Archive of ‘literary’ category

muffin day; or, growing up in the late ’70s part 1

UPDATE: This piece was published in slightly modified form on 8 July 2012 in the first issue of the Sunday Manila Standard-Today, revived after an eight-year hiatus.

There’s this old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook that’s been in the family for years. It belonged to my mother, Malu Ledesma Lacson Alonso, who received it from her nanny, Phoebe Elustrisimo. Lola Phoebe migrated to the US when my mom was a teenager, but she did bring many warm memories of baking cookies and muffins, and brushing my mother’s long brown hair in the mornings.

My mother and I, 1968.

As a child I preferred to stay indoors and read, rather than go out and play. On my great-aunt Bennett’s sugar cane hacienda in Bacolod,  where I lived for a year, there were no other children my age and I was not allowed to play with the children “nga halin sa uma” (“from the farm”).

When I was brought back to Manila and our little apartment near Vito Cruz, the neighbor kids were mostly boys and played rough. Not that I minded the knockabout games. I was a little tomboy, and the best on the swing, going as high up as I could and jumping off at the very peak of the arc. “Dangerous” games proved your bravery; any kid who didn’t join in was a sissy. Girls were exempted from this, but a girl who was as tough as the boys got extra points in street cred. My rep was “small but terrible”.

To this day I’m amazed I didn’t crack a leg or some other useful body part. I wonder how nearly all of us went through our childhood practically unscathed. The only casualties I recall were Alan next door (his family owned the swing) who broke his arm, and Mars across the street who snapped something in his chest when rough-housing with his German Shepherd. The break never healed properly and he developed a “pigeon chest”, a sort of protusion that shocked us all into a wary respect for dogs.

It was boring and meaningless, keeping up the street rep among my playmates, and increasingly, I retreated into the other worlds of books. One of my favorites was this same 1956 edition Betty Crocker cookbook of my mom’s. I’d pore over it for hours, flipping through the slick pages, ogling the glossy color pictures of classic American dishes – apple pie, strawberry shortcake, Eggs ala Goldenrod.

Betty_crocker_trio

Written in the politically-incorrect ’50s, before organic foods and vegetarianism became fashionable, many recipes call for lard (an ingredient banned from today’s enlightened kitchens, where “lowfat” cooking is de riguer), meal suggestions are built around red meat and carbohydrates, and vegetable recipes occupy less than ten pages – most of them variations on deep-fried this or that. Phrases such as “low-calorie” and “artificial sweetener” are nowhere to be found; “cookie” is spelled with a “y”.  The illustrations are quaint and oh-so Fifties: women in flaring skirts and aprons lean over ovens, brandish ladles.

The chapters on baking were closest to my heart. The “Quick Breads” (pancakes, muffins, and waffles), “Cakes”, “Pies”, and “Cookies” pages became the most dog-eared and creased. An instructional manual, the book contains step-by-step pictures on how to sift flour, knead dough, roll out pastry. Sort of like a primitive “Baking for Dummies”, but with photos.This proved a godsend to me when I actually started cooking on my own after I got married in 1990. Though a beginner at cooking, it was like my hands already knew what to do, thanks to those instructions.

When my mom moved to the US in the early 80s and took that beloved cookbook with her, I was bereft, like I had lost a close friend.

There’s a happy ending to this, though. Maybe ten years later, I coaxed my mom to send that cookbook to me in a balikbayan box. She was reluctant to let it go; as for me, it had much sentimental value for her. I suggested that it was time for the next generation (my children Alex and Erika) to enjoy that heirloom. That argument proved to be persuasive. Once in my hands, I placed that half-a-century old book in a place of honor on the shelf.

Ik is the most interested in this old book. As I did, she studies the pictures and reads the recipes. Over the past several months this year, the inspiration built up to such a crescendo that yesterday, she convinced her ate Alex to help her bake muffins.

Here they are. Golden brown, fluffy, and perfect smothered with butter. Great with coffee? You bet. Congratulations, Ik and Alex!

Muffin_day

The 52-year-old heirloom cookbook; the “how to bake muffins” page; Alex, Ik and muffins

For me, this particular cycle has come full circle, in terms of my children’s participation in the mythos of family traditions and rituals that shape so much of who we are and what we influence our children to become. Yet time in the real world is linear, not circular. I stretch my mind to the future, where I see my grandchildren reading that Betty Crocker cookbook (now 70, 80 years old), baking buttery golden muffins for their lola, tita, and mom.

Thus the cookbook is not merely a book, a construct of paper and ink, but a vessel of familial rites, a repository of histories, and a catalyst for the creation of fresh, life-shaping memories.

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jay david: mga kwento ng batang kaning-lamig

Mga Kwento ng Batang Kaning-Lamig is a hilarious collection of letters written by “Unkyel Batjay”, a Filipino living in the US, giving hapless “Gentle Readers” well-meant but often satiric advice couched in unabashedly bawdy terms.

A wise man who is also a wise guy, more shrewd than scholarly, proud of his heritage and brown skin (including, uh, the wrinkly skin down there), Unkyel Batjay shows us that no matter where in the world we Filipinos may end up, the best weapons in our arsenal for survival are compassion, humor, and pride in being Pinoy.

MGA KWENTO NG BATANG KANING-LAMIG ni Nicanor David Jr.

Ito ang naratibo ni Unkyel Batjay. Alanganing tula-essay-kwento ang mga akda. Mas malapit ito sa biographical creative nonfiction. Alanganin ang lumbay at himutok, na dinaan na lamang sa biro. Sa mga lumbay at biro naroon ang kaluluwa ng naratibo, ng pambansang naratibo. Kilala natin si Unkyel Batjay. Mahal natin siya. Ang kaniyang betlog ay sa atin rin. Ang kaniyang kulangot ay duming di natin naaamoy. Kung siya ay tayo rin, mahalaga nga ang kaniyang istorya. – Jun Cruz Reyes

The author, Nicanor “Jay” David Jr., is a self-described OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker) who worked in Singapore for four years before moving to the US, where he has been living for nearly three years in sunny Southern California – right next door, in fact, to Disneyland, which he can visit everyday if he wants. This is his second book. Let us hope that he is now working on his third, and that we will be able to read it soon. Very soon.

Fox Literary House (call them at [632]740.4532) publishes Fox Books, which are available at Fully Booked, National Bookstore, and other fine outlets.

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fox books: defining the new filipino literature

Fox Literary House, which publishes fiction in Filipino, was built with a leap of faith late last year by businessman Ramon Balatbat. A newcomer to the field of publishing, he also put up Newstar Publishing House, a textbook publishing enterprise, to provide quality educational material for young children.

With cum laude University of the Philippines Creative Writing graduate Sarah Grutas at the editorial helm of Fox Literary (also known as “Fox Books”), its initial five offerings are well-chosen from manuscripts written by talented authors. The formal launch of the company and its books, held last April 14 at Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street, promises a new dimension in Filipino literature, providing a venue for fiction writers to have their creative efforts presented to the reading public in a graphically exciting format.

I joined Fox Books as the sales manager last January, but was lured back to the world of horseracing. Still, during my two-months’ stay at Fox, I got to know Sarah and Fox Books’ graphics designer, writer Adam David. These young people are bright, brash, and bold, rising stars in the firmament of Filipino literature, and Fox Books is certain rise to great heights with these two to pilot it.

Fox novels are available at Fully Booked, National Bookstore, and other fine outlets. Check out the ad and press release below, illustrated by Adam, written by Sarah:

New Filipino Literature Rises

Fox Literary House Inc., an aggressive publishing company involved in quality and creative literary works, launched its first line of books last Monday, April 14 2008, 4 p.m. at Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street, Global City.

The book launch featured the works of mostly young writers and artists: Mykel Andrada, Kendrick Bautista, Layeta Bucoy, Sarah Bulalacao, J Luis Camacho, Adam David, Nicanor David, Jr., Mar Anthony de la Cruz, Rita de la Cruz, UZ Eliserio, Wennie Fajilan, Geraldine Flores, Vlad Gonzales, Anna Ishikawa, Josel Nicolas, Beverly Siy, Ardee Sto. Domingo, Kristian Teves, and Haidee Pineda.

All books: Dagta: Antolohiya ng Erotika, Mga Kwento ng Batang Kaning-Lamig, Palalim Nang Palalim Padilim Nang Padilim, Where Your Dreams Come True, and Tres Amores are now available at bookstores near you.

Contact Fox Literary House at (632)740.4532 or send email to: foxliteraryhouse(AT)yahoo.com.

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fox literary house launch

After decades of having mostly foreign writers on the shelves of local bookstores, slowly the Philippine fiction market is growing and gaining more adherents – among them nationalistic young people who enjoy the best of global and local literature, and create their own stories with a uniquely Filipino flavor.

The newest kid on the publishing block is Fox Literary House. With cum laude UP (University of the Philippines) Creative Writing graduate Sarah Grutas at the editorial helm, the stories offered are among the best of the new generation of Pinoy fiction that are sure to appeal to a wide audience.

Attend the Fox Mega Launch (see invitation below) and enter an edgy new dimension in words and art.

Fox_launch_invite_pink

Fox Books are available at Fully Booked, National Bookstore, Power Books, and many other outlets.

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rod mckuen: looking for a friend

Shared with me in 1989 by sportswriter Joel Atencio.

looking for a friend

ROD McKUEN

if one thousand men

walking through this world

room to room to room

then home again

ask the favor of your friendship

know that i am one

within the thousand.

if one hundred men

making do within this world

in city places or the kindest country

fall down fighting for your friendship

know that i am on the battlefield

amid the hundred.

if twenty men

who know and knew this world

from crested hills to uncrowned valley

send letters breathing friendship

expect my letter soon

among the twenty.

Photo taken in Los Angeles, 11 July 2009.

if one man living in this too-grey world

running crooked paths or pacing pavements

comes in need of friendship

be not amazed or disbelieve,

i am that one man.

if no one comes to you

carrying a new world in his arms

or at his back in a rolling wagon

offering to you out of friendship

know that I have been detained

but even now am on my way

still no one comes to you

within this world

when two dozen years or half of that has passed

come and seek me out

for i’ll be lifeless in a grave and gone.

perhaps you were hiding

or concerned with other things

but know that while I lived

i went on looking.

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my fiction: ang multo sa karerahan

A short story set at the racetrack, written in December 2007 in Filipino (mix of Tagalog and English)…

ANG MULTO SA KARERAHAN

HIGIT dalawang taon nang all-around sa production ng live horseracing coverage si Jeng. Scriptwriter, producer, director, pati host ng show, lahat, ginagawa niya. Bukod sa maliit ang budget ng production company, bihira lang din kasi ang production people na nakakaintindi sa kumplikadong mundo ng karera ng kabayo.

Si Jeng ay empleyada ng network na may hawak ng kontrata ng broadcast coverage ng makasaysayang karerahan sa gitna ng lungsod. Malawak ang lupain ng karerahan. Sa bukana, may isang office building sa kaliwa at dalawang two-story na gusali sa harapan, na itinayo noong dekada trenta. Puti ang mga ito, estilong Art Deco. Mga historical monument na nga.

Ang dalawang gusali sa harapan ay mga panooran. Sa likuran nito ay ang mga grandstands, parang bleachers, na nakatanaw sa pista. Sa main buildings, naroon ang mga viewing box o kuwarto ng mga horseowners at “big bettors” na can afford na umupa ng sarili nilang tambayan.

Sa second floor ng main building sa kaliwa, bukod sa owners’ boxes, naroon din ang mga VIP room at grand ballroom. Noong araw, dekada ’50, sabi ng lola ni Jeng, nagbo-ballroom dancing daw sila roon. Sosyal raw ang lugar na iyon. Ngunit ito ay naging biktima na ng mahabang taon at pagpapabaya. Wala nang sumasayaw doon, at hindi na ito ginagamit.

Ine-ere sa cable television ang karera, six days a week. Ang studio sa lumang karerahan ay nasa kaliwang dulo ng ballroom. Doon lagi si Jeng kapag may karera sila, dahil katabi ng studio ang control room.

Doon sila tumitira ng video production ni Jobuks, ang kanyang video editor. Marami silang kailangang gawin na pang-video support. Kasama na roon ang teasers o plugs ng mga darating na stakes races o malalaking karera; ang mga announcements ng karerahan tungkol sa bagong OTBs o off-track betting stations; mga chargen ng pangalan ng kabayo, hinete, may-ari, trainer, timbang, lahi, at iba pang impormasyon para sa mga karerista.

Kadalasan ay inaabot sila hanggang hatinggabi sa trabaho, minsan madaling -araw. Ewan kung bakit ang mga creatives tulad nila ay parang mga bampira, na mas gustong matulog sa araw at magtrabaho sa gabi.

Isang gabi, may hinahabol silang teaser ni Jobuks. Tapos na ang karera. Nakauwi na ang lahat. Pasado alas-dose na at sila lang ang natira sa tahimik na gusali.

Malamig sa loob ng control room, at sumakit na ang ulo ni Jeng sa katititig sa sumasayaw na kulay at imahe sa monitor ni Jobuks. Hawak niya ang script. “Paki-insert lang, Jo, nung footage ng karera nila Key Apo dyan sa gitna,” sabi ni Jeng. “Tapos isingit mo na yung chargen ng lineup ng stakes race sa Linggo.”

Minasahe ni Jobuks ang pumipintig na batok at tumango. “Sure, Ma’m Jeng.” Lumipad ang daliri niya sa keyboard. “Ayan, okay na. Magre-render muna ako bago ninyo ma-view.” Pumikit si Jobuks sa pagod.

Alam ni Jeng na matagal na proseso ang pagre-render. Tumayo siya at umunat. “CR muna ako,” tugon niya kay Jobuks.

Lumabas siya sa pintuan ng studio. Sa harap niya, malawak at madilim ang ballroom. Mahina ang nag-iisang bombilyang umiilaw dito. Nagtitipid kasi ang racing club sa kuryente. Naiintindihan naman ni Jeng ang rationale ng cost-cutting. Kaso naman, sambit niya sa sarili, pa’no naman ang mga nag-o-overtime na taga-broadcast?

Sinimulan niyang tahakin ang kalawakan ng ballroom papunta sa ladies’ comfort room sa kabilang dulo. Madilim talaga; mabuti nalang may pumapasok na liwanag mula sa kalsada sa mga bintana. Tuklap na ang karamihan ng wood parquet tiles sa ballroom. Nagdahan-dahan siya ng lakad; baka madapa siya.

Parang mabigat na balabal ang dilim. Habang papalakad siya, tumayo ang kanyang balahibo. Nakaramdam siya ng takot. Para bang may nagmamasid sa kanya. Nagbabantay. Nanonood. Binilisan niya ang galaw, halos tumatakbo na siya hanggang sa makarating sa banyo, binuksan ang pinto, at iniswitch ang ilaw.

Malaki ang banyo ng babae sa karerahan. Pink ang tiles na maliliit, mga one-inch square, yung uso noong araw pa. Medyo nabawasan ang takot niya dahil may ilaw na. Ngunit hindi pa rin niya matanggal ang pakiramdam ng pangamba.

Pumasok siya sa isang stall. Ginamit ang toilet. Nakapagflush na siya nang may amoy na kumiliti sa kanyang ilong.

Mabahong amoy. Parang nabubulok na karne.

Nag-freeze ang kanyang daliri sa zipper ng pantalon. Lumakas lalo ang amoy at naging mas masangsang ito. Para nang naagnas na laman at dugo. Halos masuka siya sa baho. Dali-dali niyang sinara ang kanyang pantalon. Nanlalamig na ang kanyang kamay at kumakalabog na ang puso sa takot.

Paglabas niya ng stall, wala naman siyang nakita, pero naroon pa rin ang amoy. Pinilit ni Jeng na pakalmahin ang sarili. Baka naman galing lang sa lumang drainage ang amoy.

Nag-hugas ng kamay si Jeng sa lababo, at tiningnan ang mukha sa salamin. Putlang-putla siya. Pinikit niya ang kanyang mga mata at naghilamos.

Pagbukas ng kanyang mata, pagtitig niya uli sa salamin, may matandang lalaking nakatayo sa likod niya.

Payat ito na maliit ang katawan. Inisip ni Jeng sa sarili, para siyang retired na hinete sa liit at pispis ng kanyang katawan. Naka-short sleeved polo shirt na kulay light blue at pantalon na dark blue.

Ngunit paano siya napunta roon sa iglap ng kisapmata! Sumisigaw ang buong utak ni Jeng, “Takbooo!” ngunit hindi siya makagalaw o makaimik. Hindi niya mai-alis ang tingin sa salamin sa lalaking nasa likod niya.

Nanlilisik ang mga mata nito. Galing sa kanyang katawan ang masangsang na amoy. Biglang tumulo ang dugo mula sa kanyang mata at bibig, at umungol siya. “Ikaaaaw…ikaw ang hinihintay ko…” Itinaas niya ang kanyang kamay at ipinatong sa balikat ni Jeng. Mabigat, malamig, at mabaho ang kamay. Parang galing sa ilalim ng hukay.

Doon biglang sumigaw si Jeng at tumakbo. Kumaripas siya sa kahoy na tiles ng madilim na ballroom, ngunit hinahabol siya ng masangsang na amoy at para bang may mabahong hiningang bumabalot sa kanyang leeg. Malapit na siya sa pintuan ng control room nang makaramdam ng kalabit sa balikat at parang hinihila siya sa kanyang t-shirt.

Umiiyak na si Jeng at nanlalambot na sa takot ang buong katawan. Nanginginig ang kamay nang binuksan ang pintuan ng control room, at ini-lock ito agad. Humahagulgol siyang tumakbo sa kabilang pader ng kuwarto at sumubsob soon, nagsisisigaw at nagluluha.

Gulat na gulat si Jobuks sa kaanyuan ni Jeng. “Ma’m Jeng, ano’ng nangyari?” Hinawakan niya ang kamay ni Jeng upang kumalma ito. Kinuwento ni Jeng ang nangyari, panay pa rin ang iyak at hikbi. Tiningnan nila ang kanyang balikat; sa kanyang t-shirt – ito’y may mantsa ng dugo na hugis kamay.

Nagtaka si Jeng noong hindi nagpakita ng sorpresa si Jobuks sa kuwento niya. Ang sagot lang nito sa kanya ay, “Sa susunod, sasamahan ko na kayo; hihintayin ko kayo sa labas ng CR.” Bakat sa mukha ni Jobuks na nagkaroon din siya ng parehong.karanasan.

Noong sumunod na araw nagtanong si Jeng sa mga taga-karera at nalaman na, maraming taon nang nakalipas, may matanda raw na karerista na nahuli ang batam-batang asawa na may kahalikan na trainer ng kabayo sa ladies’ CR na iyon. Sa galit niya, papatayin niya sana ang babae ngunit inatake siya sa puso at namatay rin ng oras na iyon.

Ayon sa kuwento, doon na raw sa ladies’ CR nagtigil ang kaluluwa ng matanda, hinihintay na bumalik ang kanyang taksil na asawa upang makapaghiganti rito.

Nagtirik si Jeng ng kandila sa banyo, nagdasal, at kailan man ay hindi na niya ginamit ang CR na iyon. ***

Ang orihinal na larawan ay mula rito; nilagyan ko nalang ng effects.

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my fiction: freek (a drabble)

A drabble is a very short story exactly one hundred words long. Wikipedia says its purpose “is brevity and to test the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.” Drabble contests set a theme for the participants and a certain amount of time to write.

I set this drabble at the racetrack and finished it in five minutes or so. Try your hand at it; it’s easy, fun, and addictive!

FREEK

Image here.

The gates sprang back for the year’s biggest race. They were off! Nightshade, the huge chestnut mare, jumped out of the last stall and took the lead. As the nine-horse field galloped down the straight, Nightshade’s jockey, Freek, rode her hard with his callused hands.

At the home stretch, still lengths ahead of the panting opposition and a mere hundred meters from the wire, he reached for his whip and found – nothing. He had left it behind! Cursing mightily, he knew there was only one thing to do – go back for it.

Freek was never given another ride after that.

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my fiction: aloysia’s story

I began this science fiction snippet on 11 March 1988 then got stuck. It is untitled and unfinished. It’s really immature but I’m just amazed that I was capable of this kind of output. It’s a mish-mash of the tons of SF and F fiction crammed into my head, practically the only stuff I read from high school to college.

I cringe now at the heavy use of adverbs, soundly condemned (and rightly too) by Stephen King in his treatise “On Writing.” I also overused ellipses. As the eminent Victorian academic and short story writer Montague R. James said, “They are often considered a substitute for good writing. Let us have a few more…”

Art: “Cyber”, by A. Langnickel.

ALOYSIA’S STORY

She stood in the glass cage that was her home, by the window that gave out onto emptiness. She was alone; but that was nothing new to her. For half a centad she had been imprisoned in the Crystal Cave, on orders of the Council of Three.

Imprisoned for a crime she did not remember having committed.

Five decads ago she was Aloysia van der Han, much-lauded temporal scientist, mother of two, wife of a Councilor, Alexei Morgan, They were all happy; and as an individual, too, she felt fulfilled. Until one day…

Alexei had told her many times that he loved her. With affection in his eyes he told her many time how much she meant to him, while touching her with gentle hands that caressed all the right places. She believed him, of course; she had no reason not to do so. So it was a genuine shock for her to find him one afternoon in a close coital embrace with Sharna al-Huseyn, another Councilor. Sharna of the long dark hair and red lips! Aloysia fainted.

She came to in a Securitycell, the white wall reflecting the glare of high-powered lightlamps. Enforcers, in their distinctive crimson and black uniforms, were ranged about her. When they saw that she had awakened, a high-ranking Enforcer – the only one with gold braid on his sleeves – approached her and in ungentle tones told her that Alexei and Sharna had been found beside her in a little room. Horribly mutilated. Horribly dead.

Aloysia blinked uncomprehendingly. “Dead – but who – how…?” she muttered. “No one else was in the room but yourself, Doctor van der Han,” said the Enforcer. “And the – er – delicate situation in which we found the two Councilors suggests that you may – er – have had a hand in their demise.” “Are you saying that I…” Aloysia’s voice was rising to a shriek. “I admit I found them together, but the last thing I remember is… is blacking out. I came to here,” insisted Aloysia. The Enforcer stared at her. “You will be subjected to a mental probe.” “On whose authorization?” queried Aloysia tremulously. “On that of the Council of Fi – Three, now,” said the Enforcer.

Despite her high reputation as an individual and as a scientist, Aloysia still had to undergo the psychoprobe. The results showed that it was indeed she who had slain the two – with Alexei’s blaster that he always carried about with him. The mutilations were done by her with Sharna’s needle dagger. Only one decision could be made.

In a High Tribunal Court, the Council of Three – lately the Council of Five – condemned Aloysia van der Han, violator and despoiler of two human lives, to incarceration in the Crystal Cave for half a centad. Hearing the awful sentence, Aloysia screamed.

Her imprisonment was almost over, she thought tiredly. Fifty years of solitude would soon end. But she had nothing to look forward to. Her children would have their own lives. Her work – after all this time, she could not return to it. Too many advances had been made that she could not keep up with. It would be better, she thought, if I were never to leave here. To stay in a crystal cage forever. (to be continued)

I actually ended with that – “to be continued”.

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my fiction: the cups

Here’s a story I wrote way back 6 April 1988 for a Creative Writing class at the University of the Philippines. In 1991, I entered it into a short story writing contest sponsored by Woman’s Day magazine and Clover typewriters. This story was one of the finalists. Because my story placed, I was invited by Woman’s Day publisher Solar Books to submit a romance novel, published in 1993 as “Fire and Ice”.

Wedgewood jasperware cup. Image here.

THE CUPS

They were sitting at the table, the old man and the elderly woman. His sparse gray hair, like moss on polished wood, contrasted with hers, egg-shell white. Lines of age wove a net of time across their faces; the lips were dry and faded, the lashes brittle, the eyes dead.

They were drinking thick native barako coffee from the gilded Wedgewood teacups that they used only for special occasions.

“When — what time is it happening?” she asked, a slight tremor in her voice. “The radio said six o’clock,” he replied calmly. “It’s already a quarter to six.”

They were afraid, these two, but resigned. Years of weary effort had ingrained in them an acceptance of the inevitable, but had not wholly dulled their emotions. But of what use was hysteria at such a time? They knew better. And found comfort in each other, at the last.

“Only two more minutes, dear,” he breathed. “I–I want you to know — I’m happy here right now, with you.” She smiled, the movement drawing her cheeks back. “I am too. Thank you.” One glance at each other. The years, the memories, slipped by.

They lifted their cups, and sipped.

At that exact moment, twenty miles away, a one-megaton nuclear warhead exploded, spewing deadly radiation, instantly killing all life within a hundred-mile radius.

The teacups fell to the floor, and shattered.

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bettany hughes: helen of troy

A masterwork by a brilliant Oxford-educated historian, Helen of Troy: Goddess, Princess, Whore deals with Helen of Troy as a historical and literary figure. Very well-researched, it is scholarly without being boring; erudite without being pompous; interesting without being pretentious.

The book is flooded with facts, and the deluge will leave you breathless under the waves of words, but once you sink into the Late Bronze Age world that Bettany reveals to us, you will float away to a place and time alien to our own, but still a part of it.

Helen may have been a cultic goddess worshipped in trees and other forms of nature; she may have been a version of Aphrodite; she may have been an aristocrat during the days when matriarchy ruled, when the feminine was venerated and revered over the masculine; or she may have been a mixture of all these.

What matters is that she was an empowered female figure, whose personality was magnetic, whose beauty was iconic, whose story became legendary, and today stands for the strength of the feminine, which is in all of us women, if we but claim our right to it.

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