Tag Archives: short story

the California musketeers – double trouble

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Your present fears are less than your horrible imaginings.  What you see now is what you get with, deal with, and live with. It’s no way around, and if you run away from it for an instant reprieve, you know it will come to you again sooner or later. This is it, thinks Judy. I must take it and bear it with grin. These men, the trio looking like characters from a western movie, appearing from the wild high noon haze, she does not fear, but their impending intents of coming to her with mysterious questions she doubts. Surely, doubts are healthier than fears because fears can crush your strength, and the weakness emanating from within can double the strength of the foes. Judy is secretly asking God to come to aid her and make haste to help her as the images of the trio are entering her trembling irises of the big beautiful brown eyes and fill her eyes in entirety.

‘Howdy! Lass!’ Raphael, the talker, begins the talking. The two other men on the stead behind Raphael display the look of curiosity and amusement. They are pleased to see a pretty woman with a matching cute little dog in the middle of the wild. Quite exotic kind of a bird, Rufus and Ben think in harmony. But the exoticness comes not from a demarcation of race but from a uniqueness of beauty: innocence and sensuality are delicately concocted in her big brown expressive eyes decorated with long, thick Persian black eyelashes like black silk curtains. And the crown of her beauty seems to be bestowed on her tall slim figure that renders her graceful and respectful. There’s something about her, which sets her apart from the women they have seen in saloons, music halls, ballrooms, and any place where flowers of society gather and mingle to be wooed and wed. ‘The lucky bastard’, think Rufus and Ben, both of whom envy Raphael with admiration for his way with ladies. In terms of looks, Raphael is an epitome of your ordinary amigo: slightly chubby in frame, a round smiley face that looks impossible to grimace decorated with a neatly trimmed mustache, all amicability personified that will save him from malicious gossips and wrongful accusations. Hence, Raphael is the talker of the trio and a sort of mother and father to Rufus and Ben with his practical sense of reality and survival skills.

‘We are headed west toward Doritos. Do you know where it is?’ Raphael asks the lass as friendly as possible. Judy incredulously looks up the mounted man with a mustache and a sombrero and thinks that he looks very convincingly like Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s faithful servant. There’s something about the man, thinks Judy. The diction, the ambiance, and the deportment are rather anachronistic or incongruous even to the social media era where people flag their selfies on the internet as if they were on a popularity contest and compete for likes and comments as emotional security and collateral for their forged so-called self-confidence. My Dear Reader, don’t misunderstand that it’s immoral of you to hang your beautiful pictures on a digital platform for popular admiration. It’s just that this act of self-promotion serves as a springboard for testing your marketability and your mobility as a result of winning the competition for likability based upon looks and frivolous comments that do not mean much, much at all. Amid this train of thought, Judy warms to this amiable man and decides to answer him. ‘This is Wildwood Park, sir. And I am sorry that I have never heard that there’s a place called Doritos, except for a brand of chips.’ Upon answering, Judy could not but burst into a pearl of laughter. It is a sight to behold – the face of Raphael grimaced partly and bewildered partly, all in a dazzling chemistry of emotions that is hard to describe. So much so that this display of indescribable human emotions on Raphael mollifies Nena’s agitation and puts the tempestuous waves of her emotions at ease. Now Judy feels refreshed and happy.

Rufus and Ben are within an earshot of this dialogue between the pretty lass and Raphael and cannot but be disappointed by the fact that they are once again on the wrong track, which seems to be forever chasing after a phantom of the dead Union soldier obfuscating them lest they should find where the buried treasure is. Where’s the Aztec gold? When can they find it? Maybe the miasma of frustration and agitation that hovered over Judy must have been transmitted to Rufus and Ben on the stead because now their faces mirror the symptoms of malady of broken hearts. Then suddenly, Nena now recovered from the plague of uneasiness, springs forward and wags its chubby tail and bark toward the firmament as if it were looking at a thing invisible to your and my human eyes. Nena keeps barking and looking at the puzzled crowd behind as though it were trying to explain them that there is something in the air that only Nena can see but we can’t see. ‘What is it, Nena? What you do you see?’ Judy knows that dogs and cats can see supernatural things because their eyes can look through the souls of the living and ghosts of the dead. Judy tries to follow the direction where Nena is looking and barking and sees a gossamer trace of haze vanishing into the air like the vestige of a propeller plane soon to be effaced across the skies. The more Judy tries to scrutinize it, the faster it disappears. And Nena keeps barking, looking in front of the curious crowd. What is it that the dog is seeing? They all look at the barking dog and become curiouser and curiouser.

150 miles to El Dorado

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Judy begins to feel like a whimsical paramour leaving for a new object of love at sight. What was pleasingly solitary in the nature seems to be a prolonged isolation from the world that Judy so wanted to escape, and her coquettish dalliance with the wild rugged nature is no longer wanted as the Sun is slowly moving westerly to cave in to the Evening Star and the Moon. It might be still early for calling it a day to you with your weekend frolics still left to re-calibrate your kicks for another week, but it’s late for Judy, who would rather mourn for a passing of the last day of a weekend at home than rebel against it in a frenzy of nocturnal bacchanalian orgy elsewhere outside the comforts of her den. Now the anxiety holds a grip on her, and she begins to fret, and the miasma of the ill-feelings begins to effuse the uneasiness to Nena who begins to whimper and to the accidental trio of strangers observing every move that this girl makes as they are nearing to her, part perplexed, part bewildered. What a curious mixture of emotions she puts on her face! Rufus, Ben, and Raphael become curiouser and curiouser as they get nearer to the porcelain doll in their eyes.

‘Howdy! Lass! What are you doing here?’ Raphael, the talker, begins the talking. ‘We are headed west toward Los Adios Mountain. Do you know where it is?’ Judy incredulously looks up the mounted man with a mustache and a sombrero and thinks that he looks very convincingly like Sancho Panza, Don Quixote’s faithful servant. There’s something about the man, thinks Judy. The diction, the ambiance, and the deportment are rather anachronistic or incongruous even to the social media era where people flag their selfies on the internet as if they were on a popularity contest and compete for likes and comments as emotional security and collateral for their forged so-called self-confidence. My Dear Reader, don’t misunderstand that it’s immoral for you to hang your beautiful pictures on a digital platform for popular admiration. It’s just that this act of self-promotion serves as a springboard for testing your marketability and your mobility as a result of winning the competition for likability based upon looks and frivolous comments that do not mean much, much at all. Amid this train of thought, Judy despite being agitated by the lateness of the time warms to this amiable man and decides to answer him. ‘This is Wildwood Park, sir. Los Adios Mountain is 150 miles away from here. And you should go northward. You are far off from your destination.’ It is a sight to behold – the face of Raphael grimaced partly and bewildered partly, all in a dazzling chemistry of emotions that is hard to describe. So much so that this display of indescribable human emotions on Raphael mollifies Nena’s agitation and puts the tempestuous waves of her emotions at ease. Now Judy feels refreshed and happy.

Rufus and Ben are within an earshot of this dialogue between the pretty lass and Raphael and cannot but be disappointed by the fact that they are once again on the wrong track, which seems to be forever chasing after a phantom of the dead Union soldier obfuscating them lest they should find where the buried treasure is. Where’s the Aztec gold? When can they find it? Maybe the miasma of frustration and agitation that hovered over Judy must have been transmitted to Rufus and Ben on the stead because now their faces mirror the symptoms of malady of broken hearts. Then suddenly, Nena now recovered from the plague of uneasiness, springs forward and wags its chubby tail and bark toward the firmament as if it were looking at a thing invisible to your and my human eyes. Nena keeps barking and looking at the puzzled crowd behind as though it were trying to explain them that there is something in the air that only Nena can see but we can’t see. ‘What is it, Nena? What you do you see?’ Judy knows that dogs and cats can see supernatural things because their eyes can look through the souls of the living and ghosts of the dead. Judy tries to follow the direction where Nena is looking and barking and sees a gossamer trace of haze vanishing into the air like the vestige of a propeller plane soon to be effaced across the skies. The more Judy tries to scrutinize it, the faster it disappears. And Nena keeps barking, looking in front of the curious crowd. What is it that the dog is seeing?

The Legend – Aces High

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They come from the beyond over the hazy horizon endless in length and boundless in time. They are back from the halcyon days of gunslingers roaming the boundless plain in the unclaimed territory, swashbuckling the dusty streets of a nascent frontier town in California. It was when the Pony Express was busy delivering urgent documents on horseback from the West to the East. It was before the Irish and the Chinese made the transcontinental railways. It was before the sons of the North and the South ceased fire and embraced once again for better America. From the glory of the Wild West comes this unlikely trio: Rufus, Ben, and Raphael. They are partners of a joint venture in finding the gold that a Union soldier buried somewhere in the mountain in California. No, the gold wasn’t hard-won by years of toiling in the mine but stolen from a benevolent Mexican baron who kindly attended the wounded deserter. The ungrateful soldier killed his saintly host and appropriated trunks of the ancient Aztec gold kept in the cabinet. So, it was this gold, this tainted gold that the posse is trying to find, El Dorado of their dreams.

Rufus is a handsome drifter who used to delight in cigars, but now is a cold turkey thanks to his learning of the virtue-extolling slogan of Mans Sana In corporore Sano, meaning ‘a sound mind dwells in a healthy body.’ Although he doesn’t particularly subscribe to the ancient Greek motto, he wants to reinvent himself as a clean-cut, dashing young man fused with youthful bravado and adventurous romanticism alluring to fair ladies and even plain-looking woman with money. He never knows who his parents are, but he does not want to know about it either. For Rufus, a foundling found on the doorstep of a missionary church run by Spanish Conventual Franciscans, a family inherent by means of blood relation seems so tribalistic and primitive. He’s always alone, and in this aloneness, he finds freedom and solace. So when he first heard of the legend of the buried gold from Friar Pedro at the monastery, that was awesome, I will find it myself and set up this dilapidated monastery and my new business thought little Rufus. That was 25 years ago, or so it seemed. Rufus since then has embarked on a journey for El Dorado by being a professional drifter, an occasional cowherd and sometimes a bounty hunter for local lords and town judges. It was during one of his stints as a cowherd that he came across two other men asking for a direction to Santa Rosa and wanted to be part of this joint venture of the ecstasy of gold. And off they went together on horseback. 

Ben is a former banquet pianist whose passionate and tempestuous streak laced with virtuoso piano playing gives him a status which fuses the caprice power of Greek gods with the sensual charge of modern-day celebrity. Versed in the musical pieces of Beethoven, Bach, and Chopin, Ben used to make ladies swoon over the melliferous melodies he wove from the intricate courtships of the keyboards and faint at the apotheosis of the ecstatic sensation of the music, throwing their handkerchiefs at the pianist. Ben entertained such deliriously sensuous reaction from the belles of society and often likened himself to be a musical Byron. But after the curtain call, that was it, and nothing more except for the maddening silence and dreadful darkness hovering over the stage. Ben wanted more, desired much more, and demanded ever more the insatiable hunger for fame and adoration that ensued scandalous dangerous liaisons with the ladies of high society and rewarding golden opportunities to elevate his status of wandering entertainer to that of an accomplished courtier of the music of his time. Forget the agents who only engage him in the venues dissimilar to his sophisticated classical tastes with forfeiting more than half of the money from his performance. Forget the patronizing sponsors whose only merits are wealth and haughtiness. He wants to be of his own employer who can play the music he likes in front of a select beautiful few. He wants freedom, and he wants it badly. Hence, his hands are now up for grabs for the golden opportunity of reaching El Dorado with no qualms, for the buried treasure is already tainted, and it won’t make him any more immoral than the soldier killing his kindly host.

Raphael sees life as one big game in which you either make it big or bear it as it is just like his father, his grandfather and his great grandfather were good at it. The family-honored stoic attitudes toward life never appealed to Raphael, who believes all-or-nothing strategy should be his credo, and he is proud of being forward-thinking and enterprising with his signature go-aheaditiveness. My dear reader, you might liken him to something of a Don Quixote because of his Spanish cultural link infused with the image of a reckless but likable wanderer with a mustache, but don’t let the shadow take our substance. For Raphael was a cunning fox wrapt in a player’s hide. His round, avuncular appearance belies fierce shrewdness and undaunted selfishness. Call him names, and he will strike you with blows with smiles. How more sinister and menacing can it be? This feistiness, resourcefulness, and go-aheaditiveness packaged in wicked humor and que sera sera approach to life give him kicks to survive life. So one day when Ben came by his small, dilapidated stable to change his spent mustang, Raphael was hooked on the story of the buried gold in Californian El Dorado. And the rest is history. 

That is the beginning of their phantasmal chase against the ecstasy of gold in the mountain, which has been continued for over three centuries. For many moons and suns, Rufus, Ben, and Raphael have been marching with the hope that even beat the shadow of death, 

two fellows – short story

So there he was. You could always find him there at the same time, at the same place regardless of a change of four seasons, like it was his duty to do. Looking over the fence smartly seated on a rock on one balmy afternoon, Toto was calm and steady. His big brown eyes full of yearnings and visions glanced at the dancing leaves on the quince tree outside the fence where there were only a few fruits left because Grandma, being of generous and affable nature, had given the well ripe ones to the neighbors. However, such intermittently displayed quinces surrounded by the abundant leaves appealed to Toto’s inquisitive eyes: the way the leaves swayed to the tune of the breeze was a part of the nature’s orchestra that stimulated all of his senses, which ultimately led him to the outburst of his exhilaration in long howling like a wolf pup in the wild.

Toto was a Jindo mix, aged 9 weeks or so. Toto came to Joe’s home on a cold winter afternoon a year ago with Pa who brought him in his jacket. He was a white puppy looking healthy but a bit apprehensive about the new surrounding. But mind you that there was no sign of fear in his eyes but intelligence. Joe named him Toto after a legendary dog that returned to his owner, an old woman who had given the dog to her nephew in a city miles away from her home in Jindo. So he wanted to have a dog whose faithfulness and loyalty would be equivalent of those of the legendary namesake. Joe wanted to keep his new puppy till the end of the world because he had lost Lana, a Samoyed mix puppy of 9 weeks old, to distemper 2 years ago. This time, Joe thought, would be the last time to let such thing happen to him and the dog. It was his new bound duty, a duty that suddenly appeared sacred and fateful to his destiny. Boy as he was, Joe was resolute in his new pledge to the life and protection of Toto as his guardian. Looking at Toto who was napping beside him on the rock by the quince tree, Joe could hear the whisper of the breeze that blessed his guardianship and fellowship of the human and the canine. What a nice afternoon it was to both the boy and the dog.

“Joe, can you come here quickly?” It was Joe’s sister Judy. She was 16 years old, 2 years senior to him. Judy also loved Toto and dogs, although her favorite breeds were Labs, Border Collies, Shiba Inus, and Bichon Frises. She had been secretly entertained having a Bichon Frise until Pa brought Toto home. She had a soft spot for this particular breed since she had read about a homeless elderly man who sailed through the tribulations with his Bichon Frise dog named Willow; the image of the small, curly haired dog with large soulful eyes in the arms of the man still lingered in her mind. But it’s not that she did not their Toto. Toto was their another sibling, the youngest brother whom Ma had lost by miscarriage 6 years ago. Judy’s love of Toto was not to be confused with anthropomorphism because she loved Toto the way he was, the way Toto was the closest natural wonder. He was Judy and Joe’s guide to the natural world like Virgil to Dante in his journey to Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Through Toto, Judy and Joe could see the wonder of Nature in which all creatures existed and made the human existence all the more conspicuous by appreciating the pristine beauty which were to be beheld in the eyes of the innocent.

Fellowship of the arts

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Music has such a charm; it makes bad good and conjures memories of the places and faces of the past with nostalgia in a magical way. It’s a kind of mind teleportation, artistic time-machine, which takes you from the rut of life to anywhere you can dream about. So much so that ever witty and lively William Shakespeare said: “There’s nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is.” Just as reading makes the reader pass over to the literary world of imagination, listening to music carries the listener over to the auditory feast of melodies and rhythms, wonderfully harmonized, all in the mastery of fine musicianship inspired by the Mousal, the music muses, which is demonstrated by the fabulous  Biltmore Trio.

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Biltmore Trio consists of Ben Lion (Piano), Claire Whitecat (Violin) and Julie Tigress (Flute). They are fine amateur musicians who get together two days a week to play music together for reason none other than being aficionados of music, especially of the Baroque music. All of them have full-time occupations by which they earn their livelihood: Ben is an associate professor of history at Avonlea Community College. He is also an established writer for various magazine and short stories. Claire is a free-lanced book illustrator primarily for children’s books. Julie is a legal secretary working at a busy litigation law firm that would not function without her presence. They are good friends from childhood and share their love of music, books and other interests that pique their intelligent minds with scintillating curiosities. Hence, Biltmore Trio is a musical manifestation of their fellowship in the Appreciation of the Arts and Altruism of Humanity based upon the idea that the beauty of art is for everyone, not a prerogative of a few select. It is important that the public has a right to art because as Oscar Wilde attested, “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can sure the senses but the soul.” How true it is!

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With such tenets of art in mind, Biltmore Trio’s free lunchtime recital of Frederic Hendel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” at the eponymous hotel lounge fills the hearts of the audience with mirth and merriment and frames their minds with beauty and alacrity. The trio’s fine musicianship becomes even more brilliant with their milk of human kindness that benefits all regardless who they are and what day do.