Tag Archives: short stories

Queen of hearts

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Boldness can take you to unpathed trails and to undreamed lands, transferring all your yesterdays into all your tomorrows in one fell swoop. For we are such stuff made on dreams, hopes, and wishes however far-fetched they may seem. You live only once, so why not roll with it as you wish? And this touch of adventurism can make your soul emboldened to do things that you wanted to but couldn’t because the grit buried under the flotsam and jetsam of your aborted dreams and discouraged expectations begins to bloom in your secret garden of the mind.

With the mysterious aura of haze vanished beyond the endless horizon, Judy suddenly felt a sense of destiny filled with adventures in the wild that set its unsullied beauty and quiet sovereignty apart from the crowded theaters of Reality where spectators and players hoot and holler for the most beautiful, powerful, and successful only she could not feel allied. And within this sanctuary of nature, this wondrous sense of go-aheaditiveness felt real but unbelievable. Rufus, Ben, Raphael, and Judy were all together in this joint adventure that was forming a kind of mental alliance among them, which was also felt but unseen. Forget Reason! For their faculty was more physical than metaphysical, less reasoning than instinctive in response to any such fantastical experience that delivers a burst of sensation to their beings spreading like a prairie fire sweeping every part of their bodies.

“Gee, I wonder what it was. I know there’s something in the air because my gut feeling never failed me,” said Raphael, the Talker. “Yeah, I felt it too. Otherwise, the dog wouldn’t have barked at the thing in the air so persistently. You know, dogs and cats have special eyes to see ghosts and things we can’t. But whatever that was, it’s gone. Let’s get on with it and leave.” With this sententious statement, Ben started climbing up the saddle that was placed a bit too high for his stocky figure on his Californian mustang. His artistic inclination made him a believer of supernatural beings, but his work experience as an itinerary musician made him a practical dreamer with a view to match in the real world. But of course, his ability to cope with existential strains of daily life paled by comparison when it was juxtaposed with Raphael’s shrewdness pleasantly blended in his avuncular charm. While Ben was struggling to make it to the top of the saddle, Rufus was being pensive about the present and the future with a dream to make it big with the Aztec gold so that he could set up his younger brother Joe with a general store in their hometown. He was secretly in agreement with Ben that they should just forget about the free magic show to continue their journey for the buried treasure. My dear reader, you should not regard Rufus as a materialistic, footless young man hell-bent on being rich because once you get to know him more, you will want to be his best friend. Must I go further to affirm his character reference?

Judy was looking and listening to this funny trio like Artemis, the goddess of hunting and the Moon, watching the comedy of the mortal from the top of Mount Olympus and thought they were indeed a curious band of wayfarers in quaintly old-fashioned attire and even more antebellum deportment and parlance, which piqued her historical curiosity feeding on her love of good old Westerns and stories of pioneers and gunslingers. To her big beautiful brown eyes, Rufus, Ben, and Raphael looked just like the characters from one of those Westerns starring Clint Eastwood, James Garner, Steve McQueen, and Lee Van Cleef. No, not John Wayne, Paul Newman, or Henry Fonda because they possessed no natural screen charisma surrounding their physical appearances as well as the mental force that could only be generated by real-life experiences and natural endowments. Judy was hooked on these characters still discussing and arguing about what to do next in front of her without regard to the pretty lass. If these men were a bunch of perverted thugs, she could have and should have known it at the first sight of them because she prided herself on her Sixth Sense inherited from her mother who was also spiritually gifted. All seemed intriguing and fascinating, thought Judy, who was on one-weeks’ vacation from her job as a secretary at a busy law firm. So, she approached the trio now all on horseback to offer herself as their scout. This gotta be fun. Judy secretly entertained the thought of being a frontier scout and thought her course had already been set for the Wild West.

Musketeers to the Rescue

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The view from Santa Teresa Loop is pleasantness itself; a small village down below looks never more affable when seen from high above the bustling daily activities of everyday busybodies, a continual fugue of discordant voices, lies, schadenfreude, vitriolic criticisms, empty promises, false valuations, vain hopes, resident disappointments, and crushed dreams orchestrated by competing for grand subjective narratives, all fragmented and adrift. Judy looks at the world below her feet as if she were one of the Olympian gods who used to get a kick out of looking at mortals and making fun of their lives as though to be seen in a great amphitheater. That’s how Judy is entertaining herself now, alone with her faithful canine companion Nena that is also entertaining itself now, for none other dogs than itself has a privilege to enjoy the view, as it were because it’s the only dog in sight at the moment. The eyes have a feast of the spectacular world to themselves, and the bodies are imbibed with the fresh breath of unsullied beauty of rugged nature, which welcomes the divine duo with iridescent rays of sunshine and refreshing cool air from the West Wind. Readers, it’s a sight to behold, for they are gripped in a paroxysm of ecstasy. Thereby sit Judy and Nena on a rock like statues of Artemis and her wolf, smiling at the world below them.

Judy changes an object of her optical pleasure to a new stimulus from a different direction where the images of men suddenly materialize. She takes her antique binoculars belonging to her father, grandfather, and great grandfather, kept in her family’s cabinet of curiosities for two centuries. There are three men on horseback from the afternoon haze of the wild plains yonder approaching to the trail that leads to the loop, where the earthly Artemis and her canine companion are. Looking through the lens, the threesome looks like they are doing a periodical reenactment of the Wild West Frontier; the one in Clint Eastwood-like western outfit with a cowboy hat, a long-haired hippy dressed in ballroom attire, and a Sombrero-wearing avuncular man with a mustache. They look rather out-of-time, but nonetheless affable, attractive even because of the piquant charm emanating from this oddly quaint trio suddenly materializing before the very eyes of ever-inquisitive Judy. It’s like a movie, thinks Judy, while still wrestling with her Reason to figure this mirage out of nowhere, trying to grip a sense of reality, which she is not good at. For Judy lives in the air, her mind forever flitting on the arc of imagination with a belief in magic, legends, fairies, and ghosts… She dwells in the beauty of nature, drinks the sweet nectar of forgotten gods and goddesses to protect herself from the weight of time that constantly threatens to stale her infinite variety and wither her beautiful spirit. Amid the tug-of-war between the Senses and Reason, Judy now sees the men in her iris coming real and decides to climb down the top of the world. Nena looks at Judy, but it isn’t as willing as her master. Don’t worry, Nena. They won’t hurt you. I am with you, and that’s all that matters. So off they go.

When Judy and Nena almost reach the entrance rail to the loop, however, Judy begins to doubt whether her decision to approach the trio is wise. What if they turn out to be bandits or serial killers in friendly hides? After all, people sometimes take false shadows for true substances. You know, sort of a killer’s instincts in my good neighbor Mr. Roger’s hide? Anyway, it’s too late now, and they also see her with her dog beside. A tall, slim girl looking like a salt pillar at the outskirts of burning Gomorrah is watching them, and the men think she’s either a mad girl deserted by her rich family ashamed of having a lunatic in the household or a dell, a young beggar girl, wandering anywhere for bed and bread, and thus oftentimes becoming a doxy of a highwayman who in turn exploits her beauty and gender for his own desire and avarice. We can’t let her stay alone here, said Ben, who prides himself of being something of a gentleman of society. Rufus thinks she is pretty and therefore wants to woo her. Raphael thinks she doesn’t look menacing, only lost, and takes pity on her. So, they are all for one, and one for all, like the Three Musketeers in Western Style. They are going to rescue her, and then they will continue their journey to find the Aztec gold buried in California. Once more unto the breach, once more! With this motto of esprit de corps, Rufus, Ben, and Raphael dismount their well-spent Californian mustangs and walk toward the curious Judy – and even more curious Nena.

the beginning – ‘Curiouser, curiouser!’

The wind was blowing eastward in the field, and the sun was stopping in the sky amid the moving herd of clouds. The susurrus of the trees was softly caressing her ears harassed by the cacophony of reality in which she could not help but endure under the pretext of fulfilling her existential duties to earn her sustenance. Nature’s medicinal touch of her malady of heart seemed to work for the moment, and she felt cared for and loved in the arms of Mother Nature whom she likened to Mother Mary. Judy was sitting like a resting Artemis, the goddess of hunting, with her loyal canine company Nena on the crest alongside San Marcello Path in the Santa Maria Mountains. Judy and Nena were different species united in the polyphony of nature’s orchestral music and the panoply of the scenes that nature’s cinema was presenting before their very big brown beautiful eyes that seemed to look into the depths of souls and to find wonders in them no matter how diminutive they might be. It’s the moment of retreat from the world that constantly threatened Judy’s faith in humanity against the strife of existential life. Every Sunday was the time to bathe herself in the Spring of Nature, and she loved every minute of it.

A noonday haze was springing over the hill with iridescent beams of sunshine, which were a feast to the eye. Nena was yawning as a gossamer of the eastward wind becoming a sweet breeze was pleasingly teasing a tip of its nose. Smiling at the playful scene, Judy was thinking about the legend of restless ghosts of nineteenth-century outlaws still roaming in the deep region of the mountain, not knowing they were dead in search of a great escape from a forest maze to their El Dorado. Reader, you may think it’s only a fiction imbued with Hollywood-generated machismo of lawless gunslingers in the Wild West, but to Judy, the legend became factoid that couldn’t be abruptly dismissed as a preposterous ballyhoo fit for a campfire story to scare kids and gullible puerile adults. Call it superstitious or benighted, but then do people not believe in the power of the greatest man above even though they have not seen him? The difference between religion and belief is a matter of hierarchy, a structural form of rite and indoctrination. Anything else is quintessentially the same as we human beings are spiritual by nature. Thus, even the wickedest, the vilest, the cruelest convict has the tainted and perverted soul warped in a wrong modus vivendi that it chose by the will or by the play of Goddess Fortuna. In that regard, the souls of the escaped convicts, drifting gunslingers, highwaymen, or luckless lost travelers might still be roaming the paths of the mountain day and night, doing their penance on earth without awareness of it, till a sympathetic living soul hears their sorrows and waves of anger to purge them out to escape to the beyond.

As Judy was wending her way to the mountain, the images of the wild west ghosts sprang in her vista as though to be screened in a phantasmagorical display of the swashbuckling bravado of their once-proud prime days. What’s more, she wanted to validate her belief in life after death by witnessing the souls of the dead, which would quell her vexing doubts on the existence of God and ultimately, the meaning of life. Nena also seemed to give a nod to Judy’s determination to figure it all out by walking beside her into the mountain. The leaves of the trees were rustling in the wind, and the eagles were flying high above as if they were welcoming the curious duo. The rustling sound now became phantasmal susurrus of trees, reciting “Curiouser, curiouser!”