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At first sniff, the clear liquid smells sour. The menu reads: grape leaf vinegar, mint and rose water. The concoction does not evoke the subtleties of pink petals or the promise of a fresh taste. Above the richly dressed crowd, lights beam geometric shapes across the ceiling in red, green, pink and blue. Digital flat screens display a New Year countdown that moves to the beat of electronic dance music. The pulse dares me to sip.
And I do.
To my surprise, the liquid glides sweetly across my tongue. Never judge a drink by its smell? Perhaps. But the aromas emanating from the buffet tables raise my expectations — grilled meats, heavy-handed spices, and frittered vegetables. Last, I grab a cup of dessert pudding with more rose water. Food infused with romance settles on my plate, and I weave my way back to the reserved table. I’m a guest tonight.
It is March 25, and we are celebrating the New Year. Tables packed with guests, many with families, form a horseshoe around a central stage. Even if you can’t see the stage directly, the digital flatscreens are mounted for clear viewing from any angle. Men are dressed in suits and women in evening dresses. I don’t mind that my outfit is simple. No one here is judging a book by its cover. Everyone smiles, welcoming.
Accouterments scatter across a table on the stage. Goldfish swim in a glass bowl surrounded by apples, garlic, sweetgrass and a bowl of painted eggs. Each item symbolizes health, prosperity, and happiness. Traditionally, all the guests wear new clothes. It’s spring, if not the exact equinox, then merely a few days later. The days are lengthening in the northern hemisphere, and no one can deny the renewal of life the season heralds.
Outside, snowbanks sag like swayed-back horses. Their geological record of snowfalls dips around the objects hidden beneath — boulders, park benches, small sheds. Spring can be dirty business. The south-facing bank of Quincy hill exposes bare ground as plain as the skin on a potato. Everywhere grit covers streets and sidewalks. Dog pellets slowly emerge day by day as the sun erodes their icy receptacle. We can only dream of freshness in the Keweenaw as dirty snow gives way to dirt.
We hold on for blades of grass.
Inside, the countdown ends, and we cheer in the New Year. A pianist flies his fingers across the keys and dinner tastes all the more succulent. It feels like renewal in this banquet hall at Michigan Tech University. Photos flash on the screen of places I’ve never before seen — moss on rocks, rivers, mountains, trees, cities, and deserts. Thes images connect many in the room to home. The celebration will suffice while they are away in a foreign land, studying engineering and technological sciences.
I’m an American celebrating an Iranian holiday among people my nation’s president would call enemies. How can I possibly view a culture whose writing reminds me of teacups and black olives as hostile? Laughter, rose water, and artistic performances tell me another story. People are not the enemy. Our fears and hatred cling to cultures like cancer. When we fight cancer, we don’t malign the person. To stand up for humanity, we must call out injustices, not cultures.
Tonight, I’m in love with Iranians.
Midway through the performances, a trio of musicians takes the stage. One plays the sitar, another a violin, and the third drums. I recognize the doumbek because my SIL, Solar Man, plays one as a drummer for my daughter’s belly-dance troupe. When the drummer plays his large frame drum, his fingers fly. I’m mesmerized. And so is he — eyes closed, frame tipped back, fingers dancing across tightened skin.
Next, my daughter and her fellow dancers take the stage in tribal influenced garb and dance to a Persian song. Radio Geek has recently cut her hair — it’s part classic bob, part shaved-head punk. By day in the office, the bob covers the undershaved sections. Tonight, she flaunts her inner punk. The troupe dances with energy to an appreciative crowd, and a delighted mum. This is the Persian New Year — Nowruz.
No-Rooz Mobarak! Happy Easter! Happy Spring! Chag Sameach! May peace and joy be with us all.
Before we get to the prompt, a bit of Ranch spring cleaning. Following last week’s deluge of information, you can now find the newly erected Rancher Badge page beneath the tab, Support Literary Art. You’ll find all the badges (plus a few new ones from your suggestions) in a clear and concise format. Now is the time to set goals. June 1 will be the first quarter to claim badges.
You will erase from memory, any mention of Facebook as a way to collect flash fiction. A great idea went downhill. It didn’t work as intended. Interact in the comments as usual — share your links, stories or pingbacks. If you want to be included in the published collection, submit your story via the form. Forget about short links, too! Write, and let your fingers fly across the keys.
March 29, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly. Think about the different ways we use our fingers and what happens when we add speed. Go where the prompt leads.
Respond by April 3, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.
If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.
Rumors of Quick Draws (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
“Grab the mochila, boy!” Dock wasn’t any older than the new crippled stock handler, but he oversaw the mail exchange.
Sarah watched from the barn. The new handler grabbed the leather cover from the panting horse and draped it over the saddle of the waiting mount. The rider clambered up and sat on the mochila containing US mail.
“Haw!” The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company rider departed Rock Creek.
Hickok’s fingers flew, grabbling leather straps, unsaddling the weary mount. His injured arm did nothing to hamper his agility. Rumors had it, the boy was a gunman.
Author’s Note: The Central Overland California & Pikes Peak Express Company is a mouthful. No wonder we took to calling it the “Pony Express.”