Category Archives: 52/250

Stone story

Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.

He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two.

By the time the protesters wake up, he is standing in the furthest corner of the square, holding his tray for them to buy his stones. He pockets the notes and coins, and by the end of the first day of business he has enough money to buy his mother flatbread and tahina; and to pay off the loan to Aziz for the trip on the felucca he didn’t want his mother to know about.

On the second day though, the protest turns violent and few buy his stones; many grab them and run. Kareem ties his money in his handkerchief, puts it in his trouser pocket and starts for home.

Hours later, when he comes to, long after the van that knocked him unconscious sped away, he feels for his bundle. It is no longer there. His strength gone, he falls back to the ground and closes his eyes. He now looks the boy of eight he is.

This story first appeared on the writers’ challenge site 52|250 A Year of Flash

twentysix

twentysix,” the second anthology highlighting short stories from a quarter of “52|250 A year of Flash,” is out. The editors of this writing project, Michelle Elvy, John Wentworth Chapin and Walter Bjorkman, challenge writers to produce a short flash of 250 words every week for one year. They provide a different theme each week and the resulting creative work is amazing: wonderful stories, and poems, of high quality from a prolific, creative, friendly, and excellent community of writers.

Each quarter, the editors pick and highlight in an anthology the best of the stories written on each week’s theme. The current edition also includes art work, readings, and reflections by some of the writers on their creating a particular piece and the ways they went about developing their take on the theme.

Beautifully and professionally edited, assembled and illustrated, it is well worth visiting, and reading. As you will see, the editors have put an incredible amount of work into “twentysix.”

I am honored to have two of my short stories included: on theme #25 “A private person” and on theme #26 “A hair raising story.”

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You can read the anthology here

My stories in 52|250 can be read here

International Year of Forests

The UN declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests “to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests.”

Forests are vital to the lives and livelihoods of the people of this planet, to our planet’s existence. Yet, according to UN figures, deforestation continues at the rate of 50.000 square miles per year.

A number of activities have been planned for the year, including high-level panel discussions, film screenings, a United Nations commemorative stamp series, competitions, art and other public events. Look out for them here

While the launch of the Year of Forests will be taking place later, I am posting a short story grown out of the combination of the theme of the Year of Forests with that of “Silence,” a writing prompt set by participants of the “52/250 A Year of Flash.” It was first published there

I copy my short story below:

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The Weeping of the Trees

Last spring, I hiked up Mount Olympus. The valleys surrounding its peaks are covered in black pine, beech, yew and tall conifers. On its slopes, vineyards spread precariously; olive trees anchor deep with their roots. Streams cascade to thirsty plateaus. No wonder the ancient Gods lived there.

I stayed in refuges, drank from the streams and breathed the pine-scented air. Cicadas serenaded me; butterflies I did not know existed covered my arms. Wolves lusted after me.

Magical. Yet, I dared not return, fearing the strange sightings and the silence: ghostly shadows appearing through the trees, gathering near water, rushing through the meadows, with a heavy, voluminous silence falling all round. At first, I did not believe my senses. Gradually, I came to expect and even look for the shadows.

Whenever I tried to touch a diaphanous apparition – as if made of smoke – it pulled back, avoiding my hand. I thought I saw it sigh, more as a gesture rather than sound, and glide away.

It was recently that I understood – and felt freed to return. The shadows are the souls of trees haunting the Olympian home of their Gods. Felled unjustly, burned in war, famine, and in ruthless profiteering, or carelessness, they return to plead with them.

Next time you visit Olympus, look for the shadows; seek this silence: If it is not disrupted by a leaf falling, a stream’s gurgle or an animal’s light footstep, know you are listening to the silent weeping of the trees.

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You can find the story in 52/250, together with a number of other excellent stories on the theme of “Silence” here.

She missed many boats

Have you heard the expression “missed the boat?” It is pertinent to
where I live, because there are no cars, no buses to “miss” on my
island. Only boats. There is the boat to the nearest town, and the
ferry-boat to Athens, once a week. No one misses those, as they are
the only contact we have with the outside world. No one, that is,
except Meropi.

After her husband’s boat went down in heavy seas, she never made it on
time to a boat: she missed the boat to her daughter’s wedding, to her
giving birth; to the christening, and then the marriage of her only
grandchild. To the doctor’s office on Naxos, after several days of
suffering the big pressure on her chest.

She was afraid of the sea, you see. A woman born and bred on an
island! Terrified of the Aegean waves crushing on the huge rocks, she
avoided even looking at them. No wonder she missed many boats.

But, no one misses the boat to Hades. So, today Meropi is on time. She
is being carried in her coffin on board, as we speak. The local priest
performed the service already – while, curiously, numerous doves
collected on the belfry – and she is braving the meltemi to reach her
place of rest, on the mainland. I can hear her only goat’s bell
ringing, as if already missing her. God bless her soul; I am not one
for travelling either.

The End

This story appeared on 52/250 A Year of Flash

Where home is

He scours streets, bus and tube stations for newspapers. Two years since he arrived in London and he is still amazed at how many newspapers lie discarded around. Although he cannot decipher the writing, they are ideal for keeping warm.

He stuffs them inside his pullover and feels like a king: he needs for nothing. He is warm and fed: the city overflows with leftovers. He beds down whenever he is tired, wherever he finds a warm doorway from where he can look at the sky.

He loves summer best. At night, sneaking into Finsbury Park, he heads for his favourite bench, near the lake. It is cool and the sky is full of stars. Not as spectacular as the sky in his village, in the floodplains of the Mesopotamian Iraqi marshes, where the stars shine like diamonds on black velvet, but it works.

It illuminates the memories that follow him like his shadow: the rice fields and the boat he made himself from reeds, the water buffalo; his father, punting through narrow channels. The Garden of Eden.

Then he counts the stars, looks for patterns, for directions; for a sign that it is safe to return home. His heart, filled with nostalgia, trembles like a bird. Often though, he counts his blessings: here, among the floods of people filling the channels of this city, he can blend in and feel safer than in the marshes of his homeland – till it is time to return.

The End

Hot from my computer keyboard, this new short story written for the 52/250 A Year of Flash project, was first posted on their website. A story about a war-savaged, homeless man sleeping rough in Finsbury Park, North London, and the cruel strands of present-day displacement and identity.

10 December 2010 

Where is your home?

Marshes in Iraq, photo here and  here 

For photos of Finsbury Park I took myself, see here

 

http://52250flash.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/where-home-is-by-stella-pierides/

Postcards

Drawing his knees to his chest, he felt the rock with his hand. The air stunk of campfire. A suffocating fog was rising from the rugged hills below.

Alerted by a stir in the scrub, he made out a wounded bird beside him, limping. A pigeon. The bird looked him in the eye as if trying to pass on a message, then scampered away.

After years of war, first against the Italians, then the Germans, now their fellow Greeks, even the fertile valleys in the Grammos mountain range below had been exhausted. The fighters had eaten everything that could be eaten, even the homing pigeons that they used as messengers when they had to maintain radio silence. Hunger drives men mad.

His eyes searched for the bird, absurdly worrying that it might be shot.

His hand caressed his breast pocket, where he kept his postcards to his wife. Poor Eirini, he thought. She didn’t even know he was still alive; still fighting.

He had been “writing” to her without words since they retreated to the top. The silence, the isolation and above all the awareness of approaching defeat robbed him of words. He drew on the rough paper the hills, the scrub, rocks that looked as if made by God, scree; the few cypresses, plane trees, and pines he remembered from his village. Recently, the faces of men who died in his arms.

One day, he thought, his postcards to his wife would be found – these drawings would be his last words to her.

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I am fond of this short story, as it touches on themes from my forthcoming novel, Alexandrias 40: In the Shade of the Lemon Tree. 

A version of this short sotry appeared in 52/250 A Year of Flash, on the 26th of November 2010.