Mr. Francesco’s Respect

(Photo Credit: Jeff Arnold)

“Oh no Grandpa not again” wailed Ashita as a gleaming Francesco checkmated his nine-year-old grand-daughter.

Ruffling Ashita’ s hair, Francesco proceeded to impart his precocious bit of wisdom. “listen Ashita, chess is more than just a game. It teaches you tact and thought. It inculcates patience and induces pressure. It lures you to take risks while simultaneously warning you.”

Joanne bringing in a tray of freshly baked cupcakes and steaming cups of tea for her dad and daughter sat next to Francesco.

Francesco continued. “However, the greatest lesson this regal game teaches you Ashita is – always respect your opponent”

(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 Jeff Arnold 

Antigua Haunting

(Photo Credit: Jade M. Wong)

A chill ran right down the middle of Virinchi’s spine making him shudder involuntarily. Even though the interior of the stone walled house was stuffy and hot, an eerie sense of cold wrapped itself around him.

It was not supposed to be ending this way. When he had obtained the final tranche of funding from the bank, posting a non-existent ghost real estate as a collateral, the grandiose scheme for the regal heist was complete. All that remained was for the stash to make its way to Zurich and for Virinchi to head to Antigua.

The modest yet attractive house came along with a price and a citizenship. Expend $400,000 and purchase an outrageous amnesty for obnoxious sins! Extradition treaties were a sacrilege and deportation a distant nightmare.

But then there was a public furore the likes of which were never seen before. Diplomacy did a volte face and secrecy died without even a whimper. Papers were drawn up and the knives of justice sharpened.

Now they were coming for him.

(WORD COUNT: 171)

This story has been written as part of the FLASH FICTION FOR ASPIRING WRITERS – FFfAW Challenge #189, more details about which may be found HERE

For reading similar entries submitted in response to the FFfAW Challenge #189 please click HERE

Thank You Jade Wong for the photograph!

The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World On Fire – Neil Irwin

Image result for The Alchemists: Three Central Bankers and a World On Fire - Neil Irwin

“Uneasy is the head that wears the crown”, proclaimed the immortal Bard of Avon in his gripping play, King Henry the Fourth. What William Shalespeare left unsaid however, was that such unease is exacerbated manifold especially when one happens to ascend to the position of a Central Banker. Hurl into the already formidable conundrum a financial recession that has the potential not only to slam the brakes on world prosperity but also pull the very rugs of stability from underneath the globally interconnected economic edifice, the Crown of the Central Banker is but a coronation heralding an ensuing crucifixion!

Neil Irwin, in his spectacular work “The Alchemists” (the book) chronicles with delightful clarity the tumult and turmoil faced by three redoubtable Central Bankers when the whole world around them went rogue in a tailspin of sheer insanity. Ben Bernanke, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve in the United States, Jean Claude-Trichet, the then President of the European Central Bank (“ECB”) and the then Governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King were three reluctant firefighters who were involuntarily entrusted with the onerous responsibility of rescuing a world gone mad.

Before explaining the measures implemented by the three protagonists, Irwin dishes out an alluring hors d’oeuvres in the form of an introduction to the advent of Central Banking. From the exploits of Johan Palmstruch in Sweden to the prescience of Walter Bagehot in England, Irwin traces the evolution, endurance and etiology of the now commonly accepted and taken-for-granted lender of last resort. Coming to the core aspect of his subject, Irwin then provide a fascinating ringside view of the greatest recession since the Great Depression of 1929, that brought the world to its knees before being tackled employing means both novel and random. Irwin highlights in a staid albeit powerfully convincing manner, both the need for a strong Central banking system and its manning by a set of articulate and talented central bankers. To paraphrase Irwin, “Central bankers determine whether people can get jobs, whether their savings are secure, and, ultimately, whether their nation prospers or fails.” The individuals who were mercilessly pilloried and remorselessly vilified as forming part of the very problem which they were attempting to resolve during the panic of 2007 thus get more than just a reprieve and a pat on the back from Irwin.

The three different personalities of Bernanke, King and Trichet working in tandem as well as in individual capacities attempted to weather the financial storm by bringing their astuteness and at times even arrogance to bear. As Irwin points out, they also stumbled quite a bit in the process. While the obstinate troika of the ECB, the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”) and the European Commission (“EC”) urged on by the Bundesbank imposed ludicrous conditions of austerity on an ailing Greece in consideration of a bail-out, the Eurozone was under the threat of a potential dismantling. To a great extent the financial crisis was brought about by the lax and lackadaisical supervision of the Fed as mortgage originators went on the rampage in the United States and the greedy Wall Street Bankers cranked up their machinery that produced mind numbingly complex financial products whose worth or uselessness lent themselves to prediction of any reasonable sort.

Irwin’s marvelous book also boasts of some aesthetic touches. In recounting how a 2011 celebration, at the Alte Oper, Frankfurt’s historic opera house, to mark Trichet’s retirement, transformed into an argument among the assembled European leaders, Irwin writes, “As Trichet and Merkel and Sarkozy hammered at each other in their back room, no resolution to be found, the notes of Mendelssohn’s finale echoed through the building, the music as jolly as the outlook for Europe was looking dismal.”

Irwin also provides an insight into the extremely complex process by which the countries forming part of the Eurozone achieve unanimity in all decisions having an impact on the monetary and fiscal prospects of the Eurozone. Potential beneficiaries are rendered irrelevant as stringent demands and strident conditions are imposed upon them as considerations for a potential bail-out. The actions of Germany and France who while maintaining an uneasy relationship amongst them are also paradoxically ‘joined at the hip’ make for some rousing reading.

“The Alchemists” while not attempting to deify the central bankers as they go about their unenviable work, strives to place them on a pedestal that is exalted, edifying and certainly enervating.

Whether such a pedestal is indeed a deserving honour, is a choice that is left to the readers to decide.

War & Peace

IMG_1432 (2)

(Photo Credit: Rick Spaulding)

It was not often that Joanne took Ashita along, to her work place. In fact, according to nine-year-old Ashita, the frequency of her visiting her mother’s office was even rarer than the appearance of Haley’s comet! Today was one such occasion. The clinic administering the TDAP vaccine had no time slot other than from 9.30 – 10.00. Joanne had no choice but to bring her effervescent daughter along.

The moment Ashita set her eyes on Joanne’s desk she let out a squeal of uninhibited delight. “Mom, my four Musketeers!”

“Shhhhh!!! Silence! This is an office”, Joanne’s tone had a steely determination to it.

Chastised by her Mum, Ashita kept silent and took her place on a chair right across Joanne. Unable to stifle her curiosity she slowly got up and approached the mission statement the bottom half of which was slightly obscured by the four Musketeers.

“Are veterans those who have come back from Vietnam?” Ashita whispered.

“Not just Vietnam my love.”

“Why do people kill each other? Why should there be wars?”

“Alas, only nine year olds seem to be asking these questions my dear. Now allow Mummy to work”. Drawing a deep breath, Joanne got about her work.

(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

NO SPIN – SHANE WARNE (WITH MARK NICHOLAS)

Image result for No Spin + Shane Warne

Shane Keith Warne’s only approach towards the game of cricket was one rooted in intensity. An approach that never took any prisoners and brooked no opposition. An aggressive in-your-face, no holds barred attitude, which more likely than not, won a multitude of games for Australia, some of which literally involved wresting victory from the gaping jaws of defeat! It is this same barn burning tactic which the ‘Sultan of Spin’ brings to the fore in his recent offering, an autobiography that is unsurprisingly titled, “No Spin”. Written along with the redoubtable Mark Nicholas, “No Spin” (“the book”) is explosive, energetic and in more passages than some, extraordinary.

Unashamed in content and unsparing in context, Shane Warne’s memoir is to put it mildly – an eclectic collection of exploits and eccentricities. Delectable on-field performances clash with deplorable off the field adventures, (misadventures rather), as Warne strives to lay bare the various nuances which both constitutes his persona and makes it tick. Whether it be the magic ‘ball of the century’ which heralded the entry into the cricketing world, of the greatest leg spinner (or arguably even bowler) in the history of the game – but not before leaving Mike Gatting in a shambolic state of befuddlement – or an immoral tryst that involved two women and an inflatable sex toy (yes you read that right), Shane Warne’s life has been a roller coaster saga whose sweep has been unbelievably broad to embrace within its ambit the admirable and the abominable. The awe-inspiring magician who could change the course of any form of the game with an unparalleled sleight of hand could also be a naive man who was forced to miss a World Cup for his country after swallowing a diuretic, courtesy the educated recommendation of his mother!

Mark Nicholas and Shane Warne take on in an uninhibited manner the task of reconciling the very cleave which, while lending an aura of invincibility to Warne the cricketer, also births an attribute of vulnerability, in Warne, the human being. The Monarch of all he surveys within and around the twenty-two yards of many a hallowed cricketing turfs across the world is reduced to remaining a torn individual racked by a plethora of emotions outside of the playing arena.

The inimitable and abrasive personality of Shane Warne, inevitably results not just in differences of opinion but also in simmering feuds. Shane Warne, in his book reignites one such feud and reopens an old wound that has at its center piece the former Australian skipper, Steve Waugh. Slamming Waugh for an attitude that Warne perceives to be self-centered, Warne ensures that no punches are held back as he launches into a blistering tirade against his former team mate. “Steve Waugh was the most selfish player I ever played with and was only worried about averaging 50. It was about a lack of loyalty. Pretty childish, I know, but that’s the way it was.” Recalling an incident where Waugh dropped Shane Warne from the playing XI against the West Indies contrary to accepted wisdom, Warne holds forth, “Disappointed is not a strong enough word. When the crunch came Tugga didn’t support me, and I felt so totally let down by someone who I had supported big time and was also a good friend. I lost a bit of respect for him after that. I believe he should have backed me — as I always believe the art of captaincy is to support your players and back them every time. This gains the respect from the players and makes them play for you. He didn’t, it’s history, but I never found it easy with him after that.”

Former Australian Coach John Buchanan also comes in for some criticism, especially in relation to his unconventional methods of coaching that involved reading excerpts from Sun Tzu’s “Art Of War”, going on remorseless boot camps and waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of simulated explosives to belt the “Underneath The Southern Cross” at full volume.

Warne also is refreshingly open about his obsession towards cigarettes and a predilection to alcohol. “Ten Vodka/Red Bulls and 50 darts” represent a night well spent. A few facts about Warne that has not made the rounds in the public domain in general, and outside Australia in particular, get deserving mention in the book. For example, many of Warne’s fan and followers would be pleasantly surprised to note that this legendary leg-spinner is the first man to have got a hole in one with the pin in the back right position at the Augusta Masters. Also the fact that Warne was a talented Australian Rules Football player having clocked in regular games for his beloved club St Kilda is a fact that has been obfuscated to a great extent by his overwhelming exploits with a cricket ball in hand. The book also has its share of wicked wit. A photograph that has Warne turning over his arm under the eagle eyed tutelage of Terry Jenner bears the caption, “with Terry Jenner, the teacher. John Buchanan is in the background, where he should have been more often.” Typical, indomitable Shane Warne!

The author Scott G. Fitzgerald once said, “personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures.” However, in the case of Shane Warne, one of the greatest ever sporting legends of any generation, personality has been an unbroken series of gestures, not necessarily successful. This man’s gestures have alternated between spontaneity and confidence, oscillated between gestures of conviction and indiscretion. Nevertheless, they have been gestures animated by freedom and exemplified by naturalness. The gestures fizz with the same verve which induced the fear of the devil in every batsmen as they watched with impending doom the breathtaking trajectory of the ball leaving the conjurer’s hand. In the same way as there was no knowing what would happen to either the delivery or the prospects of the batsman facing up to it, this remarkable human being’s gestures do not lend themselves to prediction.

That’s exactly how it ought to be! For Shane Keith Warne, both cricket and life are tenets of glorious uncertainties!

LITTLE KIIRO’S PROPHESY

(Photo Credit: Jodi McKinney)

“Is my Kiiro hungry?” a smiling Mizuno peered into the fish tank as he replenished the feed. However, his little resplendent fish was in no mood to satiate her hunger. Frantically treading water, Kiiro swam from one end of the tank to the other with barely a pause. So alarming was her frenzy that Mizuno feared she would crush herself to smithereens by hurtling herself against the glass.

Turning away from the fish tank, Mizuno made his way to the door attributing Kiiro’s peculiar behaviour to one of those inexplicable traits of aquatic existence.

At 11.00 A.M at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Complex where Mizuno was at the controls, the first reactor failed to the accompaniment of an ominous crack. As the fire engulfed the lab, Mizuno’s last thought was “little Kiiro was warning me.”

(WORD COUNT: 134)

This story has been written as part of the FLASH FICTION FOR ASPIRING WRITERS – FFfAW Challenge #188, more details about which may be found HERE

For reading similar entries submitted in response to the FFfAW Challenge #188 please click HERE

Thank You Jodi McKinney for the photograph!

 

 

Scripture and the Sculptor

PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

“Does God reside only within such huge and extravagant structures?” Ashita wondered aloud gaping at the resplendent architecture.

“No my dear child. God needs neither structures nor scriptures. It is the sculptor in whom he exists. Each one of us is a sculptor. He dwells in every good thought, manifests in every good deed and blesses every good word” whispered Joanne gently ruffling her eight-year old’s hair.

Looking up at Joanne and gazing intently into her eyes, Ashita proclaimed in an unwavering and convincing voice, “in that case I have the best God ever”, and hugged Joanne tightly.

(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 Roger Bultot

 

Joanne