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The Story of Zahra

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“Women are the only oppressed group in our society that lives in intimate association with their oppressors.” Evelyn Cunningham.
Hanan Al Shaykh is a Lebanese novelist, short-story writer and a playwright. She is regarded to be one of the leading contemporary women writers in the Arab world. In fact, she follows Nawal Al Saadawi’s footsteps, especially in her explicit representations of women’s role in the traditional Arab Middle East world. Throughout her works, there is a glimpse of the patriarchal oppression she faces during her life. Not only by her father and brother, but also by the traditions enforced upon her by the neighborhood. The Story of Zahra is seen as Al Shaykh’s first step towards international attention. The novel is divided into two parts. The first part is entitled “The Scars of Peace”, where al-Shaykh foreshadows the miserable life of Zahra as a woman in a patriarchal society. The second part is subtitled “The Torrents of War.” In the second part, Zahra develops to a person who is ready to sacrifice herself in order to stop the war. The novel sheds the light upon how women are being treated as objects of sexuality throughout the Arab Patriarchal World. In fact, women are seen as “Invisible entities.”
Hanan Al Shaykh incredibly shows how women are being oppressed and marginalized within the first part of the novel. To begin with, the novel starts by Zahra remembering her early life. She sees her life as a miserable one, where she has always been deprived of her importance as a woman. This is emphasized through the ill treatment of her parents, especially her mother, Fatime. All the attention is in fact directed towards Zahra’s brother, Ahmad, which helped Zahra to live within her world of silence.
Meat continued to be for Ahmad. Eggs were for Ahmad. Fresh tomatoes were for Ahmad. So were the fattest olives. If Ahmad was late arriving home my mother would rumple his bed and push a pillow under the bedclothes. If my father asked, she would mumble, “Ahmad is sleeping.” She lied for he son. (Al Shaykh,p.25)
This in fact shows that even the mother is affected by the vicious patriarchy of the Arab society. Throughout the years “Man” has achieved his superiority and has the ability to degrade “Woman” to the rank of inferiority. In addition, Fatime is described as a brutal mother who “Shows her daughter no appreciation at all, not a single spark of tenderness. She often insults Zahra about her ugliness and taunts her for never attracting any suitors.”( Sakkut 64)
The mother, Fatime, is seen as the basic foundation for Zahra’s breakdown. At the very early pages of the novel, the mother puts her hand on Zahra’s mouth.“The reason for her hand tightly cupping my mouth”(Al Shaykh 3). This shows that the aim of the mother is to control her daughter’s voice. A kind of subjecting the daughter to her power. The conflict begins by the appearance if the mother’s lover. For Zahra on the one hand, does not want to be separated from her mother. She describes their relationship as follows “I wanted to disappear into the hem of her dress and become even closer to her than the navel is to the orange!”(Al Shaykh 8). Zahra refuses the idea that she can be separated from her mother. On the other hand, she establishes great anger towards her mother. “Zahra’s deepened feelings of disappointment and hostility towards her mother establish a critical moment in which the sense of self she begins to develop enables her to form her own gender identity…influenced by the patriarchal structures unconsciously embraced and transmitted by her mother”( al Masri 70). The first part of the novel shows how Zahra is abandoned by her mother, physically and emotionally.
Regarding Zahra’s relationship with her father it is more or less the same of a Master-Slave relationship. She is always afraid of her father that she describes him as a brutal beast. “My father was always brutal. His appearance seemed to express his character, a frowning face, a Hitler-like moustache above thick full lips, a heavy body…He had a stubborn personality. He saw all life in terms of black and white.”(Al Shaykh 24). The reality that he is associated with the Nazism figure like stresses upon his brutality and cruelty. Zahra’s father always mistreated her. On several occasions, she declares that he might kill her if she ever breaks the strict moral code of a Muslim girl.
I never asked myself whether my fear of my father was on a mental or a physical level. It was all part of conglomeration of fear, of fear , above all, that my image of myself might be overturned… (AlShaykh40) Not to mention that he also preferred Ahmad as his best child. Putting in to consideration that Zahra is more intelligent than Ahmad, that Ahmad can barely read and write, her father’s only dream is “To save money to send my brother Ahmad to the United states to study electrical engineering”(AlShaykh25).The attention the parents provide for Ahmed highlights the patriarchy and its firm grip on society.
The cruelty which is represented through the father figure plays an important role in Zahra’s self-mutation. “Zahra’s father’s cruel behavior succeeds only in intensifying Zahra's sense of isolation in a patriarchal society in which she feels discriminated against, unwanted and unloved by the people closest to her.”(Shihada.p2) Zahra willingly uses her nails to disfigure her face until blood falls down from her pimples. She uses her face as a kind of rejection to society and the patriarchal oppression. She even reaches to the extent that her pimples are the only reason for her waking up every morning.
My father would go raving mad every time he noticed my face and its problems. He would nag my mother sarcastically: ‘That will be the day, when Zahra marries. What a day of joy for her and her pock-marked face!’ Once he beat me when he caught me standing in front of the mirror, squeezing at my incipient spots. (Al Shaykh,p.25)
Both parents contribute greatly in the formation of Zahra’s prospective of life. She is torn between the mother and the father. The father always beats the mother because he does not trust her. The mother who declares her hatred towards the father by her continuous demand of divorce, takes Zahra to her secret meetings with the secret lover. The mother is cunning for she wants to show the impossibility of having an affair in the presence of her daughter. Actually the mother teaches the daughter how to lie in front of her father. She even warns her of what is going to happen if she ever thinks about telling her father the truth. “Both parents are depicted as utterly despotic without an ounce of kindness”( Sakkut p.65).They do not have “the slightest glimmer of compassion for their daughter”(Sakkut p.65). Their relationship is based on neither love, nor trust, but rather it is based upon social norms. The betrayal of the mother is foreshadowed later on in Zahra’s attitude with Malek. The parents’ marriage is actually symbolizing the horrible patriarchal society.
The author throughout the first part of the novel sheds the light upon the concept of “Home.” Shereen Abou El Naga , in her article The Concept of Home in The Story of Zahra and The Owner of the House: A Feminist Reading, shows the influence of home on the behavior of women. She claims that within the Arab Patriarchal society home defines the role of women, as well as her identity. In addition, she argues that because of home women are to be excluded from the outside world. “According to this concept, the home becomes a woman's cocoon in which she lives totally separated from the public world of decision-making.”(H-Net Review, El Naga p.71) The idea of “home” is always presented as woman’s own space of freedom, but within the novel home is “where women remain subject to the patriarchal rules that dictate their movements and actions outside of the home.”(al Masri,p75,76) Consequently, neither the mother nor the daughter has a positive relationship with home. This might contributes to the explanation of the excessive fear Zahra shows within her own home. With Majed. Al-Shaykh highlights the concept of marriage through a very negative prospective, which is betrayal. She presents it as a way of escaping reality. Whether it is a legal marriage or an illegal one. To begin with, Zahra’s relationship with Malek is actually a rewind of her mother’s secret affair. Their relationship is mainly based upon a one sided sexual interest. Although Zahra claims that she feels sick while being with Malek, still she cannot resist him, “I felt sick but followed nevertheless. It was as if he had a magnetic attraction which I could not resist.”(AlShaykh 31)Zahra might be feeling that through her sexual acts with Malek, she is defying the patriarchal oppression and the social norms imposed upon her. At the beginning their relationship is all about Platonic friendship, but with the intelligent attitude Malek uses with Zahra, he convinces her to sleep with him. Their sexual acts actually transform into a way of imposing male hierarchy over female. In point of fact, he treats her body as a possession of his own. This emphasizes how women are being treated as nothing but sexual objects. To Zahra, their relationship is like a dream that she remains passive within. When Malek slips her virginity away, Zahra only asks him “Swear before God that we are married.”(p.33) On Zahra’s behalf, this relationship resembles a way of escaping the traditional norms of society. Malek symbolizes men’s betrayal, he betrays not only Zahra but also betrays his wife and children.
Furthermore, Al Shaykh provides different situations to prove that from a patriarchal view point marriage is nothing but a refuge from sexual desires or to satisfy the social norms. Al Shaykh criticizes the stereotypical, ideal women for Arab men as foreshadowed through Samir’s proposal to Zahra. Zahra is not a beautiful girl, which confuses the parents even more, why on earth would Samir want to marry an ugly girl like Zahra. Zahra claims that he only wants to marry her because she is “Docile, because he has never seen[her] teeth , because[she does] not rival his own self-importance, because [she]is a mystery to him.”(Al-Shaykh 29)Zahra only resembles to Samir what society dictates him.
The actions in Zahra’s life are regarded as too much, as a result she decides to flee her life and starts a new one at Africa. She believes that this way she is escaping the past in general and oppression in particular. Zahra unwillingly faces oppression by her escaping. Her uncle, Hashem, starts abusing her emotionally and betrays her affection. “I felt that Zahra was my key to making contact with my past and present as well as my future”(Al-Shaykh 70) Hashem uses Zahra to go back to the past, to go back home. He wants to overcome his nostalgia. “Zahra provides the mental escape into the comfort of his memories that Hashem is looking for.”( Micah A. Hughes Mr.p23) From Zahra’s point of view, she blames Hashem for the fits which come over her. She claims that whatever “happened” to her is his fault. “At the movies when you held my hand. In the mornings, when you slept by my side. It troubled me until it made me sick.” (Al-Shaykh p.41)
Moreover, Al-Shaykh continues her criticism of Arab men through Majed. His desperate urge of getting married is just because he wants to escape sins, as well as, his need to overcome the inferiority which is imposed upon him back at Lebanon and within the African society. At his wedding night he declares that he is extremely happy, not because he is untied with his love, but because now he is “The owner of a women’s body that I could make love to whenever I wished.” (Al Shaykh p.83) This is seen as another emphasize of seeing women as sexual objects, who are only there to satisfy men’s sexual desires. The concept of this relation parallels that of Zahra and Malek relation. It is based on selfish desires and is regarded as a kind of sexual outlet. In addition, Majed believes that marriage and begetting children will overthrow his sense of inferiority. For Majed marriage is just a way of escaping his identity. Consequently, Majed does not only use Zahra as “sexual slave”, but also as “an object of social status.” ( Discrimination in (and beyond) The Story of Zahra,par.2) Their marriage is seen as a dramatic process, which ends with divorce. None of them achieved their goals. Zahra never escapes oppression, instead she delves deep in it; and Majed does not use her as a possession, neither sexually or socially.
Although Zahra's ostensible appeal to each man may appear to be based on disparate factors-as a legal citizen of his beloved country, Zahra is immensely appealing to her exiled uncle, while her bourgeois status attracts her impoverished husband-it remains clear that Zahra's national figuration is predicated on neither her citizenship nor her class, but on her gender.(Hughes p24,Adams 2001,p203)
Zahra through the first part of the novel lacks the feeling of safety, even within her home. She usually tends to escape to the bathroom, which later on becomes her only safe place, whether in Beirut or Africa. She takes silence as her own shelter. The bathroom represents her privacy. It is the only place where she is sure that her body will be respected sexually and will not be violated. Not to mention, Zahra is seeking refuge in the bathroom because simply she refuses to adopt the social norms, this actually transforms her to an “outsider.” The bathroom can be seen sometimes as way of uniting of both the mother and daughter. Zahra declares: “As I buried my head in my hands and closed my eyes, I saw myself back with my mother.” (Al Shaykh,p.35) Although the bathroom is her safe place, yet it turns into a prison, “Instead, each morning I merely locked the bathroom door and stayed a prisoner, even as I used to seek refuge in the bathroom back home in Beirut.”(Al Shaykh,p.24) The bathroom turns out to be an enforced prison upon Zahra, for she cannot face the brutality of the patriarchal society. The madness, which Zahra experiences, is referred to as a “rebellion against authority.”(al.Masri,p.106) Her madness is an obvious result of the gigantic oppression she faces at an early age and unfortunately continues for the rest of her life.
Moving on to the second part of the novel, The Torrents of War, which shows how Zahra is greatly influenced by the war. “It is in the context of war that Zahra begins to successfully overcome her emotional scars, resist the roles that her mother, male relatives, lover and society cast her in and re-conceptualize her sexuality and sense of gender.”(Khaled M.al.Masri,p.116) Al Shaykh actually interrelate Zahra’s personal tragedy with that of the on-going war in Beirut. Not to mention that Al Shaykh connects the themes of death, war and sex all together in the second part. Zahra begins to under-go massive personality changes, when she is able to return on her own to the family’s apartment and leave her parents back at the village.
Throughout the second part Zahra finds her inner peace for a short period of time. She sees the war as way out from the patriarchal society and the rules which are imposed upon her, alongside her mental breakdown. She proclaims “When I heard that the battles raged fiercely and every front was an inferno, I felt calm. It meant that my perimeters were fixed by these walls, that nothing which my mother hoped for me could find a place inside them.” (Al Shaykh,p.125) Now it is not the bathroom where she seeks refuge, but it is home. Within the second part of the novel, Al Shaykh shows that the concept of “home” may change according to circumstances. Zahra feels kind of secured within the boundaries of her home.
In addition, war strengthens the bond between Zahra and her mother. “My mother and I shouted out together as if we were once again as close as orange and navel, as we had been when we stood trembling behind the door, back in my earliest memories.”(Al Shaykh,p.136) Zahra is regaining her mother’s love. Besides, the war suspends the traditional patriarchal rules. For instance, the father is no longer brutal. Morality is also diminishing, which is proved through Ahmad’s masturbation in the presence of Zahra. “looked up to see him touching himself. I ran to my bedroom very distressed. I began to cry, but could not say why I should be so upset. How was it that war had changed things to this extent.”(Al Shaykh,p.164) Al Shaykh through Zahra is able to criticize what the war is capable of, regarding changing personalities. In fact, she is comparing patriarchy to war from the prospective that it can change women’s personality. Men are victims of war, while women are victims of patriarchal society. Zahra “hold herself apart from the patriarchal system so that she can develop values of peace, tolerance and equality.” (shihada,p.8)
Consequently the complex relationship that holds both the sniper and Zahra is meant as a gesture to stop the war. Later on, it changes to an act of love. She believes that through seduction, she is able to drive the sniper away from his miserable and fatal job of killing innocent people.
Every time I saw the sniper, my thoughts would grow confused, until a strange idea took root in my mind. I wondered what could possibly divert the sniper from aiming his rifle and startle him to the point where he might open his mouth instead? Perhaps a troupe of dancers would do it?Perhaps a gypsy with a performing monkey?Or perhaps a naked women, passing across his field of fire? Maybe if such a sight crossed his vision he would pause for just one moment and wonder whether the world had indeed gone mad in the midst of this war.(Al Shaykh, p.157) Their relationship begins with Zahra walking topless in front of the sniper. This way Al Shaykh emphasizes the fact that even during war men are only interested in satisfying their sexual desires. At the beginning of the novel Zahra uses sexual acts as a kind of defying the social norms. Towards the end of the novel Zahra uses these sexual acts as a moral duty.
For the first time Zahra experiences ecstasy with the sniper, a thing she lacks in her previous relationships with Malek and Majed; as she claims “my lord and master a god of death who had succeeded in making my body tremble with ecstasy for the first time in thirty years.” (Al Shaykh, p.154) Islam M.Shihada illuminates that their sexual acts are a symbol of faith in peace and in the values of humanity. She is finally capable of feeling powerful, regardless her ugly looks and her miserable past.
Zahra’s empowerment is short-lived for she discovers her pregnancy, which she refers to as cancer disguising in the form of a fetus. When she informs the sniper about her problem, he tries to use his male power to convince her with abortion, but fails. Unfortunately Zahra gains hope through the assuring of the sniper that he will marry her. She has now the kind of hope that war has ended and a happy new life is awaiting her. Zahra’s tragic death by the hands of her love and hope is a prove that the presence of war does not mean the absence of patriarchy. Patriarchal force will always be there oppressing women no matter what are the circumstances. The sniper is seen as another symbolic figure of betrayal. Her tragic death is seen by some critics as a kind of punishment of her defiance to the patriarchal norms.
In conclusion, The Story of Zahra, is regarded as a manifestation for Al Shaykh’s point of view of how patriarchal society condemns women. Those men are nothing but elements of betrayal and oppression. The novel shows how women can rebel against society through different ways. Zahra appears as a silent and an oppressed woman who completely changes and claims her right to speak out against society. The author is calling for women to rise and stand up for their rights as visible entities. Furthermore, women are not only victimized by patriarchy but also by war. It does not matter how hard women try to supress patriarchy, because at the end they will be supressed back. “I close my eyes that perhaps were never truly opened. I see rainbows processing towards me across the white skies with their promises only of menace.” (Al Shaykh,p.215)

Works cited
Sakkut,Hamdi. The Arabic novel: Bibliography and critical introduction, 1865-1995. Rpt. The American University in Cairo Press. Translated by Roger Monroe. Web.7 December, 2012
Harbawi, Semia, Narrativising Betrayal in Hanan al-Shaykh’s The story of Zahra. Web 11 October 2012.
Allam, Nesreen. Review of Ghazoul,Ferial J.,ed, Gender and Knowledge: Contribution of gender perspectives to Intellectual Formations. H-Gender Mid East , H-Net reviews, May,2005. Web. 10 December 2012.
M.Shihada,Islam, Engendering War in Hanan Al Shaykh’s The Story of Zahra. 4 December 2008. Web. 9 December 2012.
Hughes, Micah A.Mr(2012) “Representations of Identity in three Modern Arabic Novels” , Colonial Academic Alliance. Undergraduate research. Journal vol.2, Article . web. 9 December 2012.
Al.Masri, Khaled. Telling stories of pain: women writing gender, sexuality and violence in the novel of the Lebanese Civil War. A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (near Eastern Studies) in the University of Michigan 2010. Web 11 December 2012.
Contemporary International writers. Discrimination in (and beyond) The Story Of Zahra. Posted on Feb 11,2011 by ngiam14. The blog of JGB’s spring 2011 Honors 264. Web 20 November 2012.
The use of personal relations to represent cultural oppression of women in The Story of Zahra by Hanan Al-Shaykh and So Long A Letter by Mariame B. essay by Casablanca 14, High school. 11th grade, A+ , Nonember 2009. Web 22 November 2012.…...

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...the pitcher. “Four, five, six…” Plop, plip, plop. The water rose some more. Soon the crow could reach the water. “Now, I can drink!” said the crow. “Ah! It’s cold and good!” Discussion Questions: 1. At the beginning of the story, what did the thirsty crow do? 2. Where did he find water? 3. Could he drink right away? Why not? 4. How do you think the crow felt when he could not drink? 5. What did the crow do then? 6. If you were the crow, what would you do? 7. What happened when he dropped stones into the pitcher? 8. How did the crow feel in the end? Why? 9. Do you think he is a smart crow? Why? 10. In what way can you be smart like the crow? First Quarter Week 2 Belling the Cat Adapted from Aesop by Roderick Aguirre A long time ago, there were three mice that lived in a big house. They had an enemy- Pat the Cat. Now, Pat the Cat was a watchful cat. She watched the house so closely that the three mice could hardly go out from their small hole. They could not look for tasty food to eat. (Stop here and ask): · Who was the enemy of the three mice? · What kind of cat was Pat? · Why was Pat the Cat their enemy? · What was the mice’s problem? · What do you think the three mice will do to solve the problem? Listen to the next part of the story to find out. So First Mouse called for a meeting to solve the problem. “We need to fool Pat the Cat,” said First Mouse. “Yes, or we will be so hungry, we will die,” agreed Second Mouse. “What should we do to fool......

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...circumstances which in one way or another affected the philosophy of both of the writers. Lord of the Flies is an English novel written by William Golding in 1954. The book was written after the World War II, however, the events tell the story of English boys evacuated by a plane to safety after threats of an atomic bomb during the war. The crisis in the novel begins when this group of boys find themselves all alone on a deserted island after their plane crashes with no adults to take care of them. The boys, who supposedly, come from a sophisticated background try at first to manage their lives on the island by setting rules. They even choose a leader by voting, which is a sign of democracy. But after a while, the rebellious nature of some of the boys leads the whole group to drop their civilised nature and instead adopt savagery behaviors in order to survive. The savage behaviors develop from killing pigs to killing each other without any feeling of guilt. The novel, as mentioned before, highlights the evil nature in human beings that needs only the right chance to surface and overwhelm the mask of civilisation. The second novel is Blindness. This book was written by the Protégées writer Jose Saramgo and was published in 1995. The novel tells the story of a city that is hit by a sudden epidemic of white blindness. Blindness does not affect everyone at the same time. It rather creeps slowly targeting people one by one. As a result, the Government of the city isolates the......

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...A STORY OF HONESTY   A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business. Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together. “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO,” he said.”I have decided to choose one of you.” The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued. “I am going to give each one of you a seed today – a very special seed. I want you plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO.”   One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story. She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed.Every day, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants  that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew.Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now,others were talking about their plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.Six months went by – still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had......

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...1. The Gift of the Magi "The Gift of the Magi" is a short story written by O. Henry (a pen name for William Sydney Porter), about a young married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money. As a sentimental story with a moral lesson about gift-giving, it has been a popular one for adaptation, especially for presentation during the Christmas season. The plot and its "twist ending" are well-known, and the ending is generally considered an example of situational irony. It was allegedly written at Pete's Tavern[2][3] on Irving Place in New York City. Plot Mr. James Dillingham Young ("Jim") and his wife, Della, are a couple living in a modest flat. They each have one possession in which they take pride: Della's beautiful long, flowing hair and Jim's gold watch, which had belonged to his father and grandfather. On Christmas Eve, with only $1.87 in hand, and desperate to find a gift for Jim, Della sells her hair for $20, and eventually finds a platinum fob chain for Jim's watch for $21. Happy to have found the perfect gift at last, she runs home and begins to prepare dinner. When Jim comes home, he looks at Della with an expression “that she could not read, and it terrified her.” Della then admits to Jim that she sold her hair to buy him his present. Jim gives Della her present — an array of expensive combs for her hair (referred to as “The Combs”). Della then shows Jim the chain she bought for him,......

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...good in glasses.  He had more dates than me and all the girls loved him!  Boy, sometimes I was jealous.  Today was one of those days.  I could see that he was nervous about his speech.  So, I smacked him on the back and said, "Hey, big guy, you'll be great!" He looked at me with one of those looks (the really grateful one) and smiled. "Thanks," he said. As he started his speech, he cleared his throat, and began  "Graduation is a time to thank those who helped you make it through those tough years. Your parents, your teachers, your siblings, maybe a coach... but mostly your friends.  I am here to tell all of you that being a friend to someone is the best gift you can give them.  I am going to tell you a story." I just looked at my friend with disbelief as he told the story of the first day we met. He had planned to kill himself over the weekend.  He talked of how he had cleaned out his locker so his Mom wouldn't have to do it later and was carrying his stuff home.  He looked hard at me and gave me a little smile.  "Thankfully, I was saved.  My friend saved me from doing the unspeakable." I heard the gasp go through the crowd as this handsome, popular boy told us all about his weakest moment.  I saw his mom and dad looking at me and smiling that same grateful smile.  Not until that moment did I realize it's depth. Never underestimate the power of your actions.  With one small gesture you can change a person's life.  For better or for worse.  God puts us all in each......

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...short stories, 250 words long look up, look to the sides, just don’t look at the reflection in the bar mirror She’s a red dress and thick rimmed glasses and all sorts of wit and intelligence in conversation. Next to her is a man that’s just a little more dim witted and a flannel shirt that was pressed just slightly too recently. And all around them are duplicates; replicants- people that are acquaintances or soon to be fair weather friends. All around them are life paths that they were one butterfly away from taking. The woman in the red dress is yawning now- opening her mouth so wide people near her can see the fills in her molars- but she doesn’t yawn consciously. She is uncouth without even giving a thought to it. She is feeling tired. More importantly, she’s feeling hungry- trying to eat in all the air that is around to prove to herself that her heart still beats and it’s not all just a dream. Among all of the people by the bar there is color- various colors- some bright, some subdued and pastel. The coloring of their clothing tell stories that are alike in their uniqueness. She lays one hand on the bar and shakes her head. He looks at her, concerned, and asks what’s wrong. “Nothing,” she lies. “Are you sure?” he asks. “Yes. Let’s dance.” She takes his hand out of his pocket, lifts him away from the bar, and they sway back and forth, back and forth, until all the notes blend into one beat. Until she can create the......

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