Editorial– We are interested in the way MP is creating more interest in our readers and contributors around the world .Ours is a humble blog journal that begun with poetry from young Zimbabweans into poetry contributed by much experienced and acclaimed poets in the global literary arts scene.This month we publish short stories by such powerful star rising voices ofCatherine Magodo Mutukwa– a Zimbabwean Writer and Poet and Munia Khan an acclaimed and much published Writer. Still Remains is a family story by Munia Khan that was recently published by one international literary journal. MP is highly honored to be given the opportunity to publish this simple but captivating story.
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Enjoy reading Still Remains by Munia Khan.
It was, he sensed, one of those fairly cool October evenings in England, when his father used to read him story books while his mother was preparing supper. Now dozing in the rocking chair, he felt the little robin family residing next to the tree near his balcony needed to go to sleep. Every evening the light coming from the neighborhood tennis court made him so vigorously alive. He had been sitting here for the last hour enjoying how the dusk was falling so rapidly only to be conquered by the night. David Ashcroft, a retired man of 67 summers had been a lover of twilight throughout his life. Now his life seemed to have reached its own twilight. Sarah Ashcroft, his beloved wife still dazzled his life with the twinkles of her blue eyes, as if she would remain the brightest star of his life forever.
She was in the kitchen preparing dinner when David realized that these days he was more in love with living in the past than spending time with Sarah. Specially, through his mind he loved to roam around his early childhood days. From one moment to another his memory loved to step back only to rediscover the past. In his mind, today, several times he was in the literature class of 9th grade at high school when he won the writing contest defeating his best friend ‘Fox Jim’. He laughed alone thinking about those fun filled days. He used to call his buddy James Dodd ‘Fox Jim’, as he was the cleverest boy in town, David believed. He couldn’t help laughing recalling how Fox Jim, at age 8, taught him how to blow smoke rings with the stolen cigarette from Jim’s father’s drawer.
Suddenly his mind’s journey to his childhood days was interrupted by the most familiar voice in the world asking him- “Dave, aren’t you hungry, darling?”
“Yes, I am sweetheart” he replied to his wife with a fragile smile on his chain smoking lips.
Sarah came closer. “I know, you’d love the lamb chops I’ve cooked tonight. I tried a new recipe”, she said about the chops that David brought from the store this morning as she was rubbing her oily hands with the kitchen towel.
“Lamb? When did you buy lamb chops?” David asked surprisingly as he remembered it had been ages since they bought lamb chops last.
“Just this morning you bought it, remember?, ” Sarah replied winking her left eye to give David the impression that she knew he had a naughty tendency to tease her sometimes by asking strange questions.
“What do you mean? When did I go out today? ” David asked raising his eyebrows, and his blood pressure. “ I never went to the store today,” he confirmed with a shaking fearful voice.
“Oh! Come on, dearest! Stop joking. I’m not in the mood. I’m too hungry to cope with your puzzling joke now,” said Sarah.
“Let’s have dinner” she said sitting on a 37 year old wooden chair which carried memories from their wedding night.
David felt his sinking heart when he said, “No, I am not jesting! What are you talking about?”
“Are you serious that you cannot remember you went out this morning”, Sarah asked in a shrewd way as if she was an attorney cross-examining a mugger who stole her husband’s wallet few hours ago.
“No! Honey, Trust me!! I cannot recall anything. I cannot tell where I was this morning.” David’s voice was at a loss as to what more to say.
He tried to ransack his memory and all he found was he and his father buying a brand new bicycle on his birthday fifty nine years ago.
“Okay. I understand. Now let’s eat; I don’t want to talk about it” said Sarah. She was in a very sad state of mind and her hunger for food was consumed by her hunger for knowing the mystery of how this morning could become a forgotten time to her husband who had been blessed by a sharp memory throughout his life.
They finished the dinner exchanging unspoken words through their reluctant eyes. David went to watch the highlights of England vs. South Africa, a cricket match on Fox Sports. It was around 9 pm. He didn’t know that he had already watched this match LIVE last night. He felt frustrated not understanding why he missed the match. He’d never missed a ‘Live’ game before.
Sarah cleaned the dishes unmindfully. As the night grew deeper, the sky of her mind became overcast by gray clouds of worries. After watching TV David brushed his teeth two times in one hour before going to bed, knowing he did it only once. They went to bed wordless that night covering themselves in the mild autumnal coolness.
That night Sarah couldn’t sleep a wink; slumber land was a forbidden place for her. Oddly enough, she tried to count stars, staring at the ceiling.
Next morning, the first thing David thought he should do was to brush his teeth as he realized that he did forget to brush his teeth last night. After being refreshed, he started to look for their pet Ruth all over the house forgetting she died last week and he was the one who buried her near river Dart. Sarah was still asleep. He prepared porridge for himself and had finished it before she woke up. He fried eggs, mushrooms and made some grilled oatcakes for Sarah as he knew from decades ago how she loved grilled oatcakes with a mug of tea for breakfast. While preparing the meal, he added salt several times, believing he sprinkled it only once.
And when Sarah woke up that morning, she was surprised that David made her breakfast after such a long time. She didn’t like oatcakes anymore and she was quite certain that David knew it . It saddened her even more understanding that David must have forgotten that too.
Sarah was completely mystified by the realization that something was wrong with her husband. She began to worry visualizing him as a patient with amnesia.
After spending a frozen night of silence with David, the next morning she decided to make an appointment with Dr. Bruce Miles, their family physician. It was a sunny day full of life just exactly how David liked it to be. He spent most of the morning with some memories of his past, looking vacantly at the typical South West English clouds floating across the blue sky. Then he went to the backyard in search of the lawnmower, not knowing why he wanted it. Suddenly he remembered the day when he first came to live in this house at Devon 25 years ago after selling their old house at Essex. He felt it was just yesterday when Sarah gave birth to their only child, Alice, here in Devon. He failed to recall where Alice lived now. His mind was all buried in the long lost past; trapped in the cobweb of numerous incidents.
He went upstairs and found Sarah was in the bathroom taking shower. He knocked the door asking her, “Did I have my breakfast today? I feel hungry.”
“Yes, you did, Dave” Sarah replied in an anxious tone while water ran down her body trying to rinse all her anxieties away. She knew David had already forgotten that today was the doctor’s appointment and all the reports would be delivered after the diagnosis.
Sarah went down stairs after shower and found David reading the newspaper from 3 days ago. She exclaimed in frustration, “You’ve read it seven times so far! Can you remember?”
“This is the first time I’m reading this, sweetheart”, replied David. “Don’t be so mean to me, please!” he said as if a child so annoyed on his mother for her unjust accusations.
Later that day David was getting ready to go out with Sarah. He went in front of the mirror to comb his hair and surprisingly discovered that his hair had already been combed. In his forgetfulness he wondered who combed his hair…when?…and how? Staring at his own reflection, he was suddenly lost in a queer contemplation. The colour of his shirt reminded him of the navy blue shade from his leather bound diary that he used to write in during his college days. He felt the need of finding that diary again.
That day Sarah took him to Dr. Miles who confirmed David was a patient in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease saying, “Mr. Ashcroft, I know you won’t be able to remember this, but I’m sorry to say you are having progressive mental deterioration, which is the most common cause of premature senility.”
David couldn’t believe this initially, looking straight into the doctor’s eyes. He had never been aware of his memory that much because of his confidence in his brain’s excellent quality of recollection throughout his life. After a while he looked away, turning a blind eye to the doctor’s melancholic face because, during that moment, David wanted to feel nothing but the glorious sun from his school days, constantly shining on his aging mind: a mind that can no more form a new memory.
There was a little teardrop glistening at the corner of Sarah’s eye like a pearl, which needed to be hidden because of its preciousness. She tried to conceal her tears by looking down on the diagnosis reports, pretending to read them; and her misty eyes with blurred vision couldn’t afford to read a single line.
Dr. Miles kept on explaining the reasons why David had encountered such a disease long before he turned seventy. Sarah’s ears seemed to be deafened by an unknown chaos from her overstressed mind. The only cause the doctor explained that she could hear was David’s excessive passion for smoking cigarettes.
Dr. Miles stated all the things that David should do from now on. David was perplexed. He kept forgetting why he even had to be in the doctor’s chamber.
They left the doctor’s office at around 4:15pm. Sarah was driving their 18 year old black Jaguar, which perhaps bore more loving memories than she could ever create. David appeared to be very naive as he kept on asking her the same questions so many times. “Where have we been, Sarah?” …“Where are you driving to?”
“We went to visit Dr. Bruce Miles, sweetheart!” Sarah replied for the third time.
Sarah’s eternal love for David was stronger than her patience. And her love became remarkably forbearing in time, which made her respond to his repeatedly asking questions many times.
She never failed him. She believed- I never will.
Right now life seemed utterly obstructive to her. At the moment she wanted to concentrate only on driving, forgetting the world. The sun was going to sink very soon while David’s favourite twilight began to appear. Sarah noticed some beautiful birds going back to their nests flying towards the crimson west; just like she and David were returning to their home. That made her smile.
Suddenly she heard her beloved asking, “Where have we been, Sarah?”
“We went to visit Dr. Bruce Miles, sweetheart!” she replied with all her loving heart.
AuthorMunia Khan was born on a spring night of 15th March in the year 1981. She enjoys her journey to the literary world. Most of her works are poems of different genres.She is the author of three poetry collections : ‘Beyond The Vernal Mind’ (Published by Xlibris Corporation, USA in 2012) ‘To Evince The Blue’ (Published by Xlibris Corporation, USA in 2014)and ‘Versified’ (Published by Tiktakti Publishing Company, ISRAEL in 2016). Her poetry is the reflection of her own life experience.Her works have been translated into various languages: Japanese, Romanian, Urdu, Spanish, Bengali and Irish.