I heard Sistah gifted Woama a size XXL tee, graphic anime printed like a schoolgirl’s, and a bunch of undergarments, white as chalk and milk, ones she bought at a Clearance Sale, unboxed them, unrolled them with care, and when she spread them on the floor with an unmistakable flourish, because she’d brought them all the way from New Jersey, Woama pushed an inky-blue melamine tray with deep fried fritters towards Sistah’s husband to please him, extract a grin, and started pouring chubitchi into a bamboo glass. I’m sure those things—the tee and bras and all—will get handed down to me when I visit Woama in the Summer, and afraid to stick out as odd, as ungrateful, I’ll accept them, and stack them underbed so no one sees, because neither Woama nor I have any use for them, many sizes too big, and during my stay, twice in the space of a week, hear her lament: it costs a hundred to pay the rent, hundred of Sistah’s currency, and eighty hundred of ours, and if only Sistah helped with the rent and repairs, just a pittance for her, for the roof leaks in Cherrapunji’s rains, and Woama screams, “Lazy man without eyes!” like a weird cuss when leeches cling to her feet, and the blood streams down like a hilly river, but I know Sistah will be sleeping easy at her home, thinking she’d done her bit, and her family back home are grateful she brought them anything at all, while last thing she sees before going to bed, is a designer handbag she purchased for herself, blush-pink with golden straps, which she’ll flaunt among her immigrant friends, and placed on the table on her next visit to Woama, it’ll look wild in the impoverished surroundings like a leech’s blood-leaking mouth.
Mandira Pattnaik is the author of collections “Anatomy of a Storm-Weathered Quaint Townspeople” (2022, Fahmidan Publishing, Poetry), “Girls Who Don’t Cry” (2023, Alien Buddha Press, Flash Fiction) and “Where We Set Our Easel” (May 2023, Stanchion Publishing, Novellain-Flash). Mandira’s work has appeared in The McNeese Review, Penn Review, Quarterly West, Passages North, DASH, Miracle Monocle, Timber, Contrary, Watershed Review, AAWW, Quarter After Eight and Best Small Fictions Anthology (2021), among others. Her writing has secured nominations for Pushcart Prize, BotN, Best Small Fictions, Best Microfiction, and listing in Wigleaf Top50 (2023). More at mandirapattnaik.com.
Chalk Flowers in Fragrance Garden
Jim Ross jumped into creative pursuits in 2015 after a rewarding career in public health research. With a graduate degree from Howard University, in eight years he’s published nonfiction, fiction, poetry, photography, hybrid, interviews, and plays in nearly 200 journals on five continents. Photo publications include Alchemy Spoon, Barnstorm, Burningword, Camas, Feral, Invisible City, Phoebe, Stoneboat, Stonecoast, and Whitefish. Text-based photo-essays include Amsterdam Quarterly, Barren, DASH, Kestrel, Ilanot Review, Litro, NWW, Paperbark, Pilgrimage Magazine, Sweet, and Typehouse. He recently wrote/acted in a one-act play and appeared in a documentary limited series broadcast internationally. Jim and his family split their time between the city and the mountains.