Short story Fiction : A writer’s muse

Dry leaves somersaulted across the road. He crushed the few that landed under his well-worn moccasins. Crunch. Crunch. The sound filled up all the spaces where he felt like a non-writer. The sound pushed past the stale odor of unused ideas. Dug beneath layers of recycled frustration. The sound was a pleasant distraction.

He knew he had a story in him. A thought resuscitated on the worst of days. This morning, he took it more seriously than before. Last February, he dared to go to a coffee shop to find his writing muse. He spent the day over-stressed and over-dressed. A probable bad combination for some writers. A definite one for him.

Almost a year and a half later, there he was again. Sitting on the park side bench trying to look like an important person, doing important work. There he was, hoping to squeeze out a story from his guts , wringing till every last drop came on paper. A buzzing, whizzing park was perfect. A meeting point where inspiration could woo its evil twin into a  slow, dignified death. So far the only dignity he encountered was of the leaves that died with honour under his feet. It was still a better bet than sitting cooped up like a rabid chicken, clucking and clicking on his desktop 25 hours of the day. 24 was never his number. 24 rejected manuscripts. 24 years of abuse. 24 landlords.

His mother always joked about the sardine tin his apartment complex was. One building stuck to another building that was stuck to another. His room was as tight as his lips got every time anyone asked about his published books. The sacred most point in the room was a walnut oak, crooked book shelf that leaned towards the right like it was trying to show him something. He made up hidden messages and symbols from ordinary everyday objects. Most of the shelf was filled with mummified manuscripts. The rest he categorized by his appetite from sumptuous to inedible. He re-read the latter the most. The most important part of the shelf was an entire section reserved for his unborn books. A book nursery of sorts. He would stand in front of it twice each day. An excited parent-to-be, all giddy and anxious about the future.

Sometimes he didn’t mind reliving the 21st century version of the hunchback. Bending over his favorite notebook, his leather-bound, fading Esmerelda.  Jotting down story ideas and anticipating of his turning to dust when separated.”Nah.” He decided there was always time to die dramatically. Today he was going to spend a day at the park.

Wind stopped in its weightless tracks to ruffle the skirts of passing girls. And skewed the hats of little boys playing catch under the shaded trees. Maybe he could write a love story that began at the tree near the merry-go-round, and ended in the graveyard in the next block. “Nah.” He wanted to write something rustic, more basic. But what was more basic than love, life and death? He was still hopeful.

A little girl slipped and fell in front of him. Behind her loud wails, he thought of a rock climbing protagonist falling to her fate in the Karakoram. “Nah, ” he mumbled before walking over to help the girl. She limped away without a thank you, and much louder sobs.

The wind calmed down. His nerves didn’t. Nothing spoke or touched him the way he had imagined. His words were still locked shut. He stood up to stretch his cramped knees beneath plaid trousers. Just then, the sound of gravel pressing against the ground caught his attention.

A woman, in her 40’s, rolled over in her wheelchair. She paused  for a breathless second and gave him the most liberating smile. Freedom lived on those lips. Pearl drops danced in her cheeks without care. Blood breathed life into his fingers.

Esmerelda was calling. He picked up his notebook and followed his inspiration.

Short-story: Playing Jenga for love.

Anna’s intense concentration stopped the habitual quiver in her fingers as she formed a tiny tower of wooden blocks. Tooth-less and teeth-filled smiles of her now,possibly decades old children gawked at Telsa from the surrounding walls of Anna’s room. Telsa nervously shifted in her seat when those infant eyes met her’s. Anna didn’t like that anyone stared at her children’s pictures for long. Telsa quickly averted her glance and checked her watch.

Herma’s usual spot across from Telsa was empty. “Telsa, let’s put baby powder in her pea puree this time,” said Anna with an air of accomplishment. Last time she had put  sugar in her lentils. Telsa never took part but just pretended to agree. Herma never noticed the changed flavours. She also never came on time.

Their favourite block-stacking-and-crashing game, Jenga, began in Anna’s stuffy nursing home room every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning like a sacred ritual; obsolete, staunch and oddly invigorating, much like Anna. Other days were reserved for bingo, exercise and Frank Sinatra sing-a-along programs. These women were wrinkly hamsters living on stolen time in their cages.

Anna punched her table as the door slid open and in limped the curly haired 80 year old Herma who secretly loved that she was the youngest in the room. “Dammit Herma! Get on with it will you!”, Anna shrieked.

Chairs were pulled up, blocks were set and ready to be pulled apart and toppled over.

Anna pulled first. She was the dominant one. It was just a game to Telsa, but she dare not say that out loud. Anna would bite off her lips with straight, ivory tinted teeth. Herma wanted to be the first one, but she was not in the mood for confrontation.

“Watch and learn!” Anna announced right before she grappled the loose block from the tower, akin to a cautious dentist at work.

“How I hate that bastard! Did I tell you two about my ex-husband?” Anna suddenly began her best-loved topic of conversation.

“Hmmm.” Telsa was sympathetic for the hundredth time, possibly even more.  Herma was busy burping.

“The platypus left me for that slutty duck! I am glad I never met her or I’d have been in jail now.” Anna continued.

“Well you certainly ain’t in no Palace right now Anna!” Herma couldn’t help herself.

Anna spat at Herma. Quite literally. The wide honey oak table in between saved the other two from the salivic shower. “You’re in my room, so my rules. Shut the hell up!”

It was Telsa’s turn. She braced herself as the wobbly tile tilted below the block she had just removed.

“I gift-wrapped my soul for him you know. ” Anna’s harsh tone mellowed and she took a pink napkin with white doves. There were no tears. But she wiped her eyes as if rehearsing for the real deal. The smeared crusted maroon lipstick made her look morbid. “I am beautiful aren’t I?” Telsa nodded.  Herma controlled her laughter.

“Then why?” This time her tears gushed. Telsa’s green eyes watered up, as if in a compulsion to join the teary river that gushed in the room. She had eternally damned herself to cry for others.

“I am sure he always loved you, and no other,” came Telsa’s over-rehearsed reply.

“What do you know?!” A raucous crow just replaced the mellow squeak in Anna’s throat. “You’re as wretched of a woman as I am.” Telsa bit her tongue. She could taste the bloody saliva.  The tower gracefully dismembered itself as an army of wooden soldiers rose on each side.

“Why you gotta talk like dat to her?” Herma defended Telsa.

Anna ignored Herma and continued. “He took my children and my dignity. Neither came back.” Telsa leaned forward to console but Anna screamed with blood in her eyes, “Why can’t you just do your turn?”  The game was almost over.

Anna suddenly sprang up as if the chair had developed canines. Her trembling legs dragged her to a wrought-iron night stand. A golden velvet pouch peeked through her pale hands as she took out an envelope, and from it a letter.

“His last words before sucking down those pills.” She stared at her only two friends. “He apologised, you know. Damn well regretted leaving me!” She smiled with hurt and contentment all rolled up in a bitter-sweet strudel. She took a minute to read the letter under her breath and carefully folded it back in its rightful creases.

Knock. Knock.

Someone was at the  half-opened door. Herma quickly called out, “Come on in, nothing to hide here!” It was  the new Nurse Wilma. She had joined just a week ago. A woman in her mid 50’s, with a surly air about her, like someone who’d been rudely stripped off her royalty and could kill for the lost title.

Anna had missed her morning medication for dementia. “Hello ladies,” said Nurse Wilma, uninterested in what was going on in the room. She handed the pills to Anna and waited for her to squeeze them down. Nurse Wilma turned to leave, but paused for a minute to look at the pictures on the wall. Telsa noticed and was about to comment when Nurse Wilma rushed out without another word.

Anna was trapped in a daze. “He gave my grandmother’s precious ruby bracelet to that wretch, you know. He never admitted but I know. That cut me real bad. Real bad.” She was scratching her left hand without looking up.

It was down to the last few moves. Herma complained about being hungry. Telsa scooped her arm over for her turn. Her hands wobbled and the patchy tower finally gave away.

“HA! You gals can never win from me!” Anna was back to her competitive self. She stood up to celebrate with some coffee.

“Anybody got anything to eat around here?” Herma spoke looking at the ceiling. She then leaned across and whispered to Telsa, “Why you gotta take her shit every day? See she never talks to me this way. I know how to set her straight. Why don’t we hide one of those kids’ pictures?!”


Nurse Wilma stepped out for a quick smoke. Those children on the wall. She knew those eyes. She’d know them anywhere.

“But how could it be?! He told me that his wife had died in an accident. Who was Anna then? Why did she have those children’s pictures?!” She started to sweat under her wool coat.

She rolled up her sleeves to cool down.Glistening red stones peaked from her wrist.


National Blog Posting Month - November 2014

I am participating in the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) – November 2014. This is an awesome venture of In their own words:

“Every November, thousands of bloggers commit to posting daily. But it’s about much more than getting that post up—it’s about community and connection. It’s also about honing your craft, challenging yourself, and taking your blog to the next level.”

I will write every day of November. This is my fourth post.

#NaBloPoMo – Day 4



Short Story: Spilt milk

‘Baba! Rida isn’t listening to me! She spilled all her milk. ‘ My son repeated himself almost four times but I couldn’t hear a word. Tears welled up as my children’s blurry faces screamed in front of me. Everything  was incoherent. As far as I was concerned, my world had stopped rotating. The sun refused to rise. And gravity had pulled a disappearing act.  Their mother, my beloved wife, was alone in the hospital, fighting a death sentence. And here I was, cleaning up spilt milk.

I dropped off the children at a distant relative’s house because my wife was in ICU. The city was humming with life. Whereas I felt as dead as an autumn leaf crushed under a heavy boot. Traffic was slower than usual. I saw happy pedestrians crossing the street. Mothers pushing their strollers with smiles of exasperation. The lights turned green and I didn’t budge. The car behind me didn’t honk. As if a sign from above, this little act showed respect for my feelings. Thinking that a rude honk could tear open a heart already on the verge of dying.  The world showed me sympathy. Their eyes brimming with pity. I didn’t like any of it. I didn’t want any of it.

My car pulled up in the crowded parking lot. At home I wanted nothing but to rush to the hospital. And now that I was here, my legs turned to steel. My hands became numb. I couldn’t move. The thick air inside the car gave off faint whiffs of my wife’s favorite perfume. I opened the dashboard and found her comb and her pink nail polish. I always made fun of her fetish for nail polish. Ever since the children, she never got time to put on nail polish while getting ready to go somewhere. Once the kids were buckled up in the car, she’d take it out of the dashboard and apply it on her hands and feet. Every time I made an abrupt stop, she’d give me her infamous look. Eyebrows furrowed, a suppressed smile and wide open black eyes that made me burst out laughing. Who in her right mind would put on nail polish in a moving car? Only she had a plausible answer for that. She always had an answer. Almost always.

I closed my eyes and pressed my forehead on the steering wheel. Faint sounds of ambulance sirens and voices bounced off my ears. Tears rolled down like lost streams of water with no ocean to merge into. I was a man. I was not supposed to cry uncontrollably. I was not supposed to shake with fear and bang my head against the bathroom mirror. I was not supposed to do a lot of things. Yet control was the first thing to disappear like soul from a dead body. I opened the door without looking and suddenly I heard a scream. I jumped out and saw a small, bald child crying at his bottle of chocolate milk spilled on the floor. ‘I am so sorry I should have looked before I opened the door.’  I bent down to help his mother clean up. She apologetically said it was not my fault, as if it was her fault her son was crying. The child was pale yellow like a wilting sunflower. My heart jumped as I saw his sorrowful eyes. I could have done anything for those eyes. After cleaning up I asked the mother if her son was all right. ‘Nothing a little medicine won’t cure, right Sam?’ She lovingly hugged her son, but her eyes betrayed the truth. He was far from ‘all right’. But she was with him and maybe that’s all that mattered.

I went back into the car and took out my wife’s nail polish. I felt a bit better. What perfect timing as I smiled looking up at the feeble ray of sunshine peaking through overpowering clouds. Maybe the child’s pain made it acceptable for me to lessen my pain. As if his anguish sucked in some of mine. I pressed the elevator button and made a solemn prayer to God. To give me the strength to make her smile. To give me the ability to be the best father. To give me the power to make every minute of our lives matter.


** This story is inspired by a true incident. I hope and pray that Allah gives health and strength to the concerned family. I also pray for cancer patients and their families suffering all over the world. Only Allah can give them the needed strength to fight such a monster. Amen. **





Short-story: Guardians of the valley (part-2)

You can read the first part here:

“You are late for school!” This was my morning ritual. Something I said every day. She woke up early but never got to school on time. After a quick breakfast of oatmeal it was always the same – she’d run into the backyard and do what she loved most – gardening. A sixteen year old gardener is hard to come by but that’s who she was. A little bundle of quirks you’d be crazy not to love.

After dropping her off, I drove home, lost in my thoughts, overcome by gratitude. Another morning ritual. Exactly five years ago, my life had changed completely – for the second time. People called me crazy. And they weren’t wrong. I left a successful career, in other words my entire life, to look for Aminah. Instead of preparing for the worst, I hoped for a miracle.

The girl who had wiped away my tears that day in the tea shop, was Anya. We got off on the wrong foot. But maybe my lost smile, or hopeful tears had changed her mind. The tea shop owner was her uncle. Anya had lost her parents to the 2010 floods so he took care of her now. “What’s wrong bibi ji?” He had asked that day. I wasn’t ready yet. I just shook my head and left. I tried locating Aminah’s family but I was told they had left for good. I came back to the tea shop every day. Anya showed me her tiny home on banks of the river. Grey, lifeless cement peaked through the cracked white paint. A small porch outside the house had two flimsy pillars that supported the structure. Outside the porch was a small home garden Anya’s uncle planted vegetables and flowers in. Anya would spend hours telling me about the tiny garden. I was never into gardening, but her enthusiasm was contagious. She made me forget.

A week had passed and I had dropped all hopes of finding Aminah. A part of me almost believed that she never really existed. Daggers pierced through my head, as I drank tea in the tea shop. Anya’s uncle came to my table and sat down. ‘You are always very sad my child. Life is too short for your long tears.’ I sobbed and told him the entire story. He patted my head and said it would be all right. I cried until my tears dried up. When Anya came, she took me by the hand to her garden where we talked to the plants.

The next day Anya’s uncle came up to me and said just one thing. ‘I know where Aminah is.’ The camera I was holding fell to the floor. Before I could say a word, he went inside. It was the longest minute of my life. He came back holding Anya’s hand. ‘Here she is’. Between adoption papers and rebirth of a precious soul, I had witnessed my miracle.

I found Aminah. This time I wasn’t letting go. Ever.