Tag Archives: short stories

Welcome to Day 5 of the #RWISA “REVOLUTION” Blog Tour! #RRBC @BeemWeeks #RWISARevolutionTour

Have you written that book or short story you want the whole world to know about? Are you looking for a great way to promote your creative endeavors? Perhaps you’re seeking to add some prestige to your body of work! If this sounds like you, we invite you to come on over to RAVE WRITERS – INT’L SOCIETY OF AUTHORS, otherwise known as RWISA.

At RWISA, we invite to membership only the very best writers the Indie community has to offer.

If your work is exemplary and speaks for itself, stop by the RWISA website today at RaveWriters.wordpress.com and find out how you can submit your sample of writing for consideration.

We’re an exclusive bunch but we’d love to have you join us!

NOTE:  If you’re looking to improve your writing while taking another route to membership into RWISA, while you’re at the site, visit RWISA UNIVERSITY!

To Visit My Page Click HERE

TO FOLLOW THE TOUR, CLICK HERE

A Pair of Brand New Titles from Fresh Ink Group!

Greetings to all book lovers! Fresh Ink Group has two brand new releases here in the new year! One is a collection of brilliant short fiction from author Stephen Geez. The other is a detailed investigative book addressing pain management versus opioid addiction. 

Comes this Time to Float by Stephen Geez

Prepare to think as you explore these wildly disparate literary short stories by author, composer, and producer Stephen Geez. Avoiding any single genre, this collection showcases Geez’s storytelling from southern gothic to contemporary drama to coming-of-age, humor, sci-fi, and fantasy—all finessed to say something about who we are and what we seek. Some of these have been passed around enough to need a shot of penicillin, others so virgin they have never known the seductive gaze of a reader’s eyes. So when life’s currents get to pulling too hard, don’t fight it, just open the book and discover nineteen new ways of going with the flow, because NOW more than ever Comes this Time to Float.

 

 

American Agony: The Opioid War Against Patients in Pain by Dr. Helen Borel

Managing pain with opioids is a science—except politics, money, and overzealous law enforcement are denying American patients the relief they so desperately need. Demonizing the best pain reliever we have leads to needless suffering, even suicides, and it drives the rise in deadly street drugs. Helen Borel gathers and presents the evidence, the intimidation, the raids of clinics, the chilling effect on those very professionals we trust to care for our loved ones and ourselves. She looks hard at the Veterans Administration, Drug Enforcement Agency, Department of Justice, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chapters include “The Suboxone Hoax,” “The Wrong Arms of the Law,” and “The Epidemic of Death,” plus an entire section on solutions for this widespread crisis. Read American AGONY now—or you might be the next one hurt.

Book Release – Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno

Greetings, one and all!

If you’ve been following along this past week and a half you probably already know that this is the day that everything has been leading to.

During day one we introduced you to the ingredient of Purpose. Adonis Mann brought up, “Express-Oh”.

Day two we took a look at Commitment via Carol Cassada’s contribution, “Not Always Like This”.

On day three it was all about Consequences; we delved deep into this ingredient via Harmony Kent’s story, “The Fireman”.

Day four examined Love with Beem Weeks’ tale, “The Complications of Fire”.

Day five was overtaken by the ingredient of Reinvention as told by C. Desert Rose’s story, “Calliope’s Inferno”.

Day six told us that Tenacity was an important ingredient no matter what the circumstance through Y. Correa’s, “Moxy”.

Day seven touched on how the ingredient of Risk can be as scolding as any through Synful Desire’s, “Antipode”.

Day eight cleverly showed how Conviction was as good ingredient as any to keep the fire roaring. Da’Kharta Rising showed us how in “The Chronicles of Aidan”.

And last but never-ever least, Queen of Spades indubitably demonstrated how Empathy is the most powerful of ingredients when maintaining our soul’s fire burning in, “The Calefaction of Insight”.

Now that the picture has become clear and Inferno’s stew is bubbling, come serve yourself us a bowl. Come get your copy of, “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno”.

 

GET YOUR COPY TODAY!

Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno – Cover Reveal!

 

Today the members of the All Authors Family are celebrating the cover reveal of “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno”, the fourth installation of the Concordant Vibrancy anthology collection.

First, the blurb …

 

There is a universal fascination associated with passion―its defining element, fire, as well as the unseen. Yet how many dare to trespass beyond the final product, exploring the ingredients which keep it sustainable?
This is the traverse of the fourth installment of the Concordant Vibrancy collection, presented by All Authors Publications and Promotions, entitled “Inferno”. Nine phenomenal talents diverge under one purpose: the creation of literary works guaranteed to set the mind, heart, and spirit ablaze.

Stories included:

Express-Oh” by Adonis Mann
Not Always Like This” by Carol Cassada
The Fireman” by Harmony Kent
The Complications of Fire” by Beem Weeks
Calliope’s Inferno” by C. Desert Rose
Moxy” by Y. Correa
Antipode” by Synful Desire
The Chronicles of Aidan” by Da’Kharta Rising, and
The Calefaction of Insight” by Queen of Spades.

 

 

Since January 2015 All Authors Publishing House has been exploring the elements of nature through the enterprise known as Concordant Vibrancy, an All Authors Anthology Collection.
Book One explored Unity under the theme question of “What elements contribute to the concept of unity?” The element being Earth. Through an array of tales, the authors explained what Unity meant to them.
Book Two examined Vitality. The theme question was, “What force drives your spirit?” The element was Air. Here the authors endeavored to answer the question with a combination of stories and essays.
Book Three looked at Lustrate using the theme question, “What embodies the composition of fluidity?” The element was water. Herein the authors spoke lucidly and clearly on what fluidity meant to them.
Book Four takes a peek at Inferno … the element of Fire. It asks “What are the ingredients to a sustainable blaze?” By far the best of the collection, “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno” is a demonstration of depth in thought and evolution in craft.
Now, without further ado and with great pride All Authors brings you the cover of “Concordant Vibrancy 4: Inferno”.

 

WELCOME TO THE #RRBC 2019 OCTOBER-WEEN BLOCK PARTY!

Greetings to all! Welcome to Rave Reviews Book Club’s 2019 October-ween Block Party! Today, in keeping with the Halloween spirit, I am sharing my short story entitled Monster, from my short story collection Strange Hwy

CONGRATULATIONS TO MY WINNERS! 

1. Mark Bierman

2. Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko

3. Jerry Marquardt

**This giveaway is now closed**

Three lucky readers will win prizes! (Who doesn’t like prizes?)

Here are my prize packs:

1. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

2. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

3. A $10 Amazon Gift Card and your choice of a signed paperback copy of one of my books!

Those books to choose from are:

  1. Jazz Baby
  2. Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories
  3. Strange Hwy: Short Stories

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below!

And now, on to my Halloween short story. . .

 

Monster

 

“Indecent liberties with a minor,” my mother explained, repeating the same words Danny Deagle sprinkled on us kids earlier in the day. “I don’t want you girls trick-or-treating at his house tonight.”

The old man at the end of the street, she meant. A swirl of new words followed him into our neighborhood—words shrouded in secrecy, in a thick fog of mystery. The simple ones I’d commit to memory, intending find them in the dictionary I got for my tenth birthday this past summer—a secret gift that nobody else knew about.

Perv—that’s the one I looked up last night, right before bed. Millicent, my older sister, she used it when telling Grandma Myron about the new neighbor in question. But if there’s such a word as perv, well, old Merriam-Webster hasn’t been told. I couldn’t find it to save my life.

“I ain’t going anywhere near that side of the street,” Millicent announced. “—not as long as he’s lurking down there.”

She’d go over there, though. Millicent thinks she’s hot you-know-what just because she’s thirteen now. Besides, every kid in the neighborhood wants to be the first one to walk up those front steps and ring the doorbell. You have to be seen doing it, though, or it won’t count for anything.

I tossed in a handful of words meant to be my two cents. “Danny Deagle says he got in trouble down in Kentucky before he got in trouble here in Ohio—that old man, I mean.”

Danny Deagle knows about these sorts of things. His stepdad is a cop.

My mother lit a fresh Marlboro and proclaimed, “He’s got no business staying on this street—not with all you kids around.” Thin lazy smoke slithered from her nostrils like twin snakes in search of a meal. “Don’t let me hear that you girls went trick-or-treating at his house.”

* * *

Millicent dressed as a belly dancer again—same as last Halloween and the one before that. She just likes the attention from boys like Danny Deagle and Jeff Brahm. But they like her only because she’s practically naked in her costume.

Me? I got stuck being a hobo again—even though my mother promised me I could be the belly dancer this year.

Millicent grabbed her pillowcase from the kitchen table and said, “Ready, dweeb?”

“You’re the dweeb,” I argued, snatching my own pillowcase.

My mother said, “Don’t stay out all night.”

We’d stay out as long as it took to fill those pillowcases to the full.

Danny Deagle met us in front of his house. Those gray eyes of his drank up Millicent like she’s cool water and he’s been thirsty for days. But he really couldn’t be blamed. Booty shorts and a sports bra, that’s all she wore underneath that sheer white fabric that left her belly bare and exposed.

Our father, before he remarried and moved to Cincinnati, wouldn’t have allowed one of his daughters to go traipsing through the neighborhood wearing only a couple of tissue papers.

.

But our father doesn’t come around anymore. And our mother, she won’t play the villain—as she likes to say. So Millicent gets away with murder.

Kids of all ages crisscrossed our neighborhood exchanging tricks for treats. Smarties and Sweettarts mingled with fun-sized Snickers and Milky Ways in the bottom of our pillowcases. And later, when we’d finally have to call it a night, Millicent would try to swindle me out of all of my Hershey’s Miniatures, offering junk like jelly beans and peanut butter chews for trade.

Billy Pinsler found us where Delbert Avenue and McCaully Drive cross. Billy’s my age—only shorter. “Anybody going to the perv’s house?” he asked.

Danny fixed me in his sight. “You’ll go up there, won’t you, Melanie?”

My head twisted left and right. “Mom said to stay away from his house,” I told him, knowing full-well he’d poke and prod until I agreed to answer his dare.

Danny’s good like that. He knows how to get kids to do what he’s too scared to do—only he’d never admit to being scared.

Millicent joined the push, said, “Since when do you listen to Mom?”

We were already there, bags half-full, in front of that house on the end of our street. I’d be the one going, as usual.

“Melanie won’t go,” Billy announced. “She’s too scared.”

My eyes found Millicent’s eyes. “You’re the one who’s half naked; why don’t you go up there?”

“Because the guy’s a perv, nimrod!” said Danny. “You want him to try something with her?”

And what about me?

I tossed my gaze toward that house. A lone porch light shined out of the dark.

“If I scream,” I said, walking to my demise, “you better run and call the cops.”

A fall breeze passed through the trees overhead, sending loose leaves gliding to the ground.

My legs went heavy and stiff, unwilling to move without provocation. Somewhere on that street a dog barked warnings at kids in costumes.

My body halted at the bottom step leading to the front door. I tossed a glance over my shoulder. Millicent, Danny, and Billy took refuge behind shrubs at the foot of the driveway.

“Ain’t gotta be scared,” the voice said, suddenly there like a spook in the night. “Just come on up. I won’t bite—except you want I should.”

A bead of sweat raced down my belly, which was stuffed with an old pillow to make me look fat.

Gray hair going thin twisted this way and that, like weeds, atop his head. Skinny, like maybe he’d been sick for a while.

My foot found the first step, brought us closer.

He asked, “You gonna say it?”

I would. It only seemed right. “Trick or treat.”

A laugh just like my father’s slipped past his lips. He kind of resembled him, too, around the eyes and nose.

“You say it with no real conviction, girl,” he said, almost accusing me of something.

The mouth of my pillowcase yawned wide, ready to swallow whatever treats he chose to dispense.

Two Hershey’s miniatures.

Mr. Goodbar and Krackle.

“Where’s your sister?” he wondered aloud, throwing his gaze like a pair of marbles down the driveway.

“Hiding,” I confessed, backing away.

But those eyes of his—cobalt blue, same as my father’s—took hold on me, wandered along my length as if sizing me for a new dress.

“You ’sposed to be a bum?” he asked.

Denim coveralls, a gray T-shirt that used to be white, and worn-out tennis shoes seemed the easiest of Halloween costumes to put together.

I corrected him, said, “A hobo.”

“Hobo, huh?” He waggled his finger, drew me closer to his grasp. “Take the rest of these,” he said, offering me the entire bowl of miniatures.

“What about the other kids?”

“Ain’t no other kids. You the only one come ’round tonight.”

It made my bag heavier and more than satisfied, this extra loot.

My voice came tight, higher-pitched than normal. “Thank you.”

“Polite—just like your daddy at that age.” The weight of his body found relief against the door frame. “Did you get the Merriam-Webster I sent for your birthday?”

My head tipped a nod, my voice said, “Thank you, Granddad.”

* * *

“Did he lose his goo over you?” Danny Deagle asked, acting like a big brother. “I’ll tell my stepdad if he did.”

“He didn’t,” I assured him, not really understanding what goo just might get lost.

Millicent’s gaze took hold on mine, passed words into my head, words demanding my silence on the matter.

Aloud, her words asked, “What’d he give you?”

“Jellybeans,” I told her. “Nothing but jellybeans.”

This story can be found in Strange Hwy: Short Stories.

If you ever find yourself on the Strange Hwy–don’t turn around. Don’t panic. Just. Keep. Going. You never know what you’ll find.

You’ll see magic at the fingertips of an autistic young man,

  • A teen girl’s afternoon, lifetime of loss.
  • A winged man, an angel? Demon–?
  • Mother’s recognition, peace to daughter.
  • Danny’s death, stifled secrets.
  • Black man’s music, guitar transforms boy.
  • Dead brother, open confession.
  • First love, supernatural?–family becomes whole!

You can exit the Strange Hwy, and come back any time you want.

See, now you know the way in, don’t be a stranger.

BUY:

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Bernard Foong @bernardfoong

Vignettes Parisian by Bernard Foong

Vignettes Parisian

Vignettes Parisian is a collection of four short stories about the Author’s past and present experiences in the French City of Love and Romance, commonly known as Paris.

 

Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve

It is impossible not to have a close encounter with fashion when I am in Paris. Even if I had to wait in the freezing cold for an hour and a half to enter the Christian Dior Couturier Du Reve (Christian Dior Couturier of Dreams) exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts). My husband, Walter, and I were the lucky few who arrived early before the museum opened its doors. The late arrivals were banished to the back of the queue for a five hours wait before admission was granted.

This spectacular exhibition was worth the wait. Not only were the lives, times, and accomplishments of Christian Dior, one of the great French couturier and his successors well documented, the exquisite fashions and well-thought-out displays were equally impressive.

Since my first visit in 1966 to the French capital of romance, luxury, and fashion, my love for Paris has never waned. Before I left sunny Maui, I had designed and made a haute couture gold, silver, and black embossed velvet fleur-de-lis patterned coat to wear during my recent holiday in France. It was at this exhibition that I received compliments for my one-of-a-kind creation.

A stranger approached me at the exhibition to buy the coat off my back because he loved what I wore. Perhaps I should be the next designer to take over the reins for this resplendent Maison – The House of Dior. After all, I am a knowledgeable and seasoned fashion designer who knows every aspect of the international fashion industry.

Shopping In Paris (Then & Now)

I am one of those blessed individuals with a pair of discerning eyes and can detect items I wish to purchase in cramped spaces on my crazy shopping sprees. It was in such a circumstance that Walter and I found ourselves in the middle of the crowded shopping Avenue, des Champs Elysées.

A sole of my shoe had divorced itself from the body of my long-lasting suedes and left me to hobble around Paris like a circus clown with flapping feet. I had to take immediate action to remedy this unanticipated situation before the remainder of my footwear disintegrated onto the wet and soggy ground, while my beloved, sniggered at my fashion malfunction.

I remembered an amusing incident that happened in 1969 at this boulevard. Back then, I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fashion student. Accompanying Moi was Count Mario, an accomplished Vogue fashion photographer, Andy, my model-looking lover and Valet, and Sammy, a flamboyant young fashionista. The four of us were shopping at the avenue, that drizzly day.

To elongate his petite stature beneath his wide bell-bottom jeans, Sammy wore a pair of eight inches high platform shoes. He also donned a fitted denim jacket over a sassy body-hugging bodysuit. To complete his eccentric ensemble, his dyed cornflower yellow, emerald, and turquoise hair flowed behind him like an exotic mane as our quartet floated down the street.

Eyes turned in our direction as we trotted around Paris in style. Before I realized what had transpired, Sammy was flat on the pavement. Colorful socks bounced around him like raptured pom-poms. The lad had stuffed pairs of rolled-up socks inside his footwear so he could fit his tiny feet into the platforms. He had stumbled on the wet and slippery sidewalk.

Mario, wasted no time whipping out his camera to capture this unanticipated fashion faux pas, while Andy and I looked on in shock.

As if modeling for a Vogue fashion shoot, the quick-witted Sam posed this way and that on the wet thoroughfare while the photographer clicked away at the gaffe. A pedestrian circle had formed in the middle of Avenue des Champs Elysées to witness this “fashion happening.” Advertently, our friend had transformed an embarrassing situation into a photo-opt as the applauding crowd showered the boy with accolades. By the time Sammy got on his feet, he had saved his face with poise and grace.

 

The Magical Power of The Written Word

“Why are there beds located at different corners of the bookstore?” I asked Monsieur Mercier, an assistant at the Shakespeare & Company bookshop.

“The beds are available for writers to stay a night in Paris for free,” the man responded before he resumed, “ Are you a writer? Do you intend to stay the night?”

Surprised by the man’s inquiries, I evinced, “I am a writer. But no thank you to the lodging offer.”

“What genre of books do you write, Monsieur?” Mercier queried.

“I’m an autobiographer,” I replied. “Because of its controversial and provocative contents, my books are often classified under the Erotica genre.”

The bookseller questioned, “What are the titles of your books, and what is the author’s name?”

A HAREM BOY’S SAGA; A MEMOIR BY YOUNG. It’s a five-book series,” I declared.

“I believe we have your books in the store. Are the titles: INITIATION, UNBRIDLED, DEBAUCHERY, TURPITUDE, and METANOIA?” he promulgated.

I nodded, delighted by his information.

The Frenchman led me through a series of narrow pathways covered with volumes and pamphlets of the written word. When he finally extracted five volumes of my autobiography from a shelf, my heart nearly leaped out of my chest.

“I read the series. What a compelling teenage life you’ve led. I wish my school had a secret fraternity program like yours,” the teller quipped smilingly.

He recommenced, “Our store is a focal point of English literature in Paris. Anais Nin, Henry Miller, and Richard Wright are frequent visitors. We also host literary activities, like poetry readings, writers’ meetings, book readings, writing festivals, literature festivals, photography workshops, writing groups, and Sunday tea.

“Ms. Sylvia Whitman, the owner, might invite you for a book reading at our store.”

“That will be splendid. Unfortunately, my husband and I are in Paris for a short period. Maybe we can arrange a book reading and signing session when we are in Paris again,” I proposed.

Monsieur Mercier and I had exchanged contact information before I left the Shakespeare & Company bookshop. Hopefully, during my next visit to Paree, I will get to meet Madam Sylvia Whitman with a book reading and signing gig in place.

 

S.O.W. and R.E.A.P.

Over the years, I have been asked by many, “Why do you love Paris so much?” My reply is always the same – S.O.W.

Although the Parisian cityscape has changed over the years, these three alphabets continue to shadow my existence whenever I am in or out of Paris. S.O.W. is also a reason Walter and I chose France as our home away from home.

In the autumn of 1966, when the Simorgh (one of my Arab patriarch’s private jet) touched down in Charles de Gaulle airport, I had contracted the romance bug. Back then, the ebullient Moi, an inquisitive teenager with a quest for adventure, was whisked to the Paris Ritz Carlton in a luxurious Bentley by my host, Prince P. I had fallen head-over-heels in love and in awe with both the prince, Andy, my then chaperone and Valet, and Paris, the city of romance. That was before our entourage visited the haute couture fashion Houses of Chanel, Dior, Ungaro, Givenchy, Yves Saint Laurent, Patou, and the fancy eateries, such as Café de Flore, La Belle Époque, Maxim’s, and last but by no means least, Le Folies Bergers. Back then, these infamous Parisian establishments were places to go, to see and be seen. Nowadays, they are tourist attractions.

Through the subsequent years, I had accompanied many princes, princesses, sheiks, sheikas, and their aristocratic Arabian entourages to the French capital. Most significantly, this city of love and romance had taught me the art of Seduction (S), Originality (O), and Wit (W). Some may say that wittiness is a congenital trait, but I purport it as a learned art of human relationships. Whatever definition one chooses to use, I had returned to this electrifying metropolis of S.O.W.; where I had sown many a wild oat. Now, with my beloved husband in tow, I’m here to R.E.A.P. its rewards.

“What the hell is R.E.A.P.?” you ask.

I will explain:

RRomance continues to exist in this alluring Capital of Love; even amid an influx of foreign refugees and political upheavals. Another series of stories, I will narrate another time.

EElegance in this sordid city of high culture is a trait Walter and I find irresistibly seductive.

AAuthenticity is historicity in this Center of Romance. And I am not referring to the faux reproduction of the Las Vegas ‘Paris’ in Nevada, United States of America.

PParis equals Sophistication, Originality, Wit, Romance, Elegance, and Authenticity. But last and by no means least, this French capital is where Perfection reigns supreme.

PARIS – Mon Paree!

 

Bernard Foong (aka Young)

***

Thank you for supporting this member along the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour today!  We ask that if you have enjoyed this member’s writing, please visit their Author Page on the RWISA site, where you can find more of their writing, along with their contact and social media links, if they’ve turned you into a fan.

We ask that you also check out their books in the RWISA or RRBC catalogs.  Thanks, again for your support and we hope that you will follow each member along this amazing tour of talent!  Don’t forget to click the link below to learn more about this author:

Bernard Foong RWISA Author Page

 

 

Welcome to the WATCH “RWISA” WRITE Showcase Tour! #RRBC #RWISA – Ronald E. Yates @jhawker69

Burning Out in Tokyo by Ronald E. Yates

Burning Out in Tokyo

By Ronald E. Yates

 

Clayton Brandt stood just behind the glass doors of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry building waiting for a let-up in the storm that pummeled the hot Tokyo pavement. Wisps of vapor rose into the air as the rain hit the warm ground.

 

He searched the eight-lane boulevard in front of the MITI building for an empty taxi. He knew it could be a long wait before an empty cab came down Sakurada-Dori. Thousands of bureaucrats glutted Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district, and whenever it rained, it seemed like all of them wanted a taxi.

 

“Son of a bitch!” he said, his words echoing through the lobby. Two middle-aged Japanese bureaucrats standing nearby looked over at the tall foreigner. They understood that English phrase.

 

Clayton grinned. “Ame-ga futte imasu,” he said.

 

The two men looked at one another and then back at Clayton as if to say: “Yes, we can see it is raining. But is that any excuse for such a rude public outburst?”

 

Clayton sighed, opened his umbrella, and stepped out into the downpour. He turned right and hurried through the governmental heartland of Japan, maneuvering his 6-foot, 3-inch frame through the crowded sidewalk glutted with black and gray umbrellas. Sometimes the edge of an umbrella held by a much shorter Japanese man or woman slashed at his throat or slapped against his face. Whenever it rained, and the umbrellas came out, Clayton always felt Gulliveresque—like a giant trapped in a forest of undulating toadstools.

 

He looked up at the leaden April sky. The rain had drenched Tokyo for the past four days, covering the ground with a pink and white patina of delicate sakura blossoms. A slow rumble of thunder curled between the squat granite structures of Kasumigaseki. Clayton looked at his watch. It was four-thirty and the evening traffic was already crawling. He had hoped to get his story written and filed by six o’clock, but the briefing about Japan’s angry reaction to Washington’s decision to bar the U.S. government’s purchase of Japanese supercomputers had taken longer than usual.

 

The sky rumbled again, and bolts of lightning streaked overhead. A taxi pulled up outside the Ministry of Health and Welfare and was disgorging three Japanese bureaucrats in dark blue suits. Clayton closed his umbrella and dashed for the cab splashing through rivulets of water as he ran. The three men had barely climbed out before Clayton bolted past them and into the rear seat. He gave the driver his destination, closed his eyes, and rested his head on the seat back as the taxi inched its way back into the gridlock.

 

Every so often, his eyes opened just long enough to take in the somber Tokyo landscape. The perpetually gray skies of Tokyo didn’t do his already sepulchral spirit any good. In fact, very little seemed to buoy his disposition these days. He couldn’t help it. He felt depressed and probably a bit too sorry for himself. A few hours before the MITI briefing, he had suffered through another of those telephone “chats” with Max, the foreign editor of Global News Service in London about expenses and the need to cut back on costs.

 

“O.K., O.K. Max,” Clayton had sighed bleakly into the phone. “I get the picture.”

 

The exchange ended with Max suggesting that Clayton not be such a “cowboy.” A “cowboy?” Why? Just because he was from Oxford, Kansas and not Oxford, England? It wasn’t easy working for a bunch of Brits when you sounded more like Garth Brooks than Sir Laurence Olivier. But he knew what Max meant.

 

Clayton was an iconoclast in a profession that increasingly rewarded conformity rather than individualism. Newspapers today all looked alike, loaded with the same predictable stories about the same predictable events. It was rubber-stamp journalism practiced by rubber-stamp editors who worked for rubber-stamp publishers who worked for boards of directors who wanted twenty percent operating profit margins above all else—quality journalism be damned.

 

He went over the notes he had hurriedly scribbled during the MITI briefing, searching for the lead of his story. His pen scratched heavy lines under the words “ill-conceived” and “studying our response.” Then he stuffed the notebook back into his bag.

 

“It’s over,” Clayton thought to himself as he watched the snarl of cars and trucks crawl along Uchibori-Dori through Kokyo-Gaien, the large plaza that fronted the walled Imperial Palace. It was as if today he had been forced finally to confront the inevitable mortality of his professional career; or at least of his particular brand of journalism. He was writing the same boring stories over and over again. Where was the challenge? The sense of accomplishment?

 

Clayton exhaled and gazed out the taxi window at the striated, ashen facades of drenched buildings. They reminded him of the mascara-smudged faces of women weeping at a rainy graveside.

 

He closed his eyes and nudged his mind away from the depressing Tokyo landscape. Soon it was obediently shuffling through old images of another, more beguiling Asia. It was an Asia of genial evenings spent beneath traveler palms; of graceful, colonial-era hotels in Singapore and Malaysia with their chalky plaster facades and their broad verandahs peppered with rattan settees and peacock chairs; of slowly turning teakwood paddle fans that moved the heavy night air with just enough authority to create a light breeze, but not enough to obliterate the sweet scent of evening jasmine. THAT was the Asia he missed; the Orient of the past.

 

Yes, it was ending. Clayton could feel it. It had been a good run . . . A good career. But now the journey was ending, like a train that had roared through the night and was now pulling into its last station. How many times had he almost gotten off only to be lured back on by the promise of what lay ahead at the next stop? How many times had he been disappointed by that decision? How many times had he been rewarded? At first, the rewards outweighed the disappointments, but in recent years, as he had grown older, the regrets seemed to have gained a definite edge.

 

For one thing, the passengers kept changing. And the conductors. And the engineers. But what did he expect? Wasn’t that the way the world worked? What was it that Tennyson had written: “The old order changeth, yielding place to new?”

 

Clayton shuddered. Was he the old order? Should he be yielding? Was he burned out?

 

Maybe he was becoming the old order, Clayton thought. But he wasn’t burned out just yet. And if there was any yielding to do, he wanted it on his own terms. The trouble was, the gulf of time between his past glories and the imminence of the callow, computer savvy handlers in the home office who controlled his destiny was becoming almost unbridgeable.

 

Most of his career predated cell phones and computers. For the computer literates at Global, his life’s work might as well be stored on some remote database. As it was, he existed only in yellowing newspaper clips, aging telexes, and letters of commendation that were kept in his personal file back in London. And nobody bothered to look at that stuff anymore.

 

It made no difference, Clayton thought. In the mutable, evanescent province that modern journalism had become, it was ancient history. Hell, HE was ancient history. He was like a piece of old journalistic parchment—readable, but, unlike a computer, much less utilitarian.

 

What Clayton needed was another journalistic rush . . . A story he could get hold of and play like a newly discovered Mozart piano concerto. He needed something . . . Not to satisfy the yuppies back at Global, but to give him a reason to get back on the train and to leave the station again.

 

The taxi slewed to a stop like a wooden bathhouse sandal skidding along a wet tile floor. Clayton looked up. They were in front of the Kawabata Building.

 

“Kawabata Biru, desu,” the driver announced.

 

Clayton fumbled in his pocket, handed the driver a one thousand yen note, and waited for his change. Then he bolted through the swirling Tokyo rain and put his shoulder against the massive glass and steel doors of the Kawabata Building. Unlike most of Tokyo’s modern structures, the Kawabata Building didn’t have sleek automatic glass doors that hissed serpent-like and opened automatically at the approach of a human being. It was a pre-war relic—an architectural throw-back with cracked marble floors and a fading art deco interior that had somehow survived the allied bombings.

 

The building’s deteriorating facade, which was the color of dead autumn leaves, seemed to glower at the world—like the rumpled brow of an angry old man. But the tumble-down building had an undeniable individuality in a country that too often prized sameness, and that was the reason Clayton liked it and had refused an offer to move into one of the new glass and steel “smart buildings” that soared over Tokyo’s Otemachi district.

 

He paused to talk for a moment with the old woman who operated the small grocery and newsstand tucked away in the corner of the lobby. From his many conversations with her, Clayton had learned that the old woman had operated her little concession since 1938 and knew the building’s history better than anybody.

 

She smiled as Clayton’s towering frame bent toward her in one of those peculiar half bows that Japanese make when they are in a hurry. Japanese could do it with a certain grace; but not Clayton. When this big foreigner bowed, he always looked like he was on the verge of crashing to the ground like a gingko tree struck by lightning. Nevertheless, she liked this gaijin. Ordinarily, she merely tolerated foreigners, but this one had a solitary charm. He was big, but not threatening; assertive, but not arrogant.

 

“So, Oba-san, Genki datta?” Clayton asked, combining the Japanese honorific for “grandmother” with the less formal interrogative for “how are you?”

 

“Genki-yo,” the old woman replied. Clayton picked up a package of Pocky chocolates and placed a one hundred yen coin in the old woman’s hand.

 

“Sayonara,” Clayton said as he turned and scuttled toward the bank of elevators.

 

“Sonna ni hatarakanai ho ga ii desu!” the old woman called after him.

 

Clayton smiled and nodded over his shoulder. The old woman was right. He was working too hard, and where was it getting him? Back on a train to oblivion?

 

“Oh, get over it,” Clayton thought as the elevator door closed. “You’ve got a story to write. Feel sorry for yourself AFTER you make your friggin’ deadline! Besides, what else do you know how to do, you old hack! Burning out is not an option.”

 

The End

 

***

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