Persian Women

by Arian Vojdani



Don’t look so proud. My distress is like a child’s, losing his favorite trophy. Your odds don’t look too good, my pride like a territorial beast, with claws with teeth. I snarl and lick my wounds, the hunger sets in. The hunger that makes me a greedy man, a craving that makes me shake,  unable to stand straight; desire which leads me to pick up your scent and give chase.

Let loose the dogs, they’ll all scream, your suitors of old, Pick apart the streets, no one sleeps, no one sleeps until we feed. Not smiling anymore, because you know you have not enough breath in your lungs to run away, no allies left.

Call off your hunt, I’ll growl, she’s still mine. Did you take me for the sharing kind? They’ll make a feast of you, but I have more elegant designs; you’d make the finest chandelier, my favorite mantle piece, the brightest of stars to top my winter tree. So with claws, with teeth, with a pride you hoped to show you could beat, this is where we’ll show the world our nature. And I’ll say once more, Call off your hunt. The kill is mine.



City of brambles, thorns blanket every proud tower and all the lowly streets. Decaying morning glory constricts each lamppost. Weeks since the sun shone through. I have been here for some time, a period the length of which I cannot specify. Cutting, calling and crossing through the brush searching for something the nature of which I cannot discuss, but never truly forgot.

I keep my path until a clearing is found, an ivory fountain filled with dried leaves. Beyond it, I find what I’ve been looking for, she overlooks an edge- tied by the wrists to a post; offered to a sea of withered vines. They reach their curled ends towards her, like aging boney hands. My muse you’ve led me astray, confined me to this place just so I could help you escape. But if I had my chance I’d let strangers cut me in half with glass, remove my insides; lungs, tissue and spine. Replace it all with cogs, gears and knives, so that I wouldn’t hesitate when you make your plea. I’d leave you at its mercy, the unseen villain that this way comes.



There are rumors of war, they climb in your head through your ear. Ghosts that hide within the cracks of the walls, grip you, give you fever- fervent and unfailing. So the earth does not spin in the fashion you see fit. So the cards that were dealt forced you to fold before you could win and so, the life you bear is not that of a Queen wrapped in gold- in a tower of pearl; but scraping by upon slate streets arrayed in red trim.

So take hammers to the world, break its bones, make it weep for the life you’ve endured.  Here, make a stand. Relish the strife you create and spade trenches dug years ago. Signs not telltale, like splintered spears that littered the floor with ruin, now useless things; petty tools, a fixation on the things you lack.

The world you wish to see won’t hide the woe you keep. The reason you take to blades has always been transparent. Whisper in my ear the things you fear, the fires you’ll create will only form you a bier. You cannot make confidence for that which you stand; it’s all become like a river run dry.



Now, he lives in a city of neon lights; blue, green, yellow, shine through the streets.  A dome of ambient glow, it pulses out and wanes like the ends of fireflies. Outsiders say to him, “We love this place.” He cracks a slight smile in response.

They met under a tree, wide in girth and bright in crown. As they became close he asked her the meaning to her name. She resisted telling at first, but young passion makes one easily cave. She told him the sun god Apollo once fell in love with a nymph. The nymph did love him though, so she ran to the ends of the world to escape his pursuit. When she reached the edge and could go no further, she prayed to the other gods to help her escape. And she turned into a tree, laurel. Apollo, stricken with grief waited at this tree’s base- collecting her leaves to form a crown. This was the story of her name, Dafne.


There is no hunt and no trophy awaits. The city is like a frozen lake upon which, he once sang her songs. Unsung since winter came.  To him traffic lights never change and he waits too long, at curbsides that all look the same. Stagnant, that’s what he has become. Never says it, his eyes do all the work. Like a quest that yields no fame and like a hunter he is driven to motion by the notion of taste. But that satisfaction doesn’t exist in this place, so his song remains unsung. His eyes shift meaninglessly searching for a trophy that doesn’t exist, and what was once a noble act, stalking prey; becomes praying for a traffic light to change.

She lives in hotel rooms with beds that creak and carpets once vibrant, but now a muddled collage of colors like vomit. At the mercy of stains, blotches and tears from others just passing by. At the end of the bed lies a suitcase with clothes stuffed, strewn and strung out about her temporary world. The hotels occupy places that to her, feel like Sundays. Doesn’t know if she’s awake because all the places seem they same, feel greygreygrey. Grey buildings, skies overcast, mechanical remarks from passerby’s, “Hey, hey pretty lady, come home with me tonight.” She makes her way through the streets with her head down, moving quick, quiet and with hands kept in pockets. This is the life she chose, taking jobs in places distant- foreign and unfamiliar. To look pretty in front of crowds of nothing people she does not care to know and wishes to one day forget. “Smile for the camera, pretty lady.” Underneath overcast skies, concrete buildings mirrored by more of the same and drink from marble fountains with water full of chalk. “Come home with me, pretty lady.”  She always looks deeper into the cobblestone, clenches the bottom of her pockets and picks up her pace. Home is a distant place from which she escaped- seeking glamour and glory, but all she has is grey.

“I hope a drink will help me sleep,” he says.
“But, you don’t sleep,” replies his friend.
“Things are different tonight.” He whispers.
Ice forms over his windows of his room. The glow of the city seeps in; bringing with it the sound of car stereos, sirens and reminders of the life he lives, stagnant. Dream of being a hero like you thought you would be, like you were promised to one day become. Throws his head back and empties his glass.

He sleeps and finds himself in unfamiliar places- in impossible situations; his muse in peril. She is strung to a post with malice, hooded and frail, whispering into her ear. Licking at her neck. The muse, his greatest hunt- his finest trophy, fled to distant shores. She overlooks a ledge with unseen villains coming her way. “Should I to cut you free, save you from becoming a feast?” He smiles, it is slight and forced. Brought to peril again, brought here to help her escape. Shaking his head, he takes a step back. “But I am not your Perseus. Without a blade, mirror shield and winged boots.”

He wakes, moves over the glossy hardwood floors- through the arch leading to the kitchen and pours another glass. Shakes his head, drinks it down.

She awakes in a forest, jealous of the trees. She resents the beauty surround her. How high the trees reach, how proud they stand. Envious of their lack of motion- their surroundings remain familiar; bright and vibrant. Suddenly, their full leaves begin to black and all start to fall simultaneously. They turn to ash in their descent, it rains down around her and the sky becomes apparent. It is without color and the once bright surroundings are now covered with ash, wrapped in grey skies. She screams, claws and hacks at everything around her. She wants fire for the world. The world that’s become, ugly.

She awakes, this time in an unfamiliar room. Looks to the suitcase at the end of her bed and then to the window. A view of gutters and street lamps. You are no spiteful witch, she thinks.

He retires from the city for peace of mind. Home is the cure, but like cosmic cruelty he passes their tree. He remembers that after she answered his question, she asked him the same. “I am named after the first kings,” he told her with a full smile. Shakes his head, Funny, the only crown I should ever wear will be of your leaves.


copyright 2012:



Marlin Fishing: a flash suite
by Paul-Newell Reaves

Marlin Fishing
It was a windy day for Dusty as he unlocked his Second Story Bookstore in the Dupont Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C.  The bell jangled as the door admitted his tall, thin frame– thin but not narrow, with deep, dark, black skin and frail, curly, white hair.
He looked out the window to watch the predawn rain shine on the black street.  He sighed and knew peace.  The bell jangled again.
“We aren’t really open yet, I’m afraid, but may I help you?”
The new enteree was a broad viking of a man with sharp blond hair and a coyote face.  “My name is Erikson,” he said, “and I am looking for the man they call ‘Dusty’ Roberts.   I am,  hawhawhawh, I am not expected.”
“Well I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Mr. Erikson.  Can I interest you in a good book?”
Erikson blinked twice.  “I know nothing of books myself, but yes, I am interested in a very good book indeed.  My employer–”
“Do you mind if I call you Lief, Mr. Erikson?  You see, you say you know nothing of books, yet here you are in a whole new world of books.”
“MY EMPLOYER is a very rich and powerful man–”
“Well I hope to meet him too Lief–”
“Mr. ROBERTS, My employer is a very influential man–”
“I know nothing of riches or influence myself, I’m afraid.”
“Now see here, young man.  I was having a very pleasant morning before you came in here ahead of business hours yelling and giving me funny looks.  Now I am afraid you will have to leave and return when we open for business.”
“Hawhawhawhawh, now I am the one who is afraid, Mr. Roberts.  I am afraid you will not be opening for business today.”
“My employer is a very rich, powerful and, above all, influential man.”
“What do you want here.”
“I am interested in a very good book indeed.  One that has been lost for almost a century.”
“We… we don’t have any books like that here.”
“My employer is not interested in your books so much as your expertise.  Come with me; the plane leaves in an hour.”
Erikson took a rag from his pocket and clamped it over Dusty’s face.


Boar and Spaniel
Dusty clinked the ice in his cocktail.  There she was, the woman whom Leif had spoken of.  Her wrinkled face aged as only money allows.  Now, she was going to the bar; the time had come.  Dusty downed his drink with a swallow and approached her.
“It’s wonderful to hear some words in the English tongue,” Dusty cooed.
“Oh, yes, it always is,” the woman replied.  “Is this your first time in India?”
Dusty paused for a moment, but only a moment.  It was India, then, where he had landed.  At least the kidnappers had brought his tux.  His thumb stroked the worn patch at his lapel.  “Sure is,” he replied.  “I’m actually here on a business trip, of sorts.  I own a rare manuscript shop in Washington, D.C.”  There, no lie, only vague embellishments to the truth.
“How interesting,” the woman replied, looking him square in the eyes for only a moment longer than comfortable.  She took a step closer to Dusty and whispered, “I have just obtained some very rare manuscripts myself.”
“You don’t say.  Are you sure they’re genuine?  I am an expert.”
“There,” said Dusty to his kidnapper.  “She has the manuscripts here, with here at her Villa.  I didn’t pressure here into selling them tonight, I only told her I was an expert.  But if you think she wants to sell, I told you where she lives.  We could buy tomorrow”
“Excellent,” Leif smiled.  “How much do you think they’re worth, in lead?”
“What?”  But it was too late, he was already on the way to the villa.  Leif crept around to the gate, Dusty wheezing behind him
“Don’t fuck this up, old man.  Remember, I have plenty of bullets.  I could write your name in blood with several of them to spare.”  Leif hopped the gate.
“I’m coming with you,” Dusty hissed, struggling to pull his rusty muscles over the iron beams.  They stole silently across the lawn and up to the Victorian building, a remnant of Colonial power and prestige.   Leif put his elbow through the window, and Dusty could have sworn he saw a blinking light where before there was only darkness.  In the dark villa they crawled, across the empty rooms to the library.  There in a glass case was… nothing.
“You fool,” yelled Leif, brandishing his pistol.  Then they heard the sirens.  They were surrounded.  “You are an ameba, without courage or a backbone.”
“What?  What did I say to you?  ”
“Say?  You say everything and do nothing.  I should leave you for the Police, you would enjoy yourself in a Asian dungeon for forty years.”  He ran down the hall and up the cavernous staircase.  Before the door to the bedroom was the woman in a purple nightgown, with a cell phone in her hand.
“No! Don’t do it.”  Dusty tackled Erikson who had raised his gun to shoot the now screaming woman, screaming into her phone.
“You miserable man.  You, your whole world is nothing but a, a dream of an illusion.  Do you think this paper and ink will save you from the inevitable vice? You are lost, I tell you, lost.”
“You’ve barely said a word to me in these six days, and now you come at me with this barrage.  How long have you saved your sentences, Leif, waiting till they expressed a fully formed thought.”
“I’ve reserved my criticisms– of your quick to tear eyes and your quick to turn cheek, of your fists that never clinch and wounds that never heal.“
“Because I kept you from steeling the manuscript, is that it?  Because I kept you from murdering this lovely woman?”
“You I would not even kill.  I will leave you bleeding and paralyzed to beg the beggars for their scraps.”  He held up his hands and curled them into fists.  “Chose your own adventure, jackass.”
Dusty Roberts spat out blood as the Police swarmed about him.  “Miserable monster. He drags me to fucking Indochina and expects me to, to murder and steal.  I have always been an upstanding, honest man, I won’t change for that low life or his greedy boss.  The maniac.  This was supposed to be a business transaction, not a robbery.  He can’t get away with this; it’s a modern globalized world, damn it.  Asshole.  God Damn, dull witted, ignoramus.  He hasn’t heard the end of this, oh no.  I’ll turn his other cheek right into a prison cell.  He hasn’t heard, last of… monster.”


“Lost Hemingways?”
“That’s right, Mr. Roberts, lost Hemingways.”  Erikson’s employer, Mr. Lee was a bloated corpse of a man, waiting to be digested.  “Near the end of a Movable Feast he mentions a briefcase full of his stories stolen from his wife on the train.  Eighty years later these may have been located by that woman, Claudette Vignette.  But I want those manuscripts.  You see, Hemingway rewrote most of these lost stories but a few remain that he could never remember.”
“Astonishing, those should be published.  To think, lost Hemingways–”
“Published?  Don’t be absurd.  These are un-copyrighted.  The value would plummet upon publication.  No, no, the great worth of the stories, the reason I want them, is that only the owner could read them, control them.  That is the immeasurable value.”
“What?  but, Lost Hemingways, the world would be a better place.”
“Hehhehehehehehhehe, my bookshelf would be a better place.”
“You are downright devious.”
“Perhaps, Mr. Roberts.  Perhaps.”
“Alright, Lee.  Tell me your plan.”
“The manuscripts are up for auction in three weeks in New York.  I plan to buy them.  Fair and square, since you bungled my carefully plotted burglary attempt.”
“Good.  See you in the next life, you pirate.”
Dusty unlocked the bathroom door to release Mr. Lee and then turned to the door of the hotel room.


“Moving on,” the auction barker cried, “the complete set of the Funk Brothers LPs are sold to Miss Vignette.”
“What, what is she doing here.”
“What indeed Mr. Lee.  You may find a number of things today you do not expect.”
“Dusty Roberts?  I told Erikson to kill you in Kathmandu.”
“Erikson fell.  We were quite far up, and… but I won’t speak ill of the dead.”
“Next on the docket,” announced the auctioneer, “These extremely rare, unpublished Hemingway manuscripts.”
“Three Million dollars.”
“And the first bid to the lady in black
“Three point five million.”
“Five million.”
“Witch.  Six million.”
“Seven point five.”
“Nine point five.”
“FIFTEEN MILLION, SHE DEVIL.”  The room was silent.
“Sold,” the barker cried “to the gentlemen in the hat.”
Dusty walked out the door of the auction house and unfolded the morning’s Herald Tribune in the noonday sun.  There, on page one, below the fold, was a complete publication of the lost Hemingways.  Dusty himself laughed and walked toward the train station, a day’s train ride from his bookshop.

copyright 2012



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