Even grown men are scared of her now, of who she becomes when her nostrils flare and her eyes shrink, and from her neck a slow red creeps up to her face.

I have no father, and my uncle, his brother, is the Father at the church. Sacrilege he would call it, wait for God to smite her.  I’ll remind her again of her duties, he’ll say, have Faith, my son. But my baby brother is six. My sister, three. They will not live long if she lives, and I cannot wait for God much longer.

I’m fourteen, my ankles and wrists are too long and bony for my clothes, but it is up to me to be the man.

Without her, I’ll have a family. Without her, the world would be a better place. If it is Sacrilege, so be it.

Tonight is the night I’ll stop her.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: R is for Revenge


Singing is the best revenge

Singing well is the best Revenge

Writing prompt: REVENGE

Provided by:  Baygirl, fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! Please PLEASE leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :) Photo Credit: Sujatha

Genre: Fiction/Flash

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Tonight they’ll sing of I know not what because I do not understand their language, but they have told me, by gestures and movements, that each will sing alone as well as in chorus, and that I’m expected to sing.

Singing is a frightening idea. I do not sing in the shower, never have, and even if I manage to break out of here and find my way back to that old life of showers, combs, comfortable beds and warm food, probably never will.

But singing in front of all those men and women takes frightening to a new level, because in the time spent here, I’ve seen what happens to those who are deemed embarrassing in front of the evening crowd.

Through the crack in my wooden prison wall, I can see a beehive of activity. Since the prison hut is just a few steps below the Chieftian’s, it is higher than the rest of the village. I watch the preparation for tonight’s singing under the moonlight, the painting of faces, the sharpening of knives and teeth, the polishing of drums and cymbals. But above this hum, a noise draws near, and one by one all heads rise towards the  source of the ruckus.

I cannot believe my eyes what my eyes see next, because into the clearing walks a child, a girl no older than ten or eleven, dark-skinned, with large silver anklets on her feet that plink and jangle with each step. She is not wearing much, not that I can see, only her hair, long, rough and cloud-like, that falls below her knees. The crowd around her is silent.

Someone has called the Chieftian–and this strikes me as odd, his walking into the clearing in daylight. All are summoned to his hut, this is the first time protocol has been reversed, for an admittedly strange, but nevertheless young girl.

A woman’s voice booms, but it has emerged from the lips of the dark little girl. It throws me, but it terrifies the Chieftian and his men. Women gather their children and back away towards their huts.

Rough hands grab me by the shoulders and stand me up, and I find myself being hurried out to the clearing. None of the usual shoves and cuffs, though.

When I reach, the Chieftian is on his knees, and though I do not understand his language, it is impossible to miss his air of supplication. His sweat reeks as much of his fear as his posture: here is a monster of a man begging for his life from a child.

I look at her staring the Chieftian down. She senses my gaze and looks up. In those eyes I see rivers of light. It is the gaze of a mare upon her foal, but there is also the adoration of a child towards its mother. Her eyes wash over my skin like a warm towel after a long, dusty journey– they touch my head, smooth my hair.

“Come, my child,” the voice purls up at me in clear, ringing English, “I have been a long time waiting.”

As I step towards her, the back of my naked legs are splattered with a warm liquid, all the way up to my buttocks. Without thinking, I look back, and down. It is the Chieftian’s blood. He lies in the dust, or what is left of him, because he has no head. My mouth opens in a wordless scream and I take a step back.

“A long time waiting, my son, this will be sweet revenge indeed. Let us sing.” The voice pours into my ears like viscous, warm honey before I pass out.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: P is for Pretend, Perilous, Q is for Quirky


Writing prompt: PRETEND, PERILOUS, QUIRKY

Provided by:  A V Pergakis and Toby Neal fellow participants of the A to Z challenge.Visit them! Please PLEASE leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :) 

Genre: Fiction/Flash

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Stop humming. Do. You know as well as I what this is all about, so let us not pretend.

The stories I have told you, they’re quirky no doubt, but they’re real, somehow. You can eat their fragrance.  Taste them in your mouth as I do when I tell them to you, tongue swirling.

We’re not so different, you and I, though your hair flows like a black river, dark in the moonlight. Remember the time when we trapped fireflies and let them loose inside our mosquito curtain–made our own sky?  Some of them had landed in your hair.

My hair I can feel now at the nape of my neck when I look up at the stars, or backward, at the distant rail tracks, glinting. It sends a shiver down my body—newly-grown hair has a charm all its own. Though you do not like me shaving off my curls each summer,  you like touching my round velvety head as they grow back .

So, here we sit, on the balcony parapet on the sixteenth floor, our white legs dangling for whoever cares to look up, two girls suspended in dreams.

Stop humming, you’re doing it again.

I like it better when you curl into yourself, smothering giggles, toppling over the dizzy, perilous edge, but not quite. I like it when my stories make you laugh.

They don’t do that often. When we were younger, barely as tall as out hips right now, our nights together at the slumber parties of two were not always full of joy.

We had sobs, tears even, at some perceived hurt, some made-up harm that my stories had conjured. We sat together, you and I, while my words hung about us like drapes, nets, laces. They were dreams too, dreams of how we would grow up together, much older than we are today. Our parents still call us children, though.

Come on now, you tell me a story, I’m tired. There, that’s the last train, its wail tearing through the veil of the night.

Or should we play our game?

I shall walk the parapet as you hold my hand, and I’ll lean out as far as I can, no, farther, your grip my only grip on reality. I shall not feel this rough parapet beneath my feet and we shall be giddy with laughter.

Come on then,  hold my hand. Let me walk, and tell you a story.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )

A-Z: O is for Okay


Writing prompt: OKAY

Provided by:  RosieC , fellow participant of the A to Z challenge.Visit her! Please leave me prompts if you haven’t already! :) And many thanks also to Vicky Roy for the photograph, and the inspirational story behind his life. I have added links to unfamiliar words.

Genre: Fiction/Flash

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Vicky Roy's photos

O=Okay, Photo Copyright: Vicky Roy, Ragpicker turned Lensman

Raju woke up each morning to the sight of his mother’s rear end. She lay with her back turned towards him, her flower-printed maxi knotted between her thighs, not two feet away on a metal bunk fixed to the wall opposite.

As he clambered down from his perch, taking care not to awaken his siblings asleep on the various bunks beneath him, he wondered how people lived in a house which had a room for each activity: one for cooking, one for sleeping in, one for people to just talk and watch TV, yet another to sit and eat. In the Bollywood movies he had seen, the heroes and heroines lived in such palaces, and walked from room to room. They seemed so lonely.

Beneath the lowest bunk, he fumbled around for the matches, lit the stove and set water to boil. Mumbai never grew  cold, but it was December and the air in his kholi held a  slight chill at dawn. He made himself some tea, but left the milk alone. Mother needed it for his toddling sister.

In the semi-dark, he pulled on a t-shirt from the nearest peg, threading his fingers through the holes that riddled its front, stifling a giggle.  His younger siblings liked to tickle him through the holes on the evenings he babysat them.  From under the sink, he dragged out a pair of mismatched boots his mother had found, stuck some rags into them so they won’t hang loose on his small, nine-year-old feet, and tied the pieces of string that worked as shoelaces. In his sack, he took some extra rags to tie on his hands and mouth later when he reached the dump.He had learnt in the last two years that a nose without roiling stink and a hand protected from cuts found more booty.

He bowed to the picture of Lord Ganesha, and waved a salute at the poster of Shah Rukh beside it, under the lowest bunk on the wall opposite the sink.

“One day, I’ll rule Mumbai,” he said, mimicking Shah Rukh’s screen accent and hiccupy laughter. He picked up paper soap and tooth brush from the carton in the corner to try his luck at the common restrooms of  the chawl. He had woken early enough to find an empty sink, or maybe even a vacant toilet.

“Raju, you’re leaving?” groaned his mother from the top bunk. As usual.

“Yes, Ma.”

“Make sure to bring everything in different bags, okay, and today try to find something we can really sell, okay?”

“Yes, Ma.”

Maybe today was the day, who knew? Just like Lakhan two months ago, who had found a stash of notes  in an old carboard bag while rifling through the trash.

As he pulled the door of his kholi shut, Raju whistled a tune. He thought not of the stench to come, the filth, or the sun on his back, but instead of the surprises the day might bring. He knew he was going to be okay.

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I’m tweeting A to Z posts at #atozchallenge  There is also the A to Z Challenge Daily with links to Tweeted A-Z posts over the last 24 hours.
Thanks and shout-outs to organisers Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) , Jeffrey Beesler’s (World of the Scribe),  Alex J. Cavanaugh (Alex J. Cavanaugh) , Jen Daiker ( Unedited), Candace Ganger (The Misadventures in Candyland) , Karen J Gowen  (Coming Down the Mountain) , Talli Roland ,  Stephen Tremp (Breakthrough Blogs )