The Feather Pillow

The Feather Pillow
(El almohadón de plumas)

by Horacio Quiroga

Her honeymoon was one long frisson. Blonde, angelic, and timid, her husband’s stern character had chilled her childish girlhood dreams. She loved him very much; yet at times, when returning at night together with him on the street, she would glance furtively and with a light shiver at Jordan’s tall stature, silent for over an hour. He, for his part, loved her profoundly, without realizing it.

For three months—they had married in April—they lived in a special bliss. No doubt she would have preferred less severity in this rigid paradise of love, more expansive and reckless tenderness; but her husband’s impassive countenance remained self-contained.

The house in which they lived contributed to her shivers. The whiteness of the silent patio, its friezes, columns, and marble statues, produced the autumnal impression of an enchanted palace. Inside, the glacial brilliance of the stucco, without the slightest scratch on the high walls, reinforced the sensation of bleak cold. When crossing from one room to another, one’s footsteps echoed throughout the house, as if a long abandonment had made the house more sensitive in its resonance.

In this strange love nest, Alicia passed the entire autumn. By the end, she had cast a veil over her long-ago dreams, yet still lived somnolently in the hostile house, not wanting to think of anything until her husband arrived home.

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Mirza Sahiban

My retelling of the Punjabi Folktale Mirza Sahiban, previously posted to the Non Stop Bhangra blog.


For Love, by Marcus Murray
For Love, by Marcus Murray, acrylic on canvas
Photo courtesy of Non Stop Bhangra

During the time of the Emperor Akbar the Great, in the land between the rivers of Ravi and Chenab (now part of Pakistan), there were two villages, Khewa and Danabad. Mahni Khan was the chief of Khewa, and also of his clan, the Sayyal. Sahiban was his daughter. Fateh Bibi, Mahni’s “milk sister” (they were both nursed by Bibi’s mother as babies, because Mahni’s mother had died; and so they were considered siblings), lived in Danabad, where she had married into the Kharral clan. Fateh Bibi’s son was Mirza.

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Imani’s Venture

My retelling of a woman-positive fairy tale from Punjab, originally posted at the Dholrhythms blog.


Imani’s Venture

Once upon a time there lived a king with two beloved daughters, Kupti and Imani, whom he loved very much. He spent many hours of the day talking to them. One day he asked his older daughter Kupti:

“Are you content to leave your life and fortune in my hands?”

“Of course,” said Kupti. “Who else would I leave them to?”

But when he asked his younger daughter, Imani, she said:

“Oh no! I’d rather go out and make my own fortune!”

The king was a bit displeased to hear this, but he said, “Well, if that is what you want, that’s what you’ll get.”

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The Legend of Sohni Mahiwal

My retelling of Sohni Mahiwal, originally posted at the Dholrhythms blog.

445px Sohni mahiwal 1

Once upon a time, on the banks of the river Chenab, near the city of Gujrat, lived a potter named Tulla. Tulla’a pottery was famous, and in demand all through Punjab, and even in lands beyond. Tulla had a daughter who was so lovely that he and his wife named her Sohni (“Beautiful”).

Since Sohni grew up in her father’s shop, she learned how to decorate the pitchers and pots that came off his wheel with beautiful designs: flowers and elaborate patterns. And so the family flourished.

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Curious, If True

Curious, If True
by Elizabeth Gaskell (1860)

800px Illustration for Acknowledgment to The Year s at the Spring

(Extract from a letter from Richard Whittingham, Esq.)

You were formerly so much amused at my pride in my descent from that sister of Calvin’s, who married a Whittingham, Dean of Durham, that I doubt if you will be able to enter into the regard for my distinguished relation that has led me to France, in order to examine registers and archives, which, I thought, might enable me to discover collateral descendants of the great reformer, with whom I might call cousins. I shall not tell you of my troubles and adventures in this research; you are not worthy to hear of them; but something so curious befell me one evening last August, that if I had not been perfectly certain I was wide awake, I might have taken it for a dream.

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Dreams of the Hotel Exeter: Room 436

Bancroft Hotel

The Hotel Exeter, established 1913 in Utica, New York. If you listen, she’ll share some of her memories — maybe not quite the way you expect.

When a building dreams, it dreams through you.


It took four attempts with her card key before Rachel got the door open. She stumbled into the room, tipsy from the unaccustomed two manhattans and feeling slightly embarrassed about her evening’s behavior. Flirting with another conference attendee! Letting him buy her drinks! Good thing tomorrow would be the last day of the conference.

The conversation had been mostly shop talk — hadn’t it? But not entirely. At least she’d had the sense not to prattle on about how “Young Alex” (that’s what she called him in her mind) was probably about her son’s age. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to run into him tomorrow or not. What if he thought she was some horny cougar?

As she removed her makeup, she scrutinized her reflection. Not too bad: only faint crow’s feet at the eyes; her chin and the skin at her throat were still firm. Her tummy was reasonably flat; her graying hair colored a natural-looking chestnut brown.

“MILF,” she said to the mirror, and giggled.

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