Saturday, April 26, 2008

Brief as Photos – 1: Lara’s Story

This is going to be totally off from what I've been blogging so far (I'll be back to regular programming on Monday). I just finished reading Paul Theroux’s Twenty-Two Stories in Harper’s and felt moved to write a brief story of no more than a thousand words. I have this crazy idea of writing one story a week; that's 52 stories or approximately 52,000 words in one year. The question is -- would I be able to keep it up? I will also be traveling this summer for six weeks, so that's an added twist. But I want to try and see if I can do this (and you will help keep me honest, won't you?). These would be short-short fictional stories with mostly a Foreign Service slant; I'm not sure there is a name for this genre - but I'm calling this haiku fiction. The working title for this series is “Brief as Photos,” after John Berger’s 1992 book, “And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos.” But as Yoda says "No. Try not. Do... or do not." So here's my first do at 460 words:

1: Lara’s Story

Lara was not a vengeful woman. She was raised to believe that a higher order would sort out all injustice in the next world. All sins would be paid in full. Turning your left cheek instead of hitting back had been drummed into her and she believed in it. After the attack on the World Council's headquarters, she was in church often; trying to find meaning to the destruction of lives, the purpose of suffering bravely, the necessity of good and evil coexisting in a fragile world such as hers. She wondered often if God was sleeping on his job, for how else could one explain the horrendous act that had invaded her small intimate world like a wooden mallet hitting glass.

Why she lived while they passed on still remained a mystery to her. The reel in her mind played on like a 24/7 show: She and Lisa sitting in a corner eating ice cream flakes; her husband, Jeremy, who was having a late morning meeting with the Pacific Sector diplomats was just coming down from the moving walkway. They smiled and waved at him. Her daughter dropped her doll and Lara quickly ducked under the table to retrieve it. There was a blinding light and then there was nothing. She thought about the woman in Hiroshima, a hundred years ago who had her daughter on her lap when the bomb was dropped. The Japanese mother lived to be an old woman but not the daughter who was on her lap, who perished that day. How do you explain something like that?

She had nothing else to live for after that. For two months she did nothing but stared at her family’s photographs and cried. Until one day, she discovered the well in her eyes had become completely dry. That was when Lara joined the World Intelligence Service as an operative. She was first assigned to the Eurasian Sector to track down some liquid metal smugglers. She was efficient and effective. She was dangerous to the enemy not because of her lethal skills but because the part of her brain that regulates fear had vanished like smoke with her husband and daughter in that fateful morning.

Lara was not a vengeful woman, and yet, when she learned that the mastermind of the World Council’s bombing was in Japan, that was where she went. She found him in Bonin Islands, south of the capital city, looking like a prosperous oriental business man. She told herself, all she wanted was to ask him why? But he laughed at her face and called them the collateral damage of war. So she fed him fugu liver and watched him slowly die. Then she went for a swim and was never heard of again.

Read: Brief as Photos Disclaimer

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