Made For Each Other – Milton P. Ehrlich

At an Esalen retreat in ’62,
we learned to massage each other’s feet,
and treat each other to back and craniosacral bodywork.
Our dove-tailed bodies have rarely gone to sleep
without taking turns to free the Qi in a shiatsu palpation.
Like two hovering hummingbirds inhaling a euphoric scent,
we vowed to never stop breathing our honeymoon’s breath.
You’re an oasis of well-water—I’m an unsinkable Boston Whaler.
We’re connected like members of La Cosa Nostra.
I could be your Made man, wearing a diamond-studded pinky ring—
making my bones only for you, so we can remain fully connected.
Our hearts, signed, sealed and delivered by a consigliere,
who wrote Precious, Precious, Precious in the night sky,
notarized by an angel with 3 luminous eyes.

Milton P. Ehrlich Ph.D. is an 87- year-old psychologist and a veteran of the Korean War. He has published many poems in periodicals such as the London Grip, Arc Poetry Magazine, Descant Literary Magazine, Wisconsin Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Christian Science Monitor, and the New York Times.

Cabinet Of Heed Contents Link 25

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Buddha in the River with Sticks – Richard Hillesley

Sometimes when I was a kid I would hear him in the street in the village after the pubs had shut. The lights on the street cast slivers of light across my room through the lines and haloes of the window panes and I lay in bed, the quilt pulled round my shoulders, curled up for warmth, watching the lines of the planks that led towards the door, listening to the sounds of the world outside, the clack of shoes on the street or the bark of dogs in the crisp snow. I knew it was him because he had a tin leg and it crashed and banged and echoed between the walls of the narrow streets.

Sometimes I would pull myself up, rub the condensation from the window, and watch him, lifting his tin leg in a stiff and lazy arc until it crashed onto the pavement, his dim and steady gaze fixed on a light somewhere between the horizon and the end of the street. I would jump back into bed, and pull the cold sheets over my head, shivering.

He was a Tibetan. That much I knew, and that he came from the land of snow where holy men spent their lives drawing images of the Buddha in the river with sticks, images that dissolved as soon as they were drawn.
I knew that too and wanted to try it for myself. So I sat by the stream, and drew a face in the water with a stick, watching the water cover the marks I had made. Emily said,
– What you doin’?
She was my sister. She followed me everywhere.
– Gan awa’.
– Na. A’ll not.à
– It’s a face.
– It’s not.

I ignored her, and drew another face in the stream, a round face with two eyes, a capital L for its nose and a letter I on its side for a mouth, and she threw a stone into the water where the face should have been, and ran off.

I threw the stick after her but I didn’t really care, even if I did want to know why monks sat beside the river for years on end and drew images of the Buddha in the water that went away as soon as they were drawn. It didn’t make any sense to me, but the world of adults never did. So I asked my grandfather if it was true.

– Aye,
he said, but you couldn’t believe him.
– Na,
I said,
– They would know, wouldn’t they? A mean, what’s the point?
But he said it was true, so I asked my mother.
– Is it true?
and she just laughed.
– Na, a’m serious.

And she laughed again, so I was never sure. Granda could tell a story, and I never knew whether to believe him. He always left enough truth in the bones of the story to let us believe, and I was always left to wonder.

The Tibetan first came into our lives one winter when I was six or seven. I saw him in the snow with his lank hair and his hooded hat, flaps over the ears, high cheekbones and piercing eyes, his clanking leg cutting an arc across the pavement, and the mystery that surrounded him followed me everywhere. He lived in the big house in the centre of the village behind the high walls of moss and stone, huge in the doorway with his tin leg, the Colonel and the Colonel’s tiny wife. And he came from Tibet.

The Colonel was another mystery. He was hardly ever seen. Granda said the Tibetan had been the Colonel’s driver during some foreign war. The Colonel was wounded, and the Tibetan stayed with him, fighting off the enemy and pulling him to safety, saving his life.

– Is it true?,
I asked my mother once.
– Is what true?
– Is it true the Tibetan saved the Colonel’s life?
– No idea,
she said, and I could only wonder. Tibet to me was a remote and magic land where glaciers spat ice and snow, high above the earth and lost in clouds, where no-one lived but monks and yetis and warriors, and the monks spent their lives drawing images of the Buddha in the river with sticks.

I learnt some of these things from granda, some from a Children’s Encyclopedia, and some from a story I read about the Bash Street Kids in the Beano. The Bash Street Kids discovered there was a magic lake in Tibet where the monks took ugly people and threw them into the water, and when they came out the other side they were transformed and beautiful.

One of the Kids, Plug, was ‘the ugliest kid in the world’, so the rest of them took him on a magic trip to the lake so he too could become beautiful. But it didn’t work out like that. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and the monks who were the Guardians of the Lake all looked exactly like Plug, and Plug was beautiful to them, and being monks and generous and kind, they wanted to throw all the other kids into the lake so they could be beautiful too.

When I asked granda why the Tibetan had come to live here, he told me the Tibetan had lost his leg guarding the Dalai Lama on his exit from Tibet, and the Colonel had searched for him through the refugee camps of northern India and had brought him back to England for his own good and to be his manservant, which seemed a cruel fate for a monk and a warrior.

None of this meant much to me, nor that a monk could be a warrior too, but it coloured my dreams and my play, and I ran in the woods by the long fields at the top of the farm, over the drystone walls and between the hedges and into the long grass. And the cattle became yaks, and the farmhand a Yeti, chasing us through the gloom, his footsteps in the mud. I shot him with a stick.

And the slag became Everest and the village was laid out below, from the farm to the pit where the Chinese Hordes came running through the gates with their red flags and their guns, looking a lot like the pitmen on their way home.

And my mother would emerge from the back of granda’s house and call us home for tea, and spoil it all. And I would run home like a guerilla hiding behind the walls and trees, popping from one hiding place to another, shooting as I went until I scrambled into the kitchen, shutting the door behind me.

– Just made it,
I would say.
– Wash your hands,
my mother would say.
– They’re clean.
– Wash your hands.
– But mam.

The Tibetan was arrested and put into a police cell one night near the end of that year. He passed the window three times that night, going back and forth to the pub, and the last time I lifted the curtain to see him, clanking along the street. He wasn’t the same as usual. He was swinging a huge bladed sword above his head. I thought I’d imagined it and I looked again. But it was true. He had a sword and was swinging it over his head, which played with all the images I had of him as a warrior in the snow.

– Bloody hell,
I said, and ran into the next room to wake Emily.
– The Tibetan’s out there and he’s swinging a sword.
– Get back to sleep,
she said.
– Na. It’s true. Listen.
A siren was going off, and a police car was racing down the road. We could see the echo of its lights flashing off the ceiling.
– He’s gone to the pub, and he’s taken a sword with him,
I said, and she jumped up and we both ran to the window of her room.
We could see the coppas dragging him out of the pub. They had him in handcuffs, and one of them was carrying his sword.
– Wonder what he’s done?
I said.
– Chopped off someone’s head,
Emily said. And our mother shouted up from downstairs.
– I can hear you. Get back to bed.
He was up in court a few weeks later, but I only knew about it when granda read the local paper out loud at supper, and told us the news.
– They let the bugga off,
he said. Some of the lads in the pub had taken the piss out of him, and he didn’t like it, so he’d gone home for his sword to wave it in their faces and shut them up. It worked and they were terrified of him and the police were called, and the Colonel turned up in court to vouch for his character. He was given a suspended sentence and his sword was put in safe keeping. He hadn’t hurt a soul, but that made no difference.

He was a bad man because everybody said so, and they were all a little scared of him. He liked a drink and was lonely, and when he was lonely he drank some more.

– Why?
I said, and granda said he’d been yanked out of a world lit by yak butter and prayer flags and thrown into a cold Northumbrian winter,
– Not as cold as Tibet,
I said.
– Not if you’re from Tibet,
he said, and it was a long time before I recognised the truth. The story of the Tibetan’s relationship with the Colonel was less an exciting tale of hope and redemption than a tale of slavery. He was a monk and a warrior, but had been forced to abandon the rivers that ran through his life and the springs that were the source of his dreams. He liked a drink and was lonely, and when he was lonely he drank some more, and that was the story of his life in the days between his arrival in the village and the day two or three years later when he fell over in the street and died. One of the fishermen found him. He had a grimace on his face and his sword in his hand. Granda said it was the Colonel who killed him, bringing him to this place, and I asked my mam, and she said it was true.
He may as well have hung him from the highest tree, she said, and after a summer or two I forgot the monks who whiled their lives away drawing images of the Buddha in the stream with a stick, and found other games to play.

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i woke up thinking i was Miles Davis – Paul Robert Mullen

the world will be better for this
they said

covered in scars and Mick Jagger jowls
i couldn’t make love
so i left the bedrooms
of the world
put myself on stages
where lasers hid the burning-ready
salivating red-eye
of voyeurs needing blood

we sat at windows in twos
post-show
blind to the unfamiliarity
of the sounds outside

they will open their ears
they said

tender as a habit
i motioned for the door
which wasn’t quite open
wasn’t quite shut
afraid of something less than silence
ready for seaweed
ready for pelicans in cages
the ghosts on the stairs
the fish choking on fresh air

they need to go home now
they said

the lights went down
the show was over

PAUL ROBERT MULLEN is a poet, musician and sociable loner from Liverpool, U.K. He has three published poetry collections: curse this blue raincoat (2017), testimony (2018), and 35 (2018). He has been widely published in magazines worldwide. Paul also enjoys paperbacks with broken spines, and all things minimalist. Twitter: @mushyprm35

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The Umpteenth Time – D S Levy

Some of us were goofing off when Butterbaugh came in the conference room and slammed the door behind him. He dimmed the lights, glanced over his bifocals, beamed a slide on the screen. “Okay, folks, I called this meeting because some of you are still turning in bad reports.”

* * *

Some of us shifted in our seats. Some of us tried not to make eye contact with the boss. Some of us looked at him glassy-eyed.

* * *

Some of us squinted at the slide, a copy of the new form. The new form was as complicated as the old form. After a year of research, the folks in corporate decided to change the font to sans serif. Supposedly easier on the eyes. More officious. Streamlined, sleek, like our operation.

* * *

“Some of you still don’t know the difference between a ‘Quantum’ and a ‘Quip,’” Butterbaugh said. He flashed a jumpy red dot on the screen. “This is Quantum,” he said, pointing. “This is Quip.”

* * *

Some of us had heard this speech before. More than once. Butterbaugh made the red dot jerk back and forth. “Quantum, Quip. Quip, Quantum. Got it?” He flashed the red dot at the ceiling. “Some of you wanting to move up in this organization? You better damn well get your shit together!”

* * *

Some of us had cubicles in the basement, below the parking garage. Exhaust fumes stole in through the vents. Lots of cold blue-white fluorescence. Our phones still bore the grease and sweat from third shift’s grubby hands. Framed slogans decorated the walls: “Opportunities don’t happen—you create them.” “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”

* * *

Some of us had been having trouble in our personal lives. As soon as we entered the building it wasn’t like we could just turn things off. It wasn’t like our problems didn’t sometimes tag along. “It’s a goddamned Quip, folks,” he said, “a goddamned Quantum. It’s not rocket science.”

* * *

Some of us had gone to the moon and back. Some of us never came back. Some of us ate so much crap we joined the gym to reduce our health insurance premiums. Some of us worked out; some of us just went, signed in, left. Some of us smoked out on the porch—the far porch, that is, the one 500 feet from the building. Some of us used our bathroom breaks to pop pills or sneak nips. Some of us watched porn on our smartphones in the privacy of the stalls.

* * *

Some of us didn’t know the difference between a Quantum and Quip and didn’t give a flying Quantum-Quip. Some of us made paper airplanes out of bad reports and sailed them over the cubicles when Butterbaugh left to screw his secretary in the supply closet. Some of us pretended our planes were rockets carrying us to the moon. Sanguinely, we looked back down on earth, nibbling our junk food and sighing until our oxygen was all used up.

D S LEVY’s work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, South Dakota Review, Brevity, The Pinch, and others. My collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press.

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Grounded – Lisa Kenway

How will I find Nance in this vast space? If only I could remember where we arranged to meet. The sterile airport terminal, white and cavernous, could be the halfway house between heaven and earth, or earth and hell, or earth and wherever you go after you croak. If you go anywhere. Lost souls mill about, waiting for a ticket to eternity.

A flight crew waddle past in single file, a brood of ducklings in high heels. I scan the hostesses for a platinum-blonde chignon, for pantyhose with a red spot on the calf from a last-minute nail polish repair. But these women are all brunettes with frozen expressions and bare legs. And they’re gone in a moment. Everyone’s in such a hurry these days. Blank faces tug on suitcases and small children, avoiding eye contact at all cost. If you stand still too long, they’ll mow you down.

At airport security, I study the pictures of forbidden items: cartoon matches and aerosols, sticks of dynamite, bottles marked with skull and crossbones. A garbled announcement echoes over the PA and a swarm of bees fills my chest. Did they call my name? Was it about my suitcase? Nance always does the packing. What would she have included? Underwear, folded handkerchiefs and my grey rain jacket. A toothbrush and a plastic bag full of pills. So many pills, but certainly no matches. Or dynamite. Would she?

‘Can I help you, Sir?’ A young man gestures at my carry-on. Does he think I can’t lift it? I make a show of flinging the bag onto the conveyer belt. He shrugs and empties keys and coins into a square tray.

The security guard on the other side of the body scanner gestures to me. I walk through the narrow archway to an electronic chorus. He slides a wand up and down my body, identifying the offending hip.

‘Bionic man, I am.’ I wink. Charm the authorities, Nance always says. Confuse them with congeniality.

‘Thank you, Sir. Is this your bag?’ He points at my suitcase on a small metal table.

I nod.

‘Please open it.’

I fumble with the zip and swing it open. The suitcase is empty.

‘Travelling light?’

I lean over to peer inside the bag and trace Nance’s spidery writing on the address label. It’s my bag all right, but where are the neatly folded shirts and slacks, the bundled-up socks and underwear? And the pills? Where’s the packet of Monte Carlo biscuits Nance always sneaks between the business shirts in case there’s no decent food on the plane? I pat the base, searching for a hidden compartment.

The man holds out his hand and shouts, ‘Do. You. Have. A. Boarding. Pass?’

I rummage around in my pocket.

The guard closes my suitcase and escorts me through the beeping archway with one hand on my elbow. Back to the line of passengers.

He sighs. ‘Where do you live? Can I call someone to collect you?’

The queue stretches out before me. A young blonde woman barges to the front of the line. Her hair is cropped, like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, sunglasses pushed to the top of her head and a phone pressed to her ear. She slides the phone into her handbag and opens her arms to embrace me. ‘When I heard you’d gone missing, I took a chance. I thought I might find you here again.’

Who is this stranger who thinks she knows me? She smiles a sad smile and a dimple appears on her cheek. Instantly, I can see her twisting apart the two halves of a Monte Carlo to lick out the twist of raspberry cream. Or sinking into a bubble bath with Frank Sinatra blasting from the stereo.

‘Nance?’

I remember the day we met like it was yesterday. My first plane flight: Sydney to Hong Kong. Nance leaned over to fasten my seatbelt and her hair tickled my cheek. A waft of Chanel No. 5., and a dimple when she smiled.

‘Where’ve you been, Nance?’

She kisses my cheek. ‘It’s Kathy, Grandad.’

The mob presses forward, a sea of bodies, shimmering movement. I can’t hold focus, can’t pick out a single detail. The bees that were in my chest now buzz in my ears, crowd my brain.

The young woman takes my bag from the security guard and pulls out the handle. ‘The planes are grounded today.’

LISA KENWAY is an Australian writer and doctor. Her short fiction has appeared in Meniscus Literary Journal, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Ellipsis Zine and is forthcoming in The Sunlight Press. Find her at http://www.lisakenway.com or on Twitter @LisaKenway.

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Desert Bone – Padhraig Nolan

1.

Born once, I turned away, rejecting zap and fumble
the intricate, the piety of lurid expectation

Born twice, I hit firm, made my report, stayed stock still
as light cracked through and sought me out

Out here I spin through frenzy until night is full of colour
slowlimbed life barely registers, lost thickets creak

2.

Tell me Lavender, tell me Lime, how is the world today
how pops your pursepocket blossom, your zest?

Daylight worn so lightly now, the cost of it shrugged off
casually, old fibres snagged on thorns

All down this longdead river, far beneath the crumbling spoor
breath is a mystery – above, air rare as Larimar

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Clairvoyant – Will Cordeiro

I wandered past the goat pens, craft barns, and ring-toss barkers. Past the bandshell and the freak show. Across the Midway, behind the chicken coops, tucked into a shadowed corner, an odd little booth advertised Fortune Teller. I stepped through the creaking door and across the beaded curtains. I ventured deeper into the half-lit recess, past the thick velvet drapes. I felt for the path forward. I could no longer discern my hand held out in front of me. Uncertainly, my groping palm led me through a room. A cobweb brushed my face. The floorboards creaked. I stopped. I imagined if I took another step I might fall through a trapdoor. The ground might give way beneath me like a fresh grave. I stood there a long moment in silence. How much time passed, I’d no idea. The darkness opened onto darkness. It was thick with darkness for as far as one couldn’t see.

I felt time radiating out in concentric spheres, each heartbeat pulsing through the vacuum.

“You,” a voice said, “tell me why you came here.”

“I, um… wanna know my future?” I answered.

“A foolish wish.”

“Hey, I thought you were a Fortune Teller?”

“Ok, then. Open your eyes. Look ahead.”

Slowly a thread of light unraveled just beyond my hand, like a spider’s silk. It swayed with my breath. Then the thread was snipped. It drifted, unsteady, a cross-lit silver hair, and then was gone. Tiny flashes, comets, glimmers zinged and fizzled. Stardust, maybe phosphenes. Perhaps this was all just chemicals reacting in my skull. Perhaps this was the edge of some revelation—the future being born. Either way, inside this clairvoyant darkness I had no way to measure distance. The space between myself and my own hand appeared infinite. The blood rocking my body (thump-thump, thump-thump) was like a small boat floating on black waves.

“And what do you see?”

“Nothing. Nothing, really.”

With one hand I tried to read the vacant space in front of me to no effect. I threw a few coins on the floor which had been sweating in my other palm. They clattered and revolved as I turned around.

I ran back out, past the rank sawdust and horse trailers, the sideshows of oddities and wonders, the carnies and hucksters, through the blinding afternoon.

WILL CORDEIRO has new work appearing or forthcoming in Cimarron Review, The Cincinnati Review, DIAGRAM, Poet Lore, Salamander, Sycamore Review, Typehouse, The Threepenny Review, Yemassee, Zone 3, and elsewhere. Will co-edits Eggtooth Editions and lives in Guadalajara, Mexico.

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Don Pedro’s Dog – Philip Charter

Winter

Six storeys below, the plaza bristles with morning life. A stiff wind whips up the last of the leaves, revealing the patterned carpet of interlocking bricks underneath. We go about our business here, regardless of the conditions. We’re not all mouth and no trousers, like they are down in Andalucía. I’ll visit the library today, and make progress with my family research.

Life in the square gives me a sense of order and routine. Schoolchildren with mittens are safely deposited, and the snaking queue for the warmth of the medical centre grows. I sip my coffee out on the balcony, even though it’s four degrees.

He’s late today; the gentleman with the hat and the dog. He’s here every day at ten, to walk the dog, and take in the sights and sounds of the square.

I’ve enquired about him, in a casual manner, trying not to alert the abuelitas in the block to the possibility of ‘widow’s gossip’. He is a little older than me, but he holds himself in a way that draws me in. And, he’s always well turned-out.

Winter is not a time for introductions, even if his dog is the perfect ice-breaker even for a shy type like me. It was two months ago that I lost Blanquita, my own four-legged companion. The flat feels cold without her. I used to fill her bowl with biscuits as the coffee pot boiled. Now I just stare out of the window.

My son, José owns a labrador, but they’re not the same. Bigger dogs don’t have the sharp personalities of the miniatures. He tells me to get a new pet. ‘Mamá, you need the company, and it would get you out of the apartment.’ It takes time.

Spring

These last months have seen my family tree sprout little shoots of hope. José took me to the cemetery in Guadalajara and the municipal archives in Soria. I’ve unearthed a good number of dates, photos and even contact information for some distant cousins. When you are blessed to be in the right place, asking the right questions, these new connections come in bursts.

The characters in the square are less consistent. Shops come and go before you get the chance to forge a relationship with them. A Chino family bought out the café. I watch their children run between the stainless steel chairs in a game of ‘you can’t catch me’. Today I’ll visit their café, read the paper and try their menu del día.

The sun’s high rays are starting to bathe the white buildings. A breeze drifts over from the mountains. Down below, a gypsy with a thick moustache idles while he delivers fruit to the shop. Nobody rushes their business here, not even delivery men.

Finally, he arrives. Don Pedro. That’s the name I have given him, even though we’ve not spoken. He wears a diamond-patterned jacket, pressed grey trousers, and a short brimmed hat. Holding the lead in one hand and a cane in the other, he navigates the central garden of the square, taking shorter paces with his stiffer left leg. His sidekick, the overweight Chihuahua, hurries along behind him.

He’s the one thing in this picture that won’t be gone next month or even next year. I imagine he used to be a tradesman, something practical. Perhaps he has a gaggle of daughters who nag him to eat healthily. He likes to dance.

My coffee is now cold. Some days I don’t know where time goes. The dog sniffs the bushes and urinates on each post he passes. Don Pedro completes three laps of the gardens, buys a lottery ticket from the kiosk next to the main road, and then smokes his pipe.

Sometimes he buys a pintxo de tortilla and eats it standing outside. He doesn’t seem the type to dedicate himself to neighbourhood gossip. We’re alike in that respect. I prefer to listen, and observe town life — the clinks of glasses, the movements of families heading to church, and the changing of colours as the warmer weather approaches. This must be what Don Pedro thinks about behind his tinted glasses and pipe smoke. I wave goodbye as he departs for another day and head back inside to my books.

Summer

The clouds keep the sun at arm’s length, but there’s no breeze to speak of. This heat makes everyone sluggish. While the school is out, nothing in the square moves.

He’s late again today. Ten-fifteen comes and goes. I drink the coffee.

Last week I took the train to Madrid and visited the national archives. The documents I obtained told me some of the Garcías worked in Equatorial Guinea. Africa of all places. I suppose there’s not much difference in temperature at the moment. Today I’ll write to the addresses I found, then wait to see if anybody writes back.

Despite the heat, I wish the clouds would go. They make me uneasy. The gypsy has been replaced by a woman with a fringe and a tracksuit. Traffic fumes seem worse — cars belching out thick fumes and the buses hissing as they come to a halt. Younger families will be heading to the coast; Cantabria or Galícia.

When Don Pedro shuffles into view, he clutches his stick in his left hand and his pipe in the right. The dog isn’t with him. He wears a jacket and a black tie, in this heat. It would be terrible if his dog is unwell . . . or even worse. It seems to be one friend after the other now; monthly trips to the cemetery for funerals.

Down below, the man completes his circuits of the square, smoking all the while. He has something on his mind. He stops and inspects every corner of the space, walking the routes his Chihuahua did the days and months before. The vendor in the lottery booth perks up as he passes, but Don Pedro neglects to buy a ticket.

As he taps the pipe tobacco into the bin, he catches me watching. He looks right at me. The embarrassment. I don’t want to be seen as one of those loud-mouthed grandmothers who have nothing better to do than spy on others all day. I have my family, my books, my research. Just as I lower my gaze to pretend I was watching something else, the man waves up at me and smiles. He has noticed. We have our own patterns and routines, and today, I’m part of his. We are the two constants of this ever-changing barrio. I wave back sympathetically, hoping that the black tie doesn’t mean what I think it means.

Autumn

The forecast was for cool weather, but when I pull back the curtains to the balcony the square is bright, as if someone has turned up the colour settings on my television screen.

As I step out, a warm breeze and the scent of roasting chestnuts greets me. The vendors have started their season. At the school gates, children whizz around as parents try to hand them their lunches and other forgotten items.

The fruit shop opens its shutters to reveal a display of beautiful red cherries. Everything seems balanced; the barrio is back to normal. Businessmen in suits drink their morning café con leches while reading the newspapers. Today I will walk around the city ramparts then along the river, where I used to go with Blanquita.

As I take a final glance at my surroundings, I notice a familiar figure entering into the picture. Although he’s been absent this last month, he’s early today, wearing his familiar green jacket and walking at a brisk pace. He turns into the plaza and as he does, a sand-coloured ball of fur scurries past him and into the garden. The dog is back, and better than ever. God bless the little thing. A healing smile forms.

Without giving it a second thought, I take the elevator down, and step out into the square.

Don Pedro calls his dog. ‘Vaya, Arturito. Haz tu negocios allí.’ I chuckle to myself. Of course, the dog is called Arturo; the same as my fat little ex-husband. What a wonderful coincidence.

“Excuse me, sir,” I say.

He puts out his pipe. “Oh hello. You live on the block, no?”

“Yes.” I feel like the nervous teens I see outside the school. “I’ve a question about your dog.”

“Arturo? He’s been poorly.”

“Yes, I gather. It’s been a year, since my . . . well, I was considering a Chihuahua and just wondered about—”

“Oh, they’re wonderful.” His eyes brim with the energy of a much younger man. “My son breeds them.”

I laugh at the thought of his family sat around the dinner table each with a tiny dog in tow.

Don Pedro says, “Here, take this.”

The business card reads Jose Calleja Vasquez Jr. So he is actually Don Pepe. I was so close. I smile again.

“I really am interested,” I say. “I’d like a new dog soon, before winter.”

“Best to get things organised,” he says.

There’s never the perfect time for new beginnings, but each autumn feels like it’s my last chance to start something. Years go by. We share a glance, an understanding. “I’d love to chat more. To get more information,” I say.

Arturo interrupts our moment by pulling at the lead.

“He’s an impatient old mutt, like me,” he says. “When he has to go . . .”

“I understand,” I say. “Encantada.”

He tips his hat, as gentleman have done for generations, and with that, they’re gone. Around the corner and away. I feel a rush, like I do when I discover an old relative’s name. Another piece of the puzzle completed. Don Pepe.

Does he believe, like me, that things occur in cycles in this town? The square will still be here tomorrow, as will its occupants. In time, I will walk my new dog with Pepe and Arturo, and I hope that we will become part of this scene, for many seasons to come.

PHILIP CHARTER is a British writer who lives and works in Spain. His work has been featured in numerous magazines and anthologies such as Storgy, Fictive Dream and The National Flash Fiction Day anthology. Foreign Voices, his debut collection was published in 2018. You can find out more at philipcharter.com

Image via Pixabay

Bonfire – Fizza Abbas

Charred trees stand still
The baggage is too strong
With the smoke drifting over the paddock,
carbon tunes in to a beautiful song

A barren foothold:
the mud-covered carcass of a leaf
The shrine of a stem
Staying close to the life underneath

FIZZA ABBAS is a Freelance Content Writer based in Karachi, Pakistan. She is fond of poetry and music. Her works have been published at many platforms including Indiana Voice Journal and Poetry Pacific.

Image via Pixabay

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