web analytics

Publishing

  • The Vale of Cashmere

  • by Sean Elder

    green forest

    This story first appeared in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others.

     

    Truth was, she used to be able to organize her thoughts, until Floyd retired. Now he was always hanging around talking to her, asking what she was doing. Every time he went out, which wasn’t often enough for her taste, he would ask her if she needed anything and then look angry if she did. Sometimes he’d look angry if she didn’t. Now she looked for errands for him, just to get a moment’s peace. When she sent him off for milk this morning she could have lived without it. But she couldn’t have stood listening to him complain about the bus ride to Atlantic City before it happened, not non-stop for the next two hours.

    “You’re creating your future,” she told him. “Whatever you’re thinking and feeling, that becomes your reality.”

    “Don’t give me that shit,” he’d said, putting on his coat and hat. He had been wearing that same damned hat with the stingy brim so long it had come back in style.

    “It’s the law of attraction,” she’d continued. “You can deny it all you want but that don’t mean it’s not true. “Everything coming into your life you are attracting into your life. You’re like a magnet.”

    “Well, this magnet’s going to attract some milk,” he’d said before going out the door.

    He had made fun of her ever since she first heard Oprah talking about The Secret but deep down she thought that maybe he believed her. Or would, if he would just give it a try. He would come home so angry about something that happened out there – the security guy asleep in the chair, or someone who wouldn’t give his seat up on the subway – and she would tell him, “Every bad thing that comes into your life, you make happen.”

    Sometimes that really made Floyd angry. “Is that right? Every bad thing? I made happen every bad thing that came into my life, Marcy?” He would tower over her, breathing heavily, staring at the top of her lacquered hair until she was silent.

    She looked closely at the big digits on the clock by the bed. It was almost 8:30 and she still had not done her makeup. From the drawer in the nightstand on her side of the bed she looked for her own pill organizer and then realized she had already taken it out. She put it under the light, right beside that picture of her two boys, smiling in the lap of a black Santa, and looked at Wednesday. There were still pills in the morning box but the evening box was empty. Maybe she took the evening pills by mistake. Not that it mattered ‘cause they were basically the same. Or maybe she hadn’t filled the PM part.

    Looking at the rainbow colored compartments (Wednesday was green, Thursday red) she thought of Wilson, who had the hardest time with his R’s when he was little – “Weeding Wainbow,” he would say about his favorite show, and his brother would laugh at him. She felt overcome for a moment and then heard her husband’s keys in the door.

    She took the morning pills, four altogether, as Floyd shouted at her from the kitchen.

    “Do you know how much they wanted for a half-gallon of milk?” She imagined his face as he said the price and the way he would look at her afterwards. He might be looking that way right now, even though she wasn’t there.

    “Cost of everything is going up,” she yelled back. Then she stood and headed for the bathroom. “I got to get a move on.”

    “Ain’t you even going to drink your milk?” She heard him swear as she closed the bathroom door.

    The bus driver turned out to be some white guy who’d been sleeping in the back while people waited outside. The whole bus was talking about it, even after they got out of the Holland Tunnel and were getting on the turnpike, people tisking and hmm-hmming until Floyd wanted to yell, “Who told you to stand out there in the first place? It’s not even cold.” But he kept quiet and sat by a window, alone thank you very much, though Tommy insisted on sitting right in front of him, while Marcy huddled on the other side with a bunch of ladies. They outnumbered the men five to one anyway; he let Tommy represent, going back and forth across the aisle like some congressman making a deal. Each time he went over to the ladies he would say something so low that Floyd couldn’t hear and they would all laugh and holler.

    “I think it’s about time for some music,” Tommy said after one of his sorties. He had a gym bag with him that also said Mets on it, and from it he pulled a boom box that he tried to balance on the seatback in front of him. He pushed play and Johnnie Taylor started in on “Who’s Making Love” and the ladies all laughed, even though the sound was kind of wobbly. From the front of the bus the driver said something, they could see him looking at them in the rear view mirror, but no one tried to hear him. In fact Tommy stood up, with the boom box on his shoulder, and started to shake it in the aisle, which made the driver get on the mike.

    “Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to sit down.” He had some kind of accent, Russian or something, but no one really paid him any mind.

    The hits kept coming; it must have been some kind of collection since Floyd never heard a deejay. Tommy jammed the boom box between the headrest and the window so it wouldn’t fall down and turned around to look at Floyd, but not before looking at the driver, who had his eyes on the road again.

    “How ‘bout a little taste?” Tommy said, taking a half-pint in a brown bag from the pocket of his jacket.

    “Too early for me,” Floyd said, looking out the window. To him it always looked like New Jersey was halfway through being torn down.

    Across the aisle Marcy was in the middle of a conversation with the other ladies but she didn’t feel quite right. It started as soon as she left the building; she had picked out a brooch to go with her blue blouse, a little gold tree with red apples on it, but she had left it sitting in front of the mirror. Now she felt naked, all that blue stretching out below her chin like an empty ocean almost and she felt like she was being pulled back from drowning each time one of them stopped talking. That meant somebody was supposed to say something, you were supposed to jump in like it was a game of double-Dutch.

    “What I value most is the privacy,” Marcy said, but no one answered. She had a feeling she had said that before. The topic was assisted living and how to know when you needed it.

    “Until you wake up privately dead,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. Marcy didn’t remember meeting her before, a friend of Helen’s was how she was introduced, but she didn’t like her now. She had these gray and white streaks in her hair, extensions by the look of it, but it reminded Marcy of mud. Besides she was probably the youngest woman of the bunch, what was she talking about dying for?

    “My boy checks in on us every night,” said Marcy and immediately wondered why she had. It wasn’t true. Most times she had to call Eric and he never sounded too happy to hear from her. He did come to visit though, once a month at least. They saw less of him after his divorce, though you’d think it would be the other way around.

    “Where are we?” she said suddenly, looking out the window. Everything looked the same.

    “You keep asking that,” the lady in the Kente cloth said, or maybe she said. Marcy wasn’t looking at her and the music Tommy was playing made her feel lost.

    “Sending this one out for all you ladies,” said Tommy, like he was some deejay, and they all laughed but Marcy didn’t think it was funny. It was that song about sitting on a park bench that always made her sad. “I see her face everywhere I go/on the street and even at the picture show/have you seen her?”

    There was a hospital up there high on a hill and for a second she felt that the bus was going to take off and fly straight up to its doors. She closed her eyes and felt herself rise.

    They parked in the lot of the Showboat casino. Though they could have gone anywhere they wanted, the thirty odd passengers that disembarked made for the Showboat as if summoned, shuffling and limping toward the entrance in a broken conga line.

    “No one says we got to go to this casino,” Floyd said to the crowd of ladies leading the way.

    “The Showboat has a Mardi Gras theme,” said the lady in the Kente cloth. She turned around to give Floyd the fisheye, pulling down her glasses as she did. “Besides, we got coupons for the Showboat.”

    He fell in line sullenly beside Tommy who offered him another drink. Floyd took a swallow this time without pulling down the brown paper to see what it was. It tasted like mouthwash.

    “Jesus, what the hell you drinking?”

    “Little peppermint schnapps.” Tommy tried to slap Floyd on the back but the big man danced away, handing the bottle back as he moved.

    “What she mean by a ‘Mardi Gras theme,’ anyway?” Floyd said.

    Tommy shrugged. “As long as they got free drinks and blackjack I don’t much care.”

    Seagulls screamed overhead. Floyd saw his reflection scowling in the window of a parked Humvee. He went to New Orleans during Mardi Gras when he was in the Navy, how many years ago? He got lost and someone stole his wallet. A man dressed as a woman tried to put beads around his neck, he remembered. You could have your Mardi Gras.

    Marcy was among the first of the women to enter the casino and the air conditioning hit her like a cold wave. “Good thing I remembered my shawl!” she said but no one answered. The music and the sound of the slot machines, dinging and ringing with sirens going off every five minutes as if some crime was being committed, swallowed her voice.

    Marcy had thought to bring rolls of quarters and silver dollars. While the other ladies were getting change she was already pouring her silver into a red plastic cup provided to her by a girl in the shortest skirt she had ever seen.

    “You must be freezing!” Marcy said but the girl didn’t seem to hear her. Maybe she just got tired of people trying to talk to her.

    The slots area had thousands of machines and at noon it was already half filled, mostly old timers like her and Floyd. He and Tommy had set off in the other direction like there was a sign saying ‘Men, That Way.’ The carpets were in a pattern of red and orange and gold that reminded her of a kaleidoscope and the ceiling was made up to look like stained glass, though she knew real stained glass when she saw it and this wasn’t it. She felt like if she didn’t sit down she might just fall into the colors. She sat down at a quarter machine and began feeding it. She didn’t know where the other ladies had gone and looking over her shoulder left her none the wiser.

    “Y’all gonna have to find me,” she said and as if summoned a different lady in a short skirt appeared.

    “How you doing today?” she said. She had a tray filled with drinks and a notepad tucked into her belt. “Can I get you something to drink?”

    “Well I suppose you can!” Marcy turned in her chair to show her appreciation. “My name’s Marcy by the way, I come here from Brooklyn with a bunch of folks from my church group.”

    “Now isn’t that nice? My name’s Kim Sue. What can I get you?”

    Marcy smiled and opened her mouth. But she could not think of the names of any drinks, not just the fancy ones but any drink. She felt a trickle of sweat run down her back underneath her blouse.

    “It’s funny,” she said, embarrassed. “My mind’s just a blank today.”

    “Sure, no problem!” Kim Sue smiled back at her like one of those Chinese dolls, her name right there on her badge. “We have beer and wine and soda and mixed drinks.” She kept smiling at Marcy and continued. “I could make you a nice white wine spritzer, if you like.”

    “Oh, that sounds nice,” said Marcy, and it did sound nice, like a sprinkler in the summer time, the kind the boys used to play in. Kim Sue left and Marcy returned to the machine. Cherries and plums rolled past, never stopping at the same time.

    Eric used to chase Wilson through the sprinklers in the park and sometimes when Marcy wasn’t looking he would hold his little brother down and try to pull off his shorts in front of all the other children. She would get so mad at him, always teasing like that, knowing it would make Wilson cry and come looking for her, but she had a job then, looking after a little white boy named Oskar whose parents lived in Park Slope and worked all the time. Oskar’a parents didn’t mind too much when she brought her boys with her when she took him to the park. “As long as you remember,” the father said, “that Oskar is your first priority.”

    Well of course he is, mister doctor man! Why would my own flesh and blood come before your little prince? Good gracious, the things that man would say. If the wife heard him she would weigh in and try to soften the blow. “What my husband means is that we don’t want you to get too distracted. Three children is a handful.”

    Now that was the kind of thing only a white person would say. Where she came from three children was just getting started, even if she was done after Wilson, something her own mother could never understand.

    “Oh, don’t worry, ma’am,” Marcy would say. “I won’t ever let Oskar out of my sight.”

    All these people thinking someone was going to steal their child then, like the whole country had gone crazy. Soon they’d be putting their pictures on milk cartons and billboards and on TV during the news – “Have you seen Brandon?” Usually white kids. If a black kid went missing generally people know who took him.

    “Here you go, ma’am.”

    Kim Sue was back with her drink. It was in a big plastic cup with a straw that went in curlicues, like a roller coaster, like this was for a child. She started fishing in her coin cup.

    “Drinks are complimentary, ma’am.”

    Like I didn’t know that. She pulled out a Susan B. Anthony and put it on her tray. “That’s for you,” she said.

    “Very nice of you, ma’am. And if you need anything else you just let me know.”

    She turned to leave and Marcy was afraid to see her go. “Kim Sue, it’s like your momma gave you two names.”

    “Kim is my family name. Family name comes first in Korean.”

    “Is that right?” said Marcy. “Well I think family should come first, don’t you?”

    “Yes, ma’am.”

    Marcy thought that was something else she should write in her book but realized that she hadn’t brought it with her, and then forgot what she had said. “But they probably don’t spell it like that in Korea, do they? The Sue, I mean.”

    “No, ma’am, we have a different alphabet.”

    “Now isn’t that something?”

    She was balancing a tray full of drinks while she talked to Marcy so she let her go, disappearing into the big Tiffany lamp around them. A band was playing Dixieland and Marcy strained her eyes to see them. The music seemed to be coming from everywhere at once, “When the Saints Come Marching In.”

    “Let me tell you another,” she said, sipping on her drink. The lady at the machine next to her looked at Marcy and then moved away, taking her quarters with her. She watched as the drink spun up the straw when she sucked. Here we go loop de loop.

    Sometimes Eric would help her push the stroller as they went around the park, and Wilson would run so far ahead she would shout after him. “Don’t go where I can’t see you!” she’d holler, and Oskar, too big to be pushed around in a stroller, would try and stand up and yell after her. “Go where I can’t see you!”

    Wilson would hide like that at home as well; hide so good she couldn’t find him sometimes. They were living in Prospect-Lefferts, more house than they needed but you could afford those big limestone buildings then even on a Con Ed salary and Wilson would go into different rooms and be so quiet that she would get hysterical, be practically beside herself by the time her husband got home. Then they would hear him laughing. “Got you!” he would say and emerge from the cupboard or from behind the sideboard and Floyd would get so mad. That one time he came out of her closet wearing her bra and Floyd just about went crazy; took off his belt and chased him.

    She put in a coin and pulled the lever: a watermelon; a bell; the number seven in gold.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned her head but nobody was there. Who had spoken? Just turning her head made the colors around her move and when she looked at the floor she saw the pattern there was moving too. It was like a flying carpet, the Vale of Cashmere –

    The Vale of Cashmere! That was the name of that strange corner of the park where she took the boys now and then. They were getting older; other boys took the place of Oskar, and Eric got too big to want to be with them. But Wilson kept her company as she made the rounds, bought them ice cream and wiped their sticky hands. People used to call it The Swamp and there was a muddy pond okay and some hanging trees.

    “How come you don’t play with boys your own age?” one of the kids had asked him once.

    “I just like to help my momma,” he’d said.

    He was the one who found out the real name of The Swamp, checked an old book out of the library and showed her on the map. There was a poem that went with it and Wilson stood up by the pond and put one finger in the air as he read: “Who has not heard of the Vale of Cashmere/With its roses the brightest the earth ever gave?”

    Another babysitter saw them by the pond once and came over to warn them. “You shouldn’t be down in there,” she said, afraid to come too close with her stroller in front of her. “They say men get together down there.”

    And after that Marcy noticed them, lurking about, standing in the trees. Once when she came down with Wilson and a stroller two men ran out, going in different directions.

    She didn’t think about it again for years, until Wilson was grown and still living at home, and he came back one night that first time with his face all bloody, drunk or high on something and smiled at her, blood on his teeth.

    “Hey, Momma, I been to the Vale of Cashmere!”

    That’s when Floyd said no more.

    “What numbers are you playing today?”

    She turned and the colors whooshed like a scarf being wrapped around her head. She saw her this time, a little woman, no bigger than a dragonfly like the ones the boys chased in the park, Wilson would put them in a jar with holes punched in the top, while Eric tried to cover it up with his hand so they would smother.

    “I’m looking for three sevens,” Marcy said to the dragonfly woman. “Are there some other numbers to play?”

    “That is the question, isn’t it?” said the faerie. “Are there other numbers to play?”

    And then she flew away, just like a little hummingbird, and Marcy got up to follow her, passing into the pattern of colors and leaving her cup of coins behind.

    Floyd went through all his money the first hour. Not all his money but all the money he’d meant to spend, the money he put in his shirt pocket, seemed to fly off the table. Dealer beat him every time: if Floyd had 18, the dealer had 19; if Floyd sat on a 19, the dealer hit him with two bricks.

    “I guess this lady feels like she has to show us what a blackjack looks like,” said Tommy, when the dealer drew her third in ten minutes. She apologized to them both, even though they didn’t tip her, and Tommy’s luck was better than hers: He doubled down twice and made a hundred bucks in the blink of an eye. All Floyd could do, once he had spent the money he had earmarked for this outing, was sit there and simmer in his resentment while Tommy’s chip pile grew.

    That was when Helen, the lady in the purple pantsuit, came and asked if he knew where Marcy was.

    “I thought she was with you,” said Floyd. It came out like an accusation.

    “Well, we agreed to meet for lunch at three,” she said, “but then nobody could find Marcy. We figured maybe you two went off together.”

    And that’s how well you know us, Floyd thought. “Maybe she just went off to another casino by herself,” he said. Even though he was losing, and wasn’t even playing at the time, he didn’t want to have to leave his spot and go look for his wife. “There’s no law says we got to stay here.”

    “Blackjack,” said the dealer, flipping another ace.

    But after a minute he did get up to look, as he knew he would, leaving Tommy, who still had a hot hand and no doubt wondered what all the fuss was about.

    “Did you try the ladies room?” he asked Helen.

    “That was one of the first places we looked. They have sofas in there, you know.” She paused. “Do you think we should call security?”

    The suggestion made his blood pressure rise. “No, I don’t think we should call security. Christ sake, grown woman goes off for a few minutes and you want to call the cavalry?”

    “Does she have a cell phone?”

    “Our son gave her one but she couldn’t figure out how to use it.” This was literally half true: Eric had given them each one last Christmas, and neither of them could figure out how to use it. By the time Floyd got the hang of it he realized that the only person he would call was his wife, which was kind of stupid since he saw her all the time anyway.

    They looked all the places that they had already looked and the lady in the Kente cloth joined them, acting more concerned that Floyd felt. “We need a system,” she said, as they circled the room for the second time. The place was more crowded than ever and Floyd could hardly hear what she was saying. “How about I go stake out the buffet and you stay here?” she suggested to Helen.

    “How ‘bout I go stake out the buffet?” Helen said. “I haven’t had lunch yet.”

    Floyd said they could both go feed themselves and take their time doing it; Marcy would turn up. He stood like a sentinel beneath the bells and sirens of the Mardi Gras slots, scowling most of the time. He hated slot machines; there was no sport in it, as he often told his wife. Blackjack at least you were playing the odds. Slots to him was just dumb luck, like a rabbit betting it wouldn’t get run over when it ran across the road. Twice he thought he saw his wife, and each time he took pleasure in anticipating just how much grief he was going to give her. But each time he was wrong.

    By four o’clock they were back together, Tommy too, and they began to set out in search parties. They were a small group: most of the travelers didn’t want to leave their stations, since the bus was scheduled to leave at six and this whole business had already cut into their time as it was. The lady in the Kente cloth, who finally introduced herself as Niobe, took charge. She contacted the hotel security, who seemed to have some experience with old folks wandering off, and as the witching hour neared, and the day-trippers started heading back toward the bus, she went out and argued with the bus driver, who was pretty adamant about leaving on time.

    “You can’t just go off and leave an old lady alone,” she scolded him. The engine was already running, gently shaking the bus, while the AC gusted out the door in heavy welcoming breaths.

    “I won’t be leaving her alone,” the driver said. “I will be leaving you to find her.”

    He agreed to wait as they made one last search. A handful of them fanned out, going to neighboring casinos and restaurants, off the boardwalk and into the side streets. Floyd couldn’t help but think that Marcy was messing with him the whole time, and when he saw the impatient faces of the other folks on the bus – they’d lost their money and had their fill, they just wanted to go home – he couldn’t help but side with them.

    Most of the people he saw as he wandered were wearing shorts and T-shirts. Used to be people would get dressed up to go someplace. And when did everybody get so fat? Walking down the boardwalk, bag of French fries in your hand, what did you expect? The new motto for the city was “Always Turned On,” which he found kind of creepy. There was nothing that he saw that turned him on.

    Doors were open, air conditioning blasting out, cooling nothing. Floyd took to popping into places and doing a quick look around, not even asking half the time if they’d seen anyone who looked like his wife. One, they couldn’t hear you with all that noise and two, half of them couldn’t speak English.

    “You seen an old black lady?” he shouted at one girl scooping ice cream. Her nails were so long he figured they might end up in somebody’s cone. “Blue shirt, about this high?” She stared at him like he was the one with the language problem.

    He kept walking. Going in and out of the summer sun was making him dizzy, to say nothing of thirsty. He wished for the first time that Tommy was with him. That man would always stop for a drink. He saw people in those rolling chairs, being pushed by young people, girls sometimes. And you wonder why you so fat?

    Down at one end of the boardwalk he found what looked like a real bar. The crowd had trickled off as the sun sank lower in the sky. Go on, get out of here. A lot of good you been. Floyd ducked inside and felt the rivers of sweat roll out from under his hat and chill on his face and neck. His glasses steamed as he took a seat at the bar and ordered a gin and tonic. He perched on the stool and looked up at the game on TV. The waitress brought him his drink and man did that taste good. No skimping on the gin, either. He forgot to ask her about Marcy. His wallet was bothering him, he felt like he was balancing on it. When she asked him if he wanted to start a tab he simply nodded.

    “You got a phone?” She pointed to an old-fashioned booth in the back, kind Superman used to change in. The place was filling up, young couples waiting for dinner. Went back to the hotel to put your dress shorts on? Once inside the paneled wood booth he forgot who he was going to call. Eric, right. He searched the scraps of paper in his wallet for the number he never had cause to memorize and let it ring, go to voicemail, and then dialed again.

    “Hello?”

    “This ain’t no telemarketer.”

    “Hey, Pop.” He did not sound happy to hear from him and Floyd had already put enough change in the machine so he cut straight to the point.

    “We in Atlantic City and your mother’s gone missing.” He backtracked from there, explaining the whole afternoon in greater detail than Eric needed, but never did his son sound any more excited than Floyd felt. He asked the obvious questions – had they called the police? Who else was looking?

    “Did she have her cell phone?” he asked, pointedly.

    “That’s why I was calling,” Floyd said. “I figured maybe she’d called you.”

    Eric was silent, and Floyd knew that he knew he was lying. He imagined him at home, still in his work clothes, the sound on the TV muted, his eyes on the game. From his perch in the booth Floyd could see the TV over the bar. Jeter was trying to steal.

    “I’m sure she’ll turn up, Pop. I mean, where’s she gonna go?”

    “I know that.”

    “You got your cell phone with you? So I can call you if she does?”

    Floyd muttered something and got off the phone. That boy would go to his grave asking about those damn phones. He should just wrap them up and give them back to him for Christmas. Turn ‘em into salt-and-pepper shakers.

    When he got back to his seat at the bar Jeter got picked off and he ordered another drink. Now they could send the search party out for him. The tumblers were tall and when he turned in his seat he found he had company. Big old white dude with long hair and a pointed beard. He was sipping a Budweiser longneck and looking at the screen. His arms were covered in tattoos; dragons, snakes and skulls disappeared into his shirtsleeves.

    “Fuckin’ Yankees,” he said and turned to look at Floyd. “Nice hat.”

    Floyd turned to face his own reflection in the mirror behind the bar. “You wouldn’t believe how long I had this hat,” he said.

    “There isn’t much I wouldn’t believe,” the man said.

    They got to talking. Turned out he worked in a tattoo parlor on the boardwalk, which explained all the ink. Half way through his second drink and Floyd was feeling generous in his opinions.

    “Back in the day,” he said, “man had a tattoo it meant he’d been someplace. In the service, in the joint, you know.”

    “I hear you,” the man said. “These days it just means you been to the mall.” He drained his beer and held up the empty. “Buy you a drink?”

    “Let me buy you a drink,” said Floyd, and pulled out the fat wallet that had been giving him such a pain and laid it on the counter. Soon he had the pictures out and was showing him snaps of Eric, bragging on his job even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he did. Then one of the whole family, when everyone was young.

    “Where’s your other boy?” the stranger asked.

    Floyd made a face like he was sucking on a lime. “Wilson got killed in a hold-up ten years ago,” he said.

    “Oh, man, I am sorry. They catch the guy who did it?”

    “No, it was in Prospect Park one night. Lot of crime in there.”

    “That’s why I could never live in the city,” the man said, which struck Tommy as funny. Most people would be scared of him, even in Brooklyn.

    “So what happens when folks get old?” said Floyd, changing the subject. “Maybe they don’t want all those tattoos any more.”

    “Shit, you don’t have to wait ‘til your old to regret something stupid you did.” The man laughed and Floyd got a glimmer of a gold tooth in his head. “People come in all the time wanting to have tattoos taken off, usually the name of some girl that don’t love them anymore.”

    “Can you do it?”

    “Sure,” the man said. “Hurts like hell and costs twice as much. But we can do it. Easier just to change it, though.”

    “How do you mean?”

    “Well, there was this one girl who loved a guy named Chris and had it tattooed on her ass. Until she found Jesus and then we just added a ‘T’.”

    He didn’t smile at first and it took Floyd a minute to figure it was a joke. He smiled first. “Hey, I got one,” he said. The stranger’s eyes gleamed in anticipation. “There was this guy who loved this old girl so much he had her name tattooed on his Johnson.”

    “Now that’s gotta hurt!”

    “Hell, yeah.” Floyd wiped his mouth. “Then they broke up, you know, and soon he started missing her real bad. So he went all over looking for her, from Wisconsin all the way down to Jamaica. Then he’s in the bathroom one day and he looks over and he sees this other guy’s dick.” He stopped for a minute. The stranger kept staring at him. “Now I can’t remember that girl’s name.”

    “Is it important?”

    “Yeah, it’s the whole punch line.”

    “Uh, oh. Better have another drink.”

    He felt flushed and excused himself to go to the bathroom. There he stared straight ahead at the wall and read all the graffiti as if looking for a message. And by the time he got back to the bar he was not surprised to see the stranger was gone and with him his wallet though all Floyd could feel was a keen sense of disappointment: He remembered the end of the joke now. He had remembered that old girl’s name.

    ______________________

    voice from the planet

    ‘Vale of Cashmere’ was first published by Harvard Square Editions in Voice from the Planet, FREE from March 30 – April 3, 2017 at Amazon Kindle US, and Kindle UK among others. Sean Elder’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, New York Magazine, Salon, Slate, Vogue, Elle, Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, O: The Oprah Magazine, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Details and many other publications. The essay he contributed to the collection of men’s writings The Bastard On the Couch (Morrow, 2004) was reprinted on three continents; his essay on ecstasy, included in the collection of drug writings entitled White Rabbit (Chronicle Books, 1995) was called “seminal” by Granta; and a piece he wrote about being a stay-at-home dad for Oprah was included in her best of O collection, Live Your Best Life (Oxmoor, 2005). He has co-authored several books, including Websites That Work with designer Roger Black (Adobe Press, 1997) and Mission Al Jazeera with former Marine captain Josh Rushing (Palgrave, 2007). He also works as a book doctor and helped edit the forthcoming Making Rounds with Oscar by Dr. David Dosa (Hyperion, 2010). He lives in Brooklyn, New York with his wife and daughter.

    Share Button
  • All at Once: Excerpt of the Novel

  • I step onto a wide stone platform surrounded by water and lie on my stomach to peer down over the edge. At my approach, tiny fish scatter like drops of colored light; crabs pause, wary, then scuttle along the sides of the basin, stuffing their mouths as fast as they can with alternate pincers. After a while, a kind of brown finger wriggles out from the shadows. Another one emerges, then two more, and finally the bulbous body of an octopus comes into view. It skims along until the water is too shallow then starts to walk, using its tentacles as legs. When the water gets deeper it pushes off against the sandy bottom to glide, once more, just beneath the surface. It circles round and round my platform.

    aao cover

    My back begins to prickle, and I realize I’ll be burnt to a crisp if I don’t find shelter pretty soonthe ocean breeze masks the sun’s virulence.

    Standing up makes me momentarily dizzy. The tide has gone out, uncovering rocks studded with barnacles or slick with thick green hair. I head back toward the flat sand and continue walking, looking for a place to rest. I’ve just about resigned myself to the idea of a plastic chair, when I spot a barraca that’s not open for business. The beach in front of it is empty, the small structure shuttered; its thatched roof casts a nice, wide stripe of shade onto the sand. Gratefully, I set up camp, taking out the water and crackers I brought, spreading out my towel to sit on, and leaning against the barraca wall with the empty backpack in between for cushioning. A sigh of relief.

    The ocean is now more white than blue. At the horizon, a wavering smudge might be a cruise ship or an oil rig. The great mass of water is barely disturbed by shifting waves, fretful and sluggish like a dog settling down to sleep. There’s an occasional bloom of white spray when a wave breaks against rock; wisps of cloud trail across the sky. I yawn, lie down on the towel, and close my eyes.

    Now the landscape is reduced to the rustle of wind in the palm thatch, the faint piping of a distant bird, and the dull roar of the ocean. I stretch my arms and let them flop back down. Rolling my head slowly from side to side to loosen the tension in my neck, I notice that this movement causes the pitch of the ocean to vary ever so slightly. Intrigued, I try it a few more times, just to make sure.

    There’s a lesson in that, I reflect: reality changes according to your viewpoint. I roll my head once more from side to side then lie still again, listening to the tiny, ceaseless fluctuations within the monotone.

    An insect lands on my footwithout opening my eyes I flex my toe to chase it away, and realize that the gesture produced an infinitesimal shift in the ocean sound. Bizarre! I can understand the position of my head influencing what I hear, but the position of my toe? (more…)

    Share Button

Home » Archives » Recent Articles:

Faith

No, the

heavens

will not,

in horror,

burst

 

Though we

Lie,

mortified,

In thirst –

 

Nor  do

angels

Fear to tread

 

When we

Stoop,

Stultified,

In dread

 

*

 

The sun  will

Lazy,

lumber On

 

the stars ,

shall doze

at dawn –

 

nor  a leaf,

quiver,

lost or lorn

 

when you

and I

are gone

 

*

 

the rain will

pitter,

patter, on

 

song birds

will

twitter on –

 

the moon will

smile ,in pale

surmise

 

the lark

will lisp

at morn –

 

*

 

it is a world

of no recall

 

all’s too

swift,

forgot

 

though we

lurch on,

in love

and rhyme

 

is unmindful

of our lot –

 

*

 

all’s aswoon

in deep trance

of night

 

fed  of

the waning

hour

 

though Shiva

shimmers

in high  dance

of light –

 

earth yet idles,

in her  bower

 

*

 

so come

let us

but amble on

 

it’s over ,

in a spin,

or two –

 

look,

Nereids weep –

beneath the flood

 

and even the

Sirens –

whisper true

 

for it matters

to none

that we loved:

and lost –

 

under a sky

so blue

 

by fire did

we tie the

knot:

 

in fervor,

let’s  bid adieu

 

 [©R.Kanth, 2019]  

______________

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations, is Trustee of the World Peace Congress

Share Button

‘Tis ever the Season

Who shall die

with the

most-est

toys?

 

That’s  the

name of the

Game –

 

Mercedez,

or Rolls

Royce:

 

So, what’s

in a branded

name?

*

 

to live

to own :

borrow,

loan –

 

to accrue :

albeit,

alone –

 

to seek,

find

 

leave

Others

Behind

 

That’s the

fulsome

grind –

*

 

It’s the bane:

why we’re all

insane

 

every dogged

day

 

though every

dog will have

its bone

 

and every

Wolf,

its Way

 

 

*

 

‘Tis also  why

we stand

at the end

 

The End

of the Human

Chain –

 

though Truth,

restive,

sojourns plain

ever  so  plain

to see:

 

We’re here

Not to gorge

Or Gain

 

But to mull

Eternity

*

Repent,

repine:

 

there is

yet time

 

Still, some

mileage

left: –

 

For, to  

collocate,

Is Vanity

Fare –

 

and (excess)

Property –

is Theft

 

______________

 [©R.Kanth, 2018]  

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations
Trustee; World Peace Congress

Share Button

The Cats of Rhodes

by Carrie Tuhy

CatinArmour

PHOTO VIA MEDIEVALIST ERRANT

 

The cats of Rhodes are black—and white;
White with a black tail,
One cat of Rhodes.
Poised, paralyzed, possessed,
Eyes fixed on a lizard descending the center wall,
He waits, then pounces and pounces again.
And again.

The cats of Rhodes are tri-colored, and variegated:
Black and white and smoky gray,
Caramel, calico, tangerine.
They sit, they sprawl, spreading out
fc075511-b4db-460d-8248-d56b4771065cOn car tops and stone paths
Heated by the Mediterranean sun,
Even in October winds.

The cats of Rhodes are furry, furtive creatures,
Hiding in shadowy corners, under arches,
Perched on pebbled stoops of shuttered houses,
Asleep among the bustling caverns of merchant kiosks.
They are the tourists who never leave;
The ship-less hordes freed of hurry.
They rule this empire of mythic gods,
This island kingdom born of Aegean waves,
All verdant beauty now.

IMG_0879bThe cats of Rhodes are the Knights of St. John—
Without a crusade.
Lazy, grazing, scavenging.
Feed me, they purr
To food sellers hungry for more human customers.
I am the connoisseur of your kitchen.
Throw me your scraps, and I will feast,
Cries the white cat with the black tail.

The cats of Rhodes recline in sun-kissed splendor,
Tummies turned skyward, mouths agape—
All tiny teeth and curling tongues,
Tails swaying slowly, back and forth.
They rise and stretch–primp and preen for greedy photographers.
Then strut, a parade of kittens in their wake
Until one halts—frozen, eagle-eyed, on guard.
He waits, and waits,
And waits some more
For another elusive lizard.
_______________

45153588_1434142383401925_5613475672656707584_nCarrie Tuhy (top row, third cat from right) wrote and performed ‘The Cats of Rhodes’ to saxophone accompaniment during her stay at The Three Seas Writers’ Retreat in Rhodes, Greece, sponsored by Harvard Square Editions, the Three Seas organization and the Municipality of Rhodes.

Carrie TuhyCarrie is a long-time journalist who spent many years at Time Inc. as a magazine editor. Along with her positions at LIFE, Money and InStyle, she was also editor-in-chief of Real Simple where she published many accomplished fiction writers. She has also reviewed both fiction and non-fiction tiles for Publishers Weekly as well as having written author profiles including interviews with Joan Didion, Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Gottlieb, the former editor of the New Yorker. She is currently working on a book with the working title Second Lives of Women.

Share Button

The Circle, by Brussels expats

THECIRCLE Front10.19

The editor of the new anthology by members of the Brussels Writers’ Circle talks about community, pride and providing an outlet to new writers

Are you the type who would sell your brother out to space aliens? Set out to complete someone else’s bucket list? Deal in priceless stolen goods? Then you’ll find comrades in The Circle, a new anthology of short stories.

Though you’ll find your comrades there in any case: All the stories and poetry that appear in The Circle were written by Brussels expats. Now in bookstores, it is being launched next week at a reading at Waterstones.

The title is a clever reference to Brussels Writers’ Circle (BWC), a community group made up of expats who write in English. It’s the group’s second anthology; the first, A Circle of Words, was published in 2016. Both are published by Harvard Square Editions, based in Hollywood.

“It’s a collection of short stories and poetry by people who at some moment have made Brussels their home. That’s the unifying element,” says Patrick ten Brink, who edited the book. “The second unifying element is that they all link to the Brussels Writers Circle.”

groupSome members of BWC are published authors or journalists, while other are simply enthusiasts, putting pen to paper (so to speak) for their own enjoyment. All of them had the chance to publish in the anthology, which includes 55 pieces by 34 authors.

New voices in fiction

The group is publishing anthologies to find an audience for the works, many of which aren’t published elsewhere. Though they might eventually be; some of the works are first chapters of novels yet to be completed.

“We have a range of writers, some of whom are quite experienced, who have published, who have won some prizes,” says ten Brink. “But others are very much new enthusiasts. So what we thought we’d do is have something to show to the world, to allow new voices to get a little bit of exposure.”

Andreas

BWC counts about 350 members, and 10 or so usually show up to one of the two weekly meetings. Two or three authors read their work and get direct feedback from the rest – about plot, voice, tension, character development, story arcs and structure – all aspects of the writer’s craft.The anthologies, explains ten Brink (pictured below), “give a sense of completion to the process. We all talk about each other’s work, and then once in a while we get an email saying, ‘I’ve got this published here and published there’, and we thought it would be nice to have something in which we can all collectively be proud.”

He thinks The Circle can also inspire other writers in Brussels to join the group. “Because they can see that the work is actually leading to something.”

Patrick Ten BrinkPatrick

The numerous works are eclectic in both style and content. Some have been published elsewhere, such as Colin Walsh’s beautifully written “The Flare Carves Itself Through the Dark”, winner of Ireland’s Francis MacManus Annual Short Story Competition.

Other standouts in the anthology are Aisling Henrard’s “Lining Their Pockets”, in which an average evening in a new housing development turns into a celestial cock-up, and Martin Jones’ “Shimmer”, which brings the secrets hiding in the wooded outskirts of Moscow startlingly to life.

Many of the authors, however, do not have English as a first language, making the trip to getting published in the anthology a bit more rocky. “The ambition, of course, was to be as inclusive as we could, but we didn’t want to end up with a lack of quality,” explains ten Brink. “So we created guidelines; everyone who submitted a piece for the anthology had to fulfil certain criteria.”

Mauricio-2 That included reading at one of the BWC meetings and taking the comments on board. Then three members of the group read through the submissions and gave another round of comments. Two rounds of edits followed that.

That means a lot more effort than a normal collection of short stories would require, but that’s the point of the BWC after all – to make the writing better. “Some people wrote brilliantly straight off and only had to be tweaked,” says ten Brink, “while with others we had quite a few back-and-forth sessions. So the process was meant to get people included.” In the end, only a few people who submitted stories didn’t make the anthology.

‘Positive and necessary’

While some of the works in The Circle are based on reality – ten Brink’s own intriguing story, “The Half-Apple”, is about a recurring sight on a Brussels pavement down the street from where he used to live – just one is purely non-fiction. And while caving isn’t something I ever thought I’d be interested in, I have to admit that Nicholas Parrott’s description of the cave systems snaking through the Pyrenees had me pretty riveted.

Joost Hiltermann’s “Kawa’s Calvary”, meanwhile, is a riveting account of one Kurdish rebel fighter’s experiences in Northern Iraq. A programme director at the International Crisis Group, Hiltermann is working on fictionalised accounts of witness testimonies to reach a broader audience. Because, he says in his anthology bio, “if we are to be an international community, tragedy must be shared”.

Like most of the book’s contributors, neither Hiltermann nor ten Brink are authors for a living. ten Brink – born in Germany, but raised mostly in Australia and Japan – is the policy director at the European Environmental Bureau. Writing is a hobby, and BWC is, he says, his way of contributing to the local community.

“I think in these times, a group of people getting together across cultures and across languages to actually write in English, with a common purpose, is something that is empowering and positive and necessary,” he says.

When asked why someone might choose this anthology out of a rack of others if they are, say, at the airport and about to board a plane, his response is again compelling. “If you’re getting on the plane from Brussels, and you’re flying away to somewhere else, then you are very similar to many of the authors who have written pieces here. It’s a sense of the community of the international world that has made Brussels their home.”

Authors of The Circle will read from their work at 19.00 on 22 November at Waterstones, Boulevard Adolphe Max 71, Brussels
 
Written by Lisa Bradshaw, Via The Bulletin

Share Button

Finding discipline and inspiration among writers

A colleague shares his experience of the Brussels Writers’ Circle

Interview by Ciprian Begu, CEND, via Commission en Direct

 

DavidEllard068

When he is not busy helping Europe’s citizens and businesses navigate Single Market rules in DG GROW’s SOLVIT team, David Ellard writes epic science fiction. A self-described ‘aspirant writer’, David has been an integral part of the Brussels Writers’ Circle, a club he has chaired for years, where both beginners and seasoned pros gather weekly to share their work. Commission en direct talked to David about his experience.

What drew you to writing?

I think it started off with an interest in reading. Then, at a certain point, I began to wonder, well how do they make those words I’m reading on the printed page in the first place? And then the more geeky side of my personality has always been interested in imagined worlds, and wondered, how do I go about interesting other people in the products of my own imagination? So, that drew me inevitably to science fiction and fantasy as genres for writing.

And then I start analysing the world in terms of, how can I transcribe this stuff into a novel? The people I meet, situations I encounter, articles on science and philosophy that I read and so on… I think there’s a sort of ‘aspirant writer’s eye’. Most of us will walk past a beautiful building and think, wow that’s nice! But an architect (or someone who aspires to the part) will look at it and note the symmetry of the columns or the construction of the portico…

What have you written already?

I’m most proud of a short novella I wrote which is dream fiction. It actually came out of a dream (or rather nightmare) that I had one night at about 3:00 in the morning. I woke up and was too scared to go back to sleep, so I noted mentally the main points and then started to write it up as a sort of post-facto rationalisation of what the nightmare was actually about.

I am also working on an epic science fiction novel. I started with the idea of the opening chapter, and the end, and worked my way to the middle from two directions. I set out with the concern that I would not have enough material for even a short novel. And I spawned a monster in the act of writing it! Needless to say, I’d probably write the next one differently.

What is the Brussels Writers’ Circle (BWC) and what role did you play in its development?

I started going to the Circle in about 2001, and took over running the group in 2010 until 2016. I’m very pleased by how things grew from there on. It was a once-a-week group that subsequently expanded to two, and even three sessions a week, for a while. During my time, the BWC blog was launched and the annual retreat became a fixture.

I should stress that there were many other people who were involved in all these new activities, but I like to feel that I acted as a sort of point of encouragement, even when I wasn’t directly involved! We also moved location from the Cercle des Voyageurs to the current venue of the Maison des Crêpes on rue du Midi. Very close to where I live. That may not be a total coincidence, I concede…

How has being part of the Circle helped you develop as a writer?

Partly it’s the discipline provided by, in my case, announcing I am going to read out on a given evening before I have written the damn piece. So my back is against the wall. That’s how I wrote my novel In Search of Y at least. It’s also inspiration. Sometimes seriously good writers come along to the group. That can make me jealous, frankly, but it’s also the best way to learn, by analysing what makes really great writing great.

And then of course it’s also the specific concrete feedback people give. Actually, it’s more than that. Some of the feedback is well intentioned but not very useful. This teaches you to filter advice and that is an amazing advantage if you can do it. Filter too little and you will be blown about by the wind. Filter too much and there’s no point in asking for feedback in the first place. The trick is to find the golden spot in between.

THECIRCLE Front10.19

Are there any upcoming events?

A very exciting event is the upcoming Waterstones soirée to launch the second BWC Writers’ Anthology, The Circle – a collection of writing from a broad range of our members including short stories, prose and poetry. This will be taking place at Waterstones bookshop in Brussels (boulevard Adolphe Max 71-75) from 19:00 on 22 November.

Share Button

Alpha & Omega

By Rajani Kanth

 

World’s a beach

by a cruel sea

 

where

breakers  crash

on, senselessly –

 

moon chafes

behind

the cringing trees

 

clouds whirl

aimless

 

on  a  bobbling

breeze

 

to be

and not

to be

 

bumbling  on,

but vacuously

*

no shards

of meaning

 

no shades

of light

 

tumbling

down

 

quite

insight- free

**

 

A pagan heart,

the savage

mind

 

live noble:

pass,

Unheedingly

 

but ,

all aspiring

 

as is our

feint

 

we flail,

in dudgeon –

 

despairingly

*

 

world’s

a beach

 

by  a cruel

sea

 

as nothing to

nothing –

 

sink,

you and me –

 

Seekers

 

with but naught

to find

 

bleak,

in heart

bare,

of mind

 

expiring,

so very   –

 

vagrantly

*

It  will

roll on –

 

Endlessly –

 

the beach,

the breeze,

the cruel sea

 

and the moon

that blanches –

Unmovedly

 

If All’s Impervious:

and Nothing’s

To be:

 

What, then,

availeth,

you and me?

______________

[©R.Kanth, 2018]

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations
Trustee; World Peace Congress

Share Button

Brussels Writers Series 1: Inspired by the city’s enigmas

 

 by Patrick ten Brink, Via Brussels Express

PatrickOn a pavement down the road from my flat in Ixelles, I saw a half-apple, peeled, rounded-side up – not once, but week in, week out. For almost a year now, I’ve been seeing this sculpted apple. In the other direction, on a window sill, I saw a new piece of burnt toast, unbitten, several weeks in a row. Both made me wonder what messages are hiding in these everyday happenings that I’ve too often walked past and missed.

The half-apple inspired a poem, and the poem made people in the Brussels Writers Circle ask what was behind the half-apple, so I wrote a short story. I’d love to know the reality behind this peeled half-apple, but I fear it is probably best that this enigma remain unsolved.

The half apple photo 2

Why did I come to Brussels?

The simple answer is my day job, no, my vocation – I worked in England on trying to improve the environment and was offered an opportunity to come to Brussels. If there is anywhere in the world where being armed with facts and good arguments has a chance of making a difference to policy, it is here, in Brussels, where decisions that affect 500 million lives are made. I knew I’d miss London, my adopted home, but I jumped at the chance. I now work for an international NGO fighting the good fight. The more complex answer as to why I came and stayed, is that I yearned for a truly intercultural home – as a German, who grew up in Australia, Japan and England, and studied in the UK, France and Mexico, I fit in best where everyone is a mix of two or more cultures. That is easy to find in Brussels.

What inspires me in Brussels?

Christmas lighting and installations. On the Rue de la Violette last year, and the year before, colossal square wire and white fabric domes dotted with lights were hoisted between the buildings. Tendrils of light hung beneath and between them – a network of electric jelly-fish hovering above our heads. We walk in no fear under their swaying tendrils.

Musiekpublique near Porte de Namur offers music from across the world to my neighbourhood macrocosmic microcosm – the astonishing Tchavolo Schmitt and Boulou Ferré played here, as two threads of a rich musical tapestry woven over time. Yes, I love gipsy-jazz. If you prefer the outdoors – a Brussels institution of manouche artists often jam near the Mont des Arts, the Grand Place or the Sablon – with an inimitable double-bass player who thwacks the chords of his battered giant instrument, sending the rhythm straight to one’s core. Roam the streets, and you’ll find dozens of first-rate musicians playing in a square near you.

If you prefer indoor jazz, try Sounds Jazz Club, just behind Place Fernand Cocq. And there is always the Couleur Café. There are more museums than days in the month in Brussels. I’ll mention two on opposite ends of Brussels that stand out for me – the MIMA museum on the refurbished Brussels canals with its exhibition of protest posters – GET UP, STAND UP! (on till 30 September) – that remind us of the importance of fighting for a cause. On the edge of the magnificent Bois de la Cambre stands the Boghossian Foundation at the Villa Empain, with its eclectic, inter-cultural exhibits that tackle controversial themes head-on. I remember an exhibition using cut carpets to make a case against war – Heaven and Hell: from Magic Carpets to Drones. Jet fighters were cut out of middle eastern carpets; another work showed shattered carpets, a third arrows piercing a flying magic carpet. Images that remain.

Dissolution 1

The Boghossian Foundation shared more poetic images in its August 2018 exhibition Melancholia, with, for example, the face comprising hundreds of floating ceramic fragments, by the French sculptor Samuel Yal, evoking the impossibility of single representations of us, and of the multiple elements that make us who we are. It felt to me as if the ceramic fragments were each and every one of us in Brussels, affected and inspired by the hundreds of interactions in a rich and complex city.

What makes life in Brussels extra special for me?

Brussels’ multi-culturalism, the opportunities to appreciate its diversity, having a sense of place and belonging, and engaging with like-minded people. Three years ago I stumbled across the Brussels Writers Circle, an informal network of emerging writers. A dozen people from different countries come together on Tuesdays and Thursdays to give constructive feedback, the passion for the written word creating an informal cross-cultural community. I had just finished the first draft of my novel, and they invited me to be one of the readers. Three years later, I have the honour of bringing together the 54 works from our 100+ membership into an anthology – The Circle – which will be launched on the 22nd of November at Waterstones in Brussels.

Share Button

Primer

 

by Rajani Kanth

 

Left

Right

Good

Evil –

 

Us

Them

East

West –

 

Men

Women

Black

White –

 

Are all  as –

Day To Night

 

Binaries,

That wreak

Their Toll –

 

serve but

To thwart

The Goal –

(Of Perspicacity)

 

But the

Truth –

 

But the

Truth –

 

But the Truth:

Is not the part

 

be it

Science,

Or Art

 

The Truth,

Ye artless

Battlers:

 

The Truth

Ye sabre

Rattlers:

 

The Truth

Ye errant

Prattlers

(in raw veracity)

 

Is the Ineluctable

Whole –

 

Yes,  the Truth

 

is Inexpugnable  –

and Whole

 

______________

[©R.Kanth, 2018]

Professor Rajani Kanth, Author of Coda, and Expiations
Trustee; World Peace Congress

Share Button

The Memory That Keeps Me Going 

by Fidelis O. Mkparu, MD, FASNC to medical fellows

(via asnc.org)

On a summer evening in 1993, four advanced cardiac imaging fellows set out for a walk by the banks of the Charles River in Boston. We were on a quest to discover our new city after a busy day. The allure of a river close to the hospital led us to a pedestrian path on the Boston side. On our mission to nowhere in particular, we followed the path, bantering with each other while admiring the lush greenery and prototypical boat houses. A carefree moment for us, until fatigue set in. Conversation dwindled, and our pace slowed. Giving in to the heat and humidity, we sat down. Our eyes on the ground, it must have appeared we had given up, defeated.

Soon cheers erupted from across the river. Looking up, I saw two rowing teams making extra efforts to compete. Coordinated exertion by dedicated but spent men in the quest to reach their goal. I saw determined teammates ignoring their fatigue and the humidity to persevere. Each was contributing to their success and none of them giving up. We stood and approached the river. Admiring their determination to complete the race, we joined in cheering for them. It felt natural. Our support for perseverance. For never quitting.

En route back to the hospital, we walked faster and occasionally sprinted with sudden, energetic passion. Our disposition was influenced by the determination of the rowing teams.

Never Give Up

At many times in ensuing 25 years, I have shared that experience with medical students, residents, fellows, and attending physicians as I encourage them never to abandon medicine if it is their passion—even if the challenges feel overwhelming. My charge is to muster the courage and determination to tackle the challenges we face, including resolving insurance preauthorization issues, learning electronic medical records software, and working longer hours for less money.

Our goal should be to never give up. We find solutions to problems by focusing on clinical competency to deliver quality care and achieve better outcomes for patients.

Our commitment to persevere has resulted in immense advances in medicine.

Newer pharmaceuticals, interventional techniques, better imaging modalities, improved medical devices, an expanded medical knowledge. All of these are, in general, the results of dedication and a commitment to excellence.

Fellows, make it your goal to practice kindness, embrace lifelong learning, accept the challenges of learning new skills, and commit to providing competent medical care—and to do all of these with fervor. Even with your busy clinical schedules, devote some time to the education of our future healthcare providers.

When challenges emerge in your work or life, avoid solutions that would be harmful to your patients. To avoid doing harm, embrace perseverance. Never forget, your commitment is to provide the best medical care to your patients, no matter what it takes. At all times, your purpose is to provide competent medical care. Quitting is not part of the commitment you have made.

Through perseverance, you will experience the profound joy of knowing that your patients are trusting you with their lives and that you are making every effort to improve the quality of their lives.

_____________


Fidelis O. Mkparu, MD, FASNC, is a cardiologist based in Canton, Ohio,
and an associate professor of medicine at NEOMED in Roostown. He is the author of the award-winning novels, 
Love’s Affliction and Tears Before Exaltation.
He penned this challenge to cardiology fellows.

Share Button

You Came Out Ahead

Short story via the Indiana Voice Journal

Joe Girodano’s “You Came Out Ahead,” the fun tale from Joe’s old Brooklyn neighborhood, is a recent fiction prize longlist finalist. The piece references to Joe’s birthplace, Unity Hospital, closed amid controversy in 1978…[more]

________________

9781941861080-Perfect (1).indd

Joe Giordano is the author of Appointment with ISIL, An Anthony Provati Thriller (4.8 stars on Amazon)

“A roller-coaster ride to the finish, this book confirms Giordano as a writer to eagerly watch.” – Kirkus Reviews Featured Review

“Appointment with ISIL is a home run by Giordano. PRIMO highly recommends.” – Truby Chiaviello, Editor, PRIMO magazine

 

Share Button