Short story from Robert Thomas

A Tale of Two Restaurants

It was the best of meals it was the worst of meals, it was the age of
facts, it was the age of misinformation, it was the era of the big lie,
yet the era of political correctness, it was the blight of Covid, it was
the hope of Pfizer. We had nothing ahead of us, except an open
road, for good or for evil, a road of superlative boredom through the
central valley of California. Heading up the Grapevine we
approached the off-ramp to Lebec, a small community nestled in the
arid hills of Tejon pass. I reserved a night at the local Holiday Inn to
break up the tedious drive to San Diego from the San Francisco Bay
Area. The arid hills were scorched black along one side of the Frazier
Mountains. Some months earlier a fire blazed its way across the
landscape narrowly missing the business district next to Highway

The hills were sparsely scatter with homes of various
construction, many of which looked pieced together from material
bought at a Home Depot outlet. Here and there sat trailers set upon
cinder block foundations, while others were left sitting on their
wheels, unhitched from their vehicles. Rusted old cars and pickups
lay dead in front of some residences, like some yokel yard art. An
aura of rural poverty permeated the area. A poverty gleaned from the
empty IRAs and meager union benefits of retired blue collar folk. The
inn sat just off the highway next to several commercial buildings.
Across the way, a large gravel lot held several semis, some with
trailers attached. The place was obviously a truck stop used by a
number of long haulers.

The spitting image of Colonel Armstrong Custer greeted us at the
front desk. He sported long golden hair with a curling handlebar
mustache, and wore a western style shirt complete with a bolo tie.
Before going to our room, I asked about places to eat. He thought for
a moment while twisting his stash with his tobacco stained fingers,
and indicated that eating establishments were sparse, but that there
was a Chinese restaurant and a Mexican restaurant just up the road a piece.

After unpacking, we walked to the Mexican Restaurant we had
passed on our way to the inn. The restaurant, Los Pinos, sat alone
on a large gravel lot with no landscaping around it other than a couple
of ragged evergreens flanking the wooden entry. The front wooden
steps were shrouded by a torn green canvass canopy. Several picnic
tables took up a number of parking spaces in the crumbling asphalt
lot next the building, a nod to outside dining during the Covid
pandemic. The interior was simply decorated with a few tourist
posters of Mexico hanging on the walls of painted wood paneling.
Smears of film left from poorly rinsed rags smudged their surface.
Plastic faux Tiffany style lamps hung from the ceiling, as well as a
couple of drooping diseased succulents in green plastic pots.
Seating consisted of scratched and stained lacquered wooden tables
and chairs, and several booths with worn green vinyl covered seats.

My wife and I settled into a small booth, and perused the
surroundings as we waited for the waitress of come by. We surmised
the place was pretty functional, and wondered about the quality of
the food. Although, some pretty good Mexican eats sometimes come
out of the kitchens of local dives. We kept our fingers crossed.
The waitress, a tall woman in her 40s, dressed in a well worn, and
food stained print dress, greeted us, and handed us a couple of
plastic coated menus. She was about to leave when we asked if we
might have something to drink before we ordered. She turned back
toward us, and noted that the beverages were on the back of the
menu. Along with the traditional assortment of beers, which looked
as if it was initially listed with no changes since 1960, the wine list
consisted of only a couple of cheap brands. My wife stated that she
wanted the chardonnay, to which the waitress replied, “The red or the
white.” Being that we were consummate wine drinkers with a number
of Napa Valley Winery memberships, we were both taken aback by
her request. My wife, holding back a smirk, immediately said, “The
white.” I opted for a Negro Modelo.

A short time later, the waitress brought a glass of wine and a bottle of
beer with a lime wedge stuck into the top. I guessed that the local
custom was to chug it directly from the bottle. Nevertheless, I asked
for a glass. She gave me a look as if I were asking her to do
something out of the ordinary. She later brought me a cold glass for
my beer, along with some corn chips and a small bowl of salsa.
Scanning the menu, we recognized a variety of familiar Mexican
dishes including Taquitos, flautas, chimichangas and tacos. We had
to flag down the waitress, who seemed to forget we existed. We
placed our orders and quietly waited for the food to arrive. Within
about 20 to 30 minutes, the waitress brought out food. It was served
in a styrofoam box. Our utensils were small plastic forks and knives
sheathed in plastic. Aside from the rather basic nature of the service,
the food was okay, and we enjoyed the meal.

As we ate, a heavy set man in work shirt and jeans sat at a table next
to us. He gave us a nod of recognition, opening a gap of congeniality
between us. He shared that he frequented the restaurant on many of
his truck hauls between San Francisco and Los Angeles. We
commented on the rather expedient serving ware used by the
restaurant, to which he smiled, and revealed that this was typical of
the place, dispelling any notion we had that it was an altruistic health
concern on the part of the owner. Following dinner, we headed back
to the inn for a good night’s rest.

The evening after our arrival in San Diego, my brother and sister-inlaw took us to Adelaide restaurant at L’Auberge Del Mar. We
approached the restaurant along a curving cobbled driveway,
culminating in a round cul-de-sac laid out before the front entry to the
restaurant/hotel. We were immediately greeted by a valet, who
opened the doors to our sedan, and assisted us out of our seats. My
brother-in-law David, gave the valet the keys, as we walked beneath
the high pointed and wood beam archway towards the front glass
doors. Our car was quickly whisked away to some secure parking
area to await our return. Approaching the doors, a young gentleman
reached from behind it, and cleared the way for our arrival. We let
him know we had reservations for dinner. He pointed us to the
hostess’ dais across the room. We were a bit early, but hoped we
might get a seat at that moment. The hostess, an attractive,
impeccably made up woman, wearing a slender black, short sleeve
midi, told us that we would have to wait a few minutes, as all the
tables were taken, but one would be available soon.

The four of us headed to the bar just off to the left to grab a drink as
we waited. Looking about, the restaurant had an aura of casual
luxury. The decor was modern chic, with walls of ecru, accented by
light colored exotic wood. Professional photos of local seascape
scenes were hung on the walls, highlighted by soft lights attached to
the upper frames. The staff, dressed in casual evening attire, flitted
quickly back and forth, eager to please their customers. After a few
sips of my delicious Negrone, the hostess came to us, and asked us
to follow her to our table. Once seated, she handed us our menus,
noting that our waiter, Ken, would soon arrive to take our orders. We
sat outside, just beyond the eave of the building. We had a view out
over the hotel pool and outdoor lounge area. In the distance,
between two trees flanking the deck, the Pacific Ocean spread out to
the horizon. A few clouds hovered, beginning to turn orange-pink as
the sun was about to set. Beautiful people occupied the tables
around us. Handsome men with touches of grey sat across from
younger women with exposed shoulders, and seductive cleavage.
Obviously, the place was a weekend stopover for fleeting romantic

A short time later, our waiter arrived. He introduced himself, and
asked if we wanted drinks before dinner. The beverage menu held an
array of cocktails, beers and wine for us to choose from. After a long
pause, Ken offered to give us his recommendations. However, we
finally decided on our drinks. Knowing my wife’s preference for white
wine, and Pinot Grigio in particular, I ordered her a wine from the
Veneto in Italy. As for myself, I asked for a Brandy, indicating that
after I decided on my meal, I would order a wine. Upon the drinks
arrival, crystal stemware caressed the brandy and wine in their
appropriate bowls.

The food menu offered a selection of raw and warm plates, as well as salads for starters. Raw bites ranged from Baja oysters to beef
tartare, while delicacies from the warm menu included, but was not
limited to crispy octopus and sprouted lentil cakes. Italian Burrata
and achiote roasted carrots were included on the salad menu. Main
courses consisted of several meat and fish dishes such as grilled 45
day aged rib eye, or Black Cod.

The server was very attentive, checking in every so often to make
sure we were fully satisfied. Once ordered, the main courses came
within a reasonable time, served on white stoneware plates edged in
dark brown trim. Utensils consisted of polished stainless steel. We
spent the evening in leisurely dining, and casual conversation, as we
watched the green flash of sun set in the distance. For dessert, I
shared La Vina Cheesecake, accompanied by a cup of double

After paying the bill, and leaving a gracious tip, we slowly sauntered
out to the entry. Recognizing us, the valet grabbed the keys from the
rack beneath the podium, and let us know he would be right back
with our car. Within a short time the white sedan arrived before us.
David tipped the valet before entering the drivers seat. We circled
around the center flower plot of the cul-de-sac, and headed back to
San Diego with full bellies and sated taste buds. It was a far, far
better thing that we did this night, than we did the night before.

Poetry from Sandeep Kumar Mishra

 My Father
 My father never wasted time in taking
 his kids in his lap or playing with them,
 he was busy in breaking mirrors, hitting the doors
 or his head against a wall or slapping his children
 or abusing everyone when helplessness trapped him in
 the web of poverty, illness and unfulfilled desires
 Orthodox and religionist in him
 taught us all superstitions,
 and made him a sage devoid of social life,
 and me, almost an atheist, 
 He taught us good values without
 letting us in his room
 We had seen him write poems, 
 We were not part of his universe,
 The world may be familiar with his work,
 but we haven't read his books as 
 we have developed immunity to it,
 As a good teacher, he changed
 many schools and as an honest person,
 he rarely attended any social gatherings 
 He didn't tell us our history or geography,
 Oblivious of siblings, 
 locked in a closed family circle,
 ignorant of our community, 
 we live at the borders of our social circle now
 When I see any kid, I wish to be with my father,
 Talk, learn and serve him but still I lack a bond,
 I haven't seen him for long time
 and never feel a need or pain of it
 He is counting his time, 
 his legacy some published books
 and unpublished manuscripts
 lying in a store almirah,
 The long gap between us stops me
 to take those few steps, 
 It seems a long journey 
 Upbringing and luck shapes our life,
 my father was child of his misfortune
 and I am the child of my father  
 Do I Belong Here?      
 I hold the soil from my roots in my hand
 I have carried with me here in this country every day,
 As I lay my impregnable longing against room's wall,
 I hear my helplessness like weeping at dawn,
 As my soul wrinkles with the motherland,
 I parted with my parents, wife and kids in the country of skin 
 No one leaves home unless your home
 is a floating nest on the river Nile of industrial waste,
 You find yourself among the mining crocs or drought alligators,
 When you swim across the seven seas of population 
 put yourself in a boat of hope thinking the strange salty
 water is safer than the familiar sweet land,
 You have a shadow of blood in your veins but an empty
 belly and the anthem under your breath,
 the miles travelled means something more than a journey
 My heart is full of stories of my streets,
 I carry black scars from wars of white greed, 
 Dust of my family carbonized in dry mushroom clouds,
 I carry parental house along the vertebra, pink dreams in my eyes
 When the night liquidates the day as a sinful cloud
 plasters its sun, everything seems shiny for me-
 Migraine flash in my left brain-
 Shiny open eyes when I fail to sleep-
 The shine of stones in my kidneys-
 Two shiny pearls on the cheeks-
 The word “motherland” over the galaxy of stars
 and the Moon behind the clouds called “migration”
 I don't know if I am an Australian or not?
 May be just a rudiment who is deposited
 in this area by a migratory trade river and thus
 left open in the “unwaged sun” and the “taxed rain”
 Australia welcomes hundreds of faith’s manacles,
 with closed eyes to what is happening in Germany and UK
 I live in the Sahara or floating on the Dead sea
 an expanse of concrete cities, a sea of neo-brotherhood
 without any emotions, a forbidding area lost in a desert of doubt,
 I was not allowed to attend the funeral of my mother last year 
 They call it humanitarian visa processing based on fixed values
 Farewell my motherland, Farewell my ancestors,
 Farewell my dream of new life!                                                                                                                 
 I’ve transcribed all my dreams into poems, not into realities
 that reconcile my exile from home, stretched them into poetic lines,
 The streets where I grew up is punctuated with electric poles, 
 I have imagined myself surviving by transforming                                                                             2
 flowers into the bread I have never eaten,
 I am a brown floret spring out of your mind 
 from the womb of a black history birthed from white memory
 This is how it feels to live and move in two worlds at once.
 I came here to outlive the ghosts of martyrs,
 beyond the hatreds of nationalism,
 How the basic joys of being give us the kinder face of humanity
 But I am marginalized to the point of disappearance
 Barred as a shade of skin, a tone of speech, 
 Kicked by the mighty, detested by the commoner
 Now I know humanity is Janus faced-
 Half devil-half human, White faced black truth
 I will not recommend it even to political foes or religious friends

 We Are Third World 
 Self acclaimed first world labelled us as
 third world in their so called socioeconomic indexes and
 other “modernity is the real development” indices,
 because we don't do dinner parties but dream of a well fed day
 Our children study on the floor of old public school,
 Know the other world only by the greenery
 and figures hung on its pale walls, 
 Wishing to run on the velvet grass instead of
 rag picking every morning, as children leave
 old toys, you have abandoned us                                                                                            Here a teenager recognises outline of a dark futuristic structure 
 in a pattern of present dots of daily burdens, 
 In the tragic repetitions of a homeland song,
 he dreams of a young entrepreneurship 
 but a termite death hollows out his roots of endeavour                                                                
 You say to our men “Keep It In Your Pants!" 
 and women, "Lock Your Knees!"            
 but here sex is the only amusement,
 For a three minutes of relief we are ready
 to embrace this immorality, 
 Although some taxable souls fashion to run charity, the poor wears tattered clothes,
 Rich wear them to look different,   
 There is an agreement between the people
 sitting in the car and poor begging for some help
 Devalued lives full of shadows of slaves,
 as poverty live without evacuation,
 Caught in web of the foreign aid spiders,
 we prop up this capitalising protuberance 
 and force feed the bourgeois class,
 Our propaganda has become
 just to see, sigh and cry
 Blindfolded by civil war, a source
 of political life and death,  
 We fail to understand the kind of battlefield we are in and our weapons to deal withzzz                                                                                   always shouting for freedom of expression,
 Never tried to know the difference between 
 our skin and our lips
 A divided country that sighs and cries for debt relief,
 Brainwashed by anti-propaganda,
 As leaders becoming millionaires every second and the people poorer every minute,
 The land filled with milk and honey, still cries "no money"                                                         
 Self styled media with fake morality, 
 Aiming for PR and controversy
 interview a petty thought repeatedly 
 to make it a philosophy,
 Their voice spreads pure venom in gentle dress,
 in the name of so called minority,
 Every news is labelled with religious stamp, 
 They highlight the immoral as a face of nation,
 belittle the good-intentions
 Sex and violence is a new form of entertainment, 
 Here big lawyers and corporations openly
 influence in the demo-crazy capitals to gain huge profits,
 Is this injustice with poverty and suffering
 not a clear indication of false thoughts that argue over a third world at this juncture? 

 Ashes of a Suicide
 As we played curse of tongues so long, 
 I go alone on worn out routes
 with lonely societal road 
 after so many accidents in
 pathways of daily burdens
 They injected “delusion of negation”
 in my identity veins,
 I although never had 
 “flash flood of emotions”,
 I want to live even by eating
 char-grilled inner self
 Now a black hole, 
 I decided to be one with
 this constellation of 
 migraine, tablets, syringe,
 backache and insomnia
 that had emerged around 
 I tied my wife's red “sari” 
 around my disconnected neck, 
 a reflection of my smiling daughter
 was in the mirrored almirah
 Devil instinct drown into the 
 deep vastness of human frailty against
 earthly emotions, an inner tide
 hit me down unconscious
 How angry I was for not
 being among the dead?
 That kind of energy I needed 
 to stay alive and I understood that
 An ocean emerges from
 the death of the river

Sandeep Kumar Mishra is a Bestseller author of poetry Collection “One Heart- Many Breaks-2020”, An outsider artist, a poet and a lecturer ,he is guest poetry editor at Indian Poetry Review .He has received “Indian Achievers Award-21”,IPR Annual Poetry Award-2020 and Literary Titan Book Award-2020.He was shortlisted for “2021 International Book Awards”, “Indies Today Book of the Year Award 2020” and “Joy Bale Boone Poetry Prize 2021” and “Oprelle Rise up Poetry Prize 2021”.He was also “The Story Mirror Author of the Year” nominee-2019.

Fourth installment of Z.I. Mahmud’s thesis on Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield

Discussion related to the motivation and inspiration behind the foreshadowed novel David Copperfield Or The Purpose of Preferences and Study Of The Text

Dickensian scholars and Dickensian studies would be adventuresome pursuit with the prospective narrative: David Copperfield. Fostering mainstream consciousness and dreaming socialist spiritual civilization parallels both traditional and modern critics radically. Glimpses of Victorian lifestyles, Dover countryside, Canterbury tales, lamp posts and carriage coaches of London streets, and Kent seashore cherish the readers with delight, ecstasy, glee, emotional or sentimental temperament for a life time awakening. 

In the valedictory note, it is essential to denote that reading David Copperfield’s imaginative characters in the fictional biography improves proficiency of creative faculties, strengthening cognitive function,germinating fruits of endeavor, resilience and endurance, awakening hearts and bosoms to grow and develop philanthropy, boosting humanitarian feelings and ennobling humane attitudes.

Consulted Works Or References Or Further Reading & Bibliography

David Copperfield’s Agnes Negotiating An Ideal by Adam Gregory Pence, A thesis presented for the BA degree with Honours in The Department of English University of Michigan, Spring 2000.

Death And Inscriptions With Respect To David Copperfield, Great Expectations and Charles Dickens, Anna Foley’s thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of the Master in Arts in English in the University of Canterbury, 2003. 
Charles Dickens’Great Expectations Penguin Classics Edition Review - A Moral Fable Appeasing Rhetoric With Laughter’s Appeal

Introductory thesis statements

Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is indeed the masterpiece classic with the dignity or statute of luminary or phosphorescent best seller editions, cataloging as autobiographical genre in the literary fiction shelf. Notably, Penguin Classics Edition, globally have attracted the fancy of millions of readers or reviewers. 544 pages biographical literary fiction genre written or anthologized by Charlotte Mitchell of the UK Penguin Classics publication retail price makers sells the novel at UK pounds 5.99.

Genesis of the Background

Historically Great Expectations was authored by the Victorian novelist Charles Dickens incidentally after the periodical publication of David Copperfield somewhat between 1860 and 1861. Great Expectations’ somber psychological, moral and comic  temperament paraphrases or allegorizes Victorian livelihood, cultural tradition and societal lifestyles; themes or subject matter of parents and children, power and powerlessness, aristocracy and genteelness, fantasies and reality, vanity and gratitude. 

Great Expectations’ Bildungsroman genre illustrates the process of self -discovery and maturation through experience different  phases of life cycle as the protagonist moves through the Victorian Era with gas lamps lit night and daylight darkened by black clouds of smokestacks.

Dickensian characterization has attained the wholesome attributes of human psyche and surpassed contemporaries (critical realists of the 1840s and 50s connoting William Makepeace Thackeray, the Bronte Sisters, George Elliot, Thomas Hardy and so on) so critics or reviewers have bequeathed Dickens with intelligent anecdotes of critical appreciations.

The definition of distinguished Victorian gentleman has been idealized by Charles Dickens in the reformation, apprenticeship, education or moral improvisation, psychological culmination, Bildungsroman rumination of the hero or narrator Pip.

Melodramatic exaggerations have been reflected in the comic or witty characters until realities fade away. “Haughty spirits” and “freakish eccentricities” of Miss Havisham especially pervaded even David Copperfield despite mastery or popularity. Philip Pirrip Pip, the heroic character or narrator protagonist, Miss Joe Gargery, the dictatorial disciplinarian motherly figure who uses the ironical menacing “tickler” to abuse Pip. Mr. Joe Gargery, the backsmith whose warmth and generosity shields Pip’s against adversaries amongst the countryside forge cottage of Kent and recreational Three Jolly Bargeman. 

In Kent’s seashore southeastern England, Dickens spent the first nine years of his childhood. Mr. Wopsle, the  pontificating dramatic clerk of the parish braging thrown open to commoner, Uncle Pumblechook, Joe’s self-important relation who acts in concert with Mrs. Joe and Mr./Mrs. Hubble who despise children and they were wheelwrights (they are minor characters in the novel). 

Abel Magwitch, the lately benefactor and earlier gypsy convict or prisoner, Estella, the unrequited heroine, minor character Mr. Compeyson, the husbandly figure who materializes Miss Havisham’s heart or the second convict or escapee, Mrs. Wopsle, the aunt of Mr. Wopsle, educating elementary students at school in evenings. Miss Havisham, the haughty spirited dowager or mysterious spinster with opulent dwelling (ironically Satis House gilded and ornate crumbling ruins of a gothic mansion and cold winds blow at the rotting barrels of dilapidated brewery) with her adopted daughter, Miss Estella, the idealized vanity or ambition maiden whose name connote star in literary terms. 

Biddy, the resident store keeper beneath the school, teaching assistant to Ms. Wopsle, her grandmom, minor dwarfian dramatist persona characters include those wedding feats relations jockeying for favour of Miss Havisham (They were Sarah Pocket,  Georgiana, Camilla and Raymond). Sarah Pocket frequently visits Miss Havisham to assure herself of a generous bestowed endowment and she dislikes her brother Mathew Pocket. Dolge Orlick, the malignant labour whose torments the Joe household and the vengeful devilish antagonist. 

Jaggers, the lawyer of Abel Magwitch and Miss Havisham whose solicitation benefit inheritance funding and adoption lawsuits. Clara Barley, the fiancée of Herbert Pocket. Jaggers’ law clerk Wemmick was hard, cynical, obsessed and sarcastic. (Wemmick jovial or wry caretaker or caregive of aged parent and even Walworth manor. Miss Skiffins marries Wemmick). Bentley Drummle, the tout whom Estella engages into matrimonial alliance. Startop, the tutelage of Herbert’s academia and organizers of Magwitch’s escape. Last but not the least, minor personality Molly, the biological mother of Estella living in Jaggers’ shelter as disguised housekeeper.

Cliffhanger denote the dramatic and exciting ending to an episode of a serial leaving readers or audience in suspense and intrigued or spellbound not to miss the next episode. Cliffhanger or a cliffhanger ending is a plot device in fiction which features a main character in a precarious or difficult dilemma confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode of a serialized fiction. This incentivizes the audience to return to see how the characters resolve the dilemma.

Symbolism (literary figurative trope to differentiate literally the object or action having multi layers of interpretation) or metaphorical imageries contrasting naturalism and realism in Dickens’ Great Expectations. “The sun was striking in at the great windows of the court, through the glittering drops of rain upon the glass, and it made a broad shaft of light between the two and-thirty and the judge.”

Dickensian characterization enthralls and enlivens reader or critics with metaphors and personification alike symbolism and cliffhangers discusses earlier.

Figurative or rhetorical devices: Metaphor is a figure of speech such a word or phrase symbolically allegorizing the aspects of characters to objects or actions which is not literally applicable. 

“Humbugs” and “toads” are recurrent metaphors in Dickensian characters’ description. At Satis House, the wedding feast invited guests the flatterer Sarah Pocket, Georgiana, Mrs. Camilla and Mr. Raymond are metaphorically “toads’’ and “humbugs” to the narrators’ psyche. “Humbugs” and “toads” symbolically allegorizes a branded individuals with peculiarities figuratively and literally they have the etymological or lexical inferences; humbug: artifice of a crooked fellow to adopting dishonesty and toad: a tailess amphibian with warty skin and stout bodily figure secreting poison. 

Personification, as a literary figurative speech, embodies or caricatures characterization with subtle abstraction. Miss Havisham, the haughty spinster and eccentric figure wearing of a wedding whitish bridal attire covering veil personifies “grave or burial dress” and “shroud” apparently. Moreover, the wedding feast banquet table infested with vermin and insects embodies of frosty fungus and mortifying decay. To the narrator’s voice, Miss Havisham hangs over the beam as if she is the resurrected image of living death hanging over the deathly gallows.

In figurative language, antithesis is a rhetorical device or figure of speech referred to a person or a thing that is the direct opposite of someone or something.

Wemmick’s personified non-identical twin images is a perfect epitome with contrasting Wemmick of Little Britain and Castle of Walworth.

Visual imageries from the novel illustrate these exemplary quotes, “I saw that the lamps in the courts were blown out, and that the lamps on the bridges were shuddering, and that the coal fires in barges on the river were being carried away before the wind-like red-hot splashes in the rain.”

Dickens loves feasts and scorns fasts as references from the narrative exemplify the Christmas Dinner scene. Oxford Academic Journal published critic Barbara Hardy argues that foods weren’t Dickens’ gluttony for gourmet rather they had been nothing but lovely ceremonies of sociability. Christmas dinner and the English geniality or gregariousness or bluffness of the pub setting weren’t sentimentalized as isolated institutions of goodwill. 

Good will connotes to the hospitality, amiable affinity, cheeriness, conviviality or chumminess which were ironically conventional curtailed hunger or poverty from the window.

Barbara Hardy acclaims meals- beyond the giving, receiving, eating, and serving of food in her essays in criticism: Food in Great Expectations. “These values maybe summed up as good appetite without greed, hospitality without show, and ceremony without pride or condescension.”

Furthermore, good housekeeping practice can be compared with the nourishing and well ordered meals.

Play within a play occurs when Pip feels connected with the implication of guilt and vindictive proclamation. George Barnwell, a criminal in a play Wolspe reads who is sentenced to the gallows. “Deathly gallows” symbolic of Pip’s psychological distress traumatized at the news of parting with Estella. Estella, the fancy of Dickens deserted into forlorn since Estella went abroad.

More next month!

Screenplay by Chimezie Ihekuna

Title: A Taste of His Poison
Adapted from a book by Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben)
Screenwriter: Robert Sacchi

Chimezie Ihekuna (Mr. Ben) Young Black man in a collared shirt and jeans resting his head on his hand. He's standing outside a building under an overhang.
Chimezie Ihekuna

Genre: Drama

For reviews, production consideration and other publicity, please contact us through the email addresses below:

Ricardo feels short-changed whenever he’s in business with his boss,
Martinez, who does ‘’business’’ at the LaGuardia Airport, with all the five
major staffers, a part of his drug-cartel network. Having worked for his
boss for over a decade, Ricardo sees the need to pay him back in his coin.
Despite his faithfulness through the years, Martinez is fond of denigrating

Ricardo’s efforts his efforts and using the proceeds—that are due Ricardo—

to his chains of girlfriends. Ricardo’s complaints hold no water as Martinez prioritizes
his lovers over intricate business deals he has with Ricardo.

However, Ricardo seeks a way for his boss to someday, have a taste of his
poison—revenge for the wrongs he did to him. He figures out a plan. He
discusses with his doctor to create an clone of himself and contracts with a
willing-to-die for -the -money street thug, Roberto, to do his
bidding—Ricardo’s impostor—delivering fake dollars,
instead of the actual consignment as instructed by his boss. Roberto, or
better known as ‘’Ricardo’’, is aware of the whole plot.

‘’Ricardo’’ is well-paid and is fully prepared for the task ahead. Ricardo,
knowing the ropes of the cartel, explores the loophole and finds an escape
route never to be seen again. Ricardo leaves the cartel with the hugest
fortune, untraced!

The success of the plan is to Ricardo’s advantage but leaves ‘’Ricardo’’ to
an uncertain fate…

Poetry from Mahbub

Poet Mahbub
 Daily Haunting
 Everyday I wake up from bed with a question
 Whether I am fine or not
 This trembling and painful palpitating heart
 Confounded for tension and shock
 The dogs are barking outside
 What's the dream glaring to soothe the earth?
 Damn the model of fashion or civilization
 Every single day rebounds with its flinching face 
 The sound of unexpected scream and murder
 The sound of unexpected howling of the children and the mothers
 Falling in a victim of racial attack
 People are growling for this unbearable torture
 How does this audacity act on?  Why's this plan for murder?
 My heart is breaking down into the cries of Palestine and Syria
 The daily unruly hue and cry all around us
 We know it very well the strong always devour the weak in the jungle
 The blood is oozing on my head at the dead of night I scream out
 Everyday I wake up from bed with a question whether I am fine or not.
 Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
 It opens the room for resentment
 On the daily happenings from the daily pages 
 Or on the television screen
 Or on the social media
 At the beginning of the day
 At the time of taking our breakfast with hotchpotch
 At a glance it opens the room for resentment
 Reclining on the wall I brood over
 Cry and break the heart silent
 No way to escape
 Beautiful or graceful the word 
 The mutual respect of Love
 In no way we come closer to each other, one another
 Overflowing water clogs the roads
 No way that we can mingle
 Opening the room for resentment. 
 Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
 My Clytemnestra
 Like Agamemnon I had my Clytemnestra
 She killed him for many reasons
 But why was I sent to the way never thought before?
 Your soft wings turned into an iron rod 
 And tried to play the role on me
 O my Clytemnestra, you knew very well
 How much I had my love for you
 As you had for Aegisthus 
 In other part of the story
 That Helen had for Paris
 At one point of our talking at night
 All on a sudden you choked me off and fled away with him
 A poor and helpless lover, floating on the bed
 Twisting hands on the forehead
 Till the morning sun peeped through window on the face
 And the birds with its sweet note brought me to my sense.
 Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
 Facing the Destiny
 The plants are growing so fresh mingling the sky with the azure seas
 Welcoming us to this sunny the dewy sparking morning 
 But unseen danger lurks everyday 
 Though we have made fence all around    
 Going on with the fight for you and me
 The ruthless killer spreads the hands over 
 Breathing in the air or touching the things
 Just like the birds' pestilence-stricken
 Silent and drowsy, the body trembling in severe temperature
 Everyday, every moment
 The beds are fixed with the ventilators
 Survival depends on immunity   
 Some cross the Styx, some convalesce
 The persons left behind are also waiting for the same journey
 Who's not destined to this ringing?
 We are all undergoing with the passport
 Of course not the same from where we came into  
 To the last we are bound to ----
 Let peace be upon all of us.
 Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh
 A Plight to Joyonto
 Joyonto, No, I'll not let you go
 Please, stay here some more
 My heart must stop circulating blood
 In this hazy and foggy world
 Yet, would you like to leave me alone?
 Firing and darkness over the head
 What a devastating cyclone uprooting the trees!
 In this desolate condition how can I take my breath?
 Flooded and fired as far as you look 
 Joyonto, please hold my hand 
 Reach me to my home I live across the river
 Let me be your part
 As shaped as the sign of love
 In this large sky the moon is rousing the ocean
 Please hold my hand 
 Keep me tight in your arms in this isolated land
 Let us make the dark night colorfully enlightened
 Oh, what a love, dear!
 Joyonto,  ------- please, come on. 
 Chapainawabganj, Bangladesh

Poetry from Michael Steffen


 A Concession of Love
 She followed the travel and the antique shows
 on PBS all through the Sunday lull,
 his couch’s better half. With upturned eyes
 let him zap over to the NFL
 taking her book up, asking that the volume
 be kept down. Though she couldn’t hold her interest
 wholly aloof from the barbaric game—
 surprising dad with a gasp, Gaw that dude’s fast!
 She’d look back at her novel with a glance…
 Then marvel at the fans and their face paint.
 She wanted to know just why the referee
 had thrown that flag. And frowned ambiguously
 at the vainglory of a touchdown dance.
 Hoisted her eyebrow at the extra point.  
 Rekindled from an OED, a word
 from long ago “jangala,” a dry, dry
 land, a desert, flourishes to the green wood
 jungle has come to depict in her day—
 lapsed as her gaze off to another book
 so for its cover. She reads silent at
 the PC on her elevated desk
 amid the printed volumes to check out.
 How better embody that little-heard
 fountain Wisdom than surround oneself
 with her spines? Delicate as usage, hard
 as sense to fix, one can only imagine
 her orderly and tidy as these shelves—
 going home, her hair in the wind undone.
 The Super-id
 The sea
 ever wagged by its tail.
 It’s all continuum, seals playing
 out into their horror of an orca’s play
 with little mind for manners, appearance,
 “plasticity,” the business
 of the sails of cloud
 stacked like the coasts’ glass mountains,
 these Aeolian beings, drawing from it
 fertile rain, shimmering nets
 and devastating storms. Great
 unselfconsciousness swims
 between one’s hunger and another’s
 from deep memory
 clear to the shallows of our shellfish.
 And our muck, threatening its copious
 data of marvels. And unmasking me,
 boy wizard on the shore
 of the ponderous metaphor. 
 To My Problem
 “Symptoms, symptoms,”
 said the therapist, halfway into
 another session. “It’s good of you
 to talk about them. Shortness
 of breath and temper. Irritableness.
 Obsessive compulsive. Insomnia.
 Erratic spending.”

 I don’t know
 how professional it was
 of my Doctor Strangelove,
 though it certainly had a psychological effect
 on him at last to come unhinged
 and just lay it all out—
 “Mr. Steffen,” with a deep sigh,
 “underlying all this chaffing,
 there is some little stone somewhere in your shoe.”
 I've written you letters
 with no address for the envelope
 with my thinking it out,
 how to unravel your skein
 of sudden desires and a tilted past.
 I've come away from psychologists,
 from groups and meetings
 with certificates and tokens saying I could
 overstep your molehills—
 only again day after day to find myself
 lulled in the elevations of attitude,
 on the islands of prickly fruit
 grousing about the prices, the wait,
 bearing my teeth at others
 with their deplorable hair and manners.
 Only to have them—What's
 your problem?—invoke you anew
 and remind me
 everybody drinks the same water.
 With your sniff dreaming a rib bone
 from the takeout bag being kicked around
 by the wind, snapping at
 the wind's hand, biting your fingernails,
 drifting again into the blind spot
 of your oncome; with your
 dispersal of asking, flirt, maker
 of No… Huh-uh… Get lost…
 Should I only try again
 author of the shrug, again and again—
 to the break of sunlight
 out of nights and days of rain
 so here and there an afternoon
 I am filled
 and you vanish
 like water
 into the green flag of the grass.

Recipient of a 2021 Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, Michael Steffen’s poems have appeared in publications, including, The Boston Globe, The Concord Saunterer, The Dark Horse, The Lyric and Poem.

Poetry from J.J. Campbell

Poet J.J. Campbell
scare yourself back into existence
angels laugh at the
ache in your heart
they taste the blood
in your fear
they help you tie the
rope around your neck
and find the sturdiest
tree in the town
it is your unwillingness
to step beyond these
mortal thoughts that
confuses everyone
why be tied to just what
they want you to know
expand your brain
into the darkest hole
you can find and scare
yourself back into
give the world all
your secrets
break these chains
and never be afraid
of falling down
but never think anyone
will ever help you back
a frantic phone call to my mother
i remember taking my mother's
diaphragm into show and tell
one day and said i used it in
the sandbox in the backyard
to sift the sand
there was a frantic phone call to
my mother from a horrified teacher
my mother had no clue what
i had done
i figured i was getting an early
start at being a standup comedian
of course, it was the 80's and
we had no clue how to actually
encourage an active imagination
in a child back in those days
they were too busy trying to get
me to understand conformity
and division
i was already reading at a college
level and no one understood what
made my mind tick
none of them ever did until i got
to high school and found an english
teacher who knew immediately i
was way beyond anything he had
planned in his class
so, he told me to go write a book
of poems and show him what i was
working on

best teacher i ever had
abandoned buildings
i sometimes find
myself drifting off
these days
i'll hear an old
massive attack beat
in my head and start
thinking about doing
drugs in my youth
abandoned buildings
the cemeteries and
open fields where we
would count the stars
and give them better
and it's not that those
days were better or
more open or free
they just held a sense
of a better possibility
than these days
stuck in a digital world
of faceless souls and

juvenile criminals
the dotted line
engulfed in flames
trembling hands
and a dotted line
a little scotch used
to calm these nerves
now it takes more
than anyone should
comfortably drink
in public
it's not every day
you're signing away
the right to live
but you understand
this is the best for

everyone involved
the horizon looks bleak
i used to mark
the days on a
calendar with
a marker
now i do it
with blood
the horizon looks
bleak and then i
see a mirror
haven't shaved
in years
no reason to ever
love me screams
like a woman in
i have prepared
for my death since
i was a child
the life goals i was
allowed to pursue
have all been
checked off
now i just need
a sunset
a trusty shotgun
and a little music

to send me home

J.J. Campbell (1976 – ?) is old enough to know where the bodies are buried. He’s been widely published over the years, most recently at The Rye Whiskey Review, The Beatnik Cowboy, Dumpster Fire Press, Misfit Magazine and Horror Sleaze Trash. You can find him most days on his mildly entertaining blog, evil delights. (