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Short stories

Short stories

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Published by 120shal
Short stories.
Short stories.

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: 120shal on Jan 05, 2012
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08/07/2013

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Spy Story
 
By Tom Thompson
 
Puget Sound, Washington 5:37 a.m.
 Beyond the bed the chill from misty Puget Sound made him want to draw her closer. The easy fatigue of intermittentlove-making had put his mind in the island¶s gray-green fog, a steam-like mask that covered the thick vaulting DouglasFirs that grew from bluff to bluff over the length of the island. The stillness of the floating house was disturbed only bywailing seagulls and ferry horns, all from an uncertain distance.He loved the special sunlight of the Pacific Northwest, the way it seeped in at dawn only to bleed away at dusk,transforming day and night with dramatic and even mysterious effects. He loved the gauzy fog that could hang aroundall day, taking away the sharp edges of everything and making it impossible not to appreciate life¶s never endingambiguities. Depending on his mood, he could have been floating in the center of the world, or, in a different mood,near its edges.Gabriela wasn¶t his wife. Although with only lingering guilt and sadness, he easily remembered Nicole fondly. She haddied less than a year ago. She had been taking a shower, soaping herself down. ³Houston, we have a problem!,´ shehad added crying, ³A scattering of small hard beans!´His own low-voltage adrenal drain and the nearly constant charge of anxiety never met with any sympathy. There wasnever any µclosure¶ of anything, he thought. The cancer¶s discovery just prior to their decision to divorce had destroyedany artificial appetite for hyperbole. Nicole was thirty- nine. At her memorial service, he had surprised everybody byoffering the admission that too much of the drama of their lives had simply been the manufactured kind, drawn fromfear, misperceptions, and multiple misunderstandings. Now she had become a jumbled pool of contradictorymemories and reflections, some warm and happy, all of them tinged with regret, and even now still ripe at times withvisceral grief. Before she died, she had insisted that they finish the divorce process, ³if only for closure,´ she would joke from a morphine haze. But it never happened.His eyes opened, and his body still covered by the down comforter, he knew that within minutes he would be rowingon the glistening, placid surface of nearby Eagle Harbor. It was always easily the best part of a day. No sound but for the quiet rippling water. He craved the tranquility, the solitude, the speed of a feather-like all-cedar rowing scull.He imagined his body carefully balanced on the pencil-like 20-foot long boat. He was obsessed both on and off thewater by the physics of legs compressing, shoulders and arms following, in a brisk and even pull, one hand above theother, pulling on two ten foot carbon-fiber oars, bending with the muscular rhythm of stroke after seamless stroke. Ona good day, he could feel the boat lift, as he began to knife through the water in a harmony of effort that blended bothunmistakable grace with starkly physical grit.In the two months that he had known her, Gabriela had been fascinated by his fever-pitch rowing. She thought that hewas trying to be an exorcist with himself. ³You row as if you¶re fighting something deep inside your soul, Derek,´sheobserved. But he remembered responding only by admitting that rowing was too much like his consulting career. ³I¶malways afraid of getting blindsided.´ He had wondered if her English was good enough to know what he meant. Hewould never know.It occurred to him to make love again, Gabriela¶s preferred beginning to every day they were together. They weren¶tgymnasts, both of them in mid-life, but they both imagined and knew from the outset in Rio that their love-making wasprecious, both tender and passionate. For now Gabriela was falling back into a deep sleep, even as he bumpedagainst her with yet another hopeful erection. His renewed youthful vigor pleased her, but it frankly astonished him.Proof that he was moving on in his life.³
Gusto de estar contigo
,´ she interrupted, and sighed deeply, and then finally turned onto her stomach.They were both tired after the late evening dinner with one of Derek¶s clients, Mitch Ryder, an old friend fromGeorgetown who simultaneously had rescued Derek from university teaching and who had introduced Derek to thebusiness world of international trade disputes, and, more importantly, the need for market research to supportincreasing claims of unfair trade practices. Mitch described himself to be a ³free-trade lawyer,´ but all of his firm¶sclients were U.S. companies seeking protection from foreign competition.They had been at fashionably up-scale Il Terrazo in Seattle, reported to be the site of the best veal picata anywhere,when mid-meal Gabriela had essentially terminated the evening with one sentence: ³Mitch, you have zero listening
 
skills. But aside from that, you¶re a complete asshole. You¶re the essence of why Americans are hated all over theworld! ³ As if to prove her point, Mitch simply turned his whole body toward Derek and continued talking. ³Welcome to your new life , Derek. Time to make some money, buddy. It¶s your turn. Why, you¶re better than special forces! From onecountry to the next. You get the goods on a foreign exporter. We file a lawsuit. WHAM! Better than a cruise missile .Knocks µem out of business. Way to go, killer!´Mitch had laughed about how Derek¶s reports on various companies in South America had been ³fleshed-out´ and³improved upon´ by an army of trade attorneys at the Washington, D.C. law firm, where Mitch had just made partner.Mitch even described in detail his firm¶s talents for building µproduction cost models¶ that µproved¶ foreigners wereselling everything from crayfish to steel at unfair prices in the U.S. market. ³Of course, it doesn¶t hurt that a couple of senior trade analysts at the Department of Commerce are on our payroll,´ ³ he added.Gabriela asked Derek if this ³market research´ was dangerous, and Mitch laughed before mentioning in passing thatthere had been ³a consultant that had been found face-down in a drainage ditch on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.´ Derekignored the implicit warning, although he had grown uncomfortable with the ethical realities of his work. There was nodenying that he had been seduced by the twin promises of a new career, and by what he thought was unconditionallove.The last time they were together Gabriela had wanted to be on top, in control. The spaciousness and ease with eachother had given them the feeling that they could make sense of all the confused and broken gestures of a lifetime. Her skin glowed, not white, or black, or red, yellow, or brown, but seemingly all shades in between. ³The dream of God,´he thought.She stretched her arms above him so that he could see her better, everything from the angled cheekbones framed by jet-black hair, to her tight, compact torso, and even the sculpted legs that came together in a thick black mound, asshort and curly as steel wool. Her climax was lava in the night; Her body surged and in his ears was the roaring of her heart, her voice, and his as well.³Kiss me now,´ she murmured in an accented English that Derek cherished, but had never corrected. As he raised hishead toward her, the glint of a steel wire with handles in each of her hands was unmistakable. She had wrapped itaround his neck in one quick, professional move. His brain convulsed as it wrenched between one world and another.Terrified, Derek threw himself into a frenzy of movement. He flailed desperately, but she was strong, both with handsand arms, and then with legs locked in a scissor-lock around his thighs. His shrieks, if he could have opened hismouth, bubbled beneath the gasping. A desk was turned over and disintegrated as he catapulted into it. With only thethinnest of blood-drawn streamlets on his neck, he fell on top of her, knocking the wind out of her momentarily.The air inside the house was thick and humid. Soon enough the odor of death would mingle with the morning sunlight.
QLRS
Vol. 3 No. 4 Jul 2004
The
Qu
een
of Diamo
nds
 
By Hari Kumar 
 
 Amooma gently picked up the thirteen cards that lay in a loose pile on the low table in front of her. She stacked themup before carefully opening them like a fan. Her eyes narrowed as she studied the cards and rearranged them in her hands. Ace of Diamonds, King of Diamonds, no Queen of Diamonds, Seven of Clubs, Eight of Clubs, no Nine of Clubs... She quickly glanced at what the Joker was. Queen. The Joker was a Queen. Not a single Queen in hand. Nota single Joker. No natural sequence either. Doesn't look good.She studied the faces around her. To her left was twelve-year-old Anju. Angelic Anju. Anju of the wide innocent eyes.The same innocent eyes she had inherited from her father, Amooma's only son. Amooma studied those large eyesthat were fixed intently on the cards in Anju's hand. To Amooma's discomfort, Anju's face did not betray the cards sheheld. To Amooma's right was snooty Sanju, Anju's elder sister."Don't look at me like that," barked Sanju, "I bet you are trying to read my face and guess what cards I have. Ammawarned me you are very good at face-reading," Sanju's dainty eyebrows, which were pierced at the far ends with ivorystuds, curved angrily.
 
"Sanju, don't make up stories," Lalitha said sharply and then turning to Amooma she added in a defensive tone, "Inever said anything like that, Amma, this Sanju, she is very good at making up things.""I know you wouldn't, dear Lalitha. After all you have such great respect for me," the sarcastic stress of the word"great" did not escape Lalitha's ears. She chose to ignore it and shifted her attention to Anju."Come on, Anju," Lalitha said, "your turn. Hurry up.""Talking of stories," Amooma suddenly said, her furrowed face breaking into a kindly smile. "I will tell you one. After all,how can I be a good grandmother if I don't have a story for my grandchildren!" Amooma gave Anju one of her loving-grandmother looks. Anju yelled "Yaay!" excitedly to which Sanju snapped, "Stop your yaaying and play the game, stupid! Can't you seeshe is trying to distract you with her silly story?""All right. If you don't want to hear my stories I won't tell a word," Amooma managed to sound hurt."But I want to hear your story, Amooma. Just ignore Sanju. She is angry with everyone, especially Achan for notallowing her to stay back in Houston and hit the malls with that Blake boy," Anju pleaded."YOU," yelled Sanju as she sprang up to hit her little sister."Sssit," hissed Lalitha at Sanju and then added tapping her forehead resignedly, "I have had it with this girl.""Let's hear what the majority opinion is," Amooma looked straight at Lalitha's eyes."Yes, yes. I also want to hear your story, Amma," an unsure smile quivered in Lalitha's lips. "Please do go on." Anju took the Jack of Spades that was open to her and threw out a Nine of Clubs. Amooma grabbed the Nine before iteven hit the table like a swooping gull grabbing a jumping fish. Sanju glared at Anju with an expression that said,"See, I told you so". Amooma looked pleased as she began, "Once upon a time long long ago in this very same Thiruvananthapuram city,there was a poor and pious pattar, by the name of Ganapathi Iyer. He lived with his young wife and baby in a tiny one-room house just beside the walls of the Sri Padmanabhaswami temple," in spite of Amooma's eloquent narration, shewas deftly rearranging the cards, making new combinations in her mind before throwing away a useless Three."What a dumb game!" remarked Sanju seeing the Three. "We don't play Rummy this way in the US. Whoever heard of no quitting midway!" Sanju slammed the cards defiantly face down and said, "I quit!" Amooma looked at Sanju blankly and turning to Anju she asked, "Anjukutty, whose house is this?""Your house, Amooma," Anju replied innocently."And whose cards are these, Anjukutty?""Your cards, Amooma.""And in my house you play by whose rules, Anjukutty?""Your rules, Amooma.""Anjukutty, tell your sister, if she doesn't play by my rules in my house, I will make her Achan clip the wings of that flateagle in her pretty little passport. She will spend the rest of her miserable teenage life going to college in a sweaty,packed KSRTC bus, and getting groped by lepers and fishermen."Fear flashed through Sanju's eyes before she picked up her cards and said crossly, "Okay, okay. Why should I be theone to spoil your fun?""Aah! Where was I, Anjukutty?" Amooma's smile was back.

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