15 hours ago
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
It was late at night when the initial count of the votes came in. The Popular Front had defeated the National Front by just two percentage points. The Center only had five percent of the vote, but they would form a government with the Popular Front. Azaña would be prime minister. General Franco, meanwhile, was celebrating his first anniversary as commander-in-chief in North Africa. He knew that the election results would mean being exiled to the Canary Islands — or at least virtually exiled, as he would still have an army. What to do? He knew Mola would also be "exiled," him to Navarre. Franco decided to try his luck. He phoned Mola, and they spoke. After talking about their likely new assignments, Mola said to Franco, We should go camping this summer when we both have leave. Franco agreed. But where? Franco asked. I'll come to Tenerife, Mola replied. And there we shall discuss our hopes.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Chad and Steve registered the domain name and talked strategy. A few hours into the work day, Jawed arrived. This is going to be the greatest Web site in history! Chad exclaimed at one point. Steve piped up in agreement. I beg to differ, Jawed said. I don't like it. What don't you like? Steve asked. Well, for one thing, the name, Jawed replied. What's wrong with the name? Chad asked. YouTube, Jawed said. It'll never catch on.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
General Nadežniy tried his hand just before dawn, breaking through the Polish line at Bereza Kartuska and Most. The day's fighting went well, and the general was drinking a glass of tea and considering where things would go in the future. His adjutant sat across from him while he said, We'll make short work of these Poles. Russia has dominated Poland for centuries. What difference does it make that the government is now Bolshevik? Wilson and those fools in Paris be damned! The adjutant nodded in agreement. Yes, he said, by March we'll be in Warsaw. They clinked their tea glasses as if they were full of vodka. To your health! the general said. Na zdrowie, his adjutant replied.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
It was the third anniversary of the accession of William and Mary to the throne of England as co-monarchs, and her father's supporters still would not give allegiance to the new regents. King William had a surprise for them, however, and now his plans had come into motion. That night, the leaders of the clans in Glencoe, Scotland, were murdered in their sleep. King William smiled inwardly as he considered their fate. If the didn't give their allegiance to him, he thought, they might as well be dead. They'd either love him or leave this earth.
Friday, February 12, 2010
No one could believe that they had done it, but they had: The citizens of the Utah Territory had given the vote to women. Nobody was particularly surprised the previous year, when Wyoming had done the same — the first place in the U.S. to give women the right to vote. But Utah? These Mormons held women in submission! detractors said. They have no respect for women. Why would they let them vote? Maybe they'll be less likely to protest their position if they have more rights, others would say. That seals it then, those in the first group would respond. We're never giving the vote to women! God forbid we'd have to marry more than one at a time!
When news came across that General Macarthur had approved the new constitution for Japan, the people there wondered whether he had inscribed the fate of the Emperor in that document. It was, after all, their national holiday dedicated to veneration of the Emperor. Unfortunately, since the surrender last summer, there had been rumors that the Emperor would renounce his divinity forever. Later that day, someone who was on the constitutional committee leaked a draft of the constitution; it did not state that the Emperor was not divine and no mention was made of that day's holiday. Sadly, when Macarthur sent his military police out into the streets to crush the celebrations, it was clear where the new government would stand on Kigensetsu.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Hulagu dithered on whether to have Caliph Mustasim executed. His Shia supporters exhorted him to do it. No bad thing happened when the life of Yahya was taken, they told him, nor Isa. And these men were great prophets. Even Hussein's death, the death of the son of the great Ali, went unavenged by God, they said. This led Hulagu to decide to execute his prisoner. He readied a room for him, and once the Caliph was brought there, he greeted him with a platter of gold. Eat this, Hulagu said to the Caliph. I can't eat gold, the Caliph responded, you know that. So why did you amass so much gold? Hulagu asked the Caliph. If you had spent this gold on fortifications for your city, we wouldn't be having this conversation. The Caliph frowned; he knew Hulagu was right. Enjoy your gold, Hulagu said, exiting the cell. Let him starve, he told the guards.
The senator had been going on for hours, it seemed to Margaret, and she hoped he would stop soon. It wasn't as if she could get up and leave: She was sitting right next to the lectern where he was standing and orating. Such a terrible bore! Margaret thought. While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, the senator went on, I have here in my hand a list of 205 . . . Margaret took a hard look at the paper the senator was holding in his hand. It appeared to be blank, but she couldn't be sure.
Monday, February 8, 2010
When the Earl of Essex arrived at the palace and demanded an audience with the Queen, the Earl of Salisbury had him arrested immediately. As Essex and his men sat in a dungeon considering their fates, Essex told the men not to worry. If I had a penny for every time I've been arrested, I'd be a rich man! Besides, everyone knows the Queen won't allow a charge against me stand. The men knew he was correct; after all, he'd been arrested just the last summer and the charges hadn't been dropped, but he had been pardoned by Queen Elizabeth. When the word came down to the dungeon that Essex and his fellow were being held over for trial for treason, he could scarce believe it. But she loves me! Essex cried out. She has loved many, Salisbury said when he came down to gloat. And she may yet love many more. Damn her! Essex yelled. Virgin queen, my arse!
Sunday, February 7, 2010
When Queen Matilda went into labor, King Henry was ecstatic. He would have an heir, and the crown of England would remain in his family — in his line. But when the queen gave birth to a daughter, King Henry's spirits fell. It meant that his nephew, Stephen, still had the legitimate claim on the crown, provided King Henry's brother Robert predeceased him. Queen Matilda looked dour when King Henry entered her chamber. She knew he would be disappointed. We'll have another child, the queen told King Henry. And the next time it will be a boy. And if it is not? King Henry asked his wife. Well then, the queen responded. Then England will have to have a queen instead of a king. Ridiculous! Henry said. No woman shall ever rule England!
Saturday, February 6, 2010
Nobody expected that the crowd at the Place de la Concorde would be so large, but there they were, gathered together in front of the National Assembly, demanding that the Prime Minister resign. They were shouting, A bas les voleurs! Vive la France! A few were flying the swastika flag of Germany and placards with Chancellor Hitler's picture on them. Inside the Assembly, in his office, Prime Minister Daladier was directing the police actions against the demonstrators, including giving the authorization to open fire. Former President Doumerge was there as well, as was Mr. Blum, chairman of the SFIO. You must not use force! Doumerge told the Prime Minister. It will be your undoing. On the contrary, Mr. Blum said in response. You must use force. To not do so will be your undoing. Doumerge broke in, You are leading us down the road to Moscow! On the contrary, Mr. Blum said again, You — Mr. Blum pointed to the former President — are leading us down the road to Berlin.
Friday, February 5, 2010
Most of King Leopold's ancestors were Germans, but he didn't like going to Germany. And he hated their Chancellor, that Bismarck. All that blood on his hands from his wars for German unification. Still, Leopold thought, it seemed to be going rather well. For all his faults, Bismarck seemed to be a fair broker, willing to mitigate claims in Africa made by Britain and France in favor of other powers. The final decision they'd brokered promised to Leopold a private expanse in west Africa — a personal possession he could call his own. It would be called a free state, but it would, in reality, belong to him. He smiled inwardly as he considered the implications. Belgium finally had an empire!
Thursday, February 4, 2010
The colonel had led five units into the capital. He was ready to seize, among other installations, the national television station and play a tape he'd prepared, telling the people that President Pérez had been ousted and new elections would be held. Unfortunately, the colonel had overplayed his hand. With only ten percent of the military behind him, his forces were able to take several large cities, but the capital would not fall, and the colonel was now holed up in the national museum. His aides were negotiating a surrender. When word came through that his demands, including one that he be allowed to address the people, were agreed to, the colonel was exuberant. He went on television late that evening and asked his forces to give up. He was surrendering, he told the people, but only for now. Before he was taken into custody, he reminded his top aide that Hitler had failed in his coup attempt. I guess we'll try the democratic route, the colonel said, smiling broadly.
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
After Karameh, the ranks of Fatah swelled. The Israelis had prevailed, but the Palestinians had won a moral victory. Arafat had emerged as the hero, but he still remained a shady figure among many observers. Who was this small bearded man? Nobody knew for sure, though he claimed ancestry from the al-Husseini clan. Chairman Hammuda had invited Arafat's Fatah group to join his umbrella organization; now it appeared he would have to cede leadership of the whole organization to the shadowy man. In Cairo, the Chairman tendered his resignation and Arafat was named his successor by acclaim. Behind the scenes, President Nasser smiled to himself. Speaking to an aide, he pointed to Arafat, saying, With this clown at the helm, we'll never have to worry about a Palestine taking the place of Israel. Better the enemy you know...
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Muhammad had been in the United States for twenty years, leaving his home town in Syria to find a better life in America. And he'd found it, too. He'd started as a cab driver, but he had managed, with the help of relatives back in Syria, to eventually start his own limousine service. Telephones back home were expensive, so he relied on letters to hear the latest news. So when the letters stopped coming, Muhammad got concerned. He booked a flight to Damascus as early as he could and arrived back home on Valentine's Day. He tried to get a bus ticket to his village, but they told him no buses were stopping there. Muhammad was confused. Why not? he asked the man from whom he tried to purchase his ticket. Didn't you hear? the ticket seller asked. Assad moved into Hama two weeks ago to get rid of the Brotherhood. The ticket seller lowered his voice to a whisper. They say no one survived, he said in sotto voce. Muhammad turned without a word away from the ticket counter. He wondered whether any of his family were left. He wished he'd never gone to America in the first place. That way, wherever they were, he would be with them.
Monday, February 1, 2010
Reza was stunned. Just two weeks earlier, the Shah had left for medical treatment, and it had become rapidly clear that he was never returning. No more SAVAK. No more torture. Iran would perhaps as a republic. But earlier that day, the Imam had landed in Tehran after fourteen years in exile. And the news was reporting that six million of Reza's countrymen had met the Imam at the airport. Were they insane? Didn't they know what the Imam would do if he got a hold of the country? It would be like Saudi Arabia — only worse. Reza put his head in his hands and wept. He wept for his country — and he wept for Islam.
Friday, January 29, 2010
When forty thousand workers marched on the city, Secretary Munro knew the situation was serious. This had already happened in St. Petersburg, he thought to himself, and they were tearing up Munich and Berlin as he spoke. He would allow no bloody Bolsheviks to take over his beloved Alba. The first order was to call out the police, which he promptly did. When they arrived on the scene, they were overwhelmed by the number of people they saw, but they tried nevertheless to keep order. Shinwell addressed the crowd on behalf of the workers, and when it appeared that the crowd might explode, the police moved. Lister and his grandfather were at the top of the stairs of the St. Andrew's Halls, and in marching to apprehend Shinwell, Lister's grandfather was knocked down the stairs. The crowd saw what happened and descended on the police. The riot had begun.
The King had been dead for twelve years, but nobody had forgotten what the Lord Protector had done to him, so, even though the Lord Protector had also died — three years earlier — the new King (the son of the former) had decided the Lord Protector should be hanged, drawn, and quartered. The King had sent men to the Abbey to unearth the corpse. Now they had set up a scaffold at Tyburn and brought the body, along with those of Bradshaw, Ireton, and Pride, for its final reward. They had dragged the Lord Protector's body the two and a half miles to the scaffold. Now they hanged it, though it was unclear how long it should be hanged, the purpose of the hanging here not to kill the person, but rather to bring them close to death. (The Lord Protector was, of course, already quite dead.) Taking the body down from the noose, the Lord Protector's body was castrated and disemboweled, the bits burned before his cold dead eyes. Finally, the Lord Protector's head was cut off, as well as his arms and legs. The Lord Protector's remains, such as they were, were tossed into a common pit along with those of the other regicides. It was a good thing the monarchy had been restored; otherwise, England would have been flung into barbarism.
Eric was waiting outside the clinic, his hands sweating in anticipation. He watched as women walked in and out. He couldn't believe what had become of American women, so many of them having sex outside of marriage, getting pregnant, and having abortions. It seemed the lesbians were the only women keeping their babies. It was disgusting. Nobody respected life. He looked at his watch. He needed to get moving. The bomb was packed with nails; there would be a lot of shrapnel. He didn't want to get hurt.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
It had snowed that day, so we were let out of school early. My sister was already in college by that point, so when I got home from the bus stop, she was waiting there. The news was on the middle of the day — never a good sign. Did you hear what happened? she asked me. No, what, I said. The space shuttle exploded on takeoff, she said. It's terrible. They're all dead. At first, what she'd told me didn't really sink in. I had never been that interested in the space program. But now these men and women were dead. By the evening, President Reagan had spoken on television and my mother had recounted with Grissom et al. had died on the launch pad in the sixties. And I realized by the time that I went to bed at night that, as long as we continued to try to build a Tower of Babel, we'd be punished for our actions.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The prophet's cousin had been attacked by an opponent two days earlier while praying in the mosque. The wound was not deep, but the assailant's sword was poisoned. Near death, the prophet's cousin called his son to his sick bed. I had decided to forgive my assailant if I were to live, he told his son, but it is clear now that I will die. I will avenge you father, the son said. No, the father interrupted. Do not strike him any harder than he struck me and do not attack any of his followers. If he dies from the stroke, then so be it. If he recovers, then either way, I am avenged. The son asked, And who will lead the faithful when you are gone? The prophet's cousin said, Let is pass to the tribe of . . . But before he could finish his sentence, he died.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Governor Bligh woke up in a cold sweat, visions of Fletcher Christian in his head. Remembering where he was, he rose and went over to his desk. He remembered he was to summon Macarthur to have him answer charges. When he arrived in his office, he was informed that Major Johnson had ordered Macarthur released. A few moments later, sentries arrived and put Governor Bligh under arrest. This is mutiny! the governor cried out as he was being led away. Mutiny, I say! No, one of the sentries pointed out. This is not mutiny. It's treason.
Queen Isabella had told her son that he was now the King of England. But the King my father is still alive! young Edward protested. The King your father, Queen Isabella responded, is a sodomite and a weakling. It is you that should be king. Edward continued to protest. But I am still a boy, only fourteen! You are old enough, Queen Isabella assured him. Besides, she continued, you will have me and the Earl of March to help you. And what of the King my father? Edward asked. The Earl will see to him, Queen Isabella said. The Earl smiled. So did Edward. If he was king, he could take care of the Earl.
I don't understand! the commissar yelled out. How can we just erase two weeks? We're not erasing them, the chairman said. We're adjusting the rest of the world. We're on the vanguard! the commissar continued. The rest of the world should follow us! But w can't do that, the chairman said. And why not? the commissar asked. The acting finance minister stood up. Look at it this way, he said. If we move the calendar back two weeks, that's two more weeks of pay that the people will demand from us. If we move the calendar forward, however, we get two weeks' reprieve from state salaries. The commissar nodded. I withdraw my objection then, he said.
The new queen had been late with her period before, but she was waking up nauseated. The king was certainly potent — that much was sure. She had resisted his advances until he had married her, but the marriage had not been made public yet. She pondered the fate of predecessor, still considering herself married to King Henry and referring to herself as the Queen. She was a sad woman, and all because she could not give the King a son. But I will, Anne, thought to herself. I will give Henry a son and I will be the Queen of England for the rest of my life. She thought she felt the baby kicking her, but then she realized it was too early for that.
The Emperor had agreed to convene the Diet and they would hear what the German professor had to say. It was then that the Emperor was told that the German was not in attendance. But I provided him safe passage! the Emperor exclaimed. The nerve of that Hun! The Emperor was advised that the first several weeks of the Diet would be taken up with administrative measures and reading the charges. This is going to take forever, the Emperor grumbled. Why don't we just let him go? It was then that Pope Leo's envoy spoke up. Did your grandparents expel the Moors so that this German could flaunt the power of Holy Mother Church? The Emperor shook his head. If he had to hear about his grandparents one more time, he'd vomit. If he had to hear the Pope's name one more time, he'd also vomit. This is just an argument between monks, the Emperor said. Why the fuss?
The former king mounted the scaffold, looking calm. He was afforded the opportunity to speak, which he took by forgiving his accusers and even offering a royal pardon. The crowd scoffed. I am willing to die for France, he said, and I hope that my death will prevent all of you — he indicated the National Guard — from the same fate. He paused for a moment, but as he was about to begin speaking again, the head of the Guard signaled to begin the drum roll. The king was beheaded, his blood gushing onto the ground beneath the guillotine. Vive la revolution!, many in the crowd cried, but a few old women walked forward to dip their handkerchiefs in his blood. C'est sacré sang, one said.
It was a mere twenty minutes after President Reagan had finished being sworn in as head of state, when the news came over the wires that the hostages were being released. Reagan's people commented that outgoing President Carter had been appointed as a special "envoy" on the hostage issue. One newsman was interviewing an outgoing State Department official, asking him why the Iranians would have released the hostages to a hawk like Reagan. Surprises don't just happen in October, do they? the official said, declining further comment.
When the aviator touched down in New York, there was a crowd waiting for him. As soon as the landing gear hit the tarmac, a man with a stopwatch was there to click it off. He called out the time at seven hours, twenty-eight minutes, and twenty-five seconds. Mr. Hughes had beaten his own record for a cross-country flight. The crowd called out for Mr. Hughes to make a speech. He took off his flight helmet, cleared his throat, and froze. Realizing what was happening, one of the aviator's men rushed up and spirited him away. A reporter commented to a colleague, He's a remarkable man. The colleague responded, Yes, but he's crazy as a shithouse rat.
King Wilhelm had been brought to Versailles, as Paris was set to fall. The Chancellor had set the plan in motion to proclaim an empire, with Wilhelm as the Emperor. Wilhelm had agreed and the date was set for the proclamation to coincide with another important date — the day his father's grandfather's grandfather had become the first King of Prussia. The men who would make the proclamation gathered around King Wilhelm. Long live the Second Reich! they shouted. And may there never be a third, Wilhelm added.
I'm going to Malinovsky's, Raoul said. Whether as a prisoner or a guest I do not know yet. And with that, he was gone. Marshal Malinovsky had begun his siege of Budapest a few weeks earlier. The Nazis were fighting back, but the first two attempts to push the Red Army away had failed. Today they were making their third stab at it. So the summons to report to Malinovsky took Raoul's staff by surprise. He'll be back, one man said, as the day wore on and there was still no sign of the diplomat returning. You can't believe that, a woman replied. We're lucky if he's not in the GULAG already! You can't blame me for hoping, the man responded. After all, it was he who taught us to hope.
God-damned Mormons! Bill yelled, tossing down his shot and slamming the glass on the bar. He motioned to the bartender to get him another. You can't blame the Mormons, his friend John said, sipping his own beer. There are more than just Mormons in Utah. It's mostly Mormons, Bill grumbled, taking the shot glass from the bartender and downing it once more. What about North Carolina? John asked. What about Nebraska? North Carolina is filled with rednecks, Bill answered. And Nebraska is filled with filthy Huns. You're in quite the mood today, John said. Shouldn't I be? Bill said. They're taking our booze away from us. A year from today, this bar will have to close, he said, motioning with his hand. What will we do then? John drank down his beer. We'll do what we do on Sundays, he said. We'll drink at home.
It was a cold day in Atlanta when the reverend's wife had their second child, a son. When Alberta was awake, Michael came into her room, and a few minutes later, a nurse brought in the baby. What shall we call him? Albert asked her husband. I don't know, Michael said, shaking his head. You look sad? the woman asked her husband. Why are you sad? This is a happy day. I know, her husband answered, but how can I be happy when I know what's going on out there? He pointed out the window. They're lynching our young men out there. What will become of our son? I don't know, Alberta answered. Maybe he'll be able to make a difference. Maybe, Michael said. So what shall we name him? Let's name him for you, Alberta said, kissing her husband. He'll be Michael King, Jr.
There was no question in the professor's mind. There were four of them — four planets orbiting Pluto. But what to call them? His heart was pounding. His name would go down in history for this. Should they be the Galilean planets? he asked himself. Then he thought of his patrons. Perhaps the Cosmian stars, after his tutee? No, he thought, that would never fly. Ah — it came to him. He would call them the Medicean Stars. That would seal his relationship with the family forever. There was the question of his inquisitive mother, however. Ah well, the professor thought, she's only a woman.
Dr. Brydon reached Jalalabad. He was alone. Where is General Elphinstone? the sentry asked the doctor. Dead, the doctor responded. Along with the entire army. Dead? How? the sentry asked. Massacred by the Afghans at Gandamak, the doctor replied. A medic from within the garrison came to help the wounded physician. As the medic was bandaging the doctor's wounds, he said, Bad out there, eh? Awful, the physician replied. This is the place where empires go to die.
Friday, January 22, 2010
But he didn't throw a single touchdown pass! the sports writer yelled out across the news room. How did he do it? That's what field goals are for, his colleague told him. I know, I know, the sports writer replied. But look at the guy, the writer continued. A fur coat. What kind of a man wins a fur coat? A pimp, maybe, but not a quarterback. The colleague just shook his head. And he has no modesty at all, the writer went on. None whatsoever. Bragging that he's going to win when he's behind in every poll. And always with the women. Unitas at least is a family man. You know how they are up in New York, the colleague finally said. Yeah, I know, the writer said. My bookie is from New York.
When the French and Belgian soldiers finally marched across the border, the Chancellor was in his office, and given the news, he called his foreign minister in to speak. What do you make of this? the Chancellor asked the minister. It was to be expected, the minister answered. They have been pressing us to honor the Treaty for some time. That damned treaty! the Chancellor cursed. He asked to see the finance minister. When the finance minister arrived, the three discussed the situation. We must pay reparations according to the treaty, the Chancellor told the men. With what? the finance minister asked. We're not made of money. Then we'll print money, the Chancellor responded. That will cause terrible inflation, the finance minister responded. It doesn't matter, said the Chancellor. It's either that or war. Damn that Wirth! the Chancellor cursed again, swearing against his predecessor. The enemy is on the right? The enemy is in our mines!
Monday, January 11, 2010
It seemed a strange place to draw a line in the sand, the general thought to himself, given that it's a river. And not much of a river — more of a stream. His army stood behind him as he pondered the words of the tribunes who had forbidden him to lead the army back home. Suddenly he heard the sound of a reed. Turning, he saw a statue of a satyr playing an instrument, but he could hear the music. Do you hear that? he asked his men. They called out that they did. Then, he said, the die is cast. He led the men across the river.
President Buchanan was the lamest of lame ducks. Mr. Lincoln had been elected two months earlier, and six weeks later, South Carolina had seceded from the Union. President Buchanan did nothing, and so it seemed likely that the rest of the South would follow. As Mississippi and Florida followed suit, however, the President decided to act, sending The Star of the West to South Carolina's Fort Sumter to send reinforcements to Major Anderson. As the Star entered the Charleston Harbor, however, military cadets from the Citadel opened fire. The Star was not badly damaged, but Major Anderson would have to go without reinforcements. Almost simultaneously, Alabama voted for secession. At least I made an effort, President Buchanan said. I'll let Mr. Lincoln clean up the rest.
Friday, January 8, 2010
The baby boy was stillborn. Vernon cried in the waiting room when he was told the news. Fifteen minutes later, however, they came back to him to tell him that Gladys was giving birth to another child. Please God, Vernon prayed. Don't take this one too. Twenty minutes later, Vernon and Gladys had another son. He was strong, the doctors said. He would live. When they brought the baby to Gladys, Vernon was with her. What do you want to name him? Gladys looked down at the baby and smiled. Let's name him Elvis.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
The Chairman of the Provisional Government frowned. The new parliament he was leading was coming apart. Only a month earlier, he had signed a treaty with the British. The King was providing the chairman's people with home rule — what they had been demanding for centuries. But now party members were denouncing the treaty — and the chairman. We will not swear allegiance to the King of England! one man cried out. We will not allow subvert our constitution to this treaty! cried out another. We will not give away Ulster! yelled a third. The Protestant members of the chamber remained quiet. They knew the votes were in favor of the treaty. As the tally was taken and the vote called in favor of the treaty, the Protestants smiled. The chairman knew that the Ulstermen would opt out as soon as they could. Home Rule is Rome Rule, they liked to say. But the chairman was satisfied. Half a loaf was better than none.
The German woman was in her chamber preparing for her marital duty. The King was nervous. It's ridiculous, he thought to himself. I've been with dozens of women. Perhaps hundreds. And married thrice before! But England needed a queen, and a king needed a wife. And Edward, his son, was sickly and weak. He perhaps would not survive childhood. It was the curse of a child who'd taken his mother's life in his own birth. The chamber door opened and Anne entered. The King pondered her for a moment. She was only twenty-five, but she looked forty! He thought of the inscription in her wedding ring: God send me well to keep. God will look after her, the King thought to himself. Will the King not embrace his wife? the German woman asked meekly. Not tonight, dear, the King replied. I have a headache.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Kill the Jew! the crowd was shouting as the captain was stripped of his medals, his epaulettes, his sword smashed before him. Judas goat! they were shouting now. The magistrates would be lucky if they got the captain — former captain, now — onto the boat for Devil's Island before the crowd tore him apart. You are degrading an innocent man! the former soldier cried out, as he had in the courtroom. Long live France! Long live the army! The cry fell on deaf ears, except for the reporter from Vienna's Neue Freie Presse. He would never forget.
Monday, January 4, 2010
We watched as the admiral's ship drifted over the horizon. He had indicated to us in his language that he was heading back where he had come from. But he would be back, he had said, and we dreaded that day. It had been only ten days or so since his ship had run around on our shores. In those few days he had succeeded in taking twenty-five of our people with him. Some of his men had raped and murdered our women while they were here. We wondered what he would do with the people he took. We could only hope that the some of the women were carrying the contagious madness with them.
The archaeologist was feeling lucky. Nearly a year earlier, he had first glimpsed the pharaoh's tomb. Now he had finally dug his way all the way to the sarcophagus itself. He wondered over the treasure he had come upon. The mask was solid gold, worth millions of pounds, he thought to himself. There was writing in hieroglyphics all over the chamber, but the archaeologist could not read them. He hadn't studied the Rosetta Stone in several years. No matter, he thought to himself, he would have one of his assistants copy them down on paper and they would be translated sooner or later. No need to worry about that now. Lord Carnavon would be so happy, the archaeologist had thought. He'll live out his retirement in great luxury.
Allahu Akbar! the men were crying as the sultan moved to the head of the crowd. Thank you for your warm welcome, the sultan told us. As you know, the King of Aragon and the Queen of Castile agreed four months ago to a truce. That truce has expired as of this morning. I have received word that their armies will march on our city by mid-day. We can fight or we can surrender the city and save the lives of our women and children. I think you know what we need to do. He had stopped speaking, and we looked one at the other, wondering whether the sultan meant we should fight on or surrender to the armies. We knew for sure when one of our number shouted out, Al-Andalus shall not fall! The sultan frowned. No, it shall not fall, the sultan said. It shall not fall because it has fallen already.
At first, we could not determine who was telling the truth. The government radio station was reporting that the rebels had been routed at Santa Clara. But the rebels had their own radio transmitters, and they were reporting that Santa Clara was set to fall to them. Luckily, my uncle Ferdinand had a short-wave radio. When he picked up a signal from Miami and heard that the President had left for the Dominican Republic. At first, nobody would believe Uncle Ferdinand — until the bearded one took to the air waves at nine in the morning, proclaiming, Revolution, yes! Military coup, no! The rebels had won.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Starting Friday, January 1, 2010, I will publish one piece of flash fiction per day for the coming year. Each piece will center on a significant political event that took place on that date in history, e.g., Friday's story will be on the subject of Havana falling to Fidel Castro on January 1, 1959. I hope readers will keep reading, provide feedback, and enjoy the work. Happy New Year!
Monday, December 28, 2009
Peeter was conflicted. On one hand, he understand the way his countrymen felt about the Bronze Statue, which had been erected by the Soviets on the third anniversary of the country's "liberation" by the USSR. The statue was a symbol of the Russian yoke, and this was not a country that took kindly to foreign rule. Since the Vikings had gone there in the Middle Ages, the nation had been occupied by Scandinavians, Germans, and the Russians. Only in '91 had freedom really come at last. But he understood the anger of the Russians also. They had spilled their own blood to get rid of the Nazis, and this was the thanks they got? As he walked toward the Russian embassy, he passed an appliance store and saw the Estonian embassy in Moscow besieged by Russians. He thought of his grandfather, who had served in the Red Army. He lit the cloth attached to the bottle of gasoline in his left hand. Do svidaniya, Dedushka, he said under his breath as hey flung the bottle through the window.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Disconnect yourself from desire, the yogi said, instructing the people in the room to breath in from the diaphragm and exhale slowly. Charles sat in the back of the room, full of doubt. This is nonsense, he said to himself, breathing in and out nevertheless. When your thoughts distract you, the yogi said, recenter yourself on your breathing and let them drift away. This is nonsense, Charles kept thinking. Utter nonsense. All of a sudden, Charles could no longer feel his body. He felt as if his eyes were open, but he could no longer see the room in which he sat. Color rushed at him from all sides. He wondered why he was not panicking, only to realize that he felt tremendously calm. And then, as quickly as it had come, the moment was gone. The yogi was still speaking. You are part of the infinite spirit, the yogi was saying. Nonsense, Charles thought to himself, smiling.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
They were watching Dick Clark broadcasting from Times Square, but with only one eye peeled on the screen. Rather than providing the World's Oldest Teenager with their full attention, they were keeping their other eyes on their computers, nervous that, at the moment the ball landed in the square, everything would go black. When Clark had gotten into the final countdown from then, the two of them grasped hands and closed their eyes. When the crowd in Times Square burst out in celebration over the new millennium, they opened their eyes. Their apartment was dark. Everything had gone dead but the television, which was still on and blaring "Auld Lang Syne." It didn't make sense: If Y2K was really here, why would the television still be on? One of them got up and checked the fuse box: All the fuses in the box had blown but one. Apparently, the Y2K scare was just a hoax. But now they knew the truth: Dick Clark had the ability to control electricity!
Monday, December 21, 2009
As of Friday, I have published all the portions of my work in progress, Tree of Life. I would invite interested readers to click on "Tree of Life" under "Labels" on the right side of this page and read all the pieces of flash fiction in their order. There are five sections with anywhere between ten and twelve stories per section. As usual, I welcome your feedback. Thanks!
Friday, December 18, 2009
At the end of his prison term, Joe came home, only to find no one could recognize him. He had been sent away for five years, but with good behavior and parole, as well as some personal favors he had done for the warden, he had been let go after just two years. When he found himself on a bus heading back into town and saw someone on the bus who had been a pretty good friend of his, the friend didn't recognize Joe when he approached him. It was disconcerting. So Joe decided he would get his hair cut in the fashion he'd worn it when he had been sent to prison, and he would grow a mustache again. Maybe then people would recognize him better. And he was right: After he went to a barber and looked more like his old self, he found that he was recognized by the people that knew him. The problem was that now, because he'd been to prison, they were afraid of him. Sometimes in public places he could hear people whispering his name and that he was an ex-con. If it weren't for his parole being contingent on returning to his hometown, he would have left. Instead, he was left wondering whether he could have made a fresh start somewhere else.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tagak had lived in Alert all his life, but he didn't call his home Alert; he called it by its Inuit name. He was eighty years old, and he could remember before the white men came and built a weather station in his town. Eight years after that, the Canadian military came and took the town over entirely. They had been there ever since. One day, Tagak thought to himself, they will leave us alone here, as they had when I was a boy. There was talk among some people in the village that the white men would make his village the hub of a great civilization, as they had further south, in places with Indian names like "Toronto" and "Ottawa." But Tagak didn't want that. He wanted none of it.