#1 Short-story by Issa Dioume

             A Game of Mouse and Cats

Victor Verdun is fifty years old. He sits at his desk. Thinking and looking despondent. The picture of a grizzled man with an ungroomed beard and tired eyes. Carrying a face which spoke of the pain and trauma he’d endured. A man in the grip of an obsession.
These last couple of months had done him no good. He’d let himself go. What was once clean, lean and muscular had become heavy, smudged and floppy. For as long as five years now he’d been the sole detective working at the local Indian police station. The past few months, they’d been tracking down a trio of serial killers who plagued their streets. Victor is no greenhorn. He knows this job to be one which requires backup. Years of languorous work and failed attempts had taught him at least this much. But this time, this time is different. This time is personal. Those three murderers had killed his wife in cold blood. And so, he gets up from his chair as he prepares to head out.
Around three months ago. On an unseasonably hot autumn night. Gloria’d been alone, Victor at work. That’s the type of man he is. Hooked to his job, trying to wring meaning out of life through self-exertion. She’d known. She’d never been mad at him for it. No. She understood him. She’d had a job too, and like Victor, was prone to late-nights of work at the office. We formed a perfect duo, thought Victor.

The day she died, she woke up at one in the morning. Jerked awake by the whistle of a breeze coming from their downstairs living-room. After which, she’d gotten out of bed and decided to check up on it. How strange, she’d thought. Never had she heard that noise in their house before. They’d weaselled their way in through one of the windows, smashing glass and ushering whistling breeze in. Already, they’d began stealing things when she’d came up to them with lamp in hand. She froze in her tracks then. Seeing the outline of their silhouettes in the dark. Strike first, think later! was what their instinct told them. It’d happened many times before, in many other houses. They’d been used to it. How this time could be any different than other times eluded them. They’d never suspected she might’ve been a detective’s wife.
Victor’s wife was left bleeding out in a neighbouring gutter. They’d not finished the job. No, that wasn’t their style. She was incapable of moving. They’d known time would take care of it. That was how she’d died. In the company of rats, hidden from sight, in silence and darkness and filth. It was their modus operandi. Time, their reliable accomplice, an accessory to their crimes, always took care of it. And, as days clocked by Victor began to suspect time was protecting them and made sure they weren’t caught.  Eventually though, Gloria’s body was found. After a long month of searches. Battered, bruised and unrecognizable – rats had begun eating away at it. Police concluded she’d died two weeks ago. Scientists in criminology went to work, Victor made sure of it, until they’d managed to find a trail. This crime was coupled to a few others which had occurred recently in the city. There was a pattern. Crimes with a similar modus operandi. These three men were recidivists. Serial killers.
A week ago, he’d confirmed the whereabouts of their lair. And now, Victor finally had them within his grasp. Vengeance was at a hand’s length away. Since then, he stayed in a small guest house nearby, biding his time and awaiting the perfect moment.

A street urchin had come to the police station looking for him one week ago. The urchin wore crummy clothes. He struck Victor as being very young, scrawny and sickly. He reported that only two nights ago, he’d seen the trio of criminals stroll into a small house. It was lodged between two tall buildings down in Sufren street, not far from his own. They’d likely been returning from another evening of wrongdoings. Those three were known for being wary and distrustful people. They’d have killed the child had they seen him. This one though, they missed.
Victor sits at his desk. Thinking. This is a blunder they’ll pay for dearly, he resolved, he got up from his chair and prepared to head out, grabbing his gun.
The day he decided to go rogue and take care of matters alone, Victor took off his badge and left without a word. For a whole week after this, he disappeared from the lives of all who knew him.

*

Steeling himself, he enters the premises of their den. Gun cocked and at the ready, eyes tensed with concentration. Muted steps carry him past the door. He creeps into their living-room, does a roll, hides behind a sofa below a window. He inhales. And, ready to make them pay for their dastardly deeds, jumps out, all guns blazing. Victor was sure he’d seen them enter through this way only fifteen minutes ago. He’d seen shadows move from behind the shutters. But, as he stood there pointing his gun at thin air, he understood, there was no one in. The house remained motionless under his gaze. Soothing his nerves, he began surveying the place.  Soon, a noise came from outside; the sound of hushed voices, orders and wheezing horses.
Victor partly parts the shutters and peers out the window. Outside, the air is thin and murky. Driftwood floats atop the cold river surface which runs through town. The sound of horses galloping down pebbled streets rents open the night in half. From afar, Victor sees the back of a lone rider astride his steed. The rider is heading straight for the outskirts of town. Their frame reminds Victor of Gloria’s own – short, delicate, with tapering limbs and a large waist. An overall stocky appearance. The mere comparison makes Victor sag into nostalgia. The rider wears long trousers, rife with pleats, and a pair of rawhide boots strapped into the stirrups of their saddle. In the span of but a few seconds, rider and horse disappear. The veil of night covering their tracks. All noise abates. Victor shuts the curtains, letting his shoulders slump along his sides. He turns from the window and back to the room. They’re gone now. He groans. A sunken look on his face, displays the depth of his anguish.  Escaped out ov’a hidden back door, he suspects. He’d checked, of course, made certain. There were supposed to be no escape routes. Yet now there they were, completely gone. And here he was feeling angry with himself. Attempting to calm down he begins familiarising himself with his surroundings.
Opposite him is a four-legged table. With one of its four sides pushed against a wall. Three chairs flanking each of the three free sides. Their lengthy legs draw shadows of crosses across the living room floor as they intertwine. When he touches their seats, he feels a certain warmth emanate from them. On the table are plates. Resting upon which are half-eaten slabs of bread. Slathered with melted ghee, cream and blood-red jam. They rest limply at their centre. Greasy strips of bacon sit in a separate plate, assailed by a family of flies. No one would eat them now. They left in such a hurry, seeing this amuses him. But his mind keeps wandering back to the horse rider and their eerie resemblance to his wife. The more he thinks about it, the more the two seem alike. A bright white light flickers overhead. Each flicker sending blinding spears flying into Victor’s eyes and into the room. Revealing a large array of articles and newspaper cut-outs that have been tacked across the walls. Victor plods away from the table. With his hat obliquely placed over his head and his long pelt coat drifting smoothly over the wooden floor. Wooden planks creak under his weight. Already broken glass breaks further below the soles of his boots. Wailing warnings which, resonate with Victor’s current pained and broken mental state. As he nears the entranceway, he detects a trace of cigarette smoke. They’d even had the time to smoke. They’d known he was coming, had prepared in advance, had laughed with contempt at his attempt, had rejoiced at his impending failure. They’re probably laughing right now, reckons Victor. The red mist descends upon him then. And he draws closer to the flight of stairs facing the doorway. He supposes he might as well have a look at what sordid objects lay upstairs before calling the police to apologise. He would have to find a good excuse. A stench of cabbage permeates the air at the staircase’s feet. Warding against cleanliness and justice. Victor grabs the railing and heavs himself forth. It’s hot, mucky and uncomfortable. As he moves forward, he feels sweat rise from the walls at his sides. Reaching the landing, the temperature seems to abruptly increase.

In the silence of the deserted dwelling, Victor pauses at the landing as he hears a sound. It travels down the stairs from the first-floor. With caution heavy in his heart, he trudges on and arrives in the upper-floor room. There is a kitchen. He’d found the source of cabbage fetor it seemed. Yet Victor perceives another odour mingling with the putrid cabbage smell. Something resembling a melange of sulphur and rotten eggs. He looks around and notics the oven open. Timid metallic clicks issue out its gapping mouth in a metronome-like rhythm. Inviting him to dance. A hob and a set of four dark burners brood above the stove. Gleaming with the grease covering them. One of the knobs of the hob points in a different direction from its twins. It’s rebellious. Invisible flames burn and dance, jutting from its sides, vying for oxygen and a spark. The oven keeps clicking, each click producing specks of light. Sweat drips down Victor’s forehead, falls from his jaw-line and plops to the ground. Now he knows. They hadn’t just escaped. They want to kill me! Again, the oven clicks, this time more resolutely. By now, he is already running but… too late. From behind he hears a bubbling explosion, feels the scorch of flames crawling through the air on his back. He has reached the top of the staircase and is about to hurtle himself down its steps when, suddenly, nothing. Nothing more.

As everything disappears, Victor finds his mind wandering back to the rider again. And he suddenly he thinks, No! That’s not possible. All this time, he’d been caught in a game of mouse and cats. Not a game of cat and mice.

Style Training With Ursula K. Le Guin, Exercise.2: Am I Saramago {2nd attempt}

Following Jane Dougherty’s advice (a talented fellow writer on this platform), I tried my hand at this exercise from Ursula K. Leguin’s book 📚 a second time. However, with a descriptive approach this time to see if it might work better. Also, I employed a lot of ‘logical connectors’.
Please tell me how I did!

UrsulaKLeGuin
[ A picture of the writer behind the book herself: Ursula K. Le Guin]

My attempt:

“Her coat was of a blushing rose colour when I saw her exit the supermarket at the end of the street and take a sharp left turn as she headed for the trams but it was not the kind of rose that you see on the fully dewed petals of pink morning roses when the entire world is still basking in the assuaging cradle of dreams but more like the kind of rose you see in those bright almost fluorescent bubblegum commercials with a kaleidoscope of different flashing lights that stab aggressively at your eyes from all imaginable angles and that have this sort of particularly attention-grabbing attribute to them that just reels you in and makes you drool at the mouth despite you trying to patiently remind yourself that on the contrary you don’t even like gum all that much anyway because you have always  found the texture disgusting and furthermore you consider the sugary taste overwhelmingly sweet yet somehow or another those cursed commercials still easily succeed in making you entirely forget all that and have you believe you can almost just vividly taste what the person behind the glaring screen currently enacting his or her role for the advertisement can taste as he or she chews on their big pink fleshy piece of rubber with a big glistening grin splashed across the canvas of their face while they repeat the catchphrase of  whichever brand sells the advertised item which you know is likely distributed by big bucks companies who hold no regard for how many rivers of poor countries they have polluted solely in order to manufacture their cheap product in heaps and get them into the hands of zombie consumers such as yourself who mindlessly consume whatever they advertise to you hence why you are wholly aware of all those things and why they plague you so with guilt as you make your way towards the cashier with your stupid two dollar packet of chewing gum thus basically admiting and bending the knee to the fact that despite everything they always succeed in making you wholly forget your feeble values when their blinding ads flash across your Tv screen and your mouth inevitably begins telling you that it craves that cheap piece of chewy plastic since all those chewy things look so appetizing and tempting and oh so gorgeous in their pinkish dressing after all”

– Issa Dioume

Style Training With Ursula K. Leguin, Exercise.1; Part.2

The second part of this first exercise follows similar instructions to the first with the added suggestion that the writer must describe an action or person feeling strong emotion. And to translate – through the movement of the prose- the emotions ( From: Steering the Craft, A 21st Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story)

Here, for my second piece of writing following the given instructions, I imagined a scene where a character is engulfed by an all-powerful feeling of grief and must overcome it. I attempted to portray, through the sound and rhythm of my prose, the pain felt by a character upon receiving a tragic news, as well as to make the tension of the moment be felt, and her bravery for powering through it all:

FIGHT!

What went first when the grave news was delivered by Thaltybius was the bottom-half of my face.  My lips hung limply like two pieces of raw flesh glued onto a pristine white dinner plate.  My jaw, incessantly clamped and released in sporadic spasms, quacking loudly, teeth grinding onto one another.  Tears streamed down freely, cascading on the bumps of my cheeks, unrestrained.  Too necessary to be restrained.  My eyes stared out before me at the great nothing, dead.  Two useless globes of grief.  Seeing but not truly seeing.  Present yet not truly present and haunting in their absence.  My mind was elsewhere, with him.

Next, it was my body that gave in.  Crumpling and crashing loudly on the ground like a tree whose trunk has been split open and cruelly chopped down by a Lumberjacks’ unforgiving axe.
Then, I lay there, feeling all the years of held-in pain catch up to me. He had been the only reason I had managed to keep it all stowed within, and now, now…well, now there was nothing.  Only pain, sorrow and an absence that made itself felt.  When I met him, I had been but a lonely little girl, lost and confused in world of infectious folly.  And he had arrived with his smile and blind confidence and he had been there when I needed it, always.  My pillar.  My centre.  My power.
The strength with which I wielded my spear in battle came from the knowledge that he would always be there, waiting with his smile that could launch a thousand armies in his name, had he attempted to use it as a weapon of mass persuasion.
Around me I could hear the screams of comrades begging me to get myself together and to quickly devise a new battle plan.  But, their pleas were directed at the wrong person.  The cause that was theirs was no longer mine.  It appeared all so insignificant now.

We had started this war in the name of freedom.  A rebellion against the old ways.  At least, that was the surface of it.  To us, it was an affirmation.  A fight for us to be together.  And now he was dead so it mattered no longer.  I looked up to Bron’seilk who stood by my side and she stared back.  I saw my pain reflected in her eyes. Yet, deep within I saw something else, something different, something I no longer possessed.  Determination.
Bron’seilk forced herself to smile at me and I could see how hard it had been for her to do so.  Her eyes were moist and vibrant.  Ready to pour their content at any instant.
‘Fight!’ she said, ‘Fight for all the lovers of this dreadful world.  Fight to give them a better chance!  And, fight so that this may never happen again!’.  And her words seemed to reverberate within me, as without noticing, without thinking it, my body had abruptly risen to its own two feet.  I maintained my gaze on her for a while.  Then, nodded.  She was right.  I would fight, to my last breath.  With all I had.  And, when all this would be over, I would cry as long as I would need on her shoulder. And, I would lend her mine, for as long as she would need it.

I shifted my focus back to the matter at hand, and immediately began to hatch out new plans[…]

Style Training With Ursula K. Leguin, Exercise.1; Part.1

The following written piece which you will read is a result of my first attempt at testing out an approach to writing advised by the exceptional Ursula K. Leguin. For the first exercise, Leguin chooses to focus on the sound of prose and its importance. Reminding us that prose does not have to be poetry to sound great! She gives a few examples of texts where the sound of prose aids greatly to make the reader feel what is going on and to set the entire atmosphere of the piece. How for example, certain sounds or alliterations are used to translate ideas of sadness or of  joy or of action. And explain the intricacies of the ‘movement’ of prose.

Here is the result of my first attempt of the first exercise of  
Steering the Craft
[…] by Ursula K. Leguin, she suggested two plot possibilities to try out the learned techniques (Climax of a ghost story or Inventing and Island and events which occur on it) :

Georges, Shipwrecked

On an island in the far-off ocean called Pumpernickel, a lone man washes ashore.  Time passes unperturbed until, finally, he wakes.  George was this man’s name.  And George was a man of little words.  He had been a fleet admiral on one of Her Majesty’s many vessels when suddenly, a storm broke out, sinking his ship and throwing him along with his crewmates overboard and to the mercy of the oceans capricious currents.
And, as George rose from the sandy beach to take in his surroundings, he wondered how he had survived and whether any other survivors had been carried to this little piece of land.
George was a tall and lanky man.  He often stood a head higher than most of the men he had come across in his lifetime.  But now, George had no one to be taller than.  And the absence of other human beings was a feeling quick to wash over him as he circled the islands’ coast for hours before returning to the same spot having met no one other than, his own shadow.
He was left with no other option but to accept the unavoidable:  He was alone, and he was lost and soon he would be hungry too and in dire need of shelter.  He knew he had to make a swift decision as the sun was dimming on the horizon and its light would slowly dwindle until naught remained but the afterglow.
So, George opted to build a house first for rain might come during the night and without a roof he would get wet and getting wet would give rise to sickness.  Which would in turn leave him in no state to be rummaging around the island for nourishment.
George built himself a small hut out of palm leaves and sticks in front of the entrance to the islands’ forest.  As floor and bed, he used sand which he brought from the beach.  And in the comfort of his improvised hut, George lay comfortably resting on the sandy floor.  He employed carefully the time before sleep arrived to take him away from this nightmare, by trying to guess where he might be.  He had been sailing on course for the West indies and had just about completed half the journey before the storm broke out.  But, the storm had carried them way off course for a while before the ship sank.  So, he could not ascertain where he had been.  And putting his memory through hard and strenuous work he attempted to recall all the courses Her Majesty’s vessels took when heading for the West Indies. He hoped one ship might pass by the island on which he was marooned for provisions or a quick rest.  Then, perhaps, he might be rescued.
George shivered.  Not from the cold.  He knew how unlikely that scenario was.  Yet, he hoped all the same for a miracle.  But he was tired, and his bones still ached from the ocean waves his body had been rumbled through.  So, he went to sleep hoping that night would bring him many a solution.

By Issa Dioume

Style Training With Ursula K. Le Guin[Project Explained]

I am currently reading ‘Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century guide to sailing the sea of Story’ by the incredible Ursula K. Leguin. This book contains a few writing exercises to do in order to better one’s writing style and narrative skills.
From now on, I will be posting the text I write using these specific exercises. I may do the same ones more than once due to the obvious fact that: practice makes perfect and doing something once does not guarantee it will stick with you.
I hope it will prove interesting for some. As style exercises are a great way to see a writer improve step by step. And, I highly hope it will be my case using this book. The book in itself is awesome, the author of it speaks for itself. Ursula K.Leguin is quite simply an amazing writer.

Jenny Ran Sur The Colline —- French & English !But, Same Themes & Ideas (By Issa Dioume in collaboration with Aimé Lesot)

Jenny courait sur la colline. Ses fossettes creusaient ses joues, témoignaient de sa joie manifeste. Ses pieds martelaient le chemin en terre, laissaient des empruntes et délogeaient les petits cailloux de leur cratère dorénavant appauvris. Devant: un horizon sans ligne – seulement de grands arbres, feutrant les rayons du soleil. Derrière: seulement le souvenir de ce qu’elle avait entraperçu dans sa course dépourvue de but premier. Elle était seule – heureuse – et jouissait de son isolation mouvante.

Solace, to her, was the fruit of exile and isolation. After moving from Maxmouth – a beautiful city in the countryside- to the big concrete urban jungle of San Peregio the stability of her family’s life, which had once been harmonious and a source of happiness for Jenny, came tumbling down. The earlier congeniality now found itself replaced by perpetual pandemonium. This was tantamount to swimming up a river and suddenly finding yourself falling off the edges of a waterfall.

Elle tombait souvent. Ses genoux et ses coudes étaient couverts de petites cicatrices – de croûtes quand elle venait à perdre l’équilibre. Jenny savait qu’il était impossible à l’Homme de remonter une chute d’eau, elle avait tenté, maintes fois, sans succès. Les courants nous poussent en un sens, un peu à la manière de la providence. De ce raisonnement métaphysique elle en avait déduit que rien ne pouvait se rembobiner, que tout était à assimiler, à comprendre, et que le rebond ne valait le plongeon que lorsqu’un soupçon de relief – de joie – pointait derrière un nuage. Et puis elle l’avait vu dans le ciel; et aujourd’hui elle avait décidé de nager à contre courant.
Elle courait, et derrière les arbres et le soleil feutré s’écrasait l’eau en bas d’une chute.

And she declared to the wind, thinking aloud, “Speak my name to the ventriloquist, beg him to stop cramming words into my mouth. Pain is the substance society thrives on. It thrives off of subjecting its subjects to pain” and she suddenly understood” I am the ventriloquist.” The camera panned out, zoomed through the air and framed a boy pedalling up a hill. As he pedalled away, the load became quite substantive and a bit rough on his calves. Nevertheless, the little boy went onwards to the top of the hill and there, stood admiring the sunshine.

By

Issa Dioume (English);poet/writer/lover of words

&

Aimé Lesot (French); poet/writer/ philosophy addict

English Writer’s website:

https://thebiligualwriter.com

French Writer’s website:

https://aimelesot.wordpress.com

Where Do They All Fall? [Flashfiction] by Issa Dioume

My boiling blood told me they all fall one day, grow stark cold, then roll away, forgotten. Leaving behind a sweet serenade of stupor accompanied by the slow dwindling of memories. My boiling blood told me it would go cold turkey one day, too; simply stop warming my bones and flesh.Without warning. I know yet fear the cold. I can’t yet wish to escape its grasp, but then again, where would I go? I am tied by a twig to the tree of life, dangling in midair and ripe for the plucking.

At night, I hear flowing blood reverberating in my ears, urging me to listen to the beating drum of my heart; a repetitive rhythm slowly coming to a stop.

In winter my blood boils warmer, to keep me safe from the freeze. It’s effective. It cares for me, I think.

The landscape unravels like a fakir deploying his magical carpet and slowing floating toward the sky and off into the sunset. The clouds are pretty today. I didn’t quite like yesterday’s clouds. What will tomorrow’s be like? It’s, perhaps, not something people care for but, I do. I care, for clouds.

And, I care about where they all go when they fall. Those boiling fruits of blood. Hanging loosely from that dreadful tree.

Division Revision- [Poem] by Issa Dioume

Sometimes the water flows
Sometimes the water stills
Stilling my hopes in crypts

Sometimes it rains on my face
Sometimes sun radiates off of it
Burning men like cigarettes

Sometimes I care.
Sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I share.
Sometimes I won’t.

Blue birds fly unseen in the sky.
Only perceived when poked in the eye.
Manichean Mannequins of wonder.

Wanderers under a flattening roof
Unimpaired by water. It’s Rustproof.

Look yonder to cross the border.
As we are: birds of the same feather

Written by Issa Dioume

Author’s website:

Issa Dioume’s writing

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