Tag Archives: Short Story

The House at the Crossroads of the World

[a short story by    ~burning woman~    as told by Sha’Tara]

As I sat by the River one day and pondered the state of the world I had a thought: I will build myself a home at the crossroads of the world. So I did.

My home had a good roof but it had no walls, just posts holding it up. I planted ivy, honeysuckle, clematis and sweetpeas by each post and they grew swiftly and beautifully. I was very pleased.

First a family of refugees passed by and they came in to rest, drink of the cool, clean water and eat from the garden I had planted. Sated and after a good sleep their children ran out and played in the fields. Their laughter filled the air and more birds sang.

A couple of starving, ragged men came by and asked if they could stay for a while. I smiled and said, ‘Look, no walls, anyone is welcome here.’ They were gays who had been persecuted and escaped with only their lives and the clothes on their backs. Soon they were playing with the children and entertaining them with tales and magic tricks.

A group of migrant workers heading north came by and also partook of this unexpected hospitality. They were earth people and soon they had my garden cleaned and explained about plant symbiosis. I could grow much more food if I did it right. I learned much from them in that too short a time.

Some young girls came running, crying, and stopped at the house. I invited them in and they shyly came, sat down and explained they had escaped from a van filled with sex slaves bound for the black market. They got washed in the creek, ate and slept together in a corner of the house.

The honeysuckle was in full bloom and its sweet smell filled the house. In the dark we sat in the house and sang, each her or his own songs and everyone listened in awe. It was so good to find each other here and not worry about any difference.

It was too good, actually. They had watched the comings and goings to and from the house and in that country the government and its propaganda press declared that it was a terrorist training center. So they sent the drones.

We are all dead now. I am dead too but since I am mind and not matter I am made of memories. This story is a memory, and it is real.

There is no longer a house at the crossroads of the world though there are walls everywhere and for that reason the world is dying.

Reaching for Awareness

[short story by   ~burning woman~  written by Sha’Tara]

“If it is true that we only live a small part of the life that is within us, what happens to the rest?

What could, what should be done with all the time that lies ahead of us?

Is it a wish, dreamlike and nostalgic, to stand once again at that point in life; to be able to take a completely different direction from the one which has made us who we are?

The fear of death might be described as the fear of not being able to become whom one planned to be.” (quotes from the movie, Night Train to Lisbon)

It was, he figured, around the middle of the night. He’d crawled out of the warm sleeping bag to stand outside and look at the night sky. The stars were slowly revolving overhead, only he knew it wasn’t the stars that were moving, but himself riding his wild planet through space and time. The thought made him feel vulnerable, fragile. Who am I to be standing here alone to witness this incredible sight? A couple of dozen years have gone by already since I was born and what do I know? I don’t even know why I was born. Happenstance? That’s it? I’m here, feeling this incredible surge of life just because, and no reason for any of it?

He thought about that as he began to shiver and long to crawl back into his little tent and the sleeping bag with its residual warmth. “I think therefore I am” he said out loud. “Well, that’s not good enough anymore because really that is meaningless. What I need to establish for myself is not the realization that “I am” which is pretty obvious and need not be stated, but “Why Am I? That’s the point!”

It was early Summer and the river level was still rising. There was the smell of fresh leaves and muddy waters flowing over mud banks and through thick grasses. You could hear the waters hissing as they flowed by the little island he’d chosen for his stay: it had just enough room to pitch the tent and bring the kayak safely out of the water. He knew “his” river, that the little island would not wash away. For the time being it was his own little private world surrounded by water. He’d chosen it as his sanctuary, a place to be alone and away from people. A place to think in ways not possible among others.

He had given himself this gift. He already knew that from here his life would take another path, go on another tangent, new ideas coalescing in his mind to foster yet another nature even if his body chose to remain essentially the same, ageing and eventually dying. That, he understood, was the way of things on Earth, “but not for me” he would say and watch friends and family walk away from him, afraid that his madness might be contagious.

“I’m sorry, Nadia” he’d told his young wife as she berated him for leaving on his “crazy” kayak outing on the river. She of course wanted nothing to do with his water ways and had done her utmost after their wedding to dissuade him and get him to sell his kayak even though she had promised she would never interfere with the part of his life that involved the river. “It’s my time of year to go on the river and partake of her awakening. I know you cannot understand this but there is no need to fear, or be jealous. This is whom you married and I kept no secrets or surprises to spring upon you. I will be back when I have done what I must do. If you do not wish to share this with me you are free to leave. I would be pleased to find you here when I return but I will not be expecting it. Take care o’ you, my lady.”

That had been his way, to set the people around him free of bonding to himself. The freedom he sought, he gave to everyone. He had never told his wife that he loved her – he did not believe in love because, as he so often said, love has proven it’s weakness in unreliability. Respect and honour, that I can offer, but not love.  This included his concept of bonding.  Stay or leave, as you choose.

Ignoring the night’s cold he let his mind wander this strange new world he had decided to enter into: detachment. Is detachment simply a coward’s way of dealing with a violent, cruel and unpredictable world? Is it a morbid fear of losing someone close, another that one has fallen in love with or developed a special bond to? Is that why I’m here, to work this out for myself?

The stars continued their uninterrupted journey over his head and he realized once again and logically that what he was observing was his own journey through the cosmos, one tiny fraction at a time.

‘I’m traveling through the cosmos but not only that, I am fully aware of this fact, right here, right now. But where am I going? Do I get to choose that or am I a piece of flotsam on the river of space-time? No, that will not be. This new nature of mine I will dedicate to discovering my destination and the next one I will use to figure out how I am supposed to get there.’

It was some time before he could calm his mind and resume his sleep.

I’ll Forgive you, Eddie

(I do have a short story for the March Blog Battle “Dusk” but this isn’t it!  I was in a mood so I wrote this out tonight… go figure.)

Short Story – by Sha’Tara

I’ll forgive you Eddie, just as soon as you give me time to work this one out. I mean, the lying, the cheating, the way you’ve made me feel cheap in the eyes of our friends while boosting your bottomless pit of an ego and sucking the life out of me.

First, I have to go back over time and find that place, not in the photo album but in my memory, where I found myself truly “in love” with you; that place where I said “yes” when you asked me to marry you. But there is no such place, is there, Eddie. I said “yes” because I was pregnant and I’d call that duress, wouldn’t you?

How did you make me pregnant, Eddie? Do you remember your little trick at the Christmas party? Sammy told me how you put the date rape drug in my drink while I went to the ladies’ but years only later, Eddie. I remember the shock of discovering that bit of truth about you. Why did you stick around after that? Did you feel guilty, or was it the fear of being exposed by your own friends who knew what you’d done? Fear, wasn’t it. You felt obligated to marry me because it’s how we did things in those days.

Why did you stick around after our baby boy died of crib death Eddie? Was it because I brought in good money from my legal secretary job while also providing the house wife bit? So you had a comfortable place to live when your contruction jobs went soft? A safe base from which you could go out to bars, bowling alleys, race tracks and clubs to have fun, screw and gamble our money away? So you’d have someone to beat up when something pissed you off?

Hey, don’t make that face. Did you think I didn’t know about the affairs? You fucked my best friend Vivian and she finally admitted it because she felt guilty she said. But you Eddie, did you ever feel guilty? Does a rat ever feel guilt? No. It’s not in its nature, nor yours. You’re not just a rat Eddie, you’re a cockroach and I’ve been thinking that it’s time I did something serious about my pest problem. Time I returned the favour for that date rape drug thing, the beatings and my suspicion that little Alfred had help in his crib death.

You’re lying there on the floor beside the couch and wondering why you can hear what I’m saying to you but you can’t get up. It’s really quite simple: you’re having a heart attack. OK I’ll admit to having helped it along by playing with your prescriptions but you won’t be blabbing to anyone about that. That’s why I became a pharmacist after quitting the legal profession; this is so much more fun. There was no point seeking redress through legal channels, you’d eaten us out of house and home back when and even if you went to jail you’re the type that would just ooze through the bars to walk the streets again.

I’m sure you wondered why I invited you back into my life after all these years but you couldn’t resist a free B&B and you’d always considered me stupid, all evidence to the contrary. I have to thank you for accepting my invitation to come in out of the cold for old times sake. A softy, me, right? An easy mark, that’s me again. Oh you ignorant, vile, murderous imbecile, Eddie. I made it my life’s goal, after I got rid of you, to get even with you. No, not exactly even, just one step further. I felt I owed you that much.

What’s that you’re saying? You want me to call an ambulance? Oh but I will, I promise. That’s all part of the plan. I just want to watch you die in pain and agony first, is that too much to ask? What? I didn’t get that but I’ll assume you said that you understand completely. Thanks Eddie for agreeing to help me fulfill my lifelong ambition. I’m going to sit by the fireplace, have a glass of our favorite wine and watch you die.

Here’s to us, Eddie. I’ll forgive you when I see you in hell you bastard.

I Choose to be a Teacher

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

“Anee?”
No answer.
“Aneeta!”
“Yes ma…”
“What are you doing up there, sleeping?”
“Finishing the boys’ room ma.”
“Leave that, come down. I need you to go to the Bellamy’s and get me fresh produce. We’ll have payin’ guests tonight.”
A pretty young woman of about fifteen, with thick auburn hair adorned with a couple of ribbons, comes down. Her heavy footsteps indicate how reluctant she is to obey her mother.
“Mom, can’t you send Petee?”
“Pete’s in the lower meadow with your pa, he’s working. What’s wrong with you?”
“I hate the Bellamy’s mom. Joram is always shoving his hands into my dress, feeling me. I hate him. I hate what he does. And he smells like something dead.”
“Well, look who’s so high ‘n mighty now! You’re a woman now an’ Joram, he’s grown into a fine young man and he fancies you! Do you have any idea how much land the Bellamy’s own, or lease?”
“That’s not the point, mom. I don’t like him and I don’t want him. I hate it when he touches me and breathes on me.”
“That may be girl, but it’s time you learned some facts of life. How do you think I fed you and your oldest brother when your pa was in the Lord’s wars?”
“They did that to you?”
“Well, Mr. Bellamy did. He was a fine looking young man then, exempt from the war, and for convenience sake I was called the widow Lacey. I was still beautiful then too.”
“You’re still beautiful, ma! But that’s not right, what they do, is it? I read in a book at the butcher’s last week that it’s wrong. The book was on the corner table and I was waiting for my cut. It was called a “digest” and had many stories in it. This one was by a woman. She wrote that we shouldn’t be “sexually molested” she called it, and we should be able to vote.”
“You read that did you? I warned your pa not to teach you to read, that it would only cause us all trouble, and here we go. You read what other people think. Can’t you think for yourself? Joram Bellamy is sweet on you and he makes sure you always get the freshest produce, and he gives you more than we pay for. Last Fall they sold us their best pig, no extra charge. Don’t you understand anything?”
She points to her breasts: “It’s time you realized the value of these in a man’s world, Anee. And the lower part of you as well. We have a certain value and there is an exchange. It’s been that way forever, don’t you go questioning it and upsetting things for us. The Bellamy’s are much richer than us; they’re our neighbours and it’s you and I that keep things good between us. Your pa doesn’t question my loyalty to him, but he well knows how I kept our small farm and fed my children during those years he was gone. I started to talk about it once, long ago. He put his hand over my mouth, then took it off and kissed me, long and sweetly, and he thanked me. That is the kind of man your pa is.”
“I know pa is good, ma. But this is about me. I don’t want to settle with Joram. I don’t like him at all and certainly not that way.”
“He’s young, what, seventeen? He’ll grow up, mature, be more like his dad.”
“Well that settles it then: I don’t like his dad either. He’s done it to me too, you know. And he smells bad too!”
“Yeah, I know how he smells. But some of it is the smell of success and money. We’re lucky some of that smell has rubbed off on us, girl. Don’t be so particular. One would think you were born in the Lord’s castle with a silver spoon in your hand.”
“You don’t care do you! I want an education and I want to become a teacher, see? I can’t have a man if I’m to be a school teacher.”
“Oh, a teacher is it? Listen to the professor. Miss Radick has a lot of years in her yet, there won’t be any need for a new teacher in these parts for many years, girl.”
“I don’t mean around here, mom. I mean to go and teach in the coal mining country. They can’t get, or keep, teachers up there. I’ll be needed, for sure.”
“The coal country? God help us! You’ve taken leave of your senses, girl. Half the people there don’t even attend services. Men are drunkards and beat their wives. The children are half naked and starving most of the time. And the dirt, it’s in everything there. What an idea Anee.”
“I read about that too, ma. They need teachers like myself, girls with farming and gardening experience. I can teach them to grow food and I can explain about basic hygiene.”
“What are you talking about! Who is Basic Hy-Gene? Is that somebody you met at the butcher’s also?”
“Ma, hygiene means cleanliness. Basic means plain. Plain cleanliness. It’s not just the job, ma, it’s something I’ve known for sometime that I want to do. I need to do it. It’s a calling, see? Like a vocation? Do you understand that?”
The mother stopped, turned to face her daughter – they were the same height and their eyes met. There were tears in her mother’s face. Then she reached for her daughter and embraced her.
“Oh Anee! Of course I understand that part. I was there too, and I turned away to marry your pa. He was so good to me, and I knew I would be forever safe with him. But I was afraid also; afraid to learn how to read n’ do numbers; afraid it would change everythin’ for me. I hid from my calling in my family. I wanted security, not adventure.
I suffered a long time over my choice and now it’s come back to me in you. I suppose that’s fair enough; that God would give me you so you could go and do what I chose not to.
I will go with you to Bellamy’s and if Joram is there I will explain your choice to him. It doesn’t matter what he says, you will be a teacher, Anee. Your pa will be so proud, I can’t wait to see his face when you tell him.”

They both put on their long grey coats and boots to ward off the damp air and residual dew of a sunless day and walked silently, hand in hand, to their rich neighbour’s farm. A keen observer would have noticed there was a certain lightness to their steps.

A Very Long Walk

[a short story by Sha’Tara]

It was another cool, crisp and clear late Autumn afternoon, the kind Krista loved to go walking in. She followed the riding trail down to the edge of the Maskua river as it meandered through the low lying lands of this agricultural community. As she walked she noticed the oaks and maples had less leaves on them and the colours were reluctantly fading. Denuded tops allowed lopsided windows into a pale, clear, blue sky.

Many thoughts flowed through her mind. She knew she had it good as her home-based business only required a few hours a day to keep going and she enjoyed it. The two children, Toby, now thirteen, was in Middle school and Trina was finishing her high school. Both children were quiet as a rule and caused her little problems. Both were somewhat introverted and had few close friends, something she did not mind at all.

Her thoughts turned to her husband Dan on his last year of duty in Afghanistan. One short moment of trepidation, then she reasserted herself. He would be coming back, of that she was certain. She had vowed to herself never to dwell on the possibility that he could become a casualty of war. ‘Not in my reality’ she said often with total conviction. ‘Do you still love him?’ a small, nasty little inner voice taunted. ‘With all my heart and soul’ she replied truthfully. Krista, though still very attractive and not without admirers and opportunities, was the completely faithful partner. She would never stray.

She carefully skirted the muddy pools that remained in the trail all winter in the shadier spots and kept walking. She heard crows cawing but not using the excited voices when discovering a sleepy great horned owl or a red-tailed hawk. She heard ducks and geese on the river but could not sight the stream yet. There was much brush where she passed and one more little rise before she could see the meandering river reflecting the blue sky from shore to shore.

She saw a page from a note book crumpled and stuck in some blackberry brambles. She thought of reaching for it but decided against it. ‘Whatever is written on there, none of my business,’ she said to herself and kept walking. You could say she was observant but not overly curious.

She saw something else in another tangle, a grey and blue baseball cap. ‘That’s a team cap from Trina’s high school! Must have flown off a rider’s head or been brushed off by a low-lying branch and the owner chose not to come back for it. Oh well… her or his loss. Maybe they’ll come back for it later.’

She had topped the rise then and saw the river. She stopped to admire it – her favourite place in the entire walk. She had had many a good mother to daughter talk with Trina on this spot. The current was sluggish now and reflections of dark spruce and bare poplars cast mesmerizing shadows in the waters of the far bank. She moved her head slowly to the movements of the inverted tree dance trying to find a tune in her head to go with it.

Something unusual brought her to look closer to her side of the river. There was a piece of cloth floating down there, of blue and white coloration. It looked like it was caught on a branch. This time her curiosity was aroused and she worked her way to the edge of the water for a better look.

That’s when she realized she wasn’t looking at a piece of cloth but at the body of a drowned person. She saw long hair floating off from the submerged head and a white hand bobbing in and out from the surface. She gave a gasp, but instead of screaming as she wanted to do, she plunged into the stream and waded in the freezing water that came to her breasts by the time she reached the body of a young woman.

She tugged and pulled and finally untangled the body and dragged it to the shore, turning it over to look into its face…

“Oh God, Trina! What have you done? I told you he wasn’t worth it! You promised me it was over.”