The Shine Journal

Exceptional Flash, Poetry, Art and Photography!

 

WINNERS OF THE SHINE JOURNAL'S

FIRST ANNUAL

"LET'S SEE YOUR SHORTS CONTEST"

FIRST PLACE

 

 

SOPHIE BACHARD, our first place winner, lives in South London, UK.According to Sophie,she was raised as a feral child by stray dogs on a council housing estate. Recent and forthcoming  works appear in Underground Voices, Forgotten Worlds, Cover of Darkness,Ballista, Rose & Thorn, Poetic Diversity, The Written Word, Shalla Magazine and others. Her website is : http://bachard.wordpress.com

 

Editor's Note: Sophie presents us with an intriguing story that speaks to need, the cruelty that can exist in relationships and anger bubbling just below the surface. It asks whether familiarity really does breed contempt...

 

 

 

 

The Blind Man

by

Sophie Bachard

 

As usual after breakfast Terenti Dmitritch, a young blind man, remained at the table to hear his wife, Sveta, read the newspaper. Although his two children had left for school more than an hour ago, he could still feel the cold lingering brush of their flippant kisses on his cheek and still smell the acerbic mint of their toothpaste.

"Listen to this," Sveta twittered. "Thanks to pioneering techniques developed in a California laboratory, scientists have discovered a cure for blindness."

Terenti gripped the armrests of his chair, as Sveta read the article to him in full.     

"God listens to the prayers of honest men," he said when she'd finished. "At last I'd be able to see your face … and my children's faces. All the faces I've longed to see. And the places I've longed to travel to see."

"Travel? Where would you go?" Sveta demanded.

"I'd travel the world of course … I'd see the entire world," he said.

"You would leave your family at the drop of a hat?"

"You call the cure for blindness a drop of a hat?"

"You know what I mean. Yesterday you were saying how important family is to you. Now you talk glibly of leaving your children fatherless."

"I said no such thing, Sveta. God, how you dramatise. Of course we would take the children with us. Travel would broaden their minds."

"But their lives are here, their school, their friends. You can't uproot them on a whim."

"Again, Sveta, you put words in my mouth."

"What about me? I don't want to travel. I'm happy here."

"Happy? So you're happy in this dead suburb? It stifles me, crushes me." He clenched his fist, as if squeezing the air. "You call me blind but can you not see how blindness has cramped my ambition? Seeing again would set me free from this rat trap to be the man I should have been."

He heard Sveta gasp. "You call our marriage a trap? Shame on you ... " Her tone turned to one of bitterness."Tell me Terenti, what could you be? What ambition are you talking of? You have no trade, no skill. In fact, without us you have nothing. I've given the best years of my life to look after you."

Terenti lowered his fist, his head tilted, eyes closed, as if listening to some distant sound. He thought: how she now reveals her resentment towards me. All these years harbouring it secretly. I've been a liability and now she admits it. He squirmed, feeling as if the possibilities this new cure promised might drive him mad in an instant. Warm filtered sunlight pressed against his eyelids. He felt touched by that light. Where I could go and what I could do. There is no end to it. Contentment here? No, no, that's for the pigs wallowing in the mud- they know no better. To grow content and pot bellied, pah! This life disgusts me now, disappoints me.

He recalled a disappointing intimacy with Sveta just the night before. Her aged corrupted body, he thought … and I soak up her pathetic gratitude in desperation. God how it sickens me so. My blindness all these years, my awful dependency. Dependency yes … yet I retain my youth, my strength, but no need to be so dependent with eyes, no need.  Did I ever truly love her? Perhaps it was just a convenience. But why do I even think this? I could change my life, away, away with this stifling darkness - blindness has suppressed me for too long.

"Terenti?" Sveta's voice, tinged with impatience.

As if emerging from underwater, he broke from his reverie.

"I never knew how much you resented me," he vexed. "But now I can hear it clearly in the timbre of your voice. So I have always been a liability to you? If that is how you feel then I would be happy to go on alone."

Again that sharp intake of breath from Sveta, a faint whistle through the gap in her teeth only he could hear. "What in God's name has come over you?" she cried. "You're talking crazy. What would you do without us after all these years?"

"I would live, Sveta, live." And he made the word live sound as if it meant the Universe. "Do you know how I've longed to live as I should? You call this living? Domestic prison. Blindness prison." He slammed his fists on the table, making the cups and plates clatter. "Yes, yes, I have been a liability to you. But God give me back the power to be the man I was destined to be, the power to stand alone, and I'll show you -"

He stopped as he became aware that Sveta sobbed.

"Sveta, why do you cry?"

"I'm not crying," she wheezed, "I'm laughing you fool."

He could hear fear trapped in her voice. Was she pretending to laugh? Perhaps tears fell that he couldn't see.

"The article was an April fool's joke, Terenti," she lied. "I'm sorry."

Trembling, he sank back in the chair and clutched at his chest, his heart pinching. Blood rushed to his head, as the warmth of light that pressed at his blind eyes mocked his sightlessness. Darkness hemmed him in once more, and he realised that he hated her passionately for wanting to keep him blinded, and hated likewise this life and everything about it and that this is how it had been all along. A cruel disaffection had lurked beneath the surface of false suburban contentment, an ugly violent truth.

Gritting his teeth with resolution, he began to stand up.

"Where are you going?" Sveta asked.

"To hang myself."

"Do you think you can do that without my help?" she asked tartly.

Feeling exhausted by his anger and confusion, he sank back into his chair, moaning.

A conflagration burned in his soul. 

SECOND PLACE

 

 

MAYA ITA is from an undisclosed location (space?). She says she doesn't have very many writing accomplishments to cite, so it's particularly terrific that her story came in second place. She does spend a lot of time writing, reading, drawing, theatre-ing (whatever that means), watching foreign movies and running around aimlessly while her friends watch her in total exasperation. She hopes you will hear more of her at some point, preferably not in a tabloid.

 

Editor's Note: MAYA's story brings us to the very edge - that precipice, if you will, which we all must face. It offers a perspective on what happens as one man's hourglass of life trickles down... 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dividing Line

by

Maya Ita

 

A pleasant cacophony of sounds resounded throughout the man’s fractured skull as his body hit the pavement with a crude thud.  

“Who is that man?!”  

“Paul—is he?—Paul, Paul!” 

“Agh, my groceries…! Let me just move them out of the… no, stop that—”

“Oh my God!”  

The voices slowly became smooth and molten in the brew of his head’s leaking cauldron. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that the little cells in his body were screaming in primordial terror, but the corners of his mind dedicated to reason were slowly beginning to collapse upon themselves, like the contents of an overstuffed closet opened by some unwitting entity. 

“Mama, is Grandpa alright?”  


“Hush. Hush… go stand with your father, dear… oh my God…”  
“I’ll call an ambulance—”

So this is it, said a small boy perched on a sandcastle. Have you written your will yet?  
Of course I have, the man replied. I’m old. I’ve been anticipating this for a while. Just not quite…  

…in this manner? Asked the boy, smoothing a hand over his sandy hair with a grin. Neither did I.  

The man became perplexed. Who are you?  

You should know. I’m quite disappointed. You’ve lived with me your whole life.  

The steaming concoction of sounds fogged the man’s vision, and he tried to focus on the sand. It lay like many gilded little beads beneath the sun’s white-yellow rays, while the green ocean swayed blearily in the corner of his eye.

What exactly do you mean?  
The boy sighed, and slumped so that his chin was perched on his chubby hands. I know most people never actually meet themselves in their lifetimes, but I would have expected more out of us. I tried to make the effort.  

I was busy, the man replied, as an odd realization presented itself. I’m sorry. Would you like me to get to know you now?  

I should think, the boy replied indignantly. It’s not like you have much else to do—you’re practically dead already.

“Thank God, the paramedics.”  
“Mama, who—”

“Hush.”  
“Ma’am, you’re going to have to put those bags aside. We have to roll him through there.”  

“Oh… oh! Of course, of course, I’m sorry.”  
“No need to apologize. Jerry, move it a little to the left.”  


The voices were beginning a slow but steady process of evaporation; the seaside became jarringly brighter, and the man had to cover his eyes. A small, pink cottage could now be seen in the distance, and a young couple walked out of it leisurely, the woman’s cotton-clad waist wrapped in her husband’s arms. They greeted the boy, and he grinned at them like a perfect little angel, assuring them they could continue their unhurried meander through the sand.  


The boy then returned to look at the man before him. We often came here, he said dryly. I hope you remember that, at least.

I do, the man replied, the sea’s delicate foam suddenly making itself visible. But why am I here?  


Always with the questions! The boy huffed.

And what’s wrong with questions?

The boy decided not to reply. Luckily for you, I do have an answer: you’re at a watershed- A  moment where things could go one way or another.  
The man looked at him oddly. I just remember lounging around here in the sun, doing nothing…what about when I graduated from Brown? A slight frown came to the boy’s face.  

"Mama, what just happened?”

“Oh, Ellen! Stop, stop that. Here, I’ll give you a handkerchief and—”

“Get off it! Leave her alone!”  


“No one answered my question… I asked politely…”

For how long will I stay here? The man asked inquisitively.

Um… until you die completely, I’d say. You only have a few more minutes.  


Well, that’s pointless! The man exclaimed.  


The boy gave him a spiteful look. You were expecting the meaning of life, weren’t you?  


Maybe. 


Well, I certainly don’t have that, he said. Make it up yourself or something.  


The man glared. I used to be very annoying.  


Hey, the man upstairs just wants to give you a little peace before you die. The boy shrugged matter-of-factly, kicking a half-cracked shell. Not many people get that chance—for most, He just lets them go.  


Really, now?

Yes, really, the boy repeated. It’s not like they’re bad people or anything. They just don’t have a defining moment. And He’s not one to just conjure those up. 


The man thought for a moment. And so, this is mine?  


Yes. You’re at the moment that, from top to bottom, defines what your life didn’t become, the boy said, collapsing upon the castle.  


“Ellen, it was a full life—” 

“That doesn’t make it any better!”

“Ellen, we’re in the middle of the street, dear—”

“Don’t call me dear! Don’t you dare call me that!”

“Mama, when is grandpa coming back?”

“I’m just trying to help out. Now, stop being hysterical.”


“Mama—”

“I can’t!”  


“Can someone please listen to me?”  


The resonance from outside became smoother and smoother until it was practically textureless, and the man could distinguish nothing save for faint, rounded and identical human voices. The beach scene brightened and brightened; finally, he could see the white shining through from behind, awaiting him. The boy smiled serenely.  


It’s almost time to go. Any last words?  


I… I don’t really know what I should say, the man mumbled in reply.

Why are you even thinking this over? The boy asked. There’s no one to hear it but you.  


The man paused for a moment, eyes fixed on the fluorescent sky. Well, in that case…  


You’re still pausing. 


Let me think!  


Stop thinking!!


 

The voices stopped in a catastrophic motion one would expect to end with a pop—but there was no finalizing sound, only complete and absolute nothing.  


“Has Mama stopped crying?”  


“No, sweetie. Not yet.”  


“Then can you tell me what happened?”  


“Well, Rachael... let me think about it.”  
 


 

 

THIRD PLACE
 
 
CHERYL WILLIAMS, our third place winner, lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband and three children.  She has been writing since the age of 15 and has been published in various journals and magazines.  Cheryl is currently working on her first novel, which is a novel written for teenage girls.  She enjoys ( of course) writing, music, and walking her dog, Bugsy. 
 
Editor's Note: Cheryl's story reflects that each of us longs for something in our lives. Countless of us long to simply know what our lives have meant, the depth of who we truly are and what happens when even this is lost to us forever...
 
 
 
Longing to Remember
 
 
by
 
 
Cheryl Williams
 
 

The old man sat in front of the window, staring out at the white capped waves splashing against the shoreline. He felt uneasy, but couldn’t seem to figure out why. The ocean had become both his greatest solace as well as his greatest angst. He could no longer remember why he was drawn to the salty air, nor did he understand the knot he felt deep in his stomach when he would venture out and let the waves kiss his ankles. It was the feeling of unmistakable longing…but for what he did not know.

His days were filled with people coming and going. They said they knew him, loved him. He would just smile, and wonder at why they had such imaginings…for he certainly had no recognition of them. Even the woman who stayed by his side day and night, cooking for him, crawling into his bed…to him she was a stranger, though a very nice stranger who would give herself to him sometimes when the need became great. He had come to feel a certain affection for her, but she said they had been married for many years. She seemed so sincere in her words, but he could not acknowledge that which he had no recollection of.

And those children that were always coming to see him. They called him “grandpa”, and he would just smile, wondering what they were talking about. He didn’t want to be gruff and hurt their feelings. After all, they were just children, and meant no harm. Most of the time, he’d just play along…and if he was honest with himself, he had to admit he enjoyed playing the part of a grandpa. He loved seeing their faces as he passed out treats and he loved feeling their chubby hands on his face as he would give them a hug. They seemed to know how to make him smile, and that wasn’t a bad thing.

He stood up and stretched, and called out to the woman who said she was his wife, “I’m going to walk down to the water for a bit.”

“Do you want me to go with you, dear?”

“No. I’d rather go alone, I think,” he said, hoping he wasn’t hurting her feelings.

“Okay. Well, don’t go far. Dinner will be ready soon.”

He opened the door and the ocean breeze found him. Immediately that feeling came over him. It wafted in on the breeze like some mysterious force of nature. For a moment he stood still and breathed deeply, hoping for a revelation. But there was nothing.

He walked on down to the beach, and kicked off his sandals. He walked to the water’s edge and watched as the waves lapped his ankles. The foamy crests landed on top of his foot and he stood there watching as the sand sucked away, leaving his imprint there. He heard laughter. A woman’s laughter and it was so real and so vivid, yet he saw nowhere that melodious sound could be coming from… Yet it was a sound so familiar to him. It comforted him in someway. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to remember. But there was nothing.

He began to walk, and he loved the way the cool sand felt as his toes dug deep. A man and woman ran past him, and they were talking and laughing as they ran side by side. He couldn’t help but wonder if he had ever done the same. He saw some kids building a sand castle, and as he walked by, a little red haired girl caught his eye. She was so cute, and had such a happy look on her face. He picked up two pretty shells and gave them to her to decorate her castle with. She looked up at him and said, “Thank you, Sir.”

And then it hit him. Like a beautiful apparition out of nowhere, suddenly she was there…a fiery haired woman with laughter like a song. He closed his eyes and the image became clearer. She stood up on her tiptoes and kissed him softly on the lips before pulling him along with her into the water. He opened his eyes for a moment, and then closed them again quickly before she left him.

He remembered. She had been real, though her name was lost to him. He remembered loving her. He remembered the way she had made him feel back then when he was younger. Even now, just the thought of her had the same effect on him. They had spent many days at the ocean, loving and laughing. He closed his eyes again, hoping her image would come back to him. How beautiful she had been! Now, he knew why the ocean made him feel the way that it did.

But who was she? Where was she? He wanted to see her again. The need overwhelmed him.

His thoughts were interrupted by a voice in the distance. “Dinner is ready, dear! We’re waiting for you!”

He breathed a sigh and headed back toward the house, a feeling of melancholy overtaking him. He wanted to find her. He needed to find her again.

He opened the door to the house and the smell of fresh baked apple pie assailed his senses. The woman who lived with him made the best apple pie. As they ate in front of the sliding glass doors, all previous thoughts became lost to him.

The breeze wafted in upon them as they ate in silence. The feeling overtook him again as he looked out toward the ocean. That feeling of both solace and longing. But once again, he couldn’t remember where the feeling came from. He continued to eat his pie in silence, wishing he could remember his life.

 

 

 

Honorable Mention goes to ELINA ZISMANOVA. Born on Sakhalin Island in the Far East of Russia, Elina Zismanova says she grew up in northern Russia beyond the Arctic Circle.  She moved to the US in 1980 and now lives in Highland Park, NJ  with her husband and four daughters.

 

Editor's Note: Elina gives us a clever little story which talks about something many of us  face as we grow older...and suggests, in at least one case, an interesting solution.

 

 

 

 

FAILURE

 

by

 

Elina Zismanova

 

 

“It has never happened to me before in my life!” He turned on a lamp, sat on his side of the bed and dropped his hands in his lap.

 

“I know, honey, I know. It’s not your fault.” She slipped from under the covers, moved closer to him and enveloped him in a tight embrace.

 

“I’ve been doing it for the last 40 years, and never before did I fail…” His voice trailed off. She leaned her head against his shoulder and held him close.

 

“Darling, you are not a failure, you’re simply tired. You need rest.” 

 

“I could do it when I was tired before. Remember the time when I worked two jobs? But every night when I got home…” His began to sob.

 

“Yes, of course, I remember. You always amazed me. But, you’re under so much stress now.” She rocked him gently stroking his hair.

 

“Oh, I don’t know. I never thought it could happen to me! Me of all people!”

 

 “But, honey, you’re not a young boy anymore, things happen.”

 

 “You think I am old?” His sobbing continued.

 

 “No, no, I didn’t mean that, but, you know, you are going through lots of changes.”  She found a tissue and handed it to him. 

 

“I feel so ashamed.” He blew his nose and rose from the bed.

 

“Darling, don’t be ashamed. I am sure it happens more often than you think.” She put on a robe and stood near him as if consoling a child. “With a change of scenery and a little rest you’ll be your old self.”

 

“Grasping at straws, he asked, “Do you think therapy will help?” and looked to her for answers like an insecure child who required adult reassurance.

 

 “You don’t need therapy! You need a break!” Her voice full of compassion, she massaged his shoulders and back. “Please, don’t get so wound up. It happened to Rob.”

 

“How do you know? He never mentioned it to me.”

 

Surprised he stopped sobbing and looked at her inquisitively. “Yes, it did happen to Rob. I was in their kitchen when Helen brought it up and they joked about it

 

She faced him and began unbuttoning his shirt. “Even Mike didn’t escape it. I heard it from both of his ex-wives.”

 

“Don’t tell me Sydney had it. I won’t believe you.” Astounded, he didn’t resist when she removed the shirt from both of his arms.

 

“But of course! Remember when she went abroad for a year? She was cured within a month. And it never came back.”  


 “Unbelievable! This is the first I’ve heard this! How come you never told me?”

 

“It never came up until now.” She undid his belt, helped his pants off and dropped her robe to the floor. “You don’t talk to a writer about writer’s block until you absolutely have to.”

 

Her nightgown followed her robe.

 

“Now, let’s make some new material, shall we?”

 

 

 

Email TSJ: Editor: Pamela Tyree Griffin

shinesubmit@fastmail.us

Send to a friend

Click the pics to meet the members!