27 May, 2022

Fiction Friday - Down By The River


I read the Bible every year, and often think about backstories to characters that are not told. Why did Rebekah favor Jacob over Esau? What was Adam and Eve's relationship like before the fall into sin? How awful/exciting would it have been to live on the ark for all those months? I'm currently in the "Ten Commandments" part...

The King sighed when he saw who had just walked in.

"Dismiss the court!" he told his vizier. In minutes, all the courtiers and petitioners were gone save the newly-arrived gentleman.

"Pharaoh," he said as he bowed deeply. The lord of all Egypt walked down from his throne and took the man's arm, raising him to his feet.

"None of that, my friend. We will be family soon." Pharaoh's daughter was betrothed to his son. It was a fine match, giving the king more leverage in the south, and bringing this southern lord closer into the king's court.

Pharaoh was given a sideways glance as the newcomer into the court asked, "Will we?" The engagement had been prolonged repeatedly, always at the whim of Pharaoh's daughter.

The two men walked a circuit around the large, pillared room, looking out through archways and over parapets at the city spreading around them. Pharaoh stopped walking and looked up toward the heavens. "What can I do?" he asked as if to an unseen, un-named god above. "She is so willful. Teenagers, you know? 'not that date - it's the wrong moon,' or 'my friend must stay with her ill grandmother and I won't set a date until I know she can be here' or 'the harvest of figs is poor - it's a bad omen'. She talks of children and family, but not of marriage. I know she likes your son, but I have no sway over her."

"Then you must set the date for her."

"I know, my friend. I will. I will." As their path returned to the front of the room, the king invited his friend, "You may join me in my chambers for lunch if you wish," and turned to re-ascend the throne as his friend left and other courtiers were allowed to enter.

The sun was high, nearing the lunch hour, when a lovely teen-aged girl dressed in flowing silks that were wet to the knee rushed in, interrupting a dispute. "Father! I must talk to you!"

Pharaoh silenced her with a stern look and finished mediating the point at hand. Then he motioned to his daughter to approach. She climbed the dais to the throne, knelt and kissed his ring, and spoke softly. "Father, I found a child and I want to keep it!"

Again, with talk of children but no talk of marriage. "Even as my daughter, you cannot just take a child that is not yours." Surely this conversation could wait, but he knew that if he suggested that here, she would become loud and insistent. Patience was the best way to deal with her.

"No-no! But father -" she clung to his hand with both of her dainty ones. " - this child was abandoned! Oh, my lord, tossed aside!" she never called him "lord" unless she really wanted something. "A tiny baby and someone left him by the river! Please, let me take care of him."

The hint of a smile grew on the king's face. An idea formed. He turned a kind eye to his daughter and began, "You must do something for me, my daughter." Her eyes looked up into his, wide and accepting. "If you want to keep this baby, you must be married."

She took a breath, weighing the situation as a princess who is used to getting her way. One slow nod, but she also asked, "but until the wedding, the baby -"

"Find another to care for it in infancy, understanding that the child will be yours to raise." She nodded, kissed his hand, and rose, but he gripped her hand to prevent her leaving. He added, "Next month. You will be wed. I have said it," and he nodded to his scribe to write it into law.

The princess looked to the scribe, back to her father, and as soon as he released her hand, turned to run from the throne room. She raced all the way back to where her friends were waiting by the river, playing with the gurgling infant. "Yes! I can have him!" she called out as she neared them. Taking her turn to pick up the baby, she said, "I'm going to call him 'Moses' because he came from the river."

Reference: Pharaoh's daughter is mentioned once, in Exodus 2:5-10, when she finds the basket carrying Moses in the river, and his sister offers to find a Hebrew woman to nurse him.  There is no mention of whether she had other children, was or wasn't married, what age she was at the time, or whether she was living at Pharaoh's palace or in some other part of Egypt. The story above is pure conjecture.


24 May, 2022

Tuesday Tales - Friends in Town!

"Tuesday Tales", as compared to "Fiction Fridays" are just my way to inject a little slice of real life to my blog. 

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I'm so grateful that the world is reopening for travel! Of course, I haven't gone anywhere outside Vietnam yet, but it means people are coming back to our lovely, formerly touristy, town!

This month, in addition to opening a new business and all the pains that go along with it, we have relief in the form of good friends who have returned to our little town!

Three years ago, we met this pair of Aussies when we were sitting at a table in the front of one of our favorite hang-outs. Brett being Brett, he saw them looking at the menu and encouraged them to come in. They took a table near us and we all started talking and a friendship was born. We started meeting weekly for pizza and beer at a local, Aussie-run, sports bar, and getting together other times as it worked out.

They became our besties for three months. 

We've walked and danced in the rain together.

We've laughed and cried together.

We've gotten drunk together. (Actually, we drink a lot more when we're with them. I've taken to icing my beer just to reduce the alcohol content of lunch!)

We've eaten questionable oysters together.

Do you have friends who you can just be yourself with? No topic is taboo? No offense is ever taken over differing opinions? It's an amazing thing.

Tomorrow we're heading to the beach, and one night this week we're going to do one of the cute, tourist-trap, boat rides on the lantern-lit river. 

We love these guys. We'll miss them when they have to leave, but the good news is, Vietnam is open! They can always come back!

20 May, 2022

Fiction Friday - Satan's Vengeance


I read the Bible every year, and often think about backstories to characters that are not told. Why did Rebekah favor Jacob over Esau? What was Adam and Eve's relationship like before the fall into sin? How awful/exciting would it have been to live on the ark for all those months? I'm currently in the book of Job, and got to wondering about his wife...

Salmira brushed a hand over her hair and moved to the doorway. Her friend Leah was coming up the path, robes flapping in the hot breeze.

"Salmira, my friend, how are you holding up?" Leah asked as soon as she was in ear-shot.

"Oh Leah, come inside. Let me make us some tea. What a business this is!"

As the water boiled and she prepared the tea, Salmira thought over the last few weeks. Life had been good. Great, even. Then, out of the blue, everything fell apart. Flocks and herds gone, kids dead in a collapsed house, servants dead except for the few who survived each calamity by running from the trouble to inform Job. Only two had stayed, deciding Job and Salmira's luck must be over. 

She looked up to the heavens and let out a sigh. Job. Peeking out back to where he sat picking his sores in the ash, she shook her head in disgust.

Salmira brought the tea back into the front room and poured it out. "How is Eli?" she asked Leah as she poured. "And your boys?" A silence settled as she glanced down into her tea to hide the sting in her eyes from thinking of her own seven sons, crushed under the rubble of a collapsed house. She wasn't quick enough for Leah, though.

"Oh my dear..." Leah reached a gentle hand to still Salmira's shaking one. "Shh..." In a minute though, she could maintain the silence no longer. She removed her hand and began. "Now that your mourning days are over, Eli and a couple of the other men will be coming to speak to Job. Is he here?"

Salmira nodded, her resolve recovered. She gestured with her head toward the back of the house. "Out back, where he has sat for days. I don't know what is wrong with him." She didn't know what had caused the sores to break out all over her careful husband, but more than that, she didn't understand his actions now. "Honestly, in his current state I'm glad he prefers out there to being inside. Ugh!" She gave a shiver at the thought of his newly damaged appearance.

"In town, they are saying God is punishing him. But I always thought your husband was a fine, upstanding man." Leah waited for confirmation from her friend.

Salmira stared at Leah with wide eyes and nodded emphatically. "I thought so too! Why would God punish him for nothing?" Maybe Leah had heard more rumors. "I don't ask him about his business, but what does he do when he's away?"

"Are you thinking one of the caravans?" Leah had had suspicions herself. They were based on nothing more than that a good man was having a hard time, and the gossip that accompanied that: Job must have done something terrible. Salmira's reaction didn't help Leah though. Of course she hated to think of her husband that way, and her face showed doubt mixed with the disgust.

"Is it, is it very bad?" Leah had heard in town that Job was covered with sores, and the children even crossed to the other side of the road if they had to pass by where he sat scratching at himself.

"He disgusts me now. Come look!" Salmira was happy to have a friend to share in her distress. She escorted her friend to the back doorway and they looked out, watching Job sit by the road in the ashes, scraping at his skin. Soon Leah's husband and two other men came by, stopping to cry out when they saw Job's sorry situation. When they got as close as they dared, they sat with him in silence.

Leah returned to her earlier comment. "Well, maybe Eli and the others can help counsel him."

"Oh, I hope they help. I have no children, we lost all the animals, there is no business, and what am I without my husband? I would die!" Their tea sat cooling in the other room, but having a friend changed Salmira's attitude. The setting felt like all was normal again. "We can't stand here watching them forever."

They enjoyed tea and fig cakes for a while longer. When the sun was setting the women went to look out at the men. No one had moved. Salmira shook her head. "Men. Come, Leah, help me make something to eat. It seems they will stay for dinner."

Salmira called for one of the remaining servants to take out the food, but Leah volunteered. Salmira had a sneaking suspicion Leah was just being nosy, but couldn't stay in the house and let a guest serve. They went out together.

When they approached the men with the food, Job didn't even look up. The men were not talking at all, and didn't move to accept the meal. Salmira pursed her lips and plunked the food down on a nearby rock. They could eat it or not. Spinning on her heel, she returned to the house. Leah paused to look at her husband Eliphaz, urging him with eye movements to say something. He responded with a frown and turned away.

It was days before the men seemed to even move a muscle, although each time Salmira sent out food it was clear some of it was being eaten. Salmira saw Leah every day, and began talking about a future without Job, assuming he'd die soon. Little did she know that her part in Job's life was far from over!

Reference: Job's wife is mentioned once, in Job 2:9: "Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.'" and then in verse 10, Job responds with "...Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" 

SIDEBAR: "The patience of Job" is an inaccurate metaphor if you ask me. Read the book! Job wasn't patient AT ALL! He was, however, faithful through all his hardships. I wish we could retire "the patience of Job" metaphor. Please?

Now, why did I call this story "Satan's Vengeance"? When God allowed Satan to mess with Job, his only rule was "don't take his life." Satan took all his goods, his children, and his health, but left him his wife... the woman who wished he would just die already. Then, (spoiler alert) when God restores Job's fortunes, he has 10 more kids, presumably with the same wife, since we are never told that she died. So Satan took away everything except this shrew-ish wife, who he then continued on with for 140 more years!!!

05 May, 2022

Reflections on #AtoZChallenge 2022

This year A-to-Z was a unique challenge for me. I decided to enter it at the last minute, and I didn't have a theme. Besides which, life events got a little crazier than I intended. I still got all my posts up, but I was woefully inadequate at visiting blogs. More on that later.

What would I like to see changed in the set up?

I would like to see a tab for what format is used. (That might be the wrong word. What do you call them: blogger, wordpress... others like that.) Wordpress causes me no end of trouble, and I could not comment on a single Wordpress blog. (Don't tell me how to fix it. For me to fix my issue involves another situation I cannot resolve without causing trouble on a shared blog.) A heads up that someone is using a format that I can't interact with would save me time.

Will I be back for another A-to-Z?

Of course! I already know what my theme will be for next year. I had success with flash fiction in previous years. This year I was behind the eight-ball and had too many things going on to focus on it, but I want to get back to it... with a twist. 

How was interaction with other bloggers?

I feel that I have made new blogging friends this year. There are a few blogs that I found and returned to somewhat regularly. There were many blogs I visited but couldn't comment, so they have no idea that I was there. 

I had good intentions of focusing on visiting more blogs this year. That's part of the reason I decided not to do flash fiction. But with a major life event on the imminent horizon, daily tasks accelerated to a point where I am very proud to have even written 26 posts and responded to all the comments! That said, please know that I am holding onto the registry list, and will visit all of the blogs. If yours is not a Wordpress blog, you may well get a comment months from now with "visiting belatedly from A to Z"! 

That's it really. I'm incredibly grateful to all those who visited and commented on my posts this month, especially since I was so poor at reciprocating. The good news is, my June should be a bit more open and I hope to remedy my poor behavior.

30 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Zhang to Ari - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, so I have no real theme. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction has been peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. After A to Z, I intend to get back to weekly flash fiction Fridays, so you can still suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one.

~~~~

The counter clerk looked expectantly. "Name? For your order?" he finally asked. 

"Oh!" It was her first time at this noodle shop. "Ari," she replied, and scanned the QR code to pay. She smiled a wiggly smile, nodded, and moved to the side, to collect utensils and select a table.

As she was looking around, chopsticks and spoon in hand, a girl came over to her. "You're not from here, are you?" she asked. The newly minted "Ari" spun wide-eyed at her interrogator. She appeared to be a young college student, a few years behind the stranger she had approached. "Are you?" she asked again.

"Um," a startled smile wavered on her face again. "What makes you ask?" She couldn't be found out already! She just got to Korea yesterday. Her new identity was supposed to be secure.

"Your accent," the girl shrugged.

"Oh, yeah, I hear that a lot," Ari bluffed. With a shrug she added, "I grew up in Japan." Was that all? She breathed a sigh of relief. This new identity had not come cheap. In an effort to avoid minority persecution in China, Ari - then Zhang-Li - had managed to cross into Thailand, from where she had bounced around as incognito as possible, finally reaching a contact in Japan who fixed her up with a new identity. Having studied Korean in college, starting a new life in Korea was a natural choice.

Zhang, now Ari, had a new passport, new ID, and a new personal history available for searching online, should anyone choose to do so. 

The hardest part was getting used to a new name. She'd spent a month in Japan, learning about the area her new history said had been her home, and practicing responding to a totally different name. There was no time to mourn the loss of her previous life. Her parents were already dead from the terrible persecution anyway, and she knew they would be happy she was safe. 

After eating her noodles alone in the shop, Ari left in the direction that would take her past a shrine she saw earlier. She'd light some incense and pay respects to her parents. 

No, wait, not her parents, the parents of a former close friend named Zhang-Li. In time, she would see them again but for now she'd pray for blessings in a new life, under her new name.

This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "A secret you wish to tell none" offered by Afshan Shaik of The Pensive, in a comment on my U post.  You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it on one of my forthcoming Flash Fiction Fridays.

29 April, 2022

Youngsters - #AtoZChallenge

This post dovetails with my V post, but I don't think you need to have read it to understand.

To catch up, in "Validation in Vietnam" my husband and I had traveled to Hanoi to do some paperwork stuff at the embassy. Our flight home left Hanoi at 8:10 p.m. and we had noticed many young children at or near our gate before boarding. This is about those Youngsters.

It surprised me, because we aren't near a holiday time when families typically travel, it seemed like a late flight to take kids on, and this isn't a school vacation time yet. Although, when I say "Young children" I mean there were dozens of kids aged maybe five or six, and under. Probably not school age anyway.

After we boarded, I realized it seemed many of these parents know each other, as kids traded seats and parental control frequently. Maybe they had all met standing in line at check in, or goofing around near the gate. None of the kids had seemed ornery or trouble-causing - although there was one moment in the terminal where two toddlers met near a vending machine and one reached up to touch the other's face and received a shove in return, but you can't complain about a little girl protecting her space!

So it was a pretty chatty flight. Kids, yes, parents, too. It's a good thing I've seen the safety procedure presentation hundreds of times before, because I couldn't hear him over the low rumble surrounding me!

The lights dimmed for take-off, and the voices seemed to dim with the lights. 

The plane accelerated along the runway, and all was quiet.

The wheels lifted off the ground, and the cabin filled with low squeals from all the kids - some squeals of laughing joy, some of terror that receded into tears for a few minutes. I had to laugh! I've flown so often and for so long that it was "old hat" to me by the time I was a teenager. I've absolutely forgotten that the bottom drops out of my stomach at that "wheels up" moment, too! I felt young again for a beat. 

As we rose to cruising elevation, the cabin stayed dark and relatively quiet. I was relieved because after a long day I hoped to get at least a handful of ZZz's during the flight. My relief was short-lived, as the lights came up and the flight attendant announced they'd be coming through with the carts of snacks for purchase.

As the lights arose, so did the volume. I don't think I've ever been on a noisier flight. Again, no one being bad, not even a lot of crying, but so much chatter! I did get some sleep, noisy or not. When your body needs rest, it will take it!

By the time we were preparing to land it was clear the flight attendants were ready to be done. They did all the normal checks, but when all was dark again for the descent, a girl found the buttons for the reading lights. She was kneeling on the seat pressing the buttons above her - accidentally hitting the call button a couple times - and finally the crew member sitting in the nearest jump seat stood up and motioned that she - and the girl across the aisle who was now copying her - both needed to sit down!

She never came to re-check the seatbelts, probably because we were already in our slow descent toward Danang. Besides, I'm pretty sure the whole crew was just ready to get off the plane. 

It occurred to me that if we ended up crashing, all those seatbelt-less kids would end up bouncing around the cabin like popcorn in an air-popper. Just insane.

Have you ever flown with kids? Either strangers on your flight, or kids in your own traveling party? Any insights?

28 April, 2022

Flash Fiction: Ximena - #AtoZChallenge

I registered late for the A-to-Z blogging challenge this year, so I have no real theme. In past years, I have done flash fiction inspired by readers' comments, and I'm happy to do that again, but this month the fiction will be peppered in amongst other random topics of my choosing. After A to Z, I intend to get back to weekly flash fiction Fridays, so you can still suggest a story idea in a comment if you have one.

~~~~

"SHE-muh-nah! SHE-muh-nah!" Ximena gritted her teeth behind her smile and waved. She was visiting China, and thanks to the pronunciations associated with pinyin (latin-ized Chinese) everyone thought they knew how to say her name.

It was supposed to be a relaxing vacation far away from her chaotic life in Mexico. And it was relaxing, for the most part, but since her recent marriage to a Chinese national, she now had a wider base of fans here, and they all... ALL. Bar none! ...called her SHEmuhna.

At her lunch meeting that day, she tried to correct the businessman across from her. "Actually, it's pronounced 'He-MEN-uh', you know?" She said it with a smile, trying to be gracious.

"Ah! JiMENa! I see."

Ximena sighed. It was an improvement, however small. Languages were different. She'd have to learn to let it go if she was going to enjoy this trip.

This short Flash Fiction story was inspired by the prompt "Ximena" offered by Liz A. of Laws of Gravity, in a comment on my M post.  You're welcome to suggest any prompt in a comment and I'll get to it during A to Z or shortly thereafter.