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Chef's Special

“Hey, you know how easy it is for me to make you laugh? Your voice tinkles like glass…”

The shafts of sunlight wafting in had a dust motes floating in them… He noticed them clearly while the office around him revolved around plunging figures on computer screens. A Recession could easily bring out the coward in previously all conquering brokers and CEOs. Oh so cowardly…

Fred had come up the ladder, high enough that he could legitimately laze about and do nothing. All he had to do was make sure his underlings suffered and cursed him to the seventh circle of hell. No boss was good if he wasn't cursed thoroughly by his subordinates.

The light filtered in, the motes danced to a rhythm he couldn't fathom and slowly the day wore on. His wife's picture glinted at him and it seemed her smiling, stilled face winked every now and then. Fred wished he was home… she would be cooking something special tonight.

Except he wouldn't enjoy it, Friday night and he'd invited his boss over… why had he done that?

The light beam shined red… beckoning sunset and the clock chimed bringing about the end to the office day. He noticed some of his colleges in tears… A few pieces of paper lose value and they become blubbering fools. Fred didn't think about that though, his wife was cooking something special tonight… oh yeah.

“Hey you know, the first time I fell? The first job I lost… I remember your soothing voice.”

Click clack, click clack, click clack…

Pump jacks… Pump jacks… it was a miniature little car toy he'd stuck on. Shaped like a chicken pecking at the ground. A little gift. CEOs were cheap when gifting the Employee of the Year.

And CEO was coming home for dinner. His wife was cooking something special tonight. Fred loved his wife… except she never cooked special when was just him coming home. Not anymore.

But he didn't care, she was there and who cares if the bank had taken a plunge. Things weren't so bad yet and the eviction notice was still a few months away. But the shares had plunged…

Rights issue to invest in the company… a pension fund converted to pieces of paper that were destined to rise in value. Employees of the years usually enjoyed that privilege. The CEO had been cheap… Fred hadn't been allowed to buy any of the convertible shares… just the ordinary. Recession happens every new century… He had hoped things would go different.

He still had his wife… she'd always be there for him. She was cooking something special tonight.

“Hey, you know the church… the bells, the flowers? You remember how it was? I can't...”

Home was calm. His wife had gotten a cat… a rebuke to his refusal to having kids. From the kitchen came sounds of cutlery, bubbling pots and a smell delicious enough to make him call his boss off from coming tonight. He didn't feel like sharing.

Fred always watched a little TV before dinner. A way to calm down, it was foolproof in bringing himself back to earth. The financial world was fast paced and ruthless and surviving in it was just like living of the land, nothing to hold on to but a few figures on screens. And tonight he needed the mindlessness of the TV to keep things going. The smell was unbearable… He watched the cat purr while the TV spewed Jerry Springer egging a Texan man to reveal his prejudices on national TV… corrupting the minds of so many more.

It was almost time for the boss to show up…
“Fred, could you help me out here please?”

His wife, the girl he had fallen in love with, he shared a bed with… and now a mangy cat.

The cat purred again.
“Hey, you know the house when we got it, painted all blue just like you wanted it…? I can't pay for it anymore…”

“Could you get that? The smores are done I think.”

Smores… she was making smores for dessert. He almost drooled except the cat came and purred; made the hairs on his back stand.

Cats had always put him on edge… he didn't know why. The smores looked beautifully brown in that chocolaty way. Then he noticed that little bill on the table top. A vet's bill.

“What's this?” Fred asked.

“I took Gaiea in for a check up, why? Did you get the spores? Oh good.”

$150 the total read. If he wasn't wrong his account held just about… 2000. Two grand and it was so close to Christmas.

“How's the cat? What did the vet say?” Fred asked…a bubbling sensation in his stomach.

$150. The cat had spent $150… just when he couldn't afford it.

The smores smelled so good. The cat purred. He could see his wife slicing onions, the knife sending lances of reflected light of the edge.

“Hey, you know how you gushed over my promotion? I might not have a job next weekend…”

“This is brilliant! What is it, veal? Your wife must be some kind of chef!” CEOs had that timbre in their voice, that deep resonance of power and security. His CEO rattled a bit, the company was diving but he was holding on. He didn't have his pension fund invested though.

“Yeah, she took a few courses before deciding that actually cooking for a living took the charm away,” answered Fred politely, always the good host.

“This is good, I have to admit, where is she by the way?” the CEO's wife, a raven haired woman married to a man years older. Apparently they'd fallen in love after the first wife had died.

“She had to go to the vet with the cat… some complication. I would have gone but you guys were coming over...” the perfect lilt in the voice, indicating sadness towards the cat.

“Oh, I hope your cat is alright?” the woman was taking too much interest. He'd heard something in the rumor mills. He pushed it out of his mind.

“Eh it's got nine lives. Enjoy the food, come on,”

Nine lives… the cat had enough to spend everything in his account with just check ups. Vets made a lot of money. Cats spent a lot of money.

He watched the CEO stuff his mouth, secure in his powerful position, beautiful wife beside him. All he had was a cat spending his money.

“What is this meat? You have to give us the recipe,” the boss man spluttered… sipping expensive red wine.

“I really don't know. I'd have to ask Jane. I'll let you know though,” Fred answered, flustered. He never thought the boss man was interested in cooking. The wife certainly didn't look it.

“Where's the bathroom Fred?” Mr. Wall Street looked red in the face… flushed with the meat curry.

“Down the hall, left door,”

Creaking chairs, a blast of cologne as entrepreneur walked past. He was alone with the wife. It was getting uncomfortable…

And then the cat walked in…

The wife was staring quite hard at it. The cat purred. Seemingly fine, no vet required.

“Where's your wife? I thought she'd taken the cat to the…” A hint of nervousness in her voice at if faded away, he could almost feel her interest in him waning.

Fred couldn't look at her. The cat jumped up on the boss man's chair and started licking the sauce of his plate… and the bits of meat.

“The cat had just stood there in the kitchen, the vet's bill still in Fred's hands. His wife was cooking. And then he noticed another envelope with his name on it. His wife never opened his mail.

Eviction notice, failed mortgage…

“You know, we should get a dog… the vet suggested that we buy from this shop he knew…”
He felt himself drain out, all vestiges of hope gone. And then the cat had the guts to brush against his legs.
“Honey, what's that?”
He remembered buying the set of knives from the local Wal-mart. “Can cut through paper!” it had said on the fly leaf.

She had wanted the house painted blue… He remembered it all….
“Hey,” Fred said.
“What is it Fred?” she replied.
“Hey, you know how easy it is for me to make you laugh? I can't do it anymore…”

By Tareq Adnan

Bustling through Dhanmondi

‘Dhanmondi', a busy Thana of Dhaka city. A place, which was so deserted 50 years back, that the few people who passed by the the footpaths of Dhanmondi, used to walk with scared minds and hearts full of fear. Fear of being looted or even highjacked in the evening. That scary and dark place didn't remained the same now 50 years later.That Dark area has now transformed into a bright and beautiful place. A place where now lives thousands of people. A place where even little childen now walks alone at 12 a.m. in the morning without even a single fear in their mind. But slowly this place is also turning into a place not fit for people to live. Wherever I set my eyes i can see competitions. Competitions for buildings, competions for schools and even markets. Its not a matter of denial that building shelter, thinking for educational centres are bad but should this be done at the expense of people already living in the area they are trying to fill up?

As soon as i leave my house early in the morning, thinking of reaching on time this time, I see hundreds of cars moving randomly in every direction making the roads completely packed and making unable for people to walk or even pass those roads. This is merely just an example of how quickly the world is changing. I don't know if it's gonna be a change for good or a change for bad but looking at an example like this has surely made my mind on a run to think for what is going to happen in the 'not so far future'. In the coming 100 or 200 years, will this world become so overly populated that people will start migrating to Moon and start making a living there???

By Moonlight-Girl

The Man Who Planted Trees

Ever so often, a book of straightforward style and profound substance finds its way into the world with the objective of inspiring a spiritual revolution. Paulo Coelho's ' The Alchemist' was one. I found another in Jean Giono's 'The Man Who Planted Trees' a short but stirring story that describes a landscape's transformation because of the mutual perseverance of nature and a single man.

The narrator begins with his journey across the lower Alps, through 'a landscape of unparalleled desolation'. There, nothing grows, 'carcasses' of villages are scattered over barren moors and the few inhabited settlements are plagued by discord and discontent. In this dismal setting he meets Elzéard Bouffier, a solitary shepherd who spends his days tending to his sheep and planting acorns by the thousand. In the barren land surrounding him, he works with a steadfastness and composure hard to find in people in more fortunate circumstances. (Then again, 'fortunate' is a relative term.) The narrator warms to this unique character, who is remarkable in his faith and humility.

When the First World War intervenes, the narrator, caught up in its midst, loses touch with his friend. However, on his return, he discovers that Elzéard, preoccupied entirely with his task of reviving nature, has ignored the turmoil of the outside world entirely. The fruit of his labour is striking; what used to be desolate countryside is now dense with the regenerated wilderness. Even more incredible is the gradual rejuvenation of the settlements nearby. The work of nature and Elzéard Bouffier brings hope, unity and prosperity the villages become beautiful again and thousands learn to appreciate and add to his gift.

A single word that best describes this tale, I believe, would be “wholesome”. Nothing could have been more effective than the simplicity with which Jean Giono chose to put forth his message of the united power of faith and nature. One can really feel the bleak quality of the hills and hamlets, and follow their development along with the growth of Elzéard Bouffier's forest. The detail too, acute yet uncluttered, wonderfully portrays the hermit shepherd and the care he places in his work.

Where many such stories use, to an extent, an element of magic to convey an inspirational message, the only magic present in this story is the power of a man's commitment. Therein lies the charm of this tale. In less than a hundred pages, It reminds one that such places of beauty, as Elzéard Bouffier helped make grow, although fast diminishing, do exist and can be preserved. It gives one faith in the ability of man to transform the world with the simplest acts of goodwill he is capable of, and that, someday, these simple deeds will revive the world's vanishing forests, along with some of the fellow feeling that was lost with it.

By Risana Nahreen Malik



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