In the Spirit of Altruism

Give little and Gain So Much More

You may be the one jumping in to help out at work with tasks beyond your normal scope of duties because of a fast approaching deadline.  Teachers appreciate it when parents help out at the school, be it in the child’s classroom, the library or taking the day off to chaperon the school day trip.  But how about where there is no direct or indirect, tangible or otherwise benefit to the giver; that is service essentially done out of sheer altruism.

Research shows that amongst the many advantages of volunteering is that it shifts the focus from me to others.  Although the focus of this article is on traditional face to face volunteering it is worth mentioning that there are remote volunteering opportunities which offer the added convenience of making that difference sometimes from the comfort of wherever you have internet access.

Continue reading In the Spirit of Altruism

Flash Fiction – Forever Hold your Peace or Pace or Pain

“Tiffany, I am confused or is this some sort of twisted joke?”

“Blaine it is in both our interests to end this thing between us.  I have accepted Roy’s proposal.  We get married a week from today, next Saturday.  I cannot do this anymore… not knowing for certain how much longer you will be away is emotionally draining…”

Only a few hours earlier he had gone over how he was going to surprise Tiffany with the good news of his early release from deployment.  His assignment was officially over on Sunday.

“I guess the surprise is on me”

There was silence and then continued.

“Tiffany, hold off on the wedding plans.  I will be back in about three days”

All seemed to working against him, beginning with the cancellation of his connecting flight after a two hour delay due to inclement weather, but Blaine arrived town in the wee hours of Saturday; just enough time to make it to the combined wedding ceremony and reception venue.

“Tiffany don’t do this to us”.  Tiffany recognized the voice and rushed over.   The sudden commotion in the back interrupted the ceremony. On the cold concrete floor, Blaine lay in a fetal position clutching onto the ipecac bottle.

A few minutes, earlier upon arrival, Blaine had helped himself to some of the punch at the beverage table.  Desperate as it was, he was left with little or no choice.  The timing had to be executed with laser precision.

At that moment, the retching began.

The original response to a Flash Fiction writing prompt has been modified.

The Conclusion – Have Something to Say

As the hour drew closer, the knots in her stomach seemed to expand by the minute.   It did not help that she was running a bit late.  As she stepped over the wood threshold, she quickly skimmed the sitting area of the cafe.  Just then Mezu sidled up to her.

“Oh my you are just getting here as well”.  Bisi was grateful for his relaxed attitude which eased her anxiety.

“Pardon me for being late.  I sent you a text.  There was an accident on the highway.”

Within a couple of minutes of being seated, their server had taken their drink orders.

“Since there is really no pretty way to go about this, I am going to jump in right away.”

Mezu recalled:

“I must admit I was already in somewhat of a funk but it got worse after our breakup.  I felt rejected and inadequate. I needed to clear my head so once I was done with a series of interviews, I travelled home to visit my parents for the holidays.  My fortune seemed to taken a new dimension or so I thought that day at the Christmas festival when I first spotted Akunna.”  

Idara pulled a chair next to his cousin’s who appeared preoccupied.  He followed Mezu’s line of sight which rested on the young lady.  There was a young girl by her side. 

“Cuz some flower seems to have caught your attention”  Idara’s  gentle elbowing interrupted his concentration. Continue reading The Conclusion – Have Something to Say

Potent – Flash Fiction

Her ears perked up with the alacrity of a response to a drill sergeant’s orders.  Home alone with a horror movie marathon session as her company of choice for the evening, she could never be too cautious.

The screams were more than a few decibels louder than the audio streaming from the TV.  The frenzied pitch was unnerving.  As she pressed on the volume down arrow of the remote, the screams seemed even more intense.

Barreling down the hallway towards the screams, she thought to herself even at Usain Bolt’s pace she could not get to her “baby” fast enough.  Its intensity escalating by the nanosecond.

Jason! Jason! Jason!.. All she received in response were more screams in the direction of his room.  She froze in her tracks…shreds of fabric, picture frames knocked over, feathers, and wallpaper strewn all over the floor.

He bolted towards her. Almost knocking her over, she managed to tip her weight,  shifting her right foot forward.  Latching onto her waist, the sobs and shivers could not be controlled.

His room looked like a tornado casualty but with the walls still standing.  With the ripped pieces of Jason’s best speller award around them, hands still resting on his shoulders she stooped to his eye-level, “Jason what happened here?”

Nedu followed his fingers as he pointed towards the wood floors.

Just then she noticed a dark tray with what looked like cracked egg shells.

Right on cue, one, two, three, six, after ten, she lost count; egg yolk yellow chicks, with streaks of green and blue feathers around their protruding bellies, each about the size of her fist, come traipsing out from under his bed.  Small but mighty.

 

This original entry in response to a flash fiction writing prompt has been modified.

Have Something to Say II

Bisi’s photography workshop was at 11.15am.

Eva from church had told her about it.    She was first acquainted with Eva’s work at Light of the World church’s media ministry.  Their friendship began when they were paired off as prayer partners for the women’s ministry prayer challenge.  At their first meeting, Bisi gushed with praise about the brilliant job Eva had done with the mother’s day collage video.  Eva in her modest way was quick to state her gratitude to God.  “My prayer is that I use that talent to serve others and honor my Heavenly Father”.

They had both worked up a big appetite by the time their two hour tour was over.  They settled for a lunch spot known for their mouth-watering cast iron pan house cornbread. It was one of Mezu’s favorite weekend lunch spots.

“Great class.   For the breadth of material covered, I can’t believe we got it at that price.”  The two part workshop comprised indoor lectures and a photo tour. It covered material on photo editing software, tagging and taking pictures in RAW format for post photo processing.

“For a windy day, the sun held up really well.  The time went by so quickly, I did not realize it with all the walking”.  Bisi took in the elegant 1950’s glamour themed ambiance of the bank-turned-restaurant.  The dimmed lighting added to the relaxed and cozy feel.  The music selection alternated between classics by Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and do-wop tunes.  A charming compliment.

Bisi ordered the house Cobb salad.  Helping herself to one half of her half portion of their cornbread order, the meshing of flavors from the piping hot cornbread slathered with their signature whipped honey butter, more than made up for her throbbing feet.  Bisi was in her happy place.

She had ignored the earlier buzzing of her phone as they walked into the restaurant.  Feeling around her bag, she looked up from her meal “Eva, thanks again for letting me in on the class.  It has reignited my interest in photography.  What I enjoyed the most was that outdoor tour.  The fact that we were moving made the cold bearable.”

Three missed calls, one from her mother, another from her sister and the third number was Unknown.   Bisi listened to her messages and made a note to text her sister the information on the travel agent.  With the time difference back to five hours, she had an extra hour to call her mother in Nigeria.

As Eva settled back into their booth after excusing herself to the ladies room, Bisi looked up at her while tucking her phone into the front pocket of her crossbody.  “if I want to catch the next train, I need to get going”.

“I can give you a ride.  Eva needed some raw honey and organic cinnamon from the organic store in Bisi’s neighborhood.  She had to make a new batch of homemade cough drops.

Half hour later she was standing in her foyer.  She felt a vibration.

It was an Unknown Number. In one swift motion she swiped the green icon on her phone display.

“Hello….   Hello…”.  No response.  Just as she was about to hang up.

“Hi Bisi, its Mezu”

Bisi glanced at her phone screen again as if to confirm this was not all her imagination.

“I am sure, I am the last person you were expecting to hear from.”

**********************************************************************************************************************************************21 months earlier.

After Bisi got off the phone, for the next hour, she replayed different events leading up to the last hour.  All that kept running through her mind was their last somewhat heated discussion.  That was three weeks ago.  They happened to catch the last half of a TV talk show.  The question asked was if there are circumstances that justify keeping secrets from one’s spouse even if it happened before they met.

“I agree with the gentleman that certain things are best kept secret.  Why rock the boat by disclosing less than favorable information about something that happened before they met.”  Mezu quipped.

“I think it also depends on the nature of the issue, regardless of it is in the past, present or future.  Are we talking you had your first kiss in kindergarten or more like I have a certain medical condition, children born and unborn from prior relationships or even I made certain financial decisions that could have an impact on our future as a married couple.  I would think those are big issues that could have a huge impact on any relationship”

“I beg to differ. What good does it do? However, should he or she choose to share, then be strategic about when and how, would be my advice”

Mezu’s rationale was that a spouse may be less likely to walk out on a relationship in which many years have been invested especially with a few children to boot compared to the early years of the marriage.  For Bisi, the bigger issue was building trust, and as she put it “feeling safe” with the one person she would feel most vulnerable around.

“Mezu, it is a fact of life, as humans, if we live long enough, we will have regrets and do somethings we are not proud of.  No one is perfect.  However, in my opinion, trust is essential to any healthy relationship.  So even where we have made poor choices, part of taking full ownership is where one is truly remorseful and willing to face the consequences, whatever that maybe.”

Bisi acknowledged that the act of coming clean was no guarantee of receiving forgiveness, immediately or even in the future.  For her, making the confession was a pronouncement to one’s partner that they were changed and in addition to being held accountable, also willing to accept the consequences.

After a while their discussion took on a lighter tone but it was not lost on her that Mezu appeared a bit withdrawn.  She had to admit that Mezu’s views bothered her even long after their discussion.  Later that night, sleep seemed to evade her as the events of the day flooded her mind.  Under the comfortable covers, lying on her side hugging her pillow, eyes closed, she remembered the verse the pastor on the radio station program recited on her drive home earlier on that evening.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4:8.

You could hear a pin drop in her bedroom.  Her voice seemed louder than normal as she said the verse out.  She was already drifting off when she managed to rush through a short prayer asking God for wisdom and clarity of mind to continue to seek His face and obey even in situations where it ran contrary to the world’s standards.

Mezu called the next day, sounding like his normal self and whatever doubts Bisi may have had were put to rest when a few days later he suggested they catch a movie and dinner the following Sunday.

Things seemed to be moving along in their relationship.  However, the last thing on her mind when he called to cancel their date was his proposal.  It came to her as a surprise.  At first, she could not make out everything he was saying because his voice kept on breaking up due to the poor phone connection.  But in no time, Bisi heard him loud and clear.

Mezu proposed they take a break from each other to think about what they each want in a long term relationship because he had been doing some serious thinking about them and he had his reservations. The fact that she no longer spent the weekends at his place suggested to him they were drifting apart.

Bisi was shocked because when they had the discussion he seemed to be ok with it.  For a while their level of physical intimacy had been weighing heavily on her conscience.  Still a bit uncertain about how Mezu would receive her decision to completely abstain from having sex outside of marriage, she started spending fewer nights at his place.  When he asked why the sudden change, she explained she had to pick up the breakfast items an hour and a half before service for LOWs hospitality ministry.  It was more convenient to leave from her place since both the pastry shop and LOW were closer to her.  Whether or not he bought her half-truth, the issue did not come up again so she assumed he was ok with it.  Her prayer was that she would have enough courage to come completely clean with him and have “the abstinence talk” soon enough.

As she thought back to the breakup phone call which started off with his long speech or what sounded like ramblings, she recalled that he even had the audacity to slip in the option of coming over if she still wanted to hang out with him.  Even after so many months, Bisi could feel the heat rise in her face.  How patronizing of him.  He knew her too well. She would never agree to that.

As much as it hurt, to a certain degree, she felt like a heavy load had been lifted. The uncomfortable, rapid heart-beat sensation was becoming tiresome and lately, it was happening more frequently than she cared to admit.

Mezu called a few times after their “break-up”.  The first time was a week later; and the second, a week after.  Bisi was gradually getting used to the idea of being single, so when he called the third and last time she did not mince words.

“Mezu I appreciate your checking in on me.  However, I need to go cold turkey.  I need to get to the point where I am fine with not hearing from you”

“I get it. As you say, you don’t know how to handle the gray areas.  But what is the harm in friends chatting every once in a while?”

Friends indeed, she thought to herself.

“Mezu, I agree there is no harm.  But listen to what I am saying. I am not mentally and emotionally prepared for that right now”

Mezu must have finally caught on because the text messages and phone calls stopped when he received no response to the two text messages he sent after their last phone discussion.  It had been over a year since his last text message and his call today, from the Unknown number.

************************************************************************************************************************************************

Mezu’s coughing jarred Bisi back to the present.  She realized she had not said a word in what seemed like eternity.

“Mezu Hi”, It sounded awkward, since she seemed to be repeating herself.

“Hey, I am doing fine and you? It’s been a while.” Pause.

“You must be wondering why the call out of the blue right?  For Bisi that was a rhetorical question.  Pause.

“I do not want to take up any more of your time.  So let me get straight to the point.  I need to talk to you in person…please”

“About what”

“where do I begin?  How things ended between us, what has happened to me in the time in between”

“Mezu, what difference does it make?”

“It may not mean a lot to you.  But it would mean a great…”Bisi interrupted him before he could finish

“Mezu, hold up.  What is different now than then?  You are not dying from some terminal illness now or are you?”

Mezu chuckled but her silence was his cue that she did not share his humor so he quickly reverted to his serious tone.

“I really need… I would really appreciate it if you would grant me this one last request.  You don’t have to talk to me after that.  Scratch, lose even delete my number if you want”  Mezu pleaded.

“Yeah right!!  How is that going to work?  If I did not know any better, I would think were working for Scotland Yard since you seem to have a penchant for calling from Unknown Numbers.”

The silence between them made him uncomfortable.

“Bisi, are you still there?”

“Yes I am.  I can meet you at Zuby’s Café on Monday.  She immediately caught herself.  She was not prepared for the internal chatter, the suspense, the guessing games, the over analyzing.  It was best to nip it in the bud right away.

“You know what? let’s make that tomorrow at 4pm.”  Bisi quickly added.

“You know what? let’s make that tomorrow at 4pm.

Begin Where?

Friday Fictioneers: Begin Where?

 begin-the-route

Where do I begin?

It is all here.  The big, the small and even the tall; the old and even the brand new.  It may be intimidating for some and exciting for others.  Exciting for me, because I thrive on chaos, albeit organized but I am sure the obsessive compulsive may disagree.

Wrapped in his story or and her, there is a richness and there is grimness.

Whatever the case you will agree, it’s a medley and that mix is what piques my interest.

For starters, Historic Route 66, does it really begin here?

 

 

 

Friday Fictioneers  Friday Fictioneers provides an opportunity to write flash fiction once a week.  This week’s photo prompt is from Jean Hays and copyrighted to her.  Other stories are linked by clicking on the this hyperlink.

 

Have Something to Say Part 1

Maybe it was just his carefree manner or the intensity of his gaze, but as he approached her with the drinks, Bisi could feel a slight release as the tension in her shoulders eased up a bit.   Maybe he was not a nut case after all.

A few minutes later, drinks in hand, they spotted a table in a quiet corner of the gallery.  “Did you find anything exciting or let me rephrase that, more like a piece you see yourself enjoying?”  Sidney, Mezu’s colleague at work, a self-acclaimed consummate art collector was quick to point out that an interesting piece must offer a certain level of satisfaction as well as fit in with the person’s space.  Mezu observed how she slowly set her cup down on the bench table, her way of buying time to contemplate her response.

“Let us just say even if I did, it is not part of this month’s budget, so it will have to wait.  In terms of scale, orientation and symmetry I must say, I saw a couple worth further consideration.   At a friend’s birthday brunch, I met an African American, a lawyer by training who is an art collector consultant.  She began collecting art out of law school, very knowledgeable”

Bisi was quite impressed, by her depth of knowledge and the fact that she has even placed the works of a number of famous Nigerian artists, the likes of Shonibare, Enwonwu, Ehikhamenor, Onobrakpaye,  Amadi-Obi, Chukwuogo-Roy and some others, she learned about for the first time.

Anyway, I digress.  I am learning quickly that the key to finding affordable art is to gain more exposure.  Beyond the art galleries and museums are art fairs and even exhibitions at the embassies showcasing international talent.  It’s truly the more you see, the more you learn and the more likely you can identify what you like.”

For the next hour, they talked about a variety of subjects.   Mezu noticed for the second time, Bisi taking a quick peek at her watch.  Picking up her napkin she placed it under her empty cup.   “I have to get going.”  Continue reading Have Something to Say Part 1

Have Something to Say

Mezu came back for the Christmas holidays a few days earlier.  Idara his younger cousin was also in town to visit their grandparents and today they were on their way to the Annual Village Fundraiser.  It was a nice day with the sunlight cutting through the smog.  Brown dust from the dry red soil trailed behind the cars and motorcyclists as they sped down the narrow and partially eroded untarred roads.

Mobs of pedestrians carefully maneuvered their way down to the festivities, walking down the man-made sidewalks created from the patch of road bordering the gutters and bushes not taken over by the cars and cyclists.  The music blaring from the village square added to the excitement in the air.  Notwithstanding bumper to bumper traffic, they were at the square in less than twenty minutes.  The part of the square with the football field where the dance performance was to take place looked very different today.

Mezu for a quick moment felt the flutters in his stomach as he made his way to the seating area where he could get a better view of the activities. The canopies were laid out in an almost perfect square forming a rectangular shaped like courtyard in the middle where the performances would take place.  Under the yellow tarp canopies were multiple rows of plastic white chairs.  As he reached for one of the chairs, he noticed a young lady to his left leaning against the metal pole supporting the canopy perpendicular to the one next to the one where he was about to pull up a chair.  From all appearances, the speaker had her attention.  She leaned in resting her weight on her right leg.  It seemed so natural, so effortless.  Even as the tassels of her white swiss dot lace shirt with capped sleeves darted aimlessly in her face, her gaze remained focused on the speaker.

Mezu observed the little girl tugging at her black and floral “Nigerian print” patterned long skirt, and not missing a beat, she gently placed her palm on the girl’s shoulder.  The little girl stopped the tugging and leaned in against the young lady’s hips.

Such graceful movements took him back to the meeting at the gallery.  The first encounter was almost a year and a half ago. Continue reading Have Something to Say