Photo courtesy of Pexels.

With Sunday Writers’ Club now on Easter break, we’re pleased to share with you here a colourful selection of recent stories coming out of our Sunday sessions.

We hope you enjoy the read and wish you a happy Easter.


The Girl at the River of No Return 

By Connie Phlipot

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

 Water blubbed and burbled against the stones and boulders smoothed by the unrelenting force of the river.  She dangled a finger in the rushing stream.  Cold, blood-stopping cold.  She cupped her hands and scooped up a mouthful of water.  Like Champagne, bubbly, mineral-laden.

The locals called the Salmon River the “River of No Return.” She hadn’t known that when she started this journey of return.

 She walked away from the river along a well-trod path that led to a hot spring.  The cottonwood trees were spinning puffs of whiteness that caught in her throat and tickled her nose.  She plunged forward.  The trees become sparse, the ground rockier, slowing her steps.  Dusty, tired, she reached the cascade of waters.  The cold mountain springs pouring into the churning water heated from some middle-of-the-earth furnace. 

 Young people splashed; middle aged ones rested in the warm, soothing waters, some with a Coors or bottle of Jim Beam propped on a rock.  She removed her shoes and stepped, cautiously, into the steamy mix.  She sat on a rock.  To think.

 Had she been here before?  Would she have remembered it from the age of 3 or 4?  A giggling, splashing, jumping toddler caught her eye.  Blond curly hair, puckish grin, dimples disappearing and reappearing as her face registered her delight. 

 Yes, she would have remembered it if she had been here.  She was just the age of that little girl when she visited her uncle and aunt all those decades ago.  But she remembered nothing of this.

 She concentrated on the half-dollar sized eddies of lukewarm water at the edge of the natural pool.  What did she remember? 

 Walks with her grandfather across a cow-pie strewn field.  And that moment of indecision.  Her mother beckoning her to join them in the van for an outing — an outing to where? — maybe to this hot spring.  In the other car — a jeep — her grandparents sat with her uncle.  Not beckoning, but smiling, welcoming her without words.  They were going somewhere to walk, to look at wildflowers, maybe to watch birds.  Yes, birds that was it. 

 She chose her grandparents.  Her mother yelled from the van — “Are you sure?”  She had nodded the ends of the scarf tied around her blond head swinging in assent.

 Did she really remember this?  Or only the jumpy, black-and-white home movies they watched every year when her cousins visited.  Until the film became too cloudy, the cousins too old, and a everyone had laughed at the old-fashioned medium.

 Yes, she remembered it.  The pain of indecision, the throb of guilt as she chose her grandparents over her parents.  It might have been her first decision — in a life filled with decisions — what career to follow, where to live, whether to marry, have children.

 In some cloudy irrational way she felt that had been a critical decision.  Some vote of independence that sent her spinning in adventure, risk, travel, loves…

 But she had only gone on a quiet walk with her grandparents.  Her grandmother had exclaimed over the perfectly formed spring beauties that dappled the tender green of the valley.  A mountain bluebird flashed its brilliance against a just budding maple.  Bluebird of Happiness, Grandma squealed, while Grandpa cocked his head and pointed to the dipping and gliding of a hawk silhouetted against the grey mountain.

 Her mother didn’t talk about her own outing that evening.  She went to bed early, complaining of a headache.  Her aunt said something about her mother’s fear of the narrow road.   The guilt bubbled up again in the little girl’s throat.  She was glad she had not been with her mother whose fears were contagious, washing over the people around her like germs from a sneeze, until everyone was too scared to do anything at all.

 The girl — now in middle-age — pulled her feet out of the warm spring water, waving her feet in the mountain crisp air to dry them.  She walked back down the mountain to the cottage she had rented.

A tremulous, lonely bleating of cows broke the purplish grey of pre-down.  The calves of the Salmon River Valley cows had been taken away from their mothers that night.  The mothers, udders aching with milk, cried out for their children.

 The sound tore into her.  She felt the emptiness of an unexplained loss.

 All day the cows rocked the pasture with their sobs.  By night, they were quiet — no longer remembering that they were mothers. 


Half-empty champagne bottle

By Caroline Stevenson

Photo by Terje Sollie from Pexels

Champagne is the drink of choice whenever a milestone is reached, be it a birthday or a personal achievement or goal. And sure enough, when my girlfriend Nella and I collected the keys to the house we had just bought, uncorking the champagne was the first thing we did to celebrate once we’d made it over the threshold. The cork pinged off the living room lampshade and rattled off somewhere, blending in beautifully with the wooden panel flooring. We’ll deal with that later, we thought to ourselves, let’s enjoy the champagne for now. We leant back and basked in the moment, beginning the process of imprinting our own personal outlines on our preferred spots on the sofa. Halfway through the bottle, Nella stepped up to shut the window and her foot meet the discarded cork lying in wait. She rolled backwards and hit her head against the table, and I whisked her to hospital. No serious harm done, just a couple of stitches needed. Just our luck, we said, laughing. It would be a good story to tell when we got round to arranging a proper housewarming. Nella would even have a little scar to commemorate the occasion – cheaper than a tattoo!

Returning to the flat, we were still making those kind of jokes when we rediscovered the half-empty champagne bottle. I can force myself to down the remainders of a flat bottle, loathe to waste anything, and set about pouring the contents into my glass when Nella snatched the bottle out of my hand. Placing the cork back in, she put the bottle into the fridge and declared that it was going to be a reminder not to let our relationship go as flat and sour as the remainders of that bottle.  I guess you could call it one of our quirks. Other people just made that commitment to each other by getting married. But Nella wasn’t one for being mainstream. And we set about our commitment to not let things go sour by heading straight to the bedroom.

Sure enough, like the afterglow of a wedding, the first few times I opened the fridge door after that decision, the champagne bottle caught my eye and it would make me smile. The sweet and mildly sickly smell did begin to emanate beyond the cork bottle after a while. At the point when I still noticed the smell, it was a motivation to get out of the kitchen and into the great outdoors, take Nella on a picknick, be spontaneous! No two weekends the same! This half-empty (or should I say half-full) champagne bottle was working wonders for keeping our relationship fresh and alive! So typical of Nella to have such brilliant brainwave.

Beyond that honeymoon period, I daresay the smell in the fridge did get worse but it was something that we were so accustomed to, we learned to block it out. It’s like living near train tracks or an airport – a sound which disturbs visitors is merely background noise to you. Besides, we didn’t really cook a great deal anyway. instead of slaving away in the kitchen, we preferred to have a hard-earned slouch together after a long day, making our home feel even more lived-in by increasing the indents of the backs of our heads on the sofa.

Then, finally, a turning point came along. Nella was called away to look after her aunt who had broken her leg, and I had a one-week conference in the middle of nowhere. We would be even further established in our domestic bliss by having our neighbour Linda use our spare keys for the first time to come and water our plants. Linda sent me a couple of texts that week stating when she had called round. What she neglected to tell me was that after the smell of the overly fermented champagne had presumably assaulted her nostrils, she found the culprit bottle and emptied it down the sink. I returned from my conference to find Nella sobbing next to the open fridge door.  How could you?!  Is that all our relationship means to you?!?

I had given Linda the keys and, ergo, her decision to empty that bottle was ultimately my fault. It’s as if my regard for our relationship was poured down the sink along with what may now be toxic and radioactive post-bubbles. I’ve tried to reason with her, but the effects of the champagne have desensitised her to logic and emotion reigns supreme. There’s still a ginormous bubble of tension floating in the air and I don’t what I’m going to have to do to pierce that bubble.

I guess really what I’m trying to tell you is this: if you don’t save champagne bottles for milestones, they can become millstones.

Really, in hindsight, we should have just watered those plants with the remaining contents of that bottle. A symbolic gesture which nurtured growth and wasn’t destined to go sour in the long run.


IKIGAI

By Tomer Donio

Photo by Felipe Cardoso from Pexels

As is with all things, so too are my passion, mission, vocation and profession related to each other and to the gift.

Meditate on this. It is important.

You love to write, create and inspire, heal and spread love and happiness to this world.

Honest intimacy, non-violence and cynicism free communication.

This world needs healing.

Its residents; men and animal alike, need this medicine in order to live and love in better harmony.

You have a wide set of skills.

Armed with both art and war on your shoulders, you are experienced enough to implement these into your work.

Currently, you are paid for guarding and protecting your ancestral community.

A Samurai?

Only if you go by established rules of honor and duty with which you conducted yourself during your military service.

But unlike them, here you are a Ronin, and you have chosen this place of work and life to better yourself and advance yourself so that you cvan go into the world as an explorer, adventurer and helper in time of need.

This position is a temporary one, but it is of magnificent importance to what will come later, and for what lies ahead.

This is your current profession.

You are good at it. You are professional, as well as highly ethical. You treat your work, workplace and employer with the appropriate amount of respect.

This is the solid foundation on which to build on your passions and the actual things you are good at; creating writing, spreading love and making love to the world.

Love, music, art, dance, poetry; these are your gifts to share with us all.

We are waiting for you.

We know you will come when you are ready.

Go now. Embrace the call. Accept it. Act upon it.


Write Something Loud

By Tomer Donio

Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels

To attempt at writing down the scream that I have been wanting to shout out would be a lost cause on the get go.

Who writes down screams anyway?

I mean, apart from murder scenes in horror movies or books.

This is not a horror book scream.

This is a very real scream; one that moves your heart, echoes acoustically in the street and reverberates back at you like a reflection and breaks off.

Had it been possible to scream as loud as I imagine myself screaming, maybe something other than my vocal chords would break; a window or a heart maybe.

Scream so loud you get the sky to help you out for dramatic effect and cloud up and shoot lightning followed by the rolling sound of thunder, but not as loud enough as to take over the initial outburst of anger, frustration and pure pain.

When was the last time, in such a world lived in day in day out, have you stopped at the event of such a thing?

When was it that you last wanted to do the exact same thing; the action of summoning all of your forces to shout but didn’t do it?

So we write down loud things, and we keep the scream inside.

 


Sweat

By Caroline Stevenson

Go ahead and exert your imagination by exploring this word.

Photo by Moyin from Pexels

The Sound of Sweat

One look around this table tells me that I’m amongst people who are undaunted by exertion. I mean, it’s 10am on a Sunday morning and here we are, already flexing our writing and creative muscles. You’ll no doubt be familiar with the stages and goals of a standard physical workout: cardio, strength, stamina, suppleness. But have you ever stopped to consider the different stages of sweat? Only then can you truly appreciate the verity of “no pain, no gain” and truly applaud your superhuman efforts for dragging your backside off the couch.

Let’s start at the very beginning. No cutting corners. The first sound of the word. The “Sss”. The sound you hear when you pour drops of oil into a pre-heated frying pan. Sweat is a reaction to your body warming up and is nature’s nifty way of stopping your body from overheating. Let’s think back to that frying pan for a moment. Let’s imagine we’re frying an egg. Visualise the clear protective layer around the yolk turning white as it sizzles. All that protein solidifying. Incidentally, our bodies are largely made up of protein too. And as my biology teacher explained to us at school to make the subject of homeostasis so much more palatable: if you didn’t sweat, you’d cook. All of a sudden, that smelly substance doesn’t seem so bad, right? Right??

 Perhaps the real reason we recoil at the though of sweat is because of the exhaustion associated with it, be that from a workout or from being exhausted from constant exposure to direct sunlight. It’s once the beads of sweat start accumulating on the forehead that the second stage of the word kicks in: the “weugh” sound. At the stage where exhaling silently has become an impossible task, heard at frequent intervals whenever the left leg makes contact again with the treadmill after alternating with the right. Two-step cycle after two-step cycle. The monotony. The hamster’s high-pitched “weugh” sounds are drowned out by the sound of its wheel ricketing away, but they’re there, if you listen hard enough.

For those in really dire circumstances or with a gritty determination to put themselves through some kind of penance for reasons perhaps best kept to themselves, there comes the arduous stage, where “weugh” turns to the grunted “eaghhh.” The sound a statue of Atlas would be partway through emitting if it were brought to life. At this stage we have reached our physical zenith. The golden section, according to Pythagoras. If you were to think of the climactic point of your favourite piece of music, chances are this won’t be right at the beginning, nor in the closing bars, but about two thirds of the way through. Here comes the real tipping point of the workout. Sink or swim time. Is the hero of our film going to make it under that rapidly descending cast-iron doorway in the nick of time when escaping that dungeon, or will he get squished because he’s just too worn out from all that goddamn running? What would the average duration of an action film be without all that running? But I digress. Inevitably the hero always makes it through without so much as clipping a toenail, often without the “eaghhh” of exertion, but suspension of disbelief is key here. Now in the fresh air, he’ll look over his shoulder at the now fully descended dungeon doorway, perhaps too at the mangled limbs of the assailant who until recently was hot on his heels, and he’ll stop to bask in the sweet sweat of success.

Notice how little separates the words sweet and sweat.  Is that just pure coincidence?? The sweating process is brought to completion with that final consonant, mimicking the sound of the beads of sweat dropping down to the ground below, like a tap with a steady drip. But unlike a faulty tap, post-workout sweat is oddly satisfying. Would it not be more annoying to end your exercise routine looking just as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as you did at the start, having nothing to show for your efforts? What would be the reward in that? Sweat is the sweet reward not just of exercise, but of resolve, focus and determination.

So let’s hear it for sweat, it gets a bad rep. Besides, there’s nothing to fear from fresh sweat anyway. Sweat only acquires its distinctive smell when it goes cold. So handing out deodorant on the U6 over the summer was a nice and well-intended gesture, but the proper way of combating U-Bahn stench would have been to insist on all passengers having a shower before rubbing armpits with fellow commuters.


Voices in the Water

By Tomer Donio

Listen

Closely

It is a silent note

A whispered music

Moves, flows

In it the only lasting moment

Is change

It can feel still

However, there is always movement

A current, forming into a stream

Moving gracefully, effortlessly

On the Way

A waterfall and then calm

An ocean in the end

And then…

Beyond

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