Featured Young Mind of the Week

Fatima Mohammed is an exceptional young one. She never backs down from a challenge and truly tests the limits of her writing. She’s versatile, expressive, candid, and doesn’t publish with us often, but when she does–it’s always something to look forward to. This quarter’s Young Minds of Medium Challenge was: “Tell Me About Your Neighborhood/City/Country” and Fatima not only tackled the challenge brilliantly as I knew she would–she did so uniquely. She is our Young Mind of the Week. And now, her featured work . . .


Simulation

Young Minds of Medium My Home

The sound of her friends from the next compound playing a game of ten-ten, stamping their feet in drawn up chalk squares on the dusty ground, drifted up to Ebi’s ears like the aroma of the spicy Suya from across the street often drifted up to her nose and made her mouth water. The urge to defy her mother’s rules and run out to play with them spread slowly to every inch of her body like spilled water meandering into the cracks of the kitchen tiles.

But Ebi knew she couldn’t give in, so she watched from her room. The criss-cross of the mosquito netting depicting tiny cage bars and obstructing the full view of the fast-paced movements of her friends’ hands and feet.

She imagined she was there. She was the one playing a game of tinko with Blessing, her hands moving swiftly, and every slap of their hands together caused a resounding clap that put a smile on both their faces.

Next, she saw herself playing “African bend down” as the other children, after finishing their extra lessons, joined in and the group got larger. They chanted, “sugar!” “pepper!” and clapped their hands over one another’s heads as each person ducked at their turn.

Ebi saw herself roaring in laughter as her hands collided with Amaka’s head when she failed to bend. She saw herself vehemently disagreeing when Amaka begged for another chance and explained to her that the whole point of the game was bending and if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be called African “bend down.”

Ebi felt the pain in her legs from running around after a long game of fire on the mountain. She also saw herself sitting breathlessly with the others as they each sipped a bottle of fifty Naira zobo from the vendor under the pawpaw tree. She saw herself, cheeks bulging with the red, almost blood-like colour of the sweet drink, threatening to ruin both Blessing and Amaka’s white school uniform shirts with a single drop from her mouth just because she had worn her sweater over her own shirt that day.

She saw the three of them roam the streets, stealing mangoes from Mr. Chubi’s tree, which seemed to produce long after its season. Then she saw them walking all the way to Blessing’s house just to sneak into the cinema close by and watch R-rated movies.

She saw them as they would sing “I’m not okay,” by My Chemical Romance on their way back, louder than their voices allowed them, every note cracked by their unpleasant singing as they affirmed themselves that they weren’t going through a phase like their mothers had said but they really loved everything about classic rock, metal music and screamo.

She was about to see herself under the pawpaw tree after the vendor had left; the stars illuminating the very spot she was sharing a late-night kiss with Dele, the senior boy who had taken an interest in her. But her mother shouting about the spike in Coronavirus cases in Nigeria aggressively flung her from her daydream and back into reality.

It reminded her that no one was outside. Not her friends in the next compound playing, nor the mallam selling Suya across the street orthe vendor under the pawpaw tree with chilled bottles of zobo, and the cinema hadn’t been open in months.

The sounds she thought she heard were a simulation her brain had created to survive the isolation from everything she loved. It had been happening a lot lately, but Ebi couldn’t deny that it made it all easier.

So she lay back down, ignoring her mother’s rant, and continued her conversation with Dele, standing in the spotlight from the stars, under the pawpaw tree.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.

The Strange, Unforgettable Little World of Tyson Liston

Part II: The Stapler Thief

Photo by Everyday basics via Unsplash

“Son! Have you seen my stapler?”

Roger looks all over their cabin-style home for his favorite stapler. He has a project he’s working on and one of the key tools to use is his heavy-duty stapler. Their home is quiet — only the hum or the a.c. unit can be heard. Dena and Celia are both out doing the weekly shopping, so he and Tyson are manning the fort.

“Son! The stapler, have you seen it?!”

Tyson is fiddling with a few knick-knacks for his train set — careful not to misplace anything. Since he found out the magical toy comes to life when no adults are around, he is adamant about being discreet. He is mindful of how he explains what he’s doing and why. The last thing he needs is for his parents or sister to begin snooping around his “secret place.” He barely hears his father as he enters the family room.

“Shh! I think I hear my dad coming.” He warns Tyson#2 as he risks his existence to listen carefully for Roger.

“Son. Hey, Tyson, buddy. Did you hear me? Have you seen my stapler? I am working on a project for your mom and I need it.”

“No, sir. I haven’t seen it. I thought Celia had it last, but then again, Mom likes that stapler too.”

“Oh, God. If your mom had her hands on it, there’s no telling where it is by now. I’ll just wait until they come back from the store and I’ll ask her about it. How’s the train set?”

Tyson watches his dad’s eyebrows arch in a peaked position — eager to hear his report about his grandpa’s gift. The old man did a little two-step when he heard the whistle blow last night. Tyson was going to have to keep his eyes on him.

“It’s great! It’s the perfect gift! I’m nearly done setting up the village.”

Roger tousles his son’s hair, turns on his heels, and walks briskly down the hall to the kitchen. Tyson checks on Tyson#2 and finds him standing by the window.


Photo by Brandon Morgan via Unsplash

“Hey, there. What are you doing?”

“That thing your dad’s, (well, our dad) looking for. Is it big, pink & white, and has a floppy, sharp edge?”

“Yes! It’s his favorite stapler! Why?! Have you seen it?”

Tiny Tyson has a look of guilt plastered on his face. He tries to find the right words to explain to Tyson the whereabouts of the stapler.

“Well, yeah . . . kinda. Johnny Boots, Tommy Townes, Mikey Loops, and me — we dragged it out back, made ourselves a diving board for the pool. It’s so hot out. We were going to put it back later, didn’t think anyone would miss it.”

“A diving board? You guys could’ve gotten hurt. Do you even know what a stapler does?”

“Well, it’s a pretty good diving board right now.”

Tyson waves Tiny Tyson off with the flick of his hand. He leans his head over the roof of their tiny home, looks to his right, and locates the stapler.

“I’m putting this back where it belongs. This isn’t a toy.”

“You sound like one of the grownups.”

“Well. Well . . . Someone needs to be a grownup in this here village. You can’t go stealing things or taking them without asking. You’ll get me into big trouble if you do.”

“Okay, calm down. I didn’t know it would stir up such a fuss. I’ll be more careful.”

Tyson runs as quickly as he can to his dad’s tool shed. He finds his toolbox, lifts it quietly, and places the stapler in the upper compartment. Roger circles back around for one more check.

“Buddy, I can’t believe this. I’ve looked everywhere. Are you sure you haven’t seen my stapler?”

“I’m sure, Dad. Have you checked your toolbox?”

“I did! That’s the first place I looked. I’ll go and give it another look-see, though. Couldn’t harm things at all.”

Roger shuffles off to his tool shed, picks up his toolbox, and breathes out a sigh of relief. His stapler sat perfectly placed in the upper compartment.

“Found it!” He yells to his son excitedly.

Tyson looks at Tiny Tyson, stifles a giggle, and signals him to be quiet.

“Shh, that’ll be our little secret.”

And it was.


Part I

Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

 

 

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Beware of Stormy Weather

Musical Selection|Jill Scott: Not Like Crazy

Beware of Stormy Weather

Flash Fiction

Photo by engin akyurt via Unsplash

They’d tried to warn me, but I didn’t listen. I was drawn to her, like bees to honey — connected without thread and I knew once we kissed, that’d be the end of me. I remember the day we met. Her wild hair was blowing in the wind, her lips quivered and I wanted to place a single finger on them to steady their tremble.

It was a cold, blustery day, the sun decided to sleep in longer than usual. We met on the A-train. She entered from the platform and scanned the guts of the mighty beast headed East towards Grove Street. Her eyes landed on me. I moved my backpack from the only free seat remaining and she plopped her mother’s gift of an ass down next to me — thighs thick and welcoming. I tried not to stare. We were too close not to talk. I broke the ice.

“I’m Cash. What’s your name?”

“I’m Stormy. Weather. Stormy Weather.”

My eyes widened. I thought she misspoke or maybe I didn’t hear her correctly.

“Come again?”

“You heard right the first time.”

“No shit!? So, there’s a story behind this, right? There’s gotta be a story.”

“If you wanna call two teenagers high off Quaaludes and weed, bumming it out in my dad’s bungalow, who named their firstborn while listening to Jefferson Airplane a story, then yeah. There’s nothing moving about it. They were young, high, horny, and there was a storm. Factor in my dad’s last name — Weather, and you’ve got ‘Stormy Weather.’”

I watched her mouth as she spoke. She had a chipped tooth. Her tongue also looked pierced. I didn’t wanna stare but I did.

“Stare harder and I’ll have to charge you.”

She smirked in a sexy, inviting way. I wanted to know more about this woman sitting next to me on the A-train. Where was she from? What did she like to do? Why did she smell like the first day of summer back in ’88?

So fresh and new . . .

“Anyway, enough about my name. Who gets branded with a name like ‘Cash’ and doesn’t talk about it?”

“We can talk about it. ‘Cash’ is short for ‘Cashion’. My last name is ‘Day’. If you want me to take it a step further, I’ll share my middle name too. ‘Free.’ So, ‘Cashion Free Day’ at your service.”

She was now the one staring and I gotta tell you, something in me stirred up quicker than I could tame it. She smiled and I noticed two deep dimples crown her cheeks. I waited for her to speak.

“Okay, so there’s a story, right?”

“Touché. My parents are hardcore activists and human rights officials. They spearheaded a non-profit organization, the whole nine . . . When I was born, they cashed in on their loan approval and sought freedom from the average 9-5 everyone else seemed to work. Thus, the names ‘Cashion’ and ‘Free’ were given to me. I have my mom’s last name. They never married, but they’re still together.”

“Well, what’s your dad’s last name?”

“Bottoms.”

We laughed. A few people on the train looked up from their devices to catch us locked into each other. They quickly went back to ignoring us.

“Well, Stormy. The next stop is mine. When’s yours?”

“It’s mine as well. You wanna grab a bite to eat? My treat. I know this little soul food spot — a hole in the wall, but the collard greens and mac-n-cheese are heaven-sent.”

“How do you know I don’t already have plans?”

“I just know.”

“Oh? Is that right?”

“That’s right, cuz whatever plans you have, they’ve now been changed.”

She winked at me, that same smirk covering her face. I was gonna fall for her and there’d be no stopping it. The train came to a halt in the station. The squeaky doors opened and we exited. I turned to look at her in full view and that’s when it happened. She kissed me. Not just a peck on the lips, but an open-up-your-damn-mouth-and-let-me-in kiss. I fell in sync with her. My hands strayed away from my sides, finding her mid-back, then resting there. Her tongue was definitely pierced. I was in trouble.

Deep trouble.

“Here, lemme put my number in your phone.”

“Okay.”

“When we’re done with dinner, you can call me to set up our next date.”

“You don’t waste any time, do you?”

“I don’t, especially when I want something or someone.”

She wanted me and I wanted her and all we had in common so far were crazy names given to us by our parents. Still . . . I was caught up and there was no turning back now, not even if I tried.

“Be careful. I might bite. Aren’t you even a little scared?”

“I bite harder. And no, I’m not scared.”


I am sitting in this god-awful butcher shop, waiting for the cuts of meat my mom ordered and a woman who looks just like Stormy walks by. I got a glimpse of her profile — no deep dimples. She stops to look into the windows — pork’s the special for the afternoon. Larry, the butcher, always puts a huge sign out with a list of specials and a bonus $3 off, if you can guess what the next day’s special is. This woman, although not Stormy, struck up so many memories of her within me.

I thought back to that first day on the A-train. How she moved fluidly — one with the world, without even thinking about it. And I smelled her. I could taste her. I remembered everything about each moment we shared.

Three years later, she left me for a woman she met on the #2-train named ‘Dawn Knight’ and I’ve had this damn dark cloud over my head ever since.

*Ping* “#15! Order up! A pound of steak, a pound of pork chops, and two pounds of thick-cut beef bacon.”

A damn dark cloud.


Originally published in Prism & Pen via Medium.

The Strange, Unforgettable Little World of Tyson Liston

Flash Fiction

Photo by Jarod Lovekamp via Pexels

Tyson’s Grandpa Joe bought him a Hornby Collection Br Class 5MT 4–6–0 Era 11 Model Train and a small, unique village to accompany it for his eighth birthday. Tyson’s dad, Roger, put the old locomotive model set together for his son. They sat alongside the living room couch, sprawled out on the cool hardwood floor, creating what they believed to be art. Tyson looked on in amazement, eager to commandeer the train from his dad and shout “Vroom-Vroom” and “Choo-Choo” as loud as he could. The village had little trees, people, railroad crossings, businesses, and tiny homes cramped in five separate boxes. It also included a conductor and engineer — in their very own boxes.

When Roger finished, he stood up, signaled his son to do the same, and they each ogled the scene before them. They salivated in wait, invigorated by a deep passion and connection between father and son. Roger gave Tyson the thumb’s up, and he jumped straight into action. He stepped away from his son, satisfied with his endeavor.

Alone with his prized possession, he bid the conductor to conduct, the engineer to navigate, and looked in on his village people and their families. He was animated in his voice-overs and fancied every piece before his eyes.

“Attention all passengers, this is your conductor speaking. We have several stops ahead of us and the first will be Quantum Row. Please have your tickets ready for verification and do enjoy the ride.”

Tyson blew heavy breaths from his thin lips, giving his best impromptu steam of the engine and roared on with a deep, guttural whistle from his belly. An avid fan of The Polar Express, he pulled on the hem of his t-shirt and threw a baseball cap on his head. He tapped the bill just as a conductor would. He channeled Tom Hanks as he continued.

“Tickets, please. Tickets, please. Have your tickets ready.” Just as he was beginning to fake verify tickets, the train moved on its own. The conductor sprang to life. He looked into the homes of the village people, and they were alive as well — moving on with their days as planned.

He rubbed his eyes. He shook his head. He stood up and looked down at the toy set and all its pieces, then kneeled back down for a closer look.

“What . . . what did you say?” Tyson looked at the conductor with both fear and excitement in his eyes.

“I said, tickets, please, young man! Where is your ticket?”

He sprang up quickly as straight as an arrow and fumbled around the living room for a piece of paper. Surely, the conductor wouldn’t care about his fake ticket — he just needed to have one. He chewed the inside of his cheek, nervously bent back down to the conductor’s eye-level, and handed him a small, ripped off piece of paper.

“Thank you, young man. You may take your seat.”


Photo by Felix Mittermeier via Unsplash

He sat down, slightly overwhelmed by the actions of his toy train set and its accompanying pieces, but he was definitely curious. He peeked into the windows of the village people. A family of four — mother, father, son, and daughter, were having breakfast. His gargantuan head and pool-sized eyes frightened them as he stared at their seemingly normal life. The mother screamed and pointed directly at him. The father bolted upright from his seat and raced toward the window — shouting boisterously at Tyson.

“Hey! What are you doing there?! What in heaven’s name? What are you?!”

Tyson backed away from the window and crawled a few inches to his right. Another family seemed to settle in for the evening. A mother, a daughter, a cat, and a dog. No father. No son. Just a quiet evening for them — or what looked like it. He lingered on and noticed the mother and daughter resembled his mother and sister. He leaned in closer and gasped unexpectedly.

“Mom! Celia! What is go-in-g on . . . What’s happening?”

He searched each room of this home with darting eyes. If his mother and sister were there, surely he and his dad had to be around somewhere. But how could he be in two places at once? This place didn’t even look like their actual house. He lifted the roof of the tiny home and searched each room, growing even more curious as he scanned the area. He found a strong, stout, and handsome man clearing boxes from the family room’s floor. He also found a little boy standing next to him.

“Dad? Hey! Hey! That’s me! How is . . . What is . . .? This can’t be happening.”

Little him looked up and nodded in his direction. He moved closer and opened his mouth to speak. Tyson pulled himself together, eager to hear what this tiny version of him had to say.

“So, you can see us? Can you hear us? Can you hear me, I mean . . . Can you hear you?”

Tyson nearly fainted. He rubbed his eyes in a hurried motion, bit the inside of his cheek once more, and fell back on his bottom.

“This can’t be real. I’m asleep. I’m asleep. Wake up. Wake up, Tyson!”

“You’re not asleep, silly. This is our world. We created it. Didn’t you know this would happen when you and Dad began setting up this place?”

“But, how come Dad can’t hear me or Mom or Celia? Why only you? I mean, me. I mean . . .”

“Grandpa Joe made us. He blew magic dust behind my ears and gave me the ability to hear and see you — me. I’m the only one in our family who can.”

Grandpa Joe was a jokester, but magic dust? Talking miniature versions of him and his family? A conductor who sounded and looked like Tom Hanks?! He would have a talk with Grandpa Joe, but first things first.

“Will you always be . . . you know — um, alive,” He asked Little Tyson. He twiddled his thumbs as he waited for the answer.

“As long as you are, I will be.”

“But, I’m gonna grow up. I won’t stay eight years old forever. Will you?”

“You must ask Grandpa Joe about that. He whispered nothing to me about growing with you — me.”

Tyson could hear his dad’s footsteps coming toward them. And as quickly as the action started, it phased into nothingness. The train stopped. Families froze in place. And Little Tyson stood by the window, a clever smirk covered his face.

Tyson placed the roof back onto his family’s house. “What a strange, unforgettable little world,” he mumbled.

Roger was interested in knowing what his son thought about his birthday gift. He patted his belly lightly and brushed his left hand over his beard to smooth it before speaking.

“So buddy, whachu’think?”

With an intense interest in his eyes and a glow all about his small body, he repeated — this time, so his dad could hear, “What a strange, unforgettable little world.”


Originally published in The Weekly Knob via Medium.

Donation

Creative content straight from the mind of an innovator trying to shift the world with her writing.

$1.25

Featured Audio Poem of the Week

Wild Flower, or The Wild One as I like to call her, has been on Medium for four years and ever since she appeared, she has been making waves. A familiar face from my days as Editor of This Glorious Mess, I was incredibly happy to have her contribute to A Cornered Gurl as well. She answered the call to “Sound Off” with an audio poem and it is truly incredible. I have been amazed by her growth and transformation into this beast of a writer and I hope I am around long enough to see her continue to evolve.

I won’t dote on her any longer . . . Here’s the piece in question, They Call Me Chaos.


Photo by Miguel Salgado on Unsplash

They Call Me Chaos

An audio poem

They call me chaos,
a complete contradiction
to myself.
Pages of disarray, defined as
a little too abstruse
obscured views, built on foundations
not quite ready to hold
my heavy.

Yes, I feel the weight
of the world beneath me.
I carry your loss
as much as my own.
My throne has not yet
come to me.

I am queen somewhere,
but this life and I
are not yet aligned
to build the bridges required
to save us all
from the inevitable
f a l l
we are facing.

Still, I will hold my arms wide,
tie myself to the core of the problem.
I will stretch each limb to the rim
of your hurt, and hold it
for as long as required.
I will not let go
until I am wise enough
to find the solution.

Yes, they call me chaos,
they say my dreams are
unattainable.

I am a box of worms because the
can they locked me in
could not contain me.

Pandora showed me the way
and in my world,
we speak what we feel,
we use art and poetry
to shield the bigots away.
We hold hands and
embrace each other
through languages
that don’t divide us.

Come and find us,
everyone eats at this table
and not a single shot is fired.

I can’t breathe through your knee
is echoed into a verse that initiates
actual change, that stays,
long enough for the world
to see the wounds it has created.
Providing a bandage
big enough to wrap our hearts
around the start of
something different.

There you have it,
come along for the ride
or turn your stride
away from me.
I will be somewhere else,
writing it out
and taking on the world
as I see it.

They call me chaos
and for as long as I can remember
I have been searching for a way to say
this is me and I am proud of it.


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium.