Tale of Two Stars – #shortstory #writing by Leona

The blackness of the sky never bothered me before. I always found it enchanting and reminiscent of my mother’s eyes. It sparkled with small stars and galaxies too far to count the distance. Our routine was to spend evenings outside and guide the stars to their rightful place. She would name each one and beckon them from their day slumber. I asked my mother why she did this each evening. It was a task ordained by the gods, she would respond. Nothing more.

The deep night sky filled my waking hours more than I realized. I never knew about the daytime world. I didn’t want to know.

People in the village would leave my mother gifts of fruit and cassava on our doorstep. My mother never let me talk to these strangers even though I would watch them from small crack on our door. Each time they would rest their gifts at the base of the door they would say “Prada Bitarva”. When I spoke those words to my mother, she said that was the name the villagers gave her. I asked about her real name but she told me to call her mama.

As night turned into day, I started to wonder about the villagers and the world of the day. But as my curiosity grew, mama increased my tasks during the evening. She asked me to name the stars along with her and learn the movements that went along with the names. We danced and talked together that I did not mind not seeing the day or more of the villagers.

One day I told my mama that I wanted a friend. She smiled and tapped her nose. I know just the friend you need, she said. Two days later she brought me a small basket covered with a green cloth. I opened the gift to find a small monkey curled inside sleeping. His eyes were shut and his little fingers were curled around part of the green blanket. I squealed with joy at the sight of my new friend. I named him Bravo and told my mother that he would be my best friend. Bravo squirmed in the basket and blink his eyes open. Dark black filled his eyes and I could see my face reflected back to me. His armes reached toward me and I culled him close to my chest.

Treat him well, my mother said. His destiny is tied to yours.

Rain Dance – #flashfiction #scifi #shortstory by Leona

Last year after fall, it rained for 14 years straight. In my town on the coast of the Lake Eerie, we had to build sand piles to keep the waters from rushing in. Rain boots became the norm as we all tried to go about our everyday lives.

Water is a relentless element. It seeps. It soaks. It keeps falling and pounding till the other material gives way. My friend’s father said he had never seen this much rain in his entire life. He said that back in his day, he and his friends would perform a rain dance every Tuesday to call down the floods from the skies. Finally those dances worked, he would say. My friend and I would sit with him each Tuesday to drink coffee. I wondered if we were performing our own ceremonial rain dance with the rhythms of our visits.

When the rain started, everyone cried tears of joys. Our land hadn’t seen a full hour of rain in over 12 years. People danced in the streets and stopped what they were doing. My mom called me 4 times trying to get me to come home from work to celebrate. It was a day for celebration, she said. Nothing else.

My friend and I like to remember that day as “Rain Day”. Even though now it rains every day, we think its funny to keep the name. Together we’ve found ways to enjoy the sloshing wetness that now permeates our world. We always remark that the old people complained so long about the dry season you’d think the rain would be celebrated each morning. But by the first full week of rain, people were already using phrases like “wish it would stop”, “I hate being soaked”, “Enough is enough”.

We crave change until the changes start to overtake our past normalcy. Everyday I have to take 10 minutes to put on my rain gear. I decided to go all out and buy the best rain slicker, boots and gloves you can get. They are off brand obviously. I meet my friend on the corner of the street to head into work. We both are postmen.

My friend remarks to me that today feels lighter. There is less rain falling down. I wonder if someone is doing a sun dance, I remark. It highly probable my friend says. Do you remember what the sun looks like? I ask. Genuinely, I am inquiring as my own memory of a sunny day has drifted from me. Nah, my friend says, I can only remember rainy skies. I was just a baby when the whole rain thing started. You were older. I nod my head in agreement and try to picture the sun.

Rays of light slanting through the window softly graze my face. I turn and feel the sun’s warmth move to my neck. Are you awake? My little brother asks in the bed next to mine. I open my eyes to see only yellow light. I blink away tears and rub my face. Yes I am awake. I say to my brother. He is sitting up in his bed with ruffled hair and squished pajamas. Want some breakfast? I ask.

The rain slides down my cheeks as I stare up at the sky. I’ve stopped walking and I let the rain hit my face. Tears are mixed with the light drops. I haven’t thought about my little brother in years. Time has made these memories sweet rather than sour. I wonder if my brother could feel the rain now.

Hey, my friend says, you coming? I look at the sky a bit longer and open my mouth to try and taste the rain. It isn’t sweet or salty just slightly damp. Then I make my way toward my friend, we match pace as the rain rhythmically plops on our backs.

A quiet afternoon at the beach – #shortstory #flashfiction #writing by Leona

When I was younger, I though that the hair on my grandfather’s chin was part of his personality. He had a white and black beard that started on his cheeks and went down to his neck. From my point of view, it never began or ended but just was. He was a man with bravado and a deep laugh. When he would chuckle, his beard would move and lengthen along with his smile.

I asked him once if his beard could be removed like a baseball hat. Was it an item of clothing you put on each morning? He smiled down at me with his kind eyes and chuckled some more. My grandfather was always laughing. Maybe the years spent on the battlefields in foreign countries made him see the funny side of life.

After the funeral in December of 2014, I remember seeing a rainbow in the sky above the hearse as we drove along. My mom said it was God’s promise and I wondered if God had a beard. With my grandfather’s passing, a large well in my heart had started to form. Not a hole but a deep impression that left one wanting and gasping for breath. I touched my cheeks and felt down my neck thinking of my grandfather’s beard. White and black and the way he always pulled at the hairs when he had a deep thought.

“You might think that the sun only shines without the clouds” Grandpa said looking toward the ocean. “But in fact, it can be sunny in any kind of weather. It’s just your perception of where the sun lands” He looked down at me on his lap and patted my head. I was quiet for his words had started to wash over me and sink in. “You love the sun?” I asked. Grandpa nodded his head; his great beard shaking with every beat.

“Come rain or shine, its the fact that the sun rises every day which gives me strength to laugh at morning and be thankful for shade by the evening. Trust me,” he paused and gazed out at the crashing waves. The sound was muffled and comforting. “In time you’ll understand that the sunny days come everyday.” He looked down at me and laughed.

Bus Ride- A Short Story by Leona

Giovani grabbed his hat and stuffed it into his pocket. Time to get to work. He grabbed the data card from the cartridge by his door and tucked it into his wrist piece. The screen on his wrist lit up and showed that it had a full battery. Messages and company ads started to appear on the screen. Giovani shut the screen off and plodded through the door. He looked back before closing the door and saluted his augmented reality dog, Pepper, who was laying on his couch. 

“See ya pal,” Giovani said. The dog blinked and stretched his paws. Giovani closed the door.

In the street, Giovani found people moving through the early morning bustle of the city. The City of Ashes was a mid tier outpost on the Southern continent. It was a major exporter of raw material such as natural gas and sugar. People had been farming the continent for centuries. When he was 13, Giovanni arrived with his family. His father had believed that the move from the capital would give his children a better life. It was up for debate whether or not this was true. Giovanni made his way to the crowded bus stop. Various people were milling around waiting for the bus to arrive. He noticed a fellow farm hand was at the station and shuffled through a group of older ladies.

“Scuse me, ma’am” he said. 

He had bumped the lady’s bag. She turned and hissed in a foriegn language. Giovani recognized it as a capital language. He couldn’t really remember much after moving to the Southern Continent. He said nothing and held up his hands. The older lady grabbed her bag and pulled it tightly against her chest. Her large Victorian skirt swirled and her pinched face soured. Capital tourists sometimes found their way to the south. Giovani never knew why they came, but every season always brought a hoard of gaping eyes. The capital tourists always wore archaic looking clothes and too many layers. The lady was sweating at her temples and forehead. She blinked and Giovaini moved past. It was better not to interact with the tourists. It was better to just pretend he didn’t understand.

“Mate!” called Giovani’s friend, Tire. He lightly punched his shoulder. 

“Making friends?” Tire asked.

“You know it.” Giovani said, “Everywhere I go.” He smirked. Seeing Tire always put him in a good mood. His wrist device buzzed.

“A lover calling?” Tire ogled. His eyebrows raised.

“Ah!” said Giovani. “Just another stupid ad.” He swiped the advertisement and shrugged. “They love me I guess.”

“You know,” said Tire “one day you’re gonna win the lottery and never know cause all you do is swipe away those ads” 

“Ha! You bozo. Nothing like that will ever happen.” Giovani said

“You never know my friend. Luck is a mysterious mistress.” Tire smiled. “Looks like the bus has arrived.”

The huge commuter bus pulled up to the stop. It was a sleek black monstrosity that had the words “City of Ashes” painted in white across the side. The letters had faded and some of the paint had peeled. With the help of some graffiti, the bus now read “Shitty of Asses”. But the bus driver, Gregor, thought it was the funniest thing ever and so he never got the company to repaint it. The bus came to a stop and the doors swung open. The driver’s loud voice welcomed them.

“Good Moooorning Asses!” Gregor shouted into the com device. “Time to make money!”

Giovani and Tire piled onto the bus with all the other commuters. He made special care to avoid the tourist lady and found his way to the second story of the bus. He made sure to buckle his seat and Tire slipped in next to him.

“Still think you’ll never win the lottery?” Tire said while buckling up.

“You bet.” Giovani said and closed his eyes. He braced himself for the bus ride. The seat smelled of oil and sickly sweet. He could hear people scrambling to buckle before the launch. The speaker blared with Gregor’s voice.

“Are you folks ready for the ride of your liiiiife?” His baritone voice scooped with each vowel. The bus rattled. Giovani felt his seat rumble and his body suddenly braced against the seat. The bus surged forward. He felt a pressure build in his chest as they moved at a breakneck speed to the next stop.

Gregor’s voice sounded above the roar of the bus, “Keep your asses in your seat!!”

I had a lot of fun with this piece. Its always fun to write short little vignettes. Let me know what you think. Short stroy writing is still something I am experimenting with and trying to get better at, so I’d love to hear your feeback!

Madame B. – A Short Story by Leona

So, let me tell you straight. In my neighborhood, there is this lady, you see. Her name is Madame Bevere. No one knows why we all call her ‘Madame”. We just do. It seems to be like some code or honor. Not really sure. But that’s besides the point. I want to tell you more about her. 

Madame Bevere had these crazy stories that she started telling me when I was a kid. When mom would go do some errands, she would leave me with Madame B. I would play in her backyard which had a pond and trees. A real nice garden and all, but a bit overgrown. Honestly though, it was perfect to play in. Stuff that you remember when you’re older cause at the time it felt so magical. Anyway, one day while I was out playing and I lifted a rock to find a salamander. But this lizard was odd colored with light skin, like, almost white. So, I ran and told Madame B. You know what she said?

She started off on this crazy story about how she and her then boyfriend had defeated a gigantic white lizard. It was so crazy that I had to listen. Like, a story that you want to believe in. Then Madame told me all about her adventure. Being lost in the woods, going into a cave to then stumbling upon the white lizard’s lair. She said what tamed the beast was her excellent rodeo skills. Apparently back in the day, Madame competed at the rodeo and won high trophies for her success. So all she had to do was pretend that the snake was a bull. And that was that. Finito.

Now whenever I see a lizard at the zoo or some weird snake, I think of Madame B. She seemed to have a story for every occasion and every situation. Made you wonder if it was all real or not. But, you know, I like to believe she had some truths to her stories. Cause what’s life without a little magic, right?

This story was inspired by a pictore from Visual Verse. I would highly recommend for any writers to check out this online journal. It is a great way to kickstart your creativity. For this piece, I wanted to have a very colloquial tone, almost as if it was a conversation transcribed. I love that idea of hearing a character’s voice in your head, as if you are sitting down with them at a coffee shop.

Mirror Mirror – A Short Story by Leona #shortstory

Jamie lifted her hands from her pocket to adjust her ear plugs. She was listening to some of her favorites as she traveled on the train. The train was filled with daily computers and students. Everyone was trying to rest before their day began. Jamie noticed a girl from her class was loudly talking with her friends.  Smiling, waving and randomly touching the shoulder of the boy to her left. Jamie looked away and wished she didn’t see that. It always made her uncomfortable. 

“Next stop: Total station” The robotic voice of the train said. Jamie looked out the window and stared at the brick wall flying past. She flitted her eyes back and forth until it made her dizzy and slightly motion sick. She closed her eyes.

“Total station” the voice said. Jamie heard the train doors open. Her eyes opened. She looked out the window to watch the passengers get on and off the train. An older man held onto the morning’s newspaper and stomped on a cigarette before entering. Two school girls held hands and were imitating a pop star’s famous dance moves. They were giggling. Jamie noticed a girl slowly walking off the platform. She was wearing similar clothes to Jamie. Her school uniform and a green satchel bag swung by her waist. The girl turned and looked directly at Jamie. 

She gasped. It was her. Jamie blinked. A perfect reflection of Jamie’s face stared at her from the platform. Jamie blinked again but the girl did not disappear or move. They continued to maintain eye contact. Jamie’s mind raced. She was clearly seeing a version of herself. There she was standing on the platform. The girl raised her hand and waved. She mouthed the words “Good Luck” and started to turn away. 

Jamie jumped to her feet. She grabbed her bag and made for the train doors. The young girls were dancing in the space between the seats. The doors started to close.

“No!” Jamie shouted. She pushed through the school girls and tried to get through the doors. 

“Next stop: Everton Station ” the robotic lady said. Jamie’s hands hit the door. The doors had slid closed and latched just as Jamie bounded to them. She banged her hands and frantically searched through the small window. There on the platform she could see that version of herself walking away toward the exit stairs. Her green satchel still sung and bounced with each step. Jamie’s view started to change as the train moved away from the stop. Soon, she was staring at blackened brick walls that flew by at an unreasonable pace. It made Jamie feel sick. 

She turned. She blinked and started to sway. Jamie noticed the old man had unfolded the newspaper so that she could read the news headlines. It read “Girl discovers Irregularity in Time Warp”. Below the heading, there was a black and white picture of Jamie. Her face was bright and she was smiling sheepishly. Jamie’s knees buckled. This was the second time today in the matter of minutes she was seeing a duplicate of herself. Jamie gripped the seats for support and slid back to her seat. She lifted her hood over her head and kept her face toward the window. Whatever was happening, Jamie knew it wasn’t good.

The Antonym December Flash Fiction Contest Finalist- Halka Hata by Leona Cicone

I am excited to share a short story of mine that has been chosen as a finalist for a flash fiction contest!

Read the story here: https://www.theantonymmag.com/halka-hata-leona-cicone/

A side note, in the same week this story was accepted another was declined. It has given me a certain perspective on the perseverance of the artist. I share these pieces because I am proud of them but also because I hope you can feel inspired to create your own art and feel emboldened to share it with the world. You don’t need to be “the chosen one” to be creative. You don’t need to make money from your art to call yourself an artist/writer/poet/musician. Instead you can create and enjoy your craft for the sake that it’s wholly and solely yours.

If you would like to read the other finialists, look here: https://www.theantonymmag.com/the-antonym-december-flash-fiction-contest-announcement/

Time Together- A Short Story by Leona

My lips feel chapped against the grain of my multi-colored scarf. You had given it to me so long ago, I forgot if it was for my birthday or for Christmas. I muddle through the crowded street and pushed my way to our apartment.

Stamping my feet and shaking off the snow, I enter our warm home. Your cat sits on the chair in the corner and I say. 

“Hello Arnold”

I always wondered why you named your cat Arnold. It reminds me of that character from that one tv show we both watched as kids. I don’t remember the title any more. Was it really just called “Hey Arnold”?

I hang my coat in the coat closet where it belongs and pick up the mail that you left in the entryway. You never want to look at all the junk mail so you make me do it. For some reason, you always feel the necessity to open up every letter even when it is clearly just junk mail. I remember coming home once to find scattered papers everywhere with you sitting in the middle carefully reading a credit card promotion. It was this way with you sometimes. You would get so fixated as if you didn’t mind that you distracted yourself with something really tedious. I smile at the memory.

“Kerry?” I hear you call. “Is that you?”

“Hey babe” I say as I walk to the kitchen. I see you are by the stove cooking a delicious smelling dish. It always surprises me how much you like to cook. I mean, I love cooking but in my experience I hadn’t met someone who loved it more than me. Well, that is to say before I met you. You turn to face me and smile. 

“My sweet.” You say as you catch me in your arms. I am still surprised at being able to hug you so freely and being near you so often. I squeeze back and enjoy your warm embrace. My arms start to pull away but you tighten your grip. 

“Gotta catch’em all” you say in my ear. It’s so ridiculous I just laugh. My body is buzzing against your chest. We stand still for a few moments and I hear the hissing of water boiling on the stove.

“The pasta!” You suddenly pull away. I am still smiling.

“Can’t let the pasta boil over, Chef Tegan.” I peek around you to see the water has indeed started to boil over the pot. I grab a checkered towel from the counter and start to wipe around the pot.

“No no!”, You shoo me away. “Back, back. Milady does not need to assist the poor peasant boy in the kitchen.”

“But what if I want to help my farm boy?” I say, slightly pouting. 

Your eyes twinkle and you wink at me. I think it’s both charming and hilarious how you wink at me even when we are alone in the house. As if there is some ghost that might be listening and we need them not to catch our inside joke. 

“Ahh but even the farm boy must do as you wish and this morning you wished for delicious pasta primavera. I must continue for milady.” You say.

“Then I bid you A-Dieu” I say and turn to leave the kitchen. Picking up the mail, I put all of it in the trash and I grab a cup of water. I turn to leave.

“No parting kiss for your farm boy?” You say while stirring the pasta on the stove. You are so funny, it’s one of the many reasons we are in love.

“As you wish,” I lean into your expecting lips. “You are ridiculous and it’s everything I love about you” I whisper into your ear. As I pull back, I see the blush on your cheeks. It makes my heart jump. How you manage to make me feel so alive is still a mystery to me. But it’s a mystery I don’t mind never solving, as long as you are by my side.

Haibun Challenge – A Haibun by Leona

Feelings of cheer and hope fill my heart. It has been busy. I keep spending time in the car with my hands on the wheel. I turn this way and that to arrive to say hello. Life has been going fast. In between moments, I am at the mall with crowds of other faces picking out chocolates. I want two mocha truffles and four caramel filled candies. In the mornings, my routine doesn’t change as I walk around with my dog and look at the sky clouds. Will it snow this year? My cheeks are cold from the air and a bit sore from smiling. The soreness isn’t bad as I hug my friend from church and wish her a “Merry Christmas”. It has been a hard year but a good year, filled with many magical memories. Finally, I set up my Charlie Brown Christmas tree and wrap the last present with brown paper and string. I wonder about the waiting and anticipating. How we prepare and prepare for this season to come. Gingerbread and ham sit on the stove in my mother’s apartment. She has set up twinkling lights on her balcony. It is a special time of year.

It wasn’t always this way

Different traditions now

Merry Christmas, love

This haibun was inspired by the Haibun Wednesday Challenge at the Go Dog Go Cafe!

Haibun Wednesday- A Go Dog Go Cafe Challenge

Are you free? Come on over. I said to my sister who lived just down the road. She and I were spending as much time together since she was in town for just a month. She runs down the stairs as I sit in my car and I press the gas pedal. 

Spices, warm oven air and sticky toffee caramel. I set up my phone to play “Christmas Time is Here.” As we roll out the dough, I notice that the cookies in the oven are done. My oven mitt is gray and rubbery, the cookies are brown the color of a deep garnet. 

Laughing and singing, coffee

Nostalgia flavors

Happiness and cheer

If you’re interested in joining this challenge check out the Haibun Challenge here.