ELEVATION – STEPHEN KING

Image result for Elevation + Stephen King

“Elevation” (“The Book”) is more Haruki Murakami than Stephen King. And this radical realization is what makes the book frighteningly marvelous. If this comes across as leveling an allegation of imitation, then I beg forgiveness from Mr. King. The comparison is solely, exclusively and sincerely restricted to the mystique at the periphery that beautifully complements the majesty forming the core.

In the quaint and unassuming town of Castle Rock known more for its formidable grape vine than the fascinating sweep of urbanization, forty-two-year-old Scott Carey has on his hands a unique medical problem weighing upon him literally. Rapidly losing oodles of weight without even a semblance of change in either fitness or fat, Carey is left facing a contradiction between a rapidly dipping scale and an increasingly refreshing disposition. Unwilling to become a medical exhibit of involuntary repute and irritating fame, Carey confides his predicament to his friend and the by now retired septuagenarian doctor, Billy. Both the experienced doctor and his exasperated confidant are at their wit’s end trying to unearth the primary cause behind their confounding predicament.

Castle Rock, at this juncture finds itself playing host to two women who are married to one another, and who also happen to be enterprising chefs trying to make their mark in the catering industry. Because of their relationship, Deirdre McCoomb and her wife Missy Donaldson are met with apprehension and anger by the populace of Castle Rock.

When both Deidre McCoomb with her icy disposition and Scott Carey enroll in the annual Thanksgiving 12 Kilometer run, their destinies undergo a transformation the likes of which could never have been envisaged by either of them, even in their wildest fantasies!

King, in this short but wonderfully resonant book sizzles and manages to strike an emotional and evocative chord with his reader. The physical plight challenging Cary and the societal stigma beleaguering Missy and McCoomb both have a common thread running through them. They both unify and cleave. The racy narrative and the incredibly ingenious plot are putting it mildly – dazzling. King has this extraordinary ability to be prosaic yet profound. Abhorring verbal bombast and convoluted story-telling, the master of the mysterious is at his usual matter-of-fact method. A method that is singularly magnificent and simply sensational. These attributes find a higher ‘elevation’ and a broader calling in this latest work. A very ‘un-Stephen-King’ like work, yet bearing his unmistakable imprimatur, Elevation might signal the entry of a restored, rebooted and reformulated author whose likes are indeed a rarity.

If this is actually the case, then the literary world better watch out. There is a new ‘Shining’ star that is raring to set the horizon alight!

Homeward Bound

(Photo Credit: Rochelle Wisoff-Fields)

With the languid grace of a gymnast, Parveen landed with a soft thud and precisely braced knees on the damp mud surrounding the embankment. Gingerly wading her way through the mass of foul smelling water, she crossed over towards the second pillar whose base was partly hidden by a dense undergrowth of Sparganium eurycarpum or bur-weed.

The desperate wails had now turned to tired whimpers. Looking into the exhausted but gleaming eyes of the child Parveen went down on her knees and tenderly picked her up.

“Where are you taking me?” the shrill voice was filled with terror.

“Home”.

(Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

 For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

The credit for the breathtaking photograph goes to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

Flattening Our Future

“Mum is this what we call an “exvacator?” ten-year-old Ashita wondered out aloud.

“It is an excavator, Ashita”, responded Joanne while gingerly leading her daughter away from the damp mud and dampening surrounding.

“Gee, look at the speed with which it levels the soil” Ashita excitement was contagious.

(Photo Credit: wildverbs)

“You are right my child”, Joanne said losing herself for a minute in the wide expanse of muck, machinery, and men. “Is it just the soil that is being leveled or is it a flattening of our very future?” There was now a tinge of poignancy in her tone.

“Mum?” Ashita looked up at her mother with a mixture of bewilderment and alarm.

“Oh I am sorry my child. Just wanted to make you understand that creation is born out of destruction. But what we create might also destroy us. While cleared lakes may transform into cozy houses, there can be no comfort in thirst.

“So Mum, is Mother Nature the greatest leveler?”

“Absolutely my love” smiled Joanne bending to gently kiss the top of Ashita’ head.

(WORD COUNT: 175)

This story has been written as part of the FLASH FICTION FOR ASPIRING WRITERS – FFfAW Challenge #191, more details about which may be found HERE

For reading similar entries submitted in response to the FFfAW Challenge #191 please click HERE

Thank You wildverbs for the photograph!

Preserving Pictures and Purity – An Odyssey from Canyon to Canon

(Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon, AZ | Google Maps)

The Canyon was bathed in a magisterial hue of light reflecting the invincible power of the radiant sun. The magnificent Orb, the very source of life for the only Planet with recorded inhabitation was serenely enveloping the imperial rock formations. Thousands of shutters clicked and clacked away in unison with uncontrolled exclamations and unbelievable finger shifts. The spectacular sights this evening would be fodder for envy on Instagram tomorrow.

Parveen watched with a tinge of amusement and melancholy at the chattering tourists. Bucket lists would be ticked off, as would be showboating with selfies, but the rampant march of climate change will continue unabated. Flooding was shifting vegetation along the Colorado River to species with more drought-tolerant traits. Native willows, rushes and cattails were in great peril.

Mankind had to do something; she had to do something. Something that would go beyond mere rhetorical campaigns and Canon DSLR selfies!

(Word Count: 150)

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw

For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

Stone Age & Cartilage

JSBrand2

(Photo Credit: JS Brand)

Neither an overcast morning nor an overhang of the ominously dark clouds dampened the enthusiasm of the two geriatrics as they cautiously ambled their way out the hotel and onto the cobblestone street. Peering intently over their copies of the pocket guide book, Zampa and Keith trudged along towards “The Spectacle of the Two Horses”. The pointed end of their umbrellas made a resounding clatter each time they came down.

“Keith, there you are!” Zampa was all glee as he made his way to the platform on which was erected the two magnificent horse sculptures.

“Zampa, it’s not at all far. The horses are right up ahead!” responded Keith, following Zampa.

“Of course they aren’t made of lead. They are cast in plain stone”, Zampa retorted

“No, No a nose does not have a bone. It’s just cartilage”, now Keith was angry.

“Balderdash & Malarkey! It wasn’t built in the stone age”, Zampa turned irate.

A “Keep Silent” plaque hushed both Keith and Zampa thereby giving them not only a golden opportunity to marvel at the imperial pair of horses but also to realise the fact that both of them had unwittingly forgot to put on their hearing aids.

(Word Count: 199)

Written as part of Sunday Photo Fiction. Write a story of around 200 words based on the photo prompt given (above). Hosted by Susan Spaulding. For more details, visit HERE.

To read more of the stories based on this week’s prompt, visit HERE

The Fifth Risk – Michael Lewis

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If Michael Lewis was to pen a 1,000 pager on the philosophical disposition of ants, that treatise would undoubtedly stand on top of the bestseller pile. Ushering in an Avant garde style of writing that has technology for a back bone, intuition for a brain and an indomitable imprimatur that breathes life into the overall structure, this phenomenal author has regaled his audience repeatedly over the course of many years. While his latest book “The Fifth Risk” (“the book”) is no exception, it however marks a significant departure from his erstwhile books. This book is an exception in spite of not being one! “The Fifth Risk” is a paean to the unsung, a deification of the unseen and a tribute to the unassuming. These stellar characters comprise the multitude of non-decrepit men and women who form an integral part of the American federal work force. It is this very bunch of selfless heroes who have been totally neglected by the Trump administration.

Focusing on three obscure Government agencies, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce, Lewis elects to elevate (deservingly so) the bureaucrats working tirelessly to ensure that the American populace lead a life of relative comfort and safety. The raison d’être characterizing the selection of these three departments is a reason that is extraordinarily close to Lewis’ heart – a relentless churning of an improbable quantity of humongous data. It is the effort of these indomitable yet isolated soldiers that Lewis intends to celebrate when he states, “We don’t really celebrate the accomplishments of government employees They exist in our society to take the blame.”

At the core and crux of this page turner is the ridiculous transition period (or an utter disregard of the same by Messrs. Trump and Co) between the controversial 2016 election and President Trump’s inauguration. It is common knowledge and a statutory necessity that every outgoing administration assists the incoming party prepare to understand the at times mystical workings of a myriad departments, agencies and functions of government. While true to this tenet, the Obama administration spent invaluable time preparing exhaustive briefing books and presentations for their successors, irrespective of the party to which they belonged, the bureaucrats were in for a rude shock. The successors just refused to turn up! Paraphrasing a former top official in the Energy Department “We had tried desperately to prepare them, but that required them to show up. And bring qualified people. But they didn’t.”  A gob smacking lapse considering the nuances and intricacies involved in manning and running these departments. John MacWilliams, a former investment banker turned Energy sector expert who was initially goaded by Obama to make the Department of Energy his home, elucidates in a matter of fact manner, the complicated rubric that runs throughout the Department. “Everything was acronyms, I understood 20 to 30 percent of what people were talking about. There were physicists everywhere. Guys whose ties don’t match their suits. Passive nerds. Guys who build bridges.”

When the Trump administration finally showed up, it was an unparalleled exhibition of utter disaster. Not possessing the requisite security clearances, some of the Trump officials displayed blatant disinterest and flagrant disregard. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture staffers had prepared 2,300 pages of materials, but the Republican staffers failed to show up until a month after the election, and when they showed up, they were just HIM – yes just a solitary individual. Demonstrating a blatant and myopic ideology, the Trump administration queried the Energy Department for lists of staffers who had worked on climate change, or going one regressive step further, instructing the USDA to stop using the term “climate change” altogether.

This lackadaisical attitude has resulted in an intolerable and undesirable disruption in the hitherto smooth working of the important Government machineries. As Lewis emphasizes, “Some of the things any incoming president should worry about are fast-moving: pandemics, hurricanes, terrorist attacks, but most are not. Most are like bombs with very long fuses that, in the distant future, when the fuse reaches the bomb, might or might not explode.”

In fact, it might have been a blessing in disguise if the Trump “landing teams” had failed to put in an appearance. When the President elect’s team finally turned up, it was for the worse. Donald Trump appointed the former Texas governor Rick Perry as energy secretary. The vituperative Perry, who once said he wanted to abolish the Energy department (he also wanted to abolish Commerce and Education), didn’t ask for a briefing on any D.O.E. program when he arrived. The de facto and de jure person in charge was Thomas Pyle, a lobbyist funded by the epitome of capitalism Koch Industries and the beachhead of the oil and gas industry, ExxonMobil. Tarak Shah, chief of staff for the department’s $6 billion basic-science program says “We had tried desperately to prepare them … but that required them to show up. And bring qualified people. But they didn’t. They didn’t ask for even an introductory briefing. Like, ‘What do you do?’”

“The Fifth Risk” is a study in contrasts. On one end of the administrative continuum, we have the likes of Kathy Sullivan, a geologist and astronaut (the first American woman to walk in space) who was in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and whose endeavors included repairing NOAA’s polar-satellites program as well as studying how people can better respond to weather emergency notifications — thereby boosting their chances of survival. On the other extreme end of a continuum, there is the lethargic Trump administration rooted in ignorance and reeking with arrogance. As Lewis summarises, “If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems, there is an upside to ignorance, and a downside to knowledge. Knowledge makes life messier.”

“The Fifth Risk” is a rousing story of an unfortunate disconnect between honesty and haughtiness. It is also the chronicle of a discord that has at its edifice the very future of a population constituting the largest democracy on the Planet. More than everything else it is a brilliant demonstration of the obnoxious trajectory that an ideological administration is set upon to the overall detriment of an entire nation. The entire book can be encapsulated in a paragraph where a visibly upset and raging Trump goes ballistic upon being informed that his transition planners were raising funds to pay for staff. “You’re stealing my money! You’re stealing my f—ing money!” Trump screamed at a befuddled and bemused Chris Christie.

Yes, there has been a theft. But as Lewis brilliantly illustrates, it has been a theft of confidence, a pillaging of conviction and a pilfering of caution. Right now American democracy is unfortunately deemed by a prejudiced Trump leadership to be one, by the ignorant, for the ignorant and of the ignorant.

The Arrow Of Wisdom

(Photo Credit: J.S.Brand)

“What do those beautiful shapes signify Mama?” asked nine-year-old Ashita in a voice tremulous with excitement.

“They signify the very essence of life my child” replied a calm and sedate Joanne. Every sculpture and design teaches you not only how hard it is to create something but also how alarmingly simple it is to destroy. Always remember that an arrow that has left a bow and a word that has divested itself of a tongue can never be retrieved.”

Even though the essence of the moral was lost on Ashita, she felt a swell of pride towards her mother.

 (Word Count: 99)

This story was written as part of the FRIDAY FICTIONEERS challenge, more about which may be found HERE

 For the complete list of entries, please click HERE

The credit for the breathtaking photograph goes to J.S.Brand