Archives for posts with tag: Stories

Girl in snorkeling mask dive underwater with coral reef fishes

The girl in the plastic mask
by Maria Nestorides

The plastic strap snaps into place onto the back of my head and I adjust the tension, so it fits comfortably. The glass on the front of the mask is a little hazy but the thought barely registers because my heart hammers, and I’m not sure whether it’s from exhilaration or fear. I adjust the snorkel so it’s pointing straight up like I’ve been taught, and survey the shimmering surface of the ocean, the water lapping around me in a welcoming caress. The slight scent of rubber and the pressure of the mask on my nose and around my eyes are new and strange.

I take my time and slowly submerge myself, then push downwards towards the seabed. Sunlight leaks through the ocean’s surface. I kick the water with my feet once, twice, propelling myself forward and, just like that, I find myself in a surreal, silent kingdom that hustles and bustles like a busy high street, one without any sound, like an old silent movie. The only thing I can hear is the amplified sound of my rhythmic breathing through the snorkel. Vibrant, brightly coloured marine creatures swim by, oblivious to my presence. I’m a visitor in their world but they allow me to witness their everydayness like I’m a part of it. Schools of yellow- and blue-striped fish move languorously through brightly coloured corals, and shadowy, slithering, sinister-looking eels slink by.

My flippers guide me through every nook and cranny of this underwater paradise, and I don’t leave until the skin on my fingertips has wrinkled like prunes and the mask has left an angry red mark around my eyes and nose. As I slosh through the shallow water towards the shore I look back wistfully. I promise myself I will be back. I will be back soon.

Photo by dmosreg (123rf.com).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was about twelve and living in Khor Fakkan (in the United Arab Emirates), a friend of the family offered to teach my sister and me to snorkel. This short piece is my first attempt to describe how that felt.

Maria_Nestorides

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus with her husband. She has two adult children. She received an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 2011. Her short stories have appeared on The Story Shack, Inkitt, Red Fez, and Silver Birch Press. She also contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure, by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan 6, 2009). Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Kennedy2

Masks of Industry
by Cecilia Kennedy

A parade of masks stretches out on Facebook, their straps trailing the pages. Sleek, sparkling—full of bold patterns and vibrant colors—they go by on industrious friends’ posts. People I know are turning them out—20, 30, 100 a day. Some have made hundreds, and they donate them. Beneath the posts, the memes march past, on the edges of the fabric, reminding me “there is no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.” I’m not supposed to judge my “productivity based on what was ‘normal’ in January.” But I do. I do, when I see the masks. And here I am, in the middle of a pandemic without a sewing machine or talent for sewing.

Refreshing the page just lengthens the parade. Teens make N95 masks on 3-D printers and fly planes to deliver supplies. The fireworks at the end are the announcements: Masks Required in Stores. In a panic, I knock on the neighbor’s door to ask for a donation. I’m handed four sturdy masks that are too big, but maybe they’ll shrink.

In the store, we watch each other with wide eyes—looking, looking, looking. I like the strawberry print that another woman wears. Someone else wears a pink flamingo patterned mask—and I wish I could make my own. I’d fashion it from old jeans and bedazzle it.

When I’m done shopping, when I’ve held my breath while walking past mask-less strangers, I place my covering into the wash, hoping I can get a tighter fit. That’s my super- power: shrinking. I snap a picture of my work and add it to the parade. A caption about my progress reads: “Four masks shrunk during lockdown. How the sun and moon do shine!”

Kennedy1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cecilia Kennedy taught Spanish language, culture, and literature as well as English composition and literature courses in Ohio for over 20 years. She now lives in the Greater Seattle area with her son Alex and her husband Nathan. Since 2017, she has published over 20 short stories in literary magazines and anthologies online and in print, including The Writing Disorder, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, Flash Fiction Magazine, Mad Scientist Journal, Coffin Bell, Headway Quarterly, Open Minds Quarterly, and Gathering Storm. Her blog Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks chronicles her humorous attempts at cooking and home repair.

Masked - March 2020

That Masked Man
by Clive Collins

1955. I pester my mother, successfully this year, for a Guy Fawkes mask and in it haunt the streets. Half-blind, lucky, probably, to survive the traffic, yet transformed also: conspirator, would-be-blower-up of kings!

1959. A printers’ strike in Britain banishes Beanos, Dandys, Toppers, Beezers. Instead, American comics fill the newsagents’ shelves with masked men (and the occasional woman). Our new second-hand TV shows, The Lone Ranger; Saturday afternoon pictures, Captain Africa. Fighters for justice all, and exciting enough, though I retain my affection for the poor sod burned in effigy each November and, down our street, wearing my mask.

1960. I pass the selection exam for grammar school and am sent to one where, for the first two years at least, and faces, stature, girths apart, we all look just the same: gray flannels, green blazers, green caps. Masked.

1962. Slowly, some affect changes: drainpipe trousers, Cliff-Richard quiffs, winkle-pickers, chisel toes. Teds, then Rockers.

1966. My mask is slipping: blazer shrunken, “drainies” patched, chisel toes kicked in. A Saturday job buys me a suit (a quid a week), a haircut (five bob a time). Again am I not me. A Mod I am. Or just about, and only for a while.

1968. University. Suit off; jeans on – patched with velvet natch; haircuts postponed (indefinitely?). What was a Mod? Oh, yeah . . .

1974. I need a job having not become a paperback writer. Back in a suit and off to Africa. Masked again to a country of masks – Poro, Bundu. Not easy to see through those. Not hard to see through mine.

1983. Tokyo. Here everybody wears a mask – of one sort or another: sararīman, ofisuredī, wamono, loligoth. Here I find, at last, I’d no need to bring my own. It’s been assigned: foreigner.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The late Frank Zappa is on record (literally!) as telling the audience at one of his UK performances, “Everybody in this room is wearing a uniform, and don’t kid yourself.”  Substitute the word mask for uniform, and you have my thoughts when writing this piece, more or less.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Clive Collins is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/ Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.  Carried Away and Other Stories is available from Red Bird Chapbooks.

don-stouder-wTpMd7uLsyA-unsplash
Thank you, thank you, thank you to the 118 writers from around the world who participated in our MY FRONT DOOR Poetry & Prose Series, which ran from March 18-May 20, 2020.

Many thanks to the following authors for taking us through their doorways — and helping us feel connected during these challenging days.

Suzanne Allen
Cynthia Anderson
Alicia Austen
Jane Berg
Alice Venessa Bever
Shelly Blankman
Rosemary Boehm
Steve Bogdaniec
Anne Born
Nancy Brewka-Clark
Gregory Brooks
Kelsey Bryan-Zwick
Charis Buckingham
Karyl Carmignani
Patricia Carney
Jan Chronister
Tricia Marcella Cimera
Joan Colby
Clive Collins
A.S. Coomer
Joe Cottonwood
Neil Creighton
Isobel Cunningham
Michelle D’costa
Subhankar Das
Michelle Davies-Brown
Howard Richard Debs
Ashini J. Desai
Steven Deutsch
Julie A. Dickson
Katherine Edgren
Joseph A. Farina
Vern Fein
Jennifer Finstrom
Lourdes A. Gautier
Midge Goldberg
Vince Gotera
Vijaya Gowrisankar
Uma Gowrishankar
Anita Haas
Tina Hacker
Mark Andrew Heathcote
Jennifer Hernandez
Veronica Hosking
Stephen Howarth
Temidayo Jacob
Andrew Jeter
P M F Johnson
Joseph Johnston
James Ross Kelly
Phyllis Klein
Tricia Knoll
Laurie Kolp
Judy Kronenfeld
Jennifer Lagier
Mary Langer Thompson
Barbara Leonhard
Joan Leotta
Laurinda Lind
Rick Lupert
Tamara Madison
Shahé Mankerian
Ruthie Marlenée
Betsy Mars
Lindsey Martin-Bowen
Devika Mathur
Mary McCarthy
Daniel McGinn
Linda McKenney
Alice Morris
Leah Mueller
Priyanka Mukherjee
Robbi Nester
Maria Nestorides
Cristina M.R. Norcross
Carolyn O’Connell
Robert O’Mochain
Erin Parker
Martha Patterson
Apoorva B. Raj
Patrick T. Reardon
Kevin Ridgeway
Belinda Rimmer
Jeannie E. Roberts
Mary Rohrer-Dann
Kerfe Roig
Alexis Rotella
Sarah Russell
Kimberly Sailor
d.r. sanchez
Wilderness Sarchild
Jame Schwartz
Shloka Shankar
Sheikha A
Kashiana Singh
Leslie Sitter
Massimo Soranzio
Carol A. Stephen
Robert Strickland
Lesley Strutt
Jacque Stukowski
MK Sturdevant
JC Sulzenko
Debi Swim
Terrence Sykes
Jo Taylor
Alarie Tennille
Thomas R. Thomas
Wren Valentino
Alan Walowitz
Dylan Ward
Lisa Lerma Weber
Elaine Wesson
Kelley White
Lynn White
Lin Whitehouse
Kim Whysall-Hammond
Jonathan Yungkans
Joanie HF Zosike

Please check out our current call for submissions at the link below:

WEARING A MASK Poetry & Prose Series (May 31, 2020 deadline)

Photo of house in Palm Springs, California, by Don Stouder on Unsplash.

Haas door
A B-Movie Birthday
by Anita Haas

I listen at my front door — dare not open it nowadays. Once-friendly neighbors watch for infractions. Leave only for food or medicine. Always alone. Masks, gloves, shopping trolley, distance. Cross over the road. Look away.

Stories of chivatos (tattlers) and “balcony police” abound online.

Has he been caught? Fined? Would they say his errand wasn’t “essential”? Several thousand euros would be a lot to pay for a birthday cake.

Stories of power-hungry cops and soldiers abound online.

At last I hear footsteps on the stairs — elevator buttons not safe. I open the door a crack and super-hubby slips in, panting. “We are living a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers!” I giggle “Yes, The Curse of Covid-19!” “Felicidades, cariño! Your cake!” He presents it to me proudly. “Gracias! My hero! Quick! Mask off! Wash your hands!” I spray alcohol over the parcels, relieved.

Stories of infection and death abound online.

Eyes lined, lashes lengthened, hair curled, careful not to show the roots. Chic top and earrings, track pants and slippers. Our backs shun the front door, the same one we opened wide to welcome last year’s guests. We grin into the phone, me holding the cake and he the selfie-stick. We bet on the number of likes we’ll get. Confined but connected!

Happy birthday stories abound online.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When this whole craziness began, I knew, as a writer, that I wanted to capture the fear, the uncertainty, and the hilarity that we were all experiencing. Madrid, at this point is still one of the hardest hit places, with most residents strictly confined to small apartments. My little birthday celebration and the front door theme helped tie it all together.

Haas copy1

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Anita Haas is a differently abled, Canadian writer and teacher based in Madrid, Spain. She has published books on film, two novelettes, a short story collection, and articles, poems, and fiction in both English and Spanish. Publications where her work has appeared  include Falling Star Magazine, Poetry Quarterly, Tulane Magazine, Literary Brushstrokes, and Adelaide Magazine. She spends her free time enjoying tapas, flamenco, and B-movies with her husband and two cats.

dan-formsma-bCD_jvxG6OA-unsplash
For the time being, many of us are required to wear a mask in public — or we choose to wear one for safety. Over the years, most of us have worn a variety of masks, in the literal or figurative sense. Let’s write about our experiences in the WEARING A MASK Poetry & Prose Series.

PROMPT: Tell us about wearing a mask (in the literal or figurative sense) in a poem (any reasonable length) or prose piece (300 words or fewer — this word limit also applies to prose poems).

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or prose. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish the piece on social media. We are a nonprofit blog and offer no monetary compensation to contributors. If your piece was previously published, please tell us where/when so we can credit the original publisher.

WHEN: We’ve already received a range of contributions, and on Thursday, May 21, 2020, will begin to feature the poems and prose in the Silver Birch Press WEARING A MASK Poetry and Prose Series on our blog.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email one poem or prose piece to SBPSUBMISSIONS@gmail.com as an MSWord attachment — and in the same file include your name, email address, one-paragraph author’s bio (written in third person), and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about your piece. Please put all this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name. Write “MASK” in the subject line of the email. Please send a photo of yourself in a mask of any variety — or a photo of a mask you’ve worn. Send the photos as separate jpg attachments.

SUBMISSION CHECKLIST

To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Smith.doc or Jones.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, email address).

3. In the same MS Word document, include a one-paragraph author’s bio, written in the third person. You are encouraged to include links to your books, websites, and social media accounts — we want to help promote you!

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process written in the first person (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. If available, send a photo of yourself in a mask, or a photo of a mask you’ve worn, as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). If possible, also send an additional author’s photo (without a mask). Title the photos with your last name (e.g., Jones1.jpg, Jones2.jpg).

7. Email to SBPSUBMISSIONS@gmail.com — and put  “MASK” in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Sunday, May 31, 2020

Photo by Dan Formsma on Unsplash.

door diamond window

Waiting for Chekov
by MK Sturdevant

 *TRIGORIN: Anyone could walk in here. (helps her up).

It isn’t closed exactly, if through the diamond window the light can shoot through most afternoons. What to do. There is nothing to do. Standing up might be something. Looking through the diamond not at it, something more. The prairies are coming back in some places. I could tell my mom, my sister, but no one can come. I seem content here, in the light, playing off the wall in this tiny foyer. I seem content in it, in life, housed in a life, we seem. Doors seem. They say, come in! This is where you come in! But if they can’t prevent you, if they can’t lock you out, they’re broken. A door says come it says stop. I say nothing, illuminated finally not by an answer but an impasse. I’m in a camera with a diamond pinhole. I am the subject. I am not open, exactly. This girl, glowing, in here, me, herself, is not as tall as the door, not as closed, but I too give you all merely a window. You see the trunk of a man, maybe you think I want you. You smell the milk of me, you recoil. I was once given a man made of flesh and keys. I stayed shut. Is there a view of the lake? It’s too hot. None of you make any sense! I know it’s snowing! A vodka—and hurry.

*TREPLEV: No one’s going to come in.

I know that, child. What year is this? It’s not surrealism. This is just nothing coming nothing going. Words float. If there is no one here to hear them assembled, is there any order at all? Air! Give me air. I am not some desperate object. Air!

*Anton Chekov, The Seagull. Trns. Curt Columbus. Ivan R. Dee, Publisher. Chicago: 2005.

NOTE FROM  THE AUTHOR: The feeling of time passing so slowly while stuck inside with family members and waiting for news, just has a Russian-play feel to it. It also is increasingly unclear to me (during quarantine) whether things people say are comedy or tragedy. In this way, a door, being open and shut, an invitation and denial, and the same thing every day yet full of possibility, seemed like a perfect way to tap into some Chekov, and see if I could find some company.

door portrait

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MK Sturdevant’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Orion, Flyway, Newfound, Kestrel, Alluvian, the Lily Poetry Review, Tiny Seed Journal, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the 2019 Montana Prize in Fiction, and is a reader for The Maine Review. She teaches philosophy in the Chicago area. Follow her on twitter @mksturdevant.

Door
In and Out
by Maria Nestorides

I’ve lived behind many front doors in my lifetime. Some of them welcomed me in, held me in a warm embrace. Others felt restrictive and repressive, and I, like a caged tiger, took any opportunity to escape through them.

My first front door was in London. When I was born, my dad held it open and pushed my pram through it as I slept on like a princess.

The second door was in Oman and it kept the howling desert storms at bay while I played happily within.

One door saw my teenage angst flare and feelings of not belonging grow into monsters.

Yet another door saw me finally finding my place in life, finally belonging.

In my adult life, our front door has opened to let us in and out. It has opened to an endless stream of friends and watched us leave to go meet with them, to go to a restaurant, to have a good time.

In and out.

Today, though, my door is hermetically sealed. No out allowed. It stands closed as a safeguard from the deadly virus around us.

These days, it is closed for the in. Closed to everyone who previously graced its entrance.

Everything is now done within the threshold of my front door: working, exercising, cooking.

In.

My hope is that, soon, my front door will re-open and our friends will spill through once again and we, like bears waking from our winter hibernation, will reconnect with them. We will hug and kiss, talk and laugh with each other.

But for now, we stay behind our front doors, waiting for the day when this dystopian reality will cease and we will walk back into the sunlight and fresh air, without masks, without gloves, without antiseptic.

Free.

To live again.

Maria_Nestorides

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus with her husband. She has two adult children. She received an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 2011. Her short stories “Red Letter Day” and “Voodoo Heads” were published online by Five Stop Story, and she contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan. 6, 2009). You can also find her stories Whispers of Love, Sand in my Shoes, Need you Now, and Under Cover on The Story Shack. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

johnston front door

The Onslaught at my Front Door
by Joseph Johnston

It wasn’t a rapping so much as it was an occasional flutter, a squeak from the hinges, a whisper of pressure on the storm door.

I noticed it during the first week of quarantine but chalked it up to the wind. Maybe.

Second week it was more persistent. Harder to ignore. A regular crashing at the front door. Convince myself it’s the pestilence.

Should I see who is there? Do I break the fourth wall? Let the disease in?

Much easier to just camp out in the basement and ignore the obvious. Maintain my controllable dimensions.

I hauled a tiny fridge down there and the coffee pot and the TV and the litter box and the best blankets. And the good rocker/recliner.

Third week I made it all the way to Wednesday completely ignoring the onslaught at my front door. I still don’t know how.

My fingernails were worn down to nubs, embarrassing versions of their former selves. And I couldn’t manage any TV. I was just sitting there. Rocking. Remembering.

Defending castle from disease. Hands over ears, hearing nothing.

Thursday. Thud. Crash. THUD. CRASH. And repeat. The storm door coming off the hinges. And no wind to speak of. The point of no ignoring.

I don’t want to investigate. I’m tired of investigations and ruminations and interrogations and suspicions. I’m tired of masks and their accusations.

I’m so tired. But I can’t make the noise stop. I have to answer the door. I have to face disease and death.

I wrap a novelty bandanna around my face and rack the deadbolt wide open. Turn the knob. Expecting zombies, I unleash the outside, in.

But it’s just a deer. Maybe six months old. Crashing into its reflection, in my direction.

I tape a drape over the storm glass and breathe.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It’s astonishing how quickly my mistrust of others has grown since the pandemic began. This is probably what I hate most of all these days. I don’t want to mistrust others, but I can’t help but feel like my life is on the line whenever I have to interact with someone. With this prompt, I tried to tell the story of how this new paranoia turned my front door into an airlock at some infectious disease germ lab.

johnston
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Atticus Review, Matador Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where he is working on a feature-length play about a dystopic suburban road rally.

front door

Our Red Front Door
by Linda McKenney

My mother’s choice, our red front door was unique on our block. This solid, wood sentinel served as our blockade for any strangers wishing to gain entry into our home. We’d surreptitiously raise one of the Venetian blind slats to see who was ringing the doorbell. If it was an unwanted caller, we’d pretend we weren’t home.

These types of visitors were an anomaly in our quiet town, where everyone was a trusted neighbor, watching out for one another. We felt safe. Until . . .

It was late afternoon, when my mother would be home preparing dinner. But, not feeling well, my father had taken her to the doctor.

The intruders kicked in our crimson bulwark and lay siege to our home. Upstairs, they found my father’s antique handguns. Shots were fired into one of the pillows in my parents’ bed. In each of the bedrooms, a fire trap was set. A book of matches on the bed, one bent up and lit. It burned down to ignite its fellow matches and all of the bedding. Flames then hungrily consumed the rest of the room. We knew this, because for some reason, this technique failed in one of the bedrooms.

The first thing my brother noticed, when he returned from delivering newspapers, was the large boot print on the destroyed front door. Heading to the back door, the upstairs window exploded with glass shrapnel, barely missing him. He saw flames shooting out and licking the roof. He ran inside, calling our mother’s name. When he verified she wasn’t there, he grabbed the small amount of cash downstairs and his sister’s parakeet.

We lost personal, irreplaceable possessions. But even more, we lost trust, that feeling of safety and my mother’s red front door.

Photo found on Pinterest.

our house

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This fire happened in 1973. The photo of the house is our house today. It has new owners. You can see how close it is to the one next door. That is the alley my brother started down when the window exploded. The red door photo is not our original door.  We don’t have one.

Linda-McKenney

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a storyteller, writer and actor, bringing historical women to life. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, The Rush, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an alter ego at  Susanbanthony.live.