‘You got the money?’
‘Don’t I always?’
‘Yeah. Just making sure.’ Jim deadbolted the door. His head whipped back to meet my gaze. ‘Were you followed?’
‘No.’ What had gotten into Jimbo? ‘Ya right?’
‘Yeah, course.’ He peeked through one of the slits in the Venetian blinds, shifted his weight from one foot to the other and scratched absently at his head before suddenly shifting his attention back to me. ‘Why wouldn’t I be? What’ve ya heard?’
‘Nothing, Jimbo. You sure you’re okay?’
He sighed. ‘Sorry, man. Big shipment, just paranoid. What d’ya need?’
‘Some Maltesers if you got ‘em.’
Branches scraped against sooted marble as the woman emerged from a deserted close. Darkened windows stared in empty judgement as she made her way down the sidewalk. Two men huddled together in a vacant doorway, passing a bottle between them. One took a swig, the other followed suit, their voices lost in the rumple of orange beards. Under the glow of a streetlight a busker sang in melodic tones. The woman’s feet propelled her forward until she was enveloped in memories of peat and salt she hadn’t dreamt in years. As the notes faded, she slipped back into the void.
Okay, I need to consider the consequences if the deal doesn’t work.
How many people can we carry and for how long?
“Mum, what is for lunch?”
Hmmm. If the deal fails, it looks like we have three months to broker another contract elsewhere, so who are those options?
“Mum, can we play outside?”
Who are the options?
“Mum, can we go next door?”
Who are the options again?
Who are the options again?
They have gone outside.
Now, who are the options again?
There is a tap on the window.
It’s a scary ride. You pass rugged-looking outcroppings that could tear the cage apart if the wind should swing you over that far. That could happen any moment. Birds circle overhead, looking for food. You grow dizzy watching them.
It’s a one-way ride. It’s been a damned expensive trip, but it’ll be worth every penny! I’ve always had plenty money, anyway, and rarely has it been worth having.
The cage jitters to a halt, and I step out. I stop at the sign that says JUMP OFF POINT–and I stretch out my arms, sprint ahead–and do just that.
Thurber learned of the monastery in an ancient tome he found in an out of the way bookstore. “I must go see for myself,” he said, and immediately made arrangements.
The guide who spoke no English took him from a small village in the foothills. They climbed into high places, he, the guide, and an interpreter.
Below the summit of the hill, the guide showed them into an ancient cave where kneeled a man who looked older than the world. “He has been praying for 300 years.”
“How is this possible?” Thurber asked. The answer came: “Through faith.”
The newly-elected President, via Twitter at 7.02 a.m. in the morning, accused the past President – a Harvard graduate on constitutional law – of wiretapping his phone during last election. He provided no evidence to back-up his claims.
Ramesh Murthy, an immigrant Indian engineer, watched the TV President’s henchmen defend him, saying not to take his Twitter-feed seriously.
Murthy pondered, “But the hate spewed by the President during all those election-speeches against the minority groups was the main reason why a white supremacist gunned down one of my fellow Indian colleagues, shouting ‘Go back to the country from where you came from!'”
Dad told me about him, many years ago. Now I hear his sweet clear notes from beyond yon hill. I grabs my gun, my coat, my pouch and box of shells, stick my bottle in my shirt, for medicinal purposes, of course.
Then out I go, a-huffin’ and a-puffin’, climbing up Hard Scratch Hill. When I catches him, what’ll I have? All the pleasures my pa said he’d give–or a passel of demons lurkin’ in the trees?
Never mind. My mind’s made up. I gotta see for m’self.
“Wait up, Piper. Wait up for a curious old man!”
“Here they come,” Jake said. “Sounds like a whole troop.”
“Yeah,” Bolger said. “The more the merrier. Guess they finally came around to thinking we really do know something they can use. Let’s just hope the general comes with them.”
The door burst open and a dozen uniformed men, armed to the teeth, crowded into the room.
“I am General Valgier,” one of them said. “You will now tell us all that we wish to know!”
Jake and Bolger grinned at the general, then bit down on the tiny explosive charges in their molars and the world about them exploded.
“I’ve just heard from Him and He is not happy. Says there’s only one worm. Tell me it’s not true, Shem.”
“They’re hermaphroditic, Dad.”
“You only need one for the species to be able to continue.”
“For the sake of an as yet non-existent Son of God, didn’t you realise that this was going to be a test of intellect as well as faith?”
“It’s no big deal.”
“This is bloody typical, Shem. You’re always cutting corners. I should’ve given the job to your bro–”
Noah’s words are cut short by the sound of splintering wood and gushing water.
Vice-Admiral Avi Maitra, son of an Indian father and a Jewish-American mother, enjoyed chicken tikka-masala at home, while attending Hebrew pre-school. Teased at school for his name, he would explain its Sanskrit-root of “fearlessness,” as in “someone who faced the fear but conquered it,” instead of “not afraid of fear”.
Once overseas, an e-message from his dad arrived, semi-quoting late Nelson Mandela: “Courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Then the follow-up line: “Wasn’t I always right? Dad.”