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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Three Poems by Les Wicks

Three Poems 
by Les Wicks

....assembles an amazing cast of people in recognisable often dark
places. With fine detail, their domestic & working lives are brilliantly
portrayed.

     --Anthony Lawrence

SMIRR

Girls play with fire the boys
mix plaster. Economics is all about cake
dong, baht, dollar
if you want some just holler.
Early grave, be brave we all rehearse
this pitiless sky...
birdcall mobile
sea tweets
& the lie.

This morning mildly silenced
under--what I research and discover to be
fogbow! Unimpressed,
the malls have a lightless glitter
We are oncological ontological frumps
is appeared. I am finally free
(tell the broker)
but still sit here before the same screen,
immobilised within choice, we
never leave the suburbs.

What about your smile,
that infamous belly laugh? Our domesticated organs
pump and grind.
You’ve made up our mind
kick the fuck it/put on shoes,
the paper between a life and living
is just that, 80gsm, nothing.
Saddle up the cat and head off for the freeway.
Winter wins (again), convictions empty
a lethal spill
that sends us coughing to the pills.

Though the trip spans
some perilous seconds
we have reached a slipshod epiphany.
Fantail hands, sensitive shoes,
the whole package arrives at the fountain safe
in a blue plastic tarpaulin.
The blunt obduracy of evergreens watch spatter.
Insect jackpot, crows close their eyes.
Woollen head, fat soil
steaming tea--
these pillows of moment.
Travelled further than we think,
don’t blink.
            We are pierced.
                        This was the point.

Stock Market Jive

Above the snotty handkerchief of shoppers cars,
beneath a spray of confected integrity
we watch investors run like jazz.
They reinforce the brokers’ windows now,
without oxygen of confidence
banks all sputter.
Perhaps today it will set me loose--
the astuteness of those who have nothing say--
that’s the goal, the
rabbit hole
where our futures lie down beside the calici baits
and durable plastic concession cards.

To twinkle in the tarnished tangle of troubles,
I’ve eaten out of garbage cans
(only the better ones
& long ago). As squatters we read
the quality weekend papers.
My scab is my shell is my home but
I won’t exaggerate. Hold the fractured nest
more carefully, resilience.
Wisdom is overrated anyway, John
Coltrane drove a car and the gurus
were driven.
To love being as you are
tires out your stubbled days, the soaring and the slump.
Growth becomes cancer,
flick
WES 1.09
BKN 67
UGL 2.16
stock index like the Subha
99 names of god
in polished stone, time was
I’d leave it all for that snare drum girl
equinox
at Southwest Rocks.

Bind up the dead,
motivational retreat
grease Cocos Palms.
Next day the bonny bouncing bourse 186
better than porn this internet party.
Delinquent solace,
it’s a variety of music--
capital and the liminal louche...
felonious monk, money-monkeyed manna.
But no one told us
that comfort is a long solo
in a crowded bar.
Almost pulled it off.


YUM

I ask myself
if there’s any food that hasn’t been alive.

Yes! Milk of course the
fatty juice we steal from
young still lowing to the womb. Maybe honey, we
turn from our butchery only for the richest fare.

The slash and sunder--
death salad with
a bitter dressing
as though we recognise
the nakedness of our slice.

Munch munch
towards the grave,
brave slaves of red appetite.

 Author’s Bio: Les Wicks is a published writer with a credit of having published books such as The Vanguard Sleeps In (Glandular, 1981), Cannibals (Rochford St, 1985), Tickle (Island, 1993), Nitty Gritty (Five Islands, 1997), The Ways of Waves (Sidewalk, 2000), Appetites of Light (Presspress, 2002), Stories of the Feet (Five Islands, 2004)  and The Ambrosiacs (Island, 2009).

He's performed at festivals, schools, prison etc. Runs workshops across Australia and is the editor of Meuse Press which focuses on poetry outreach projects like poetry on buses & poetry published on the surface of a river. He can be reached at: leswicks@hotmail.com.
Web site: http://leswicks.tripod.com/lw.htm

An Interview with Upneet Grover by Khurshid Alam

An Interview with Upneet Grover 
by Khurshid Alam

CLRI 1: What is the basic concept of your book Cricket Till I Die? When did this idea come to your mind?
Answer: For this one I’ll just paste the blurb:
Vineet was an average engineer at an IT firm. His office sucked the life out of him making him hate every moment he spent there. Cricket was his passion, a passion which he never had the guts to pursue until fate bestowed upon him an opportunity which would change his life forever. Shrugging off a sparkling career as a management consultant that lay ahead, this rubber ball stroking bloke embarks upon the most mercurial excursion to fulfill his dream of donning the navy blue jersey that reads INDIA. The expedition which is riddled with the most crushing lows and mind numbing highs proves to be the ultimate test of his fortitude and makes him even more resolute. How much more can he sacrifice to get there? And most importantly, will he get there?”

About the idea for the book, it just started as a scribble during my summer internship until I realized I’m 25000 words into it, then I started thinking about the book. The book is mostly because of my intense passion for cricket and writing, both. So my first book would be on cricket was a given.

CLRI 2: Why you make your protagonist take a different profession than his dream and then take his dream later?
Ans: It was to give the book a realistic tinge. So many of us just give up our dreams because they are way too impractical. The book touches upon this issue and is hence the journey from the mundane practicality to the exciting and utopian impracticality that we just dream of.

CLRI 3: What according to you is the most exciting scene or situation in the novel Cricket Till I Die?
Ans
: I’ll quote the readers here. All of them claim the cricket sequences are both exciting and exquisitely written.

CLRI 4: According to you, what role can literature play in one’s life?
Ans: I believe both literature and cinema or rather any form of art plays a very significant role in the cultural development of the society. To put it rather crudely, without art we’re just Neanderthals.

CLRI 5: What perception do you have about sports in general and cricket in particular?
Ans: I love cricket, make no mistake about it, but I do agree with the school of thought that it just takes up too much limelight to give other sports even breathing space, let alone letting them blossom. I would love to see India excel in other sports which it thankfully did as we saw in the last commonwealth games.

CLRI 6: By which writers are you inspired? I mean, whose influence we can see in your writing?
Ans: I am still a student of literature and a very young one at that. I love reading thrillers, but what really gives me literary kicks were the words of Kafka, Nabokov and a book called the maximum city.

CLRI 7: Name at least top five fiction titles that you like. What are you reading currently?
Ans: They would be to kill a mockingbird, Lolita, The Metamorphosis, Godfather-1 and Train to Pakistan to name a few. I really loved Maximum City too and that is amongst my favourite reads of all time.

CLRI 8:  Do you think writers have good market prospects in India?
Ans: The publishing scene is abysmal as of now, with a bunch of not so educated distributors jumping into the scene and calling themselves publishers hence killing good works of a lot of new authors. Market prospects are good but we need a lot of good new publishers and literary agents in India for that.

CLRI 9: You are a professional, yet you wrote a fiction. How difficult or easy was it for you to work on a fiction?
Ans: When I wrote my first book I was a management student, and I did it during my internship. I put in a good 3-4 hours every day and it took me three odd months to get the first draft. But now since I am a full time working professional things look a bit difficult as I plan my second book. Just keeping my fingers crossed. I hope I find enough time to tend to this passion of mine.

CLRI 10: Do you think people read fiction?
Ans: Umm, yes and no. Thought the market for non-fiction is bigger but yes fiction also has a good thriving market, there is no denying that.

'The Remission of Order': 'Hallowed Be Thy Gun' by Gary Beck

Hallowed Be Thy Gun
by Gary Beck

I
The war went on for eight more years.
I managed to come home alive,
but didn't laugh much after that.

I couldn't ignore the call to arms
when my neighbors grabbed their muskets
and rushed to the village green.
I went to the mantelpiece,
took down Pa's musket,
gathering dust
since Washington's men
managed to stagger home
after being shot to pieces
by the French and Indians,
when blundering Braddock
led them into an ambush
and almost got them massacred.
Pa was one of the few
who hadn't been wounded.
He didn't laugh much after that.

Once we gathered on the green
we bragged we'd whip the redcoats,
until we spotted their column,
bayonets gleaming in the sun,
and my knees turned to water.
I figured we'd talk first,
but the boys opened fire
and a few of the redcoats fell.
My body was trembling so much
I fired without taking aim.
Then they fired a volley
and a lot of the boys went down.
We were getting ready to run
when the Concord boys showed up
and shot at the lobsterbacks
from behind trees and walls.

A redcoat captain remembered
the treacherous Indians
never faced the British square
and ordered his troops to retreat.
We whooped and hollered like redskins,
and chased the hated invaders
halfway back to Boston town,
but stopped when our powder ran out.
Then we whooped and hollered again,
until we found out who was dead
and it was no longer a game.
The war went on for eight more years.
I managed to come home alive,
but didn't laugh much after that.

II
A lot more boys died of disease
than ever died in battle

Then the cry went out in the land:
'The redcoats are coming again,'
I went to the mantelpiece
and took down daddy's musket.
He tried to tell me I shouldn’t go,
but I wouldn't listen to advice,
desperate to escape the farm
and it's backbreaking routine.
I eagerly went off to war
with the rest of the local boys
and we boasted how we'd whomp
the redcoats, like our daddys did,
but we just marched and retreated.
A lot more boys died of disease
than ever died in battle,
but somehow I survived
and gladly returned to the farm.

III
My young son wanted me to go
and didn't understand when I said:
"I wasn't going to fight for thieves."

Tired of fighting the rocky ground
for crops that barely paid the tax,
me, my wife, and one year old son
set out for Texas and free land.
When I said goodbye to dad
he gave me granddad's musket
and said: "I hope you won't need it."
No one warned us that the Mexes
thought we were invaders,
but the fight started far away
so I didn't have to join up.
My young son wanted me to go
and didn't understand when I said:
"I wasn't going to fight for thieves."
He never forgave me for that,
but I had seen enough of war.

We went to war with Mexico
and my son kissed his son goodbye
and enlisted in the army.
His squadmates boasted they'd be home
after they whipped the Mexicans.
They marched and marched, back and forth,
with hundreds dying of disease
before they met the enemy.
A lot of youngsters got killed
in battle after battle,
cause the Mexicans could fight.
But America won the war,
so the troops came home in triumph
and my son brought home our musket.
I could tell from his weary face
he had seen the horrors of war.

IV
My son came home a skeleton.
I knew what he meant when he said:
"Daddy. I saw the elephant."

Many Texans were divided
if we should be slave or free
and when Texas seceded
most of us supported the South.
Then my young son told me:
"Daddy. I'm going to join up."
"You're only fifteen years old."
"I'll be sixteen in a few months
and the Cause needs every man."
"It's not our Cause. We don't own slaves."
But no matter what I said
he had made up his mind to go.
I couldn't keep him a prisoner
and he was much too big to spank,
so he went to the mantelpiece
and took down great granddad's musket.

I didn't see him for four long years.
At first the South won victories,
but the men still fought face to face,
just like the earlier wars
without learning to preserve lives,
and mowed each other down like grain
in the bloodiest of harvests.
When I read about the battles
with the dead in tens of thousands,
I thought of my Mexican war,
when the dead numbered in hundreds.
Then the tide turned against the South
and they were forced to surrender.
My son came home a skeleton.
I knew what he meant when he said:
"Daddy. I saw the elephant."

V
We couldn't invade Canada,
we already beat Mexico,
so we looked at the wider world
and selected the decaying Spain

My tormented son didn't forget
the sufferings of his long war,
but we survived Reconstruction
and my son finally married.
Soon after my grandson was born
and this healed some old wounds.
America became modern,
we had electricity,
other new inventions
the wild west had been settled,
so what could restless people do?
We couldn't invade Canada,
we already beat Mexico,
so we looked at the wider world
and selected the decaying Spain,
an empire ripe for the plucking.

Spain 's treasure fleets once sailed the seas
and brought home fabulous riches
that let her exercise control
of a large part of the world,
until she lost preeminence
to the growing might of Britain.
Then the empire began to fray
and lost many possessions,
Louisiana, Florida,
eviction from Mexico .
Then just before daddy died
he told my son: "Don't go to war."
But as soon as war was declared
my son went to the mantelpiece,
took down the family musket
and eagerly rushed off to war.

They laughed when I arrived
to enlist at the recruiters.
"What's that piece of junk you got there?"
a tough sergeant asked with disdain.
"This is the modern army, kid."
My fellow recruits laughed at me,
'til we took the enlistment oath,
then they began to strut and brag
how they'd eat the Spanish alive.
The tough sergeant looked at them
with a sneer on his weathered face.
"You got no idea what's coming,
or you wouldn't behave like dumb kids.
Now shut your mouths and form a line."
He marched us to the train station
and we were on our way to war.

First we went to training camp
where many died of disease,
others died of exhaustion.
Those who survived Florida swamps
got sick on the boat to Cuba,
where more died of typhoid fever
then were killed in all the battles.
Luckily, Spanish generals
were worse than our generals,
so we managed to win the war.
One man emerged a hero,
and Teddy Roosevelt rode his fame
into the vice-presidency.
While we suffered in obscurity,
trying to regain our lost lives,
Teddy moved into the White House.

Soldiers in our family
always carried the musket
they used for generations,
but now was obsolete.
It was too important
to be casually discarded,
since so many of our men
had hallowed it in battle.
So it sat on the mantelpiece
and we didn't let it gather dust.
Instead we formed a tradition,
whenever we left the house
for anything important
we touched the musket for luck.
It may have seemed superstitious,
but it brought our men home alive.

VI
It rained and rained by day and night
and we stood or slept in water,
until our clothes began to rot
and we caught awful diseases.

It took a while for Dad and me
to understand technology.
Machine guns made the cost of war,
too bloody to fight anymore.
I married and had children,
just like my forebears did,
then suddenly one hot summer
Europe erupted into war.
Millions of men marched to battle
and were slaughtered by the thousands,
until they cowered in the earth,
from merciless machine guns
that drank deep of soldier's blood,
while devastating cannons
blew young flesh into pieces,
as the carnage went on and on.

Then America went to war
and my son wanted to join up.
"You're only seventeen," I said.
"So were you and granddad
when you enlisted for your wars."
No matter what I said or did
I could not change his stubborn mind
and off he went to training camp
that at least had sanitation,
so most deaths were from accidents,
rather than horrid diseases.
Then tens of thousands sailed to France,
most of them seasick, or scared,
while others boasted how they'd show
the frogs and limeys how to fight,
and wouldn't hide in trenches for years.

We landed in Le Havre and marched
into town in orderly ranks,
so the frogs could see the doughboys,
Springfield rifles on our shoulders,
made by the modern company
that once made the muskets by hand
that my ancestors had carried
when they went to war long ago.
The French heaved sighs of relief
that the Yanks were finally here,
though they also resented us
for taking so long to arrive,
while their sons were killed and wounded
like cattle in a slaughter house,
going mindlessly to their deaths
for a few muddy yards of ground.

We finally got near the front
and those who weren't scared before
weren't boasting anymore.
We went to a quiet sector
next to the veteran French troops
to allow us time to adapt
to conditions in the trenches.
It rained and rained by day and night
and we stood or slept in water,
until our clothes began to rot
and we caught awful diseases.
The French poilus detested us
and never answered when we asked:
"What is it really like up there?"
We waited, then waited some more,
as winter brought influenza.

Those of us still alive in spring
finally went into action
and we all thought it was better
to get killed fighting the Germans,
than rot away in the trenches.
The whistles sounded the attack
and off we went over the top,
and saw our buddies blown apart
by the big guns that deafened us,
while blood and guts splattered us
from the enormous explosions
that destroyed many of our men.
We took our objective that day
at the cost of hundreds of lives
for a small piece of muddy ground
that wasn't worth a single death.

Those lucky enough to survive
the ignorance of generals
who sent wave after wave of men
across the barren land of doom
where chattering machine guns played
the song of death upon our flesh
that later would enrich the soil.
When the guns at last were silent,
we went back to the rear for rest
without much time to parlez-vous,
or meet the vision of our dreams,
Mademoiselle from Armentieres .
Some of us drank vin ordinaire,
not enough to forget the war,
then we were sent back to the front
and the battles went on and on.

Sometimes my buddies and I talked
when the barrages fell silent
about the weary frogs and limeys,
because we just couldn't understand
how they survived in the trenches
before we finally arrived,
bringing young, fresh cannon fodder
to feed the consuming machines
that dined on a diet of flesh
that was butchered from far away.
We never dared to ask ourselves
how long we thought we could endure,
so we fixed bayonets and charged,
until there were no more battles.
Then they shipped us home for parades,
but none of us felt like heroes.

A lot of American boys
were unprepared for modern war
and some reacted with shell shock.
There wasn't much understanding
that some youngsters were unsuited
for the horrors of the trenches,
the butchery of battlefields,
a scale of death not seen before.
So they returned home woeful wrecks,
sometimes pitied, mostly despised,
having failed to do their duty
in the eyes of their countrymen.
But most of them had done their best,
had endured dreadful conditions,
the terrors of modern warfare
and had crumbled under the strain.

VII
Throughout our bloody history
we always forgot the soldiers
as soon as the war was over.

Our leaders promised: "Never again",
then forgot the ravaged men
and didn't let their fate remind them
to find alternatives to war.
I managed to rebuild my life
with the loving help of my dad,
then I finally got married
and my wife gave birth to a son.
That day I took a solemn vow:
"My son will never go to war."
My dad shrugged when I told him,
he knew the lure war had for youth.
We went about our daily lives
while the country grew and prospered,
until the stock market collapsed,
destroying the hopes of many.

Some veterans of the Great War
were forced to go to the breadlines.
Then they remembered promises
made soon after peace was declared
to give the doughboys bonuses
to reward them for their service.
At first they didn't know who to ask,
so they went to their congressmen,
but nothing ever came of it.
The hungry men grew hungrier
and decided among themselves
to march on Washington, D.C.
and get what they're entitled to.
The government didn't welcome them.
Instead General MacArthur
led troops and tanks to disperse them.

Throughout our bloody history
we always forgot the soldiers
as soon as the war was over.
While America recovered
from the terrible Depression,
Italy, Germany, Japan,
prepared their countries for war
and men began to march again.
Flames of war spread across the globe,
with armies numbered in millions,
and the deaths numbered in millions,
as battles raged across Europe
and battles raged across Asia
and battles raged in Africa
and the machinery of war
was in motion throughout the world.

VIII
That didn't stop them from enjoying
our cigarettes, chocolate, nylons,
while we enjoyed their young bodies.

On December 8, 1941,
I told dad I was enlisting.
"I hoped you would go to college,
but we've always done our duty,
so I knew you would join up.
A legend in our family
relates that all the fathers
tried to prevent their eager sons
from going off to fight a war,
but when the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor
it wasn't like earlier wars.
This one shocked us awake.
We were completely unprepared
when the enemy attacked us
and we need time to get ready.
It'll go on for many years."

I didn't know how to answer him,
so I gave him a hug goodbye,
took the next bus to Dallas
to sign up at the recruiters.
The line was long when I got there,
but pretty soon I found myself
face to face with a tough Sergeant.
"You hardly look old enough, kid."
"I'm here to serve my country, sir."
I guess I answered the right way.
He said: "Strip to your underwear.
Get in line for a physical."
So I hurried, then I waited,
until an impatient doctor
roughly poked and prodded me,
then pronounced me fit for service.

We hurried to the train station,
where we waited and waited,
until they hurried us aboard,
then we waited and waited,
'til the train sped to training camp,
where they taught us how to soldier.
When we finished basic training
they gave us thirty days furlough
and I went home feeling my oats.
Dad was surprised to see me.
"This is a new kind of army,
that sends its soldiers home to rest
before they've gone to war."
"It's going to be a long war.
I'll be gone for a long while, dad.
It's our chance for a last goodbye."

I hurried to join my unit,
then we waited and waited,
until they shipped us out to sea
on a filthy, old rust-bucket
that rolled so much we got seasick.
And on we sailed, day after day,
like the 'Ancient Mariner'
I read about in high school.
No one knew where we were going
and rumors spread across the ship.
Some said Italy. Some said France.
But wherever we were going
we knew we could defeat the foe.
The rumor spread that we sailed past
an island fortress, Gibraltar,
so we knew we wouldn't land in France.

Late one night warships passed us
and we woke up in the morning
to the sound of naval gunfire,
the deafening explosions
made most of us aware
it wasn't a game anymore.
Yet some of the boys still boasted
they would whip the enemy.
The experienced Sergeants sneered,
because they knew what was coming
that the boys who made it ashore
would grow up suddenly.
Then rumor spread across the ship
we'd hit the beach in Africa
and some of the boys boasted
they could beat any Africans.

We landed safely, unopposed,
and everyone grew confident
that the enemy was afraid.
The experienced Sergeants sneered,
because they heard it all before,
yet secretly most of us thought
we already won the war.
It didn't take long for us to learn
foolishness had made us think
it was over before we fought.
Then one morning we grew up fast
when the Germans and Italians
launched a terrifying attack,
sending us fleeing in retreat
back to where we started from,
with many killed, wounded, missing.

After we won in Africa
they gave us a needed rest.
Then we invaded Italy.
Those of us who hadn't learned
that talk is cheap and lives are dear
were reminded by German guns.
When we conquered Italy
they gave us a needed rest,
which most of us spent on Vino,
or seducing Signorinas.
Then they shipped us off to England
on a filthy, old rust-bucket
that rolled so much we got seasick
and we were almost torpedoed,
but survived all the attacks
and safely reached good old England.

Most of the British men were gone,
serving somewhere else in the world
in their fight to retain empire,
and the British girls welcomed us,
yet resented that we were there.
That didn't stop them from enjoying
our cigarettes, chocolate, nylons,
while we enjoyed their young bodies.
But soon invasion day grew near.
We kissed the English girls goodbye
for colder beds in rusty ships
and crossed the English Channel.
Battleships bombarded the shore,
hundreds of planes bombed and strafed,
they said they wiped out resistance,
but we heard that claim before.

We fought our way across France,
and invaded Germany,
'til Germans lost their will to fight.
When the Russians reached Berlin
my war was finally over.
The Pacific war went on,
until they dropped atomic bombs
that ended the second World War.
Then we occupied Germany,
divided it into sectors
for the Brits, French, Yanks and Russkies,
all of us hated by Germans,
Russians most hated of all.
Then we returned home to parades,
quickly took off our uniforms
and tried to resume peacetime life.

IX
In the first American war
(although we didn't call it a war.
We coined a term: police action.)
that didn't result in victory

Like many other ex G.I.'s
I needed education
to build a better way of life,
since I just got married
and we were expecting a child.
I went to a Dallas college
where I studied hard for three years
and became an accountant.
I went to work in suit and tie
for a prestigious company
and started to make good money.
We bought a house in the suburbs
and each morning I commuted.
On weekends we went to the ranch
to help dad, who was getting old,
but still refused to sell the place.
We had the American dream,
while young enough to enjoy it.

Like many citizens,
the Cold War didn't affect us much,
except for occasional fears
there might be nuclear war.
But the Cold War erupted
in divided Korea,
when the North invaded the South.
Once again my country called me,
but this time I didn't want to go,
yet didn't seem to have much choice.
I kissed my wife and son goodbye,
put on a new uniform,
since now I was an officer.
We sailed on an old rust bucket
and most of the kids were seasick,
then we arrived in Japan.

Our once terrible enemy
was now an occupied country,
where G.I.'s had become fat
from easy garrison duty.
But our army was disordered
from fierce North Korean assaults,
so they loaded the rust-buckets
with inexperienced, young troops
and rushed us to South Korea,
where they hoped we'd stop the retreat.
The enemy attacks went on
and our boys panicked in battle.
Many dropped their weapons and ran,
unable to overcome fear.
We almost withdrew from Korea,
but held a defensive line.

For three bitter, bloody years
we fought up and down Korea.
First we fought the North Koreans
and finally defeated them.
Then the Chinese intervened,
drove us back with heavy losses,
until once again the tide turned
and we pushed them back in defeat.
Yet the Chinese and their ally
wouldn't admit they were beaten,
so the fighting went on, went on,
as armies moved back and forth,
over and over the same ground
that devoured many brave men,
until both armies returned
to where they started from.

In the first American war
(although we didn't call it a war.
We coined a term: police action.)
that didn't result in victory
we suffered many casualties
and most of them had no idea
what they had been fighting for.
Then we came home without parades,
because we neither won nor lost
and people looked at us strangely,
as if we were the ones to blame
for not winning a foreign war.
So we took off our uniforms,
returned to civilian life,
but now we were apprehensive,
since we didn't defeat Asians.

X
They asked me why police with dogs
attacked peaceful demonstrators
who only wanted equal rights.

The winds of change began to blow
across a great divided land
between the white majority
and seekers of equality.
The resistance to civil rights
for the American negro,
a brutal, violent struggle
that finally opened some doors
which denied opportunity,
had been carried out by the best,
although maybe not the brightest
that America has produced
with the fervor of crusaders
who overcame personal fears,
put their bodies in harm's way
for the worthiest of causes.

My sons grew up in the fifties
watching the civil rights struggle
on our new television set.
They asked me why police with dogs
attacked peaceful demonstrators
who only wanted equal rights.
They had seen discrimination
in our Texas school system,
where they cowered under desks
for protection from atom bombs,
the most moronic policy
made by the densest and dumbest,
that would vaporize everyone,
regardless of race or color.
It wasn't easy to explain
we were really all the same.

I told them I saw negro troops
killed or wounded in two wars
and their blood was as red as ours.
Our neighbors never felt that way
and expressed prejudice
against people they considered
an inferior race.
When my sons refused to agree
with prevailing attitudes
they were attacked by some classmates,
school proponents of bigotry,
compelled to defend themselves
when officials didn't intervene.
This went on for almost a year,
until tired of persecution
we moved back to my daddy's ranch.

XI
We supported the South
that claimed to be democratic,
with the Buddhists and Catholics
opposed to the communist North

Then Asia again intruded
in what had been our peaceful lives,
when our troops went as advisors
to another divided land,
North and South Vietnam, victims
of Cold War geometry,
that took half of a country
rather than let the other side
rule the entire land.
We supported the South
that claimed to be democratic,
with the Buddhists and Catholics
opposed to the communist North,
along with various war lords,
rival sects, drug gangs, criminals,
a land to confuse anyone.

Once again our troops were sent
to fight another foreign war,
but except for a mere handful
of Washington D.C. schemers,
no one had the faintest idea
of why they were really sent there.
So escalation began,
the number of troops increased,
followed by new confrontations,
greatly expanding our presence
'til we found a provocation
that let us to send in the Marines.
The war was growing in Vietnam,
but resistance was emerging
from anti-war activists,
who refused to support the war.

Suddenly for the first time
in American history
an entire generation,
skeptical college students,
refused to enlist for service,
choosing, 'turn on, tune in, dropout',
a preferred alternative
to a war they didn't understand.
The powers-that-be used the draft
to fill the army's hollow ranks
with the nation's poorest,
trading the slum for the jungle,
as offspring of the privileged
remained in school with exemptions,
where they were sheltered from danger,
while soldiers got wounded, or killed.

Our bitterly divided land
never saw anti-war fervor
affect so many young people,
setting fathers against sons,
employers against workers.
When my sons got draft notices
it almost split our family.
Daniel, the eldest at nineteen,
packed his bag and prepared to leave.
Billy, the baby at eighteen,
decided that he would not go.
He burned his draft card, packed a bag,
pleaded with us to understand,
then left to live in Canada.
It was hard for me to endure
loss of my sons to war and peace.

The war escalation went on
as more and more boys were drafted
from ghettos and small towns,
and after brief training
were rushed off to distant jungles
of an alien, Asian land
completely unprepared to meet
a fanatical enemy,
willing to pay any price
to drive out hated invaders
flaunting Western arrogance
that attempted to determine
the destiny of a people,
who wouldn't accept domination
by imperialist powers
playing dominos in Vietnam.

The media grew so bold
they defied the president
and military policy.
When our troops destroyed a village
because they wanted to save it,
and the surprise attack at Tet
caught our leaders with their pants down,
the media refused to see
light at the end of the tunnel,
then broadcast loss of confidence
in the management of the war.
Suddenly the despised hippies
became slightly acceptable
to people who once scorned them,
as long as they chose to make love
as an alternative to war.

Our strategy of attrition,
made by ignorant generals
who didn't know the nature of war
had undergone revolution,
as all our vaunted firepower
couldn't defeat a guerilla force
willing to sacrifice their lives
to win in the people's struggle.
So America 's will crumbled
as anti-war activists
disrupted college campuses
in efforts to end the war,
because of fierce resistance
from unattrited North Vietnam,
who lost almost all the battles,
but refused to accept defeat.

A weary President gave in
and refused to seek a new term.
The tricky new President,
elected for a secret plan
to end the most divisive war
in our violent history,
deluded us with hopes of peace,
although the war went on, went on.
The words were often repeated:
'Peace is just around the corner',
but the fighting went on, went on
as casualties grew and grew
people began to blame
troops who were fighting the war,
instead of the bad architects
who actually started it.

At last we admitted defeat,
ended our part in the war,
abandoned South Vietnam
to relentless communists.
Our returning troops were despised,
spat on, called baby-killers.
There were no parades of welcome.
They took off their uniforms,
sought civilian life again,
but nightmares of the jungle
twisted their sleep into torment,
and endless days of rejection
ended hopes of normalcy.
My son came home a broken man,
crushed by the horrors he saw,
so different from what I had seen.

XII
The loss of capital and jobs
turned the land into the rust belt.

We sullenly licked our wounds
from the communist victory
and the army sulked in its tents.
The Generals looked for scapegoats
to blame for shameful defeat,
while refusing to blame themselves
for leading the best trained, equipped
fighting force in our history
against a poor peasant army
that outsmarted our Generals,
who forgot West Point lessons
about accountability
for devising a strategy
that proved unsatisfactory,
instead blaming politicians,
rather than accept their failure.

Our army that fought in Vietnam
was different than in other wars,
mostly young, ignorant draftees
who hadn't the faintest idea
why they were fighting in Vietnam.
They were strangers to discipline,
resenting military life,
the need to obey orders.
They resisted authority
smoking pot, using drugs
to escape extremes of war,
tedium almost all the time,
marked by dull, repetitive chores,
contrasted with brief terror
of clashes with the enemy
that left them dazed and exhausted.

So unlike earlier soldiers
who accepted the chain of command,
many disgruntled young draftees
forced to serve a tour of duty,
struck back at their superiors
by tossing grenades in their tents
and repaying them by "fragging"
the Sergeants and Lieutenants,
the men who gave them orders
to carry out dirty details,
like cleaning officer's latrines,
or who sent them out to be killed.
Most trainees often fantasized
about killing their drill Sergeants,
but "fragging" was reality
and one cause that ended the draft.

Now our nation was traumatized
by disastrous loss of the war
and the anti-war sentiment
pervaded our society,
as doubt shaped foreign policy.
We didn't want to be involved
in complicated world affairs
that distracted our citizens.
Our energies turned domestic
just as our industries and jobs
began to be outsourced abroad
while political upheavals
confused many people at home
struggling to earn a living.
The loss of capital and jobs
turned the land into the rust belt.

My disturbed son worked on the ranch
and gradually got better
from the reassuring routine
necessary for daily life
and decided to get married.
After a while they had a son
and my son swore a solemn oath:
'My son will never go to war'.
I only hoped that he was right.
Then finally an amnesty
was proclaimed for draft dodgers
who ran away to Canada
instead of going to Vietnam.
My younger son returned to us
with a wife and new-born son
and for a while life seemed normal.

XIII
But the Mujahadeen fighters,
with the help of the C.I.A.,
retreated into the mountains
.. … …. … …. ………..
until they used Stinger missiles
to beat the soviet army.

The world changed after Vietnam.
Resentful Muslims feared the West
of decadent, licentious ways,
would undermine the one true faith
with the gift of democracy.
Religious fervor and unrest
began to grow in Muslim lands.
Islam saw the wounded giant
uncertain how to meet the threats
from once cooperative lands
that produced the world's oil supply,
who now hinted at cutting off
the vital industrial juice
that nourished our economy,
which was completely dependent
on oil for our energy needs.

The grasping Soviet empire,
our enemy in the Cold War,
intervened in Afghanistan,
installed a puppet president
and tried to subjugate the land.
But the Mujahadeen fighters,
with the help of the C.I.A.,
retreated into the mountains
where they steadfastly resisted
superior technology,
soviet helicopters
that drove fighters into caves
because primitive rifles
couldn't shoot down modern monsters,
until they used Stinger missiles
to beat the soviet army.

The soviet empire had a great fall
and formerly enslaved nations
threw off hated hegemony,
as confused soviet troops
withdrew behind their own borders,
while struggling to understand
how so much could be lost so fast.
America bestrode the globe
a powerful colossus
that no longer had a rival
exerting some limitation
on its leadership of the world.
Now the target of hate became
the American oppressors,
who once had shared the enmity
with the feared Soviet Union.

XIV
Some said: "the volatile Mid-East
needed a balance of power
to maintain regional peace."

Turmoil arose in the Mid-East,
and the European Union
was reluctant to intervene.
China was flexing its muscles
for the Pacific Rim nations,
who feared for future safety
if America's umbrella
of nuclear deterrent
was arbitrarily withdrawn.
Nuclear proliferation
became one of the widespread fears
that occupied America,
the European Union,
completely dependent on oil,
mostly produced in the Mid-East,
where some sought nuclear weapons.

Saddam Hussein was accused
of seeking acquisition
of weapons of mass destruction.
America launched a crusade
approved by the U.N.,
most member nations
to prevent the dangerous threat
from becoming reality.
I gave thanks my sons were too young
to rush to the horrors of war.
Many Americans worried
about their sons and daughters
(I gave thanks I didn't have daughters)
being fed to the inferno
of weapons of mass destruction,
waiting to consume their children.

Then the coalition unleashed
an overwhelming air attack
with dazzling precision bombing,
followed by a stunning blitzkrieg
that quickly crushed resistance
from Saddam's demoralized troops.
But America triumphant
and its victorious allies
surrounding Saddam's capitol,
stopped the war outside of Baghdad
and quickly negotiated peace,
still leaving Saddam in power
in what we called a rogue nation
that threatened world stability,
causing some of us to wonder
why we bothered to go to war.

Some citizens blamed it on oil.
Others claimed they believed the threat
of weapons of mass destruction.
Some said: "the volatile Mid-East
needed a balance of power
to maintain regional peace."
When the usual suspects yelled:
"Capitalist conspiracy,"
they didn't get much credence,
because they couldn't articulate
exactly who was conspiring.
But there were many citizens
who doubted their own government,
no longer blindly accepting
the statements of officials
elected with oligarch's funds.

American hegemony
reached across the entire globe,
our troops in dozens of countries,
our fleets dominating the seas,
our air force ruling the skies.
This made few of our friends happy
and most of our enemies mad,
for a nationalistic world
resents any ├╝berpower
infringing on its sovereignty,
however benevolently.
Then suddenly we stood alone,
except for the dependent Brits
who already lost their empire
and now linked their future with ours
in a world menaced with chaos.

Each day new threats appeared,
that undermined stability
of fragile globalization.
Nukes peddled by North Korea
to America 's enemies;
Al Qaeda training terrorists
for deadly suicide missions;
Indian and Pakistani
confrontations on their borders;
Russian yearnings of nostalgia
for their lost former USSR,
some dreaming of democracy,
others trapped in autocracy;
China 's harsh strangling of Tibet;
unrest in South America;
events breeding mass confusion.

At home many thought things were good.
We wallowed in prosperity,
at least for so many of us
that we neglected to notice
when so much of our industry
was either moved to other lands,
or left to rust away at home,
resulting in the loss of jobs,
well-paid jobs, never to return.
For American workers made
a crucial laborer's mistake;
they expected a fair day's pay
in return for a fair day's work.
Scrooge's fictional conversion
to a generous employer
is just a capitalist myth.

The owners of America
found it easier to control
underpaid service workers,
who barely managed week to week
to pay for necessities
required by their families,
rather than highly skilled labor
certain of their basic value,
willing to challenge the bosses
for what they were entitled to.
But profit rules the oligarchs,
not concern for men and women
who contribute to the coffers,
yet demand too much of a share
to suit insatiable owners,
who bought cheaper workers abroad.

Without an industrial base
the economy still flourished,
mostly from finance and housing,
and no one spoke of the dangers
of a service economy
with a vast, low-paid underclass
well trained by TV to desire
the same luxury goods
they could no longer afford.
The price of oil went up and up
that fueled gas-guzzling cars
in the foolish Detroit gamble
to compete with foreign makers
of cars that captured the market.
The once proud American car
lay rusting on lawns and backyards.

Then a mad fever swept the land
to build new condominiums
at a time when job outsourcing
cut consumer's ability
to finance expensive housing.
While the real estate bubble
continued its wild inflation
many families were tempted,
despite insufficient income,
to take out loans from predators
for mortgages they couldn't afford
if the economy crumbled.
The nation urged education
as the path to prosperity,
yet many desirable jobs
had already traveled abroad.


XV
So war was declared on terror,
but where was the land of terror?

9/11 smashed illusions
of safety and serenity
in a land grown too complacent
about the dangers of the world.
America watched in horror
as innocents jumped from buildings,
rather than be consumed by fire,
as the World Trade Center perished,
devouring police and firemen
who rushed in to do their duty,
despite risk to life and limb
and died with hundreds of workers,
condemned without a trial
by fanatical terrorists
claiming to be killing for God,
while the Arab street danced for joy.

So war was declared on terror,
but where was the land of terror?
Who would be punished for the crime
that struck our financial heart?
Our leaders searched for culprits,
but just found individuals,
not a country they could target.
Someone had to give us payback
and since we couldn't find Osama
we decided to choose Saddam.
We unleashed the best blitzkrieg
the war-torn world had ever seen
and even showed it on TV,
as the best trained, best equipped
modern American army
displayed its high technology.

Our forces overran Iraq
faster than a speeding bullet,
or so it seemed to friends and foes,
hoping for our failure of arms.
But the wounded giant prevailed
and soon raised the flag of conquest
above the walls of Baghdad.
The cheerleaders in Washington
basked in the glow of victory,
but didn't know what to do next.
The guns were barely silent
when chaos swept across Iraq.
We had removed authority,
disbanded their military,
so no one was left in control
who could reestablish order.

Shiites were avenging themselves
on Sunnis who had oppressed them.
Criminal gangs were running wild
and the police could not suppress them.
Al Qaeda stirred up the people
to resent hated infidels.
Violence was everywhere.
The infrastructure of the land
rapidly ceased to function.
Water and electricity
only flowed erratically.
The continuation of life
became a daily struggle.
Everyone blamed America
who conquered Iraq easily,
but couldn't govern what they conquered.

The menace of democracy
undermined stability
of primitive mentalities
ruled by calculating leaders
corrupt as any infidels
against whom they cried for jihad,
especially Americans,
fearing decadent Western ways
they claimed would corrupt the faithful.
And some opposed us openly,
while others acted secretly
to insure we wouldn't succeed
in creating a new Iraq
with a unity government
that would treat all people fairly,
ruling democratically.

But what about North Korea
who tested a nuclear bomb?
And what about evil Iran
exporting religious terror?
Were they too strong to be attacked?
What determined our policies
in the narrowed internet world?
Was it decided by the rich
who ruled our land behind the scenes
and always put profits first,
purchasing our legislators
to ensure no interference
in their quest for acquisition
at the expense of our people,
most of whom the working poor,
hovering near destitution?

XVI
The only practical places
for a military assault
were Africa and the Mid-East.

The wealthy needed to divert
the public's growing suspicion
that all was not well in our land.
Iraq was already engaged,
a new target was needed
to absorb public attention,
so our rulers studied the map
of the confusing world,
as warm with many enemies
ready for retaliation
in the event of our attack.
The only practical places
for a military assault
were Africa and the Mid-East.
We were leery of Somalia,
and selected Afghanistan.

The land was almost primitive,
impoverished by the soviets
in years of violent warfare.
Al Qaeda had been driven out
and lurked in tribal areas
on the border of Pakistan,
while no one feared the Taliban's
religious extremists.
Once again our volunteers
were sent to fight another foe,
and once again, as usual,
without proper preparation
for hostile conditions,
without language training
to meet an alien people.
Our troops were hated invaders.

Our generals were still fighting
the disastrous war in Vietnam,
where despite our firepower,
our vaunted technology,
we couldn't defeat guerilla foes.
Now in this landlocked country
our navy had no role to play,
no beaches to assault,
nor decisive air-sea battles.
Our air force did ground support
without the possibility
of thrilling air-to-air combat,
blissful strategic bombing.
So once again foot soldiers
faced the dirty job alone
in an unforgiving country.

Warfare is and has always been
influenced by economics,
paid for with the blood of the young
for domestic prosperity
and imperial expansion.
In a land without industry
to sustain the population
and pay for the cost of war,

our nation has a growing debt
without means to repay it.
The financial sector's collapse,
the burst housing bubble
caused the rich minor losses,
the middle-class was ravaged,
the poor devastated,
making us fear the future.

Author’s Bio: Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theater director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theater. He has also been a tennis pro, a ditch digger and a salvage diver. He has published chapbooks Remembrance (Origami Condom Press), The Conquest of Somalia (Cervena Barva Press), The Dance of Hate (Calliope Nerve Media), Material Questions (Silkworms Ink), Dispossessed (Medulla Press) and Mutilated Girls (Heavy Hands Ink). His collection of his poems Days of Destruction (Skive Press) and Expectations (Rogue Scholars Press). His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway and toured colleges and outdoor performance venues. His poetry and fiction has appeared in hundreds of literary magazines. He currently lives in New York City.

The Remission of Order explores the search for stability in this confusing life, in which so many of us want security, but fail in our efforts to achieve a satisfactory existence.

Lottery -- A Short Story by Dr Rashid Askari

Lottery -- A Short Story
by Dr Rashid Askari

Mamun was all eyes as the mail opened. His email ID had won him an international lottery. The cash prize was nine hundred thousand pounds. It was written in clear terms that he had been selected by the Euro International Lottery as one of the 100 lucky winners from among millions of Yahoo mail users across the globe. They had congratulated him, and asked him to immediately contact for the prize money.  This was the biggest news in Mamun's 30-year old life which had completely boggled his mind.  What a big fortune! Outright heaven-sent! It could be called a real fluke. But was it true? Mamun hunched forward over the monitor, and fixed his eyes more closely on the figures. Yes, there was no mistaking. Distinct digits confirmed by words in round brackets. A number beginning with 9 followed by five successive zeroes before the decimal dot, and punctuated with a comma in the middle! Mamun could not get the real feel of its worth until he would see it converted into taka. He knew the strength of the British pound, but did not know its exact exchange rate with Bangladeshi taka. But the way BDT was sinking to lower levels against GBP, they must be at least 110 times greater and smaller than each other. Mamun tried to do a quick count on his cellular phone calculator.

"Results too large to display",—the small parasitical count machine declared its inability in red letters. Mamun looked to and fro with growing unease.

"What's on, bro? Is there something up?" Mamun's next-desk colleague Mokbul sneaked a look at his computer screen.

Mamun pretended not to hear. He felt that he should close the mail. He tore a sheet from his pad, and wrote down the number escaping Mokbul's prying eyes. Apart from anything else, he did not like this meddlesome man. He was a nosey parker and his nosiness was escalating by degrees after Mamun's marriage.

"Why are you looking so fidgety?" Mokbul was not one to leave it at that. He tried to force Mamun's attention on him.

Mamun made no reply. He knew a word more to him might lead to a long idle chatter. He had no time to lose. He felt he needed some privacy. He still did not know the real amount in taka. Besides, he would have to acknowledge receipt of the mail, and ask for immediate action. He should not miss the deadline by any means. A brief lapse might cost him the lottery itself. He felt he was in urgent need of correspondence with them. But how? Mokbul was still dogging his every move.

"Have you taken a vow of silence?" Mokbul glanced at him knowingly.

"I'm a bit out of sorts today." Mamun tried to justify the oddity of his behaviour.

"Why? What for? Were you up all night?" Mokbul shot him a glance quite slyly.

Mamun forced a smile. He felt reassured that Mokbul smelt nothing about the lottery matter. He remembered the cautionary note sounded at the end of their mail. It was for his eyes only. If it reached others' ears, they might make a claim on the lottery money forging his ID account. Mamun decided to deal with the whole thing in secret. He would stay behind in the office, and communicate with them. The concerned man to be written back was of a unique name.  John Stainly Fox. Mr. Fox would tell him how to secure the cash. The key to the treasure chest! But how come? In his mind was lurking little doubt and uncertainty. It suddenly struck him that he should search the Web for Euro International Lottery. No sooner said than done. He started googling, and found heaps of information about it. After all it was a big-name company.

Mamun could not keep his mind on tutoring in the evening. This had never happened to him before. He had been teaching Arko since his university days. Even after he got the job, he did not pull himself out of it. It was subsidizing his post-marriage living fairly well.

"Hey Arko, would you fetch me your maths exercise book?" Quite unusually for him, Mamun asked.

"Maths! Do you want me to do sums?" Arko wore a surprised look on his face, but sort of thrilled to his teacher's proposal.

"Oh yeah, I want to see how clever you're at maths!" Mamun brought out the folded sheet from his trouser pocket.

"If a pound is equivalent to 110 taka, then what's worth 900,000 pounds?" Mamun articulated the words and figures very carefully.

Arko counted something in a faint murmur, and replied in one breath.

"It's six zeroes after 99, which means nine hundred ninety lakhs, which means nine crore and ninety lakhs, and no mistake. Europeans will call it ninety nine million."

"Nine crore and ninety lakhs taka!  My Goodness! A staggering sum of money!"  Mamun was nonplussed. But he was also mightily surprised at his student's mathematical brain. How did he do the sum in the mind? Was he then out in his reckoning?

"How've you done it without writing figures on paper?" Mamun gaped at Arko with great astonishment.

"Very simple, teacher! It's called mental arithmetic. I'm telling you the magic. I know my 11 times table. I've multiplied 11 of 110 taka and 9 of 900,000 and got 99 and to it added all the zeroes from both the numbers, and that's it." Arko explained quite precociously.

Mamun felt proud of his student. He was also a bright student. But he had no head for figures. If he had done pretty well in Mathematics in his school certificate examination, he could have stood first in the entire Board. Even in the civil service exam, he fell at the final hurdle, and that was maths. He would never forget the maths exam day. He was breaking out in a cold sweat when it took a full hour to get the answer to the first simplification sum wrong. His trepidation multiplied in geometrical progression when he saw his fellow-examinees were doing the sums pronto effortlessly using the calculator and geometry set.
 
"Now tell me one thing." Mamun came down to earth.

"If a man earns ten thousand taka per month, how long will it take to earn nine crore and ninety lakhs?" Mamun tried to weigh up the amount from different angles.

"Well, just cut out four zeroes from among six, you'll get the months, and divide them by 12, you'll get the years." Arko seemed faster than before.

Mamun dashed off the number. It is 9900 months. He divided it by 12, and got 825 years. Then the ultimate thing entered the equation. If our average life expectancy was 60 years, Mamun would have to live his life more than 13.75 times to earn that money. It was literally a matter of fourteen generations. This is for the first time after the receipt of this lottery mail that Mamun's head started swimming. An urgent whisper from within told him to hurry up with the reply to Mr. Fox. He should not let his cup slip out of his lip. Mamun decided to go to a cybercaf├ę on way back home.
 
Mamun got home late that night. He gave a few gentle taps at the window so as not to wake others. The tin-door opened with a long squeak heralding his tardy arrival.

"Who's there? Who's there?" A female voice rasped.

"It's me, Bhabi." Mamun replied in low undertones.

"Why have you stayed out so late?" The voice came back.

"I'm so sorry." Mamun waxed apologetic.
The voice suddenly changed course, and aimed at another target.

"You've asked for it. I told you a hundred times not to sublet the house. You turned a deaf ear. This well becomes you. You can sleep through the storm. But I can't. I can't sleep with a noise like that." The acidulous tone of voice went on and on, but seemed to take no immediate effect.

Mamun did not mind anything, but thought in all seriousness to quit living in this sort of sublet lodgings. He was sure he was going to have the time of his life. This lucky raffle would be the beginning of the end of his days of hardship.
                                       
For last couple of years Mamun had been dogged by daily want. The spectre of Mathematics finally prevented him from entering the civil service. His graduation in English could not produce expected results. He started feeling a complete misfit in the career world, and decided to go back home to join his village college. But he could not do it for the love his life—Kalpana. It was she who wanted Mamun to hold out in the capital. She managed to get him a white-collour job somehow in a private company on a ten thousand taka salary. She herself worked for a kindergarten school. They set up house in a small sublet flat, and kept making do with the meager amount they jointly earned. They were in want, but they were living in hope.
 
Mamun had stumbled upon the chance to make his hopes come true. A piece of luck had turned up. Hopefully in a week his ship would come home. Only after seven days he was going to be a one million pound man. Right from rags to riches! But how could he keep the money safe? How would others take this overnight success? If it were a pitcher of treasure trove lying hidden underground, he could keep using the coins one after another, and would live happily ever after. But the lottery money was not a hidden treasure. It would be in the public eye before it came to the owner. The media would make a mountain out of a molehill. The man would shoot to stardom overnight as a mega fortune tycoon. But where's the harm in that? Mamun did not know why he was assuming the worst. Winning a lottery was not an offence. Besides he was ready to pay all taxes and duties, customs and excises on it. He should have no sense of foreboding.
 
Mamun thought the key to happiness was knocking at his door. His problems needed not be wished away any longer. The solutions would be bought at the expense of his luck. First he would rent a flat in the vicinity of his office. He was not however sure if Kalpana would still like him to go for a rental. The way the better off people of the metropolis were being wooed by the real estate companies, Kalpana would sure be infected with this condominium craze. It was her dream to do the interior decoration of her own apartment. Other than a flat of her own, she might long for another item of traditional happiness—a nice family car. Mamun himself had no such aspirations.

He would love to bring his parents to him from their village home. His father, a long-time diabetic, would have his morning walk in the Ramana Park, and take medications directly from BARDEM. His mother, fated never to cross the threshold of the kitchen, would be sitting on the deluxe balcony with betel-leaf box at her feet, and see the skies above Dhaka. His younger brother Mohsin, who was eating his heart out for going to Malaysia for overseas job, would count down to the date of flight. The old office peon, Keramot Chacha, who was going blind for the lack of cataract surgery, would be admitted to best eye hospital in the capital. His poet friend Rafiq, who was waiting in vain for long to make his debut, would see light at the end of the tunnel. Now it was time for fulfillment of wishes. They were, now, the real horses, beggars might ride. The magic lamp was at Mamun's hand. He would bring smile on everybody's face.
 
The next mail came from Mr. Fox in less than twelve hours. Mamun was amazed to see their promptness and sincerity. 'The west is really west!' Mr. Fox had congratulated him, and asked to contact Mr. Douglas Jekyll, an official in charge of disbursement of the lottery fund.  Mamun's heart started going pit-a-pit. He was nearing the great fortune. He wrote him back immediately with reference to Mr. Fox's mail. Mr. Jekyll was quicker than Mr. Fox. In less than an hour he sent a long online application form, and asked him to fill it in very carefully. It was like a multiple choice. Mamun confused the box regarding the money receipt options. He got undecided whether he would like to get the bank draft to be sent by speed post or like the money to be sent directly to his account. Mamun completely lost his bearings. He ticked neither box. He had to mull it over. He felt dizzy and nauseous. His office was not the right place to fill in such a delicate form. He should have some days off. He wrote an application for seven days' casual leave.
 
Mamun opted for the bank draft. In its wake Mr. Jekyll dispatched him to Henry Wolf, an international courier service official in the UK. Mamun realized that the procurement of the lottery prize was not as easy as pie. He was being pushed from pillar to post. But it did not dishearten him. It rather heightened his sense of proximity to the money. He wrote to Mr. Wolf with reference to the mail of Messrs Fox and Jekyll.  Mamun was flushed with excitement after having Mr. Wolf's reply. The minute description of the eagerly awaited post imparted a strong tactile sense to his mind. This was for the first time that Mamun felt the breath of the money. But his mind little wavered to see that it was a prepaid mail service, and he would have to pay a lump sum of 900 GBP as service charge. Mr. Wolf informed that it was a parcel weighing 150 gram, which contained the bank draft, and other necessary authentication papers. Given the importance of the papers and the guarantee of safe delivery, the charge was fixed as special. Nine hundred pounds! A cool one lakh taka! And it had to be paid in next two days at the latest into a given account. Mamun found the situation a little troublesome. He could not ask anybody for a loan without telling the real reason. Was then the whole thing going to be put in jeopardy? Mamun did not know how to traverse this sticky patch. But he felt one thing clearly that he must go through with the bid for the lottery money.
 
Kalpana came up with an easy answer to the problem.

"Look, an opportunity comes once a life. Clever people grasp it, and the fools let it slip through their fingers. Fortune has smiled on us. It's the chance of a life-time. We shouldn't turn it down." She tried to prevail upon her husband to complete the lottery deal.

"I'm afraid if we are screwed." Mamun cast a shadow of doubt on the seemingly unreasonable postal charge.

"There's no room for doubt. Do you think you'd be a millionaire for free?" Kalpana scolded him softly, and egged him on to pay the fees at once.

"But how could I find the money?" Mamun gave a cry of despair.

"What am I here for?" Kalpana reciprocated with a mysterious smile.

"You must be joking." Mamun could not make head or tail of what she meant.

"I'll sell my gold ornaments." Kalpana turned serious.

"But, if …" Mamun could not finish his word. Kalpana jumped down his throat.

"There's no time for ifs and buts. Are you still holding back? That's why your things don't come off. You can get jewelry for the asking, but you can't win an international lottery like that." Kalpana tried to remain calm, but there was a distinct edge to her voice.
 
Mamun's heart sank when he received no acknowledgement of the mail charge payment. He remained online almost round the clock with his eyes glued to his Inbox. He grew more anxious with every passing moment. He gave several reminders asking their response. But the other side fell mysteriously silent. Mamun tried to phone their numbers.

 "The number you're calling cannot be reached". Every time he called them, a rich melodious voice announced this bitter disappointment for him. Mamun had a deafening effect on the ears. He rushed to the bank where he sent the money from, and told on the three men-- Fox, Jekyll, and Wolf. The officer checked something on his laptop, and shook his head.

"Sorry, Mr. Mamun, I can't help it. It seems to be a lottery scam. You must have been robbed blind by the scammers. They've had you fooled. You should have been cautious about this sort of cyber fraud."

He spoke in a patronizing tone of voice.

Mamun left the bank without a word. He was fool enough to believe those online swindlers! 

Mamun was going back home on foot down the Shahbag road. He was feeling a lot more relaxed. The load of nine hundred thousand pound was taken off his mind, though it had taken its toll. But it was just some money down the drain. It might at best be followed by some months of austerity. He could beat it by tightening the purse-strings. He had already started saving the rickshaw fare. He was walking. Life seemed to be free and easy again. A craft fair was being held on the Fine-arts Institute premises. The place was buzzing with the teenagers, the young, and the old. There was an air of festivity. Mamun popped in to have a quick glance around it. Makeshift shops were arranged along both sides of the approaches for the sale of wide variety of handicrafts. He caught sight of some beautiful jewelry—necklaces, rings, bangles made of clay and wood. He bought a full set of ornaments. Kalpana was sure going to love them. Mamun started hurrying along the pavement. He would have to reach home early.

Author’s Bio: Born on in Rangpur, Bangladesh Dr. Rashid Askari a PhD in Indian English literature (University of Poona, India), is a professor of English at Kushtia Islamic University, Dhaka, Bnagladesh.

Dr. Askari began writing from the mid-nineties of the last century, and is now a well know writer in English in Bangladesh. He has authored half a dozen books and a large number of research articles, essays, and newspaper columns in Bengali and English. Currently he is working on his first English novel.

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