Friday, 27 February 2015

4Q Interview with Christopher Graham. The man behind The Reading Ape.

This week the 4Q Interview is fortunate to have Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) as a guest. Hundreds of folks in the writing world know of Chris but not much about him. He is an unselfish, relentless worker on behalf of authors and writers the world over. His popular website, is home to countless articles about authors, writing and editing advice, a place to meet indie authors and readers, see book promos and a lot more. He lives in Manchester, England with his extremely patient wife.

He is not a published author.

4Q: I’m interested in knowing how the story reading ape came about, why did you decide to give so many writer’s a boost and how did you come up with the name?
CG: I've been a reader for as long as I can remember – often, it was just the books that kept me going otherwise life alone in the middle of a desert was not exactly interesting after you'd gazed in wonder at the stars every night and 'found' your fellow denizens crawled, slithered, stung or bit you (and those were the HUMAN kind lol).
I always made sure I had a good stock of mixed reading material with me, often going to UK with an empty bag and going back to the Middle East with 20+ Kgs of second hand books...
The idea for setting up a blog for authors came after I'd joined Goodreads (I'd found their app on my first eReader in December 2012) – while there, I often saw authors requesting to be hosted as guests on blogs, or to have their books promo'd on them.
So I checked out what was involved in blogging, what the best blog provider was, etc. then wrote and published my very first post – you can see it HERE

The NAME of the blog resulted from a statement once made by Sir Terry Pratchett in his book 'The Science of Discworld II: The Globe' “The anthropologists got it wrong when they named our species Homo sapiens ('wise man'). In any case it's an arrogant and bigheaded thing to say, wisdom being one of our least evident features. In reality, we are Pan narrans, the storytelling chimpanzee.”
I extrapolated from that to story listening apes and modernised it to story reading apes, leading eventually to the blog name.
A google search soon found a Great Ape reading 'The Origins of Man' book and I re-worked the image to make my Header and Logo.

4Q: Tell us about your writing.
CG: My 'writings' are the occasional article and story on my blog, from which it can easily be seen that I am definitely NOT an author lol.
Anyone interested can see the stories at the following links:
Or my most popular Blog Post:
My most re-tweeted post:

4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or fond memory of growing up.
CG: I have lots of great memories from childhood ranging from listening to my Grandfather telling stories in the evening ( he was a wonderfully expressive teller who made all the voices and facial expressions while he acted out the stories), to my Mother teaching me how to read.
Both of them instilled in me, a love for stories and helped develop my imagination so I could LIVE INSIDE the stories I read...

4Q: Aside from the being the story reading ape, what advice can you offer indie authors?
CG: Keep writing, refining, improving and sharing the stories inside you and always remember Only YOU can live your dream – NO-ONE else can live it for you.


I want to publicly thank Chris for not only participating on the Scribbler but for giving my novel and my blog a huge boost. I am indebted to him for hosting me on the story reading ape blog.

Chris' online links are below;

Twitter  -  LinkedIn  -  Google+  -  Goodreads  -  YouTube
You can find his book reviews on:
Barnes & Noble
Amazon:   UK  -  USA  -  Canada  -  Australia

Next week on the Scribbler two regular authors will be featured. Maggie James will share Chapter 2 of  The Second Captive. You read the Prologue and Chapter 1 previously here.

The tail end of the week will feature returning guest Katrina Cope with an excerpt from her novel Scarlet's Escape. Two exciting authors with teasers.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Reaching The Pinnacle - Part 2. A short story by Allan Hudson.

Welcome back to the redesigned Scribbler. If you dropped by last week you would've read Part 1 of Reaching The Pinnacle ( if you didn't, scroll down and you'll find it in case you want to read it first). Jeb Davis and his granddaughter Mindy are hiking to the top of Mount Carleton. The second installment follows.

No one ever saw him again.

Jeb begins to speculate anew of what might’ve happened to Norton when the skitter of a squirrel overhead disrupts his thoughts. He stops to look up. Standing under a large maple tree that has already shed its reddish leaves, with only a few here and there reluctant to let go, he finds it easy to watch the clever brown acrobat dart from limb to limb, chattering. Jeb soon loses sight of the critter when it darts up the trunk of a neighboring spruce tree. Turning his gaze uphill, he contemplates the sharp rise. He tugs on the straps of his pack, tightening them across his chest. Sniffing the cool air, so clear he can smell the trees, he pauses a few moments longer. Pleased with himself, he heads out to rendezvous with his granddaughter. 

Eight hours later, Mindy and Jeb are sitting on a fallen log three meters from their tent complaining about their overworked muscles. Jeb is reminded of some he hasn’t used in years. A large fire crackles in front of them in a makeshift pit they made with odd sized rocks. The surrounding trees provided the wood. A slight breeze from the north moves the sharp smoke away from them. The pleasant aroma of burning pine seems almost therapeutic. The clear sky is black with a million pinpricks of light. It’s down to 12 degrees and both have donned heavy fleeces. The flames flicker in the dark, throwing off a welcome heat. Mindy uses a long slender sapling as a poker to prod the wood into flames. They talk about their day in gleeful rapport.
- How Jeb had bragged about his famous salami and gouda sandwiches, which he’d made for their lunch, only to discover he’d forgotten to pack them. They’d had dry gorp and granola bars instead.
- Their astonishment when they climbed above the tree line – nothing but grey, cracked stone the last two hundred meters – where they discovered the whole valley and sister mountains to the south were visible. They both loved the sensation of height and had remained silent for many moments.
- The abandoned Ranger’s station at the very top of the
mountain – a four-by-four square meter structure with a double-hip roof. Guy wires of thick twisted steel braced all four corners to solid rock. The fierce winds that streamed across the mountaintop at times would otherwise carry it away. Jeb scolding Mindy for trying to climb the structure – exclaiming that the apex of the roof was actually the highest point in New Brunswick. Her slipping off the roof, and Jeb breaking her fall.
- The kettle of bald eagles that coiled about the sky on hidden thermals – updrafts created by the mountain sides – and how majestically they had soared. They had left Mindy wishing she could fly.
- The vivid orange and ovoid globes dotted with yellow patches: amanita flavocona – a poisonous mushroom they had found attached to red spruce the species favored at high elevations. Jeb showing off, telling Mindy the common name was “yellow warts.” Ugh! was Mindy’s response.

They shift into silent spheres on occasion, one pondering what the other has said. Jeb asks about her boyfriend. Is he taking the job out west? Is that what she wanted to tell him? No answer! So he talks about her experience testifying at court as a member of the RCMP’s Firearms and Tool Mark Identification Section; her knowledge of firearms is extensive.
Jeb tells her how many of his acquaintances passed away in the last year. They argue about which team will win this year’s Stanley Cup. Even though they haven’t won a championship in her lifetime, she refuses to turn her back on the Maple Leafs. They touch briefly on the dead body she found last year. She chatted about the new Glock 19 Gen 4 handgun she purchased. Jeb told her about the marvelous young woman of 68 he had met at dance classes, and asks if Mindy minds?
They both stare at the flames and become quiet. Jeb has a closed mouth smile; Mindy has a smooth brow and glad eyes. Yet they look uncannily alike.
Jeb’ stomach rumbles and he breaks from his trance. “Time to eat, my dear. Open the wine if you don’t mind.”
He jumps up, hastens to his pack just inside the unzipped tent to remove two heavy tin foil plates – like supermarkets sell their pies in – each wrapped in a thin thermal towel. Mindy already has the
wine, plastic glasses – his neon green, hers bright pink – and the cork screw. She had taken them out when she’d unpacked her sleeping bag before dinner. With a practiced hand, she slits away the top foil, twists in the corkscrew and opens up the grape.
The coals are pushed into a heap, with two pockets shaped on top, into which the heavy tin plates fit. The coals glow with heat, manifested by pink, white and red flares. A lick of blue flame erupts around the edges, where the heat finds something solid. Jeb puts on his hiking gloves to place the plates on the fire and the heat singes the loose threads on the end. The burnt nylon stinks.
Once the homemade roasters are sizzling, with aromatic juices of garlic and butter scenting the air, Mindy says, “Oh, Gramps, those smell good. How long?”
“Probably twenty minutes. Why?”
Jeb can see her smile in the light of the flames. It couldn’t be any bigger.
“I want to tell you the surprise now.”
Jeb is jubilant, he’s been thinking of every possible scenario since she informed him of something she wanted to tell him earlier. “Excellent.”
He grabs his neon green wine glass and tips it toward the wine, noticing she brought a bottle of Jacob’s Creek, Select. One of his favorites.
“Good choice, young lady.”
“Yeah, I know how much you like it.”

“Must be something special.”
After filling their wineglasses, she touches the edge of her glass to his. Mimicking fine lead crystal, she chants, “Pa-tinnnnnng. Here’s to the best Grampy ever.”
Jeb blushes and clears his throat, soaking up the comfortable vibes.
“To my favorite granddaughter.”
“Hah! I’m your only granddaughter.”
“Okay then, my favorite grandchild… and don’t tell the boys I said that. I love your brothers just as much.”
Mindy winks at him and takes a sip of wine. The firelight makes the blonde highlights stand out in her short curly hair. He has a hard time seeing her as a cop.
Mindy balances her glass on the log beside her and reaches into her jeans pocket to withdraw a small bag the size of a book of matches. She holds it up so he can see it. It’s too dark to see it’s made of grey velvet and silk tassels as she tugs the puckered opening apart. Reaching in with two fingers, she withdraws an original Vera Wang engagement ring. The 1-carat marquis diamond encased in an ornate band sparkles in the glow of the fire. She slips it on her left ring finger.

“Darrick asked me to marry him.” 
Jeb can see how happy she is. He can read it in her eyes, the way they widen in delight. Jeb’s good with this turn of events. After all, Darrick’s a solid man who dotes on his granddaughter.
“And you said yes of course.”
She concentrates on her ring for a moment, the facets teasing her eyes as she turns her hand toward the light as she happily nods her head.

“That’s wonderful news, Mindy. I’m so happy for you. Congratulations!”

‘Thank you, Grampy”
They both stand to hug. Mindy gives him a loving squeeze. By Jeb’s reaction, she knows she’s made the right decision. He backs off and holds her at arm’s-length.
“What did your mother say?”
“I haven’t told her yet. I wanted you to be the first to know.”
Mindy is shy now and breaks away from her grandfather. Pointing at the roasters, she says, “I think those might be done now.”
Jeb turns to eye the sizzling platters, steam escaping from the holes he made in the tin foil with a fork.
“A little more will be okay, I cut those potatoes kind of thick. So, you didn’t plan this trip just to tell me that did you?”
“No, there’s more. C’mon, sit down again.”
She rests upon the dead tree and when Jeb sits beside her, she holds his arm close to her and leans her head on his shoulder.
“I want you to walk me down the aisle.”
Jeb stares at the embers as she tells him. His elation is complete, a pulsing sensation of love and happiness. The coals turn all bleary as he tries not to blink. His reaction confuses Mindy and she asks gently, “Well?”
Jeb can’t talk, scared he will blubber. He offers her a gentle wave, asking her for a moment. She leans forward and sees the gleam in his eyes. She knows he will say yes.
The glowing embers and tin plates fade away. In their place a little girl walks from the living room and approaches him in the kitchen. Jeb is standing with his back against the cupboard, arms crossed as he munches on an apple. Mindy stops three or four steps away. He stops chewing and looks down. She’s almost eighteen months old and only thirty-one inches tall. The face that looks up at him is a
perfect oval, the eyes uncertain. Jeb can’t think of anything more dear. After a few seconds she blurts,
That was the first time she tried to say his name. The boys called him Gampy then because they couldn’t pronounce Grampy and that was the closest she could get. Jeb glowed with adoration, thinking nothing could make him happier.
Until the same little girl grew up.
Jeb untangles his arm and hugs her close.
“Thank you for this, Mindy. I guess I’m just about the happiest Grampy in the world right now. So… when’s the wedding?”
She replies nonchalantly, “In four weeks.”
Please visit the Scribbler on Friday when the 4Q Interview hosts Christopher Graham, owner of the sharing site, the reading ape. Chris is every author's hero.

Friday, 20 February 2015

A short story by Allan Hudson. Reaching The Pinnacle - Part 1

True events inspired this story. As it is told, well, it didn't happen this way but it could've. Grandfather and granddaughter hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire that night, the young lady shares what's on her heart.
Copyright is held by the author.
Reaching The Pinnacle

Jeb Davis is almost out of breath. The last half a kilometer of hiking up the mountain has been at a 25-degree angle. And it’s starting to get steeper. Mount Carleton in northern New Brunswick is not for cream puffs. He stops where the trail evens out for a meter or so near the exposed root of an enormous birch tree that has to be as old as his great grandparents if they were still alive. The bark on top of the root is rubbed away from countless soles. With one hand on the trunk, he stoops over to catch his breath. He adjusts his backpack with his other hand, hefting it a bit higher, and looks up the trail to check on his granddaughter. Thirty meters farther up, she is going full steam. He chuckles. It has always been so. Mindy Kane does everything at full throttle.
She doesn’t know he’s not behind her and she’s still talking. He can’t discern what she’s saying, but her voice comes back to him like vapor through the trees, a rhythm that’s part of the forest.
A chorus of black-capped chickadees with their two note song provides a natural harmony. Breathing deeply he inhales the scent of damp, dying leaves that only autumn can bring. He watches her as she hikes under yet another huge birch tree with a canopy of mighty limbs. Yellow and lime-colored leaves cling to more than half the outstretched arms. The stream of early morning light passes through the half-naked limbs, dappling her lithesome body and bulky pack. She must’ve asked a question and realized something wasn’t right when silence ensued. She stops and looks back. Jeb can see the teasing twinkle in her eyes even from this far. She yells out, “Whatsa matter, old-timer? Can’t hack it anymore?”
He’s smiling when he scolds her.
“Watch your mouth young lady. Respect your elders. Listen, Mindy, you said breaks every thirty minutes. We’ve been chugging up this ruddy hill for almost…”
Standing upright, he checks his watch.
“…forty five minutes. Now get down here and give your Gramps a break.”
He looks around to see another root growing out from the other side of the tree. It forms a knuckle about a meter and a half across, perfect for two regular sized bums. The ground is littered with fallen leaves – creating yellow and orange flooring. The sun shatters when it hits the tree, creating an inviting tumult of rays and shadows. He has to climb a small embankment about hip high, made of hard-packed dirt and smaller roots. When he finally plops on the exposed wood he wiggles out of his pack. Mindy drops hers, pulls a chrome water bottle out of a side pocket and jogs back down the hill. Scooting up the lip in a skip and a jump, she rounds the tree and, spying the makeshift seat, she says, “Shuffle over there a bit, Grampy.”
Before he can reply she offers him the water.
“Ah thanks, Mindy, my mouth is as dry as the bark on one of these trees.”

Sitting, their sides touching, she leans into him as he takes a long swig.
“I’m glad you decided to do this, Gramps.”
Wiping dripping water from his chin with his forearm, he switches the bottle from his right to his left hand and gives his granddaughter a sideways hug.
“I’m so pleased you asked. It’s been a long time since just the two of us have been on an overnighter. What…maybe 7 or 8 years? You were at university.”
Jeb drops his arm to sit forward. He sets the water bottle on the ground, leaning against the root. Mindy huddles forward, placing her elbows on her knees. Her head is in a narrow ray of sun and she appears golden.
“Wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long. That was when we went to Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland. That was an awesome trip.”
With her chin in her hand, she turns her head toward Jeb, her wide smile defines happiness. Jeb is sitting similarly, elbows on his knees. They’re about the same height so they’re eye to eye. Jeb melts under her stare; she’s looked at him that way since she was a baby. He knows her. Fine lines crinkle his temple when he scrunches his brow.
“You’re up to something, aren’t you, Mindy?”
She frowns back.
“Of course! But you have to wait until I’m ready to tell you.”
Jeb is ready to offer a guess when she cuts him off. “Don’t even try to guess or I won’t tell you at all.”
He stares at the ground, defeated.
Changing the subject as he offers her the water, he says, “So, what do you think? Another hour to the top, right around noon? We’ve been at this for almost three hours now and it usually takes an old duff like me about four or five, but you… you’re almost running uphill.”
They both laugh at his worn out joke. He can see she’s raring to go. He’s amazed at her stamina – always has been – but as a police officer, she has to remain fit. He deems himself in damn fine condition for his 71 years, but he’s no fool and knows he can’t keep up.

“You take off, Mindy. Do the home stretch like you enjoy. I’ll meet you at the campsite. After we’re set up and eat, we can do the last half a kilo to the top. I think the old forest ranger’s station is still there.”
She jumps up, brushes a couple of vagrant leaves from her behind.

“Okay. You sure you don’t mind?”

“I haven’t minded before. I’m good. I might stop once in a while to admire the splendor and beauty of our natural surroundings.”

She nods at his formal delivery knowing she’s just been told that he’ll be taking his good old time. Ever since he’d seen The Lord of the Rings, he was always quoting Gandalf about how he “means to arrive when he should.” She, on the other hand, thrives on pushing herself. The solitude of the forested hillside absorbs her stress and she forgets about upholding the law. Truthfully, she doesn’t like putting the tent up with Jeb; he’s too slow. She can have it up in ten minutes on her own, whereas with him “helping” it usually takes a half hour.
“Yeah, you do that, Gramps. Watch out for killer squirrels!”
“Oh! And I have something to tell you, too! But…!” He wags his finger at her, reminding her she knows the rest
“You crafty old dog!”
“Don’t call me an old dog. Now get outta here.”
He turns back to the leaf-covered vista before him, where he sees the downward slope of the terrain through the thinly scattered trees. The brush is kept trimmed four meters on each side of a narrow brook that flows three meters on the other side of the trail. The path follows the rill for another fifty meters before it twists northeast on its way to the pinnacle. He pushes his pack out of the way, rises and turns on his seat so he can watch her go uphill.
She is already halfway to the large tree where she left her pack, at a serious strut. The way she carries herself reminds Jeb of her father; she has the same physique. Of course, that vision is from when he was younger; they haven’t seen him for twenty-five years. The lovely oval face and cinnamon-colored eyes that can be so intense are from her mother, Heather – Jeb’s daughter. The determination and grit are her own. Watching her shoulder her pack and latch the loose nylon straps, he can only think how proud he is of her.
Jeb’s mind drifts as he stands to shoulder his own pack. Thoughts of Mindy’s father trouble him even with the passing of time. He wonders where he is. The family hasn’t heard from him for such a long time. Couldn’t stay off the bottle; probably drank himself to death. As Jeb climbs down the short bank to head up the trail, he can still remember the last time he saw him.
Norton Kane was a self-employed carpenter, living in a rooming house down in the east end of Moncton. He’d work for seven or eight days and go on a bender for two or three. A highly skilled craftsman when he was sober, he was always in demand. All he owned was an old Ford truck, his tools and enough clothes to fill a medium-sized suitcase. A year earlier Jeb’s daughter had had enough. Caring for two boys, aged six and five, and Mindy, only two, she threw him out for good.
Norton had stopped at Jeb’s place early one morning, a Saturday that was grey with an overcast sky. The first day of spring didn’t bode well. Norton’s knock on the door woke Jeb up. Opening the back door to admit his son-in-law, he had to step back from the reek of cheap booze. His hair and clothing were disheveled, his manner pleading and his swollen eyes filled with despair. He needed $200.00. He was starting a new project on Monday, a set of stairs in a new house by the golf course, he’d pay Jeb back next week. Jeb knew he’d never see the money again, but he didn’t dislike Norton, who had started out an honorable young man. He gave him $100.00 and wished him an abrupt goodbye. Norton didn’t even say thanks.
Two days later, Heather got a call from an angry homeowner demanding to know where his carpenter was. The gentleman had arrived at his house late afternoon to find the work site as if work is still in progress. Norton’s truck was parked in the driveway, rear hatch and driver’s door open. Tools were set up in the garage, with the wide doors rolled up. Sawdust and building materials were lying about. The door to the house was open but Norton was nowhere to be found.

No one ever saw him again.
To be continued....
Please visit on Tuesday, Feb 24th for Part 2.
This story was originally published in SHORTS Vol.2 Available from $1.99.
February 27th the 4Q Interview is back with none other than the most generous man in cyber space. When it comes to supporting authors and books, Chris Graham ( the reading ape ) goes beyond helpful.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Guest Author Mohana Rajakumar of Qatar

Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.  She has since published eight e-books, including a momoir for first time mothers, Mommy But Still Me; a guide for aspiring writers, So You Want to Sell a Million Copies; a short story collection, Coloured and Other Stories; and a novel about women’s friendships, Saving Peace 
Her coming of age novel, An Unlikely Goddess, won the SheWrites New Novelist competition in 2011. 
Her recent books have focused on various aspects of life in Qatar. From Dunes to Dior, named as a Best Indie book in 2013, is a collection of essays related to her experiences as a female South Asian American living in the Arabian Gulf. Love Comes Later was the winner of the Best Indie Book Award for Romance in 2013 and is a literary romance set in Qatar and London. The Dohmestics is an inside look into compound life, the day-to-day dynamics between housemaids and their employers. 

After she joined the e-book revolution, Mohana dreams in plotlines. Learn more about her work on her website at or follow her latest on Twitter: @moha_doha.

                              Love Comes Later


Abdulla’s mind wasn’t on Fatima, or on his uncles or cousins. Not even when he drove through the wrought iron entry gate, oblivious to the sprawl of family cars parked haphazardly in the shared courtyard, did he give them a thought. Despite the holy season, his mind was still hard at work. Mentally, he clicked through a final checklist for tomorrow’s meetings.  I can squeeze in a few more hours if Fatima is nauseous and sleeps in tomorrow, he thought, rubbing his chin. Instead of the stubble he had anticipated, his whiskers were turning soft. A trim was yet another thing he didn’t have time for these days, though longer beards were out of fashion according to his younger brother Saad, who had been trying to grow one for years. Beard length. Just another change to keep up with.
Change was all around him, Abdulla thought. The cousins getting older, he himself soon to become a father.  Abdulla felt the rise of his country’s profile most immediately in the ballooning volume of requests by foreign governments for new trade agreements. By the day, it seemed, Qatar’s international status was growing, which meant more discussions, more meetings.
He slid the car into a gap in the growing shadow between his father’s and grandfather’s houses. It would have to serve as a parking space. The Range Rover door clicked shut behind him as he walked briskly toward his father’s house, BlackBerry in hand, scrolling through his messages. Only then did the sound of wailing reach him, women in pain or grief, emanating from his Uncle Ahmed’s house across the courtyard. He jerked the hands-free device out of his ear and quickened his pace, jogging not toward the majlis where the rest of the men were gathering, but into the main living area of Uncle Ahmed’s, straight toward those unearthly sounds.
The sight of Aunt Wadha stopped him short. Disheveled, her shayla slipping as she howled, she was smacking herself on the forehead. Then came his mother, reaching her arms out to him with a tender, pitying look he hadn’t seen since his pet rabbits from the souq died. But it was Hessa, his other aunt – Fatima’s mother, his own mother-in-law – who sent him into a panic.  Ashen-faced, her lips bleeding, she was clutching the evil eye necklace he had bought Fatima on their honeymoon. At the sight of it, the delicate gold cord in Hessa’s hands and not around his wife’s neck, Abdulla felt his knees buckle and the BlackBerry slip from his hand.
“What has happened?” he said. He looked from one stricken face to another.
Numbly, he saw his female cousins were there. At the sight of him the older ones, glamorous Noor and bookish Hind, both women in their own right whom he hadn’t seen in years, jerked their shaylas from their shoulders to cover their hair and went into the adjoining room. In his haste, he hadn’t said “Darb!” to let them know he was entering the room.
“Abdulla, Abdulla...” his mother began, but was thrust aside by Aunt Hessa.
“Fatima,” Hessa screamed, staring wildly at him. “Fatima!”
Rather than fall onto the floor in front of the women, Abdulla slumped heavily into the nearest overstuffed armchair. Fatima...
They left behind gangly nine-year-old Luluwa, Fatima’s sister, who resisted when they tried to take her with them. His father, gray-faced and tired, entered. Abdulla slouched and waited, the growing dread like something chewing at his insides. His father began to talk, but on hearing “accident” and “the intersection at Al Waab” he remembered the Hukoomi traffic service SMS. Then he heard “Ahmed”, and a shiver of horror ran up his back. The driver had been Ahmed, his uncle, the father of his wife.
Later that night in the morgue, in the minutes or hours (he couldn’t keep track) while he waited to receive her body, Abdulla flicked his Zippo lighter open and struck it alight. Holding it just so, he burned a small patch on his wrist just below his watchstrap. Even this couldn’t contain his rage at the truck driver who came through without a scratch, at his uncle, or at himself.
The morgue was antiseptic, mercilessly public. The police advised against seeing her, insisting that he wouldn’t be able to erase the memory of a face marked with innumerable shards of glass.
Surrounded by family and hospital staff, he couldn’t hold her, talk to her, stroke her slightly rounding stomach, the burial site of their unborn child. Any goodbyes he had hoped to say were suppressed.
He would mourn the baby in secret. He hadn’t wanted to tell relatives about the pregnancy too soon in case of a miscarriage. Now it could never happen: the need to visibly accept God’s will in front of them would prevent him from crying it out, this woe upon woe that was almost too much to bear.
Fatima’s body was washed and wrapped, the prayers said before burial. His little wife, the round face, the knowing eyes he’d grown up next to in the family compound, and the baby he would never see crawl, sleep, or walk were hidden to him now for all eternity. The secret she was carrying was wrapped in a gauzy white kaffan, her grave cloth, when he was finally allowed to see them. The child who would have been named after Abdulla’s grandfather if a boy, his grandmother if a girl, whose gender would now remain a mystery.
At the burial site, as was customary, he fell in line behind his father and uncles. Ahmed, the father, carried his daughter’s slight form.
They placed her on her right side.
Men came to lay the concrete slabs that sealed the grave, so her frame would not rise up as it decomposed in the earth. Abdulla regretted not stroking the softness of her chin or the imperceptibly rounding curve of her belly. I am burying my wife and our unborn child, he thought, the taste of blood filling his mouth from the force with which he bit his cheek to stem the tears. Their secret would be lost within her lifeless womb. News of a double tragedy would spread with the sand under doors and into the ears of their larger circle of acquaintances. Someone would call someone to read the Qur‘an over him. Someone would search out someone else for a bottle of Zamzam water from Mecca.
None of it would stop the acid from chewing through his heart.
Loves Comes Later is available at where it has received 36 five star and 38 four star reviews. An exceptional novel of love in mixed cultures.Thank you Mohana for sharing the beginning of your novel.
Next week you will be able to read my short story, Reaching the Pinnacle. Jeb Davis and his granddaughter plan an overnight camping trip. They hike to the top of Mount Carleton. Sitting around the campfire, the young lady tells her Grampy what is on her heart.