Volume 3 Issue 2: Obituary Edition

I am an avid reader of obituaries. This may seem to be morbid reading material, I realize, but the truth is that obituaries are about life, not death. Yes, it can be sad, especially when it was untimely. The most heartwarming ones are when the dearly departed are in their late 90s and died in their own sunlit beds, surrounded by thirty-nine great-grandchildren. More highbrow newspapers have obituary writers but the average local weekly relies on those left behind to come up with a brief summary of a complex life. Some obituaries just list the person’s role in society: father, soldier, post master general. Others might include their hobbies: fly fishing, salsa dancing, stamp collecting. When the person has had a long illness, they usually have a long obituary as the people around them have had a while to work on the piece, usually with multiple drafts. When the death was unexpected, then the obituary is usually written with the bare minimal of details as the survivors grapple with their shock and grief. All obituaries include a list of survivors, those who will carry the memory of the departed. For it is for those people that obituaries are written in the first place, those who must remember.

I love reading obituaries written by the survivors because they are more intimate, more engaging, more humorous, even, than if a stranger did the deed. Often these sorts of obituaries are riddled with terrible grammar and word choices but that is part of the charm. These are not professional writers but people who were experts on the deceased. They write with sincerity not with concern about correctness. Obituaries are all about function and very little to do with form.

As a writer, you are being given an insight into human life, details into worlds unknown, right there in your local paper. I suggest that everyone who is feeling fearful of death these days go and find an obituary page. Read the stories of those who have gone before us. Remember that death is not an extraordinary event. It is the final page of all of our stories. What is extraordinary is what happens in the preceding pages.

This week we have two stories, one from the formidable Kelli J Gavin, a frequent contributor to Mercurial Stories. The other one is from yours truly.

(1) Kisses, Ralph by Kelli J Gavin
(2) Inheritance by Tiffany Key

Pages: 1 2 3

Volume 3 Prompt 2

This week, read through your local paper (I actually read my hometown’s small weekly) and find your protagonist. Find a detail from their life that resonates and go from there. Include a link to the obituary at the bottom of your story (it will not be included in your word count).

Submit here or email me your PDF at contact@mercurialstories.com.

Volume 1 Issue 34: Dawn

I used to live on an island far out in the middle of a steely blue sea. During that time, I was in communication with a friend who meant more to me than I meant to him. The imbalance of our relationship was rooted in our very different situations that created very different perceptions of this world. I was off living in on the other side of the planet, teaching kindergartners; he was stuck back in our hometown, working long hours in the service industry without much hope of change.

Nothing captured our imbalance more accurately than a quick exchange of photos we shared, on a morning (my time, evening his time) when I got up before dawn to walk down to the harbor in time for sunrise. Sunrise and sunset were the only moments in the day when we shared the sun at the same time, a fact that felt rather significant then.

So I sent him pictures of the glorious sky, the pinks, purples, oranges, reds painting the heavens as the sun eased itself into another day.

In return, he sent me two pictures he had taken early that morning: one of a very dead possum, ghostly in the camera’s flash, and the other of what I thought was a bowl of flour, being weighed on a kitchen scale.
It turned out that it was not flour.

Two different dawns, two different worlds.
This week, we have seventeen different dawns, seventeen different worlds.

(2) “Static Dawn” by Christopher Roper
(3) “Dawn Awakening” by Rekha Vallippan
(4) “FLASHPOINT” by Louis Kasatkin
(5) “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?” by Elaine Mead
(6) “Awakening” by Kira Writes
(7) “Once Upon A Time At Christmas” by Christy Kunin
(9) “The Avowal” by Debjani Mukherjee
(10) “May the Night Take Me” by Kelli J Gavin
(11) “Lauds” by Kathy Sanford
(12) “The Sun is Rising” by David Ritterskamp
(13) “A Misty Dawn” by Jose Varghese
(14) “First Light” by Sunil Sharma
(15) “The Scammer” by Julie Eger
(16) “Cowboys” by Kristin Ferragut
(17) “Goin’ to Dirt” by The Poet Darkling
(18) “Trapped” by Audra Russell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Volume 1 Issue 29: There was no other way.



Listen to the podcast for Vol. 1, Issue 29.

“There was no other way.”

How do you read that? Do you think of it as the truth, in the way a determinist might? Does it make your existentialistic heart rage?

Or do you get all swoony for stories of fate and destiny?  Soulmates and fortune tellers?
Do you look at the palms of your hands as maps that you must follow?

There was no other way, no choice. How many times have you been in a situation where you thought that there was only one option, one door to open?

This week we have six stories that explore these very questions from Karen Schauber, deb y felio, Francine Witte, Kelli J Gavin, Debjani Mukherjee, and Sunil Sharma.

Enjoy! And please come back tomorrow for the (first ever!) podcast featuring two of these stories, read aloud by yours truly.


Conscious Uncoupling
Karen Schauber

Harold drums his fingers on the gummy Formica tabletop. The thumb leading the procession picks up the pace. A second cup of coffee now cold, stale, and thin, sits untouched. Donna, he grumbles, late again.  He tries convincing himself she’s not worth it; no sense inviting further humiliation.

Time to blow this pop stand, he murmurs. He digs his aluminum chair’s heels in, scraping the mustard yellow linoleum and drives back hard into the wall. The metallic screech raises hairs all around in aggravated protest. The woman with the bouffant updo seated at the adjacent table turns away as if to signal her displeasure. Harold pushes up out of his seat; a loping simian asserting dominance.

At checkout, he twirls a handful of silver coin on the counter. They glitter like whirling dervish. The cashier’s eyes light up with delight. His hand waves away her adulation and the receipt, before slamming the heavy glass door of the diner behind him. There will be no reconciliation today.

Flashing a quick look up and down the street, Harold surveys the oncoming traffic for Donna’s pink Declasse Tornado. He bid pretty low for the beauty at Dixie’s auto auction last June and got her for a steal. Now she’s been forked over in the settlement. The optics are not good. He shields doubt and embarrassment behind cobalt blue Ray-Bans and stands fidgeting in tired cowboy heels a while longer.

He’ll give her a few more minutes. Truthfully, he has nowhere else to go.

Across the street, he slides into the parked dusty brown Chevrolet slumping low into threadbare upholstery and pushes up the visor for a good sightline to watch her arrival. She never does show.

He will say nothing. Bringing up her defiance would be like inviting two bobcats into a burlap bag. Instead, he will call the lawyer in the morning. Another 300 bucks down the drain. There is no other way.


Karen Schauber is a seasoned Family Therapist practicing in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her earlier writing is non-fiction and details three decades of psychosocial and analytical cases. Flash Fiction is a new and welcome adventure for her. Karen’s flash fiction is published and forthcoming in 25 Literary Magazines and Anthologies including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bending Genres, CarpeArte, Ekphrastic Review, Fiction Southeast, and Poems for the Writing: A Textbook. The upcoming Group of Seven Flash Fiction Commemorative Anthology celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters is her first editorial flash venture http://GroupofSevenFlashFiction.weebly.com. In her obsession with flash fiction, Karen also facilitates http://VancouverFlashFiction.weebly.com. She can be reached directly at http://karenschauber.weebly.com


Hidden Discussions
deb y felio

We thought about this carefully
before setting out the plan,
despite the numerous casualties
we assumed people would understand.

How to spin the message
give it a proper reason
without all the baggage
that didn’t sound like treason.

The profits that were gained
came at a price of course,
the progress we obtained
required a little force,      

That’s the story we are telling,
the press we are releasing,
the product we are selling,
the palms we are re- greasing.

We cannot admit that we ignored
the data from the experts
who begged us and implored
not this!  children will get hurt.

Was there something more philosophic,
something else we could have done
maybe less catastrophic
and still we could have won?

Perhaps but then there wasn’t time,
immediacy was the essence —
there were other hills to climb,
give the ratings extra presence.

When someone asks what’s going on
what’s causing all the chatter
reassure them nothing’s wrong
and the issue doesn’t matter.

So set aside the could have beens
and what we’ll never say,
the official statement to the crowd –
“there was no other way.”


deb y felio is a witness poet exploring and writing on the mundane, the miraculous and the under-represented sides of historic and current issues. deb lives and writes in the hills of Boulder Colorado and is active in the Denver Lighthouse for Writers and the Stain’d art community. Her work is published in multiple online sources) and in the print anthologies Hay(na)ku ( Eileen Tabios, editor) and in Minnie’s Diary, A Southern Literary Review October 2018.


Love has rules
Francine Witte

Love has rules

and you can’t change ‘em. I tell this to Harley again and again.

Been like this forever, I say. He ignores me, but still I try.

I sit him in his favorite chair. all fluffy pillows and doilies where the fabric quit.

I say, Harley, you gotta start bringing me flowers. Daisies are my favorite. You can pick ‘em out back.

He is already shifting his shifty feet, big clunky boots that are waiting to walk him straight back to Loretta.

Who I know all about, and the spell she cast over him. With her big brown eyes, her fingers quick as a bluebird. Harley once told me that the first rule of love is to obey your heart and that’s what led him to Loretta.

Well, I gave him that. At least, that time he listened. But if he was gonna stay with me. He would at least have to act sorry. And sorry meant flowers.

So right now, that’s all I want to know. Where the hell are my flowers? He finally says, they are busy out back, and not ready to pick. And I needed to give them time to grow.

I remind him that the rules of love say that time has no meaning. How it seems too long when you’re away from the one you desire.

Speaking of which, are we done here? This is taking forever, he says.

Not for me, I tell him. Time just flies when you’re around.

And that’s when he gets up to leave. Leave me for the very last time.

Days later, at his funeral, I strew his sorry casket with daisies. Nice, big plump ones they sent from the store. I squeeze out a tear, but no one believes it. Not Loretta, who is still angry about the stabbing, not the policeman over there in the corner waiting to take me to jail, and certainly not the newspaper guy, who named me Crazy Daisy and chuckled when I said that I was just obeying the rules of love, and when it’s clear that a love thing is over, you need closure or something, and if only Harley had listened for once, it might have been different.

But since it wasn’t different, really, there was no other way.


Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two flash fiction chapbooks. Her full-length poetry collection, Café Crazy, has recently been published by Kelsay Books. She is reviewer, blogger, and photographer. She is a former English teacher. She lives in NYC.


No Other Way
Kelli  J Gavin

When she left him, it wasn’t a moment too soon.  She had stayed for far too long but couldn’t imagine her life any other way.  She felt stuck. Stuck where she lived. Stuck in this situation. Stuck with him. She needed to get away, but where would she go?

5 years together was a long time. A lifetime. An eternity when you didn’t want to be there. 5 years was never something to brag about. 5 years meant nothing except for 5 years of insults, 5 years of assault, 5 years of beatings. He raised his hand to her 4 days after they were married. 4 whole days. But of course he didn’t mean it. He was a passionate man, and she had upset him so much when she wore that short skirt and too much makeup for his liking. She was told she was married and didn’t need to dress and look like that anymore. She was told that if she ever did it again, she would have more than a busted lip.

When stitches were needed the first time, it was because she was a half hour late getting home from work.  A half hour. She stayed late to earn some more money to pay for a nice birthday gift for her husband. She did it for him. And how was she repaid? With a gash three inches long splitting her eyebrow.  She told her friend she tripped and ran into the open front door. She smiled and tried to joke about her clumsiness. She was anything but clumsy. Didn’t she use to be a graceful dancer? Her friend knew she was lying. This was the first of may lies.

She lost the baby when he kicked her so hard in the stomach after she decided she wasn’t cooking dinner that night.  She felt so sick all day and had no appetite to eat. Maybe a few crackers later if she was up to it. She had plenty of leftovers to serve him, but leftovers were never good enough.  How dare she feed him “food that shouldn’t be served to animals!” She ran when she saw the rage in his eyes and balled fists that were never going to relax. The running made him more angry. She didn’t want to make him angry. She realized that too late as she was running from him. Running to save herself. Running to save the baby.

The baby was not saved. But she was. That night, she told the doctor in the ER how many times he had hurt her. She knew it was the last time. That night, her mom and friend packed up all of her belongings. She would never return to him. She was ready to leave town, if only for a short time. But she knew she had to leave. She would create distance. So goodbyes were said and tears were shed. There was no other way.


Kelli J Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company.  Look for Kelli’s first book of short stories and poems in 2019. You can find her work with The Ugly Writers, Sweatpants & Coffee, Writing In a Woman’s Voice, The Writers Newsletter, Writers Unite!, Academy of the Heart and Mind, The Rye Whiskey Review, Spillwords, Mercurial Stories, 121 Words, HerStry, Ariel Chart, The Basil O’Flaherty, PPP Ezine, Southwest Media, Otherwise Engaged, Pleather Skin, Paper.Li, The New Ink Review, among others.

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin.blogspot.com


 A Lesson**
Debjani Mukherjee

From a very early age Kritika was attuned with the admiring looks in the eyes of her fellow male classmates. A blooming rose always gains the attention of the bumble bees. Kritika understood this fact right in her early teen but never indulged those bees in her life. When she walks through any public place, few heads always turns following her motion just like the sunflowers which turn their head following the direction of the big bright fiery sun and why not!  Kritika’s beauty and charm is no less than the monarch of the universe. With Her creamy white competition, hazelnut eyes, rosy plump lips and perfect figure she looks no less ravishing than a star. She is now habituated getting love proposal almost every week which she obviously turns down. Her close friends have great fun times discussing about the number of new Romeo’s she earned till date. Kritika smiles at their comments but never indulges the discussion. She is more happy discussing books and music instead of these meaningless things.

Kritika is now twenty-one and studying law, nourishing the dream in her eyes to become a top corporate lawyer one day. Her fan following in the law school is no less than the past but her reserved personality leaves her male friends with no option than to whiff cold breathes into their chest. With age people develops ego and with the fear of getting humiliated they learn to act with patience and understanding. The male acquaintance of the law college thus refrain themselves from proposing Kritika as her reticent personality and quite nature bespeaks the message “not interested’ in bold letters.

But there are always few people in this queer world who believes in the never give up theory. Subhash is one of them. No matter how well the fact is acknowledged in the premises of law school that Kritika is not a girl to wish for, Subhash is not ready to give up. He is happy to act like some ambitious soul alluring himself with this impossible dream, which has every chance to get rejected in near future. He sets his voyage for the mission marry Kritika with the best whack of his. He is a CA, already running a farm successfully and joined the law graduating course to get more clients of big companies. He is elder than most of the students in the college and of course already successfully earning good money. So he has got some respect among the students. He is a little short in height and his eyes are ornamented with spectacles. His fair skin goes red whenever he becomes a part of a college canteen debate as he has a tendency to prove his point with utter conviction. He became a member of the same group in which Kritika dwells and keep finding ways to praise and support Kritika in anything and everything.

Kritika understands the meaning of every gesture Subhash performs from passing her the canteen tea glass before anyone else, paying all the food bills of the group voluntarily, talking always in support of Kritika, she surely understands it all. Subhash is not leaving any corner untouched but Kritika was nowhere to give in for any of his efforts. As somehow these constant endeavors of Subhash to impress her makes her feel very uneasy and embarrassed. One day he even visited their house by surprise and chatted with her mother for long which Kritika didn’t like at all.

Theirs is an evening college as many people like Subhash who are already established in other field intend to pursue the law graduation as an add-on qualification to enrich their portfolio. After the classes they walk back home in a group. Some of them who come from far walk to the bus stop to catch a bus. Some take the bus to the railway station to board a train and some like Kritika whose house is just at the walking distance walks back to her house. And here something Subhash does every evening which absolutely disgusts Kritika. Subhash who stays at the next town comes to college riding his bike and every day after the classes are over and the group starts walking together to a point where they gets apart for their respective destinations Subhash pushes his bike along with them saying that he want to be with the group for more. But the true reason is known to all which makes Kritika so embarrassed that she wants the ground to split and submerge into it.

That evening after everyone leaves for their own destination Subhash takes out a book from his bag and gave it to Kritika for a read saying “it’s a great book please read it. I know you will love it.” Unwilling in heart Kritika takes the book as it is not mentioned as a gift , though she could see the shining brand new cover of the book “Thakur Barir Andormohol” ( the inner life of the Tagore house) by Chitra Deb. But as it is not mentioned as a gift, turning down a good book like this seems illogical so she takes it without any word. After reaching home she opens the book to read and discovers a single line written on the empty page at the beginning of the book. “Gifted to the person I love” no to or from mentioned just a line which says it all but leaves her with no option to confront it. Kritika got extremely angry, after being an embarrassment for her every evening now this man got the guts to pronounce it loud too!! She is absolutely disgusted and wants to teach this educated idiot a fitting lesson for all his calculated steps towards this disgusting climax.

After few days Kritika gives the book back to Subhash, thanking him casually she proceeds to her class for the lecture. Subhash gets disheartened by not receiving any reply from Kritika. May be the message was too passive in manner he thought. He was going to put the book in his bag when a folded paper slipped to the floor from the folds of the book. Subhash’s heart started racing, he could almost hear the lub dub repeating wildly inside his chest like a hammer. He grabbed the paper and sat on the staircase at the end of the huge corridor of the collage and as he expected it’s a letter.

My Love, 

                 You are the most beautiful thing ever happened to me. I fell in love with you right at the moment when I saw you for the first time. I never believed in love at first sight but see it happened to me. The intensity of my love is at a constant raise. Increasing with the waves of time my days and nights are getting more consumed by your thoughts.  My imaginations come to an end when I think how my life would be, if it’s not with you! I could only weave the pictures of my future around you. I know you too love me with the same intensity so let’s paint a life together with the colour of each other’s life.

                                                                                Yours and only yours

                                                                                            Kritika “

Subhash is so happy that he couldn’t even realize where he is and all his emotions of the joy of victory got sketched on his face instantly . The best girl in the college is now his. He got what others never could. He surely is the best so the most beautiful girl in the college is now his girlfriend and may be the would be wife. When he will walk with Kritika the other boys of the college will burn their eyes with envy. Having a girlfriend as beautiful as Kritika is no less than a dream come true. He was always an achiever, minting money with both hands in so early edge he was always way ahead than others. So if not him, then who could win the princess of the college!! Certainly Kritika couldn’t have found a better boyfriend than him. Along with the high bank balance in this early age now he has achieved the most beautiful girl also surely he will be the talk of the town for the rest of his life. He thoughts kept dancing on his eyes but then something caught his eyes at the other side of the page. It’s just a short note of one line. “P:S- I Love you Subho from the bottom of my heart.”

Subhash felt as if he missed his heartbeats for a while. The happiness of achieving the best girl in the college and then discovering it’s just a myth left him as a stone on the stairs. Kritika who was watching him from far hiding behind the door of the class smiled a little. She hurried to Subhash as if she didn’t notice his previous happiness and now this acquit disappointment flashing on his face. She said “Oh! Subhash I forgot an important paper inside the book please can I have it back?” she said it in one go pretending to be worried losing the paper.

Subhash stretches out his hand holding the letter, with a bewildered look in his eyes which gave Kritika an indomitable urge to laugh out loud but she kept her face straight and came back to her class room with the mock letter in her hand which she wrote to some nonexistent Subho just for this purpose. She was content with the thought that she taught the self-obsessed man with huge superiority complex a good lesson. She never liked Subhash flaunting his money in the canteen as if none of them could afford the snacks and those high volumes arguments of his where he never cared to listen to others view absolutely irritated her like anything. What did he thought Kritika will be allured with his show off!! She went to her seat wearing the smile still on her lips. She knows she did it brutally but what to do there was no other way.

(**Note from the editor: This story did exceed the word limit but there are exceptions to every rule.)


Debjani Mukherjee
is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines.


The monster slayer
Sunil Sharma

The  trail goes to the cave of the monster. Slay your father-killer there.

The Old Seer to Kelly, the reluctant warrior.

The man with the golden locks and eyes of a poet would have rejected the challenge earlier but priorities change.

Then the nagging question: Why did it happen to me?

He was determined to punish the elusive beast.

As per the directions of the Wise One, young Kelly undertook a long and dangerous journey; the Wide River and stars, only compass. There were craggy mountains and treacherous paths; swift streams and fatal falls. A misstep—you are dead meat.

Last part, most testing!

The warning sounded true.

As Kelly approached the final trail, things grew strange. The cave did not look formidable or dangerous but rather beckoned!

An outside garden with a murmuring brook. The trees were in bloom and birds sang merrily. The seductive aroma of the exotic flowers and the soft breeze lulled the brave quester into sleep.

Waking up, he found himself tied on a rough table.

And a host that announced most cheerfully: Welcome, my lunch!

Kelly had never seen such an odd creature. The huge and unwashed hybrid stank badly. Bones littered the entire floor. The kitchen fires blazed, giving some light and warmth in that damp place. Dismal sight!

The giant reassured the victim gleefully: Do not be afraid. I kill my victims without pain. Only problem, I am bit slow for their liking.


The monster got excited by the scent of fear: I thought you were brave but I can sense terror. Mortals! Easily scared!

Kelly was repulsed by the hollow laughter.

—Not fair! Kelly was calm.


—This uneven contest.

—Life! Never fair!

—You are philosopher also.

—I reflect. Observe things.


—Humans love to invent their own monsters!

Kelly was astonished.

—A thinking man’s monster. Not a complete brute!

—Fairy tales! Why do you create appalling images of the other species? Why this need for terrifying aliens?

—Because the unknown is dreaded. Part of evolution. Kind of processing threats in great images.

—Nice thinking, Kelly!

—Know my name?

—I can read the tattoo.

Kelly became quiet.

The fiend said: Monster is created to make you feel human, superior, master.

Kelly nodded.

They looked at each other for long.

— I like you, Kelly. Here is a game: Run for freedom. After an hour, I come after you. If you reach the border before, you win. Now run.

They agreed.

Kelly ran against the wind and crossed the border. Monster kept his word and let him live.

… Having survived the ordeal and returning home happily, Kelly remembered suddenly: Father killed by a beast-cum- cannibal.

He felt angry.

He was there to slay him, not escape.

Killing the giant, not easy.

Kelly knew he was to overcome fear and go back to the cave only.

There was no other way!


Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:


For more details, please visit the blog:



Volume 1 Issue 20: Hometown

Welcome FL Amelia Island 2008 WBlog

With this week’s prompt, I admit, I was inspired by the fact that I had been reconnecting with some of my old friends from our rather unique hometown (unique in that it belongs to us) and thinking about how even on the other side of the planet, the place still has a hold on me. This is not a unique feeling, I know, which is why it makes for an interesting prompt. Of course, several people commented that they did not have a hometown, something they share with my own children who have been dragged all over this mad world by their restless mother. This has resulted in my children being envious of my roots, of having a shared place to remember. Sure it is just a place but our hometowns (or lack of them) shape us, more than we would probably like to admit.
This week, we have a collection of excellent hometown tales from Sunil Sharma, Lesley Crigger, Kelli J Gavin, Elena Bitner, Julie Wakeman-Linn, and myself.

Such diverse perspectives on an idea that many of us take for granted as being a universal experience, I am sure you will enjoy reading these as much as I did.

Thank you to all the contributors and be sure to return next week for a new prompt on Monday.

Memories of a small town
Sunil Sharma

Maxim Gorky in north India!

Back then, Ghaziabad was liberal and art loving. Tree-lined roads; quaint bungalows; big parks; schools, colleges and hospitals—an ideal address.

It was his hometown—neat, ordered, tranquil, educated, liberal, middle class.

And truly cosmopolitan.

On that evening, returning home, he found a solitary bookshop on the Station Road. And the Master there!

His life-long tryst with the Russians began that instant. Every fortnight, the young man would trudge there for a Pushkin, Gogol or Chekov. Gave tuitions, saved money for the classics; hard cover and well-produced, yet affordable for a lower-middle-class student, doing an M.A in English.

Exhilarating encounter!

The shop slowly became a magnet for the enthusiasts: over cups of chai, debates over the Immortals and comparisons with the French and the English were conducted. The translated books in Hindi and English, mainly from Russia, were displayed there, along with some Hindi magazines and stationery items. The owner was a failed writer and wanted to make a living by selling literature of a foreign country in a dusty town, 28 km away from Delhi, the Capital of a post-colonial country.

The literate town did not disappoint the bookseller.

Ghaziabad was getting urbanized and industrialized fast in the 1990s. A bunch of idealists tried surviving in that bleak space by staging a Brecht and/or holding poetry sessions, Ghazal evenings, painting exhibitions, some place or other.

It was pure oxygen!

The initiates would discuss Kurosawa, Ray, Fellini or Osborne.

Often, international film shows were held through a film club; being artist was bliss for the out-of-the- job dreamers, young rebels!

A lean and intense man, Raghav Verma was deeply attached to his town: Still small— every street, face and café, familiar. Neighbours=family. People smiled at the strangers.


Comfortable zone!

You truly belonged there.

… death of Pa altered things forever. He had to seek a job. The town suddenly grew very small and stifling! No opportunities. He bid a teary farewell to a place whose winds and waters had nourished a yearning soul and body…akin to bidding goodbye to a poor mother!

Reality sank in. He left for Mumbai in the late 1990s and found a calling as a screen- play writer. He got money and recognition in a mega city of million aspirations.

Ghaziabad became a receding landscape. A different age!

On a recent visit in 2018, after more than a decade, he found his hometown transmogrified!

Ghaziabad had grown heavy and ugly. The old lanes brimmed with shops. Each street was a mini-market. Malls, multiplexes, bars.

Ghaziabad— an open baazar. Fancy cars. Bikes. Pizza and Big Mac outlets. Beauty- massage parlours.


Where is his Ghaziabad?

Small becoming big; big, bigger; a mad race!

He searched for old cultural landmarks—the bookshop, old cafés, theatres.


Ads of deep discounts; happy hours and sales, in every corner; everything was on sale.

Sadly, Gorky has been exiled by Porsche…forever!


Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.

Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:


For more details, please visit the blog:



More Secrets Everyone Knows
Lesley Crigger

The trouble with small towns is they’re full of secrets. Secrets the entire community knows but never admits to outsiders.  

Everyone knows Deputy Dodd sells moonshine from the trunk of his cruiser. Moonshine Otha Queen distilled on the back 40 of his crabgrass choked property. Everyone knows because everyone buys it. Including the pastor that crawls up into the pulpit every Sunday morning and preaches a 45-minute sermon on which new and exciting way you’re going to hell, not limited to hard rock and diet Pepsi. The same pastor that dons a white hood once a month, strikes a match and burns a cross. If you ain’t white you don’t drive into Endicott and you sure as hell don’t do it after dark on a Saturday night. And for the love of God don’t drive a shitty Honda with all probability of breaking. And if you are white, you don’t talk about what happens to shitty Hondas that break down on dark roads and you don’t mention what was in the barrel that washed up the Shawnee River last winter.

 Reigning consensus is Ashley Greer was drunk or on a methamphetamine high when her two-year-old daughter drowned in a shit-stained toilet. Some people, in hushed voices, questioned if she did it on purpose. Months later all people could do was remember the rambunctious, curly haired nymph with a gleam in their eye, shake their heads and wonder.  

 More secrets everyone knows. 

The biggest secret that plagues a small town is the one they tell each other. That they care. Sure, when Ashley’s kid turned face up in a bowl of piss, the community threw an auction in the name of charity. Said whether Ashley was negligent or even responsible, the child deserved a proper funeral. Besides, Nathan, the child’s father was a stand-up member of the community. A volunteer firefighter-no less.

Old ladies baked cakes, crafters made high priced-shit, local vendors donated goods. The community came out to show support-. Mostly they spent their money and talked behind each other’s backs all while smiling at each other’s faces. Told Nathan how sorry they were. Told each other they’d never be as blind as he was. Wasn’t he at least a little responsible? He knew Ashley had problems. How could he leave a child in her care? Well, she was his mother, she had rights.    

More secrets everyone knows.

Meanwhile lives are being rearranged, destroyed. There was a time and place when a light could have been shed on such a secret, but people kept it hid instead. Or did they? Was it ever a secret? Was it ever hidden? Or just kept within the family, within the community?

That’s the trouble with small towns- they’re full of truths.  


The Grass That Sways
Kelli J Gavin

When the grass sways from the mighty wind

And hits my ankles and brushes my legs

I fondly remember a simpler time when

I thought being outside was my job

When mom and dad would send us out

To play all day and return for food

Maybe even water and an afternoon rest

Under the big oak tree in the front yard

When dirt was something to seek

And I knew all the birds by name

Because they kindly called out to me

Each morning to come and play

My sister and I would join in the fun

A few neighbor kids by our side

We would run and play and sing and

Shout and chase each day away

In the country the freedom we had

To explore and create new adventures

Each day led to the promise of sleep

Every night our heads hit the pillow

I now find myself lingering outdoors

And seeking out the wind and the rain

The sun and even the shade because

I miss what I had when I was a child

Nothing to distract me from the fun of

Each new day when dishes and laundry

And meals seemed to be ready for me

I know it was all done by my mom

I thank her for enabling my sister and I

To take in all the sights and sounds

Of which our country home offered

To us in abundance each and every day

Our mom insisted that we be kids

And enjoy all the nature that surrounded

Us on every side and in every season

Oh how I loved my job as a kid


Today I will explore

Today I will walk in the fields

Today I will pick flowers

Today I will enjoy the grass that sways

27629333_10216219743193098_42171232456058480_oKelli Gavin lives in Carver, Minnesota with Josh, her husband of an obscene amount of years and they have two crazy kids. She is a Writer, Professional Organizer and owns Home & Life Organization and a small Jewelry Company. She enjoys writing, reading, swimming, and spending time with family and friends. She abhors walks on the beach (sand in places no one wishes sand to be), candle lit dinners, (can’t see) and the idea of cooking two nights in a row (no thank you).

Find Kelli on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @KelliJGavin

Blog found at kellijgavin@blogspot.com

If You Listen Hard Enough
Elena Bitner

If you blink, you’ll miss it. Flybys on the highway who never know of the things that happen just beyond that single overpass exit. Some nights, it’s nothing at all. All three thousand, eight hundred, and thirty-five of us find our way to bed without anything more exciting than a parking ticket for leaving your car running outside the Allsups.

But some nights, like nights where the moon is just a bit too full, or the comets fly by just right, you’ll hear it. Children screaming because their momma’s being beaten half to death in front of them and nobody cares enough to call the police cause she’ll just be right back over there next week. Momma’s got nobody else, you see. Her family over in Ranger already abandoned her for shacking up with a married man. Nevermind that his wife left him years ago.

On some nights, like Friday nights when most of the dads are so far into their eighteen packs that they forgot their kids were supposed to be at home by ten, you’ll hear some pretty interesting sounds. You’ll hear music out in the desert and a young girl’s voice singing along with some of the boys. Boys she’s known all her life, boys she lets touch her wherever they want to cause they make her feel loved. Boys that’ll protect her from anyone else who tries to touch her, who’ll let her get good and drunk before they try and do it themselves. That way she’ll be able to feel alright about it in the morning.

If you listen hard enough, you might even hear her crying while they do it.

On church nights, that’s when you’ll hear the laughter. The sounds of family. Everyone’s spent their Sunday morning listening about the evils of the world, so they hold their breath and listen to the quiet night and think twice about that next beer. On nights like that, you’d almost think you could call the place home. Almost.

You there on the highway, you should probably just keep on driving, though. Our Allsup’s got only the bare essentials and the gas is a hell of a lot cheaper over in Abilene. You should just go ahead and blink. Close your eyes and don’t try to listen too hard as you pass, either. Cause if you listen hard enough, you’ll hear the devil walking through the streets of my hometown. Nope, you should probably just keep on driving.

Author’s Bio:
My name is Elena Bitner and I work in the education field in West Texas. I am from humble roots in East Texas and the first in my family to make it as far as I have, so I have come a long way from that hometown. I have a master’s in Creative Writing where my thesis was centered on exposing the atrocities of Southern neglect, abuse, and substance addiction.


SoDak Snow and Sky
Julie Wakeman-Linn

“We’ll need the license plate number for your parking pass,” the nurse said to Bridget.

 A static electric smell filled her mother’s hospital room. Bridget, desperate for fresh air, said, “I’ll get it.”

Outside a squall had begun. The weather had been clear when the airport shuttle dropped her off. Now a gauzy curtain of snow blurred the parking lot.

With her mom’s car in the far corner, Bridget’s plan to read the license plate from inside wouldn’t work. Running into a snowstorm wasn’t optimal, but preferable to doing nothing in the hospital room.

The snow gusts raced toward the south like they wished to pass over South Dakota on their way to Oklahoma without stopping. An inch or two of snow had accumulated already on the sidewalk. Bridget snapped her khaki safari jacket and stepped outside.

Under the hospital’s awning, Bridget gulped in fresh air, but iciness filled her mouth. She raised her hands to breathe through her bare fingers.

Stepping off the curb, her footing slipped and she wind-milled her arms to stay upright. A blast blew up her sleeves. The cotton of her jacket stiffened, trapping ice crystals next to her knit shirt.

Millions of crystal shards—none of them pretty snowflakes—showered her arms, her shoulders, her hair.

The howling wind carried the sound of an 18 wheeler passing by on Interstate 29. No bird sounds at all, only the lonely truck.  Her Serengeti was never empty of calling cape doves and buzzing grasshoppers. South Dakota wind blasted like it could peel her skin off her cheeks.

“You need some help?” A bass voice called.

At the corner of the building, a guy in a snowmobile coverall held a shovel in one hand and a cigarette in the other. His gloves draped out of a pocket.

“I’m fine.” She didn’t want any help from anybody. She’d managed her life for the whole time since she left South Dakota and she would keep doing so.

The snowfall, coating the car in gray-white dust, made the license plate unreadable. She brushed it clear. MSL. Her mother hadn’t changed her vanity plate, a last birthday present from Bridget’s dad.

Her hands, covered with the wet refreezing crystals, burned. Her breasts ached under her jacket and her knit shirt. In Tanzania’s heat, she’d wear only her sandals, underwear and her blue linen sundress.

Dingy clouds muffled the sky from the western horizon to the eastern. In summer these dark clouds would spawn tornados. Serengeti clouds were cumulous, enormous puffs of white sailing by on their way to the Indian Ocean.  Over the savannah, some part of the sky was always blue.

Weighed down by these January clouds, Bridget reached the entrance and brushed her chafing hands over her hair, her arms, and her thighs to knock off the snow. She gripped her travel pack strapped around her waist to feel the cardboard edge of her airline ticket. She wouldn’t stay in Sioux Ridge long.

Author’s Bio:
Julie Wakeman-Linn edited the Potomac Review for a dozen years. Over twenty short stories have appeared in lots of wonderful journals. Her next one is forthcoming from Evening Street Review.

Walk On By

Tiffany Key

My aunt met me in the lobby of the hotel.
“We’ll walk, if you don’t mind. I need to stretch my legs before the service.” We walked past the golf shoe store, past the speciality bookstore for birdwatchers, past the ice cream parlor on the left and the one on the right, past the weird drug store that never took down their Christmas decorations, past the old bank that was now a tapas restaurant, past the old church that was now a bank.

“You know, I had just had lunch with your mother, right before the accident. I had been telling her to get that tail light, well, you know your mother, she never could listen”. My aunt dabbed at her eyes with an old tissue ball that she pulled from the inside pocket of her purse. There were still three blocks to go until the funeral parlor.

At the intersection, we waited for a line of log trucks to pass, the traffic light swaying as stray branches brushed against it. My aunt, nodding towards the Episcopal Church catty-corner, said, “You know, they got themselves a woman priest in there. Half of the congregation was in an uproar but then what were they going to do? They are too good for the Baptists and not religious enough for the Catholics. They would have been welcomed by the Methodists but they’ve also got a woman preacher. Of course, there’s the Presbyterians but everyone always forgets about them.”

The light changed and we walked on the disheveled sidewalk, grey and white hexagons cracked and displaced by knotty oak roots. We would jump from grey to grey as kids, avoiding the white ones along with the cracks, not wanting mothers with broken backs. To our right, the haunted Victorian house where my friend’s brother rented the attic: we would sit on his splintered balcony, smoking pot while her brother and his friends played their guitars poorly and talked about what they were going to do once they got out of this town.

We passed the old hospital that was now a law firm and headquarters of our State Representative. Across the street was the old high school that was now the school board and, right next door, in the sprawling white colonial revival house, was the funeral home, crowded with people there to bid farewell to my mother. My sister was inside already, making sure our mother’s pearls were laying properly.

My aunt slowed to a halt, looking at the line of cars trying to turn into the narrow drive.
“What a mess”, she said, then looped her arm through mine. “Had they put the new boardwalk down at Main Beach when you were here last? Shall we go have a look?”
And like that, we walked down toward the ocean, past my dead mother and her dead sister, past the alligators in the marsh, past the recreation center with the new heated pool, until there was nothing before us but the horizon.

About the author:

Tiffany Key is a linguistic navigator and amateur anthropologist who lives in a decent-sized closet with four fierce contenders near a shallow sea. Her work as appears and disappears here and there. She records cognitive flights of fancy at:



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