Showing posts with label Booklet 8. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Booklet 8. Show all posts

Friday, April 16, 2021

Bride to Be by R.T. Hardwick

 I remember Tony saying ‘I’ve found you a wife.’  Across the disco floor was a girl with the smouldering good looks of a Greta Garbo and the figure of an Audrey Hepburn, that is to say like a stick insect in a dress.

‘Hello,’ I said.  ‘I’m Jonny.’

‘I’m not,’ she replied.

We danced the night away.  She danced a mean boogie whilst I did the Gay Gordons.

I walked her home afterwards.  She let me kiss her. It tasted like all the herbs and spices of the orient: Leyton Orient.  We dated regularly after that.  One day in early spring I went down on one knee and asked her to marry me.  I strained a knee ligament and had to be stretchered to hospital.  She felt sorry for me and said ‘yes’ through gritted teeth.

What a wedding reception!  There was Stuart, with his ill-fitting suit and ridiculous moustache.  You should have seen him.  A human dustbin when it came to scoffing food.  If you stood on his foot, his head would flip open.  There was Molly, skinny and prickly as a starved porcupine.  That red dress and those white tights – she looked like an upside down Swan Vesta.  Then there was my sister Connie, forever lighting up a Player’s Number Six and wearing a dress that looked like it had originally been issued to female ARP wardens.

It’s a pity my bride never showed up. She missed a smashing reception – foie gras, pheasant, lavender poached pear, gallons of Rustenberg Chardonnay.  That note she left – ‘I never could stand you, I was only ever interested in your money.  Pity you never had any.  I’ve found somebody a lot richer,’

That just about sums her up.  I always thought her eyes were too close together.

© R.T. Hardwick

Hunger by Caitlin Magnall-Kearns

 “There’s plenty left.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“I’d really like you to try and eat something.”

“I’d really like you to stop mentioning it.” 

It had been three weeks since she’d eaten something in front of me. When I held her at night I could feel her shrinking, every night a bit smaller than the evening before. I didn’t want her to have to go to hospital again, no, that would be too painful.

“I can make you something else? Or we could order something? How about a Katsu Curry? You love Chicken Katsu-”

“Honestly, I am FINE.”

She was angry now, angrier than usual. Her small wrists tensed as she grabbed her metallic purple water bottle, which now seemed like a permanent attachment to her right hand. 

“I love you, you know that? All of this is from a place of complete and utter love.”

The truth was I was saying it for me. I needed to remind myself of why I stay. Why I continue to put up with this. To put up with her. 

She places her bottle on the table, and picks up the fork, all the while keeping her eyes locked on mine.

© Caitlin Magnall-Kearns

Beads of Gold by Eva Bell

 The cyclone had devastated the eastern coastline of southern India. Over 150 acres of land was lost to the sea. The huts of the fisher folk had been washed away along with all their possessions. Some lives were lost.

As a reporter for the Times, I was sent to cover the rescue operations that were in progress, and the measures of rehabilitation that had been planned. What I encountered in one area was a strange sight – a phenomenon that was something out of a fairy tale. Fishermen were raking into large buckets, mounds of sea sand.

“Have they gone crazy?” I wondered.

Then I saw that the sand was glistening with gold filings and gold beads. The cyclonic storm had brought in this bounty. Elsewhere temples and bungalows had collapsed due to the storm. During the foundation laying of these structures, many rich people were known to plant gold beads in the foundation. With their collapse, the beads had gone into the sea and were now washed ashore.

“There’s plenty left,” said one fisherman. “Go find a bucket and rake in as much sand as you can, before the tide runs out. You might find a bead or two.”

“Why not?” I thought, “I could do with a bit of gold.”

Alas I wasn’t that lucky. I only collected a bucket full of sand.

© Eva Bell

Dreaming of You by Steve Goodlad

 “I read your letter, made me feel better

How did you know that I was singing the blues?”

She looked across at him through Oakley shades as he drove. He sang along as Paul Davis crooned from the radio. She recalled the road trips they had made in the VW camper, seeking the high rollers on the Atlantic Coast. The cliché surfboards on the roof rack, a battered guitar in the kitchenette and a tape deck that ruined every cassette they bought but was a soundtrack to their lives along with the shipping forecast; revered for giving them the next day’s destination.

Their faces browned like leather and bleached hair from salt and sun, their smiles bright as they hand-signalled to one another; “this one”; the reward for patience, but not caring if the wave never came. If the surf was right at dawn, they were on it and might stay until the red tipped cloud curtain of sunset.

They would lie fatigued and happy together on the dunes warmed by the embers of a driftwood fire, looking up at the starlit sky, so vast, she felt small but in his arms she was significant.

“Promises are made and promises are broken

Dreams are falling through, I love you, I still love you”

Paul sang solo now; other things on Colin's mind.

His hair was receding and he had a paunch. The child on the back seat grizzled and he flinched, the car in front dithered and he tutted. The car park reminded her of gulls following a trawler; a portent to the mayhem inside the IKEA store. She sighed.

“Do you remember Crantock Beach?” she asked.

He turned and smiled at her. “How did you know that” he sang and they duetted; ”I was dreaming of you.”

© Steve Goodlad

An Easy Mistake by Rachel Smith

 A decorative bowl boasted brightly coloured oranges, apples and bananas. That gave me pause. Even I knew bananas shouldn’t touch the other fruit but I wasn’t going to say anything. I wasn’t stupid.

“Do you want something to drink? Diet coke? Lemonade?” Alisa called from the other room.

“Lemonade please! Thanks!”

I cringed at myself. That wasn’t nonchalant. Think! What would a confident boy do?

I shrugged off my school bag and flung it onto the smooth, creamy leather sofa. That was better but she hadn’t seen that. I grabbed a vibrant green apple and looked again at the grand and spacious room.

A large, tan animal skin rug dominated the centre whilst the periphery was inhabited by fancy armchairs and looming bookcases.

They even had a real fireplace.

My eyes paused warily on a large shotgun resting above the hearth. Alisa’s father was a cop. What would he think of me being here with his daughter?

“It’s not real.”

I shrugged as if I saw guns all the time. I didn’t believe her. It looked real to me and it wasn’t displayed in an awkward, hard to reach place either.

Alisa was giving me a curious look so I shot her my most disarming smile. She was still gazing at me with those large, mysterious dark eyes and I bravely held that gaze as I bit into the apple.

It was strange, rough and spongy. My heart stopped. Oh God no. It wasn’t real. The apple wasn’t real.

Desperate ideas swarmed my mind. Do I drop the apple and run? Do I try to actually eat it? None of which appealed.

Alisa’s puzzled expression twitched into one of amusement and in one moment that I will never forget we burst into wild, uncontrollable laughter.

© Rachel Smith

A Drink after Work by Graham Crisp

 Mabel was anxious. She began twisting her fingers through the folds of her skirt. Glancing up at the wooden faced clock on the mantelpiece, she saw that it displayed 6.30. Whispering to herself, “This is what happened the last time. She should have been home an hour ago.”

Suddenly the front door burst open and a cry rang out, “Sorry Mum I’m a bit late but the girls……...” Mabel interrupted her and shouted back, “You went for a drink after work, didn’t you?”

The slim figure of Mabel’s only daughter, Pamela, entered the room. Her face was flushed. Mabel looked up at her, she tried to fix a stern expression, but instantly failed and broke out into a beaming smile.

Pamela returned her smile, “How did you know that?”

Mavis smoothed her skirt and winked, “A mother’s intuition.”

 “Sit yourself down, love, I’ll go and get your tea.” Mabel hesitated, “Look I’m glad you’re making new friends, I was just a bit worried, you know.”

Pamela smiled and fluttered her long eyelashes, “Mum, I’m thirty-two,” she protested.

Mabel returned from the kitchen carrying a white bowl between her oven-gloved hands. “Spaghetti Bolognese, or Spag Bog, as you lot call it. “

“Oh, yes, Pamela, this was left for you in Mr. Patel’s shop.” Mabel handed over a white envelope. Pamela put down her fork and examined it. On the front she could see it read ‘FTAO Pamela Heatherington’ written in neat handwriting. Mabel watched intently as her daughter frowned.

Pamela pulled the envelope open. Inside was a small white business card, with more handwriting on the reverse. She stared at the card and then immediately slipped it into her skirt pocket.

“Well?” enquired Mabel.

Pamela didn’t look up. She muttered through a mouthful of spaghetti, “It’s nothing.”

© Graham Crisp

Tough Cookie by Liz Breen

 If the recipe required more eggs than she had, then Chrissy would walk to the shop and get another half dozen. It would be worth it to bake these delicious biscuits. They had always been Doug’s favourite. Those biscuits go so well with a rich Columbian coffee. Be a love and brew a pot.

Chrissy always baked with love, the feelings of bringing a smile to someone’s face when they tasted the sweetness was enough reason to don her apron.

This batch was different, though. They had to be perfect for the picnic with Doug. He’d be tired after a long day at the veterinary surgery, helping all the animals and keeping their owners happy.

The park was pretty full, but then it was a July evening. Chrissy laid out a rug and placed the picnic hamper on it. As she took out the chilled Prosecco and nibbles, Doug spied the biscuits.

“Not yet, Douglas Cheatham”

“Chrissy, you’re a tease” Doug replied

Chrissy and Doug sat and watched the sunset as they enjoyed a drink and grazed on the snacks Chrissy had brought.

“You may have a biscuit now, Doug”

“You’re a tough cookie” Doug laughed as he bit into a biscuit.

“How’s Brenda?”asked Chrissy

Brenda was the horsey-looking veterinary nurse with the large bosom, who assisted Doug in his practice. Chrissy always suspected but now she knew. Chrissy offered  Doug another biscuit.

“There’s plenty left”

It wasn’t difficult sourcing the horse laxatives. Chrissy pocketed them as she dropped by to see Doug at work. Brenda had been so helpful and gone to fetch him, so she was able to peruse the drugs and medicines on the shelf. Doug had been able to tell her the name of what she needed when she enquired casually the previous week.

© Liz Breen

Plenty by Miriam H Harrison

 “There’s plenty left,” her mother said, plucking another star from the sky.

“That’s not the point,” Ella replied. She looked at their basket, heavy with stars glowing orange and yellow. “We don’t need so many. We can leave it where it is.”

“To do what? To grow red and ugly and waste away?” Her mother held the sun to her nose, breathed in its fragrance. She sighed contentedly and added it to the basket. “One more won’t hurt.”

Ella scowled. “It’s a waste.”

“What does it matter?”

“It matters,” Ella insisted.

“Oh, does it?” Her mother pinched a planet, blue and plump, from the cosmos. She turned to Ella and held it out to her. “And does this matter?”

Ella looked at the planet, blue dappled with green, tiny between her mother’s fingertips.

“I think it does.”

Her mother scoffed. She squeezed the planet and watched it burst, ripe and wet and sweet.

Ella furrowed her brow.

“Oh, stop pouting,” her mother said, turning away and licking her fingertips. “There’s plenty left.”

© Miriam H Harrison

Love and Sparkles by Hilary Taylor

 Once again, she gazed in the mirror.  The colours were amazing, glimmering and glittering around her long, elegant throat, highlighting the peachy skin tone and the fragile bone structure. She could hardly believe he had given her such a precious gift, diamonds and amethysts on a platinum choker, she was sure his wife had never received such a loving present. Stroking the gems, she thought about their relationship, six months it had taken.  Six long months of smiling, laughing, hiding the revulsion she felt as he stroked her skin and whispered his devotion to her. Six months of the most arduous acting she had ever done.  It was so tiring to pretend you were besotted when all you wanted to do was run a hundred miles in the other direction.

So far, the gifts had been paltry, chocolates, bouquets and champagne.  This was the big one.  She had given enough hints about a girl needing some bling for company, particularly when she was having to be discreet and was often left alone yet expected to be available as soon as he rang. Now, he had proven his worth, and she was shaking with excitement, this would make it all worthwhile. Perhaps she could even feel some real excitement as she thanked him in the way he expected.

He looked at her face reflected in the mirror as he placed the choker around her neck. It was a good weight, and the warmth of colour only accentuated her beauty, only a shame that warmth did not spread to her eyes.  He could see the greed and disdain there, he smiled gently, and laid a hand on her bare shoulder,

“I know how you love sparkly things Darling. This reflects our relationship”, he leaned in close and whispered, “It’s not real.”

© Hilary Taylor

Reality, What a Concept by Bud Scott

The new gaming gear had set Leonard back a bundle, but it was top of the line for the most realistic game play. It included VR goggles and a full body suit outfitted with haptic feedback sensors throughout. The only thing missing was taste and smell.

Leonard suited up and loaded the game. It was a multiplayer battle royale game. To win you needed to be the last man standing. Leonard had played and won many of this type of game. He had been reading about this release for months and he’d been chosen to be a beta tester. He’d been chosen for a couple of reasons; his gaming history on Twitch, and this state of the art gaming system.

He pulled down the VR goggles and began to armor up as much as possible, he would have to gain some gold before he could get any advanced armor and weapons. As it stood he had a leather vest over his shirt, a helmet, and a short sword.

He began to explore. It seemed like a small village surrounded with forests. He went into the tavern to see if there might be a task to be performed to gain some gold. He went to the bar to speak with the innkeeper when a burly well armored player with a long sword challenged him. Leonard accepted. The battle began, Leonard was at a disadvantage, but really had nothing to lose. He was still just getting used to the suit and goggles. Every blow shook his whole frame. Leonard raised his sword to strike when his opponent pierced his vest and killed him. Leonard threw off the goggles and felt his side, there was blood oozing from a wound. Leonard just stared in disbelief and said, ”It’s not real." Then he promptly fainted.

© Bud Scott

Raisins and Rum by Cindy Pereira

 Cindy has opted out of Online Publication

The Rescue by Hilary Taylor

 “It's full.” he said,” It’s the time of year when those little gorgeous bundles of longed for Christmas presents become a hindrance, the hard work and expense becomes a reality. Every year the message goes out ‘a dog is for life not just for Christmas’, but do people listen? Sometimes it makes my blood boil, seeing how they’ve just been kicked out in the bad weather, goodness knows why so many of them still trust us humans!!”

“So, do I just walk round, and if I see one that takes my eye let you know?”

“Aye, there are names on the doors, so once you’ve seen one, come back and I’ll let you meet up properly and you can see if you get on”.

She took a deep breath and walked out into the kennels area.  She felt sick, but excited at the same time! This wasn’t really being disrespectful to Nelson’s memory, in fact, it was acknowledging that love has to find an outlet, her love for the old collie was still there, but since he had died six months ago, she had so missed the companionship, the routine, the being responsible for another being, the unconditional friendship, even being part of the dog walking community. 

It was so much harder than she thought it would be.  Dogs of all sizes, colours and breeds, some loud and looking for attention, others timid and not responding.  The tears wouldn’t stop, how could she choose only one? How was this right? How dare people treat these wonderful creatures with such disdain? 

She walked back to the reception, deep in thought. 

“That was quick!” He said, “Got one in mind?”

“No, I’ve decided I can’t help just one of them, I need to do more. How do I become an RSPCA officer?”

© Hilary Taylor

Mr. Patel’s Shop by Graham Crisp

 Mabel shivered and drew her coat collar up near her ears. She spied her neighbour and good friend, Myrtle shuffling briskly past her house. She called out, “Hello Mabel, are you off to the shop? If so, I’d hang on for a while.”



Mabel stopped and raised her eyebrows, “Why?”


“It’s full,” replied Myrtle.


“Ah, thanks, Myrtle, I’ll have a walk through the precinct. I’m not keen on mingling, there’s still too much of this flaming virus going around,” Instinctively Mabel dipped her hand into her coat pocket and lightly fingered her face covering.


When she reached the shop, it was practically empty. Mabel loosened her scarf as she shut the door behind her. “Phew it's blooming cold out there, Mr. Patel, but your shop is lovely and warm.” Mr. Patel smiled and stopped arranging the newspapers. “Hi, Mrs Heatherington, nice to see you, how can I help?”


“I need some milk, I’m cooking a rice pudding for Pamela, she may be in her thirties, but she still likes a rice pudding.” Mr. Patel took a carton of milk from the chiller and handed it Mabel. “Some things you never grow out of, Mrs. Heatherington, with me it's Smarties, I’ve always loved a Smartie.”


Mr. Patel lowered his voice and leaned forward, whispering, “Oh, yes, by the way, a youngish, smartly dressed lady came into the shop yesterday asking if I knew of a Pamela Heatherington living nearby. Of course, I said I wasn’t sure, but I’m not a very good liar, and I think she could tell. She handed me this.” Mr. Patel passed a sealed white envelope over to Mabel. Frowning, she turned it over, on the front was handwritten ‘Private and Confidential FTAO of Pamela Heatherington.’


Mr. Patel shrugged. Mabel looked mystified.


“Thanks, Mr. Patel, I’ll pass it on.”   


© Graham Crisp

Bearly Dry by Madelaine Taylor

 ‘Ere George…”

“What is it now, Milton?” The great white bear half growled his response. Milton had been bugging him all morning and he had things to do.

“Have ya noticed anything odd ‘bout the sea this mornin’?”

“What you talkin’ ‘bout Milton?”

“The sea, George, big wobbly thing all round the ice.”

“I know what the sea is, Milton, I’ve lived ‘ere all my life. What you sayin ‘bout it.”

“It’s full.”

“Whatta you mean, it’s full, Milton?

“Well, there’s more in it than there used to be.”

“More of what in it?”

“Water, George”

“Don’t be daft. Milton. How can there be more water than there used to be, it’s the sea, it’s all water.”

“Yeah, but now there’s water where the ice aught to be. Like the sea’s gotten too wet and the water can’t all be kept inside.”

“Yer mad, Milton, the ice swims on the water, that’s how it’s always been. There can’t be sea where the ice aught to be, That’s just fact.”

“Well, you remember when the cubs built that snow bear? Over there, behind the sledging slope.”

“Yeah.”

“Well now there is no there behind the sledging slope, just sea.”

“But that’s where I keeps my lickin’ creams.”

“Well, yer lickin’ creams is gone too then George. ’s’all gone.”

“My creams is gone?!? This aint right Milton, not when a bears creams go missin’. How can we empty it again?”

“Don’t think we can, George. Was listenin’ to the podcast last night and they reckon it’s all about glow ball warmin’”

“Glow ball warmin’? You mean that big light in the sky?”

“Yup. They reckon it’s really hot. An’ it’s turnin’ ice into sea.”

“We can’t stop the glow ball, Milton. What we gonna do?”

“Gotta hope them hoo mans can, George.

© Madelaine Taylor

Bell Bottoms and Beer by Cindy Pereira

Cindy has opted-out of Online Publication

Carnaby St Boutique by Steve Goodlad

 A gaggle of giggling young women enter the boutique and inspect the wares on display. In the dim light, Dave makes out their pixie hairstyles, dark eye-liner, blusher and over-glossed lips. The most brazen, to show what she thinks she knows shouts: “Dave, you got the new flares in yet?”

Dave hasn’t a clue who she is or what she’s talking about but leaves the counter to point out the most hideous tangerine loons he can find as a joke and is surprised to hear appreciation and admiration. He leaves them to keep looking and brazen-mouth lays on her back to pull the trousers up under her mini-skirt. They have purple paisley inserts, patch pockets, studs and novelty exterior fly buttons. She is helped to her feet as she’s unable to bend, to admire herself in the full-length mirror giving confidence to the others to search for items in the same vein.

Dave is soon ringing up the till for 3-storey snakeskin platform shoes, a yellow T-shirt with a half-peeled banana batiked on the back; an afghan coat with an embroidered cannabis leaf that smelled of wet dog; a wide-brimmed purple leather hat with a pink flower growing out of the hat-band and pair of dark John Lennon style glasses.

He watches them leave. It is Saturday afternoon and they will want to be seen by the in-crowd at the Chelsea Drugstore. She with the flares trailing a year or two behind, flapping like loose yacht sails in the wind, the afghan wondering why she is given such a wide berth by other shoppers, and one aided to walk as though on stilts until spectacles walks smack into a lamp-post.

“New stock required; I think. If that was fashion” wondered Dave, “They killed it”.

© Steve Goodlad

Crocodile Tears by Felicity Edwards

 The letter plopped onto the doormat.

Alf read it and called, “Bo, it’s a reply from the Home Office. They’ve assigned us a bush posting in East Africa!”

She gazed out on their drab wintery garden and was excited. A colony implied blue skies, sunshine and big houses. The reality was very different. The house was big but lacked running water and a flushing loo.

Alf, however, was delighted. Soon their garden boasted a collection of cages built to house injured animals.

One day a couple of men turned up at the house with a creature wrapped in damp sacking. It was a baby crocodile. It was best not to ask how it came by its injuries. This little one had a nasty gash on its leg.

Alf soon constructed an enclosure with a sunken water tank for Charley crocodile. He happily settled into his new surroundings. The wound healed well and Alf planned to release it back into the river soon.

Every three months, they had to travel down the mountain to replenish their supplies and report to head office.

On their return, a scene of devastation greeted them. The house had been burgled. However,  Alf was broken-hearted. They had smashed the cages releasing all his injured animals. Worst of all was the reptile tank. Alf picked up the broken body of the little crocodile. “They killed it.” He shook his head. “ I don’t understand why.”

Bo was not sorry though she was afraid of its snapping jaws and sharp teeth even though it was only a foot long. She had seen the adults with their cruel, greedy yellow eyes peeping out of the water as they waited for some innocent animal to come to the river to drink.

© Felicity Edwards

Holiday of a Lifetime by Elaine Peters

 They had excitedly planned the details for almost a year.  The trip to South Africa was to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary and there would be tours of the wine country, visits to animal reserves, and of course gardens featured prominently on the itinerary.

The whole experience had been wonderful.  The weather had been perfect, the scenery amazing, and the highlight for Linda had been the exotic plants they had discovered. It made her collection of house plants seem nothing special, although she was very proud of the rare orchid she had carefully nurtured for several years.

Sheila and Frank next door were in charge of looking after the house while Linda and Paul were away, bringing in the mail, checking the boiler was working, that sort of thing.

‘Don’t worry,’ Sheila laughed as they said goodbye.  ‘I’ll come over every couple of days and water the pots.’

Linda had bought Sheila a rather expensive gift as a thank-you, and Paul had selected a bottle of good local wine for Frank.  

As ever, all good things come to an end, and finally they were leaving paradise after four fantastic weeks.  As Table Mountain disappeared below the clouds Linda’s thoughts turned to home.  How would her beloved plants be looking?  The orchid had been budding when she left.  She was dying to see it in flower.

As Paul was bringing the last of the luggage in he heard a desperate cry coming from the conservatory.

‘They killed it.’  Linda was sobbing and for a moment Paul couldn’t imagine what ‘they’ had killed.  They didn’t have a pet and the children had left home long ago.

‘My orchid is dead!’ Linda cried wretchedly.  ‘Sheila is useless; I wish I’d never gone away!’

In that moment the holiday of a lifetime was forgotten. 


They had excitedly planned the details for almost a year.  The trip to South Africa was to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary and there would be tours of the wine country, visits to animal reserves, and of course gardens featured prominently on the itinerary.

The whole experience had been wonderful.  The weather had been perfect, the scenery amazing, and the highlight for Linda had been the exotic plants they had discovered. It made her collection of house plants seem nothing special, although she was very proud of the rare orchid she had carefully nurtured for several years.

Sheila and Frank next door were in charge of looking after the house while Linda and Paul were away, bringing in the mail, checking the boiler was working, that sort of thing.

‘Don’t worry,’ Sheila laughed as they said goodbye.  ‘I’ll come over every couple of days and water the pots.’

Linda had bought Sheila a rather expensive gift as a thank-you, and Paul had selected a bottle of good local wine for Frank.  

As ever, all good things come to an end, and finally they were leaving paradise after four fantastic weeks.  As Table Mountain disappeared below the clouds Linda’s thoughts turned to home.  How would her beloved plants be looking?  The orchid had been budding when she left.  She was dying to see it in flower.

As Paul was bringing the last of the luggage in he heard a desperate cry coming from the conservatory.

‘They killed it.’  Linda was sobbing and for a moment Paul couldn’t imagine what ‘they’ had killed.  They didn’t have a pet and the children had left home long ago.

‘My orchid is dead!’ Linda cried wretchedly.  ‘Sheila is useless; I wish I’d never gone away!’

In that moment the holiday of a lifetime was forgotten.


© Elaine Peters

When to Err is Not Human by Dipayan Chakrabarti

 “Hello, Sukna forest office,” Cliff O’Brien, the forest officer, answered over the telephone, “can I help you?”  “A wild elephant is running circles all around the village, sir!” blurted out a raspy voice from the other end. “Don’t worry,” O’Brien assured, “we will be there in an hour.” “Call the driver,” he barked to the new office peon. The driver rushed in. “How much fuel do you have in the fuel-tank?” O’Brien queried. “It’s full.” “Get ready then,” he ordered.

The wild elephant had left the forests of Sukna Valley in Darjeeling district, meandering into the nearby village in search of food. “It is pregnant!” yelled a local. “Yeah, the wild elephant is going to give birth in some months,” O’Brien agreed. The elephant walked around in the village in hunger.  Country-made crackers exploded everywhere, as the villagers tried to drive out the frightened animal of the locality.

“It hasn’t harmed anybody yet!” exclaimed a local. Suddenly, the sound of an explosion shocked everyone. It was followed by a heart-rending trumpeting sound. “Find the source of the sound,” snapped O’Brien in an impatient voice. The small group of forest officials who were engaged in rescuing the elephant followed the sound to the wild pachyderm. “It is in searing pain, sir!” cried out a forest official. “Yeah, her tongue and mouth seem badly injured.” Vertical wrinkles appeared between O’Brien’s eyebrows.

The elephant eventually walked up the Sukna River and stood there with her mouth and trunk in water.  “She must be doing this to avoid flies and other insects,” O’Brien sighed. Other officials continued to look on in disbelief.

 After hours of attempts by the forest officials to rescue the elephant, it died standing in water. 

Post mortem reports revealed that the pregnant elephant had eaten a cracker-filled pineapple left by the locals.

© Dipayan Chakrabarti

Mountain by Soren Petrek

Cry at the sky, why don't you care?
Why can't I have a home up there?

Trapped and reaching every day,
the weather wipes my chance away.

Please let me dance in a harmless way,
gliding across the Milky Way.

My feet are trapped, my shoulders too.
I wish that for once, I could be you.