#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: R for Rather than give in to temptation


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Rather than give in to temptation

Provided by: Tina Downey, close friend, comrade-in-arms for the A to Z Challenge

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#atozchallenge :Rather than give in to temptation

#atozchallenge :Rather than give in to temptation

          Mum says it’s evil to steal.

          Sure, the first time you try it, you go Gawd I can’t do this, but then you’ve picked it up and chucked it in your handbag, your fingers shoved into your pockets to keep them from trembling, blood singing in your ears as you wait for the alarms to squeal on you, and then you’re out, striding out into the daylight, and they tell you they’d cut the tags out for you and ask you how you feel, and you tell them you’re doing great, just awesome. You want to do it again.

         Rather than give in to temptation, Mum says, earn your cash, make sure you work to pay for what you want and don’t get into trouble. Gucci shoes, DKNY jeans, any amount of bling, I want it all. So that’s what I do these days. I work.

         No one can see my face, its only shaking my bits at the camera, twirl some panties, shimmying around a bit. Who cares if some weirdo in outer Serbia is jerking off to it, right? I have Paypal, and my Paypal has the zeroes, baby. You can buy anything, they deliver it to you, right where you want it. You gotta love internet! And if anyone gets into trouble, it will be the school, because guess what computers we’re using? lmao

Mum says it is evil to show yourself, but I didn’t fall from the sky, y’know? She must’ve done some showing someplace to get me, right?

       Anyway, what’s good and what’s evil? Who gets to decide which is which? Some day, I’m gonna ask Mum, but I doubt she has an answer.

       And d’ya know we’ll do today? We’re gonna be good girls! We’ll dress up all lush, the nipples, y’know, and today it’ll be the real deal, a reeeal Man, and I’m supposed to…I’m not telling you! Lots of Syrup heads, and tons of snow, that’s all you need to know…that rhymes, lol

         So excited, don’t know what to think ATM, but I know I’m gonna be evil, baby, and it’s gonna feel soooo good!! We might even get it on. What does Mum know, she doesn’t get JO, or TDTM, or 420 or even PIR, poor thing.

          But I love her so. She tells her friends I’m a good girl, and I am, right? Right.

           Mum says it is evil to lie…here I am, telling you the truth. OK, PIR, so gtg, ttyl!


~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Do you have teens at home? Do you get teenspeak?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: P for Postponement is not an option


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: P for Postponement is not an option

Provided by: Jemima Pett, friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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#atozchallenge: P for Postponement was not an option

#atozchallenge: P for Postponement was not an option

     I sit on me front porch, thinkin’ Sunday morning thoughts, when they drive up, the two fat coppers.

     Where’s Moses?, the taller of the two hooks his finger on his belt, and don’t waste our time.

     Only Moses I know, I tell them, parted the Red Sea.

      No punchin’ the toadstool around me. Moses he turn me ‘to a fairy if I squeal. Better put out for coppers than Moses.

       My nose bust next second, one long whine in me ears, blood on me mouth, warm ‘n icky. Usual stuff.

       The other copper, sliding behind, he throw me against the porch wall. You wan’  to do them Moses you’self? Where’s you’ gi’lf’iend?

           Why cops look more ‘n more like we these days? This one got a missing front tooth. It make his words come all funny.

            He take Angela, Moses do, I want to tell them, ‘n she go with him.

        Every Sunday Angela she take me to church, Be a good man, Jerry, she say, let the Lord save you. You ne’er took a life, the Lord He forgive you, ask for His mercy.

 

Last night she run, not with a good man, but Moses. Moses of stick-ups ‘n blagging, pimp, cop-killer, Mac daddy that drive around Sunday e’enings high on shrooms, or eatin’ coke, lookin’ for bitches to rape.

         Postpon’ment is not an option, Moses say, his big fancy words, you got one life. Take what you want.

         I wanna tell these coppers all that. But what’s the point? She make me wear the mushroom suit every time I do her, there’s the truth of it. Angela want his big brawny spawn, not mine. I’m puny, she say. Some more, these coppers don’t do their jobs, oughta patted me down before slammin’ me.

         I pull out the nine Moses thrown at me last nite, laughin’ in my face, ‘n I fire, once, twice. I fall back, more whine in me ears. The nine it hit me back, but it drop them sure. Then I sit me down, and watch the red slide outta their mean little heads. Ne’er bust a cap, and now this.

        Moses he got it right. Always a first time, and live only once. I’m havin’ me some different Sunday morning thoughts. With a nine, I’m as tall as Moses.  The Lord can save me no more, Angela. I’m comin’ for you.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? What associations do mushrooms have for you?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: O for Only once did she stop and think..


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Only once did she stop and think..

Provided by:  Csenge Virág Zalka, friend, fellow writer, storyteller, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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Only once did she think

#atozchallenge: Only once did she stop and   think

           She woke up to his pictures on Facebook. Not on her timeline, you understand, but a stranger’s, a woman she’d met at a party the night before, her latest Facebook friend.

           He’d put on weight. Flecks of grey and white had touched his hair. His smile, though. His smile looked the same. Or did it?

           Her fingers traced the screen. If only she could enter it, stand beside him, hold his arm as he smiled at the camera, lay her head on the suit that hugged his shoulders.

         Could she once again be the reason he smiled, just like on that spring morning when his fingers had combed her curls? They had danced and sung and chugged down too much wine the evening before, and he’d taken her headache away. He’d played with her dinner clothes, taken them off, let his hands and the sun warm her. What day was that, the day after a friend’s wedding, or Fourth of July? That day when all seemed hazy, only them, their bodies, had a certain ripe solidity– too full, with too much of life. She couldn’t remember.

 

 Yet here he was, tagged in a stranger’s photo, smiling up at her, arms around his fleshy, grinning wife. A middle-aged man, after all. Not a young man with whom everything seemed possible.  A father, a businessman, no muscled demigod with dreamy eyes.

          She stared at her own profile photo. She didn’t look all that different from his wife, with her baggy chin, her flabby arms. She no longer had the nimble walk of that day, nor those breasts he had bared to the sun. Wrinkles lined her eyes, not kohl. Her jeans did not fit her as well today. Her hair had begun to thin out, she now wore it short.

Those two, those mesmeric people from that day, they had long gone.

She removed her Facebook profile photo, turned the settings on her albums to Private. Once, only once did she stop and think, and then, with slow fingers she clicked Unfriend.

She had seen him, but he must not see her. She wasn’t ready to wear her years, not yet.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Met any old flames on Facebook?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Never in her life did she think..


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’ll be posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph W. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Never in her life did she think…

Provided by: Anna Tan, friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificient Seven of #TeamDamyanti

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#atozchallenge : N for Never

#atozchallenge : N for Never in her life did she think…

       The poppy fields of her lost summers, she wanted to see them bloom again.

       Those red, black-hearted blossoms, nodding and dancing in the breeze, lying crushed under her as she moved with her husband, coloring the air in opium– she wanted them back, those fields where they had made her son.

         She drove slowly in the dusk, her eyes on the distance, on the road below her with its moving stream of traffic. The lights, a river of cars, a slow-moving river of light on a Friday evening, people going home or out of town for their weekends. Everyone had a right to joy, to life, as did Robbie, sitting beside her, tall and strong like his father. Eyes closed, he danced his head to the music from his earphones, lost to the world, unaware his father was alive and looked for him. The breeze mussed his hair, so unlike his father’s crew cut.

 Somewhere out there, in all that light, sat her husband, his heart dark with intent. She remembered his clothes that smelled of gunpowder and blood, his very posture, erect, as if challenging the world. Never in her life did she think she would fall for such a man, a man who left his pregnant wife in the name of duty, never looked back. And now he wanted their son. Easy for him, he had given life, but received only pleasure in return. This was her son, not his. She had borne the pain so her baby might come to this world, safe. She had watered him with her blood, fed him, given him color, life. 

Tomorrow, with the first light of the sun, she would take Robbie to those fields for a walk. No one would feed her that patriotism crap, replace her boy with a bunch of red poppies. She fingered the 9mm Smith & Wesson in her pocket. Her husband had taught her to shoot, but he didn’t know she’d kept practicing, that she could bring poppies to bloom. She drove on, to the red poppy fields of her youth, right beyond the hill. She smelled spring in the dark night air.

            ~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? Watched traffic lights at dusk? What do poppy fields mean to you? Ever walked in them?

#AtoZchallenge #flashfiction: Lately he’d been feeling


As part of the A to Z Challenge,  through the month of April I’m posting a story a day based on photographs by Joseph T. Richardson and prompts given to me by blog-friends.
Writing prompt: Lately he’d been feeling…

Provided by: Anna Tan, friend, fellow writer, and one of the magnificent Seven of #TeamDamyanti

A to Z Challenge: L for Lately he'd been feeling         Saturday nights like this, Don returned early, and tried not to get wasted. Martha didn’t like it.

          But today they’d filled his glass each time he’d drained it, and he could smell whiskey everywhere, on his sofa, his clothes, even his socks and shoes as he tugged them off. He felt, warm, fuzzy on the outside, but the booze hadn’t dulled the shrapnel of pain caught in his chest.

         Not that he wanted to talk about it, but lately, he’d been feeling like a dinosaur at a fun fair– on display, paint chipped in places, no choice but to stay put.

          He’d tried quitting, but not very hard, because that might get him iced. In the last few months, on a job, when taking the stairs, he’d catch his breath after each flight. His hands didn’t hold steady on the boom stick no more.

         Slim, Nugs and Toddy eyeballed him every fucking minute, waiting for him to slip from his rung, so they could step up. He didn’t blame them. At twenty he thought the old papi running him a dick wad, who needed topping off.

            If he hadn’t fallen for Martha, taken the slow road because of her, they’d have made him the boss by now, his own plush office, what rum or whisky he wanted, two gun-toting fellas tagging him everywhere. Instead, here he sat, in his underwear, petting the boom stick by the bed. The steel barrel felt cold in his hands, but it remained his only friend, the one thing he could trust.

           The Mac Balla had taken Martha, popped her off at church, and he had to get the slick who’d done it. Each Sunday he was in town, he’d met her at the mass, for the last fifteen years. She wouldn’t marry him, she said, till he changed his ways.

          Now she was gone, leaving the ghost of a bullet hole in his chest. It was covered with skin on the outside, and full of fucking veins on the inside, gushing blood. Don unscrewed the bottle by the bed, tossed the drink down his throat. He willed it to find this bloody spot where Martha had been inside of him, pour whiskey on it, or burn it with hot iron, so the pain would come once, hard, and then be gone.

                 He heard the latch on his back door turn. One of the boys come to do him in, after drowning him in drink? The Mac Balla? He took the boom stick in his shaking hands and pointed it at his chin. He won’t let someone else’s bullet take him. He pushed the cold ring of steel in the jowl under his chin, felt his flesh spill around it.

                 Martha’s scent filled him, the smell of her hair when she washed herself after they’d ‘lived in sin’ each Sunday night. He listened for the next footfall, the whisper of cloth against curtains, the cocking of a pistol.

                He waited. He would find Martha, one way or the other.

~~~~~

Are you taking part in the A to Z challenge? Do you read or write fiction? Ever write based on a prompt? How would you connect today’s prompt and picture?

Vikas Swarup’s Six Suspects


Random House India sent me a bunch of books quite some time ago, but what with my novel, the A to Z Challenge  and deaths in the family, I haven’t posted many reviews. I read Six Suspects a few months ago, so my memory is a little hazy. I stuck in post-it notes though, which are now helping me remember details as I browse through the book again.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary stories and novels — so mysteries are not my favorite genre.

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 Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup Random House India

Six Suspects by Vikas Swarup

The blurb will tell you what the book is about: Seven years ago, Vivek ‘Vicky’ Rai, the playboy son of the Home Minister of Uttar Pradesh, murdered Ruby Gill at a trendy restaurant in New Delhi simply because she refused to serve him a drink. Now Vicky Rai is dead, killed at his farmhouse at a party he had thrown to celebrate his acquittal. The police search each and every guest. Six of them are discovered with guns in their possession, each of them steaming with a secret motive.

The novel looks at these suspects in flashback, elaborating these very motives. The resulting chapters make for easy reading, though the writing is somewhat stilted.

This is from one of the suspects, a mobile thief, who has taken a job as a servant:

I too, have taken my revenge on the Bhusiyas. Mr. S. P. Bhusiya, the adulterator, for instance, has no clue that the chicken curry he has been eating at dinner time is also adulterated. I spit in it liberally before laying it on the table.”

The plot held my interest at the beginning because Swarup tells us how each of the suspects is related to the other through strange and (increasingly) implausible circumstances. He also uses the backdrop of real events that made headlines in India. But the sub-plots soon entangle themselves into a tropical jungle thick with liana, and the only way to make sense of things in the end is to hack through it, which Swarup does, without much subtlety. I had the feeling this book could lose a few plotlines, and make better sense as a story.

The characters are told, not shown, and they’re not only cardboard, but also melodramatic. Couldn’t bring myself to care for them, one way or the other.

But Six Suspects does a good job of exposing the corruption which India continues to suffer from at all levels of bureaucracy, politics, media and business. Swarup does boil a vile cauldron of these, which stinks as much and as ‘authentically’ as India’s pandemic of corruption does in reality.

The book would have done better with a good editor, who could have balanced story and plot– as it is, Swarup fails in the project he seems to have taken up: write a mystery while highlighting the problems facing Indian society.

Why you could read it: It is an ‘easy’ read once you make your peace with the quality of the prose, and if you are interested in the new, ‘shining’ India, you could do worse than read this book. Some of the voices are interesting, and a few facets of this country, especially the difference between the appearance and reality of its ‘progress,’ have emerged rather well.

Why you could give it a miss: If you like your mysteries to be plausible in their telling, this book is not for you. The plot is riddled with twists and turns, but some of the coincidences are too convenient, and they happen to stock characters with no layers or complexity.

My crib: The editing. Not only do the book’s plotlines need better handling, but also the voices. The most inauthentic, (unsurprisingly, coming from an Indian author), is the Texan forklift operator who speaks British English instead of American– using words like air hostess instead of flight attendant, and pavement instead of sidewalk.

Bottomline, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you snag it for free someplace and are interested enough in India to want to trawl through it.

What would you like to see any  changes in the  review format? Was this review helpful? Would you read this book?

 

Manto, and Why Indians and Pakistanis need to read him


I’ve been reading the books sent to me by Random House India, but what with life, and my novel and the A to Z Challenge preparations, I haven’t posted reviews. I read Manto about four months ago, so my memory is a little hazy. I stuck in post-it notes though, which are now helping me remember details as I read some of the stories again.

My Declared Bias: I read and write Literary, and love short stories.

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It is possible to review some books without a mention of the context in which they were written, but it is impossible to do so with the works of Saadat Hasan Manto, a writer born in undivided India, who died in Pakistan.

Had he lived, he would have turned 100 last year, but he drank himself to death at the age of 43, eight years after the Partition that created India and Pakistan, after a series of trials where his writing was charged with obscenity. This was  one of the best periods of his work, but one of the worst in personal and financial terms.

Manto: Selected Short Stories

Manto: Selected Short Stories

As such, a lot of history and context is  (rightly, or wrongly) read into his work, and one of the simplest ways to understand this in a short span of time would be to read the introduction by Aatish Taseer, Manto’s grandson, who has translated the stories curated into this book.

Taseer has taken great care to retain the rhythm of the original Urdu in his translation, and no reader can deny the resonance of Manto’s voice that comes through. The originals might, I imagine, have a certain colloquial touch to them, like this example from the story, “My Name is Radha“, one of my favorites from this book:

The studio owner Harmzji Framji, a fat, red-cheeked bon vivant of sorts, was madly in love with a middle-aged actress who looked like a transvestite. His favourite pastime was sizing up the breasts of every newly-arrived actress. Another Muslim hooker from Calcutta’s Bow Bazaar carried on affairs simultaneously with her director, sound recordist, and scriptwriter. The point of these affairs, of course, was to ensure that all three remained in love with her.”

While this reads clunky in English, I can hear it spoken in Urdu (a language I don’t speak, and understand very little of,  but admire nevertheless) with a sort of cheekiness and a common touch, which is, imho, fairly impossible to translate.

Manto was writing at a time when a preachy morality was important in the entire sub-continent, and frank sexuality was frowned upon. So it is quite obvious why the author’s matter-of-fact emphasis on the body was interpreted by his contemporary society as lewdness.

Of course a few of his stories can strike us as sentimental, especially those playing heavily on the drama of the Partition of India (and Pakistan), because our sensibilities are used to the spareness of modern fiction.

But the irony of a stray dog in “The Dog of Tithwal” that befriends both enemy camps (Indian and Pakistani) at a border post and is subsequently shot, is not lost on the reader, nor is the pathos of a madman’s refusal (and subsequent death) in “Toba Tek Singh” when an attempt is made to ‘return’ him to his native town, which, after the Partition, no longer lay in Pakistan, but instead in India. In stories like these, Manto questions the very definitions of ‘country’, ‘borders’ and ‘sanity.’

Why you could read it: It is an easy read, and if you are interested in the Indian sub-continent and its history, you could do worse than read this book.

Why you could give it a miss: If you like your fiction to be spare and unsentimental, this book is not for you. As with most translated fiction, the beauty of the original does not fully translate into English, despite the sincerity of the translator.

My crib:

The typos strewn through the book bothered me (e.g. Pg 28- ‘smoth’  instead of ‘smooth’). The book has some instances of repeated words ( e.g. Pg. 20 “fed fed up”) and other proofreading howlers. If they come up with another edition, they need a better proofreader who would do justice to such an important writer of the Indian sub-continent.

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Saadat Hasan Manto

Saadat Hasan Manto

I enjoyed this book, and if you happen to pick it up, the least you should do is read the introduction, which is a modern piece of extremely educational writing, and no less poignant for it. You would not be disappointed, I promise you that.

After I read up on Manto, I realized that he has been marginalized in India, to the extent that I had never heard of him growing up, or even as an adult, and had not read him before this book.

All Indian and Pakistani readers deserve to read more of this writer, because the issues that informed Manto’s work continue to be relevant in the society and politics of both these countries.

It is a shame that this author is not better known in India, and kudos to Random House in attempting to change that.

Only, the next time, I wish they would hire a proofreader worth their time.

What would you like to see any  changes in the  review format? Was this review helpful? Would you read this book?