Category Archives: Fiction

In The Plan, We Trust

Why is there this eagerness to get ahead of God’s plans? The need for us to take control and take over… well, it’s not His style. It was never His style and yet we try to bypass the rules and rush it anyway. It makes me laugh recalling all the times I tried to do this because the follow through and all the things that went wrong with it only returns me to square one where I needed to be in the first place. The world will unfold and everything will happen in accord to His plan, and all He asks is that we adhere to faith and trust that He has a better, well- written story for us to walk on. Despite all the challenges and struggles, the path shall mold us into the better hero or heroine. He usually does have the better story, except we’re always trying to interfere every time we get antsy and impatient.

let me be stricken
down to humble if ever
i try to pass the finish
line before my time.
unfold me away from
all the senseless
rigmarole, the long-
winded and complicated
talk which borders
rumors, fiction based
on cancerous tumors; how
fantastically i become
hideous and tedious
in my expectations
that i rush to end you
even before i can begin…
(i beg)
strike me down to humble.
strip me my pride.
flay me my ego.

poem©mrg 3/13/17

The Wall

The laughter surges from talk of the wall. It will be erected between two countries. A great wall. Perhaps, a great one like China’s. But walls like this only invite invaders. Even when the purpose is to deter, others will only see it as an invitation to a challenge. Same way hackers have learned to grow more highly evolved tactics through the years. The better the encryption, the more they seek to infiltrate. The men laugh because tunnels can be built. The stealth in which tunnels were built was probably only privy to the Germans during World War II. It had been unprecedented until recently where a network of elaborate tunnels helped one of the world’s most dangerous individuals escape prison. And if tunnels can do this, then what purpose is a wall? A canvass for graffiti?

“No wallz gonna stop the people’s from comings over! We more smarter than that! If they built a wall, we gonna fly over!” Her tall, moustached co-worker from Guadalajara says this. There’s a thud-thud-thud sound resonating form his cutting board as he chops bunches of parsley with a knife on each hand. His notorious opinions on politics seem to always have an underlying comic tone in them.

Everyone laughs and it reverberates in her. But Norma finds it strange. She can’t. The laughter ceases in her, as though there was a duct for joy which suddenly became clogged. The absurdity of walls and tunnels is definitely laugh-worthy. But it’s difficult. It won’t seem to drain from her.

She grabs more bread to slice and lines them up along the trays. Five by six to make 30 sandwiches on each tray. As she reached for the last dozen bread on the far corner of the stainless steel table, she accidentally knocks her serrated knife on the floor. She stared at it for a few seconds before she felt a tear emerge from her left eye. It surprised her how sensitive she felt. This kind of sadness usually afflicted her around the time of the month when Aunt Delia came. Not really an aunt, but code for her menstruation. But she finished a week ago and usually this sort of feeling abandons around the same time. But strangely, more than sadness, a melancholy stays. For the life of her she cannot seem to pinpoint the origins of where or when it arose.

She ignored it when she first took note of it. The more she ignored it, the more it seemed to persist. She was 27 after all, a master of her own emotions. However, everywhere she looked, whether the cabinets at home or the walk-in refrigerator at work, this crestfallen weight seem to chase and grab at her. It doesn’t want to be left alone. Yet, this is all she wants lately. She wants to be left alone. And this misery somehow wants her company.

One of her colleagues notice the fallen knife on the floor. Norma is still staring at it. She isn’t moving. Her colleague bends down and picks it up for her. “Are you alright?” he asks.

Norma nods her head yes and takes the knife from him. “Thank you,” she tells him. Her voice is heard through the pronounced silence as everyone glanced at her, the forlorn look on her face well-noted by everyone.

She casually brandishes the knife in the air and announces to everyone, “I’m going to dig a tunnel!”

There is a blank stare from everyone before each one started to laugh. They always appreciate it when Norma participated in their conversation and how she sometimes interjected with her brand of comedy.

Norma elicits a smile. She’s in on the joke. But she means what she just said. She’s going to have to dig a tunnel soon because the melancholy was building a wall around her. She is worried. She doesn’t know whether she’ll be able to break it down on her own.

Hands

The bruises on her face. It was like a bank account. Varied sizes of foreign coins he deposited against Myra’s cheeks. The black eye, the gash next to her lip. She glanced at them wondering how she would conceal them. The purple bill stretched across the side of her waist was a bruise which made bending for her fallen towel difficult to pick up off the bathroom floor. She lost her balance doing so and fell against the hamper, taking down with her a menagerie of bath gels and body lotions on the counter.

“What’s going on? Are you alright?” Her mother chimed in from the other side of the door. “Do you need any help?”

“No. I’m fine, Mother.”

When she got back up on her feet, she stared at the mirror, longer, inspecting where else Jake left his marks. He was drunk and she was too weary to track and count the punches. But she clocked it this time. Before her eyes completely shut from the pain, 15 minutes had passed on the clock against the wall. The big clock she fancied from Ikea which Jake purchased for her after eating Swedish meatballs from the cafe with Lingonberry on the side. Lingonberry she didn’t want, but which Jake insisted she tried. She tried it, but the uncanny texture made her push it aside instead. When she looked up from her plate, she caught Jake staring at her is a stern and disapproving manner. “Finish it,” he said. It was a command which she needed to take seriously because there was in those two words a residual tone of “or else.” Or else what? Lingonberry was bright red, just like the blood which oozed from the side of her mouth when he smacked her inside the car of the Ikea parking lot. She held so tightly to the clock thinking time would save her from the second blow that followed. They had only been married for two months and thirteen days at the time and she thought then how this was only the beginning. The beginning of being hit, backhanded, punched, thrown, pushed, smothered and almost drowned inside the large kitchen sink. His carpenter’s hand, how overbearing they were at times.

She loved Jake’s hands. Their strength. Their ability to manipulate and create with wood. Tables, chairs, banisters and staircases. Jake was a craftsman and she loved how his craftsman’s hand held her and cradled her. How he made her wet every time he touched those regions no one else dared breach. She kissed these hands once before, traced the lines on its palms, connected them with hers, fitted her hands inside of his and thought, perhaps, he was the one. There was no escaping his hands sometimes. And she didn’t want to under the circumstances. She thought she could live holding his hand forever, until they showed a different side to them. She completely underestimated their passion, their strength. Many times, Jake’s hands held the sharpness of a thousand knives and they stabbed her deep. Never mind the cuts she endured on her flesh. It would heal. But the wounds on her heart left scars, one on top of another.

“You can’t go back there, you know.” Her mother had made her way inside the bathroom.

“I know,” looking at her mother on the mirror

“He’ll kill you!” Her mother began to sob as she placed her arms gently around her.

“I know, Mother.”

“Myra, look at your face. We didn’t raise you like this. What would your father think?”

Her father’s memory swiftly came to mind. Her father who never lifted a finger against her nor spanked her to discipline her. Her father who treated her like a princess up until the day he passed. What would he think? And the thought of her father suddenly opened the gates for tears to cascade from her eyes— all the pain she endured in a sudden deluge down her face and onto her naked body as though she was being christened once again, to return once more to the peace and purity that was hers prior to all the bruises before such ruthless hands.

©Mary Rose Gahon 2/8/17

Three Pink Coffins

Allison Reyes found the gentleman seated in the lobby. He was in his mid-40’s, his graying hair combed back. He wore a black suit, his tie loose around his neck. The closer she approached, the more she was able to discern the wrinkles on his blazer, how the white on his shirt was not really white anymore, but grayish. A mild, unbathed ripeness emitted from him. All of it were distinct but not quite as memorable as his sunken eyes. Worst than the Titanic, she thought. Sunk, as though every joy, every light once harbored inside had gone out. Sunk in and dark.

“Good Morning, Mr. Mitchell. My condolences, Sir,” she paused. “Please follow me,” she continued. She waited for him. She remembered to keep it short, respectful and neutral. It was part of the training. Words had weight in them, not many know this. The wrong word or even the slight implication of the wrong word may and can trigger her clients seeking burial arrangements for loved ones in many ways. Some have yelled at her, accused her of insensitivity. Over the years, she became used to the outbursts. There’s no getting around it sometimes because their pain is so heavy and so raw that it usually took all of Allison’s understanding and will power not to react.

She led Ulysses Mitchell up the winding staircase, then down the narrow hall towards the end where her office was located. He followed behind. She could hear how heavy his footsteps were with each stride, causing him to lag behind. She slowed her pace to match his. They walked quietly. Carefully. Allison was cautious not to disturb the silence he embodied.

“This is a nice office you have here,” he commented, “nice and bright, not at all what I expected.”

“Thank you, Mr, Mitchell. I do try.”

“Try what?” he asked. He sat in one of the chairs. He looked at her briefly, but looked away instantly and stared into the window again. He placed his hands over his nose and mouth, trying to control his breathing for a brief moment.

“Do you want something to drink, Mr. Mitchell? Perhaps, some water?”

“Do you have something harder?” he was serious, but then he continued, “No, no. No. Actually, can we get this over with? I have to get back to the office.”

“Yes, not a problem, Sir.”

Allison pulled out a medium sized binder from the shelf over by the window and quickly walked it to the table. She sat a comfortable distance from Mr. Mitchell and opened the binder in front of him.

“This package is the one I spoke to you about. Since you opted to use your own church, we factored in the police escort into the package…”

“It’s not my church,” he interjected. “It’s my wife’s church… I don’t go to church!”

The slight pitch in his voice, Allison thought… it might start. He might breakdown somehow and she needed to be careful. “There will be a separate charge for each additional coffin.”

“I like the pink. Like these ones,” he pointed at the sample picture. “I don’t care about the price. As long as all of them are pink. That’s Mina’s favorite color. Alex too. But Christine likes black. I don’t want black for them. They’re my girls. I want pink.”

“Of course,” Allison obliged and wrote in on her notes. “Is there anything else, Sir?”

“Will they be able to cover it up? You know, the holes? I don’t want to see the wounds when I see them for the last time.”

“We have excellent technicians working with us. They will do their best, Mr. Mitchell.”

“The coffins need to be sealed during the service!”

“Yes. They will be, Sir.”

“I don’t want anybody to remember them like that… their faces… the blood. My wife and daughters are beautiful women. Please don’t let anyone see them like I saw them that night.” His eyes pleaded with Allison.

However careful Allison Reyes was with her words, how terse and neutral she kept them, it was what Mr. Mitchell would inevitably divulge that she wouldn’t be able to escape. She read the story on the newspaper. A mother and her two daughters killed execution style by a distraught boyfriend pulling a Romeo on his girlfriend’s balcony. And when Juliet, who had asked a judge for a restraining order against her boyfriend, refused to open the window, Romeo decided to force his way in anyway and shot everyone who was home. Mr. Mitchell was at work. He found his wife and daughters hours later.

“I’ll see to it that the coffins are sealed themselves. Trust in me, Sir. You have my word.”

She patted him on the back as she leaned on her seat and waited for Mr. Mitchell to stew between tears and his solemn silence. He sobbed, never taking the tissues in front of him. She wished he did so he could cry properly. The spare words she maintained between herself and her client wasn’t necessarily for their protection, but hers. Because even if she wanted to keep everything neutral, and keeping away from what they were going through, the one thing Allison couldn’t show her clients ever was how much her heart too was breaking.

©Mary Rose Gahon

The Next Bus Coming

Jay Manzanilla missed the last bus heading back to Santa Ana by mere minutes. The tail of the bus seemed to be giving him the finger as he tried to race towards the driver. But the driver looked ahead and drove on. Jay just wanted to get back. He already wasted so much time. The forecast of rain hadn’t manifested yet, but he knew it was coming. The evening news said so. His phone pestered him with the weather update.

He walked back at the stop and sat on the bench beside the stop. He wouldn’t be this irritated had he not forgot his black umbrella. He could see it leaning against the back of the front door. He was in such a hurry, he forgot. He hoped another bus would come soon, but he knew it wouldn’t. The rain would come any minute now, but he wouldn’t be able to do anything about it except to let it drench him.

Apart from the lack of umbrella, apart from the uncertainty of the weather, he thought how it didn’t make any difference at all. Jay transferred hotels from Philly to California in order to work closer to Louisa. To be near her. Because the voice inside his head told him to follow his heart, to take the same route to the other side of the country where she took a job in graphic design with a sunglasses company. So he followed his heart because his heart was with Louisa.

“This is a great opportunity!” Jay told her. Louisa Savant told him in the car on their way to finding a Dunkin’ Donuts somewhere in the middle of Philadelphia. It was 11 o’clock at night on a Thursday and she didn’t want to go home just yet. Louisa wanted coffee and donuts and Jay was more than happy to oblige her craving. But just as those words of encouragement exited his mouth, it was as if a draft entered Jay’s heart which made his ribs… his bones shiver. He felt cold, even if it was humid and the temperature soared to high 80’s. Inside the well-lighted place, Louisa rambled on about the California coast and how it would be nice to join her family again. Her excitement spilled from her and Jay could only feign joy in front of her, as he tried to listen and bear all her good news, even if his stomach turned and his forehead surged with nervous perspiration. And none of it was due to the powdered, jelly donut he selected or the large coffee with extra cream and sugar he ordered. Looking at Louisa and how explicit her joy showed through her eyes down to her lips and even on the lines on her forehead jabbed at him more and more and stung him left and right; he knew this would be the last they would be like this. What he was feeling was irrelevant and Jay knew he couldn’t possibly tell her because he didn’t want to hold her back.

Even if the voice told him to go, Jay shouldn’t have. It blindsided Louisa when he did, when Jay arrived at the parking garage of the sunglasses company and found Louisa talking to an executive. Except the way the man in his distinct blue suit rested his hand on Louisa’s shoulder made him seem more than an executive and Jay thought he had been deceived. He came to confess his feelings, but Louisa only glanced at Jay as though he was a parking attendant. Louisa turned around and never looked back.

He stood up and looked as far as he could down the road to see if a bus, any bus was coming. It would be here soon, he thought. He just wanted to go back to his tiny apartment, as far away from Louisa. He sat back down and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from his back pocket. His heart was starting to hurt. Maybe he should’ve declared his feelings in Philadelphia when it was more defined and he was more certain about what he felt compared to now, on this bench, doubting his decision to cross the country for Louisa. He felt his eyes get warm.

“What time’s the bus coming, Son?” An elderly black woman approached next to him holding a bag full of groceries and her purse on her shoulder. She had gray hair and a slightly rotund figure. There were roses embroidered on the pockets of her gray sweater.

“I’m not sure. I’m hoping soon!” Jay responded. He lifted from his seat and offered it to the woman.

“Soon’s about half an hour from now. Plenty of time to rest.” She sat down where Jay vacated. She continued, “Young man, did you drop that piece of paper right there?” She pointed to the paper that had fallen right before Jay’s feet on the pavement.

Jay stared at it for a moment. Perhaps, it was time to let it go. All his harbored feelings, this mistake he wrote on a piece of paper, but he picked it up anyway.

“What is it?” she asked.

“Nothing important,” he retorted. He gripped it tight inside his hand, the disappointment and anger finally unraveling and spreading the length of his arms and to his fingers.

“Must be pretty important for you to hold it like that. And your eyes… you look like your about to cry because you missed the bus!” she smiled, slightly, having already sensed an uncanny sadness about him.

“It’s nothing. It’s just something I wrote for someone, that’s all,” he told her.

“Why don’t you read it to me? I hardly read anymore with my eyes going bad and all. Those books on CD’s is all I get at the public library.” She grabbed her purse and pulled out some folded tissues. She dabbed her forehead and neck with it before she asked, “Why don’t you read it to me? It’s nice to hear something live for a change and not recorded.”

Jay hesitated, “I don’t know how I might react afterwards.”

“That’s alright son. I won’t tell nobody!” she assured him as she took a hold of his hand.

Jay straightened the piece of paper and read aloud.

mistakes to which we are bound—
i want to make them with you.
step down from the cloud we
conceal imperfections and
open up to the stars, clearly
wish upon it our hope, pray
that in our humbly cupped hands,
a blessing lands us a lifetime
beside one another. see past
the errors and flaws so we
may be ushered towards the
light of change, until our
spirits mirror clarity and
we return as promised,
unbound, towards destiny

This had been at the heart of him for many years. It sounded strange hearing it out loud. The words which flowed from him since meeting Louisa for the first time four years ago now instigated the beginning of tears towards the edge of his eyes. He tried to hold back what he could, without showing the elderly woman in front of him.

“The bus is coming. I can hear it, young man! The bus is coming.” She held tightly to Jay’s lifted from her seat and lifted her bag off the floor. She walked up and stood beside Jay. Both stared to the northerly side where they can see the bus finally heading towards their stop.

“Those were some incredible words, young man,” she continued, “as you can see, when you miss the the bus, there’s always one coming right after.” She got her bus pass out of her pocket and looked at Jay once more, “best you save that poem for the next bus coming!”

©Mary Rose Gahon