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Pottery by Ed Gray

Such Stuff as Dreams


by Deborah Edler Brown



Annabelle almost couldn’t get any sleep these days for all the talking, the pulling of covers, the opening and shutting of windows. It began with the dreams. One night, she was lying down alone, yet again, in her queen-size bed, holding a pillow against her belly for comfort, and then Kirk slipped into her sleep. She hadn’t spoken to him in years, but she was happy, in the dream, to see him, to feel his hand on the small of her back, the heat that always seemed to flame in the air between them, even that last day when she watched his back move forward down the driveway, the space between them stretching long and hot like a Texas siesta, until the car turned the corner, and she had to grab a sweater.


 When she woke in the morning, there was a smile on her lips, and she realized that she had pushed half her blankets onto the floor. She smiled throughout the day at what dreams can do. She had slept alone, but her body curled softly, as if she had made love.


The next night she dreamt of David. Cool, moody David, whose long fingers had washed lavender through her hair whenever she was stressed or sad. In the dream, he was drawing a rose-filled bath, offering to rub sesame oil into her tired shoulders. There were bedroom sounds in that dream, or sounds in the bedroom – the scraping of a chair, a door closing – but she only realized it later. In the dream, in that moment, she had her legs wrapped around David’s thin torso as rose petals tumbled through the water like ruby fish.


Her hair was damp in the morning. “I must have a fever,” she thought and took two Advil, even though her skin was cool to the touch.


 “Did you know you keep traces of everyone you’ve ever slept with?” asked Gina over lunch.


 “Hmmm?” said Annabel. She was lost in the frosty cream of her Mint Moccachino.


 “It’s energy,” said Gina. “Like photo bleed, ghost images.”She tapped the magazine with a long, pink nail. “This guy says we leave bits of our energy on everyone we sleep with. He recommends aura cleansing or something. I wonder where you do that…”


 Annabelle drew one finger along the rim of her plastic cup and bit her lower lip. How many guys had she slept with? She tried to count. It all seemed so long ago. Her aura was probably an empty train station by now.


 Jacob appeared that night. Jacob, wearing only a chef’s hat and apron, pressing his hands into white, soft dough, making croissants in all kinds of uncrescent shapes, shapes she could never have brought to the office had this not been a dream. Somewhere she heard water running, but Jacob was pressing a warm roll against her stomach and whispering creative uses for jam.


 The flour in the hallway was the first real warning. She had not baked in months, and yet there it was, two days after the girl had been into clean. The bright spring day had no impact on her. In fact, she almost left her skin when Gina said, “What about that flower!”




 “That long-stemmed rose Mark sent Nancy. I’ve never seen such a beauty.”


 Alan was in the living room the moment she closed her eyes that night. She almost couldn’t hear what he was trying to say, one hand on the piano key, one on her bare thigh. She thought she heard water running and noises in the bedroom. A smell of baking almost overpowered the Halston that Alan always wore, which he was seriously trying to share with her, skin to skin.


 “In a moment,” she whispered, curiosity trumping desire, and walked carefully toward the kitchen, with Alan following behind her like a quickly wrapped shawl.


 There were several people in the kitchen. Jacob was making donuts. He was shaking powdered sugar on a fresh tray of donut holes and across the breasts of Betsey Mason, the girl he’d dated in high school. Betsey looked at Annabelle in triumph and bit a hole.


 Before Annabelle could respond, the bedroom door slammed and Kirk ran past, followed by his ex-wife Susie and her husband Jim. Jim grabbed a donut and headed toward the bathroom, where six naked people clustered in and around her tub: David, Martha, his first girlfriend, Jim, Scott, the man David left her for, and two women she’d never seen.


 “Who wants donuts?” called Jacob from the hallway. Alan still had his hand on her shoulder, but the other one grabbed the fresh, hot dough.


 “It’s time to wake up,” she said firmly.


 “Hmm?” asked Alan, his mouth full of sugar.


 “Pinch me, I need to wake up.”


“Ouch!” she yelled. She was clutching her bottom when she woke, holding a spot that would surely bruise, but relieved to be awake.


 “You okay?” asked a sleepy male voice. She almost didn’t want to look.


 “Yeah, keep it down,” said a female voice.


 “Aw. Now I’m up, too. Someone hand me another donut.”





Deborah Edler Brown’s is a poet, author, journalist and teacher. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies, including Poetry Slam (Manic D Press, 2000), So Luminous the Wild Flowers (Tebot Bach, 2003), Blue Arc West (Tebot Bach, 2006), and Sisters Singing: Blessings, Prayers, Art, Songs, Poetry and Sacred Stories by Women (Wild Girl Press, 2008). In 2005, her poem “Cubism” won Kalliope’s Sue Saniel Elkind Poetry Prize. Deborah is the author of two chapbooks, Red Long Hot Peppers and Haiku Volcano. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches private writing and performance workshops.

Pottery by Ed Gray


There’s Something about Potato Skins


by R. A. Shockley




“There’s something about potato skins,” she says, slathering her tuber with more butter than mom would have used on a turkey.


This amazes me, this wanton disregard of cholesterol, because other than that the woman looks the wholesome sort, the kind mom would have picked for my first date. That’s not a bad thing, I suppose, but to be complete about this I ought to say that Mom wouldn’t have noticed the Breck-perfect hair or the fact that the woman was a likely candidate for underwear ads. To me these things call for a good opening, a special opening; but neither butter nor lingerie seems the best topic when you’ve just met an attractive woman for the first time. So I go with the potato thing.


“I don’t think I’ve ever heard that phrase before.”




“There’s something about potato skins. I might use that in a story sometime.”


“Well. There is something about potato skins. You know?”


She says this with one of those tones women use sometimes, the ones that might mean something more, but probably don’t. You just can’t tell. I stare at her mound of white-now-yellow carbs, peer after the peel that she’s steadily mashing into her potato’s innards. If there’s an image in there that she sees and I don’t, I can’t decipher it. Maybe on the edge there, next to the corn, where it’s still round, yellow, plump and unmashed. Maybe. If I look really hard.


“There’s something about a lot of things, I suppose,” I say. I’m still testing the waters, still hoping there’s some water to test.


“There certainly is something about a lot of things.”


I get braver. “How about you? Is there something about you?”


“I love butter. It’s worse than heroin on your insides, but there’s something about it.”


“You don’t say. I’ll bet it’s good for your hair or something.”


“Something.” She sips from her wine, then licks the rim—to what purpose I’m unclear. It leaves me sitting there, astounded and immobile, and unsure why. She doesn’t give me a fair chance to answer, which is good because I have no idea what to say.


“You think you’re missing something, don’t you?” she says. “You really should learn to follow up.”


“Follow up?”


“On what there is about me. I didn’t answer.”


“Tell me then.”


“I would. But I hesitate. There’s just something about you.”


“Better than potato skins?”


“I don’t know about that. I didn’t even say it was good.”


That was deflating, but I was too far gone not to struggle on. “I want to be at least as good as potato skins.”


“There’s just something about a fellow who won’t follow up.” She takes another sip, licks the rim again.


“I asked you already.”


“True. But you didn’t follow up on what there was about potato skins. Or butter, either.”


“Let’s start over. What is there about potato skins?”


“They’re good to put butter on.”


“And the butter? What’s so great about the butter?”


“I’ll have to show you that. But I’ll have to take you home first.”


I swallow hard, think hard, know that the follow-up will be critical. “And you? There’s something about you. You said so. Now what is it?”


“I’ll have to show you that, too.”


I can’t talk—my brain has frozen utterly.




I don’t answer that fast enough, either.


“Thought so.”


She rose, pulled her purse strap to her shoulder, and held out her hand. “I like that,” she says. “I knew there was something about you.”




R. A. Shockley lives and writes in Athens, Georgia, and Holden Beach, North Carolina. He specializes in short stories, and is founder of the Storyton Press, LLC. Currently he’s working on a story collection and novel, both set in upstate South Carolina.  Previous stories have appeared in the Del Sol Review, Scribble, and Emrys, among others.




Pottery by Ed Gray

Padmini’s Plight


by Shirani Rajapakse



Padmini couldn’t contain her happiness. She walked around the house a new woman. It was as if everything she had ever wanted and dreamed of had suddenly come true for her. She was desperately happy. Padmini had never been so happy in her entire life. She couldn’t remember a time when she had felt so light, so free. Everything was working out fine for her and she smiled to herself as she hummed an old tune.


Padmini was going to England. She who had never set foot outside the country was going to take an eight hour flight to a strange place. Of course, she had heard lots about England. Why, practically everyone seemed to have been there or was planning on going there at some point of their lives.  But for Padmini it had only been a dream, a kind of dream that would always remain as a dream. That is, until a few months ago. And she wasn’t going there alone as most of the young people were doing. She was going there to live with her husband, the professor.


Her husband. It sounded so strange and new. She whispered the two words to herself as she went about the chores at her home.


“My husband,” she said, a slow smile hovering at the corners of her lips as she whispered the words.


Padmini had never imagined she would get married. She had thought she would die an old maid as the astrologer had predicted. But she had always been hopeful. And then as if by some strange and unexplainable divine intervention her prayers had been answered. She had found a man. Not just another ordinary man but an educated man. A doctor and a professor.


Piyal had arrived four days before the wedding as he had said he would. Padmini had been a little worried that he might not turn up after all the arrangements she had made; bought a new saree, new jewelry, ordered the cake, and all the other things required for a wedding. There were many people that made promises they would come but would not arrive, leaving the girl to face the shame of it all. She had heard it had happened to a girl in the other village. The girl had been so embarrassed that she had jumped into a well and killed herself rather than face the people. They had found her floating in the water, still dressed in her wedding saree, veil and all. Padmini had been nervous and worried. What would she do if he didn’t turn up? She wondered to herself, biting her nails to oblivion. Would she have the courage to jump into a well like the girl in the other village or would she be forced to spend the rest of her days like a Miss Havisham? The thoughts she had made her shudder.


But she really had nothing to be afraid of. Piyal had kept his word. They had married two weeks ago and although Padmini would have liked to remain for a while longer, Piyal needed to return to his work. He was after all a professor at an important university in England and needed to return to his work as soon as possible. Or so he had made her believe. And Padmini had believed him. After all there was no reason to doubt him. 


“Most people even here don’t get so much leave,” she said to her parents.


They had nodded and accepted. Piyal had taken almost three weeks leave and that was quite a lot of time off work.


“They must want him to return soon,” her mother had said simply.


“Yes, three weeks is a long time to be away from work, especially for such a busy person,” Padmini had said, smiling.


Padmini would have liked to have spent a few more days with her family before leaving but it was not to be. Piyal wanted her to accompany him. He didn’t want her to travel alone in the plane to a strange new land. It would be better if she returned with him. Immigration might also ask strange questions and it would be best he was there with her if things got too sticky. Padmini had hastily packed her things and was ready to leave by the end of the week.




Everyone in her office had been surprised that Padmini had found such a man. It didn’t matter that he was ten years her senior, he was a doctor and a professor and worked in a large hospital in London. He was also supposed to teach at a university. Some of the other girls had been envious of Padmini, a mere village girl who had only passed her Advanced Levels and had not even gone to university. She was lucky. What a catch. They had hidden their envy behind smiles and pretended they didn’t really care. But some of them were really smarting. Thanuja in particular felt it was a slight on her. She had been applying to all the prospective proposals in the marriage column of the weekly newspapers but had not been able to get a man as yet. The few men that had bothered to reply to Thanuja’s letters were dull and boring; none of the men living abroad had replied. She could have sworn she had replied to Piyal’s application but he had not bothered with her, choosing instead the uneducated village girl Padmini over her. Thanuja just couldn’t believe her misfortune. Here she was, the most qualified girl in the office and not one of the marriage proposals ever seemed to work out for her. She felt insulted and slighted.


But all the people had not been so envious. They had been rather cautious. Did anyone know anything about this man? Someone had asked Padmini, but she had assured them he was the real thing.


“He’s alright,” she had smiled. “We have been exchanging letters for quite some time and I think he is genuine,” she added.


“You have not spoken to him?” Minoli asked sounding worried.


“I only spoke to him once,” Padmini said. “Telephone calls are so expensive.”


“Yes, but I’m sure he could have gone on Skype,” Minoli said.


Padmini had looked doubtful and had not answered.


“Is he on any social network?” Neluka asked.


“I don’t think so,” Padmini said slowly.


“Not on a social network?” Tharindu had exclaimed. “What kind of century does he live in?”


“He’s a professor and he told me he wasn’t too keen on the social networks,” Padmini said adding hastily, “he has no time for it.”


Her colleagues had looked strangely at her but had not ventured further with that topic. Neluka made a mental note to do a Google search on the man when she had the time.


“My parents are happy with it,” Padmini said, smiling at them.


“Your parents met him at the same time you did,” Neluka said rather sternly.


“Yes, but they met his parents and thought they were a good family,” Padmini said.


“And that was it?” Tharindu asked incredulous.“You agreed to the marriage just because your parents seemed to think his parents were alright?”


Padmini shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She didn’t like the way they were questioning her. Who were they to ask her all these questions? What did they know about living in a village and not being married after a certain age?


“You should check him out before you agree to such a thing,” Minoli had said, but Padmini had brushed it off as ridiculous.


“He works in a big hospital in London,” she had said and shown Minoli the address of the hospital Piyal had sent their family.


Her colleagues at work had continued to be worried for her.


“How will someone like that manage in London?” Sunil asked when they were having lunch one day.


Minoli shrugged her shoulders.


“I can’t picture someone like Padmini living in London let alone going there,” Minoli replied.


“Is he really a doctor?” Tharindu asked.


“She says he is,” Nekuka added.


“What sort of a doctor?” Sunil asked.


“What do you mean what sort of a doctor? How many sorts are there?” Kamani asked.


“Why, Kamini there are human doctors and dog doctors and rat doctors … didn’t you know?” Sunil replied.


“Oh, keep quiet. He’s supposed to be a normal human doctor. At least that’s what Padmini said,” Minoli replied.


“He’s also supposed to be a professor. That was what she said too,” Tharindu added.




They never got to speak to her after that as Padmini took leave a week before the wedding. She had to do everything. Her sister and brother helped but there was still a lot of work. There were the bouquets, the photographer, everything had to be ordered and paid for and she had used all the money she had saved up. It was a good thing she would be leaving soon because she didn’t have any money left for anything else. Piyal had bought the ticket and had paid for some things but the major portion was hers.




The wedding took place at Padmini’s home in the village. Their house wasn’t large and they had to build a shed in the garden for the guests to sit under. Someone had made table decorations with sprigs of bright yellow and red bougainvillea. Balloons were tied to the pillars of the shed. Everything looked very festive. Padmini looked radiant. Dressed in an off white saree draped in the osari style she wore the traditional jewelry, borrowed from the bridal shop. Her bouquet was pink lotus. She looked happy, and she was happy.


Many of her colleagues had attended, despite the distance from the city to Padmini’s remote village. They were all curious to meet the distinguished doctor professor from London. They didn’t find anything amiss. He seemed to be alright, although he did look much older than the thirty five years he claimed to be.


“Padmini’s father looks younger,” Minoli commented.


“Maybe the long hours of working in London aged him,” Sunil said acidly provoking a hard stare from Kamini to keep quiet. 


“He’s also balding,” Tharindu commented.


“Who dressed Padmini?” Neluka wanted to know.


“No idea. Maybe someone from the village. Why?” Minoli asked.


“Whoever it was has gone to town with the foundation,” she commented.


“Yes I thought Padmini looked rather white and scary. Almost like a ghost,” Sunil said adding, “but I thought it was the way she was feeling. You know, scared and shocked at the sight of the old guy.”


“Oh keep quiet, you,” Neluka said suppressing a smile. “Someone might hear you.”


“Who cares?” Sunil said glancing around to see if anyone at the other table was listening. “They must also be wondering what happened to Padmini’s face,” he added.


 “Why in the world did they apply so much foundation?” Neluka asked staring at Padmini seated on the bridal couch with Piyal.


 “Maybe they thought she was too dark and wanted to lighten her a little,” Sunil commented.


“But so much?”


“Maybe the makeup artiste thought that Piyal might be upset that Padmini wasn’t fair like the English girls,” he added.


“Well, if he wanted a fair girl he should have married an English girl,” Minoli retorted.


“Maybe none of the English girls wanted to marry an old hat like Piyal,” Sunil said dryly.


“Boy, but he does look old, doesn’t he?” Neluka said.


“Very old. Do you think he’s the same age as her father?” Tharindu asked.


“No, not that old. She said he was ten years older,” Minoli said.


“Ten years older than her father?” Tharindu asked.


“No, you silly, ten years older than Padmini,” Minoli replied.


“I wanted to Google him, but I forgot,” Neluka said staring ahead.


“I did, but there was nothing on Piyal Ranawaka. No doctor or professor by that name anywhere in the world,” Tharindu said.


“Nothing?” Neluka looked worried.


“No nothing,” Tharindu emphasized.


“That’s strange,” Minoli said slowly.


“Maybe he just isn’t listed anywhere,” Tharindu said, not caring anymore.


“But how can that be? Everyone is listed somewhere. And he lives in London. And he’s a doctor. Where can he possibly hide?” Minoli asked looking worried.


“Maybe he’s a boring old doctor that no one wants to know about,” Sunil grinned.


“Maybe even his students are ashamed to friend him on any network,” Tharindu added.


“Yes, looking at him I quite agree with what you say,” Sunil said his grin widening.


“But if he’s a professor shouldn’t he have written any papers?” Neluka asked.


“Maybe he bought his professorship at some club,” Sunil commented.


“Oh stop being silly,” Minoli scowled at him.





Two months after going to London Padminire turned. She turned up at the office one day with tears in her eyes.


“Can I have my job back?” she sobbed sitting at Minoli’s table.


Minoli stared at Neluka and turned back to Padmini.


“Why, what happened?” she asked. “Didn’t you like it in London?” she asked gently, wondering if the English weather or something there had been too much for her.


“What happened, didn’t the people there treat you well?” Tharindu asked.


The others in the office heard she had returned and came rushing to Minoli’s room to see her. They hovered around wondering what had brought Padmini back so soon.


“What, back so soon?” Sunil asked, “Does our professor Piyal have a girlfriend stashed up somewhere?”


This made Padmini cry louder. Minoli scowled at Sunil.


“Shut up, leave her alone,” she said turning on Sunil.


“Alright, alright, I was just joking,” he said raising his hands as if to defend himself from Minoli’s wrath. “But these things do happen to most girls. The men want their English girlfriend and a traditional wife from here as well. They want to have their cake and eat it.”


Padmini stopped crying and stared at him.


“Yes, I have heard stories like that,” she sniffed. “But he didn’t have anyone. There was no such thing like that.”


“Then what was it? Why did you come back?”Minoli asked gently.


“He lied to me. To all of us,” she said fresh tears coming to her eyes. 


“He lied to you?” Minoli asked. “How?”


Padmini continued to sob softly. After awhile she stopped and wiped her eyes with her handkerchief.


“He wasn’t really a doctor,” she sighed not bothering to look at anyone, “not a professor either.”


Her colleagues stared at each other puzzled.


“But I thought you said he was,” Kamini said, perplexed.


“Yes I did,” she said and tears well up in her eyes at the memory.


“Then what?” Neluka asked.


“He’s no doctor. He digs graves,” Padmini replied angrily and wiped her eyes. “How do I get out this mess?” she asked lifting her eyes to her colleagues and looking defiant.



Shirani Rajapakse is a poet, playwright and fiction writer of Sri Lankan origin. Breaking News, her debut collection of short stories, was published in April 2011 by Vijitha Yapa Publications Sri Lanka. Breaking News was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize 2010. Shirani has a BA in English Literature from the University of Kelaniya Sri Lanka and a MA in International Relations from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. She worked at the Sunday Times and Daily Mirror Sri Lanka and in international organizations including the World Bank and Commonwealth Secretariat.


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