After the long summer break, Sunday Writers’ Club is back! We’re excited about the season of creative writing ahead, all the stories that will be written, reuniting with friends, meeting new participants, and the vibrant writing community we’re building together. As always, we’re proud to showcase here some of the writing coming out of the Sunday creative writing sessions. We hope you enjoy reading this week’s story collection from some fantastic Sunday writers.
- Wishes by Tamara Raidt
- City Parks — Vienna-Vinnytsia by Connie Phlipot
- Burning Ambition by Maria Foldeaki
- The Trees of Stadtpark by Rebecca Hood.
By Tamara Raidt
I once received four wishes
brand new, wrapped up
in my post box.
It was some new company’s
With one year
Free trial period.
I read the instructions carefully :
one for each season
one year to be fulfilled.
I took the first wish :
I wished myself
Happiness, health and blooming in life
I wrapped it in a leaf
And left it
Hanging in a tree.
The second one was for summer.
I wished myself success and
balance with things
and discovering new parts of me.
I stuck it to the stomach
Of a turtle
in Costa Rica.
And watched it
vanish into the sea.
Then came autumn.
I wished myself strength,
battle in disease, hope in despair.
I wrote my wish
inside the peel of an orange
That I left drying
by the fire.
The last one was
I wished myself darker moments,
tough decisions to make
filled with regrets
and lots of failures.
So I could get the chance
To learn from it.
I buried this one deep
deep under the snow
I whispered it to a snowman
who kept my secrets warm
under his coat.
And so I spent my
my summer blooming,
my autumn falling
and my winter failing.
One year went by :
I searched the earth
for my wishes.
But the tree was dead,
The turtle was gone
The orange peel was missing
and the snowman had melted.
They were all gone
But they had left behind :
Four shy wishes
ready to bloom.
And I realized :
Each one had been fulfilled.
The free trial period
It was time to sent them
And so I put them in a cozy box
With a little blanket
for the ride
and gave them back to the postman.
and I watched them
Ready to wander the world
going to places
Where they would be
City Parks — Vienna-Vinnytsia
by Connie Phlipot
Ducks glided in the cool green water, the ripples in their wake breaking up the reflection of the lighter green grasses. The pond’s serenity shattered in an instant by the angry competition for territory. Squawking and quacking. Then they settled their differences and serenity returned.
The pigeons gazed at the ducks, ruffling their feathers, shaking out drops of water, pecking at small grains on the embankment. They groom themselves, unselfconsciously. Stadt park. Calm, patient, relaxed.
The pigeons in my Vinnytsia courtyard cried all morning; calling for a lover, or food, or space. A gaggle settled on my kitchen window sill until I banged on the screen. The lady in her flowered housedress from the ground floor echoed my outburst toward the birds. The courtyard cat look on, not lifting his head, following the action with his eyes.
The Viennese birds are excited. A young father carried his son to the pond’s edge. The boy dabbles his fingers in the water. Escaping from his father’s arms, he runs after the pigeons. The birds flutter about for a minute, then resume their feeding, grooming, gazing.
The Ukrainian magpies hovered over the not-yet-emptied dumpster in the Central park. One, larger and bolder than the rest, grabbed a plastic bag of garbage in his beak. Interrupted by a runner’s approach, the big bird hauled his catch up to the overhead power line. What did he do with it? Carry it to his nest — if magpies have nests — to share with his brood? Or did he drop it? A goal, attainable, but not substantiated, like …. freedom?
Viennese swans are huge, spreading their wings over the expanse of water in their kingdom — the pond, the river, the canal. And so pacific. Once I saw a man swimming alongside them in the Danube.
Two swans live on a round wooden structure in the artificial pond the size of a squash court in Vinnytsia Central park. One morning, they were swimming laps in the blackish green water, followed by three grey balls of feathers. Offspring in the desolate pond. Hope. Each morning after that I looked for them. Each day, they were bigger, lighter in color. The balls became distinct birds, soon the size of small ducks. I brought my friends to see them. See what can happen even here, I said. But what will happen in the winter? they asked. I don’t know. I don’t want to know. For now they are thriving.
When the swans left their perch, the turtles appeared. Black, round disks slinking up the ramp to the swan’s house. One turtle swam near by, paying no attention to the winged family.
The ducks are congregating in the Vienna park again. Slow, dignified rounds in the pond. Like opera goers at the intermission. Having partaken at the buffet, they circle around and around. Ready for the next act. The ducks have found a new source of food — a double passenger stroller has stopped by the edge of the pond. The tiny passengers are throwing bread crumbs at the patiently waiting ducks. The birds don’t fight among themselves. The strollers ambles off and the ducks resume their rounds.
The pigeons and the cats have a picnic in my courtyard. The old ladies of the buildings, the eternal apartment guardians, set out plates of leftover kasha, burnt kolbasa, vegetable scraps. Birds at one end, scrawny cats at the other end of the table. Munching peacefully. Enough for everyone.
The Central Park in Vinnytsia has a red rubber running track, an anomoly in a place where vigorous exercise is rare. A boring but safe place to run. No angry dogs to dodge or tree trunks to stumble over. African students practice calisthenics off to the side. Vinnytsia has a significant medical school, but the Ukrainian doctors and nurses have left for Poland, Italy or Germany. The Africans will replace them; who will replace the Africans in their country?
A simple white cross and a sign board marks the spot in Vinnytsia Central park where thousands of victims of Stalin’s terror were buried in a mass grave. Nearby children play on amusement park rides.
A golden dog, miniature poodle size, ambles past my bench in Stadtpark. His owner is many steps ahead of him, but the dog doesn’t hurry. He should be on a leash, but it doesn’t matter. He has no intention to leave. He is safe.
Connie is a retired U.S. diplomat, who has recently completed a novel based on her grandparents emigration from what is now Belarus. She is now working on a novel or linked short stories focused on her fascination with Central and Eastern Europe.
By Maria Foldeaki
(Based on true stories – Science Non-fiction)
He wasn’t the only one. The US was full of them. Would-be immigrants on temporary visas, aiming at the same thing, the American Dream, and the means to achieve it – the Green Card or the H-visa. Many applicants, limited supply.
He arrived as a guest scientist on a J-1 visa*, with the firm decision to stay. He knew that the J-1 can’t be easily converted into a permanent stay, and that the competition was fierce. At that time, in the nineties, all US universities and National labs had a few of them. Guests from former communist countries, never wanting to go back.
He knew he had to excel, to raise far above the others. To publish more than the others. In better journals. Publish or perish had a special meaning for him. Publish and excel or go back to your run-down former communist country. Science was the means, not the goal.
He had the best chances. The National Lab that arranged the J-1 for him was one of the most famous. His boss was successful and sat on the editorial boards of the best journals. Soon he asked him to do peer reviews in his name. He rejected as much as possible, especially those on the same field, and especially from potential rivals, aimed at the same goal.
A new project seemed to provide a way to fulfil his dream. They had to develop a material for a given purpose. With better parameters than before. They did it. Calculated the parameters from measured ones. They surpassed all expectations. As a result, they received the “Best developers” award from the relevant government office. His boss started to vaguely mention the green card application. They were now famous, celebrated. One TV interview after the other. The heroes solving the energy crisis.
The disaster came from a direction he least expected. They were cooperating with a lab on the West Coast of Canada. And they, in turn, partnered up with a small lab in in the middle of nowhere in Quebec, in a city he couldn’t even pronounce the name of. Marriage by funding policy.
They tried to reproduce the now famous material, and measured its parameters instead of calculating. It didn’t perform. “They don’t have the technology, the material isn’t clean enough,” he told his boss. “They will never be able to publish it,” added the boss. But the Canadian group was persistent. Why on Earth? They were all citizens or permanent residents. Why did they want the truth? They could just quietly sit on their grants, and submitting reports cut together from the literature.
But they didn’t sit. Kept digging. And they did what he forgot in his quest for fast success: read the literature and double-checked the equation. And it wasn’t true. Didn’t apply to this specific material. That meant dividing by zero. No wonder the parameters were giant.
“What now?” asked the boss. “We will never admit it,” he answered. “Let’s send them a sample and then disqualify the result.”
But those Canadians, in the middle of nowhere, weren’t stupid. They measured the new material against a known one. And it didn’t perform. The parameters of the known one agreed with the literature.
“They will never be able to publish it,” said the boss. “They will never get another grant if they try.”
He called the Department Head in the small town with the unpronounceable name to put this message through. The 3 people responsible for the result left the small lab soon thereafter.
To no avail. The Internet already existed, word got out, even without publishing. A German university reproduced the result. They were too far to be silenced.
“Why didn’t you check that damned equation?” asked the boss. “Why did you just give your name to the paper, without verifyind the content?” he answered.
His boss retired. Nobody talked about green cards anymore. His J-1 expired and wasn’t renewed. He stayed on illegally, and worked odd jobs, hoping and hoping, he couldn’t even define in what, until a random road check revealed his long expired visa. The way to the deportation order and the plane back wasn’t long…
*Non-immigrant US visa aimed at scientific exchange
The Trees of Stadtpark
By Rebecca Hood
My trunk burns from my morning u-tube session.
Hyphal networks that burrow across the globe into the homes of the optimistic overfed, sated on the soils of forest pasts.
Park trunks protected, cosseted, intoxicated. Black bark, dog barks. Jog grey. Jog pink.Jog Nike. Mothers push, nurturing their mycelial love.
Far away trunks burn to the joys of Brazilian Samba. Intoxicating.
She’s gasping, too breathless to answer. Can we fight off the reaper for her?